Stephen Fairley 2013-12-27 11:24:16
3 Steps to Build a Better Law Firm in 2014 In the past decade, I have been honored to work with over 10,000 attorneys in virtually every practice area and every state teaching them proven law firm marketing strategies to help them build a lifestyle law firm®. I define that as a law firm that supports the core values of who you are and allows you to live the life you want and build meaningful relationships with others versus the law firm that drives you, dictates your life, and ends up consuming your every waking moment. Most attorneys who start their own law firm want to control their schedule, make more money, and have the freedom to spend time with family and friends. In other words, their main motivation is to create a lifestyle law firm. If you want to regain control of your destiny and create a lifestyle law firm in 2014, you can do this by (1) developing new strengths, (2) asking for what you need, and (3) knowing your worth. Develop New Skills and Strengths Regardless of what level your law firm is at now, the skills it will require to take your current law firm to the “next level” are different from the ones you are presently using to run your firm. You must develop new skills and strengths! For example, I know you didn’t go to law school to learn accounting, but if you don’t have a solid grasp on basic accounting and financial skills you will struggle to build a high 6-figure or 7-figure practice. If you don’t know how to find and hire a dedicated team and then manage and motivate them you will be very limited in how big you can scale your firm. Building a lifestyle law firm begins with the understanding that you are running a business. I know this goes against what many of you were taught in law school, that law is a “profession,” but to have a successful law firm in today’s world you must treat it like a small business. The success of your business lies in how well you are able to play to your strengths in: Market your legal skills. You are not in the business of law. You are in the business of marketing your legal skills! You can be the best attorney in your field, but if you don’t have any clients to help then your skills are meaningless. As a solo practitioner or a partner in a small law firm, your primary focus—after gaining competency as an attorney—is to understand the key principles of business development and law firm marketing and to apply them every single day. Not every attorney will be a top rainmaker, but everyone can do something to grow and market his or her practice. Create extraordinary experiences for your clients. You need to “micromanage the client experience”—controlling every aspect of how the client experiences your law firm. From how the phone is answered, to greeting them by name as they walk in the door, to minimizing the amount of paperwork you ask them to complete, to reserving your conference room with their name on the door, to returning client phone calls and emails consistently and promptly, everything should be focused on creating a positive experience for your clients. Build deep and lasting relationships with your clients. Far too many attorneys only have a transactional relationship with their clients: they create an estate plan for them, they file a lawsuit on their behalf, they handle their divorce, or they set up a corporation for them. To be successful over the long term, you must think long term about the relationships you have with clients. What are you doing each month to add value to or educate your former clients? You must develop long-term, meaningful and influential relationships with your clients because the most expensive thing you can have is a one-time client. One of the most basic marketing strategies for law firms is getting additional business from current clients – yet many fail at doing this effectively. A recent research report from Hinge Marketing titled “Inside the Buyer’s Brain” showed the two main reasons for this failure: 1. Most service providers underestimate the demand from current clients for additional services. 2. Most clients are unaware of all the services provided by their current professional service provider. Even if you believe you have done a good job educating your clients about all the services you offer, they are human, likely lead a very busy life, and often forget what you told them. Hinge recommends deploying these four strategies to do a better job of erasing that disconnect: Designate a dedicated relationship manager. Usually the person responsible for managing the relationship is the same one responsible for managing the daily work. What happens is that the long-term relationship management gets lost in the demands of the current workload. Consider designating someone in the firm to be a dedicated relationship manager, working closely with the person who does the day-to-day work so he or she understands the client. Integrate a formal review of potential issues into your client management process. Provide your clients with a monthly or quarterly review to determine if there are any issues or opportunities you should be aware of. Look for opportunities where you can help. With the formal review, you are likely to identify a number of issues. Some the client can handle on their own; others may need your attention – by handling the issue for them or by giving them a referral to another professional they may need on their team. Review issues and your suggested approaches with the client. Rather than waiting for a client to come to you, be proactive in putting potential issues on the table and discuss how you are able to help as a valued partner, not as someone with a sales pitch. While this approach will not work for every practice, it can be adapted for many clients. It’s all part of micromanaging the client experience – if you take the time to really know your clients and the problems they are facing, you greatly increase your chances for repeat business. Ask for What You Need We know that many attorneys build a good portion of their practices on referrals – yet, why do so many feel embarrassed to ask for a referral? If you find it difficult to ask for referrals, you may not be looking at it in the right way. Instead of looking at asking for a referral as a favor to you, you should regard it as extending a favor. That’s right! You are not asking to get a favor; you are asking to bestow one. The secret to getting lots of referrals is to make it about them, not about you. Think about what benefits you offer your referral sources and what problems you may help them solve. When you help someone help a friend, family member or colleague, you have done them a favor. Think about how referring you can make your client’s life better, and you will never be embarrassed to ask for a referral again. Attorneys who rely on referrals for new clients also need to have a referral mindset. Always look for those moments in your relationships with others to create referrals – when you have won a case for a client, when you have helped someone avoid litigation, when you have provided a referral – all opportunities for you to generate referrals. You also need to make it as easy as possible for people to refer you. Provide them with a written document that outlines the characteristics of your ideal client. Create free reports or give seminars that solve problems their clients may be experiencing and cobrand them, so your referral source benefits. The real secret to feeling comfortable about generating referrals is to think give, not take. And to implement a system that creates a referral environment throughout your organization. Know Your Worth Do you feel that you are continually forced to compete for clients based on price? If so, then you need to be aware of what is at the root of this problem. Chasing the wrong prospects is the basis of all pricing problems. Casting a wide net for clients without applying any targeting criteria is dangerous because sometimes it works. The clients you get by doing this are inevitably those that will pound you on price and beat up on your staff as well. If you choose to compete only on price, your fees have exactly one way to go – down. So how can you target the right client that will allow you to charge what you’re worth? Here are three quick steps: Create an ideal client profile. Think in terms of age, profession, gender, education, interests, marital status, family size, hobbies and lifestyle. If you’ve had clients you consider ideal, what did they share in common that made them an ideal client for you? Communicate your target. Educate everyone in your firm as well as your referral sources about what an ideal client is for your practice. Have a qualifying process. Before you sign on a new client, put them through a qualifying process that educates them about how you work, what they can expect, how you charge and what is expected of them. If they balk, they’re not a good fit. Once you start attracting your ideal client, you’ll be able to charge what you are worth and stop worrying about competing on price. If you’re ready to take your firm to the next level this year and would like some assistance in achieving your goals in creating a lifestyle law firm, I invite you to sign up for a complimentary strategy session with one of our trained Rainmaker law marketing consultants. Two-time international best-selling author, Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, LLC, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in marketing and lead conversion for small to medium law firms. Over 10,000 attorneys nationwide have benefited from learning and implementing the proven Rainmaker Marketing System. Over the last 12 years, he has become a nationally recognized legal marketing expert and been named, America’s Top Marketing Coach. He has spoken numerous times for over 35 of the nation’s largest state and local bar associations and has a large virtual footprint with his highly successful Rainmaker legal marketing blog and has over 150,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For more information, please visit www.TheRainmakerInstitute.com or call (888)588-5891.
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