In 2011, I featured more than 150 resources on this blog. Here are ten of my favorites:
- Eric Fletcher’s “The Quest For A Silver Bullet” on his eponymous Eric Fletcher Blog. Looking for a silver bullet? Yeah, you and every other cowboy who rode into this crowded legal services marketplace. But the truth is that silver bullets don’t exist, for lawyers or anybody else. Success is a function of effort and focus and discipline, not volume and hope and chasing down everything that even remotely looks like an opportunity, whether it sits in your sweet spot or not. And more often than not, success comes from knowing what you cannot do, the work you should not try to land, the opportunities you should not pursue. Fletcher’s post reminds us that saying “no” is an important part of strategies that work. (Maybe the ability to say “no” is the real silver bullet)
- Rees Morrison’s “How to help your law firms understand your business better” on his blog Law Department Management. We’ve featured Morrison’s posts before. They provide valuable insight into what clients are thinking, what they are looking for, what they consider to be problems with the delivery of legal services. Apparently, the ignorance of outside counsel with respect to the business of their clients is one of those problems. But I wouldn’t say that resolving this one is the responsibility of the client (though I certainly understand Morrison suggesting client-based solutions). On the contrary. Knowing their client’s business — what they do, where they do it, who they’re competing with, etc. — is some of the best “business development” a lawyer can do. Read the post. Then read up on your client. They’ll be glad you did. (Think you know your clients’ business? Your clients may not agree)
- Betsy Munnell’s “What Do Blogging and Vegas Have in Common?? ….Building a Niche Law Practice in the Digital Age” on her blog. Marketing and business development weren’t always about blog posts and tweets and Facebook pages. Back in the day, a lawyer did her best networking when she was doing her best work. Munnell’s post reminds us of that, even as she looks at digital tools as a way to enhance your reputation in today’s world, where “personal interaction is at a premium.” Are the good old days gone forever? Maybe. Or maybe you just have to do it differently, to build a reputation online so that you don’t have to start building it from scratch at each and every in-person encounter offline. Either way, your reputation is just the starting point. You always have to earn your stripes the old-fashioned way: adding value. This post reminds us of that. (Earning your stripes at 3:00 am: fixing client problems is the best business development tool ever)
- Michael Chang’s “Luck – It Depends on How You Look at It” at In-house ACCess. This isn’t the first time we’ve recommended a post from Michael Chang. And it likely will not be the last. Chang exemplifies the true nature of globalization: not money moving around the globe or products being made ever more cheaply or the exotic reduced to kitsch and stereotype, but discovery and enrichment and empowerment. He’s a road warrior working out of a suitcase and a hotel lobby, an immigrant learning the language by watching TV, and a California surfer dude all rolled up into one. And he’s a potential client. So when he writes about being multilingual and multicultural, you need to read it. And then get out there and expand your own world. Prepare your own future. Make your own luck. (See the world. Learn a new language. Make your own luck)
- George Wallace’s “Blather. Wince. Repeat. [Mutterings on Marketing]” at his blog Declarations and Exclusions. Although this post starts out a little like The Killers (albeit with less mystery), Wallace only admits to the sins of his past to provide context for his rather unique perspective on legal marketing. And when I say “perspective” I really mean “critique.” Of legal marketing. Of selling legal services. Of the Legal Marketing Association.
So why is this legal marketer telling you to read it? Because the questions Wallace raises are the ones we all–lawyers and legal marketers alike–should be asking. And answering. For ourselves, our clients, our peers, our colleagues. Is legal marketing “as much about the interests of the marketer as it is about anything else”? Are “[t]ime and resources spent selling legal services” truly “time and resources not spent performing legal services”? Are the two always in conflict? Is it naive to think that lawyers need to know how to sell themselves, their skills, their expertise? Or is it naive to think that they never will? Is the raison d’être of legal marketing really “persuading the prospect that he or she needs and wants what is on offer, regardless of whether what is on offer is actually what the client needs and regardless of whether the proffered service matches, in reality, the appealing description offered by the marketer”?
Read the post. Think about how you’re marketing and why. Make it better and everyone wins. Especially the client. (I’m a legal marketer and I endorse this post)
- Dan Hull’s “In Praise of Structure” from his blog “What About Clients?” This post nailed it so well — the working style of this culture, of the BigLaw environment where I learned how to work — that it reached out of my computer screen and slapped me in the face. There’s no guarantee it will do the same for you, but chances are pretty good that it will cause you to think about your work habits, about your project management skills, about the importance of setting deadlines and sticking to them. On every single project you touch. And it will also serve to remind you that no matter what you might read elsewhere, you can count on Hull to tell it like it really is, to tell you what’s really important, to articulate why perfect is the new good enough.(Structure and deadlines. They’re not just for clients)
- Bruce MacEwen’s “Third in Our Series on Strategy: Bad Strategy” on his blog Adam Smith, Esq. Think you’ve got strategy? Then you need to read this post, which is easily one of the best pieces on law firm strategy I have read (and I read a lot of ’em). Law firms are notorious for spending time, money, and resources developing strategic plans that do little more than confirm a broad range of unrealistic assumptions, about the market, the firm, the competition, the potential for increased revenue. Not on purpose, mind you. It just happens. Because they fear dissent if everyone doesn’t have a voice. Because they think if they want something bad enough it will come true. Because good strategy is hard: it requires making difficult choices, admitting weaknesses, setting unpopular priorities. MacEwen’s post can help you break that cycle. If you heed his advice, that is:
“Doing it the hard way-the right way-may be more painful in the short run, but anything else is sure to be far more painful in the long run.” (Strategy as it should be)
- Adam Richardson’s “Lessons from the Three Cups of Tea Controversy” on The Conversation at the Harvard Business Review. I generally try to avoid making connections of the “what folding my shirts in the all-night laundromat has taught me about running a law practice” variety, but I couldn’t help it this time. Because Richardson’s post about the Three Cups of Tea controversy contains a couple of lessons about setting goals and effecting change that law firm leaders need to know. Now more than ever.
Change is hard, often harder than one could ever imagine. The change itself doesn’t have to be significant or even important. Want to implement a new CRM system? Bring greater discipline to your business development and marketing budget? Create an environment where partners regularly talk to each other about business opportunities? It doesn’t matter, because what you’re really trying to do is change habits, culture, and attitudes. And that is hard. Read the post. It doesn’t have the answers, but it will help you better understand the challenges you’re facing. (Trying to get from here to there? It won’t be easy)
- Scott Preston’s “Technology is not your friend – your client is” on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. To honor this week’s release of Google+, today’s post is about using technology, the cutting edge kind, to interact with clients. But it’s not a post about shiny, happy people using shiny, happy tools to foster shinier, happier relationships. It’s more like a giant level-set for everyone who thinks that Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and all of the private and semi-private law practice networks they have joined will automatically give them something they never had before. They don’t. Technology is a tool. And while tools may facilitate communication, they don’t build relationships. People do. Start using technology the right way. It’s a lot more work than sending a few tweets, but in the end, it might actually pay off. Preston’s post will point you in the right direction. (Sorry Google+: a lawyer’s best friends are her clients, not her tech tools)
- Garr Reynolds’ “Dealing with public speaking nerves” on his blog, Presentation Zen. I just discovered this blog (when I read this post) and added it to my RSS feed. You should too. It’s clever, funny, and full of practical advice. Like the content of this post. Public speaking is a great way to showcase your expertise, connect with potential clients, get feedback on your ideas, build your brand. But if you’re like me, you’d rather be sitting in the dentist’s chair than standing at the dais. Reynolds’ post just might help you reduce some of that fear and find your presentation zen. (Finding your zen. In front of a crowd)