Saturday, November 3, 2012

Veterans Day in America, November 11, 2012 - U.S. Law Firms and Lawyers Play Key Roles in Supporting the U.S. Military and Veterans*

EXCERPT – from the article published in the November 2012 issue of Strategies, The Journal of Legal Marketing.

This article highlights just some of the numerous law firms and lawyers throughout the United States who represent, support and/or help the people who help create, protect and defend freedoms - for Americans, their allies, friends and citizens of other nations worldwide.

Without the commitment, effort, work, sacrifice, service and dedication of millions of veterans, active members of the military, their families and supporters − our Republic and democracy as we know it and our cherished freedoms would not exist as they do today. As one member of The Patriot Guard (a group of veterans and other volunteers who honor fallen military heroes nationwide) perfectly summarizes: "America is the land of the free, because of the brave."

For lawyers whose practice already includes representing members of the military and/or veterans or for those lawyers/law firms interested in doing so, the American Bar Association (ABA) website offers over 7,000 resources which can be accessed by visiting the site and typing "Veterans" in the search bar. Many state bars have also developed either heroes' and/or heroes' and veterans' assistance programs, for example the state bars of Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.

Pro bono representation opportunities to help veterans and their families abound. For example, the case of Snyder v. Phelps, which was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in 2009, was undertaken completely pro bono by the Pennsylvania law firm of Barley Snyder. The case originated in 2005, when Albert Snyder, the father of deceased Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, approached the firm asking if they would help him sue Fred Phelps, his family and their "church" for their vile, vicious and cruel protest of his son's military funeral. "Once this case was accepted by SCOTUS, I and many other veterans were quick to fully support Al Snyder and his lawyers in their efforts to protect the sanctity of military funerals," says Larry L. Twitchell, Major General, USAF (ret.). In 2010, while SCOTUS found against Al Snyder on First Amendment grounds, he was ultimately victorious because on August 6, 2012, POTUS signed a new law containing a provision prohibiting all military funeral protests nationwide two hours before and two hours after any such service.

In another case, Steptoe & Johnson partner Stephen Fennell, Chair of the firm’s Litigation Group, serves as lead counsel for his firm which since 2002 has represented Gulf War POWs in a contentious, high-profile lawsuit against Iraq for damages arising out of the torture of the POWs while they were in captivity. In 2003, in the U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, Judge Richard Roberts ruled that the Iraqi defendants were liable for almost $1 billion U.S. dollars in damages, stating in his ruling, "No one would subject himself for any price to the terror, torment, and pain experienced by these American POWs," and "there must be a premium on protecting POWs [because] POWs are uniquely disadvantaged and deterring torture should be of the highest priority." This ruling in favor of the POWs and their families was unfortunately challenged at length by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other government agencies and officials. Finally, in mid-2011, after extensive negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq, and meetings with and between POWs’ counsel and members of Congress, a settlement agreement was reached for Saddam Hussein-era claims against POWs. Stephen Fennell, lead counsel for the POWs in this case states: "This settlement allows the POWs families finally to achieve closure and sends a message of deterrence against the torture of future American POWs."

Every lawyer, law firm, law firm and legal industry employee can help support U.S. troops and veterans if they so desire. 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 the VFW; the ABA 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.

*This article is not intended to be 100% complete or exhaustive. It contains representative information known to the author at the time of publication and as space allowed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Highlights from: "2012 Survey Results - Law Firm Business Development Best Practices & Benchmarks©" - analysis and commentary below written by Julie Savarino

The results of the survey are interesting, in that:

1. THERE IS A DISCONNECT BETWEEN LAW FIRM'S RESOURCE ALLOCATION & WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS TO GET NEW BUSINESS - This survey finds that most law firms' Marketing/Business Development Departments continue to provide predominantly marketing communications (marcom) support, which is not what this survey finds generates the most business for law firms. This survey finds that most law firms that responded continue to direct the majority of their staff's time and monetary support towards group events (seminars, conferences, speaking engagements, etc.), while the survey also shows that by far the #1 most effective tool for getting business in the door is in-person/direct meetings. Therefore, responding law firms are likely not supporting the in-person/direct meeting or "sales" process as well as they could be.

2. LACK OF TIME IS A HUGE IMPEDIMENT TO SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT - In response to the question asking "what are the top 3 hurdles/impediments that your internal marcom/busdev team faces regarding successful business development" - the response of "lack of available staff time" was voted top in 1 and 2, so one can assume that lack of available staff time is a very large impediment. The other answers that received the most responses for that questions include: lack of adequate staff to handle workload and lack of strategic focus. In addition according to the result of this survey, the #1 hurdle lawyers seem to face is also lack of time due to billable hour demands.

3. THE 'SALES' OR CLIENT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS TAKES TIME & STRATEGIC FOCUS - It is well known that the vast majority of business comes in the door for law firms as a result of follow-up communications after group events and individual meetings and both lawyers and law firm staff struggle with having enough time to do this. Therefore, appropriate and adequate follow-up may be happening for the firm's top client/client teams, but there is likely little or no organized "sales"/client development strategy or program to identify and follow-up for other, potential new business. In most law firms, individual lawyers continue to pursue their own relationship and/or "leads", in their own way, with little or no coordination, and little proactive and organized follow-up.

There are "sales"/client development programs and processes for law firms that are proven and effective at generating new business (not all are created equally). Some "sales" or client development support functions can be outsourced to qualified, experienced and competent providers. Internally, within law firms it is best to regularly and formally review the firm's entire marcom/busdev function to insure it is contributing to bottom-line growth to the extent possible.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact Julie Savarino at or (734) 668-7008.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Question - Our firm has used individual and practice group plans for years now, but we are currently reviewing the format. Any suggestions?

Julie Savarino's Response - In my professional experience and opinion, the most important thing to consider is not the plan format, but the key strategic objectives of the firm and to create and use a format that can be tracked, updated, and reported upon over time. Also, one which firm leaders will substantively support and use.

Too many plans get drafted by lawyers because they are "required" but then are rarely reviewed or supported and most importantly have little to no tangible tie to on-going performance and compensation/bonus. Also, once drafted most plans simply "sit on a shelf". Too few are ever sorted and used to follow-up by practice or industry group (and lack of follow-up/implementation is the #1 greatest downfall for most lawyers' busdev intentions/efforts). The worst part about most plan formats is that the majority continue to ask/suggest that every lawyer should/needs to do/perform all sorts of non-billable tasks across all categories (which dilutes focus and causes mile wide inch deep efforts which are often ineffective).

The key components of any lawyer's business plan should include billable hour targets for all, but after that each lawyer's non-billable hour investment/contribution should ideally be tailored to their strengths, towards where they contribute most and key firm objectives. Non billable contributions can take many forms - from proven rainmakers continuing to do what they do best, to lawyers who help administer/run a practice, to those who create document banks and/or matter tracking methods, to those who help with lateral identification and acquisition, to those who oversee key administrative functions, to leaders/Board members, etc. The myriad of possible non-billable contributions/investments in any individual plan format should - ideally - be offered as a menu, while encouraging each to focus on the 1-3 non-billable areas where the lawyer believes/wants to contribute to the success of the firm beyond simply billing hours.

Taking on, leading and supporting an effective planning process that can be tracked, updated and reported upon is a great method for mar com/bus dev staff to help measurably drive firm revenue and growth. I think that taking the time to tailor a simple format and approach that will work for your firm is a very worthy endeavor.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Law Firm Business Development Best Practices & Benchmarks Survey

Take 15 minutes to complete this on-line survey and gain benchmarks and other information that will help your firm keep up with and surpass the competition. Since 1994, we have conducted this type of survey five times. The results from this year's survey will provide current benchmarks. All survey responses are confidential and results will be reported in a non-attributed manner. Deadline is Friday, March 30, 2012 - Click here to participate.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

First-ever CLE Super Summit to be held in Cleveland April 24-26th

Julie Savarino is presenting her nationally acclaimed program entitled "Mastering the ‘Sales’ Process for Litigators and Transactional Lawyers™" as part of a stellar roster of speakers and programs, all of which will come with CLE credits. This program is open to the public. For more information or to register, please visit or call (866) 933-5167.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Q&A from Article Below - Ways to Grow Law Firm Revenue in 2012©

Question: What is an example of a "funnel/pipeline approach" for law firms? Is it access to information, systems or something else?

Answer: A client development (in law firm terms) or sales (in business terms) pipeline discipline/approach is standard in business-to-business sales. But sales/client development pipelines are in the growth phase of being embraced within law firms because they must be simplified and adapted to fit the process of selling legal services to be effective.

For law firms, a sales/client development pipeline is an approach and process that usually consists of the most common and proven sales stages/phases/steps to close – for law firms. Then, to support the pipeline to insure measurable results - a back-end system is created to support the discipline/approach which allows a firm to track, follow-up and measure key sales steps/phases and revenue generated. To be effective, such systems must consist of: a combination of people who have the skills and willing to make the effort (lawyers, bus dev support, other relevant law firm staff and coaches – whether internal/external or a combination); computer software (which can be as simple as Excel); a follow-up schedule/routine with relevant lawyers and; a measuring/reporting method to prove ROI.

To adopt this type of approach/discipline, a law firm/bus dev department/law firm leadership can start either: from bottom-up (identifying and working with interested, individual lawyers over a period of time in order to demonstrate/prove success); by training a group of interested lawyers/a practice groups and (then adopt for rest of firm as appropriate over time); and/or provide training to all interested partners/practice groups. The main impediment to implementing effective client development/sales pipelines in law firms is the lack of adequate, dedicated resources (people, time and investment) able to focus on a true, embedded, institutionalized sales approach. In most law firms, a successful sales pipeline – one that yields solid ROI consistently over time - takes discipline, dedicated resources, focus and commitment by the firm and relevant staff.

For over 25 years, this is the area in which I specialize. If you would like additional information, please contact me. Julie Savarino - Telephone (724) 668-7008, Email

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ways to Grow Law Firm Revenues in 2012©

The fundamental challenge most law firms currently face is that expenses are growing at a rate faster than revenues. The most common strategic responses in recent years have been (and continue to be): to cut expenses; to increase billable hour requirements and/or to acquire books of business by lateral acquisition/merger. These strategies have worked to varying degrees, but in this highly competitive and mature market for outside legal services, without corresponding bottom-up support and continued investment they will yield reduced returns in the future.

Described below are four bottom-up strategies/best practices that can help contribute to increased revenue growth for law firms. The list below is not intended to be exhaustive.

  1. Review, re-assess, re-define and/or re-structure your law firm's support staff model - With alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) now accounting for a rapidly growing percentage of total revenues for many law firms, it is imperative to periodically re-analyze/re-consider the traditional roles of the firm's finance/accounting/marketing departments and other staff services. Too many firms create AFAs in a one-off or reactionary posture, with only a small number of law firm employees involved and little cross-collaboration. However, the "marketing mix" now consists of 7 P's - product/service, place, price, promotion, process, physical evidence and people. Too many law firm support staff departments are essentially silos focused primarily on only one of the P’s without effective coordination with other departments that are responsible for supporting the other 6 P's.

  2. Upgrade your law firm's Key Client Team programs - Many firms have been using formal client team programs for years now. Almost all firms have less formal, virtual client service teams led by the primary relationship partner for each client. Many key client team programs have become stagnant, myopic and somewhat reactive. To help fuel continued returns, firm's should consider creating and offering programs on such subjects as: "Next Generation Key Client Teams” and/or "Upgrades in Client Service". It is no longer enough to communicate solely with the client themselves. Consider involving a cross-section of clients and prospective clients in the internal process of educating lawyers to proactively identify, systematize and/or leverage ways to enhance key and other client relationships.

  3. Re-define and/or upgrade firm-wide business development - The practice of law is at its core a people-driven, relationship business (both externally and internally). Too many lawyers think they already know what marketing is and that they already have a complete understanding of business development, client development, client service, and are therefore, dismissive of the proven science of those disciplines. In fact, the meaning of those words and phrases varies dramatically among and between most lawyers. Just like civil procedure, there is a linear process to business development often illustrated by a funnel or pipeline, and once lawyers and staff obtain this knowledge - it goes a long way in creating greater focus and efficiencies in their use of time, effort and resources. A handful of law firms have enhanced their ROI by using a funnel/pipeline approach to help grow revenues and as a result are continuing to invest in the systems, processes and talent to support it.

  4. Provide Partners with more support – When presented with credible options, many partners (whether equity, lateral or income) have both the interest and desire to upgrade their contributions to revenue growth. However, most firms never proactively ask partners which revenue enhancement programs and/or support options they are most interested in. Many firms simply re-cycle a talking-head type "program of the month" that may not have worked or that the lawyers did not like, so these lawyers are highly skeptical of wasting time in the future. It is important to provide proven, credible professional development opportunities for all firm employees, not simply CLE programs, but tailored career development programs that can help drive the growth strategies of the firm. Examples include: "New Income Partner Business Development Training & Coaching", "Sales Pipelines for Practice Groups", "Project Management", "Process Improvement", "Budgeting/Estimating", "Making the Most of Secondments" and/or other credible, experienced coaching to provide support at the individual, team or practice group levels as appropriate.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the above, please contact the author Julie Savarino, T (734) 668-7008, E