The Sustainable 2019 Resolution for Lawyers: Be Better Than The Competition

by JD Supra Perspectives

2019 will bring a competitive landscape that’s a strategic battle with a large dose of digital finesse...

Let’s be honest, we’re an extremely competitive group in the legal world. It’s this fact, combined with a market that is changing faster than ever before, that will make 2019 a year for the books. 

Attorneys and legal marketers are rolling up their sleeves as the new year draws closer, but this is not your typical street brawl. 2019 will bring a competitive landscape that’s a strategic battle with a large dose of digital finesse. So while the marketing and business development teams navigate the strategy, attorneys will dominate their competition with a single mindset: go old school.

At the end of the day, there are a few old school tactics and mindsets that you must implement to stand out from the competition in 2019. 

Be Engaged - Client Service Visits

The personal touch is more important than ever before. While most firms are focused on winning the digital strategy race, many have ignored the classic approach of having a face-to-face conversation. \

...converse, advise and engage.

However, just showing up is never enough. Do not go in with the mindset of asking for business. Instead, converse, advise and engage. The service mentality of client engagement will resonate tremendously stronger as you are there to discuss their business goals and strategy, talk industry trends and potential issues that they might face. Once a topic arises and action is set forth, please, for the love of your book of business, follow up ASAP.

While firms struggle to get caught up on the technology side (according to Lexis Nexis, 61% are not) this personal approach is easy, timeless and incredibly impactful.

Be Humble - Ask for Honest Client Feedback (if you can’t, send someone else)

“How am I/are we doing?” is a terrifying question to ask in business relations. We all think that we’re providing the optimal client service and experience, but a gap exists between our perception and that of the client. In fact, many firms don’t even know a gap exists according to Nimble Consulting Services who reports that only 18% of firms have a formal client satisfaction survey approach.

Don’t consider this a pat-on-the-back fest either. When engaging in client feedback, it’s important to identify all touch points that your firm has with the client. You could be providing the best legal advice in history (and we all know you are) but if your client is having issues with your billing department or your assistant is not relaying messages in timely fashion, your legal genius might not have enough value to carry the relationship.

Ask how all interactions are going and where you might improve. Therein lies your interest in the relationship as well as the clear feedback on what your client wants.

While getting this feedback may be a bit unnerving, clients aren’t likely to announce that they’re leaving you. They will simply move on to the firm who is providing not only the best legal guidance, but the best experience as well. 

Be Polite – Return Phone Calls and E-mails

This should be a no-brainer. If a potential paying client calls you or e-mails you, get back to them in 24 hours. No exceptions. 

Shockingly, a report in Law Technology Today shares that 42% of law firms take more than three days to get back to a prospective client. THREE DAYS! 

I would like for you to imagine the last time you had an emergency or a need where you called someone to help you. Now, imagine them calling you back nonchalantly 3-5 days later. What would you say the likelihood would be that you’d give them your business? 

I’ll answer that for you because I recently called a firm myself to get some assistance on a matter. The attorney I left a message for, who was referred to me by another attorney who’s a friend, called me back seven days later! Safe to say, I had already moved on to another attorney and let the laggard know why they wouldn’t get my business.

So now imagine that I’m a major corporation who got referred to you, left you a message and you took three days to call me back. You can imagine how that would end.

Be Disciplined - Calendar Your Business Development & Client Service Activities

This goes to the root of all change management: plan your change activities and write them down.

We all realize you have the best intentions when wanting to do business development or client service activities, but things perpetually “come up.” Having it front of mind is half the battle, but the follow through is what will keep you focused and create a revenue generating habit. 

...structured discipline will have you creating positive habits in no time.

Reverse-engineer your goals first. If your goal is to become more prominent as a speaker, then you’re going to need to spend time on things like topic research, association identification and content creation. If those activities will take you 4-5 hours a month, then break that down to about an hour a week. Depending on the typical flow of your week, you can identify 1 hour long pocket, 2-30 minute slots or 3-20 minute openings to block on your calendar. I highly recommend first thing in the morning before the day gets away from you. 

Now, just set up your outlook or Google calendar for a recurring hold and get to work. That structured discipline will have you creating positive habits in no time.

Be Brave – Try a New Approach to Business Development

The fear of the unknown and the potential for failure ruins most efforts to enhance your brand. For those who are career introverts, the idea of putting yourself out there as a thought leader in your industry may have your palms sweating as you read this. I counter that with, “What do you have to lose?”

I have had the esteemed pleasure of sitting down with such attorneys who were very apprehensive about content creation and external marketing and I have convinced them that it is merely capturing their thoughts and sharing it with much larger audience than just themselves. In sharing with that audience, you raise the potential that, at minimum, one person will think what you have to say is extremely interesting. That one person could be your next top client.

...set aside time every week to create content.

So, this is your year to get uncomfortable and create content. This will take consistency and persistence depending on the channel you select. If you want to write articles or blogs, set aside time every week to create content. Also, alert your marketing staff to your interest so that they can prepare a strategy to place it in multiple channels (LinkedIn, JD Supra, American Lawyer, etc.) to maximize your time. 

If you don’t put yourself out there, you are limiting your personal brand at a time where it’s easier than ever to create to a broad audience.

Be Interesting – Personal Branding Through Storytelling

If you think back to the most interesting person you’ve met, chances are they intrigued you with a story. Some sort of description of who they are and what they do through an eloquent, brief tale. Was it prose worthy? Probably not, but it wasn’t the typical answer when you meet someone. 

...when you describe a problem you solve or give an answer that’s different from your title on your business card, you become more memorable.

Too often, we introduce ourselves by a title or what our position in this world is. However, when you describe a problem you solve or give an answer that’s different from your title on your business card, you become more memorable.

Stop and think how many people in this world could answer “I’m an attorney,” to the basic intro question “What do you do?” (Fun fact: in 2016, there were 1,315,561 registered attorneys in the U.S.) How are you separating yourself from the millions?

Next time, try something along the lines of, 

  • “I consult with financial institutions to help them identify strategic growth opportunities and the legal implications of acquiring new branches.” 
  • “I’m the person that corporations call when they have an urgent legal issue regarding their executives.”

Think of the one problem that you solve the most and convert it into your personal brand.

You can choose one or all of these activities to focus on next year. None of them take a tremendous amount of time to execute, but all will save you time in the long run. Between that valuable time save, revenue generation, competitive differentiation and improved client satisfaction, just a few simple tweaks to your approach could have you poised for your best year ever in 2019.


[Rich Bracken advises attorneys and firms on revenue generation initiatives by leveraging data analytics, client service strategies and differentiated communication. He is also the Chair of the Legal Marketing Association of Kansas City, a frequent conference speaker and a regular contributor on Fox 4 News in Kansas City. Connect with Rich on LinkedIn and his website]

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