Krescent's Client Acquisition and Retention Strategies: What General Counsel Look for in Outside Counsel: Tip 1
Many African law firms serve as local counsel to international firms, providing expertise on local law matters in their jurisdictions. To assist these law firms with their client acquisition and retention strategies, we asked the general counsels at two fortune 500 companies several questions surrounding what they looked for in outside counsel. This week, we will provide the answer to the following question: "What are some things that once hired outside counsel can do to make general counsel particularly happy?"
When asked this question, our first general counsel responded: “Clear communication. If I ask a question over email, I expect a response over email that addresses my question. I'm generally clear about whether I'm asking for strategic or specific advice. It's important that responses address my stated question. That may seem obvious, it isn't so obvious to everyone. I've gotten strategic responses to specific questions. If outside counsel can anticipate issues or offer to advise on related items.”
The second one stated: “Proactivity is key. If the firm is doing more than simply responding to questions or issues that I raise and instead is attempting to issue spot and come up with creative solutions, the firm is making me extremely happy.”
Three elements are central to these general counsel responses:
1. The first is listening. Attorneys must listen to what the client is specifically asking for and provide that to them. Although your off-topic advice might seem, or even be, valuable, if you give your client something other than what they've asked for, they are unlikely to be satisfied. Listen first, understand the request and respond to that. If there is room for elucidation on a particular point or points you can do so following your having provided the initial requested response.
2. The second is anticipating. Beyond responding to a client's specific request, attorneys need also anticipate ancillary and related matters that might impact the client or the client's business. This is not only a benefit to the client from a strategic perspective, but it also affords you the opportunity the showcase your own capabilities and breadth of expertise.
3. The third is understanding. In order to effectively and fully serve your clients, you must have a thorough understanding of the matter (i.e. the deal, transaction, litigation, etc.), client specific issues and the law that supports the client's and opposing parties' positions. Understanding is also an essential component to anticipating and will help ensure your clients' ultimate satisfaction.
In our next publication, we will share insights on what outside counsel can do to make general counsels unhappy.
For help with your law firm's marketing strategy, please contact us.
As the results unfolded in the early hours of November 9, many people sat in shocked horror at what was happening. Reality TV star and real-estate tycoon, Donald Trump, was to be declared the next president of the United States of America despite many peoples’ belief that this would be an impossible feat. So, what happened? How did Donald Trump, a man with zero political experience, win the arguably most powerful political position in the world?
There are several political and social lessons to be learned from Donald Trump’s winning the 2016 U.S. election, but only one will be discussed here: the benefits of effective marketing. In this article, we will outline 7 key marketing lessons learned from soon to be President Trump’s political campaign to win the White House:
Lesson 1: Give your customers and clients exactly what they want. Donald Trump’s marketing brilliance came largely through thoroughly understanding what his potential constituents wanted and promising it to them. He had determined early on that two issues at the core of his constituents’ concerns were illegal immigration and domestic terrorism. As a result, he came out very strong in favor of the deportation of illegal immigrants, the building of a wall along the Mexican border and the denial of entry into America of Muslims. Notwithstanding being critiqued for veering too far from political correctness, in so doing, he provided his constituents with what they wanted. In fact, he was the only one who really heard what this group of people was asking for. Responding directly to their needs initially created loyalty and eventually completed the sale. In your business, you must also determine what exactly it is your customers and clients really want. To determine what that is, ask: What are they missing? What gaps in the market can you fill? What do they care about? What will drive them to purchase what you are offering? Once you find the answers to these questions, simply give it to them, even if (or arguably especially if) it’s never been given to them before.
Lesson 2: Find an untapped, possibly, niche market and cater to it. Part of the reason that people did not think that Donald Trump could win the presidency was that he preached non-mainstream ideologies. Yet, on November 8, a large group of individuals came forward in support of the man who came to represent such ideologies. Why? Donald Trump had found a smaller, largely unrepresented (or at least underrepresented) niche and unwaveringly catered to it. In doing that, he ultimately turned this niche into a pro-Trump movement that gained enough traction to win a U.S. presidency. The takeaway from this is to look at the portions of your potential clients and customers that are not being adequately served and serve them. If done correctly, this niche market can gain enough momentum to eventually become a non-niche, large client or customer base.
Lesson 3: Have a consistent, memorable and focused marketing message that speaks directly to your clients and customers’ wants and needs. Donald Trump determined that his constituents, a large portion of Americans who felt disenfranchised, craved a positive political change that would directly assist them and improve their social and economic situations. Using the brand, “Make America Great Again” as the backdrop for every marketing message he delivered, he was able to propagandize and reinforce a uniform and unforgettable campaign message that made it clear what he stood for (indeed, to the point that he never had to explain his plan for the presidency). In your business, whether it is a start-up or established, you need also consistently communicate your marketing message at every possible opportunity so that your potential clients and customers know precisely what they would be buying in your services or product.
Lesson 4: Make a clear distinction between you and your competition. In marketing and branding terms, this is called differentiation. Donald Trump spent much of his campaign driving the point home that he was simply just not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And despite his lack of clear vision for the country, this worked. Like Donald Trump, you too need to be visibly and clearly different from your own competitors. This differentiation not only lies in the product or services you are offering, but also in the branding and messaging of the company or firm that provides them.
Lesson 5: Rebrand yourself in the image of what your clients or customers are looking for: Donald Trump was once upon a democrat and apparently switched allegiances in 2008 when he endorsed John McCain in his bid for president. Could it be that Mr. Trump, in advance of running for president himself, determined that his best shot at winning was on a republican ticket? If we assume that this is in fact what happened, we can learn the lesson from his rebranding effort and subsequent win that clients and customers are indeed more likely to ally themselves with and buy products or services from an individual or entity whose brand they believe in. In your business, you must also brand based on what your target clients and customers are looking for.
Lesson 6: Show people that others love your product or services. Donald Trump did exactly this in his presidential campaign by making sure he showed and spoke about how many people loved and followed him. He even audaciously stated that he could go on to New York’s Fifth Avenue “and shoot somebody” and still not lose voters (and he might have been right). Beyond showing that he was a “tough guy” (another part of his marketing strategy), this language also told people just how much others loved him and what he was offering, and made many ask themselves whether they should like it too. Clearly when several people asked themselves the latter question, the answer was yes, as evidenced by Trump’s ultimate win. It’s understandable that this worked, however. We’re human. And as such, very few things are as compelling as “other people are doing it”. In your business, find ways to show how much people like your product or services through tactics such as testimonials and watch the number of people who agree with those who like those offerings grow.
Lesson 7: Find ways to obtain free marketing. Being controversial got Donald Trump a lot of extra free advertising space. He was constantly “trending.” By dominating the online social media conversation, he was able to promote his message in many cases for free. In fact, it is said that Donald Trump generated about $5 billion in free media. We believe the takeaway is that you and your business must determine ways to be part of the social media conversation. And to the extent possible, you should find ways to lead the conversation. In order to get free marketing, get on line and speak up.
(See the following chart below to get a sense of what Trump accomplished in terms of free marketing by using his voice, speaking up and giving people what they wanted).
In conclusion, popular vote loss or not, Donald Trump remains the President-elect of the United States and in January, he will be sworn in. Rather than remaining depressed as many people justifiably are, we should start taking away valuable lessons for our own businesses.
For help with your business or law firm’s marketing, please contact us.
Many interesting, and completely viable, marketing ideas circulate in the law firm marketing world. Nonetheless, whether the marketing idea is to host a conference or publish a weekly blog or e-alerts for clients, law firm managers and firm marketing experts need to know whether their marketing efforts are indeed working. In other words, they must determine which of the firm’s marketing activities are actually yielding positive results - new, valuable, clients for the firm.
The key to understanding what’s working and what might be a waste of time and money is to calculate your marketing conversion rates. A marketing conversion rate is the ratio, usually expressed as a percentage, of people (or entities) who become firm clients or, in some cases, request a proposal for services, out of the number of people (or entities) who participated in or were exposed to your marketing activity. For example, from a conference you hosted, the marketing conversion rate would be the percentage of attendees who ultimately became clients or out of the number of people who read a blog entry, how many later became clients.
This marketing metric is one of the most important metrics that help law firms understand whether the money and time they are putting into various marketing efforts are increasing the law firm’s clientele. Marketing activities with low conversion rates need to be reviewed, but reviewed with an open mind.
It might be that such marketing activity is not what your clients or potential clients are interested in. However, it could also mean that it is not the activity or the subject matter that’s the problem, but rather the specific content. Whatever the case, law firm managers will need to carefully assess what changes need to be made based on further market research, such as surveys and other forms of follow-up with participants in the unsuccessful marketing attempt to determine whether the problem is topical, format-based or you are simply not using the right venue or medium to reach your target clients.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned, it is important not to get too carried away by blindly basing marketing decisions exclusively on your conversion rates. Three points are relevant here. The first is, marketing activities might have other benefits outside of new client generation. It is possible that participating in certain marketing campaigns results in the overall improvement of your brand and standing within your legal community by showcasing your law firm’s voice and expertise in a certain area or areas. The second is, it might be that rather than producing clients immediately, some marketing efforts result in clients much further down the line. It is therefore essential that you track all marketing activities to know who has participated so that if later in time it has been converted into a sale, you understand the marketing related genesis of that work. Third is, conversion rates are only part of the story. Firms also need to ensure that its marketing-related undertakings are increasing the number of valuable target clients. In other words, even if your marketing efforts are resulting in high conversion rates, if the type of clients that you are getting are not the type of clients that help you improve your bottom line, you still need to have another look at your marketing efforts to see where changes should and can be made. We will address the return on investment metric in a later post.
For help with your law firm’s marketing, please contact us.
Lawyers, even founding partners, cannot remain at their law firms forever. Legal careers can wind up at retirement, appointment to government office and for other reasons. Many African law firms will one day find themselves having to answer the worrying question of what happens after the principal attorney leaves the firm. In this article, we will discuss the four main ways of ensuring a law firm’s continuity following such departure.
1. The Establishment of “Core Values” and Proper Law Firm Branding: Both the establishment of core values and branding relate to determining and advocating who a firm is and how it wants to represent itself both internally and externally.
· Core values: Core values are a firm’s sustainable and long-term shared principles, beliefs and philosophies that guide how the firm will operate and be managed. These core values should be clearly documented and articulated and inform all management decisions and firm strategies.
· Branding: Branding is the process of determining what a firm represents and how it will communicate that to the world through words, actions and visual presentation. A firm’s brand should also be well documented and articulated and be taken into consideration in all firm decisions and strategies.
· Key to Succession Planning: The firm’s core values and brand should be laid out to and internalized by all members of staff, both legal and non-legal, such that all individual contributors to the firm are aware of and may promote these principals internally and externally. Both core values and brand are important to succession planning in that they relate the firm’s identity to the firm as an institution rather than to any individual therein. If a brand is effectively established and the core values are ingrained into the fabric of the firm, the absence of the principal will not be as detrimental.
2. Recruitment and Hiring Policies: Firms must recruit and hire in a manner that ensures that the firm is attracting talent that not only suits its current needs, but also both enhances the firm’s professional standing and is consistent with future firm leaders' requirements. In other words, firms must guarantee that the attorneys that start at the firm can move up the firm’s ranks and eventually be successful, profitable and well-respected firm owners.
· Policies and Procedures: To safeguard ongoing effective and strategic recruitment in the absence of a founding principal, firms must set up policies and procedures to support recruitment and hiring that clearly outline the academic, experiential and personal qualifications an attorney must have to join the firm and the precise procedures one must follow to intake new attorneys. These policies and procedures are most effectively recorded in the form of a hiring manual.
· Key to Succession Planning: Policies and procedures ensure that when the principal has departed, there remains a pool of talented and qualified individuals who will preserve the continuity of the firm, including the firm’s core values and brand. Such policies and procedures also make it more likely that this pool will continue to grow and develop over time even in the absence of the principal.
3. Training: Training is one aspect of firm management that is often overlooked by law firms and senior attorneys. Once the firm has hired talent that has the potential to lead and grow the firm, it must provide these potential leaders with proper training to turn them into effective leaders.
· Policies and Procedures: Every firm should put into place a structure and policy for training its attorneys. This training should include both practical, on-the-job training, as well as technical skills based training in practice areas and non-practice areas such as business development, sales and professional development.
· Key to Succession Planning: In the context of succession planning, training is not only important to developing leadership skills for future firm leaders. It is also important for retaining the best talent. The firm’s attorneys will value receiving good training, and assisting them to attain such training will not only create better lawyers who will enhance the firm’s brand and product, but also produce lawyers who are more likely to be loyal to the firm.
4. Attorney Incentive Structure and Policy: Incentives typically relate to bonuses, raises and promotions, including promotion to partner.
· Policies and Procedures: Having clear policies and procedures relating to incentives, including under what circumstances they will be granted, is vital in terms of talent retention. In a law firm where fairness and the perception of fairness have been established and where individuals see a clear path to advancement, such individuals are less likely to depart. Compensation and clear and uniform rules regarding promotion, raises and bonuses are essential to retaining the talent the firm has acquired and developed in accordance with points 2 and 3 above.
· Key to Succession Planning: Like training, an appropriate incentive structure, and policies and procedures to support it, are crucial components to attracting and retaining the best talent who will eventually manage and own the firm.
Fundamental to each of these categories is the concept of decentralization. In other words, it is important to avoid concentrating a firm's expertise, reputation, etc. in a single founding partner such that when that partner departs, the firm collapses.
The principal (or you as principal) might not be considering a departure/retirement for many years. However, it is imperative that the firm be proactive and have values and systems in place such that when the principal does move on, the firm can successfully continue. Further, the sooner these systems are put into place and the longer they are established and operating, the more central they will become to the law firm’s business and thus the more likely they will be able to stand on their own. The occasion of a principal’s departure is not the time for succession planning. Planning needs to be done on a long-term sustained basis starting now so that a culture of continuity is established for the firm.
The aforementioned are typical succession/legacy planning related concerns. However, it will be necessary for each firm to independently identify its specific succession issues and plan for them.
For help with your succession planning, please contact us.