Way back before the cell phone, we had a telephone in our reception area for clients to use. At the same time, my doctor had a sign in his reception area advising patients that the doctor’s phone was for his staff’s use and clients could use a payphone in the lobby. The difference? We lawyers had to market ourselves to find clients and then convince them to pay our bills. My doctor worked under a government health care system and did not have to worry about either of those things.
In 1971, Xaviera Hollander published her first book titled, “The Happy Hooker: My Own Story.” It sold twenty million copies.
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” Jerry Seinfeld
Early in my career I spoke to a group of lawyers about opinion letters. I was awful. I read the entire presentation, which was chock full of technical details, and bored the audience to tears. To this day, if I close my eyes, I can still hear them snoring and crying at the same time.
I was a super-fantastic lawyer. Really, almost everyone says so. And yet, there were a few clients who did not appreciate what I did for them or what it cost to have me do it. Luckily for me, during most of my career Google Reviews were not much of a thing. And until they were, those few and far between ignorant and unappreciative ingrates who did not like me did not have much of a public forum for spreading their lies.
There once was a law firm which marketed itself as being a team of lawyers with deep expertise in different areas of the law who worked together seamlessly to deliver the best possible outcomes for the clients. Let’s call them “Super Team Lawyers.”
Super Team compensated its lawyers for bringing in business by awarding origination credits to the lawyer who introduced the client or referral source to the firm and paying them a percentage of their originating credits.
“Either you follow-up or you fold-up.”Bernard Kelvin Clive
I recently observed a law firm doing some impressive online marketing. At the same time, to quote Shania Twain, when it came to the follow-up, “that [didn’t] impress me much.”
Here is my story:
I was doing a bit of research, hoping to find an answer to a legal question to solve a personal issue. I quickly came across a great website for a boutique firm which appeared to have all of the expertise that I need. Great articles, videos with a lawyer who has personality plus, and the offer of a free discovery session. Clearly this firm had the expertise that I required to solve my rather discreet problem.
I spoke to a young lawyer the other day who hails from another country. I will call her Natalie. Natalie explained to me that where she comes from, the culture is such that self-promotion is frowned upon. In her country, people do not think much of braggarts and blowhards. They respect people who are humble.
One of my best clients was a very large privately owned corporation. I had a great relationship with Steve, the majority shareholder/CEO. Our firm was the ‘go-to’ corporate counsel for the company.
The first time that Steve’s company was looking to handle some acquisitions, the CEO asked me, “What is your snack bracket for this type of work?” What he wanted to know was what size of deal we were comfortable handling. The answer at the time was deals of up to about $100,000,000. Beyond that a larger firm would better serve him.
The other day, my friend Martin, who was recently involuntarily retired from his law firm, was waxing eloquently, albeit somewhat sadly, on the topic of engagement rings and portable client bases. According to Martin there is a connection. Bear with me and I will try to explain.
For today’s diatribe, we are going to need a definition of ‘success.’ Although the traditional definition which relates primarily to making a lot of money is deficient in more than a few ways, since it seems to be the standard used by so many in the legal profession, I am going to choose that one.
There are only three ways to make money in the legal profession.