Ten Golden Rules to Make Your New Clients Happy

by John Remsen, Jr

For most law firms, satisfied existing clients are the best source of future business.They will continue to use your
services when they need a lawyer, and they are your best referral source for new clients.

Yet, most clients can’t fully appreciate quality legal work because they aren’t lawyers. Rather, they judge the quality of your work based on service-related issues, and how they are treated when they deal with you and your firm.

Allow me to use the analogy of the automobile mechanic. If you own a car, you need a good, trustworthy mechanic to keep the car running smoothly and to fix problems as they arise.You don’t necessarily want to know what’s going on under the hood of your car. Your mechanic is supposed to know all that stuff. And you trust him to treat you right.

If you are like me, you assess the quality of your mechanic’s work based on the way you are treated and whether or not you trust him. Does he listen to you when you bring the car in for servicing? Does he keep your car running smoothly? Does he provide an estimate before he starts the work? Is his final bill reasonable and within the estimate? Is your car clean and ready when promised?

These are the same factors that clients apply to lawyers and other professional service providers.They don’t necessarily want to know the intricacies of the law. They want a good result. They want to feel like you are taking good care of them.And they want to trust you.These factors are especially important when you are dealing with a brand new client.

With that introduction, here are my “Ten Golden Rules to Make Your New Clients Happy.”

(1) Send Your New Client a “Client Welcome Kit”

Be sure to include your firm brochure, a client service pledge, a current list of contacts with direct dial phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and a nice welcome gift.

(2) Seek to Understand the Big Picture

The best lawyers—the ones who deliver the most value to their clients—take the time to learn about their client’s business (and personal) goals and objectives. Visiting your new client’s place of business is a great way to get things started on the right foot.

(3) Create Expectations and Then Exceed Them

Walk your client through how you propose to handle the matter and what he can expect in terms of results and timelines.

(4) Always Follow Through on Your Commitments

Nothing aggravates a client more than a broken promise. It also has a very serious negative consequence when it comes to building trust.

(5) Always Promptly Return Telephone Calls, Always

Clients get upset when you don’t return their phone calls. Adopt a policy to return all your calls and e-mail messages on the same day.

(6) Communicate in the Manner Your Client Prefers

Ask your new client the method and frequency of communication he prefers and deliver your updates and progress reports accordingly. If you can’t be flexible, tell your client up front how you operate.

(7) Introduce Your Client to the Team Working on His Matters

Take the time to invite your new client to your offices to meet the team who will be working on his matter. Be sure to include the paralegals, legal assistants, receptionist and others he is likely to be talking to on a regular basis.

(8) Resist the Temptation to “Overlawyer” the Matter

Trust me; clients don’t want to pay their lawyer more than necessary to have their matter properly handled. Be sensitive to the issue and do what’s right for your client.

(9) Never, Ever Send a Surprise Invoice

It’s good practice to discuss estimated fees and costs up front with your new client. Beyond failure to communicate, sending a bill that wildly exceeds expectations is one sure way to lose your new client.

(10) Show Your Client That You Appreciate His Business

Be sure to invite your client to your firm’s annual client appreciation event, take him to a ball game, play golf and invite him to lunch or dinner on occasion.

There is more to practicing law than providing quality legal work.You’ve got to provide great service, too. If you practice these golden rules consistently, you will end up with loyal, long-term clients and an enjoyable and gratifying legal career. And that’s a promise!


About the Author

John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.


Isn’t It Time that Your Law Firm Develops a Strategic Plan?

By John Remsen, Jr.

Today’s law firm can either take charge of its future or sit on the sidelines watching the marketplace change around it.

In corporate America, virtually every successful company has a strategic plan guiding its future. Banks won’t lend money without one. Shareholders and venture capitalists demand them. It gives an organization a competitive advantage.

Ask just about any managing partner or firm administrator whether his or her law firm should have a strategic plan and almost all of them would say “yes.” After all, without institutional direction, the law firm is little more than a collection of sole practitioners sharing office space or a “hotel for lawyers,” as our friend Bill Flannery likes to say. Yet, according to a recent survey, fewer than 5 percent of the law firms in the United States have such a plan in place.

Why then, do so few law firms have a strategic plan? And what does it take for a law firm to develop and implement one?

What Is a Strategic Plan?

In short, strategic planning is a process, the result of which is a written document that sets forth where an organization wants to go and how it will get there. Many experienced law firm marketers suggest that a law firm’s strategic plan should consider a five-year horizon. It should, among other things, state how big the firm will be, where it will have office locations, what its major practice areas will be, and what its client base will look like.

Once the firm’s partners reach consensus on these bigpicture issues, the firm can develop its three-year goals and objectives and then determine the strategies and tactics to achieve them. Strategies and tactics are more short-term in nature. They should be specific, measurable and achievable within a year.

If strategic planning is so important, why do so few law firms have a plan? The reasons vary, but the following obstacles are most common.

Denial that it’s no longer business as usual

Despite everything one reads in The National Law Journal, The American Lawyer and just about every other publication on the legal industry, there is a continuing denial among many attorneys that the business of lawyering has fundamentally changed. Times are good right now and, generally, firms are doing quite well. However, it is the firms that long ago recognized the value of planning that are emerging as the new leaders in the global marketplace for legal services.

Focus on the short term

Strategic planning looks at the future, while most law firms have a very short-term view of the world. Compensation systems often reward today’s billable hour, with little reward for non-billable time invested in the firm’s future. That’s very dangerous—shortsighted, to say the least.

Law firms need to measure and reward those activities—firm governance, associate mentoring and training, and business development—that are necessary to insure the firm’s long-term prosperity.

Difficulty Establishing Consensus among Partners

No doubt, lawyers like their autonomy and tend to resist institutionalization. Many firms like to refer to themselves (with pride) as very democratic institutions. They operate very much like a collection of sole practitioners sharing office space. They want to be left alone. On top of that, there are often very different philosophies among the firm’s owners about the future of the firm. So it’s easier not to talk about it.

Certainly, getting everyone to buy-in to a specific plan is challenging. There is a tendency among lawyers and law firms to want to be “all things to all people.” In this type of culture, lawyers often resist any plan to move in a particular strategic direction and toward a more institutional way of thinking.

Lack of leadership

Inevitably, the strategic planning process leads to change. And change requires leadership. Often, firm leadership is simply not willing to make the tough (and not always popular) decisions necessary to make the firm a stronger more profitable institution in the long run. Managing partners and executive committees must realize that they can’t please everybody.

Failure to implement

There are many firms that have made a half-hearted attempt at strategy planning and, for one reason or another, it has failed. The reasons are many and varied. Nobody seems to have the time to get things done. The plan exists, but it collects dust on a corner shelf. Inadequate resources were allocated to achieve the goals set forth in the plan. Or there was a lack of leadership. Or the plan was too ambitious. Or there was no accountability. And so on and so on.

The common refrain is, “We tried that, but it didn’t work here.” Chances are, the firm went through the motions, but there was never a genuine commitment to make implementation a priority. Without implementation, the planning process can be a frustrating waste of time, effort and money.

Keys to Successful Strategic Planning

Now that we’ve discussed why so many firms have not gotten around to developing a real strategic plan, let’s examine the keys to making it happen.

Establish a sense of urgency

A sufficient number of lawyers in the firm must believe that it is no longer business as usual and that strategic direction is necessary if the firm is to survive and prosper in the years ahead. They must instill and constantly reinforce a sense of urgency that change is necessary.

Commitment from firm leadership

Firm leadership (or at least a critical majority) must have a genuine commitment to develop and implement a strategic plan. Without strong leadership and passionate commitment, it is still “business as usual,” despite the rhetoric. Under these circumstances, the firm’s efforts are doomed to failure.

Involve all partners in the process

At the end of the day, the owners of the firm must buy into and support the plan.  By involving each of them in the process through a series of one-on-one meetings and/or in a group brainstorming session, each partner will feel a part of the planning process. The likelihood of success jumps dramatically.

Associates and staff must also buy into the future of the firm. Special programs that enlist their support will add to the plan’s successful implementation.

Keep the plan simple and focused

If the firm is developing its first strategic plan, it should keep the plan simple and focused. Most firms try to take on too much, too fast and wind up accomplishing little. With a realistic plan and by starting slowly, the firm is able to maintain its focus on the most important projects. The firm can always add to the plan later. A law firm is wise to start slow, publicize success and grow from there.

Create a plan that lives and breathes

Once a strategic plan is adopted, it does no good to set it aside, never to be looked at until the following year, if at all. The plan should a flexible and dynamic instrument. Its principles should be incorporated into the firm’s day-to-day operations. Firm leadership should communicate the goals and objectives of the plan often and in a variety of ways throughout the firm. Make sure everybody has a copy. Review it at internal meetings. Update it often. All important decisions should be considered in the context of the plan. If the firm makes decisions contrary to what is contained in the plan, it needs a new plan.

Establish accountability

Nothing happens without accountability. For most firms, this is best accomplished at monthly meetings of small groups (5–6 individuals) of attorneys, often organized by practice group. There must be a strong group leader and meetings should have an agenda and meeting notes. Assignments must be made and progress must be monitored.

Measure and reward desired behavior

Simply stated, the firm needs to measure and reward desired behavior. If the firm wants its partners to spend time training younger associates, the investment of non-billable time in the firm’s future must be measured and rewarded. If the firm determines that business development is important, it should reward it through recognition, origination credit, and/or by measuring and rewarding effort. Otherwise, behavior changes will not occur. Without incentives (or disincentives), it’s business as usual and there is little change.

Does everybody have a role to play?

There is no right or wrong answer here, but the firm must determine up front if all of its attorneys have a role to play when it comes to investing in the firm’s future. If so, what is the role of each attorney? What about associates? Is it the same for everybody or do we ask different attorneys to take on different responsibilities?

Making it happen

The strategic plan is not an end, in and of itself. It is a process through which a law firm contemplates its future and determines how it will allocate resources to take it where it wants to go.

Without implementation, a strategic plan is worthless. Planning should never replace and distract from the doing part of the equation. Implementation must be given the highest priority.


Many sole practitioners and attorneys at smaller firms seem to think that strategic planning is for larger firms. However, any firm with an eye toward the future can benefit from the process. Planning can help a firm develop consensus on key big-picture issues, promote internal communication within the firm, inspire attorneys to get out and do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, and help the firm allocate its resources more effectively.

With leadership, commitment and a good strategic plan, any firm can develop a profitable practice working with clients it enjoys and in the areas of law if finds most appealing.

About the Author

John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, an Atlanta-based marketing and management consulting firm that works exclusively with lawyers and law firms. His articles have appeared in numerous ABA, ALA and LMA journals and publications. For more information, visit www.TheRemsenGroup.com.

Individual Attorney Marketing Plans

Our Reader Survey asked whether or not your law firm requires Individual Attorney Marketing Plans. 132 firms participated. 60% said they do not require individual plans. Of those that did, the majority required plans for both partners and associates. Here’s the complete breakdown.

Does Your Law Firm Require Individual Attorney Marketing Plans?

Marketing Budgets

Our Reader Survey asked about the percentage of revenue your firm invests in its marketing and business development programs. 154 firms participated and 55% said they spend less than 2%. That’s strikingly low compared to other professional services firms. Here are the complete results.

What Percentage of Revenue Does Your Firm Invest in Its Marketing and Business Development Program?

NOTE: This number does not include salaries, charitable contributions and directory listings.

Do You Believe Clients Are That Unhappy?

Our recent Featured Article highlighted research indicating that 70% of in-house counsels are dissatisfied with their primary outside law firms. We asked our readers whether or not they believed that client dissatisfaction was that high. An astonishing 53% of our 108 readers who participated in the survey said they don’t believe it! See the pie chart below for the complete breakdown.

Do You Believe that 70% of In-house Counsel Are Dissatisfied with Primary Outside Counsel?

How Do You Dress for the Office and What is the Overall Trend in Dress Codes for Lawyers?

We hit a “hot button” issue with our most recent Reader Survey that asked how our readers dress for the office and what they see as the trend in dress codes in the legal profession. A record 233 readers participated. Less than 25% wear a suit every day and over 70% observe a trend toward more casual dress in recent years. See the pie charts below for the complete breakdown.

How Do You Dress for the Office?

What Do You See as the Overall Trend in Dress Code Among Lawyers over the Last Five Years?

How Do You Personally Feel about Casual Dress for Lawyers? How Does It Influence Clients’ Perceptions?

Our Reader Survey reveals that 70% of our readers have observed a more casual dress code in recent years. We asked how they feel about it. 162 readers participated. 54% say they oppose casual dress in their law firms and a whopping 70% believe it has a negative influence on clients’ perceptions. See the pie charts below for the complete breakdown.

How Do You Personally Feel about the Current Trend toward More Casual Dress for Lawyers and Law Firm Administrators?

Do You Feel that Casual Attire Influences the Way Clients Perceive the Quality and Value of Legal Services?

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Does Your Firm Measure and Reward the Non-Billable Time that Its Lawyers Invest in Marketing & Business Development Activities?

If a law firm wants its lawyers to invest non-billable time in marketing and business development activities, it should find ways to measure and reward the desired behavior. Many firms consider origination credit (i.e., the result of successful marketing effort) in determining lawyer compensation. Yet, few firms are willing to reward the effort. In addition to results, I recommend that firms reward the effort, as well…especially for younger lawyers. Otherwise, these non-billable activities tend to fall by the wayside. 106 readers participated in the survey. Most firms - 67% to be exact - measure non-billable time for partners and/or associates, while 29% do not. As to reward, 67% of participating firms factor origination credit into compensation, and only 27% consider effort. See the pie charts below for the complete breakdown.

Does Your Firm Measure the Non-Billable Time that Its Lawyers Invest in Marketing and Business Development Activities?

Does Your Firm Reward Effort or Result?

Your Individual Attorney Marketing Plan

by John Remsen, Jr.

In my opinion, every lawyer in private practice should have an Individual Marketing Plan. Your plan should be short, specific, realistic and achievable. It should play to your strengths and interests, and it should be fun to implement. A thoughtful, well-written plan will focus your time and attention on meaningful activities to build and maintain relationships with persons in a position to hire and refer you. And it’s in your best interest to have one, whether your firm requires it or not.

Over time, your marketing efforts will put you in position to pick and choose clients you want and work on matters you enjoy most. They enable you to build a “book of business,” which means more money and more influence at most law firms.

But nobody can make you market. It’s not something the firm or someone else can do for you. It’s something you should want to do for you because it will lead to a healthier and happier legal career.

This article offers my recommendations on how to develop your Individual Marketing Plan and the types of activities that will be most beneficial to you in the long run.

An Investment in Your Future
Think of marketing as your investment in yourself. Billable hours are important for today’s income, but what you do with your non-billable time determines your future. At the partner level, you should invest about 10% of your time — about 200 hours a year — in you. At the associate level, I recommend about half that amount of time.

It’s Not About “Stuff”
Lawyers need to understand that marketing is not about “stuff.” By that, I mean brochures, newsletters, advertisements and websites. It’s rare when a client hires a lawyer or law firm based on a fancy brochure or impressive website. Certainly, law firms need these things, but they are merely marketing tools. Many firms rely too heavily on these crutches.

Rather, It’s About Relationships
Numerous surveys and studies tell us that clients hire lawyers (not law firms) and they hire lawyers they know, like and trust. Well, there it is! Marketing legal services is all about being known, liked and trusted by people in a position to hire or refer you. But relationships don’t happen by accident. They must be grown and cultivated over time.

Market What You Want, Not What You Do
This is a very important distinction. It’s easy to fall into the trap of marketing what you do. After all, it’s natural and comfortable. However, when it comes to marketing and business development, it’s important that you invest your time and energy where you want to go, not where you’ve been.

Elements of a Good Marketing Plan
Your Individual Marketing Plan should set forth what you will be doing over the next twelve months to build, enhance and maintain relationships with key individuals. It should also include activities to enhance your credentials as an expert in your chosen area of law. Keep it short and simple.

Here are the elements of an effective Individual Marketing Plan.

1) Define Your Niche
Clients want specialists, not “jacks-of-all-trade.” Specialists command premium fees and practice law in the areas they find most challenging and fulfilling. You need to discover where your passion lies and go at it with all the gusto you can.

2) Become the Recognized Expert
Once you find your niche, your goal should be to become a recognized expert in your chosen area of law. Learn the law. Join and become a leader in that section of your local or state bar association. Attend appropriate seminars and conferences. Get board certified if your jurisdiction offers a board certification program. Write articles and give speeches on topics related to your area of specialization.

3) Focus on Industries
Marketing areas of law like “commercial litigation” or “tax” is tough. The target audience is much too broad and ill-defined. Yet, most law firms still market themselves that way. Innovative firms are following the lead of banks and accounting firms by marketing their services to industries. In fact, many of the country’s top law firms have set up industry practice groups. This approach helps you sharpen your marketing aim by clearly identifying your target audience.

4) Join One — Maybe Two — Industry Trade Associations
Lawyers tend to find comfort in bar associations, but I suggest that you get involved in an industry trade association. For example, if you are a real estate lawyer, find a real estate association where you’ll meet and develop relationships with key players in the real estate industry. Most lawyers I know are members of a half dozen or more organizations…problem is they tend to spread themselves too thin. Instead of being peripherally involved in half a dozen organizations, pick one (maybe two) and go deep.

5) Find the Right Organization
You would be amazed at the number and diversity of organizations out there. There are associations for just about anything you can think of. Do some due diligence to make sure you’ve found the right one. After all, you’ll be spending lots of time here. To find the right organization for you, talk to your clients. Go to a meeting or two before you join.

6) Get Active and Become a Leader
Joining the organization is step one. To develop meaningful relationships, you’ve got to become actively involved. Go to meetings religiously, join a committee and volunteer to chair a special project. Show others how effective you are at getting things done. It’s the reef where the fish you want to catch hang out and you have to go fishing to catch fish! Fish rarely jump in the boat.

7) Create and Maintain Your Personal Contact List
Your plan should include a list of people you know (or want to know) who are in a position to help you get where you want to go. Start with current clients and referral sources. Then expand your list to include others you know or want to know…prospective clients, newspaper reporters, association executives, for example. For each contact, make sure you have a current address, phone number and e-mail address. And, by all means, maintain your list on an ongoing basis. It’s embarrassing to send holiday cards to dead people and companies that no longer exist.

8) Invest in Key Relationships
From there, develop a short list of 20 or 30 persons you want to focus on over the next year. Then invest time in these relationships…lunch once a week, golf once a quarter, sporting and arts events. Get in the habit of writing hand-written notes. For example, “I thought you might be interested in the attached article about…” or “I enjoyed meeting you earlier this week at the…”. You get the idea.

9) Go Visit Your Top Clients
By far the most effective “marketing” a lawyer or law firm can do is to invest in relationships with current clients they want to keep. Go visit your clients at their place of business to show them how much you care about their company and its success. Do your homework before you go. Once you get there, ask smart questions. (My favorite question is simply, “How are we doing?”) Listen, learn and respond appropriately. Trust me, your clients will love it.

10) Even First Year Associates Should Get in on the Act
The ABA’s “Model Diet for Associate Attorneys” indicates that a first year associate should invest 225 hours a year in pro bono work, client development and service to the profession. Each of these areas has marketing implications. My advice to young lawyers: 1) Keep in touch with classmates (especially the ones who are go-getters and going places); 2) Figure out your “niche” and learn the law; 3) Join and get active in an organization or two; 4) Hone your networking skills; and 5) Find a rainmaker at the firm to be your “marketing mentor.”

In closing, here are a few additional thoughts and suggestions to help you through the process of developing and implementing your Individual Marketing Plan.

Characteristics of a Good Plan
A good Individual Marketing Plan should:

  • Be Consistent with Firm Goals and Objectives
  • Focus Your Valuable Time and Attention
  • Be Simple, Realistic and Achievable
  • Be as Specific As Possible
  • Change and Evolve Over Time

Be True to Yourself and to Others
As previously stated, clients hire lawyers (not law firms), and they hire lawyers they know, like and trust. Your objective is to focus your time and energy as much as possible on activities that create, enhance and maintain relationships with individuals in a position to hire or refer you. Importantly, your relationship-building efforts must be genuine and sincere. If not, people will see right through it. You’ve got to be passionate. You’ve got to care. It’s not about using people to further your career objectives

Just Do It
Finally, you’ve got to stop talking about it and, as the folks at Nike say, “just do it.”It’s a lot like joining the gym. You’ve got to invest the time and effort to achieve the desired results. And nobody can run the treadmill or lift the weights for you. Just do it. A little bit, every day.

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.

Client Site Visits

By John Remsen, Jr.

Studies reveal that clients, more than ever, want and expect great service from their outside counsel. On top of that, clients value lawyers who know and understand their business, as well their people and their policies. Clients also want lawyers who are trusted advisors and counselors.

Lawyers and law firms that take the time ask “How are we doing?” and take a proactive interest in helping clients achieve their goals and objectives add tremendous value to the relationship and build trust and loyalty with the client. Being a competent legal technician is simply not enough anymore in today’s competitive market place for legal services.

And what is the best way to achieve this type of relationship with clients? Go visit them. In fact, I recommend that partners visit their top four clients each year. Show you care. Ask smart questions. Listen, learn and respond appropriately.

Below is our Client Site Visit checklist, which offers practical guidance to lawyers who are interested in enhancing their relationships with top clients.

Before Your Visit

I. Be very clear on your purpose for the Client Site Visit. Determine your objectives, which might include:

  • Thanking the client for past business
  • Enhancing your relationship with the client
  • Meeting individuals with whom you work for the first time
  • Learning more about the client’s business and industry
  • Determining ways the Firm can improve service
  • Resolving perceived problem areas
  • Learning about opportunities for new business
  • Learning about other firms the client uses

II. Determine with whom you want to meet and spend time. Consider internal politics, both within the Firm and at your client’s company. Think about others who should be included beyond the person(s) with whom you work most closely.

III. Determine where, when and for how long you want to meet. We recommend the client’s place of business, but you may want to consider a golf course, restaurant or private club.

IV. Ask for the meeting through a short letter or telephone call. Call our office if you would like an example.

V. Do your homework:

  • Three-year billing and client/matter history
  • Research the client through Lexis/Nexis, Dun & Bradstreet, client’s web site, Martindale-Hubbell, etc.
  • Discuss your visit with other attorneys who have worked with the client
  • VI. Develop a list of specific questions you want to ask.

At Your Meeting

I. Arrive early and dress appropriately.

II. Start off the meeting with 5-10 minutes of introductory “small talk.” Show interest in your client and consider topics like hometown, law school, family, hobbies, etc. If you are meeting in the client’s office, notice your surroundings…family photos, artwork, etc. to help you with topics of conversation. Bottom line…establish a friendly rapport before you dive into your list of questions.

III. When the time is right, begin asking your pre-determined questions. Listen carefully. Let the client do the talking. Take copious notes.

IV. Let the client set the pace and tone of the meeting. Be sensitive to non-verbal cues.

V. Remember that you are there to learn about the client, show interest in his/her objectives and how the Firm can improve service and add value to the relationship.

VI. Keep in mind that you are not there to “sell” legal services or talk about the Firm. That will happen naturally during the course of the meeting and your follow up plan.

VII. Do not overstay your welcome. Be aware of any obvious signals that it’s time for you to leave.

VIII. At the conclusion of your meeting, thank the client for his/her time and assure him/her that you will respond to any issues raised during your conversation.


After Your Visit

Follow up is absolutely essential!! If you don’t plan to follow up, don’t bother visiting the client in the first place.

I. Send a brief “thank you” note the day after your meeting.

II. Calendar a specific day to follow up with a telephone call, another meeting or whatever you agreed to do at your Site Visit.

III. Make sure all appropriate individuals at your client’s company are on all appropriate mailing lists for law alerts, seminar invitations, etc.

IV. Develop a client-specific action plan based on what you learned at the meeting. This might involve a formal proposal for services, a follow up visit at a later time or a pro-active program to further enhance the Firm’s relationship with the client.

V. Find other ways to keep in touch with the client. Sending an article of interest or an occasional e-mail are good ways to stay “on the radar screen.” Hand-written notes are very effective and take little time.

VI. Strive to become more than a legal technician in the eyes of your client. Work to become a counselor or trusted advisor to your clients.

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.

New Approaches to Expanding Your Practice in a Competitive Marketplace

By Don Silver

Your firm offers excellent legal services, staff and facilities. You hold the secret of the legal universe except for one minor problem-you are the best-kept secret in town! How can you make your firm emerge amidst the turbulent seas of fierce competition?

It’s not as difficult as you think. Many not-so-well known firms are becoming successful through some simple concepts called corporate networking and media relations. The following tips apply to those wishing to develop their firms and individual practice areas.

Analyze Your Current Situation

Who are your clients and how did the relationships begin? Did another firm or an existing client refer them to you? Remember, the majority of new business is referred by existing clients and contacts.

What major practice areas and industries do you focus on, and is this where you want to be? By analyzing current clients, you can identify natural referral patterns. This exercise is commonly referred to as MAPPING. As the word naturally denotes, these patterns will allow you to find new business where you are most likely to succeed. Just connect the dots. The key point - - do what you do best, but in a targeted, organized manner. This may differ from attorney to attorney. What works for one may not work for everyone. One size does not fit all in the world of business development.

So, how do you reach new clients?

  • Lunches with prospects and referral sources
  • Networking
  • Community involvement and charitable work
  • Seminars - in-house and out-of-house
  • Social situations

Networking Made Simple

An effective way of expanding your community and marketplace exposure is by joining organizations or clubs frequented by current and prospective clients and referral sources. After all, isn’t it better to let your clients and contacts boast about the quality of your work instead of you making self-serving comments?

Depending on the practice area, there are different networking venues to consider. Business-oriented venues may include trade associations, economic development boards, chambers of commerce and general networking clubs. On the other hand, charitable causes, civic associations, churches or synagogues, cultural organizations, special interest clubs and organized athletics can be just as effective.

Selecting the Right Groups

You will want to develop a selection criteria to determine if the organization or group is right for you. Consider the number and type of members and their individual involvement. Prior to making a commitment, find out who are the movers and shakers. Since their motivation is for you to join, they will be the best source of introduction to other members. Take the opportunity to ask them about the needs of the group. If you join, this information will prove essential when targeting your efforts.

It is also a good idea to attend the meetings of different groups, sometimes even two or three times before joining, in order to get a good feel for the organizational dynamics and networking potential. It is always recommended to have a mix of business and civic/charitable activities. In fact, civic and charitable organizations may generate more leads for members versus business groups. Simply put, developing new contacts in these venues is more subtle and might be considered an act of good citizenship rather than one fueled by a pure business-seeking motive.

Once you decide to join, establish a reputation as a hard-working, dependable member by immersing yourself in all aspects of the organization and emerging as a leader. Take initiative, suggest projects and ideas and volunteer. Most importantly, demonstrate your dedication by investing time on the group’s agenda. Attending the first meeting and never showing your face again will do nothing to improve your image or generate new business.

Establishing Yourself As An Expert

As your practice expands, you will want to be known and respected for your insight and expertise in your field. An active public speaking schedule and implementing a high-profile public relations program can be combined to increase the name recognition and awareness for you and your firm.

Representing Your Firm In Public

Attending meetings and special events can often be the onset of a referral cycle that could attract many quality contacts. When socializing at these events, ask other guests and members about their company, industry and operating style. Find out how they like to do business, the strength of company, etc. When they finish, you will have the opportunity to talk about your firm. Keep it brief, concise and to the point. Focus on helping them solve a problem or identify an opportunity. Also, maintain the dialogue by bringing up current issues of importance and common areas of interest. Never turn this opportunity into a live infomercial. It will surely prove to be a business-prevention strategy. Building new relationships is all about giving, not getting, at least in the early stages.

Follow up with a phone call or note and brochure as well as any additional information of interest (newspaper articles, Internet reprints, magazine articles, etc.). E-mailing is also a great alternative when seeking a less intrusive communication method. You may also want to take the initiative in suggesting a get-acquainted lunch. Setting a simple objective of scheduling two business development lunches a week can be very effective.

Placing Your Firm in the Public Eye

There are many other ways to let your “audiences” know about you and your firm. Exposure through trade journals and the local media are always advisable. Ask yourself, what is newsworthy and unique about my practice or areas of expertise? Is there a major local or national news story or new legislation I can comment on as an expert? Does the publication accept guest columns offering legal tips or commentary on important issues?

Become familiar with industry trade journals, newspapers and newsletters in your community. Find out which reporters cover specific areas of interest and send out press releases and media kits, always making sure to follow up afterward.

When presenting your story idea, make sure you convey the news as concisely as possible - remember it’s common for reporters and editors to receive up to 50 press releases in a single day.

A New Solution

In the past, many individuals with great minds and innovations sank into the dark depths of oblivion because their message was unable to reach the rest of the world. Networking and public relations may be a viable option for virtually any law firm, from the sole practitioner to the largest multi-departmental mega-firm. By following these simple concepts, all it takes is a little initiative and a strong dose of perseverance to develop your practice. After all, public relations is a participation sport.

About the Author
Don Silver is Chief Operating Officer of Ft. Lauderdale-based Boardroom Communications, a full service public relations firm specializing in media relations, marketing, public affairs and crisis communications. For more information, visit the company’s website at boardroompr.com. He can be reached at 954-370-8999 or donsil@boardroompr.com.

How to Improve the Effectiveness of your Public Speaking Opportunities

By John Remsen, Jr.

Study after study says that public speaking is among the most effective business development activities for lawyers. Yet, many lawyers are often disappointed that public speaking rarely results in new business for them. By following some of the suggestions outlined in this checklist, you can significantly increase the marketing effectiveness of your speaking engagements.

Think about your upcoming speaking engagement as rare opportunity to accomplish several very important marketing objectives — all in one swoop. Through it, you can:

  • Build relationships with people who can hire or refer you;
  • Enhance your reputation as an expert in a particular area of law; and
  • Increase your visibility among key target audiences.

However, if you merely give your presentation to an organization never to be heard from again (which is what most lawyers do), you are likely to be disappointed with the results. To get the most from the activity, you must take the time to properly prepare and, more importantly, follow up.

Because of the time necessary to make speeches work effectively from a business development perspective, you should be selective about the speaking opportunities you pursue and/or accept. Here is a checklist of items you should consider to capitalize on your upcoming speaking engagement.


Be Clear About Your Purpose
Of course, the ultimate objective of your presentation is to generate business for you and your firm. But, give some thought to your primary purpose for each particular presentation. Is your primary purpose to build relationships with people you already know, build your reputation as an expert in an area of law, or increase overall visibility with a key audience? Once you determine your primary purpose, you can then incorporate some of the ideas presented here into your strategy.

Learn About Your Audience
Talk to a few of the key players in the organization at which you will be a speaker. Ask questions about their industry and its current issues. Get a feel for the role your audience members have at their companies. Determine the degree to which they have the authority to hire or influence the decision to hire outside counsel. By talking to these folks, you are also building important relationships with them. Consider sending a questionnaire before your presentation to learn about topics of interest and get your name in front of them.

Know the Format for Your Presentation
Are you the only speaker or is it a panel discussion? What other topics and speakers will be presented at the meeting or conference? Is there an opportunity to invite a key client or referral source to “partner” with you for this presentation?

Take Full Advantage of Relationship Building Opportunities
Call the president of the group and take him/her to lunch to talk about issues important to the organization. Get to know staff as they are in a key position to get you and other lawyers at your firm more speaking and writing opportunities down the road. See if you can arrange a few complimentary registrations for an important client or two. Perhaps there are others at your firm who should attend.

IMPORTANT: Request a list of registrants a few days before the meeting. Review and make note of at least two or three people you want to get to know better. These are the people you will seek out on the day of your presentation and for whom you will develop a personal follow up plan.

Develop Good Handout Materials
Not a document the size of a telephone book….but a smart, concise set of materials. Here, less is more. Give members of the audience a reason to call you after the presentation if they have specific questions or want additional information on the topic. An outline of your talk (little more), an article or two on a topic of interest to the group (hopefully something that you or a member of your firm has written), and information about you and your firm. Don’t forget to include a business card and keep in mind the rules imposed by the Bar in certain jurisdictions.

Generate Some Pre-Event Publicity
Ask if you can submit information about you and your firm for publication in the organization’s newsletter or meeting notice. Let everyone at your firm know what you are doing. Consider sending a press release to key local newspapers and trade publications.

Clarify Who Pays What up Front
Be certain to discuss any speaker’s fee and other expenses (such as travel and accommodations) up front. Have a clear understanding of who pays what. And it’s not a bad idea to get it in writing. It can save a lot of embarrassment and misunderstanding later on.


Arrive Early and Stay Late
Among your purposes for the presentation is to enhance your relationships with clients, prospective clients and referral sources. The best time to do this is the half-hour or so before your presentation and immediately after your presentation. This is an ideal time to “work the crowd” and it’s almost as important as the talk itself. You should try to be there at least an hour before your session is scheduled to begin.

Check the Room and Your Presentation Materials
Familiarize yourself with room and lighting. Make certain the A/V equipment is in proper working order. Distribute your handout materials. Do this first thing when you arrive so it does not interfere with your time to “meet and greet.”

Meet the Key Players
Seek out the people you identified on the registration list ahead of time and make it a point to introduce yourself to them. Find the leaders of the organization to thank them for inviting you to speak.

Collect Business Cards
Pass around a fish bowl asking audience members to deposit a business card. Raffle off an item that relates to your talk, like a book, or something clever and different. Let folks know that if they deposit a card in the bowl, they will be added the firm’s mailing lists. This little trick may allow you and your firm to send future marling material to audience members without filing it for review because they have now requested it. Florida, for example, allows law firms to send marketing material, such as seminar invitations and newsletters, to existing clients and upon request without filing them for review and approval by The Florida Bar. Unsolicited direct mail, however, is subject to a myriad of requirements (such as disclaimer language or the word “Advertisement” in red on the envelope) which significantly reduce the effectiveness of your marketing effort. Get folks to “opt-in” to receive future communications from you and firm.

Make Your Presentation Memorable
Try to make your presentation as lively and entertaining as possible. Make it interactive by involving your audience in your talk and encouraging them to interrupt you if they have any questions. Get out from behind the podium and walk among the audience. This technique works amazingly well to make people perceive you as personable and easy-to-approach. Always allow time for questions and answers at the end of your talk.

Leave Them Wanting More
If your objective includes developing relationships with key people, you can do that most effectively by not giving away all the answers. Give people a reason to call you later. For example, refer to articles and additional information not included in the handout materials. You can send it to those who leave a business card. A follow up phone call to those people you want to know better (remember the ones you identified on the pre-conference registration list?) is a natural next step and presents another great relationship building opportunity. Ask audience members with specific questions to speak to you one-on-one after your presentation. You do not have to give out all the answers and cover all the issues to give an effective presentation.


The Importance of Follow up
If, after your presentation, you go away never to be heard from again you have wasted your time. Do not even think about taking the time to prepare and deliver a presentation unless you plan to dedicate time and resources necessary to follow up effectively.

Notes and Letters
At the very least, take the time to send a hand-written thank you note to the leadership of the organization and to the person responsible for inviting you to speak. In addition, consider writing a note to other speakers and key audience members. You may even want to send follow up letters to everyone who heard your talk. If your firm has a newsletter, add certain individuals to its mailing list.

Circulate the Registration List at Your Firm
Share the registration list with others at your firm. Maybe, just maybe, some business development opportunities become evident.

Go After Your Key Targets
This is the most important aspect of turning your speaking engagement into a meaningful and effective business development strategy. Personally follow up with a phone call to the two or three individuals you identified to specifically target. If you spent a few minutes with them at the presentation, they would likely welcome a telephone call and would be interested in getting to know you better. For starters, consider inviting them to lunch or an upcoming sporting event. Your objective at this point is start building relationships with them.

Future Speaking and Writing Opportunities
Work with the organization to identify topics for future programs. Ask about opportunities to write articles for the organization’s newsletter. If the group includes decision-makers and represents an industry group important to you and your firm, you should consider joining the organization and becoming an active member.

Play it Again, Sam
Chances are there are other organizations that would like to hear the same presentation. Promote yourself and you might be surprised by the result. Also, consider converting your speech into an article on the topic.

Generate Some Post-Event Publicity
Just as before the speech, consider any publicity opportunities, both within the firm and externally. Maybe it’s something you should add to your resume or biographical profile.

Strive to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
Review the evaluation forms that the audience filled out after our talk. They usually contain some insightful information. And if you really want to become an effective speaker and make it an important part of your marketing plan, join a Toastmasters group in your area or consider a course in public speaking.


By following some of the ideas and suggestions set forth in this checklist, you can start to realize the full benefit of public speaking to accomplish your marketing goals and objectives.

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com

How to Improve the Effectiveness of Writing Articles

By John Remsen, Jr.

Most law firm marketing experts agree that by-lined articles are an extraordinarily effective way to establish your reputation as an expert in a particular area of law. For best results, your article should appear in a well-respected publication read by people who have the decision-making ability to hire and/or refer you.

This checklist is written to give you some practical ideas to maximize the effectiveness of this particular marketing strategy. If approached in the right way, your writing opportunity can help you:

  • Enhance your reputation as an expert in a particular area of law,
  • Increase your visibility among key target audiences, and
  • Build relationships with key contacts at publications read by your target audience.

As with most effective business development activities, some time and effort will be required on your part to make the most of a great writing opportunity. Therefore, you should be selective about the writing opportunities you pursue and/or accept. Here is a checklist of things to consider to capitalize on your upcoming writing engagement.


The last thing you want is to have spent countless hours on a literary masterpiece that no one will print. Therefore, before you even think about lifting your pen (or sitting down at your keyboard) there are several important things that you need to do.

Be Clear About Your Purpose
Of course, the ultimate objective of your article is to build your reputation in a particular area of law that will generate business for you and your firm. But, give some thought to your primary purpose for this particular article. Is your primary purpose to build relationships with people at a particular organization, enhance your reputation as an expert in an area of law, or increase overall visibility with a key audience? Once you determine your primary purpose, you can then incorporate some of the ideas presented here into your strategy.

Determine Who You Want to Reach and the Publications They Read
Give careful thought regarding who you want to reach with your article. Then, find out the publications they read and respect. This enables you to identify the publications for which you want to write an article.

Of course, the better read and respected the publication is, the more difficult it becomes to get your article in it. For example, it is much more difficult to get your article in The Wall Street Journal than in your local chamber of commerce newsletter. There is a trade-off to consider.

Get to Know the Editors
Once you have figured out the publications you want to go after, schedule a meeting (or telephone call) with the editor to find out more about the publication, its editorial calendar and its guidelines for article submission. Be clear on the parameters (length, style, deadlines, etc.) for your submission. Ask him or her about topics in which he/she has a particular interest. Editors are always looking for timely, well-written articles for their publications and you are likely to be surprised about how receptive they can be to your call. Be sure to ask for a media kit, if available. Now might also be a good time to discuss reprinting policies and copyright issues. More about that later.

Also, by talking to these folks, you are also building important relationships with them. Who knows when they might be looking for a quote from an expert attorney on a particular legal issue?

Get A Commitment BEFORE You Start to Write
Before you commit to spend the time it will take to write your article, get a tentative commitment from at least one worthwhile publication that they are likely to include it in an upcoming issue. Be clear on the topic, the length of the article and submission requirements.


Now that you have determined your audience, selected the publication(s) and discussed potential topics with an editor or two, you can get to work on writing your article.

Stick to the Parameters
Be certain to stick to the publication’s parameters for by-lined articles. An article that is too long or submitted after the deadline stands a good chance of not being published. If you run into problems or have any questions, let your editor know as soon as possible.

Write for Your Audience
Write to your audience’s level of understanding. Avoid using “legalese” or writing in a style not easily understood by your readers. Keep in mind that many magazines are written to the reading comprehension level of a sixth grader. For a good overview on writing articles and getting them published, we recommend The Writer’s Yearbook or a magazine entitled Writer’s Digest.

Focus on a Strong Opening Paragraph
Hit your reader with a strong opening paragraph. Many readers will fail to get beyond your opening paragraph unless it catches their attention and compels them to read more.

Have Others Proofread Your Final Draft
At last you are done with your article. You have read and re-read the final draft and are ready to send it off. BUT WAIT! Always have at least two other people (preferably members of your target audience or, better yet, a client) read it for clarity and relevance.


Now that your manuscript is complete, you are ready to send it off to the editor who has agreed to publish your article. First, you should call that individual to let him/her know the document is on its way. There may some other details about submission to discuss. Also, give thought to the following:

Who Owns the Copyright?
In most instances, the publication wants to own the copyright of the article, so any reprints or subsequent publication will require its approval. Also, if your work will appear on the Internet, there is a myriad of other copyright issues to consider. Ideally, you want to own the copyright so that you control decisions to reprint the article or the ability to shop it to other publications read by your target audience.

Include a Photograph and Two-Sentence Description About Yourself
Many publications will include your photograph if you send them one. Check to see if they will include it and, if so, send along a professional 5” X 7” black and white photograph of yourself. Be sure to label the back of the photo and do not expect to get it back. Also include a two-sentence biographical profile about yourself. In many instances, the publication will include a brief statement about the author. If you don’t write one, the publication just might and it may not include information about you that is most important.

Send Both a Hard Copy and Diskette
The editor will really appreciate it if you send your article in both hard copy format (typewritten, double-spaced) and on diskette. Here again, do not expect them to be returned.


Notes and Letters
Send a note to the editor thanking him/her for the opportunity to contribute an article to the publication. In your note, let him/her know of your interest in future writing opportunities on other topics. Also, be sure to thank anybody who helped you with your article, including your proofreaders. Why not include a copy of the article as it appeared in the publication?

Distribute Reprints of the Article to Clients and Others
Herein lies the true business development power of by-lined articles. Get the article reprinted on good quality paperstock and use as a handout at speeches and seminars. Include it with the firm brochure. Use it in proposals.

Few things position you as an expert in your area of law more powerfully than a well written article in a well-respected publication. Send the article to clients, prospective clients and referral sources and don’t forget to include a brief hand-written note. (You should consider your state’s Bar rules and regulations this subject.) Distribute it throughout the firm and encourage other attorneys to send it to their clients and friends. Display articles in your firm’s reception area, along with other firm collateral materials.

Future Writing and Speaking Opportunities
Work with the publication to identify topics for future writing opportunities. Offer to be a resource for ideas, topics and commentary for future articles. If you were writing for an association newsletter, ask about speaking opportunities at the organization’s meetings and seminars. And if the group includes decision-makers and represents an industry group important to your firm, join the organization and become an active member.

Play it Again, Sam
Chances are there are other publications that would be interested in the same or similar article. If you control the copyright, send the article to other publications to see if you can get additional mileage from your writing effort. Promote yourself and you might be surprised by the result. Also, consider converting your article into a speech on the topic.

Generate Some Post-Event Publicity
Now that you have been published, consider any publicity opportunities, both within the firm and externally. Maybe it’s something you should add to your resume or biographical profile.

Strive to Improve Your Writing Skills
See if you can’t get some reaction from several individuals who read your article. Ask them what they thought. Ask if they have any recommendations to improve it. And if you really want to get serious about wring articles as an important part of your marketing strategy, consider a course on the subject.

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.

The Best Way to Catch New Clients? Find Their Associations and Get Actively Involved

By John Remsen, Jr.

Generally speaking, I find that many (maybe even most) younger attorneys I meet — say those born after 1960 — are willing and, in many cases, eager to “market.” They realize that marketing and business development are part and parcel of being a successful lawyer and essential to operating a successful law firm.

In most law firms, existing client relationships tend to be controlled by more senior lawyers. That means that junior lawyers must go outside the firm to find clients and build their books of business. And we all know, it’s just not that easy.

Studies tell us that it takes 8-11 “impressions” to convert a prospect to a client. On top of that, it takes 5-7 times more time, effort and energy to generate a new matter from a new client than from an existing one. Needless to say, finding new clients takes time (non-billable), commitment and perseverance.

So what should a young lawyer who wants to build a book of business do in order to create these 8-11 impressions? Where is the best place to invest that precious time, effort and energy?

To use a fishing analogy, you’ve got to first figure out what kind of fish you want to catch and then hang out where they do. The “fish,” of course, are the prospective clients. The place they hang out — the “reef,” if you will — is their association. It’s where they go to be with others like them. It’s where they learn and keep abreast of industry trends. And you need to be there…one of the fish, part of the school, actively involved and, one day, leading the way.

When it comes to organizational involvement, most lawyers join and seldom go. Or they pick the wrong organization for marketing and business development purposes. Our October “Marketing Tip of the Month” counts down our top ten recommendations to maximize your ROI from involvement in associations.

#10) Stay Out of The Bars
Your parents always said that hanging out in bars can only lead to trouble. And, from a marketing and business development perspective, spending lots of time in bar associations is probably not the best place to meet and build relationships with prospective clients. Alas, many lawyers find comfort here among other lawyers and they call it “marketing.” But I’m going to suggest that you find somewhere else to go.

#9) Figure Out What You Want to Catch
Here we are back to that fishing analogy. But it proves my point. The more clearly and narrowly you define your target audience — the kinds of clients you want — the more effective your marketing and business development efforts will be. Let me repeat that. The more clearly and narrowly you define your target audience, the more effective your marketing and business development efforts will be.

This is half the battle for most lawyers and law firms. They tend to want to be all things to all people and they try to market every tiny little thing they do. But if you spread your marketing time and dollars too thin, you wind up catching nothing.

Another important consideration: Market what you want, not what you do.

#8) Think Industry, Not Area of Law
Most lawyers and law firms like to market their areas of law, such as corporate, tax, environmental or litigation. Clients, on the other hand, look for lawyers and law firms with knowledge and experience in their industries, such as construction, entertainment, transportation and health care. There is a growing body of research that supports this most important distinction.

The moral of the story: Market to an industry, not your area of law. That suggests that you should get involved in an industry trade association. Many law firms, following the lead of banks and CPA firms, have taken the next logical step and created Industry Practice Groups.

#7) Do Your Research and Develop a Short List
There are associations for just about everything. And if you live in a large metropolitan area or state capital, chances are you can find a number of organizations to consider. For example, if you are a banking lawyer, check out your state Bankers Association. If you are a female real estate lawyer, take a look at an organization called Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW).

Do some online research. Talk to clients and prospective clients about the organizations to which they belong. Check out these organizations’ websites. Take a look at the Board of Directors. What about the rank and file members? Are they decision makers? Can they hire or influence the decision to hire lawyers? Talk to a Board member about upcoming meetings and opportunities for you and your firm to get involved. Find out what other lawyers or law firms are involved. You are looking for a target rich environment where you will have the opportunity to get involved. Do your homework and develop a short list of organizations to consider.

#6) Pick One and Go Deep
Next, go to a meeting or two of each group you have identified. Ask one of your clients if you can go to an upcoming meeting as a guest. This is the time to conduct some due diligence, because once you find the right organization, you must become active and invest lots of time there to make it pay off.

Although there is nothing wrong with the Chamber of Commerce or the United Way, these groups cross industry lines. They are too diverse and their memberships are typically too fragmented. I submit that you’ll find a more target rich environment if you stick with an industry trade association.

My advice is to find the right group — just one — and go deep. That will be far more effective than peripheral involvement in three or four organizations.

Finally, if the organization you seek isn’t out there, start it. That’s what we’ve done with the Managing Partner Forum and we’ve worked with many law firms to create similar opportunities.

#5) Jump in With Both Feet
Once you’ve found the right organization, you’ve got to get actively involved. And, frankly, this is where most lawyers and law firms fall down. They join and then never go. Too busy. Kid’s softball game. Conflicts. Whatever.

Well, guess what? Getting meaningful results through organizational involvement is like joining the gym. If you want results, you have to go and you have to exercise. You’ve got to make it a top priority.

You get involved by going to monthly meetings. And you go religiously. You start to meet people. You develop friendships. Remember those 8-11 impressions? Here’s where they start to happen fast and, in time, it will start to pay off.

It’s an investment in you. Make it part of your routine. A little bit every week.

#4) Join a Committee and Perform
Early on, you should join a Committee and I often suggest the Program or Membership Committee. Both tend to be active and visible within the organization and will afford you the opportunity to meet lots of people. Once you’ve selected your Committee, volunteer to lead a highly visible project and perform like crazy. Do what you say. Meet deadlines. Exceed expectations. Do a great job and people will notice.

Remember those 8-11 impressions? Here’s where they start to happen really, really fast…and it all happens very naturally.

#3) Throw Some Money At Them
Ask the firm to sponsor a meeting or two, or run an ad in the membership directory. Make an impact with your dollars and resist the temptation to spread them too thin. For example, it is far more effective to pick one high profile annual event and own it as the primary sponsor, rather than being one of three dozen bronze sponsors for a multitude of events throughout the year.

#2) Befriend Future Leaders
Make it a point to befriend key leaders (both current and future) of the organization. Seek them out at meetings. Set up a breakfast or lunch meeting twice a month with selected Board members and Committee Chairs. Do some research ahead of time and ask questions about their company, its plans for the future and their role in the organization. Get to know them on a personal level. Be sincere and, by all means, don’t ask for business too soon. You’ve got to build trust and that takes time….it takes 8-11 impressions.

#1) Achieve a Leadership Position
In time, you should seek to Chair a Committee. In most organizations, this can be realistically achieved within two years. A year or so later, you are likely to find yourself in a position to run for a seat on the Board of Directors. I guarantee that you can become President of almost any organization you want within five years if you set your sights on the prize and go for it. It’s not hard. It just takes time, commitment and perseverance,

As you climb within the organization, seek opportunities for you (or your colleagues at the firm) to participate in programs and contribute articles to the newsletter or website on a regular basis. Talk to the Program Chair and the Newsletter Editor about your interest in helping them put on good programs and provide timely and relevant articles for the members. Chances are you will be pleased by the responses you get. Find out what they need and help them get it.

If you find the right organization and do the things we’ve set forth in this article, it won’t be too long before you and your firm are recognized as can-do people who know and understand the concerns and issues facing the industry. Along the way, you will have developed relationships with persons in a position to hire or refer you. It doesn’t get much better than that.

But it takes time, commitment and perseverance. Get out there. Get active. Start today.

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.

Top 100 Tips for Working the Room

By Jeffrey M. Horn

Level I — Beginner Learnings
Before the reception

1. Think about who will be attending. Who do you want to meet? Who can you introduce to whom?
2. Practice a self-introduction. Think about what you will say when asked, “What do you do?”
3. Bring a stack of business cards
4. Have some topics to talk about: read a newspaper, watch the news

At the reception

In General

5. Arrive early
6. Try wearing your name tag on the right
7. Don’t be pond scum
8. Avoid off-color humor
9. Avoid smoking
10. Avoid being loud
11. Avoid complaining
12. Don’t sit
13. Avoid excessive food
14. Avoid excessive drink


15. Meet more people rather than fewer
16. Focus on introductions and relationships, not selling


17. Look at and encourage the speaker
18. Resist interrupting
19. Spend 95 percent of time asking questions about other person
20. Try to spend 5 minutes not using the word “I”

Remembering Names

21. Repeat the name throughout conversation (judiciously)

Business Cards

22. Ask for business cards (rather than offering yours) and spend some time examining the card

Body Language

23. Smile
24. Make and maintain eye contact
25. Speak at a medium pace and clearly
26. Stand up straight

Graceful Exit

27. Keep one hand free to shake hands in next interaction
28. Don’t be afraid to say, “Excuse me—I see someone I need to say hello to”


29. Send thank-you notes

Level II — Intermediate Learnings
Before the reception

1. Create an action plan of how you are going to “work” the event
2. Set one goal for the event and write it down — make the goal attainable and realistic (e.g., meet two individuals and collect two business cards)
3. Get a copy of the attendee list

At the reception

In General

4. Position yourself near the door
5. Think of yourself more as a Host, as opposed to a Guest, and act accordingly
6. Avoid sizing up name tags
7. Avoid the “sympathy vote” by beginning conversations complaining (about weather, health, room temperature, etc.)
8. Carry a half glass of beverage and order only half a glass of beverage to greater facilitate separation
9. Avoid people you know unless they have the opportunity to give you a cross-introduction


10. Initiate handshakes, but respect people’s personal space — don’t crowd them
11. Repeat the name of the person when you meet them
12. Be sure you have a brief, effective introduction of yourself — it should be less than 15 seconds and identify your name, areas of interest, and what you do
13. Look for individuals in the room with “white knuckles.” Although they may be “wall flowers,” they might be valuable people to spend time with


14. Repeat what you hear during the course of a conversation — it reflects that you’re listening, and it clarifies points
15. Refer back to conversation later in the dialogue — “As you said earlier, …”
16. Discuss any subject other than doing business
17. When you enter a group; listen for 3 minutes and avoid “striking up the conversation”
18. Focus on be interested vs. interesting
19. Try to find two things in common with the other person

Remembering Names

20. Introduce yourself in a way that teaches people your name: “My name is Jim Hanley — it rhymes with manly…”

Business Cards

21. Make notes on the back of a person’s business card — “Let me write that down on the back of your card…”
22. Keep your business cards in an easy-to-reach pocket — pulling them out of your wallet can be clumsy

Body Language

23. Be relaxed
24. Watch when you nod
25. Pause and listen
26. Don’t look over the shoulder
27. Be sensitive to body language

Graceful Exit

28. You should anticipate that you will spend no more than four to seven minutes with any one individual. After that, you should be prepared to “move on.”
29. You feel more uncomfortable about leaving the interaction than the other person. It’s acceptable to say that you have to make a phone call, get a drink, go to the restroom or say hello to someone you have seen.


30. Follow-up as soon as possible (within 1 week)
31. In follow-up letters, see if you can remember something to ask them to send you. This puts a little bit of the ball in their court.

Level III — Advanced Learnings
Before the reception

1. Pick one name from the registration list to call. “I noticed you were also attending this conference and I was wondering if you were going to the reception as well. I was hoping to steal a few minutes and meet you to find out more about you and the ABC Company…”
2. Think of several questions in advance: “How would I know if I ran into your ideal client or prospect?”
3. If attending with co-workers, share thoughts, strategy, and mental checklist of action items before attending

At the reception

In General

4. Study clothing, shoes, etc. — you can tell many books by their cover.
5. Never sit at an empty table or next to an empty chair
6. Work one-on-one or with small groups
7. Never be critical of anyone at the reception to their face or behind their back
8. Be extra courteous to the staff — they can be a friend or an enemy


9. Volunteer your name
10. Split up with colleagues and circulate
11. When introducing someone to someone else, tell a bit about each person, something that might connect them
12. If you have met two people, introduce them to one another
13. Introductions are perfect times to “market” new colleague
14. Look for Meet


15. Ask for interpretations: “What do you mean by ‘often’?”
16. Control your body language — be aware of messages you are sending and those you should be receiving
17. Be hypersensitive
18. Ask questions requiring more than a one-word answer
19. Explore comments another makes—more questions are a way of demonstrating interest

Remembering Names

20. Ask the other person their name and then spend time on it, asking the person about self, unusual-sounding name, or other aspect of her introduction
21. Give a memorable description of self, and self-deprecating is okay: “I’m the only one here who can’t break 150 on the golf course.”

Business Cards

22. Use notes on business cards to forward articles of interest

Body Language

23. Keep a level head
24. Don’t fidget
25. Use entire physical being to express yourself
26. Don’t respond to distractions
27. Show people what you mean
28. Maintain an approachable expression

Graceful Exit

29. “Well, I don’t want to take up all your time. I’m sure you have other people you want to talk to and so do I. I’d like to continue our conversation, so why don’t we plan to get together? I’ll call you next week.”


30. Stay in touch: mailing list, invitation to participate

Seven Habits of Successful Rainmakers

By Sara Holtz

What distinguishes lawyers who are very successful at business development from equally talented lawyers who are not as successful at business development? Seven habits.

A gregarious personality, a network of high net-worth individuals, or a competitive nature can all be assets in developing business. But not everyone has these assets.

However, cultivating these seven habits is well within the grasp of any successful lawyer with sufficient commitment.

Successful rainmakers treat their clients as the most valuable asset of their practice.
For most lawyers, the vast majority of new business derives, either directly or indirectly, from existing or past clients and referral sources. Past and current clients can be a source of new business by sending new matters. They also can be powerful referral sources.

Yet sometimes lawyers focus their marketing efforts on cultivating new relationships with people they have never done business with before. They ask these “strangers” out to lunch, invite them to firm seminars, and call and e-mail them. Meanwhile, their most valuable assets—their existing clients—are being neglected.

Successful rainmakers treat their current and former clients as well as, or better than they would treat a prospective client. They recognize that existing clients are the most important people in their marketing mix.

Successful rainmakers nurture their relationships with their clients by providing outstanding, not just good, service, staying in touch on a regular basis, seeking feedback, celebrating clients’ successes, and showing appreciation by sending gifts or hosting special client-appreciation events.

Successful rainmakers make business development a priority.
Successful rainmakers recognize that to be successful at business development, they need to make it a priority and work at it on a consistent basis. They treat their business development activities with the same level of commitment that they bring to client service.

Making business development a priority is as much about mindset as it is about time management. There are opportunities to market each day. Throughout the day, lawyers talk to clients, opposing counsel, and consultants. Spending a few extra minutes deepening a relationship at the end of each of these conversations, whether on a professional or personal level, will dramatically increase the probability of being hired.

But mindset is not enough. Consistent business development requires a system. The approaches are limitless and highly personal. Some people spend the first ten minutes of each day involved in a business development activity. Some schedule business development on their calendars, just like client meetings or court appearances.

The important thing is that there is a structure in place that keeps marketing a consistent priority, as opposed to something that is done when there is a lull in a busy workload.

Successful rainmakers have a plan.
The people who are most successful at business development do not commit “random acts of lunch.” For example, less successful rainmakers, upon hearing that the best friend of their college roommate just became chief of litigation at a company, rush to have lunch with that person and “try to drum up some business.” Successful rainmakers recognize that such “random acts of lunch” are not usually successful and therefore not a good use of limited marketing time. Successful rainmakers ask, “Where am I going to focus my marketing efforts this year?” and then translate their answers into a written plan.

Plans can take on many different forms. They may be strategic and detailed, based on a vision, goals, targets, strategies, and activities. Or a plan may be something as simple as consistently pursuing three marketing activities that have been successful in the past. One of the simplest plans consists of writing an annual goal (for example, get three referrals from the corporate department) on an index card and placing it in a pencil drawer. Every time the drawer is opened, the goal is there. Either consciously or subconsciously, that goal becomes a filtering device to determine what activities to engage in that day.

Successful rainmakers focus on high-potential marketing opportunities.
Lawyers are very busy people. Under the best of circumstances, they have a limited amount of time to invest in marketing.

Successful rainmakers focus their limited marketing time where they can get the biggest return on their investment: high-potential targets that are most likely to become clients or refer them to potential clients. Typically, these targets are existing or former clients or those who have referred in the past. These are people with whom the rainmaker has a relationship based on demonstrated trust and knowledge of capabilities.

Successful rainmakers do not market to people who don’t know them or their work until after they’ve mined their existing relationships.

Successful rainmakers invest their time in high-payoff marketing activities. These activities vary from person to person, depending on their practice, their personal strengths, and where they are in their careers. But the important thing is to focus on those activities that actually produce business or, at least, leads. Few marketing activities produce results immediately, but, if after a reasonable amount of time an activity is not generating new work, it is not a high-payoff activity.

For the vast majority of lawyers, the high-payoff activities are those that involve building personal relationships with clients and referral sources—taking people out to lunch, staying in touch on a regular basis, and asking clients about their kids or another personal or professional subject that is important to them.

Successful rainmakers follow up consistently.
The biggest marketing mistake that lawyers make is failing to follow up. Many embark on a marketing campaign by taking prospects out to lunch or giving a speech to a local industry group. Then, because of the demands of a busy practice, they fail to follow up. Eventually enough time passes that they then feel very uncomfortable about following up.

Statistics show that less than 3 percent of all sales—and, after all, pitching legal services is a form of sales—are made on the first attempt. It’s unlikely that the prospect who’s taken to lunch will make a hiring decision on the spot.

Hiring a lawyer is not like buying another pair of shoes. There are very few legal services that are discretionary. People only hire a lawyer when they actually have a need for their services—when they’ve been sued or when they want to make a deal. Successful rainmakers recognize that their marketing activities must coincide with the client’s need. And the only way to ensure that happens is to use consistent follow-up to stay on the client’s screen.

Many lawyers worry about being too intrusive in their marketing, and obviously nobody wants to do that. Successful rainmakers look at their marketing contacts from the client’s perspective rather than their own. They consider what the client wants to learn, not what they want to tell the client. With this mind-set, the client’s reaction is likely to be, “Thanks for sending this information. This is really useful,” not, “Quit bugging me!”

Successful rainmakers listen more than talk.
Listening can be a big challenge for lawyers who are used to being the ones with the answers. People come to them with problems, and they want advice on how to solve them. This leads lawyers to think people are looking for a persuasive argument as to why they should hire them. But nothing could be further from the truth!

Successful rainmakers recognize that before they can sell something, they need to know what the prospective client wants to buy. Even the most articulate marketing pitch will fail if the client does not need the services being marketed.

Successful rainmakers take time to understand what their clients’ needs are—not what they hope or think the clients’ needs are—but what their actual needs are. The only way to discover what clients require is to ask and then listen to their answers. Only after clarifying their clients’ needs do successful rainmakers try to sell their services.

Successful rainmakers ask for business at the appropriate time.
Once they are clear about a prospect’s needs and are confident they can help, successful rainmakers ask for business. This is perhaps the most difficult of all habits to cultivate. Lawyers fear rejection and take it personally. But successful rainmakers realize that people can only hire them when they have a need. The probability is that there is nothing personal about not “making the sale.”

Successful rainmakers have figured out a way to comfortably ask for business. Some people bring a marketing lunch to a close by asking, “When do we get started?” Others might find that approach difficult. They may choose to ask, “So, what’s our next step?” or “You know, I’d really love to have an opportunity to work with you, because I think I can address your needs. I think you’d be a great client and I’d really enjoy working with you. How do we go about doing that?” No matter what approach is used, like the Nike ad says, eventually the time comes to “Just do it!”

With the other six habits firmly in place, asking for business may not be so daunting. Once a client’s needs are understood and a relationship is established, asking for business becomes an extension of the roles of counselor and problem-solver—familiar and comfortable roles for lawyers.

Successful rainmakers are made, not born.
Most successful business developers are not born that way. Consciously or unconsciously, they have adopted certain critical habits. Employing these habits consistently has given them confidence in their marketing abilities. It also has positioned them in their clients’ minds as a trusted advisor and a natural choice to handle pressing legal issues.

By incorporating these seven habits into your marketing approach, you too can become a successful business developer.


About Sara Holtz
Sara Holtz is founder of ClientFocus, a coaching company that helps lawyers become successful rainmakers. She was previously general counsel of a major consumer products company and was the first woman chair of the Association of Corporate Counsel. You can visit her website at www.clientfocus.net and her Women Rainmakers Blog at www.womenrainmakers.com

Finding Your Best Role in the Law Firm

by Matt Sherman and John Remsen, Jr.

Most of us are familiar with the traditional “finder/minder/grinder” model attributed to professional services firms. The “finder” goes out and gets new clients; the “minder” gives them great service and builds the relationship once the client is in the door; and the “grinder” works hard putting out a quality work product.

Of course, it’s difficult to be effective in all three roles. Certain personality types tend to enjoy the challenge of the hunt, while others prefer the comfort of the back office.

My friend and colleague, Matt Sherman, offers a slightly different take on this traditional model and identifies four different roles that lawyers might play in the firm. He says they aren’t scientifically developed — just based on his personal experience — and I like what he has to say.

Matt maintains that, although there are numerous other models that exist, these are the roles that lawyers can play in the law firm environment. They are:

The Rainmaker: The person who truly can work a room and always seems to come out with work or at least three or four key contacts that will lead to work. They typically aren’t great at sweating the details of a contract or a matter, but definitely see the “big picture.” They often benefit from a strong #2 who will sweat the details and make sure client work gets executed. Rainmakers make it look easy, but these folks work their butts off. They can suffer from letting things “slip through the cracks” so it is very important to pair them with a strong #2 (who often fits the Client Builder model).

The Client Builder: This person often does not initiate the relationship, but for some reason “clicks” with the client and sees an opportunity to substantially grow the relationship. Often, this relationship will be the attorney’s primary — and sometimes — only client. The attorney will work hard to deepen the relationship and expand it to new areas. They will know the client’s business almost as well as the client. They will develop and nurture a loyal team to serve the client, but that loyalty can demand lots of commitment. These relationships often double or triple in billings and the strength of the relationship can weather various client “storms” and/or law firm screw ups.

The Trusted Advisor: These folks tend to manage 3-5 key client relationships and always seem to do a good job for the client. Internally, they are not afraid to ruffle a few feathers to get their clients served properly. They often have a relatively fluid team that serves each client, but usually there are one or two key team members who cross over several relationships. They are trusted by the client because of their judgment and experience. They are not afraid to question a client’s idea. They understand their clients’ businesses and provide sound counsel to their clients.

The Technical Expert: You often find these folks among tax practices or patent practices (as an example). These are attorneys who have deep, deep knowledge and experience in an area of critical importance to clients — sometimes entire industries. They are in demand because of that experience and their ability to deliver a high level of value to the client for the investment. They usually get top dollar and should not be discounting their fees. These folks are often lone wolves. This person is often considered a grinder, but does a little marketing (articles, speeches, networking, etc.) to build a strong referral network.

Unfortunately, most law firms trot out only the Rainmaker model to illustrate what every attorney can become — IF they could run faster, IF they could leap tall buildings in a single bound and IF they were more powerful than a locomotive.

Which one are you?

Why not take a personality profile tests to find out? Here are a few to consider:

Caliper Profile
It’s been around for 35 years and has been administered to over one million professionals and executives, and over 25,000 companies. Altman Weil conducted a study using this instrument a few years ago to conclude that, generally speaking, lawyers hate change, hate risk and love autonomy. For information, go to www.caliperonline.com.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Developed in the early 1950s, the MBTI instrument identifies 16 distinctive personality types and has been widely used by organizational consultants to help people work together, make better career decisions and enhance communication and understanding. For information, go to www.myersbriggs.org.

The Predictive Index
It’s fast, inexpensive and can identify your behavioral strengths in less than ten minutes. It was developed over 50 years ago and has been used by over 7,000 companies with great results. For information, call Vic Coppola at 561.276.9990.

If you want to be a happy and productive lawyer, we suggest that you discover the unique characteristics of your personality.

Then “go with the grain” to find your optimal role in the your firm.

By doing this, you will add value to your law firm and enjoy a more productive and fulfilling legal career.

Life is too short to try to be something you’re not.

About the Authors

Matt Sherman is Director of Marketing and Business Development at Welsh & Katz in Chicago. Before that, he was Marketing Manager for the Chicago office of Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms. He can be reached at 312.655.1500 or MSherman@WelshKatz.com.

John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He can be reached at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.

Leading Productive Meetings

Five Practical Tips for Lawyers and Law Firm Administrators

By Sally Williamson

Meetings are one of the most universal parts of business life, but one of the least effective communication tools. Why? Managers don’t take the time to consider what should happen before, during and after each meeting.

And, many managers don’t appreciate how expensive meetings really are. Companies waste millions of dollars each year in employee time and productivity by leading ineffective meetings. (See box below.)

A survey of 950 professionals produced the top five reasons that people find meetings ineffective:

  • Getting Off Subject
  • No Goals or Agenda
  • Too Lengthy
  • Poor or Inadequate Preparation
  • No Decisions or Action Items

Consider the following ideas to make your meetings more effective.

Stay on Subject
Meetings get off course when participants don’t understand the objective of the meeting or their role in being a part of it. You can help participants get focused by sending out an advance agenda that states an objective for the meeting and key points for discussion. During the meeting, make a note of issues that are off topic and commit to address them later. Then, pull the group back to the topic at hand.

Follow an Agenda
Managers fail to prepare an agenda for two reasons. They think they’re saving time and they don’t know what to put in it. Agendas are a necessary part of getting buy-in to the meeting. If participants don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish it, they will disengage from the process.

At Intel, the semiconductor manufacturer, every conference room has a poster that asks three questions: Do you know the purpose of this meeting? Do you have an agenda? Do you know your role?

Manage Time
Most consultants agree that meetings should stay within 90 minutes. Beyond that time, people begin to arrive late or leave early. And, meetings become less effective when key players are missing. Be realistic about time allotments for agenda items and avoid overloading the agenda with more than you can accomplish in 90 minutes. Remember that some discussion points are better addressed in a retreat or off-site meeting environment which is not as pressed for time and allows for brainstorming, discussion and debate.

Plan Ahead
The most effective meetings are those that include a role for everyone in attendance. But, most attendees spend no time preparing for meetings in advance. Send the discussion topic with the agenda and ask attendees to give thought to the topic ahead of time. This shifts discussion from sheer opinion and quick reactions to a more thought-out discussion with insight and pros and cons.

Charles Schwab, a financial services company, offers managers feedback on meetings. An observer attends meetings, observes what went right and what went wrong and writes feedback into a meeting summary for all participants. Schwab says this has raised expectations and set the stage for significant change in the quality of meetings.

Lead to Action
Actions and follow-up are often overlooked from meetings for many reasons. In some cases, managers don’t take the time to summarize meetings or define next steps. In other cases, managers may not feel that the group reached consensus on next steps. In either case, a written summary is a great way to help attendees with clarity and direction. Meetings with a lot of discussion can raise emotions and even hard feelings. A summary helps everyone move beyond the meeting and focus on the next steps.

Many companies have begun to use technology in meetings to capture ideas and share data. Technology can be especially effective for brainstorming exercises or soliciting objective feedback.
Leading effective meetings is not a new topic, but it’s a communication challenge that many attendees feel just doesn’t seem to get better. Maybe because it takes practice and an honest assessment of what’s working and what isn’t. Effective meetings take time to consider what should happen before, during and after each meeting. Take time to calculate your meeting costs as presented in the sidebar. You may decide it’s a communication challenge that you can’t afford to ignore.

About the Author
Sally Williamson is President of Sally Williamson and Associates, Inc., an executive communications services firm. With more than 20 years of experience, Sally is both a business development coach and a speech coach for professionals. She can be reached at 404.475.6550 or info@sallywilliamson.com.

Enough is Enough: Lawyers Should Look like Lawyers!

By John Remsen, Jr.

Lawyers and law firm administrators are showing up for work dressed more and more casually these days. This trend is confirmed by The Remsen Report’s July Reader Survey that asked about dress codes in the legal profession. The topic also raised a flurry of discussion and some passionate opinions when I asked about it in the online law marketing discussion forums.

233 individuals participated in the Reader Survey, mostly managing partners, senior partners, firm administrators and marketing professionals throughout the United States. Here are the results.

How Do You Dress for the Office?

  • I always wear a suit: 23%
  • I prefer business casual, but wear a suit on some days: 58%
  • I wear a suit only if I must: 13%
  • Other: 8%

What Do You See as the Trend over the Past Five Years?

  • More formal: 7%
  • More casual: 71%
  • About the same: 22%

Clearly, lawyers are “dressing down” these days. Fewer than 25% say they dress for work in a suit and tie (or female equivalent) on a regular basis and over 70% say the workplace has become more casual over the past five years. Certainly, dress codes are much different than they were 25 years ago. But is this a good thing for the legal profession?

At first, you might be inclined to diss this month’s Marketing Tip as being too shallow and superficial. “What’s this got to do with marketing or being a good lawyer?” you might ask. Well, it’s about perceptions, and how others see you. Please read on.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m paying north of $350 an hour for legal services, I want my talented, high-priced lawyer to look like a talented, high-priced lawyer….in a suit. Crisp, polished and professional. The way he (or she) looks and presents himself (or herself) has a huge impact on how I perceive his (or her) skills and capabilities. That’s just the way it is.

Whether You Like It or Not, Image Matters
Although how you dress has little to do with being a good lawyer, it has everything to do with how others perceive your legal capabilities, and it has a huge impact on your success (or failure) with marketing and business development.

It is no secret that people judge us not only on our skills and abilities, but also on the image we project. We all know brilliant and hard-working people who reach career plateaus or fail in business because of a sloppy image and/or poor social skills. In fact, a recent national survey conducted by HotJobs.com reveals that 89% of HR professionals say that dress matters when it comes to promotions in corporate America.

What is surprising, however, is how quickly people judge us. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the best-seller Blink, confirms that people can and do size you up within seconds. Harry Beckwith, author of Selling the Invisible, talked about this fact of life at the Legal Marketing Association’s 2007 Annual Conference as well.

How the world sees you is important to your long-term professional success. Mr. Beckwith maintains that your visual image overpowers both the written and spoken word. Like it or not, we are a visual society and image matters more than you think, he says.

First impressions are powerful and lasting. It’s very difficult to recover from a bad one. Rarely, if ever, will you get a second chance if you blow it. You get only one chance, so you best make it a good one!

Lawyers Should Look Like Lawyers
Back in the old days when I started my consulting practice, I used to recommend that lawyers look like their clients. For example, banking lawyers should look like bankers; real estate lawyers should look like real estate developers; and sports and entertainment lawyers should look like jocks and movie stars. As the theory goes, clients would be more likely to hire (and would feel more comfortable if represented by) someone who looks and acts like they do.

However, as I’ve matured as a law firm marketing consultant, my opinion has changed. I believe that the vast majority of clients want lawyers who look like lawyers - crisp, polished, authoritative and professional. And I’m not alone.

I recently asked members of two law marketing listservs what they thought about the topic and here is a sampling of what they had to say:

Nancy Myrland, President of Myrland Marketing in Indianapolis, Indiana observes that “very few clients will fault you because you look too nice. Dressing in a suit for work or meetings sends a message of ultimate respect and that you are serious about your business. Your presentation and ‘packaging’ sets a tone.”

Stephen Babcock of the Babcock Law Firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana says, “I dress in high- end custom made suits and have been for the last two years. I am amazed at how it has changed my business and how I am perceived.”

Amy Smith-Pike, Marketing Director of Durrette Bradshaw in Richmond, Virginia tells the story of a young associate who recently attended a conference with the chair of her practice group and another senior attorney. “Both her dress and actions were detrimental to forging any new or meaningful relationships with other attorneys who can send business her way. To look at her you would think she was still in high school, maybe college….wearing low-cut casual pants (so low that I know she has a tattoo on her lower back), a shirt one step up from a t-shirt and showing up for a group photo in open toe shoes.” Amy added, “I strongly agree with dressing for the part. You never know when you will be speaking with a director, a client or a potential client.”

Susan Ward, Marketing, Communications and Development Director of Carlin Ward in Florham Park, New Jersey, says, “My take on ‘dress for success’ is simple: Casual dress>casual business>business casualty. Professional women in particular have to be very conscious of this. We’re still in a man’s profession, and we have to earn respect with clients, colleagues, and supervisors.”

Have I made my point?

Practical Tips for Lawyers and Professionals
If I’ve managed to persuade you (or if you already believed) that the image you project is important, here are my tips for busy lawyers and professionals.

  • Pay Attention to How You Look Because Others Do

Take pride in your appearance as a lawyer. It’s one of the noblest professions on earth. Always be conscientious about what you wear and how you present yourself to other people.

  • Buy the Highest Quality Clothing You Can Afford

It’s far better to invest in a few high-quality suits than a closet full of less expensive, trendier outfits. Buy classics that will stand the test of time. You can always spice things up with accessories like scarves and neckties.

  • Wear Colors that Look Good on You

Based on your hair color, eye color and skin tone, some colors will naturally look better on you than others. Take the time to find out which colors flatter you most and build your wardrobe accordingly.

  • Find a Really Great Tailor

You can buy the most expensive suit in the store, but it won’t look very good on you if you don’t get it properly tailored. Ask the well-dressed folks at your firm where they go. Spend the money. It makes all the difference in the world.

  • Find a Good Dry Cleaner, Too

When I moved to Atlanta two years ago, I searched far and wide to find the best dry cleaner in town. I asked my friends (the ones whose fashion sense I admired) where they went and tried a few different ones before settling on the one I use. Sure they’re a bit more expensive than most others, but worth every penny.

  • Get Your Hair Styled on a Regular Basis

For those of you who happen to have hair (I don’t), a great hair stylist can make a big difference in how you look, as well. Make an appointment at least once a month. Be careful about altering your natural hair color. Men should think twice about a toupee or hair transplant.

  • Don’t Forget about Your Wheels

My mother always said that you can judge a lot about a man by his shoes. Buy good quality and have them shined on a regular basis.

  • Wear Jewelry Judiciously

Tasteful accessories and jewelry can add a touch of class to any outfit. But don’t overdo it. The experts suggest that you buy the good stuff and keep it understated. Avoid a gaudy display. No earrings for men.

  • Stay Light on Perfume and Cologne

Like jewelry, too much of a good thing is not a good thing at all. Think about how you reacted the last time you were trapped in an elevator with someone wearing way too much cheap perfume. Don’t let that be you!

  • It’s Better to Overdress than Underdress

As Nancy Myrland suggests, nobody will fault you if you dress too nicely. And you can always “dress down” if you feel overdressed in a particular situation.

An Important Message to Associate Attorneys
For young lawyers, the image you project is even more important at this stage of your career than it is for senior lawyers. You want people to value your opinion and to take you seriously. Consider Amy Pike-Smith’s story about the young female associate attending the conference with two senior partners.

My advice? Pay attention to what the most successful and influential lawyers at your firm wear. Compliment them for their sense of style and ask where they shop and have their clothes tailored. Beyond that, it’s a good idea to ask your direct supervisor(s) about what kind of attire is expected and then dress slightly better than that.

Some Recommended Reading
Finally, here are a few books I’d like to recommend about this month’s topic:

Dress for Success
John T. Molloy
An all-time classic, even though parts of it are somewhat outdated. Malloy also wrote the New Women’s Dress for Success.

You’ve Only Got Three Seconds
Camille Lavington and Stephanie Losee
This book comes highly recommended and gets great reviews on Amazon.com. I just bought a copy myself.

Power Etiquette: What You Don’t Know Can Kill Your Career
Dana May Casperson
A good, quick basic overview about business etiquette.
Practical and easy-to-read.

Color Me Beautiful
Carole Jackson
A great book about the best colors to wear. We were required to read this book in graduate business school at The University of Virginia.

The Bottom Line….
You should always look crisp, polished and professional at work. It goes beyond client meetings and court appearances. It’s about the image that you and your firm project to your fellow attorneys, your staff, your co-tenants in the building and the people you see at lunchtime.

In addition, be aware of how you look when you are away from the job. You just never know who you might run into at the grocery store!

Take pride in the way you look and the image you project. It matters…big-time!

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He can be reached at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.

Lawyers Should Look Like Lawyers: Part II A Strong and Vocal Reaction from Managing Partners

By John Remsen, Jr.

NOTE: This is the second of two articles about current dress codes in US law firms. The first article appeared in the September issue of The Remsen Report and has since been published in the ABA’s Law Practice magazine. This second article presents reaction and commentary from managing partners and firm leaders across the country. Both articles can be found under “Marketing Tips of the Month” in the Resources section of our website - TheRemsenGroup.com. 

Lawyers and law firm administrators are showing up for work dressed more and more casually these days. And most firm leaders don’t like it all, especially managing partners.

In fact, the September Reader Survey conducted by The Remsen Report indicates that 54% of 162 survey participants oppose more casual dress codes for lawyers. And — get this — 70% believe that casual dress has a negative influence on clients’ perceptions of the quality and value of a lawyer’s legal expertise.

In light of these not-so-surprising findings, why on earth would a lawyer want to “dress down” on a regular basis in these competitive times?

In addition to our Reader Survey, we asked 60 managing partners (members of our Managing Partner Forum Advisory Boards) to review our first article and provide their comments and opinions on the subject. This follow up article highlights what they have to say.

A Strong Reaction to a “Hot Button” Issue
For starters, here are two representative e-mails that capture the rather strong opinions of the managing partners from who we heard.

Lanny Lambert, Managing Shareholder of Turner Padget, a 95-lawyer firm based in Columbia, South Carolina, says, “You have really hit a hot button with me. Call me old school but people work like they dress.”

Rhea Law, President and CEO of Fowler White Boggs Banker, a 230-lawyer firm based in Tampa, Florida, writes:

Although not popular - I agree 150% with the opinions you express in your article. I strongly believe that clients are looking for someone who looks like a professional. When they meet you, how you dress is a critical issue…not whether you are trendy, hip, or ready for the weekend.

Just Trying to Look Like Our Clients
The movement toward more casual dress is confirmed by just about every managing partner who provided his/her opinion. In most cases, the lawyers say they are simply following the trends set by their clients, as well as other lawyers and professionals in their cities. (The exceptions appear to be New York, Boston and Chicago, where several firm leaders observe a return to more formal dress in recent years.)

Joe Serota, Managing Director of Weiss Serota, a 40-lawyer firm headquartered in Miami, and Chairman of the Florida Association of Managing Partners, summarizes the opinion of many when he says:

The clear trend is toward more casual dress and we’ve gone with the flow. People here (in Miami) often point to Greenberg Traurig which has a casual-all-the-time policy. It’s hard to argue that we are more ‘corporate’ than Greenberg. People really like casual dress and consider it more the rule than the exception these days.

Allan Diamond, Managing Partner of high-powered international litigation boutique Diamond McCarthy in Houston, adds that “in our high-end practice, we have seen a gradual trend towards more and more casual apparel appearances of lawyers and most clients over the past ten years.” Diamond even uses the firm’s casual dress code to recruit talented young lawyers. “We were one of the boutique firms that helped facilitate that movement and made it a part of our efforts to recruit top students at the national schools.”

Bob Werner, Managing Partner of Brown McCarroll with 175 lawyers at five office locations in Texas, says, “Almost all of the clients who come to our offices, even those from major corporations, dress in business casual.”

And the casual trend is reported throughout most parts of the country….

In Greensboro, North Carolina, John Flynn, Managing Partner of Carruthers & Roth (24 lawyers) reports that “I’ve seen the same trend toward more casual dress in my firm and in others. We started out with a business casual Friday. Now it’s every day of the week for many of our lawyers.”

In Louisville, Kentucky, Kennedy Helm, III, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Stites & Harbison (260 lawyers) says that “the business casual approach made sense during the dot-com era. We actually had clients ask us not to come to their places of business in suits.”

In Wichita, Kansas, Jeff Kennedy, Managing Partner of Martin Pringle (37 lawyers), says that “we tend toward business casual dress, which is the style that has been adopted by an overwhelming majority of clients.”

In Jacksonville, Florida, Doug Ward, Managing Partner of Rogers Towers (95 lawyers), observes that lawyers just don’t meet face-to-face with clients as often as they used to. He says:

Our practice has so drastically changed from even ten or fifteen years ago, in that many lawyers rarely even see their clients during a normal work week. Therefore, I think there is much less reason to ‘dress up’ unless you have a client who you are actually meeting in person.

Personally, I don’t care how your clients dress. Lawyers are high-priced professionals and should look the part. The only exception would be if your clients specifically ask that you dress more casually when you go visit them at their place of business.

Geographic Considerations Factor Into the Equation
Several firm leaders mention that geography helps determine acceptable dress codes at some of their firms’ office locations.

Sharon Abrahams, Director of Practice Development of Chicago-based McDermott Will & Emery with over 1,100 lawyers, says:

In our New York and Boston offices, it’s formal business attire 24/7. They dress up even when they’re away from work. On the other hand, our lawyers in California wear Hawaiian shirts on casual Fridays. It’s fun for them, and they can pull it off in California. In our Miami office, it’s much more casual. I think it has more to do the heat than anything else.

Even within a single state, dress codes can vary by office. Brown McCarroll’s Bob Werner says, “‘The dress code for our Firm reflects the culture of the various cities where we have offices. In Austin, business casual is the norm. Our Dallas and Houston offices are more formal with most wearing coats and ties, except on casual Fridays.”

The Overwhelming Majority of Managing Partners Agree:
Lawyers Should Look Like Lawyers

Almost every managing partner who contributed his/her comments agree with my assertion that, with few exceptions, lawyers should dress like lawyers. And they feel quite strongly about it. They say that casual dress makes a lawyer look less credible. Some even go so far as to say that it has a negative impact on productivity and work product.

Don Christopher, a fellow UVA graduate and Managing Partner of Litchford & Christopher, a high-end, 15-lawyer commercial litigation firm in Orlando, Florida, has particularly strong feelings about the issue.

When serving as a law clerk to Judge Young in federal court 30 years ago, I learned quickly that how attorneys dressed affected their credibility with the judge, court personnel, jurors, and other lawyers. Those who “looked like they knew what they were doing” were invariably credenced more quickly than those who did not. Dress is a very important part of how you present yourself. Lawyers are often initially viewed from across the courtroom. I found that, without ever hearing them speak a word, onlookers immediately formed an opinion as to the lawyers’ competence.

John Flynn (Carruthers & Roth in Greensboro, North Carolina) offers this anecdote: “One of our more senior partners said: ‘If you want to look like a ball player, you’ve got to dress like a ball player.’ He was opposed to casual dress.”

Turner Padget’s Lanny Lambert has this to say:

Folks will never complain that you look too nice. I start every law clerk summer session and new associate orientation session with some of your same themes: You should always be prepared to look like a lawyer when you cover a matter, when a client drops by, or when you are called to court. It’s just part of being prepared to give the very best in client service.

Dressing Sharp for a Competitive Advantage
From a marketing and business development perspective, several managing partners feel that more formal dress creates a competitive advantage in today’s competitive marketplace.

For example, Nick Pope, President and CEO of Lowndes Drosdick which has 130 lawyers in Orlando, Florida, says:

My personal view is that it is not inconvenient to wear a tie (assuming you buy the correct size shirt) and that although it may be debatable whether some clients or prospective clients care, it is clear that some do. Therefore, why would you give up a possible edge in a business as competitive as ours?

Steve Susman, Founding Partner of the highly successful 85-lawyer litigation firm of Susman Godfrey with offices in New York, Houston and elsewhere, says, “A law firm should pay its lawyers based on what they bring in. They will then dress in a way to bring the most business in.” When I ask him the best dress to bring in business, he emphatically responds, “In a suit!”

Not Just for Clients and the Court
Several firm leaders say that, in addition to clients and the court, the impression you make with your co-workers, the lunch crowd and the people you see on your way to and from work every day is important, too. It’s a part of the overall brand and image that you (and the firm) project to the marketplace.

Mike Saunders, Chairman of Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, a 135-lawyer firm based in Kansas City, Missouri, says, “We office in a bank building and we do a fair amount of work with bank personnel. All of those bank officers are dressed in coat and tie or the equivalent. It’s important that we dress that way, too.”

A “Seriousness of Purpose”
Many managing partners go so far as to say that more formal dress directly contributes to a stronger work ethic, improved efficiency and a better work product. You may not feel this way, but it’s clear that many senior lawyers do.

Lanny Lambert (Turner Padgett in Columbia, South Carolina) captures the feelings of a good number of managing partners when he states, “Call me old school but people work like they dress.”

Don Christopher (Litchford & Christopher in Orlando, Florida) says, “My view is that dress not only colors others’ perceptions of you, but also affects your own performance and seriousness of purpose. That is why I believe a lawyer working alone in the office in a suit does better work than one in casual attire.”

John Flynn (Carruthers & Roth in Greensboro, North Carolina) says, “On the days that I am dressed casually, I feel less productive. And, as managing partner at least, I think I’m sometimes perceived as less authoritative when dressed casually than when I’m wearing a suit.

Mike Saunders (Spencer Fane in Kansas City, Missouri) has similar opinions: “We want to be projecting an image of professionalism, gravity and trust. I find it difficult to believe that someone who takes little pride in his/her appearance will take more pride in the quality of his/her work product.”

And Nick Pope (Lowndes Drosdick in Orlando, Florida) shares his philosophy:

I also feel that it lends to a more professional atmosphere in the office, whether there are clients present or not. This causes people to act more professionally, which is good for business and for morale. This view is almost always shared by the clients whose opinions I sometimes solicit on this topic.

Especially Important for Women and Younger Lawyers
No doubt, the issue of dress and personal image is far more important for younger, upwardly-mobile lawyers than it is for their more senior counterparts. And women face wardrobe challenges that men don’t.

I like the advice that Sharon Abrahams (McDermott Will & Emery) has to offer: “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” She cautions that men should think twice before wearing an earring and no one should ever reveal a tattoo.

Many managing partners encourage younger lawyers to look at the examples set by the most successful lawyers around them.

For example, Mike Saunders (Spencer Fane in Kansas City, Missouri) shares this advice:

I tell young lawyers to look at the most successful and most respected lawyers in our firm and then to make their own decisions on how they want to appear. I’m pleased to report that this advice has caused more than one young associate to wear a coat and tie daily.

Finally, Nick Pope (Lowndes Drosdick in Orlando, Florida) says:

I think it is harder to make judgments about what is casual and what is not for women attorneys than for male attorneys, where a tie is an obvious difference. For women the choices are much broader and while it is clear on the two ends of the spectrum, the middle is blurry, at least from a male’s perspective.

Is the Pendulum Starting to Swing Back?
Several managing partners are glad to see what might be the beginning of a trend toward a return to more formal dress codes, especially in markets like New York, Boston and Chicago.

Sharla Frost, Managing Partner of the 30-lawyer, Houston-based law firm of Powers & Frost says:

I spend the majority of my time in New York these days. Lawyers here dress like lawyers: suits, dress shirts, ties. The legal field needs to emulate the business sector it serves and the business sector has moved away from casual dress.

At Chicago’s Arnstein & Lehr (110 lawyers) , Managing Partner Ray Werner says he believes that “the casual dress trend has reversed a bit in the past couple of years…a significant segment of the young professionals have become more dressed for professional work.”

Steve Susman (Susman Godfrey), who spends most of his time these days in New York, says, “I’m happy to say that today there is a trend back to formality.”

And in Texas, Amy Miller, Director of Client Services at Cox Smith Matthews (120 lawyers based in San Antonio), says that “we are heading back to the more traditional business dress. From a marketing standpoint, I never agreed with the casual dress movement. With rates where they are and competition among law firms, dressing as a professional should be a non-issue.”

And Managing Partners Are Clearly Frustrated!
Interestingly, most managing partners appear to have little control over the situation. After all, lawyers tend to be autonomous creatures and often do whatever they feel like. In fact, many managing partners are frustrated in their inability to influence how their fellow partners (and associates, for that matter) dress.

We’ll close by sharing a few of their final comments:

Sharla Frost (Powers & Frost in Houston) says, “I have been lobbying for us to go back to a formal, professional dress code for years. We haven’t so far, but I continue to suggest it.”

John Flynn (Carruthers & Roth in Greensboro, North Carolina) adds, “I fought dressing down on Fridays for a long time but finally started doing it when I was the only person here wearing a suit.”

Nick Pope (Lowndes Drosdick in Orlando, Florida) has this observation:

We have tackled the issue several times and have found it to be one about which reasonable people frequently differ. Interestingly, it does not always divide on age. We have some more mature attorneys who prefer casual dress and some younger attorneys who prefer more formal dress. We are going to be debating the issue again shortly, as a result of a request from our Associate Relations Committee.

Steve Susman (Susman Godfrey in New York) sums it up this way: “Years ago I thought that our lawyers should wear coats and ties every day. I got outvoted. We first went to casual Fridays and then to casual all days.”

Allan Diamond (Diamond McCarthy in Houston) gives thoughtful advice:

While I still like to recruit our top talented young associates by marketing to them that we have a collegial atmosphere and lawyers can dress business casual in the office at all times, I have found that it is indeed more reflective of the image we want to promote with clients worldwide for us to dress professionally….looking ‘polished’ connotes qualities of ‘sharpness, organization and an organized mind, toughness when necessary and being at the top of one’s game.’ You are correct in that it has nothing to do with being a good lawyer, but everything to do with perception by others of whom they are hiring. Clients, whether it be real estate developers, entertainers or bankers, want to say to their bosses and colleagues that they hire the best lawyers. Being the best means looking the best too. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to wear Armani suits but it does mean you have to connote a sense of ‘power’ and ‘grace.’

And, finally, Kennedy Helm (Stites & Harbison in Louisville, Kentucky) believes that “the real test is what do those attorneys who are most successful and admired wear? If the firm’s partners dress casually, so will the associates.”

My advice to younger lawyers? Dress like the most successful lawyers in your firm. I’ll bet that most of the time, they wear suits.

In my humble opinion, lawyers should always look crisp, polished and professional. Not just for client meetings and court appearances, but for each and every work day.

Your clients, your fellow attorneys and your staff judge you (and your work product) by the way you look, especially if you are young and in the early stages of building a successful legal career.

So dress up, my friends! It’s a good habit for both you and your career. Besides, it will make your managing partner very happy!

About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He can be reached at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com.