Monday, June 18, 2018

Top 10 Secrets of the World’s Best Networkers


Networking is the art of conversing with people reciprocally, where a conversation is an exchange of ideas, leads, and/or suggestions that support the professional and personal lives of both parties.
  1. The best networkers do not attend networking events with a “What’s in it for me (WIFM)?” mentality. Rather, they approach networking with a “What’s in it for them (WIFT)?” mentality, i.e., focusing on how they can be helpful and/or useful to other people.
  2. They focus on treating other attendees as people, not as contacts who can do something for them.
  3. They focus on being sincerely interested in other people.
  4. Before attending, they have a plan and approach for capture any new business contacts and important conversations by inputting that information into their automated contact systems and/or connecting to those contacts on LinkedIn and other relevant social media.
  5. When attending events and conferences, they plan ahead to mingle and circulate.
  6. They are friendly and open, focusing on listening to people, one on one, and with sincere interest.
  7. They pay attention by listening to understand another’s perspective. They listen with their eyes and ears, and remember and/or take note of what they discussed, heard about, and learned. They listen for commonalities and mutual interests, and expand upon them.
  8. They are open to serendipity, things that happen coincidentally, or what they hear/learn about unexpectedly.
  9. They are disciplined with initiating follow-up and following through.
  10. They thank and/or acknowledge everyone who has given them their time, ideas, leads, resources, referrals, word of mouth, etc., and stay in touch.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

How to Insure Client Service Excellence: 10 Tips


1. Excellent service providers do not do only what is asked of them. They go above and beyond and offer to help in many ways.  They think ahead, think proactively, set calendar reminders-to-self to make time to stop and think about their clients and contacts, then suggest and initiate ideas/options.

2. Never forget that all of us who work in law firms are in the service business. You are never going to be done paying dues, so own the fact that nothing is beneath you.  It may sometimes seem the work is beneath you.  You may not enjoy it.  Others will likely take credit for it.  But this is a lawyer’s job…to make clients look good and be more successful.

3. Always be just a little bit early for an appointment.  If you must be late, call ahead to warn them.  It shows that you think they are important.  Everyone likes to feel important.

4. When your client or colleague is coming to visit or is in your office, you are the host.  Act like one. Make it easy for them to find you, park, get their parking validated as needed, etc. When they arrive, ask to take their coat, ask if they would like water, coffee and/or food as appropriate.

5. Remember that lawyers/clients don’t always want nor need something actually done.  Sometimes they just need someone to listen to them.  

6. Before beginning the work, ask your client and/or supervisor what success will look like.  I.e. ask: what are your objectives/desired result(s)? Don’t just guess or assume.  You’ll probably be wrong.

7. Value other people as highly as yourself. Other people are busy too.  Be considerate and guard their time as well as your own. Establish and maintain trust. Do not engage in and/or repeat gossip.

8. Your answer should never be “No, you can’t!”, instead say “Yes, let’s figure out how you can.”

9. Return phone calls and email promptly, or have your assistant do so for you, i.e. “John will be in court until late tonight” or “I will get to this on Thursday”.  Use auto out-of-office messages and be sure to include a back-up contact name, email and telephone number.

10. Say please and thank you to everyone, every time.

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

How to Ensure Top-Quality Client Service for Lawyers and Law Firms


For every lawyer and law firm, existing clients provide the best opportunity to develop additional business. It costs one-fifth as much to gain additional work from an existing client as to gain a new client. An important element associated with gaining new business from existing clients is the level of service clients have received. To ensure clients are predisposed to using additional firm services, constant attention must be paid to the quality of service provided. Make no mistake — service delivery is a process, one that consists of predictable, often repeated steps.

Using the Japanese premise of “constant improvement” as the foundation, conduct an objective assessment and create a list or map of all possible service improvements that could be made throughout the firm to then formalize service steps and/or create a firm-wide service program as appropriate.

To begin, draft a list of all the positions in the firm that have contact with clients, from the receptionist to delivery personnel to the attorneys. Then define every contact made with clients. For example, the receptionist greets clients, escorts them to conference rooms, offers refreshments, takes coats, contacts lawyer to let them know guest has arrived, asks visitors to wait, determines how long the clients will have to wait before he or she calls the attorney, and so forth. It helps to meet with someone in each staff position and ask him or her to help you list everything the client may require from that position. Remember, clients often have as much or more contact with staff members as they do with attorneys, so involving staff in service improvement initiatives is essential. Similarly, a list of attorney contacts such as incoming phone calls, outgoing phone calls, meetings, lunches, dinners, letters, case correspondence, case status, bills, and overdue bill notices that define the steps in the full scope of attorney-client interaction.

A commonly overlooked service step is that of asking clients for their opinion about the quality of the firm’s service. Remember, it is not the attorney’s opinion about the firm and its service that matters; it is clients’ opinions that are worth their weight in gold. Client feedback can be obtained through a written survey, focus groups, informal inquiry, or independent board members. The idea is to gather the clients’ perceptions regarding service quality in a statistically measurable way to improve and further develop the relationship. Market studies show that when dissatisfied, only 4 to 5 percent of clients will complain directly. The other 95 percent will either tolerate poor service without complaint and will be receptive to competitors, or simply stop sending the firm work. In this competitive market, regularly asking clients for feedback regarding service quality is key to maintaining existing relationships.

Once client feedback has been obtained and client contacts have been defined, gather attorneys and staff for a brainstorming session on ways to improve or enhance each client contact. For example, with meetings, attorneys can prepare clients ahead of time by sending them the documentation and a detailed agenda for each meeting. Also, attorneys can ask their secretaries or paralegals to call or greet clients if the attorneys will be delayed for meetings or unable to return communication within 24 hours. There are a myriad of other proactive service steps that can be taken to improve both the level of service a firm provides and the client’s perception of the value received. The goal with each service step is to treat each client as if he or she is the most important.

Communication throughout the firm regarding the various steps each employee can take to improve service delivery will help educate and empower all employees about the importance of those steps. For example, you can email “service improvement of the day” messages to all attorneys and legal assistants. Or if you produce an internal newsletter, discuss service steps in detail in a column in each issue. Also, create a generic “service checklist” to send to attorneys when new files are opened. The attorneys can periodically review the checklist as a reminder of service steps they could be providing.

Training designed to enhance service delivery skills can be provided by position. For example, receptionists require different client interaction skills than do billing clerks or associates. Receptionists must be able to make an excellent first impression and manage the full scope of their client contacts. Associates must understand the difference between client service and development. However, all staff members require skills to effectively handle complaints and telephone inquiries, manage difficult clients, anticipate needs, and project a professional image.

A critical and often overlooked step in making improved service or a service program work is to establish incentives. Support staff should be rewarded for following up with attorneys and clients to ensure quality service is delivered. Attorneys should be rewarded for securing additional work from existing clients. Service is difficult to measure because determining who has been acting courteously and professionally, who has been going the extra mile, and who actually brought the additional business in the door is not always easy. The key is to measure and reward effort and results. One way is to track compliments instead of complaints. Special monthly bonuses can be instituted for staff members and lawyers who are recognized for their service efforts either internally or from clients. Once everyone is clear on what steps they can take to improve service and how to go about it, providing an incentive will make it happen.

Service improvement is an effective use of marketing dollars and will take firms a long way toward securing and enhancing one of the most valuable firm assets – existing client relationships.

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Monday, May 28, 2018

How can law firms and lawyers do more to support veterans, military service members, and/or their families?


Law firms and lawyers can do more to support veterans, military service members, and/or their families. There are many great ways to do so, and many pro bono efforts/charities/groups exist. Excellent and bona fide pro bono and/or volunteer programs that support veterans can be found by contacting:  The American Legion (http://www.legion.org/troops/volunteer); the VFW (http://www.vfw.org/Community/Get-Involved/); the ABA (www.americanbar.org) and/or state bars. To volunteer and/or donate in the most productive manner, be sure to first verify the group/organization (because not all veterans’ charities/organizations use/apply their donations legitimately). Websites to visit to verify charities’ track records include: the American Institute of Philanthropy, Charity Navigator and/or GuideStar.

Friday, May 25, 2018

How to Make Business Development a Habit: 8 Best Practices for Lawyers


  1. Know and embrace the proven fact that habits and routines are hard to change. Existing habits and routines will not change by thinking about them for a minute, 10 minutes, a half-hour or a day; nor will they change by wanting, wishing and/or hoping they change. It takes conscious, methodical effort over time to change habits or embed new habits into your routine as described below.
  2. Realize, accept and embrace the fact that 90% of effective business development starts and lives in your mind. In your mind lies your level of personal self-discipline, your self-control over your use of time, and your self-control and choices in response to external cues and situations and how you handle/respond to distractions. Much of effective business development consists of self-discipline, taking action, and committing sweat/effort even when you do not want to or don’t feel like it.
  3. First, you must commit. If you are only somewhat interested in changing a habit or embedding a new, upgraded habit into your routine, studies show you will likely not accomplish it. You must COMMIT. The difference between interest and commitment is intensity of will – which lies in your mind. If you are committed, you will do whatever it takes; no hurdle/distraction will stand in your way, you will make it happen and you will do it. On the other hand, if you are mildly interested, you may do it when you think of it or have extra time, but because you are really not 100% committed, you will likely blow it off for various reasons. So commit!
  4. Plan ahead. Multiple studies show that the more thoughtfully and thoroughly you plan ahead, the greater are your chances of success. Other studies show that reducing a plan to writing more than doubles your chance of success. A lengthy plan is not necessary; a simple list and/or recurring auto-reminders in Outlook about what you want to do and when will suffice. Periodically, at least once a year, you should review your plan and progress against your original goals and objectives and adjust accordingly.
  5. Know and impress reasonable expectations in your mind. To embed any new habit into your routine such that it becomes second nature – something you automatically do without much extra effort – multiple studies show that it takes (on average) 60-90 days of consistent, conscious effort. Know this ahead of time and plan for it.
  6. Create and use external and/or visual cues. Have a list in writing. Program your mobile device(s)/Outlook to auto-remind you, and use Outlook categories. Put a “sticky note” note on your phone. Do whatever works for you to visually remind you/cue you about your commitment.
  7. Plan ahead for challenges, hurdles, distractions, and weak motivation and have a plan in place to handle them. For example, every Thursday after lunch close your office door and ask your assistant to hold all calls for half an hour while you review and get in touch with clients, referral sources and/or contacts. If you are interrupted or distracted, discipline yourself to complete the efforts/tasks another time and mark it in your schedule.
  8. Realize, accept and embrace that repetition is the force of habit. Hundreds of studies prove this. So build into your plan, for a period of at least 90 days, a cadence of repetition that works for you. For example, if you want to become a huge rainmaker, build at least 15-30 minutes of business development time into each day. Or discipline yourself to review and stay in touch with select contacts as appropriate every Thursday after lunch, for example.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

6 Ways for Lawyers to Identify New Business Opportunities

1.    Ask about business and/or personal issues and problems: current, developing, future, and latent.

2.    Ask about recent and developing projects, plans, and/or trends.

3.    Ask about what is changing, has changed, or will likely change. REMEMBER: Change is constant and all change equals opportunity.

4.    What is the gap/hole created by these changes? What exposure and/or potential liability might result?

5.    Link the above responses to your core capabilities and your firm’s core capabilities by describing the benefit(s)/solutions you and your firm can provide.

6.    Ask if you can help/be of service to them.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Top 5 “Best Practices” in Client Succession: Baby Boomer Lawyers Are Retiring in Record Numbers!


In the best interests of valued clients and contacts, retiring lawyers need to create a transition/succession plan and implement it starting approximately three to five years before their planned retirement date.
  1. Start from the “bottom” up, i.e. download all the retiring lawyer’s clients and contacts, and rank the most important clients and referral sources.
  2. Armed with the list above, a firm leader and a firm staff member (who should be assigned responsibility for regularly following-up with the retiring lawyer), meet with the lawyer to discuss the client/contact list, and if not already done, rank the most important. Or, the retiring lawyer can and should do this themselves.
  3. Review the most important clients/contacts, discuss “bench” (i.e. who the retiring lawyer has in mind to “take over” the relationship).
  4. Discuss and determine next steps, i.e. is there an important referral sources who does not know anyone else at the firm? Should an introductory meeting be set-up, etc.
  5. Make sure the above is in writing, along with names, next steps, and follow-up dates. The firm staff member, leader, or retiring lawyer should schedule weekly, monthly, and/or quarterly check-in meetings to ensure a smooth and effective transition.
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