I really love this business card.
Some advice for clients that should be on every lawyer’s wall:
You can buy it from Mr. Cup here.
This is worth a few moments of your time today:
Alan Watts on passion and purpose:
I ran across this chart in a fascinating article on the the decline of analog photography and was struck by how a disruptive innovation (digital cameras) can change an industry (analog film) without changing consumers’ underlying behavior (taking pictures). It also made me wonder about the wisdom of those who assert that clients’ continuing need for legal services is an accurate predictor of those same clients’ need to hire lawyers.
I don’t believe that it is.
Should you ask your clients (or opponents) to attest to the truth of a document before they complete it? New research suggests yes.
Tax collectors and insurance agencies trying to boost honest reporting could improve compliance simply by asking people to sign their forms at the beginning instead of at the end.
That’s because attesting to the truthfulness of the information before a form is filled out tends to activate people’s moral sense, making it harder for them to fudge their numbers after, says a new paper.
“Based on our previous research we knew that an honour code is useful, but we were wondering how much the location mattered,” says Nina Mazar, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Prof. Mazar co-wrote the paper with Lisa L. Shu of the Kellogg School of Management, Francesca Gino and Max H. Bazerman of Harvard Business School, and Dan Ariely of the Fuqua School of Business.
Their conclusions were supported in three separate experiments. The largest, involving more than 13,000 U.S. auto insurance policy forms with over 20,000 cars, showed customers who signed at the beginning on average revealed a 2,428 miles higher usage (3907 km) than those who signed at the end – more than a 10% difference. The researchers calculated that added up to a $48 or more differential in the two groups of customers’ annual insurance premium per car.
Previous research has shown that people can use various forms of self-deception to avoid facing up to their own dishonest behaviour. But if their self-awareness is triggered before they are presented with an opportunity to lie, they are less likely to do it. Asking people to sign an honour code afterwards comes “too late,” says the paper.
Maybe it is time to move our signature lines to the tops of contracts from the bottom.
My daughter Grace’s fourth grade class is collecting postcards from around the world. If you’d be kind enough to send one to her school, we’d both appreciate it.
The address is:
Ralph M. Captain Elementary 4H, attn: Grace Homann, 6345 Northwood, Clayton, MO 63105
What would happen to your firm if potential customers could easily find out how much your services have cost previous clients? Would it change their buying behavior? How about your pricing strategy?
Check out Clear Health Costs, where patients share how much they paid doctors for various procedures.
Never going to happen to lawyers? For some, it already has:
I start by writing down my assumptions about what my users care about.
Then I ask, “Would my mom ever say these things out loud?”
If the answer is “no,” then my assumptions are probably a stretch. I need to try harder to get at the kernel of beautiful truth. I keep going until my assumptions all sound like something my mom would actually say out loud.
Instead of using some stodgy, cookie-cutter, marketing-speak language about how she offers “cutting-edge services designed to meet her clients’ diverse business goals,” she takes the things her clients want, and puts them in her mother’s words:
- I don’t want to feel stupid
- I want to hire people I trust
- I want to have a say in the final product
- I want to feel valued
- I’m nervous about this decision
The last few months, I’ve been working on something pretty cool. It is several weeks away from the full light of day, but here’s a preview:
More to come in October…
I think this Henry Ford Quote also applies to legal advice:
If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.
When’s the last time you’ve had a client that’s hired you to do everything your website says you can do?
I’m even more proud to say that the list includes more than a dozen friends and colleagues I’ve met in the decade I’ve been writing this blog. Thank you Fastcase!
I recently spoke at the Creative Alberta Conference on how to sell “creativity” to businesses. Here are my speech and slides:
I absolutely love this advice for writers from Ira Glass, designed by Sawyer Hollenshead:
If you’d like to order it, you can do so here.
What do you do when people working for you make mistakes? At Etsy, they hold a “blameless” post-mortem meeting where the mistake-maker can explain what — and most importantly why — they did what they did, without fear of punishment or retribution.
Over on Etsy’s Code as Craft blog, they explain:
Why shouldn’t they be punished or reprimanded? Because an engineer who thinks they’re going to be reprimanded [is] disincentivized to give the details necessary to get an understanding of the mechanism, pathology, and operation of the failure. This lack of understanding of how the accident occurred all but guarantees that it will repeat. If not with the original engineer, another one in the future.
And here’s how they view the traditional cycle of name/blame/shame:
- Engineer takes action and contributes to a failure or incident.
- Engineer is punished, shamed, blamed, or retrained.
- Reduced trust between engineers on the ground (the “sharp end”) and management (the “blunt end”) looking for someone to scapegoat
- Engineers become silent on details about actions/situations/observations, resulting in “Cover-Your-Ass” engineering (from fear of punishment)
- Management becomes less aware and informed on how work is being performed day to day, and engineers become less educated on lurking or latent conditions for failure due to silence mentioned in #4, above
- Errors more likely, latent conditions can’t be identified due to #5, above
- Repeat from step 1
Instead of assuming the cause of the mistake is incompetence, they decide instead “to take a hard look at how the accident actually happened, treat the engineers involved with respect, and learn from the event.”
How refreshing! Do you do a “blameless” post-mortem with your employees (or even clients) when something goes wrong?
I think this pretty well sums up 99.9% of lawyer ads in the Yellow Pages.
Once you’ve conquered your life’s story, how would you use six words to share your firm’s purpose?
Helping smart people think together better.
Give it a shot, and leave your six words in the comments below.
From the site The World’s Longest Invoice:
In just one week, thousands of freelancers found out that they’re not alone — and that they’re still owed over $15 million for their work. If you’ve been stiffed by a client, post your story to put a face on the staggering numbers.
Wonder how many unpaid legal bills we could add up in one week?
I just got back from Avvocating, where I spoke on using Client Service Design to guide lawyers’ social media strategy. I also hosted a panel of practicing lawyers who shared how they’ve used social media to find new clients and serve them better.
One of the panelists, Tyson Snow, wrapped up the first day of the conference on his blog and had these nice things to say about me:
Matt Homann is one of the best presenters I have ever seen. That guy is nails on stage. The combination of humor, entertainment, and quality content mixed with his presentation style and skills went unmatched. I would recommend him to any firm or organization looking for a consultant or a speaker for any event. This guy is legit. I can’t wait to see him present again.
Next time you’re contemplating ways to serve your clients better, do your thinking from their side of your desk. You’ll get a whole different perspective (physically and mentally) by literally sitting where they do.
Check out all of Tom Fishburne’s tremendous work-themed cartoons and blog posts.
Some great advice on getting and finding (design) clients in this piece from A List Apart. One of the sections was particularly worth sharing:
Be Pleasant, Don’t Be Nice
We once received a call from a gentlemen who said, “[redacted] referred me to you. He said that you wouldn’t be shy about telling me I was wrong, you’d probably piss me off, and that I should listen to everything you said because it would work.”
I was delighted.
That said, you should aim to be pleasant to work with, as everyone would rather work with someone pleasant than with an asshole. But no one wants to work with someone who’s faking it. Doing good work often requires a few hard conversations.
There’s a difference between being enjoyable to work with and being “nice.” Being nice means worrying about keeping up the appearance of harmony at the expense of being straightforward and fully engaged. Sometimes you need to tell a client they’re making the wrong call. Part of client services is being able to do that without coming off as a dick. But being afraid to do it because you’re too invested in being “nice” is worse than being a dick.
No one is hiring you to be their friend. They’re hiring you to design solutions to problems. But if they can get the same solution from someone who’s pleasant and someone who’s a jerk, they’ll go with the former.
Here’s my presentation from last month’s LexThink.1 event on client service design:
and my slides from the presentation:
Let me know what you think!
If you’re doing something innovative in the law practice arena, you need to know about the InnovAction Awards:
The InnovAction Awards is a worldwide search for lawyers, law firms, and other deliverers of legal services who are curretly engaged in some extraordinary innovative efforts. The goal is to demonstrate to the legal community what can be created when passionate professionals, with big ideas and strong convictions, are determined to make a difference. Each year, we present the coveted InnovAction Awards to those unsung heroes and rising stars within the legal profession who dare to think differently and succeed by doing so.
The entry deadline is June 1, 2012. You can learn more and download an application here (.pdf).
What if every question you asked your customers was multiple choice? And every question had an “I’m confused” option. How often would your customers choose that option?
Giving your clients the time to understand what you’re telling them and an easy way to indicate their level of comfort with the information is a tremendous idea.
However, instead of asking them if they’re “confused” — which is a pretty loaded question that may make them feel dumb — give them time to process what you’ve told them and to “seek clarification” or “learn more” if they need to. Alternatively, ask them to give you a number on a scale of 1-10 indicating how comfortable they are with what you’ve told them or asked them to do. Anything under a 10 is your cue to start over or try explaining a different way.
And confusion doesn’t start and end with your client conversations, letters and emails. It impacts your entire business:
Everything you do as a business includes multiple choices for your customers. It doesn’t matter if you give them the choices – they have the choices. Features, benefits, prices, promises, support, etc. They can love it, hate it, be indifferent, etc. But they can also be confused. And “I’m confused” is the worst option of all. If your customers are confused, you’re in deep trouble. “I give up, unhappily” is next.
While you’re at it, throw out the legalese and five dollar words. They don’t make you smart. They make you look a pompous ass.
Some interesting thinking on being the “most” from the Harvard Business Review (free registration required to read):
The most successful companies figure out how to become the most of something in their field — the most elegant, the most simple, the most exclusive, the most affordable, the most seamless global, the most intensely local. For decades, so many organizations and their leaders got comfortable with strategies and practices that kept them in the “middle of the road” — that’s, in theory, where the customers were, that’s what felt safe and secure. But today, with so much change, so much pressure, so many new ways to do just about everything, the middle of the road has become the road to nowhere.
Just to be clear, being the “most of something” doesn’t have to mean being the biggest or most dominant player in your field. It means being the most deeply committed to a one-of-a-kind strategy and a distinctive presence in a world in which most companies and their leaders are content with doing business more or less like everyone else. As Jim Hightower, the colorful Texas populist, is fond of saying, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” To which we might add companies and their leaders struggling to stand out from the crowd, even as they play by the same old rules in a crowded marketplace.
What could your firm be the most of?
But just how “unlimited” is unlimited?
Their great FAQ’s give the answer:
Unlimited Requests: Our service is “unlimited” but obviously, it is within reason. We like to keep it unlimited because most of our clientele, like you, are reasonable when delegating tasks. Maybe a client has three tasks they need done in one day, but then they don’t have anything for the next few days. While other clients assign a task or two each day, every day and that’s fine. Some clients assign 10 tasks at the beginning of the month and we space them out over the next two weeks. The gist is that we want to keep our service unlimited, always, but since your assistant is a real person (and not superwoman, that we know of) they can only handle so much… so treat them well.
If you’re avoiding giving your clients something unlimited — like phone calls — for a monthly fee because you’re worried about them abusing the privilege, I think this clause is a good place to start.
And if you’d like to offer your clients a guarantee, check out Zirtual’s Epic Guarantee.
Scott Berkun, author of Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management (Theory in Practice) shares some great project management tips that are relevant to all professionals who have to get things done. I especially love his thinking on priorities and saying “No” more often:
One side effect of having priorities is how often you have to say no. It’s one of the smallest words in the English language, yet many people have trouble saying it. The problem is that if you can’t say no, you can’t have priorities. The universe is a large place, but your priority 1 list should be very small. Therefore, most of what people in the world (or on your team) might think are great ideas will end up not matching the goals of the project. It doesn’t mean their ideas are bad; it just means their ideas won’t contribute to this particular project. So, a fundamental law of the PM universe is this: if you can’t say no, you can’t manage a project.
He also shares several ways to say No and suggests it is important to understand when and where each flavor of no is appropriate:
Ironically, proudly flaunting your affiliations — company, university, or club — will only make you more of a commodity: another banker, another Ivy League graduate, another know-it-all scientist. Instead of just resume-gardening, distinguishing yourself through real, tangible accomplishments shows the world what you’ve actually done while de-emphasizing who accepted you into their organization. The latter is a superficial vanity device designed to boost confidence; the former is a validated, objective measure of your skills and experience. The relentless focus on “what” is how people without bulge-bracket work experience or Ivy League degrees are beating out those obsessed with the glitz, glamour, and false safety of their memberships, associations, connections, and relationships.
If you’re looking improve your practice, start by making just one thing easier for your clients to use or understand. It doesn’t matter where you start, but identify something your clients do, read or experience and answer this simple question:
How might I make this easier for my clients?
One tip James shared was the importance of “opening” a meeting well to get attendees immediately engaged. He suggested beginning with a technique used by IDEO called “How Might We….”
It is deceptively simple:
The power of the “How might we…” question lies in its openness. You aren’t asking “How will we …” or even “How should we ….” Instead, you’re giving your meeting attendees the permission to think about all the possibilities, without constraints. It is important to understand that this is merely an opening technique. Once you get to the best answers, you still must focus on executing them.
I know I’ll be utilizing this technique in the next retreat I facilitate. How might you use this in your next meeting?
Over on SLAW, Mitch Kowalski suggests that lawyers rethink their retainer agreement from their client’s perspective. He includes several suggested clauses (taken from one used by a large multi-national corporation) including this one:
Legal services are expensive, reflecting the skills of the professionals involved and the quality of the work delivered. We respect your knowledge and expertise, and we genuinely hope to be a profitable client of your Firm. At the same time, we must ensure that we receive good value for the money we spend on law firms. In our view, the best way to achieve both fair payment and good value is to manage every matter closely, emphasizing communication and shared responsibility. We look forward to working in partnership with the Firm’s lawyers. Together, we can provide excellent legal work that meets our needs and that adds value to us and your Firm.
To achieve this goal, it is essential you understand the issue behind our legal project and the financial impact of that issue. This means, for example, that we expect the Firm to avoid overstaffing a matter, premature or peripheral legal or factual research, and discovery requests or other projects that are “what we always do” instead of what is appropriate for the particular matter. We will evaluate outside counsel on effective control of costs, as well as on the quality and effectiveness of your advice and work product.
The entire post is worth a read and contains several great client-centered retainer clauses — specifically the ones on expenses. How would your retainer agreement change if your clients wrote it?
If you’d like to improve your client service, start by understanding how your typical clients experience every interaction they have with you and your staff.
Here’s an easy exercise to get you started:
Here are the slides from my presentation at last week’s LexThink.1 event. We’ll have all the videos posted soon and I’ll be sharing more on Client Service Design in a few upcoming posts.
I’ll be sharing ways lawyers can find great clients and serve them better using a mix of new and traditional tools. I’ll also be moderating a panel on best practices in social media and facilitating the evening’s networking reception (m0re on that later).
If you’d like to attend AVVOCATING, use the code “LexThink” at registration and you’ll receive $100 off the normal price. I hope to see you there!
I very much love designer/innovator Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto of Growth. There are 43 thought-provoking statements that all focus on creativity, innovation and growth as an artist and a person. Please read the whole thing. Here are my favorites:
Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
What would you add?
I found a great piece of news in my mail today: I’ve been elected a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management:
The College Law Practice Management was formed in 1994 to honor and recognize distinguished law practice management professionals, to set standards of achievement for others in the profession, and to fund and assist projects that enhance the highest quality of law practice management. The College and its Fellows inspire excellence and innovation in law practice management by:
- Honoring extraordinary achievement
- Developing, exchanging and disseminating knowledge
- Stimulating innovation in the delivery of legal services
A simple idea from Jorge Barba at Game Changer: Create a 10 Most Wanted Client List. Who’s on your list, and do they know you want to serve them?
I just spent the weekend facilitating a law firm retreat with 100+ partners and associates. One of the goals of the retreat was to generate new ideas on better ways to increase firm revenue (without raising rates). We came up with dozens of good, actionable ideas that will percolate through the firm and turn into specific action plans for each practice group and individual lawyer.
One thing we didn’t do — but that I’ll be suggesting in short order — was to “gamify” the revenue generation goal. This article on gamification in Computer World talks about how a company used game theory to encourage employees to work out more in the company gym:
For example, Charlie Kim, CEO of NextJump, wanted to encourage his employees to use the corporate gym because he felt it would better their health and lead to improved productivity and a happier workforce. NextJump began by offering a $20,000 reward to the five employees who used the gym the most in one year. The incentive program boosted gym use from about 3% of the workforce to 12%.
Then Kim made a game of it, and challenged teams of employees to hit the gym with the promise that they would split the same $20,000 pot. The social value in being on the best team raised the number of employees using the gym to 85%, Zichermann said.
For a firm with multiple practice groups, perhaps the best method to drive behavior change is to stop rewarding individual lawyers for increasing their business, but rather to collectively reward the practice groups (or client teams) with a common incentive. Driving group behavior through a team-based reward — whether it is based on revenue generated or client service scores — could build a more collegial workplace and deliver real benefits to firms and clients.
Fascinating video about a small bike shop in NYC. So much here lawyers could learn from this small customer-service-focused bicycle shop. Worth a watch!
From the founder:
You can’t hammer a nail over the internet. You can’t be a butcher over the internet. You can’t be a barber over the internet. And you can’t be a bike mechanic over the internet.
How much, on average, do your best clients pay you in a year? If you were to give them a flat rate for all the work you could do for them in the next twelve months, what would you charge? Is it just a bit more than they spent last year? Is it less?
Steve Shapiro, in this post aimed at professional speakers, suggests that your all-inclusive price is probably too low — way too low. Steve suggests we think bigger, and gives an example:
Are you a plumber? Maybe your typical project generates around $2,000. You may be tempted to offer a lower-cost option, perhaps a do-it-yourself kit, for only $200, which is valuable.
But what if, instead of $2,000 being the high-water mark for your services, you created a $200,000 offering? This would certainly get your creative juices flowing. Maybe, instead of selling your services to individuals, you target condominium associations, selling them an all-inclusive deal for every unit. It would challenge you to think bigger than you have thought before.
How could you earn ten (or even a hundred) times more from each of your Ideal Average Clients over the next year? What needs do they have that you’re not addressing? What do they value that you could provide? What would they pay extra for? Speed? Certainty? Convenience?
Take 10 minutes and make a list of everything that comes to mind. Even if you can’t actually multiply your fee by ten, you’re certain to uncover things you could do (and charge for) that your clients would value and gladly pay extra for. I’d love to hear what you come up with.
Some interesting thinking on the fragility of new ideas from Jason Fried:
There are two things in this world that take no skill: 1. Spending other people’s money and 2. Dismissing an idea.
Dismissing an idea is so easy because it doesn’t involve any work. You can scoff at it. You can ignore it. You can puff some smoke at it. That’s easy. The hard thing to do is protect it, think about it, let it marinate, explore it, riff on it, and try it. The right idea could start out life as the wrong idea.
So next time you hear something, or someone, talk about an idea, pitch an idea, or suggest an idea, give it five minutes. Think about it a little bit before pushing back, before saying it’s too hard or it’s too much work. Those things may be true, but there may be another truth in there too: It may be worth it.
Marty Baker writes about a phrase we all hear from our clients:
He believes the three simple words are a signal “that the person has either wrestled with this idea before or wants you to understand what they know or believe.”
When we hear others use the phrase, Marty suggests that instead of moving on with the conversation, we should follow up by asking the speaker to elaborate on what it is they “know.” His example:
A few years ago, I consulted with a CEO who was having problems with one his executives. In exit interviews, employees consistently mentioned this manager as one of their reasons for leaving. This executive was a world-class micro-manager. When I asked the CEO about this executive and the results of the exit interviews, he said, “I know, but…”
So I said … tell me what you know. One of the knows was the lynchpin. The CEO and the executive were friends and the relationship was important to him.
Next time you hear a client respond to you with, “I know, but…,” press them to tell you just what it is they know. By doing so, you may learn more from your client by uncovering something they’ve left unsaid.
A favorite technique I used when mediating custody and divorce cases — and that I still use today in my consulting — is one where I ask my clients to “Remember the Future.” Here’s a description of the exercise (as used in a product development context) from the Innovation Games website:
Hand each of your customers a few pieces of paper. Ask them to imagine that it’s some time in the future and that they’ve been using your product almost continuously between now and that future date (it could be a week, or a month, or a quarter – pick a time frame that is appropriate for your product). Now, ask them to go even further – an extra day, or week, or month. Ask your customer to write down, in as much detail as possible, exactly what your product will have done to make them happy (or successful or rich or safe or secure or smart –choose the set of adjectives that work best for your product).
In a professional services context, don’t ask your clients the outcome they desire. Instead, ask them to imagine their life/business/family a year (or more) from now and then describe in detail what you’ve done to help them succeed. It is a tremendously powerful exercise that prompts us to think differently about the future because it has already occurred:
This game is based on numerous studies in cognitive psychology that have examined how we think about the future. When we ask the question “What should our product do?” we are not given a frame of reference for comparison. When we ask the question “What will our product have done?”, we generate more fanciful, richly detailed, sensible, and longer descriptions, because it is easier to understand and describe a future event from the past tense over a possible future event, even if neither has occurred.
Give it a try next time you have an initial client meeting. I remember that you found it very helpful. ;-)
And check out the entire Innovation Games website. There are lots of great exercises you can use to grow your business and serve your clients better.
I’m a bit surprised the scales of justice didn’t crack the top ten (they were #11), but agree with his entire list. Do you see any of these images on your website?
Professor Keith Sawyer shares some interesting research that demonstrates a simple way to increase your firm’s creativity: move your people around.
When workers change departments for a short time–for example, shadowing another employee in a totally different part of the organization–it enhances the innovation potential of the entire organization. That’s because it results in more “weak links” throughout the organization’s social network. And from research, we know that creativity is more likely to result when information flows through these weak links–because it brings together diverse types of knowledge into surprising new combinations.
Too often firms build silos (called practice groups) and do everything they can to keep their people in them. Moving partners, associates and staff around — if even for just a short time — would give each area of the firm a creative boost and help build the “weak ties” so important to fostering innovation.
We’re excited to announce this year’s LexThink.1 speaker slate. As in years past, we asked the public to vote on the submitted proposals, and over two thousand votes were cast.
Here are the speakers for LexThink.1 (number of votes received in parentheses):
Thanks to everyone who proposed a talk this year!
We’ll be posting the agenda soon. If you’re interested in attending LexThink.1, you can get your free tickets here. See you on March 28th!
This is a tremendous article on Pricing Strategy for Creatives (written by the Chief Innovation Officer of an accountancy firm) that is spot-on for everyone struggling with pricing their services (including lawyers). Please read it.
Here are some excerpts on becoming strategic about pricing:
1. Price by the service, not by the hour. Though very normal for the creative professions, one of the most non-strategic things you can do is to charge by the hour. Why do you charge by the hour? You may have read about charging by the hour in a book, seen your previous firm do it, or heard a friend say that’s how you were supposed to do it.
2. Slow down your sales process. Slow down how, when, and who you take on as clients. You need time to determine a client’s needs before you price their projects. You must know what outcomes they desire. Diving into a project with a minimalist contract that speaks to your hourly rate will not let you know when your client is truly ecstatic about your work. And the only reason to serve clients is to bring great value to them and make them extremely happy!
3. Inject value into your client’s experience with your service. You simply have to charge more. That is a totally strategic move, and one you can’t do unless you have the guts to do it. But you can’t charge more for crap. It’s a little known secret that you can charge not only for your creative work, but for the client experience around the work you deliver. In essence, you can price things that have nothing to do with design, but have everything to do with the experience your client encountered throughout the process of engaging with you on their project.
There’s more in the article about establishing a better client intake process and charging what you’re worth. My favorite part, though, the author’s discussion on how to have the “value vs. price” conversation with your potential client:
For example, you can ask a client “what is the greatest outcome you can imagine from my work with your company?” Maybe they’ll say “I want your work to be so effective that we sell 15 to 20 percent more products compared to this same time last year.” Now you can attach your price to their outcomes. So you might say, “My base price is $50,000, but if you sell between 15 and 20 percent more products than this time last year, then I will receive a bonus payment of 5 percent on your additional sales.” This links what you get paid directly to outcomes. And the clients won’t mind paying if you helped them sell more stuff. Everybody’s happy!
For my friends and colleagues who help lawyers learn to serve clients better:
Lots more info coming soon.
Jonathan Wold writes in Smashing Magazine about his design firm’s experience when they stopped responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and started writing (and charging for) “Project Evaluations” instead.
His firm defines “project evaluation” as:
a detailed plan for the work that is to be done on a project, and explains how we do it. We eliminate the guess work, and detail the project out at such a level that the document becomes a living part of the development process, being referred back to and acting as the guide towards the project’s successful completion.
And here’s their experience:
A few years back, we decided to try something new. A potential client approached us and rather than preparing another project proposal, we offered the client what we now call a “Project Evaluation.” We charged them a fixed price for which we promised to evaluate the project, in all of our areas of expertise, and give them our recommendations.
They agreed, paid the price, and we set out to deliver. We put a lot of effort into that evaluation. We were in new territory and we wanted to make sure that we delivered it well. So we finished the report and sent it to them. The client liked it, agreed with our recommendations, and started a contract with us to do the work.
That project became a game changer for us, starting an on-going relationship that opened doors into a new market. It was the process of the evaluation itself that brought the new market potential to our attention, and gave us the opportunity to develop this business model. It was a definite win, and one that a project proposal couldn’t have delivered.
The real benefit to his firm (and the client)? The freedom to dream:
Occasionally, we spend more time on an evaluation than we had initially expected. But knowing how our time is valued has given us the freedom to explore options and make recommendations that we might not have made otherwise. In our experience, the extra time and energy that the context of a paid evaluation provides for a project has consistently brought added value to the project, and contributed to its ultimate success.
I can think of quite a few lawyers who’d benefit from this same approach. How about you? How would a paid-for evaluation improve your shot at landing a great client (while delivering them significant value in the process)?
NSFW* to be sure, but I found a site that — if you’re not afraid of reading an F-Bomb (or twenty) — has some pretty great advice for designers. Much of it is applicable to lawyers, too.
* No nudity. No inappropriate images. Just one profane word, over and over.
Here’s a fascinating article in Forbes about Apple and its reliance upon Fred Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS is a ratio of people who promote your product (promoters) against those who don’t (detractors). It is calculated based upon their answer to a single question:
How likely is it that you will recommend this product or service to a friend or colleague?
There’s lots of good stuff in the article, but the thing that stood out to me was not that Apple used the NPS to measure customer satisfaction (after all, lots of companies do), but rather what action Apple took when it got a poor score:
At Apple, store managers call every detractor within 24 hours. Initially, they found there were some detractors they couldn’t reach. Subsequent studies showed that detractors that they did reach purchased substantially more Apple products and services than the others. Further studies showed that every hour spent calling detractors was generating more than $1,000 in revenue or additional sales of $25 million in the first year, which was a good return on the investment. (p.156)
In traditional management, where customers are secondary, the expense of following up with customers would seem like the first kind of expense to cut in a crunch. With these numbers in hand, Apple’s managers realize that this is one of the last things that should be cut.
Most lawyers I know chalk up unhappy customers as a cost of doing business. It isn’t that the lawyers don’t care, they just realize that often clients are facing a multitude of unpleasant circumstances when they seek out an attorney (divorce, DUI, injury, death in the family, etc.) and will direct some of that displeasure to their lawyer as well.
What I wonder is whether or not a lawyer who begins measuring their firm’s Net Promoter Score will see similar results as Apple has by following up with the detractors as quickly as Apple has. If you’re doing this already, let me know. I’d love to learn more about your experience.
The submissions for LexThink.1 are up and voting has begun. This year’s theme is Serving the 21st Century Client.
You can check them all out and vote here. Here are the speakers who’ve submitted a talk, along with their proposed title:
Check them all out and vote for your favorites. The top 12 vote-getters will be asked to present on March 28th on the eve of ABA TECHSHOW.
If you’ll be in Chicago, you can grab a free ticket to the event here.
Some tremendous tips from advertising pioneer David Ogilvy (via Brainpickings):
The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.
Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.
Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
- Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
- Write the way you talk. Naturally.
- Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification,attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
- Never write more than two pages on any subject.
- Check your quotations.
- Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.
Together with many of my friends in the Continuing Legal Education industry, I’ve started another Tumblr site called Legal Learning Links. We’ll be sharing some interesting stuff we’ve found about learning theory and educating lawyers. Stop by and check it out.
It is hard to describe how much I love this presentation from John Bohannon, who has a Ph.D in Molecular Biology.
He uses dancers (instead of PowerPoint) to not only share an interesting scientific concept, but also to demonstrate how dance can support business and scientific thinking.
In this TEDxBrussels talk from November 2011, he asserts that “bad PowerPoint presentations are a serious threat to the global economy,” draining it of $250 million per day.
Watch it and be fascinated.
There are some good tips in this article on taking charge of clients who want free work, but the best one is focused on collections:
There are many ways people try to recover money owed to them for services and products delivered. Don’t get yourself too involved in these tricks. Keep everything you do professional and don’t waste time chasing money. You are far better off making it. Leave the chasing to the experts, even if it costs you something in the process. Eventually you will be able to add this cost to the prices you charge.
Brilliant advice too many lawyers are guilty of not taking.
As a professional service provider, you’re concerned about the quality of the work you do for clients. How do you communicate that focus on “quality” to your clients?
Perhaps you could take a lesson from Next Day Flyers, an internet-based printing business. Next Day Flyers puts every order through “33 Quality Checkpoints.”
Because 33 checkpoints could be a bit overwhelming to comprehend, they describe it in an easy-to-understand diagram:
Could you come up with a similar Quality Assurance process? If you already have quality-focused procedures in place, do you communicate them to your clients? If not, perhaps you should!
If you’re interested in speaking at LexThink.1 in Chicago on March 28th this year, there are only a few more days to propose a talk. Speakers get 20 slides and 6 minutes to share their vision of the future of law practice. This year’s theme is “Serving the 21st Century Client.” You can learn more and submit your proposal here.
37Signals, makers of online collaboration tools Basecamp, Highrise and Campfire, are relentless focused on delivering high quality customer service. What fascinates me is how they “measure” customer satisfaction:
After every interaction with our support team, a customer is asked to rate the experience by clicking one of three ratings: “It was great” (happy face), “It was OK” (flat-line face), or “It wasn’t good” (frown face).Here’s what the choices look like on the ticket.
The best part of all this is that they’re completely transparent about the results. On their website, they’ll show you the last 100 customer ratings:
This is pretty powerful stuff, simple and excuse-free.
What if you asked each of your clients (on every bill) to do the same thing? What would your last 100 client service ratings look like, and would you be willing to show them to the world?
I’ve replaced “people” with “clients” in a few of them, but otherwise left the list mostly untouched. I think it is great set of principles for lawyers.
- I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work with me.
- My success — and that of my clients — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
- Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my clients to make a little progress every day.
- One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
- My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my clients from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
- I strive to be confident enough to convince clients that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
- I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my clients to do the same thing.
- One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”
- Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
- Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
- How I do things is as important as what I do.
- Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.
In my post earlier this week, I wrote about Measuring the Quality of Your Clients’ Experiences and not just the quality of their results. Patrick Lamb suggested that lawyers also use the grid to predict their clients’ satisfaction, and I agree.
Here’s a .pdf of a Quality of Experience Survey I designed with pages for both the client as well as attorneys/staff to complete (separately, of course) — along with room for them to suggest improvements. Let me know what you think.
For the Attorneys and Staff to Complete:
For the Clients to Complete:
Remember, your clients don’t have general needs, they have specific ones. They want you to be great at solving their problem, not good at solving everyone else’s.
And yes, you can actually buy this knife for just $999.00.
The need to survive in practice is a powerful one. It takes time to establish a reputation of competence and skill, and when you have hungry children and a school loan payment due, you don’t feel as if you have the time to wait. And so you use whatever is at hand. It’s easy to justify at the moment. Until you realize that you are one of those lawyers, walking down the boulevard in hot pants hoping someone will stop and pick you up.
Go read his entire post. Now.
Lots of lawyers claim to be “results-focused.” Clients want good results, after all, and marketing yourself as one “focused” on delivering them has got to be a lot better (to clients, anyway) than being “timesheet-focused.” However, I think many lawyers who focus only on the result are hurting their clients (and their own practices). Let me explain:
Most clients get just one “result” in their matter: it could be a divorce, a home purchase, or a settlement check. Until that moment — which can take months or years to achieve — they wait. They get bills. They attend hearings. They read letters and go to meetings. But they don’t know for certain what’s coming in their case until it finally arrives.
So what do clients focus on every day while awaiting their result? They focus on the quality of their experience: Does their lawyer return their calls? Does he validate their parking or give them a hot cup of coffee while they wait in his waiting room? Does he communicate everything he’s doing on their case and bill them fairly?
And because they don’t have any “results” to share with others, they share their experience instead:
Bill: “How’s your case coming?”
Wendy: “Not sure. I’m still hoping to hit the jackpot, but my attorney is an ass and never calls me back.”
So what’s an attorney to do? Start by focusing on something more than just the quality of your clients’ results. Focus on their quality of their experience as well.
1. Looking at the chart above, realize that for every client, there are two distinct parts of their legal matter:
2. Ask some of your former clients (or pull some old files and do this yourself) to map out on the grid above how they felt about your representation, making certain their “Experience” measure is for everything that came between hiring you and their result.
3. Unless everything is in the upper right quadrant, get to work.
If you’re a lawyer who delivers a great experience — even with the occasional bad result — you’re likely to see more repeat and referral business from your former clients than some “results-focused” lawyers who consistently get great results but make their clients miserable in the process.
LexThink.1 Tickets are now available! I hope to see you there!
I’m really excited to announce that Ignite Law is back at ABA TECHSHOW this year. It takes place the evening before TECHSHOW “officially” kicks off at 7:00 pm on March 28th at the Hilton Chicago.
The focus of this year’s event is Serving the 21st Century Client.
We’ve renamed the event LexThink.1 (to reflect the tenth of an hour increments most lawyers bill in as well as the length of the six minute speaking slots), but the format will remain largely the same: Twelve six minute/twenty slide presentations that are selected by the public.
The (still free) tickets will go on sale Monday, January 16th and speaker submissions will open up on January 30th. Voting on the submitted talks will take place beginning on February 24th.
We’re still tweaking the event site, but head on over to check it out.
I’m also happy to announce that JoAnna Forshee and Jobst Elster (from InsideLegal, the producers of the event) and Andrea Cannavina (from LegalTypist) have signed on again to help us deliver another great night of legal innovation.
We’ll have sponsorship information up in a few days as well, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
We hope to see you there!
I found this quote in this great list of inspirational resources for writers. It seemed to hit the “how to start a successful blog” nail squarely on the head:
Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. ~ Kurt Vonnegut
I’m excited to announce that we’ll be doing Ignite Law again this year on the eve of TECHSHOW. We’re wrapping up the details today, and will be announcing all the details tomorrow afternoon.
An interesting post over at the 37Signals Blog shares their year-over-year customer satisfaction scores. In short, they made their customers happier in 2011 than they did in 2010:
The great thing about keeping score is that you can track your progress. We started asking customers who contacted support what they thought about the interaction in 2010. We were thrilled to end that year with just seven out of a hundred being unhappy with the service (and 84% being happy, 9% being OK).
But I’m really proud to announce that we’ve dramatically raised our game in 2011. We’ve gotten the frown ratio down to just three out of a hundred (90% being happy, 7% being OK). That’s less than half of what it was just the year before!
If you’re not measuring things your clients would like you to be better at, how can you focus on improving?
I’ll have some more thoughts on how you can do this in an upcoming post. In the meantime, I’d love your thoughts: what do you measure that gives you real, actionable data you can use to improve your clients’ experience?
Here’s an idea for all the mediators and negotiators out there: buy some teddy bears.
According to Sreedhari Desai, assistant professor at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Adults Behave Better When Teddy Bears Are in the Room:
Adults are less likely to cheat and more likely to engage in “pro-social” behaviors when reminders of children, such as teddy bears and crayons, are present.
Sreedhari Desai and her research partner Francesca Gino had people play classic psychology games in which the subjects controlled how much money other people earned and could earn more themselves if they lied. Half the participants were either in a room with children’s toys or engaged in children’s activities. Across the board, those participants lied less and were more generous than the control subjects.
Professor Desai continues:
In all our lab studies, we found that when subjects were near toys or engaged in activities like watching cartoons, the number of cheaters dropped almost 20%. In several studies we had participants play games in which they filled in missing letters to complete words. Those who were primed with childhood cues were far more likely to form “moral” words like “pure” and “virtue” than those who weren’t. In addition, people behaved better in the presence of childhood cues even if they weren’t feeling particularly happy.
Professor Desai discusses her research here.
If you’re looking for an edge in negotiating your next deal, it might be worth inviting a few stuffed animals into the room. You just might get a better result for your clients.
Many of the attorneys I work with suffer from the same thing I do: Shiny Shiny Syndrome. You suffer from S3 when you regularly give in to an overwhelming urge to start working on something new and better, instead of wrapping up your current projects.
Shiny Shiny Syndrome isn’t (usually) fatal, but the cumulative results of constantly starting projects at the expense of finishing others can have a debilitating impact upon your practice and your staff.
To combat my case of Shiny Shiny Syndrome, I’ve begun an Idea Quarantine. From Wikipedia:
Quarantine is compulsory isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, often but not always disease. The word comes from the Italian (seventeenth century Venetian) quarantena, meaning forty-day period. Quarantine can be applied to humans, but also to animals of various kinds.
Whenever I have a great idea for a project, I capture it so I don’t lose it, but then I wait at least 90 days before I begin working on it. The “compulsory” waiting period keeps me from starting work on a poorly-formed idea I’ll later lose passion for. It also gives me time to think about the idea and socialize it with friends and colleagues. If I’m still enamored with the idea once the 90 days have passed, it goes on my “To Do” list.
If you’d like to begin your own Idea Quarantine, and want a fun template to use, here’s my Idea Quarantine. pdf from above.
It has been a while since I’ve posted any personal pictures on my blog, and I get asked pretty regularly for pics of my daughter, Grace. Here’s one of her, along with me and my beautiful new bride Jessica at our wedding this September. I hope your New Year is starting off as great as ours!
Who inspires you? Do they know it? Those who inspire me soon will. I’ve created this notecard that I’ll be sending out this year to friends, speakers and writers who’ve inspired me.
What could you do to thank those who’ve inspired you?
How do clients like your meetings?
In this article on Five New Management Metrics You Need to Know, author james Slavet suggests businesses get better at measuring the effectiveness of their meetings:
In the last minute of a meeting, ask the participants to each rate from 1 to 10 how effective the meeting was, with one suggestion for making the meeting better. It can be on a scrap of paper, or a simple web form.
I think this is a tremendous idea, and is something all professionals should implement, both for internal meetings and for meetings with clients. Improving upon your time with clients serves both of you well.