Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Law Firm Marketing Tips in a Recession

This post comes courtesy of Larry Bodine and the Law Marketing Portal. Some things to think about as a shaky economy starts trickling down to legal services.

If there's one constant, it's change. Business cycles ebb and flow. How well your professionals and your firm perform depends largely on how well you and your leadership team manage change. It's amazing how fast change occurs. Your slow-to-change partners may be petrified in these times, yet it's critical that you dissect your core strategy. Is it still relevant? Is it forward-looking? Analyze your clients, your services and your ability to deliver them efficiently. Closely review existing operations to ensure that resources are deployed in areas that add the most value. This is not the time to carry on marginal activities or to waste resources on initiatives that do not contribute to your future.

In a dicey economy, your firm faces numerous challenges. Among them:

  • The economy may be in the toilet but if you manage your resources wisely your firm will continue to outperform competitors who are more comfortable wearing blinders than seeing how outside events and trends will affect their firm.

  • Clearly define partner roles and responsibilities thus increasing accountability.

  • Consider sourcing technology as a method of staying competitive while maintaining costs.

  • Commit to the core values that enhance strong management.

  • Find your differentiator, as a firm and as an individual.

  • Performance maintenance is a three-part process that involves performance management, recognition and discipline.

  • Re-evaluate practice areas that generate revenue without profitability.

  • Don't assume that changing how you compensate partners will change partners' behavior.

  • Target companies in thriving industries while protecting your "crown jewel" clients with frequent visits.

  • Strategic marketing means marketing smarter rather than harder.

  • Full-time professional business developers are becoming a reality in mid-size firms.

  • Acquiring firms aren't as interested in picking up a client base if they don't also inherit the talent to manage the client base.

  • Establishing a firm-wide learning culture should be a major strategic objective.

  • Technology allows enterprising professionals to create a completely new type of firm.

  • Formula-based compensation doesn't factor the new demands of management and leadership.

  • It's getting harder for smaller firms to dictate their terms in an upstream merger.

  • Succession planning, or the lack thereof, is a driving factor in the wave of firms merging upstream.

  • The differences between advertising a product and a professional service are rarely understood, which makes most professional service advertising abysmal.

  • This is a relationship business which will be enhanced through online social networking.

  • Optimizing productivity per person will require better use of technology, training and documentation.

  • Decide whether it's time to fire clients because of, or change your involvement to reverse, unprofitable pricing, payment problems, difficult relationships and opportunity costs.

  • Don't forget to focus on health issues, providing incentives and/or vehicles for improved fitness firm-wide, which may lower the cost of medical benefits but will improve performance.

  • Firms will switch to web-based applications because they are more stable, secure and cost effective, and always available. Where there are challenges there are solutions and opportunities.
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