Posted by: johnocunningham | July 26, 2016

“Do-It-Yourself” Social Media Marketing

There is no excuse for not having a social media marketing plan and strategy now. Even the smallest of firms with no social media “experts” has someone at the management level who is capable of quickly learning the basics about social media, which is composed of technology platforms that are designed for intuitive use, sharing and learning.

If you don’t know where to get started or how, just check out “The Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing” at the Hootesuite Academy, which can guide you through such topics as:

  • The basics of social media:
  • Optimizing social media profiles;
  • Social media strategies;
  • Content marketing;
  • Social advertising; and
  • Growing an online community.

There are plenty of additional online resources, and most social media platforms have help guides and/or FAQs that you can utilize. So get your “social” on, start having more fun, and raking in more revenue, using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr and other free or low-cost apps.

Posted by: johnocunningham | July 19, 2016

Three Things Anyone Can Do To Cultivate Clients

Over the years, I have interviewed many successful rainmakers and law firm clients about what works and what doesn’t in client development.

Based on what I have learned about cultivating a client or a prospective client, here are just three quick and easy tips to follow for client development:

  1. You can improve relationships with a client or prospect by introducing them, when appropriate, to other high-quality service providers and experts with industry-relevant experience and reputation.
  2. You can periodically send industry relevant data to them, along with well-researched and well-written articles on subjects of possible interest or concern.
  3. You can offer free training or legal talks on trending subjects, offering potential solutions to some of their problems and practical steps for implementation.

These are just a few ways you can bolster a business relationship. If you want to know more, I can provide a lunch-hour program on what works and what doesn’t in client service and development, based on interviews of hundreds of actual clients and numerous successful practitioners.

Posted by: johnocunningham | July 17, 2016

Client Communications: Duties After the Representation Ends

I recently reviewed an article on the subject of ethical considerations and professional obligations involved in law firm decisions to close or destroy old files containing communications and important information related to client matters. This article presented numerous issues that inspired me to research the topic and write a blog post of my own.

Lawyers have a special relationship with clients that is more than commercial, and therefore, requires careful consideration with regard to any decision that involves client communications. But the lines of professional responsibility with respect to retention or destruction of client materials is not so clear. In fact, the various state bar associations do not even agree on whether it is the lawyer or the client who owns the client files.

Some states have provided some degree of clarity by rule, while others have done so only by a stream of ethical opinions that touch upon issues involving disposition of client files.

The model rules and opinions of the ABA seem to offer some guidance to the states as follows:

  1. Unless a client consents, a lawyer or firm should not destroy any items that clearly belong to the client, by rule or by contract.
  2. A lawyer should be careful not to destroy information that may still be necessary or useful in the assertion or defense of a client’s position in a matter for which the applicable statutory period of limitations has not expired.
  3. A lawyer should take care to preserve accurate and complete records regarding receipt and disbursement of funds indefinitely.
  4. In disposing of any file or communications, a lawyer must take special care to protect client confidentiality, privilege or property rights.
  5. A lawyer should preserve an index or identification of files that have been destroyed or discarded.

Some states do impose a minimum period of time for which client files and communications must be preserved, some states impose special obligations with respect to signed original contracts or key documents, and some states allow for lawyers and clients – to some extent – to make their own agreements with respect to preservation, destruction or possession of client communications and documents.

In any event, lawyers are wise to check the professional rules of their own jurisdictions, as well as the opinions of their state ethics offices. They should also carefully draft their file retention policies and publish them to clients in all retainer contracts. Firms should also take a uniform and considered approach to when and how client data, documents and communications will be turned over to the client or destroyed.

This is my 43rd 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 June 2016, I have chosen to highlight the following:

  1. A post by Stephen Fairley on The Rainmaker Blog entitled “The Four Truths Every Attorney Needs to Know About Referrals,” which explains the importance of constant contact and outreach, and points out that 75 percent of legal service referrals come from non-lawyers.
  2. A post by Silvia Coulter on the LawVision blog entitled “Law Firm Revenue Growth: Business and Market Intelligence Keeps Client Teams Moving Forward,” which offers eight practical intelligence-gathering tips that can help lawyers to develop their marketing strategies.
  3. A post by Sue-Ella Prodonovich on the Prodonovich Advisory blog entitled “Seven Things Professionals Can Learn from Creatives” based on her visit to the Moogfest gathering of “artists, futurist thinkers, inventors, entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, scientists, and musicians.”

If you have suggestions for great blogs to follow or great blog posts, feel free to share in comments.

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 23, 2016

Market Share Growth for Some Law Firms, Bad News for Others

Sophisticated corporate clients are sharpening their focus on legal service efficiency and return on investment, creating opportunities for proactive law firms that are using technology, knowledge management, process improvement and project management to cut the total cost of legal products and services.

The 8th annual Altman Weil “Law Firms in Transition” survey, which included responses from chairmen and managing partners at 356 U.S. law firms with 50 or more lawyers, demonstrated that indeed proactive firms are benefiting from their ability to change with the times, while other firms are increasingly being abandoned by clients.

Firms that are proactively initiating conversations with clients about alternative fee arrangements and ways to control costs are faring best, with 84 percent of those firms reporting that their growing number of non-hourly projects are at least as profitable as their hourly projects. Overall, 65 percent of law firms are still seeing profit per partner increases, partly driven by higher rates. But in this highly competitive environment, close to one quarter of all firms saw decreasing profits per partner, and nearly half of those firms lost more than 4 percent on the bottom line.

The message should be clear by now – clients are searching for both performance and value. Firms that don’t make the cut are in trouble. That does not have to mean that firms must drop their hourly rates to survive, but they do have to figure out a way to deliver legal products and services more efficiently, giving them an opportunity to actually raise hourly rates if they can figure out how to spend fewer hours on delivery by using technology, knowledge management, process improvement and project management.

For law firms that are using these tools to deliver more efficiently, meaning faster response times and lower total costs, there is a huge opportunity developing. These firms can win market share by measuring, summarizing and communicating their improvements in turnaround times and bottom line delivery costs.

The other firms who are ignoring the marketplace push for efficiency will find themselves among the 68 percent who are losing business to corporate law departments or the 82 percent that see erosion caused by non-traditional service providers who are finding ways to compete for less.

A few of the other tid-bits from the Altman Weil survey include the following:

  • More than half of firms are using part-time lawyers and contract lawyers to deliver at lower costs (a trend that I suspect is very client-driven, based on what I hear from the staffing industry)
  • More than half of firms are now using knowledge management programs and technology tools to lower costs
  • More than two-thirds of all firms are developing data on the cost of services sold so that they can better analyze and control costs while also improving fixed fee forecasting and proposals (and most of those firms have hired pricing directors or staff equivalents to help with pricing and cost analysis)

An executive summary of the “2016 Law Firms in Transition Survey” is worthwhile reading for those in law firms who are trying to stay on the leading edge of competition for clients.

 

 

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 13, 2016

Law Firms Using More Data Analytics To Enhance Client Development

According to a 2015 law firm survey that appeared in LegalTech News, 64 percent of law firm chief information officers indicate that their firms are now using “data analytics software” or “big data tools” to learn more about clients and prospects, and/or to focus on business development efforts that work.

That figure is trending upward, and demonstrates that law firms are devoting more attention and resources in support of a scientific approach to client development.

There are many ways to use “big data” to enhance business development, but here are just a handful of  ways that law firms can make use of data digging and analytics:

  1. To find out what kinds of content clients and prospects are reading and where they are getting it;
  2. To find out what kinds of business and legal issues clients and prospects are concerned with most;
  3. To research and leverage all of the untapped connections the law firm may have to clients and prospects through lawyers and staff alike;
  4. To determine who opens law firm newsletters and emails, who unsubscribes and why they do so;
  5. To analyze the effectiveness of various business development efforts in terms of results vs. dollars invested.

For a look at how other marketing experts leverage the use of “big data” as part of their marketing strategies, check out this NG Data article by Angela Stringfellow.

This is my 42nd 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 May 2016, I have chosen to highlight the following:

  1. A post by Mandy Edwards on her ME Marketing Services Blog entitled “21 Social Media Facts You Should Know,” which features some interesting data and factoids, such as a survey showing that nearly 96 percent of social media marketers believe that Facebook provides the best average ROI on social media campaigns.
  2. A post by Jim Cranston on the LawVision INSIGHTS blog entitled “Don’t Make This Common Mistake When Following Up With A Prospective Client,” which offers specific suggestions for follow ups with prospects that are far more preferable than the lame “just wanted to touch base and see if there is any way we can help you.”
  3. A post by Sue-Ella Prodonovich on her Practice Builder blog entitled “Three Common Fears About Client Feedback and How to Overcome Them,” which provides antidotes to the common fears that keep professional service firms from surveying their clients to improve service and enhance client relationships. To reinforce her points in this post, I would add that the vast majority of clients I have interviewed over the years tell me they are not only willing to do satisfaction surveys but they are impressed with firms who do them. They prefer surveys done in person, but they are also willing to do surveys in writing (though they feel they are less effective at capturing client/prospect input).
  4. A post by Bonnie Kittle on the Clockwork Design Group blog entitled “Design Lesson: What Is the Rule of Thirds?” This post explains how to enhance the energy and visual appeal of a photo or other image used on your website, and provides examples of the “Rule of Thirds” in action.

Got a blog with interesting insights on communications and marketing for professional service providers? Tell me about it so I can check it out.

Posted by: johnocunningham | June 6, 2016

Collaboration and Meetings: How To Make Them Work Together

In recent months, I have noticed a spate of stories about two seemingly contradictory trends – a growing emphasis on the importance of collaboration to innovation and product quality, and an uptick in the number of employees who think that team meetings are a waste of time.

What this says to me is that collaboration is great in theory but messy in practice, especially when it comes via office meetings that are too often poorly conducted.

A survey of articles on the subject of meeting facilitation shows that the top five complaints about team meetings are as follows:

  1. Meetings go too long, a phenomenon blamed mostly on endless repetition and parroting of thoughts that could be expressed more succinctly.
  2. Meetings lack a clearly stated purpose and agenda, which also contributes to their length. They become unedited verbalizations in search of a meaning.
  3. Too many people arrive late, leave early or pay no attention during meetings.
  4. When someone other than the leaders speaks out, their ideas are criticized or rejected out of hand.
  5. Too often, there are no stated conclusions as a result of the team meeting and there is no action plan for what to do prior to the next meeting in order to achieve meaningful goals.

If you want to conduct an effective meeting that facilitates and enhances collaborative communication, here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Identify the purpose of the meeting, and limit the purpose to something that requires consensus, analysis or brainstorming by the entire group, so that you don’t waste people’s time.
  2. Communicate the purpose of the meeting ahead of time, and state what you hope to accomplish with such a meeting.
  3. Invite all people necessary to achieve the meeting’s purpose, but only those people necessary for that purpose as well.
  4. Select a meeting venue that is conducive to your stated task, perhaps one that is quiet and isolated from distractions.
  5. Well ahead of the meeting, provide all attendees with an agenda and any supporting documentation that will be discussed.
  6. Limit the number of items on the agenda so the meeting does not run too long.
  7. Designate a meeting leader or facilitator who understands meeting principles and who can skillfully and gracefully maintain group focus and pace while encouraging people to participate and collaborate in developing solutions to group problems. Such a facilitator should also know how to summarize and state conclusions or action plans for the group as a whole.
  8. Designate a note-taker who can work well with the facilitator on summarizing issues and proposals discussed at the meeting while identifying action steps to be taken after the meeting by various team members.
  9. Request that all pagers, cell phones, and other electronic devices be turned off during the meeting, so that everyone in the group is respected.
  10. Start and end the meeting on time, leaving late attendees to get their own information from meeting summaries and post-meeting conversations. This will train people to respect the group and put the interests of the group above their own.

If you need help facilitating a productive group meeting or conference, don’t hesitate to contact me. For several years running, I ran the highest-rated service department in a company with several thousand employees while maintaining a high level of employee satisfaction and retention.

 

Posted by: johnocunningham | May 19, 2016

Legal Clients to Speak Out Again at LSSO RainDance

The 13th annual RainDance conference, hosted by the Legal Sales and Service Organization, will take place on June 7 – 8 at the Mid-America Club in Chicago, and Chief Legal Officers and other in-house lawyers are once again going to take the stage to tell audience members what they do and don’t like about legal service and sales in rapid response to dozens of questions posed to them.

The annual event should be a smash with this year’s moderator having served as master of ceremonies for numerous uniquely styled panels in the past. Check out Aaron Tantleff’s bio on the Foley Lardner site here:

https://www.foley.com/aaron-k-tantleff/

Some examples of candid feedback from panelists in 2014 can be found on this site at this link:

https://johnocunningham.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/chief-legal-officers-talk-about-their-hot-button-issues/

And for those who may have missed it, here is what the Verizon GC had to say to law firms as part of a recent Bloomberg Law video series:

‘You’re Not My Family Doctor,’ Verizon GC Tells Law Firms

Posted by: johnocunningham | May 10, 2016

Cybercrime Prevention: Opportunity for Law Firms

The Association of Corporate Counsel Foundation just released a special study on the state of corporate cyber-security, which indicates among other things, that half of all General Counsel and Chief Legal Officers want an increased role and responsibility when it comes to their companies’ cyber-security matters.

This is not too surprising when you consider that the average cost of a cyber-breach is now estimated to be $3.8 million in lawsuits, crisis management, forensic activities and corrective measures, according to the Ponemon Institute’s most recent “Cost of Data Breach Study.”

Thus, law firms have an opportunity to expand their own roles with their clients by helping GCs and CLOs to take on more cyber-security responsibility.

To take advantage of this opportunity to serve their clients better, lawyers in private practice should be prepared to partner up and network with forensics experts, IT security experts, and other consultants who have experience in this area and often have the attention of corporate officers in the C-suites.

Firms should also have the ability to communicate their expertise, as well as the value they have brought to other clients dealing with the growing mass of cyber-security issues.

Note: The ACC Foundation serves the needs of more than 40,000 corporate lawyers employed by more than 10,000 organizations in 85 countries.

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