Posted by: johnocunningham | April 24, 2017

Real Lawyers With Really Good Blogs

I get asked periodically: “What do you think are good examples of blogs written by reputable lawyers?”

Well, here are three examples I favor:

  • The Margolis & Bloom “Planning for Life” blog features regular posts, content that is useful to both clients and practitioners, and well-written pieces that are easy to digest.  Plus, Harry Margolis is truly the “Dean of Elder Law” and a highly reputable estate planning lawyer.
  • The Employer Handbook is a blog by Eric Meyer, a Philadelphia lawyer with a sense of humor, a conversational writing style, and a knack for finding something new and interesting to write about in employment law almost every day.
  • The Venable LLP “All About Advertising Law” blog, which features frequent posts about the law of advertising and marketing, a field that I love and one that offers lots of interesting real-life stories. Again, it is informative and NOT boring !

So, there you have it. Three good examples of blogs that offer regularly published content that is worth taking the time to read (and it does not take much time because it is well-written and well-condensed rather than long, boring and tedious).

Posted by: johnocunningham | April 17, 2017

Artificial Intelligence Comes to Contract Review Process

A number of artificial intelligence services are now being utilized by corporate legal clients to streamline repetitive processes, such as contract review.

LawGeex is just one example of the recent entries into the legal service field which are being adopted by corporate clients. Law Geex can perform contract review for specific criteria with the promise of rapid turnaround, seamless integration with SalesForce and other programs, and streamlined workflows between and among a company’s sales, operations and legal divisions.

The ABA has recognized that artificial intelligence is already starting to transform the legal profession , and there is no doubt it will continue as human enterprises generate more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.

This is my 52nd post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month I peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of March 2017, I have chosen to highlight the following blog posts:

  1. A post on the Adam Smith blog, entitled “Size Matters Not So Much,” which provides a good statistical analysis showing that neither profits-per-partner or revenue-per-lawyer are a function of firm size. Maybe it is more a function of good service, satisfied clients and efficient process ?
  2. A post on the Clockwork Design blog, entitled “Where to Find Great Stock Photos,” which provides a list and thumbnails on both free and compensated sites for stock photos.
  3. A post on the ME Marketing Services blog, by Mandy Edwards, entitled “26 Social Media Stats to Back Up Your Strategy,” which offers up some interesting social media utilization metrics for marketers.
  4. A post on the Ackert Advisory, by the insightful and practical David Ackert, entitled “How to Maintain Momentum with Referral Sources,” describing some very basic steps you can take to follow-up after a meeting with a referral source or prospect.
Posted by: johnocunningham | March 31, 2017

GC Tips on How to Pitch to a Client

Law firms that pitch their expertise to savvy corporate clients may want to consider the advice of Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft, who recently penned an article on the subject of making legal sales pitches for Bloomberg Law.

He neatly summarized some of the key factors to successful pitch-work, and I have inserted some of my own comments (parenthetically) as follows:

  • Start Strong (don’t build to your key point – just make it)
  • Know Your Audience (learn and understand the business of the potential client before you pitch)
  • Keep It Simple (corporate clients want to hire someone who can make the complex seem simple, and not vice-versa)
  • Differentiate Your Firm (don’t say the same stuff your competitors do, and know your competition, so you can distinguish yourself from them)
  • Highlight Client References
  • Follow Up on the Pitch (not only seeking constructive feedback, as Garcia suggests, but responding to any points or questions raised by the potential client in your meeting)

As a former General Counsel who have interviewed many other Chief Legal Officers, I would add that it is very important to spend time listening to the potential client and asking carefully crafted questions about what they need, value and want from outside counsel and vendors in general. To do this well, you will need to do your homework on the people you are meeting before you walk into the room. Learn as much as you can about what they love and hate, both professionally and personally. You should also make sure that you bring the right players into the room – assembling a pitch team that fits with the personalities of the people in the room, and the culture of the potential client.

One other key point – you should consider your first meeting with a potential client to be like a first date. Don’t be overly aggressive because that is a turn-off. Just be interested, thoughtful and trustworthy to earn a second date. On average, it will take you several impressions to make a sale with a new target.

 

Posted by: johnocunningham | March 23, 2017

Alternative Legal Service Providers Rising Rapidly

A recent study highlighted by the ABA Journal has noted that a majority of corporate clients and law firms are now using alternative legal service providers (“ALSPs”) to help them with defined tasks, such as e-discovery, automated document review, economic damage assessments and other tasks.

According to the ABA Journal article, 51 percent of law firms and 60 percent of corporations are now utilizing the services of ALSPs to save costs, reduce labor and/or improve and expedite results.

As noted in a recent article on Law.com, the trend is not just about cost savings and it is likely to continue growing.

Furthermore, the current numbers of ALSP users are projected to be 72 percent of law firms and 74 percent of corporations within the coming year.

Law firms must figure out not only how to incorporate the services of the very best ALSPs to save money and improve efficiency for their corporate clients, but how to communicate the benefits and results of this adoption to clients who are clearly aware of and shopping for these alternative services already. If this is not in your messaging already, law firms, then it should be.

A story that appeared last month in Bloomberg Law – about a coming overhaul in the way Microsoft hires law firms – may well be harbinger of things to come for outside law firms of other large clients.

Based on interviews I have done with GCs over the years, I see the following story highlights as likely trends that will gain momentum in the coming years:

  • A continuing move toward hiring specific lawyers with specific expertise rather than hiring firms for one-stop shopping
  • A move toward greater emphasis on building relationships between in-house counsel and minority associates at law firms, which will likely result in more minority partners eventually
  • A shift toward greater use of data and management dashboards by in-house lawyers, who will be able to examine historical data on the performance of individual lawyers in various engagements over the years, their rates, their previous engagements, and the history of who has hired them

The story also notes that Microsoft will be requiring in-house legal managers to hit certain targets for alternative billing. Data from other sources suggest that the alternative billing trend may have slowed in recent years, but that could just be a temporary pause until more creative ways of working with fixed fee arrangements and performance contingencies can be developed.

An Assistant GC at Microsoft said that the company is pushing its outside firms to make better use of data, technology and automation to deliver more value. Law firms that become quick adopters of technology, data analysis, and process improvement disciplines could benefit in the years to come.

This is my 51st post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month I peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of February, 2017, I have chosen to highlight the following five blog posts:

  1. A post on the Clockwork Design Group blog, offering a step-by-step guide to content marketing for professional service firms.
  2. A post on the Prodonovich Advisory blog, offering up seven tactics for taking more market share.
  3. A post on the LawVision blog about why you must do more than just satisfy your client.
  4. A post on the Cordell Parvin blog about the importance of listening and communication in client development work.
  5. A post by Susan Duncan on her InFocus blog about the sales and service cycle for professional service firms.

Michael Rynowecer of the well-known and highly reputable BTI Consulting Group recently published a Linked-In post entitled “The Six Traits of a BTI Client-Service All-Star,” which neatly summarized client opinions on a number of key components of client service.

One of the interesting take-aways from this survey is that “all-star” service performers (as rated by clients) have dramatically improved in one key ranking for “exceptional understanding of the client’s business.” Thus, the legal service all-stars have clearly started paying attention to what corporate clients have been saying for years – you must understand our business better.

A total of 22.8 percent of client service all-stars merited this praise from clients, up from just 11.4 percent only a year ago.

This score, while indicating big improvement, shows that there is still plenty of room to gain an edge on legal service competitors by ratcheting up the understanding of a client’s business.

Law firms would do well to study industries and individual businesses harder, especially considering that at least one 2012 poll by Altman Weil showed clients ranking knowledge of industry and business ahead of all other components for lawyer selection (including references from other lawyers).

If you need help with learning clients’ industries and individual businesses, I can help with that, having served as Chief Legal Officer to two companies and having interviewed hundreds of clients from numerous industries. My contact info is on this site.

Posted by: johnocunningham | February 20, 2017

As Law Firm Salaries Rise, Competition Increases

At least one law firm has now bumped starting salaries for first year lawyers to $200,000 per year, as noted in a January posting at Above the Law. Good news for young lawyers, but perhaps not such a great omen for things to come.

Based on interviews I have conducted with various Chief Legal Officers for large companies over the years, I have concluded that sizeable first year salary bumps are the prime catalyst for the growth of in-house law department staff. Simply put, CLOs and CFOs are making an economic decision that it is much cheaper to bring work in-house than to farm it out, and that translates to a shrinking outside counsel hiring budget in the future.

Furthermore, every time salary structures and hourly rates push higher, CLOs look harder at alternative providers, many of whom are now selling all-in-one turn key solutions to corporate problems, featuring not just legal advice, but advice on how to restructure corporate org charts, utilize developing technologies, train and develop people better and get maximum bang for the buck in attacking any given problem. Such comprehensive, integrated, multi-disciplinary solutions are being offered by Big Four providers, such as Deloitte Legal Services, and by new entrants into the competitive landscape, such as United Lex.

Law firms can compete with this broader, more integrated approach by partnering with technology providers, financial experts and human resource experts to offer their own broad-based solutions, but as of now, that does not appear to be happening on a large scale.

This is one more competitive puzzle that law firms need to solve while pitching to their clients how they are the best, most economical and prudent choice for legal problem solving, despite rising first year salaries.

This is my 50th post in a series of monthly features that I have dubbed “Best of My Blog Roll.” The concept is simple – at the end of a month I peruse my own blog roll (see that column on the right) for material created by other bloggers that I think is most worthy of sharing with others, and then I report on it here.

Reviewing blog posts for the month of January, 2017, I have chosen to highlight the following three blog posts:

  1. A post on Adam Smith Esq. about the 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market put out by the Georgetown Law Center and Thomson Reuters. This post presents some interesting and likely controversial analysis based on data provided in the report, concluding that law firms need to choose one of two paths to success now – either selling to high-end clients who want customized service, or providing low-cost services more efficiently than competitors. I am not sure it is just that simple, but the analysis and the underlying report are worth considering.
  2. A post by Bruce Alltop on the LawVision blog about “The Importance of Trust” in professional development, which focuses on the benefits and challenges of building trust among partners within firms so that partners can better cross-sell services to clients, potentially enabling those clients to benefit from having a more complete service experience.
  3. A post by David Ackert on the Ackert Advisory blog, entitled “A Client Feedback Lesson from Uber.” As he often does, David provides a great anecdotal illustration of the value of a marketing tool – in this case the value of knowing how you are scored by others and asking why.

 

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