Much is changing in the world of the modern lawyer – billing methods, increased competition, technology changes, social media . . but success and business growth is still based on one, key thing, says marketing expert Eric Fletcher.
“Success for a firm begins with a focus on the client,” he says unequivocally.
Eric Fletcher knows something about what drives success for professional service firms like lawyers.
He’s been writing, speaking and actively leading communications, marketing and business development efforts for over 25 years
And he has seen plenty of changes over that quarter century.
Take the “billable hour,” – or more accurately, the “death” of the billable hour, for instance.
The death of the billable hour has been a “theme for at least 20 years”.
But it remains.
“Firm’s of all sizes continue to wrestle mightily with how to innovate around the way service is measured and billed.”
=”border:3px solid #eeeeee; padding:5px; margin:3px;”>img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-94385″ src=”http://www.lawfuel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/billable.jpg” alt=”billable” width=”130″ height=”166″ />”In 2002 the ABA published Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies That Work, Second Edition by Jim Calloway and Mark Robertson. In 2007 the cover story of the ABA Journal was The Billable Hour Must Die written by lawyer-novelist Scott Turow.
“Yet few would characterize the “alternatives” now somewhat common as having been “rapid.”
“Firm’s of all sizes continue to wrestle mightily with how to innovate around the way service is measured and billed. Certainly, part of the challenge stems from the fact that the hour is one of the building blocks of the traditional law firm infrastructure.
“But the difficulties inherent in change are, to a significant degree, rooted in the fact that innovation is proactive in nature, while the law firm is, historically, reactive.”
Changes Come Slow to Marketing & Business Development
A strategic approach to marketing and business development represents an equally difficult change for most law firms. The proactive identification and pursuit of opportunity can seem at odds with recognizing and mitigating risk.
But what of how firms of different sizes are responding to the challenges presented by changes in the market?
“Anecdotally I would suggest that it seems smaller to mid-size firms can adapt and change more easily than a firm where changes to policy and process can have significant resource and infrastructure implications.”
But it is Big Law that has the strength and resources to embrace change, but they need to make it real.
“Real innovation often involves operational changes that require time and financial investment. No matter the firm size, this calls for a partnership that acknowledges the value derived from investing in the future.
Social Media Significance
The development of social media and its impact upon how law firm’s market themselves is another major change.
The extent to which firms need to use social media is somewhat variable, he says.
“Social media is a tool. In my view it is a valuable addition to the law firm marketing arsenal; but I would quickly add that it is not a be-all-end-all solution that should be automatically forced on every situation.”
“Plans that begin with a focus on the tools or message are tantamount to the proverbial hammer in search of a nail . . “
Identifying specific targets for the development of the law practice is key to making any business development successful.
“The strategy, message(s), tools and specific actions of an effective marketing and business development plan are best determined by the smart identification of the targets you hope to reach.
“Plans that begin with a focus on the tools or message are tantamount to the proverbial hammer in search of a nail.”
Identifying the target of the “message” makes decision-making around media, where to speak and which organizations to support, along with the measurement of the firm’s ROI become less problematic when the target of the action plan is identified.
“With targets identified, the objective of a marketing/business development strategy is to 1) create visibility; 2) enhance the value of the firm brand (and we’re not talking about a logo here); and 3) begin building a bridge to the creation of professional relationship.
“Ultimately an effective business development initiative will facilitate a highly targeted presentation or pitch. Unless your activity is target-driven, you’d better have a ten figure budget if you hope for any impact on the bottom line.
What Should The Message Be?
The focus for growth for firms delivering a quality service remains with the client.
“Understand the client’s business drivers and you will have valuable insight into what innovations matter to them, and where you must change in order to meet market demands.
“Listen carefully to what your clients say, and you’ll know precisely where your marketing efforts and messages should focus.”
Just like JC Penney’s or Walmart, law firms are really not much different – the customer is right. And as someone said, client service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job. And it is clear from experts like Eric Fletcher that client focus and service one job that lawyers are certainly not spared.