Challenges of Business Development in the Legal Landscape

Most law firms know that business development is necessary for a strong bottom line. However, many lack the tools or plan to set it in motion. Many in-house legal marketers have to balance a fine line of stressing the importance of business development while not infringing on the amount of billable hours attorneys must account for. Due to a increasingly competitive market, law firms are placing a growing emphasis on business development. However, the accountability placed on attorneys to engage in these activities is conservatively low.

Most business development challenges revolve around attorneys’ unwillingness or inability to bring in new business as opposed to lack of opportunities or competing firms. This internal struggle is often due to a lack of consistent follow-up and follow-through. Consistency is key in business development. It’s not the first or second follow-up with the prospect; it’s the 10th, 15th, or even 20th contact that changes the tide. Prospective clients need to see your face, they need to hear your name.

A lack of structured plan or strategy often inhibits effective business development. Far too often leads are being taken into the firm only to end up in an abyss of spreadsheets with no accountability from anyone on next steps. An adequately structured business development plan is vital to the success of a firm. Whether it means having a practice group manager who implements the plan or an outside marketing firm that offers support, every firm should have a set of business goals with objectives that follow.

Lastly, many lawyers don’t see the monetary value of business development. This frequently plagues associate-level attorneys. Young attorneys are often not encouraged to bring in business and when they do, they fail to see any financial gain. It is vital that attorneys understand and see actual benefits that make business development efforts worth their time. This entices them to attend more networking events, mention their practice groups, and essentially build their book of business.

As one grows professionally, he or she will meet people along the way that will help further their business goals. Developing a business is not a sporadic endeavor. It requires a plan of action, motivated team members and, most importantly, accountability for all involved.

“AMP” It Up!

“Successful big law websites are publishing platforms. They’re no longer mundane, corporate websites; they’re used to showcase firm thought leadership and demonstrate expertise. With high-quality content, the right promotion, and sound SEO practices, firm websites can convert a referral into a highly interested prospect online.”  So states Jaron Rubenstein, Founder and President, Rubenstein Technology Group, in his recent article, “Perspective: Mobile Platforms Critical to Law Firm’s Web Success.”

Jaron went on to say, “As legal professionals showcase their thought leadership through their websites and potential clients increasingly use mobile devices for online searches, large firms must understand and adopt Google’s latest innovation in mobile search: the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, known as AMP.”

The article points out that currently, one in four encounters with digital media occur on mobile devices; this trend is continuing to rise.  AMP aims to speed up the mobile web.  Jaron states that, “Law firms that adapt can continue to enjoy strong search visibility.  Those that don’t will ultimately see a decline in website traffic and engagement.”

Prospects Not Biting? It Could Be Your Email Subject Lines

Are your email open rates underwhelming? If so, it probably has something to do with your email subject lines. At first glance, writing subject lines seems straightforward. But finding the right balance is tricky—they have to be strong without being pushy, informative without being wordy, personal without being creepy. Few companies get this balance right, which can have a serious impact on the success of email campaigns. Regardless of how well-crafted the body of your email is, if your subject line isn’t intriguing, recipients will simply never click it.

Thankfully, you’re not the only one who could use some subject line inspiration. HubSpot gathered a list of 25 creative email subject lines that get opens. Below, we’ve picked out some of their best tips.

Leverage connections. The quickest way to build trust with someone? Have a mutual friend vouch for you. Use your network to your advantage and don’t be afraid to name drop. Try a line like one of these:

  • Joe Smith recommended I get in touch
  • I found you through Mary Parker

Ask a question. It’s difficult for people to leave questions unanswered. Using a question in your subject line (or alluding to a question in the body of the email) triggers that innate need to get more information and respond.  Some examples:

  • Question about your project goals
  • Hi Sarah, how is your project coming?
  • Did you get what you were looking for?

Use a numbered list. Whether you hate them or love them, most people are powerless against clicking on a “listicle,” a list of tips or tidbits of information. A numbered list email subject line signifies to your prospect that useful, easy-to-digest information is inside. Nearly anything can be turned into a numbered list:

  • Four options to get started
  • Seven tips for choosing a partner
  • Ten ways to meet your goals

Be helpful. Instead of focusing on what you want the prospect to purchase from you, focus on how you can help them. Give prospects free ideas and information, or let them know that you’re available to meet them wherever they are.

  • Hoping to help
  • Idea for your upcoming meeting
  • You aren’t alone

Use formatting tricks. When all else fails, use visual tricks to grab your prospect’s eye. Play with capitalization and punctuation, or try the (somewhat controversial) trick of starting a new email thread with “Re:.” And surprisingly, emails with no subject at all tend to get a higher open rate.

  • how can we help you, alex?
  • (no subject)
  • Re: Moving forward on our partnership

The Three Kinds of Content Your Firm Needs on Its Facebook Page

Is your firm’s Facebook page looking a little empty? Perhaps you created a page only to realize that you don’t know what to post, or that you don’t have enough content to post regularly. Maintaining a Facebook page requires time, dedication and strategy, but many organizations don’t realize the commitment—and content suffers. It’s a common problem for many law firms.

But the fact remains that Facebook is a good place for law firms to be. Almost half of Facebook users are over the age of 35. The majority of people making $75,000 or more a year are on Facebook. And 58 percent of people using Facebook are connected to work colleagues. With Facebook increasingly becoming a destination for older, professional social media users, it’s a great way to connect with potential and current clients.

So how do you connect with users? Tech4Law identified the seven reasons why people like a Facebook page. Below, we’ll take a look at three of them and learn how you can apply them to your firm page.

  1. Interesting Content: Above all, Facebook users want to see interesting content in their feed. To break that down even further, “interesting” is usually defined as content that informs, educates or entertains. Unless it fits your firm culture, most firms should probably stay away from entertainment or humor. That leaves you with informational content to play with—and your firm probably has a wealth of information to share. Beyond basic firm updates like case results and new hires, general legal tips, best practices and checklists are the kind of posts your clients expect to see. Try sharing industry-specific information that relates to your client base, too, whether your clients work in real estate or entertainment.
  1. Content that Offers an Inside Look: Most people visit Facebook so they can check up on their friends’ lives. While your firm’s page isn’t the appropriate place to dish about attorneys’ personal lives, it is a great place to give clients an inside look into the day-to-day happenings at your firm. Pictures and videos are particularly engaging—try posting photos from events and seminars or video interviews with attorneys and staff members. Focusing on the people who make up your firm will humanize your page and entice curious Facebook users.
  1. Content that Offers an Expert Opinion: People hire lawyers for their legal expertise—shouldn’t your Facebook page reflect that? Law firms should avoid giving specific legal advice online, but there’s nothing wrong with offering your opinion on major cases, news stories and cultural phenomena as they relate to the legal system. Sharing your thoughts not only keeps clients engaged, but it also cements your place as a thought leader among your peers.

Account Manager Karla Fletcher Celebrates Six Months at Berbay

Pulled, stretched, tugged, challenged. All these words, and more, come to mind when I think about my time at Berbay. Never have I been pulled, stretched and challenged to the point where I thought I would break, only to find a group of people ready to catch me if I fell.

As someone with an advanced degree in PR, I thought it would be a relatively easy transition for me to move from my corporate logistics career into the field I studied so vigorously in college. I had taken all the classes from international communications to crisis communication, and even legal studies in communication. I had worked on political campaigns, completed freelance marketing projects, and had done some entertainment PR for a Midwestern record label. But nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for life at Berbay.

On my first day, I hit the ground running. What’s a tort? Who’s a plaintiff? Should they focus on SEO or PPC? Every day I had question after question. And every day, my teammates and principals gave me answers. Do they like me? Am I learning fast enough? Am I disappointing my team? Every day, I would receive words of encouragement letting me know I was headed in the right direction.

My previous work environment left very little room for free thinking. No one cared if I excelled personally, as long as my numbers looked good for Wall Street. It didn’t matter if I worked 12-hour days and came in on the weekends. There was no such thing as a job well done.

What a vastly different experience this has been. Every week, my managing principal Sharon asks me with the utmost sincerity, “How are you doing?” It’s not just an inquiry into whether or not I was able to complete the latest media pitch or draft a website blurb, but an inquiry into my physical, emotional and educational well-being. Daily, my principal Megan finds small ways to congratulate me and the rest of the team when we shine and excel. Even in those moments when I am being corrected, it is never without ideas and knowledge about what I could have done better. Those small yet indelible marks let me know they value me as a person; they value what I bring to the table, and want to see me prosper and do well. There is a plan and purpose for me, and they are vested in cultivating it.

Every day, I am pulled, stretched, tugged and challenged. And every day, I rise to meet that challenge. I strive to learn more, to be better, to go further and to face every challenge like a conqueror. Because that’s how Berbay sees me.

Writing to Win: The Value of Nominations

One of the most valuable tools in indicating your effectiveness within the legal landscape is the number of winning nominations that can be attributed to your law firm. In a recent Legal Marketing Association meeting, Cheryl Bame of Bame Public Relations moderated a discussion with panelists Julie Fei of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Greg Mitchell of The Recorder, and Kristy Werness of Irell & Manella LLP on the value of a great nomination. They focused on best practices to use in effective submissions, common mistakes that cause a submission to miss the mark, and how marketing professionals should leverage the submissions and results.

In developing a winning nomination it is important to do your due diligence to make sure all the bases are covered. Understanding what the nomination entails, what materials are necessary, and important deadlines that need to be considered are all a part of the nomination process. While these factors may seem minor or inconsequential, numerous attorneys fail to move past the preliminary stages because these issues were not well thought out.

Cat Fredenburgh of Law360.com added some additional points all legal marketers should make note of when completing a nomination.

Don’t just send a biography
While background information is great for potential candidates, don’t send a simple biography and think the selection committee will have enough material to make a final determination. Be specific in indicating what separates you or your client from the competition by including significant matters that directly relate to the nomination.

Don’t overstate an individual’s or a firm’s responsibility or role in a matter
Nothing is more embarrassing than when a selection committee is researching a matter a firm or attorney has impressively stated they helped win only to find out the contributions were minimal at best. Refrain from inflating the contribution of a firm or attorney. The entire nomination is questioned if there are circumstances where the committee finds examples of exaggerated responsibilities.

Be comprehensive
Long, intimidating case titles with vague information are not inviting to editors. Editors are not interested in looking up copious amounts of case information or researching for hours on end the very information that should have been readily available in the submission. Editors will not do the work for you.

Don’t submit fluff
The selection committee is not interested in fluff pieces or information that lacks relevance. Always send viable information that could be of value to the publication and committee. The nomination is your opportunity to tell a story and provide an interesting narrative that will leave the selection committee wanting more.

Law firm nominations should not be an intimidating or daunting feat, but should be looked as a way to market and leverage the firm’s positive attributes. Following these simple yet crucial concepts will add to the possibility of your client winning those coveted awards.

Strengthening Your Writing Skills: The Heart and Soul of Effective PR

The February 2016 edition of Public Relations Tactics was the annual writing issue, and it was chock full of valuable and pertinent information every public relations specialist should know. From perfecting your prose and refusing short cuts, to enhancing your reputation and becoming a better editor, there were plenty of valuable nuggets of information for every reader.

Perfect your prose
No special event, op-ed, media strategy, or website happens without prose. This prose must be catchy, punchy, inviting and fluid—able to move from medium to medium. Paul Dusseult of FleishmanHillard says, “Top-tier writing requires expert storytellers who read constantly and capture, analyze and synthesize information quickly. In other words, they possess the skills clients look for when seeking counsel on a host of strategic communications questions.”

Don’t use shortcuts
In the current “text message” society in which we live, verbal and written shortcuts have become the norm. However, to be proficient in media and public relations, one must have a strong command of the written word. Donovan Roche, vice-president of strategic services at Havas Formula states, “In this profession, good writing is the bread to our media relations butter. If you’re not a solid writer, then you don’t belong in public relations.”


Enhance your reputation with a white paper

One of the most effective methods a PR professional can use to market a product or position their client as an expert in their field is a well-written white paper. A white paper often provides expert opinions, insights on new trends or viewpoints that may differ from the mainstream. When it comes to a well-written white papers, they should be customized, practical, valuable, marketable, understandable and most importantly, intellectually stimulating.

Become a better editor
There are numerous tricks of the trade to assist you in becoming a better editor. However, good writing comes from a combination of writing, rewriting, trimming, shaping and refining your draft. Having an honest writing companion who will review and critique your material; reading your copy at least three times; and finally, understanding the difference between editing and proofreading will strengthen your writing abilities.

Overall, being a more efficient writer should always be a goal in becoming a better communicator, marketer and public relations specialist. Using some of these tips will fortify your writing and make you stand out amongst your peers.

New Coke vs. Coca-Cola Classic: 30 Years Later

If there is one thing we know, it’s following the adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If there is no evidence of a real problem, don’t create a problem that isn’t there, just to fix it.  In the early 1980’s, the Coca-Cola/Pepsi rivalry reached an all-time high when a blind taste test revealed consumers preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi to the crisp, refreshing taste of Coca-Cola.  In efforts to combat their worst fears of losing a large demographic, Coca-Cola executives and directors decided to change what some consider the largest institution in soft drinks.

On April 23, 1985, Coca-Cola introduced the all-new reformulated recipe, New Coke, which was the first change to the recipe in its 99-year history.  With a sweeter taste, Coca-Cola was prepared to go toe-to-toe with its rival, Pepsi. Millions upon millions of advertising dollars were poured into marketing this “revolutionary” soft drink. New Coke popped up on the shelves of grocery stores and corner markets across America.

Then the unexpected happened.

An unforeseen backlash took place. Loyal Coca-Cola customers revolted against the new product. Customers formed grassroots campaigns, started phone hotlines, wrote Coca-Cola executives, and created petitions in efforts to have Coke return to its original recipe. A poll revealed that only 13% of soda drinkers liked New Coke as opposed to 59% who liked the original recipe. In July of 1985, Coca-Cola president Donald Keough released a statement saying they were bringing back the original taste of Coca-Cola, now as Coca-Cola Classic. “The simple fact is, that all of the time, and money, and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the depth and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people.”

Now, 30 years later, Coca-Cola still carries the logo and taste with them, understanding the value in keeping their timeless and classic recipe, just that, classic. As marketers, we can dwell and focus on statistical research; however, we cannot neglect the voice of the consumer. Coca-Cola is an institution for many, which is important as our world continues to move at the speed of light. There are times when we have to “rebrand”, “refocus”, or “re-invent” ourselves and our clients. However, Coca-Cola proves that when it comes to classics, it’s better to leave well enough alone.

Miss Universe Blunder: Simple Mistake or Stroke of PR Genius?

On December 20, 2015, we watched in horror as Steve Harvey erroneously announced Miss Colombia as winner of the Miss Universe pageant.  If you’re like me, you hadn’t watched the beauty contest in years but with the help of social media, were able to replay the mistake seen and heard around the world. You could sense the humiliation of Harvey as you witnessed Miss Colombia go from sheer elation to defeat in the blink of an eye.  All of Facebook and Twitter were buzzing about Miss Universe. Every news outlet and media source spent days covering Harvey and the pageant.  After considering the steady rating descent of beauty pageants in recent years I couldn’t help but wonder, was this an honest mistake or public relations genius at work?

In mid-2015, the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants were placed at the center of controversy after now former-owner Donald Trump made provocative statements regarding Latinos during the kick-off for his presidential campaign.  As companies and sponsors dropped their support of the pageant, NBCUniversal, Univision, and pageant officials made swift moves to sever ties with Trump in an attempt to move back into the good graces of its millions of supporters.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the Miss Universe pageant had 6.2 million viewers and a 1.7 rating among adults 18–49, down 18 percent in viewership from the previous year.  However, marketing and business consultant Matt Sweetwood conducted a survey, and of 1500 participants, 28 percent saw the blunder live while 45 percent were made aware of the pageant after they saw a video of the program. Twice as many people saw Miss Colombia and subsequently Miss Philippines crowned after the program. Translated into actual viewership, Steve Harvey’s “mistake” garnered about 12 million viewers.

As PR and marketing professionals, we understand the importance of formulating a message and crafting it to fit our audience. However, there are times when a simple mistake can be a stroke of PR genius.  In this case, Steve Harvey reading an incorrect name revitalized and rejuvenated what many considered an antiquated program with minimal viewership. That simple mistake gained traction around the world and made the Miss Universe pageant a household name, if only for a fleeting moment.  Through this one blunder we learned the science of PR is not really a science, but it’s about capitalizing on every moment to make it count.

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