General business development issues

Thinking of starting a podcast?

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Over the past week I’ve had three different people inform me that they were starting podcasts and ask me if I would be willing to be interviewed. Honoured as I am by such requests, I did also wonder why such interest in me and podcasts more broadly?

In mulling this over I recalled a recent podcast (5 June 2019, Podcast #227) between Sam Glover and Bob Ambrogi on ‘The State of Legal Blogging & Podcasting‘ on the Lawyerist podcast.  Listening to this again today it struck me how many great tips these two give out (for free) to anyone looking to start a podcast; some of which are (fast forward to 29 minutes into Sam’s talk to really get the best out of these):

  • are podcast a fad or here to stay?
  • has the revenue model for podcasts been worked out?
  • have we really thought through the market penetration issue (more people don’t listen to podcasts than do)?
  • is there too much content already out there? if there is, what are you doing to be a little bit different?
  • how often should you be producing material – daily, weekly, monthly?
  • should you be framing your podcast with music at the start and end?
  • what equipment should you be using?

Taking all that on board and still want to produce a podcast? Then these are three things that Sam and Bob say in their podcast that should also be considered:

  1. it’s more work than you think it is going to be
  2. it’s really tough to build a subscriber base
  3. the right people over lots of people (love this saying)

On that last point, independent of Sam and Bob’s chat, I also heard this week that the average podcast lasts 7 issues.

To help you overcome this, Bob makes a brilliant suggestion in the podcast – if you are attending a conference take your recording equipment with you. And someone who does that really, really well is Ari Kaplan.

I hope you enjoy all the links. Listen to them – they are great (and free!); and, as always, love to hear your thoughts/views/feedback.

Does your firm include client feedback sessions as part of its client agreement?

80% of firms believe they provide a great client experience. Only 8% of clients believe the experience is great.

In last week’s PSM podcast David Lecours (from whom the title this post is taken) and Josh Miles have a great chat about the issue of ‘Client Feedback’.
It’s a brilliant 28 minute chat – with loads of insight and tips and my 5 big take-outs were (in no particular order):
  1. does your firm include client feedback interviews/sessions as part of its engagement letters? – if not, how serious is your firm about this?
  2. clients who rate you between 2 and 3 (out of 5) are the ones you need to speak to the most because they’re the ones who will give you the most honest feedback.
  3. never forget to ask the interviewee: what service do you wish we could offer you that we’re not currently offering you?’, and
  4. what didn’t I ask you today that you’ve been dying for me to ask you?
So that’s 4, where’s number 5?
This comment by Josh Miles:
“even if a client is not having the best experience, just the fact that they have been asked at this point sometimes the flattery or the thought of that makes them develop a little more affinity towards the firm just by virtue of having been identified as someone that their feedback matters.”
Go over and spend 28 minutes of your life listening to a great chat on the most important part of our business – our clients!
As always though, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.

Is your law firm selling dirt?

Earlier today I heard a wonderful exchange between Mark Stiving and Reed Holden (of Pricing with Confidence fame) on Mark’s Impact Pricing podacst

I’ve lifted the following [short] transcript, of part of their conversation, straight from Mark’s website (with all credit to Mark)

Reed Holden: It would be fair to say that dirt is a commodity. Yeah. What David did is he went out and had a conversation with the customer. So David asked a couple of questions. He said you know, what do you really need from us? And he goes, well, Geez, you know, we spent a lot of time waiting for you guys to fill up the trucks. Well, why is that important as well? Because it’s costing me a hundred bucks an hour to get through your facility. Well, how would it be valuable? Who cut it in half? So sure it would save me 45 bucks an hour, 45 bucks an hour, a 16-ton truck works out to about 253 bucks a ton. And what they did is they implemented a, what I’ll call a flanking gate strategy and when you want it to the quarries that were two gates. At gate B, there was a line of trucks. At gate a, there was no line of trucks and there was a d five dozer sitting in there ready to load up the trucks. And so a sales guy would go in and have a conversation with, you know, a cement contractor or an asphalt contractor who were the primary customers. Think about it. Cement and asphalt contractors all have to bid in order to win the business. So it’s a very price-oriented business and the sales guy would go in. Then the contract will say how much, how much is your dirt today? And the sales guy would say it’s gonna cost you 11 bucks a ton. And the guy would come in said, well you have a competitor in here at 10 50 the sales coach, oh are we can meet 10 50 in fact we can meet 10 25 but you have to go through gate B and the quarry and the contracts, what’s gate B? It just not services fast. And the contract will quickly calculate that they would save money by paying a little bit more for the dirt. And you know it’s, we use it as, I mean we’ve extended that to professional services. In fact, we’ve done a lot of global work and extremely high-value professional services and both consulting and financial, the legal business. But you know, the commodity story tells it all because it, if it works in commodity, I guarantee you it works in the high-value stuff. But hit it with a simple conversation.

to which Mark replies:

Mark Stiving: Dirt. You’d think we’re selling dirt. But in truth, we’re not selling dirt. We’re selling a solution to a problem which includes using the truck as efficiently as possible as we’re delivering dirt to our customers.

So my question to you is this: ‘Is your law firm selling dirt, and if it is, what’s your solution that goes with it?’

As always, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback, but whatever you do listen to the whole episode here.

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The big squeeze is coming: Why it’s important to know if your practice is bespoke or precedent?

Hall Wang penned an interesting post on the Tom Spencer blog over the weekend that looked at two of the different types of consulting – Bespoke and Precedent (Bespoke and Precedent Driven – Understanding the Two Different Approaches to Consulting).

Wang explains the difference between the two as being:

Bespoke: This approach is like making a custom-tailored outfit whereby the focus is on what is unique about a client’s situation and then crafting a customized solution for the client. The mindset in this approach is to think about what might be possible to best fit the client’s needs.

Precedent driven: This approach is similar to the way you bake a cake using a cookbook; following the recipe, but making adjustments as time and available ingredients necessitate. The mindset is to find proven precedents and use them as a guide to provide reliable client recommendations.”

I like Wang’s terminology. I particularly like Wang’s use of ‘precedent driven‘ – an alternative to the stale and often misused ‘commoditised‘. It’s smart language, but I think it’s really important that lawyers and their support team understand the difference and workout which of the two their practice sits in.

So why is this even important?

Here’s the reason:- because if you operate a predominantly ‘precedent-based practice’, then you’re going to be feeling the forthcoming ‘big squeeze’ way more than is likely to be the case than if you run a bespoke practice.

What ‘big squeeze?’; my practice is already seeing an uptick in legal work you may be asking – see the latest Altman Weil ‘Law Firms in Transition 2019: Change Efforts Stalled in 2018 as Business Boomed‘ report for why this may be the case.

Well, as I recently blogged The State of Australian Corporate Law Departments Report 2019 has stated that “45% of Australian GCs are forecasting a decrease in their 2019 legal spend” – so ask yourself:- “Where is this massive savings going to come from?” Add to this the recent Thomson Reuters ‘Alternative Legal Services Provider Report‘ (February 2019) stat that

In just two years, revenues for alternative legal services providers have grown from $8.4 billion in 2015 to about $10.7 billion in 2017. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 12.9% over that period.

and it doesn’t take Einstein to tell you that a big (or bigger) squeeze is coming and that the middle – precedent-driven – market (where the majority of the market players sit) is going to be the epicentre of that big squeeze.

But knowing and understanding this is very important. It helps take you – as lawyers, business developers or leaders – a long way to understanding that in reality very few people want or need bespoke legal services; but what the really really really don’t want is a precedent legal service dressed up with a bespoke ‘full service’ price.

As always though, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.

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“A lawyer’s time is the only commodity that we have to sell”

Earlier today I listened to a podcast on respected legal technologist expert/journalist/speaker Ari Kaplan’s Reinventing Professionals from May 2, 2019 in which he spoke with Josh Taylor, an attorney and the lead content strategist at Smokeball, a practice management software platform that started out life here in Australia and now appears to be mainly located in Chicago (although retains a presence in Sydney and Melbourne).

The first seven minutes (out of nine) I was entertained and thought were good.  But two minutes and twelve seconds from the end Ari throws out his last question (my transcript follows so sorry for any errors) to Josh:

Where do you see the use of technology in solo practices and small firms headed?

And Josh responds:

One thing that we struggle with so much, and I have saved it to the end here Ari instead of mentioning it as a pain-point upfront, the main part of the small law practice that we see people failing at day after day is accurately tracking their time and either on the the extreme cheating a client by over estimating, which is very rare, more likely and more often we see small law firms cheating themselves by under valuing every minute they have; when I go around speaking to bar associations around the country I always say “you know a lawyer’s time is the only commodity that we have to sell, we don’t make a thousand widgets in a minute that we can then sell for the same price, we have minutes in a day that is the only thing that we can sell out to our clients” because we cannot double bill people so to value and track time accurately I think is where legal tech is going to start leading the way…

Leaving aside the whole time-based billing versus value-based billing discussion, even if you only believe in time-based billing (cost-plus or however that looks) and never want to entertain the notion of any kind of alternative pricing method, to say:

a lawyer’s time is the only commodity that we have to sell

is so far removed from reality it’s not funny.

What a lawyer’s ‘commodity’ is, is the knowledge they have acquired, the experience they acquired to be able to apply that knowledge to the situation their client is facing, and the insight to do this in a valuable and respectable way.

Regardless of how you bill – as a lawyer that is the only commodity you have to sell.

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An OmniFocus subscription – a great example of ‘charm pricing’?

Not familiar with the term ‘charm pricing’? – neither was I until I started taking the issue of pricing seriously, but at it’s core is something we (tender and pitch professionals) see daily,  the psychological effect of reducing the the left digit(s) by one so that “0” and “00” becomes “9” and “99” – i.e. $150.00 becomes either $149 or $149.99.

Why is it important?

Check out these two subscription options…

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…and let me know which you would have gone with.

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Presence of mind, not being present in the flesh

‘presenteeism’: (noun) the practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job.

Ask any lawyer if they have stayed behind at work when they weren’t needed, whether or not that’s a a manifestation of their job insecurity – and it almost is, and I’d bet all could tell you a great tale.

Mine..

I was leaving the office and put on my jacket and my partner – seeing me do this – asked if I was cold.

So, the realisation that ‘presenteeism’ exists as a problem is no secret (‘It’s a waste’: Law firms plagued by ‘presenteeism’ culture and graduate ‘sweatshops’ by Michael Pelly in the Australian Financial Review [published on Feb 22, 2019] and ‘4,200’ – why it’s a prize not worth winning on this blog highlight this issue); but what really grab my attention was an excellent article in this week’s The Economist (‘Bartleby – The joy of absence‘).

The Economist article talks to two things that really resonate with me with regard to the futility of presenteeism in the legal profession – especially as we move forward.

The first speaks to the way we were (and some would argue still are):

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce group, recently praised the 996 model, where employees work from 9am to 9pm, six days a week, as a “great opportunity”.

The second includes what is probably year-to-date one of my favourite lines (and the title of this post):

Turning an office into a prison, with inmates allowed home for the evenings, does nothing for creativity that is increasingly demanded of office workers as routine tasks are automated. To be productive you need presence of mind, not being present in the flesh.

As always though, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.

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