Saturday, May 02, 2009

Link Law Firm Marketing to Breaking News

Here's an example of how one enterprising Grand Rapids, Michigan law firm used breaking news to create a "hook" for press coverage.

The labor and employment law firm of Palmer & Wood, P.C., is advising employers on creating emergency preparedness plans for the outbreak of H1N1 flu (aka swine flu). The Grand Rapids Press gave attorney Greg Palmer top billing in a May 2nd story titled "Law firm preps business for health crisis during swine flu scare."

This PR technique - one of many covered in my legal marketing book Courting Your Clients - works reliably when a breaking news story opens the door to reach reporters scrambling for experts available to quote on various aspects of the news.

News coverage like this can be used for front page web site postings, direct mail to clients, inclusion in proposal packages, and other purposes. (Alas, I couldn't find a web site for Palmer & Wood.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seven Strategic Uses of Law Firm Excess Capacity

Here are seven ideas on how law firms can repurpose available associate or partner hours for a longer term investment in potential new business:

1. Assign an associate to go in-house on the client side for a flat rate or other alternative billing arrangement. Make them available to tackle some of the stubborn issues that might benefit from in-depth analysis to uncover new solutions.

2. Take a leadership role in an industry trade association committee that is addressing regulatory change or standards-setting. Looking ahead 50 years, we are facing dramatic changes in energy policy, healthcare, financial instruments, and ethics. What will be the legal platform for these issues?

3. Bar associations at the local, state and national level are also grappling with these complex societal changes. Get involved! Lawyer referrals represent a significant source of new business leads, and this is an effective way to demonstrate your firm's expertise.

4. Regulatory and executive branch agencies appear to be changing the rules on a daily basis in a way that transcends party politics (bankruptcy law, securities law, and contract rights come to mind). What does this mean for the law? Lawyers can help to analyze, interpret and guide change.

5. Law schools and courts can benefit from highly experienced lawyers who can share their knowledge and expertise.

6. Pro bono work is always in need of qualified attorneys.

7. Pick a emerging topic and build a knowledge base within your firm, expressed in the form of high profile speaking engagements and publishing opportunities.

Of course, not every firm can afford to make an investment of this nature. But those that do have an opportunity to build a place for themselves as a "thought leader" in the long run.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wharton Profs Analyze Law Firm Business Practices

Will the billable hour business model wither in the economic downturn?

This is one of many law firm business practices scrutinized by Wharton professors in a FORBES article today titled "New Fee Structure for Law Firms."

Referring to the ACC Value Challenge, the article notes that now is a time when clients clearly are pressing law firms for alternative billing arrangements like retainers or even success fees.

The traditional partnership structure, where multitudes of associates generate highly profitable billing leverage, is falling victim to staff cuts as large transactions disappear.

What is the answer to survival in the short run? What will law firms look like in the long run? The Wharton profs suggest the following:

1. Law firms should think strategically, rather than taking a problem-based approach. In part, this means "articulating the firm's competitive advantage and value proposition." (This Rainmaking Lady notes that any law firm not already doing basic planning is destined for deep trouble in any market.)

2. Develop deeper client relationships to strengthen ties between the law firm and corporate client. This will involve the active support of law firm partners, associates and support staff working in concert.

3. Diligently assess talent within the firm, and align skill sets to best solve challenges faced by both clients and the firm.

Good advice, but not necessarily profound. These are "best practices" that should be included in any law firm's approach to business development in good times or bad. Now is a good time to get back to the basics!