Last Chance to Register for 7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships

Last Call to Register for “7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships”

Join me for a CLE on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 about how to cultivate your network, balance client expectations, proactively control social media content, meet client needs, and become more client-centric by exploring the 7 steps to building better client relationships:

  • Capturing better clients
  • Polishing communication skills
  • Advancing client service through technology and staff
  • Managing social media
  • Improving client satisfaction
  • Strengthening client retention
  • Renewing relationships

Topics include how to CYA the right way, how to say “no” gracefully, dos and don’ts when responding to negative online reviews, how to thank clients as part of your everyday, the simple six-step process to stay in touch, and why you should modernize fee arrangements and billing.

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a live, online webinar.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office administrators, or staff – anyone interested in building better client relationships.

Group Discounts

Discounts available to firms who wish to register 5 or more attendees. Contact organizer to arrange a discount code before registering: beverly@oregonlawpracticemanagement.org.

Does the Program Include Written Materials?

Yes. Written materials are distributed electronically with your registration confirmation.

Ask Questions/Live Polling

Questions are welcome during the live event. Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

Registration Fee

$25 – Visit the Upcoming CLE page, click here, or choose the Register button below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

Eventbrite - 7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships

MCLE Credits
1.50 practical skills pending.

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings of 7 Steps to Building Better Client Relationships will be available to download along with the program materials following the December 6 CLE. Price: $25. Contact me or visit my online CLE store after December 6.

All Rights Reserved [2017] Beverly Michaelis

The Best Legal Blog Posts of 2016

2016-word-cloudIf you’ve followed my blog for a year or more, you know I generally publish a “Year in Review” post.  This December I thought I’d take a slightly different approach. Instead of a comprehensive list, I’m filtering it down to my personal favorites. And while it may be controversial, I’m calling this compilation The Best Legal Blog Posts of 2016.  There is plenty of good stuff out there, but this is the best that has appeared here.  Mostly my content, but also sourced from other great writers.

Client Relations

eCourt and court procedures

Finances

Marketing

Security

Staffing

Technology

Time Management

All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis

Marketing and Client Development in Three Easy Steps

Have you set goals for your law practice?

 

From a big picture perspective, all three choices are valid.  What they lack is a reasonable chance of success.

You can greatly improve the odds of achieving your goals by taking these three simple steps:

  • Create measurable goals
  • Write your goals down!
  • Be accountable

Create Measurable Goals

If your goals and objectives aren’t measurable, how will you know if you succeeded? It’s easy to say “I want to grow my client base,” because this statement can mean so many different things: you want to increase revenues, open more client files, or start taking on clients in a new area of law.  Perhaps keeping your goals fuzzy is a way of feeding a tendency to procrastinate or avoid identifiable failure ….

If you want to grow your client base, start by articulating what this means to you.

Let’s say your goal this year is to increase new client retention by 10%.  Start by assessing your success in converting clients (new clients interviewed vs. new clients who retain you as their lawyer).  If your conversion rate is less than 75%, it is time for introspection and some retooling.  What issues are you facing?

  • Do you need to bolster your confidence? Finding support through peer groups or counseling may make a big difference.
  • Perhaps you need to learn more about a specific area of law so clients are assured of your knowledge.  Contact the Oregon State Bar and Professional Liability Fund. Access OSB BarBooks, download PLF Forms, attend CLEs, join Bar Sections, and read pertinent publications.
  • Maybe you can benefit from polishing interviewing skills or learning more about client needs?  Find a mentor, reach out to colleagues, search this blog for posts on client relations and marketing – there are a ton of resources available in this area if you ask.  It may be as simple as observing your mentor or asking her to sit in on your client interviews (screen for conflicts; get client permission).

Identify the challenges – there may be several – then dial down.  Create a series of measurable steps to help you achieve your goal of increasing client retention by 10%. Be concrete and set time limitations.  Here is an example:

Action steps

Continue developing additional specific, measurable steps you can take to improve client retention.

Write Your Goals Down!

If you don’t mind a success rate hovering around 43%, then talking or thinking about your goals is a good way to go. If you prefer to do better than that, write your goals down.

Putting pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard) is an inescapable part of making your goals more real, concrete, and achievable.  You can improve your chances even more by keeping your goals visible: a sheet kept on your desk, a series of post-its on a bathroom mirror, or saving a screen grab to your desktop or mobile device.

The act of writing is, in itself, a process of mental transformation.  If you don’t believe me, just Google “why is writing down goals important?” and scan through the myriad of results.  Here is the best explanation, IMHO.  By the way, science backs this up.  Writing down your goals and sharing them with a friend will increase your rate of success from 43% to 62%.

Be Accountable!

Being accountable to others is success on steroids!  The Dominican University of California conducted a study on strategies for achieving goals.  By including the additional step of sending a weekly progress report to a friend, 76% of study participants accomplished their goals, or were at least half-way there, in a four-week period.  Wow!

So if I write a text or email to a friend,

“Hi Sheila, I’m setting goals for my law practice this year.  One of my objectives is to read the OSB Family Law BarBook cover-to-cover by June 1.  I need you to hold me accountable for getting this done.  Can I send you weekly progress reports?”

and my friend holds me to my promise of sending weekly progress reports, there is a 76% likelihood I will follow through? I’m on board!  Naturally you can buddy-up on this idea:  find a colleague with whom you can exchange goals and weekly progress reports.  You will both benefit by holding the other accountable.

Getting Started

Get underway with the process of goal setting, marketing plans, and business development by accessing the great resources available on the PLF website.  Choose Practice Management, then Forms. Under “filter by category,” select “Marketing.”

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2016.

 

 

 

 

Three Steps to Building Your Network

We’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  In fact, this cliché is so familiar it generates 444,000,000 responses in a Google search. 

But how do you get to know the “who?”  This can be a perplexing problem for both experienced and inexperienced lawyers entering solo practice.  If you just passed the bar or recently moved to Oregon, your network may be virtually nonexistent.  How do you get started?

Take a cue from career coach Maggie Mistal.  She offers a three-step approach for job hunters that can be successfully applied to lawyers who are building a professional network:

Step One – Define

Why do you want to build a network? Is it all about client development and referrals or do you want to meet people who can be a resource to you?  (Answer questions, connect you to experts, provide forms?) 

Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, your network can consist of just about anyone.  Family and friends are usually big supporters and will happily send work your way.  But they can also serve as a connection to someone you don’t know.  Former classmates, former clients, business and civic contacts, and other lawyers can also serve as part of your network.  If you want to find someone who can provide ongoing guidance to you in your career, the best match may be a mentor

Step Two – Build

Now that you have clarity of purpose, the hard work begins.  Fortunately, you already know how to reach out to family and friends – that part is easy.  Let them know where you are and what you’re doing, but don’t take for granted they will automatically send work your way.  When you approach them to announce that you’ve opened a law office, make the contact as personal as possible.  This is one area where “old-fashioned” etiquette (handwritten notes, phone calls, personal visits) can trump announcement cards, letters, or e-mail—although these have their place.

To reignite relationships with classmates, connect on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Join your alumni association or at least read your alumni newsletter – news items about people you know can be a basis for reconnecting.

Contacting former clients is a natural for building your network if you worked at another firm before going solo.  Oregon Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3  specifically permits direct contact in cases of “prior professional relationships.”  As with friends and family, make the contact as personal as possible. 

Inventory your business and civic contacts.  Do you have an existing relationship with a CPA, financial planner, or real estate agent?  Do you know people through volunteer activities with civic organizations?  If not, don’t despair.  Over time, you will meet and connect with other business people.  If you are thinking about joining what noted author Jay Foonberg calls the “animal clubs” or similar organizations, remember:

  • Your choice must be sincere.  Don’t join Rotary if it doesn’t appeal to you.  Find an organization that suits your values and interests.
  • Be prepared to commit.  Many of these organizations meet weekly.  If this doesn’t suit your schedule, the organization is not a good match for you.
  • The network you build through civic involvement will pay off eventually as you get to know others and they get to know (and trust) you. 

Last but not least, don’t forget other lawyers.  Who would you like to meet?  Lawyers practicing in your area of law?  Is it most important to stay close to home or find the recognized expert in the state?  If you are looking for the latter, find out who talks and writes on a given subject.  At the state bar level, check out CLE publication authors, Bar Bulletin contributorslegislative highlight authors, and OSB CLE speakers.  Join the bar section in your area of interest.  Executive committee members are very active in their field.  Additionally, most sections maintain their own Web sites, newsletters, and listservs which can be a great way to get information or interact.

It’s a good idea to connect with your local bar as well.  Introduce yourself to the local bar President. Go to meetings and CLEs.  The following county bars have their own Web sites:  ClackamasDouglasLincolnMarionMultnomah, and Washington.  Oregon also offers over 50 specialty legal organizations that may be a good match for you.  If you are a new lawyer, don’t forget about the Oregon New Lawyers Division or Multnomah Bar Association Young Lawyers Section.  (Membership is free to new admittees).  Both offer CLEs and specific networking events.

Nothing prohibits you from cold calling (or “soliciting”) another lawyer.  (See Rule 7.3(a)(1).)  However, before you do take Maggie Mistal’s advice:  know something about the person you are contacting and show genuine interest.  Most people are very willing to tell their story, if asked.  But if a contact feels “used” or you clearly know nothing about him or her, it will be a big turnoff.

Use Internet search engines like Google and Bing to find out more about people you want to meet.  Most established lawyers will have some kind of Web presence:  a Web site, a blog, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, or LinkedIn  profile.  If you want to meet someone who is well known in the legal community, but isn’t on the Web, talk to others who know that lawyer. 

Finally, if you’re stuck or just need a quick answer, you can use the Oregon State Bar’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer program which connects Oregon attorneys working in an unfamiliar practice area with experienced attorneys willing to offer informal advice at no charge.  If you have a tax or accounting question, use the Lawyer-to-CPA program.  Simply call the Oregon Society of CPAs Peer Consulting Service at (503) 641-7200 (Portland metro area) or 800-255-1470 (elsewhere in Oregon) for a referral. You will need to identify yourself as a member of the bar and specify what practice area your question involves.

Step Three – Maintain

When I was in private practice, our emphasis was on personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death.  As you might expect, we got a lot of calls from potential clients who were injured on the job.  Since we didn’t handle workers comp cases, these clients were referred out to a particular lawyer my boss knew.  The referrals went on for a few years, until one day they stopped.  Cold.  We finally had an epiphany, and it was a two-parter.  First, we realized we never heard from this person.  Ever.  No acknowledgment, no holiday card, not even a “how do you do?”  Secondly, my boss had met another workers comp lawyer who made an effort to build and maintain a real relationship.

The first lawyer had made a fatal mistake – he took us for granted.  Having initially forged a relationship, he made no effort to maintain it.  We didn’t need a specific “thank you card” each time a referral was made, but at least knowing this lawyer was still alive and kicking would have been nice.  Something as simple as a call a few times a year: “How are you doing?  How is your family?” would probably have been enough.  In retrospect, I am shocked we didn’t stop referring cases to him sooner.  Shame on us. 

The moral here is pretty simple: once you’ve successfully built a network, don’t let all your hard work go to waste.  Relationships must be nurtured and maintained.  Keep up with people.  Make regular contact.  Follow Maggie Mistal’s advice and offer to be of service to others.  If you look at networking as a two-way street, you and your practice will thrive.

Copyright 2010 Beverly Michaelis

Lessons from Solo and Small Firm Bootcamp

Last week I spoke at the King County Bar Association Solo/Small Firm Success Strategies CLE.  I participated in the Basic Training/Bootcamp Track for newly admitted lawyers, and was fortunate enough to follow Joseph Shaub, a terrific speaker.  Joe’s presentation was peppered with great marketing tips which I’d like to share.

What Are You Good At?

Joe challenged the audience of newly admitted lawyers to come up with a marketing plan that suited their personality.  In Joe’s words:  Think about what you’re good at – everyone is good at something.  Are you a:

  • Writer?
  • Speaker?
  • Schmoozer?
  • One-on-one advisor?
  • Joiner of organizations?
  • Leader of organizations?

Find your strength – that is your marketing plan.  Do what you do well.   Find what is unique about you.   If you go outside your comfort zone, it won’t work.

How to Woo and Keep Clients

Joe also described David Maister’s four step process for wooing and keeping clients, which goes far beyond most lawyer’s perceptions of client service:

Court Clients

Tend to your clients needs.  Offer pleasant surroundings, greet clients warmly, and make clients comfortable.  Your office should be inviting and professional.  If you have a family law practice and your clients bring young children to appointments, have coloring books and other suitable toys on hand. 

Superplease

Clients should come away thrilled with your work.  Be prompt and responsive.  Take a personal interest in your clients.  Draft bills that are informative and justify the fees you are charging.  Remember – most clients don’t see any of the work you are doing.  Your bills should paint a clear picture. 

Nuture

Maintain a relationship with your clients after the work is done.  Make a call or drop clients a letter or e-mail nine to twelve months after the file is closed.  Ask how they are doing. 

Listen

Is there any greater gift?  Most clients just want to tell you their story.  Let them share it with you in their own words, without unnecessary interruption.  Also lend an ear to the market at large.  What are you hearing?  With the current economic crisis, many people have postponed filing for divorce – they simply can’t afford it.  Can you adjust your practice in some way to accommodate this reality?   

How to Create a Professional Mission Statement

Joe shared a 30 minute exercise for creating a mission statement, courtesy of Washington attorney Terry Leahy.  This is one of the easiest approaches I’ve ever seen to this potentially daunting task.  Here it is.

Part One (Ten Minutes)

Rank the values listed below on a scale of 1 to 4:  1 not important, 2 important, 3 very important, 4 extremely important.

Achievement, ambition, adventure, affection, beauty, broadmindedness, cheerfulness, cleanliness, competence, competitiveness, comfortable life, cooperation, courage, creativity, discipline, economic security, equality, exciting life, fame, family happiness, family security, forgiveness, freedom, friendship, happiness, health, helpfulness, inner harmony, integrity, involvement, intellectual, logic, loving, loyalty, mature love, national security, order, peace, personal development, pleasure, polite, power, recognition, religion, responsible, salvation, self-respect, wealth, and wisdom.

Part Two (Five Minutes)

Identify the values you ranked as very or extremely important.  Make a list of each (very important values grouped together; extremely important values grouped together).

Part Three (Ten Minutes – Allow Two Minutes Per Question)

Next, complete the following five statements.  Write down the first thought that comes to mind.

  1. What I always dreamed of being or doing was:
  2. My three or more greatest gifts or talents are:
  3. The things I feel quite passionate about are:
  4. The most satisfying moment in my professional/educational life so far was when:
  5. What made that moment personally satisfying to me was:

Part Four (Allow Five Minutes)

Using the answers from Part Three, complete the following sentence: 

My mission is to apply my gifts (which are                                        ,                               , and                                                                )* in advancing that which I deeply value (                                                           ,                                               , and                                                    )** in the service of                                                                  .***

* See your answers to Part Three, item 2.

**See your answers to Part Three, item 3.

***Consider all the values you listed as extremely important from Part Two.  Also consider persons or groups you deeply desire to serve and/or causes or ideals you deeply wish to advance.

In closing, Joe reminded the group to stay true to themselves and strive to develop a practice consistent with their personal values.  Good advice, I’d say! 

Copyright 2009 Beverly Michaelis