♫ Keep moving, never stopping sharks
Music, lyrics and recorded by Further Seems Forever.
In the first column in this series we dealt with the issue that price is but one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Unfortunately many lawyers (and clients) tend to overly focus on price and not appreciate the other 6. The theme of this post will be to look at the product mix and the role that it plays in marketing (and pricing!) of legal services.
One law firm is different from another in terms of the mix of services that they can provide. My colleague and friend Bob Denney produces a “What’s Hot and What’s Not” report several times a year that I repost on here on my blog Thoughtfullaw.com with his kind permission. This report shows what services are in demand, what are staying neutral and which are declining. The importance here is that if you can be nimble, you can change your mix of legal services. Staying with the same mix of services can result in stagnation. In fact, Woody Allen in one of his movies once said:
“A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to move constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark”
The one thing that you don’t want to be as a law firm is a dead shark.
So survey your clients – do external reviews of what services are in demand, look at what industries are on the upswing in your area and think about how you can provide needed legal services to them. Compare your marketing mix of services to your competitors and see how you stack up. Eventually what you are doing will grow old in the eyes of the consumer – you need to change things up – complacency is the enemy of success.
If you can offer a unique mix of services that are more closely aligned to the needs of your clients, then you have moved from competing solely on price to being able to distinguish your services from those offered by the competition and show to the clients that you are doing a better job in terms of meeting their needs than the competition. The clients could say “Yes we could move to Dewey Gottem & Howe, but they don’t do what Werk, Worke and Wourke do for us…” You have moved from competing on price to competing based on the perceived value of your services from the viewpoint of the client. You have become a moving, never stopping shark…
♫ All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you
Oh yeah, well it’s true… that
I was made for you…♫
Lyrics and music by Phillip John Hanseroth, recorded by Brandi Carlile.
The beginning of September is always the start of the new year for me. Perhaps it was so many years spent in school and the inevitable association with the start of the newly-minted school year. Perhaps it is coming back from a summer vacation refreshed and invigorated and with new energy for projects. Perhaps it is because I have been talking to many people who have plans for when they get back in September in terms of branding and setting a new strong strategic direction for their firm.
Either way, I believe that September is a wonderful time to refocus, regroup and decide the future direction of your practice. What changes would you like to see? Over time law firms can lose their focus on their core services – what do they do best. They can also lose touch with their core values and their strategic direction as they take on new files and clients that pull them in new directions. September is a perfect time to sit back with your colleagues and think about where the firm is going. Do you wish it to explore new opportunities? Or are you being pulled into areas that no longer represent the reasons you formed the firm in the first place? What is gnawing on you about the firm? What would you like to change from both a firm-wide and personal perspective? Start a list..and have your colleagues do the same – and arrange a time (on a weekend) to hone in on all this and come to a consensus on where all of you would like to go.
Come together and discuss the firm..its direction, focus, what makes it special and distinct – and what should be the future direction of the firm. What is your story? Have you been drawn away from the clients, activities and associations that drew all of you together in the first place? What is your marketing focus for the next while? What would you like to change regarding the management of the firm? What about technology? Have you fallen a bit behind in this area and need to incorporate plans for upgrades and new ways of doing things? Are there categories in the finance area that you would like to tighten up, such as the collection of old accounts receivable and the tightening up of credit extended to clients? How about looking at your budget and seeing if the expenses in the group “we have always been paying this” should be looked at again if for no other reason to see if there are other vendors who might be less-expensive?
Personally I think one of the important measures is whether you have remained a ‘client-focused firm’. My late colleague and friend Milt Zwicker’s acid test was whether what was done in the firm provided value to the clients - or not. If not he would change or modify the policy or procedure so that it benefitted clients as much as possible.
I think focusing on the story of the firm and how it carries you into the future is also important. This is the culture, the invisible bond that draws all of you together and forms the backbone of the belief system of the firm. Organizations can change their culture and focus, but the story is the glue that connects the past with the future and tells why you are where you are. It is important to connect with the story of the firm, since after all, the firm was made for you to be able to provide value and meaning to your clients.
(cross posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ Get on your boots and visit the North Pole
Try every sport until you score a goal
Follow the path of a butterfly
Go to Ground Zero and do nothing but cry
We don’t know how much time left we got left in this world
This beautiful world…♫
Lyrics and music by Nelly Furtado, Rodney Roy Jerkins, Rodney Jerkins, recorded by Nelly Furtado.
Having just returned from my summer vacation, I came across an article on Lifehack.org that struck a resonate chord deep within me. The article is entitled: The Ultimate Bucket List: 60 Things You Should Do Before You Die. Perhaps it was the all-too tragic death of Robin Williams. Perhaps it was my visit to Ground Zero this summer. Perhaps it was just the sense that life is passing by all too quickly. I do know that I wished I had written this article as I think that Thomas Mondel has done an excellent job and he should be justifiably proud of what he has crafted.
What is on the list of things that he has compiled? Here is just a sampling:
Forgive the people who treated you poorly. Thomas states that there is nothing more refreshing than to sincerely forgive someone. Just forgive then and move on – it gets rid of the anger and it frees up your mind.
Be curious about people. Thomas observes that the people who are interested in others are the most interesting people themselves. Learn to listen and learn something new from everyone you meet.
Swim Naked. In the best case this is under the crystal clear sky. Yahoo!
Email one of your heroes and Meet up with one of your heroes. Try to reach out to the people who you value or you feel inspired by. As Thomas notes, how awesome would it be if your hero actually responds?
Witness the birth of a child. I totally agree with Thomas – it is kinda magical! Thank you Lauren for being my magical moment!
I hope you read the entire article by clicking here. The time to start on our own bucket list is now…we never know how much time we have left.
(cross posted to slaw tips.ca)
♫ Through the fire and the flames we carry on! ♫
Lyrics and music by: Herman Li, ZP Theart, Sam Totman, Vadim Pruzhaniov, recorded by Dragonforce.
Jo DeMars, of NetNeutrals (www.netneutrals.com) spoke at the 2014 Online Dispute Resolution Forum at Hastings College of Law at the University of California in San Francisco. This post is based on her most excellent presentation on Wednesday June 25, 2014. While her comments were presented in the context of resolving disputes that arise in e-commerce, her advice applies to virtually any consumer complaint, including client complaints regarding legal services.
She stated that most, if not all, people who have a complaint regarding a product or services are looking for five ‘psychological currencies’ from the provider. These are:
- They want a chance to tell their story;
- They are looking for a reasonable explanation of what went wrong;
- They are looking for assurance that their complaint will be dealt with;
- They wish to be thanked for their business; and
- They hope to receive an apology.
Her advice is that any provider should not hesitate to offer as many of these psychological currencies to people who are unhappy with your services. Why? Simply, it costs much more money to attract a new client vs. the cost to keep an existing client.
She explained that people who are feeling caught in this process typically go thru the same process: First they Feel; then Think, and lastly they Do/Behave.
She stated that when clients are feeling strong emotions, they are incapable of hearing you. You need to take care of the emotions before you can take care of the problem.
Accordingly she advises keeping calm. At the outset, your tone is everything and sets the stage for all that follows. Anger defusion is job #1. Once that is taken care of then the client is moving into a mindset where they can start dealing with the issues at hand.
She stated that many individuals or businesses hesitate in offering an apology. Jo stated that they should take time to master the Art of the apology:
- Clearly and completely acknowledge the problem
- Offer an effective explanation
Be honest with your clients and in particular, offer an honest apology to the client for how things transpired and the effect that this has had on them. Just hearing that a person or organization truly regrets what has happened to someone is a powerful message to help resolve a client complaint.
She also stated that it is important for the person or organization to tell the appropriate story. There are several components to this:
- own the problem,
- find allies if possible,
- take responsibility for making it right,
- follow thru, and
- tell the final chapter.
Her final advice was taken from firefighters: Run thru the flames – not away from them. It is easier and better to run to the problem thru to the other side than to run away from them.
(published concurrently with www.slawtips.ca)
♫ These are the people of Walmart
Through mark downs, roll backs, and shopping carts
These are the people of Walmart
Where we save money and shop smart only at Walmart…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Jessica Frech.
They teach you in business school to carefully evaluate your ‘marketing mix”. When it comes to a law firm’s marketing mix, the discussion is typically centred around the 7 P’s of law firm service marketing:
- Physical Evidence
What is unique in North America is that there is a law firm - Axess Law - that has taken a bold step into rethinking the traditional marketing mix for a law firm.
Here is their contact info from their website for one of their offices:
What are their products? They state:
Whether you are looking for a real estate lawyer, an estates lawyer, a family lawyer, a notary public to notarize or commission your documents or a business lawyer to draft your business agreements, we can help you.
What is their promotion? This is from their website:
Axess Law has highly experienced, trained and dedicated lawyers and legal representatives on staff similar to what you would expect to find at any other law firm. Unlike other firms, our approach to law is refreshingly different. We believe that law should be accessible to all, should be available at times that suit you and at prices that make sense. ‘Law Made Easy’ is not just our trademarked slogan – it is the philosophy that guides our everyday business.
Their place is obviously just inside a Walmart store..with convenient hours and free parking.
Their prices are aimed at the Walmart shopper: They advertise the lowest legal fees in Ontario for home purchases (guaranteed! they say) and $99 personal wills.
Judging by their website, their physical evidence reflects their style: Simple, clean and uncomplicated. One major difference is that you won’t find the traditional listing of the lawyers in the firm with their stuffy bios. Their website is strictly focused on the consumer of their services.
Who are the people who deliver these services? They state: “Dynamic challenges. Amazing people. Your career starts here.” Their website is an active listing of the people that they are looking for to join them: …with the Law Clerk position listed first, then Client Service Associate and at the end, Lawyer.
What about their processes? Their motto is “Law Made Easy“.
This is one dynamic firm. They have obviously thought through their approach to the market and they are taking a different direction from most, if not all, of the law firms in North America today. These are the people – and the lawyers – of Walmart.
-cross-posted to www.tips.slaw.ca
♫ Albert Einstein
I got an idea and it’s really bright
Somebody in my brain just turned on the light…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Avias.
This is another great leadership post from Beth Flynn at the THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY LEADERSHIP CENTER (www.leadershipcenter.osu.edu).
This post highlights the principles that helped shaped Albert Einstein into a leader and successful scientist. They are taken from Smithson, D. (2014). What managers don’t know: how to be a better manager, leader, and entrepreneur? Theinformbook.com
“Many people think that Einstein was just a simple scientist who went about formulating the laws that govern the Universe, but he was so much more than that.
Apart from being the man who had the greatest single impact on the advancement of our understanding of the laws that govern the physical universe, Einstein was also a philosopher king! Following are some of his musings (ESP), along with how they can relate to your business.
ESP 1: ‘The search for truth is more precious than its possession.’ This of course links back into the idea that you should never stop learning, asking questions so that you can learn.
ESP 2: ‘Imagination is more important that knowledge.’ This ESP is one of those ideas that has no direct application, but is such a powerful belief to install within your psyche; it can influence everything you do.
ESP 3: ‘No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.’ In science, nothing is ever 100% true. Think about that axiom. True science merely posits a theorem that should be successful tested and validated by other independent scientists, raises up a ranking to being a theory. This relates to the ideas of leadership. A leader is often only ever as good as his or her last successful decision.
ESP 4: ‘Most people say that intellect that makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.’ Apart from having a brain the size of a planet, Einstein was a man of constant inquisition, determination and almost child-like playfulness. So whilst you are getting your business qualifications, do so without sacrificing your social and thinking skills. If you are lacking in some areas, then go outside your comfort zone and learn how to gain those skills.
ESP 5: ‘It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.’ Einstein was an amazingly humble man, but this typical self-effacing statement reveals much of the secret of his success. He simply refused to give up. In everything he did, Einstein took the approach of an outstanding man who wanted to achieve outstanding things.
ESP 6: ‘You learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.’ If you want to become a success you have to first get into the game, and to do that you have to understand what the rules are. Once you’ve got that locked down, you have to practice and compete constantly – and if necessary, push for a change in the rules!!!
ESP 7: ‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’
I have made (and continue to make) mistakes, ranging from minor inconveniences to absolute oh my lord pass me on a gun now! But I never stop trying because I have a very simple philosophy: I never fail, so long as I learn something new (even, as I said, if that something new is a mistake - I won’t ever do that again.
ESP 8: ‘To stimulate creativity one must develop childlike inclination for play and childlike desire for recognition.’ My outlook on life is simple, I want to experience everything I can before I get to the final destination.
ESP 9: ‘Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds.’ It is said that we go through three stages of development. First it is met with derision. Then it is confronted with hostility and aggression. Finally, it is accepted as playfully self-evident. This is especially true when your great idea is a challenge to the established way of doing things, or contrary to the idea of the one who sits above you (p. 211-291).”
WANT TO DISCUSS TODAY’S LEADERSHIP MOMENT?
Go to the Ohio State Leadership’s blog and share your thoughts, ideas, or answer the questions below.
- Which of these ESP principles had the biggest impact on you?
- What are some ways you can integrate these principles into your work life?
Thanks Beth for helping us all turn on the light in our brains!
♫ Tell me, where are we going?
Oh, what’s the future showin’?
Oh, where are we headed?
With all that’s goin’ on where are we getting’? ♫
Lyrics and music by: Larry Mizell, Edward Gordon; recorded by Marvin Gaye.
This is another guest post by Bob Denney. It is on a topic near and dear to my heart, namely strategic planning and in particular, SP for smaller firms.
The legal profession continues to change dramatically. One of the encouraging developments of these changes is that more law firms are recognizing what their corporate clients have known for years: You can’t survive and compete successfully without a Strategic Plan. We have seen the result of this in our practice. Strategic Planning has always been one of our major services. Now, in the last three years, it has become our largest area of practice.
Unfortunately, there are still come misconceptions about strategic planning, even on the part of people who acknowledge its benefits. One of the most common is that “It’s only for large firms.” This is not so. Strategic planning is just as critical for mid-size and smaller firms because they have fewer resources and must utilize their resources strategically.
Another encouraging development of the last few years is that mid-size and smaller firms are also recognizing that, while they do not have the resources large firms have, they do have certain advantages over them:
o Lower or more reasonable fees and rate structures.
o Lower overhead and expenses.
o For the most part they provide superior client service.
o They have highly skilled lawyers, many with substantial books of business, who have left large firms.
o They are often able to recruit talented law school graduates who are by-passed by the large firms.
o They have open communication within the firm.
o They have the ability to make major decisions on a timely basis.
Strategic Planning is a complex and delicate process which is foreign to many law firms, even some of the largest. It can consume many hours (none of which are billable), generate intense feelings and result in firms setting unattainable objectives. But this does not mean that it is only for large firms. The Managing Partner of a firm which developed its first strategic plan two years ago gave perhaps the best reason of all for mid-size and smaller firms to develop strategic plans:
“The process we went through was as valuable or even more valuable than the final product we came up with.”
—Managing Partner, 250-lawyer firm
Robert Denney Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 551, Wayne, PA 19087-0551 • phone: 610-644-7020 • fax: 610-296-8726 email: email@example.com• web site: www.robertdenney.com
Thanks again Bob for emphasizing the importance of knowing where we are heading with all that is going on…
♫ Check the state of the world we live in
Can’t you see it’s a cryin’ shame?
Leadership fails before it begins
Motivated by personal gains
My long-standing good friend, fellow lawyer, runner and enduring leader in the American Bar Association has (finally!) launched his blog Strategic Legal Leadership. Tom’s mission in life for as long as I have known him has been in enhancing leadership among lawyers. He has written extensively on the subject (see for example his two books “Lessons in Leadership” and “The Lawyer’s Guide to Strategic Planning” both published by the ABA) and has led by example (see his extensive leadership roles here).
Tom has read virtually everything written on leadership (his book Lessons in Leadership is a must-read, if for no other reason than to come up to speed on the highlights of the most important books on leadership which are not only summarized in his book but placed in a legal context). He has provided some of the most educated and thoughtful presentations on not only why leadership is so vitally important at this pivotal time in the legal profession (some of which I have been most fortunate to have been present to hear) but why lawyers in any size firm need leadership skills to bring their firms, their partners, their associates and staff into the new reality of practising law.
I am truly fortunate as I have had the opportunity of working with Tom for 20 years, extensively running with him (while discussing leadership and other practice management topics) and watching his and my daughter grow up together. I believe that if mentoring is one sign of leadership, then Tom has excelled in raising his daughter to be an example of someone who is now leading her life trying to bring about social change and improving conditions for those whom society has left less-fortunate than most.
Tom truly believes in servant leadership. Traditionally, leadership was viewed as the accumulation and exercise of power by someone ‘at the top of the pyramid’ (as per Wikipedia). In contrast, servant leadership puts the needs of others first and views success as helping others develop and perform as highly as possible.
Tom has stated this about his blog:
Strategic Legal Leadership helps lawyers lead. Providing thoughtful guidance and practical advice will result in effective leadership, efficient management, and ultimately an exemplary client experience. Author Tom Grella offers timely advice based on his extensive experience and study.
I am adding Tom’s blog to my ‘must read’ list. Tom is a bright light, showing the true path to servant leadership, as he recognizes that leadership fails where it is motivated by personal gain. A true leader such as Tom put the interests of those that he seeks to lead first and foremost.
♫ Ah, there’s an elephant standing in the room
Ah, though we’re all alone
It’s not just me and you…♫
This is another guest post from Beth Flynn at the Ohio State University Leadership Center.
All of us have these two parts within – the wise and intentional inner executive and the unconscious inner elephant, which does a good job for us most of the time. The friction between inner executive and inner elephant occurs when they have different ideas about desired behavior. The inner elephant is concerned about its own needs and comforts, and is often stronger than the inner executive. The inner executive can see the bigger picture even if it has not learned how to guide and control the elephant.
For a leader, the ideal situation is for the inner elephant to work as the servant, the inner executive to work as master. Of course everyone faces situations where the inner elephant’s urges seem far stronger than the inner executive’s good intentions. This is like the inmates having more influence than the warden. Managers who do not have a well-developed inner executive will not lead themselves consciously and intentionally, just as a company without a CEO and executive team will not have an intended strategy or the capability to coordinate disparate departments for strategy execution.
When in its proper role, the inner elephant thrives as a follower, not a leader. Ideally, leaders will understand their own elephant, and will be conscious of its habits and needs. When a person is “unconscious,” however, he or she tends to live at the mercy of the inner elephant, following its needs and impulses without concerns for others or a bigger picture. When “conscious,” a leader can be intentional about doing the right thing (p. 11-12).
From: Daft, R. L., (2010). The executive and the elephant: a leader’s guide for building inner excellence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
WANT TO DISCUSS TODAY’S LEADERSHIP MOMENT?
Go to OLC’s blog and share your thoughts, ideas, or answer the questions below:
When have you used your inner executive to see the bigger picture?
How can you become “conscious” about doing the right thing?
Thanks Beth and her team for continuing to foster the development of leaders and helping us understand our inner elephant!
.♫ And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun….♫
Lyrics and Music by David Gilmour, Nicholas Mason, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, recorded by Pink Floyd.
One of the most interesting things I did just prior to Techshow was to attend a small group presentation hosted by Bob Christensen of The Form Tool and Doxsera in advance of Techshow. Bob’s presentation focused on change and in particular, the effect of change on the legal profession. In order to set the stage, Bob started by noting that in earliest dawn of man, one major change appeared in say, 10,000 generations. That has gradually accelerated to the point where today, we are seeing four major changes appearing in a single generation.
So what has that got to do with the legal profession, you say?
Bob noted that the structure of the legal business was established in the 1700s. We continue to use that structure more or less today.
Bob continued by noting that the watchmaking industry was started at about this same time. During that same period, watchmakers were some of the wealthiest people around and handmade watches cost a considerable amount. Now fast forward to today…to the world of Timex. A $29.95 Timex watch today keeps far better time than the best hand made watch of the past.
Furthermore, 60% of the number of watches in circulation has plummeted - due to the appearance of smartphones. The members of the new generation do not buy watches – they all have smartphones that keep accurate time. They do not see the need.
Bob stated this is just an example of the fact that “the consumer will always dominate the marketplace.” And that applies just as equally to the legal profession.
He noted three major themes in life today:
Theme #1 – the rate of change is accelerating
Theme #2 – that evolution always starts at the top. It is incremental.
Theme #3 – that revolution comes from the bottom. And revolution is always disruptive.
Bob noted that www.LegalZoom.com has taught the legal marketplace (but not lawyers) that legal documents should be free or at least low cost.
Bob challenged the lawyers in the room to see themselves in the same position as the watchmakers of the past who made hand-made watches for high prices. Revolution = Disruption = Technology is coming.
A word about Bob’s latest product: Doxsera. Doxsera is priced at $89 / year (USD). It is a very sophisticated document assembly engine for Word for Windows (sorry it doesn’t work in Word on the Mac).
What makes Doxsera different? It pulls in vast amounts of info into multiple documents and assembles documents in a way that is unique and very cost-effective. You don’t just assemble one document – you assemble a group of documents all relating to say, a closing or real estate transaction etc. You can take a process that in the past, had to be used to produce documents in a serial process (one after another) to the point where it can produce a whole grouping of documents at one time (parallel processing). Bob is trying to demonstrate to lawyers how they can produce legal documents at low cost. Think of his product as taking the legal production process as moving from making expensive hand-made watches to producing inexpensive Timex watches.
However, after his talk I couldn’t help looking back over my shoulder for the legal equivalent of the smartphone. Hmmm….perhaps it is just a matter of time..