Monday, March 14, 2016

Avoid ‘Seen it Before Thinking’

Actors live by the 'call back'. They know they've auditioned well when they get the call back. Lawyers get call backs too. Whether or not you get a call back depends on how well you auditioned- it depends on how well you conduct your first meeting. 

Many first meetings with prospective clients fail because the lawyer doesn’t take the time to learn about the client's particular issue. They assume the issue is like others they have handled and proceed directly to discussing a proposed solution and why the firm or the attorney is best suited to solve their problem. After all, the client has sought you out, so it’s easy to think that you have the answers to their problems.

But ‘seen it before’ thinking can cause you to miss important details, or misjudge how the client needs the work to be done or the level of expertise they require. Keep an open mind and assume you don’t know the answer until you're sure you know the client. 

In every proposal there are ‘deliverables’ or solutions and there is the ‘approach’ to the work- or how the work will be done. You know what the deliverable needs to be. You’ve delivered this solution before. But your approach- how you get to the deliverable- may need to be entirely different. That’s what the first meeting does: it gives you the necessary insight into how to approach the problem to find the right solution for that particular client. Make sure you are listening. Don't stop listening once you know 'what needs to be done'. You could miss the most important piece of information the client has shared with you.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Evaluating Outsourcing and Insourcing Marketing Support Options

Many firms debate the merits of hiring a marketing professional versus outsourcing marketing support to a marketing consultancy. So, I thought it might be helpful to outline the benefits and challenges of that decision. Here then, is a list of the considerations firms may want to evaluate in their analysis.

Benefits of Outsourcing (Marketing Consultant or Consultancy)

·        Reduced Employee Overhead- External resources can save firms as much as 40% in employee overhead costs including benefits, training and miscellaneous employee expenses.
·        Lower Startup Costs- External resources allow firms to avoid the costly investment of starting up a new functional area in the firm (office space, supplies, subscriptions, special software, etc.).
·        Specialized Skills- Consultants tend to have more specialized skills and experience in the most critical areas of legal marketing operations.
·        Objective Perspective- Consultants bring a fresh perspective uninhibited by internal processes or politics.
·        Best Practices- Consultants bring best practices derived from broad exposure to a variety of law firms and marketing challenges.
·        Robust Network- consultants have more robust network of connections. As problem solvers, they must maintain a deep network of resources that they can bring to any challenge.
·        Industry Experience- Deep experience in legal marketing and business development can save the firm in avoiding costly mistakes and trial and error experimentation.
·        Smarter Startup- External resources allow firms to evaluate their needs with little investment in the process leading to better long term decisions and more targeted recruiting of the talent needs.
·        Flexibility- Consultants are there when you need them and not there when you don’t need them. This helps firms avoid paying for non-productive time.
·        Inflexibility- In house resources which turn out to be a bad fit can take months to rectify and can leave lasting impressions on the Partnership, both internally and externally.
·        Training- In-house resources sometimes lack the experience in the industry and working within a partnership requiring training and support resources which are frequently not available in house.

Challenges of Outsourcing

·        Sense of Control- Using external resources may feel like there is less control over the resource and process. This is rarely the case as good consulting organizations typically commit to a defined process and specific deliverables.
·        Under Utilization- For busy attorneys, resources which are out of sight, tend to be out of mind. It is a very challenge which needs to be constantly addressed inside the firm is an outside resource is used.
·        Appearance of Higher Costs- Added employee and resource costs are difficult to review. New positions are mixed in with existing positions and the additional resources are not reported separately. The consultant’s invoice, however, can be reviewed in total every month. Comparison of the two resources requires expert knowledge and the adoption of certain assumptions. In fact, costs are typically much lower through improved efficiency and effectiveness.
·        Not Resident- Not having someone in the office can be a real challenge for some. For others, it’s a blessing.
·        Cultural Awareness- In-house positions tend to learn the culture of the firm more intimately. They see the behaviors and activities on a daily basis which define a firm’s culture in ‘real terms’.


Each law firm needs to decide what’s best for the partnership. However, a cautious approach dictates the use of external expertise. Unless a firm has a thorough and decisive understanding of its marketing and business development needs, law firms looking to build marketing resources should use outside consultants to help the firm determine the scope and quality of its needs and the capabilities and experience level of its first in-house marketing resource.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Best Trait of Attorneys is Also Their Worst

The most successful attorneys help companies reduce risk, avoid problems and break down barriers. They find loop holes that others miss and help define strategic direction into executable steps. There is a single trait, common among just about every attorney I have ever met, that helps them do these wonderful things for their clients. It’s called skepticism. Skepticism is the lens through which lawyers view the world. Skepticism is a pervasive doubt as to the truth of something. And that doubt is bred into them in law school. I suspect, even, that those who are natural skeptics gravitate toward the practice of law more than anyone else. The law and precedent is a comfortable place for those that are skeptical and doubtful. Doubt results in caution, which is good. Caution is the most essential survival trait.

On the other hand, innovators are not cautious people. They don’t doubt that their ideas will work. They try new things with little regard for the consequences of what they create. To the innovator, their boundless curiosity leads them to try new things, analyze what results, make adjustments and then try it again. They repeat this process sometimes hundreds of times until they create the vision that inspired their drive. The only role doubt ever plays in the innovator’s process is to provide direction.

Inventors and innovators are not, by their nature, skeptics. Innovation requires a different mindset, one that seeks why something didn’t work and what will make it work. Skeptics approach challenges from a risk aversion point of view. They look for why something won’t work and avoid that risk. Skeptics look for the consequences of actions and inflate those consequences to reveal its risk. Innovators deflate the consequences to reveal an action’s opportunity.

The trait that makes for highly successful legal practitioners also limits these same people when it comes to business and client development. The skeptical nature of their world view can keep them from the experimentation and practice that hones the skills of business and client development. Skepticism can also limit an attorney’s ability to become a trusted advisor of companies. Business leaders value skeptical caution. But they also value the innovators curiosity and drive for breaking new ground. To win the confidence of a business leader, don’t tell them all the ways something could go wrong. Tell them what you think will work. Skeptics who consistently dampen the discussion of opportunity risk being shut out of the room.

In working recently with a young partner, I was reminded of the devastating impact of self-limiting beliefs and skepticism. He asked me how he could build his practice and what he could do on a daily basis to move toward a larger book of clients. I explained the process and gave him a list of five things he could do each day to build his practice. While his curiosity asked a brilliant question, his limiting beliefs and skepticism found a consequence that suggested his situation was different and that the tactics would not work for him.

So, how does one turn skepticism into opportunism. First, recognize the thought pattern as it happens. Ask yourself, have I squelched an idea because I’ve seen a potential negative consequence? Was this idea well thought out? If so, then rate that consequence in terms of the likelihood of it actually happening. If the potential consequence is highly likely to happen (most well thought out actions do no produce negative consequences), examine whether the unintended effect would help you understand better how to do the same thing the next time. In other words, unintended consequences provide direction. The unintended consequences of thoughtful actions should rarely derail those activities. And yet, skeptics often allow unlikely consequences to inhibit their action. Even knowing that taking action is the fundamental energy that drives business development success.

So, what consequences do you fear?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Learn How to Peel an Onion

Clients don’t buy services, they buy solutions. So finding the root cause of a problem is critical to determining a comprehensive solution. While many will say that the solution is winning a case or successfully completing a transaction, the value creating solution is often not nearly so obvious. Providing true value to clients means that you are looking out for their interests and trying to understand the circumstances and outlying factors that contributed to the situation or inhibited its resolution. Learn how to ask questions that uncover need and pain.

Learning how to probe and get to the root cause of an issue is an artful talent. It requires active listening, open ended questioning techniques and relentless probing. Use the 'five whys' questioning technique to probe deep into causes and circumstances as well as to reveal the value that solutions can have for the company and your client. Once you know the scope of the issues, provide solutions not just for the immediate problem but ways to avoid the problem in the future as well.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Put Your Back Against the Wall

Busy restaurants are bee hives. They are full of people coming and going, animated conversations and more distractions than the human mind can process. The attention span of most people is already limited so the more you can cut down on distractions the longer you can keep someone's attention. When dining with clients, always choose the seat that puts your back against the wall and give clients the seats facing the wall. This limits the amount of distraction and allows clients to focus on you and the conversation.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ask For Referrals Early in the Relationship

Most professionals never ask for a referral. When they do, it's often after the project has been completed. This may not be the most opportune time to ask for a referral or testimonial. Earlier in the relationship may be better. Early in the relationship avoids the Honeymoon Hangover effect, the point in time when the honeymoon is over and the reality of the relationship sets in. Requests for referrals after compelling value has been delivered early in the relationship may be the best time to ask for a referral to professional peers who may also have need for your services.

Watch For Client Easing

Clients rarely abruptly stop using the services of an attorney. Instead, they ease out of the relationship slowly. The same is true of how clients prefer to get into a relationship. Pitching too much too quickly demands too much trust too early in the relationship. It is better to offer a way to become familiar with the attorney’s work and grow the relationship from there into more practice areas as trust and comfort builds.