Friday, December 22, 2006

Florida Adopts New Lawyer Advertising Guidelines as of January 1, 2007

The New Year Brings New Lawyer Advertising Guidelines
By Margaret Grisdela

The Florida Bar rings in the New Year with amended guidelines for lawyer advertising, based on recommendations of The Florida Bar’s Advertising Task Force 2004. Keep your New Year’s resolution to stay in compliance on your marketing programs by following these simple steps.

1. All non-exempt TV and radio advertising must now be filed for review at least 15 days in advance of dissemination. (Rule 4-7.7. See Rule 4-7.2 for exemption guidelines.)

2. Communications between a lawyer and that lawyer’s family members, as well as communications requested by a prospective client, are now exempt from Subchapter 4-7 guidelines.

3. The “hiring disclosure” of 4-7.3 is no longer required in print advertising.

4. Words or statements required in an advertisement or direct mail piece under Rule 4-7.2 must now be “legible.” The previous requirement specifying minimum font size is now deleted.

5. A non-lawyer spokesperson who speaks on behalf of a lawyer or law firm must still be identified as a spokesperson.

Regulation of websites and Internet communications remains unchanged, as the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar – which seeks to regulate websites – appointed a Special Committee to further study the topic. The Florida Supreme Court also directed The Florida Bar to conduct additional study of lawyer advertising, which will include the opportunity for public comments.

Out-of-state lawyers who advertise in Florida must now comply with The Florida Bar’s advertising guidelines.

You can access a complete list of changes to the lawyer advertising guidelines online at www.floridabar.org or by contacting the author.

Margaret Grisdela is President of Legal Expert Connections, Inc., specializing in legal marketing and business development. She can be reached at MG@LegalExpertConnections.com.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

2007 Legal Awards Database now available for Law Firm Marketing

Legal Expert Connections, a marketing and business development agency serving the legal and litigation support markets, today announced a new marketing service called the 2007 Legal Awards Database. Attorneys and legal marketers working on their 2007 law firm marketing plans can now order customized research reports on over 400 legal award listings from across the country and, in some cases, around the world.

“Competition for business in the legal market is intense, and attorneys are constantly seeking credible ways to set themselves apart,” says Margaret Grisdela, President of Legal Expert Connections. “Winning a coveted industry award from a respected third party like a state bar association or a national legal trade association is a valuable endorsement that strengthens both credibility and visibility for a law firm.”

Many law firms operate in a national or multi-state environment, making it difficult to identify and keep track of all the legal award possibilities. Generally there is little or no cost to apply for a legal award; the challenge is to identify suitable awards in time to meet the filing deadlines.Legal awards recognizing exemplary service among the public and private sectors, international markets, pro bono projects and young attorney accomplishments are all included in the 2007 Legal Awards Database.

The audience for the 2007 Legal Awards Database includes attorneys, law firm marketers, law firm administrators, marketing and PR agencies. Award records include key facts, such as the sponsoring organization, award description, filing deadlines and submission details.

The 2007 Legal Awards Database is available for private research on a per-request, fee basis. Research is conducted by Legal Expert Connections and clients are provided with profiles of legal awards in the states and practice areas of interest to them. © 2006.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Martindale Offers New Law Firm Marketing Opportunities Online

Martindale, the LexisNexis subsidiary, is borrowing a page from Google by offering sponsored placements for law firms on search results pages.

General "lawyer locater" searches on www.martindale.com will now feature one national law firm announcement and one statewide law firm banner ad above the actual search results, according to a November 21, 2006 company press release.

Additionally, targeted national and statewide sponsorships are available in five specific legal categories:
- Aviation and Aerospace Law
- Admiralty and Marine Law
- Immigration Law
- International Law
- Military Law

Statewide sponsorships start at $2,000/year while national sponsorships start at $15,000/year.

Our Observations: This move underscores several timely marketing principles.

First, it is no longer sufficient to simply be listed in various legal directories. In the case of Martindale, the law firm participation rate is so high that it may be hard to stand out. The new sponsorship program will attract aggressive law firms that are willing to pay a premium for favorable placement.

Second, online marketing is becoming increasingly important in connecting attorneys with new legal prospects and law firm clients.

Third, your law firm's website plays a critical role in converting visitors to prospects. A basic online brochure is inadequate to instill confidence, particularly when your legal competitors have a more polished online presence.

Contact the author to discuss your online legal marketing strategies.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Law Firm Client Retention Rates: You Can't Manage what you Don't Measure

The "Large Law Firm Client Retention Study" released by LexisNexis on November 14, 2006 reveals that the majority of law firms surveyed (61%) do not know their client retention rate!

Our commentary: “Retention rates” reflect the period of time, measured on an annual basis, that you are able to maintain an active law firm client. You can calculate your client retention rate very simply. Print out a copy of your 2004 law firm client list as of December 31, 2004. Then generate a similar 2005 law firm client list as of December 31, 2005. If you served 100 clients in 2004, determine how many remained active during 2005. If 10 of the 100 clients did not return to do business with your law firm in 2005, you have a 90% retention rate. While a 10% loss may not sound bad over the short run, you will need to replace all of the 100 clients you served in 2004 over the course of 10 years!

Your retention rate is extremely important, since it has a direct impact on your law firm’s profitability. Let us say, as an example, that your law firm’s total annual billings are $3 million. If you have 100 clients, that translates into an average of $30,000 in annual revenue per account. When you lose 10 accounts per year, you need to replace $300,000 in annual billings just to protect your base.

If you can increase your retention rate from 90% to 95%, you retain an additional $150,000 in revenues using the above example. Of course, some account loss is normal due to mergers, acquisitions, client relocations or other factors. Your goal should be to hold on to as many accounts as possible while you continue to bring in new legal business.

The LexisNexis study was based on responses from 2,198 law firm professionals at law firms with 75 or more attorneys in the U.S. and Canada.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Florida Attorney Advertising Rule Amendments Approved by Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court on November 2, 2006 adopted amendments to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar based on recommendations of the Florida Bar Advertising Task Force 2004. These advertising amendments become effective on January 1, 2007.

The Florida Bar adopted the majority of the Advertising Task Force recommendations, with the exception of proposals dealing with: 1) attorney website regulation; and 2) the review of television and radio advertisements.

Generally, the amendments relate to the following Advertising Rules:
Rule 4-7.1, General
Rule 4-7.2, Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services
Rule 4-7.3, Advertisements in the Public Print Media
Rule 4-7.4, Direct Contact with Prospective Clients
Rule 4-7.5, Advertisements in the Electronic Media other than Computer-Accessed Communications
Rule 4-7.6, Computer-Accessed Communications
Rule 4-7.7, Evaluation of Advertisements
Rule 4-7.8, Exemptions
Rule 4-7.9, Information about a Lawyer's Services Provided Upon Request
Rule 4-7.10, Firm Names and Letterhead

Subsequent posts will explore details of the changes in Florida's attorney advertising guidelines in more detail.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Legal Billing is part of Attorney Marketing

Amtrak could have saved millions of dollars in legal fees by simply reviewing their invoices more carefully, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal.

Amtrak spent more than $100 million on lawyers between 2002 and 2005, according to government records. In many cases the attorneys working on the Amtrak account have close links to the country's leading passenger rail, adding to the difficulty of independently managing legal expenses.

Questions raised in a government audit revolve around invoices that do not fully describe the services rendered. The names of major law firms are identified as having questionable billing practices on the Amtrak account.

This situation underscores the importance of transparency, responsiveness and customer service in all aspects of law firm management. Client satisfaction is measured in many ways when it comes to legal services. Why run the risk of seeing your firm's name mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article on less than best practices when it comes to billing?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Attorney marketing over lunch

The start of a new month is a perfect time to get out your calendar or PDA and look at your lunch schedule for November. Lining up two lunches per week with prospective or current clients each week is a good way to keep your pipeline full.

Consider an "off the clock" lunch with existing clients. Offer them "free" time to talk about new product ideas they may be developing or a thorny competitive situation they face. You may be able to identify some additional opportunities to be of legal service that would not otherwise come to your attention.

Members of your referral network also might enjoy a lunch meeting to catch up on the latest news in the local legal market. You may learn of new legal engagements, pending litigation or the latest courtroom news.

Stay in touch personally outside of your office and away from your desk. It will be time well spent.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Plan now to thank your clients

Thanksgiving is just over a month away, so now is the time to think about an appropriate way to thank your law firm clients. Perhaps you are very organized and are totally prepared for this wonderful holiday, but in today's busy world it is easy to let the occasion creep up on you.

Your clients will be inundated with holiday candy and gifts starting in early December, but Thanksgiving is still not widely celebrated in the business community. What better opportunity to stand out from the crowd and impress your clients?

At a minimum, a Thanksgiving card is a nice way to mark the spirit of the holiday. Add a personal phone call to your best legal clients and prospects. It's a great way to catch up and learn what they are doing for the holidays.

Taking a client to lunch or having a small "thank you" party is also a pleasant way to remind your client that their business is important to you.

Share your ideas about Thanksgiving messages here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Hewlett-Packard Lesson: Does your Law Firm have a Media Plan?

It is difficult to imagine the plight of the two Hewlett-Packard ("H-P") executives, including the former Chairwoman of the Board and former chief ethics lawyer, who went from holding respected, prestigious positions to being charged with four counts of felony, including using false pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility, unauthorized access of computer data, identity theft and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. Three outside investigators are also charged.

The public relations (PR) questions and angles associated with this story that relate to law firms and attorneys are endless. Here are some key lessons.

1. Many disputes play out in the "court of public opinion" before they ever get to a court of law. Is your law firm prepared with a media plan if you need to act quickly in response to an unexpected breaking story? Getting your message out for your law firm or your client is paramount. There is no time to compile a media list or interview a PR firm. This needs to be done way in advance and ready for immediate use.

2. You need friends and acquaintances in the media. News travels fast. A law firm or attorney must have trusted relationships with key journalists built over time that can be mobilized quickly to accurately disseminate the facts about a case.

3. Don't let the sun set on negative news without a response. React immediately with all the pertinent facts in a case. Designate your media contacts and make them readily available for extended hours.

4. Have an online news room and use it proactively to tell your story. Post key facts and figures that the press can use when they need fast access about your legal case or law firm.

Perception is reality, as they say. Protect your law firm and legal practice by being prepared with an up-to-date media plan.

Building a Foundation for Law Firm Marketing and Legal Business Development

The purpose of this blog is to help attorneys, law firms and experts develop a successful legal practice by analyzing various business development tools and techniques to increase visibility in the marketplace. Whether your role is in corporate defense, plaintiff personal injury, expert witness litigation support or other aspects of the law, you will find practical information here to help you identify and attract the ideal legal clients and prospects you seek.

Three fundamental principles form the basis of successful law firm marketing and legal business development:
1) Focus. Choose what you want to do and do it exceptionally well.
2) Demonstrate your knowledge. Always give value to your audience in an educational, objective manner.
3) Never stop marketing. Adopt an integrated approach to promoting your legal practice.

Business development is a process, not an event. The time you invest in building new legal accounts will pay for itself many times over in the long run.

You will benefit in three important ways when you implement a structured law firm marketing and business development plan, perhaps working with a business development expert. First, you will get more legal business (also known as "rainmaking") by adopting "best practices" in legal business development. Second, you will save time and money by avoiding marketing techniques that do not work. Finally, you will learn how to position your law firm or litigation support services online for maximum visibility.

Contact us if you have a question about law firm marketing or legal business development techniques that are best suited to your law practice.