In this week’s Rainmaking Recommendation, trainer and expert, Jaimie Field, talks with us about what to expect post-lockdown.
Let’s start with the obvious: Nothing will ever be the same.
And in many instances, this is not a bad thing.
While we can talk about all of the changes that have happened in our day-to-day lives that will forever alter how we live our lives. But let’s just talk about how the legal industry has changed (and should continue to evolve.)
For example, it was once thought that lawyers and law firm personnel could not work from home. And even though there have been law firms who have been successfully cloud-based for several years, like Fisher Broyles and Culhane Meadows, there has been a reluctance on the part of other mid-market and large firms to take the leap voluntarily.
However, that ended when law firms were pushed to become virtual. And, once the kinks were worked out of technology that some firms experienced, law firm management found that not only could lawyers work from home, but many were more productive.
Also, during the past few months, for many law firms communication between the management of the firm and its employees became more transparent and happened on a more frequent basis. Zoom calls for firms weekly became the norm so that “pockets of predictability,” as Dr. Larry Richard suggested in his article The Psychology of Leadership During a Crisis, could be maintained to alleviate some of the fears that attorneys and firm personnel may have had during this time.
Now, I do not believe that most law firms will become fully virtual, particularly the largest firms, but the smart firms will allow their attorneys and personnel the choice to work from home (at least a few days per week). And continued communication between management and the rest of the firm should become the norm regardless of whether lawyers are back in physical offices or not.
All of this begs the question, how will Lawyer Marketing and Business Development change?
I believe this is best described as everything old is new again, but with a twist.
When I was growing up, my father and grandfather, both lawyers, had personal relationships with every one of their clients. Not that they were best friends with them, but they knew about their lives AND businesses. They knew personal information about their clients – even though both had many corporate clients with whom they worked. They wrote down information in their clients’ files and put reminders on their paper calendars to contact their clients on certain days of the year. They sent out birthday and anniversary cards, they celebrated family milestones with their clients like births, graduations, and weddings. They knew their clients’ hobbies and socialized with them. They were friendly (again, not necessarily best friends) with almost all of their clients and were available to them. And they rarely ever lost a client to another attorney, even when they raised their billing rates.
And so when I began practicing law, this is the way I operated. And for almost 20 years of teaching business development, every single one of my clients has been taught to do the same.
But, for many lawyers, caring about clients outside the scope of the legal work we are doing for them went by the wayside a long time ago. It became about making sure that the work was done and the hours were billed. Lawyers became too busy to follow up with clients and prospects and to do business development activities that would help them grow their books of business (my least favorite excuse).
Business development became about pushing out information to showcase your authority on a subject, and pitching “commercials” for your services under the guise of social media marketing. There’s nothing wrong with that. Attorneys still need to do that. But it makes it so much easier for clients to go elsewhere when they do not have a relationship with their attorney because there are always other attorneys who have the same knowledge and authority as you. Particularly when a few of the large law firms are raising their billing rates to extraordinary levels ($1,000+ an hour for a senior associate in a bankruptcy proceeding???) and clients are seeking to lower their legal costs.
Since 2002, when I began teaching and coaching attorneys, I have stressed to my clients the necessity of creating relationships with prospects, clients, and referral sources. I have always taught “Relationships = Rainmaking.” And, it became more imperative to do so during this unusual time in our history.
Everyone in the world has been affected by the events that have occurred. And most just want to know that others are out there who can empathize, sympathize, and actually care about them. And for the past three months, I have been highlighting this need in several different Rainmaking Recommendations (here, here, here, here, and here).
So what’s going to change in Lawyer marketing and business development?
Attorneys should continue to treat their clients like human beings and not just a billable hour. Just because things may move towards what it was like before the world turning upside down, as I said before, it will never be the same. But now, instead of just using a filing system and a paper calendar we can use technology to track all of the information – for example, a great CRM system. And instead of just calling them on the phone – which I still advocate – you can use social media, and virtual meeting platforms to contact your clients. The old and the new.
And, in addition to personalizing your marketing for each client (which, by the way, can be done with automation and just a few tweaks), attorneys must keep an eye on the current events which affect the world and their clients.
In the past two weeks, those firms and attorneys who used automated social media posting programs and forgot to turn them off, and those who were posting on social media like nothing was happening when there were protests, riots, and looting, were sending out marketing messages that were entirely insensitive and tone-deaf.
Get to know your clients. I mean really get to know your clients. That’s what they want and if the various crises we have been dealing with lately could teach you anything, it is the law firm tag lines which claim “we value (or care about) our clients” have resulted in more attorneys living those tenets lately, and they should continue to do so.
Creating that relationship, the one with strong bonds with your clients, will lead to more work, and more referrals because (and you’ve seen this many times in my blogs) people do business with people, they know, like, and trust.