Friday, July 16, 2010

Effective Use of Social Media by Lawyers

Here is a link to Cherie Curry's article in the Detroit Legal News today on lawyers' use of social media. It includes a bit of advice and some common sense reminders, including a few comments from me and lawyers I know.

Detroit Legal News Article

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Business Development for Lawyers: Why Pick a Niche?

Many of my lawyer clients are either working on identifying and selecting a niche practice or really developing and capitalizing on the one or two specialties and related target markets that already form a part of their legal practice. Some of the broad legal areas in which they practice include business litigation, estate planning, business tax, criminal defense, health law, family law, employee benefits, employment law, construction, mediation and other alternative dispute resolution, business transactions, corporate work, bankruptcy, insurance defense, banking, real estate, etc. But within those practice areas are specialties and niches where they can see, and are seizing, opportunities to develop a client base or expand their book of business.

I have found and witnessed that by developing a niche you can maximize your marketing efforts and resources. You can aim at and organize your marketing around the clients you really want and the services you most want to offer. You will use your time, money and energy much more efficiently and effectively than a haphazard, generalized and exhausting approach that makes you blend in rather than stand out.

Rather than going to numerous random, unrelated, interesting sounding yet ultimately unproductive networking events, spend your time at events involving the target market for your niche. Spend your time identifying and talking to people who are most likely to be good potential clients or good potential referral sources for your niche. Unless you are working on beefing up your credentials, or you get or believe you can get a lot of referrals from other lawyers, don't spend time educating other lawyers through articles or presentations. Focus your efforts and resources on your market niche. Write for and speak to your market.

I know the idea of selecting and developing a niche scares some lawyers, especially newer ones. They think they will lose out on business that might otherwise come to them. But by targeting the specific market niche you want to serve, you are focusing yourself to develop business and you are building a name - a brand - for yourself. If clients outside your niche show up on your doorstep, you can still decide whether to work with them.

If you would like coaching to pick and start developing a niche law practice, please contact me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Leadership & Management Lessons For Lawyers From a Corporate CEO

Here is a link to an interesting interview with Dan Rosensweig, President and CEO of Chegg, texbook rental online & via mail, which appeared in the NY Times' Sunday Corner Office column by Adam Bryant on July 8, 2010.

Rosensweig talks about how he uses management teams to set priorities for the company and create a clear definition of success, how he runs meetings, how he acknowledges star performers, what he looks for when interviewing and hiring, and how he approaches difficult conversations with employees who are not doing the things they need to do to succeed in their jobs.

Take a look and see whether you might apply some of Rosensweig's leadership and management practices to your law firm or company or even simply to managing your legal career.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Career Advice For Lawyers From LeBron James

Hate it or love it, it seems that NBA superstar LeBron James' decision yesterday to leave the Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat boils down to positioning himself to win NBA championships. He knows what he wants to achieve in his career and he knows he needs help to achieve his goal. He looked for teammates and an organization that he thinks will provide the best opportunity to succeed. He made a tough and controversial decision about his own career.

My theme here is not to encourage you to leave your place of employment. Rather, I encourage you to look at how you can best position yourself to get what you want in your career and then have the courage to take the actions to achieve your goals.

If you want to develop a specialty within your practice or firm, what do you have to do first (and then next and then after that), and whose support do you need?

If you want to work with more than just a handful of lawyers within your firm, what can you do about this and who can help you make it happen? If you have tried and failed, what can you do differently next time? How can you match your needs and interests with the firm's needs and interests?

If you want more referrals, how can you expand your network into more meaningful relationships? How can you first provide value to people who are in the best position to give you referrals? How can you make it easier for other people to think of you and remember what you do when they have an opportunity to make a referral?

If you want more clients, who is in your target market and how can you best position yourself in front of your target market? How can you let more potential clients know what legal services you offer? What can be your unique niche? How can you differentiate your legal services from other lawyers' services?

Instead of sitting in your office wishing your phone would ring, or attending numerous yet random and unproductive networking events, figure out what you want, make some decisions, and take action.

As a client of mine said the other day, you're not going to get a hit if you're not in the batter's box. And you won't even get near the plate if you're not in the game. Or, as some say in golf, never up never in.

So take charge of your own practice and career. Make decisions about what you want and start positioning yourself to get what you want.

Get in the game. Step into the batter's box. Give the putt a good roll. Circling back to basketball, be your own point guard. No one else will.

If you would like help figuring out what you want, making an effective plan and/or taking actions, let's set up some coaching. You'll be glad you did, especially since you still have six months left in the year to make this one your best.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Control What You Can

A common theme among some of my lawyer clients is the frustrating and stressful feeling that much of what goes on at work is out of their control.

For example, new or young associates are often given assignments verbally and quickly by partners who need to put out a fire on their way to the next fire. They aren't given clear instructions or enough facts to create a context to properly research the legal question and anticipate related questions and issues. Yet the partners are too busy to properly organize their thoughts before giving the assignment or they later change their mind about what they want researched.

Mid-level or senior associates are so busy billing hours on client matters assigned to them that they have no time to develop a book of business. They are told not to worry about developing a book and that it will come with staying in touch with people and doing good work. Yet they also know that to become a partner, they must have a book of business of at least a certain dollar amount.

Non-equity or "service" partners are called upon by their equity partners for their expertise but aren't given the authority and/or respect to make the final recommendation and decision on the best course of action under the law to serve the client's interests. Or the service partners are called upon too late and are used to put out fires, rather than to prevent fires.

Some equity partners feel subject to every whim of their largest clients and so dependent on those clients' business that they can't create balance in their work week, have time to develop a more diversified client base or have any peace of mind.

If any of these scenarios resonate with you, know that you are not alone. Here is a very basic outline of what some of my clients have done and are doing to have and feel more in control of their days and their careers.
  1. Accept that you can't control other people.
  2. Identify what you can control. ie. How you respond to others, how you react in situations, how you communicate, what you can do proactively, how you deal with distractions, etc.
  3. Make a plan. Write down what actions you can take, and when you will take them, to have more effective control over the things you can control.

For example, stop ceding control over your time management to other people when they interrupt your concentration and commandeer your time by coming into your office while you are working. I have a sense this happens to a lot of lawyers, regardless of the stage of their career. Keeping your door shut all day is one technique but it doesn't stop everyone and it can be isolating and not as pleasant. So try something else. Instead of stopping your work every time someone steps in without asking if you are busy and/or without waiting for an answer, have an answer or question ready.

  • "Yes, I'm working on something right now. Can we talk [in 30 minutes, at 11:30, this afternoon at 1:00?]"
  • "Can this wait until this afternoon? I want to finish what I am working on."
  • "Yes, I would like to work with you on this project and we should talk about when you need me so that we allocate enough time. I have four matters to finish by Wednesday and I don't want to hold up your project if you need it sooner."

If you wish that an assigning lawyer would give you clearer instructions about a research project or motion and brief so that you don't spin your wheels or head off in the wrong direction, or the assigning lawyer doesn't change course on you, consider what you can do to get clarification without asking the assigning lawyer to do more work. How about summarizing the assignment in an email, even like a question presented, and asking for confirmation to make sure that you understand and don't waste time or the client's money?

If you wish to be involved in matters from the start, or you want to handle cases in a more organized way as you move through pleading, discovery, motion and pre-trial stages, consider whether and how to define and communicate what your role will be on the team. Instead of simply reacting to others, think about where and how you can be proactive to create order and have more control over what you do and your role in the bigger picture.

If you would like coaching to start having more control over your work day, practice and career, please contact me.