John Fisher: How to Build the Law Practice of Your Dreams

build the law practice of your dreamsBy John Fisher on Law Practice Manager:

This was not your usual workday lunch.

One of the most successful personal injury lawyers in New York agreed to have lunch with me. We were complete strangers and I was totally up-front with him from the get-go: I told him that I was there to find out what has made him a success. I was going to pick his mind and hopefully leave with a couple of gold nuggets that I could use for my practice. I call this “Modeling the Masters”—and it’s surprising to some that top-caliber lawyers are willing to share their best tips and advice.

As we got to know each other over lunch, I asked very bluntly for the two or three things that made him successful. Rather than worn-out clichés of “work hard” or “never give up”, the lawyer gave it to me straight. The lawyer held nothing back by telling me that he had tried just about every marketing tactic and for the most part, they didn’t work.

An Epiphany

Where can you find an investment where you can invest $1 and get $10 in return?

When the lawyer was struggling to launch his practice, he settled a big case and used the funds to focus on one marketing tactic: radio ads. The lawyer didn’t just dabble with radio ads, he went all in by spending $100,000 (even when money was tight).

The radio ads weren’t loud or obnoxious, but conveyed a clear message: “We care about you.” Each radio ad had a different story and one ad was more successful than the next. New personal injury leads came in and the lawyer began experimenting with new ads and investing more money in radio.

Over a two hour lunch, the lawyer confided in me: for every dollar he spent on radio ads, he made $10 in return. Wow! Where else can you find an investment where you can invest $1 and get $10 in return? Nowhere! But this never would have happened if the lawyer hadn’t experimented with different types of marketing and eventually find one tactic that worked in spades.

The Real Key to Success...

Read on at Building the Law Practice of Your Dreams


6 Practical Steps to Build Client Loyalty

6 Pointers to Build Client LoyaltyKen Hardison is publishing a new book, “Under Promise, Over Deliver — How to Build the Preeminent Law Firm in Your Market.” Here is an excerpt from Chapter Six.

A loyal client and a satisfied client are not to be confused. While client satisfaction is an element of loyalty, a client could be satisfied and still feel no connection to you or your firm. A loyal client experiences five things:

  1. The overall satisfaction of doing business with your law firm.
  2. The willingness to build a relationship with you and your company.
  3. The willingness to be a repeat client.
  4. The willingness to recommend you to others.
  5. The reluctance to switch to another law firm.

In order for your clients to achieve those five things, there are several rules that you and your employees should follow every day:

1. Greet Clients Promptly

A survey timed the number of seconds people waited to be greeted in several businesses. Researchers then asked clients how long they had been waiting. In every case, the client’s estimate of the time elapsed was much longer than the actual time. A client waiting 30 or 40 seconds often felt like it had been three or four minutes. Time drags when people are waiting.

To read the rest of Ken's advice, please visit 6 Pointers to Build Client Loyalty.


How to Get a Share of the $100B Corporate Legal Market

In 2014, the high-growth, high-rate law practices in which corporate clients will hire law firms are IP litigation, class actions, M&A, regulatory matters and tax issues (see chart below), according to the Market Outlook 2014 webinar, broadcast today by BTI Consulting.

Michael Rynowecer, President and Founder of BTI outlined these points from the BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2014:

  • The US legal market exceeds $100 billion, of which $60 billion is spent on outside law firms.
  • Corporations will have more litigation work in 2014, but most of it will be handled in-house. There is a $6 billion increase in the amount of legal work now handled in-house when compared with two years ago.
  • Only 650 law firms handle legal work for the Fortune 1000.
  • When seeking a law firm, 80% of in-house counsel will confer with a peer and hire the firm that is recommended first.
  • However only 31.4% of clients are truly satisfied with their leading law firm. The typical AmLaw 100 law firm has 11% of it's clients at risk.
  • Law firms are spending more on marketing and business development, ranging from 2.8% to 2.4% of gross revenues (including the salaries of marketing staff).

BTI Premium Practices Forecast 2014, legal marketing, law firm marketing

Business development opportunities

Average Marketing Budgets
Average marketing budgets, law firm marketing, legal marketing

Rynowecer offered several business development tips:

  • Law firms can make themselves valuable by training the new in-house lawyers who will be handling the additional work.
  • Form a triage team with clients to jointly asses new matters as they come in, and meet monthly or biweekly. BTI says that corporations plan to settle 40% of all their litigation.
  • Offer to sit on clients' new product development committees to help spot IP opportunities.
  • Swarm clients with online value-added tools such as checklists, guidelines and self-assessments.
  • Key law firm marketing activities that will result in being recommended first include demonstrating an understanding the client's business, providing value for the dollar, and showing a commitment to help, that is, showing an interest in solving a client's problems rather than finding ways to bill hours.
  • Successful law firms develop customized presentations for clients and send partners to brief clients in a 2-3 hour session.

The best opportunities for new business arise with global organizations operating in the US and mid-market companies that wish to expand into other countries. "Global companies show an especially strong interest in using both mid-sized as well as larger firms in Litigation, Employment, IP, IP Litigation, Regulatory, Corporate and small- and mid-sized M&A," Rynowecer said.

"Marketing and business development skills will be essential in terms of long term growth for law firms. In this market you are either a predator or prey, there is absolutely nothing in between," he said.

17 activities to develop superior client relationships, law firm marketing, legal marketing.


How to Maximize Your Website Visitors

Photo credit richiemontalbo

Want to maximize your website visitors? Lawyers need to strike while the iron is hot for the best chance of success. Below we have some specific tips that will help you get the most out of each person who visits your website.

  • Optimize Forms -- If your web form is too long and complex, there's a good chance people aren't going to spend the time filling it out -- - unless they get something out of it. Knowing this, it's important to make sure your online forms are short, simple and easy to fill out quickly. To test this out, try to do some A/B split testing with different forms to see which ones work best. We bet it's going to be the quick and simple ones!

  • Capture Email Addresses -- Speaking of forms, it's a good idea to capture the email addresses of visitors -- any who are willing to give it to you. This is really easy to set up online thanks to a lot of email newsletter services -- like MailChimp. If you want to make sure your visitors remember you, getting their permission to email them is a good way to do it. There's minimal maintenance needed once you have this set-up and working.

  • Cross Sell -- When visitors arrive at your site, show them an alternative service. Just make sure it's really close or related to the original service they were searching for in the first place. This doesn't always work, but it can increase your chances of opening a new file.

  • Social Connections -- You should also make it very easy for visitors to your website to share posts and pages. Ideally you want them to be able to click a single button and share the content. This is a way to capitalize on their visiting even if they don't buy anything right away. The good news is that most content management platforms -- like WordPress and Drupal -- make this easy. And once it's set up, you can just sit back and enjoy the benefits.

Following the advice above will ensure you have the best chance of success when it comes to converting visitors into clients. No matter what type of website you're running -- a site or a blog about your -- you should start interacting with your visitors right away so that you can convince them to stay or get more information from them.

Heidi NelsonWritten by: Heidi Nelson likes to use Law Firm Marketing by SmithSEO, especially when she's visiting Tampa, Florida and away from her home office. According to her opinion, they provide related content marketing. She met the love of her life in that city one magical summer.


Why You are Not Getting More Referrals

Stephen Fairley
Stephen Fairley

According to Stephen Fairley, a nationally recognized law firm marketing expert, lawyers are not getting all the referrals they want because "what we have here is a failure to communicate" -- with clients.

He spoke at the recent annual meeting of the DRI, the Defense Research Institute, in Chicago on "Rainmaker Secrets of Top Defense Attorneys."

"Most attorneys lack a marketing system that allows the to develop new business," Fairley says. "They rely almost exclusively on 'word of mouth.' The #1 reason why you're not getting more referrals is lack of client education."

One solution is to start publishing a newsletter. "It keeps you connected to clients and referral sources, builds your credibility and works for you 24/7," he says. He showed examples of successful law firm e-newsletters from Martin & Karcazes, and Taylor Warren & Weidner, which The RainMaker Institute created.

Before the current matter wraps up

"Another tactic is to have a follow up plan to immediately start after the matter you’re working on wraps up," Fairley says. "Have a follow up plan to immediately start after the matter you’re working on wraps up."

"Within about 30 days after the matter wraps up, send a hand written thank you note, visit your client’s office for a face to face meeting, and meet the client for lunch -- and you pick up the tab." Then ask clients for:

  • A written recommendation
  • Request they “rate” you online ( and LinkedIn)
  • An introduction to one of their business owner friends/colleagues
  • To serve as a reference for future clients
  • To review (at no charge) another matter they may need your assistance on
  • To do a “high value project” for them - like a risk analysis of current policies, practices and liabilities.

 It may seem like a lot of offort, but Fairley says a lawyer must balance it against "CODN" -- the cost of doing nothing. "How many new clients did you missut on last year because you didn't have a cost effective system in place to stay connected with prospects? How many referrals did you miss out on?"

Fairley invites lawyers to connect with him via Quicklink by visiting - it's a convenient way to invite your business contacts fellow networkers to connect on LinkedIn.



10 Questions to Ask in Client Surveys

question marksStephen Fairley of The Rainmaker Institute wrote a good article on how to Improve Your Legal Marketing with Client Satisfaction Survey Here's a snippet:

The end of the year is a perfect opportunity to conduct a client satisfaction survey, which is an information gold mine that helps you understand what your clients think about how you delivered your service, what you could have improved upon, what they actually gained from your service and what they really need from you.

Although this insight is vital, the benefits to client satisfaction surveys don’t stop there. You can use these insights to improve your law firm marketing.  For example, by better understanding how your clients find services such as yours, you know more specifically how to promote your services to reach similar clients.

Most people are accustomed to taking online satisfaction surveys, which is an expeditious and inexpensive way to conduct customer satisfaction research. It also doesn’t intrude on your client’s time too much.

  1. No matter what format you use, here are some good questions to ask in your survey:
  2. What was your first impression of the firm? Of your attorney?
  3. How were you initially treated during your first in-person meeting?
  4. What do you believe is our biggest strength?
  5. What do you believe is the area where we need the most improvement?
  6. Out of the following 5 areas, which ones do you anticipate needing in the next year?
  7. Were invoices sent out on a regular basis to you?
  8. Were you ever surprised by the amount on an invoice?
  9. What are some ways we could better serve you?
  10. Would you recommend us to your friends or colleagues?
  11. Are there any other comments, suggestions, complaints, or concerns you would like to voice?

Click Improve Your Legal Marketing with Client Satisfaction Surveys for the rest of the article.


Video: Industries that Will See More Litigation Matters in 2014

Cindy Greenway, Editor in Chief of, interviewed me about the coming surge in litigation that is coming in 2014 according to recently released reports by BTI Consulting and Fulbright & Jaworski. 61% of business clients said they expect to have more litigation matters in the coming year.

Watch this interview to learn more about which practice areas and which industries will have the work.


The Seven Sins of Opening a New Law Practice

Jim Calloway, Oklahoma Bar AssoctionsJim Calloway, the director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program, has a nice set of rules to follow when opening a solo -- or any kind -- of law practice. Tip o' the hat to Technolawyer for spotting The Seven Deadly Sins of Opening a New Solo Law Practice.

1. No clients

The practice of law is an esteemed profession, but a law firm is a business with revenue, expenses and the expectation of making a profit. A business cannot exist without customers nor can a law firm without clients. This does not mean you cannot open your law firm without knowing where your clients will come from. If that were the case, many would not open. But it does mean that client development will be your highest, urgent priority for you to become a success. A website is critical so you can print the address on business cards and stationery. You must send out formal announcements of your new practice to everyone that would appreciate the announcement. You must introduce yourself to local lawyers and business people, as well as judges at the courthouse. This is not a time to be shy or to wait patiently.

2. Too much overhead

Pay close attention to the amount you have each month as overhead. You should also keep a list of other annual and irregular financial obligations. You personally may have to do a lot of things you would rather not have to do instead of paying for them, like cleaning the office. As your revenues grow, you can revisit these items later. But in the early stages, every dollar you do not pay in overhead is a dollar you can take home (or at least not add to your debt load.)

3. Taking on work you cannot do or support
Do not let the need to have new clients tempt you into taking on matters that you cannot handle either because of resources or experience. You want a sustainable business and you do not need dissatisfied clients or grievances sent to the OBA General Counsel. Certainly there will be things you have to learn, but make sure that you are within the capabilities of a new solo lawyer. If a matter seems attractive to handle, but you do not believe you can handle it, ask the prospective client for some brief time to do some research and talk to lawyers that handle these types of matters. Maybe you will find a lawyer willing to team with you and show you how it is done. You may get a fee that is substantially less than handling it alone, but the client will get great service and you will also get a great learning experience.

4. Not paying enough attention to finances and financial reports

Click here to read the rest of The Seven Deadly Sins of Opening a New Solo Law Practice


RFPs: To play or not to play, that is the question

Many thanks to Janet Ellen Raasch for this guest blog post. She
is a writer, ghostwriter, copyeditor and blogger at Constant Content Blog who works closely with professional services providers – especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations – to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of newsworthy and keyword-rich content for the web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or

Not so long ago, the legal marketplace was much less competitive. Business clients with legal problems would routinely turn to “their” local lawyer or law firm to handle the matter.  Case closed.

Today, business clients with legal problems (and tight budgets) are likely to send out a request-for-proposal to a number of potential law firms, and let these firms bid for the business. Lawyers and legal marketers are being asked to respond to increasingly large numbers of these requests.

All too often, RFPs sit on a lawyer’s desk for a few weeks before the lawyer decides that it is time to discuss the pros and cons of creating a proposal with the marketing department.  By then, time is short.  Nonetheless, these lawyers truly believe that they have a chance of winning the work.

If a firm decides to reply with a proposal, there are many ways that it can distinguish itself from the competition and improve its chances of success.  Sometimes, however, the best option is to ignore the RFP as a waste of a firm’s time, talent and treasure.

Sometimes, just say no

“The RFP process is usually rigged,” said Peter Darling.  “It may appear objective, but it’s not.  Legal work is based on relationships and, often, the likely winner has been selected ahead of time.  The RFP is sent out so that the client can claim to have considered 15 firms before selecting this firm.”

Darling discussed the RFP process at the monthly educational program of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held Oc. 8 at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in LoDo, Denver.  Darling is founder of Repechage Group, based in Santa Cruz, Calif.  He is a lawyer who supplements his legal background with hands-on skill in the fields of marketing, advertising and graphic design.

“A law firm should not respond to every RFP it receives,” said Darling.  “If you calculate what it takes to create a good proposal, you will discover that each one is quite costly and, more often than not, a law firm has no chance of winning.

“A response must make measurable business sense,” said Darling.  “You must have at least a 50/50 shot at winning to justify the cost.  Forty percent of the time, the only response should be a polite ‘no thank you.’ Develop standards for acceptance and create a committee empowered to make this decision.”

A good proposal is not a legal document

If you decide to respond to an RFP with a proposal, do the job right.  It should be client-centric, strategic, well-designed and well-written.  It must include memorable “win themes.”

”Attorneys are talented when it comes to creating dry legal documents,” said Darling.  “This is what they learned in law school and use every day, and they excel at it.  As a result, many lawyers think that a proposal for new work should look and read like a dry legal document.  It should not.”

In marketing, unlike the law, data and information do not speak for themselves.

“A well-written proposal must look and read like a persuasive sales document,” said Darling.  “In the legal universe, lawyers are required to carefully read dull legal documents like briefs, pleadings and cases.  In the business development realm, they are not required to carefully read dull proposals.  If your proposal is not engaging, it will be neither read nor remembered.”

A good proposal is client-centric

A really good proposal has three key characteristics.  It stands out and neither looks nor reads like the others.  It has a focused point of view and takes control of the subject.  Most importantly, it is client-centric.  Good proposals are primarily about the client and not about your law firm.

“Lawyers like to talk about themselves and what they do,” said Darling.  “A proposal gives them a chance to do this.  Most stuff a proposal with boilerplate information about the firm, its accomplishments and its lawyers.   I have seen proposals that consist of 60 percent partner bios.”

This is a mistake.  A good proposal should be all about the client, the problems that the client is facing and how the firm can help solve those problems.  “In fact, I often recommend that a firm not even mention itself in the first three pages of any proposal,” said Darling.

“Any discussion of your firm, your people and your solution should be used only as supporting evidence, as an illustration of how you can help the client,” said Darling.  “It should always be included in the context of how you help clients save money, make money or make their customers happy.  Otherwise, this information is just decoration and does not carry its persuasive weight.”

A good proposal reflects a client’s business strategy

A proposal is client-centric when it clearly acknowledges and reflects the business strategy of the client that requested the proposal -- how the client attempts to differentiate itself and successfully compete with its own rivals in the marketplace.

Uncovering a potential client’s business strategy requires research, but it is well worth the effort.  A client’s business strategy can be found on its website, social media sites, annual reports, analyst reports, industry and business articles, and Google searches.

“Be straightforward when using this information,” said Darling.  “State clearly that a client’s business strategy is ‘x’ and that your firm can help them achieve ‘x’ by doing ‘y.’

If their strategy emphasizes diversity, for example, mention key women as well as racial and cultural minorities in your firm.  If their strategy emphasized innovation, discuss how your firm uses information to improve service, manage matters and control costs.  If their strategy emphasizes “green” products and operations, show how your firm, too, supports green initiatives.

Inclusion of the client’s strategy demonstrates that you care enough about the client and the potential legal work to do your homework.  It demonstrates that you care not only about the client’s legal needs, but its “big picture” business needs as well.  It demonstrates important similarities between you and the potential clients.  After all, clients want to hire lawyers and law firms with similar values.

A good proposal looks good and reads well

To set a law firm apart from the competition, a good proposal will look less like a legal document and more like a magazine or an annual report.  “Design is the ‘suit’ that your proposal wears,” said Darling.  “You dress appropriately to meet with a client.  Your proposal should be well-dressed as well.  You want your proposal to ‘stand out’ from all the others.

“Despite what most lawyers think, the proposal process is neither logical nor rational,” said Darling.  “It is primarily emotional.  It is based on impressions and reactions to those impressions.  Design plays a critical role in making a first (and ongoing) impression on a potential client. The successful proposal will look professional, contemporary, clean and organized.”

A good proposal will take visual cues from the client’s own marketing materials.  If the client uses flow-charts in its own materials, use flow charts in your proposal.  If the client uses a certain style of photo, use similar photos.  When possible, take your own photos of your own people rather than relying on stock images.  If the client relies on infographics to explain concepts and processes, use the same tool in your proposal.

“Finally, law firms should refrain from the temptation to use form style or ‘legalese’ in a proposal,” said Darling, “even if the proposal will be read by other lawyers, such as general counsel.  Be organized, but informal.  Be expert, but relaxed and conversational.  Instead of using abstract language, tell concrete and interesting success stories.  Have your proposal reviewed and edited by a non-lawyer.”

A good proposal builds on “win themes”

Anyone who has reviewed a set of proposals knows that this process is extremely tedious.  Often, the proposals all look alike and say more or less the same thing.  It is hard to differentiate among the candidates.  It is hard to remember who said what.

“In order to stand out and win in the RPF process, you need to remember that the client can only remember three things about each candidate,” said Darling.  “These are your ‘takeaways.’  They must differentiate you and also be something that the client cares about.

“I call these ‘win themes,’” said Darling.  “You want to stay on your win themes just like a politician stays ‘on message’ or an advertiser consistently repeats its tagline.  By using win themes, you what the potential client remembers.”

Distill your “win themes” into short and simple concepts.  While taking care to be natural, repeat these concepts throughout the proposal in both graphics and text.  Use them to organize content into sections.  Use them as headlines, subheads, breakout quotes or even shaded background on a page.

“Obviously, it takes a lot of work to create a truly persuasive and differentiating ‘sales’ proposal that will help you stand out from the crowd and win new legal work,” said Darling.

“Even if you do not win the work, however, this effort may not be wasted,” said Darling.  “Most clients will hang on to your proposal.  They will keep it on hand ‘just in case’ they need legal services in the future – especially if your proposal left a good impression.  Because proposals have such a long ‘shelf life,’ make the extra effort to ensure they look good and read well – today and in the future.”





Effectively Seeking Personal Injury Clients

Amanda Green, freelance writer, has provided us with another great guest post.

Every day, new clients are created. A fan has had too much to drink at a Cardinals game and rear-ends a family of four. A vacationer stares at the Arch as he crosses the Mississippi...and the center line.

Whatever the cause, someone has been hurt by a negligent driver, and you want the case. You need to set yourself apart from the rest of the contenders. The victims will need to act quickly to secure representation, and it takes too long to find them individually. You need a high-profile method for getting name recognition.

What has Christopher Dixon of done to stand out in a crowded field? Widely known for handling a broad array of personal injury cases, the firm has succeeded among an abundance of personal injury attorneys, jostling for airtime and billboard space.

As in all legal practice, reputation is everything. But marketing plays a big role, too. Apart from novelonline methods, there are some other choices for standing out.

Be Seen When You're Not Needed...Yet

Have you ever had your carpet professionally cleaned? Do you even have any carpet in your home? Even if you answer "no" to both of these questions, you probably know one firm that does professional carpet cleaning.

Why is that one name in your head? Because they're everywhere. They have a catchy jingle, and their school bus-yellow vans bear their names in huge black letters. Chances are, if you ever get out of the courtroom, you'll seen them.

That's how you set yourself apart, and in the heat of the moment, you'll be the first name on a potential client's lips.

Make Your Contact Information Memorable

Established law firms with a large number of partners end up with an equally large name. That's the nature of the trade. And it's not a problem to work for Smith, Jones, Brown, Washington, Taylor, Green, and McPeek if your website doesn't include all seven surnames followed by a dot-com.

Check with a domain registration service and consider your options. That's how got their memorable and very obvious address. Quality website design provides a quick, no-scroll summation of the firm's multiple areas of specialization, so the entire process works together to get clients to a firm that is qualified to handle their case.

The same goes for phone numbers. Even though your every client may hail from the 314 area code, utilizing a toll-free number will enable you to design a memorable exchange and number. Your goal should be 800 (rather than 866, 877, or 888) followed by a seven-letter, meaningful word that will steer clients to you. Physicians would want 1-800-DOCTORS. Mechanics should try to get 1-800-FIX CARS. You get the idea. Follow suit.

Choose Advertisement Placement Strategically

Where do injured people have to go after an accident? There are hospitals, of course. Afterwards there will be chiropractors and physical therapists. In time, they'll be at the body shop or maybe the car lots. And of course, a lot of the time, they are home watching TV.

Will they see you while they are there? Do you have a calendar on the wall at local body shops? Are you on bus-stop ads outside hospitals? Do you co-sponsor events, say high school sports, alongside local auto dealerships? Are your commercials airing during the noon news, the soaps, and the talk shows?

Targeting your advertising gets you more bang for your buck. Injured people aren't at the gym lifting weights any more than athletes are taking on the Rock the Tot Challenge at Bar Louie.

Put your ads where your clients will be, and your clients will put themselves where you'll be.


Author Bio: Amanda Green is a freelance writer who loves to write on legailty, marketing and personal finance. In her spare time she loves to try new dishes in the kitchen and maintain a healthy lifestyle.