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


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.


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


10 Secrets to Developing Client Loyalty - Free Teleseminar

 Here are details about a quality FREE teleseminar on Thursday, October 3 at 1 pm Eastern:

Do you know that there is a significant difference between client loyalty and client satisfaction?

Just because a client is satisfied does not necessarily mean that they will be loyal to you over the years.  A loyal client consists of the following things:

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

PILMMA president and founder, Ken Hardison, knows just how to keep a client both satisfied and loyal.  On Thursday, October 3rd at 1pm Eastern (10am Pacific),  Ken will share the 10 rules you and your staff should follow in order to achieve client loyalty.

Click here to register!


BTI Forecasts Litigation to Surge in 2014

2014 is shaping up to be a good year for litigators, according to The BTI Consulting Group of Wellesley, MA. Approximately 61% of clients expect to see a jump in the number of litigation matters they will be handling next year, according to the firm’s latest research report.

“Each new matter represents an opportunity for new business,” according to BTI’s new Litigation Outlook 2014. “Corporate clients will be busier and focused on litigation.”

legal marketing, surge in litigation, law firm marketingFilled with charts, tables and facts, the forecast is based on 300 new one-on-one telephone interviews with decision-makers including the Head of Litigation, Vice President of Litigation, General Counsel or direct report to the GC. Interviewees worked at corporations with average revenue of $14.3 billion.

Litigation is the largest part of most companies’ legal spending, according to BTI President Michael B. Rynowecer -- accounting for about 40% of a typical corporate legal budget.

But corporate clients will expect law firms to attack litigation costs with early case assessment, alternative fees (now used by 70% of corporate counsel), budgets, alternative staffing and a focus on settlements. “The law firms who can change their approach to help drive these costs down and market to the new surge of business will fare well,” he said.

A $21 Billion Market

The report finds that litigation is a $21 billion market, composed primarily of commercial litigation ($6.2 billion) and employment litigation ($4.4 billion), as well as IP litigation, product liability, class actions and torts, securities and finance, and other litigation. The average number of new litigation matters filed in 2014 is forecast to increase to 116 per company.

The growth will take place in regulatory, labor, class actions, securities and IP litigation – each offering a different mix of high growth and premium rates. The report sorts types of litigation growth by industry – for example, growth in exployment litigation is projected for the consumer goods and retail trade industries.

This year’s Litigation Outlook also analyzes clients that have the most litigation work to assign, and spotlights the powerhouse law firms by practice area. Dozens of law firms are identified, but there are only four among the “Most Feared Litigation Firms.” Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Quinn Emanuel and Skadden, Arps will be happy to see they are named.

The Litigation Outlook may be purchased at BTI has one of the world’s largest knowledge bases of professional services research based on more than 13,000 interviews conducted over the past 24 years.


The Network of Trial Law Firms Offers FREE Online Litigation Classes

The Network of Trial Law Firms has updated its YouTube-powered TRIAL.COM online video presentations at www.TRIAL.COM/cle to include the presentations made in August at its annual "Litigation Management in a New York Minute."

Currently about 120 videos are online and more will be added shortly. Viewers can download materials and slides from the conference while watching the videos. No CLE credit is offered, but the service permits lawyers to fulfill some of the CLE requirements. 

The Network of Trial Law Firms has created dozens of videos in which defense trial lawyers from its 24 member law firms offer practical advice on managing the trial and litigation problems with which in-house counsel grapple daily.

In addition, the Network offers 245 podcasts at on everything from Anti-Counterfeiting Campaigns to Workplace Product Liability Claims.

“Education, coupled with the practical trial and litigation examples that we provide, is the best way to improve legal representation and achieve great trial and litigation results for the clients of our member firms,” said Jim Miller, a partner with Akerman in MIami, who is the chairman of the Network. “We believe that CLE should always be free of charge.”

Currently available programs cover keys to winning a case, relationships with in-house counsel, corporate compliance and ethics.

New videos will be recorded live at the Network’s September 20, 2013, Financial Services CLE SuperCourse in New York and the November 7-10, 2013 Litigation Management conference in Laguna Beach, CA.

The Network of Trial Law Firms, Inc. is a not-for-profit membership association producing cutting-edge trial and litigation continuing legal education. The goal is to provide clients with high quality trial and litigation representation through advances in education, technology, business and science. The Network’s CLE disseminates information on trial and litigation techniques free online without restriction.

For further information contact Ellis R. Mirsky, Executive Director and General Counsel at 914-332-4400.



Getting Potential Clients to Watch Your Video

According to David Wodnicki, a LexisNexis Law Firm Marketing Specialist, when potential clients view videos of attorneys, it can create a powerful connection like nothing else on a law firm website. But even an Oscar-worthy video won't help, if viewers don't bother to actually launch it. So, how can you get them to watch? Here are a few ideas.

1. Make them worth watching
You don't need to hire Martin Scorsese to direct your attorney-profile video, but you don't want a video that looks and sounds cheap. Fortunately, digital equipment has become so inexpensive that you don't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire someone to create simple, effective videos.

The videos also don't need to be long. Potential clients aren't looking for a law-school lecture or a bragging session. They just want to get a sense of who you are as an attorney and why they may want to talk to you about their case.

2. Make the videos easy to find
Feedback from the LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® 2013 Law Firm Website Conversion Study points to the success of putting videos on the home page. You want to be careful about how you use this valuable real estate, but creating links here can pay off in a big way by encouraging people to watch them.

3. Optimize videos for desktop and smartphone viewing
Consumers who go online to look at law firm websites are most likely to use laptops and desktops, according to theAttorney Selection Research Study by The Research Intelligence Group (TRiG). However, more than one-fifth of potential clients accessed online resources with their smartphones. You want to make sure computer and smartphone users alike can easily view your videos.

4. Be sure to comply with all your jurisdiction's ethics laws
But you knew that, of course.

Guiding New Clients on the Journey to Retaining You

When you open a file, it's the end of a successful customer journey for the client — a trip that was influenced on the way by email, online searches, social media and referrals. Search engine giant Google recently unveiled data about which law firm marketing tactics are most influential in guiding that journey to a "customer purchase decision."

Google: path to purchaseWhich technique is the most effective? Savvy marketers understand that you don't always seal the deal with a single tactic. A client may see a display ad, click on a link from a friend, or do a search before deciding to select you for their legal matter.Google's online tool reveals online buying behavior and shows how different marketing interactions affect business success.

Every lawyer wants to "close" a new client, but that won't happen without marketing to consumers at the start of their journey, when they (a) become aware of a lawyer, (b) begin to consider the attorney, and (c) form an intent to call you.

Email and social media are effective early in the client journey, according to Google. These initiatives assist a consumer in becoming aware of a lawyer's services. (Note: I filtered the Google tool to display results for the finance industry, the closest analogue to the legal profession.)

This means that publishing an email newsletter, and having an active presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are important elements of a law firm marketing plan. These techniques will influence the journey a consumer takes, but it will require multiple interactions or "marketing touches" to direct them to hiring you. has expertise in helping lawyers with social media marketing.

Pay-per-click advertising and paid search results are effective in tipping consumers from considering hiring a lawyer — to deciding to hire a lawyer. In fact, paid search turns out to be just as effective as being found in the results of "organic" or consumer-initiated searches.

A referral is marketing gold: according to Google, it leads directly to a purchase decision. Consumers who have received a referral to you are no longer shopping — they are ready to retain you. Among the ways to get more referrals is to ask clients to recommend you, and to establish referral arrangements with other lawyers.

To impress clients and lawyers, it is key to have an up-to-date lawyer profile. receives 34 million unique visitors each year who are seeking legal assistance.1 Seventy percent of those visitors come to to find an attorney.2

The Google tool proves the necessity of having a multi-faceted marketing campaign to generate new business. Email, social media, paid search and referrals are guideposts on the customer journey to retaining your firm.


1Self-reported LexisNexis Web Statistics, 2012
2Data derived from a custom analysis of sub-domain URL information from comScore Mar. 2012. This data is not reflected in the basic comScore interface.

The American Lawyer 2012 Report on Growth of Am Law 100 Firms

Last week, The American Lawyer 2012 Report on Growth of Am Law 100 Firms came out.  Here is a press release with its results:

NEW YORK – April 26, 2013 – *The nation’s 100 largest law firms achieved modest cumulative growth in 2012, gaining 3.4% in total gross revenue over the prior year to $73.4 billion, 2.6% in average revenue per lawyer to $844,245, and 4.2% in average profits per partner to $1.47 million, according to the 26th annual Am Law 100 report published in the May issue of ALM’s *The American Lawyer* and at

However, 2012’s gains were uneven, with only 76 firms showing gross revenue increases, down from 80 in 2011, and 66 registering higher profits per partner, down from 72. In addition, profitability gains were concentrated among the higher-grossing firms. The 50 largest firms registered a cumulative 8.0% jump in profits per partner while the others fell 3.3%.

DLA Piper, powered by an 8.6% gross revenue spurt, topped the Am Law 100 with $2.44 billion, pushing former leader Baker & McKenzie, with $2.31 billion, into second place. Latham & Watkins with $2.23 billion took over third place from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom with $2.21 billion. Kirkland & Ellis retained fifth place. Jones Day took over sixth from Hogan Lovells, which fell to seventh. Sidley Austin held steady in eighth place as did White & Case in ninth. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher moved up to 10th place from 12th in 2011.

The law firms that prospered last year “tended to have an international footprint, a strong transactions group, and a diverse set of practice areas," wrote Robin Sparkman, Editor in Chief of *The American Lawyer*. "The boutique labor and employment and immigration firms were the exception.”

"Many of these firms also have a strong brand and are known by clients for standout work in a particular area," Sparkman added. "The firms that did well also held the line on their equity partner head count and continued to raise rates, increase billable hours, or both. Some stood out for capitalizing on high-growth industries.”

Among the stand-out firm performers, for better or worse, were:

   - Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, whose profits per partner leaped 36.5% due to a contingency class action payment in a Native American royalties rights case.

   - Bracewell & Giuliani, which scored the group’s largest profits per partner increase, 42.2%, based on high demand from their energy industry client list.

   - Immigration-focused Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, which rose 16 ranks to number 86, its first-ever appearance on the Am Law 100.

   - Barnes & Thornburg, Chadbourne & Parke, Cozen O’Connor and Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker fell out of the Am Law 100. Chadbourne was a 26-year veteran.



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