“Innovative Lawyer” shouldn’t be an oxymoron. Lawyers — who are constantly applying their creative, problem-solving skills to help clients — too often turn their innovation engines off as soon as their “billable” work ends.
If you’re a lawyer, and willing to set aside some time to innovate, I am happy to help you. Until then, I give you my Ten Rules of Legal Innovation. Enjoy!
1. The practice of law requires precedents. The business of law does not. Knowing that other firms aren’t doing what you are isn’t cause for concern, it’s cause for celebration.
2. There are (at least) ten things your clients wish you’d do differently, and I bet you don’t know what they are. Innovation begins with conversation. Engage your clients so they’ll keep engaging you.
3. If you’re the first lawyer to do something that other businesses have been doing for years, it isn’t innovative, it’s about time.
4. When you focus on being just like your competitors, the worst thing that can happen is you might succeed.
5. If you have to tell your clients you’re being innovative, you probably aren’t.
6. Innovation is just like exercise. It isn’t particularly hard to do, but you won’t see results if you don’t practice it regularly. Also, the more you do it, the better you’ll look (to clients).
7. The best ideas in your firm will come from your staff. While you’re paying attention to your clients, they’re paying attention to your business. Ignore them at your peril.
8. To be a more innovative lawyer, look inside the profession for motivation, but outside the profession for inspiration.
9. Your failure to capture your ideas is directly proportional to your failure to implement them.
10. Remember, though your clients may tolerate your failure to innovate, they’ll never forgive your failure to care.
Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.
If you’re a lawyer who only surveys your clients once the engagement’s over, you’re leaving a lot of information on the table — information that will not only help you serve future clients, but your current ones as well.
That’s why, in 2010, you should Resolve To Ask Current Clients More. Institute a regular, ongoing client survey process that reaches out to your current clients at least quarterly.
But what kinds of questions should you ask? I’ve put together the LexThink Model Client Survey (pdf) that contains four short questions for your current clients.
The questions are:
1. On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 10 being best), how well are you being served by this firm, our lawyers and staff.
How could we earn a higher score from you?
2. On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 10 being most likely), how likely you are to recommend us to your peers?
When you describe us to your peers (if you do), what are some of the words you use?
3. What one change could we make to our firm to earn more business from you?
4. What is your most pressing challenge (business, legal or otherwise) you’d like to overcome in the upcoming year?
Everyone makes mistakes. Even lawyers. That's why, in 2010, you should Resolve to Apologize Better.
Why apologize? Apologies increase client loyalty and reduce malpractice exposure. But how do you apologize better? Practice!
Here's a great guide from Psychology Today (about apologizing to women) that sets out the six mandatory elements a good apology:
1. Acknowledge the Wrongful Act
2. Acknowledge that You Have [Caused Harm].
3. Express Your Remorse
4. State Your Intention Not to Repeat
5. Offer to Make Amends
6. Seek Forgiveness
Read the entire article for examples of language you should and shouldn't use, and practice apologizing. You may find a well-timed apologize helps you as much as it helps your relationship with your client.
I’m a fan of Haiku, and have been doing an exercise based upon it for several years now at conferences and law firm retreats. Instead of the 5-7-5 syllable format, I ask my audiences to answer three questions, using just five words for the first question, seven for the second and five again for the…
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…
Over a year ago, I wrote 15 Thoughts for Law Students. It was one of my first “Rules” posts, though I wasn’t calling them that at the time. Since then, it has been one of the more popular items on this blog, and was even republished in the Canadian Bar Association magazine. I’ve revised it…
Smashing Magazine has published a tremendous guide to designing an easy to understand e-commerce checkout process for web sites. If you take credit cards on your site, it is a must-read. However, even if you don't charge people on the web, you should check out the article anyway, because it explains something about collecting sensitive…
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Quick, name your favorite customer service class from law school. Can’t do it? I’m not surprised. Most lawyers don’t learn much about client service in school, and the only class that touches upon service at all is Legal Ethics — which is kind of like teaching someone to ride a bike by showing them lots…
After my Law Firm Website Venn Diagram got such great feedback, I thought I’d do another highlighting one of my big pet peeves: lawyer bios. Here you go:
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Kevin Kelly thinks about thinking the unthinkable: The futurist Herman Khan introduced the idea of “thinking the unthinkable” as a way to loosen up the imagination in trying to forecast the future. Most time we are unable to guess the future because we are inhibited by conventional wisdom – something that everyone knows is true. For…
I’ve been using my “You Decide” fill-in-the-blank invoice, for over a year now. In that time, I’ve found time and time again that my clients pay me more than I would have charged them. And, in situations where clients demand a fixed price, I’m quoting them much higher prices (coupled with a money-back guarantee) than…
Lately, I’ve been giving lots of presentations, and have six more coming up before the Summer ends. I work pretty hard on my speeches (here are a few examples of my slides) and thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learned the hard way in this Ten Rules post. Enjoy! 1. The greatest gift…
What confuses your clients? What are the things that your clients never seem to really understand? Is it the directions to your office, your retainer agreement or their monthly bill? No matter how much you deserve it, undivided attention from clients is a rarity today. Whether it is because of their email pinging, cell phones…
I’ve been a big fan of Merlin Mann for several years now. As I was checking out his website yesterday, I found his pricing page cheekily titled: Do You Charge Money to Do Things? Here’s how Merlin describes his pricing scheme: For most all of my speaking, consulting, and advisory work, yes: I do charge…
I really like Twitter. For those who follow me, you know that I try to share lots of legal-themed tips, thoughts and ideas. In fact, most of my Ten Rules posts started out on Twitter — where I’ll test 15-25 “rules” to see which ones work best before picking the ten favorites. However, there’s lots…
If you’ve got a big client, odds are they’ve got a pet project. Whether it is for a community organization, charity, civic group or volunteer event, supporting the causes your clients do can deepen your relationship with them while benefiting those in need. That’s why, in 2010 you need to Resolve to Take Care of…
Why is moving upmarket key? Doesn't "technological core" help serve all markets better? #plp_disrupt
- Thursday Mar 6 - 3:59pm