LMA Top Takeaways

Erica: . . . to the president of a multinational, $1 billion company in just under two decades. That entrepreneur is Kat Cole, President Cinnabon, Inc. Yes, I’m sure you can still smell those delicious cinnamon rolls. A key message that Kat evokes throughout her keynote presentation at the conference was if you don’t, someone else will. This really resonated with me after hearing that about 70% of legal work is being moved in-house, leaving just 30% of legal work available for outside counsel. With that margin tightening by the day, now is the time to be more vigilant than ever or else that remaining 30% of work will go to the next firm in line. As professionals, we must recite that line to ourselves on a daily basis and integrate it into every aspect of our work.

Welcome to our webinar and thank you very much for joining us. My name is Erica Hess, account manager with Berbay Marketing and Public Relations. Berbay specializes in working with law firms and other professional services firms to increase their visibility and enhance their credibility to fuel revenue growth.

Over the next about thirty minutes, we’ll recap some of the top takeaways from the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference held in Orlando, Florida, in early April. Each year, I attend the conference. Not only do I learn something new, but most importantly, a new technique to execute what I’ve learned. I invite you to replay the message “if you don’t, someone else will,” following each side and think about how it applies to your firm. Also, please feel free to submit any questions as we go and I will try to address a few of them at the end.

So we’re going to take a little virtual survey here and see how awake everybody is. Raise your hand if you think the perfect law firm exists. Raise it nice and high. O.K., so not a lot of people. I was enlightened to hear that it really does exist and it is obtainable for all firms. While these might seem like basic concepts, the lack of integration surprises me–and this was according to some clients at the conference. Honing the rudimentary components of our practice is a key driver to creating the perfect law firm experience and setting yourself apart from your competition and at the end of the day, doesn’t everyone want to have a perfect experience with a service provider?

Whether you are filing a lawsuit or handling a transaction, there’s no such thing as over-communication. By simply letting your clients know the status of a project or that you’re still working on something will help them ease what can sometimes be an unfamiliar process and let them know that you are thinking of them every step of the way. Do whatever it takes to fully understand their business. Make an impromptu visit to just walk the halls or take the in-house legal team out to lunch with the goal of knowing how to better serve them.

At the outset of your relationship with a client, find out how you can personalize your service as much as possible. Do they like to receive invoices via e-mail or via snail mail? How do they want their e-mails structured and how often do they want to be communicated with? Do they prefer to be contacted on their office phone or cell phone? These are all such little things that can make your client’s life just a little bit easier.

We’ll get into cross-serving in a little bit more depth, but on a basic level, help other lawyers and other practice groups in your firm understand your client’s business when cross-serving. The goal is to move the firm forward as a whole.

If you have published an inside counsel, quoted in the National Law Journal or you’re speaking at an industry conference, let your client know. You gain the credibility of being an expert by providing them with valuable information relevant to their company.

This is one of my favorite ones and something that we strive to deliver for clients and that is under-promise and over-deliver. There’s really no description needed here, but if you say you’re going to get something to your client by the next day, 5:00 p.m. the day before doesn’t cut it. Deliver them service that they wouldn’t expect and that they can’t find anywhere else. Bottom line, wow your clients.

By thinking outside the box in terms of how your firm can go above and beyond to impress clients, you can solidify the long-term relationship.

Garnering the attention of in-house counsel has long been an elusive game which will probably never change. Remember that 30% in work we talked about that is still available? That is what firms are competing for and should be held in the highest regard and fought very hard for.

It’s a given, but it must be said: Be responsive and timely. Whether it’s a day-to-day inquiry from your client or they’re facing a crisis, general counsel expects their outside counsel to be available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. I’ve heard a scenario time and time again when listening to general counsel where it would take one firm several days to get back to the client while another firm would get back to them in just a few hours, whether it was an e-mail or a phone call. Even if you can’t turn around what they’re asking for in a few short hours, assure them that you’ve received their e-mail and that you will implement the next steps to addressing their request.

Getting your marketing material in front of general counsel has become increasingly challenging in a cluttered marketplace. Whether it’s an e-blast or a marketing brochure, recognize that you only have their attention for maybe a split second if you’re lucky. Think about how you can get your message across in a clear, condensed and concise manner. For example, if you are sending them a long article as an e-mail attachment, recap in the body of that e-mail the three to five key takeaways that they will receive from the article. This not only saves them time, but shows that you are taking the time to provide them with the relevant information that they need.

By taking a 360-degree view on the company will help you understand the challenges that they faced in the past. Follow their executives in the media or elsewhere to see what they’re saying. What do they see as their biggest challenges? What have they faced in the past?

If you’re writing an article, what better way to promote your client than inviting them to co-author with you? This not only helps develop the relationship on a more personal level, but again gives you an opportunity to promote them and at the end of the day, don’t we all want the spotlight at some time?

Further, if there are any awards, recognitions or nomination opportunities that your firm receives, keep your client in mind when considering these, as they could be a fit for their in-house counsel or their in-house legal team.

If your client is involved in a merger or acquisition and the GC that you have relationship with leaves the company, follow them. The panel discussed how they might never hear from a firm again after a merger or acquisition and it really baffles them because that GC can potentially pop up at a new company and it was almost a no-brainer for obtaining that legal work down the road.

By the taking the time to demonstrate your understanding of general counsel’s every-changing needs, your firm has every opportunity to gain a competitive edge on security that remaining 30% of work.

Cross-selling is a term of the past. There’s a preconceived notion among lawyers that cross-selling is not their job. A lawyer might say if they decided to divulge their client list, “O.K., I told them what to do. Now, it’s their responsibility to get the business.” This is a wrong way of thinking. Cross-selling no longer falls on the shoulders of the individual going after new business, but the firm as a whole.

Cross-serving requires not only trust among the attorneys in the firm, but a desire among everyone to move the firm forward. Cross-serving should not be viewed as a sales pitch; rather, how can you as the relationship partner introduce other attorneys or practice groups in a more relaxed manner. For example, bring them along to an in-house CLE program you’re putting on or invite them to a lunch to celebrate a deal closed. By reducing the stress of pitching for business, you have the opportunity to familiarize the client with other services your firm provides in a less sales-oriented environment. Determine how you can seamlessly integrate your services by taking a full understanding of the practice groups and the services that are currently being provided to them. Know the legal challenges they faced in the past and what the outcomes where, their history with the firm and how they first became a client. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t show up to a major exam without first doing your homework. Cross-serving is no different. Know everything and anything there is to know about the client. Conduct a google search. Obtain their annual reports. What industry publications have they been in? Who are their competitors? If it’s an oil and gas company, what are their new products? Who are their past CEO’s? What financials did they put up the year prior? Again, you wouldn’t show up without doing your homework. Cross-serving can sometimes be stifled by a lack of knowledge in the firm regarding what the various practice groups do. By familiarizing your attorneys with each other, by planning events that are focused on building relationships, you can help promote cross-serving.

One event that I found very interesting was a firm that held an internal trade fair where each practice group set up a booth similar to what you would see at any conference you would attend and each attorney was tasked to go around to each booth and learn about what that group did. They had to get signed off at each booth to show that they completed the exercise and following the trade fair, the attorneys had to make three to five follow-up action items. For example, take John Smith, head of the real estate group, out for lunch and learn about his three top clients. No matter the method, focus on getting your attorneys in one room and conversation is bound to happen. Even better, if it’s something they enjoy such as a pizza party after work, you will potentially gain more buy-in for participation.

The aforementioned can only be done with an understanding that it takes time and it won’t happen overnight.

Are you ready for it because it’s around the corner? It’s what we as marketers refer to as awards season. No, I’m not talking about the Oscars or the Grammys. I’m talking about Superlawyers, Chambers and the list goes on. Rankings and awards are a key tool of engagement for many firms, but the flurry of award season can often cause stress and even tension within a firm. By streamlining the process and preparing in advance, you can list some of the burden associated with this period.

Creating a calendar not only helps you keep all of the nominations and rankings opportunities organized, but it can also help give you a bird’s-eye view on what’s coming up so you can get jumpstarted on longer submissions that might require very detailed case information. You can also use this calendar year after year by simply just updating the deadline dates.

Dealing with politics within a firm can be a major stumbling block and sometimes a very sensitive issue. Each attorney or practice group may believe they warrant inclusion on a particular list, which may be true; however, submitting half your firm might negatively impact your chances and is typically frowned upon. Educate your firm on why this isn’t a best practice and why you should be strategic by starting with a small group of attorneys and growing that number each year as the publication becomes more familiar with your firm’s work. This is especially true for Chambers where submitting more than three to five people can basically void your submission.

As one of the most highly regarded publications in the legal industry, landing a spot on the Chambers and Partners list is coveted by many firms. For those of your who have dealt with Chambers before, I’m sure you will know that client references are a critical part of their research process; however, Chambers notes they receive a 4% response rate from clients. In lieu of sending in what they typically put out as the Excel spreadsheet where you list the contact information and that a researcher from the Chambers team will contact your client, introduce your client directly to the researcher at Chambers. Advise your client on what matter you’ve submitted them for, what the process will look like, what kind of feedback they need to give and help ease this for them. You’re likely to get a better response rate and move that 4% for your firm up.

If the intellectual property group were named to Intellectual Property Today’s top litigation firm, every practice group in your firm should promote their success. Whether it’s on Linkedin, in their practice group newsletter or by word of mouth, every practice group should promote every practice group. The goal is increase visibility for the entire firm and not just the group recognized.

Awards typically don’t draw a lot of media attention such as say a high-profile lawsuit. Leverage your recognition to the media in different ways. If you were named to National Law Journal’s mid-sized hotlist, pitch the matters highlighted in your submission as a bylined article or speaking engagement or was there a precedent-setting case that can repurpose into an industry forecast article?

We say a lot to clients that it’s great if you were quoted or if you were named to a particular list, but if you don’t tell anybody about it, it might as well be bird-cage liner the next day. So consider all of the platforms that you can do to leverage your firm’s recognition.

When a crisis happens, it’s like a boulder dropped into a serene pond and created a ripple effect. We could spend hours covering crisis communications, but we’ve boiled this down to what we view as the most important point. By having a few key core elements in place, you can equip yourself to take on a crisis at any time. Model for others what you want their behavior to follow. By remaining calm and having a sense of control, others in your firm will notice and follow suit.

You should have a spokesperson identified for your firm yesterday. You don’t want to be involved in a crisis tomorrow and you’re running around trying to figure out who your spokesperson would be. Regularly work with your spokesperson on key communication points for the firm. These communication points will never change; however, the scenario that they’re adapted to will change.

From the managing partner down to IT, establish internal communications. Don’t leave anybody in the dark. Whether it’s a crisis or a day-to-day media inquiry, each member of your firm should follow a certain protocol when dealing with the media. Don’t focus on only your attorneys, as other staff members are likely the first point of contact for your firm. In one instance, the media was unable to get a hold of anyone from the management team. So instead, they started calling anybody who would answer their phone. The person they spoke with had heard several versions of what was happening and wasn’t aware of what they should and shouldn’t be saying to the media. You can only imagine how this could further a crisis situation.

All right, I’m going to test if everybody is still active out there. Raise your hand if you don’t have a cell phone. O.K., nobody. Not having a Linkedin profile is like not having a cell phone. It always amuses me when attorneys say, “I don’t need a Linkedin profile” or “It looks like they set up a profile five years ago and never touched it again.” According to a 2012 Green Target survey, 71% of general counsel are invisible users of social media. This means they rarely contribute, but they listen and consume. This is your opportunity to catch their attention by making sure you have not only a robust profile, but that you are actively engaged on social media. According to another study, when looking at Linkedin profiles, general counsel’s eyes were most drawn to the headline and headshot of the profile. Your headline should reflect key words about your practice rather than your actual title. For example, “litigation focusing on counseling professionals, corporations and directors and officers” rather than “partner at Jones, Smith Law Firm.” You have a limited amount of space to get your message across. In terms of your head shot, it goes without saying it should be a professional one, not one of you at a barbecue or one that you snapped on your I-phone five minutes before you uploaded it. These two elements of your Linkedin profile should serve as a standalone and reflect your firm and your story. Consider this as your first impression. You may never know why you’ve lost a piece of business, but it could be something as simple as your Linkedin profile.

Changing the culture in your firm might be compared to pushing a boulder up Mt. Everest which I’m sure we can all imagine is extremely difficult. This is a firm-wide approach for growing revenue. Your firm culture will naturally shift over time with the addition of new people and practice groups and the departure of others, but in order to drive substantial change within your firm, start with your leadership and start small. Before you can change your culture, you must first assess what your culture is and what it is not. Create dialogue within your firm and survey members to determine how your employees view the firm’s culture. Talk with those outside the firm such as colleagues and vendors to determine how they view your firm culture. Look for strengths and weaknesses among the feedback and align that with where you’re looking to go. You can’t change your firm culture in one day or with one person. Start with a small group who will act as advocates. Align yourself with leadership. Increase strategic alliances. By doing this you will be in a better position to drive change.

Be the champion and share your successes with everybody as your progress. By showing the process as having a positive impact on the firm, you will gain by and from other members.

There is always going to be the one person who’s going to drag their feet regardless of what it is or what you do. Hold their hand throughout the whole process and take them through each step. By showing them that what you are doing is having a positive impact on the firm, you will hopefully also gain their buy-in.

[unintelligible] This is all food for thought. These are the ideas and now it’s your turn to execute them. How you differentiate your firm is on the execution of what we discussed today. Apply the theory of if you don’t someone else will to every aspect of your firm’s work.

Thank you very much for joining our webinar. If you have any further questions or comments, I would love to continue the conversation and my contact information is displayed here. Thank you.

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I also don’t see too many questions. I do see one question that I’ll address real quick: Do you feel that law firms are losing business if they’re not utilizing social media? Absolutely 100%. Having a presence in the online world not only demonstrates your understanding of it, but again not having a Linkedin profile is like not having a cell phone. If somebody is google searching for you and types in your name on Google, the first things that are going to pop up will likely be your bio on the firm website and your Linkedin profile. This is your opportunity to set yourself apart and if a general counsel is only looking at Linkedin, we’ll then you’ve already lost the business right there if you don’t have a profile.

So I don’t see any other questions right. I’ll go ahead and wrap it up, but again if you’d like to continue the conversation, we’d love to hear from you and my contact information is displayed. Thank you very much.

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