July 17, 2014

Rule 5: Over-Communicate: Bombard, Copy and Confirm

Over-Communicate: Bombard, Copy and Confirm. It's from our annoying but dead-on accurate 12 Rules. Our eternal debt to Jay Foonberg for this rule. We just changed the words.

spazz.jpg

Over-Communicate--just don't spazz it up too much.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:52 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2014

Pantheon: Lucy Liu.

Vogue_China_Lucy_Liu_1.jpg

Posted by JD Hull at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2014

Robert C. Townsend: Lawyers, Guns and Politics.

Lawyers take to politics like bears to honey. Other things being equal, try to pick lawyers who are active in politics. The best ones won't try or be able to "fix" things. But they're great antennae.

--Robert C. Townsend, former Avis CEO in chapter "Lawyers Can Be Liabilities", Up The Organization (1970)

400000000000000330464_s4.png

Posted by JD Hull at 12:11 AM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2014

The Great Customer Service Ruse: What If Consumers Got Up Off Their Knees?

Is it just me?

Year after year, the cult of customer/client service "trends" stridently in books, trade journals, company meetings and on the internet. Service gurus are multiplying. Everyone is writing, gushing and testifying about the importance of service, often implying that service is no problem to establish and maintain. Businesses in every industry are proclaiming in giddy, self-congratulatory tones that service is, and has been for the last fifty or so years, a "core value" and "touchstone" of their success. And yet every year, the service that each of us experience on a daily basis in our own lives is getting worse and worse.

The culprits? Just about anyone who sells anything. Retail, especially. Retail banking, insurers, phone companies, utilities and the scads of outside "tech" guys charged with keeping your computers running are the worst. Two notable exceptions: Trader Joe's. GEICO. And that's about it. So let's start getting feisty at stores, coffee shops, on the phone with customer care reps, at doctors' offices, everywhere you pay for something. Remind them all you have options and choices. You're a customer, consumer, client or patient? Get off your knees. Demand things. Make them earn or keep your business.

clerks3.jpg
Pay attention. Jay and Silent Bob want to buy something.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2014

Rule 3: Ensure That Everyone Knows That The Client Is The Main Event

Rule Three: Ensure That Everyone In Your Firm Knows That The Client Is the Main Event.

Conveying what you are doing for clients and how you will accomplish that needs to be transmitted clearly to everyone in your firm: from the big picture to small details: what does the law firm do, who are the clients, what do the clients do, in what city is the general counsel's office, who works with the GC on that project, does she like e-mails or phone calls for short-answer projects? One way to start this process with a new employee is by having her or him read a short, amusingly-written confidential "Practice Guide" (with almost no procedures or "rules") on the firm's overall goals, your firm's service vision, client descriptions and genuinely useful ways to work--before the first day of work. Everyone must know.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2013

Rule 2: Customers and Clients are the Main Event--not you, your employees or your profession.*

Curious cows 6819b.jpg
Western professionals talking shop.


Rule Two: The Client is the Main Event.

We all know that clients pay our fees, give us interesting work, and that we have professional, financial and fiduciary duties to clients. We tell clients they are "everything" to us. But is it true? Is the notion that the client is the main deal chiefly something we eagerly tell our clients (and ourselves) while we pitch for work? My sense is that lawyers, except on a strictly marketing and PR level, and even with the best clients, generally forget that and won't create what quality improvement guru W. Edwards Deming years ago called a "constancy of purpose" about true service.

So Rule Two becomes the obvious "yeah-of-course-our-firm-knows/does that" rule that may get more lip service than actual delivery in all the details of our work for clients. If client (or customer) "primacy" were really the organizing principle for everything we do, isn't that in our interest, too? Doesn't that mean that the work is better, law firm staff and attorneys are pulling in the same direction, morale is good, we spend less time and money on marketing, we keep good clients and we attract new ones?

And if we really get it, are really we doing it?

*Is there anything more myopic or prissy than lawyers who constantly talk about the "integrity of the Profession"? Suggestion: Start with customers; build your integrity from there.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2013

Don't compete on price. Don't compete on price.

In this economy, the great corporate clients we always wanted at our mid-sized firm will now come to us for our lower rates. They will never leave us. There will be Sweetness, Light and Good Crops.

--An over-served lawyer, Trevor, at an American last night.

No. Probably not. No. Not ever. Right now, it's tempting--but resist the urge to lure new clients with lower price or rates. Clients who come to you for price will leave you for price. Think about value first, price second.

gen-y.jpg
Above: Trevor sober.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:23 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2013

How do you get more work from GCs and in-house counsel at great companies?

It's hard yet not complicated. You ask them. You pick up the phone and ask for more work. Or, in some cases, you e-mail. You persist--but do it all with taste and sensitivity to their schedules and burdens. Try not to be a dork.

NM-CJ052Fb.jpg

"Zen Master", by Chen Jun (1935-), 2003.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2013

Cross-Selling: You Folks Really Partners? Or Just Sharing Space?

cross-selling.jpg

Few law firms cross-sell partners effectively. Lots don't even try.

And then there's this problem: most law firms of any size, depth or sophistication have been reduced to an aggregation of several (or many) smaller fiefdoms or, if you will, "collection of boutiques". Each individual boutique-fiefdom is disturbingly insular, with little overlap on anything--including issue-spotting for either client work or marketing operations.

In these firms, partners are "friends" (with fiduciary duties to one another) and space-sharers--but not true partners in an entrepreneurial sense. Such firms have a built-in prejudice against growth by cross-selling. They are territorial--and often even wary of each other. But they generally do have a few highly frustrated principals or leaders who recognize the problem. That's a start.

Listen up, folks:

1. We can't imagine anything in law firm management more difficult than getting partners to discipline themselves on a long term basis--i.e., institute it as a "habit" that drives everyone all the time--to cross-sell each other.

2. We can't imagine anything more personally or financially rewarding when it works.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2012

An Education in Global Good: Pilgrims Geldof and Bono's Steep, Wondrous Learning Curve.

This weekend's Financial Times previews a cautionary tale with a happy ending that every world-changer, compassionate capitalist and limousine liberal on the planet should take to heart. See Pro Bono: How Rockers Change the World, by Peter Aspden, about the Live Aid campaign started by Bob Geldof and Bono on news of the 1984 famine in Ethiopia. Excerpt:

First came the single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, big-haired contributors singing hastily written lines in assault of the seasonal charts. Then came the 1985 concert, Live Aid, featuring some good music, some bad music and torrents of televisual fury from the righteous and unstoppable Geldof.

The public duly bought the single and whipped out its credit cards. But the organisers of Live Aid were at the bottom of a steep learning curve. They soon realised, in Bono’s words, that there was “more to extreme poverty than unfortunate circumstances”. They had picked a battle against a drought; what they faced now was a war against the global economic order.

It was pointed out to Geldof and Bono that the amount they had raised, tens of millions of pounds – far beyond their initial ambitions – paled in comparison with the debt payments faced by African countries. If they were serious about famine and starvation, they needed to raise their sights. It was no longer enough to be concerned artists.

They needed to make some new buddies. They had to become properly political.

20050706-3_f1g6512jpg-515h.jpg
Learning the Moves: Geldof & Bono gave this King George an Irish Bible.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2012

Great Clients: Meet Tess Cacciatore of GWEN.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On Wednesday Bennet Kelley, host of the Cyber Law & Business Report, interviewed Tess Cacciatore, co-founder and COO of the Global Women’s Empowerment Network (GWEN), on his weekly radio show. Based in Hollywood, GWEN uses technology and multimedia--both mobile and online platforms--to fight for, organize and empower abuse victims all over the world. Bennet has an excellent write-up of GWEN here but don't miss his interview of Tess here (second half of segment 2).


And more about GWEN above.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2012

Damn. Think I'm Turning Democrat again. I really think so.

I still got my laissez faire mojo working--and it's not even working on me. This time it's not a weak and a lazy mind. It's realities like this that are making me reevaluate things. See in Salon by Andrew Leonard "A New Middle-Class Squeeze". It's subtitled "Need more evidence of middle-class decline and rising poverty? Evidence abounds." And if you live in America right now and you look for "it" on your own--in the cities, and the suburbs of America--you see this anecdotally and qualitatively. Here's your new developing Consumer Power, Jack.


Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2012

WSJ: The Customer as God? Really? Tell us more, Doc.

In Saturday's WSJ see "The Customer as a God", the new gospel according to Harvard-based David "Doc" Searls, and based on his new book.

images (80).jpg

Posted by JD Hull at 08:16 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2012

Simple Justice on Simple Clients and other Customer Life Forms.

There but for the grace of Karl Llewellyn go we. See Scott Greenfield's "The Unsophisticated Client". Excerpt on my notion of certain flora and Clients from Hell:

Many defendants are barely literate, if at all. Put papers before them with page after page of black marks on white and they are overwhelmed with your legal brilliance. They haven't got the slightest clue what the words mean, whether your caselaw is relevant or whether your argument holds any water at all, but they feel the weight of the paper, the see the exhibit tabs, they fondle the heft and are impressed. You produced all these pages just for them. You must be a good lawyer.

04FREPUTsGreenfield016.jpg
Ivy-educated Greenfield pre-2009 Bergen County shotgun accident.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2012

One possible business model: Choose your clients. Research them. Snipe.

Read at Simple Justice Scott Greenfield's masterfully-titled post "The Message of 500 Clients". And then read my comment:

Stick a fork in Hull McGuire PC. As Scott well knows, on clients, we snipe. We choose. We go after at most 2 new clients a year after we research them like you would research a stock. We consider it a success if we get one of them as a client in 18 months after the first face-to-face meeting. The rest is repeat biz. Rather be a street person than market or practice any other way. Just one possible way to look at volume in clients.

hill-billy-2.jpg
500-Clients Specimen.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2011

Breaking law firm news: "It's about you--not about us..."

On Sunday night I was at once encouraged and amused to see at Reagan National Airport (DCA) a corridor advertisement placed by an American law firm with a bold, triumphant and "innovative" reminder. Apparently addressed to Prospective Clients Everywhere, the ad proclaimed, in effect, that Clients, Not Lawyers, are the Main Event, i.e., "hey, we're your friends--we're not like the others". Well, bravo to that firm. But should it take centuries for the legal profession to catch on that lawyering is never about lawyers? Why a reminder about the most basic fact of the profession? Our Roman friend Cicero argued his first case on behalf of a charge or "client" over 2,000 years ago. Are we ever going to get it?

images (16).jpg

"Young Cicero Reading", Vincenzo Foppa (1464).

Posted by JD Hull at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2011

ClientTown or LawyerTown? Which do you practice in?

Do you practice law in a (1) "clients' town" or (2) a "lawyers' town"?

The latter, very common, is a local culture where lawyer clubbiness, lawyer schedules and lawyer convenience always trump client needs behind the smokescreen of "professionalism". Here we meet the lawyer as king, diva and sacred cow.

In a lawyers' town, lawyers and their delays, lack of discipline, procrastinations, disorganization, lack of business sense and failure to execute and move matters along--failings which would get them axed in a heartbeat at a well-run American company--must always be indulged. And even the sleaziest and most marginal lawyers must treat each other and speak to each other in a certain way. Client interests are secondary. Well, if you practice in a lawyers' town, are you going to do anything about it? Can we show some leadership? Can we retire lawyer "professionalism" and "civility" issues once and for all and replace them with something better: a new client-focused set of folkways?

Sorry, but in its current form, lawyer professionalism is a morally pretentious, archaic, hypocritical and silly movement which lawyers' towns tend to invest in heavily to protect and coddle apathetic, mediocre and lazy lawyering. It keeps standards low, and the tone lawyer-centric. Current lawyer professionalism is: "pro-lawyer", prissy, routinely and dishonestly misused by incompetent and uncaring lawyers in defense of their delays and screw ups, a waste of time and money, and anti-client.

Just talking about it makes clients think we have our heads up our wazoos.

Face it, folks, most lawyers are not especially virtuous, or even that bright. Or classy. We are not royalty. Or even brave. Many of us are hesitant, non-confrontational and risk-averse to the point of being cowards who hide way too often in the rubric of "let's be prudent". To the surprise and dismay of our own clients--who had thought that lawyers were supposed to be innovators, activists and true heros--too few of us fit those descriptions. We follow. We hem and haw. We wet our finger and put it in the air. We aren't "special". And we are a dime a dozen.

Now, in the U.S., anyone with enough money, barely average intelligence, well below-the-norm ethics and character, and the ability to converse without stuttering or drooling excessively, can become a lawyer. So let's not put on goofy airs.

Real professionalism, with the client as the touchstone, might have been a good thing. But ironically lawyer "civility" issues have helped breed in modern U.S. lawyering an even lower regard for the client--even for great corporate clients. Clients risk being relegated to mere equipment. Listen: Unless your General Counsel or client rep is Mr. Rogers, The Church Lady or Liberace with a law degree, most clients don't care in the least if you are "professional" (i.e., courtly, accomodating and nice), or if you spend your spare time socializing with and kissing up to the local law cattle. They do care about planning, execution and results from motivated, honest and aggressive lawyers. See "Professionalism Revisited: What About the Client?", appearing last year in the San Diego Daily Transcript.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2011

Work-Life Balance = Expensive.

Today is Saturday.

On Thursday morning, I spoke briefly with a well-credentialed if young California criminal defense lawyer about a matter our firm must refer out involving a long-standing client of ours. Time is very important. In this "white collar" matter, fees have been estimated to be in the $50,000 to $150,000 range. (I think more like $250,000.)

Also on Thursday, later that day, I followed up our live chat with a voice message, asking him to call when he could.

Yesterday, Friday, I received this e-mail from that attorney. He won't be hearing from my firm again:

Mr. Hull: I wanted to email you and let you know that I am willing to assist you with your matter. I am available to talk about the situation in more detail any time after 10am on Monday, 10-2 on Tuesday, or after 10am on Wednesday. Feel free to give my office a call at your convenience. Thank you and have a great weekend.

Next?

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (4)

January 19, 2011

Two Client-Centric Places to Visit.

The reason they are so helpful may lie in the fact that lawyers, accountants, and other professionals are just a small part of their large followings. See Management Craft by Lisa Haneberg and Church of the Customer by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. These sites focus on the Art of the Business Relationship: getting and keeping clients.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2011

Via Twitter we just landed $5.5 million engagement.

Coming soon. We'll post about it any day now--by end of next week, hopefully. Very soon. Yeah, that's the ticket. For sure.

maynard (2).jpg

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (1)

November 01, 2010

Lance Godard: "Are You Reading These Posts?"

"Value is the new golf." Consultant Lance Godard is apparently a man of a few well-chosen sentences--and we do like the one we just quoted on changes in outside lawyer-in-house relationships. As much as we often take a dim view of legal marketing experts, we also like his blog Are You Reading These Posts?, where he collects the better posts on getting and keeping clients. This site is not daily--but it's regular, high quality and with an international scope. Godard has taste in marketing resources, and he won't waste your time.

images (23).jpg

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2010

Hull McGuire's first print ad in 1998

Misty water-colored memories. In early 1998--after 5 years in business, armed with some extra cash, to experiment, and because "why not?"--the still-new 'muscle boutique' of Hull McGuire PC ran its first print ad in three East Coast newspapers for eight weeks.

Yesterday Dan Hull told me (though the ad he wrote was "way too windy") that in the second week one CFO from a now storied start-up excitedly called the firm's Pittsburgh office from an airport just to congratulate the firm.

For 12 years ago, the ad was, certainly, prescient. The text:

"IS THIS A GREAT TIME TO CHANGE LAW FIRMS, OR WHAT?"

Doing business has changed. But many law firms haven't.

They still charge for "services" and overhead no corporate client should have to absorb. Like associate lawyer training. Duplicative conferences. And senior lawyers who will never understand or care about your business.

The product is disappointing. Service and follow-up are only words. The monthly bill makes you nuts.

Stop being the equipment in games lawyers play. At Hull McGuire, we focus on clients, and solving their problems. We build lifetime relationships with businesses of all sizes.

IT'S TIME, ISN'T IT?

HULL MCGUIRE PC
Washington DC Pittsburgh San Diego

Corporate Planning, Transactions, Tax. Intellectual Property, Telecommunications. Litigation, Employment Practices, Environmental. Legislative, International.

The Judgment of Solomon.jpg

GCs: Don't be compromised by generic law shops. (not in 1998 ad)

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 01:26 PM | Comments (1)

March 09, 2010

Canadian Bar Association: Serious about clients.

Keeping good clients, getting new ones, making new ones "stick". These are on everyone's mind these days. For all 4.5 years this blog has been up and running, the Canadian Bar Association's PracticeLink on "Client Services" has been--hands down--the best bar organization site out there on client service. CBA apparently sees CS as a way of lawyer life. "A full-time activity" is the expression used. PracticeLink is well thought-out, packed with the best resources, and far beyond the usual lawyer lip service on Client Service.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2009

Got a Little Black Book for you right here. But are you ready to do some work?

Note: Below is review of a very fine new book by Miami's Paula Black we did in August 2009. This holiday season "Black's book" would make an enduring and appreciated gift to savvy clients, to their fancy corporate lawyers, to many other services professionals--and even to certain family dogs. It's quite a book, folks.
blackbook.jpg
Most books on marketing professional services or client service--at WAC? we are asked to review quite a few of them and we usually get around to it--hit us the same way:

You just died and went to Hallmark.

For an instant, it's an immediate signal-sanction from the Cosmos of what kind of life you have led here on Earth--in case you did not understand before. It's physical.

You sag, visibly, like an animal taking a bullet. Your punishment. It came early.

And then you read on. These books tend to end the same way: "nurturing the relationship"--like that notion was revolutionary.

All of the books, to be fair, make sense. And they are all written by nice people. Especially the "marketing" books.

But rarely are any of them crafted to make things "stick." Or even make "sticking" a priority.

Then you wake up--and realize you have to write something nice. You put it off for a few more months, and go back to billing hours. There is simply nothing remarkable about that new nice book.

Well, not so for Paula Black's The Little Black Book: A Lawyer's Guide to Creating a Marketing Habit in 21 Days.

If you read this blog, you know that we think that for those with repeat corporate clients, or for those who would like such a happy component in their business model, you are always marketing when you are working. You work for a client; you are marketing right there. And woe to you and yours if you do not get that.

But we also think that very few of you have the discipline to make marketing, along with client service, a "frame of mind." In fact, we are sure of it. But the Little Black Book handles the discipline of habit-building admirably. And we like it for reasons which range from the critical and important to the purely whimsical and personal:

1. LBB is about getting quality habits--building them. The book takes you through a regimen of three weeks of getting your mind "right." There's an emphasis here on using three built-in sources of work: (a) current and former clients (everyone blows this), (b) marketing within your firm (no one can get this right, either--but Paula Black, again, does), and (c) joining organizations, which she does freshly. On (c), personally, I think of it differently--but mainly it's a matter of perspective and stress: my take is that you should focus your efforts on "influencers"--not so much organizations--who know, control or have the respect of hundreds of others.

2. The book is aesthetically pleasing. Graphically, it's a masterpiece. In fact, it's gorgeous. You might buy it just for its mode and technique of narrative. WAC? is famously shallow--it's no secret that a person who moves from D.C. to southern California just wants to get in touch with his inner cad--and just likes pretty things.

3. The book is literally indestructible. It's pretty heavy--at least a pound--and relatively flat at 155 glossy and quite durable pages. Distinctively and "horizontally" crafted (see above). On a recent trip to Alaska, I threw it four times to the three resident big goofy Labradors outside the lodge as far as I could throw it toward the boats and planes tied up on shore. They chased it, fought over it, and brought it back. All we had to do is hose LBB off. I could still pass it around at dinner. Even the ringed binding was intact. Perfect.

4. We just like the name of the book. There was once a book with a similar name I had written myself when I was in law school and working in D.C. before I was married that changed my life several times a week.

5. It contains actual advice from forty fancy lawyers who "get it"--including the IBLC's Paris member, a first rate management-side employment lawyer, who my law firm both respects and likes very much, and I will see again in October.

6. It is well thought out, easy to read, beautifully written, hard to forget--and worth every penny this blog did not have to pay.

Just buy it. But read it and do what it says. Okay? It can forge a hard-won good habit--if you work at it.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2009

Don't compete on price--especially now.

If a new client demands a "discount", color it unsophisticated and a pain in the ass. Refer it to that firm down the street you just never liked.

If a client comes to your firm for price, it will leave your firm for price. Value--not price alone--is the point. You're in a services profession, so value will be conferred upon, and experienced differently by, different clients in different engagements.

It's all in the work, i.e., first rate legal products mixed with real client service for every client you serve--and, of course, the billing. About billing: it's case by case, it's very hard, and it takes thought. But no matter how your firm bills--hourly, "value", flat or a combination--don't lower the price for your firm's services, especially for new clients or to attract work.

Don't lower rates to get business. Don't change anything. If a new client--especially via an in-house lawyer (but we doubt you'll see this happen)--demands a "discount" these days, it is likely both unsophisticated and a pain in the ass. Refer it to that firm down the street you just never liked.

denny-crane.jpg

This man doesn't "do" discounts to get work for his law firm. Either should you. (Photo: ABC)

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2009

Great targeted clients aren't that into you. Show you're good at what you do. And get a plan.

Fred, where'd you buy those dandy two-toned golf shoes? May mosey on down to BassPro this weekend and get a pair myself. Having lunch at the Boom Boom Club, playing golf in Scotland, attending services at the Church of the Final Thunder, religiously following Ball State sports, or even spending three idyllic weeks a year in Tuscany with your most prized targeted client or GC and his wife/mistress means zilch unless (1) you are really good at what you do, (2) you can show that meaningfully, (3) and you have a plan to move the ball toward landing business.

Don't get me wrong; that GC you seek likes and even trusts you.

But so what? Landing the business of great companies takes more than being in the same clubs and running in the same circles. Are you and yours really that good at what you do? Can you distinguish your firm from other firms? Why should the in-house hire you?

"Advances". One more thing. Please understand that the client not only needs a reason based on merit; once you "qualify", he/she must have your firm "present to mind". On the subject of moving the ball once you start getting noticed, read Jim Hassett's "How to increase results by planning sales advances" at his Legal Business Development. In his live presentations and tapes, Jim talks convincingly on the need to "plan advances" while prospecting for new business--and how to do it. We don't tout biz development consultants that much. We made an exception a long time ago with Hassett.

untitled.bmp

Barney Fife knew the Art of the Hassett Advance. (Paramount)

Posted by Rob Bodine at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2009

Standards. Tools That Work. Get Some.

Is the usual "sales" model designed for failure? Renaissance human, NYT-best selling author and sales consultant Sharon Drew Morgen asks: "Why Is A 90% Failure Rate Ok?" Excerpts:

[We] lose clients we shouldn’t lose. What a waste - not only for sellers, but for buyers. 90% of the prospects don’t come back. Not because our product isn’t good, or because our solution doesn’t match their need.

s-dm.jpg

Posted by JD Hull at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2009

Clients and customers.

All we know so far on keeping them is here. No, we're not experts. But we think about clients, and our clients' customers, 24/7. If you are in business, that's all there is to think about.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2009

So, tell me again, what do we do now?

untitled  E.bmp

Service Firms, and The Way-Down Global Economy. Some advice, with great related links, from people who think about this stuff all the time (so you don't have to). They were thinking about it all along. You can hire them, too.

Ed Poll: "Three Lenses for Law Firm Recession Survival" (9/16/08)

Jim Hassett: "The First Thing Lawyers Should Do In A Recession" (1/30/08)

Dennis Kennedy: "Planning for Legal Technology in a Recession" (1/22/08)

Tom Kane: "Time to Get Closer to Clients" (9/25/08)

Bruce MacEwen: "Costs & Revenues: Health Check Time" (9/5/08)

The prescient Larry Bodine: "Get Ready for the Coming Recession" (8/26/07)

Jennifer E. King: "Marketing Your Firm’s Legal Services During an Economic Decline" (2008 LexisNexis white paper)

And finally, Chicago trial-lawyer, thinker and value architect Patrick J. Lamb: Read Anything Pat writes these days.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2008

The man, the firm and the blog to watch in 2009.

It's Pat Lamb, his Chicago-based firm Valorem and In Search of Perfect Client Service, his well-regarded and enduring blog. Together they give us all we may ever need on (a) leadership, (b) law firm models that work and (c) the art of the client at the Terrible Crossroads of 2008/2009. We all face recovering economies, changing markets, new markets, new governments, and new ideas on economic growth, monetary policy and regulation. Watch Lamb closely. We don't agree on everything. But if anyone can make value billing work, and the Billable Hour go away, it's Pat. And then on to the next Dragon.

Patrick-Lamb.png

Posted by JD Hull at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2008

Law firm directories as lame and musts-to-avoid.

Read Larry Bodine's "Only 3% of Legal Work is Influenced by Directories". And see our August post "Martindale-Hubbell: Should we all 'just say no'?". Note: after "just say no" was written, Hull McGuire promptly re-upped with M-H anyway. Our hypocrisies have no bounds.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2008

In a down economy.

In July, Tom Kane, at his well-regarded Legal Marketing Blog, focused on marketing during "bad times". Once again:

BGE11CAAPBMZZCAEKOMGLCA0YNDZXCA64YO9FCAI6NOZ5CADTQRGACAT6M3EUCA60KVYXCA90EO9BCA3310DOCA0WJ63RCAJCWU4UCA2T7WDZCAO0513ACAO6GDL5CAMTKSBECAUNEAR4CALVSHAXCAQBNEC0.jpg

Now, More Than Ever, Talk With Your Clients

Down Economy: Rainmakers Need Not Worry

Best Practices for the Down Economy

We add: (1) Stick to clients you have. (2) Make sure all employees buy into Client Service with the fervor of evangelists. (3) Consider today terminating uninspired or "looter" employees who add no value, starting with, first, the "Unwilling", and second, the "Unable" (in good times and bad times, it's either You or Them, and eventually they will do you in). (4) Hire lawyer-consultant Tom Kane, straight-up and fair.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2008

Redux: Budgeting litigation with the client.

imn_lamb.jpg

[E]veryone can provide a budget. Everyone can live with a budget. The real questions are whether lawyers will agree to do so and whether clients will walk with their wallets when lawyers don't.

See Pat Lamb's short but fine piece on budgeting litigation costs with a client [August 21], a subject WAC? is always re-thinking but infrequently getting right. "The Lie of Litigation Budgeting" is at his respected In Search of Perfect Client Service--the site which inspired the launch of WAC? three years ago. Pat, one the few litigators we've known with a natural gift for law firm economics, started the Valorem firm in Chicago earlier this year.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 04:17 AM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2008

Jim Hassett: "Advances"

Moving the ball. Read Jim Hassett's "How to increase results by planning sales advances" at his Legal Business Development. In his live presentations and tapes, Jim talks convincingly on the need to "plan advances" while prospecting for new business--and how to do it.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2008

Rjon Robbins: Failing to win.

Whether you are hunting mega-large publicly-traded or mom-and-pop small ones, to land clients, maybe you should "double your rate of failure". See Thomas Watson's Formula for Success at HowToMakeItRain.com.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:59 AM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2008

In 2008, how are law firms getting and keeping clients?

Brian Ritchey at More Partner Income breaks down ALM's recent survey on how larger firms globally (about 75 on up) are developing business these days. One interesting point is that only about 50% of these larger firms have a system in place that include each of the following: client interviews, client care "teams" and sales training.

Note: The grumpy but inspiring Holden Oliver and I are happy to help. We need two days with your main team and, most importantly, an iron-clad commitment and plan from your Executive Committee on how you will build and keep a client service culture at your firm after we leave your conference room. Seminars without dogged follow-up that firm management "gets" and buys into won't cut it.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2008

"Yes, they have more money."

Associates are different. So do they really need to market? Back to marketing, selling, clients, serving clients, keeping clients, and keeping clients you like. In a gem we missed last October, our friend Jim Hassett notes that associates, with limited time for marketing, are different from you and I, Ernest.* Also see Jim's post this week: Self-test: How efficient are your business development tactics?, an exercise for partners and senior attorneys.

*From alleged and oft-quoted exchange between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his glib friend Ernest Hemingway.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2008

Specialization: What moves clients?

See Michelle Golden's article "Defining Who You Are and Who You Aren't = Specializing". And the winner is: "a limited number of really strong things for one group...". Read more.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2008

Jim Hassett: More on what's new in getting/keeping clients.

See Part 4 of Jim's "The most important trends in legal business development".

Posted by JD Hull at 02:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2008

Kane: Identify and keep the clients you "like".

While our own Holden Oliver's on one of his important-but-demented "I love rock n' roll and hate all things PC" and "alternative lifestyles of the famous" jags, see a great Tom Kane post re: keeping just the clients you want and "like". Rather than self-indulgent and pie-in-the-sky, this principle is both logical and, for corporate lawyers, a must for doing first-rate work. Life's short and practicing law is hard. And bad clients are poison. Rule 1 at WAC? is Represent Only Clients You "Like". See Tom's "Decide on Ideal Clients by Identifying Clients You Don't Want", in one of his most repeated and critical themes.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2008

The Trends: Client retention and development.

Customer loyalty is not dead. It's different. See Jim Hassett's five part series at Legal Business Development.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2008

Client Service Rule 12: Have Fun.

"It's supposed to be fun. American law is extremely varied, elastic and constantly presenting new practice areas--especially in the larger cities. It has something for everyone.... It's a privilege and joy to do what lawyers do when they do it right."

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2008

Originate!

Whether you're a senior partner in the NYC branch of a 3000+ lawyer firm, or a 27-year-old associate in a 10 lawyer shop in Moline, it's a new world out there. If you want to be a player, not to mention the proud owner of a little job security, you need good clients--which are hard to get and keep. Four months ago, and along with some like-minded friends, Larry Bodine, the highly respected lawyer-consultant, and a pioneer of blogs, started up Originate! - The Attorney Business Development Advisor. The February 2008 issue has loads of great materials and guest articles by some of the leading thinkers on client development out there--and it's practical stuff you can use. See, e.g., Larry's piece "Memo to Senior Partners: Motivate Younger Lawyers for Your Business's Sake" and Amy Spach's article re: an ACC initiative: "They Say They Want a Revolution: Reconnecting Legal Costs to Value Delivered". But you must subscribe, my friends--$35 this month is price of admission. That's a Deal. Thirty-five bucks to turn the key on maybe tens or hundreds of thousands or more in business? Are you nuts? Take it. (WAC? is a subscriber.) And do it before Larry and Co. raise their prices--because they can. If you don't believe us, see the September 2007 Issue--the first one--in its entirety.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2008

How to "market" at moments you don't "need" to market.

When "the cotton is high", you make a phone call today anyway. You do it even if you're uncomfortably busy with billable work. Yeah, it's hard to switch that gear and call when you are up to your ears in work. Hard to move into marketing mode even if you know the call will take only minutes. But make time four (4) times a week to make a call to a (a) sought-after client, (b) existing client or (c) "influential" person. Keep adding to the pipeline even though it seems like the work you have today will never end--because it will.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 10:22 AM | Comments (3)

January 30, 2008

"What should I do today to increase new business?"

If you have a passable blog called "What About Clients?", professional people give you "free stuff" to review. Good news: it's free, and it's almost always worthwhile material. Bad news: you practice law, run a business, travel, write straight non-blog pieces for mean editors and agents, and have an inventory of worthwhile free things to review for free. More bad news: you're a picky guy on client development ideas; you want to read and hear things that both work and serve as a "call to arms". Well, lately I've been both reading the books and listening to the audio portion of Jim Hassett's ambitious

The LegalBizDev Success Kit. I'll be writing about it more. There's lots to it but, for now, hear this. The man has thought through client development and retention from A to Z. The materials are presented so that even lawyers can understand. Your firm--whether it has 1 lawyer or 3000--has two choices: hire Jim as a consultant or buy the Success Kit. Got that? If you are like virtually all law firms on the subjects of (1) marketing, and (2) keeping your best clients from going to your competitors (i.e., marketing committee is well-meaning but complacent and/or clueless, and ignores firm's own marketing professionals), you need him or it.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2008

"Prospects"

At FreelanceSwitch, an excerpt from a book by Ilise Benun: "10 Things You Need to Know About Your Prospects".

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 04:03 PM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2008

"Dumbing it all down: getting high-end clients".

Here. Even David Maister wrote that he liked Dan Hull's post on the subject when it first appeared on October 20. "We're not worthy, we're not worthy."

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2008

Get out of the Yellow Pages now.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but we continue to believe that the "Yellow Pages" and anything like it--i.e., people look up "lawyers" who do "[specialty]" and call your firm--brings on the worst possible headaches (and clients) for anyone who is doing or wants to do work for good companies. Even inexpensive name-specialty-phone number ads yield more trouble than they are worth. If you want sophisticated clients--and not "price-shoppers" who see lawyers as providing fungible services or commodities--unlist yourselves. But stay in the White Pages so clients who already know or have heard of you can find you.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 08:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2008

Kane: Get out of the office and ask.

In "Procrastinators Unite", Tom Kane notes that

since the best source of new business is from clients and referral sources, start there. Ask them. That means, plan to visit with your clients (off the clock) and those who have referred work, and talk with them about what problems they (or someone they know) are facing.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2007

Herz: Strong, authentic and enduring business relationships.

If WAC? has a strength, that strength is telling you how to make great corporate clients happy from the moment you start to do the work--and keep that going. We focus on how to mix and blend your legal skills with client service for existing clients as seamlessly as possible. And, at a minimum, we'd like you to wake up and understand (1) the importance and (2) the difficulty of achieving that combination.

However, on the subject of networking and bonding with people who can bring you work in the first place--and the deeply personal and eternally human aspect of each business relationship--we are merely wide-eyed students. No one thinks or writes about these things better than New York's Arnie Herz at Legal Sanity. He is your guru and ours. See "Re-connecting With Your Business Network".

Posted by JD Hull at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2007

Jim Hassett: Selling legal services is different.

The week's post from his Legal Business Development is here.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 08:00 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2007

More gratuitous holiday advice

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

--Philo of Alexandria (20 BC-50 AD), with a nod to writer Dan Wakefield

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2007

The 7 Habits of Highly Useless Corporate Lawyers.

This is one of WAC?'s most clicked-on posts. But the investigative and archeological credit belongs to a vigilant D.C. securities lawyer known to some as Ernie from Glen Burnie.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2007

Hassett: "Do you want to learn how to close faster?"

And here is Jim Hassett's answer:

Me too. But we can’t. Teaching people how to close deals faster is a little like teaching gardeners how to pick tomatoes. Picking them isn’t the hard part. The hard part is growing them. [more]

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2007

Thank-you notes, gratitude, real life.

A good thank-you--a real thank-you--means something. It is notable, memorable, important.

--TS, April 2007

Last April Esquire Magazine's Tom Chiarella wrote a piece on thank-you notes; as part of his unlikely experiment in doing them, he wrote 91 handwritten ones in one week. It's called "A Little Gratitude: How to Change the Way the World Sees You, One Thank-You Note at a Time". We liked it 7 months ago when it came out, and we like it now. For the same issue, Chiarella also wrote "How to Write a Thank-You Note".

Posted by JD Hull at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2007

Kane: Bad Clients

Try this mantra: "Life's short, practicing law done correctly is hard, and no client is better than a bad one." We love it when Tom Kane writes about bad clients. It gets our juices going. For WAC?, bad clients tend to be any non-corporate client--sorry, but even individuals with education and big money are generally horrible and annoying clients--and the vast majority of small and medium-sized businesses. Hey, that's just about everyone. In any event, only "hire" clients who understand your work, appreciate it, and pay you. It sounds flippant--but it's a basic truth to survive much less prosper. Good clients "get" great lawyering and great service. Bad clients do not. So see Tom's piece "Are Bad Clients Keeping You Up At Night?" Then repeat the mantra.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

November 03, 2007

Foonberg: "All you guys are wrong, wrong, wrong."

Chuck Newton and WAC? are Jay Foonberg fans. If you don't know who Foonberg is--whether the number of lawyers in your firm is 1 or 3000--you are missing something. You may run the risk of starving or, almost as bad, being the personal $275,000-plus-a-year slave of the man or woman down the hall who has portable clients. See Chuck's post and attached Foonberg video at "What Kind Of Law Do You Practice?"

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

Getting clients: bird-dogs and matchmakers.

See "The Fine Art of Bird-Dogging" up at Jim Hassett's Legal Business Development. It's from his column last month at Law Firm, Inc.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2007

Solar Baby

Tomorrow on I'm There For You Baby, Neil Senturia and Barbara Bry will discuss solar energy--and why investors are taking off their shades and looking towards the sun. You can hear this week's episode on San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM Saturday from 1-2 PM, Pacific Time, or listen live via simulcast on the CA$H web site.

And before you listen to Saturday's show, read Wednesday's front page article in the San Diego Daily Transcript: "Networking Essential Characteristic of Entrepreneurs, According to Bry", about a talk Baby co-host Barbara Bry recently gave to business students at California State University.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2007

Dumbing it all down: getting high-end clients.

Last night some people asked me "how do you land or 'get' new high-end clients?" In the question, "high-end clients" are sophisticated users of legal services, which tend to be larger and/or publicly-traded companies. Could I simplify the answer--or even dumb it down--on our blog? The dumb-downed answer I come up with is 6 things: Credibility, Relationship, Limit, Keep Up, Persist, Timing. It applies to any size firm:

1. Credibility. This is an easily verifiable and true portrait of the right people with the right specialties at your shop. If you don't have the portrait, get it. You may need to make changes in your lawyers and staff.

2. Relationship. Just bonding. It needs to be a personal relationship, but not necessarily a strong one, especially at first. See Malcolm Gladwell's discussion in The Tipping Point on the art of the "weak tie". And in my book, you need to "like" that GC, CFO or HR person. It will be very hard for you to keep up the conversation that "we want your business" if you personally think the client representative is difficult, arrogant or a stone creep. Or the "chemistry" is otherwise just bad. No matter how sexy the client, you should pass and wait until they are replaced, get fired or quit. Also, the personality or style of the client rep might tell you something about the client's culture--do you really want this client?

3. Limit. Sell two or three practice areas. Do not try to sell everything your firm does. No one believes any longer that your firm--whether 10 or over 1000--can do it all and do it well, even it if can. Too much talent out there. Also, this goes to Credibility, above.

4. Keep Up. Monitor the company. If it's publicly-traded or high-profile, that's easier to do. Know stock fluctuations and news. The politics and internal events of the client are key here. You can hit them at the wrong time: in the middle of in-house lawyer changes, a company-wide short-term crisis (sometimes knowable, so read the papers) or a merger or acquisition which hasn't hit the media (so not your fault if you don't know). See Timing below.

5. Persist. The hardest of the six things. Landing great clients requires discipline and organization. And the mental health of a slab of chrome-vanadium steel. Rejection, especially at first, is logical and natural--not personal. It's your job to obtain new business. Keep making the contact, but know when to back down in the short-term. GCs and people who hire lawyers are often busier than you. And on "like", it's a two-way street. They may not "like" you. Or they may think that they have the outside lawyers they need. "Weak" GCs (fewer and fewer these days, but you'll know one when you see/hear one) may even feel pressured to use the lawyers they have--whether or not they are happy with them.

And then there's the unruly "factor": Timing.

6. Timing. Which really means luck based on persistence. Right place, right time. But you are making luck happen. Because you persist, you are on the phone with a GC you are hunting, sitting in a some CFO's office, or just sent a happy "thought-you-might-be-interested-in this" e-mail--when something your firm can do for the client has recently come up. Congrats, my friend, Persistence and Luck just collided. And see Keep Up above. Stuff happens to companies--some of it bad, some of it good, some of it knowable. Don't call the GC on the day the NYT reports the insider-trading scandal. Let luck happen without interference from you.

Getting high-end clients. All dumbed down for you--and yet still very hard to do.

And then...you must deliver to keep the client. Even harder.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2007

Cole Silver: For Lawyers Who Hate to Sell

Which is most lawyers at any law firm, and most professionals at any professional services firm. For them, as well for as "the few" of us who actually like trying our hand at branding, marketing and selling, there's a very fine collection of resources--both links and books--at New Jersey-based The Silver Group, Ltd, owned by Cole Silver.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2007

Does your firm charge enough for its work?

See at Tom Collins' More Partner Income his article Surveys Show Most Law Firms Are Underpriced. Excerpt: "On the whole 'low prices' for the majority of law firms are more self-inflicted than due to pressure from clients."

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2007

Tom Kane: Four marketing laws for lawyers

Tom Kane published the first of four short articles yesterday: "Four Laws for Successful Lawyer Marketing - Part I". Based on this, and Tom's usual fare, the series promises to be excellent. His first law is the Law of Perception--the one that for excellent lawyers is hard to grasp. WAC? thinks of it as the unfortunate but true "it-just-doesn't-matter-that-you're-better" principle.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2007

"Spend a Few Minutes Each Day on Business Development"

From Tom Kane at his The Legal Marketing Blog, inspired by virtual marketing coach Terrie Wheeler in this month's ABA Law Practice Today:

You can overcome your procrastination when it comes to developing business by doing a simple item each day. If you don’t get started, you may never become an effective marketer.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2007

Rule 12: Have Fun.

It's supposed to be fun. American law is extremely varied, elastic and constantly presenting new practice areas. It has something for everyone. I am convinced of this. Please keep the faith and keep looking until you find it. Put another way, don't quit before the miracle occurs. It's there, and it's all inside you, in front of you. Simple--but still hard. It's a privilege and joy to do what lawyers do when they do it right.

In the 12 Rules of Client Service, Rule 12, the last one, is Have Fun. If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong. Period.

Any questions?

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2007

Rule 11: Treat Each Co-Worker Like He or She Is Your Best Client.

In our 12 Rules of Client Service, this one, Rule 11, is perhaps the hardest one to achieve. The Driven and The Motivated--at least the able and confident ones--want people just like them in their workplace. This is admirable, and can cause problems.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2007

Tune in: I'm There For You Baby

Today on Baby, women entrepreneurs talk straight about what it takes to climb the corporate ladder. You can hear this week's episode on San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM Saturday from 1-2 PM, Pacific Time, or listen live via simulcast on the CA$H web site.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2007

John Remsen: Looking like a lawyer

Medieval, old school, vain and running dog lackey of good GCs at good companies, WAC? (Dan Hull) met Atlanta-based law firm marketer John Remsen at an IBLC meeting last September in Milwaukee, was impressed, "liked his play" and loved his presentation. From The Remsen Group's website, here's "Enough is Enough: Lawyers Should Look Like Lawyers!"

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2007

Rule Nine: Be There For Clients -- 24/7

From WAC?'s 12 Rules, here is Rule Nine. If you have thought through this rule, and you still disagree with it, that's fine. However, we are 100% certain that you are in the wrong profession. Here's the silver lining: if you indeed have good clients--i.e., sophisticated users of legal services with interesting problems to solve who pay well and on time--feel free to let us know the names of their GCs. Or, even better, just have them contact us. Our contact information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses are on the website. We'll unburden you. No problem.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2007

Jim Hassett: Cross Selling

See Jim Hassett's post on cross selling, a favorite WAC? subject.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2007

Arnie Herz: It's personal.

See this one (along with the linked-to materials) by Arnie Herz at Legal Sanity. I first saw this post last week, got distracted with other things, and then was reminded again today that it's out there and how great it is by the always-vigilant Stark County Law Library Blog.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Rule Seven: Know the Client

Here.

....Take time out to learn the stock price, industry, day-to-day culture, players and overall goals of your client. Visit their offices and plants. Do it free of charge....Devise a system to keep abreast.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2007

Happy 5th Birthday, Sarbanes-Oxley, you big brute.

It's been five years now; it was signed into law by President Bush on July 30, 2002. Major, sweeping and unprecedented, the business media said. True, no desirable corporate client can ignore it. And SOX changed public accounting forever. So how we doing? At London-based The Economist, reportedly the favorite magazine of Bill Gates these days, see "Sarbanes-Oxley: Five Years Under the Thumb".

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2007

Rule Four: "Deliver legal services that change the way clients think about lawyers".

It's summer: a season to step back from the canvas and a time, if you will, for simple tool sharpening--and we at WAC? are simple tools, if nothing else. From our world famous counter-intuitive 12 Rules of Client Service, see "Rule Four: Deliver legal services that change the way clients think about lawyers".

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2007

Thoughtful Canada Gets It?

Since starting this blog less than two years ago, WAC? has feared that, for most lawyers worldwide, "client service" and "law practice management" are at best a couple of empty soundbytes we all feed our clients, client prospects and employees. It all sounds good; it's become our routine requisite rubbish for websites and ad campaigns. But ever since I discovered CBA PracticeLink--which seems to feature "Clients" as the main event of lawyering--I've wondered if Canadians see these topics differently.

Well, maybe WAC? was right. Canadian lawyer David J. Bilinsky, who straddles Canada and its mild-mannered southern neighbor, is Practice Management Advisor of the Law Society of British Columbia, Editor-in-Chief of the ABA's Law Practice Magazine and former chair of ABA TECHSHOW. David has a new blog, and it promises to be another quality Canadian (okay, Canadian-American) site: Thoughtful Legal Management. Watch this one.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2007

It's that Muscle Boutique thing again...

While WAC? still thinks that solos face a tough time obtaining and keeping Fortune 500 clients (minimum: you need 3 full-time higher-end well-paid lawyers--each king-hell crazy about client service), we do like Susan Cartier Liebel's post "Solo and Small Firms Should Go In For the Kill", which echos some of our own usual rants re: firms between 5 and 100 lawyers serving clients normally represented by much larger law firms. And we love Susan's pluck. Her post turns on yesterday's Patrick Lamb discussion on GC dissatisfaction. Hat tip to the mysterious Editor of Blawg Review.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2007

Hassett: 34 questions for clients and prospects

Every Wednesday, Jim Hassett at Legal Business Development gives us a thoughtful and practical article on the art of the client. We especially liked this week's post, 34 Questions for Clients and Prospects. Jim's simple but revolutionary idea: get clients to talk about their companies; get lawyers to listen.

Posted by JD Hull at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2007

Golden Practices

Upbeat, honest and just plain fun, Michelle Golden of Golden Marketing Inc. and Golden Practices may very well be the "anti-Geek". Michelle gets out there and actually talks to people face-to-face. She understands services, and how clients may experience them. And she gets what blogging is--and what it isn't. In the two years she's been blogging, Michelle has gained quite a following, which include cynics and non-gushers like the people who write WAC? See, for an introduction to Michelle, "Diving into the Blogosphere? Where to Begin." and "Why Does Social Media Work?"

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2007

When you work, you are marketing.

When we are working, we are always marketing--and constantly sending clients barrages of small but powerful ads. Positive ads, negative ads, "true color" ads. From the 12 Rules of Client Service, see Rule Six: When You Work, You Are Marketing.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2007

So why waste side 2 of your business card?

From Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips Blog, do see What's On The Back Of Your Business Card?

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2007

Large Law Firms

Patrick Lamb and Tom Kane comment on "The Way of the Mastodon", by Sun Microsystems General Counsel Mike Dillon. That article, which appeared on Dillon's own blog last week, has attracted major attention. Update: At Legal Blog Watch, lawyer-journalist Robert Ambrogi was also impressed by Dillon's piece.

Posted by JD Hull at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2007

We all work in the global services economy.

"We are all in the business of selling solutions--products and goods are just tools and details."

--Overheard in a Los Angeles coffee shop.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2007

Redux: What about clients you just don't like?

Answer: Don't court or accept them in the first place. If you already have such a client, you get through it, you try to do the best job you can, and you dump that client ASAP.

Sound unprofessional or unlawyer-like? Maybe so. Yet, with the notable exceptions of some criminal defendant appointments by a court and pro bono work, neither your client nor your firm should be even slightly prejudiced by distrust, disdain or an uneasy relationship. See our November 19, 2005 post "Rule 1: Represent only clients you like". And hear this from a 2006 radio show we appeared on.

Posted by JD Hull at 03:03 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2007

Kane: Mid-sized firms v. big firms

On one of our favorite subjects, Tom Kane at Legal Marketing Blog has "Mid-sized and Small Firms Can Compete With BigLaw." He also follows up on the disturbing BTI Consulting Group, Inc. study released last year, concluding that a sizable majority of U.S. general counsel at bigger companies were not happy with their law firms.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2007

Rule Eight: Think Like the Client--Help Control Costs.

Rule Eight: Think Like The Client--Help Control Costs. (See the first 7 rules 1-6 here and 7 here).

Ask any associate lawyer or paralegal what a "profit" is.

You will get two kinds of answers. Both answers are "correct"--but neither of them helps anyone in your firm think like the client.

The answers will be something like this: (1) "A profit is money remaining after deducting costs from receipts." This is the correct young transactional/tax lawyer answer. Or (2) "it's money left over at the end of the hunt." This is the correct fire-breathing young litigator answer.

The right answer?

A profit is a reward for being efficient. And until a lawyer, paralegal or staffer gets that, she or he will never know how a client--or a law firm partner--thinks.

Rule 8 is really simple. Watch and minimize costs and show the client that you are interested in doing that. Go beyond just avoiding wasteful spending, and think of the client's business as yours. Factor cost (including fees!) into everything you think, say and do. Let the client know that you know that holding down costs is good for both the client and your law firm. You want repeat clients, and a maximum of steady income streams, so let clients know you really care about saving it money because of just that: you want to keep costs down so the client will stay with the firm in the long-term.

Most clients not only get this but appreciate it greatly in time. Three years ago, at the beginning of a fairly intense but short-term lobbying project in DC for a new client (a high-tech company with a fabulous product), I told the client's CEO--by the way, she was brilliant, talented and rich but surprisingly unsophisticated on the use of lawyers--that she had three options on legal paths she could take on the project, and that I wanted her to use the least expensive one on legal fees. She actually said: "Dan, you know we really like you guys. But your goal has got to be to make as many thousands of dollars you can a month from this project. Why a cheap avenue for me that involves fewer lawyer hours? Why should I take this seriously?" My answer: "Because whether you sell this company or not, we want to represent it or whatever company you next develop on a long term basis, and we would rather work for you for years and years than just a few months."

That made sense to her. Everyone in our shop needs (1) to think in terms of holding down client costs--attorney fees and out-of-pocket expenses--at every step and every moment of a client project, (2) to know why, and (3) to be prepared to explain that to the client.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2007

True Lawyer Professionalism

We once briefly engaged for litigation a local counsel who focused more on preserving personal relationships with local lawyers than on going to bat for our mutual client. It was like having a tennis doubles partner on heroin with weights strapped to each leg. The guy never got it. While it's true that one of the advantages of any local counsel in litigation is a knowledge of, and rapport with, the local law cattle, those relationships always come second. Anything less is, at best, unprofessional and, at worst, a conflict of interest. The following posts, from our Federal Courts series, are among the most visited WAC? articles:

Is "Professionalism" Just A Lawyer-Centric Ruse?

The Client's Professionalism Rules For Litigation

See also, Professionalism Revisited: What About the Client?, from the San Diego Daily Transcript, April 29, 2005, by one of America's most client-centric lawyers.

Posted by JD Hull at 05:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2007

WAC? loves Baseball Blawg Review #103

Do see Blawg Review this week and Jon Frieden's #103.

Occasionally patriotic, WAC? loves baseball, our national sport. Like the law profession itself, baseball (1) is great fun to play or watch, (2) is way more complex than meets the eye, and (3) features some of the most difficult, funny, demented and inscrutable rogues on the planet.

A bonus: the first opening day ceremonial pitch (in 1910) by an American president was a hurl by my kind of Chief Executive--a portly Cincinnati-bred lawyer's lawyer and former journalist who graduated from WAC?'s law school in 1880 and who spent some time in the humble suburb of Indian Hill, Ohio, where I attended high school and grew up, sort of, mainly, before heading to points East and to DC.

DC area-based Jonathan Frieden, an IP litigator who writes E-Commerce Law, is the host of Blawg Review #103 which, in honor of baseball's opening day, is the "BaseBlawg Review". Fine job by Jon and his interesting blog, which we just discovered. See in particular Jim Hassett's piece on how to qualify new clients. Trust us: Having No Client--and instead working harder and smarter to get the right client--is always better than the Working for the Wrong Client.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:50 AM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2007

Asking clients for work: "Why are lawyers so shy?"

Over the years this keeps happening:

I take a General Counsel or non-lawyer executive or CFO of a targeted client to lunch or dinner to ask for work. At some point I briefly say what my firm does and how we can help the client on particular legal issues it has. I ask a few questions. I do a short (very informal) pitch which ends with: "We like [the company] and we'd love to work with you. How can I win/earn your business?"

The client rep laughs and says something like, "That's refreshing--because I can't tell you how many times I have dined, gone to sporting events or played golf with lawyers and they never ask me for my business. Sometimes this goes on for years. I know that's why they are there--but they won't ever get to the point."

"So what's up with that?" he or she continues, often openly amused. "Are most lawyers shy or something? Why would I want to hire a law firm not aggressive enough, direct enough or business-oriented enough to just ask for the work?"

True story: One in-house counsel from a Fortune 100 told me that a partner in a major law firm he saw regularly for years couldn't bring himself to inquire. They lawyer was the in-house guy's next door neighbor.

Is the careful, rational, polite, risk-averse "lawyer personality" to blame? I have no idea.....but I do know that business clients--whether or not they buy the image of the fire-breathing lawyer-AlphaHuman they see on television--expect lawyers to have the business instincts and the stones to ask for the work. So ask. Practice first if you must. Get a pitch and a strategy for each meeting. Don't wait until 30 minutes goes by or the table is cleared. Ask.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2007

Asking for the business.

It sounds easy but lawyers have trouble doing it. In fact, the concept of "asking for the business" is revolutionary thinking for some of us. Not part of the lawyer personality. So for some direction, see my friend Jim Hassett's post "When To Close And 'Ask For The Business'" at his Legal Business Development.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

Real, inexpensive and "natural" branding ideas.

To me, real branding for a services firm should be cheap, "natural", and not with goofy initials or logos that only work for IBM or Microsoft: just "real look and feel" trade dress branding, the kind associated with workaday letterhead and envelopes, and forged in the customer's overstimulated brain through repetition. Your name, the print style, color--decide, keep it, don't change it. See Michelle Golden's post Fun Branding for a Law Firm.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2007

Pat Lamb: The billable hour is doing just fine, thank you.

From my other friend and mentor, The Blawgfather, Patrick Lamb, at In Search of Perfect Client Service, this is good, even if it does mention me and mine:

NEWS FLASH! Reports of the Death of Hourly Rates Greatly Exaggerated!

Posted by JD Hull at 03:22 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2007

Tom Kane: Don't compete on price.

See this valuable advice from Tom Kane at his Legal Marketing Blog: "Don't Compete on Price, It's a Loser". My two cents: that goes double if you are a boutique, or cluster of boutiques, competing for high-end clients with large law firms. In that case, you might even want to charge a bit more. And if you leave a large firm, be sure to keep your rates at least as high as they were.

Don't bottom-feed. Compete on service.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2007

Golden Volver: "Few Firms Get the Point of Differentiation"

For more on law firm differentiation/branding in the post below, see this 2006 post by Michelle Golden at Golden Practices called "Few Firms Get the Point of Differentiation".

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2007

Tom Kane: Stop Procrastinating - Fire Those Bad Clients

Here.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2007

An evolving new rejoinder to beefs about imperfect client service?

Re: chilling effect on complaints about mediocre, lame and/or bad lawyering or "Well, dang, we weren't that bad--so we'd like $1 million, dirtbags." See at Overlawyered "Chew out your lawyers, get sued for defamation". Apparently, in the NY state case, the qualified privilege--which the Manhattan trial court insisted was "absolute" instead (WAC? questions that, but it's a good result)--won the day. Still, whoa.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2007

"Get lean, get talented and hunt BigClients".

Let's review, shall we?

Get off your knees. Stop bottom-feeding. Be a man, or woman.

But be somebody. Now, and in the future, law firm size may matter--but only if at your core you are smaller, agile, muscular and can do most (90%) of the work traditionally done by large law firms (250-3000+ lawyers). And smaller (up to 150) firms, for most GCs on most projects, will be (a) preferred and (b) cool. Bigger firms, for most GCs on most projects, will be (a) suspect and (b) not cool.

So below, per our "usual rant", as the mysterious anonymous all-powerful Editor of Blawg Review once termed it, are 9 WAC? (nine, count 'em) posts over the past few months on why and how you can have BigClients in boutiques or clusters of boutiques(5-150) setting if you have the talent, a true client service culture and the discipline to keep it:

In Praise of Structure (10/30/06)

Real Elitism: Toward Building A Client-Centric Culture (6/10/06)

The 7 Habits of Highly Useless Corporate Lawyers (6/27/06)

SRO: "Stealing and Keeping BigLaw Clients" (7/28/06)

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Rich Abused Fortune 500
Clients."
(8/5/06)

Do BigClients need BigLaw more than 10% of the time? (9/22/06)

Work-life balance is a dumb-ass issue. (10/20/06)

GCs: Do you really want Big, Clumsy & Unresponsive in 50 cities worldwide? (10/21/06)

And: "Clientwork": The 12 Rules Of Client Service (4/3/06)

Posted by JD Hull at 06:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2007

Business-Getter Summit: 14th Annual Marketing Partner Forum

Beginning today, Hildebrandt International hosts the 14th Annual Marketing Partner Forum: Innovative Marketing & Business Development in the 21st Century at the Four Seasons Aviara in San Diego. On the 25th, WAC? (Dan Hull) serves on a panel on the subject of how law firms can use the Internet to keep existing business clients and generate new ones. Blogs, podcasts and webinars will be discussed--and demonstrated--as part of the cyber-marketing mix. WAC?'s friend and inspirer Chicago trial lawyer Patrick Lamb, of In Search of Perfect Client Service, will serve as moderator. Other panelists are Larry Bodine of the LawMarketing Blog, David Bowerman of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis LLP, Vickie Spang of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP and J. Craig Williams of The Williams Law Firm, PC and May It Please The Court.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2007

Math on Management: Connections, Relationships, Money.

In our new services world, making real connections (see Arnie Herz and Lisa Haneberg) with clients or GCs you "like" (see WAC?) lead to relationships, which are assets and money we must manage. WAC? gets it now. Manage your connections. Manage your money.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2007

Must-Read Jay Shepherd Post: Clients Don't Like You...

Most business people rightly think we lawyers are necessary evils, and at best tolerable if we slip back into our coffins before dawn. We lack business sense in most respects. And we don't communicate well with business clients. See from Jay Shepherd's Gruntled Employees "Why businesspeople hate lawyers".

Posted by JD Hull at 07:10 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2006

Clients in 3-D

See Michelle Golden's post "Visit Your Clients".

Posted by JD Hull at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2006

Industry-Based Practice Groups

Tom Kane at Legal Marketing Blog is reading WAC?'s mind these days--and gives a suggestion which my firm will institute at the beginning of next year, starting with our firm's practice for clients in the automotive, steel, manufacturing and energy industries. See "Form Industry-based Practice Groups". Clients want you to know their business, their industry.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2006

Women and start-ups: This Week's "Baby" Show.

"I'm There for you Baby", hosted by WAC? friends Neil Senturia and Barbara Bry, airs from 1-2 p.m., West Coast time on San Diego's CASH 1700 AM, or listen live via simulcast on the CASH website. This week includes a discussion with female entrepreneurs.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2006

Jim Hassett's Not So Excellent Adventure

Bad service, bad buzz. As Harry Beckwith's young son once said, "too often, service sucks". From Jim Hassett at Legal Business Development, here's "Unhappy customers and my problems with ACT". Don't tug on Superman's cape, dude.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2006

Jim Hassett: Lawyer Marketing in 7 Words

And they are: Meet the right people, advance the relationship. Or kiss the frogs, sort the princes, and keep moving? Well, Jim's is shorter, better. See Jim Hassett's "Everything You Need to Know About Legal Business Development, in Seven Words" at Legal Business Development.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2006

You Gotta Believe--or just sell shoes, drive cab, whatever.

Why WAC?'s Client Service Model & 12 Rules May Not Work.

Answer: Because people are selfish, and WAC?'s 12 Rules of True Client Service presupposes that people are not selfish--that you and your staff will put clients before yourselves and All Things other than blood, country, God, a job at the White House or dinner with Parker Posey. Conservative humorist and writer P.J. O'Rourke said it best, sort of, in explaining in an article for Rolling Stone Magazine in July of 1995, why he went from National Lampoon to jester for the right:

No child ever wrote Santa, "Bring me, and a bunch of kids I've never met, a pony, and we'll share."

O'Rourke is right, of course. People are selfish. Period.

So there's no point in being nice to anyone, even clients, because it doesn't get you anything today, right?

Well, no, wrong. There's a "blind faith"-based and slightly zen-like remedy for the 12 Rules' blissful ignorance of human nature, and here it is: Rule 13: You Gotta Believe.

Get spiritual, get crazy, but somehow get it. History teaches that only Spiritual or Crazy can truly trump and defeat Selfish. So try one of them--Spiritual or Crazy--in your shop, keeping in mind that may be closely related ("Insanity is half-way to Enlightenment," a mildly crazy Duke religion professor once said.) But seriously, folks...somehow, some way, you and yours must believe that for your business to be what it is supposed to me--and to mean anything at all--the Client is first, right, The Main Asset, It, prime, special, All Things, The One Thing, Center of Cosmos, Alpha, paramount, Godhead, the Big Dog, more-important-than-you, more-important-than-dinner-with-Parker Posey--and the key to your success, wealth and happiness.

The client relationship as a valued asset. You must be willing to sacrifice for it. The idea, and the passion that carries it, can never be the object of derision. It's the one sacred thing. (Nothing else needs to be.) Everyone at your shop must always buy into client service passionately.

It doesn't matter how you get people to buy into client service passion. It just must be real.

You can (a) try hiring or even creating the spiritual Steve Covey-type ("Last night, the Forms of Beauty and Truth appeared to me in a vision, and asked me for alignment of principles with our company's principles, to take place later today, around 2:00 PM in the Lavender Conference Room, and please bring your own toga and sandals...") or (b) take the easier, quicker crazy-about-service route by hiring Wharton, Tuck or Fuqua B-school grads who are already believers ("I'll torture, and then fire, and maybe even kill, anyone who doesn't bend over backwards for every client every moment on my watch...") for whatever reasons, and who are otherwise sane, mainly. It doesn't matter which oddball or zealot you recruit. Just find them. Chances are it can't be taught.

They can be selfish. Even really out there. But they gotta believe in serving clients 24/7.

Anyone who does not buy into true client service must be asked to leave, and leave quickly, without attempts at "rehabilitation". So consider this easy-to-use quick exit interview talk, which you can memorize, and with which we'll conclude:

Dude, Justin[*], you don't believe what we believe about clients, and that's fine. So this is not working out.

Look, we know this firm is not for everyone. You are likely miserable here. We're probably all crazy, Dan Hull, and Julie McGuire, especially--they are real pieces of or work, and especially Hull, what a whackjob, eh? [optional, of course]--but, dude, Justin, real client service is what we really are all about. Julie and Dan are militant about that. They are serious.

Here, client service is not a gimmick or line we tell to clients to get them here. It's something we do ourselves to make them stay here. And it holds everything at Hull McGuire together. It's a religion. Okay, it's a little weird. Extreme. A Passion, Justin. May even be a cult. But there is nothing else. Nothing. Everything flows from it.

Thanks, Justin, and take care.

*All males we fire are named Justin, Brandon or Josh--go figure.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

Kid From Brooklyn opines on candor, client expectations.

This weekend, visit the Big Man, the Kid from Brooklyn (links above)--he's "always, always" happy to see you.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:48 AM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2006

Get Lean, Talented and Hunt BigClients.

Now, and in the future, size may matter--but only if you are smaller, agile, muscular and can do most (90%) of the work traditionally done by large law firms (250-3000+ lawyers). Smaller firms, for most GCs on most projects, will be (a) preferred and (b) cool. Bigger firms, for most GCs on most projects, will be (a) suspect and (b) not cool. So below, per our usual rant, are 7 WAC? posts since June on why and how you can have BigClients in a boutique (5-150) setting if you have the people, a true client service culture and the discipline to keep it:

Real Elitism: Toward Building A Client-Centric Culture (6/10/06)

SRO: "Stealing and Keeping BigLaw Clients" (7/28/06)

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Rich Abused Fortune 500
Clients."
(8/5/06)

Do BigClients need BigLaw more than 10% of the time? (9/22/06)

Work-life balance is a dumb-ass issue. (10/20/06)

GCs: Do you really want Big, Clumsy & Unresponsive in 50 cities worldwide? (10/21/06)

In Praise of Structure (10/30/06)


Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Tell me again: GCs want what?

Corporate counsel keep telling us, pretty consistently, what they want from my firm and yours. It's trust, value and a willingness, to echo my friend Colin Samuels, to "put skin in the game". Good GCs don't like risk-averse weenies; they want to know what you think, and whether you'll be willing to take a hit with them. See this nice post and interview excerpts from Amy Campbell's Web Log, called "What Drives Corporate Counsel in Their Relationship with Outside Counsel?". And a quick note here that my friend Patrick Lamb and Hildebrandt International were kind enough to invite me to be on a truly blue-ribbon panel of bloggers and thinkers for the 14th Annual Marketing Partner Forum on January 25th, 2007. We'll discuss how modern technology can help meet the needs of general counsel, and how to reinforce existing relationships and generate new leads using technology. The panel includes Thomas Baldwin, Larry Bodine, David Bowerman, Dennis Kennedy, Pat Lamb, and J. Craig Williams.

Posted by JD Hull at 03:18 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2006

Why the WAC? Client Service Model/12 Rules May Not Work.

The answer is coming soon, reluctantly, but with a remedy. Hint: because humans are selfish creatures. To get ready, see the 12 Rules first.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2006

"I'm There for you Baby" Gets International.

"I'm There for you Baby", with serial over-achievers Neil Senturia and Barbara Bry, airs at its regular time tomorrow. Tune in to San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM, 1-2 p.m., West Coast time, or listen "live" via simulcast on the CA$H web site. This week includes: "The best and brightest are coming to the United States to seek their entrepreneurial fortunes--we should welcome them." ITFYB is about dreams, running a business, clients, employees and money.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2006

"Customers are always..."

If you haven't seen Maria Palma's Customers Are Always blog lately, you should. There are consistently good pieces of advice here by someone who knows, cares about and lives and breathes real service. Presented here are customers and clients as both valued people and business assets--without a trace of cynicism or negativity. It's all real.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2006

Redux: The 7 Habits of Highly Useless Corporate Lawyers

Remember Ernie from Glen Burnie and his story about the 1836 Virginia document? Tonight I met with EFGB at the Old Ebbitt Grill on 15th Street. Under blistering cross-examinations by three of our old friends, mainly transactional types, the kind of guys who beat fish to death with their bare hands, Ernie stuck to his story. "The 7 Habits of Highly Useless Corporate Lawyers".

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2006

Patten: Unhappy Lawyering = Unhappy Clients.

From Britain's Justin Patten at Human Law, see "If 40% of lawyers are not happy with their career choice do you expect good client service?"

Posted by JD Hull at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2006

Measuring Client Satisfaction

See Jim Hassett's two most recent posts at Legal Business Development.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2006

Quit working on Maggie's farm.

Start by tuning into www.imthereforyoubaby.com and The Entrepreneur's Guide to Galaxy--with our friends Barbara Bry and Neil Senturia--tomorrow, Saturday, at 1-2 pm California time. Listen live in San Diego area at 1700 AM or via simulcast on the CASH 1700 web site.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2006

Will Your Clients Help Market Your Firm?

From one of the smartest law practice management sites, which should be on your short list if you read just a few blogs each week, here's "How Likely Are Your Clients to Recommend Your Law Firm?" by Nashville-based Tom Collins at More Partner Income.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2006

Just Doing the Work is Marketing.

Note What About Clients? Rule Six: When You Work, You Are Marketing. And then read from the ABA's LPM Section's Law Practice TODAY, consultant Wendy Werner's "Customer Service for Lawyers":

Why do some law firms excel at bringing in new business and keeping clients while others struggle? They understand that every contact every time shapes the client’s opinion.

Ah, the Big Secret in 8 words. Exciting. Read more.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2006

12 Rules of Client Service

The goal of the "What About Clients?" 12 Rules is outrageous client service--but the 12 Rules' way of getting there is to align the interests of clients and customers and service providers. They were derived from the "How To Practice Law" section of our firm's Practice Guide, written for associates and paralegals in 2000. The rules, like service itself, are not perfect, and can be improved. Promise: This model works--if you work at it. Follow these rules by building a disciplined culture at your shop where they are enforced and kept alive--and your clients and firm both get stronger and better together. You'll see repeat business. You'll make money. And assuming you have the talent pool, and the right people to do the work, you can steal and keep any good client you covet. No limits.

The Catch: Instituting the 12 Rules (as opposed to just following them) is very, very hard work, whether your firm already has a passion for customer service, or has been happy going from day to day with only the faintest sense of its mediocrity. Real client service is as difficult and as important as your day-to-day work. But the two must be merged:

1. Represent only clients you like.

2. The client is the main event.

3. Make sure everyone in your firm knows the client is the main event.

4. Deliver legal work that changes the way clients think about lawyers.

5. Over-communicate: bombard, copy and confirm.

6. When you work, you are marketing.

7. Know the client.

8. Think like the client--help control costs.

9. Be there for clients--24/7.

10. Be accurate, thorough and timely--but not perfect.

11. Treat each co-worker like he or she is your best client.

12. Have fun.

Copyright 2005 John Daniel Hull IV, Julie Elizabeth McGuire, Hull McGuire PC, All Rights Reserved.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2006

Guess what? You're a salesperson.

Here's "Do You Consider Yourself a Salesperson?" by Tom Kane over at his blog, the consistently fine LegalMarketingBlog.com.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2006

The rise, sort of, of legal weblogs.

Do I think blogging is (a) important or (b) the wave of the future?

Answers: (a) no, and (b) I have no idea. However, blogging, currently, due to its evolving role as a clearinghouse, lab and media outlet for the success or failure of new ideas, is telling us where the best of the legal profession will be in 10 years. It's attracted some well-respected law and business minds, and their firms along with them. In the near term, "blawgs" have become a way to keep abreast of events and developments in business law in particular at almost lightning speed. Whether you have a blog or not, there's a huge payoff in reading them. Not reading legal weblogs a couple of times a week may very well be something we do at our peril.

Frankly, that has surprised me. Blogging by lawyers is no fad. But a really good, consistently good, blawg is hard to find. Most, but not all, of the great ones are by "full-time" bloggers, usually lawyers and often consultants.* To keep a good one going, you need a unifying concept, ideas, energy and discipline, especially if you still practice law. Do realize that, if you do have a blog, in-house counsel for publicly-traded clients do like legal weblogs. And why not? Blogs are damn cute, currently popular and show your tech-ness.

But what GCs really like, however, are Working Lawyers. They really don't want to see a 500-word post on "The Mood of the Beltway" or "Why I Like Plato, My Cat" the day before your 4-week IP/antitrust jury trial starts at the Eastern District in Alexandria. And consider this, too: if a GC or associate GC for ACME International has time to read your "blawg" every day, well, that may not be a good sign re: the GC or this company. Blogging for most of us is not the main event--and it shouldn't be.

* I can think of about eight (8) "greats" offhand, 5 of whom I "know". I would identify them but all 8 of these talented people are hopelessly vain and self-absorbed pains in the ass. It's why I like them.


Posted by JD Hull at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2006

Hill & Knowlton blog: Client Service Insights

My friend Pat Lamb of In Search of Perfect Client Service made me aware of Hill & Knowlton's blog Client Service Insights. WAC? is going to permanently link to this one. Clever and interesting, CSI just conducted and announced a "winner" of its First Annual Scariest Client Service Stories Contest in honor of Halloween. On the homepage currently: "Insight #1 - Client service excellence isn't about doing the things no one else can do; it's about doing the things anyone can do, but just don't." So simple, it's scary. Read that to yourself a couple of times. Then ask your brilliant young associates--the ones who like you were law review editors and still think it's all about being "smart"--to read it exactly 13 times. Aloud, in unison.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2006

Go-to lawyers.

Here's a great practical post I almost missed but quite a few others noticed. It's by Blawg Review mainstay Colin Samuels at Infamy or Praise and called "Eight (or Nine) Attributes of a Go-To Lawyer". Colin comments on and even adds to a list from an article in the June 2006 issue of Corporate Counsel by Daniel DiLucchio. Two key traits on the list are:

6. Willing to "put skin in the game" — Able to take a calculated risk with a client and communicate that he's standing behind him.

8. Sense of urgency — Shares the client's need to move quickly in a highly competitive environment.


Posted by JD Hull at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2006

"And a thousand telephones that will not ring..."

That's from Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisted, which Johnny Winter also did--but without that weird police siren. How are GCs really finding firms these days? If your website doesn't hit them right, will that mean no rings? Do they use Google? Carolyn Elefant's new piece at Legal Blog Watch, "Corporate Counsel Using Web Sites and Search Engines to Find Outside Counsel", is fascinating, instructive and loud.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2006

Patrick Lamb: Law is a service business.

Like many other corporate lawyers and bloggers, when my friend Chicago trial lawyer Patrick Lamb of In Search Of Perfect Client Service weighs in on an issue, I listen carefully. And being mentioned by Patrick in one of his posts is just a wonderful bonus. See his recent post "Ball And Chain? Key To Freedom?" and his take on how current mobile communication technology (cell phones, Treos, etc.) can serve both (1) clients and (2) "work/life balance". Here are excerpts:

Law is a service business. If you don't want confront the demands created by being in a service business, then find something else to do. But having said that, these mobile [communications] devices allow one to be hiking in the mountains but still accessible for a critical call, as happened to me this summer. Neither my wife nor my kids would have preferred that I be stuck in my office.

Those who complain about having their "off hours" interrupted really are conceding that they would not have been accessible in the first place. Those who put clients in second place are going to find out that they don't have to worry about the problem any more.

Do read Pat's post.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2006

Altman Weil 2006 GC Survey is here.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:31 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2006

WAC?'s Usual 'Muscle Boutique' Rant Gains Currency?

From Justin Patten's Human Law, here is "The Shift In Power From The Big To The Small Firm", collecting other good posts. In a nutshell, my firm's experience has been that: for 90% of high-end corporate law work, boutique firms and firms under, say, 150 lawyers are preferred by, not just acceptable to, General Counsel at BigClients.

It's time for lawyers with the right credentials in firms of 150 down to 5 to get off your knees, quit bottom-feeding, chuck both your "niche" market thinking and your work-life balance nonsense (the first 8 to 10 years for associates, and lawyering done right after that, should be hard work for even the gifted), steal the good clients, provide outrageous service and get rich. Yours for the taking.

Hat tip to the omniscient Editor of Blawg Review for noticing.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2006

Again: Do BigClients need BigLaw more than 10% of the time?

Re: the WAC? recent post "Do BigClients need BigLaw more than 10% of the time?", two of the bloggers who thoughtfully weighed in on it were Tom Collins at More Partner Income in "Big Law's Grip on Corporate Legal Fees is Weakening", and Dan Filler at Concurring Opinions in "In House Counsel And The Selection Of Law Firms".

Posted by JD Hull at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2006

The Kid From Brooklyn sounds off on client service, pricing.

He's here. WAC? is still in the desert with the beautiful people so this will just have to do.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 30, 2006

The Entrepreneur's Guide to the Galaxy

Neil's in the basement mixin' up the medicine. Tune in to San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM, Sundays, 3-4 p.m., Pacific Time, or listen live via simulcast on the CA$H web site. With Neil Senturia and Barbara Bry.

Tomorrow is Show #14. Learn why nonprofit entrepreneurship is not an oxymoron. Listen to the podcasts any time.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:39 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2006

"Proactive?" Huh? Say what?

Real customer service is hard. But first you have to get that. And hardly anyone does. In a great short post, Michelle Golden of Golden Practices, one of my favorite client-centric blogs, says it all about the relentless tendency to embrace mediocrity in customer service standards. It's called "How Do You Define Proactive?".

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Patrick McKenna's E-Book First 100 Days

My boutique firm goes to wherever our clients need solutions--litigation, interesting deals coupled unique international tax problems, lobbying and lots of consigliere exercises--and so we travel and work. Western Europe, US and Latin America. We won't stay put. But for my odd, peripatetic life, I might have finished Patrick McKenna's e-book First 100 Days: Transitioning A New Managing Partner weeks ago. Patrick is a Principal with Edge International, a well-known global consultancy which makes higher-end law firms even more effective. Lots of savvy consultants and bloggers have given rave reviews to Patrick's book. Now I've read it--I get it. First 100 Days is short, colorful and easy to use and read. It's long on substance and gives you the real keys to law firm management success in only 23 idea-drenched pages. Usable ideas and experiences of several current law firm managing partners at fine firms are featured in 100 Days. It's unique, and jumps outs at you. Read it.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2006

"Small Is the New Big" (and you can still get rich...go on, it's okay)

Read Seth Godin's new book Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas. It's what WAC? has been trying to tell you. Godin just says it better.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2006

How did your firm get better today?

See this one from Matt Homann's the [non]billable hour.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2006

Clients, the New World, and Getting Off Your Damn Knees.

Let's review. This blog, "What About Clients?", is about just three (3) simple ideas:

1. Real Service. Corporate clients all over the world are underserved and not happy. You can change that. But client service, like practicing law correctly, is very hard. You need to work at it.

2. International. In short, American lawyers need to meet lawyers and clients from other countries.

3. The New Muscle Boutiques. Or "Give Me Your Tired, Your Rich Abused Fortune 500 Clients". Boutique firms with top legal talent in the Americas, Europe and Asia are still bottom feeding. Unless your firm is doing a quality-of-life experiment, or trying to make law practice easy and not stimulating, you should be actively pitching to and stealing BigLaw clients. Get off your knees, get a grip. It's okay, we live in a free markets world. Just keep your rates high and your services superb.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Listen to WAC?'s own Dan Hull


In case you missed hearing WAC?'s Dan Hull talk about firing bad clients as a guest on the September 10 edition of "I'm There For You Baby", you can now listen to the podcast on the Baby website.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2006

Real Marketing: Just "Getting One for the Gipper"?

Carolyn Elefant has written a wonderful post--insightful, blunt and humorous--at Law.com's Legal Blog Watch called "The $45 Million-a-Year Lawyer Who Doesn't Even Market". It opines on some remarks of DLA Piper lawyer Amy Schulman, who had made these canned "post-game victory" comments about marketing and lawyering in an interview with Law Practice Today in September 2004:

I never think of myself as “marketing." I don’t have a secret that I’m not sharing. My rainmaking success comes from two things: my conviction that I can be really helpful to clients and my ability to offer them a valuable service.

Carolyn's retort:

Please! While, clearly, Schulman generates lots of billings from heading megacases that involve hundreds of man hours, you can't bring in the kinds of large clients that produce that type of revenue without marketing. I sure hope Schulman is more convincing when she litigates for clients than when it comes to discussing marketing.

I am sure Schulman is an excellent lawyer--but Carolyn's got a point.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

Do BigClients need BigLaw more than 10% of the time?

Over the weekend I was lucky enough to be present at a very well-attended and, as always, insightful talk by my friend Paul Clifford. Paul is the former managing partner of a major Boston law firm, and is now a principal at Law Practice Consultants. In a Saturday presentation on marketing before the International Business Law Consortium, Paul mentioned that corporate legal work generally breaks down into 3 categories: 10% is "bet-the-company" work (where price is no object, and which mega-firms tend to control), 10% is "commodity" (i.e., cookie-cutter) work and 80% is "important" work.

That vast 80% category of "important" corporate legal work Paul talked about includes virtually all (95%) of the work my small boutique firm performs in transactional and corporate tax, litigation, environmental, lobbying, international, IP, etc. But that same 80% also includes the same work done by firms which are both bigger than and even smaller than mine--from 3000 lawyers down to, say, just 5 or 6 lawyers in a first-rate muscle boutique. So the point for me is that a total of 90% (80% "important" + 10% "commodity") of available corporate legal work is NOT the 10% bet-the-company work, and can be performed by a variety of different sized firms, assuming they have the talent. Though his comments using that breakdown were in large part about pricing legal services, Paul got me thinking. Bear with me:

The 250 largest American law firms range from 3200 to about 150 lawyers--a huge spread, with the "bottom" 125 of those firms starting at about 300 lawyers and best described as medium-sized. Here, however, we'll liberally refer to all 250 of them as "BigLaw" firms in the U.S. BigLaw gets pounded in legal weblogs for a variety of reasons. The attacks are rooted in everything from pure sour grapes and size-envy to thoughtful markets analysis and anecdotal reporting about who the GCs of BigClients are really hiring to get things done.

I like BigLaw. I am convinced that there's nothing like a BigLaw giant (to me, the 15 or so U.S. firms with more than 1000 lawyers) when the client needs a vast, dynamic library of people and high-level skills under one banner in several cities and countries. If BigLaw is in demand and making money--and clearly it still is--it could care less what people in the nascent blawgosphere think. BigLaw isn't reading blogs/blawgs. I don't even like the term BigLaw. It makes those who use it sound pathetic and small. Let's call all 250 of them "Mega-firms".

But one of the more sober takes of many Mega-firm detractors are that boutiques and "clusters of boutiques"--corporate law firms from 5 lawyers to 150 lawyers--can do the same work for BigClients that Mega-firms now do. And do perhaps even better and faster, and at the same rates. Corporate legal talent no longer resides soley in large law firms--and it certainly doesn't reside, in my experience, and my firm's and other firms' experience, in most of the firms on the NLJ 250 list. For bet-the-company (BTC) projects, which require lots of first-rate lawyers quickly, such as hostile takeovers, some M&A work and some litigation, some of the Mega-firms are still what BigClients need and will continue to need. But, like Boston-based Paul Clifford, most high-end consultants and other commentators think that the BTC work is perhaps 10% of legal corporate work out there, if that.

So what about the other 90% of available corporate legal work? Is there any reason why firms ranging in size from 5 to 150 lawyers with the right talent and specialities can't do that work for BigClients?

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2006

Bad client festival: Make sure to tune in on Sunday at 3:00 PM Pacific time...


...to San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM where you'll hear WAC?'s own Dan Hull discussing how to deal with clients that aren't worth keeping on this week's edition of "I'm There For You Baby".

As always, the show will be simulcast on CA$H's website and will also be available on the Baby website.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

Even more on BTI Consulting study--and some new things on unhappy GCs.

Here's the ABA article "In-house Counsel Axing Law Firms". But for the best overall sketch and collection of materials of the the "dissatisfied general counsel" issue I've seen yet, complete with other stats from non-BTI sources, see "Another Failing Grade" by Mark Beese at Leadership for Lawyers. Some of this was new to me. Thanks, Mark.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:01 AM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2006

Business Referrals: Should You Keep Score?

Tom Kane at Legal Marketing Blog, inspired by Bruce Allen, addresses this question in "Do You Get Referrals From Those To Whom You Refer Business?" As Bruce Allen had noted in his own post, “no need to keep watering dirt if grass just refuses to grow.”

Posted by JD Hull at 04:29 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2006

Learning Optimism: Toward Building A New Lawyer.

From Arnie Herz's Legal Sanity, here is "Is Life in the Law Half Full or Half Empty?". Fine job with a subject no one likes to think or talk about: must lawyers remain such a glum, burned-out and uninspired lot? Because at the moment, that's where many, many of us are. Some say we even need to be that way to function well. What about clients? What kind of legal products do our clients get from our unhappy colleagues? And how do walking-wounded lawyers affect those of us who actually like what we are doing? How about mixing focus, competence, joy and fun?

Posted by JD Hull at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2006

"How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

At least two, and I'll explain that.

In the meantime, let's note that "overlawyering", "lawyering by committee" and "bill-padding" are terms used to describe infuriating things lawyers do: (1) well-meaning lawyers indulging their perfectionist natures, (2) "on-the-job training" for your brilliant $120,000 first-year associate who unfortunately doesn't know anything yet (and won't for a while), (3) deliberately "milking the bill" (4) "piling-on" with other timekeepers on the bill and (5) "feeding the monster". These are instructive expressions. Become familiar with them. After all, your clients and your GCs coined them thinking of you.

However, a client project that goes on for more than a week should have at least two lawyers assigned to it. I think clients generally believe that two lawyers is better than one from the standpoint of adding value but always feel more secure about a project if they think that two lawyers are "minding the store" and that at least one of them can be counted on both to cover things and keep things moving if one of the lawyers is temporarily less accessible. Moreover, to make all of this clear--to clients, co-workers and opposing counsel--letters, documents and pleadings should regularly "show" both lawyers. You need to send the message that the client is covered by a minimum of two people to everyone.

So far, I have not seen a client balk at having at least two lawyers involved on a significant or lengthy project. True, you cannot always bill 100% of the team effort in this type of arrangement--but the good will generated by having more than one lawyer available and "on the job" is some of the most valuble marketing for repeat business you can do. Clients need to feel safe. That's just as important as the work itself being substantively first-rate.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2006

More on Bad Clients--Who's "Bad", Anyway?

Recently, I was a guest on a radio program for entrepreneurs in a segment on how to spot and fire "bad" clients. This is a favorite subject, probably because it took 5 years for me to fully appreciate what bad clients were doing to my new firm. Rob Millard, Nathan Burke, and "WAC?" have written about bad clients: how to spot them, what they cost you and what to do about them. In this blog's "12 rules" for better client service, bad clients fall under Rule 1: Represent Only Clients You Like and an earlier related post. Generally, you are at your best when you represent clients who share your firm's values.

A "bad" client is not bad because it is small and/or unprofitable, questions bills, pays late or stiffs you. A bad client is one that (1) is not and probably will never be a "sophisticated user of legal services", (2) has a dysfunctional culture and/or (3) dampens the morale of your hard-working staff. Still, bad ex-clients at our shop have typically been small, and often not sophisticated. Ideally, a desirable client at my firm is relatively large, and comes equipped with a savvy and experienced GC. However, a recent post by Tom Collins at More Partner Income, one of the best blogs out there on enlightened management of any firm, added a lot to my thinking on firing smaller and/or less profitable clients. Tom, commenting on other good recent pieces by Ed Poll and Ed Wesemann, writes that "Law Firms Should Not Fire Those Clients, Yet". Do read Tom's post.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2006

Marketing, Boomers, Generations X and Y--and Work.

"WAC?" has studied workplace generation-gap issues (see "Can't Stay Late, Man...I Got a Thing"), and it still doesn't have a clue. But like Carolyn Elefant at Legal Blog Watch, I noticed Larry Bodine's recent post "Generation Gap Hurts Law Firm Marketing". I was glued to it, and read it twice. Larry's short piece and the comments in it from consultant and author Cam Marston are well worth the time to read, even if you're not a lawyer and never worry about marketing, but have wondered if there is something fundamentally different about your co-workers currently under 40. Note also the good comment in defense of Gen Xs and Ys by Rod Heggy to Larry's post.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006

"I know it's only marketing--but I like it." Yes, but please get some help.

If I could win ya, if I could sing ya
A love song so divine,
Would it be enough for your cheating heart,
If I broke down and cried? If I cri-i-ied?

I said I know it's only rock 'n roll but I like it.... (M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Marketing isn't for everyone. You probably need a dark, kinky crowd-pleasing streak--a touch of Little Richard in you--to enjoy it, much less be any good at it. That's why marketing efforts in many American law firms are often dominated by trial lawyers, the closest thing we have to "outlaw" and "showman" in our staid and risk-averse profession. Trial people don't necessarily have better marketing and selling instincts. When the dust we kick up clears, we are just as overly-cautious and spineless as everyone else in the profession. We are not always possessed of winning ways. We just "like it", and we have big egos. We like to talk.

Lawyers are notoriously bad marketers, closers, managers, planners and strategists compared to trained business professionals. We just think differently, and we suffer from "rigid thought syndrome". Even those of us who can melt juries are not really that people-oriented. We were "good students". We were careful. We tended to be introverts and loners. And now we are prisoners of legal thinking. Ironically, the very traits and training that made us good at our profession have made us bad at other things.

But we can learn. And no one gets a pass. (1) Those who like to market and sell need training. (2) Those who don't like to market and sell need training, too.

On both the right and left side of this blog are listed several management and marketing consultants. You can tell this by the names of their blogs and websites. Some are lawyers, some aren't, but all of them can help your firm develop a disciplined marketing strategy or "WAC?", which is careful and risk-averse, would not have ever listed them on this blog. You should contact these people. You'll need them sooner or later. You need more than great instincts. We know it's only marketing and selling, but don't wing it, counsellor.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2006

"You Can Take It [Biglaw Practice] With You."

Bravo. From well-respected D.C. lawyer and blogger Carolyn Elefant at My Shingle, it's right here.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2006

Make client service standards part of each employee review.

We've discussed this idea before. If (a) you have chosen to build a truly client-centric firm, and (b) some of your partners and employees don't buy into constant improvement and innovation in customer service, tell them goodbye. Do that right away. Your co-workers either love--or don't love--the idea of great customer service. You can't teach people to get excited about it. Don't try.

But if they do "get it", keep those people, and challenge them to keep thinking and improving by incorporating specific customer service standards and goals into each employee performance review. Those standards may vary from position to position and from employee to employee. Whatever they are, make them as important as technical skills. Measure yourself and your employees by them.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2006

A New GC Blog That High-End Boutiques Will Want To Read.

First Geoffrey Gussis at InhouseBlog, and then Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch, report "Fortune 500 First: GC Launches Blog". Our new blogger will be Mike Dillon, GC at Sun Microsystems.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

Mindsets, Paradigms and Other Prisons.

Rob Millard at The Adventure of Strategy is one of the few voices in the blogosphere who can use the word "mindset" and WAC? will still take him seriously. And, seriously, see his fine short post "The Enemy is Mindset"--or what I'd call the difficult art of seeing everything all the time as if you are seeing it for the first time. Or something like that. Rob's piece is inspired in part by a good post from Innovation Zen. WAC? will now repair to its study with a view of the mountains to burn floral incense and read The Upanishads.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2006

File This Under "Makes Way Too Much Sense".

Read "The Best Way to Market Yourself Is To Be Who You Are" by Allison Shields at her always-thoughtful Legal Ease Blog.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

Ouch, indeed.

See today's post by Chicago trial lawyer Pat Lamb called "The Wide Gulf Between Lawyer Perceptions And Those Of Their Clients". Note in particular Pat's quote of the comment of McDonald's Managing Counsel Robert Johnson: "Firms claim to understand our business model, but many do not walk the walk. They're more interested in impressing us with their esoteric philosophies than in reaching a resolution."

Posted by JD Hull at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2006

The Entrepreneur's Guide to the Galaxy

Be sure to tune in to San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM Saturday from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Pacific time to hear this week's edition of "I'm There For You Baby" with Neil Senturia (note picture of Neil on his damn yacht) and Barbara Bry. This week's edition will include a discussion with Serge Dedina, a life long surfer who uses entrepreneurial principles in preserving the coast in California and Mexico, along with more rules from the popular "Baby's Book of Becoming a Billionaire" and the "I wish I'd thought of that idea" Idea. You can also hear the live simulcast on the CA$H website and listen to past shows on the I'm There For You Baby website.

Posted by Tom Welshonce at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2006

"Give Me Your Tired, Your Rich Abused Fortune 500 Clients."

Life is short, it's Saturday, and an English blogger in an e-mail got me thinking. Let's review.

This blog, "What About Clients?", is about just three (3) simple ideas:

1. Real Service. Corporate clients all over the world are underserved and not happy. You can change that. But client service, like practicing law correctly, is very hard. You need to work at it.

2. The New Muscle Boutiques. Boutique firms with top legal talent in America, Europe and Asia are still bottom feeding. Unless your firm is doing a quality-of-life experiment, or trying to make law practice easy and not stimulating, you should be actively pitching to and stealing BigLaw clients. Get off your knees, get a grip. It's okay, we live in a free markets world. Just keep your rates high and your services superb.

3. International. American lawyers need to meet lawyers and clients from other countries.

The other regular "WAC?" topics are Sensitive Litigation Moments (federal courts), IP/Tech, Natural Resources, Politics, Real Heros, Writing Well and Keith Richards Watch. These are about client service and/or specific practice areas in which my firm Hull McGuire PC does all over the U.S., Western Europe and Latin America with 12 lawyers, a minimum of outsourcings and the help of lawyers from a fine long-standing international group (www.iblc.com).

And I am not 100% sure why we started "Keith Richards Watch"--but it was in large part a tribute to and comic relief for American baby boomers who may be burned out from practicing law. Besides, only Keith could get me to change my rule on not representing individuals.

Cheers.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2006

"Oh, New York City, you talk a lot...let's have a look at 'ya!"

A Little Face Time Maybe?

In another month, and for 4 days or so, I'll be in and around New York City, a city I love, especially in decent weather. As usual, I'll see people I have known for years. But I'll also be meeting in the flesh people for the first time I've talked with for months, or even years, only on the phone.

And this will happen: if I have never seen his or her picture, I may think that he or she is, say, a tall, dark-haired 30ish human--a definite image I conjure up during phone talks. If after meeting that person it turns out I've been really talking all this time to a short blonde 50ish person, it doesn't change any mental images long-term. I will still revert back the tall, dark-haired 30ish image after I get back home and talk to her or him again on the phone. With e-mails, it's worse; even if I have formed a picture, only a partial personality comes across in those many back and forths before I meet my pen pal.

Until I meet him or her face-to-face, nothing is enough. Meanwhile, the world still changes rapidly as we speak and type. What's next to make us efficient yet isolated and numb? Do we talk to each other enough with our live human voices? Do we see each other enough with our eyes, "in real time"? What has all this fabulous technology done to render obsolete important human energies, chemistries and nuances to work together and solve problems? So maybe "vibes" is not so silly an idea.

Work, like life, is a social experience. What are we losing these days?

Posted by JD Hull at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2006

Happy Birthday to "What About Clients?"

Today is the first anniversary of "What About Clients?" Thanks to Chicago lawyer Patrick Lamb, D.C. wunderkind consultant Chris Abraham and D.C. telecom lawyer Mark Del Bianco for getting us--Tom Welshonce of Hull McGuire in Pittsburgh, and me--started, and to the people (all 4 or 5 of them) who still read this blog. Our first post was one year ago today. It's still our favorite, it's what this blog's about, and it's here.

Posted by JD Hull at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2006

Blawg Review #68: Blachman is Everywhere--More Power to Him.

Jeremy Blachman is out early with Blawg Review #68. His new, much-discussed and apparently funny-as-hell book Anonymous Lawyer makes me happy, and I haven't even read it yet. Here's an overachiever who's about to get rich and famous satirizing a class of overachievers--lawyers--who in real life are 10 times worse than the jokes about them. A happy thought. The ultimate. We stand in awe and envy. From what we've heard about the book, AL will do more to spotlight anti-client attitudes, lawyer-centric behavior and bad client service than WAC? will ever do. Thanks, Sir Jeremy. Fondly, J. Daniel Hull.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2006

SRO: "Stealing and Keeping BigLaw Clients".

That's a predatory title for a "how-to" marketing seminar. But while discussing that very course title with an influential blogger/thinker I spoke with on the phone this week (refreshing, because I wrongly never make time to do that), he said to me in effect: well, Dan, why not?

Certainly, two relatively recent developments in law practice--first, boutique firms formed by elite lawyers voluntarily leaving large firms and, second, reasonably-priced technological advances which made smaller firms more nimble and powerful--have changed legal markets. The large law firm (300+), an institution I am quite fond of in its saner incarnations, will always have its role. However, high-end clients are no longer forced to hire large firms to obtain top drawer lawyers, results and service. The contrary notion is a myth--a proven ruse.

GCs are now smarter and bolder. Smaller firms can and do land and serve top clients. At top rates, too. It's about service, not price. No point not getting rich just because you start a new, smaller and more client-centric firm. Keep your high rate; savor your lower overhead, if you can achieve one. You deserve it.

So a serious course on getting (okay, stealing) and keeping high-end clients (Fortune 500 companies and large Asian and European companies) might actually fly. But...I'm wrong a lot. Would that catch on? Are we ready? Any presenters out there? Hundreds might attend--but who would teach? Who can I get to speak? Who has experienced it, has credibility, is not afraid of the subject, can articulate it?

A new model is already here. Let's talk about it, and make it work. It's about time--and, hey folks, the time is right.

Posted by JD Hull at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2006

Tune In.

Is the name of a really swishy bar in my old DC neighborhood but it's also what we at WAC? would like everyone to do this Saturday for an hour. Meet Howard and Robin with MBAs. Listen to mega-successful entrepreneurs The Baby (Neil Senturia) and The Babysitter (Barbara Bry) on San Diego's CA$H 1700 AM on Saturdays from 1-2 p.m Pacific time or on the CA$H web site. Or go to I'm There for You Baby and hear podcasts of the first 4 shows. Customer service ideas is a staple. Regular segments include: Billionaire Update, Trump Watch ("when is enough enough?"), the ongoing saga of the U.S. patent system, Crooks of the Week, and "I wish I had thought of that idea" Idea.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2006

A Short But Happy Carnival of Client Service.

There is no shortage of posts these days about the truly cross-cultural challenges of better client service. We start with better client service thinking. Allison Shields at Legal Ease Blog had "Why Lawyers Are Bad at Client Service" and "Are You Really Losing Clients?", inspired by the Michelle Golden post "Lost Clients? 'Reasons' are Symptoms, Not Cause" ....and lawyer-consultant-Chief Thinking Officer Matt Homan at the [non] billable hour is not only full of ideas and good writing but as usual reaches for ideas from other sources in "May I Help You With Anything Else?", "Top Things They Never Taught Me" and "When Creativity Takes a Holiday".

Posted by JD Hull at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2006

Tom Kane's Top Ten Client Getters and Keepers.

American client-centric blogs seem to be on a big roll. At his The Legal Marketing Blog, Tom Kane reprises his Top Ten Marketing Tips, with a link to each tip if you go to his post. These tips make way too much sense. Tom gets that doing a great job for clients and marketing work together--that, in fact, they are really part of the same thing. He starts with the existing client, the asset you already have, and builds on it. Note how (1) getting, (2) keeping and (3) servicing good clients are part of same seamless exercise:

10 – Be Active In Organizations
9 – Networking With Super-Connectors
8 – Take A Reporter To Lunch
7 – Write Articles of Interest
6 – Talk It Up With More Speaks
5 – Communicate Often
4 – Offer To Make Proposal
3 – Seek Client Feedback Often
2 – Entertain Your Client
1 – Visit Your Clients

Posted by JD Hull at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2006

Allison Shields: Real Client Service - Can You Teach It?

Here's a fine post on a favorite subject from one the best client-centric blogs out there. Lawyer-consultant Allison Shields at LegalEase wonders "Can Excellent Client Service Be Taught?" And the answer is yes. Notice especially the idea of developing in all staff and employees a "hospitality mentality"--Allison took this idea from a recent Inc. Magazine article--and where that mentality really starts.

Posted by JD Hull at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2006

Can Real Client $ervice Make You a Billionaire?

Sure it can. If you live in or can somehow access the San Diego market on Sirius, tune into "I'm There For You, Baby" on CASH 1700 AM on Saturdays from 1-2 p.m., PST, with Neil "the Baby" Senturia and Barbara Bry. I've posted about my successful, serial overachieving friends Neil and Barbara before, here and here. The hour-long "Baby" radio show is about personal, professional and business excellence. The first show was yesterday, and Neil led it off with an hilarious but instructive segment on client service--how hard it is and why it's important--about how his now ex-fitness club lost several thousand Senturia-Bry dollars a year by making Neil and his family jump through stupid hoops to secure an extra membership card valued at $25.00.

Three great interviews by Neil (imagine if Howard Stern were an Ivy-educated B school prof) followed, including one with Alan Webber, the former Harvard Business Review editor who co-founded Fast Company Magazine. "Baby" will also have these regular segments: the Billionaire Update, Trump Watch ("When is enough enough?"), "the ongoing saga of the U.S. patent system", Crooks of the Week, and "I wish I had thought of that idea". CASH 1700 AM, owned by XEPE, features business talk. Most of its programming is carried by Connecticut-based radio network Business Talk Radio Network, but on weeknights from 7 p.m.-5 a.m, it airs CNN Headline News radio.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2006

Client Blogs on a Roll: Herz, Golden and Kane.

Clients. If you are interested in getting and keeping good ones, and deepening your relationships with them in ways that aren't shrill marketing b.s., and that simultaneously help both the client and your firm, do check out the many, many recent fine posts of each of the following: Arnie Herz at Legal Sanity, Michelle Golden at Golden Practices and Tom Kane at The Legal Marketing Blog. Read and keep scrolling down. All three of these folks are on fire.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

Client-Centric Ads? Is It Time?

In advertising, never attack your own industry. I read that long ago. But in 1998--when people started to realize that a combination of emerging technologies, strategy and plain American hustle would permit more lawyers to participate and compete in the "new global economy"--well, we had some extra cash for advertising. We ran an ad (text below) in three U.S. east coast business newspapers for an 8-week period. Maybe it was dumb luck, but this very basic and somewhat crude ad produced: (1) some wildly enthusiastic phone calls from people we did not know (in the first week, one GC, apparently sober, congratulated us from an airport payphone during a layover), (2) some catty but entertaining and telling comments from lawyers in Pennsylvania and D.C. we did know, and (3) the firming up for us at least one still continuing relationship with a like-minded company fed up with the lethargy and indifference of its traditional large law firm:


"IS THIS A GREAT TIME TO CHANGE LAW FIRMS, OR WHAT?

Doing business has changed. But many law firms haven't.

They still charge for "services" and overhead no corporate client should have to absorb. Like associate lawyer training. Duplicative conferences. And senior lawyers who will never understand or care about your business.

The product is disappointing. Service and follow-up are only words. And the bill makes you nuts.

Stop being the equipment in games lawyers play. At Hull McGuire, we focus on clients, and solving their problems. We build lifetime relationships with businesses of all sizes.

IT'S TIME, ISN'T IT?

HULL MCGUIRE PC
Attorneys

Washington DC, Pittsburgh, San Diego

Corporate Planning, Transactions, Tax, Intellectual Property, Telecommunications, Litigation, Employment Practices, Environmental, Legislative, International."

Posted by JD Hull at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2006

Real Elitism: Toward Building A Client-Centric Culture.

In a couple of years, your clients won't care, and it may even backfire. Don't get me wrong. Those two 28-year-old ex-Supreme Court clerks your firm just hired at $165,000 a year along with your eight other fine new associates are treasures. Cherish and develop them. Still tell your clients and the world, as you have for years, that you only hire and the "smartest" people. Keep hiring them and keep telling the clients. But the chance that even one out of those ten hires--even assuming that all ten stay at your firm and make partner--will ever "get" clients and minimally master client service is about zilch. Talent and solid legal work are both critical--but they aren't enough.

In the 1994 book Built To Last, authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras discuss how enduring world-class companies often have developed "cult-like cultures" in which they view themselves as truly unique, superior and and frankly better-than-you in the production, marketing, selling and delivery of their products and services. Amongst themselves, and in talking to customers, they don't talk about whether their sales and management people are graduates of Tuck, Harvard or Wharton, huge state schools or small obscure private liberal arts colleges. That stuff faded into the woodwork when it was time to perform. Built To Last notes that some of the same firms don't have an external standard of quality. Instead, they have their own standard, and they compete against that. And they talk about it. Interestingly, though, their "elitism"--viewing themselves as special with their own special standard--didn't evolve with their success. They thought of themselves as special since day one. Check out the nearly 100-year history of IBM, pre-success elitists since 1911.

In firms of any type, size or caliber that sell services, talent and academic achievement is cherished, and it should be. Also valued is a high standard of client service: the art of making a valued client both "be and feel safe". However, services of all manner in the "new" global economy--new product-service mixes, traditional consumer services and professional services--continue to get low marks. The main reason for launching What About Clients? last year (see the first post) is the belief that client service at law and other professional firms is shamefully third-rate and our standard on client service so uninspired and low that it ensures mediocrity and failure. The best people and the best product are not enough. They are merely prerequisites. Better service or service techniques you learned last year at a seminar or from the state disciplinary board aren't enough either. A new campaign to keep clients more informed, return phone calls right away and buy better seats at the stadium won't get you to a client-service culture. And telling yourself and your clients that you give good or better client service than the next firm is like saying you're the most beautiful maiden in a leper colony.

Set your own client service standard and compete against that. Start talking about it. Learn from everyone, but banish other firms' standards of service out of your mind forever. Get a high standard--and then outdo yourself. Get cocky and superior about that. If WAC? could start one small revolution, that is the one we'd choose.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2006

Law Firm Cash As The Great Deceiver.

"If we're rich, we must be smart." Well, maybe not. Here's a cash position pattern that prevents many of us from thinking clearly. Tom Collins at MorePartnerIncome pins it down, and articulates it. He reminds us to trust hard facts, analysis and planning over the thrill of today's cash flow and respectable reserves in Cash Is An Unreliable Barometer of Law Firm Health. Tom and Debbie Foster of InTouch Legal call this syndrome the "accidentally successful" law firm.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Law Firm Cash As The Great Deceiver.

"If we're rich, we must be smart." Well, maybe not. Here's a cash position pattern that prevents many of us from thinking clearly. Tom Collins at MorePartnerIncome pins it down, and articulates it. He reminds us to trust hard facts, analysis and planning over the thrill of today's cash flow and respectable reserves in Cash Is An Unreliable Barometer of Law Firm Health. Tom and Debbie Foster of InTouch Legal call this syndrome the "accidentally successful" law firm.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2006

More General Counsel Venting Plus...

Here's yet another post-BTI Consulting Group study follow-up article--this time in Law.com's In-House Counsel. And this piece, by Petra Pasternak of The Recorder, has pointers from some candid but helpful GCs for those of us who are General Counsel-challenged, including: "5. Embrace Risk", "8. Keep Me Focused" and "10. Make Me Look Good".

Posted by JD Hull at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2006

What About Clients? Honored To Be In "The Strongest Links".

"What About Clients?" is honored to be one of "The Strongest Links" noted in Tom Mighell's column in the May edition of Law Practice Today of the American Bar Association. Tom is a well-known technology leader, lawyer at Cowles & Thompson in Dallas, and blogger himself. He discusses eleven other sites by lawyers, non-lawyers and some real marketing and client-retention gurus. These include blogs by my three new friends Patrick Lamb, Michelle Golden and Tom Kane. In particular, Patrick, who publishes the respected and popular In Search of Perfect Client Service, has been a selfless and patient mentor since day one. Thanks, Pat. So if you want to explore some great blogs which focus on clients, and how clients and firms in any business get on the same page, see Tom's Law Practice Today column.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2006

Law "Subs": Have Law Boutiques Come of Age?

"So we'll trade you your immigration people for our patent guys--they were getting on everyone's nerves anyway."

Larry Bodine and Carolyn Elefant, leaders in new thoughts and in news of new developments, have attracted attention by highlighting the New Jersey ethics decision allowing law firms to purchase other law firms as wholly-owned subs. The New Jersey Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and Committee on Attorney Advertising have issued Joint Opinion 704/37. So my firm can buy your firm as an investment--and sell you later if you don't work out. The advisory opinion was apparently prompted by a request concerning a law firm which sought ownership of another law firm in a speciality area--or a boutique. Lots of issues raised here, as Larry and Carolyn each note. And then there's this article by Mary Gallagher of The New Jersey Law Journal with an arresting quote from James Jones of Hildebrant International's DC office. Jones said that for large sophisticated clients, "[t]he idea of clients hiring one large firm to do everything is a thing of the past". We wait to see if other states will take positions. While we don't know who made the New Jersey request and why, this development will lead some to speculate that non-BigLaw boutiques over the past 15 years or so have shown themselves worthy of purchase in the marketplace. Premature, I know. But if that's right, will boutiques and solos even want that?

Posted by JD Hull at 04:12 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2006

Rob Millard on "Bad" Clients.

Some time ago we wrote about bad clients. Our brief post was about choosing the right clients and our conclusion was that no client at all is better than the wrong one, especially during a downturn in business. Note also Rule 1 - Represent Only Clients You "Like". However, Edge International consultant Rob Millard, over at his The Adventure of Strategy blog, has just published on the subject of a different kind of "bad": the effect of detractors and non-promoters of your business on your business. A Principal with Edge in South Africa, Rob has written an insightful, well-researched and must-reading piece on the drain of these problem clients entitled What Do "Bad" Clients Cost Your Firm?

Posted by JD Hull at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2006

"Can't stay late tonight...I got a thing."

Please see at Peter Lattman's WSJ Law Blog yesterday's short article "Today's Associates: Slackers or Just Smarter?". For a few years I've been wondering about this myself, but maybe the answer is the latter: how can you argue that not being a workaholic is bad? Do note the number, nature and heat of the comments to this post--16 of them so far.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2006

Wild and Crazy Client Service Ideas.

Here's a client service-oriented "marketing stunt" idea from Al Lautenslager, a Chicago-based consultant and the Guerilla Marketing coach at Entrepreneur.com. It's over the top but wonderfully appropriate for the law and other professions with deeply ingrained, time-honored traditions of uninspired client service. The premise is that even good clients--repeatedly slighted but not knowing anything better--would become disoriented and alarmed enough to take to the streets if they were to switch firms and see something radically different:

1. Stage a protest for "good customer service". Imagine what would happen if you had picketers outside your place of business with picket signs that read something like, "We're protesting good customer service at this location!" or "This place is full of nice people interested in customers!" First, you'll get noticed. Second, you may get coverage by the local media. Stage a repeat visit of the protesters and next time publicize their intent of returning. You never know what might happen, who might take notice and what it'll do for your business.

Granted, it would be difficult to persuade in-house lawyers or GCs at DuPont, General Electric or Deutsche Bank to stage the event, but you get the idea. The link for Lautenslager's article--there are nine other "stunts"--is here.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2006

The Joy of Work, Burned-Out Lawyers & the 1st "What About Clients?" Post

The past week was Pretrial Skirmish, Negotiation and General Posturing Week. Which I love. Lively chats with mainly worthy adversaries. You constantly learn new things about the law, the world, yourself. You get your client involved. Funny and even hilarious things happen, too. But one conversation was disturbing. It was with a lawyer with 20+ years of experience who cuts corners whenever he can, won't research anything, won't read anything, won't prepare for anything, and unabashedly disdains the law, lawyering, his client and, at this point, me. Having dealt with him before, I doubt he was just having a bad day. It's written all over him: he "wants out" of the profession, but doesn't know how to get out, won't get out. This reminded me of my first post dated August 1, 2005, and in part why I started this. The line was: "Do many of us wind up selling clients short because we are disillusioned or burned out?" How much of bad client service and the shoddy image many people have of lawyers is a function of lawyers disliking what they do? How many clients are getting hurt by it?

Posted by JD Hull at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2006

Rule 12: Have Fun.

Rule 12 (of 12): Have Fun.

See Rules 1-6 here and at these links 7,8, 9, 10 and 11.

If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong. Period.

Any questions?

While you are thinking, a confession: I loved college, and the liberal arts I studied there, because I am in love with ideas. Law school, however, was a different story. It came at me so fast I couldn't see any grand design, purpose or poetry. Except for the companionship of some truly unique and innovative classmates and profs, a girl from Shaker Heights named Amy, the drinking beer part, my administrative law and trade regs courses, some good part-time jobs, and somehow making Law Review, I hated law school with Olympian passions. It was stale and uncreative.

I even quit--twice, for a week each time. I told anyone who would tolerate me for the entire 2 years and eight months and 3 days that I was an "artist" of some sort, imprisoned and daily being abused by talented but sadistic academics who were paid, and paid well, to abuse me. I envied my college friends at J-school at Columbia, in the Peace Corps, traveling in Europe or in Alaska or Florence writing unpublished novels. I felt stagnant. And of course by the time I graduated at the age of 25, I was unhappy, out of shape, addicted to coffee, cigarettes, Hunter Thompson, Henry Miller and all the usual excesses of my generation--in short, a world-class ass.

So I moved to my birthplace Washington, D.C., where I would fit in. Sort of. I was so sure I would hate practicing law as much as law school that I deferred practicing law for nearly 3 years--in the form of being a hard-working, entertaining but equally difficult and troubled Legislative Assistant on Capitol Hill. There I was once served with a small claims complaint for "back-rent" by an angry DC live-in ex-girlfriend in front of my amused U.S. Representative boss, another amused congressman and the not-so-amused but intrigued senior staff of the House Ways and Means Committee at the 96th Congress. But everything changes with time and a different lens for viewing.

Had it not been for a friend from college who was happily clerking at the Supreme Court--who inadvertently shamed me one day in a conversation at the Tune Inn he has likely forgotten--I might never gone into private practice. So I left Capitol Hill and took a job in 1981 practicing law as one of DC's hundreds of "associates" in the branch office of a Midwestern law firm on 15th Street, N.W.

Everything--and I mean everything--changed for me. It was the same way new life sprung up inside me when the Duke undergraduate admissions people changed my life in 1971. Each day was different. I treated all the difficulties--and it was hard on me and mine--of being an associate as a challenge, and a even a privilege, and ever since then I have felt like it's an honor to do what lawyers do. In 1992, I started my own firm. I like the people I work with, the excitement of talented adversaries, a new project or case and the satisfaction of solving high-level problems for high-end clients, who I really like. And they even pay me for it. If you don't feel that way right away, give yourself time. If that fails, try another firm or another part of the profession. For many people, a different mentor, a new firm or a move to government or in-house counsel--even for a short while--can help you get your "sea legs" and make all the difference.

It's supposed to be fun. American law is extremely varied, elastic and constantly presenting new practice areas--especially in the larger cities. It has something for everyone. I am convinced of this. Please keep the faith and keep looking until you find it. Put another way, don't quit before the miracle occurs. It's there, and it's all inside you, in front of you. Simple--but still hard. It's a privilege and joy to do what lawyers do when they do it right.

And it really is fun.

So...any questions?

Posted by JD Hull at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)

Your Brochure: A Detail, A Tool--But Not a Marketing or Client Communications Strategy.

Nathan Burke and Tom Kane have fine, sane recent posts on this. So does Seth Godin, who started them off. In these 3 posts there's a message from real experts and probably all you will ever need to know on the subject. In short, do have a good one ready to go--even an interesting, provocative one--and send it when you are asked to send it. Not having a brochure is an omission you indulge at your peril. Just don't count on a brochure as effective marketing or real client communications. Personally, I don't put that much stock in them either--but we have them ready to go. They are always there. And I am a little concerned when another lawyer who wants me to help sell his or her firm tells me they don't have one but that they "can whip one one up pretty fast". How serious and skillful about marketing and selling could such lawyers really be?

Posted by JD Hull at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2006

Listen Up...

Listening arts. I've mentioned before that I still need work but am improving in this area. It's a constant focus. And my co-workers seem to like me more whenever I write about it. Two of my favorite bloggers, and each a lawyer I would hire in a heartbeat to serve my firm's clients if needed--Chicago's Patrick Lamb and New York City's Arnie Herz--have been writing a lot about listening lately, here and here. Just follow all the links. Patrick and Arnie have collected some great sources in these posts--and they know what they're talking about. You'll never hear me "instruct" on this subject. I just listen.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2006

"Are You Tired of Working For the Man--Or the Woman?"

In either event, or if you're just burned out by meditating too much on the BTI Consulting Study, try something different by checking out Neil Senturia's inspirational, funny and useful-as-hell "I'm There For You Baby..." (subtitled An Entrepreneur's Guide to the Universe") and maybe it will shake something loose. We've posted about Neil's new site and "The Baby Blog" before.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

2 Must-Read Posts By Arnie Herz, Inspirer.

"Lawyering as Soulful Work" is a March 11 post by Wall Street lawyer and consultant Arnie Herz at Legal Sanity as well as part of a phrase I used in yesterday's lengthy post on client dissatisfaction and the BTI Study. And two days later Arnie posted "Law Firm Leadership Roundup". Arnie's notions of the joy of practicing law with everything good you've got inside you--and the right way for the right clients with the right team sharing common goals and values and even having fun--are always inspiring to read. And he describes and explains them as living, breathing ideas you can actually apply and use way better than anyone writing about lawyering and client service. He has no peers there. Importantly, Arnie's blog also regularly reaches for ideas about work and the workplace which come from non-lawyers. Professionals, and lawyers in particular, need fresh ideas to build healthy firms to serve the people who count: clients and customers.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:50 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

More on the BTI Consulting Study.

It's right here from Law.Com and it follows our March 4 post "High-End Clients Not Happy at All" and great posts earlier this month by Gerry Riskin, Carolyn Elefant and Tom Kane.

Posted by JD Hull at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

More On One that Matters: Should We Sell During Client Polling/Interviews?

Great post from Michelle Golden commenting on Jim Hassett's equally thoughtful one on whether or not "to sell" during interviews with clients about how they like your services. This continues the off-and-on 2 month long multi-blog forum on the topic with Lamb-Hassett-Golden-Kane-Hull. Forget about the right answer; the most important thing about the discussion is that it is Even Being Had. The overall questions posed by Michelle, Jim, Patrick Lamb, Tom Kane and me are: (1) Should professional service providers do client interviews? (2) If "yes", just how do we conduct them and use them? Who should conduct them, who should attend, what is their scope, do we sell during them (and what would "selling" be in this context, anyway?) and how do we most effectively follow-up the client/customer interviews? A good post to get your bearings on this discussion is one by Michelle Golden here.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2006

Kane: "Who You Know" Needs To Be Pondered, Organized and Updated.

This week I'm in my native Washington, D.C. - where the proper care, feeding and upkeep of The Rolodex has been an art form for a very long time. And this post of a few days ago by Tom Kane at his Legal Marketing Blog is one of the better writings I've seen in a while on true networking basics. Who do you really know? And, to take it a couple of steps further, who do they know? And how do you manage and update all this information? You can't really market the services provided by any size law firm unless you start asking and acting on these questions.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:52 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2006

The Word-of-Mouth on Word-of-Mouth...

It's here from Larry Bodine and read The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell if you are really interested in this subject and productive "buzz" generally. This is an important (and fascinating) ground of discussion for any law firm under, say, 100 lawyers, which wants to serve clients normally represented by larger law firms.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2006

Tom Collins: "So What's a Good Time to Call?"

I learned something from this one. It's from Tom Collins at MorePartnerIncome. My "best time", until now, was Friday afternoons--a great time to call existing clients in rainmaking mode...but I guess it's not the only time to call. So my excuses to wait until then are now gone. Thanks, Tom.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

Tom Kane's "5 Biggest Marketing Mistakes" Per 4 Big Dogs.

Do see this series at The Legal Marketing Blog if you haven't already. Lots of good ideas from great people in a minimum amount of space. I don't have time to read or post about everything--but I've got time for this. There are "5-mistake" takes by Calloway, Riskin, Bodine, and Tom Kane himself. First-rate, and a fine advertisement for blogs, blawgs and whatever this is that takes an hour of my time every day.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2006

Rule 9: Be There For Clients--24/7.

Rule 9: Be There For Clients--24/7.

(See the first 8 rules: 1-6 here, 7 here and 8 here.)

Get used to it. We attorneys, accountants and legions of other professionals with corporate clients--at big firms, boutiques or solos--are no longer royalty. In the future, "returning telephone calls promptly", "keeping your client informed" (like those two items should ever have been a big deal!), blackberries and having effective voice message and paging systems will not be nearly enough--if it ever were enough. Color all that barely adequate. Get a new standard--a new wave-length with your clients and customers. I posted about this recently in "Being There: Availability".

Family will always come first. Rest, time and re-bonding with family and friends is important to nurturing body, mind, soul and spirit. Vacations are important, too. We need all that recharging, and we need lots of it. But we now live in a world (1) that never sleeps, (2) in which delivering services based on problem-solving, know-how and judgment is as important as mass-producing, marketing and distributing widgets, and (3) where competition for good clients--amongst accountants, actuaries, consultants, stockbrokers, lawyers, you name it--is getting stiffer. In the next decade, and even for high-end clients, more and more "cookie cutter" and fungible services will be outsourced and done by very smart and far more cost-effective workers and professionals in Bangalore, Taipei or Mexico City. Just wait. What's left over will be specialty items and things clients need professionals and specialists to do at their highest levels of thinking and problem-solving.

Compete on service. Compete using your best skills delivered with superior service. If you really want "clients for life", and the rewards promised in all those happy themes you see on the shelves of the business sections of Borders and Barnes & Noble, consider being there 24/7--and telling your clients that you already are. No--it won't kill you, diminish your health, ruin your marriage or drive your employees away. Just let your clients know that you are totally accessible--no client worth keeping will abuse the privilege--and then show them. As a practical matter, you can assign two people (as my firm does) to be abreast of each client matter, no matter how small, and never charge for the overlap (it works). You can actively jockey to become the "emergency go-to" provider when a client needs to get something addressed immediately simply by doing the day-to-day work you already have for that client with uncommon enthusiasm and ahead of schedule. How you show them and how you do it is up to you. In order for most of us to be competitive, we have to get into the habit of "being there"--that means both quality time and any time. Good clients deserve this.

Posted by JD Hull at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2006

"Lawyers As Trusted Advisers"

Clearly, I'm having post-envy here, and wish I had written the above-entitled post but Arnie Herz at Legal Sanity did instead. If you are relationship-driven in your approach to clients--which is just about the only overall model I can come up with--and you seek true partnership and "consigliere" roles with your best clients, you should read Arnie's post "Lawyers As Trusted Advisors". This man not only thinks before he writes, he gets it.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2006

Rule Eight: Think Like the Client--Help Control Costs.

Rule Eight: Think Like The Client--Help Control Costs. (See the first 7 rules 1-6 here and 7 here).

Ask an associate lawyer or paralegal what a "profit" is. You will get two kinds of answers. Both answers are "correct" but neither of them helps anyone in your firm think like the client. The answers will be something like this. (1) "A profit is money remaining after deducting costs from receipts." This is the correct young transactional/tax lawyer answer. Or (2) "it's money left over at the end of the hunt." This is the correct fire-breathing young litigator answer.

The right answer?

A profit is a reward for being efficient. And until a lawyer, paralegal or staffer gets that, she or he will never know how a client--or a law firm partner--thinks.

Rule 8 is really simple. Watch and minimize costs and show the client that you are interested in doing that. Go beyond just avoiding wasteful spending, and think of the client's business as yours. Factor cost (including fees!) into everything you think, say and do. Let the client know that you know that holding down costs is good for both the client and your law firm. You want repeat clients, and a maximum of steady income streams, so let clients know you really care about saving it money because of just that: you want to keep costs down so the client will stay with the firm in the long-term.

Most clients not only get this but appreciate it greatly in time. Two years ago, at the beginning of a fairly intense but short-term lobbying project in DC for a new client (a high-tech company with a fabulous product), I told the client's CEO--by the way, she was brilliant, talented and rich but surprisingly unsophisticated on the use of lawyers--that she had three options on legal paths she could take on the project, and that I wanted her to use the least expensive one on legal fees. She actually said: "Dan, you know we really like you guys. But your goal has got to be to make as many thousands of dollars you can a month from this project. Why a cheap avenue for me that involves fewer lawyer hours? Why should I take this seriously?" My answer: "Because whether you sell this company or not, we want to represent it or whatever company you next develop on a long term basis, and we would rather work for you for years and years than just a few months."

That made sense to her. Everyone in our shop needs (1) to think in terms of holding down client costs--attorney fees and out-of-pocket expenses--at every step and every moment of a client project, (2) to know why, and (3) to be prepared to explain that to the client.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2006

Back to Work, WJC Phone Home and Searching for Tattoos.

No practice tips today. Interesting IP disputes at work I was asked to help on are draining the how-to-lawyer evangelist in me. My limited blog time is spent wondering (see Patrick Lamb's branding post yesterday about some really serious branding) if a GC or client rep indeed ever went completely around the bend--or more likely stayed way too late at Nathan's in Georgetown or The Irish Times on Capitol Hill--and had tattooed "I [heart] Hull McGuire PC for all my tax, litigation, environmental and IP needs". And no word from WJC on the January 27 help-wanted ad and "invitation to deal" for an of-counsel position. We are testing the blogosphere on this one--and may need another assist from Peter Lattman's heavily-visited WSJ Law Blog, assuming he's still game. But as WJC knows or should know that he might run into me at a future Renaissance weekend smaller and more intimate than the one we met at on January 1, or that I might be involved in fund-raising for a relative in 2008, I thought maybe he'd ring us in Pittsburgh or San Diego by now.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:18 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2006

"Lovemarks"

Clever, funny and important post today by Patrick Lamb on the book Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands, by Kevin Roberts, CEO of advertising powerhouse Saatchi & Saatchi, and with a foreword by Procter & Gamble chief A.G. Lafley. Like others, I have little time to read--but I am going to read this one. Pat gives a good synopsis of the "Lovemark" concept (think Harley Davidson owners and Macintosh users) in his post. When they have time, Michelle Golden, Tom Kane, Jim Hassett, Arnie Herz and/or anyone else who knows or cares about branding and customer loyalty is welcome to opine and weigh in. More to come.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2006

If You Cringe When You Read This One, Read It Again.

Patrick Lamb at In Search of Perfect Client Service has an instructive but disturbing post on "one-bounce marketing" and the start of the once-bounce marketing season. The post is inspired by and based on recent article in The American Lawyer by TAL's editor-in-chief Aric Press. Thanks to Pat, I didn't miss Press's intriguing remarks on this special season of the year. Everyone who thinks that they are really marketing and doing it right should read this one.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:34 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2006

Law Firm Logos: "Goofy", Essential or Something in Between?--Part 5

Another nice post on firm logos by Patrick Lamb at In Search of Perfect Client Service. Due to recent posts on this, and seeing some good logos around me and in some of the posts, I am still deciding. But Pat's right that I'm not yet sold on logos if you don't already have one. I still think that most of us already have a distinctive and valuable "look" based our letterhead and cards. I realize this issue pales along side themes like metadata, global expansion and "How Jen Is Coping" with the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie thing. But it's still part of attracting and keeping good clients.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2006

Polling the Real Jury--Tom Kane's 3-part Approach to Client Interviews Makes Great Sense.

As others like Patrick Lamb have already noticed, Tom Kane at The Legal Marketing Blog has a short but excellent summary of a best practice 3-step approach to client interviews. Tom's formula nicely balances the need for honest answers from the client being interviewed against the importance of lawyer participation in the process. Why didn't I think of this? It's right here--and it's very good. Jim Hassett, Michelle Golden, Pat Lamb and me (although I got frustrated by conflicting good advices and un-valiantly checked out of the discussion at one point) have been having a lively and useful multi-blog discussion over the past week-and-a-half on this. Nice work. I learned something. And it was fun.

Posted by JD Hull at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2006

"Can Lawyers Be Taught To Market?"

Ellen Freedman at Law Practice Management has a thoughtful and fairly extensive post about whether marketing can be taught to lawyers, including the vast majority who may not be naturals. Her answer is clearly "yes". Her post follows recent commentary, including posts by Arnie Herz, Larry Bodine and Patrick Lamb, over the past few days in reaction to Dr. Larry Richard's comments to the Marketing Partners Forum in Florida noting that about 80% of lawyers aren't marketers by nature. (I chimed in, too.) Ellen starts out talking about developing networking skills early in a lawyer's career--and she's specific about how to do that. She promises more on learning to market in future posts. She seems to support the notion of some of us practicing law (including me) that everyone in a firm can effectively lend a strong hand to market--if not to "sell".

Posted by JD Hull at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2006

Word-of-Mouth and Internet Top 2 Picks.

The consistently insightful and easy to read Tom Kane has a great post today in his The Legal Marketing Blog on what medias really work for small business (all law firms fit in this category, I think). Word-of-mouth and the Internet may be the top 2. Talk about flattening. Although personally I think that the more lawyers, staff and clients you have, the better position you are in to enjoy WOM power, the numbers Tom has in his post suggest that big advertising budgets may not rule where clients go in the future. Or even where they are going now. Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, which I posted about in mid-December, does an admirable job of explaining the dynamics of word-of-mouth--and WOM's great but fickle power to make or break us. I know, I know: there are hundreds of books out there people say you should read, and we are all mega-busy working and practicing law. But Gladwell's book is compelling to me because it strongly implies that there are ways to create and even control positive "buzz". And it's a great book for anyone who serves business clients. Read it!

Posted by JD Hull at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2006

Rule Seven: Know the Client.

Rule Seven: Know the Client.

The "12 Rules of Client Service" I have been posting one-by-one starting on November 19 appear in a booklet Julie McGuire and I prepared internally 5 years ago for associates and non-lawyer staff. We just call it Hull McGuire Practice Guide* (*or how to become a productive associate or paralegal). In the Guide, we call the same rules "Blackletter Rules for Practicing Law". The idea is that each of the twelve overall practice rules harks back to the idea that the client comes first. Clients, clients, clients. For us, that is practicing law. Except for some rewording, the 2 sets of rules are substantially the same. The first six rules are reproduced here.

Several lawyer-bloggers I respect have posted--and in some very eloquent and interesting ways--on the idea of Rule 7, really knowing the client and its culture. I think they say it all. See Tom Kane, Patrick Lamb, Tom Collins and Arnie Herz. Some of the discussion lately was triggered by the nerve jangling report of complaints of some GCs at a Fulton County, Georgia CLE conference in early December 2005. I've chimed in on that, too--here and here.

The client, it seems, actually wants you to know him, her or it. Take time out to learn the stock price, industry, day-to-day culture, players and overall goals of your client. Visit their offices and plants. Do it free of charge. Associates in particular need to develop the habit of finding out about and keeping up with clients (and a client's trials and tribulations) in and out of the areas they are working in. Learn about your client--and keep learning about it. Devise a system to keep abreast.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2006

Why Lawyers Can't Sell--And What To Do About It.

Larry Bodine has an interesting post which points out that only about 1 out of 5 lawyers have the innate ability to market and sell. The conclusion is based on testing the lawyer population versus everyone else ("normal" people, I guess). So 20% of us can sell. And the remaining 80%? According to Dr. Larry Richard, a Hildebrandt International director, 55% are "trainable" to be rainmakers and the remaining 25% are "hopeless". A lot of this turns on the fact that many (if not most) lawyers are introverts and careful analytical people. Most of us do not have the people-oriented traits and interpersonal skills associated with selling. In short, the tests suggest, it's a personality thing. The conclusion is not that surprising.

But it is a bit ironic. The same "skill sets" based on logic and prudence that down through the ages have allowed us to do our jobs also have hamstrung us. We have trouble developing into people-oriented managers of living, breathing relationships with real customers. In fact, I'd go further than the tests Dr. Richards cites. My own sense (not a Hildebrandt study, of course) is that less than 20% of us--10% at most--can really put it together to be rainmakers. But I think that the remaining 90% can be taught to be marketing-oriented in very effective ways for both repeat and new business. Each lawyer can help and no lawyer should be given a pass. The discipline of getting everyone in the firm to be part of your marketing culture and making it stick is the hard part. Very few professional firms I know of have a client-focused or marketing culture. Even when they want it, they won't do "the work".

Posted by JD Hull at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2006

Compete on Service--Don't Reduce Your Fees (Or You'll "Be Hating Life").

Both Ed Poll at LawBiz Blog and Jonathan Stein at The Practice have had good recent posts (respectively, here and here) on this subject. Unless it's a trade-off for volume work for a client you've worked with before, I am a believer in the idea you should not reduce your fees. Compete on service--not price. While I've posted on this before, I like Ed's and Jonathan's slightly different takes (for different types of clients) on this topic better than anything I've said on it previously.

The primary reason, for me: if clients come to you for price, they will leave you for price. And if you think about it, would-be clients who negotiate or haggle about price are not likely to know the difference between quality lawyering and "just going through the motions" anyway. They are out there in droves--well-meaning but unsophisticated users of legal services, both businesses and individuals, who think all lawyers are the same and doing the same fungible cookie-cutter stuff every day. These clients don't appreciate any lawyer; they don't and won't ever get it. If one becomes your client, very quickly you--as a popular Washington DC disc jockey used to say--will "be hating life".

Posted by JD Hull at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2006

"What About Clients?" Rules--So Far.

Here are the first 6 rules, and "commentary", posted between November 19 and January 5. Just 6 more to go. When all twelve are done, they will represent what I know about servicing clients. I am grateful for the insightful commments, posts or e-mails I've received in reaction to these since November 19. Often they made me re-think things--and it's bracing to know others carefully think about customer service. Hey, a lot of people providing services just don't:

1. Represent only clients you like.

2. The client is the main event.

3. Make sure everyone in your firm knows the client is the main event.

4. Deliver legal work that changes the way clients think about lawyers.

5. Over-communicate: bombard, copy and confirm.

6. When you work, you are marketing.

Posted by JD Hull at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2006

Rule Six: When You Work, You Are Marketing.

Rule Six: When You Work, You Are Marketing.

Rule Six is more a truth to be kept in mind than a "rule." This is where the needs of clients and their lawyers come together. It's about value to both. But you can't forget this one. Keeping or not keeping in mind the germ of Rule Six--that "when you work, you are marketing"--is the difference between having a financially healthy practice and having to close your doors.

Repeating Clients. We as lawyers are always marketing when we work. Clients and customers need and want their lawyers, CPAs, doctors, auto mechanics, store clerks and bank tellers to do good if not first-rate work. Professionals and other vendors of all manner rely on pleasing the customer in order to get more work. If you rely on or shoot for repeat business, good work--which includes the quality of communication and follow-up while you are doing it--drives whether you get more of that type of work or, even better, make inroads toward doing other types of work. (For example, my firm often starts work for a client in the corporate tax or environmental area--but we are always looking to expand our activity for that client to, say, employment practices, commercial litigation and/or international work.)

One-Night Stands. If, on the other hand, your practice is more along the line of "one-night stands"--i.e., divorce or criminal work where you generally serve the client once for a discrete time period--use your good work and service to obtain word-of-mouth referrals. See Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 best-seller The Tipping Point for inspiration on scores of good ideas on creating word-of-mouth dynamics. If you are not sure whether a satisfied client will refer work, just ask her or him to do that.

So we are always marketing--and in doing that constantly sending to clients barrages of small but powerful ads. The ads range from "don't hire us again" to "we want to keep your business--and get more of it". Pretty simple. But it's apparently not all that intuitive to many of us in the legal profession. I am amazed at how long it takes us to learn it. For my money, "Rule Six" is the best single thing you could ever tell a lawyer starting out. And, hey, it's good for both clients and their firms.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:11 PM | Comments (1)

December 21, 2005

Fear and Loathing at the CLE Seminar? Getting an Earful from GCs.

Law.com's In-House Counsel section recently linked to a December 9 article from the Fulton County [Georgia] Daily Report entitled "Getting an Earful From GCs". Apparently--and this fascinates me--at a CLE seminar hosted by the Corporate Counsel Section of the Georgia state bar, some of the 100 GCs present asked outside law firm reps a bunch of "why-can't-you-get-it?" questions, including this one: Why don't outside lawyers understand the "business models and corporate culture of their clients?" Assuming that's true, i.e. we are not learning about clients from which we want repeat business, and at the risk of sounding didactic, I ask this one: How did so many of us get this bad? Whoa.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

Passion Plays

The subject of passion came up in two fine recent posts (here and here) I just noticed from Pat Lamb at In Search of Perfect Client Service and Tom Kane at The Legal Marketing Blog. Although I don't think I articulated it that well at the time, waning passion for what we do for clients is one of the things I tried to discuss in my first post for What About Clients? as I worried aloud whether we lawyers have lost our way. When lawyers can even talk about the importance of passion in our work, as Tom and Pat have done, we've come a long way, and shown some real leadership. And that's good for clients.

Posted by JD Hull at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2005

Rule Four: Deliver Legal Work That Change the Way Clients Think About Lawyers

Rule Four: Deliver Legal Work That Changes the Way Clients Think About Lawyers.

This rule, like Rule One, is not so intuitive. But it's the most challenging. The "under-promise but over-deliver" and "exceed customer expectations" notion of keeping good clients is a great idea. But I just don't think it works that well for lawyers. I think that clients, rightly or wrongly, and whether or not they are even aware of it, in fact have low expectations of lawyers in the first place. For two reasons:

A. Traditional Pervasive Distrust of Lawyers (General--Deserved & Undeserved)

There is a pervasive (let's face it, ancient) cynicism and suspicion about lawyers which even our most loyal and valued clients carry around with them. Some of it is unavoidable and not our fault. It's based on everything from literature, TV, movies and lawyer jokes to a genuine misunderstanding of what lawyers must do to perform well. It's deeply rooted in world culture.

B. Real Experiences-Based Distrust of Lawyers (Specific--Deserved)

But most of the distrust is our fault because either (1) our substantive professional services are merely "adequate" and/or delivered without passion or real caring--clients can sense that--or (2) we view clients almost as adversaries (they joke about us; we joke about them), which gets communicated to clients in every step of our work for them. See The First Post.

Let's not kid ourselves. We are talking about money here. Why try "to exceed client expectations" when the overall lawyer standard is perceived as low to mediocre? If your clients are all Fortune 500 stand-outs, and the GCs' seem to love you and your firm, is that because your service delivery is so good--or because other firms they use are so "bad" or lackluster on service? Why have a low standard, or one that merely makes you look incrementally more responsive and more on top of things than the boutique on the next floor up? Why not overhaul and re-create the whole game?

If you read the better writers on services, like Harry Beckwith in Selling The Invisible, you pick up on this simple idea: Rather than "under-promise/over-deliver", which is essentially job specific, why not change the way people think of lawyers generally and what they can expect from them generally? Get good clients--those clients you like and want--to keep coming back to you by communicating in all aspects of your work that you care deeply about your lawyering for them, you want to serve their interests on an ongoing basis and that it's a privilege to be their lawyer. Show them you fit no lawyer mold.

Oh, yeah. One catch--and the hardest part: it's got to be true.

Posted by JD Hull at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2005

Hunting Bigger Game--Good Boutiques Can Catch and Keep Fortune 500 Clients--Redux

Regularly I'm reading Tom Kane's www.legalmarketingblog.com, a quality blog, and I'm adding it to the list of Blawgs I Read. One of my favorite observations is in the title of one of Tom's recent posts, "General Counsel Do Hire Small Firms". It seems to me that, increasingly (see my November 21 post), general counsel appear to be hiring smaller boutique firms.

Size matters, but less and less. To attract and hold good clients--including Fortune 500 customers--I think you need 5 things: quality lawyers who can work pretty much anywhere; a genuinely client-focused (not the public relations b.s. kind--but the real thing) boutique of those lawyers; planning; hustle; and the right technology.

What about price? I know there's lots of disagreement on this one, but I do not think price is or needs to be a factor in getting and keeping major clients. In short, law boutiques don't need to reduce rates to lure clients away from large firms.

So keep your BigLaw rates. Compete on service. Make some money.

Posted by JD Hull at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2005

Do Blogs "Work"?--Redux

So maybe blogs do "work." Another post from The Practice helps answer my question.

Posted by JD Hull at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2005

Rule Two: The Client Is The Main Event. "The Big Obvious."

Rule Two: The Client is the Main Event.

This one, I think, is more intuitive. Rule One--the November 19 post Represent Only Clients You Like--struck 3 people I received e-mails from as impractical if not counter-intuitive. That's okay, but for now let's keep that as Rule One. Rule Two, that the client is everything, and the main event, makes almost too much sense. We all know that clients pay our fees, give us interesting work, and that we have professional, financial and fiduciary duties to clients. We tell clients they are "everything" to us. But is it true? Is the notion that the client is the main deal chiefly something we eagerly tell our clients (and ourselves) while we pitch for work?

My sense is that lawyers, except on a strictly marketing and PR level, from time to time, and even with the best clients, forget that and won't create what quality improvement guru W. Edwards Deming years ago called a "constancy of purpose" about true service. So Rule Two becomes the obvious "yeah-of-course-our-firm-knows/does that!" rule that may get more lip service than actual delivery in all the details of our work for clients. My question for now is this: If client (or customer) "primacy" were really the organizing principle for everything we do, isn't that in our interest, too? Doesn't that mean that the work is better, law firm staff and attorneys are pulling in the same direction, morale is good, we spend less time and money on marketing, we keep good clients and we attract new ones?

And if we really get it, are really we doing it?

Posted by JD Hull at 09:09 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2005

Redux: Asking Clients For Work...Or Why Are Lawyers So Shy, Anyway?

People seemed to like the October 30 post on "asking for business"--here it is again:

Over the years this keeps happening. I take a general counsel or non-lawyer executive or CFO of a targeted client to lunch or dinner to ask for work. At some point I briefly say what my firm does and how we can help the client on particular legal issues it has. I ask a few questions. I do a short (very informal) pitch which ends with: "We like [the company] and we'd love to work with you. How can I win/earn your business?"

The client rep laughs and says something like, "That's refreshing--because I can't tell you how many times I have dined, gone to sporting events or played golf with lawyers and they never ask me for my business. Sometimes this goes on for years. I know that's why they are there--but they won't ever get to the point."

"So what's up with that?" he or she continues. "Are lawyers shy or something? Why would I want to hire a law firm not aggressive enough, direct enough or business-oriented enough to just ask for the work?"

Posted by JD Hull at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2005

Can Marketing Be Taught?

I agree with Chicago-based Larry Bodine in his excellent November 5 post that the answer is no. In every law or accounting firm I know, it's mainly pain-in-the-ass trial lawyers with off-the-chart egos or supremely confident deal quarterbacks who are are bringing in the most new clients. Born that way, they are rarer and more valuable than law review editors with personalities.

But, in another sense, virtually everyone--first year associates and any employee--can "market" by keeping work and getting more new work from good existing institutional clients. For my firm, marketing is also this: (a) doing sound work and (b) showing the client representative that you are responsive and care about the work. It's the most productive, and least expensive, marketing we can ever do.

Posted by JD Hull at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2005

Rainmaking By Associate Lawyers? What!?

I got an instructive comment in response to my October 30 post ("Asking Targeted Clients for Work...Or Why Are Lawyers So Shy, Anyway?"). It's from Chris Abraham, a talented non-lawyer D.C. friend of mine in his early thirties who works for a consulting firm. Chris, who is the kind of guy who will start his own telecom firm some day, commented:

I asked an Associate at a very prestigious firm here in DC if he did any Rain Making for his firm. He told me that Associates were strongly discouraged from doing sales and business development work --and if he were to, he wouldn't be compensated for it. When I bring rain to my firm -- do solid sales -- I get double-digit percentages as an employee. I wonder what the tradition is surrounding the lawyer concept of never wanting to appear needy, greedy, or salesman-like?

This is an old story at law firms--we discourage associate lawyers from developing clients--and it's bad for everybody involved: clients, associates and partners.

When I was an associate lawyer at a larger firm in the 1980's, one of the associates in my class was nearly fired for trying to develop his own clients. (He eventually quit to build his own fossil fuels company.) As an associate, like Chris's friend, I was also told by senior associates that I wouldn't get credit for landing clients. When I became a partner in that firm, I, of course, had no clients. But I was expected to suddenly get them, even though, by that time, I was not "client-oriented" in terms of knowing how to form real relationships with clients. I had some great experiences in my 12 years there, but the firm tended to eat its young.

Unfortunately, many law firms still follow this self-defeating practice despite the fact that associates are key to establishing a client-oriented culture. New associates in the firm Julie McGuire and I started in 1992 in DC and Pittsburgh are: (1) taught that Clients Are Everything, (2) asked to treat existing clients as their own and to deliver services so off-the-chart excellent and personal that they could "steal" (really!) existing clients from our firm if they wanted to (dudes, you are "marketing" while you deliver a service to an existing client--so be that good; we'll fight you for them later if you leave), and (3) told to start finding their own clients now. Oh yeah--if as an associate you develop good clients, and treat them well, you can get paid for that, too.

Posted by JD Hull at 06:23 AM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2005

Asking Targeted Clients For Work... Or Why Are Lawyers So Shy, Anyway?

Over the years this keeps happening. I take a general counsel or non-lawyer executive or CFO of a targeted client to lunch or dinner to ask for work. At some point I briefly say what my firm does and how we can help the client on particular legal issues it has. I ask a few questions. I do a short (very informal) pitch which ends with: "We like [the company] and we'd love to work with you. How can I win/earn your business?"

The client rep laughs and says something like, "That's refreshing--because I can't tell you how many times I have dined, gone to sporting events or played golf with lawyers and they never ask me for my business. Sometimes this goes on for years. I know that's why they are there--but they won't ever get to the point."

"So what's up with that?" he or she continues. "Are lawyers shy or something? Why would I want to hire a law firm not aggressive enough, direct enough or business-oriented enough to just ask for the work?"

Posted by JD Hull at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2005

The First Post--"What About Clients?"

Of the eight entries I've done in this blawg since launching it in August, the key and central post--and the one I like the most--is the First Post. The "client problem" discussed in that entry is the whole point of this blawg.

There are over 1000 legal blogs--some of them superb--and not enough time to sift through them all. But if you never read anything else in my blawg, please click above and read my first post!

Posted by JD Hull at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2005

What if you only represented clients you actually "liked"?

Only a few books I can find on the subject of rendering services to customers in the business sections of Borders or Barnes & Noble ever mention it. In the context of lawyer services, it's simply this: except for some court appointments and pro bono engagements, what if we only chose to represent clients we liked?

By "like", I mean it loosely: to derive for whatever reason real pleasure and satisfaction while doing legal work for a individual or organization.

My firm shies away from individuals as clients, regardless of his or her resources. We usually represent businesses. So in the case of an organization, we "like" the client because overall we somehow feel comfortable with or maybe even admire the personality, business culture or goals of that client, personally like/admire the client reps and general counsel, or both.

My firm "likes" business clients which are experienced, sophisticated users of legal services. When we perform well, the client appreciates us and signals that appreciation. So then we like the client even more, and want to do an even better job or keep doing the good job we are doing so we can derive more real pleasure from the engagement, and obtain more work.

As simple and as annoyingly Mr. Rogers-esque as this all sounds, we have never, ever had good long-term relationships with any organization client (1) which did not genuinely appreciate what we were doing for it or (2) which had disturbing corporate personalities (i.e., mean-spirited Rambo cultures, groups with employees given to blame-storming, or companies with disorganized, internally-uncommunicative or just plain lazy staffs.)

We rely on repeat business. For us, there's no substantial reason to accept a new engagement unless we think we might want to represent that client in the long term. For years, I often sensed before the first draft of the representation letter was done that the new client didn't fit us. Usually I couldn't articulate it--or maybe I just disliked the client rep. But because of the money or the prestige of the engagement, we took the project, and kept going after the repeat business anyway. A few years ago, we stopped doing that.

Does my attitude clash with some people's notions of real client service, duty to the profession or basic law firm economics? It sure does. And today I don't think I can practice law any other way. In the long term, having no client is better than a bad client--or one that I don't see courting down the road.

Posted by JD Hull at 11:26 AM | Comments (2)

August 01, 2005

Are lawyers just kidding themselves about delivering true service to clients?

Reviews on lawyers always have ranged from architects of great nations and the world's commercial markets to necessary evils who add little value to any project. We are said to be manipulators with at best convenient notions of truth. And horror stories about our botched or inattentive services are legion.

True service to clients: are we delivering this and, if we aren't, can we talk about why?

1. Do we lawyers have a “we versus them” or adversarial mentality about clients when our main focus should be doing the job we promised to do and protecting clients from third parties or bad events -- the real “them” -- which would harm our clients?

2. Has lawyer camaraderie evolved into such clubiness that we have lost sight of the client’s primacy?

3. Do we regularly lie to and slight our clients? (Professionally, is that really any different than cheating on our spouses?)

4. Are there built-in barriers which prevent true service to the client? Are contingency fee arrangements with clients a built-in conflict of interest which can never be justified -- even in the name of “access to the court system?” When we work for the insureds of insurance companies, are we fair to the real clients -- the insureds? Will we ever put the interests of the insureds first?

5. Are lawyer jokes funny to us because they sound like the truth?

6. Has the overpopulation of markets with lawyers forced us into a free-for-all?

7. Do many of us wind up selling clients short because we are disillusioned or burned out?

8. In short, did we forget the main event -- the clients themselves?

What do you really think?


Posted by JD Hull at 12:00 PM | Comments (2)