After more than 25 years in the professional services marketing business, a person forms an opinion or two. This is extremely true for us at EM Consulting. In our Extremely Opinionated blog, our goal is to share ideas and opinions with you that might stimulate your thinking about marketing and business development.
The results of the 2019 Altman Weil annual Law Firms in Transition is receiving well-deserved interest from law firm leadership. This year, 362 law firms participated in this annual benchmarking survey. The good news is that most law firms are experiencing improved financial performance. And the issues surrounding what clients are expecting is becoming clearer. Lawyers are busier, per se, and many firms have raised rates.
According to the results, managing partners have long accepted the fact that there is a permanent trend in how the practice of law is and will be practiced. Change is continuing. But increased profits have some law firm leaders relaxing a bit about the impending discussions of “doom” about how the practice of law is changing. Is the sky really falling?
Apparently the sky has not fallen. But at the same time forward thinking firm leaders recognize that high collaboration with firm clients is increasingly essential. And according to the survey, almost all firm leaders agree that the pace of change will remain high or even accelerate.
What do Clients Want?
While clients may not be looking for the low cost leader they are seeking greater transparency and accountability in the delivery of legal services. Over 50% of the firms responded that they are invested in capturing data on the cost of their services. The basics of strong experience and expertise along with a high level of communication, good service and efficient processes remain important criteria for clients when choosing outside firms. And a whopping 96% of law firm leaders agreed that a focus on increased efficiency, and perhaps with it better predictability and innovation, are areas clients are seeking.
A clear, strong and distinctive law firm brand remains important to clients. About half of the respondents of this year’s survey said their firms are clearly differentiated from the competition. But what about those firms that have yet to go through a brand development process to identify, codify and implement a clear brand which consistently supports and reflects their unique distinctions? These firms make it difficult for clients and potential clients to understand why a firm with a muddled brand should be chosen.
The survey results report 78% of firms have created a more collaborative culture resulting in improved firm performance. Altman Weil suggests compensation systems should reward increased collaboration and better client service.
The survey did not explore additional issues that are increasingly vocalized by legal departments such as which technologies are preferred, how they use artificial intelligence, or how to incorporate problem solving solutions such as process mapping to minimize pain points.
Altman Weil’s 2019 Survey states that the demand for law firm services has been flat for years and that the acquisition of new clients is essential for continued growth and sustainability. And according to the summary, managing partners are highly concerned about the impending recession. The sky may not be falling but savvy law firm leaders are making sure their firms are realistically facing the changing landscape in the practice of law to secure their futures.
Helping professionals, managers and staff increase communication effectiveness.
Why is it that at times we easily resonate with certain individuals while at other times we find ourselves frustrated with others? Quite obviously we may be speaking different “languages.” Communication style or “language” often has a great impact on how effectively we work together and on what we can accomplish with others.
Learning about personal styles will help you get a deeper understanding of your own preferred style of communication. But it will also help you understand other’s best communication style. This will improve your ability to more meaningfully interact with colleagues and clients and will positively influence how they perceive what you are asking them to do.
The I-SPEAK Communications Style program explores four styles, helps professionals discover their own personal style and teaches new ways to communicate with others. The I-Speak goal is to develop greater awareness of other styles and create more productive, effective working relationships. The bottom line: Increase your communication effectiveness in a shorter amount of time.
The program is based on these premises:
- People have recognizable and preferred communication styles.
- It is possible, after relatively short exposure to a person, to identify his/her style.
- People communicate most effectively with individuals whose styles are similar to their own, and they have greater difficulty with people who exhibit dissimilar communications styles.
- People can modify their styles to “speak the language” of others.
I-SPEAK teaches how to determine communication styles (both their own and those of others) and helps them to use this knowledge to foster enhanced communications. These skills are readily applied to improving internal communication within our organization as well as other professionals you whom you communicate.
Imagine how thrilled a client would be if you offered this program to better increase communication and productive outcomes while working together.
Each of the four personality styles has unique strengths and qualities as well as potential weaknesses and “blind spots.” No particular style is “good” or “bad.”
Can you recognize your primary style of communication?
Conceptual, synthesizer, idea people, problem solvers, leaders and long- range thinkers. Intuitors derive great satisfaction from considering the world of possibilities. Often their input serves as a catalyst for those around them. They assume others see things as they do, they expect their actions and communication to be self-evident and understood by most.
(Intuitors intuitively make leaps of logic that others may find difficult to follow.)
Analyzer, systematic, logical, step by step, concrete and sequential. Thinkers place high value in objectivity and orderly inquiry. They are disciplined and deliberate decision makers. They assume others see things as they do.
(Thinkers are results oriented individuals and value thoughtful examination.)
Perceptive, facilitative, responsive to others, big hearted, supportive. Feelers enjoy personal relationships and are responsive to the needs of others. They are keenly attuned to subtle changes in other’s moods and are astute in “reading between the lines.”
(Feeler types place great value on the personal experience and want harmony.)
Concrete, pragmatic, detail oriented, realistic, quick to put into action. They are here-and-now oriented and thrive on getting things done in the present moment without time-consuming deliberations. They are known for their ability to get things done and are likely to express a direct and energetic approach to work and life.
(Sensers enjoy making things happen and want concrete and immediate feedback.)
As individuals come to recognize and acknowledge the influence of their own style on their thoughts and actions, each begins to appreciate the importance that other people’s styles hold for them. This understanding improves the ability to more meaningfully interact with others, and will positively influence how others perceive you.
Interestingly enough we all tend to alter our communication style a bit when under stress. So do your co-workers and clients! Think of the advantage you can have if you know how to best take in information during heightened and more stressful times. The I-Speak program offers a 15-minute self-assessment which will determine, with great accuracy, an individual’s specific day-to-day communication style and their style when under stress. Consider the advantages for both you, your staff and clients.
Merry Neitlich, managing principal of EM Consulting is an approved I-Speak trainer. Depending on your needs, we can provide test administration and results interpretation during a 2-hour interactive engaging program.
For questions or to take the I-SPEAK Personal Styles Inventory please contact Merry at merry@EMconsults.org www.EMconsults.org
This ARK Group book was just released. I was pleased to be tapped to write a chapter on the specific steps a legal department can take to increase efficiency, predictability and collaboration with outside firms.
Information about purchasing the book can be found here: http://ow.ly/cw5A30o0lN7
The following is the ARK Group description of the book.
“The contemporary legal landscape is no longer a rigid hierarchy composed of limited and complacent behemoths, but rather an ecosystem, filled with a wide variety of players that facilitate disruption and revolution and jostle for clients’ attention with agility and innovation. This includes – but is certainly not limited to – entities such as technology companies, consultants, alternative legal service providers, and paraprofessionals.
“Law firms are not the only ones in this environment that must adapt or fail; the legal department and in-house counsel, too, must transform in order to remain relevant and competitive.
“The world of the general counsel (GC) has already seen massive shifts – ever-increasing globalization has meant more legal issues and corporate activism, which in turn has generated new challenges and heightened demand. The GC cannot simply act in the role of outsourcer of work to external counsel, as in the past. With the growth of legal departments (it is now not uncommon for legal departments to number in the hundreds or even thousands, often formed of expensive lateral hires) the GC must now wear a number of hats, including that of the “CEO” of their department.
“The introduction of data analysis into the legal space and the oft-repeated mantra of “less with more” has meant that the GC must now think in terms of spend and budget more than ever before, transforming the legal department from a cost-center to a value-add. They must cultivate a breadth and scope of vision, able to organize and lead their department as an innovator. The flourishing legal ops role also provides yet another challenge for the GC. As the incorporation of legal ops within the law department becomes increasingly essential, the GC must work to ensure alignment and manage change.
“The present time has been hailed as the golden age of in-house lawyering, yet – and perhaps because of this – it is an uncertain and challenging time for the GC. Tipping Point: Transformation and Innovation in the Legal Department is intended as a handbook for the GC looking to build a truly modern legal department and revolutionize their role. Encompassing aspects from leveraging influence with the c-suite to reimagining organizational hierarchies and seeking the right operational professional, this publication features contributions from those at the frontiers of the profession as it transforms and embraces new areas of expertise”.
Websites these days can create “high-engagement” if they are designed to offer fresh content which will attract clients, potential clients and repeat visitors. Many law firm websites are outdated and not built with the technology for easy to post strong content which would assist clients in meeting their business goals. Law firms of all sizes should be considering updating to current technologies and website strategies in order to stay relevant and to bring in new business.
When law firms jumped into having websites, most were not designed to extend the firm’s brand and disseminate thought-leadership content. These days, firms must view their websites as more than an electronic version of old-fashioned printed brochures. In this old model, bios and practice area descriptions were considered to be the most important content—and client focused content, such as articles, blog posts, and thought-leaderships pieces, were not offered. Even today, many law firms don’t publish fresh and relevant content on their websites. Rather, they do not update their websites to engage their coveted audiences. Some may post fresh content on their blogs or social media outlets, which does not engage viewers to stay on their website and learn more about the firm, its capabilities and unique differentiators.
Fortunately, this is changing. As the market for legal services has become more competitive firms have begun creating more content as a means of distinguishing themselves from the competition. These firms are seeing their websites as publishing opportunities yielding increased website engagement.
The bottom line is that law firms must invest in themselves and consistently develop fresh and client-focused content to maximize the return on their investment. It only makes sense that now, even firms that have resisted, are stepping up and revamping their websites to maximize the chance that visitors will read the firm’s best reputation-enhancing content and engage more thoroughly on their websites.
With years of helping law firms create client-centric and business development focused websites, we, at EM Consulting, are poised to help your firm maximize the return of investing in your website.
LinkedIn is about content sharing, not social engagements. Clients, referral sources and potential clients develop a strong understanding of an attorney’s or firm’s areas of expertise by reading a steady sharing of industry or practice specific relevant information. Many firms have great success turning content marketing into content sales with this approach. But lately, we seem to be seeing more and more social posts; the kind a reader might expect from other social media platforms such as Facebook.
As changes in the legal landscape continue to increase, most law firms, thank goodness, have given up the dated 16-page full color snail mailed newsletter that covered an ocean of topics and services offered by a firm. Most firms have successfully segued into meaningful and focused snack sized bites of content marketing in specific areas for their various online channels such as websites, blogs, and social media. The goal of content marketing, which leads to content selling, is to increase the position and demonstrate a strong knowledge base of a firm’s and/or individual’s expertise on a precise subject.
Clients and potential clients are always seeking strong and pertinent updates and information. Posting germane industry and practice content and news increases a professional’s relevancy and position in the marketplace. Enhancing a firm’s or professional’s expertise in a specific area can make the difference between not being known or seen or getting on the short list when clients and potential clients are looking for strong expertise.
Is your firm having trouble finding ideas for strong content? There are many ways to achieve this. Consider starting by asking your clients, and those in the industries you are targeting, what types of information would be helpful. This is also a great way to reach out to clients and potential clients to start or to enhance a relationship. We often use an online tool www.answerthepublic.com which can assist in defining and then refining content ideas.
We know it takes time and consistency to raise visibility and make significant inroads into the LinkedIn marketplace. Those businesses and professionals that take content sales and social media seriously will start to see significant upticks in their results. This takes some time and an increase in the comments they make on their connections’ posts. Engagement also increases as professionals share and comment on their LinkedIn connections’ posts. Commenting on a post triggers LinkedIn to send an email to that person to let them know you read and commented on it – fabulous engagement. This does not happen if you simply “Like” a post. The only way a connection will see that you “Liked” their post is if they take the time to visit the analytics LinkedIn offers.
Content should be varied and can include short updates as well as published LinkedIn articles which can both be created on the LinkedIn Home page. LinkedIn automatically places these articles on the writer’s Profile page. These short articles have a two-fold benefit as they also become permanently part of one’s LinkedIn Profile which demonstrates skill and knowledge when others are checking them out.
Lately, it seems there has been an increase in diluting an individual’s or firm’s brand with too many social posts on LinkedIn. The occasional post about an office’s activities or community supported organization can be powerful in expanding a brand message. However, the recent uptick in more personal and social posts, which are more suited for other social media platforms, is alarming.
Have you noticed the recent increase in the number of posts on LinkedIn about pets, restaurants, vacations, or family outings? This type of engagement is more suited to other social media outlets such as Facebook.
LinkedIn, according to Forbes, is the number one business social media platform. We advise our clients to post about business, industry news, sharing information learned at conferences, short articles to help clients achieve their business goals, and even comments or analysis from reposting a relevant business article. Don’t forget to include quotes from clients and industry experts to further round out and demonstrate your business expertise and knowledge.
LinkedIn is a social platform but it is focused on business. You might consider that fact before you post your next restaurant review or vacation photo. Content marketing leads to content engagement and sales. Let’s leave the kitten videos to Facebook or Instagram.
As law firms start to fully embrace collaboration as their way into the future, the Music Man, played by Robert Preston, uses the “Think Method” to teach his young band members how to play – just think the minuet in E minor and you can play it! However, in reality this strategy does not play too well when working to effect real change. This article explains how.
There are a few easy tasks every LinkedIn user can do to easily improve the impact of their LinkedIn profile. Here are several to consider.
The cover image behind your profile picture starts with the default standard turquoise blue background with the lines running through it. You can make a greater impact by selecting a custom image that is 1584 x 394 pixels. (If you are not adept at this, any graphic artist can convert an image for you.) For example, you can take your company logo or an interesting horizontal image from your website and insert that easily into the cover image slot. This immediately makes you stand out from the literally millions of LinkedIn users who stay with the staid turquoise cover image. The down side of staying with this default image is it tends to say, “I don’t use LinkedIn very much.”
Another easy thing to accomplish is to update your Headline statement. Many users type in their firm name in their headline when LinkedIn has already automatically inserted your company name on the right side of your Profile page just under your cover image. Why not take this opportunity to customize your Headline turning it into something that articulates exactly what you do. For example rather than repeat your firm name there, write something more compelling in this space such as, “Trial Attorney Specializing in Business Litigation and Attorney Malpractice.”
Our final tip: review your Profile Summary. You can find it just under your cover image. In your Summary, do you repeatedly say, “I do this, and I do that?” Do you have long paragraphs that seem to go on and on? Or do you take the time to create a more branded approach and describe what you do and how you solve problems for people? We always recommend keeping the copy to two short paragraphs and then perhaps listing specific skills or services that you offer. Keep this simple format so readers can quickly ascertain who you are, what you do and how you do it. Keep some of those details about your firm or company for the “Experience” portion below the Profile Summary.
These few updates can assist those who view your Profile page to get a clearer understanding of what you do. After all, according to research from Forbes, over 60% of individuals will check you out on LinkedIn before they will go to your company website. Don’t you check out contacts or potential contacts on LinkedIn this way?
Law firms are increasingly gaining a deeper and more refined understanding that strong branded efforts can have on a firm’s bottom line. Branding uncovers that unique position and differentiation from other firms in the same space. Corporate America has been successfully utilizing branding forever. When the awareness of branding first began to get the attention of law firms, most were skeptical – it was something new and quite different. Many doubted it was more than just smoke and mirrors. These days, law firms and other professional service providers are gaining client share by developing strong brands and then consistently using their unique messaging throughout their websites, blogs, client pitches, content marketing, events and advertising. This article on JD Supra provides a detailed look at how to use branding as your firm’s strategic asset in developing marketing and business development plans that yield results.
The legal profession has come a long way, baby. Social media marketing has taken a firm hold in the legal profession. At this point only the laggards remain uninvolved in any social media. And to think the ABA Technology Committee published this quote back in 2016, “Taking control of your online presence is a necessity, and there are few better ways to do so than social media. Used carefully, social media can give your firm a voice, amplify your professional reputation, and help drive new business.”
Content marketing is king but the crown jewel of content marketing is allowing your knowledge to shine through storytelling. I mean who doesn’t want to hear a great story? By combining fresh content in your area of expertise or brand with stories about your industry, clients, organizations and experiences, attorneys can provide interesting and compelling reading to clearly and meaningfully demonstrate their knowledge and brand distinction.
Take the boutique law firm of Tredway Lumsdaine & Doyle (TLD Law). They qualified this year to become a member of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). Less than 2% of all law firms qualify. The firm recognizes the enormous opportunity it possesses to let its branded culture of diversity and inclusion shine. To TLD, it is more than just having diverse bodies in the firm, it’s also the ability to incorporate a variety of opinions, ideas and concepts when solving challenging legal issues that make this claim come alive. Fortune 500 companies seek out NAMWOLF members to help fulfil their need and/or requirement to hire minority and diverse attorneys. Storytelling, as a part of a well-defined content marketing strategy, can increase the ability for TLD Law to earn more client and potential client engagement.
The firm has embraced storytelling and branded messaging as part of its content marketing to consistently expand its presence in the marketplace with clients and potential clients.
What area(s) do you wish to promote and be known for? Once an attorney or law firm fleshes this out, it’s only a matter of time using consistent storytelling and content marketing to increase your practice’s footprint and business development success.
For attorneys still not convinced that true content marketing is the key to successful social media leading up to new business generation, check out this article.