Monday, December 3, 2012


As I talk with attorneys about their career goals, I have recognized a dramatic change from a few years ago.  Prior to 2008, there was an arms race for good partners and associates.  Fast forward a few years and the days of walking across the street for 20, 30, 40k raises in base salary are gone.

Successful law firms squeezed out expenses, got a lot better at due diligence in hiring, and offers now come with a certain risk adjustment reflected in salary or draw.  What a lot of them squeezed out, and have created a void that successful partners are now needing, is leverage.  

The graying of the workforce with the chopping that many firms did of their bench has created a gap that has left many firms in a precarious position that will continue to build.  

The frustration around being capped at the amount of work that they can actually do.  Bringing in more work, but not having  quality associates, service partners, or even assistants that were able to handle billable work at a competitive blended billable rate.

Leverage has become geographic and enterprise as well. Altman Weil documented that 2012 is a historic year for firm mergers. Work that single offices used to get is now being lost to larger firms that leverage clients from one city into business in other cities where they don’t have a presence. Small firms that were once happy with staying independent are now open to merging.  

Everyone needs leverage and yet it is the one thing that is becoming more rare. How do you leverage your partners, associates?  How do you leverage the percent of business that you get from existing clients into additional work for you and others in your firm? Is there a gap in the work that you can generate and the work that you can do?

So what does this mean to your practice?

As you look at year end planning and goal setting for 2013, think of ways that your practice can leveraged better and ask a few questions:

What partner to “quality” associate ratio do I need if I were to grow my practice by 10%, 20%, etc?

Are you at the top end of your bill rate or can you raise rates and retain your client base? 

Conversely, are you being mandated to bill at a rate that is causing clients to go elsewhere for work that you or your firm could be doing?

Do you have what you need to grow your practice or are you in a firm of similars that have found a comfort zone? Does that work for you?

Every business struggles with converting data to applicable knowledge.  How you apply that knowledge is what will leverage your practice.

Please contact me about how you would like to further leverage your client base at: 850-893-8984,

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


“How can you not be romantic about baseball? Love that line from Moneyball. In the movie, Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, opines after being dealt huge budget cuts, another tough year, and the same competition that has unlimited resources and seems to always win.  Faced with finding a way, he employees a metrics man to find the key to success with a budget a fraction of what other successful teams have.  

Baseball and client development success can be reduced to one number and it’s not what you think.  Conventional wisdom says better players hit more home runs.  Beane went for on-base percentage.  Homeruns are great but they are quick.  Repeatedly getting on base puts pressure on the opposing team that leads to errors, it creates opportunities to score in bunches, it wears pitchers out.  Getting on base consistently involves discipline at the plate, taking the walk, fouling off pitches.

On a daily basis, I speak with attorneys that I can put in 3 categories: Rainmaker, Utility Players, Service Partners.  

Rainmakers may hit homeruns, but they get on base better than anyone.  Their pipeline is full of deals.  Some homeruns, some triples, some doubles, and lots of singles. Keep their heads up as they round first and know when they can stretch a single into extra bases.  They go to the plate every time with a plan.

Utility players are good but not great at client development.  They peaked at some point and have found a range.  They wish that they made more money and had more business, but hitting .250 is good enough to keep management generally happy and every once in a while they get a big hit that they can point to, but struck out a lot for that one big hit.

Service partners get paid more than they bring in.  Good attorneys that have never had to, or never wanted to deal with building a client base.  During a rough patch, their salaries are the easiest to cut to make room for someone else on the roster.  They aren’t very marketable to other teams and they have an expensive contract that they are playing under.  Tough spot to be in when dealing with firms that are looking at bottom lines and each persons metric.

One of my favorite movies is Bull Durham and a classic scene about metrics that you can apply to client development:

A gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dyeing quail.  “Just one more dying quail a week and you are playing in Yankee Stadium.”  Not the homerun.  The one more thing a week is the difference between being cut from a roster spot or being a rainmaker.  One email, one lunch, one call, one seminar, one trade show, one blog posting… 

Going into the week with a plan on how you will get on base just one more time a week.

Please contact me about how you would like to further develop your client base at: 850-893-8984,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Word matters

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit in on interviews at law firms around the Southeast with lateral partners and provide feedback.  I also had follow ups with the firms and measured who they extended offers to and compared them with my notes.  The biggest indicator that I discovered was not the way that they dressed.  All had figured that out years ago.  Wasn’t experience.  By the interview they had been vetted by experience.  Wasn’t the client base (although how they articulated how that client base could be leveraged into that firm was important)  It was the words that they used.

After one such interview session, I treated myself to a spicy chicken sandwich at Chik-fil-A and have discovered what I now coin the “No problem” versus “My pleasure” speaker.  

Client calls and say that they have an emergency, you handle that emergency.  They say “thank you”.  You say ”no problem”  Well it was certainly a problem for them, and if it wasn’t for you then why are you billing them for it..

Go into any Chik-fil-A, order something and say “thank you”.  They say “my pleasure”.  It is part of their brand, and how words are delivered are part of each attorneys brand that I sat with. 
If I had a dollar for every “probably”, “maybe”, “kind of”, “sort of”,“possibly” that I heard I could retire.  When I work with attorneys before an interview I use the example of “I think” vs. “I believe”.  What is stronger?

The weak words had a direct correlation to the interviewers notes of not being prepared, not articulate, not a good listener, untrustworthy.  Does that represent a brand that you believe any firm would want to put forth?

The tragedy is that that does not at all represent how good of an attorney that person is.  If they eliminated those words would it change anything that they were trying to convey? Most of the time, the words are just fillers.

Your words are your brand.  Your assistants words are your brand.  The receptionist that hands a client coffee and welcomes them to your office is your brand.  The words on your website is your brand.  It is either weak or strong. When clients are evaluating options, who do you believe that they want?

Some fun from My Fair Lady:

Have a little fun with the folks at the office and think of the most popular weak words that you know.  When someone says them they owe a dollar for each offense. To be kept hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar until the end of the week. Then cater a lunch from Chik-Fil-A with the money raised. It will be their pleasure…

Please contact me about how you would like to further develop your client base at: 850-893-8984,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where the Clients Are

Do you know how many customers that you have lost?

A recent study by the Huthwaite Group says that you were part of an evaluation that you didn’t even know that you were part of.

The study shows that when a prospective client had a need for your services they began to do research of who could help them.  With the internet and word of mouth they evaluated about 30 options in a short period of time.  In that evaluation, they lowered that down to 3 options. From that, over 88% went with the first one that they met with.

As someone that spends my days on law firm websites, I can tell you that there is a huge gap that most attorneys and law firms don’t pay attention to. It’s the “What does this attorney really do” issue.  An entire body of work wrapped up in two word capsules.  Products liability, construction litigation, white- collar, insurance defense, tax law, etc…  If I cant figure out if you are a Plaintiff or Defense attorney, what are the odds that someone that doesn’t work with attorneys on a daily basis will figure it out.  On to the next option..

If we can all agree on the fact that engaging an attorney’s services usually is because of a risk or bad situation, why would you buy from someone that doesn’t give more details on how they have helped others.  Within Bar guidelines of course. When was the last time that you bought a generic car, house, or TV.  It’s the capabilities that match the needs.  The understanding of a buyers situation that makes for the sell.

With access to information, potential clients no longer have to meet to get that information and do an evaluation.  They don’t even need to be in the same city, state, or country in many cases.  They are ready to make a decision by the time that they reach you.  By providing that information, and managing your online and network brands, you save them and you a lot of time and close more business.

Please contact me about how you would like to further develop your client base at: 850-893-8984,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Value of Mentoring

January is National Mentoring Month.  Recently, I read a great book called Halftime by Bob Buford. It discusses how the first half of life is spent chasing success and challenges that the second half should be about chasing significance.  

As a pirate looking at 40 and Halftime, I’m sure that I am not alone when I look back and am able to see the relation between causes and effects. Perhaps over the holidays you took time to reflect a bit on decisions made and people that help shape you. 

I had the incredible experience of interning for the Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers while in college. Working in the Broward Mall, I met Bill Beck and struck up a conversation over baseball and life. For a kid that loves baseball, talking with someone who had worked in Major League Baseball for years was a treat. Turns out he worked for the Florida Marlins and a few months later needed an intern when he moved to the Panthers.  He called and offered me the job.  I learned so much about professionalism from him. How you can be kind and respectful and get ahead.  How to dress the part of a professional.  A few years later he mentored the Marlins management by suggesting a manager named Jack McKeon that he had worked with while with the Padres to a floundering 2003 team. The rest is history.

The Panthers led to the Marlins and working for Jorge Arrizurieta.  Jorge was tougher, but sometimes the best mentors are the ones that see potential when you don’t and pull it out of you.  Jorge came from the political world.  He proof read every line, corrected each gaffe (and at 20 there are plenty) smoothed the edges a bit. How you addressed people, dealt with deadlines, took ownership of an issue. Instilling that it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear and feel.

Mentors hold you accountable. They take strokes off your game.  They are also humble and vulnerable.  Nobody wants to hear about someones perfect life.  The best stories are the ones where someone overcame something.  Do you want to learn from the attorney that proclaims to have never failed or the one that has more times than they can count and what they learned from it?

Dr. Robert Lewis talks about “mentoring up”, and “mentoring down”.  Only you know your true blind spots, passions, and strengths at Halftime.  If you want to be a better spouse, parent, attorney, maybe have a stronger walk in faith, look for folks that are a few years ahead of you and are where you want to be.  I have yet to ask someone to teach me about what they have learned in life and been turned down. Why learn the hard way?
Perhaps you have noticed someone that reminds you of yourself 15-20 years ago.  Take them to lunch. Ask them about their dreams and help if you can.  To a 20 year old kid at the Broward Mall it made all of the difference in the world.