#BizDevTip: Spring clean now for a strong start to 2016

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Spring has officially sprung in Australia (1 September) and so now is the time to do a spring clean of your law firm if you want to give yourself the best chance of making a strong start to 2016.

As a minimum, you should consider shaking out the winter cobwebs with the following housekeeping actions:

  1. Audit your client list  – to see who the best performers have been, who the up and comers are, and who have fallen off a bit.
  2. Review your revenue streams – to see which practices are getting revenue from which clients. Remember, the more practice groups that are getting instructions/revenue from a client, the more likely that client is to be a profitable client.
  3. Review and update your ‘key’ (which should include decision makers as well as supporters) contacts database and update their preferred method of communication (phone, email, chat, Facebook, tweet?).
  4. Hold an off-site firm strategy day that includes a review of market conditions, expected client demands, and how your firm will respond to these.
  5. Segment your client contact database by industry, etc so that clients receive the most appropriate information from you – rather than blasted mailshots.
  6. Start thinking about your FY2017 client listening program – who will you go and visit? Will you be doing this internally or externally?
  7. Start thinking about your FY2017 communication plan.
  8. Review and update your referrer / firm champion list.
  9. Look up what industry events will be taking place in 2016 and see if you need to be attending these.
  10. Consider ways that you can be adding value (via your value added services) to your client relationship that might differentiate you from your competitors.

I cannot guarantee that you and your firm will be star performers in 2016 if you carry out this spring clean, but I can guarantee that 2016 will [at best] be a fairly ordinary year for you and your firm if you don’t action these and more.

#BizDevTip: Clients don’t give you work just because they like the sound of your voice on the phone

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Yesterday I read a quote in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) that really resonated with me as a business development coach to law firm partners and senior lawyers.

The quote in question was by Aris Kekedjian – who is Vice-President & Managing Director, Global Business Development/M&A at GE – and was made in relation to the recent divestment of GE Capital and its assets.

What Kekedjian said was this:

“People don’t wire you billions of dollars because they like your voice on the phone.”


Now, just print that quote off and put it next to your phone please.

#BizDevTip: Take a copy of the client’s annual report to your pitch meeting…

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Last week (12 May 2015) the Business of Law on the Bloomberg website posted snippets from its most recent conversation with a leading in-house lawyer, this time Teri Plummer McClure, Chief Legal Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources at UPS (‘UPS GC: Stop Talking About Your Firm, Tell Me About Ours‘).

Have to say that I’m really beginning to enjoy this growing collection of discussions with leading general counsel and in-house counsel, but the take-out from this latest discussion was without doubt the following exchange between the interviewer and McClure:

Big Law Business: If a firm wanted to start a relationship with you, what’s the best way?

McClure: The best way is for them is to see where our business is going, and identify opportunities where they can add value to what we’re doing. It frustrates me to no end when a law firm comes and does a pitch for us, and the only thing they talk about is what the law firm does. I refuse to sit through most of them these days.

If they don’t know or haven’t taken the time to understand our business, the direction our business is headed, new business opportunities we might be pursuing, and then show us how they can add value, then I really don’t have time to sit through that pitch.

Wow, not sure you can get a much clearer message than that!

So, for all those law firm partners out there who like to go to pitch presentations (or beauty parades or tramps or whatever you call these in your firm) with target and actual clients with reams and reams of capability statements all about your firm and its various practice areas and service offerings, along with the lawyer profiles of everyone you think they may ask about – even if they are all done up in nice presentation packs with ribbons around them – here it is again, not from your business development/marketing manager/director, but direct from Teri Plummer McClure, Chief Legal Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources at UPS:

 “It frustrates me to no end when a law firm comes and does a pitch for us, and the only thing they talk about is what the law firm does. I refuse to sit through most of them these days.”

So here’s a tip*: next time you are invited to do a pitch presentation to a client or target client, why not have a copy of the client’s annual report next to you on the desk…

… just a thought.

[*but make sure you have read it of course!]

#BiZDevTip: Segment your clients

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I’m currently reading a few pages from Seth Godin’s “Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck? And Other Provocations, 2006-2012” book each day.

Yesterday I got to re-read Seth’s ‘Advice for Authors‘ post (initially posted way back in August 2006) which contains the following gem (under #5) that I wanted to share with you:

Far better to obsess about a little subset of the market–that subset that you have permission to talk with, that subset where you have credibility, and most important, that subset where people just can’t live without your book.

Replace “book” with “work“, and you would get pretty close to a raison d’être for your legal business.

#BizDevTip: 15 ways to find new business development opportunities in 2015

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On the basis that all lawyers are, ultimately, responsible for sourcing and securing their own book of business, the following are 15 ways you and your law firm could find new business development opportunities in 2015:

  1. RSS feeds: we will start off easy, set up an RSS drop box email account (I use Gmail) and sign-up to as many news and industry sources as you believe you need to give you as much relevant market information as possible. Keep in mind that if it’s in the “papers” you’ve most likely missed the boat, but you can still find the odd nugget this way.
  2. Apps to read on the go: in addition to having RSS feeds, I also have a number of news and blog feeds that I read on my iPad on the way to work through the Ziner app that are fed through Feedly. Previously I used to play solitaire on the train, but I’ve actually had some real wins since doing this.
  3. Network internally: if your firm has an intranet site, make yourself visible on this. Offer to publish updates or other useful information that will increase your profile internally. I’ve found this particularly useful in multiple jurisdiction and cross-border firms where you might not always get the opportunity to meet with your colleagues and show them firsthand how great you are! Even if you work in a one office firm though, increasing your profile internally – via the old water-cooler chat – can help build your profile and the trust your peers have in your abilities.
  4. Be present on Twitter: not only is Twitter a lot of fun, but it also offers you a free and easy way to increase your profile and network globally. And you’ll be surprised how often someone in your network (of Twitter followers) is asked by someone they know (but you don’t) for a recommendation in your jurisdiction, and guess who they will be recommending!
  5. Blog: again, a free (or at worst relatively cheap) and easy way to highlight that you are a thought leader in your area of expertise. It may also lead to other publishing opportunities that will help to promote your brand as widely as possible. And it doesn’t even have to be that long or complicated a post on your blog – just make it authentic and consistent.
  6. LinkedIn: I suggest people be ‘present’ on LinkedIn. This means using this platform as more than a modern rolodex for contact cards. Join and participate in industry groups that are relevant to your practice. Better yet, join and participate in groups your clients or target clients are active in. And if there are none, start your own!
  7. Publish: publish articles and materials that showcase how brilliantly you know your subject matter and how it applies to your clients businesses. I would suggest that you don’t do this in peer-to-peer [lawyer] publications, but find out what publications your clients like to read and try and get published in these – even if that means you are publishing updates on the automotive industry in a car magazine!
  8. Participate in client relationship management teams: you would be surprised what you can learn from CRM team meetings. I’ve seen millions of dollars generated in these groups over the years. But here’s the thing: you and your firm need to be engaged and willing to share information in order for it to work.
  9. Sector group meetings: same as 8 above, only along the lines of a sector rather than a specific client. Here, think back to how successful study groups were for you at high school or university – where you all shared information to help each other improve. Well the same principle applies, only the rewards can be [financially] much greater!
  10. Be visible: offer to spend one day a week or month working in your client’s office(s). Don’t charge them for it, just ask if you can use an office there. Then let them drop by for a coffee and a chat. You’ll be surprised by how many potential new matters you’ll have by the end of the day!
  11. Industry events: attend and participate in as many as you can. Not only are they great for networking, but they’re also good for insights from business leaders into the direction the market is heading. So, if you haven’t already, head off and join your local chamber of commerce or industry body organisation.
  12. Study: study broadens the mind. It also brings you into contact with likeminded people who might need your help. So if studying is your thing, this is an excellent venue where you can not only build your reputation as being a knowledgeable thought leader, but also bring you into contact with people who may need your help.
  13. Be social: don’t spend every waking hour at the office, be social. Attend your local sports or drama club events, because you never know who you might meet at these venues and the next person you meet could well be your biggest client this year!
  14. Accept feedback: always be willing to accept feedback as this will likely result in: (i) a platform where trust can be built, in that if your client sees that you are willing to listen to their feedback and improve your service delivery based on that feedback, they’re more likely to trust your abilities going forward (and this is true even where you make mistakes), and (ii) you being more aware of forthcoming work than you might otherwise have been.
  15. Always be willing to ask for help: lastly, always be willing to ask for help. That can be in the form of a mentor, coach, business trainer or rainmaker. It could be as simple as asking for help being introduced to someone you don’t know but want to get to know. How it’s done is not the important part, it’s in the asking: keep in mind that everyone, and I do mean everyone, has or will need someone else’s help at some point. And at some point, someone will ask you for your help – so give generously if you can!

There you go then, 15 ways for you and your firm to find business development opportunities going forward this year  – and if you can think of any more, let me know via the comments section.

#BizDevTip: The 10% Rule…

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…states that:

only 10% of the people who follow,  connect or read what we have to say on Social Media give a damn about our particular brand of message.

The rest are just making up the numbers.

Or, is it the case that we really believe there is a Silent Majority who are listening to our story, what we have to say:

where 90% of the people who follow, connect or read what we write and say on Social Media really care about our particular brand of message?

So, next time you write something for consumption by, and distribution to, others on Social Media, I would like to recommended that you ask yourself:

  • Why am I writing this?
  • Who am I writing this for?
  • And does it make any difference to me if nobody reads this?

Because you may be seriously jeopardising your sanity and wasting a whole lot of your time if you take this Social Media thing all too seriously.

#BizDevTip: The only KPI that matters is client satisfaction

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Whether you are a newly admitted lawyer or an old-hand, in an industry that revolves around a 12-month cycle the one thing that you can be sure of is that you’ll be subject to a lot of internal and external reporting metrics.

These might be the service standards imposed by clients, such as the need to respond to phone calls or emails within a certain number of hours. Or they could be driven by the firm you work for, such as meeting an annual revenue budget. More than likely, they’ll be a combination of both.

And the metrics may even change over time, to determine whether you are being efficient or effective.

But the one thing you can be absolutely certain of is that the only key performance indicator (KPI) that has any meaning whatsoever is whether or not your client is satisfied with the job you are doing.

Sure you need to worry about revenue. You even need to worry about profitability. Pro bono and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are important. But none of this matters a darn if your clients aren’t satisfied.

Which is why it is absolutely astonishing that as much as:

 “94% of global law firms clients were not asked for any formal feedback from their primary law firm”

–  Acritas Sharpelegal2013

By all means, keep big data. Even mine the information and undertake data analysis. Do whatever it is you need to do to keep your law firm running.

But remember, giving your client the opportunity to provide you with formal, and impartial, feedback on your performance is one of the very few real differentiators left.

And if you are one of the 6% of global firms that are doing this, then there is every chance your firm really is one of the few that is standing out from the crowd.

And if not, you’re really only providing an easily commoditized service.