August 2005

This issue contains the following articles:
  1. Client Development: Plan, or Random Acts of Golf and Lunch?
  2. When Selling a Practice, Don't Look Back – Answers to a Post
  3. Who's on YOUR Team?


  1. Client Development: Plan, or Random Acts of Golf and Lunch?

    As the Cheshire Cat observed to Alice long ago, the path you take doesn't matter if you don't know where you're going. That applies to marketing for too many lawyers and law firms. We know we want more clients and more business, so we go to a trade association meeting, invite a prospect to lunch, send out a newsletter, and hope something sticks.

    This scattershot approach is counterproductive. Far more effective is to develop a plan and adhere to it. The two primary ways you can do this are to evaluate your marketing tactics, and the hypothetical client targets they're aimed at.

    First, target your strategies. Make a list of five things you do to market yourself, your department or your whole law firm. Rank them in the order of what has worked best. Which activities bring in the most profitable new clients, develop most referral sources or generate the most inquiries? Your list might read something like:

    1. Networking with other professionals and referral sources
    2. Seminars
    3. Web site
    4. Advertising
    5. PR

    Now cross the bottom two off the list. You need to be ruthless, this is no time for sentiment or favorites. Stop doing them and put the money you've devoted to them back into the top three performers -- the ones with the most bank for the buck.

    Then, target your clients. Create a profile of your ideal client and develop a marketing strategy that focuses on this target, not everyone. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • What characteristics describe your ideal client?
    • What is your client's occupation?
    • What are your client's demographics?
    • Where are your clients located?
    • How do you know when it's a "fit?

    Then, go get 'em! Increase your revenue by five and six figures while everyone else is sitting still, wondering how you flew so high!

    When it comes to the strategies you want to pursue and the targets you want to reach, you can't create them until you conceive them.

  2. When Selling a Practice, Don't Look Back – Answers to a Post

    Selling a law practice was prohibited for decades. Times are changing! California permitted sales beginning in 1989 and the American Bar Association altered its opposition in 1991. Since then, more than 40 states now allow sales of law practices. The legal profession is taking one more step toward recognizing the economic realities of modern professional life. But that raises plenty of thorny questions along the way. Several questions have been submitted to me concerning the issue of selling a practice.

    Question: Can you sell your City #1 law practice, move to City #2, approximately 150 miles away, and then work for a third party in City #2?

    Answer: Yes, providing you don't directly compete with the purchaser.

    Question: Can you sell your City #1 practice and go to work for somebody else in the same city with the same kind of practice that you're selling?

    Answer: Absent a covenant not to compete (which would lead to a violation of contract law), I believe this probably would be OK under the rules of professional conduct since you're selling substantially all your practice. The issue might come up under the guise of retiring from the practice. Jurisdictional rules provide the definitive answer to this.

    Question: Can you sell your current practice and then, 10 days later, decide to start back in your own practice, solicit previous clients?

    Answer: I believe this would be a violation of both contract law and the rules of professional conduct. The code is relatively clear that your intent should be to retire from the practice of law.

    The general thrust of these issues is that you shouldn't venture into selling a practice until you're serious about getting out.

    Remember that 99% of potential business buyers invariably get cold feet and back out before closing. The best way to get ready for this is to anticipate it happening and then to deal logically, reasonably and unemotionally with it.

    That's why I recommend that sellers should retain a professional business consultant or broker for representation when selling a law practice. A professional consultant, involved in selling law practices, knows how to sort through the many non-qualified potential buyers to get to the few who actually do have the means and motivation to buy the law practice. Once the unqualified potential buyers have been culled out, still only somewhere around 50% of these folks eventually buy a law practice.

    NOTE: See my latest book, a compilation of valuation strategy fundamentals for selling a law practice, to be released this month. In the meantime, purchase the current edition, Toolkit for Buying or Selling a Law Practice, and receive the new edition at no extra cost. Call or write for additional information.

  3. Who's on YOUR Team?

    We spend most of our day (and sometimes much of our night) in the workplace. For many, this time is neither creative nor satisfying. For some, this time is almost like a prison sentence.

    Many of the lawyers whom I coach have workplace issues involving their relationships with colleagues, staff and sometimes even clients. With a little help, we're able to cross these berms and become more productive; sometimes we're even able to enjoy our work more.

    Creating the right team is perhaps the greatest responsibility of great leaders.

    Lawyers work hard, spending many hours in their efforts to meet clients' needs and objectives. Their staff must share their work ethic, their values and their belief in the work being done for clients. Without that "congruency," as Roger Herman states, there will be less than a satisfactory work environment, less than a satisfactory result for the clients and less profits for all concerned.

    We deserve to be emotionally as well as financially satisfied from an activity in which we spend so much of our waking hours. (Just my opinion!) And we deserve to have staff and employees equally satisfied with their work environment as part of our team effort to benefit clients!

    More lawyers are coming to the "coaching table" realizing that they need greater peace of mind or a feeling of greater control of their practice. They're not getting it now; their colleagues can't help them and their families don't know how. That's when the coach becomes a key team member, an independent, objective ally who can listen to the challenge the lawyer faces and provide advice based on years experience and years "in the field," as a practicing lawyer.

    In her current Solo newsletter, Terri Lonier writes about Lance Armstrong's fabulous effort to win his seventh and final Tour de France. While a single cyclist may get most of a day's headlines, the Tour is the result of the efforts of not only the eight other riders on a team, but also the dozens of individuals who contribute to the months of preparation and training. That's teamwork; that's what every lawyer needs as the key to practice satisfaction.

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