Articles from June 2010

Is your brand stereotyped?

on 29 June, 2010 Comments Off on Is your brand stereotyped? -

Frequently solicitors gain reputations in one field when they would also welcome work in several others to keep their offices busy. Few solicitors have not been exasperated to find a client has used another firm, for work they could have done, through the client’s mistaken perception of their abilities.

Maybe you are a solicitor who rejoices in your specialism – you have carved out a niche practice and people beat a path to your door. This article is not for you. This is for solicitors for whom the words “I didn’t know you did that.” are the sound of fees going to another firm.

Article Categories: Business development,Law Firm marketing,Marketing planning
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Increase Productivity – Ensure your Solicitors are Stressed in a Good Way

on 24 June, 2010 No comments yet -

The legal profession is a highly stressed industry, particularly in city based law firms. Often we know we feel under pressure especially when a looming deadline leads to a lack of sleep, poor eating habits and little more physical exercise than walking to the coffee machine.

When the coaches and consultants at Coach London spend time with solicitors it is rare that stress does not rear its head in one form or another, which is no surprise. However, what is surprising is that many law firms do not recognise the symptoms and therefore when to take stock….

Article Categories: Business development
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Do Solicitors’ Practices have a value?

on 23 June, 2010 No comments yet -

In the first of four articles, CoreLegal founder member Ray Fox (from the Bottom Line Consultancy) introduces us to his specialist work as acting as a broker selling Law Firms.

A few simple questions for you. Do Solicitors’ Practices have a value and, if they do, how do you value them and who would want to buy them?  Easy questions to ask but very difficult to answer.

I hope the following will give you some background to my experience of working with the Legal Profession.  Firstly, I am NOT a Solicitor – I am a Chartered Secretary.  I climbed the greasy pole of industry and commerce through the Company Secretarial route.

For 8½ years I worked for in the Engineering industry, initially as Assistant Company Secretary and then as Company Secretary of a £50M lift engineering Company…

Article Categories: Selling law firms
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‘Do solicitors value their reputation as a marketing tool?’

on 16 June, 2010 No comments yet -

The following statement was made to me by a solicitor  ‘Clients often do not fully understand what they are buying, hence any client review is meaningless’.  I take the opposite view  – It is because clients don’t know exactly what they’re buying that they rely on reviews from others. A few observations:

  • People will ‘buy’ on reputation but many law firms don’t seem to want to ‘sell’ themselves on that basis.
  • Is this part of that strange paradox where collectively solicitors seem sometimes not particularly highly thought of; but individually, between the client and the solicitor, the trust is absolute.
  • The bigger picture must be ‘How to leverage the role of the trusted advisor?’ to engage more regularly with clients and potential clients by providing services that clients would be happy to purchase from their legal advisers.
  • Competing on price makes no sense at all and client’s perceptions of value are certainly not just about the cost of legal advice.

I have had some feedback elsewhere to this topic but having this opportunity to widen the debate, I would be most interested to hear your views.

To compare or not to compare…

Declaring an interest here (another role of mine is as MD of the free online interactive solicitor directory  legallybetter.com ) I am of course keen to find out the views of solicitors on this topic. With that in mind I approached Paul Bennett, from Bennett’s Legal in Shrewsbury commented:

“We are very client focused and solutions driven and that really sets us apart from our competitors.  Comparison sites are one of a series of ways of getting this across. No one method will work alone but I felt now is the time to explore the new communication opportunities.”

As a backdrop to this it may be useful to remind solicitors about the results from a YouGov survey published in The Law Gazette last November which showed that ‘More than 60% of the public cannot name a single law firm… even though 78% have used a solicitor before.’

I believe the survey results made clear that there has never been a better opportunity to promote your reputation and your brand to potential new clients looking for legal advice. The brand ‘solicitor’ is a valuable one – the implied trust and relationship that develops between a client and their legal advisor should be a great source of competitive advantage.

A planned approach to marketing and your communications strategy is the key. Not just a ‘we need an advert, deadline yesterday’ but effectively using the internet and online networking tools can greatly enhance the presence of your firm in your target markets, as well as your firm’s reputation.

Article Categories: Law Firm marketing
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Why should solicitors use Accounts Specific software?

on 14 June, 2010 No comments yet -

As Ben Franklin remarked, nothing is certain but death and taxes. These days, the tax collector no longer sends troops to pillage your house and family, she just demands exact accounting records in the “prescribed” format. Being model citizens (well, most of us), solicitors comply with all these rules and regulations.  Most of us keep our accounts on a professional, SRA compliant accounts package.

But some of us still struggle on with a manual or spreadsheet system. I sometimes wonder why – the process can be laborious and time intensive.  Of course, if you are happy with this method then maybe a software package is not for you.

But, consider this – if you invested two weeks in marketing and client relationships, would it bring in additional business?  Are all your cards up to date, showing the full history of the office and client transactions? Can you do proper “double entry” with just one posting?  Are you able to get last months balances at the touch of a button?  Do you know the profit on the business for the year? Or for the last few months? And have you got any residual moneys on old transactions? Have you transferred all the bills due?

This is before we consider the regulations – VAT has to be recorded and sent to HMRC. And at the year end, all the balances have to be tidied up and made ready for the annual audit. Bank reconciliations need to be made, and kept, every month. Occasionally, for whatever reason, you will have substantial moneys held for a period of weeks. Is interest due? Or not? Can you push a button to find out?

So, in summary, if you want to reduce your workload while increasing productivity and satisfy the taxman into the bargain, then maybe it’s time you invested in an accounts specific software package. There are lots of very good systems to choose from but, for heavens sake, do choose one of them.

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What is actually meant by a business development campaign?

on 9 June, 2010 No comments yet -

The first in a series of articles to help you build a strong, strategic foundation for one of the greatest challenges facing law firms.

THE RIGHT STARTING POINT, THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Successful business development is about managing a process and getting the best out of those involved. To maximise a campaign’s chances of success, however, consider a few fundamental questions first.

•      Are you looking at attracting new clients or getting more from existing ones?

•      Who will be taking responsibility for this in your firm?

Obvious questions maybe, but often overlooked. And one reason they are often not addressed is because of a prevailing attitude within many law firms towards business development – you may recognise some of them.

SPECIFIC ISSUES FOR LAW FIRMS

There are some particular issues for law firms

•      Some may feel that fee earning is more vital and that ‘Lawyers shouldn’t have to do this’. But, fee earning must be supported by business development to maintain its growth.

•      Within the firm, there may be a lack of awareness of the sales process or difficulty in differentiating the firm’s services from others.

•      Some may consider people to be ‘my clients’ rather than ‘the firm’s clients’. Inadequate training in business development techniques is also quite common. And, indeed, some may simply feel that their resources are too limited to put business development on the agenda.

•      Understanding the process of building a relationship from prospects through potential clients to advocates for your firm is key to success. Your marketing programs should reflect this and the messages you communicate should be suitably differentiated as the relationship progresses.

‘THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB’

A client relationship goes through a number of stages requiring different messages as the relationship progresses and here are examples of the specific marketing messages on this relationship ladder.

GROUP ACTIVITY CATEGORY SPECIFIC MARKETING ACTIVITIES
Prospects Raising profile Networking, advertising, PR, sponsorship
Contacts Specific Marketing Direct mail, newsletters
Potential Clients Demonstrate expertise Seminars, submit tenders, hospitality
Clients Sell your services Targeted proposals, focused hospitality
Advocates Active dialogue Bespoke activities, joint seminars, events

Article Categories: Business development,Law Firm marketing,Marketing planning
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