Friday, December 2, 2011

Book management         

One of the areas that my legal recruiting and client development consulting businesses collide is in the daily conversations about “The Book”.  What I am quick to find out is that some attorneys have an encyclopedia and others have more of a magazine article.

Very rarely do I speak with an attorney at the 20+ year mark that has significantly more in business than they did at the 12-15 year mark in their careers.   In short, their book is their book because how they develop business is the way that they always have.  For most that was okay, until a couple of years ago. What was thought to be the amount of business, that seemed to come in every year, suddenly became “the guesstimate”. A chasm has formed and rainmakers have separated from the pack by how they manage their book.  

On the recruiting side a lot of firms have doubled what they look for in portable business. There a lot of firms that overextended themselves on promised business and have risk adjusted anything that they hear from a candidate. Second, not many attorneys can clearly identify how much business that they originate, from who, and can they really call them “their client”. The ones that can know their metrics for growing their business.

The attorneys that I speak with that have maintained or grown in this economy have a few common traits:

  • Time is blocked every week for quality prospecting and harvesting activities: networking, referral contacts, targeted seminars, email, newsletters, anything that is where their target market is, they are front and center. Filling the funnel. 
  • They qualify opportunities in or out quickly based on bill rate, type of work, quality of clients/ work.
  • They don’t play bill rate bingo.  Their rate is their rate.  Somebody will do it cheaper, but not them.
  • They know their clients goals and issues so well that if they hung a shingle on the moon the clients would follow them, and the attorneys KNOW that.
Looking toward the end of the year and setting goals for 2012, how many of these traits do you practice?  Now is the time to determine your metrics and what a 500k, 1 million, 2 million dollar practice looks like and what steps need to be taken to get there. Time is sacred, but there is always time for a good book…

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Mad Dash

9 months into the year we all look back and wonder where it went.  October 1 signifies the start of The Mad Dash.  In many firms and companies also known as Q4.  This is the money quarter.

When I do sales training with companies and look over their yearly revenues you would simply be amazed at the spike (hopefully) in business that is directly related to Q4. Typically though, it is the highest revenue, but lowest margin quarter.  It’s what gives management grey hair, and gives the producers a time line to clear out bad opportunities, close good ones, secure revenue, and end with the bonus that you had worked for.

With the shorter timeline, how do you optimize that time to get the most out of your business and maximize your bonus?

The good news is that you have 9 months of data to go off of.
  • Determine what has worked and what hasn’t from your business plan for 2011.  The stuff that hasn’t, stop doing, and put your time and resources into the stuff that has.
  • Recalibrate billing vs. collection. When I talk with attorneys about their “book” I always hear a billed hour number.  If there is a gulf between those two items you are working for free and with such little time to optimize your bonus it’s time to collect and spend time toward things that optimize your plan.
  • Clean out your pipeline.  Those institutional opportunities that you started the year with and saw stalled into summer, clear them out if you are still working on them.  If they haven’t seen the value in securing your services by now, let someone else waste their time on them.
  • Talk with your clients. It’s been a tough time for everybody.  Learn things about them that you didn’t before. Be more than a bill they get.  Help where you can. Ask for referrals. Be an investment for them, not a cost.  If you are a cost, Q4 is when they will start figuring out if they can get your service cheaper next year  It costs 85% more to develop a new client than to keep an existing client. Just spoke with an attorney who had a 1.1 million dollar book and lost a client of 23 years that made up about 700k of that.  Think you are irreplaceable..?
  • Meet with other practice area leaders.  Is there work for their clients that you could be handling or vice versa? This is low hanging fruit. Depending on your comp plan this could be the difference between a good bonus and a great bonus.
Feel free to contact me at:, 850-893-8984

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marketing to your prospects triggering events

When I speak with attorneys about their client development strategies I often hear about leveraging existing clients, referrals, and attempts to cross-market with other attorneys.  The top rainmakers are effective at all of these things and more.  A lot of business gets left on the table, however, because while trying to secure new business, attorneys listen for active needs rather than latent issues that may arise from a prospects day-to-day operations. 

These molehills that become mountains are known as triggering events and by being first to help a client or prospective client identify and navigate these events, you have the greater opportunity to be the one who they ultimately choose to help solve the problem and achieve their goals.

There are several services beyond the local business journal that provide this information and it doesn’t take long to set your Web 2.0 strategy to deliver information to you:,, LinkedIn, RSS feeds ,Twitter, and my new favorite NimbleCRM.

In fact, just like playing in the RFP world, by the time it’s hit the business journal, it’s too late. Everyone knows and everyone is trying to get in. 

Would you rather compete with everyone to get the meeting after, or be the one that gets the call from a prospect when they don’t want the news hitting the papers?

Below are examples of triggering events. Think about: 1) What are the issues driving the change? 2) What business level job title would be responsible for making decisions? CEO, VP of Sales, COO, VP of HR,etc. 3) How have I helped other clients with these issues in the past? 4) Do I have any contacts that I could leverage into a business discussion with the key players involved?

Internal Triggering Events
• Poor quarterly earnings - or stellar results
• New product/service announcements
• New management or ownership
• Name changes; new positioning
• Venture capital funding
• Expansion into new market segments
• Opening up new geographies
• Real estate and construction activity
• Layoffs, downsizings or rightsizings
• IPOs (initial public offerings)
• New relationships, affiliations, partnership
• Personnel changes in key positions
• New customers; lost customers
• Job openings
• Corporate relocations

External Triggering Events
• Legislative changes: new laws, regulations
• Natural disasters
• Changes in the competitive landscape
• Trends impacting customer base
• New technologies

This is where your network and cross-marketing comes in. In previous blogs, I have talked about feeding your network.  What triggering events would help your network or team? Is that the open door to that prospect that you have been looking for to secure business in your practice area?

If you are interested in learning how other attorneys have created a repeatable process to leverage these types of events and grow their practice feel free to contact me at:, 850-893-8984

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Healthy Law Firm

Getting law firms healthier

I was just working with a managing partner of an AM Law Top 25 firm in DC and I heard him make a reference to his firm that I thought applicable to the legal market as a whole.  He was discussing the ways that they have had to adjust to stay competitive and actually grow the firm in this economy, and he said "It was time to get healthier."

When someone thinks of a phrase like that they begin to think of P90X infomercials, new years resolutions, and second glances at a salad bar rather than the porterhouse. This is why it was interesting the context and what lead to our engagement.

Being competive, he said, involved looking at every aspect of the way they do business and how to control costs while providing the quality of work that the firm's clients expect.

The firm had utilized a LPO in India for discovery and research. They had unfortunately cut staff and a layer of senior associates, counsel, and non-equity partners.  This left them with a gap though.  Clients expected the same quality of service and support and were now playing "bill rate bingo".

They needed specific types of attorneys that would integrate with their firm for a certain period of time to roll on and off work as needed. The needs were specifically in IP and tax.  The attorneys matched the quality of attorney that their firm has been known for, they were able to bill them at more competitive rates, but would pay out a contract fee that enabled them to see higher margins. The period of time is established, but there is flexibility should issues resolve or get extended.

It works for the contract attorneys because it provides them the opportunity to do the work that they enjoy without the stress that partnership brings.  It provides flexibility to ramp up or down quickly in certain practice areas while meeting their clients needs and staying competitive.  In addition, Wilcox and Hackett worked with the firm to create a quick onboarding training for contract attorneys so that they understood their roles and policies of the firm.

Would you like to have a confidential discussion about how your firm can become healthier and more nimble in this environment?  Call or email me at:, 850-893-8984

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Establishing Trust: 3 Simple Steps

On return from a recent trip, I was making an international connection in an airport and passing through security for the second time. The security guard asked me the same standard questions, but the last question she asked me I found to be most curious. She said, “Should I trust you?”  I paused and then answered in the affirmative, but it got me thinking.

 When meeting with a prospect for the first time, how do you establish trust?  This is not the same type of trust that you have with a family member or loved one, but the trust that allows someone to have a candid conversation about their business issues.

There is plenty written about how not to do it, such as being pushy, talking too much or just falling into stereotypical selling behavior. But in that critical window of time (some say as short as a minute) how do you make a connection that allows the prospective client to feel comfortable sharing information with you.

In his recent book “The Speed of Trust”, Stephen M.R. Covey identifies trust as the one thing that changes everything. He defines trust as confidence, confidence that the words that come out of a salesperson’s mouth show genuine interest in understanding the situation before a “spray and pray” knowledge dump.

Here are a few simple steps to follow to make sure that you can earn initial trust:
  1. Be prepared with questions geared towards the prospect’s organization and needs, not statements or brochures around your product, service or organization.
  2. Allow the prospect to set the pace for the meeting, and only offer suggestions for items to review after they have expressed their priorities.  Help the prospect discover needs by listening to what they say.  A few well -constructed questions will help the prospect come to their own conclusion.
  3. Be sincere.  Being sincere means doing what you say you are going to do. The first way to establish sincerity is a prompt, written follow up after an initial meeting that captures the important components for the prospect and their organization.
Some think trust takes years to cultivate and develop.  The security guard in an airport thought it could take one second, a reaction to a question.  One thing is certain; establishing trust is a central component to all healthy relationships.

If you are interested in learning how other attorneys have created a repeatable process to grow their practice feel free to contact me at:, 850-893-8984

Monday, February 28, 2011

Client worry vs. Client planning

Can we all agree that usually when someone needs the services of an attorney that that represents a bad day in their life?  A buddy in my church group owns a small business and received a letter from the IRS to audit him, his wife, and business for 2008.  I met him for lunch a week after and he didn’t eat a bite of his food, looked completely freaked out, and assumed the worst.

He told me that he did his taxes using software and that his records from 2008 and earlier were lost when his computer crashed.  He called a friend of a friend who does tax law.  The attorney told him that he handles audits all of the time, knows how to talk with the auditors, and that this should be resolved in a couple of weeks.  The attorney apparently didn’t ask many questions, he “had seen this a thousand times”.  Without knowing better, he went with the attorney.

3 months later the audit had expanded into the year prior and the year after and all he had was a large recurring bill to show for it.

Over the holidays, we had he and his wife over and he had lost weight and his wife said that she wanted him to see a doctor to be treated for depression.  They were all scared and he said that his attorney was a nice guy but he was falling apart. The attorney would ask for what the IRS was asking for.  He would give the information and they would keep asking for more.  The attorney had no luck “nuancing” the IRS. No plan, just death by a thousand paper cuts.  It was simply tragic.

I saw him last week and he was a changed man.  He settled on a much lower fee, about 50%, than he was billed by the attorney and terminated the relationship, changed to a tax attorney that I had placed and referred him to, and brought the audit to a close.  Paid a few bucks, but not as much as he had feared.

The difference.  A meeting with our pastor who told him it was time to, “stop worrying, and start planning.”  Where the first attorney facilitated just enough worry to keep the process going and bill for every minute of it, the second attorney asked a lot of questions and laid out a roadmap. What to expect, more likely timeline, and to get all of the information instead of little by little.  He took control of the process instead of letting the process control him.  No nuance, no games, full disclosure.

I share this for 2 reasons:

  1. The first attorney billed a lot of hours that were never collected on.  Would that time have been better spent developing clients, spending time with family, or any other thing?  Multiply that by other clients and that is a lot of wasted time and money.
  2. Attorneys tell me that 85-90% of their business comes from referrals.  People statistically will  tell 3 people of a positive experience and 11 of a negative.  Not only did the attorney lose a client and any chance of referral, they have someone that will probably actively dissuade others from using them.
Ironically, my buddy probably ended up paying the IRS the same either way.  He also paid his attorney bill, wrote a reference on the attorneys LinkedIn page, and referred a couple of other small business owners to him.

Do you facilitate worry, or do you facilitate a plan? Which one do you believe is best for your client and your bill to collection ratio?

Would you rather have several clients that you have to resell your work to and justify your billing only to get half, and no referrals, or clients that actively help you secure new business?

If you are interested in learning how other attorneys have created a repeatable process that helps facilitate a plan for their clients, increase their collection rate, and increase their referral base, feel free to contact me at:, 850-893-8984

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creating new revenue- Lobbying cross-marketing

Creating new revenue- Lobbying cross-marketing

With a new governor in Florida and lots of new faces in the legislature, people working in and around government are awaiting significant changes. Some of which are already being established.

What does this mean to your practice and your clients goals and needs?

Having to deal with everything from construction, transportation, healthcare, education, economic development, real estate, land use, insurance, corporate taxes there are issues on the table that will affect everyone and every business that does business in the state.

Living and working in Tallahassee, I speak with a lot of attorneys and lobbyists, and many national and regional firms have offices to help facilitate their clients legislative needs. Many, however, do not, or have conflicts that precludes them from handling the legal and lobbying work. A lot of firms simply are not set up to handle how lobbyists bill and develop clients vs. how attorneys do. Some attorneys that I have spoken with don’t want to send their lobbying issues to another firm for fear that once that firm starts working with their client they will take their legal work.

Several attorneys that I have spoken with have found huge advantages to identifying a lobbyist that is outside of a law firm, however, and/or using different lobbyists to handle issues specifically with the House, Senate, agency level, cabinet, committees, and Governor’s Office.

Three reasons:

Lobbyists are your eyes and ears for upcoming legal issues that will require your services for your client. Often risk mitigation.

Independent and focused on specific legislative needs of your client.

A value-add for and deeper relationship with your clients. The more service options that you can offer, the more they will use you for their legal needs.

In full disclosure, I am not a lobbyist, and do not collect a fee from any lobbyists. If you would like to explore how this could be an additional source of revenue for your practice, I would be happy to recommend the names of lobbyists, with high integrity and several years of experience, that meet your clients specific needs within which ever branch of government that their needs rest.

Feel free to contact me at:, 850-893-8984