The restaurant industry can teach lawyers a great deal. A recent article suggests that waitresses and waiters can increase their tips significantly (and increase repeat business) by using a few very simple, but effective techniques.
In fact, there is a website in which Cornell University associate professor Michael Lynn discusses his findings that: 1) casually touching customers increases tips for both male and female servers, 2) touching increases tips more when waitresses touch female customers compared with male diners, and 3) touching increases tips of younger customers more than old.
While not all his findings are transferable or applicable to the legal profession, many are. Basic friendliness, courtesy and consideration go a long way to increase client-attorney effectiveness, increase revenue, repeat business and referrals.
Watch your server the next time you’re in a restaurant. When treated well by your server, think about how you can incorporate his/her skills in your practice. When treated poorly, compare those actions with how you and your office staff interact with your clients. Are there lessons there that you can use?
See MayItPleasetheCourt. Craig Williams, in his web log, talks about diving not being the same as floating. While he didn’t intend to take the metaphor further, he reminds me that networking is not the same thing as netresting.
In order to be effective in networking, one must work … work the room, work the rolodex, work the telephone, etc. in order to meet people and let them know what you do. Only when they know what you do can they make a choice to have you work for them.
Building a field doesn’t mean, despite the film, that baseball players will come to play. Unless you let folks know what you do, they won’t know they may benefit from having you represent them. Give them a chance to know you … Give them a chance to include you in their list of options. They just may choose you to be their lawyer!
General counsel say that they find lawyers from a number of sources including:
-Referrals from trusted sources (usually other general counsel)
-Publications they read in which lawyers write about the topics of their concern
General counsel say they look for lawyers who
-Are expert in their field
-Have a good reputation
-Know the client’s industry
-Have a relationship with the company in the past
-Are members of a firm that has a good reputation
-Are confident, but not arrogant
Reputation is very important to general counsel because they are always reviewed and criticized by someone – everyone – in their organization. While reputation is important in high stakes matters, cost is very important in commodity-type work.
Do what you can to relieve the stress of general counsel. That is their message. That’s how to bind yourself to your corporate client.
These were the sentiments expressed at a recent meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of the Legal Marketing Association by several general counsel.
Another message that came through in the presentation is that the maxim that clients seek lawyers, not law firms, is not entirely true. Rather, it is true that clients — Corporate America — do look at the law firms. They have to in order to CYA because, as noted above, their every move is scrutinized by everyone else in their corporate organization. It’s a lot easier to say a mistake was the result of an action by a major law firm than it is to say it was the result of a sole practitioner or small firm. This prejudice of large organizations (clients) regarding the size of their law firm is a fact of life. There are many ways to deal with size bias, but the prejudice must be met …
Harry Beckwith, author (Selling the Invisible and What Clients Love) suggests that the number one marketing mistake law firms continue to make is their failure to establish a position.
“Specialists thrive, generalists die.” This paraphrases Beckwith’s belief. OR, “Generalists are flexible and survive during economic troubles.” This paraphrases Alan Weiss’ belief.
Another way to paraphrase these concepts is: “Specialize or die.” “Generalize and thrive.”
Beckwith believes that promoting one specific skill will provide a law firm with competitive advantage. And competitive advantage will yield more revenue and more profit.
What do you believe? What is the USP (unique selling position) of your law firm?
Ed Wesemann in his book, THE FIRST MYTH OF LEGAL MANAGEMENT IS THAT IT EXISTS, suggests that small clients disproportionately drain the resources of law firms while providing a disproportionately small contribution to firm profits. I agree that the size of the client is important; everyone wants to serve larger clients.
I am all in favor of seeking larger clients with more money and more interesting challenges. This effort, however, must be balanced to assure that the firm doesn’t wind up with only a few clients, larger though they may be, who put the firm at risk if they should leave.
But, be sure that no long-term capital or other expenditures are made at the behest of such larger clients without some type of assurance or guarantee that the business will stay with you until at least the amortization for the new expenditure is completed. In the longer term, a strategy based on fewer, larger clients will almost always lead to disaster.
Do you want to increase your market share of the legal services purchased by your clients? Think of your best client. Then, the next one, and so on.
Now, go print out the MacKay 66 client profile.
How many of these questions can you answer for each of your clients, let alone for your very best client?
A few years ago, I interviewed a lawyer in Canada for our Law Practice Management Review: The Audio Magazine for Busy Attorneys.
His experience suggests that with the appropriate goal and market target, you can succeed. It is not however without its challenges. As my wife is fond of telling me, there is no free lunch. There is a cost both in money and, more importantly, in time that accompanies trade show exhibits.
The most important lesson is that i) you need appropriate planning before going into such an adventure and ii) you need full and complete follow-up to make the effort productive and worthwhile.
Here’s some sage advice for the end of the year from Rod Sloane, a marketing consultant in England who writes Solicitors Marketing Tips:
Here is an idea I heard a long time ago. Can’t remember where I read it, but I want to pass it on to you. The end of the year is a good time to evaluate how your marketing has worked for you.
Make a list of five things you do to market yourself, your department or your whole law firm. Do them in the order of what has worked best. Which activities bring in the most profitable new clients, develops most referral sources or generates the most enquiries. Your list might read something like:
1.Networking with other professionals and referral sources
Cross the bottom two off the list.
Now you need to be ruthless, this is no time for sentiment or favorites. Stop doing them. Now, put the money you’ve invested in the bottom two back in the top three performers. What happens if your Web Site is not in your top three? Should you abandon it? Almost certainly not, but it does mean that your web site is in casualty and needs urgent attention.
A question to Coach Poll:
How can one go about creating an alliance with a law firm in another country such that the second law firm will send client work to the first firm? We have been in alliances with other law firms in Canada for the last fifteen years. Recently my partners have discussed the possibility of associating with a firm in the U.S. How should we approach other firms to create alliances for work both in the United States and in our country?
Response from Coach Poll:
If you don’t want to sell your practice, but merely reach out and create an alliance with a U.S. firm, it seems to me that you would first want to know what U.S. clients you want to represent; then, seek to find the law firms that those clients engage to represent them. Then, you can contact those law firms to determine if they already have Mexico counsel or would like to have Mexico counsel. The firms you would want to associate with also should have some similarities to your firm, both in size and in the nature of your practice and firm culture.
The same principle applies to creating alliances in other cities and in other States.
At a recent trade conference, an editor for a leading legal publication made the following points about dealing with the media:
- Read the publication before you decide to reach out to it.
- Have a relationship with the publication before contacting it.
- Choose your messenger with care.
- Don’t paper the publication with junk press releases.
- If you are called to participate in a survey and choose not to do so, give notice to the publication that you’re opting out of a survey.
- Know the time restrictions and deadlines of reporters who call you for a story.
- Use your most likeable and articulate people to pitch a story idea.
- Always assume you’re on the record why you’re talking to the press.
- Realize you’re not in control of the reporter or the story.
- Don’t lie.
These are very good points to remember when dealing with the press!