A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

The cheats's guide to starting a client listening program

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

By Sue-Ella Prodonovich, Prodonovich Advisory 


An effective client listening program is one of the most valuable tools in any firm’s competitive armoury. 

If you’ve been thinking of developing a client listening program but don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. Many firms procrastinate, stall or fall at the very first hurdle when it comes to effective client listening. Here are some ideas for getting a client listening program up and running today.

1. Harness the power of five

A good client listening program will help you refine and improve the service you’re delivering, so that you reduce the chances of clients becoming alienated. It should also help you uncover new business development opportunities (yep, a client listening program isn’t all about one way traffic!) and help you bring a laser focus to any future attempts at winning work.

My advice at the outset is to identify five clients that will be the guinea pigs for your client listening program. These should be the people that you’ve promised you’ll review performance for (eg where you’ve tendered and have pledged to manage quality). But they could also be referral sources or close friends of your firm who you know are going to stay loyal.
I know what you’re thinking… Why bother asking raving fans what they think, when you know it will be positive? Actually, sometimes the people closest to us have the deepest and most ?? insights and they’ll often speak more frankly about you to another person (see point three below).

Besides, it’s usually your biggest fans that will be willing also to help the most. And, by asking a friend of your firm to participate, you’re also showing you’re not taking them for granted.

2. Focus on your MVP

I’m a big fan of the expression that you ‘eat an elephant one bite at a time’, because I think it really applies to client listening.

So once you’ve identified five clients to ask, don’t spend months, or even years, building the ultimate feedback machine so that you can roll out a program of Soviet proportions. By the time you get around to asking your questions it will be too late.

Instead, do what tech startups are told to do: focus on your ‘MVP’ or Minimum Viable Product.

What that means in the context of client feedback is that you come up with something that’s good but you don’t struggle for hours trying to make it perfect. Instead, focus on getting out there asking questions as quickly as you can, with the view that you’ll refine what you’re asking as you go. You’ll soon start to see where any gaps are. But because you’ll have some friendly clients in your list of early participants, they probably won’t care if you have to go back to them to fill them in. Then keep refining.

By the time it comes to spreading beyond your first five, you’ll be well drilled in how to conduct an interview and what information you’re looking for.

Speaking of which...

3. Bring in the big guns

With one or two exceptions, people will never tell you exactly what they think of you to your face. So don’t start going out there and interviewing your own clients.. Instead, get someone senior involved - preferably your Chairman, managing partner, senior partner or CEO You should also consider using someone independent (someone from your management team or an external consultant), either in conjunction with that senior person or in place of them. This allows the interviewing partner to put down the pen and focus on building rapport.

By doing this, you’re not just going to get better information, you’re showing the client just how seriously you take them. Put yourself in their shoes… how would you feel if one of your client’s CEOs took the time to sit down with you to ask how you thought the relationship was going?

Put yourself in your colleagues’ shoes too… You’re likely to have instant buy-in from across the firm when the boss becomes involved.

4. Tailor your meetings

Even so, having the right people at your end asking the right questions to the right people at their end, will still only get you so far. Just as important is the way you carry out the interview.

I always prefer meeting face-to-face because it lets you gauge body language and build rapport in a way that telephone conversations can’t. (Besides how many people are great in person and terrible over the phone?) But I understand that’s not always possible.

The order in which you ask questions matters too. After all, there’s been a lot of science that has gone into when to ask particular types of questions, how to stage the interview. I always like to break the ice with some easy questions that give them the chance to vent if they need to.

A lot of clients just want their voice heard. So ask open questions - don’t put ideas in people’s heads - and let them talk. I always tell people they have two ears and one mouth- use them in that ratio. Save your ‘high value’ questions for when the client has been warmed up - oh, and know when to put the pen down. Often you’ll get your best nuggets when people feel they’re not being judged.

5. Package it up properly

Consider how you invite the client to participate and, if you are using survey material, how you present your questions. After all the packaging provides some tangible evidence of the importance you place on the process. 

An owner of a reasonably large business recently showed me his law firm’s Client Feedback questionnaire. It was dreadful. A poorly photocopied checklist of questions taken from a website and copied onto a blank sheet of paper with instructions to fax back the reply! To make it worse it was attached to an invoice.


Also, be upfront with your clients about how you intend to use the information. Make sure they know what they say won’t instantly appear on your website in the form of a testimonial.

And remember to position the conversation in terms of expectations. A client feedback meeting is a commitment to listen to the client – you can't promise to fix everything but you can promise to listen and do what you can.

Finally, if you’re asking people to give you valuable feedback - and really getting something for nothing - make sure you don’t make them feel like they’re being put through the wringer. Limit the number of ratings or close-ended questions or else your discussion may start to feel more like an interrogation.

And finally…

One of the most important things to remember about client listening programs is that there is no one right way to go about it. Just as every firm and every client is be different, every program should be different to.

But, by following these five pointers, you’ll soon be building the right kind of program for your clients and your firm.

About our Guest Blogger

Sue-Ella Prodonovich
Sue-Ella Prodonovich has more than 20 years senior level experience winning and growing business in the professional services and B2B sectors. Her business, Prodonovich Advisory, has helped many of the Asia Pacific’s leading law and accounting firms develop and implement effective listening programs.












The real difficulty with strategy… (and it has nothing to do with being eaten by culture for breakfast).

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

By Andrew Price, Director, Inspire Management Consulting


Yes, there is an enormous amount of change currently occurring globally in the legal industry. A ‘head in the sand’ approach at this juncture is frankly foolish. As a result of the change, there is a renewed focus on strategic planning by many law firms. The best firms around know where they are headed and how they are going to get there.

Developing your firm’s strategy should not be an overly difficult exercise. Even in this edgy market. If it is, there is something either unusually complex about your firm, or you should rethink your approach to the strategic planning process.

What is the real difficulty with strategy?


No matter how good your strategic plan is, if it is not implemented properly it will fail. End of story.

Strategy implementation is where your strategic plan comes to life. It is the carrying out and execution of your plan. There are various models and views about how the implementation process works and what it consists of. At its most basic level, most share common traits including analysis, action and review phases. Implementation involves many stakeholders. It involves budgets, plans and procedures. But most importantly, it involves change.

Many people fear change particularly in a risk averse industry such as law. Those who fear change resist change and therein lies the problem.

Resistance to change can destroy the most well thought through strategic plan.

Why does resistance to change occur?


If your people perceive the firm’s values and experiences no longer provide a reliable guide to the future, resistance is likely to occur. The basis of the resistance might be a perceived threat of job security or important social structures within the firm may change. It might require a change in an individual’s expertise or a change in their work procedures. Change involves a shift from the known to the unknown. With change comes uncertainty and uncertainty is likely to impact the happiness and security of your people.

But this is natural, right?


Yes. Resisting change is not necessarily a selfish act. If you take someone out of his or her comfort zone, one that they’ve known intimately for some time, what do you really expect to happen? Resisting change is a natural human reaction to change that can have potentially enormous personal impacts.

In today’s legal market, even though there are widespread changes occurring, it is often the uncertainty attached to change that is the issue rather than the ‘technical’ change itself.

The implementation of your firm’s strategic plan will involve a number of projects. Many of these involve, for example, a change in process or procedure to improve the efficiency of the firm. They are not intended to make life difficult for your people or create uncertainty. Those responsible for implementing strategic initiatives must consider resistance to change in the planning process.

The importance of communication…


Communication plays a pivotal role in addressing any uncertainty during the implementation of your strategic plan and in any change program.

Providing as much information as possible through the change process will dramatically alleviate issues associated with uncertainty. People respond well to facts, particularly lawyers! Contradictory messages less so and these can be very damaging. Effective communication will dramatically help with the transition from resistance to acceptance.

An email from the managing partner outlining the planned change does not tick the ‘communication’ box!

A number of different communication platforms should be used. Social media, face-to-face presentations, email, informal ‘chat’, intranets, storytelling, and training are all useful methods. Messages must be conveyed a number of times. Once is not enough. Bear in mind what you say is not necessarily what is heard. There must be effective communication and lots of it!

Communication must do’s in the strategy implementation process:

  • Comprehensively explain to your people why the strategic initiative is important to your firm.
  • Create small wins and communicate them.
  • Consider resistance to change in the implementation planning process. Be ready for it.
  • Get feedback from your people during the implementation. Communication is not a ‘one way street’.
  • Provide a consistent message. Contradictory messages will add to the uncertainty and increase resistance.

Implementing strategy involves change. If not managed correctly, it can create uncertainty and resistance that can derail the best made strategic plans. Effective communication is one of the best ways of dealing with resistance to change and should be a key consideration in your strategic implementation planning.



About our Guest Blogger

Andrew PriceAndrew Price specialises in assisting law firms with strategic planning, implementation, and change management (successfully navigating their way through the raft of changes in the legal market!). He is a former lawyer, COO of a national law firm, and now director of Inspire Management Consulting. He is also an accredited change manager with the Change Management Institute.

On 28 February, Andrew is cycling 400kms in support of Royal Far West which provides health services to kids in rural and remote areas. To support Andrew and RFW on this ride please donate at: http://rideforcountrykids2016.gofundraise.com.au/page/AndrewPrice

Converting prospects to clients

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

By Amy Burton-Bradley, Partner at Julian Midwinter & Associates


In our joint 2015 research with ALPMA into Winning Work in a Digital World, we found referral networks were the biggest single source of new business enquiries (or leads) for Australasian law firms overall, selected by 43% of respondents, followed by word-of mouth/personal relationships (39%).

Generating new business leads is one thing; it’s quite another to convert that lead into an actual paying client. Although nearly a third of respondents (31%) reported their firm was highly effective at converting enquiries into paid work, the majority (57%) rated their firm as only somewhat effective at this. 

  

How to take advantage of referrals and word-of-mouth

As our survey results showed, many of your best business opportunities come from referrals or word-of-mouth (WOM). If you think back over your best clients, chances are that positive WOM put you in the frame.

When clients actively shop for a new expert professional, their usual first step will be to ask around among colleagues and contacts. Even for those who instantly Google search or LinkedIn stalk, there's still a high propensity to check out professional reputation with a trusted source via WOM. And for clients who embark on organised and formal selection processes, WOM is still a factor – many tender requests will ask for client referees.

Whatever the route that has brought a prospect to you, chances are that WOM will have at least some impact on that person’s buying decision.

How can you take advantage of this? 

Take a few moments to think about who in your circle are strong business influencers – perhaps consultants, investment bankers, industry analysts, clients (current, past or prospective). And for consumer facing law firms who are the connected influencers in your local community doctors, real estate agents, councillors, hairdressers? 
 
“WOM evangelists” will normally be active in their industry and professional circles or community and social spheres, and regarded as authorities in their fields. Think of them as your WOM salesforce. They will be in touch with scores of people of interest to you. Let them know you'd like to be in touch with those same people.

Your WOM salesforce will already be telling their contacts about you and what you do, so make sure they have current material on hand. Update them with information of value and interest to their contacts. Share and interact with them on social media. They'll pay attention to press coverage you receive, professional accolades, and other recognition – as long as you draw their attention to it. 
 
They will guard their status as trustworthy sources of information and recommendations to those in their circle. Do the right thing, and give them 100% correct information, pay warm and courteous attention to their referrals, treat their leads as important and do your best work for them. Most importantly, thank them when a referral comes your way. Depending on the size of the job, send an appropriate gift or acknowledgement of their contribution to your business.

If an opportunity or prospective client is to be converted into a new client, if a potential project is to be converted into an actual matter, it will involve some selling.

The sales process for lawyers goes something like this...


Sales is the process of converting a potential business opportunity into actual business, a prospective client into an actual client, possible work into actual matters.

No matter how good your WOM salesforce, it is ultimately you – the lawyer – who must show the prospect how you can add value and solve their problem. Today, personal marketing skills are a natural extension of delivering high quality legal service.

Identifying opportunities comes naturally to some, but with coaching, almost every professional can identify business opportunities and start business development conversations.

Techniques to establish credibility, like using the right terminology and looking and behaving like a clear and comfortable fit with the prospect, can be learned and developed through training and practice, practice, practice!

Skills in building consensus can also be developed, and are useful for establishing rapport around shared experience and shared values.



As we covered in our December webinar, an effective questioning technique is another useful skillset for lawyers. Combined with active listening, effective questioning is important to gain a proper understanding what potential clients are looking for, and is invaluable when it comes to scoping work and managing expectations. Harness your analytical skills to define the problem, and demonstrate how you will use your professional capabilities to satisfy client needs.

Sales success means converting those great opportunities generated through your networking and WOM referrals, into clients, and having a healthy, thriving workplace which can provide professionals reward, enjoyment, and recognition.

Are all prospects good prospects?


You can easily get swept up in the giddy whirlwind of what initially might seem a sure-thing prospect, perhaps referred by one of your WOM evangelists. This person or opportunity may be one of those nice, friendly “bottomless pits” which always feels like just a step or two away from converting into a client.

When you’ve invested lots of time, effort, energy, and money in a prospective client, it can be difficult to say “enough – time to call a halt”. Maybe just one more meeting, another lunch, a couple more invitations, the passage of a little more time, will be all it takes. But too often, these perennially luke-warm opportunities distract you from looking for better-fit prospects, and making headway with well-qualified opportunities.

Put each long-term prospect to these tests:

  • What have been obstacles to getting work from this source until now?

  • Have any of these obstacles shifted recently?

  • Does this person or organisation have what it takes – authority, budget, energy, inclination, motivation – to shift their work? 

  • If they do move the work, what’s the probability that it will be yours?

  • Has the prospective client invested real effort and resources in developing a professional relationship with you? Or have they just come along for the ride? 

  • What stands in your way of getting the business right now?

  • What difference will one more lunch/meeting/activity make?

Unless you get the right signals, call a halt.

That doesn’t mean that you never again waste a thought on them. Rather, restrict business development efforts in that direction to very low effort, background business development touch points to keep them in your circles – add them to the contact list for your blog, interact on LinkedIn, follow their Twitter account.

By dropping these perennial prospects who never quite morph into clients, you’ll be a whole lot more likely to put your business development energy and resource where it will produce results.


About our Guest Blogger


Amy Burton-Bradley
Amy Burton-Bradley is an experienced business developer, marketer, and copy-writer, who has worked with more law firm clients than she cares to remember!

She is a partner at Julian Midwinter & Associates, a business development consultancy that has helped law firms attract, win, grow, and retain new clients and business since 1993.







Resolving to do better

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

By Margaret Fitzsimons, Director, Trans4mation

So…….only 3 more sleeps until it is 2016. You have had a wonderful Christmas. Way too much food and drink. And now you are sitting back, contemplating what the New Year will have in store for you. Not just on a personal level, but for your business. You have been thinking lately that you really need to do some work ON your business and not just IN it, but life is so busy!


If your New Year’s Resolution is for your business to thrive in 2016, book out three or four hours in your diary and contemplate the following with your best brainstorming buddy:

  • Ask yourself whether you are running a practice or a business.  Answer this honestly.  The firms who are the most successful focus on being a business, first and foremost.


  • Consider how practice will change over the next five to ten years. Consider the impact of technology and globalisation and how the industry may be disrupted by new players. Think about different business models which may threaten your current business model. Determine what you think your future business model should be. Don’t be scared to think outside the square – that is how Uber was created! Be a disruptor if you can.

  • Look at where you want your practice to be based, which geographical areas you want to service and what services you want to provide. Remember, technology is going to threaten the current focus on geographical service provision so start thinking further afield now before another provider tries to snaffle your clients.

  • Determine what your point of difference is. Why are you different to any other practitioner offering a similar service? Now, come on, you can do better than ‘we are highly skilled and we provide excellent service’!

  • Document your business development plans for the year. Are you using digital marketing to your advantage? Is your website optimised for search engines? Do you have a significant personal network? How can you improve your referral networks? If you don’t have a formal marketing strategy, now is the time to get one. Get an expert to help if you can’t do it yourself.

  • Look at your staff structure. Are the right people sitting in the right chairs on the bus? If not, what is your optimum structure and how will you achieve it? If someone or a group of people are holding you back, do something about it. Who is actually driving the bus? Without a competent leader, nothing will be achieved.

  • Do you have the right KPIs in place for your staff? If you want to improve your overall net profitability, stop rewarding staff based on traditional revenue measures and start rewarding them on profitability measures. Think about implementing Cube Reporting which focuses on individual, team, location and specialisation profit contribution.

  • Have you got the right technology in place? Are you using the Cloud? Is your practice virtual? Do you have automated workflow and precedent systems in place? If you don’t have this, your competitors are already streets ahead in the game.

  • Review your pricing policies and mechanisms. The world is moving to value and fixed fee billing. Are you going to be left behind?

  • Are you efficient? Have you implemented a 'paper-light' office? Have you considered using offshore processing? Many of your competitors have been doing these things for a while now.

  • If this all seems too hard, work out the one initiative that will improve your business and work on that. It is better to do one thing well than do nothing at all. Remember that story about the tortoise?

Once you have worked out what you want to achieve, develop a project plan which details what needs to be done, by whom and when.   Make sure you regularly assess your implementation progress and measure your successes. Most importantly, celebrate all of your wins when you achieve them. 
 
May 2016 be a prosperous year for you. All the best!

Editor's Note:

Readers interested in learning more about Cube Reporting, can watch Margaret's on-demand presentation on "Net Profitability Reporting", free for ALPMA members or $99 (incl GST) for non-members. In this presentation, Margaret demonstrates how net profitability at differing levels of detail throughout a practice allows partners and managers to better understand the underlying performance of the segments of the business. She looks at the power of being able to identify and package the most profitable services within a firm and how to develop achievable strategies to work smarter.  CPD: 1 CPD Unit/ 1 NZ Hour Practice Management and Business Skills

About our Guest Blogger


Margaret Fitzsimons is the Director at Trans4mation. Margaret began her professional life as an accountant working for (what is now) PriceWaterhouseCoopers. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the professional services industry and has managed legal firms, two of which she was employed to transform. Margaret has a special interest in helping professional services businesses to realise their full potential by challenging the traditional methods of practice management. 

Margaret has extensive change management experience and has proven her business acumen by assisting the professional practices she has managed to achieve significant growth in both turnover and profitability.











Legal Project Management - the opportunity for mid-tier and boutique firms

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

By Peter Dighton, Director, Law Strategies

Legal Project Management (LPM) has been embraced enthusiastically by large firms in the USA as a way of preserving margins when clients are unwilling to pay time-based charges. Certainly the application of disciplined procedures to legal work, with the aim of achieving greater efficiency, is laudable. However when we drill down further it might be observed that the US brand of LPM is not designed to service clients more efficiently, but instead has been adopted as a way for law firms to maintain their profit margins in difficult economic times. 

The US approach is really about commoditisation of complex legal work, in the same way as an Australian firm might commoditise a repetitive exercise such as conveyancing. So for example a US firm that works on a high volume of, say, corporate mergers and takeovers, will analyse the data from the transactions it has acted on over the last few years to analyse the actual hours spent by its lawyers and then, to the extent possible, this is then broken down to examine the seniority of the lawyers concerned and how much work they undertook at different stages of the transaction. From there the past data is extrapolated to future transactions to enable the firm to provide fixed fee quotes with confidence. In addition, templates of standard tasks or “Springboard Maps” are generated to cut down on the time to be spent on the transaction. 

During execution of the work the supervising partner is alerted if a task is running over time and he or she will investigate the reason for the over-run, which might be attributable to inefficiency on the part of the lawyer or a miscalculation of the resources needed to execute an aspect of the job, or the reason may be attributable to the client, for example if there has been “scope creep”. The partner will then institute appropriate remedial action. 

There are a few problems with the American approach:

  • Every transaction is of course different; even if there is a reasonable frequency of a type of transaction, a firm on different occasions may be acting for different parties such as buyers, sellers or financiers who will have differing roles in the transaction
  • One might also wonder how reliable the analysis of previous data will be when the assumption seems to be that people who worked on previous transactions were both efficient and honest in their time recording (although funnily enough if the time was inflated in previous transactions that might lead the firm to stipulate a higher price in the future, meaning higher profits if the work is now executed efficiently)
  • Most pertinently to the Australian market, the size of the local market makes it difficult for even the largest Australian firms to rely on a high volume of corporate or commercial transactions and therefore the dataset on which a local firm bases its analysis might be quite thin. 
Not being able to follow the US approach is, in my view, not a problem but rather is an opportunity. A bespoke solution, specifically, preparing a Project Execution Plan (PEP) on a complex project or transaction, means that a firm is able to demonstrate to a client that it has thought about what is required, can execute it efficiently and can report against execution. Clients want more than glib platitudinous statements about a firm’s capabilities; usually technical competence is a given and clients are looking for tangible proof of efficiency. 

In particular preparation of a PEP showing how work will be undertaken is the type of transparent methodology that may provide mid-tier or boutique firms with an advantage over their larger competitors. It enables smaller firms to impress a client with both their understanding of the job and their attention to the process side of the work. It can help remove the perception that it is safer to use a “brand” mega-firm on top-end work. 

The planning process can be even more impressive if the client is asked to participate in the planning session (and if so the firm would be well-advised to have a dry-run beforehand!). Also if a smaller firm is not being considered for tender lists, it can try cold-calling businesses offering to do a free PEP on forthcoming projects as a way of getting a foot in the door. 

It should be emphasised too that LPM is not just about reducing fees; if waste is eliminated fees should come down, but if the work is monitored properly there will also be opportunities for firms to charge extra for variations to the scope of work. 
 
Preparation of a detailed PEP for a client on a transaction may be the best form of marketing a law firm can ever do. Moreover a properly prepared and executed work plan is likely to result in a happy client, thereby reducing the likelihood of disputes and leading to repeat business. Thus the emphasis in the US may be internal (maintaining margins) but the aim of Australian firms should be to adopt an externally focused (i.e. client-based) approach to discharge work efficiently and transparently. 

About our Guest Blogger

Peter Dighton
Peter Dighton is the principal of Law Strategies Pty Ltd., which is a legal and commercial project management consultancy with over 30 years’ experience on international resources projects.

Law Strategies has developed its own methodology for preparation of Project Execution Plans – “Incogito” .











How to use digital tools to win more work

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

By Kirsten Hodgson, Founder of Kaleidoscope Marketing 


Stop thinking of digital and social tools as being separate from traditional marketing and BD activities. 

They’re not. 

The recent results of the ALPMA/Julian Midwinter 2015 Research ‘Winning Work in a Digital World’ confirmed that law firms are, on the whole, using these tools separately rather than as a way to enhance the success of their existing activities. 

Unsurprisingly, the study found the top three ways law firms in Australia and NZ win work are via: 
  1. Referral relationships/networks
  2. Events 
  3. Client relationship management programmes. 
I don’t expect that to change. But each of these things could be even more effective if firms, and the individuals within them, leveraged digital channels as a part of these strategies. 

The authors put it well when they said “We expect this to change in the near future, as more firms come to understand the benefits of a well-strategised and resourced digital program for supporting their overall marketing and BD efforts.” 

How can I leverage digital channels to make my existing initiatives even more effective?


1. Referrals

Often people refer work to whoever is top of mind. 

A referral programme can and should have digital elements built into it. This could include setting up a joint group on LinkedIn to target common prospects or simply encouraging those within your firm to share content valuable to their referrers’ clients directly with their referrers (this can often be done with one click of a button online). We all get busy and go through periods when it can be hard to get out from behind our desks. In those instances, we can use those social networks, where our referrers are present (and email marketing), to stay on their radars. 

By regularly sharing content valuable to your referrers and their clients online, you are likely to grow your referrer base. Over the past two years, I’ve had good quality referrals from over ten overseas consultants as a result of my online activity. And the clincher? I haven’t even met the majority of these people in person (although have had Skype conversations with some). 

Another aspect of this is ensuring that when referrers recommend us, our online profiles present us in the best possible light. I’ve seen too many instances of professionals missing out on work (often that they didn’t even know was in the pipeline) because their online profiles just didn’t cut it.  Don’t kid yourself that your clients and prospects aren’t looking at sites such as LinkedIn to verify you because they are! 

2. Events

There are multiple ways you can leverage digital channels to improve your event programme: 

  • Ask your connections on LinkedIn and your followers on Twitter or other social media platforms the one thing they'd like to get from your session. This is a great way to get engagement with your event and will result in a much better session.

  • Use technology to run webinars and record these for viewing on-demand post event.  You could allow people to view these recordings free from your website - in return for completing a form and providing their email address/contact details. This then allows you to communicate with them on an ongoing basis throughout their buyer journey.

  • Invite people to your events via social networks and drive them to a landing page where they can register. 

  • Post insights from the event on your website, blog and social networks post event. Your call to action could then be to view the recording of the session. 

  • Run a mini online course via a landing page and a series of autoresponders you set up that people can work through at a pre-determined pace.  Many entrepreneurs do this extremely successfully - and it is a strategy that would also work well in professional services. An added benefit is you can include calls-to-action throughout the series, moving people through your sales pipeline and, because you capture their email address at the outset, you can keep in touch with them on an ongoing basis, allowing you to start to build a relationship and trust. 

3. Client relationship management programmes


A friend (who works in London for an international law firm) said that he’d recently conducted a client review and his client had asked him why none of the people the firm had previously seconded to the client were on LinkedIn. His client went on to say “we see these people as part of our team too and we want an easy way to stay in touch with them.” Setting up LinkedIn profiles for each of these people and having them join the client’s alumni group - not to mention connecting with those they know within the client’s organisation - would give firms access to a goldmine of information and insights they currently don’t have. 

The mini-courses and on-demand webinars mentioned earlier could be offered to key clients in order to take some pressure off their in-house legal teams. You could then use live online support sessions to enhance the value you offer. This is particularly helpful when your clients have offices in multiple cities and/or when their teams need quick access to content. 

Following clients online (both their organisations and the key people) allows you to understand more about them and may inspire further ideas about how you can help them. At the very least, engaging with their content generates goodwill and keeps you top of mind should an opportunity arise. 

These suggestions are by no means exhaustive. I’ve barely even scratched the surface. But my point is this: whatever you’re doing in terms of business development and marketing could be even more effective if you integrated digital into the mix. 

It’s a case of thinking "'how could using digital channels help me to achieve Objective X more easily?" 

For example, by using LinkedIn and/or tools such as Crystal to uncover information prior to a new business meeting, you can better plan your approach and determine the right colleagues to take along to the meeting. 

If you’re not thinking like this, then I guarantee you’re missing out on some of your ideal work. 

And in today’s market, can you really afford to let that happen?

Editor's Note



ALPMA members and research participants can also attend the results webinar at 1.00pm (AEDT) on December 8 for free, while eligible non-members pay just $99.00 (including GST).  

Register now to learn more about winning work in a digital world from JMA's resident business development expert, Alistair Marshall. 

About our Guest Blogger


Kirsten Hodgson is the founder of Kaleidoscope Marketing, helping professional services firms to grow their existing client base and attract more of their ideal clients through inbound marketing including harnessing the power of LinkedIn. She has led LinkedIn workshops throughout New Zealand, Australia and the UK, showing professionals how they can adopt social selling to grow their practices. 

Her books, The Complete Guide to LinkedIn for Lawyers: Connect, Engage and Grow your Business and The Complete Guide to LinkedIn for Accountants were published by LexisNexis earlier this year. She is a co-creator of ‘Grow your Practice with LinkedIn: for Lawyers’ an online training course, which has been CPD accredited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in England and Wales. 

The 2015 Marketing and Business Development Report Card for Australasian Law Firms

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

By Amy Burton-Bradley, Partner at Julian Midwinter & Associates

Click here to download research

The newly-released 2015 ALPMA/JMA Winning Work in a Digital World research reveals that not a lot has changed for firms on the marketing and BD front since our 2014 study.

Firms are still grappling with the same big external and internal challenges:
  • competition for clients in a mature and saturated market – rated the single biggest challenge (21% of respondents)
  • firm differentiation (17%)
  • finding new sources of work (16%)
  • keeping up with online, digital, and social media (11%).
When asked about other challenges their firm faces, respondents reported a mix of internal issues around culture, strategy, and lack of resources, as well as external factors.

So where should firms focus to meet these challenges and thrive in a digital world?

Firm report card

The 2015 Marketing & Business Development Report Card for Australasian Law Firms (below), based on research results, highlights several critical success areas firms can focus on to improve results - and I have put together an action plan and some homework to help you address these issues at your firm.


1. Translate aspiration into action

“The major challenge is getting it all humming along in one meaningful, strategic direction. Saying no. Not being waylaid by Partner demands. Having enough hands on deck.” 

With competition for new work fierce in a mature and saturated legal market, it’s reassuring that 84% of respondents say marketing and BD is important to their firm. However, only 50% of firms have an overarching marketing and BD plan and only 32% agree their firm is strategic and disciplined in its approach to marketing and BD activities.

“[Our challenge is] coming up with a firm strategy and ensuring we adhere to it.”

Homework: 

Firms need to develop – and communicate – a clear marketing and BD plan. Communicating the plan will help with staff engagement and motivation. Remember to monitor the plan for effectiveness, and don’t be afraid to stop activities that are not working. For some simple tips on getting a plan together and sticking to it, click here.

2. Capitalise on client satisfaction

Clearly, a law firm can’t exist without clients, so it is encouraging that 77% of respondents agree their firm is focussed on client satisfaction. However, 64% do not obtain client satisfaction feedback in any systematic or formal way. 
 
This is a huge missed opportunity for firms. Collecting client data through a formal process can help you to:
  • keep your clients happy and make them feel special by asking for their opinion and feedback
  • give clients what they actually value (hint: it’s unlikely to be a 'latest news' section on your website)
  • head-off any grumbles before they become serious issues (like a bill dispute)
  • uncover what your clients’ changing needs are – giving you opportunities to design new services or refine your offerings
  • reward your lawyers and staff for a job well done, and to performance manage others
  • promote your firm using client data statistics and evaluations.

Homework: 

Set up a simple client feedback survey to ask your clients what they want and value. With a regular process in place, not only will you improve your attractiveness as provider of legal services, but you may also see improvements in client retention and satisfaction over time.  Learn more about the benefits of measuring client satisfaction. 

3. Win with in-person activities

Firms rated face-to-face marketing and BD activities as the most effective for generating new business enquiries. Research results showed that the top three most effective activities are: referral networks; events (such as seminars hosted by your firm); and client relationship management programs.

Strikingly, though, 56% of firms do not train their lawyers in critical marketing and BD skills, and we can see in the report card that more than half of firms do not have individual marketing and BD plans for their lawyers. As one respondent noted, their firm tends to rely on ‘passive’ marketing and BD activities, like referrals, to generate new business; ‘our staff are not comfortable with actively trying to market the business in more direct ways.’

Homework: 

Some ideas for developing younger lawyers’ skills and confidence include offering partner mentoring and opportunities to accompany partners to client meetings; encouraging attendance at client social and networking events; or engaging external BD coaches. Download JMA’s simple 10 minutes a day BD plan for lawyers (PDF) to help you get started.

4. Do more with digital

While a few firms indicate they do not use social media yet (‘fear of the unknown’), it is positive to learn 58% of respondents agree that their firm is prepared to be innovative and adopt new approaches to marketing and BD. 
 
The most popular activities firms are hoping to try in the coming 12 months include:
  • making use, or better use, of social media
  • upgrading website features and content
  • increasing client-focussed activities 
  • producing online video content. 
With few firms doing digital really well, there’s real scope for firms to extend their online presence and make smarter use of digital tools to differentiate and amplify messages in support of their in-person activities. Nearly all firms surveyed have a website, but only 13% of respondents rated their firm’s website as highly effective.

Homework:

You can’t afford to ignore it any longer: 2015 is a digital world, and you must engage with it. Figure out where your audiences are, and investigate the right platforms and content to deploy in the battle to win new clients and more work in a digital world.  If you’re not sure where to start, our earlier blog post will give you some ideas.

You should also download the 2015 ALPMA/JMA Winning Work in A Digital World research report for free to see how your firm's approach to marketing and business development compares to other law firms in the competition for new business. 

Editor's note 

Interested readers can also register to attend for the Winning Work in a Digital World webinar on Tuesday 8  December at 1pm (AEDST), where Alistair Marshall, Julian Midwinter and Associates' resident business development expert, will talk more about the most fruitful areas for firms to concentrate their marketing and BD efforts on and share ideas and practical tips to help you get positive behavior change and results for your firm.  Register now.

If you have a particular question you would like addressed at the webinar, you can submit your question here, and we will endeavour to answer as many as possible.

About our Guest Blogger

Amy Burton-Bradley
Amy Burton-Bradley is an experienced business developer, marketer, and copy-writer, who has worked with more law firm clients than she cares to remember!

She is a partner at Julian Midwinter & Associates, a business development consultancy that has helped law firms attract, win, grow, and retain new clients and business since 1993.








How to create client value in the digital era

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

By Karen Lee, Legal Industry Advisor, SAI Global 


I am sure you are well aware of the pressures on today’s law firms to provide more for less, while at the same time give clients more control and certainly of their money. As we advance further into this digital era, clients expect more – much more. Clients expect any money they spend is well worth the value they receive. The 2015 ALPMA/LexisNexis Research Preparing Australasian Law Firms for a Digital, Divergent, Differentiated Future found only 29% of firms are prepared for a digital future that will deliver this level of service and value to clients. Is your firm part of the 29%?

Your daily challenge is to not only stand up to these pressures, but also find workable solutions that will increase your firm’s operational efficiency, keep up with ever-changing technology, and still grow your firm’s profits. This is no easy task, but there is help.

Visualise


Regardless of your firm’s specialisation, you always need (with or without the help of technology) to build an accurate picture of your client. This is not only needed for due diligence in terms of gathering all the facts for a matter or a transaction, but the portrait of your client is also needed for identification of opportunities and risks that arise. This helps put you one step ahead of the game at all times.

Consider the globalisation of the legal industry as a prime example of where visualisation in law is beyond merely helpful, but necessary too. Let’s say your Singapore office has just taken on a matter in Australia. You need to build a complete picture of your client and you need to be able to communicate that information to the relevant parties locally as well as overseas. With the right kind of software at your disposal, commercial information can be quickly standardised through pictures. A company is a company, a person is a person, a property is a property, no matter where you are in the world. This type of technology will help everyone involved envision the commercial information in the right way and they will be able to put it all in the proper context. This facilitates collaboration and offers the greatest chance of a positive outcome. This also translates to the ability to provide the highest level of service (and value!) to the client. 
 

Automate


Inefficiency is not an option when striving for the long-term success of a firm. The same research found that 72% of firms are changing their resourcing strategy to increasing operational efficiency. A key to making this change lies in automation, which relies on technology. 
 
Technology makes it possible to automate generic processes and standardise workflow. Let’s consider this example of having a will drawn up. With the exception of people who have amassed great fortunes in their lifetime, most wills are fairly standard. Over the coming years, the average person will no longer need to go to their lawyer to specify to whom they plan to leave their money and assets. Technology would enable them to do this quickly and easily and at a fraction of the cost. Wouldn’t you take advantage of this kind of opportunity?

Connecting the dots – legal technology, law firm efficiency and client value


You may find this statement surprising – there is actually no point in adopting new legal technology just for the sake of improving law firm efficiency. This is because efficiency has to lead to value for your clients, otherwise you are not focusing resources correctly and you are simply wasting your time.

There are a number of commercial information platforms available on the market that will help you visualise and automate your workflow’s. Investigate the benefits these have to offer your firm in terms of delivering more effective outcomes.

About our Guest Blogger

 

Karen LeeKaren Lee is the founder of Legal Know-How and a legal industry advisor for SAI Global

She has practised banking and financial services law for 17 years, including over 6 years spent in-house in leadership roles and over 4.5 years spent focused on legal documentation, precedents and knowledge management at a top-tier Australian firm and a magic circle global firm.

As the principal and a consultant of Legal Know-How, she utilises her top tier experience to provide expert advice to firms and businesses on a wide variety of legal and operational matters, as well as provide user-friendly knowledge management solutions to firms and businesses to enhance client/customer service. Her clients have gained significant value from using Encompass, a legal commercial information management platform.





Using robots for client service delivery at law firms - The Conveyancing Shop case study

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

By Sirpa Gunn, CEO, The Conveyancing Shop 


In 2015 we employed our first robot.

George came highly recommended by his previous employers, Auckland-based accountants, Wise Advice.

As with most new technologies, not everyone was convinced that George would be a good fit in our close-knit team. At first, our staff felt a bit skeptical and perhaps a little threatened by his presence. But as they witnessed the benefits he brought, they came to fully appreciate the change and to value his contribution.

George is a wheeled robot fitted with a screen for a face. George can be controlled remotely, so the screen can turn towards whomever is speaking. This allows us to have remote meetings with groups of people without asking them to crowd around a screen.
george the robot
We employed George as a time-saving device for our specialist lawyers. With four branches across Auckland, our specialist lawyers would often have to travel to speak to clients. With travel time, the meeting itself and catching up with staff in the other branches, our very valuable team members could spend over two hours attending a 30-minute meeting. This is certainly not the best use of time for a law firm partner. We found Skype didn’t work well for a lot of clients – they expected to see a specialist lawyer in person and huddling over a screen makes the meeting awkward and stilted. The reaction to George whizzing into the room was quite different – clients love him!

Initially, we had just intended George for our senior lawyers to have meetings in other branch offices. Our mobile legal executives then started taking him to meet with clients at their homes or workplaces. This lets our clients talk to lawyers back in the office to explain legal details like guarantees and loan documents. We even allow clients to login and use George to attend online meetings with us in our office.

While technology is a fantastic means of automating processes, there is a danger that it can negatively impact on the customer experience – nothing can replace personal interaction. Perhaps unusually, I believe law firms are in the customer service industry. We are there to use our legal knowledge to provide exceptional service to our clients. We keep this in mind whenever implementing new technologies – our goal is always to use technology to increase our face-to-face time, not reduce it. George certainly helps us to achieve that. The time saved on travel means our lawyers can take more time in meetings to make sure clients have all the information, and know their options. It has also freed us up to provide more value-added services.

George has become something of a talking point. He’s our team mascot – something new and fun that fits with our innovative reputation. 

Was George a good investment? Yes – he was a left-field investment, but one that’s significantly added to our clients’ experience. In the travel time saved alone he would have earned his keep within the first few months.

Editor's Note

Thought Leadership Eye Level

The Conveyancing Shop were finalists in the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards for their innovative use of George The Robot to reduce costs and improve service delivery at their law firm.

Check out the online discussion panel featuring the finalists discussing the challenges of operating in a digital, divergent and differentiated legal environment with ALPMA President, Andrew Barnes and InfoTrack Executive Chairman, Stephen Wood.



About our Guest Blogger


Sirpa GunnSirpa Gunn is a Conveyancer and CEO of the Conveyancing Shop Lawyers Limited. Sirpa oversees the smooth running of the firms four branches and Auckland wide mobile legal service.  After more than 10 years in this role, there is little she does not know about the industry and is regularly invited to present seminars and speak at events.

Sirpa has a Master of Management degree and, prior to establishing the Conveyancing Shop with Director Thada Chapman in 2005, she worked in international business and hospitality management. She believes her diverse experience has been a key factor in her success, as she has been able to adapt her focus on customer service to the legal industry and work on integrating technology to create a better client experience and increase the productivity of her firm.

Sirpa is a strong advocate for the rights of asylum seekers in New Zealand and sits on the board of the Auckland Refugee Council. She is also a partner of Rocket Practice, a consulting firm that assists Australian and New Zealand Accounting and Legal Practices adapt and thrive in the digital era.

How innovative technology can change the way law firms do business

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

By Ian Perkins, Managing Director,  lawlab

Investing in technology, changing service delivery and creating new service platforms for people will be standard legal practice within the next 10 years.

From humble beginnings in the NSW country town of Nyngan in 2001, somewhat geographically challenging when competing with big city law firms, we are now one of Australia’s most efficient high volume national conveyancers, with additional offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin, servicing both our own clients and acting as an outsource provider to other law firms.

We were proud to be recognised as finalists in the ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards for Project Rundl.

With more than 15 years’ experience in the conveyancing area, we’ve become known for our legal expertise in the property industry and our commitment to specialisation in conveyancing, while always focusing on providing outstanding customer service. To do this, we invested a lot of time, resources and money in technology development to create a way to make conveyancing easier and more transparent for all parties.

The geographical divide


To overcome the geographical challenge of being headquartered in a small town we set out to create an online network that connected everyone involved in a property transaction, including real estate agent, finance broker, conveyancer and buyer. Our goal was for all components of a property transaction to be completed easily and provide a better experience for customers. It was our aim to put the customer at the centre of the transaction. And that’s what we achieved when we implemented Project Rundl, a cloud-based transaction collaboration platform.

Innovative technology for streamlined property transactions


Rundl makes the property transaction process quicker, more efficient and more open. Gone are the days of long email chains and constant phone calls to chase up approvals, forms and sign-offs, and to get updates on where the process is at. 

The beauty of an online tool is its ability to speed up communications and document sharing between everyone involved in a property purchase or sale. This includes the customer and brokers, lenders, real estate agents, aggregators, accountants, lawyers and insurance firms.

Simplifying the customer’s journey from point A to point B and providing a streamlined, hassle-free service, at a realistic, fixed price were key reasons for implementing the project.

The way of the future


As technology advances, so does the need for businesses to become more agile in order to maintain a competitive edge. At the heart of it, great service at a reasonable price is what we see as the future of the legal industry, and in conveyancing we’re keen to be at the forefront of that development. Rundl allows us to provide that for our clients.

The idea behind Rundl was to create an open business network for delivering smart and efficient professional services. For customers, having an open, transparent platform is an extremely useful tool in the buying and selling of property. It means that they can be remote or busy and not have to worry about meeting face to face with any of the service providers involved in the transaction. 

Collaboration is key


Through the development process we’ve discussed, Rundl is an engagement tool that is capable of decentralising workplaces and cities. This is very important if you’re based in Nyngan, with a population of just over 2,000. Put simply, you could be located anywhere, but if you have a truly collaborative network, then where you are is not really important. The focus for our client facing relationship is via a secure social media style engagement.

Rundl can be adapted to other legal transactions


One of the exciting things about Rundl is that it isn’t just for conveyancing. It is easily adapted to streamline any legal transaction that involves a standard process requiring collaboration across multiple internal or external parties. Rundl bridges the paper and digital divide ensuring that clients and lawyers are not left behind in the drive to digitise legal and other transaction services such as litigation. 

Working towards better outcomes


In a time when many law firms are looking to outsource to improve efficiency, Rundl will also allow us to build better systems to make Australians more productive and cost-effective and eliminate the need to take our businesses offshore. Greater efficiencies will also allow lawyers to spend more time on the strategic high value work rather than being bogged down in routine tasks.

While the legal sector is known to be quite slow to change when it comes to technology, investing in technology will give us more employment opportunities within Australia, something I’m passionate about. 

For other law firms considering tech development, it’s important to understand the challenges associated with building software to be both effective and reliable. It takes time, dedication and a skilled team of tech talent, but ultimately, or at least in the case of Rundl, it has certainly paid off.

Editor's Note:


Lawlab were finalists in the 2015 ALPMA/InfoTrack Thought Leadership Awards.  

Check out the online discussion panel featuring the finalists discussing the challenges of operating in a digital, divergent and differentiated legal environment with ALPMA President, Andrew Barnes and InfoTrack Executive Chairman, Stephen Wood.

About our Guest Blogger

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins is the Managing Director of lawlab, a specialist Australian legal services provider that takes the guesswork out of property transactions. He has been a lawyer in the banking and property sectors since 1997 and is a content expert in the property space. 













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