Attention Lawyers. Get in the Game.

You bet’cha! Think about the top rainmaker in your law firm (- this might be you). Where does he or she get their work? My bet is that close to 100% of the time the work comes in because someone tells someone else that that lawyer (or their law firm) is successful at getting similar jobs done for them – or someone they know.

Think about the last client you brought into the firm? Someone you already knew – an existing relationship developed over time -introduced you in person, by phone, email, or etc. to someone that needed what you are offering.

Think about the last time you were asked to recommend an accountant to a client. Did you go to the Yellow Pages and flip through the listings? Nope. You gave them the name of someone you knew, trusted, and liked. Someone with whom a relationship already existed.

Eureka! That’s it. A lawyer’s work comes from EXISTING relationships. If you do not know a lot of people who know people, who know people, you probably don’t have a very robust (or interesting) practice. That goes for the people you know and trust inside your firm too. It’s about building relationships and maintaining them so when the time comes you are top of mind.

So, think again next time you challenge the wisdom of participating in a social network online. Why wouldn’t you add another tool that increases your chances of establishing a relationship with someone who could give you work, or get to know someone you like and trust who you could recommend to someone you know?

Resistance is Futile

I’ve been enjoying, yet disturbed, by the conversations this week on my professional listserv about Twitter (and I’ll take the liberty to extrapolate that to social media for purposes of this post). Our debate, quoting this post, was even picked up by Cal Law today. I don’t get all of the resistance. Where is the curiosity?

As a marketer, especially one in a law firm, one of the greatest attributes I bring to the team is that I am not cautious or autonomous, and it turns out that I am pretty darn social (for someone who doesn’t like people, lol).

But as I wrote here, that was not always the case. My experiences, and a lot of hard personal work, have changed me.

When law firm marketing departments started migrating away from “marketing” and towards “business development” (code word for sales), I stomped my foot and swore not to participate. I hated sales. I did it for a year, was horrible at it (because of the whole people aversion thing), and I wasn’t going to do it. So there.

Fast forward to 2008 and I spend as much of my time as possible focused on strategic planning and business development, which I now find exciting and much more rewarding than “marketing.” I am a believer.

Same goes with blogs. I didn’t get them. I still don’t believe they are the answer for everything legal marketing (sorry Kevin), but I now see how they are an important and central piece in the puzzle. I learned this by starting my own blog.

When LinkedIn invites started coming to me last year, I ignored them. But, by February of this year I finally started playing around. It turns out that LinkedIn is a very interesting piece of the puzzle.

And now Twitter. I don’t even remember how or when it first hit my radar. But I jumped in with both feet immediately. I started out slow, listening, posting here and there. It was fun. The “professional” side of Facebook. But I quickly realized that Twitter was going to take on a bigger role.

Yes, I am building relationships in 140 characters or less:

  • I throw out questions, and I get responses from the most interesting people;
  • People are coming to me with questions, and I am willingly sharing what I am learning;
  • We comment on the silliest things, like whether or not we’re going to HSM3 this weekend (both our daughters are, we now have something in common);
  • I helped a Girl Scout with a project because, as a Girl Scout leader, I felt it my duty (turns out both our daughters are named Katie, what a coincidence);
  • I’m also following a PR guru (old media type) who was on the phone with the Best Buy CEO (if I was selling something, he could be a great referral source for introductions, I bet he’s following some interesting people);
  • I joined a social media group here in LA where I can meet people live;
  • And I received some very interesting internal information on hiring trends in legal marketing departments.

And that’s just in the last 18 hours.

What I like most about being part of the early adopters, is that we’re all doing this in what can best be described as a “beta” format. There is no time to wait for a 1.0 product release on social media. I am experimenting with the technologies on myself, so I can see how I can incorporate for my firm.

The pieces are coming together for me. Sales. Web sites. Blogs. SEO. LinkedIn. Social networking. Twitter. Together the picture I’m getting is that social media can quickly, and cost effectively, drive my marketing, business development and PR in ways beyond my imagination.

Hildebrandt’s Economic Outlook – your thoughts?

Yesterday, Hildebrandt released a client alert weighing in on the economic status of the legal industry. Although none of the information provided was earth shattering, they did provide nine recommendations to management as to the best way to deal with the situation. It’s worth reading:

What can you possibly say in 140 characters or less?

Turns out that you can say a lot in 140 characters or less. You can build a reputation in 140 characters or less. You can build a presence in 140 characters or less. You can build a network in 140 characters or less. And you can build a business in 140 characters or less.

Yesterday I attended the LMA-LA program on social media, sponsored by Bame PR, moderated by Kevin O’Keefe and twittered live by yours truly over @heathermilligan. Social media is still very new, and most of us are learning as we are adapting to it, so there are no “experts” right now … just early adapters.

If you weren’t following along yesterday, I’ve provided a scroll of my twitters at the end of this post. If you want it in English prose, check Ed Poll’s recap here. Ed is also hosting a FREE Webinar next week, “Social Networking to Enhance Your Practice”, and LMA-LA promises a follow up program in February, so stay tuned.

Rather than make you scroll to the bottom of the page to make my points, I’m gonna give them to you up front:

  1. Social media is here, growing and not going away.
  2. We need to get over our aversions and adapt. And here’s why: I had 10 new people sign up to follow me on twitter yesterday. I have begun a personal dialogue with a few new people I didn’t know before the program began. And, my blog traffic yesterday directly correlated to my twitting.
  3. Social media can be adapted for the collective, as well as the individual.
  4. Social media is participatory. My job is to identify the “risk adverse” attorneys in my firm, bring them on board, and then allow SM to evolve.
  5. And, most importantly, Damn. If I was only selling something I’d be rich today or at least have a lot more business leads.

Twitting LMA LA. @kevinokeefe is moderating.

LMA-LA panel “Meet the New Media” includes @kevinokeefe, Jonathan Handel from TroyGould and @sallyfalkow

Kevin – we’re branding and marketing thought leaders. No PowerPoints today. Hurray.

Law firms might be “risk adverse,” but individuals within the firms are not. (Ed note: find those risk adverse lawyers and work with them)

Kevin beginning program asking what the audience wants to hear about. What a concept.

Sally Falkow. New media

Sally – Google now delivering dynamic results in their searches. You need broad content – web page, video, images for indexing on Google

Marketer go from one law firm to the next doing the same thing. (ed note: do something different today)

Anyone have a question on new media for kevin o’keefe or the panel? (I received 2 questions from my network.)

Websites built as brochures. Don’t upgrade, just make sure that your content is on a publishing platform, something that is RSS enabled.

Still in basics. Rss, subscribing by topic, name, etc.

Jonathan talking how he went from 0 exposure to over 350 media hits in less than a year. How? Started a blog on entertainment and technology

Take advantage of opportunities (such as the bail out, bank failure, mergers … Whatever is important to your practice)

You need to lead people (reporters. Clients, readers) to your posts with a teaser (like Twitter, hello)

Gotta have a niche, especially one that isn’t already being serviced

How do you get average Joe lawyer to blog? 1) lawyers feel comfortable with what they do. 2) time constraints are minimal. It’s commentary

It’s a conversation. It doesn’t have to be original content. 3) ethics issues aren’t hard. Use same rules of thumb as in a conversation

4) run conflict checks before naming names. 5) Daily Journal is desperate for content. 6) put on your blog before writing an article

6 or 7) include disclaimers

What’s the ROI? If it’s getting to the WSJ, why not call and have them place it and avoid the blog. Because it gets picked up in the feeds

Forget advertising. Blog, write, speak.

If you want to become a brand and a thought leader, you need to blog. Get it syndicated. You can create an echo chamber around yourself

Blogs need to be around the niche, they are searching for generic terms

Q. What’s the biggest fear legal marketers have w/ sm? They don’t understand it. It is how we get our information. Twitter is breaking news.

Sm takes off, builds and is viral. It moves quickly. (and we know lawyers don’t like quick).

We need to read The Clue Train Manifesto. Marketing is a conversation.

Kevin is showing tweet deck. Everyone say hi to us @kevinokeefe (Four hellos came in quickly.)

Tweeting is small talk that leads to big business (I’ve seen a couple people retweet this comment.)

If you have the knowledge, write something about it

What are you “listening” to? Have it sent to a feeder and follow it. Then figure out how to add your content to the discussion.

Get a Facebook page.

Q. Are Twitter, Facebook and LI “selfish” as they are driven by individuals? Kevin: Relationships are built between individuals. Is it selfish for an

individual to sit with a client at a ball game? Adapt Twitter, Facebook for the firm as well. Drive content to your firm with these tools.

Standing here with friends

Change ourselves from the inside out

In my morning meditation today (yes, I meditate) there was a great passage that got me thinking about myself, my character and my traits.

I am, by nature, a very cautious person and a loner. I don’t like people. I don’t like to socialize. I don’t take risks. And, I care what people think about me … too much.

Now, for those of you who know me, I’m sure you’re laughing out loud right now. When I have confessed this in the past, I hear protestations of: “You’re so social.” “You’re always taking a stand and speaking your mind.” “You’re bold and forward thinking.” Yes, I am those things as well, but only because I work at it, on a daily basis. Over the years it has become easier and more natural for me … but I can easily revert back into my cave at any given moment.

Every day I have to actively work against my natural state of being so that I can participate in my life: at home, at work, and in my personal and professional communities.

So what does this have to do with lawyers? Attorneys are, by nature, cautious, autonomous and lack sociability.

There are natural “rainmakers” out there, who are few and far between, but what about the rest of the lawyers?

I have been asked before: “can you turn that service partner into a rainmaker?” The answer is “No.” I cannot turn a service partner into a rainmaker … but he or she can. It will take work. Daily work.

I would counsel the attorney to read books, attend seminars, subscribe to blogs and e-zines that promote the habits of highly successful rainmakers and salespersons. I would also counsel them to go against their nature every day. Pick up the phone when you’d rather send an e-mail. Write that commentary when you’d rather shut your door and play fantasy football. Go see your clients, speak at that conference, call that referral source. Get out of your cave. Go against your nature every day and fool us all.

From Eknath Easwaran’s Words to Live By:

Mind is consciousness which has put on limitations. You are originally unlimited and perfect. Later you take on limitations and become the mind.
Ramana Maharshi

Much of our daily behavior is conditioned by forces deep below the conscious level of our minds. This means we are limited to a conditioned, automatic way of thinking and responding to the events of life around us. When such a conditioned behavior is strong, we think of it as a fixed part of the personality. Othello is jealous, Hamlet indecisive, Macbeth ambitious; that, we say, is their nature. To many biologists, this is something that is built into our very genes.

I do not agree. Jealousy, vacillation, competition, and the rest are not permanent mental furniture; they are a process. A mental trait is a thought repeated over and over a thousand times, leading to words repeated a thousand times, resulting in action repeated a thousand times. At the beginning it is only a burgeoning habit of thought; you do not necessarily act on it. But once it becomes rigid, it dictates behavior. It is possible, through the practice of meditation and the other disciplines, to go against these conditioned ways of thinking and actually change ourselves from the inside out.

Do you trust me?

Jack asked this of Rose in Titanic. Deckard asked this of Rachael in Blade Runner. Aladdin asked this of Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin. Trust is the ultimate litmus test for any relationship. It’s what happens after you’ve moved past the stages of know and like. In these tough economic times, what we really have is a crisis of trust. Employees don’t trust employers. Banks don’t trust creditors. Consumers don’t trust their advisers. Without trust, markets freeze, productivity goes down, and fear quickly takes over the business environment. Bad times quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy when trust is absent.

U.S. currency doesn’t have a lot of text on it but one sentence that is printed on every bill and coin is “IN GOD WE TRUST.” Many in this country don’t even trust in this concept anymore. So what happens as trust erodes all around us? As Thomas L. Friedman states in his book The World Is Flat, “…the very thing that keeps open society open, innovating, and flattening, (and that) is trust.” If we allow fear to take over then trust has little opportunity to grow. Instead of giving into this fear perhaps it is more productive to reflect on who you trust and why?

Stephen M.R. Covey in his book The Speed of Trust goes a step further and spells out the economics of trust.

“A cynic might ask, ‘So what? Is trust really more than a nice-to-have social virtue, a so-called hygiene factor? Can you measurably illustrate that trust is a hard-edged economic driver?’”

Throughout Mr. Covey’s book he demonstrates his “…simple formula that will enable you to take trust from an intangible and unquantifiable variable to an indispensable factor that is both tangible and quantifiable.” Basically, he concludes that when trust is low, speed is slow and costs are high. Conversely, when trust is high, speed is fast and costs are low.

How true is this when we look at life inside a law firm? Our primary goal when working with attorneys and clients should be to establish trust. As Mr. Covey believes “Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.”

If you have consistently performed both to the satisfaction of your audience then you already know the answer to the “Do you trust me?” question. If you haven’t, then maybe it’s time to regroup and focus on improving your character and competence.

Money and billable hours should not a law firm make

For the decade that I have been in legal marketing, the business plans of the big-firms, and the followers, hasn’t changed much. Bill more, bill at higher rates, increase leverage, lower real estate, get rid of under-performers, shed practices, or only invest in “high value” practices.

Some firms have learned how to get their partners playing nice in the sandbox together well by redesigning compensation plans to promote cooperation, or forming productive client teams. Some firms have learned how to better integrate new partners, new practices, new offices and newly acquired firms. But not many.

I had a great response to my “Not so Classy … Katten” post last week over at Legal OnRamp.

I don’t like cross posting, as that would defeat the purpose of having a forum like Legal OnRamp, but I’ll try and recap a couple salient points:

Money cannot be the only reward. Right now law firms are not developing and retaining talent. The only incentive to stay right now is money … and that reward is not a business plan.

Partnership is no longer the glue that holds a firm together. If money is the driving retention factor in a firm, it is left vulnerable to the portability of clients and talent to the firm across the street when revenues take a downturn.

Job or career security at a law firm has disappeared. The bigger the firm gets, the more susceptible their partners are to becoming more like “employees.” With no support or loyalty to the employees, including partners, how can the institution expect to receive any in return?

More Hellers and Thelens to come. Why, in the face of an economic downturn, without a compelling reason to stay together, would partners who don’t really know, like or trust one another, stay together?

Firms need to invest in their partners, associates and staffs in good times and in bad. While the corporate clients are taking a financial hit, left and right, every day, where are the law firms (And accounting firms, office supply/paper vendors, building management, etc.)? Will the law firms automatically increase billable rates come January, or will they partner with their clients to weather the coming recession? Will they continue to lay off non-equity partners, associates and staff, rather than reduce their PPEP?

Today’s ABA Journal blog, Howrey Chairman: ‘We Have to Economize for Our Clients’, is based on a Washington Post article, Law Firms Tightening Belts — By Request.

Robert Ruyak, chairman and managing partner of Howrey LLP, said he began feeling the heat from corporate clients last year. With tighter budgets, legal departments at Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm, GE Healthcare and others prodded the Washington-based law firm to provide significant savings in the fees it charges.

Howrey responded: It is assigning more work to lower-paid staff attorneys and negotiating fixed fees for certain clients rather than billing by the hour. To keep up profit, the firm is hiring fewer associates and has acquired a Madrid firm to expand its antitrust practice into the booming Spanish market.

Will client partnering win out? Or will be just more of the “same-old, same old” in the end?

Washington area law firms are retooling due to a financial crisis that is bringing growing pressure from corporations and a drop in work in mergers and acquisitions, litigation and commercial real estate. At least one global firm with a D.C. office is closing, and another announced layoffs last week. Some big firms here are becoming bigger through mergers, which are up this year, or by snagging teams of lawyers from their competitors. Others are shifting to more lucrative specialties, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures and regulatory work related to implementing the bailout package, or capping salaries of associates and restructuring.

(Emphasis added)

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,487 other followers

%d bloggers like this: