There’s been a lot of chatter over the last few years about the "new normal" for law firms, and what that might mean.  Yesterday, I was reading an interesting article at Above the Law, which addressed the idea that the new normal is a lot like the "old normal" (making the boom time an aberrance and not the other way around). 

While that part was enlightening (and I recommend reading the article in full), what I found most useful were the lessons that the author felt we’d learned over the past four years and advice for BigLaw firms in dealing with the new normal.  We all recognize that BigLaw and mid-sized firms are different, but in this case, the advice are very much the same for both. We’ve been hearing it again and again, so it’s definitely time to start making some changes (if you haven’t already), to remain competitive. 


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Yesterday, we began with the first part of Tim Corcoran’s webinar on the strategic role of alternative fee arrangements. After Tim’s elephant analogy, he gave the attendees a short economics lesson. Using a graph with two parallel arrows, Tim said that essentially, we charge a rate that is higher than our cost to deliver. Price needs to be higher than the cost, and profit is derived from the difference between the cost and the price. 

But law firms do a poor job of calculating costs – other than their overhead and real estate, they don’t know the cost of the delivery of their legal services. 

So the challenge is, as we saw in the recent downturn when there was downward price pressure, because we haven’t fundamentally changed our delivery costs, our profit turns to loss. In the first part of the webinar, Tim had talked about the inevitable movement from premium and strategic to commodity, meaning that clients will pay less for something over time. That’s what we’re seeing – clients are refusing to pay for work that they believe doesn’t have the same value it once had, but law firms who have not adapted their cost structure for this are experiencing loss. 


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Part II of our Business of Law webinar series with Tim Corcoran took place in November, but things have been so hectic with travel and hurricanes and holidays that I’m only just getting to the recap! So without further ado…

The topic of the second webinar was the strategic role of alternative fee arrangements, which was a natural sequel to the first session on legal project management. Tim re-emphasized that the industry has changed, and we need to adapt to the changing times. 


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There are still people out there who think social media is not for professionals.

C’mon, admit it. 

All right, so the likelihood is that those people aren’t reading this blog, because, after all, it’s part of that "social media stuff." But how many of you who have dipped your toe in the water (i.e. joined Facebook, staked your claim on your Twitter name, filled out your LinkedIn profile) are using social media? And how many of you are blogging…regularly? 

I’m sure more than one of you mentally raised your hand as you read that. 

And I’m sure some of you who did are still wondering why the heck you would want to use social media anyway.  So let’s talk about that for a little while. 


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This afternoon, we released the publication of our ILN Marketing Specialty Group’s Social Media Roundtable.  If you’d like to read the roundtable in full, you can find it here.  However, I thought it might be interesting to examine each of the questions and their responses through Zen, and invite our readers to contribute their own thoughts to the discussion!

The first question we posed was "What has been your greatest social media success?" 

Simone Fell: Our lawyers operate Megawatt (a Renewable Energy blog), The Legalist (a blog hosted on BC Business’s site and focused on employment issues), the Canadian Trademark law blog (IP issues) and BCBlawg (business and IP litigation, run by one of our associates). We are also starting up an Estates & Trusts blog within the next few weeks. The firm has LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook and Google Plus accounts. We still have a long way to go in building our social media presence, but a number of bloggers and journalists are connected to us through these vehicles and have approached us for commentary or republished our posts/tweets. Links to some of our blogs are featured as ‘resources’ on different industry sites. This has definitely raised the profile of certain individuals, increased the number of subscribers to our newsletters and improved SEO by driving traffic to our main website. 
 


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Yesterday, we talked about how to get involved with groups.  The only thing left for us to do with groups is to create our own! 

You might not be sure if you want to, but perhaps you want to re-think that.  What if you want to start a group for those interested in legal issues in the construction industry in New Jersey? Check first to make sure there isn’t a group out there like that already, but then start your own – guess who’s going to join a group like that? 

That’s right, potential clients.

And you don’t want to be using your group to just promote yourself, but offer items of value to those people, and they’ll come to see you as the go-to resource for information that they need.  And THAT’S when they’ll start to think that you’d make a good attorney for them.  Plus, if you’re getting access through your group to the decision makers that you want to be meeting at potential clients’ companies, use the platform to send out invitations to an event – host a cocktail party for the group, get together at a local bar for some beer, invite them to a presentation you’ll be doing on a topic that’s of use to them. Take the relationships OFFLINE to cement them. The possibilities here are endless. 


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