New Marketing Blog for Associates

There's a new blog online -- The Associate Marketing Mentor -- at http://pm.typepad.com/associatemarketing/.  Marketing expert Mike Cummings and I created it in response to the survey results showing that partners, marketers and the associates themselves realize that business development is now an essential skill for law firm associates.

The research explodes he myth that law firms don't want the clients that associates can bring in, or that practice development is not important for associates.  Ironically, the survey "Current Practices in Business Development for Associate_blogAssociates," also found that 57% of law firms fail to provide them any training to generate new business.

This is deplorable.

So we put the blog online and announced it to the attendees of a Webinar on associate marketing. There is very little information to be found on BD for associates, so the blog is designed to fill the void, offer practical advice, and spotlight associates who succeed at generating new business.  We started by publishing the survey results on the blog and just added an "Associate Marketing checklist."

If you'd like to nominate an associate as a marketing success story, please contact Mike at mikesage@sbcglobal.net.  Meanwhile, take a look at our new baby at http://pm.typepad.com/associatemarketing/ and let us know what else we should put online.

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How to sell Professional Services in 3 Paragraphs

Ear As told by a lawyer, here is how to sell professional services in three paragraphs:

"The best salesman I have ever encountered is Barron Thomas, who sells real estate and airplanes in Los Angeles, Scottsdale, Ariz., and all over Texas. His basic ideas, which rank high in the firmament of good ideas, are generally two: bond with your buyer, and listen to your buyer.

"In other words, align your interests with those of the buyer. Don't try to shove something down his throat. Don't try to hoodwink him. Just listen to what he needs and wants, see if you have the good or service he needs and wants and then arrange to make it easy to buy. Make sure that the buyer is a real buyer with a real need, a real timetable to buy and the real means to buy. Then satisfy that need.

It is also important to be a friend to your buyer. In fact, I observe that almost all success in life comes down to being a friend to someone: a friend to the voter, a friend to the judge, a friend to your spouse, a friend to the client, a friend to your parents. As Miller said so aptly, you have to not just be liked, but "well liked."

--- from the Sunday, September 25, 2005 New York Times, "How to Sell a Mustang (or Anything Else)," Business Section, page 4, by Ben Stein, a lawyer, writer, actor and economist.

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Clients beg to join law firm's Rapport club

Janet_day_1Hello from across the pond.  I'm here in London at the PM Forum 10th annual global conference in London. Janet Day, IT director at Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) discussed a teriffic way to use technology to attract and hold clients.

They've created a "Rapport Club" for clients.  Clients pay to belong to the Club and may log onto BLP's extranet to ask questions about legal issues they're facing.  They are guaranteed a 24 hour response. Janet says it's so good, two companies called her this month to ask if they could become clients just so they could be members of the Rapport Club!

The questions get routed to a specialist who can answer the question, or are forward if the lawyer is busy.  The client gets an email notification that their question has been answered and they can log onto the extranet with a password to see their answer, as well as a searchable collection of other questions that have been answered.

BLP is a top 15 London law firm with 1000 staff, additional offices in Brussels, New York, Milan and Paris, and revenues of 120 million. Their marketing is working because the firm's profits are up 35%. BLP's extranets offer auction sites, deal rooms and data rooms. They represent real estate clients and have online instructions on how to complete real estate documents. The extranet also features links, newsletters, bulletins and e-briefs.

The most popular feature is "Ask BLP," which is available to Rapport Club members only. "It is very effective and efficient," she said, "and clients like it. Indeed -- it keeps them." Lawyers like it because it's easy for them to write responses, and it provides an added value from the firm. Did I mention clients pay to belong and also pay for the answers they get?

The Rapport login screen features a search box, plus a list of previous questions and answers. By clicking "Ask BLP" they can get answers to questions like "how do I deal with stamp duty in the Channel islands" or "what clauses should I include in my particular real estate document."

BLP also creates extranets for sellers of portfolios of real estate. The seller may typically offer 2,000 properties it wants to sell. In the old days, the firm photocopied 2,000 sheets of paper describing the properties over and over for each bidder. Now they scan the documents once and give qualified bidders a username and password. The sellers love the extranet because it exposes them to more bidders and gets them better sales prices. The bidders like it because they can see and print out the information instantly, as opposed to waiting two weeks for several pounds of paper to arrive.

The extranets also show when a lawyer is away from the office -- because a major client may have 100 lawyers working for it. For fun, it includes fantasy football pools. "Essentially, clients get anything they want," Day said.

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The Good, The Bad & The Daft at PM Forum Global Conference

They are here from London, Prague and New York. Marketers from Clifford Chance, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, DLA Piper Rudnick, Grant Thornton, Interface, Lexis, Pinsents and Wragges are convening now at the PM Forum 10th Annual Conference in London, "Developing Profitable Business."

Tim Nightingale of Ninsus Copnsulting in Middlesex blew away the crowd with tales from the front of business development in professional services.

THE GOOD.

1. A major accounting firm sponsored an art exhibition and dinner and invited executives of a major corporation. Unexpectedly, a woman showed up saying she was the wife of an attendee, who had showed up earlier with his girlfriend. The firm said "give us a minute to find him," the girlfriend was smuggled out, and the client was forever indebted to the firm (all morals aside).

2. A client presented its needs to the Pinsents law firm. The firm returned demonstrating they embraced the corporation's values, and would hold regular team meetings to update everyone concerned. The client retained them, and considered them part of the corporate team.

3. A solicitor (transactional lawyer) knew his client needed a fleet of 100 cars. He introduced them to another of his clients that was a car manufacturer.


THE BAD

1. A firm was doing a pitch at a big auto manufacturer, the kind of company where all employees were expected to drive cars made by the company. At the pitch, an executive asked a lawyer, "what do you know about our company?" The lawyer said, "not much beyond the fact that you make cars, but if we get the job, I'd like to know more." They didn't get the job.

2. The general counsel of a client calls her outside law firm to get a file. One of the attorneys on her matter asks here, "and what's your position with the company?"

3. A firm invited a client to a tennis match. Not only didn't the client like tennis, but the match was sponsored by a competitor, and the client could have been fired for attending the match.

4. A "Magic Circle" (ie, very large) law firm had been paid $1 million pounds to complete a major transaction. Afterwards the client invited the partner to attend the debriefing and review meeting. The partner declined to attend, but reminded the client to pay the firm's bill promptly.

THE DAFT

1. A partner was hurriedly driving to his firm for a client meeting. In the parking lot, he almost ran down a woman. The partner stopped and gave her a tongue-lashing. As he entered his offices, he saw the women in the waiting room -- she was a representative from the client company.

2. Co-presenter Geoffrey Timms, the in-house counsel for a company called Legal & General, had just been pitched by a professional firm. He checked his email later and discovered he had been copied (erroneously) on a message from the professional firm saying "Timms is a tough nut to crack, but I believe I've succeeded in impressing him."

3. A client had been invited to a firm to talk about her company. At the end the client asked if there were any questions. Silence. The client asked again if there were any questions. Finally, a partner asked, "is that a new outfit you're wearing?"

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New Survey: Business Development Now an Essential Skill for Law Firm Associates

Mike_cummings135 A groundbreaking new survey of the legal profession demonstrates that law firms are very interested in the capability of their associates to contribute to business development. "The research explodes the myth that law firms don't want the clients that associates can bring in, or that practice development is not important for associates," said Larry Bodine, operator of the LawMarketing Portal, www.LawMarketing.com.

To the contrary, the survey results show that firms place great importance on the business development skills of their associates.  But ironically, 57% of law firms fail to provide them any training to generate new business.

"The survey demonstrates the crying need among young lawyers for practice development skills training. High expectations are being placed on associates without giving them the know-how," said Michael Cummings, head of the Sage Professional Business Institute, www.sagelawmarketing.com.  "Law firms need to give associates the business development tools and education to succeed as professionals.  They owe it to their associates as caretakers of the associates' legal career.  And this investment makes sense when you consider that today's associates are the foundation and future for all law firms," he said.

The LawMarketing Portal and Sage Professional Development Institute published the results of the new survey, "Current Practices in Business Development for Associates," in September 2005.  The respondents were CMOs, Marketing Directors and partners at leading law firms.  The key findings are:

  • Business development is now an essential career skill.  93% of respondents in general believed it is essential for associates to be able to develop business to be successful in the legal profession. Only 6% said business development was "important but not essential" for associates.
  • To be promoted to partner, associates must demonstrate business development potential: 65% of respondents said that their firm's partners consider the business development capability of an associate as an extremely important or very important factor when considering the promotion of an associate to partner. (23% said it was "important," 10% said it was "somewhat important, and a mere 3% said it was "not at all important.")
  • Associates recognize that they must excel at business development to be successful: 87% of respondents said that the attitude prevailing among associates themselves is that business development is essential or important to be a long-term success in the legal profession.  Only 13% said that marketing and selling is "not essential" to becoming a partner and building a career.

Most Law Firms Failing to Respond to the Need

Based on the survey, law firms seem to be offering a minimal amount of formal business development training - especially compared to other professions such as investment banking, consulting, accounting and commercial banking, according to Cummings.

Asked "does your firm offer business development training to your junior and senior associates (10 or more hours a year)?" the responses were:

*        Only 43% said yes.

*        29% answered "No, but planning to this year."

*        A shocking 28% answered "No and not planning to."

Going into further detail, the survey asked respondents how many hours of business development training per year was provided at their firm, respondents said:

*        For senior associates (4+ years in practice), 25% said "none," 18% said 1-2 hours, 24% said 3-5 hours, 19% said 5-10 hours and 14% said more than 10 hours of training per year.

*        For junior associates, 27% said "none," 23% said 1-2 hours, 23% said 3-5 hours, 15% said 5-10 hours, and 13% said more than 10 hours of training per year.

"This is deplorable," Bodine said.  "Too many law firms are pressuring their lawyers to hunt for new business without showing them how."

To develop this survey, we searched public records exhaustively and found virtually no other research on the topic of associate business development.  The American Bar Association published a report "ABA Young Lawyers Division Survey: Career Satisfaction" in 2000.  However, it showed only that 90% of associates spent 20 or fewer hours per year on client development - (a negligible amount of time).

Forms of Business Development Training That Associates Require

Respondents to the new LawMarketing Portal/Sage Professional Business Institute survey ranked the importance of business development techniques for senior associates (4+ years in practice) in this order:

  1. Building their own network of professional relationships -- 97%
  2. Cultivating relationships with their "peers" at the client - 91%
  3. Becoming an active, visible member of a business organization - 78%
  4. Forming an alliance with other professionals (accounting, banking, industry related, etc.) - 71%
  5. Working with a partner to market a practice or industry specialty - 74%
  6. Writing articles and making speeches - 64%

Steps Associates Should Take

"Associates need to take the initiative and find ways to get the training and career development they need," Cummings said.

  1. Find self study options like books, DVDs or marketing programs.
  2. Get a mentor or personal coach (either inside the firm or in a related field).
  3. Start a special interest group at their firm to sponsor speakers, or attend Web seminars.
  4. Petition their firm's leadership to offer formal training
  5. Join an industry or practice specialty group at their firm.
  6. Develop a personal marketing plan with the help of their marketing director.

The survey was conducted online from August 22-26, 2005.  Respondents included law firm marketers and lawyers at firms ranging from a solo practice to a 2,500-lawyer firm.  Respondents were primarily from the U.S., and a small number were from Canada, the U.K., Mexico and Australia. The average size of respondents' firm was 148 lawyers. 

The LawMarketing Portal, www.LawMarketing.com, is the top online destination for law firm marketing, news and information.  The site receives 60,000 unique visitors per month.  It has been in continuous operation since 1996. The site includes articles on sales, marketing and technology, job openings, marketing events and links to the Professional Marketing Store and the LawMarketing Listserv.

The Sage Professional Business Institute, based in St. Charles, IL, is a publisher of best selling books for law firms including Best Practices of Legal Marketing and The Lawyer's Guide to Growing Your Network.

Sage and LawMarketing also offer business development training programs for lawyers and other professionals, including the upcoming Webinar, "Best Practices in Building Your Professional Network -- for Associates," on September 21, 2005.  For more information see

http://www.lawmarketing.com/pages/events.asp?Action=View&EventID=323 or

http://www.sagelawmarketing.com/WebseminarAssociatesA1.htm.

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Patrick Lamb is New King of Blawgs

Patrick_lamb_4 There is a new King of Blawgs, and it's Patrick Lamb of Chicago, author of the In Search of Perfect Client Service - Why Lawyers Seem to Stumble" blog.  The blog has been named the No. 1 All-Time Most Popular Blawg as measured by clickthroughs by www.blawg.org.

Ever since I could remember, the top blawg was always "May It Please the Court" by J. Craig Williams of Newport Beach, CA. His blog about legal news and observations was quoted in the New York Times, where he said his blog brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in new business and covered a wide variety of topics. But Williams has been deposed.

But the scepter and throne have now been passed to Patrick, who for more than 20 years has been representing business interests in toxic tort claims, as well as representing buyers and sellers in post merger and acquisition disputes. I've followed Patrick for some time now.  Professional Marketing magazine published an article about his firm entitled "Chicago's Butler Rubin Makes Client Service Its Distinguishing Mark" last March.  The 30-lawyer Chicago litigation boutique Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd met decided to distinguish itself from its competition by promoting its excellent client service.

Lamb started his blog last April and has plowed into topics such as alternative fee arrangements, the Merck/Vioxx trial, email marketing, the cost to a client of changing law firms, and client interviews. Posting about a dozen times a month, he offers a practical and occasionally contrarian viewpoints to what you would hear from white-shoe law firms.

The blog has a Google ranking of 4 (out of 10).  He lists recent comments for all to see, has a link to the daily Dilbert cartoon, lists 15 favorite blogs, and categorizes his comments into alternative fees, audits, budgeting, commentary, general law firm management, leadership, stories and trends and innovations.

Long live the King!

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