“Business Development Tools for Law Firms”
The following article was published in the December 16, 2008 edition of The Legal Intelligencer, the oldest law journal in the United States.
Marketing tools so sharp, you’ll shoot yer eye out, kid.
By: Jamie Mulholland
When it comes to knowing exactly what would make life complete, not everyone is as fortunate as little Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” who, when asked what would cement his holiday happiness, easily, automatically, robotically and lisp-ly spouted, “AgenuineRedRydercarbineaction200shotrangemodelBBgunwithacompassinthestock.”
As marketers approach 2009 wondering what would make our lives happier and jobs easier, we need only to turn to colleagues for ideas and tips on toys – er – tools in business development. While some come at no cost to the firm and others, a greater investment, all have made a difference in the lives of those who spend their days helping attorneys make rain.
Janet Levine, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Flaster/Greenberg cites the free HARO (“Help a Reporter Out”) service from PR pro Peter Shankman as a valuable service. With HARO alerts, subscribers receive three daily e-mail reports of dozens of queries on a variety of topics from journalists across the country. “Certain queries are ones our attorneys may want to respond to, others their clients may be interested in,” says Levine, who always receives positive feedback on the e-mails, even if the tip is never acted upon. “Both attorneys and clients appreciate the simple act of having shared the information and the opportunity.”
Levine also uses Google Alerts and RSS feeds to gather information on clients, attorneys, and “especially hot or current topics, say, if we are preparing for a seminar. This way, we can include up-to-date information relative to the presentation.”
Staying on top of current issues is also important to Caren Schiffman, Business Development Manager for Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. While she regularly visits a number of websites for free articles, like legalmarketing.org or law.com, she sees subscriptions – to newspapers, business journals and professional/bar association publications – as an important and valuable investment.
“Nothing keeps you more in tune to what is hot and happening,” says Schiffman. “Industry trends, client information, things I pass on to attorneys…just recently there was an article on a company I knew a certain attorney was pitching for work. I sent it to him, and he sent it on to his contact with a personal note. It was a great way to establish a connection and for me to have that interaction with the attorney.”
Interaction, indeed, is a valuable one, both in a general sense and in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software used by firms (LexisNexis’ InterAction being one option).
“Every single day we use our database in some way shape or form,” reports Business Development Manager Donna Kearney of WolfBlock. “We use it to develop lists for mailings, for research purposes to see who knows who, to track relationships - if somebody is meeting with or pitching somebody, we use it to mine who may know that contact or someone else at their company.”
Kearney, who works primarily with WolfBlock’s Labor and Employment Group, one of the firm’s busiest with respect to marketing activities, has seen CRM use go beyond simple research and into a number of other initiatives. “We’re using it for several large programs with new legislation that’s coming out,” she reports. “As a result, our seminars are growing so large we actually have to wait list people.”
As valuable a product as it has turned out to be, it is only so because of a commitment from all sides to build it into the tool it is today, getting attorneys, secretaries, and even accounting on board. And while the investment may be significant in terms of time and personnel (the firm has two data stewards and a data manager on staff), the payoff can be great in the form of new and better honed connections and new clients.
Rhonda Ulrich, Business Development Manager for Duane Morris, also counts CRM among the tools in her arsenal, but also believes that one of core elements of her own success comes from an organized workplan.
“I keep a very simple spreadsheet with anything I’ve invested time in to help partners –a pitch, event, project - any business development activity,” says Ulrich. “It tells me things like the attorneys involved, prospects involved, leads developed – it really keeps you organized. I have three tabs: pending, active and completed projects with fields like ‘name of partner,’ ‘practice group,’ ‘description of project,’ ‘key activities,’ and [for the active projects], the next action I need to take. For the completed tab, I added a field for date completed, and a description of the overall work.”
This very simple act on Ulrich’s part has turned out to be a powerful, multifaceted tool: a ‘to do’ list, an attorney activity tracking sheet, an idea-generation resource to identify links or opportunities between attorneys in both past and current projects, and, best of all, an ROI scorecard for Ulrich’s overall contributions to the firm.
Joe Goldshear, Marketing/Business Development Specialist at Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin advocates a number of tools for business development but stresses what he sees as the single important underlying theme of each. “There are so many ways to do research, all of which are truly important – but when you interview the most successful people in your firm – you’ll find that they really have a relationship with their clients and it’s a personal one. It goes deeper than business.”
Citing that some relationships are often cemented in an attorney’s early years in practice, Goldshear says the firm has started implementing a learning component into existing training with the firm’s 3-5 year associates. “It’s nothing very complex or sophisticated,” stresses Goldshear. “Just very short pumps to remind them to continually be thinking along those lines.”
So important is this concept to him that Goldshear has made it a primary goal to ensure that the concept of relationship development and personal interaction remains a constant discourse in the firm – in associate training, in his own interaction with attorneys and in “continued positive reinforcement from senior shareholders to continue that dialogue and keep it on the agenda.”
“What I see happen all too often,” laments Goldshear, “is a great idea like this gets run up the flagpole, gets everyone excited and then falls off due to a lack of time commitment. So taking these concepts and making them a permanent part of the firm’s dialogue will make all your initiatives client and relationship focused – and open the door for clients to come to you and tell you what their needs are, not the other way around.”
Indeed. So, whether it’s something that helps you stay in touch with attorneys on media opportunities or current issues, in helping them establish new connections of their own, or in assisting them in developing new initiatives for the firm, like every great holiday tale, the moral of this story is that there will always be great stuff and a host of fun toys to work with, but in the long run, it’s all about relationships.
God bless us, everyone.
Jamie Mulholland loves legal marketing so much that she can’t work for just one firm. After spending a bunch of years in-house, she began working with several firms in the region whose sizes do not justify the addition of a full time Marketing Director, but whose business development goals require the advocacy and creativity of an experienced marketing professional. She serves as President of the LMA Metropolitan Philadelphia Chapter in 2009.