All Our Practice Tips
OBA TECHxpo 2014
Today is the OBA TECHxpo at Toronto.
My good friend Bob Tarantino and I will be presenting “The Ultimate Guide to Being a Mobile Road Warrior:”
Track 1 — The Ultimate Guide to Being a Mobile Road Warrior
With the right tools you can work on anything, anywhere, anytime. Come to this session to learn how. • Take your office with you • Tablet versus smartphone • iPhone vs Blackberry vs Android • Essential gear and gadgets • Tips for surviving on the road
I’m expecting a lively discussion on iPhones, similar wannabe devices, and the tools lawyers can use most effectively when working away from the office.
The full programme agenda is here.
It’s not too late to register, so join in the fun.
I hope to see your there.
Garry J. Wise, Toronto
Lawyers and Pricing – Part 5
♫ I want you
Do you want me too?
I have one question
Can I help you?
Now watch me, what I do
Now thank you for coming through my drive-thru..♫
Lyrics and Music by: Julian Casablancas, Santi White, Pharrell Williams, recorded by Julian Casablancas, Santigold, and Pharrell Williams.
In the four prior posts in this series, we looked at how price is just one of seven components of the legal marketing mix. Part 2 discussed the product mix – and how changing your product mix may result in a great match between your services and the needs of the clients. Part 3 looked at who was on your team and how they deliver your services – and how this can have a big distinguishing effect on how clients view your services against the competition. In Part 4 we looked at promotion and how this can make your services stand out from the pack. In each of these posts we have looked at how each of these components helps distinguish your services from the competition; services that are distinguishable are priced differently, as they are no longer comparable with the competition.
In this post we are looking at yet another component of the marketing mix – namely the place where you deliver your services. Just consider the range of physical office configurations – from storefront offices on main street to walkup offices to Class A office space in a gleaming skyscraper. Each one of these sends an unwritten message to a potential consumer of legal services. Furthermore, you can practice as a solo, in an office sharing arrangement, an associate or a partner of a firm, large or small. Lawyers can maintain branch offices in the suburbs, in another town, province or state or even another country or continent. You can be a travelling lawyer who attends clients at their places of business, home, hospital, care facility, union hall or even a Starbucks. You can offer handicap access or after-hour access. Lastly but certainly not least, you can maintain a virtual office, using internet technologies to meet, share, collaborate and meet the needs of your clients who could be down the street, across town, in a distant city or even across the world. The range of possibilities are unbounded.
Indeed, bold lawyers have envisioned practising in ways that break the familiar constraints. Axess Law in Ontario has launched law offices that are embedded within Wal*Mart stores in Ontario and offer home, family, business services, legal contracts and notary services in an affordable and approachable context.
The range of offices and services that can be offered from different locations to meet client needs is as open and wide as your imagination. Perhaps one day a lawyer will open an office where a client can receive legal advice right in their car…and the lawyer would say…”Can I help You?” and then conclude with: “Thank you for coming thru my drive-thru…”
-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.
A Beginners Guide to Law Firm Video – Pt 2: Choosing Topics for Your Firm’s Videos
In today’s second instalment of our Video for Lawyers series, SlawTips brings you a Tips vlog on choosing topics for your law firm videos:
Hello, I’m Garry Wise from Wise Law Office in Toronto and Wise Law Blog. Today, I’m using my iPhone to talk to you about choosing topics for your law firm’s videos.
Tip #1: Identify Your Target Audience
Before choosing a topic, decide who your target audience is.
Are you looking to do:
- information pieces for existing clients?
- educational videos for the general public?
- marketing-oriented videos to build your practice and attract prospective new clients?
- perhaps you want to speak to the legal profession as a whole to comment on a controversial issue or even to introduce yourself as a candidate for election as a bencher?
Tip #2: Pick Topics that Speak to the Audience You Are Targeting
Once you’ve decided who your videos are targeting, pick topics that will be interesting to the audience you have in mind.
Tip #3: Demonstrate Expertise
As an example, if you are looking to do marketing videos to attract new prospective clients, demonstrate expertise – use your videos to answer the types of questions that you are typically asked on introductory consultations:
- What are my rights?
- Am I entitled going to be entitled to compensation?
- How much compensation?
- How long will it take?
- How much will it cost to hire a lawyer?
- What happens if I lose?
- Will your firm stay in touch with me?
- How will I be kept in the loop?
These are the kinds of questions that people who are looking for a lawyer have in mind.
Tip #3: Go Deep
A different approach is “go deep.” Take a single topic and do a series of videos, each addressing one aspect of that topic.
For example, if you want to speak about spousal support, you might talk about:
- Who qualifies for support?
- What are the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines?
- How is the amount of support calculated?
- What happens if your circumstances change and you need to change your support order?
- When does support end?
And so on. By doing a series of videos, each focusing on one aspect of a topic, you really demonstrate your expertise, and you let your prospective clients know that you have the ability to handle the kinds of issues that they need to have dealt with when they retain counsel.
A couple of other small points:
Tip #4: Keep it Short and Sweet
Sound bites work better that long soliloquies. Get to the point and get there quickly.
Tip #5: Your Videos Should Be 3-5 Minutes at Most
Try to limit your videos to three to five minutes maximum.
Tip #6: Include a Transcript of your Video in Your Post
Always include a typed transcript in then post in which your video appears.
Tip #7: Make Your Video Title Interesting and Descriptive
As well, make your titles interesting and Google-friendly. Remember, Google is going to index your videos. You want your prospective audience to recognize immediately that your video contains the content that they are looking to see.
Tip #8: Have Fun
Lastly, have fun. The more video you do, the easier it becomes, and the better you will get at it.
So give it a try, and we will look forward to seeing you at the movies!
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)
Lawyers and Pricing – Part 4
♫ That’s why I fell for (the leader of the pack)…♫
Lyrics and Music by: George “Shadow” Morton, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, recorded by The Shangri-Las.
In the three prior posts on lawyers and pricing, we have looked at how price is only one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Part 2 discussed the product mix and how you can change your legal product mix to better meet the needs of your clients in a way that distinguishes your services from those of the competition. Part 3 examined how the people on your team can have a big impact on how your services are delivered. In fact, in Good to Great, Jim Collins said that the most important factor applied by the best companies is that they first of all “Got the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus.” In this post we are exploring how promoting your business can be a distinguishing feature, setting your business up as being different from the competition…allowing you to price your services differently from the competition.
Think about all the different ways that your clients learn about your services. Certainly word-of-mouth is the gold standard of referral marketing, but not everyone who is a client in your firm came in the doors as a result of a personal referral. When it comes to marketing your practice, the one truth is that whatever works today will stop working at some time in the future for reasons that you might never know. Accordingly you need to change up your promotional or marketing activities and keep trying new things. Small changes can have big effects.
Social media is all the rage today and for good reason. Facebook has now reached 1.3 billion people – and that doesn’t include anyone in China! LinkedIn and Twitter are the other members of the “big three” social media networks. Have a look at your Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile and your use of Twitter. You can choose to not be on any of these (after all you can choose how to market your firm and your practice) and if these wouldn’t resonate for you or your clients ..fair ball. What is worse is being there but not having updated anything for some time. This indicates lack of commitment and follow-thru. Same goes for a blog – I personally find blogging to be one of the easiest and more effective way for a young lawyer to establish themselves and their expertise in the market, if done consistently and well. Combine a blog with your thoughtful use of twitter on developments in your legal area of choice and you can become known as an authority in short order. For a great overview of how Canadian lawyers are blogging see the Clawbies website – the Canadian Legal Blog awards. You can be as creative as your imagination will take you..provided you still stay within the marketing ethics of your jurisdiction.
If social networking is not for you, there are a host of more traditional marketing methods. In person presentations and webinars are one way to get known and demonstrate your knowledge of your area of practice. Financial institutions are always putting on presentations. If writing is your thing, then offer to do a regular column in a local or community newspaper (you can then reuse these articles in a blog or newsletter). You can clearly show your involvement and interest in local affairs, schools, sporting events, churches and other organizations and help them – thereby building your presence in the community.
Whatever you do, try to ensure that your marketing makes you stand out from the pack. After all that is its purpose – to show that you are different from the rest. You want your clients to have fallen for the leader of the pack.
David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.
Civility, Forgiveness and the Book of Life
The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, is upon us. On behalf of all Slaw Tips writers, l’shana tova – have a good year – to those of our readers who are celebrating. A happy, healthy and prosperous 5775 to all.
Now, while I am by no means a pious person, I would like to reflect a bit on this important holiday’s lessons.
It is customary at this time of the Jewish calendar for each person to take stock of his or her actions, and to seek – and offer – forgiveness for the wrongs committed, intentionally or inadvertently, personally or professionally, in the year gone by.
This process, which culminates after ten days on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is among many things, an exercise in spiritual and moral cleansing, with the elimination of grudges and personal disputes a critical objective, as this commentary on a parable notes:
But my rabbi’s take was different. A misunderstanding had needlessly caused a terrible rift. “Never hold a grudge. By the time you’re ready to forgive, it may be too late.”
His message to us was clear: How can we expect God to forgive us when we refuse to forgive others?
(There have been serious technological advances in the art of seeking forgiveness, I should note. The “forgiveness request” of this millennium could arrive via email, text or even Facebook)
Now, the legal profession has no similar process whereby practitioners are mandated annually to reach out to our colleagues to seek and offer forgiveness for any offense or insult caused through our adversarial encounters in the year gone by.
Maybe that’s a shame. Given all the talk we hear about incivility, an annual, enforced timeout and “make-nice” intermission in the supposed “contact sport” of litigation might not be such a bad idea.
Aside from the few, truly bad apples among us (who simply can’t control themselves), I suspect that most instances of incivility between counsel arise from an unintended escalation of ill-will between practitioners who, in good faith, have simply been trying to do their jobs well under heated circumstances that unfortunately have caused interactions to get “personal.”
There is a way to break the cycle of acrimony, when it emerges.
Discuss it directly with your adversary. Be direct, take responsibility and confront the situation objectively with a view to diffusing the conflict:
“Obviously, we aren’t getting along here. The judges aren’t going to appreciate this and we certainly aren’t doing our clients any favours by bickering.
I’m sorry that I have offended you, and I am sure the feeling is mutual.
Can we work together to get this back on track?”
Which brings me to Today’s Tip:
Seek and offer forgiveness in our professional lives when our adversarial feathers are getting a bit ruffled.
Now there’s a concept. And there’s no time like the present.
In the Jewish tradition, the outcome pursued through this annual process of reflection, cleansing, atonement and forgiveness is inscription in the book of life, or good fortune and well-being in the year ahead.
I’m sure we’d all be happy to have a bit of that in our personal lives – and in our professional practices.
So a closing wish to you all: Gmar Chatimah Tova – May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)
Lawyers and Pricing Part 3
♫ Well, rave on it’s a crazy feeling
And I know it’s got me reeling
I’m so glad that you’re revealing your love for me…♫
Lyrics and music by: Shaun Ryder, Paul Richard Davis, Mark Philip Day, Paul Anthony Ryder, Gary Kenneth Whelan, recorded by Buddy Holly.
In the prior two posts on lawyers and pricing, we have been discussing the issue that price is but one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Part 2 discussed the product mix and how you can change your legal product mix to better meet the needs of your clients in a way that distinguishes your services from those of the competition. In this post we are exploring how important the people who deliver your legal services are and how this can be a distinct competitive advantage.
All of us have experienced situations where your first contact with a business is with someone who just makes you feel like looking after you is the most important thing for them to do in their day. I had that experience today – I called a law firm and spoke to an assistant who, when I asked to speak to her principal, said in the most caring voice: “Well, he isn’t in his office right now but let me go out and round him up for you.” This was my very first contact with this firm and this wonderful lady didn’t know me from Adam. The way she made me feel was simply amazing. She made me feel valued and important. I recognized her exceptional people skills and thought about how she was a tremendous asset to the firm.
In Good to Great, Jim Collins said that the most important factor applied by the best companies is that they first of all “Got the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus.” In other words, your ability to select, recruit, train and retain the best people with the skills and abilities to do the job right is more important than everything else put together.
The Spectacled Marketer says:
If a customer feels their expectations of your business are exceeded, then the chances of a referral are exponentially increased because their loyalty to your company is exponentially increased as well!
You need to strive for your clients to feel exceptionally satisfied so that they rave about your services. How do you exceed your client’s expectations? The first step is …hold on now…ask them! Yet lawyers and law firms *shudder* at the thought of asking clients three simple questions:
- What did they like about the firm’s services,
- What didn’t they like, and
- How could the firm firm do it better.
If you find out that there is someone on your bus that shouldn’t be there…you have a decision to make. If you find out that you have someone on your bus who is simply exceptional and is a tremendous asset to your firm, make sure you recognize and reward them accordingly!
In considering the marketing of your practice, consider how the people in your business can either make your clients rage on, feel indifferent, feel satisfied or preferably, rave on about your services. Your client service can be a strong distinguishing factor as compared to your competition. In terms of your marketing mix, strive for having very satisfied clients showing their “love by raving on about you!”
-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.
A Beginner’s Guide to Producing Law Firm Videos – Part 1
This edition of Practice Tips is inspired by last week’s launch of LegalTube.ca, a new online portal showcasing videos by Canadian lawyers on a wide range of law-related topics and practice areas.
Is it time to release your own law firm’s inner Cecil B. DeMille?
Or more directly, should your firm be creating online video content as an educational and marketing tool? An October 2013 Globe and Mail article by Lisa Ostrikoff makes a strong business case for doing so:
The Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report shows the majority of North American small businesses and big brands are focusing on video as a critical content marketing element. Enterprise marketers use it more than any other approach, with 71 per cent of small businesses incorporating it into their strategies
Fuelling the fire of the online video content marketing revolution is the increasing use of mobile. A recent Invodo study discovered mobile consumers are three times more likely to view videos than laptop or desktop users. Simply put, videos are quicker and easier to digest than text-heavy content. Video also enables your brand’s content to stand out from the online clutter. The data backs this theory up: ROI Research reports users interact with content that incorporates video at twice the rate of other forms of content.
What does this mean for your business? Video content marketing is all about creating a memorable visual representation of your brand. For it to be most effective, you need to learn how to use this storytelling medium effectively and incorporate it into your content strategy, much as you would with blogs or articles. While not all video needs to be heavily produced, it does need to be polished to a level at which it aligns with your brand and its messaging.
As daunting as it may seem at first, the technological revolution has blessed us with many tools to self-produce and broadcast law-related video at minimal cost.
High-definition video cameras that connect via USB to your laptop or computer are readily available in the $100.00 range. Free video-editing software, like Windows Movie Maker, can be used to snip superfluous raw footage and take your video to completion with the addition of digital zooms, effects, titles and credits.
For the DIYer in a hurry, most smartphones and tablets are equipped with high-quality cameras that allow your firm’s video-selfies to be created and published to YouTube or Facebook in mere minutes.
And of course, numerous options exist to have your firm’s video offerings professionally produced. Google “legal marketing video production canada” for some of the contenders.
However you choose to get there, consider adding video content to your firm’s website and blog. Your audience awaits.
In subsequent posts in this series, we’ll have some tips on:
- choosing topics for your firm’s videos
- production do’s and don’ts
- on-camera presentation hints
- editing techniques, and
- publishing and promoting your law firm videos.
See you at the movies.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto (@wiselaw on Twitter)
Lawyers and Pricing – Part 2
♫ Keep moving, never stopping sharks
Music, lyrics and recorded by Further Seems Forever.
In the first column in this series we dealt with the issue that price is but one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Unfortunately many lawyers (and clients) tend to overly focus on price and not appreciate the other 6. The theme of this post will be to look at the product mix and the role that it plays in marketing (and pricing!) of legal services.
One law firm is different from another in terms of the mix of services that they can provide. My colleague and friend Bob Denney produces a “What’s Hot and What’s Not” report several times a year that I repost on my blog Thoughtfullaw.com with his kind permission. This report shows what services are in demand, what are staying neutral and which are declining. The importance here is that if you can be nimble, you can change your mix of legal services. Staying with the same mix of services can result in stagnation. In fact, Woody Allen in one of his movies once said:
“A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to move constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark”
The one thing that you don’t want to be as a law firm is a dead shark.
So survey your clients – do external reviews of what services are in demand, look at what industries are on the upswing in your area and think about how you can provide needed legal services to them. Compare your marketing mix of services to your competitors and see how you stack up. Eventually what you are doing will grow old in the eyes of the consumer – you need to change things up – complacency is the enemy of success.
If you can offer a unique mix of services that are more closely aligned to the needs of your clients, then you have moved from competing solely on price to being able to distinguish your services from those offered by the competition and show to the clients that you are doing a better job in terms of meeting their needs than the competition. The clients could say “Yes we could move to Dewey Gottem & Howe, but they don’t do what Werk, Worke and Wourke do for us…” You have moved from competing on price to competing based on the perceived value of your services from the viewpoint of the client. You have become a moving, never stopping shark…
David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.
Lawyers and Pricing – Part 1
♫ Zoom Zoom Zoom ♫
A Capoeira song performed by Jibril Serapis Bey.
When it comes to legal services, it seems that many law firms see price as the sole basis for competition. However from a marketing perspective, price is but one of seven criteria that make up the ‘marketing mix’ for services. Since legal services are ‘intangible economic goods’ lawyers have to sell the perceived benefits of their services and see how they match up against the needs of the clients. All other things being equal, clients evaluate services on price. But this assumes that you are delivering commodity-like services that are largely indistinguishable from those offered by the competition.
If you can distinguish your services from the competition and come closer to meeting the discerned needs of the client as compared to the competition, you are now engaged in a differentiation marketing strategy. This is based on Michael Porter’s work at Harvard Business School.
From this matrix, you can see that there are two major determinants of how you market your practice. The first is whether you appeal to a large target market or a smaller one. The second criteria is whether you choose to compete on price or on differentiating or distinguishing your services from the competition. The focused differentiation strategy seeks to market niche legal services to a target market. There is another factor at work here. Distinguishable legal services have a higher margin as compared to cost-focused strategies.
As you start to think about how to distinguish your services from those of the competition you move from thinking about the ‘reference value’ of your services (your price compared to the price of competing services) to the ‘differentiated value’ of your services (how the quality and method of delivery of your services compare to the competition).
When you start thinking of how this is done in other markets, for example in the automobile market, you see that autos can take you (and others) and transport them to new locations – that is their function and on this level they are commodities. Every auto sold does this. What distinguishes one auto to another can be neatly summed up in the phrase used by Mazda: “Zoom Zoom”….
In subsequent columns we will explore each of the 7 components in the service marketing mix and what they mean for lawyers.
–David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.
Start the Year Off Right
♫ All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you
Oh yeah, well it’s true… that
I was made for you…♫
Lyrics and music by Phillip John Hanseroth, recorded by Brandi Carlile.
The beginning of September is always the start of the new year for me. Perhaps it was so many years spent in school and the inevitable association with the start of the newly-minted school year. Perhaps it is coming back from a summer vacation refreshed and invigorated and with new energy for projects. Perhaps it is because I have been talking to many people who have plans for when they get back in September in terms of branding and setting a new strong strategic direction for their firm.
Either way, I believe that September is a wonderful time to refocus, regroup and decide the future direction of your practice. What changes would you like to see? Over time law firms can lose their focus on their core services – what do they do best. They can also lose touch with their core values and their strategic direction as they take on new files and clients that pull them in new directions. September is a perfect time to sit back with your colleagues and think about where the firm is going. Do you wish it to explore new opportunities? Or are you being pulled into areas that no longer represent the reasons you formed the firm in the first place? What is gnawing on you about the firm? What would you like to change from both a firm-wide and personal perspective? Start a list..and have your colleagues do the same – and arrange a time (on a weekend) to hone in on all this and come to a consensus on where all of you would like to go.
Come together and discuss the firm..its direction, focus, what makes it special and distinct – and what should be the future direction of the firm. What is your story? Have you been drawn away from the clients, activities and associations that drew all of you together in the first place? What is your marketing focus for the next while? What would you like to change regarding the management of the firm? What about technology? Have you fallen a bit behind in this area and need to incorporate plans for upgrades and new ways of doing things? Are there categories in the finance area that you would like to tighten up, such as the collection of old accounts receivable and the tightening up of credit extended to clients? How about looking at your budget and seeing if the expenses in the group “we have always been paying this” should be looked at again if for no other reason to see if there are other vendors who might be less-expensive?
Personally I think one of the important measures is whether you have remained a ‘client-focused firm’. My late colleague and friend Milt Zwicker’s acid test was whether what was done in the firm provided value to the clients – or not. If not he would change or modify the policy or procedure so that it benefitted clients as much as possible.
I think focusing on the story of the firm and how it carries you into the future is also important. This is the culture, the invisible bond that draws all of you together and forms the backbone of the belief system of the firm. Organizations can change their culture and focus, but the story is the glue that connects the past with the future and tells why you are where you are. It is important to connect with the story of the firm, since after all, the firm was made for you to be able to provide value and meaning to your clients.
-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.