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  • September 14, 2022 1:53 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    Contributed by Friend of LSSO Steve Bell, an Affiliate Consultant with LawVision, as a follow up to August's At the Expense of Marketing & Sales: Building a Better Budget.

    While the budget itself (anticipated revenue, anticipated expenses, and anticipated Return on Investment) is critically important, so is the timing. Law firms operate on strict annual calendars. After weeks, and sometimes months, of preparation, the budget — once approved by the owners — is fairly set in stone. Just try, eight months into the budget year, to acquire funds for an unplanned sponsorship, client entertainment, or marketing campaign. It’s not impossible, just more difficult than it needs to be if proper planning and preparation are well thought through at the outset, in parallel with the firm’s overall budget. This is such an important consideration, in fact, that the launch of Strategic Account Management (SAM)-Legal initiatives would be best served, if at all possible, synchronized with the firm’s overall budget cycle.

    Note that in this budget discussion, we are not talking about the expenditures that can be billed to the client and which are necessary to deliver outstanding client service. We’re referring to the primarily non-chargeable expenditures that the firm will invest to grow future revenue and profit.

    One important consideration for SAM-Legal teams is to consider the sources of budget for the initiative. Start with the nature and extent of this investment funding. Under optimum conditions, the firm will establish a centralized budget for each SAM-Legal team. Absent the establishment of such discrete budgets, depending on the firm, the sources can vary widely.

    Some firms provide each lawyer a set annual amount to undertake client development, of which SAM-Legal activities would be a subset. In such instances, the lawyers participating in the SAM-Legal initiative must be willing to invest some of their allocations to specific SAM-Legal clients. Naturally, these lawyers will want to know, in advance, how much of their allocations will be required, and they will want to balance that investment against their other non-SAM-Legal client development aspirations for the year.

    Other firms centralize client development budgets in the hands of practice group, sector, office, or regional leaders. These leaders must accomplish the problematic task of balancing existing approved funding with requests that are many multiples of the amount available. For a multidisciplinary, multisector, or multi-geographical SAM-Legal team, the team leader may be “bargaining” with several budget overseers. All the more reason for SAM-Legal team members to have an extraordinary understanding of the anticipated costs and return.

    Still other firms centralize the budgets that will fuel a SAM-Legal initiative at the functional-department level – marketing, business development, Information Services, Information Technology, and so forth. In such instances, the SAM-Legal team leader will need to explain, justify, and negotiate with staff department leaders (and the partners to whom the staff leaders report) to include and advocate for sufficient financial resources in the functional budgets.

    Fortunately, those who will be responsible for SAM-Legal initiatives, more than likely, are veterans at their firm and are aware of the intricacies of the logistics required to generate budget. Still, as SAM-Legal probably is a new strategic initiative, at least at most firms, it may take a bit more work than does year-over-year budget acquisition efforts. Leaders just need to be prepared for the amount of work and detail that will be required.

    We recommend that the budget process begin with an estimate of the return that will be generated by each of three levels of return on investment: low, moderate, and aggressive. It is, of course, not possible to accurately predict future revenue, but research has shown that SAM-Legal teams in other industries, and now some early feedback from legal, have found that in the course of a diligently applied, multi-year, disciplined strategic account strategy, first year returns will be material but modest, perhaps 5 percent (but can be more). As the effort builds year over year, incremental annual returns of 10 percent or more can reasonably be anticipated.

    Given the starting benchmark, calculate what a 5 percent and then a 10 percent increase will generate in terms of outside revenue and profit. We have found that law firm financial departments are expert at inputting hypotheses and then creating and modeling reasonable, achievable revenue and profit expectations along these lines. Over time, firms report upwards of 20% year-over-year growth on these strategic clients. With this potential return in hand, start the exercise of determining “budget” to get there.

    Next Installment: So, what is a SAM-Legal initiative going to cost?


    Adapted with permission from SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients into Strategic Accounts / A Guide to Law Firm Strategic Account Management (© 2021 LawVision, Inc.) by Steven M. Bell & Silvia L. Coulter.

  • August 23, 2022 4:02 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    Contributed by Friend of LSSO Steve Bell, Affiliate Consultant, LawVision

    The most common six-word phrase in use at law firms?

    “What charge code do I use?”

    Perhaps we exaggerate to make a point. But if you’ve led a department or practice group at a law firm, you’ve heard these words often and know the topic under discussion is…budget. In particular, the expense budget.

    It’s pretty obvious why expense budgets are so important at law firms. Expenses are subtracted from revenue to determine profit, and profit is the money distributed to partners (aka their income). 

    Considered in this light, expenses can get very personal very quickly! No wonder firms are so good at monitoring them. They can measure in six-minute increments how lawyers spend their time and how much it costs the firm—in compensation, benefits, and overhead—to do so. Law firms can measure to the penny how much it costs to provide a client photocopies, minutes of phone time, access to research databases, postage, and more. They can also measure with great precision the cost of marketing collateral, website development, advertising, attendance at industry conferences, client entertainment, and all the other wherewithal that comprises firm sales and marketing.

    Here’s the rub: Law firm revenue is pretty elastic, not all that predictable, and not really controllable. So, at any point in the year, but particularly in the final quarter, if it appears to the firm’s financial professionals that the organization’s revenue-minus-expenses algorithm will not deliver the profit partners are expecting…it’s cost-cutting season. The closer to year-end, the more frenzied the cutting.

    If revenue is the objective, marketing and business development are the last areas that any business should make cuts. Unfortunately, law firms are no different than all the other businesses in the world that routinely ignore this proven business maxim. When law firm budget-going gets tough, marketers and the marketing budget are too often first to be cut.

    Having decades of experience as CMOs and CMBDOs responsible for managing law firm budgets, my colleagues and I have seen the aftermath of such shortsightedness and now—battle tested—arm our clients with an array of strategies and decisioning prompts that enable law firm sales and marketing leaders to make budget preparation and management more businesslike, which in turn produces spending plans that are more defensible and resistant to cuts. Read on for some key insights to ensure the resources you need to help grow the firm don’t end up on the budget cutting room floor.

    Why the Marketing Budget is Targeted
    In our experience, law firm marketing budgets are a hodge-podge. Professional marketers and sales directors, of course, incorporate sensible proposed expenditures, including graphic design, marketing communications, earned and paid media, digital media, industry (and other) sponsorships, and more. Beyond costs that are clearly marketing-oriented, other demands on the client development budget—many non-strategic, extraordinarily expensive, and only tangentially related to the marketing plan—come into play, including but not limited to attendance by one (or a few) lawyers and clients at exclusive sports or entertainment events; client meals; holiday gifts; lawyer accolades and awards from spurious organizations; and sponsorships or donations to nonprofit organizations purportedly demanded by clients.

    Naturally, lawyers propose and defend these expenses as indispensable to their business development efforts or as “mandatory to keep the client’s business.” But even if that’s (remotely) true, beyond these expenditures are still other questionable costs that end up charged against marketing and sales, items that really should be allocated to the budgets of other departments such as technology, library and research, or professional development.

    The Problem with Precedents
    My colleagues and I believe there is a lot of truth in the saying that “law firms don’t want to be first; they want to be the first to be second.” By training and by inclination, lawyers cling to precedent where matters are concerned, and this is just as true when it comes to marketing and sales budgeting. Two data points are the most critical. The first of these is industry benchmarks, wherein consultants to the legal profession survey firms to determine how much each invests in sales and marketing and then shares that information with the field. Among the notable examples is the annual PwC Law Firm Survey, which requests details from hundreds of firms and produces reports on a variety of topics such as average law firm client development expenditure as a percentage of revenue. A byproduct is that many firms gauge their own expenditures based on what other firms are spending. (There is something fundamentally misguided about executing one’s own business vision based on the needs and habits of another organization, especially without understanding the reasoning behind them. But that is exactly what many law firms do.)

    The second data point of precedent law firms tend to lean on is ‘last year’s marketing budget.’ Firms often forecast spending not on what is needed to implement the strategy and plan ahead, but rather on what was invested last year…plus a small mark up. All this while asking the firm’s marketing and sales leaders to engineer imaginative and pioneering initiatives to grow the business.

    The Right Precedents to Set
    In the best of all possible worlds, firms would focus more intently not on precedent and history, but rather on business strategies and plans that include the precise resources necessary to achieve them. But we live in the world of reality, and widespread experience in the legal industry has reinforced this idea as a near pipedream.

    So, as you build your marketing and sales budget this fall, here are some critical components to keep mind.

    • Firm strategy. If your firm has a clear, well-defined strategy, base the proposed budget on that and insist those who review the budget clearly understand the correlation. If the firm doesn’t have a defined strategy, make it your business to establish one. Law firms suffer from a need to be all things to all people. And each of these ‘all things’ requires investment from the marketing and sales budget. This is why an articulate—and articulated—strategy is so important. It has to inform not just what the law firm will be, but that which it will not be. Without a defined strategy, there is little chance of concentrating investments in items and activities that are on-target, and little hope of fending off the inevitable expensive side-journeys that lawyers can devise.
    • Data. Proof is in the numbers. Do everything you can to base proposed budgets not on intuition, but on proof of anticipated ‘return on investment’ (ROI) and, if at all possible, on past performance. At a minimum, marketing budget-preparers must commit to, at the end of each budget cycle, providing fact-based results—good or bad—for specific budget items.
    • Collaboration. Most items in the marketing and sales budget can be multipurposed.  That is, they can serve not only marketing and sales, but also other aspects of the firm’s business, such as professional development, CLE, client service, and more. While the marketing and sales budget must first and primarily support the firm’s growth needs, it is important and much appreciated when it can add value elsewhere.
     As one AmLaw firm leader asks, “How many ways can you spend that one dollar?”
  • July 18, 2022 9:00 AM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    By Adam Severson, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer, Baker Donelson; Editorial Board Member, LSSO; and Fellow, College of Law Practice Management

    Midlife curious is not a crisis. It’s a healthy self-reflection and calibration of what’s important to you...

    You wake up every morning and you already feel behind. So many emails, a drum beat of upcoming meetings (for today, the rest of the week and seemingly forever), and your feeds are filled with statistics about the great resignation and millennials making hundreds of thousands of dollars selling NFTs or slinging the latest cryptocurrency.

    The cumulative effect of the pandemic, working remotely, being given a ray of hope of some normalcy only to have it stripped away, with compounding expectations can only make someone experience “midlife curiosity.”

    Being a leader in a well-respected, large law firm is fast paced, intellectually interesting and provides myriad complex problems to solve daily. I love it! I have to bring my “A game” every day, as lawyers are trained to issue spot even the most well-founded business principles and ideas. Mentoring and leading a team of talented, and similarly driven, professionals to be the best version of themselves while you’re not so sure you’re rocking along at 100% leads to wonder and doubt. The end of the calendar year 2021 left me “midlife curious.”

    Midlife curious is not a crisis. It’s a healthy self-reflection and calibration of what’s important to you, your family, and your firm. Are you feeling similarly?

    Here are steps I took to help me answer the age-old question of “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

    Take a break

    You can’t possibly achieve any sort of meaningful self-reflection working 50-70 hours a week. You need to take a break, and that doesn’t mean shutting your computer down at 3:00 pm on Friday.

    ...longer than a day, but shorter than multiple weeks.

    I’d recommend that it’s longer than a day, but shorter than multiple weeks. I can only imagine the death spiral of a less-than-helpful inner dialogue an elongated break could create. In the off chance, given the COVID world we live in, this break can occur in a different set of surroundings than the usual day-to-day, all the better.

    My break was cold, literally cold, as my family spent the holidays in Minnesota followed by a few snow days to start the year in Nashville.

    Ask yourself: what’s important?

    What drives you? Your family: time with them or providing for them? I’d imagine it’s both. Planning an amazing vacation or new ________ (insert fancy gizmo, car, etc.) that allows you to reward yourself? Being intellectually stimulated, competing for new business and talent in a competitive marketplace, and winning? Yes, yes, yes!!

    ...evaluate what kind of balance you might be able to achieve with some give and take

    Sitting in Zoom meetings that could have been an email, explaining a common business principle like ROI (return on investment) and being met with resistance, and missing your kid’s basketball game so you can plow through some more emails to actually get a good night’s sleep?

    No, no and no! Write down your considerations, force rank them, and then evaluate what kind of balance you might be able to achieve with some give and take, additional boundaries, and proactive communication.

    Scan the marketplace

    Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve spoken in some form or fashion (Zoom, text, actual phone calls, emails and in-person chats) to nearly 100 law firm leaders from AMLAW 200 firms and industry consultants. I won’t speak for them, but if I’m a gambling man (and I am!), virtually all of them are reading this and saying "That’s me! I’m 'midlife curious' too!"

    ...sharing is caring

    Talk with your industry colleagues, share your experiences with them…really share them.

    Not “I’m so busy” talk, but rather: "This was awesome when this happened," "I’m really proud of _________ (insert team member)," and "I’m really having a hard time with ________ (insert your challenge/issue)."

    I truly believe that sharing is caring! This exercise will prove cathartic. You’ll also learn quickly that the war for talent is alive and well and the dearth of leadership is real. It may also render your grass to be a delightful shade of green!

    Do scenario planning

    What if I did ________? My go-tos lately have been an Uber driver (if you’ve tried to get one lately, you know you’d be filling a need!) and working at Costco. Upon true reflection, those aren’t a good fit, but wouldn’t be so bad for a week.

    Are you trading one set of stresses and challenges for another?

    What if I changed firms? Would it be more lucrative financially? Would it lead to more stress or just different stress? Would I enjoy the people I work with? I mean those people you want to spend time with them outside of the office, you belly laugh with, you swell with pride when they buy a house or have a baby, and you work your ass off to make sure the higher-ups know their value too!

    Are you trading one set of stresses and challenges for another? Is the disruption worth it? Only you can truly know that in your heart.

    Evaluate the data and identify trends

    I work with data every day. I review that data, identify trends, make recommendations, and craft a path forward. I get paid to do this. Why wouldn’t I use those skills on my most important asset: me.

    There are character-building days. (Note: This term, “character-building days,” is owed to my deceased father, who taught me early on that difficult circumstances result in personal growth. One of so many life lessons. Love you, Dad!)

    Taking a strategic pause to assess isn't cheating or wrong. It’s healthy...

    Hard work is rewarding. Goals are good. Achieving those goals is even better. It provides a sense of accomplishment that phoning it in or quitting can never top. Money is important, but it’s not the most important thing. Know your value. I knew, and have been reminded, that I prefer experiences over things.

    Taking a strategic pause to assess isn't cheating or wrong. It’s healthy, helps you calibrate your values and gives you surer footing as you take that next step, wherever it takes you. I just completed 10 years in the C-suite at one of the best firms in the world. Thankfully, my midlife curiosity has subsided and I’m looking at the next hill to climb. But I do that with clarity of vision and a better sense of self. I actually wrote this article for me, but maybe it’s helpful to you.

    This article has been updated from its original release ( April 1, 2022).

  • June 23, 2022 1:27 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

    By Steve Bell, Senior Consultant, LawVision

    In this final segment of our article, Sales Trends in this COVID Moment, we explore some important contemporary law firm sales topics that do not fall neatly into earlier installments of his article – cataloguing techniques that sales professionals have deployed in the pandemic, suggesting the need for law firms to develop and implement sales process, and providing commentary on each of the steps in a sample law-firm sales process.  We start with a long-overdue possibility:  the development of law-firm products.


    In the 1990s, one of the top global accounting firms was asked by a client with operations on several continents to see what could be done to reduce its global tax burden.  Some of the firm’s top tax-planning partners devised a complex new structure that involved multiple transactions over several years and sequential private letter rulings from tax authorities such as the Internal Revenue Service.  When complete, the effort annually produced scores of millions of dollars of reduction to the global tax liability.  The technique became known in accounting and legal circles as “the sandwich” or “the black box,” and it represents one of the first professional services products of the contemporary era. 

    The engagement required an enormous investment of time on the part of the tax accountants who devised and implemented the plan.  Had the firm stopped there, the effort’s profit would have been acceptable.  However, because of enlightened management, the firm set out to identify other clients with similar fact patterns and, because the intellectual investment already had been made, appointments with potential clients were virtually automatic, and subsequent engagements were spectacularly profitable. 

    At another Top 10 accounting firm, the tax accountants observed that litigators in several states were achieving success in establishing that intangible assets (such as engineering drawings) were not taxable as business personal property and that they should be removed from the personal property tax rolls.  Further, the litigators pushed for court decisions that engineering drawings meant more than just the paper and ink on which they were printed (or the software on which they were stored).  Engineering drawings, the courts ruled, also included the cost of the engineering work itself – a very substantial part of the cost of large manufacturing and utility plants. 

    The Top 10 accounting firm firms soon created a cottage industry in reviewing personal property tax rolls for intangibles, removing them, and generating substantial savings for the clients.  The firm’s sales force found that this “intangibles tax product” easily opened doors for the tax partners and, later, for litigators who would be called upon to defend the accounting firm’s findings.  Another brilliant professional services product.

    At Womble, the law firm that I served for nearly 20 years, the leader of the Capital Markets group told me that his team handled the documentation for every significant loan and debt offering of a global money-center bank and had created an anonymized data base that could be searched and sorted by industry, geography, terms and conditions, and interest rates. 

    When I called companies that research had showed were in need of new or renewed revolving credit lines, getting an appointment was automatic, because clients craved this proprietary market knowledge.  Yet another successful professional services product. 

    The topic of law firm products was first discussed as early as the turn of the century, but they have been slow to adopt the practice.  Still, this would seem to be fertile ground for law firms and clients.  Legal Tech companies have products.  Alternative Legal Service Providers have products.  So do accounting and consulting firms.  Why don’t law firms? The answer is not clear, but those who linger in a law firm’s canteen long enough, will, with certainty, hear about some lawyer’s brilliant solution, which, with a little thought and effort, could be packaged and pitched to other companies with similar facts and circumstances.  For enlightened firms, this is potentially productive and highly profitable new territory.  And it is an arena in which the firms’ marketing and sales assets can shine!

    Those who have analyzed professional services products have come to a 4-P definition of the exercise. 

    The more that legal services can resemble tangible services, the easier it is to market and sell them as a  product, which, like a consumer product has discernable characteristics.  It involves proven IP and workplans that can be replicated with each engagement.  It can be delivered in a predictable fashion with predictable outcomes.  It has features and benefits.  It can be priced in advance – something infinitely more definitive than “for services rendered” or for “billable hours expended.”  It can be promoted; it’s to describe and talk about.  Marketing and PR staffs easily convert it to advertising, news releases, feature stories, marketing collateral, and presentations.  And sales teams can use it with remarkable efficiency to open doors.  With respect to positioning, products are almost by definition differentiated -- better, faster, cheaper, more-effective, etc.  And the best products of all have an attribute that we can observe in the sandwich, the intangibles tax product, and the credit line data base product:  it is unique.  Nobody else has it. 

    Frictionless Commerce

    Today’s law firms face a fierce competitor that most in the law firm business may not consider a competitor:  Amazon.  No, it doesn’t offer legal services (at least yet), but it does offer nearly completely frictionless commerce.  A buyer searches for a product, is automatically provided comparable products, selects one, and buys it with one click of a button.  Then, the buyer is instantly provided a list of complementary products that others who purchased the item also have bought. 

    Few buyers of legal services would characterize acquiring services from law firms as anything remotely close frictionless.  In fact, sometimes buyers must work hard to buy what they want.  Law firms have far to go to harvest the abundant potential of Artificial Intelligence and Marketing Automation systems, Client Relationship Management Systems, social media, and other sales-process components that Amazon and other great sellers have mastered. 

    Even as law-firm marketers work on these processes, much improvement can be handled at the individual-lawyer level.  How easy is it for a client or potential client to find and contact a lawyer?  Are a lawyer’s phone numbers and e-mail address accurate?  Is the lawyer’s web bio and social media content up to date?  How is the inquiry-response time – minutes, or hours, or days?

    Like it or not, every business including law firms is compared by buyers with Amazon.  The closer that law firms can come to operating like Amazon, the better and more effective their sales processes will be and the more revenue they will produce.      

    Societal Awareness as a sales issue

    Buyers of legal services, especially General Counsel, are highly sensitized as never before to societal issues.  Once the sole mantra of buyers was “Value, Value, Value.”  Now, it is “DEI, ESG, and  Value Add”  Today’s prominent law firms have not just arrived at the table when it comes to diversity and inclusion and social justice.  They have assembled and undertaken remarkable pro bono programs aimed at societal improvements, and they work hard to improve their diversity and inclusion performance.  The suggestion here, then, is not that firms should launch new promotional campaigns about their DEI and social justice programs, but rather that they carefully consider how they communicate their efforts in the context of their business development programs.  It’s important not to come off as though they just discovered societal inequities. Also, it is important to recognize that not every buyer has the same perspective on these issues.  So, even as firms continue to do the right things, it’s important that they also be incredibly attuned to the opinions and interests of the individual buyers whom they are seeking to attract and serve.

    The horizon

    We sometimes are asked to scan the horizon for what will unfold for sales in the years ahead.  The answer is as unclear as is the answer to the question of when the pandemic will truly end.  We hear about the Metaverse.  Will lawyers send their avatars into a client’s office or a courtroom?  Who knows?  Seems kind of far-fetched, but then again, so did the concept of e-mail when in 1982 a retiring US Postmaster in Bloomfield, Indiana, first suggested it to me, a young cub reporter. 

    How about blockchain and what it will mean to law firm sales?  Another mystery that will unfold over time.

    Here’s another:  the connected world.  Visionaries are speculating that with so many people working at home now and likely to stay there at least a good part of the time in the future, the connected home – TVs, refrigerators, security systems, thermostats, garage door openers and all the rest – will have a role in business and in sales.  Maybe.  Undoubtedly for law firms, who routinely are a step or two behind the rest of the commercial world, that will be quite a ways into the future, and it all will be worked out by young geniuses just out of school and currently entering the law firm sales and marketing field. 

    So, here is a summary of what needs to be known about sales in “these challenging times.”  It’s not about tools, it’s about implementation.  There are no magic wands, so it probably is better to simply concentrate on developing process and the other items in the chart below. 

    Oh, by the way, have you ever heard of the doorknob close?  Salespeople actually use it.  The sales meeting seems to be over, and the sales professional gets up and heads for the door.  Then, remarkably, she remembers another sales point to bring up.  For those who remember, Peter Falk as Inspector Colombo was a master of the doorknob close.  We relate this story because we have a doorknob close for you today.  Despite all the concepts we have laid out in this article, it comes down to something that is immutable and timeless:  The need for human caring about the people who provide and those who consume legal services. 

    This concept is best summed up by Rudy Gaines, once a sales director at Womble, a business professional, non-lawyer luminary in the International Trademark Association, a highly effective salesperson, and a superb human being.  He’s one of the Brain Trust members described in Part 1 of this article.  Here’s what Rudy has to say, and the doorknob close on which we close. Of sales in this moment, Rudy says: “More caring, less selling.  As the pandemic unfolded, I was open about my own fears and anxiety regarding COVID, which I think allowed my clients to open up about theirs. It’s ironic that when you share weakness, relationships get stronger.”

  • May 13, 2022 9:12 AM | Eva Booth

    By Steve Bell

    In our first installment, we explained that that most law firms are exploring  a common set of COVID-era sales innovations.   In our second installment, we suggested that because all firms are deploying the same techniques and technologies, the difference-maker may be the skill with which sales process is generated and implement is the big difference-make, and we provided guidance about how to develop a sales process, looking at a sample process’s first three steps:  Understand the firm, develop targets, and conduct research.

    In this installment, we describe the five other steps in our sample sales process.

    Open the door

    Of all the sales-process steps, opening the door for the first time with a buyer at a prospective client is the most difficult for lawyers to achieve.  Some – but not all – great sales professionals relish the task of cold-calling (or the 2022 digital equivalent) and are not fazed by all the “no thanks” responses they receive.  But most human beings, including some of the most successful sales professionals we know, must summon courage and resolution to handle this task.  Quadruple that for lawyers.  For some of them it is nearly impossible, and it is one of the reasons that it is so critical do everything possible to hang onto clients once they are on board. 

    Opening doors is made easier and more natural if it is undertaken in increments, such as gaining an introduction from a mutual acquaintance, finding events where targeted buyers gather, and offering valuable knowledge and insights in opening salvos such as, “We learned that one of your key competitors…..” or “Other companies in you industry are finding that…..” 

    In 2022 also, big parts of door-opening can be handled by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, which can efficiently approach clients, lead them on a buying journey, and thereby generate highly qualified leads at a very mature stage, when getting the meeting is virtually automatic. 

    In the next and final installment of this Sales Trends in the COVID Moment, we’ll suggest an especially powerful method for opening doors – law-firm products.

    Follow Up

    An unfortunate number of lawyers are not persistent enough in following up once the door is open.  On some happy occasions, after only one or a few interactions, buyers will identify opportunities to engage.  In most cases, though, it takes many more “touches” than that.  The number of interactions cannot be predicted in advance, and it may take ten, 20, 50 or more. Recognize that in this follow-up segment of the sales process, the buyer is evaluating the client-service capability of the seller.  Is the seller adding value at each step?  Is the seller demonstrating persistence, patience, and resilience?  Many lawyers “drop out” of the competition by engaging in only one, two or three follow-ups before dropping the pursuit.  Our advice is to stay the course, no matter how many follow-ups are required to earn new business.  In addition, the time- and emotion-consuming nature of follow-up is yet another good reason to select targets with extraordinary discipline and care.  Lawyers and law firms should make sure that they are pursuing targets worth the substantial effort that may be required!

    Get the first assignment

    Persistence in the follow-up phase of the sales process will, almost without fail, lead to opportunities.  Often, buyers signal that they are in buying mode with a question such as “Does your firm do….?” or a statement such as “I’ve got an issue I’ve been thinking about.” Of course, it would be great if the opportunity identified by the buyer is in the wheelhouse of the lawyer who has invested time and effort in the pursuit. Many times, though, the need may be in another area of practice.  We urge lawyers to recognize opportunities for the whole firm and to collaborate with others to land new business, even if it will generate hours for another lawyer.  The activity of the buyer making a purchase and formalizing the relationship often “trains” them to identify more opportunities – including assignments for the lawyer who led the build-out of the relationship.

    Deliver World-Class Service

    Every law firm claims client-service excellence.  With all the effort expended to advance this far through the sales pipeline, anything less would represent an enormous waste of time and resources.  It is unfortunate but true that some new clients are not served with the excellence expected because the first engagement – a starter engagement – is not sizeable.  And, unfortunately, many clients do not share with law firms the same definition of client-service excellence.  Before work commences, law firms need to understand the client’s perspective on great service and engagement success.  And they need to check in frequently with clients – through end-of-engagement and/or annual client-satisfaction meetings -- to gauge whether or not the client perceives that it is receiving the world-class service (from its perspective) that can be the foundation for the final component of our sales process – building out the relationship. 

    Expand the Account

    At the beginning of this section, we identified the desired state as being a mutually satisfying, expanding, highly profitable relationship.  The delivery of world-class service is part of the pathway to this objective.  Another part is understanding the client, helping it avoid problems entirely, and – when they arise -- skillfully and cost-effectively addressing them.  Another big element of expanding accounts with clients is the successful application of key-account or strategic account management techniques.  These skills are not taught at law school.  Law firms that are serious about achieving the pinnacle of success with the sales process will consider adding professional sales and sales-management resources to client teams. 

    Three of the steps in this process are especially good matches for sales professionals (and not especially good matches for lawyers or other professionals).  Salespeople are great at getting the meeting, following up, and expanding the relationships (i.e. managing strategic accounts); lawyers generally are not.  That’s why we often recommend teams comprised of sales professionals and service professionals who can implement every step of the process in order and in a timely way to achieve a solid yes or no from the prospective client.  When we say expand the relationship, we are talking about a more profound program than most firms’ key client programs.  Our book, “SAM-Legal: Turning Key Clients into Strategic Accounts,” calls for law firms to expand and intensify their key-account game to levels that the Big 4 accounting firms and major consulting firms have achieved.  The book describes how lawyers and business professionals can work together to create and operate successful strategic account programs. 

  • April 25, 2022 11:39 PM | Eva Booth

    By Steve Bell

    In the previous installment, we examined how innovative professional services sales professionals have addressed the new reality posed by COVID-19.  We concluded that although salespeople and lawyers have implemented new twists, primarily, these are variations on existing techniques and technologies.  It seems that all continue to compete with a common set of tools, which leads to the question:  How then do they differentiate and get ahead?

    The difference-maker may not be the tools in the toolkit, but rather the manner in which the tools are applied, which is to say, the skill in designing and operating an integrated sales process, something still relatively new in the world of law firms.

    While creating a sales process sounds like a big chore, it really is not that complex, involving simply the creation of case studies of how key engagements were won, and then reverse-engineering the steps that led to those wins.

    Here’s an example.  Say a firm considers the mutually satisfying, expanding, highly profitable relationship with its top client. How did the firm acquire such a client?  By landing the first assignment and delivering world-class service at the right price and in the right style so that additional opportunities from the same client emerged.  How did the firm get to the point that it could do this?  It followed up with the company when it was but a prospective client until the relationship matured and an opportunity to serve surfaced.  How did it get to the position where it could follow up?  It opened the door and got the first meeting. How did it get the first meeting?  It targeted the company and used research to identify topics that would interest and intrigue the primary buyer.  When the buyer’s interest was aroused, she requested outreach from the law firm, although the firm itself had simultaneously asked for a meeting.  How did the firm know whom to target?  It understood its own strengths and weaknesses and analyzed at which companies – including its now top client -- those strengths and capabilities were the best fit.

    When this simple analysis of how the sales win came about is complete, it’s easy to turn the steps around, yielding a proven, efficient, replicable sales process.  Using the above example, here is the resulting sales process:

    • Understand the firm, its strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, reputation and differentiators; Understand oneself
    • Develop targets based on this understanding
    • Research
    • Follow up
    • Open the door
    • Land the first assignment 
    • Deliver world-class service
    • Expand the relationship 

    Understand self

    Of course, every lawyer knows his or her own professional persona – education, job history, area of practice, additional skills and certifications, cases won or transactions closed, and so forth.  Most lawyers, however, know very little about the professional skills, experience, and achievements of the other individuals in their firms.  This lack of knowledge can result in a missed sale when a client mentions an area of need outside the pursuer’s expertise and he or she does not have a reasonably ready answer about what others in the firm can do and provide. 

    And how about non-technical strengths?  As a certified Gallup Strengths Coach, I have helped scores of lawyers understand their personal attributes – areas of strength and areas of weakness.  As part of such personal-understanding exercises, it’s also valuable to contemplate the personal strengths and weaknesses of clients and prospective clients.  Such an understand of self and client helps home in on the best way to communicate with and relate to clients and prospective clients. 

    The Gallup Organization codified all of this in its Strengths Finder, in which it identified 34 attributes that all humans possess.   When using the top 5 or 10 strengths, people find the work easy, efficient, and refreshing.  They probably can tap into the other 29 or 24 attributes when necessary, but doing so may not be easy, enjoyable or energizing.  In such instances, the pursuer may want to find ways to engineer around their weaknesses by teaming with others who have complementary strengths.  We include this suggestion, because the first step in our process is “know ourselves.”  This means knowing not only our firms in a technical sense, but also our personal strengths and the strengths of those around us.   

    Now, let’s walk through two other early critical components of an effective sales process.


    Candidly, most law firm target lists consist of aggregations of business cards gathered at the hors d’oeuvre table at business meetings, or lists of people that the lawyers know.  However, considering the amount of time and resources that will be invested in a formal sales process, it’s important to recognize that more discipline than that is necessary to prepare a truly aligned target list.  Here’s a list of sample targeting criteria.

    Great Target Lists

    • Individuals
    • Large, complex issues we can address
    • Understand big-law-firm economics
    • Know us and like us
    • Not locked into another firm
    • Right geography
    • Resemble clients we already serve well
    • Fun to serve    

    Law firms certainly will choose their own attributes of good targets, but no matter which criteria are selected, it is most helpful to list them in advance so all can focus on the right targets and avoid those that are not in alignment with stated goals.

    In addition, it’s important to have the right number of targets.  Most lawyers have far too few targets, or far too many.  In the first category are lawyers who say they have two or three targets – not nearly enough to take up even an hour per week of client development time.  Other lawyers have dozens or hundreds of targets.  That’s far too many, and it generates sales paralysis; no human being can launch and maintain relationships with that large a list.

    Here’s a way to think about the appropriate number of targets.  If a lawyer has one hour of client development time per week, she or he should have 24 targets.  This number is derived by the number of 15-minute segments in an hour (4); 15 minutes is plenty of time to forward a target an interesting article, send a birthday card, point out what the target’s competitor is doing, or undertake some other relationship-advancing activity. Some of the most-experienced professional services sales consultants contend that a prospective client must be “touched” at least once every six weeks if that target is to keep the seller near the top of mind.  That’s where the number six in targeting calculator comes from.  Multiply six by four (the number of targets that can be touched in an hour in one week), and the result is 24 targets.  For those who have two client development hours per week, 48 targets are needed, and so on.

    Target Calculator

    Weekly Client Development Hours



    = Proper Number of Targets

    Those who are just starting won’t get to the proper number of targets instantly, but, but rather over a year or more. 

    Here’s another way to calculate the right number of number of targets starting with the number of engagements needed.  If a lawyer needs one new engagement, and he or she, on average, wins work from one in 10 prospective clients with whom meetings are set, and the lawyer can schedule a meeting with a prospective client once out of every 10 tries, then she or he needs 100 targets -- 10 meetings leads to one new engagement.     

    Target Calculator

    Number of Engagements Needed

             x Proposal Success Rate

              x Meeting Acquisition Rate

    = Proper Number of Targets

     Of course, many will have better results than that.  Say the need is one new engagement, that the get-a-meeting success ratio is 1:6, and the new-clients-from-meetings ratio rate is 1:4, 24 targets are needed.

    Everyone has his or her own experience rating.  Some appear to get a meeting every they ask. Some seem to win every opportunity they attempt.  Some don’t come anywhere close to these numbers.  But it’s only numbers, not a value judgment.  We advise lawyers to start where they are and to improve what they can improve to achieve their optimum experience ratings.  But always, we remind them, make sure to undertake sufficient numbers of targets to create the results needed.


    Public company information, such as SEC 10-K reports, reveal much about a company for those who know how to read and interpret this information.  Handing unfiltered 10-Ks to lawyers, however, may not be productive, because very few lawyers are trained to understand the application of public company reports to business development.  Still, it’s incredibly important to have this information.  We often recommend engaging an outside service to perform this function, or to make sure that professionals inside the firm know how to do it well on behalf of the lawyers.  This analysis capability addresses three of the needs that lawyers want most from their lawyers.  The first is understand the business.  Second, understand the business.  Third, understand the business.

  • March 15, 2022 5:33 PM | Eva Booth

    By Stefane Marrone

    The way you format your LinkedIn posts is just as important as what you say.

    Given that reading online is 25% slower than in print and attention span becomes shorter and shorter every day, it’s important to be strategic when structuring your LinkedIn posts.

    Here’s how to structure your LinkedIn posts for maximum impact.

    For example, don’t write long, dense paragraphs. Today people skim content, especially online.

    Instead, break up your information into short snippets like I’m doing here.

    Use paragraph breaks, bullets, numbers or headers when you can to help the reader as they scan the post.

    The first three lines of your LinkedIn post are the most important in terms of capturing your reader’s attention. After that point the post is truncated and says “show more.”

    For people to see more you need to give them a reason to, which you can do with an enticing first three lines. Think of it as your headline. Draw the reader in and let them know what they can expect in the rest of the post.

    Write LinkedIn posts in the first person. "I" and "we" help you sound like a real person talking to real people. It builds a personal connection with your audience and makes your posts compelling.

    Always write with your audience in mind. For lawyers and law firms that means no defined terms. No formal language. No jargon. Don’t refer to people by their surnames. No skipping two or three spaces between sentences. This isn’t a legal brief.

    Also, put all hashtags at the end of your posts and don’t use more than five or LinkedIn can flag your post as spam. I find them hard to read when they are interspersed in the body copy.

    Don't put links in your posts - LinkedIn wants to keep people on its platform and will penalize you if you try and send them off of it. That's why people put links in the comments.

    Users don't read but scan content when they scroll a newsfeed. Your job is to get them to stop the scroll.

    Remember client-centric, easy-to-follow, authentic, value-added content will bring you success on LinkedIn and as a thought leader on any platform.

    What other tips would you add to this list?

    15 Ways to Improve Your SEO

    No alt text provided for this image

    Do you have an SEO strategy? If not you need one ASAP.

    With more than 4 billion Google searches every day, you need to make sure your web site is optimized for SEO. Don't let your website become a crisis situation - it should be updated every three or so years. It's the first impression a visitor has of your organization.

    Here are 15 ways to improve your Google SEO results.

    1. Make sure your site has a fast load speed (of three seconds or less)
    2. Use clean URLs and meta descriptions
    3. Develop target keywords (which have high search volume, relevance to your business and low competition)
    4. Use optimized headlines (include your target keywords)
    5. Make sure every page on your website includes at least 300 original words of content
    6. Continually update your existing top-performing content
    7. Include at least one image on each page and use alt tags to optimize
    8. Focus on local SEO and create a Google My Business profile
    9. Ensure your content is created around a primary keyword and relevant secondary keywords
    10. Use backlinks
    11. Include internal links to increase dwell time
    12. Make sure your site is mobile friendly
    13. Use effective header tags to become a Google Featured Snippet
    14. Identify low-performing pages and refreshing them with new content
    15. Fix linked 404s and take over links that belong to competitors' 404s
    16. SEO is important to ensure the success of your content - don't ignore it!

  • March 15, 2022 5:25 PM | Eva Booth

    By Steve Bell

    Law firms, operating virtually and remotely for nearly two years, have been asking “What’s new in law firm sales in these challenging times?” 

    “Challenging times” is a phrase that emerged in March 2020 and had grown stale by April.  Yes, things are different, more difficult and exhausting.  But then again, these are not the first “challenging times” to put a strain on professional services sales teams.     

    On Black Monday in October 1987, the stock market crashed because of programmatic trading. In September 2001, the US homeland was attacked, stranding road warriors across the planet.  In 2002, the dotcom bubble burst.  In 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed and launched the Great Recession. Each of these incidents created sales difficulties that required new solutions.  And each roughly coincided with an important leap forward in sales techniques and technology. 

    By 1987 and Black Monday, electronic mail was emerging and soon became a critical sales tool.  In 1995, WebEx was launched so that in 2001 when sales travel came to a screeching halt, virtual meetings could take place.  The Great Recession resulted in the sharp contraction of law firm sales forces, but by then, Artificial Intelligence and Marketing Automation facilitated the nurturing of clients in a way that did not necessarily require human intervention.  It’s not too surprising, then, to expect creative sales minds to quickly adjust to the lockdown of a global pandemic. 

    To find out more about sales solutions in the COVID moment, approximately 25 sales professionals from accounting and law firms – the Brain Trust -- were surveyed about how they are adapting to today’s reality.  Many of them have moved on to other professional-services businesses, but all are still selling, still succeeding, and always innovating.

    Subsequently, about 50 lawyers from Lex Mundi member firms attending a conference in Washington, D.C. were asked many of the same questions to see what else could be gleaned. 

    The survey of the Brain Trust began with the money question, asking about their personal revenue production in 2021.  All of those who responded reported revenue gains of 20% to 100% over the preceding year.   

    Later, the Lex Mundi lawyers were asked how their firms were doing with revenue.  Also very well.  None reported a decline, and only a handful reported flat revenue.  The substantial majority reported that their firms’ top lines were up, many of them substantially so. 

    They are not alone among law firms in 2021.  All the major organizations that examine law firm revenue reported it was up substantially across the board.  According to American Lawyer, there were “significant gains in key financial metrics as clients leaned on their lawyers for counsel.” And, American Lawyer added, “Firms grew revenue by an average of 5.9%, a remarkable result in an unprecedented year.”  Wells Fargo reported that more than 90% of the 120 law firms surveyed reported an increase in revenue.  The bank added that law-firm revenue was up 14%, even more among Top 50 firms.

    Parenthetically, it’s hard to imagine why law firms should be thinking about sales right now.  With starting associate salaries topping $200,000 even at midsized firms, and associate spot bonuses of up to $150,000, the phrase “Value for the dollar” is in cold storage.  Things are great for law firms.  Why think about sales?  Why change?  Well, here’s one reason:  Whatever is causing today’s law firm revenue growth and profit is not permanent.  When the field of play changes again, as it will, firms that have institutionalized sales will stay on top, and those who are passively riding the wave will recede with the ebb tide. 

    The survey revealed that while some of the historic key tools in the sales arsenal – conferences, events, client CLE, sales meetings in client offices, and so on – have disappeared, not surprisingly, substitutions were quickly and effectively put into play.   

    Let’s go through the list, starting with the obvious collaborative platforms including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, RingCentral, WebEx, and others.  All respondents use them, and, it would seem, hate them during the times that they are not loving them.  In any event, no one can do without them. It is true that collaborative platforms have caused the loss of some of the intimacies of live meetings, but they have dramatically increased efficiency and expanded geographic sales territories.  They allowed sales professionals and buyers alike, unintentionally most of the time, to be more vulnerable and human and to introduce clients to home offices, dogs and cats, kids, significant others, and personal foibles. 

    Here are some of the creative ways the sales professionals have used collaborative platforms during the pandemic:

    • Client and prospective-client meetings
    • User-group summits with clients as the “stars”
    • At-home virtual dinners
    • Virtual cooking courses
    • Virtual cocktail mixing events
    • Virtual happy hours

    The Brain Trust also reported other technologies that they deployed more aggressively: 

    • E-mail
    • Social media (including more-obscure ones)
    • Social media direct messaging
    • Mobile phone
    • Facetime
    • WhatsApp
    • Text
    • Phone calls

    And they dusted off some techniques from the analog era – you know, the 1990s:

    • USPS Mail (which allowed collection of client home addresses)
    • Special-Day Cards
    • Delivery Services 
      • Swag
      • Large white-paper or promotional documents
      • Food and beverage
    • Handwritten Notes
    • And, even though traditional person-to-person contact was put on hold, the surveyed sales professionals still found responsible ways to get together in person: 

      • Golf
      • Socially distant lunches and dinners
      • Dog walks
      • Bag lunches in art museum outdoor spaces
      • Outdoor walks over lunch with clients or prospective clients

      Although all these techniques are useful and represent some new twists, none are truly extraordinary and epoch-making.  Without doubt, all law firms undertook similar tactics. 

      The Lex Mundi crowd was asked to add to the Brain Trust’s list of COVID-necessitated sales techniques.  Here’s what they reported: 

      • AI
      • Videoconference Quizzes
      • Virtual road shows
      • Virtual CLE for clients
      • Virtual client feedback Interviews
      • Curated care packages for televised events such as sports championships or the Academy Awards
      • Twitter Spaces
      • Online Follow-Me Ads
      • Home-schooling resources for clients

      Again, these are creative but not groundbreaking techniques.  So, what are we to make of this?  If no truly revolutionary sales techniques and technologies have emerged in the age of COVID, and if all competitors have access to and are deploying the same bag of tricks, how does any one of them get ahead?  We’ll cover this in our next installment.

  • February 02, 2022 7:33 PM | Eva Booth

    By Silvia L. Coulter

    Steffan, a second-year equity partner in a global law firm, was working with us to up his business development game. When we began working with him, we were told the following:

    • He is working for two to three years in one of the firm’s overseas offices and has moved there with his family.
    • His practice leader is not very involved in day-to-day management and has to focus on his own business and clients.
    • Partners are required to hit a minimum of $3 million in new business annually
    • He is focused on building out the firm’s successful high-end hospitality practice globally
    • He has a solid $2 million dollar book of business
    • His goal was to increase his book, and to also at some point to lead his practice group
    • Like everyone else, the COVID lockdown prevented him from in-person networking with his new target prospects and clients
    • His network was amazing and he was great at keeping in touch; but doing so while in Europe for two years will be a challenge

    One of our sales coach consultants began to work with Steffan. Here is the sales strategy:

    • Organize his contacts and select those individuals to focus on for the next twelve to twenty-four months. These were individuals who could help his reach his goal of $3+ million, and those whose relationships he could leverage for introductions to others. Overall it was important for him to stay in touch with his existing U.S. and global clients while developing other contacts.
    • Take credit where credit is deserved. Have open discussions with other global partners he will have the opportunity to introduce new contacts to when mandates come in. Having discussions about how to divvy up origination credit before work is received is important.
    • Get off committees that are not furthering his career at the firm. If committee work does not translate to recognized billable time and path to continued success as an equity partner, think twice about the time it takes away from more productive hours that could be spent building a book of business and billing client work. The exception is committees that are of interest for potential future leaders: EC, or Comp specifically.
    • Prepare a sales forecast to stay focused on top pursuits. During busy times, it’s easy to forget about, or move to the side, business development priorities. But those opportunities ready to provide new revenue may only need a few more discussions to kick them over the goal post.

    Our coach initially worked with Stefan on a sales strategy to leverage his existing relationships and contacts for introductions to their contacts in Europe. At first, he was a bit apprehensive and pushed back a bit. With some encouragement, he gave it a go and was delighted and surprised at how well this strategy worked. His exact words, “I’m so over being apprehensive about this approach. I’ve met some great contacts!”

    By staying focused on leveraging existing contacts for introductions to others, Steffan continues to build new and strong relationships in his new jurisdiction. Like all sales strategies, staying connected to existing contacts is key.

  • January 04, 2022 2:30 PM | Eva Booth

    By Silvia L. Coulter

    Renita, a non-equity partner in a global firm, was working with us to up her business development game. When we began working with her, we were told the following:

    • She is working 80% and is taking care of her an elderly parent and two high schoolers
    • Her practice leader is not very flexible when it comes to making equity partners in the group. Partners are required to hit $X million in revenue prior to him recommending them for equity partner (no exceptions)
    • She is a diverse female partner
    • She has a solid $1 million dollar book of business
    • Her goal was to increase her book, and to also make equity partner
    • COVID lockdown prevented her from in-person networking with her target prospects and clients
    • Her network was amazing and she was great at keeping in touch

    We teamed up with Renita and got to work.

    One of our sales coach consultants began to work with Renita to help her:

    • Organize her contacts and select 50 individuals to focus on for the next twelve months. These were individuals who could help her reach her goal of $2 million
    • Take credit where credit is deserved. Have open discussions with other partners she is bringing in to meet with contacts for new business opportunities. She would receive at least 50% or more of the credit for any new business brought in through her efforts, regardless of who works on the matters
    • Check in with her practice leader regularly. Restate the goal of expecting to become an equity partner, and ask for feedback about progress in that direction—one needs to know where one is at in this process all year long
    • Get off committees that are not furthering her career at the firm. If committee work does not translate to recognized billable time and path to equity partnership, think twice about the time it takes away from more productive hours that could be spent building a book of business and billing client work
    • Prepare a sales forecast to stay focused on top pursuits. During busy times, it’s easy to forget about, or move to the side, business development priorities. But those opportunities ready to provide new revenue may only need a few more discussions to kick them over the goal post.

    Our coach worked with Renita to show her that her confidence as a lawyer needs to show through during the sales process. Clients want to work with confident and talented lawyers who they like. We pushed her a bit out of her “comfort zone” to connect with her contacts and to stay focused on how she could help them with their business goals. This is a stronger approach to take versus “pitching” one’s services.

    By staying focused on those specific steps it will take to close new business, dealing with the political side of the practice so there are no surprises internally, and bridging firm services to client goals Renita has taken her career to a whole new level and is heading into a blockbuster 2022.

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