Thursday, August 31, 2006

Law Firm Partners, Change, and the Internet

Fair warning; if you do not like psychological insights, touchy-feely conversations, move on now. For whatever reason I do not know how to express my experiences about change without involving human emotion.

I lost my internet connection this week. From late Monday evening until tonight; no internet. The cable company was very responsive (TimeWarner) and had a technician crawling all over the next day trying to figure it out. Eventually he determined the problem was at the "hub", which was outside of his jurisdiction. He had to call engineering and they would send a crew out to look at the hub located somewhere nearby... but not here.

The engineering crew came, looked (as I understand from customer service) but could not fix it at that moment. I made calls to check on things but had absolutely no control over the when or how. Especially since they were working on a piece of equipment in a place that was not here. I couldn't even see that they were trying! So three days later... I arrive at home and all the right lights are blinking on my cable modem. They did what they said they would do. Yes!

During the process though was I ever bugged out. The internet has been a part of my routine since 1986 when I registered with Compuserve. I have not had an interruption in access to the internet since I don't know when (unless by choice). To say that I felt the world around me was changing in unlivable ways is an understatement.... Hmmm, I wonder what it feels like when a partner at a law firm does not have access to everything just as it has always been.

The act of "change" is never a simple logical process no matter how brief it is or how large the reward. Change digs at fear, uncertainty, guilt, self-esteem, and loneliness. It can evoke feelings of anger, sadness, guilt and shame. ANY human being feeling any of those things WILL respond protectively.

My lesson: Don't ever forget that as an agent of change I am putting people in the path of emotional unbalance. Remember that I must plan for the emotional journey as well as the strategic one.

Monday, August 28, 2006

RFP's; What is That All About!?

My firm is responding to yet another RFP... not my favorite thing. I did go to the attorney that received it and asked all the right questions. Do we know these folks? Is there any reason to believe we are more than a finger pointing at a list? Is there any good reason to waste resources on preparing a response?

Fortunately his answers were yes to all. We'd done some good work for this company with really good results (like, in the millions). So... respond to an RFP; I'm on it.

My question though about companies that use RFPs. WHY?? This particular company is pretty big with a large internal legal department handling matters and issues all over the country. The only reason I can think of that such a successful company would want to go through the RFP process is:

  1. They have a new General Counsel who wants a thorough recap on anyone touching his/her legal matters.
  2. They have a new General Counsel that wants to cull the herd of counsel touching his/her legal matters.
  3. They have a General Counsel that has been handed an edict on cutting costs.
  4. They have fallen into the snare of a professional services firm that derives billable hours through "best practices" programs.
  5. They have a sincere interest in developing solid relationships with law firms they truly trust to handle their matters.

Because of our recent success handling their work I am optimistic and will go with reason number five; and am really happy to do so. But if you are a GC enforcing an RFP process for any of the other four reasons... Stop it, RIGHT NOW! Taking the attention of your attorneys away from actually solving and handling your legal matters is just not right.

RFPs are overrated and you deserve better.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Never Keep Score in Your Referral Network

Last week I had the pleasure of introducing two (business) people to each other. They hit it off immediately and it looks like they will be able to push a lot of business and opportunities back and forth. Talking with one them later she commented, "I definitely owe you now." I said that I've never kept score and never would. What goes around comes around.

I've worked with people that are definitely keeping score. They purposely withhold referrals until they get something in return and know the numbers in their “referral ledger” at all times. Ooof! What a terrible way to make and keep business friends.

Try not think of passing along opportunities as a down payment or special favor. Think of it instead as an investment. Over time investments will either produce a return, or in some cases none at all. I have on a couple of occasions stopped sharing; no need to keep watering the dirt if grass just refuses to grow. But most of the time I’ve been rewarded with wonderfully productive friendships, great referrals, and solid business opportunity.

So my advice: Don’t keep score. Just keep good friends. The good things you give out will come back tenfold.
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Monday, August 21, 2006

When to Write What About Law Firm Marketing

I have been running the MC Blog since February 2002 and in that time I've posted hundreds of times. Since February of 2004 (when I redesigned the site) I estimate I've averaged between 250-300 words per post. That's a whopping 89,000-106,800 words since February of 2004; almost two books of law firm and professional services stuff roaming around the MC Blog. Phew! I'm exhausted! But not too... (Note to Google: PLEASE upgrade Blogger with catagories so I can find what I've written!)

The hard part of course is always finding something to write about. Thankfully professional services marketing is a growth industry so there should be a lot of new all the time.

On the other hand, I've always found inspiration in what is relevant "right now", but as an active law firm marketer it might not be wise for me to openly discuss all things... like specific information before a campaign is launched, or around challenges for the firm or with the firm while they remain a challenge or remain sensitive.

I recently read a series of posts by another writer who is also a law firm marketer in which he/she (aren't I being cagey) ranted over several days about a particular frustration with partners and politics. If that writer's firm was in my part of the country I would have leapt at the competitive intelligence and gained a client or two, if not many.

Blogging is a wonderful learning tool. To others (and myself) I offer a equally wonderful reminder: Be careful what you teach. (243 words)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Glue that Holds a Firm Together

One of the most intriguing parts of working for a law firm is the opportunity to study the dynamics of the firm culture. Up close, with so many determined and goal-oriented individuals, a law firm is a lifetime of lessons in human psychology, relationships, lifestyles. What I have found, at least with the firms that I have known, is that one individual is the glue that keeps the firm stable and viable. At some firms it is a partner that sets the tone while at others it is a senior staff member. I'm sure this is similar to other service providers and companies. But at a law firm with so many "A" personalities the sudden absence of the "glue" will create a larger wave.

In Southern California I've seen it several times. The person that was the center of stability left (retired or other) and the firm went through a time of internal turmoil. Some firms became stronger in the end while others diminished.

Having witnessed it enough times my advise is for every firm to know, "Who is the glue", and spend time thinking and planning for that person not being there. Is there someone within the firm that can become a righthand? Can they be mentored? Can a plan of transition be agreed upon right now so that the rules of change are in place before change happens. Does the firm need to hire someone?

Change happens. I am at a firm that has had it's "glue" in place for a wonderfully long time. And it shows in the success we've enjoyed. But nothing is permanent except maybe the law of gravity. I hope to bring about the type of planning I've just recommended.
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Managing Sponsorships

For some amount of money a law firm can buy attention by sponsoring an industry or community event. For every level of cash invested comes promotional benefits for the firm. I happen to believe that unless a firm buys at the highest levels of sponsorship the rewards do not return a benefit. That said, I have also found that there are things I require of an event/organization that makes my sponsorship valuable:

  • Sponsorship has to include participation in an event (leadership) committee by myself or a partner of my firm. I’ve found that too often, without biased focus, events lose enthusiasm for their original goal and morph into something less productive for me.
  • Association directors (leaders of the events I sponsor) need to hear my expectations unvarnished. Without clear guidance they will be led astray by lesser sponsors working to accomplish their own specific goals.
  • It is the responsibility of the organization (the organization I paid sponsorship dollars to) to deliver on the event. I can lend my resources, mailing lists, contacts, etc., to assist, but ultimately the organization must be able to deliver. My help should be a benefit, not a necessity.
  • I need to have constant access to event progress. Teleconferences, meetings, email reports, etc. Not only to monitor how things are coming along but also to be able to speak intelligently with my partners when they ask.
  • The organization has to have the event as their most important priority. When organizations have too many competing priorities; I lose.
  • The org/association has a strong identity within the targeted community of attendees. Startup efforts can be fun and adventurous but the goal of my cash investment is maximum return of potential clients; not aid to help build a new audience for an associations membership rosters.
  • Equally strong sponsor members of the event committee to build strong referral relationships
Everytime I step up with firm cash I have a large number of partners watching my every move. They want the security of knowing, or feeling, that I am watching out for their best interests. While I might be a bit tough on event directors I've found that in the end everyone gets the best result.

Went Fishing

I went to Colorado to fly fish and soak up some mountain wilderness; and it was a grand 'ole time. There was a time when I did not take vacations. Holiday weekends was my only extended rest for several years at a time. Boy, do I feel foolish now! The last few years I've discovered how much good comes from taking just a little bit of time to reset my head.

I'm back now... but I can still feel the river water swirling around my legs.

Graphic Artists are Crazy

I might know. I am one. But, not like, "Wooo Hooooo, la la la la la, put me in a rubber room!!" Go online and look at any portfo...