Archive for July, 2010

Lawyers and law firms: What you don’t know CAN hurt you

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter and blogger (www.constantcontentblog.com) who works closely with professional services providers – especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations – to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the Web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print.  She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or jeraasch@msn.com.

Almost all client defections are predictable – and therefore avoidable – if only lawyers and law firms possess the right information.

“Information is the power you need to control your reputation and career,” said Shari Harley.  “You never want to be caught by surprise.”

Harley is founder of Shari Harley LLC (www.shariharley.com), a Denver-based training and consulting firm that helps organizations create more candid relationships with clients and employees.  She spoke as part of the July program of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held July 13 at Primebar in downtown Denver.

“Never assume that you know what a client or co-worker is saying about you to others,” said Harley.  “You might think that you are good at what you do and how you do it, but the fact is that you are not the judge.  Your clients and co-workers are the judges.  You are only as good as other people say you are.”

The easiest way to get the correct information about your reputation — how well or how poorly you are satisfying your clients and co-workers – is to ask.  Before asking, you must give the client or co-worker permission to provide honest feedback.

“It is much more comfortable to ask questions about your performance when you’ve laid the groundwork at the very start of any professional relationship,” said Harley.  “These tactics work with clients – and with supervisors, colleagues and direct reports.

“Start off with this statement:  ‘I want to have a great relationship with you.  If I do anything that violates your expectations or frustrates you, please tell me.  I promise that, no matter what you say, I will say “thank you.”’  Grant permission, ask questions and establish expectations up front,” said Harley.

Harley also recommends following up on that statement with a series of “get to know you” questions.  “Asking questions up front is a great differentiator,” said Harley.  “Surprisingly, very few professional service providers actually do this.  It costs you nothing and sets you apart from your competitors.”

Good starter questions include:

  • Do you prefer to communicate via email or voicemail?
  • Do you prefer scheduled appointments or can I drop by?
  • Do you prefer phone or in-person meetings?
  • What do you want to meet about?  How often?
  • What would you like me to be involved with?
  • What don’t you want me involved with?
  • What are your pet peeves in a working relationship?

It also helps to ask a few questions to determine how much a client or co-worker knows about what you do.

“Clients and co-workers cannot turn to you for help if they are unclear about your capabilities,” said Harley.  “Make sure that the people you work with are aware of your talents and skills.  Speak on your own behalf — without being arrogant.”

Good questions include:

  • What am I best known for?
  • What is my firm/practice area/department best known for?
  • What is my firm/practice area/department not known for?
  • What is the best thing about my/our service?
  • How can I/we improve my/our service?

Once you know the preferences of others, it is essential to respect them.  “There is nothing worse than asking for feedback and then ignoring it,” said Harley.  “Keep your word.  Do what you say you will do.

“As the relationship progresses, remind clients and co-workers that you want their feedback, and continue to ask for it,” said Harley.  “Throughout the relationship, ask ‘What am I doing that works for you?’ and ‘What can I do differently?’  Each and every time, remember to respect your promise and say ‘thank you’ for the feedback.”

Finally, keep in mind that great client and co-worker relationships are not established overnight.  “It takes time and consistency – asking for feedback and acting on it — to create the trust that leads to a candid relationship,” said Harley.

“Stop guessing what your clients and co-workers think of you and what they need from you,” said Harley.  “Just ask.  Make clients comfortable about providing honest and direct answers.  Use that information to control your reputation and your career – and guard against almost all client defections.”

Dress to impress: Use your wardrobe to inspire confidence, enhance words

Monday, July 26th, 2010
Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter and blogger (www.constantcontentblog.com) who works closely with professional services providers – especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations – to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the Web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print.  She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or jeraasch@msn.com.

Before we even open our mouths to speak to a new acquaintance, that person has already formed a positive or negative impression of us – based simply upon our appearance.  Even the best of oral statements might not counter a negative first impression.

Research shows that positive or negative impressions are created by what we say (our actual words — 7 percent), how we say it (our tone and enthusiasm — 38 percent) and how we appear (our dress, body language and grooming — 55 percent).

“Verbal communication is important, but non-verbal communication is huge,” said Dana Lynch.  “Lawyers often spend a lot of time planning what they are going to say in the boardroom, the courtroom or at the networking event.  To make the best impression, they should devote at least as much attention to how they appear.”

Dana Lynch is a certified image consultant with Elements of Image (www.elementsofimage.com).  She spoke on “How to take the stress out of getting dressed” as part of the July program of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held July 13 at Primebar in downtown Denver.

Lynch shared her top five recommendations for dressing to impress:

Wear tailored suits and jackets.  “Jackets are your friends,” said Lynch.  “A well-tailored suit or jacket makes both men and women appear psychologically ‘bigger’ and more impressive at first glance.  Suits and jackets do not need to be old-fashioned and boring.  There are many modern and interesting cuts and fabrics out there.

“The research is conclusive,” said Lynch.  “People in suits are perceived as more credible, authoritative, knowledgeable, influential, persuasive and stable than those dressed less formally.  Aren’t these all qualities clients are looking for in a lawyer?”

Don’t show too much skin.  “The eye is drawn to contrast and skin often contrasts with the fabric being worn,” said Lynch.  “You do not want those you are meeting with to be distracted by skin showing on other parts of the body.  You want that contrast to be your face and the focus to be on your facial expression.

“This is especially true for women professionals,” said Lynch.  “Do not wear sleeveless tops.  Do not hint at or show cleavage.  Do not wear short skirts.  Take a clue from men.  Do they show up at the office in tank tops – or even short-sleeved shirts?  Don’t disadvantage yourself in the professional ‘power game’ by showing too much skin.”

Do wear hosiery.  “This is a natural extension of the ‘don’t show too much skin’ guideline, said Lynch.  “Study after study shows that women with bare legs are perceived as less authoritative, less credible and less successful than women wearing hose.  Men wear stockings to the office and to court; so should women.”

Avoid open-toed shoes.  “People really notice shoes,” said Lynch.  “Make sure that your shoes are good quality and in great condition.  Men’s shoes should have hard soles — not black rubber, which can really ruin the look of a suit.  For women, closed-toe pumps are classic.  In the summer, you can stretch the boundaries with a ‘peep’ toe or sling-back.

“Believe it or not, many people are distracted by toes,” said Lynch.  “Avoid open-toe shoes.  You want nothing to distract from your message.  Of course, you should avoid sandals and flip-flops in the office.  They are much too casual.”

Draw attention to your face.  “Choose shirts and accessories that direct attention to your face,” said Lynch.  “Men wear neckties for exactly this purpose.  Women can wear scarves or necklaces.  Earrings should be posts or hoops of an appropriate weight.  You want colleagues to be focused on your face and words – not distracted by your earrings swinging or your large bangle bracelet clanging on the table.”

Lynch also suggested paying close attention to impeccable fit, pants length (neither too short nor too long) and consistency of image from day to day.  Do not follow trends blindly.  Use ‘trendy’ items to judiciously update a classic wardrobe – and to enhance your personal style.

“Finally, hold up your head, look people in the eye and smile,” said Lynch.  “The three elements of image are dress, grooming and body language – and a smile is an important part of body language.”

As a certified image consultant, Lynch helps professionals create an external image that reflects and enhances their internal capabilities.  She helps her clients define their personal style based on personal preferences, body type and professional requirements.  She audits her clients’ wardrobes to determine what works and what does not.  She develops shopping lists to “fill in the gaps” and acts as a personal shopper.

After Lynch’s presentation, managers from the men’s and women’s fashion departments at Nordstrom in Cherry Creek predicted trends for the fall season – illustrated with outfits that they brought from the store.

“For men, we are featuring two-button suits with flat-front pants,” said Matthew West.  “You would be hard-pressed to find a three-button jacket or pleated pants anywhere – even though they set the standard ten years ago.  Lapels and neckwear are also thinner.  If you have these pieces in your wardrobe and want to keep wearing them, take them to a good tailor and have them taken in.”

“Women will find suits this fall in many different shades of grey – as an alternative to black,” said Marin Dornseif.  “Brown has been missing from our racks for quite a while.  Many of these tailored suits feature subtle feminine touches – like a hint of lace at collar or hem.  Also, under these jackets, professional women will wear softer tops with more ‘forgiving’ cap or flutter sleeves.”

Impressions are made by what we say, how we say it and how we look.  Make sure that they way you are dressed supports – rather than detracts from – what you will say.

Does your firm have a firm-wide Facebook page?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I would recommend starting with one Facebook business page for the law firm. They take a lot of care and feeding, so to build more than one at a time might be a monumental task at first. One option is to have it focus on one major practice area, industry group or area of focus in your business and marketing plan, but I would suggest making it multi-focal to start. Your clients and friends need to be reminded what your firm is capable of, so let it cross-sell for you. Try to encourage conversation, an emphasis on your clients’, as well as your, activities, and don’t ever stop creating topics and conversation, and inviting people to come visit through its promotion on all of the social networks you are using.

Does each attorney have their own Facebook page for marketing purposes?

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Facebook accounts or profiles should always be separated in to two different types – personal and professional. How embarrassing it would be to have had a fun night out on the town only to have an embarrassing photo of you tagged to your Facebook page where clients and future clients will view.  We recommend always getting permission from partners or management if you do set up a professional blog, social networking profile or anything else that will use the name of a law firm or company name. Even if the name of the company or law firm is only in your biography. Get it in writing.

Now, if you have a professional law firm or company FaceBook Fan Page or account set up you may want to have your IT staff create the accounts using the employees law firm / corporate email address. That way the firm always has control over the account.

I strongly urge law firms to set up individual Facebook accounts for each member and to advise the of their individual policies such as the purpose, what you will allow and not allow on the Facebook page, and making sure they use them for “law firm” business only. I would encourage the employees or attorneys of the firm to also add friends to their account that would be appropriate and to use care. Also I would encourage them to have their network become “a Fan” of the law firm’s Facebook Fan Page or Account.

There are a lot of legal pitfalls to avoid so we would recommend obtaining advice from employment lawyer that specializes in reviewing employee handbooks and Internet policy to make sure your covered.

Facebook's "Like" Button Effects Lawyer Rankings on FaceBook

Monday, July 12th, 2010
Facebook is developing their own social search engine to provide better placement of those companies, products or service providers who are well received by Facebook users. Facebook’s Open Graph will have attorneys taking note of the value of their law firm “like” button popularity since this may ultimately challenge Google’s dominance as a search engine.

This shift and the ability to communicate credibility has law firms positioning their law firm’s Facebook like icons on high visibility areas of their web pages. This means that lawyer and law firm Facebook fan pages that have the most Facebook users who “like” what they have to offer will appear higher in Facebook search rankings.

Right now there are two different ways that a Facebook user may “Like” your law firm’s fan page. The first technique is by adding a Facebook “Like” link or plug in on your law firm website so that users of your website may click on your law firm’s Facebook’s “Like” icon. The other option to generate more Facebook.com fan page “Like” votes is by creating a fan page within Facebook for your law firm that is separate from your personal Facebook page which gives Facebook users the option to “Like” your law firm.

Facebook has confirmed that there is no difference, at this point, which option is best for placement on its search engine.

So, what does this mean for lawyer marketing on Facebook? It means there is a value to promote not just your Facebook profile, but more importantly to push users, visitors, clients and colleagues to vote or “Like” your law firm Facebook Fan Page. Also, using a dual strategy where you include the Facebook Open Graph API and website/blog plug-ins you will achieve the very best results.  Also, becoming more active on Facebook with a law firm page is am important step toward increased visibility in social search results resulting in more new clients and establishing effective web credibility.

Lawyer Success, Inc. (lawyersuccess.com), has been a leader in solo and small law firm web lead generation since 2003. We help law firms get ahead of their competition through the use of highly specialized law firm Internet marketing techniques. Call the law firm marketing experts at Lawyer Success, Inc. now at (769) 218-6099 or log on to http://www.lawyersuccess.com to learn more about turnkey blogs, social media marketing and other web lead generation solutions for lawyers, attorneys, legal professionals and law firms of all sizes.

What is the point of having a Facebook Page for Law Firms?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

The point of having a face book page for law firms is to keep the public informed of what is going on in the firms practice area. This gives potential clients the confidence that the firm is active and current. What I have found useful is to link both facebook and linkedin to twitter. Post a comment on one and it proliferates through all sites. For longer articles make a post to facebook. The end goal is to keep everyone informed.

Legal Writer Jobs – Work From Home

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Are you a legal professional who aspires to become a legal writer? Maybe you are an attorney or paralegal who is looking to make some extra money or work from home. If that sounds like you, we would like to discuss your qualifications and see if you would be interested in becoming a legal writer for us.

We created a website called Legal Writer Jobs with all of the details. Our company is unlike the rest as we do not outsource our needs to non-U.S. or non-legal professionals. In fact, we are not one to outsource any work, but we really have a need for either a part time or full time legal writer.

Check out the site Freelance Legal Writer Jobs for more information and how to get started.