Posted by: johnocunningham | February 23, 2015

Are Clients Sold on Law Firms’ Electronic Discovery Expertise?

Electronic discovery work could present law firms with a huge opportunity for revenue growth, but it seems not to be working out that way.

Clients report that rising litigation expenses are one of their biggest cost concerns, and the mushrooming cloud of e-discovery is perhaps the biggest driver of litigation costs now that many litigants maintain terabytes of data related to every conceivable aspect of their business.

The problem seems to be that clients are not convinced that law firms have made electronic discovery efficient or affordable, so they are often outsourcing that giant task – to firms such as Xerox Litigation Services, Merrill Corporation or DiscoverReady – or they are bringing it in-house. The latter solution is one of the fastest growing.

According to this month’s Legaltech News, the 9th annual survey report of The Cowen Group reveals that demand for in-house electronic discovery professionals is up by 50 percent at surveyed corporations.

Meanwhile, at law firms, EDD salaries remain flat, but litigation support coordinators (who act more like project managers) are seeing a 14 percent rise in their base salaries.

Law firms that can and have mastered electronic discovery must do a better job of tracking, generating and communicating data that demonstrate their superior efficiency and results in order to defend their marketplace position against increasing encroachment by technology service vendors and corporate in-house professionals.

Other firms – the ones that can’t compete in electronic discovery services – must learn the marketplace for electronic discovery solutions and associate with the best and most highly efficient providers to provide corporate clients with the best service in an increasingly crowded legal marketplace.

Posted by: johnocunningham | February 20, 2015

Attorney-Client Communications: How Protected Are They?

Most clients believe that their lawyers of choice are trustworthy, and that they will not divulge secrets or confidences to anyone.

But recently, surveys have shown that some corporate clients are concerned with whether their outside lawyers are taking all the necessary steps to secure client information from cyber-thieves and hackers.

Now, a survey by Marsh USA (formerly known as Marsh & McLennan) reveals that many law firms may indeed be “at risk,” given the responses provided by law firms around the country.

Among other things, the survey showed that:

  • 72% of respondents said their firm has not assessed and scaled the cost of a data breach based on the information it retains; and
  • 51% said that their law firms either have not taken measures to insure their cyber risk (41%) or do not know (10%) if their firm has taken measures.

Furthermore, according to Marsh, research from cybersecurity firm Mandiant showed that 80% of the largest 100 law firms had been hacked as of three years ago.

It is pretty clear that lawyers take their ethical oaths and client confidences seriously, but it is not equally clear that they have seriously examined, much less taken all necessary steps to safeguard those confidences and secrets from cyber-threats.

Those firms that do invest in state-of-the-art security and obtain reputable security certifications (such as SSAE 16 examinations, and SOC 1, 2 and 3 reports) should communicate that forward-looking step to clients, publicizing the level of care they have taken to insure that client communications are truly privileged and confidential in every way.


Posted by: johnocunningham | February 11, 2015

What Law Firms Want from General Counsel Clients

Law 360 recently published an article about “What Law Firms Want from General Counsel,” which is an interesting twist on the more common surveys of what clients want from lawyers.

This new twist begs the question: How do service providers make reasonable demands or requests of the clients when it is the clients who are paying the bills?

I think that outside counsel should in fact make clear what is needed from each client in order to render the kind of service that the client expects; and that is the way that counsel should frame their requests to clients generally. If outside counsel are clear that they are only making requests of their clients in order to serve them optimally, then the clients are likely to respond favorably. Clients are also likely to make clear what outside counsel can or cannot expect them to do.

The Law 360 article cited a number of reasonable expectations that outside counsel have of clients, all of which should be candidly expressed to any given client at the outset of a relationship, including:

  • The need to get all relevant information about the business necessary to solve a legal problem or successfully complete a legal transaction;
  • The need to know the client’s expectations for outcomes, budgets and timelines;
  • The need to know the business goals in each engagement; and
  • The need to be available and responsive.

Having sat in the GC chair, and having interviewed many GCs, I would advise outside counsel to be aware of the following with respect to the above-listed expectations:

  • You should be willing to spend some non-billable time “getting acquainted with the business” as your best competitors will do that, and clients will not tolerate being billed for you to learn things that many industry-experienced lawyers already know.
  • You should not argue with the GC client’s stated expectations for outcomes, budgets and timelines, nor attempt to “manage their expectations,” as GC clients say they have plenty of experience dealing with lots of firms and they know what a matter should cost, the time it should take and the range of outcomes that are reasonable to expect. If you think the client’s expectations are unreasonable, it is best to avoid the engagement, or attempt to reach a compromise that the client can appreciate.
  • You should definitely know the business goals in each engagement, and if you are not asking about that, you are not a very good lawyer.
  • You can only expect your client to be as available and responsive as you can be. If you don’t think a client should dump a giant matter on you and expect a resolution today, then don’t dump a legal brief or court filing on the client one day ahead of the filing deadline, expecting them to immediately turn it around. I have interviewed many clients who say that this happens all too often.

So, by all means, tell your clients what you need from them to serve them optimally, but be prepared to hear some candid feedback on the limits of how far they can bend for you, and be prepared to accept that feedback because the client ultimately pays your way in life.

Posted by: johnocunningham | February 8, 2015

Best Blogs of January: What is “Value” to a Client?

This is my 26th 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.

For the month of January 2015, I have chosen to highlight a post at Adam Smith, Esq. entitled: “What’s Value? Answer One Question.”

This post affirms something that I have learned from interviewing numerous GCs and other clients over the years – value is NOT the overall lowest price for a legal service.

It also contrasts the common market strategies of “making it for less” or “selling it for more.”

The post could well have added that there are numerous other ways in which clients perceive “value” in legal services, such as:

  • Getting advice on more than just pure legal questions, as in getting advice on more ways to manage discovery and litigation costs effectively, or getting advice on ways to better manage a raft of cases in one area (employment, IP, real estate, etc.);
  • Getting solutions to problems plaguing the industry or the company (I had an outside counsel who helped my company to reduce its workers comp costs dramatically, using solutions based on law and creative insurance products);
  • Getting advice on ways to use the law proactively to bring more money into the company (through licensing, IP enforcement, appeals of tax rulings, etc.); and
  • Getting the benefit of “experience” in dealing with senior executives – having wise counsel who has seen a hundred nightmare scenarios and can successfully counsel company executives NOT to take a high-risk action that some consultant recommends for its illusory upside.

I noticed two other posts this month worth mentioning as well. First, there is a post on the Cordell Parvin blog that provides a nice little overview of four tips for client development from an in-house lawyer. I particularly like the tip that says: “When I see your bio, and you have seven things as your area of practice, I will move on and assume you don’t specialize in my area of need.” This echoes what I hear repeatedly from the most sophisticated legal clients – you can’t be all things to all people (or even most things).

Finally, there was a good January post at “The Belly of the Beast,” which updates the state of the crisis in legal education. One point in this report was particularly salient for practitioners. It is the fact that “business spending on legal services from 2004 to 2014 grew from about $159.4 billion to $168.7 billion — a modest improvement over a ten-year period. But if expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, the same spending fell from $159.4 to $118.3 billion, a precipitous drop of 25.8 percent.”

One of the biggest reasons for that decline was clients turning to more non-lawyer professional services for discovery, technology, and other needs that arise in the course of major litigation or large transactions. Lawyers have to come to grips with the need to sell more than just answers to legal questions, which will soon be provided instantaneously and comprehensively by the likes of IBM’s Watson at a fraction of current cost.

Posted by: johnocunningham | January 25, 2015

Video Guides on How to Use Twitter for Business

Twitter recently released a web page full of links to various short videos on using Twitter for business engagement.

These Twitter Video Guides cover a range of topics, including:

  • How to Create a Twitter Content Strategy;
  • How to Grow Your Twitter Community;
  • How to Drive Business Sales with Twitter; and
  • How to Drive Website Clicks and Conversions with Twitter.

Twitter, LinkedIn and various other social media platforms have published helpful articles and videos that make it easy for people to get started on using these sites for business development and customer/client engagement, so it is easier than ever to utilize social media for business.

If you have not developed a social media strategy for your business, now is the time, before your competition gets ahead of you.

Posted by: johnocunningham | January 21, 2015

Trends In Legal Marketing Budgets

A recent HeraldOnline article provides some useful insights into law firm marketing budgets at law firms ranked 101 to 200 in the AmLaw 200 (generally, firms with 125 to 500 lawyers in the U.S.). Among the interesting findings cited from a J. Johnson Executive Search survey are the following:

  • These firms have a marketing budget of about 3 percent of firm revenues (not clear if that budget includes business development and sales under the marketing umbrella);
  • Sponsorships take up nearly 16 percent of the marketing allotment;
  • Marketing staff include, on average, one full-time employee per 12.9 lawyers;
  • Marketing leaders have C-suite responsibility and titles at 2/3 of these firms; and
  • Those CMOs are investing in content creators and hiring in-house technology, business development and event planning pros.

The continued elevation of the marketing function to a C-suite level indicates that law firms are getting more and more serious about competing for clients in the same way that businesses compete for clients and customers. Firms that under-invest in marketing pros and marketing differentiators, such as content creation and technology, will likely fall behind the curve while leading firms take more and more market share.

Posted by: johnocunningham | January 16, 2015

Sneak Peek at Big Plans for LSSO RainDance on June 10-11

The Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO) is planning to “wow” its attendees at their 12th Annual RainDance Conference on June 10th & 11th in Chicago.  Below is a sneak peek at some of this year’s speakers, presentations and activities, including:

        • The “S” Word: Sales Team Panel – A panel of top sales and business development professionals from disparate sized firms will discuss proven strategies for growing top line revenue, galvanizing lawyer support and increasing practice area efficiency.
        • What Type of Leader do you Choose to Be?  The Power of Choices – An inspirational eye-opener by Michael Bremer on the power of choice and how it ultimately determines the type of person and leader you will become.
        • A new TED-style talk on 10 Things You Can Do Now To Impact Revenue.
        • Another TED-style talk on Moving Your Sales Team to the Next Level.
        • Moving from Client Teams to Strategic Accounts: A Big Four Case Study –  The next step beyond client service teams.
        • The Intersection of PD and BD: Who Drives? Working Together. Measuring Results. An important look at the relationship of professional development and business development by Karen Bell of McCarthy Tetrault.
        • The third annual Rapid Fire GC Panel, featuring some new questions and new panelists offering up dozens of quick snapshots of client perspectives about good and bad sales and service techniques.
        • And more……

Additional complimentary workshop opportunities and networking activities, during and after regular hours, will also be offered to attendees.

I am really looking forward to posing another rapid-fire round of questions for our GCs and chief legal officers about legal sales and service issues.

I also believe that the LSSO RainDance Conference is now widely considered to be the most powerful business development and professional advancement event in the legal service industry. As a matter of full disclosure, I am Chairman of the LSSO Board of Editors, but I have no financial interest in the organization or the RainDance event.  I just think it is a great conference.

Posted by: johnocunningham | January 13, 2015

Elements of a Blog Post That Attracts Readers

Sometimes the best way to learn is by following the example of others who are successful.

I have recently noticed, through a variety of links and recommendations, certain legal blogs that attract more attention than others.

One in particular that I have noticed is called “Dashboard Insights” and it states on its banner that it provides “timely analysis of emerging legal and business developments for the automotive industry.”

For my own readers, I would like to call attention to the elements of a recent post on that blog, entitled: “Before Driverless Cars, Questions.”

Here are some of the elements that make this post both attractive and effective, enticing targeted readers and making it more likely that they will like, favorite or bookmark the site and return to it for more content:

  1. The post covers a timely topic that people are discussing now. Furthermore, it does so not days, weeks or months after the topic was fresh (as some legal blogs do) but right now, as the topical interest is peaking in driverless cars.
  2. The author is noting some of the legal issues associated with a technological development that is still in progress and has yet to be rolled out to the public, so he is ahead of the curve, and well ahead of his competition. As GCs would observe, he is anticipating problems before they happen, and calling attention to them while something can be done to prevent them.
  3. The author provides lots of links to related stories and to legal or technological explanations of various elements of his current post.
  4. The post is long enough to be substantive, but not so long as to be tedious.
  5. The post has four subheds that break up the content into easily digestible chunks.

I also love that the post has a link to the author’s biographical profile, something that makes it easier to read about the author and perhaps decide to call him for related legal advice.

The blog post also ties in to and promotes an event that the firm – Foley Lardner – will be hosting at its offices. This is a great example of a good legal blog and an excellent blog post.

Posted by: johnocunningham | January 7, 2015

Popular Blog Posts on Law Firm Marketing

Thanks to WordPress analytics, I can tell you the most popular blog posts viewed by thousands of visitors to my site in the last few years.

In a prior posting this week, I covered the most popular postings of 2014, but in this post, I want to share with you three posts from prior years that continue to draw great interest from readers.

The three most popular posts prior to 2014 were:

  1. How Many ‘Impressions’ Make a Sale.” This November 2012 post was inspired by a simple lunch conversation among professional marketers who were constantly asked by lawyers how many times they had to go out and get in front of a prospective client before they could expect to obtain an assignment from them.
  2. Law Firm Tag Lines – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” This April 2013 post summarizes some of the best and worst slogans and tag lines law firms have developed over the years.
  3. Market Trends That Law Firms Can’t Ignore.” This July 2013 post was inspired by the writings of Susan Saltonstall Duncan on the changing competitive landscape for legal services.

I will try to follow up on these popular past posts later this year by posting fresh  and practical material related to the same subjects.   Best wishes to all for a great 2015 !

WordPress has a really neat feature for blogs that summarizes the most frequently viewed posts of a blogger day by day and year by year.

Last year, the five most popular posts on this blog fell into three categories:

  • How lawyers and firms are using big data;
  • What General Counsel are saying about “hot button” sales and service issues; and
  • The oddity of one state bar association’s conclusion that it is unethical for law firms to have “chief officer” titles for anyone other than lawyers.

The big data posts were about:

The posts about GC views on legal sales and service were:

The ethics opinion post that inspired the most page views of the year was entitled:

Look for more posts about the use of big data in the practice of law this year, as well as at least one post about chief legal officer views of law firm service and sales practices (the latter probably coming out in June).


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