Law Firm Client Service

Taylor Swift is my favorite client relationship genius.

That may seem a bit strange, but when you drill down into the brilliant marketing and business development machine that she is, you’ll agree that there are a few things that Taylor does that create rabid loyalty among her fans – and I mean rabid.

Before you start asking what Tay-tay and her music have to do with the law, first, ask yourself what it would feel like to have your clients feel the same way about you as Taylor’s fans feel about her? What if your clients trusted you so implicitly that they never took their business to anyone else? What if they called you first before making a business decision, because you’re their trusted adviser? What if your clients lined up every time you wrote or spoke, because they knew what you had to say was that valuable?
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A few years ago, I wrote a post centered around the idea of needing a strong audience in order to make the content that you’re writing valuable. While content development is a piece of the overall puzzle, this idea is easily expanded, especially in today’s market. Something that I’ve heard a LOT from lawyers is that to be successful, you simply need to be a good lawyer. So that’s the question that we’re looking at today – if you build a good practice, will clients just show up?

The short answer is no. And in your hearts, you know that.

It’s simply not enough to be a good lawyer these days. You could be the BEST lawyer there is – the most technically gifted, the best educated, even the most experienced. But if no one knows who you are, does it even matter? 
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Regular Zen readers will know that I’m a runner. When you first start running, you tell yourself that it’s the cheapest sport – all you need is a pair of sneakers, and you can head outside and do it. While this is (essentially) true, we runners love our gadgets and our products, and sharing our favorites of the same.

It won’t surprise you to learn that I’m in a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to running, including a pretty large one, and we often share products we love. A popular one among the group is the sunglasses brand, Goodr, who have been known as a fun, edgy brand with glasses that stay put on your face during long, sweaty runs, have a basset hound mascot, and catchy names for their sunnies. I own three pairs myself. 
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We’ve discussed the idea of change extensively here on Zen, and although it’s a long time coming in the legal industry, there are pockets of exciting innovation. One such pocket is the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, or CLOC, which has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years (as in 40 members to 1800 members in 3 years). One of CLOC’s core tenets is bringing together the ENTIRE legal ecosystem in order to achieve real, systemic change, and that’s a tenet I can really get behind.

Last week, I had the pleasure to join their CIO/Cybersecurity Initiative task force, and it got me thinking about what’s really necessary for collaboration in the legal ecosystem (and other professional services industries, for that matter). I’d like to share with you my three tips that I saw in action during this CLOC meeting that you can implement today in your firms as you seek to ride the wave of change. 
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This post was originally published in Legal Business World on November 5, 2018

It’s no secret that the legal market is a challenging place to be today.

Mergers, non-law firm players, clients continuing to take work in-house, increasing investment in technology, changing demands from different generations…the list goes on.

With a staggering number of reasons in front of us for why change is imperative, what’s holding lawyers back? And what steps can we take to face these challenges head on? 
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A question I get ALL the time is whether using social media actually has any impact at all on referrals and business development.

Actually, the way it typically goes is this:

Come on, really. Tell me. Does anyone get matters or referrals because they post to LinkedIn?”

The short answer is yes, sometimes, it does happen. But it’s really atypical. Anyone who tells you that lawyers need to be using social media because clients see them there and hire them there is selling you something. But it IS part of a bigger picture, and as part of that picture, it’s essential. 
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“Innovation” is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot these days, right up there with “disruption.” It sounds like something that’s foreign in the legal industry, but it shouldn’t be. Believe it or not, we, too, can be innovative.

If you’ve been following along here for a while, you may know that I have a section of my bookshelf that’s dedicated to business books on my “to read” list – I love to read, but I’d rather pick up a mystery and plow through it than bury my nose into what feels like a textbook. But when I do, I’m more often than not pleasantly surprised by the inspiration that it affords me, and the comfort that it gives me in following some of my own plans and ideas moving forward. One such book is Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup (not new to many of you, I’m sure). I’m about halfway through this book that promises to show me how “today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses.”

“But law firms aren’t startups and lawyers are entrepreneurs,” I can hear you saying.

What if we were? 
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We’re already almost mid-way through September (can you believe it?) and this time of year can feel like a new beginning! Though January is typically the time for resolutions, September can also feel like a refresh as kids go back to school, and we jump back into the grind after our own summer holidays and a quieter period with our clients away for their holidays.

Bearing that in mind, it’s also a great time to refresh your goals and business development efforts. Yes, business development is an ongoing effort, but it doesn’t end simply because the calendar year is wrapping up.

There will likely be three groups of you reading this – those who started the year with business development plans and goals, who split them up throughout the year and made progress on them; those of you who had those plans, but who may have only made some inroads here and there; and those of you who had no plans or goals set at all. But no matter where you are, think of September as your do-over month, and the opportunity to plan for the remainder of the year. (Not sure about planning? Take a look at our recent guest post from Joanne Thorud for some help.)
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This is just a guess, but I suspect that most of us didn’t get into the legal industry because we love data, right?

If we loved data, we’d be elsewhere.

But…bad news. Data is one of those things that we have to start embracing as the industry changes in order to stay relevant. It sounds terrible and cumbersome, but truthfully, once you invest the time to put processes in place to collect and mine your data, the return you’ll get is huge. You’ll see where you can be more efficient, create more value for clients, and identify ways for the firm to be more profitable. More value AND more profit? Data doesn’t sound so bad after all, does it? 
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Altman Weil recently released their “Law Firms in Transition” survey, which is now in its tenth year. The survey, which includes responses from half of US law firms with 50 or more lawyers, was initially developed as a response to the 2008 recession, to help firms understand how other firms were reacting to the marketplace and the challenges being presented. As its authors state, “We sought to provide clear, credible information that would facilitate law firm planning and operational decision making.” After a decade of change, the survey emphasizes three important concepts, which dovetail nicely with our recent discussions on the law firm of the future, and particularly the idea that the future is happening NOW
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