Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 Biz Dev Focus Sharpens

Today's issue of The AmLaw Daily includes an article entitled, Welcome to the Future: Metrics Count. In the article consultant Mike Huber comments on law firms' tendency to use backward-viewing measures for financial performance analysis. He argues that in the future law firms need to be managed more like a traditional business.

This Rainmaking Lady is reminded of the saying, "you get what you inspect, not what you expect." Business development in today's law firm should include a proactive focus on specific goals that the firm wants to achieve, down to the associate level at a minimum. Leading indicators that point to future performance levels include advance planning in arranging speaking engagements, getting published, referral network management, maintaining active client contact, and other proven biz dev techniques.

For those firms that are using few or ineffective metrics for individual business development efforts, it is best to start with a simple attorney marketing plan that can be easily measured and carefully monitored.

The start of a New Year is a perfect time to engage partners and associates in taking individual responsibility for business development performance that rolls up to firm-level goals.

Click here for a very basic attorney marketing plan that can be used as a point of reference. Remember, never stop marketing!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Best Wishes

As we focus on family and friends this holiday season, let us be grateful for our many blessings. We look forward with great hope to the challenges and joys that await us in 2009.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Law Firms and Web 2.0: Wiki Marketing

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled "The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World." While many of the examples provided relate to consumer products marketing, there are also insights for law firm marketers and managing partners.

One Web 2.0 technique that some law firms are adopting is the use of "wikis," or web sites that allow visitors to add, delete, or edit content. The best known example of a wiki is Wikipedia.

Here are examples of a few law firms with a profile on Wikipedia:

Akerman Senterfitt

Baker & Botts

DLA Piper

Greenberg Traurig

Howrey LLP

Skadden Arps

Surprisingly (or not), many major firms checked by this Rainmaking Lady were not present on Wikipedia. It does perhaps take a leap of faith and a deep breath to open up the firm's profile to all comers, but that is a trend being found on directories like Avvo and even the venerable Martindale.

Is a wiki right for your law firm? Only you can answer that. Perhaps the answer is yes, with regular oversight by your friendly marketing professional. The primary benefit is additional search engine visibility, which should be a top legal marketing priority.

Another variation on a wiki is to use one in a dedicated area of your law firm's web site, another I have not seen these in use yet.

Remember, you must be present to win on the Internet! If someone is looking for your services online but can't find you, you've just lost a qualified prospect.

Here's a related article on Wikipedia Marketing for law firms that I came across in this research:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Link In to Social Networking

Wondering where you can find your next new client? Internet- savvy attorneys are hitting the keyboard to build online referral networks that supplement traditional face-to-face networking. LinkedIn® is one of the most popular "social networking" sites among business users today.

Over 30 million professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries, connect with prospects electronically on LinkedIn. You can too!

To get started, simply go to www.linkedin.com and fill out your profile. The next step is to start inviting co-workers, business acquaintances, friends and others to link to you. Using the "six degrees of separation" concept, you benefit by gaining potential access to hundreds or thousands of contacts as your LinkedIn network grows.

Read the full story on LinkedIn for Lawyers here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Legal Outsourcing to India Expanding

Forrester Research estimates that 35,000 U.S. legal jobs will move offshore by 2010 and 79,000 by 2015, according to a November 26th article in The Wall Street Journal.

This is one way law firms can try to reduce expenses for clients in a challenging economy. Potential savings are significant, with U.S. temp lawyers billing more than double the going rate in India.

Kelley Drye & Warren in New York is reported to use lawyers in India to conduct litigation document review and for straightforward contract matters. Many other firms are being asked by clients to consider outsourcing.

Like many other businesses, the future may hold an operating model where U.S. offices of law firms focus on their core legal activities while outsourcing (here or abroad) the more repetitive aspects of legal services. Certainly this is already happening in many legal sectors as well as on the client side.

Managing Partners, Executive Committees and Law Firm Administrators will be challenged to manage complex production-type matters in a distributed economy, in addition to the myriad other responsibilities like client fulfillment, business development and talent management.

Read the full story: With Times Tight, Even Lawyers Get Outsourced.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

2009 Billing Plans Defy Market Conditions

Incisive Media's The American Lawyer reported yesterday that leaders of the nation's largest law firms are uncharacteristically uncertain about what 2009 holds for their organizations.

In its annual Law Firm Leaders Survey, an unprecedented 35 percent of managing partners predicted profits will decrease or stay flat next year. But, 98 percent of the 112 respondents at AmLaw 200 firm reported that they are still planning to raise billing rates in 2009 and 72 percent said that, despite layoffs, they expect a variety of factors to produce head count increases.

The Rainmaking Lady notes that it is interesting to contrast these results with the ACC Value Challenge covered in a previous post. Rather than blatantly raise hourly rates, perhaps this is a good time to further explore alternative billing approaches like success fees or retainers.

Read the full story.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Have you seen the ACC Value Challenge?

Noting that corporate legal costs are "out of control," the Association of Corporate Counsel launched the ACC Value Challenge initiative on September 26, 2008, with a live program at the Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, DC. The launch was webcast live, and has been viewed by several thousands of viewers in law departments, law firms, law schools and elsewhere.

Click here to learn more about the ACC Value Challenge.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Crowell & Moring Launches CDS Seminars

Educational seminars are an excellent way to reinforce your relationship with existing clients, while also attracting highly qualified prospects. Here is an example taken from a November 19th press release.

"Crowell & Moring LLP is conducting a three-part seminar series to address the fall-out and future of credit default swaps (CDS), the derivative instruments that have been blamed by some as one of the causes of the current financial crisis.

The volatile CDS market is expected to instigate significant litigation as investors seek to recoup their losses, as well as attention from regulators who are likely to seek control over the market. The series will begin in New York with a Webinar on November 20 featuring insights from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert E. Grossman and workout specialist John Ray of Avidity Partners, Chairman of Enron Creditors Recovery Corporation, among others."

Members of the press are invited, which helps to create the Internet and print-based visibility so important in today's market.

The Rainmaking Lady considers this to be an effective, proactive business development technique that turns market challenges into a positive for the firm.

Details here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

U.S. Lawyers Seeking International Work

As the U.S. market for legal services contracts, U.S. based law firms and lawyers are expanding overseas offices. Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and Qatar are key targets, according to a New York Times article today entitled, "Lawyers Wanted: Abroad, That Is."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Attorney Referral Networks at Work

This week I had the pleasure of assisting the Collaborative Family Law Institute (http://www.collaborativefamlaw.com/) organize a "Lunch 'N Learn" for Miami-area lawyers who do not have a family law practice. The goal was to educate these attorneys about the collaborative approach, so that they might refer clients or other acquaintances to CFLI members.

Attendance was generated by CFLI members who reached out to fellow attorneys via personal invitations. We supplemented this with email and direct mail campaigns. BNY Mellon Bank was generous in hosting the event, and 1 Florida Bar CLE credit was offered.

The result was an informative gathering with about 20 attorneys in attendance. This intimate setting, in a board room overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay, provided a great opportunity to introduce the participants to an emerging trend in alternative dispute resolution. The busy lawyers in attendance set aside normal scheduling demands to truly focus their attention on the material being presented.

The two-hour session provided an in-depth introduction to the collaborative family law process, led by CFLI founder and Miami family law attorney Rosemarie Roth. This family-friendly alternative to a contested divorce focuses on "preserving rather than destroying" the family relationships, as explained by Coral Gables family law attorney Bob Merlin.

CFLI board member and family law attorney Judy Hodor outlined how Florida courts now focus on "parenting plans" that emphasize the best needs of the children, rather than the old concept of custody.

Psychologist and CFLI board member Lana M. Stern Ph.D. emphasized how the divorcing couple is taught new communications skills to help them create a mutually beneficial framework for family decision making.

Overall, this "Lunch 'N Learn" technique is a very effective way to reach out to prospects on a personalized basis. It's a great investment in building a longer term source for high quality referrals.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HG.org: Upgraded Law Firm Listing Goes Live

We were pleased to assist our client HG.org, an international publisher of online legal directory sites, in issuing the following news release today.

Expanded Practice Areas and Increased Search Engine Visibility are Key Features

HOUSTON, TX—Nov. 18—PR NEWSWIRE— HG.org (www.hg.org), a leading online attorney and law firm directory, is pleased to announce the launch of the latest upgrade to their legal portal. This new version offers HG.org customers over 260 different practice areas to choose from, plus unlimited space for profile and service descriptions.

Since launching their new listing features, HG.org has witnessed a 20% jump in traffic. The site is now attracting over 650,000 unique visitors per month who are in search of legal services.

In today’s ever changing economic environment, it is more important than ever to effectively advertise any business, and law firms are no exception. HG.org is the perfect marketing solution for today’s firm as their services go far beyond a simple standard listing. Attorneys have the advantage of utilizing HG.org’s extensive experience and resources, including free secretarial service to edit premium listings and professionally written SEO practice descriptions. Publishing articles and posting legal events are free of charge to members and an efficient addition to online campaigns.

The advantages of being listed on HG.org include outstanding search engine isibility, extensive listing features and affordable listing prices. Only $195/year will list all information about a law firm with up to 10 lawyers and 2 offices. Larger law firms can list all attorneys and offices for prices ranging from $295 to a maximum of $595 annually.

"At HG.org we believe that an advertising campaign should be effective as well as affordable," says Anne Lang an HG.org executive. "With over 260 different practice areas and unlimited service descriptions supported by the new upgrade, HG.org makes it possible to perfectly customize your listing to fit your firm. We bring targeted leads that take both specialty and geography into account, allowing attorneys to reach the maximum number of potential
clients in the most cost effective format possible. It takes only minutes to list your firm, increase your Internet visibility and gain an immediate competitive advantage with HG.org upgraded listing features."

HG.org also offers free basic listings to law firms, making the online directory one of the best value propositions for legal marketing on the Internet today.

About HG.org

HG.org, LLC is a leading publisher of online legal directories, including HG.org (www.hg.org) and HGExperts.com (www.hgexperts.com). Launched in 1995, HG.org provides free basic listings and paid premium listings to over 26,000 law firms and attorneys in more than 200 countries.

Other services on HG.org include law firm and attorney marketing guides, a law practice center, legal job postings, a legal events calendar, legal article publication, legal business and law student centers, bar and legal association directory, and litigation support information.

HG.org annual growth tops 40%, driven by both affordable pricing and high client satisfaction.

Visit HG.org and click on the following link to list your firm http://www.hg.org/list.html.

Anne Langanne.lang@hg.org
Toll Free (800) 894-8830
Outside USA +1 (832) 553-7488

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Law Firm Layoff News Gets Tiring

It's official. The New York Times documented the story of recent law firm lay-off news in a November 12th article entitled, "Law Firms Feel Strain of Layoffs and Cutbacks."

While clearly an unfortunate career setback to those partners, associates and support staff affected, we can probably expect to hear similar news from other law firms in the future. Our troubled economic times are certain to get worse before they get better.

The Rainmaking Lady for one will try to assist readers in looking for effective ways to attract new business during this difficult business environment. Change creates opportunity, so let's focus on those marketing techniques that hold the most promise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Twitter Resources for Attorney Marketing

Here are some useful resources for those enterprising attorneys who want to add Twitter to their list of online marketing and business development techniques. We will update this list periodically, so stay tuned!

Lawyers Flock to Twitter for Marketing
Lawyers Weekly USA, November 7, 2008

Beginner's Guide to Using Twitter for Business
Duct Tape Marketing

How to Define Twitter Goals
By Blogger Darren Rouse

Look for me on Twitter @RainmakingLady

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Law Firm Hiring Slows in 2008

The National Law Journal, an Incisive Media publication, reported yesterday that law firm hiring slowed in 2008 across both partner and associate levels. Full details here.

“The next year will be a challenge, as firms rein in costs and readjust their practice areas to maximize readiness for emerging areas of law that generate revenue," comments Editor in Chief Steven Fromm.

The flip side of law firm lay-offs, as reported in an earlier post, this move to reduce hiring underscores the pressure on existing partners and associates to pick up the pace in new business development.

It's useful to note Mr. Fromm's emphasis on "emerging areas of law that generate revenue." Now is the time to look into the crystal ball and develop new legal services that will meet the needs of corporate clients facing slow payments, burdensome loan covenants, employee reductions, or refinancing pressures.

Focus is always beneficial, and those law firms and attorneys who understand a select number of market niches may find it easier to craft offerings that will ease economic pressures on their clients in 2009. November and December are good planning months to get ready for the New Year.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weil Gotshal Parter a "Woman to Watch"

Marcia Goldstein, Partner at Weil, Gotshal Manges, is named to the Wall Street Journal's "Women to Watch" list for 2008. She is the only law firm partner on this roster of top performers, drawn mainly from the ranks of Fortune 500 firms, banks, government and philanthropy.

Ms. Goldstein is head of bankruptcy and restructuring at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, well known for their role in advising debt-laden firms. Current clients include AIG and Washington Mutual. She also served as a lead advisor to WorldCom and Parmalat Finanziaria SpA.

View her bio here: http://www.weil.com/marciagoldstein/
View the article here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122609301920009441.html

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Law Firm Lay-Off List

The American Lawyer publishes a updated list of AmLaw 100 and AmLaw 200 law firms that have announced partner, associate, and/or staff lay-offs. Read the article.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Profitability Pain Pinches Partner Pockets

Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP halted profit payments to partners in August, according to an article today in Law360. The move was a proactive step to protect cash balances in the face of financial uncertainty.

Eversheds LLP took a similar step recently, according to Law360, by suspending profit payments due in November and February.

Collections, realization and cash flow management are certainly issues facing many law firms in today's economic slowdown. Financial hardships serve as a tough reminder that finding the ideal client from a business development perspective includes the need to assess their ability to pay. A vigilant approach to accounts receivable is an important corollary.

When good clients slow down the payment cycle, law firms can view it as an opportunity to tighten the client relations team around innovative billing and/or collections practices that meet the needs of both parties.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lawyers who Twitter

Do you Twitter? Hundreds of lawyers do. In fact, almost 400 attorneys who Twitter are listed in a September 9, 2008 blog post by Adrian Lurssen on JDSupra.

Twitter is a "social networking" site that invites followers to post information on where they are and what they are doing throughout the day. It's a free service and easy to set up an account.

Here are some tips on using Twitter from Steve Mulder:

There seem to be pros and cons for attorneys. On the positive side, social networking is a good way to increase your visibility and draw attention to your legal practice. On the negative side, you may not want your clients to see you chatting up your schedule when you are trying to bill 8 hours a day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Impediments to Business Development

There are many reasons why attorneys may not develop new business. Here are just a few of them:
  1. Managing Partners do not provide clear instructions. Simple. If attorneys are not directed to generate more revenues from current clients or open new accounts, chances are they won't.
  2. Attorneys are not trained in proper business development techniques. Most people take a few lessons from a professional instructor and/or read a few books when they want to learn chess, golf, or cooking. This applies to news business generation as well. Lawyers need a few basic lessons to point them in the right direction.
  3. New business is not measured, meaning there are no consequences if business is not generated. Employees do what you inspect, not what you expect.
  4. New business is not rewarded. Celebrating the successes and punishing the failure definitely has an impact. The right compensation plan will strongly reinforce your intentions.
  5. Internal dissension causes distractions. The more the law firm team is united in its efforts to get more business, the more successful this initiative will be. Furthermore, there should be agreement on the type of business that is sought.
  6. Attorneys are too busy. They may be cranking out 2,000 billable hours per year, but is it on the right account for the best rates? If your firm is busy, this is the perfect opportunity to choose the engagements that are best for you.

If your law firm does not maintain a healthy sales pipeline, it may find itself suddenly at a loss for new revenue as work in process is completed or cases settle. Don't get caught in this situation!

A well organized, strategic business development campaign that sets clear goals and rewards success can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Attorney New Business Development Goals

A good question was raised in regard to last week's post on the revenue target for attorney rainmaking goals. Our suggestion was a minimum goal of 1.25 times annual salary (with the .25 to cover benefits) for annual new business development, with a maximum goal of 3x annual salary.

The question is whether the higher end target of 3x salary is gross revenue per lawyer or new business generation. While the 3x number is an admirable business development goal, in reality it is most likely out of reach for most attorneys.

If the 3x salary level is viewed as an annual book of business in its entirety, then certainly it seems fair to say that 1.25x salary is a reasonable goal for the portion derived from new business generation. In the case of a solo practitioner, an attorney's ability to generate new accounts consistency will determine the health and profitability of their practice in the longer run. Partners in a larger firm may operate under a more complex set of goals.

When one third of a firm's revenue is derived from new accounts, this translates into demonstrated competencies in the many activities that go into closing a sale. For example, a sufficient volume of qualified leads needs to be in the pipeline at any point in time. Next, the "conversion" process from "lead" to "client" must be tracked, monitored, and handled efficiently. Finally, competitive factors must be overcome, services must be priced fairly, and prospects must be convinced that their needs will be fully met in order for them to say "yes!" to becoming a client.

When you stop to think about it, a true focus on developing new business skills can actually reorient they way an attorney approaches their practice.

The Rainmaking Lady invites your feedback. What are the business development goals that your firm targets?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rainmaking Revenue Goals per Attorney

What is a reasonable revenue goal for an attorney's business development program? A quick search of the Internet does not yield much in the way of specific suggestions on this topic.

The Rainmaking Lady's suggestion is to start with a simple minimum calcuation of one times the attorney's annual salary, plus a 25% factor for benefits.

Payscale.com identifies average attorney salaries starting at $57,500 in Year 1, climbing to $114,958 in Year 20. Details at:

For purposes of an example, let's make it simple and work with a 10-year attorney who is earning about $100,000 per year. This number jumps to $125,000 with basic benefits. An annual rainmaking goal of 1.25 times salary translates into just over $10,000 per month in new business development. Looked at in terms of billable hours, it is 50 hours at $200 per hour, or 25 hours at $400 per hour.

Is this a reasonable business development goal? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on the firm and the attorney. It is certainly a stretch goal, rather than a slam-dunk goal. One new $10,000 account per month most likely means there have to be about nine other leads that did not convert to new business yet. Which means that an attorney has to maintain a continuous, focused effort on finding qualified prospects and converting them to clients.

Since business development time is so precious, it is easy to see the importance of creating and implementing an effective business development plan and sharpening one's selling skills. Where will new leads be found? Knowing the profile of your ideal client will help. What services are worth $10,000, particularly when transactions are slowing to a trickle? The attorney who offers an effective solution to known problems faced by those ideal clients is in the best position to make the $10,000 sale.

As stated, the above example of 1.25 times salary is a minimum goal. Three times salary is better ... 1 multiple to cover the attorney's expense, 1 multiple to cover overhead, and a 1 multiple profit contributor.

By the way, some other interesting (albeit dated) law firm management statistics were identified in researching this post. For example, see "Fiscal metrics to gauge a law firm's health," published by Altman Weil in 2003:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jenner & Block to Release 10 Partners

Amid proud announcements of Super Lawyers recognition, Pro Bono achievements, Working Woman awards, and Who's Who Legal: Illinois accomplishments, Chicago-based Jenner & Block has also notified 10 equity and non-equity partners that their services will no longer be needed.

"In this economy, we have to be particularly vigilant and are taking a hard look at every area of expense," said managing partner Susan Levy in a statement issued by the firm.

This is clearly an unfortunate career setback for the attorneys involved, who devoted many years of dedicated hard work to the difficult task of achieving partner-level status. We hope they will find future opportunities more ideally suited to their skills.

The firm's focus on expense tells a tale. Attorneys who represent an expense to the firm, rather than a profit center, are most definitely at greater employment risk in today's volatile economic climate. As lucrative deals become harder to find and lack of financing causes corporate cut backs, the attorneys who will survive are those who have learned how to attract and retain clients through even the most challenging business cycles.

Both the firm and the attorney lose when partner or associate sales skills fail to generate sufficient revenue. For those attorneys who are facing this economic downturn with rusty or inadequate business development skills, here are some basic activities that can provide short term relief:
  • Formalize your referral networking program. Create a 1-2 page plan that lists who sends you business (i.e., accountants, bankers, non-competing attorneys) and set a schedule for how often you should meet with them to share leads.
  • Market to your current clients. This is generally the fastest route to new revenue.
  • Start the dinner circuit again if you stopped attending industry events and bar association meetings. Get out, shake hands and pass out your card. Of course, you will want to do this strategically and not indiscrimately.
  • Evaluate your sales pipeline. Identify your best prospects and the "next step" that will get you closer to the sale.
  • Look for speaking and publishing opportunities. While this tends to be a longer-term cycle, it is a best practice to always be cultivating places where you can demonstrate your legal knowledge in a non-commercial, educational format.

As the Rainmaking Lady says, never stop marketing! Business development is a process and not an event. It takes a focused attorney marketing plan with effective execution to get new clients.

Read the full story on Jenner & Block in the National Law Journal.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Waiting for the Elections

Yesterday while following up on some prospect calls, the uncertainty in the economy became apparent. Commenting that now was not a good time for their firm to start new marketing initiatives, the Managing Partner of a small law firm indicated that they are waiting to see how the presidential election turns out.

This is understandable. Change makes people nervous, and the turmoil in the markets--coupled with the pending national elections--has some firms taking a "wait and see" attitude.

The down side to this approach is that business development can have a long lead time. While it may be tempting to halt campaigns, now is actually when you need to be formulating your strategy for how to cope with various political and economic outcomes. What are the implications to your firm if the Democrats win? What if the Republicans win? How will either outcome impact your clients?

Regardless of the outcome, you will still need to be attracting qualified new clients. This will be continue to be difficult as businesses struggle to get financing and the economy reportedly moves into a recessionary stage. All the more reason to focus on building your pipeline of new leads.

Converting leads into clients is a related challenge. Good leads probably fell through the cracks during the boom times with little notice; that is no longer the case. All leads should be carefully recorded in a lead tracking system (like Act!, Goldmine, Interaction, Contact Ease, etc.) and monitored over time. Always focus on the next steps needed to make the sale.

Let your competitors "wait and see." The winners will be those who remain proactive in marketing during the tough times.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Help, My Clients are Bankrupt!

So lamented a Broward County bankruptcy attorney at a business development seminar I recently taught. “My clients need therapy,” chimed in another lawyer with a real estate practice.

Many attorneys today are struggling to generate the high volume of qualified leads needed to keep the lights on while achieving the goal of a six-figure salary.

Where can you find all these prospects? Read on for ten FREE or LOW COST business development techniques proven to help you achieve your practice expansion goals.

1. Ask for referrals. This FREE marketing initiative sounds simple, but the fact is that many attorneys don’t ask for referrals. Be specific! For example, a trust and estates attorney may say, “If any of your friends are the parents of young children and do not have a will, I can offer them some ideas on how to plan for college tuition and long term financial security.” Follow this up with 2-3 of your business cards for pass-along purposes. When you do get a referral, send a thank you note to the originating party.

2. Network with other attorneys. Take advantage of LOW COST networking opportunities available through your local Bar Association and other legal groups. Try to make at least 3-5 new contacts at every meeting you attend. Spending all your time talking to the attorneys you already know might be fun and comfortable, but it doesn’t help you expand your referral network.

3. Market to your current clients. This LOW COST, HIGH RETURN initiative is actually the best way to generate new revenue quickly, because you already enjoy the trust of your existing accounts. Don’t forget to reach out to your inactive accounts, who may need your services once again.

4. Build positive “word of mouth.” Tell everyone you talk to about a recent client success story. This FREE technique is memorable and gives people a reason to recommend you to others.

5. Get out and speak. The Florida Bar Association (as an example) maintains a Speakers Bureau for use by community groups. It’s FREE to add your name to the list of available speakers. To register, look for “Speakers Bureau” under the “Public Information” link at http://www.floridabar.org/. Check for similar speaking opportunities with your other membership organizations.

6. Join a legal referral network. The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service provides referrals to attorneys who will conduct an initial one-half hour office consultation for $25. The Broward County Bar Association also offers a referral service. Once you have the prospect in your office for a meeting, chances are good that they will select you to represent them. This LOW COST effort increases your traffic, adds clients, and gives you more people to ask for referrals.

7. Send an e-newsletter. Constant Contact (http://www.constantcontact.com/) is one of many LOW COST online communications programs that helps you send messages to clients and prospects quickly and affordably. Be sure to comply with Bar and anti-spam guidelines.

8. Get listed in legal directories. Martindale, FindLaw and HG.org all offer FREE basic listings in addition to paid placements. Every place you can get your law firm listed on the Internet will help you attract visitors to your website.

9. Join a leads group. This could be a FREE online networking group like LinkedIn or a LOW COST group like BNI. If these are not right for you, create your own leads group.

10. Never stop marketing!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Billable Hours Down in NY, DC, LA

Law firm billings are down in the second quarter of 2008 compared to 2007, according to research published by West Peer Monitor. Larger cities seem to be hit the hardest.

This is probably to be expected, given current market conditions. A decline of only 2% on average is actually relatively favorable.

Litigation looks to be the bright spot in the months ahead, as finger pointing and fault finding on Wall Street makes its way to the courts.

Read the full National Law Journal article at:

Read the West PDF at:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Calling all Clients!

How Law Firms can Strategically Address Wall Street Turmoil

When I started writing this post on the morning of September 16th, the markets were relatively quiet in anticipation of the Fed's afternoon meeting. In fact, the Dow actually ended the day up 141 points.

Later in the day, however, Christopher Condon reported for Bloomberg.com that Reserve Primary Fund (Ticker RFIXX), a money market fund with $62 billion in net assets, wrote off $785 million of debt issued by the now bankrupt Lehman brothers. This devaluation put the net asset value at below $1.00 ("breaking the buck") and causing the money market fund to delay some redemptions by up to 7 days. My client Patti Spencer, Esq., writes about this in her Pennsylvania Fiduciary Litigation blog.

The point is that there will be many predictable as well as unforeseen consequences of the turmoil in the financial markets.

Now is the time for law firms to take strong action:

  1. Determine client accounts that are "at risk"
  2. Identify actions the firm can take to help the strong clients minimize risk
  3. Step up the collections effort from accounts that are slow to pay
  4. Look for undervalued assets in the market. These are opportunities for clients or the firm.

"Calling all clients" (at least the priority accounts) is a good strategic campaign to document clients' current situation, then track it over time. More tomorrow.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Law Firms: Mobilize as Wall Street Reels

As the business week opens, financial news from Wall Street is almost unprecedented. In dual unfolding dramas over the weekend, the venerable 158-year old Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while the thundering herds of stockbrokers at Merrill Lynch ran right into the arms of buyer Bank of America.

What does this mean for law firms and litigation experts?

The Rainmaking Lady sees at least two ways to approach the situation.

First, economic pain is unfortunately likely to increase across a number of industries. In addition to financial services, structured finance and real estate, the automotive, hospitality, and municipal sectors are bound to continue to suffer from depressed economic conditions. The question becomes, how can law firms best serve their clients in this area?

As adept "problem solvers," opportunities abound for proactive lawyers to identify issues faced by clients, frame the pros and cons of various options for action, and help clients implement reasoned responses. This may be a good time to strengthen client relationships.

Second, this period of tumultous market change provides attractive opportunities for those firms in the enviable position of having a strong balance sheet and cash to invest. Like the Bank of America acquisition of Countrywide and now "Mother Merrill," bargains abound for well-positioned buyers planning strategically for the long-term.

Of course there are many unknown consequences to be revealed in the days and weeks ahead. Will AIG find funding? What will the impact be on hedge funds? How will pension funds, retirees and other investors rebound from the sudden loss of billions in equity recently considered to be safe?

The litigation front is not difficult to anticipate; potential disputes will end up in court as the multitude of parties suffering financial losses seek compensation. This could be good news for both law firms and experts, in a perverse sort of way.

Bottom line, now is the time for law firms and litigation experts to reach out to clients and prospects. Ask the "SPIN" type sales questions: a) what is your Situation?, b) what Problems does this create for you?, c) what is the Impact or Implications for your firm?, and d) Need-payoff questions to determine the value of a potential solution to the client.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Community Relations Networking

Successful law firm networking through Community Relations was the topic of the South Florida Legal Marketing Association luncheon I attended yesterday .

By Community Relations, we mean working your way up through the committees and board of local, national or regional non-profit associations as a volunteer for the purpose of making strategic community contacts. Here are some "do's" and "dont's" that could be helpful in your networking efforts.

DO view your role in community programs as that of a "problem solver" first and foremost, according to panelist Charles Jones of the Miami PR firm Wragg & Casas.

DON'T arrive at 12:05 for a meeting that starts at noon, then leave at the first possible opportunity without making time for strategic networking, cautioned moderator Susan Greene, Director of Marketing at Becker & Poliakoff.

DO find out how the organization can make best use of your legal skills. Panelist Dr. Jennifer O'Flannery, CEO of the Broward County United Way, mentioned that they rely on lawyers from a variety of practice areas to help negotiate contracts with each agency they fund.

DON'T force attorneys to arbitrarily volunteer at an organization not aligned with their natural interest, warns Greene. Finding the right community program for an individual attorney is a two-way street between the firm and the lawyer.

DO use the law firm's active participation in community programs as a competitive advantage when it is significantly greater than average, suggests Shareholder Grant Smith from the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler (RRA).

DON'T forget that cumulative "word of mouth" can be an extremely formidable business development tool, advises RRA "Chief Relationship Officer" Jeff Stay. He suggests providing all the attorneys in the firm with agreed upon talking points to create a consistent, memorable word of mouth campaign.

The Rainmaking Lady would like to add that getting involved in a community program is a very productive way to reach out to industry leaders who are also prospective clients. You can use the community group as a legitimate basis for contacting a prospect while remaining in compliance with otherwise restrictive state bar advertising guidelines.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Branding or Networking ... What Gets Business?

While attending a luncheon meeting of the Legal Marketing Association South Florida City Group today that I helped to organize, one firm present was mentioning that the attorneys in their 35-member business law firm were split on the best way to promote the firm.

One group of attorneys favors a high profile branding campaign, featuring prominent advertising in local business papers and industry trade publications. (This is a very conservative firm that has never really advertised in the past.)

The other group of attorneys feels strongly that networking is the better approach, where attorneys focus on building their referral networks by attending meetings of the bar, chamber, industry groups, etc.

Who's right? The Rainmaking Lady feels there is room for both approaches in an integrated marketing campaign.

Depending on a law firm's budget, some level of advertising in today's competitive marketplace could be a good way to stake your claim as a major player. Networking is also a powerful means of building business relationships, plus you get the advantage of building a face-to-face understanding of your prospect's wants, needs and pain.

Of course, we advocate adding speaking engagements and publishing opportunities to the mix.

There is a time and place for many types of marketing campaigns in your business development plan, particularly if they work together to reinforce each other. The key is to start by establishing your goals as specifically as possible, then determining how you will measure the goals.

Once you've done that, it is best to get started on the implementation. Don't let differences of opinion hold your firm in a perpetual state of marketing inactivity. You will fairly quickly be able to determine what is and what is not working.

Remember, never stop marketing!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Case Study: The Down Side of Internet Communications

You have probably heard about the abrupt disruption in UAL's stock trading on Monday. Apparently an old newspaper article about the firm's 2002 bankruptcy court filing resurfaced on the Internet, where it was robotically determined to be "new" (since it was not properly dated) and republished. Needless to say, the stock suffered an immediate drop until trading was briefly closed.

The speed with which all this occurred is breathtaking. Google's web crawler reportedly searched the sourced site at 10:17 pm on the prior Saturday night. The crawler returned at 10:36 pm (only 19 minutes later) and found what it considered to be the new story. A few reader "hits" on the "new" story apparently gave it the search engine boost needed to generate higher visibility on the web. From there word travelled fast, aided by some other automated news distributors.

This definitely is a case of the double-edged sword. As marketers, we want the Internet to carry the great news about our business services far and wide as quickly as possible, but one wrong turn can cause tremendous damage.

Quality control and human intervention remain critical components when publishing information on the Internet. While this is certainly an extreme example, it is a reminder of the respect and care needed in both content management and systems oversight.

This case is also an interesting example of the intricate legal disputes that emerge in our interwoven, electronic world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

British Law Firms May Go Public

The Economist magazine has an interesting story about a recent change in British law that may enable UK law firms to adopt a business structure other than a private partnership. Scheduled to take effect by 2011 once a new "Legal Services Board" is in place for regulation purposes, British firms will be able to attract external investments and file initial public offerings (IPOs).

This represents a potentially dramatic change in the competitive landscape on an international basis:

1. UK law firms will be able to raise more money for acquisitions, open additional offices worldwide, and attract more talent.

2. As a public entity, the law firm financials will be open for scrutiny by competitors, clients, and other interested parties. In the event that the law firm is much more profitable than the client, price pressures are likely to emerge.

3. What will happen to partner compensation? Partners at the time of a funding event are likely to profit handsomely, while future partners may see downward pressure on compensation packages.

How will U.S. firms with extensive operations in the UK react? Will some try to change their domicile to take advantage of better funding opportunities? There are many interesting questions that arise. All the more reason for managing partners to take a strategic business approach in planning for the future. Hard questions will need to be asked: how will we compete? what will our competitors do? are our attorneys likely to be poached? how will this change professional liability risks?

Entitled "Should You Buy Shares in a Law Firm?," the full story is online here:

Here is a related article published by the ABA Journal:

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Metrics for Firing a Client

The Journal of Accountancy published an article earlier this year that attorneys might want to consider as well.

Entitled "Letting Go: Evaluating and Firing Clients," it is written by Mark Koziel, CPA. The author observes that not every client is a good client, which is a sentiment I expressed in my book Courting Your Clients.

During these challenging economic times, it may make sense for a firm to prune their client list so that valued employee resources can be redirected away from low performing accounts and focused on higer value clients.

The AICPA Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) offers guidance on how to evaluate accounts from a quantitative and qualitative perspective. Evaluation criteria include the following:
  1. Job Risk/Complexity
  2. Job Recovery/Profitability
  3. Referral Source/Client Tie-In
  4. Additional Potential Services
  5. Timeliness of Payment
  6. Client Satisfaction (meaning, how satisfied are YOU in working with this client?)
Once rated, accounts can be ranked from high ("A" accounts) to low ("D" accounts). The "D" accounts are candidates for dismissal, which must of course be handled very carefully.

A major reason that law and accounting firms don't want to lose clients is because a partner is frequently compensated based on revenue generation. Accordingly, some adjustments may be needed in incentive compensation calculations.

Read the full article here:

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Legal Directories: Add HG.org to the List

The other day we wrote about recent TV ads being run by Martindale-Hubbell, and also mentioned the online legal directory offered by FindLaw.

While we are on the topic of online legal directories, the Rainmaking Lady would like to expand your options by mentioning HG.org. This Internet-savvy online directory offers U.S. and international law firms a great value with an in-depth profile that can include attorney photos and multiple office listings. A new technology platform launched in 2007 is resulting in high search engine visibility on Google. A companion directory of expert witnesses is online at www.hgexperts.com.

Other legal directories include SuperLawyers, Best Lawyers, Chambers, The Legal 500, and many more. There is a full chapter on legal directories in my legal marketing book, Courting Your Clients. You can also access a list of law firm directories at: http://www.legalexpertconnections.com/courting-directories.html

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Marketing a Law Firm Closure

Perhaps it is a sign of the times, but in my travels around the Internet recently I came across two law firms that have or are closing.

According to the site of Chicago-based Askounis & Borst, P.C., the firm no longer offers legal services as of March 2008. "The firm is, however, continuing to operate for the purpose of collecting assets, addressing payment of obligations, and finalizing all business matters. A professional staff has been assembled, and is executing a plan for this wind down process."

Leading partners have formed separate firms, Borst & Collins, LLC, and Askounis & Darcy PC.

After 80 years of service, Chicago-based Schwartz Coooper "discontinued the practice of law" on July 14, 2008. Attorneys have gone to four different firms listed on the former firm's web site.

So as we see, an ending represents a new beginning. For attorneys or legal marketers who are wondering how to handle the announcement of a law firm closure, these firms offer some guidance.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Martindale Continues Lawyer.com TV Ads

Have you noticed that Martindale continues to run TV ads promoting the www.lawyers.com site? The campaign started in February 2008 and was produced by advertising services company Spot Runner. You can view the ad online at http://press-room.lawyers.com/.

My fellow legal marketing blogger Kevin O'Keefe of Lexblog wrote an interesting blog post ("Martindale-Hubbell TV ads for lawyers.com : Will they work?") on this topic shortly after the launch.

The ads must be working to drive consumers to the Lawyers. com site. We certainly favor "integrated" marketing programs. In this case Martindale's TV investments supplement online promotions for the purpose of driving more traffic to their massive online attorney directory.

What this means for you, the attorney or legal marketer, is that you obviously want to be where prospects are looking for you. Even if you start with a free basic listing, every advantage you gain to attract a prospect is beneficial. Martindale's campaign reinforces the benefit of being listed.

Of course, we don't want to overlook our Thomson Reuters friends at FindLaw. While they may not be advertising on TV, they provide another premier attorney directory that is a "must have" for many attorneys.

If you are not already listed in the leading Internet directories in your field of practice, now is a good time to update your law firm marketing campaigns.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cuil Search Engine Competes with Google

Today is a busy day in terms of search engine and Internet marketing news for law firms.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that former Google engineers are launching www.cuil.com, a competing search engine, early next week. The new Cuil site will deliver search results from 120 billion (yes, billion with a B) web pages, triple the 40 billion pages covered by Google!

Search engine results are presented in an interesting fashion ... 3 columns of data, like on online magazine complete with photos. A quick search of my name "Margaret Grisdela" immediately delivered my photo, a brief bio, and links to many of the law firm marketing articles I've written.

Here are two takes on what this means:
  1. Writing for the search engines becomes increasing important. Note that keyword-rich copy intended to get the attention of search engine spiders is different for what you might write for a magazine article or a client report. Keyword density and placement is imperative.
  2. If you are already spending big bucks on a Google AdWords internet advertising campaign, think of what your budget might become if Google gets stronger competitors. While pay-per-click advertising will not be available for the Cuil launch, it is very likely to appear in the following months.

Law firms that learn the "best practices" in Internet marketing techniques are the longer term winners in the legal marketing and business development race for new clients.

Now is a good time to review your law firm's website. Just as your car needs a tune-up every 3 months or 3,000 miles, your website benefits from a website audit as well.

Read the full Cuil story here.

Search Engine Optimization Example for Law Firms

The Rainmaking Lady recommends an article published today on http://www.law.com/.

Entitled "Search Engine Optimization Means Business" and written by C.C. Holland, the article tells the tale of a DUI law firm that went from a sorry state of sales to top of the charts performance. Read the article to learn how the firm attributes the turnaround to the development of a new web site that incorporates basic search engine optimization techniques.

Here are some Internet marketing "best practices" you can use on your own law firm website:
  • Develop "in-bound links" from independent websites
  • Identify the keywords that drive traffic to your law firm website and build the keywords into the headlines, meta tags and body copy on the website
  • Include your law firm's location (i.e., Los Angeles divorce attorney rather than just divorce attorney) wherever possible
  • Consider writing a blog, which gives you a chance to frequently publish fresh copy on your area of expertise

Law firm Internet markeing is a "must have" these days. You should consider matching this to a Google AdWords pay-per-click campaign for maximum performance. Google also offers "Google Analytics," a free web site performance tracking tool that gives you valuable statistics on your daily website traffic volume, source of visitors, geographic location, and more.

As I always say, "you must be present to win on the Internet." The law firm that does not take advantage of Internet advertising and online marketing is very likely losing business to their competitors. Don't let this happen to you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Indecision Conflicts with Lead Generation

Frequently attorneys are faced with a situation where their law firm marketing programs are not working as effectively as they want (and need). What happens next is critical.

Specific law firm marketing campaigns may lose some of their steam after a while. This is a natural occurrence that could be due to a number of factors, including some level of market saturation, changing economic conditions, the impact of new legislation, or demographic changes in your audience.

If your solution to a slowdown in campaign response rates is to do ... nothing! ... well, you've got a real problem.

Marketing is about testing, particularly what we call "direct marketing." Direct marketing is a personal outreach to a specific person (like with a direct mail letters), as opposed to a mass marketing approach (like a billboard or print advertising).

Marketers frequently use "A/B" testing, which means that you make the same offer with two minor variations and test the results. For example, the "A" test could use a different opening paragraph on a direct mail piece. You then monitor the results and continually select the best performer, which is used as a "control" package that you can test against in the future.

My point is that professional marketers know it is impossible to accurately predict expected response rates. What you may think is a sure-fire winner flops, while a less attractive alternative offer shows great results.

If you are faced with declining results in your law firm marketing programs, you must take action to test alternatives. You may be surprised at what new techniques start working to generate a stream of quality business leads.

For this same reason, the Rainmaking Lady cautions attorneys not to get too bogged down in selecting from competing marketing alternatives. This could be as simple as how should I write the copy for my law firm web site? It is best to make a selection and move forward. If it doesn't work for you, then you know that you need to modify your approach.

Like they say, he who hesitates is lost. Your loss is your competitor's gain!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Planning Helps Fall Sales Cycle

Now is a great time to work on the law firm marketing campaigns you plan to launch once the kids are back in school and clients have returned from summer vacation.

Client retention is important to protect your base of revenue, and a direct mail campaign in early September will remind your clients that you are ready to assist them with their legal work.

A quarterly newsletter or client alert is an effective way to provide your clients with substantive guidance that lets them know you are protecting their legal interests. These could be delivered in print and/or email formats.

Here are 7 steps you should be taking now in order to be ready for your September mailing:
  1. Check your mailing list for accuracy and completeness.
  2. Write the copy for your newsletter or promotional piece. Avoid the temptation to leave this to the last minute.
  3. Speak to your graphic designer about the visual appearance of your mailing, which should be consistent with your website and other collateral pieces.
  4. Talk to a printer about the type of paper to use, the pros and cons of a self-mailer versus an envelope, and estimated postage.
  5. Design your newsletter or client alert so that it drives the reader to your website for more information.
  6. Offer something free, like a check list or attendance at an educational seminar. This is an effective way to establish a "response rate" for your campaign.
  7. Last but not least, consider how the attorney advertising guidelines within your state apply to your campaign.
When you start the fall season strongly with a proactive client marketing campaign, you will be in a position to generate more business for the fourth quarter. Plus, you will still have time to work on your law firm's holiday mailing.

Remember, never stop marketing!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What Does it Mean? PR Tips for Lawyers

Attorneys who can answer the question, "what does it all mean?" have a better chance of getting media coverage in turbulent market cycles, according to our recent post.

Wall Street and Main Street hate uncertainty, so the enterprising attorney or law firm who can demonstrate a leadership approach in these tough times stands a better chance of gaining increased visibility and possibly market share.

Here is a case in point. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published an article entitled "Law Firms Gear Up -- and Wait -- For Anticipated Bankruptcies." The gist of the article is that the number of high value bankruptcies to date is less than expected, leaving some firms that rely on this countercyclical practice with available capacity.

Our key point is to bring your attention to the closing paragraph. The reporter asks: "What does it all mean for the lawyers?"

In this case, the answer to the WSJ reporter's question is found in the quote of a law professor:

"It depends on the firm's business plan," said Jack Williams, who teaches bankruptcy law at Georgia State University College of Law in Atlanta. Mr. Williams predicts that firms that can juggle a lot of short-term engagements are going to do well. "But those who stick with a more traditional approach," like relying on one or two cases that drag on for years, might struggle. "That business plan just isn't going to square with what's going on."

The Rainmaking Lady offers two observations:

  1. You, too, have a chance of getting quoted in the media when you can offer a credible analysis of what given market conditions mean to your clients and constituents
  2. Stay focused on your sales pipeline for new case development. While it's great to hit the ball out of the park with a huge case, it might take a lot of smaller matters to keep paying the bills.

Here's your homework: see how you can put this to work in your law firm marketing program.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wall Street to Main Street: How Law Firms can Survive Market Turbulence

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke shared his economic concerns with Congress today. "The possibility of higher energy prices, tighter credit conditions, and a still-deeper contraction in housing markets all represent significant downside risks to the outlook for growth," Bernanke said.

What is a law firm Managing Partner to do when preparing to weather today's troubled market conditions?

The secret is to try and make the stock market uncertainty work to your benefit. How, you ask? Here are two market survival techniques that might work for your law firm.

Marketing in Tough Times Tip #1: Attorneys have a special ability to analyze both the up-side and potential down-sides of a given situation. Law firms can demonstrate their leadership role by using these skills to proactively help clients and prospects evaluate their own business environment.

Attorneys can facilitate internal client discussions, and/or external negotiations with vendors, that will help clients make effective business decisions in regard to cost reduction, supply chain management, revenue enhancement, or improved customer service.

Marketing in Tough Times Tip #2: Inflationary pressures and financial instability force business owners and employees to ask, "what does this mean to me?" Attorneys who figure out a way to answer the many variations of this question may be able to find a platform among members of the media who are trying to report on the answers.

Consider for a moment the above-referenced topics raised by Mr. Bernanke. Your law firm may be able to offer the media targeted legal insights or perspective. Here are some examples:
  • Energy prices. Is there pending legislation that you can help interpret? Or is there a way for your business clients to hedge a significant energy budget; if so, what are the legal implications?
  • Tighter credit. Perhaps your clients need assistance in the enforcement of previously unused collection terms that are frequently overlooked in more prosperous times. Or perhaps they need to learn the "best practices" in factoring their accounts receivable.
  • Deeper contractions in the housing market. Is there a way you can help employers who rely on you for legal advice to provide assistance to struggling employees?

These are just a few examples, and they may or may not work for you. But you get the picture.

Rather than waiting for the dust to settle, law firms that take a reasoned, well-positioned leadership role in today's uncertain market stand a better chance of gaining stature, market share and credibility.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Google Feature for Law Firm Internet Marketing

Law firm marketing fans reading this column will appreciate a new Google feature that will add a competitive advantage to your legal search engine marketing campaigns.

Google now displays search volume statistics in the "keyword tool" feature. What this means is that lawyers and law firm marketing professionals can now see statistics on the approximate number of search queries matching your law firm's keywords. This data allows you to better plan your budget and pick keywords most likely to return quality leads, which in turn can help improve your ROI.

You can generate keyword ideas to boost your law firm marketing results in three ways:

  1. Select descriptive keywords or phrases. This is a great way to test new keywords for your online ad campaign to see if they might create new leads for your law firm. Just type in a word or phrase in the Google keyword tool, then click on "Get Keyword Ideas."
  2. Website content. Enter a webpage URL from your law firm website to find keywords related to the content on the page.
  3. Existing keywords. When you choose this option, Google will display your best performing keywords in the current Ad Group and suggest keyword variations that can improve your law firm Internet marketing program.
Google suggests that you may want to create an ad group around a single high-traffic keyword that you find particularly relevant to your law firm marketing program. This would allow you to closely target ad text and a landing page to that term.

Here is the "how to" in using the new Google Keyword Volume tool. It's actually quite simple. Go into an existing "Ad Group." Click on "Keyword Tool" to the right of "Add Keywords." You will then be presented with your options for discovering wonderful new keyword options for your law firm's Internet marketing program.

BOTTOM LINE: Law firm marketing professionals will find the new Google Keyword Volume tool to be an excellent way to boost Internet advertising results. As I say in my legal marketing book Courting Your Clients, "keywords are the currency of the digital economy, convertible into cash when site visitors become clients."

Remember, today's law firm must be present to win on the Internet!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How to Write a Law Firm Marketing Plan

Marketing without a plan is one of the biggest mistakes a law firm can make. We explore this topic as the first blog post in our recently announced series entitled"The Top 10 Legal Marketing Mistakes."

Consider the following questions:
  1. Shall we invest $1,000 to sponsor a table at our client's annual industry event?
  2. The local Chamber of Commerce is offering a special rate of $2,500 for a full page ad in their annual membership directory; is this right for us?
  3. If we can only do one marketing campaign, what should that be?

Law firm managing partners and marketers are faced with these issues on a regular basis.

The best way to conduct an effective law firm marketing campaign is to start with a detailed plan. You will want to specifically identify your business development goals (# of new accounts, $ in new business by practice area), focus on your target markets, carefully identify the competitive environment, create your "unique selling proposition," and identify the campaigns you plan to implement to generate the new revenue you seek.

We recommend using an integrated marketing campaign featuring many complementary communications channels. For example, you will want to include: speaking engagements, article placement, referral networks, educational seminars, Internet marketing, direct mail, print and online advertising, public relations, updated collateral materials, and potential sponsorships.

By the way, here are the answers to the law firm marketing questions posed above:

  1. Yes, this may be a great investment. You will show your support for your client and their industry. Plus you will get some good visibility and networking opportunities. Ask your clients to introduce you to their industry contacts.
  2. With all due respect to the Chamber, a one-time print ad placement in anything will generally not be productive. Viewers need to see your ad a minimum of 5-6 times before they start paying attention.
  3. The best single law firm marketing campaign you can undertake is marketing to your current and past clients.

Click here to see a sample of an attorney marketing plan:

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Market(ing) Conditions Result in Higher Law Firm Borrowing

Last week we wrote about the high cost of inadequate law firm marketing. While insufficient business development efforts may not be noticed in the short run, attorneys suffer longer term when a strong marketing foundation is not in place.

We see evidence of this in the following excerpt from a Law Blog post in today's Wall Street Journal:

"Dan DiPietro, the client head of the law-firm group at Citi Private Bank, says law-firm borrowing was up about 25% in the first quarter, as compared with the same period in 2007. Not only are the billable hours down at some firms, says Mr. DiPietro, but it is harder for some firms to collect from certain clients, many of whom are also pinching pennies."

It is admittedly a huge challenge to sustain a proactive law firm business development program when times are flush. Strong economic conditions translate into a healthy (or even excessive) number of billable hours, priced consistently with a law firm's rate card. New business seems to walk in the door with very little effort.

As we are now seeing, however, deal flow can change dramatically with consumer sentiment and the latest news from Wall Street. The attorney who has been working consistently to maintain a productive referral network, seek speaking engagements, and publish substantive articles on timely industry topics is in the best position to attract those business opportunities that do emerge when the economy ebbs.

There is a bright spot: marketing to your current clients is your best source for new revenue quickly. Watch for our next blog post on this topic.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The High Cost of Inadequate Marketing

What happens if you don't market your practice the way you know you should? Perhaps nothing ... in the short run. Chances are you will continue to stumble along, getting sufficient business to keep you busy but not highly profitable.

I recently had the chance to meet with a prospect again for the second time in a few years, following some initial discussions that didn't move beyond polite talk. At the time the firm was new and understandably cautious about spending money on marketing programs. It's a fact that in lean times, marketing is frequently viewed as discretionary.

Fast forward, and we can see that the firm tried over the years to gain traction in a competitive industry and geographic market on a nominal marketing program, with only modest success. Still relying on a low-tech web site, they are missing a tremendous opportunity to increase their visibility through effective search engine marketing. Competing firms that made an Internet marketing investment, by contrast, are reaping the rewards of their on-going marketing campaigns.

There are many marketing mistakes that lawyers, law firms and experts make, and under-emphasizing an appropriate marketing effort is one of them.

Starting this week, we are launching a series entitled "10 Legal Marketing Mistakes." Stay tuned to learn how to avoid common business development errors that can cost you both time and money.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Domain Names to Expand: *.law anyone?

Top-level Internet domain name options (like *.com) will be greatly expanded under a proposal from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international organization that regulates domain names.

A new top level domain will cost between $100,000 and $500,000, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal.

If the pending proposal is approved, applications for new domain name extensions will be taken beginning in April 2009. It is unclear if the new extensions are required to be public.

Think of the possible applications in the legal field: *.law, *.legal, *.ip, *.pi, *.court, *.dui, *.trial, etc.

Legal marketers, on your mark! Get ready!

Are Your Law Firm Clients at Risk?

Yesterday we talked about the results of a recent Altman Weil study, which found that an increasing number of in-house General Counsel recently fired an outside law firm or plan to fire an outside law firm.

Do you know if your valuable law firm accounts are at risk?

Fortunately, there are some signs of trouble when an account is in jeopardy. Whether you choose to take action is up to you. Here are five sure signs of revenue risk.

1. Your relationship with an important account is concentrated in the hands of one partner. What if that partner leaves the firm, is tied up on a major trial for another account, or becomes ill?

2. Your client relationship involves many attorneys within your firm, but just one or two key contacts on the client side. The same questions apply. What if your contact gets a great job offer and jumps ship? Chances are that your contact's replacement may bring their own (and different) law firm relationships to the job.

3. Consolidation or retrenchment is gripping your client's industry. Think airlines or automotive. As an industry shrinks, your client firms may pull back at best or disappear at worst.

4. Mergers or acquisitions may keep your client afloat, but not with you. Countrywide or Bear Stearns are prime examples.

5. New management takes the helm of an important account. Your client contacts remain strong, but you never know when the next corporate reorg is around the corner. Incoming leaders like to bring in their own team. Can your law firm survive?

What would happen if you lost a major account? It makes you stop and think, which is a positive step.

A continuing focus on new business development will build a steady pipeline of prospects, helping to protect your law firm from the blow of a major account loss.

One of the most important roles you can play as a Managing Partner or Practice Group Chair is to be alert to "at risk" accounts. A few proactive steps, including staff business development training, can protect your firm from reversals of your hard-fought success.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Law Firms: Beware of Shrinking Client Budgets

A sharp focus on managing the cost of outside legal services is a top priority for the majority of chief legal officers at firms as large as $2-$10 billion in revenue, according to Altman Weil survey results reported by The Recorder on Law.com.

Half of the survey respondents have fired or are considering firing some of their outside counsel, according to the survey, up significantly from only one-third of respondents last year.

Hiring more in-house attorneys over the next 12-18 months is a commonly identified way that survey respondents intend to rein in the cost of outside counsel. With billable hourly rates at some top AmLaw 100 law firms now exceeding the $1,000 per hour barrier for in-demand attorneys, corporate America is looking for ways to break legal work down into categories that can be aligned with pricing and value.

This cost cutting initiative reflects the economic distress felt by consumers and businesses alike as gas prices climb, housing values plummet, food costs rise and the Fed contends with managing turbulent financial markets.

Rather than ignoring these market-driven stop signs, law firms should look proactively at how they can partner with corporate clients to help manage costs and expectations.

Yes, reducing billable hourly rates or offering alternative billing arrangements can be painful in the short run for law firms. But losing an entire account because you are either out of touch with the client from an account management perspective or slow to react to the realities of today's market is even worse.

Take a close look at your accounts now. Check back here tomorrow, to find out how you can determine which of your law firm accounts are at risk.

(Click here for full article on Law.com.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Digital Leaders Value Trade Shows & Personal Contact

Technology gurus and digital leaders still flock to leading industry trade shows, according to an article entitled "Social Networking in the Digital Age," by L. Gordon Crovitz in today's Wall Street Journal.

One statistic in the article was particularly striking, "The business-to-business trade publishers belonging to American Business Media last year for the first time generated more revenue (over $11 billion) from face-to-face meetings than from traditional print operations."

As valuable as electronic connections (email, LinkedIn, blogs) may be, nothing beats the value of shaking hands and making a personal connection.

For lawyers, adding to your referral network through in-person contact at leading industry trade shows can help you break into important new accounts.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Law Firms Mostly Silent on the Memorial Day Holiday

Happy Memorial Day weekend. We give thanks to our veterans, active military personnel and their families for the sacrifice they make to protect our freedom and liberty.

A quick check around the Internet indicates that Memorial Day does not draw much attention from law firm marketers. Here are some law firms we came across that did publish a public Memorial Day message.

Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter of Orlando has a blog post recognizing the weekend:

The New York state law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is supporting local tavern and restaurant patrons who might have had too many holiday spirits with free cab rides home. See http://www.1800law1010.com/.

The California DUI Law Center Blog is informing readers of locations where special drunk driving checkpoints are set up this holiday weekend. http://www.sandiegodrunkdrivingattorney.net/blog.html

An enterprising attorney in Miami posted an online ad to Craig's List announcing that legal services are available 24/7 all Memorial Day weekend to "assist, educate, and handle cases" (perhaps in the event the partying gets a little too rowdy).

The Immigration Prof Blog posts a recognition to immigrants on Memorial Day. http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2007/05/saying_thanks_t.html

A personal remembrance also to my late father, Elmer Grisdela, who served in WWII.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You Must be Present to Win: Search Engine Optimization for Law Firm Marketing

The Legal Marketing Association's South Florida City Group recently held a meeting on Internet marketing and search engine optimization (also known as SEO).

As the group's 2008 Co-Chair, I had the honor of introducing speaker Jay Berkowitz, CEO of Ten Golden Rules (www.tengoldenrules.com).

Here are a few Internet marketing "best practices" for law firms that Jay shared with the group:

1. Using the analogy of "an apple a day," Jay suggests adding one page to your web site every day. Of course, this is not always possible given the demands of a busy law firm. However, the point is that adding fresh copy to your law firm's web site on a regular basis is an excellent way to gain great search engine visibility for your legal practice.

2. Try to get clients, associations and other partners to link to your law firm's web site. Inbound links will increase your search engine placement on Google and other search engines.

3. "Search Engine Optimized PR" is also important for search engine visibility. When issuing a press release, post it to your web site about 24 hours in advance of releasing it to a wire service so that search engines can read and create a link to the release. Be sure to include important keywords in the headline and body copy of your press release.

As I always say, "you must be present to win" on the Internet. These are great tips to help create high rankings in the search engines (Google, Yahoo! and others) for your law firm.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Find Smart Clients in an Economic Downturn

Peggy Nordeen, President of the Fort Lauderdale-based integrated marketing firm Starmark International, spoke to the monthly luncheon meeting of the Florida Direct Marketing Association last week.

Her topic was on marketing in the travel and tourism sector, and she provided excellent advice that works equally well for law firm marketing. "Find smart clients" when times are tough, is what she advises. If your law firm seeks to expand its client base during these challenging economic times, find those clients who understand that moving forward during a recession will generate a competitive advantage.

Many companies tend to cut back on discretionary spending during a recession. This is a natural tendency, and can apply to budgets across industries in the areas of training, legal, or marketing. The smart firms are those who know that by making an investment when everyone else is pulling back, they will be able to emerge in a stronger position when the good times return.

"Never stop marketing," advises Nordeen. (We strongly agree with this, as stated in our legal marketing book "Courting Your Clients.") "Don't cut your budgets; use your marketing dollars more effectively and make your budget work harder."

To managing partners and law firm marketers, the Rainmaking Club suggests that now is a good time to craft a strong "value proposition" for your best prospects. Give some serious thought to the prospect's competitive environment and their economic considerations (best done after you have gained some personal insight on their circumstances). Then ask the prospect if you can have a few minutes of their time to demonstrate how your law firm might be able to assist them in increasing market share, or reducing expenses, or minimizing risk, etc.

Personal, thoughtful attention can go a long way toward favorably impressing a prospect with your attorneys and law firm. Relationships that are forged during economic slowdowns may blossom when the economic outlook brightens, thereby protecting you from account poaching.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Law Firms Go Green: Environmental Marketing

Nixon Peabody is one law firm to go "Legally Green" (see www.nixonpeabody.com). They have incorporated expertise from several practice areas into an Environmental "Thought Leadership" service group for clients. Equally important, the law firm has also adopted sustainable building practices where possible and is committed to following environmentally friendly law firm operations.

Wendel Rosen is another law firm that promotes its "green" status. In order to get certified by the Bay Area Green Business Program, the firm presented an educational series on sustainable practices to all firm employees. They developed a Sustainability Team comprised of attorneys and staff. The team analyzed all of the firm's environmental impacts and made recommendations for areas of improvement. Some were undertaken immediately, and others are being phased in over time. See: http://www.wendel.com/greencertification.cfm

As part of its environmental sustainability efforts, the Minneapolis law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. is switching to wind-generated electricity to provide 100% power for its law firm’s headquarters. See: http://www.rkmc.com/Minneapolis-Office-of-Robins-Kaplan-Miller-Ciresi-Goes-Green.htm

These law firms are discovering that doing good is good for their legal business. This is a great way for the early adopters to gain favorable press coverage while providing a community service and demonstrating their commitment to being good corporate citizens.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Law Firm Marketing

Last week I had the privilege of addressing the Associaton of Legal Administrators (ALA) West Palm Beach Chapter on the topic, "Courting Your Clients: The Administrator's Perspective." One of the questions that came up was about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software services that are suitable for law firm use. Here is list of some of the leading CRM providers.

Act! by Sage, Premium 2008

Contact Ease


InterAction® Lexis-Nexis

Microsoft Dynamics


Tracking your leads is a critical element in successful law firm marketing. You will want to record how you found your prospect, the date they became a prospect for your legal services, and future dates for follow up action.

Turning a prospect into a client for your law firm is essential to your practice expansion. Don't leave this important process to chance!

NEW: In response to a question posed by a reader, the choice of a software package depends on the number of users, offices, and your budget. Goldmine and Act! are widely used within small to medium businesses. They can be purchased at Office Depot or Staples starting at a price of about $200.

Other applications are typically priced by the "seat" or number of users, and typically involve installation of software and possibly hardware. Interaction is used by very large law firms. SalesForce.com is different in that it is Internet-based, so there is no software or hardware required. You should speak with each vendor directly to determine which service is right for you. Contact us if you need help in the evaluation process.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Best Practices in Law Firm Positioning: Stand Apart from the Competition

As we research business development opportunities for attorney and expert clients, our work takes us to dozens of law firm web sites on a regular basis. We will start to share with you some of the best practices in law firm marketing that we discover.

Today we are impressed by the registered tag line of Andrews Kurth: "Straight Talk is Good Business.®" Visit their site at www.andrewskurth.com/ to see how they carry out this theme visually and also weave it into their law firm marketing operations. For example, attorney presentations are listed on the web site as "Straight Talk Appearances."

The firm speaks directly to current and prospective law firm clients when they promise not to "hide behind the legalese." The implication is that they are a business partner with a roll-up the sleeves approach to evaluating options, measuring risk, and making informed decisions.

Navigation on the site is also excellent. I particularly like the search feature on the left side of the page.

Too many law firms today focus on what they do, rather than approach marketing from the client's perspective. Andrews Kurth offers a good example of straight marketing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Associate Programs Feel the Pinch of Law Firm Budget Cuts

"Law Firms Curtail Associate Programs as Economy Slows," is the topic of a 4/14/08 article on page B1 of The Wall Street Journal.

As the economy slows, some firms are trimming expenses in the associate area. Examples include the law firm of Thelen Reid, which recently dismissed 26 associates from its staff of 550 lawyers. The firm also shortened its summer associate program from 8 to 11 weeks. Pillsbury Winthrop, an 800 attorney law firm based in New York, is also giving summer associates two weeks less time (from 12 to 10 weeks). Chicago-based Sonnenschein Nath actually rescinded offer letters to two summer associates and two first-year associates in the Charlotte, NC office.

A bottom line focus is absolutely essential, and cutting expenses is one way to manage personnel costs. A top line emphasis is also essential. More law firms should consider providing their associates with business development training as a means of opening additional avenues for new revenue.

Young lawyers a few years out of law school tend to have a strong electronic network of friends and acquaintances, even if they do spend a lot of hours behind a desk. This Facebook generation can tap into college chums and law school buddies who may be working at global Fortune 500 companies or fast-growing upstarts that need legal service.

Frequently associates simply don't know the basic steps of identifying an ideal client, determining legal needs, talking about possible solutions, or closing a sale. Investing in a few hours of business development training for associates is likely to generate a strong return on investment in the near term.

Now is a good time to get "all hands on deck" in looking for revenue opportunities.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Law Firm Marketing Mistake: Failure to Invite the Connection

Almost every law firm web site we visit has a menu option entitled something like "Practice Areas." Once you click on the link you are presented with anywhere from 5 to 20 different legal practice areas; some even have sub-practice areas.

"So what's wrong with this?," you ask. The answer is that invariably there is NO PERSON TO CONTACT once you get to the practice page of interest. This is not a good law firm business development technique.

If I am a prospective legal client and I want to get information on the Energy Practice in your law firm, who do I call? Most law firm web sites leave me guessing. I can try to call the reception in the main office, at which point I am likely to hear lots of mumbling and/or get transferred around (I speak from experience).

I could also try to find the right contact by searching the "Attorneys" menu option on the law firm's web site, but too often I'm presented with a list of dozens of lawyers with little indication of which one can help me.

Here's the solution: always list the Practice Chair or key contact person (ideally an attorney) for each practice area on the practice page. Provide their direct dial number, email address, and a link to their bio page. This is a very simple step.

Best Practice: Vedder Price does a nice job of introducing different members of the firm. See: http://www.vedderprice.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/about.home/about.cfm

Help your prospects make contact with your attorneys! You might even get some new business or alliance partners this way.

Law Firm Marketing Tips for Search Engine Optimization

Last week the Legal Marketing Association's South Florida City Group held a meeting on Internet marketing.

As the group's 2008 Co-Chair, I had the honor of moderating the session featuring speaker Jay Berkowitz, CEO of Ten Golden Rules (http://www.tengoldenrules.com/).

Here are a few Internet marketing "best practices" for law firms that Jay shared with the group:

1. Using the analogy of "an apple a day," Jay suggests adding one page to your web site every day. Of course, this is not always possible given the demands of a busy law firm. However, the point is that adding fresh copy to your law firm's web site on a regular basis is an excellent way to gain great search engine visibility for your legal practice.

2. Try to get clients, associations and other partners to link to your law firm's web site. Inbound links will increase your search engine placement on Google and other search engines.

3. "Search Engine Optimized PR" is also important for search engine visibility. When issuing a press release, post it to your web site about 24 hours in advance of releasing it to a wire service so that search engines can read and create a link to the release. Be sure to include important keywords in the headline and body copy of your press release.

As I always say, "you must be present to win on the Internet." These are great tips to help create high rankings in the search engines (Google, Yahoo! and others) for your law firm.

Law Firm Restructuring: Anderson Kill sets an Example

I just came across an interesting announcement from earlier this year that merits a mention in terms of law firm marketing and strategic planning.

The New York-based law firm of Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C. was faced with the amicable departure of 69 shareholders to Reed Smith after terminating merger discussions. Taking a proactive stance, Anderson Kill issued a press release announcing that it was refocusing its practice on the firm's core competencies in about six key legal practice areas. Read the release here: http://www.andersonkill.com/news_article.asp?newsid=1113

There are times when downsizing or refocusing is the right step in a firm's business development cycle. Such a dramatic action allows you to restate your mission and re-energize the team. In today's turbulent market conditions, perhaps your own firm will benefit from a refocusing or streamlining action.

The tighter your focus, the more effectively you can allocate resources. You will also be able to develop and communicate your USP (unique selling proposition) to the marketplace more forcefully.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Burger King's Success: Insights for Law Firm Marketing

Burger King's management team has orchestrated a successful turnaround in the past couple of years. Today's Wall Street Journal article ("Man Behind Burger King Turnaround; Chidsey Says Identifying His Restaurants' 'Superfan' Helped Beef Up its Offerings," by Janet Adamy) contains some marketing nuggets for legal marketers. Here is an excerpt.

WSJ: What were the keys to your company's turnaround?

Mr. Chidsey: Most importantly, I'd say it was finding who our target customer was, figuring out who was the superfan and not wasting our time trying to be all things to all people.

This is similar to the General Electric (GE) strategic goal to be first or second in each market segment, even if it means creating a unique market niche. The same type of approach works in any business, including law firms. Focus on your "ideal" clients with the right mix of distinctive service offerings. Try to avoid spreading yourself too thin by being a jack of all legal trades and master of none.

This principle can be applied also in regard to multiple practice areas within your firm. Consider eliminating the weak performers in order to focus your resources on what you do best.

(In the spirit of full disclosure -- since this is a legal column -- I must admit to being a fan of the Whopper Jr. priced at about $1. With all too easy access to a Burger King right across the parking lot from my office building, I will continue to watch and weight the firm's success.)