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August 18, 2010

Building the Service Centered Firm

Here's my new presentation, "Building the Service-Centered Firm" that I just gave as the keynote at the Minnesota Solo/Small Firm Conference in Duluth the first week of August.

August 11, 2010

Selling the Senior Partner on Social Media

If you're fighting an uphill battle in your firm trying to get the senior partners to buy into social media, you might want to give a few of these "vintage" advertisements a try:

Images from Sao Paolo ad agency Moma.  Hat tip: Unplggd.

July 19, 2010

Say it again?

A quick client interview tip from the always helpful Rules of Thumb website:
If someone you're interviewing makes the same point more than twice, it's the most important thing to him, and a crucial clue to his personality.
Worth keeping in mind!

Should you tell prospects why they shouldn't hire you?

Jessica Hische, a tremendous print designer and illustrator has a section on her website titled "Why you should not hire me to design your website."  Some excerpts:
I might seem like a jack of all trades because I do print design, type design, lettering, and illustration, but really I’m a specialist. I specialize in drawing type and illustration. This is what I’m best at and is probably why you found my website in the first place. I find it strange that I get so many requests for web design—I went to school for graphic design, yes, but each subfield of graphic design has its own set of problems, limitations, and guidelines.

Just as you wouldn’t expect any random person that owns Adobe illustrator to be able to draw a decorative initial from scratch, you can’t expect any print designer to be able to really and truly design for web. Web design is not print design, it is so much more complex. With book design, a person that encounters your book knows how to view it. They look at the cover, they open the cover, and page by page they work their way to the end. With web design, it’s (for the most part) not linear. You have to understand how people are going to use the site (and how people use the web changes all the time).

Anyway, to conclude a fairly long rant: Hire people that are best at what they do. It’s not that I (or other print designers) CAN’T do web design, its that you should want to hire someone that will do it best—someone that knows the ins and outs of the web and can then hire people like me to do what they do best: draw ornaments, logos, illustrations etc that will make the site sing.
I'm quite certain many lawyers and firms would benefit from a similar "disclaimer" telling potential clients why not to hire them.  Communicating what you do -- and most importantly, what you don't (and won't) do -- goes a long way towards getting you the clients you want and dissuading the ones you don't from picking up the phone.

Profit by Giving Your Fees Away

I saw this little blurb on the Church Marketing Sucks blog:  
WaterFront Community Church says, “We’re going to give away 100% of our offering to help build and beautify our community.”
What would the impact be if your firm did the same thing, and donated one day's fees a year (or month) to make your community better? 

I think it is a great idea -- and could be even better if combined with a contest (like Pepsi's Refresh Project) that sought entries from school children or community groups.  What do you think?

July 14, 2010

How Much Should Legal Fees Be?

Lawyers, do you think clients would use a service that describes itself as follows:
We are an independent, unbiased resource designed to deliver legal fee and price transparency and the expert information legal clients need. Our team of expert lawyers has helped us comb through a mountain of flat fee and billable time data to ensure you have the information you need when it's time to hire a lawyer.
Well, that service doesn't exist for legal clients just yet (as far as I know), but it does for people with car trouble.  It is called RepairPal, and it gives people pricing advice (including printed estimates) for various auto service repairs.  Here's how it works:
RepairPal takes the mystery out of car repairs with a simple tool that will tell you the average price you should be paying for a repair in your zip code.  You just pop in a few details about your repair and car, and it will do the rest.  It breaks down the estimated repair cost in a few ways, showing you the range to expect depending on whether you go through a dealer or independent repair shop, the cost of labor and parts, plus the parts usually needed and how much they cost.  The result?  You can feel better about making an informed repair decision, and you don’t have to scramble to get your friend the “car expert” on the phone to ask a dozen questions.
Imagine a world where your clients' expectations of the cost of your services is driven less by the facts of their case and more by an "estimate" they got from the internet.  A brave new world is coming.  Are you ready for it?

July 13, 2010

Stretch Your Thinking About Biz Cards

One of my favorite business cards of all time:

Check out the entire post at Creative Bits for lots of other cool, inspirational cards.

Ten (New) Truths of CLE

To many lawyers, their state-mandated continuing legal education (CLE) is a necessary chore to be completed, rather than an anticipated opportunity to hone their skills in an exciting and stimulating environment.  Part of the reason lawyers don’t love CLE more is that the traditional panel-centric format has -- to put it nicely -- grown stale.  Even if listening to three speakers reading their slides worked once, it doesn’t work now.  The audience has changed -- and the industry must change with it.

In this article, I offer ten observations, tips and even some advice to those in the CLE business.  Though these aren’t my talking points, they mirror much of what I’m going to be speaking about at the Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) in my talk “The Innovative CLE: Ten Bold Proposals for Change” later this month in New York City.
1.  If you ask your attendees what they’re buying from you and they answer “CLE credit,” you’ve got a terrible problem.  Stop selling credit, and instead sell understanding, collaboration and community.  Give lawyers what they need to keep their clients happy -- not just what they need to keep their license.

2.  Your audience has far less attention to pay than they once did.  Recognize that your events must change because your attendees already have.  And never confuse your audience’s attendance for their attention:  while you only have to earn their attendance once, you’ve got to earn their attention all event long.

3.  Your audience’s ability to pay attention at your event is inversely proportional to their ability to pay attention to the outside world.  There’s a very fine line between supporting their technology and giving them yet another way to check their fantasy football standings.

4.  Lawyers love online CLE -- not because it improves upon the in-person experience, but because it duplicates it.  If lawyers are going to passively consume information from a speaker or panelist, they might as well do it from their desk as they get some “real” work done.  If you want lawyers to attend your programs, offer them something they can’t get online, like the ability to work with (and learn from) the other attendees in the room.

5.  Convincing lawyers to attend your programs begins with answering their one simple question: “How will this make me better at what I do?”  Focus less on the specific things they’ll learn, and more upon how their practice will improve the moment they leave your event.

6.  People complain loudest about the price of things they don’t want to buy.  If your customers say your prices are too high, focus first on giving them more value -- and if you must cut the price, don’t be afraid to give them less.  Also, never forget that the price of your event matters less to attendees than their cost to attend it. 

7.  Your attendees will get far more “networking” done when they are thinking together than when they are drinking together.

8.  Imagine a second-grade class room where the teacher never makes time to answer the students’ questions.  Asking 300 people, with two minutes left before the next session starts, “Are there any questions?” is a lot like that.

9.  You aren’t serving lawyers well if you refuse to teach them to attract great clients and run their businesses better.  It is a hell of a lot easier to be a competent, ethical attorney when you’re not worried about keeping your lights on and your family fed.

10.  Just because your audiences aren’t asking for a better experience doesn’t mean they don’t deserve one.  Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  Think about ways to build a better CLE.  Experiment, and try new and novel things.  Your audience is far more likely to forgive your ambitiousness as they are to tolerate your ambivalence.

July 08, 2010

Who Can Change Your Firm?

I ran across this idea from an interview with a "Disney Expert" Bill Capodagli in this 37 Signals post on supportive conflict.  It seems Disney gave everyone in the organization an opportunity to "pitch" a movie to the heads of the company:
Take the regular meeting they hold called The Gong Show, which is based on the old TV amateur-hour show. It's a concept where, two or three times a year, any Disney employee can present an idea for a full-length feature animation before Michael Eisner, CEO and chairman of the board, and Roy Disney, vice chairman of the board, and other executives. Hercules, the animated film, for example, came about from an animator's idea that was presented at a Gong Show. The company benefits because they get thousands of good ideas from their employees, some of which are developed into feature films. And the employees benefit because they know they have the freedom to submit ideas that will be listened to. Even if their idea is "gonged," they celebrate it and learn from it.
Does your firm give every employee -- from junior partner to part-time file clerk -- the chance to share their ideas for ways to make the firm better?  It should!

Measure Time the Way Your Clients Do

Just a quick thought: Are you measuring time the way your clients do? 

Are you keeping track of the days (not minutes or hours) between when you first promised something and when it was finally delivered?  Are you measuring the time between your last client update and the next one?  Do you know how long -- in calendar time, not billable time -- that the average __________ takes? 

You should, because even though your clients see every moment you spend working for them on their bill, I bet they wish you'd pay the same attention to their calendar as you do to your stopwatch.