Posted by: johnocunningham | February 11, 2016

Law Firms: Where Are Your Best Clients Spending Their Legal Dollars?

Lawyers – did you ever wonder what your biggest corporate client is spending on outside counsel every year?

If you don’t know, there is a way that you can “guesstimate” the annual outside counsel budget for a large corporate client with publicly reported financials.

To figure out how much your coveted client is spending and thereby determine your “share of wallet,” you can check out the article, “Using Stats to Predict Outside Counsel Legal Spending” by Rees Morrison of Altman Weil.

By learning your “share of wallet” you can get an idea of whether there might be opportunity to grow the relationship, and by reading a public company client’s annual report, you can also get a pretty good idea of the types of  business and legal issues they are facing, the industries they serve, the lawsuits they face, and other factors in their hiring of outside counsel.


Posted by: johnocunningham | February 6, 2016

Internet Tools for Writers, Bloggers and Content Creators

If you are charged with creating content for your organization or your clients, you will benefit from having as many tools at your disposal as possible.

Here are a handful that you might like to try or even bookmark as “favorites”:

  1. The Google Scholar tool is free and great for doing research on scholarly works and studies, as well as legal issues. To search case law on Google Scholar, just go to the main page, enter your keywords, and click on the bullet for “case law.”
  2. Canva is a very simple tool for image creation and editing.
  3. Haiku Deck helps facilitate quick selection of layouts, images or fonts for  PowerPoint or SlideShare presentation.
  4. Meme Generator helps you create memes when you want to add something comical or different to a presentation.
  5. Google’s Note Everything is a notepad application that enables you to create text-, voice- and paint-notes that can be organized into various current project folders. It can import your Outlook memos and data too.

This is my 38th 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 2016, I have chosen to highlight the following :

  1. A post on Adam Smith, Esq. addressing the growing encroachment of Big Four accounting firms on to legal turf. This is a phenomenon that law firms need a strategy to deal with as the Big Four already have much stronger ties with the CEOs and CFOs of large U.S. companies, and in most cases CLOs report to either the CEO or the CFO. The post cites a number of data points that demonstrate the size of the Big Four’s power and five-year projections.
  2. A post by Stephen Fairley on the Rainmaker Blog that gives a great step-by-step graphic on how to create a LinkedIn profile that will result in more page views and more inbound contact.
  3. A post by Cordell Parvin on the observation that “Clients Do Not Want Boring Lawyers.”

If you see a great post or a great blog about legal services, law practice or legal marketing that you would like to call attention to, send along your comments.

Posted by: johnocunningham | January 25, 2016

Golden Opportunity for Law Firm Outreach

I have often heard the repeated axiom that “nobody ever gets fired for hiring Brand Name Firm X.”

But is this perception real or imagined?

The assumption is that executive officers and directors to whom a chief legal officer must respond (or a business officer in charge of legal issues) all have some concept of the established brands in law, and they will not penalize anyone who hires established brands.

This seems like a “safe” assumption. However, a recent PR experiment might not support the traditional wisdom.

As noted in a December article in PR Week magazine, a PR study was carried out on 50 global business managers to see whether they would be persuaded by made-up advertising and branding assets to favour fictitious American law firms and management consultancies over real ones. Three made-up law firms, Andersson & Cooper Associates, Reagan Rove Coolidge and JMM Global, were pitted against real corporate firms Baker & McKenzie, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and DLA Piper.

Surprisingly, the results found that business managers were more likely to say they would use the services of the fake law firms than the real ones. This suggests that business managers are not as attuned to law firm brand names and reputations as lawyers – both in-house and in private practice – might think.

It also suggests that business managers can be persuaded to support the use of new firms with the right kind of messaging and outreach. That means lots of opportunity for business law firms, and fewer excuses not to make the effort to shape opinions of your firm.


Posted by: johnocunningham | January 18, 2016

Best Blogs of December: Law, Technology and 10 Productive Projects

This is my 37th 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 the month of December 2015, I have chosen to highlight the following blog posts:

  1. A post by Gerry Riskin on his “Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices” blog, entitled, “Your Near-Future Legal Assistant, the Robot,” which provides some recent tech conference quotes about law-specific artificial intelligence platforms, such as adaptations of IBM’s Watson.
  2. A post by Michael D. Short on the LawVision INSIGHTS blog, entitled, “Ten Projects that Can Produce Big Results in 2016,” which offers up 10 practical and executable concepts for boosting revenue, profitability and/or client satisfaction.
  3. A post by Michael Fleischner on the Clockwork Design blog about “Keeping WordPress and Plug-ins Updated,” which provides helpful tips on keeping your WordPress sites updated for great functionality and security.

I also liked a year-end “greatest hits” post by the popular blogger, Cordell Parvin, who offered up links to his 10 most viewed posts of 2015, covering topics such as business plans, client development and service. Cordell offers up all kinds of popular posts, from the practical to the inspirational in his post entitled, “My Top 10 Most Viewed Posts of 2015.”



Posted by: johnocunningham | January 11, 2016

Imagine: Clients Building Your Firm With You

An article entitled, “The Law Firm as a Learning Organization,” caught my attention in December, and got me to thinking about the myriad possibilities for client development and communications enhancement raised in one two-sentence paragraph.

The paragraph penned by author Mark Beese is as follows:

“Some innovative firms are mixing training with client service and business development by inviting clients to join them in courses on project management, process improvement, leadership development and innovation. Can you imagine the relationships, teamwork and loyalty built between legal professionals and clients by learning together?”

Over the years, I have interviewed the managing partners and/or CMOs at leading-edge firms that pioneered the idea of involving clients in firm initiatives to improve service and innovation, and they have affirmed the bounty of benefits flowing from client integration into law firm management.

The managing partner and CMO at one of the world’s most successful firms both told me that they would never consider navigating their ship without client input and involvement, noting that they learned the value of this in large part from business leadership courses they took at one of the world’s best business schools. As was pointed out to me, companies with decades of success, such as GE and Procter & Gamble, have integrated customer input into their management direction and focus for close to a century.

For example, as noted in a 2002 Harvard Business Review article,  GE’s board members for a long time used to dine with the company’s largest suppliers and distributors to customers the night before the annual meeting; and P&G had a tradition of including customers on their management boards or committees at one time too.

As Tom Peters and Nancy Austin suggested in their business study on “A Passion for Excellence,” the key to long-term success is just this: ”First, take exceptional care of your customers . . . via superior service and superior quality. Second, constantly innovate [with them in mind]. That’s it.”

Posted by: johnocunningham | January 6, 2016

2015 Most Viewed Blog Posts: Marketing, Technology, Trends

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.

The most popular items posted to this site in 2015 were:

But the most popular items overall included these posts from prior years that still rung up hundreds of views:

Look for more posts about communications, client development and better client service through the use of technology in 2016.

Posted by: johnocunningham | December 28, 2015

One Year Closes, Another Begins: Looking Back to See Forward

The year 2015 saw, on average, more investment by law firms in marketing and marketing professionals. Spending on traditional advertising was down, but spending on content marketing, communications, and marketing initiatives was up. This trend is critical at a time when a majority of managing partners say that client loyalty is eroding and competition is increasing.

But we still see signs that some firms and much of the legal profession are reluctant or unable to incorporate marketing professionals or other “non-lawyer” professionals into the management level. For example, in September, the Texas Bar Association issued its Revised Ethics Opinion No. 642, which came in response to public outcry against a prior ethics opinion that law firms could not give “chief executive” titles to their non-lawyer professionals, such as Chief Marketing Officers. The revised opinion ceded only a little ground, stating that “if a title is assigned to a non-lawyer employee that is unclear whether the employee [might] exercise control over the… firm’s practice of law, the firm must take… steps as are necessary… to make clear to all concerned that the scope of the employee’s authority does not in fact extend to the exercise of control over the practice of law.”

This backdrop provides us with a picture of the challenge moving forward for marketing and communications professionals. We must help law firms figure out how to incorporate our professional disciplines without any fear of “losing control.”

With the help of professional marketing and communications disciplines, law firms can gain a greater understanding of why clients buy services, when they buy them, who they buy them from, and how they might buy more of them. They can learn more about why clients come through the door, and why they leave. They can learn how to make more clients happy, which will not only lead to fewer grievances and complaints against lawyers, but more business for the firms that master marketing and communications that are essential to growing more and better client relationships.

Marketing pros have to help law firms see how the marriage of business and marketing principles to the practice of law is a win-win proposition that will lift and not lower the public’s perception of the profession.


Posted by: johnocunningham | December 21, 2015

Survey Reveals Chief Legal Officer Concerns

The 2015 Chief Legal Officer Survey by the consulting firm, Altman Weil, is well worth reading for those lawyers in private practice who must deal with Chief Legal Officers and General Counsel, as it covers a wide array of topics related to budgets, management and service concerns of corporate clients.

Based on the feedback received from 258 respondents to the survey, the greatest concern that CLOs face today is from continual internal and external downward cost pressures.

A few of the other responses that I found to be particularly revealing were as follows:

  • More than 76 percent will put a lid on outside counsel budgets this coming year or even reduce outside counsel spending, with roughly 40 percent planning to reduce outside counsel spending, and 37 percent planning to hold the line compared to last year.
  • Roughly 76 percent of those who plan to cut outside counsel spending will move more legal work in-house (those salary wars for first year associates prior to the economic crash were what spurred much of this growing movement, based on my own discussions with in-house lawyers).
  • Close to 60 percent are now using fixed fee or alternative fee arrangements to hold down spending.

It is also interesting to note what the biggest complaints were with regard to service delivery, in part consisting of:

  • About 40 percent wanting more efficient project management from outside counsel, and
  • Nearly one-third seeing a need for much less “over-lawyering” of matters assigned to counsel.

Those who serve corporate clients and those who assist in marketing legal services rendered by private practitioners should read the entire Altman Weil survey for a more complete look inside the minds of CLOs.

Posted by: johnocunningham | December 9, 2015

Revenue Is Not a Goal, It Is a Result

Recently, I was presenting to a large group of lawyers a business development program based on the preferences and hot buttons of corporate executives with regard to legal service and relationship development. The program, which is based on years of surveys and working experience, summarizes the techniques most favored or disliked by executive clients for selling legal services and building lawyer-client relationships. Not surprisingly, surveys show that sophisticated clients favor a variety of relationship building methodologies based on respect, understanding and trust-building.

As I explained to my audience, these client-favored methodologies for developing and maintaining a business relationship take time and effort because the mere touting of reputation and competence is no longer a market differentiator in a world full of highly skilled professionals, if ever it was. Landing a prospect as a client and then becoming their “go to” lawyer is more about relationship and trust building than it is about awards and advertising.

Nonetheless, one of the lawyers in the audience asked me if it is possible to just “short cut” all the work of identifying, approaching, and landing a coveted client with a quicker approach. For just a nanosecond, I thought about telling him that the “super secret” solution that I charge extra for is hiding in my pocket but can be viewed in a private room for a not so small fee.

But my internal editor kicked in, and instead I recalled for the audience something a successful CEO once said to me: “Revenue is not a goal, it is a result of consistent execution on a well-developed strategy.” Thus, successful organizations don’t just set targets for revenue increases, and take the “short cut” of asking their customers or clients to buy more, they do the hard work of developing products and services that their clients or customers favor and then figure out how to deliver them cost-efficiently in the way the clients or customers want.

There is parallel concept in professional sports. I recently saw an interview with Patriots QB Tom Brady where he said, and I paraphrase: “Our goal is to score on every offensive possession.” But he added that “reaching our goal is based on executing lots of little things correctly on every single play of one possession.” Sure, teams sometimes score on one long bomb “Hail Mary” pass to the end zone, but it is not a high percentage play, and neither is asking a prospect for business as soon as you meet them. There are no magic phrases or secret sales techniques to short cut the process of building a professional services relationship.

The keys to developing and building a fruitful relationship with a good prospect are having a game plan full of little plays that are designed to move the relationship forward, and executing on those plays consistently in a way that the prospect and eventual client will favor.

Please feel free to call me if you would like to discuss my program based on client feedback about “What Works and What Doesn’t in Legal Service and Client Development.”

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