In most of the world, it’s been pretty hot, and many of you are either on holiday, or getting ready to leave for holiday. I know that the LAST thing you want to think about is building relationships for business development. But I’ve got an easy challenge for you that will set you up nicely to return to the office in September with some stronger connections and potential for added business, while your colleagues are working to catch up.
Are you stuck thinking that business development is too big of a hurdle? Read today’s guest post from rainmaking expert and trainer, Jaimie Field, to find out why it’s not rocket science.
On Saturday, July 20, 2019, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Think about this for a moment. 50 years ago, technology was rudimentary comparatively speaking to today’s tech (and even tomorrow’s tech). Yet, they were able to land a man on the moon. Continue Reading
Today, I’m bringing you a guest post on a topic near and dear to my heart – collaboration. Gareth Stephenson, of Top3Legal has a different take on it, from his experience, which may be useful as you engage further in your own collaborative efforts.
In-house counsel are increasingly recognising the benefits of collaboration – this occurs within their teams, with counsel at other companies and also with their law firms.
One of the main areas where they look to collaborate is deciding which external lawyer to instruct and especially when they are looking for a lawyer in a new practice area or country. Top 3 Legal’s research showed that they are 8 times more likely to ask a colleague, or a friend at another company, to recommend a new lawyer than they are to use traditional legal directories.
In particular, there is a growing realisation amongst in-house counsel that their team’s combined and pooled experience of external lawyers around the world is powerful and can provide many benefits if they can find a way to harness and leverage it. Top 3 Legal’s Team Sheets were launched recently for this purpose.
Collaboration within companies’ teams and with peers at other companies
Looking first at collaboration within companies’ in-house legal teams around the world, our experience is that few companies actually have efficient systems for pooling – and, even more importantly, sharing – information on external lawyers around their global teams. In fact, we were surprised to be asked by several companies to update the Top 3 Legal platform to allow in-house counsel to be able to click on their colleagues’ profiles around the world to see what areas of legal expertise they cover. For example, an in-house lawyer in Eastern Europe explained that he knew which external lawyers to instruct in his region but often needed to instruct someone in Mexico – he knew he had colleagues in Mexico but didn’t have any way of knowing who the best colleagues to contact were or of finding out which lawyers they were using.
Following on from this, the degree of sophistication with which in-house legal teams exchange their views on external lawyers varies hugely. Many keep Word documents or spreadsheets, but these are not necessarily user-friendly or immediately available. Top 3 Legal’s Team Sheets make detailed information on all of a company’s external lawyers instantly available to their global team and encourage in-house teams to collaborate by adding recommendations of individual lawyers and by sharing private notes about their experience of working with those lawyers. In short, people listen to, and are much more influenced by, people they know and trust.
Also, companies are not just interested in the GC / partner level relationships. They know that the majority of the work is done by law firm associates who interact with all levels of their team and their shared experiences of these associates are equally important. They also want to see the detailed profiles of these associates to check their relevant experience – in respect of both the work type and sector experience. Recent research published by LexisNexis suggested that clients are now less-focussed on sector experience, but our client responses suggest an increased focus on lawyers having relevant sector experience – or, as one senior in-house counsel expressed it, seeing what sector experience they haven’t got.
Another example of collaboration within an organisation is an Australian company that is now using Top 3 Legal. One of their drivers in setting up a Team Sheet was the fact that their legal team was very small and so they were now letting functions such as HR and Finance (i.e. non-lawyers) instruct external lawyers themselves and they wanted those colleagues to have the benefit of the pooled experiences of the legal team as to which external lawyer would best be able to help them.
Collaborating in these ways provides many benefits. In addition to the obvious advantage of being able to instruct a lawyer informed by knowledge and trust, it also enables companies to manage their external lawyers better by ensuring more consistent use of their preferred (or panel law firm) lawyers. In turn, this reduces legal risk and can also realise consequent fee deal benefits – for example, volume discounts and a stronger bargaining position for asking a law firm to provide secondees.
Collaboration amongst GCs at different companies is also becoming easier and more structured as many organisations and networks have been established with collaboration at their core. I have lost count of the number of times in the last year I have heard a GC say that law firms don’t realise they talk to each other. Hearing this so often was one of the drivers for Top 3 Legal creating private networks of in-house counsel which enable them immediately to see whether any of their friends or contacts have recommended particular lawyers and to help inform them when searching for a lawyer in a new work area or location.
Collaboration with law firms
However, one area where in-house counsel are looking to collaborate more is in their relationships with their external law firms. Many counsel immediately fall silent if asked to give examples of where their law firms have collaborated with them – or even tried to. Many law firms are ideally placed to do so given the number of legal tech solutions they are now using or assessing. So, what stops them? Some clients blame a lack of collaboration generally within law firms. They experience individual partners guarding the client relationship and being reluctant to involve other partners. We’ve encountered similar examples a couple of times since launching Top 3 Legal’s Team Sheets – the London Corporate Head of a national firm had no interest in getting colleagues involved in a client relationship and a partner at a global law firm admitted he didn’t trust his colleagues enough for a client to have direct access to them.
Fortunately, these have been isolated examples with the vast majority of partners Top 3 Legal has engaged with clearly seeing the benefits of introducing colleagues to broaden and expand their overall client relationships.
One area which has perhaps been surprising though is that not all law firms clearly designate an overall Relationship Partner for individual clients. This becomes very apparent when clients ask multiple offices of a law firm to add their lawyers’ profiles to that client’s Team Sheet on Top 3 Legal. For both the client and us, it can feel like you’re dealing with different law firms. Contrast that with where a Relationship Partner immediately assumes control of the request and we see a consistent, coordinated response with the partner ensuring that all relevant areas of the firm are engaged. Clients notice this – and they notice even more if they have asked for, say, three offices to be included and one has been ignored.
There are many easy wins for law firms to collaborate with their clients but it will require a change of emphasis from focusing on billings to sitting down with clients to understand the issues they’re facing and getting their tech and innovation teams to help suggest solutions.
Gareth Stephenson is CEO and a Co-Founder of Top 3 Legal (www.top3legal.com). Top 3 Legal is an online platform that is redefining how companies find the right external lawyer to instruct and how they manage their ongoing law firm relationships, informed by knowledge and trust. Companies quickly and easily create Team Sheets of their external lawyers. Their team then has a fully searchable and up-to-date Team Sheet for all its relationship lawyers across different firms around the world. They can also overlay the lawyer profiles with their own notes and recommendations to assist their colleagues.
One of the questions I am asked most often is about how to manage relationships when we’re all so busy – and we are ALL so busy these days!
LinkedIn is a great tool for professionals (even lawyers!) to employ to efficiently and effectively develop relationships without a huge time investment. Yes, like with any social media, you have to be somewhat diligent about not getting sucked in to it and losing time, but with some time management safeguards in place, it’s possible to maximize your use of it without wasting your efforts.
Make Your Use of LinkedIn Effortless
My guess is that using LinkedIn isn’t top of mind for you, and that’s fine. For most of us, unless something is part of a habit or ritual for us, we have to work extra hard to make sure that it happens. I’m not trying to add to that burden by suggesting you try to remember to check LinkedIn, so let’s try two small changes that allow you to use it more regularly:
- First, in most browsers, you can set up the home page or pages you’d like it to open to when you start up the program. This will differ from browser to browser, but my tip for you is to make one of your startup pages LinkedIn, so that each morning when you start up your browser, it’s already there for you. Perhaps there is even a group or two with clients and potential clients, and you’d benefit from setting those up as individual pages to visit and check each day as well. You can set up your home page so that you can review your LinkedIn feed quickly each day. You may even want to set up some pages temporarily, so that if you have a client meeting coming up, or want to keep track of a particular client’s activities, you are reviewing their company page on LinkedIn daily.
- Second, if you haven’t already, download the LinkedIn app for your phone. It’s a very robust and easy-to-use app, and you can start to make it a best practice to check the app any time you’re waiting somewhere in line. Waiting for coffee? Check your notifications. Waiting for the elevator? Look at new connections. Waiting for the train? Look through your feed.
We’re all busy people, so we should be making these tools work for us. It only takes a few minutes to do the above, and then you’ll be on your way!
Although we ARE all busy people, it’s a huge pet peeve of mine when someone uses it as an excuse – essentially, what they’re saying is that they don’t prioritize you. In some cases, that’s fine, but when it comes to your clients, potential clients, as well as others you may want to be building relationships with, such as amplifiers, influencers, and referral sources, that is NOT the message you want to be sending (even if you feel that it’s true).
LinkedIn makes the social side of their site/app pretty easy for us, and you don’t have to invest a lot of time in it to be getting a lot out of it. Now that you have the site set to automatically open on your browser, and you’re reviewing it on your phone whenever you have some waiting time, you can scroll through to interact with your connections:
- Read a LinkedIn post that someone has written and “like” or share it.
- Read an article that someone has shared, and comment on it, like it, or share it.
- “Like” someone’s status update.
- Congratulate someone who has changed jobs (and make note if that someone may be able to give or refer you business – it might be time to call them up to ask them to lunch).
- Answer a question someone has asked.
All of those things remind people that you’re connected to them, and let them know that you’re paying attention and care about what they’re up to. Periodically, it’s a good idea to pick someone from your list of connections and meet them face to face – find out who you may be attending a conference with, or invite someone from your city to have coffee or lunch. Relationship-building through social media does take work, but with a constant drip-drip of your attention, the investment is minimal.
If you tend to be someone who might get lost in scrolling, reading and commenting, then set a timer for ten minutes or so, and when the timer is up, close out of LinkedIn and move on. And of course, there will be days that you don’t have time to spend looking at any of this, and that’s fine too. LinkedIn will be there for you to come back to.
Although using LinkedIn to broadcast your own news and expertise can be valuable, it is equally (if not more, in some cases) essential to leverage your relationships through your LinkedIn connections by actively engaging with them. This doesn’t have to take a tremendous amount of time or effort, if you handle it strategically.
Today’s post from rainmaking expert and trainer, Jaimie Field, comes at a fortuitous moment – I’m in the middle of reading “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal,” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, which delves into the balancing of energy in four key areas in order to maximize your performance. We tend to believe that pushing forward all the time is the key to success, but there is great evidence to suggest that taking breaks (not just extended vacation breaks, but short breaks during the workday) are key to doing your job more effectively and efficiently. It sounds like a cop out, but I’ve been working to implement some of their suggestions in my life this week in places where I see the most issues, and I can already feel a difference in sustainability and focus. I highly recommend picking up the book!
While my last Rainmaking Recommendation told you that you should not allow the summer months to make you lazy in your business development activities, since tomorrow is the 4th of July in the United States, a National holiday, this Rainmaking Recommendation is devoted to telling you that you NEED to take time for yourself. Take a vacation, even if it is only a few days, to rest and recharge. Continue Reading
Remember the good old days when we just did a bunch of things and didn’t have specialized terms for them? Yep, these aren’t them.
“Social media marketing” came about when social media platforms were introduced and we learned how to use online technology to build relationships that we’d previously been building offline (that’s tremendously simplified, but you get the idea). Then “content marketing” came along to describe what many law firms had been doing for years – writing about the law and its impact on their clients, and then sharing it with them. As a term, content marketing is broader than that, but in terms of the legal industry, that’s pretty much the short version.
As we worked through the introduction of the terms, we separated people into two camps: the “broadcasters” and the “engagers.” The “broadcasters” treated social media and content marketing as a means to spread their message around, but without the end goal of developing community with anyone. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different valuation – some of the goals that firms/lawyers who embrace this philosophy might be pursuing are reputation enhancement, being considered a thought leader on a particular subject, etc. Many firms/lawyers have been successful, and even built a large following this way, and spend little or no time engaging with their audience. Continue Reading
These days, it seems that everyone is looking for a quick fix to everything. How do I get clients fast? How can I do business development without being directly involved myself? How can I skip ahead to the final steps?
Unfortunately, as with anything worthwhile, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
If you want to have successful client relationships, and professional relationships in general, it’s necessary to start with the basics. The good news is that there are two easy fixes you can implement today that will improve your image, raise the caliber of your relationships, and aid in your business development efforts. I know that sounds too good to be true, and as if I’m some sort of snake oil salesman, but I promise, it’s true. Continue Reading
In our discussions over the last few years about the future of the law firm, the one thing that has become abundantly clear is that for lawyers and firms to be successful, they will have to learn to collaborate effectively and efficiently. In her book, Heidi Gardner calls this “Smart Collaboration.” I had the chance to see Gardner present at the CLOC conference in February, and recently finished her book, and I can’t recommend it enough – for anyone in professional services looking to be successful over the next ten years, this is a must-read.
Gardner looks at collaboration from a few distinct viewpoints, and makes the case for it in a variety of ways. The one that strikes me initially is her final chapter, in which she discusses collaboration from the point of view of the client. Clients are deeply committed to the idea of collaboration, but obviously, they want to make sure that they’re paying for good value. Not surprisingly, collaboration is good for both the firm and the client. I’m not going to go into the reasons why your firm should be investing in the idea of smart collaboration (think better success in the war for talent/clients; doing higher value work more efficiently and effectively; being a differentiator, etc.) but instead, I want to look at the reasons why collaboration adds value for your clients, and specifically, how members of a law firm network can use their membership to effectively communicate this value and enhance their collaborative skills. Continue Reading
In today’s Rainmaking Recommendations post, expert and coach, Jaimie Field is discussing a pet peeve of mine, slacking on your business development in the summer. Read on to find out why you may want to double down instead.
Want to be a Rainmaker? Then it doesn’t matter what time of year it is.
Many people, lawyers included, tend to go on Rainmaking hiatus when summer rolls around. For some, the kids are out of school, vacations are being taken, and there are half-days on Fridays. But now is not the time to slack off. Continue Reading