Driving Marketing Change At Law Firms – A Test of Leadership

Although it is never easy to challenge the status quo or achieve fundamental change within an organization – especially at a law firm. Yet change is a fundamental component to success. How does a firm steeped in culture and tradition address these questions? Very carefully. Especially if it is driven by a law firm marketing partner.

Driving change can bring about profound personal and professional rewards. It requires developing a strong vision of the firms identity. I call the process firm sculpting – creating your firms ideal image.

The goal of course is to find that new image and make it powerful – one that will greatly increase client satisfaction and propel the firm’s success. This of course takes true leadership – and that’s the rub.

True leaders have the capacity to articulate a vision and inspire others to pursue it with them. True leaders come from a place of honesty–with willingness to see what actually is and discover what could be through community effort. They bring with them a confidence that gives others the courage to strive for even the loftiest goals.

Your firm’s potential for change lies in the hands of such a true leader. Without a strong individual with the skill to push for change by enlisting rather than alienating others, your firm may make important improvements, but it is unlikely to reach its full potential.

The all-important first step in initiating change is to find such a leader within your ranks. Once you are committed to seeing things change, look around and ask yourself who will lead. (The answer may be as close as your own reflection in a mirror.)

Once the leader is chosen, whether he’s the partner with the most power and seniority in the firm or a more junior partner who is eager and willing to support the process, his or her first step is to identify and enlist the other key players in your firm.

Forming Your Inner Team (the Key Partners)

The next step is to identify the principal members of the team–the inner circle. Most of the time, the inner circle will be composed of key partners and, in some firms, top-level administrators. Without them on board, the probability of creating profound change at the root level is seriously diminished. Bring them on board as soon as possible.
But before the firm does this, it must address a very serious issue. It must know whether the core power base–the inner circle–includes what is referred to as a “Toxic Partner.” Like a drop of poison in a carafe, a single “Toxic” can be fatal to even the most brilliant and ambitious of plans.

Finding Your Firm’s Vision – The Heart of Legal Marketing

Once the leader and the inner circle have been identified and any Toxics have been dealt with, the next step is for your leader to set up a series of meetings to determine what the firm’s values and challenges are and then begin to articulate a vision for the firm’s future. Ideally, a facilitator will be brought in at this point to help keep things on track.
Uncovering your firm’s values is no easier than confronting its challenges. Your firm’s values must inspire the partners if there is any hope of inspiring the firm itself and its clients. When the members of the inner circle envision the firm, they should identify which values move and inspire them. These inspired values must appeal to them at a visceral level, not just sound good. Left to their own devices, many partners (and professional marketers) come up with meaningless phrases like “We live to serve.” Your firm’s inspired values must be held to a higher standard than this.
The values must be concrete and measurable; the first measure is whether they elicit a positive emotional reaction that motivates action. You’ll know when the values defined by the inner circle are powerful enough–endorphins will kick in, enthusiasm will rise and it will inspire people to take action.

Drafting Your Firm’s Master Charter (and Creating Derivative Charters)

The inspiration and commitment achieved during the first seminal meetings will soon be evidenced in the creation of your firm’s master charter. As will be discussed in much more detail in later chapters, it is the inspired values and principles found in the master charter that will guide what we call -derivative charters–charters that belong to your key departments, practice groups and committees.

The master charter must be anchored in the leadership’s inspired values. It is the first evidence of what has been a dynamic, proactive process. The master charter must be real, not contrived. It must be rooted in the leadership’s intentions for the firm and the principles on which the firm will be governed from now on.

The master charter will become the focal point of the firm’s identity. It is the document that articulates the inspired values and priorities of the firm. It will not be drafted in a day–creating it takes introspection, analysis, debate and thoughtful examination. But when it is finished, it is the equivalent of a constitution for your firm. If it is done with excellence, it will both guide and inspire every member of your firm to actions that are congruent with the firm’s identity.

Once a powerful firm culture is in place, the master charter’s norms and values will keep the firm on the path to following its inspired values and will discourage individual or group conduct that is inconsistent with those values.

Once the master charter is completed, many law firms falter. The leadership becomes excited about the new charter and circulates it among the other members of the firm. A few memos go out touting the power of vision and describing the bright future that lies ahead. A few of the more ambitious partners try to rally the troops around the cause, but soon the inspiration begins to pale and the charter fades into the background, with no more appeal than the firm’s letterhead and logo.

Resculpting is for naught unless the people below the leadership level believe that the vision is relevant to their lives. I can’t emphasize this enough: The relevance cannot be illusory; it must be as real to them as their weekly paycheck. So your next step must be to give them both the responsibility and the authority to put changes into action.
In order to do this, I recommend that the firm’s charter be a jumping-off point from which each major department creates its own charter and plan of action within the vision that the leadership has delineated. These derivative charters and the strategic action plans will give the members of the firm a personal stake in their future.

The facilitator, with the support of top leadership, must ensure that each of the firm’s major departments, practice groups and committees is given time and support in crafting these all-important documents. Otherwise the subordinates will perpetually feel that this is the leadership’s vision, not theirs. Giving them the opportunity to participate is the only way to make the vision relevant, and it will also make them accountable for the results.

The challenge lies in getting the inspiration and enthusiasm evoked by the creation of the new vision to truly motivate everyone–all the way down to the people on the lowest rungs of the firm’s ladder. The solution is to empower everyone. Skipping this step will undermine all of the firm’s efforts.

In the end, every member of the firm should be enrolled in the change process. Every member of the firm who comes into contact with clients, vendors, other firms’ attorneys, or anyone else should reflect the firm’s inspired values and identity. Every form of marketing, advertising and promotion should be inseparably integrated with the people who make up the firm.

Bringing the Rest on Board (and Creating Strategic Action Plans)

This last step in reinventing the firm happens once the master charter and derivative chapters are written. To allow everyone in the firm to take part–to take ownership–in the changes the firm is making, the leaders of each of the firm’s major departments, committees and practice groups, in conjunction with each of their respective team members, will construct detailed action plans that identify specific goals, specify time lines and names of people accountable for bringing the goals to fruition. These strategic action plans should be developed for each of the major departments in the firm.
Strategic action plans are developed only after the firm’s charter and the derivative charters have been carved out by the leadership. These charters are the basis for the strategic action plans, which are tangible instructions for making decisions and taking action.

Strategic action plans can be thought of as logical extensions of the firm’s values and beliefs. They are, by nature, imbued with the firm’s culture. They can take on enormous momentum, capable of pushing the firm forward to new heights and performance levels.

Strategic action plans bridge the gap between the firm’s words and its deeds. They provide specific task-driven objectives against which the firm’s leadership, including the managers, can test assumptions and gauge the firm’s departmental performance.

The single most important characteristic of strategic action plans is that they are task-specific–they describe purposes, time lines and responsibilities for the tasks the firm performs. These plans, as well as the specific goals they are intended to achieve, must in the end be measured against both the derivative and master charters.

Although it is never easy to challenge the status quo or achieve fundamental change within an organization, the personal and professional rewards are boundless. Moving away from a firm’s preconceived notions frees it from existing limitations. The vision that emerges from the process of sculpting your firm allows your firm to create a new identity that will greatly increase client satisfaction and propel the firm’s success.

Understanding the Lawyers on Retainer Concept

In this life, people cannot do without the services of a good lawyer. Crime happens everyday around us. Sometimes we find ourselves in rare situations that make us suffer unfairly. Other personal circumstances such as bankruptcy, real estates and mortgage force us to hire lawyers. In one word, good lawyers are very imperative. Dealing with lawyers is not a simple thing. Many issues concerning hiring lawyers are crucial and they come first. For example, you many find yourself hiring lawyers on retainer. These lawyers are not any different from those you know.

The lawyers only ask for a retainer fee so that they can give you their services. What is a retainer fee? This type of a fee is on hourly basis. It is different from the normal charges you pay a lawyer because of defending your position in court. They include the following:

• Consultation fees – Before you can start working with a given lawyer, you have to set a few appointments with him or her.

• Research work – After listening to your side of story, your lawyer spends some time doing research to help you. You will have to pay for his or her time.

• Interviews – as the lawyer studies your case, you and him or her will look for possible witnesses. Then, your lawyer has to conduct an interview with each witness. Most lawyers want to receive a pay for their time.

Lawyers on retainer want only to ascertain your seriousness in the entire procedure. That is why they will ask for a specific deposit first. When looking for this kind of a lawyer, examine your budget first. Most people desire to save up money in legal matters as much as possible. You should look for a cheaper hourly rate lawyer. Some people do not take it kindly. However, if you think about it, you put aside huge amounts of money as down payment for the assets you love.

If you plan to hire a lawyer about a case related to the same assets, you should not feel bad if ask to pay a retainer fee. A retainer fee is just a small deposit compared to other types you have paid before. The more you refuse to pay the fee, the more you delay your justice. Even so, take your time to select a good lawyer. There is a big chance that you will sort out good lawyers from bad lawyers if you take your time. When you find a good lawyer, make sure that all retainer agreements are in writing.

Then you and your lawyer should sign the document. This is a good way of building a relationship with the attorney. The document should demonstrate how the lawyer allocates the money through out the legal procedure. You should not work with any lawyers on retainer if they cannot follow the document stipulating your agreements. The best place to look for these lawyers is the Internet. Many lawyers who could proof their expertise exist.

The Power Of The Lawyers Admonition

It is unfortunate that many people don’t think much of lawyers and their duties in the society. Lawyers however personify the highest level of authority in any country, state or community.

The law affects every strata of every society and is binding on all who live within that society; it dictates what norms are acceptable or unacceptable to all indigenes, and surpasses the will or directive of any one person or group in that social order.

Lawyers study this law; they raise and answer vital questions that concern all the people in that society, involving matters like fairness, equality, and justice. They represent citizens in the face of the law, they look for issues that the law may not have addressed in detail and find ways to use it to your advantage.

How can you not appreciate lawyers? How can you not hold them in reverence?

Due to the years that they have spent studying the different facets of the law, writing examinations, and passing through the bar to obtain the license to practice, their knowledge of the law and justice is formidable to the point of being downright frightening.

When a lawyer speaks, the words are weighed with meaning and backed by the Constitution; the same Constitution by which everyone is bound. This alone is reason enough to seek them when in need of answers to anything pertaining to the law.

The admonition of a lawyer is tantamount to the law in itself, because the lawyer takes the time to go into the legal details and most, if not all that is written about that matter. They have an understanding of these matters that you as a layman does not. Therefore they reserve the right to your respect. If anything, you are even expected to consult them as often as you can so that you do not make a mistake with the handling of the law that you may later feel sorry about.

How to Hire Law Firms With Ease

Legal matters are something that strike the fear of God in most people’s hearts, because of the complications involved, not to mention the astronomical legal fees one can incur. Legal matters, however, can happen anytime, anywhere and while people know that they must be prepared for anything, it doesn’t erase the fact that it can be quite a daunting prospect and as such, something to be avoided as much as possible.

However, fears of anything new and unfamiliar can be conquered with a proper understanding and learning of the matter. Once you understand the ins and outs of hiring law firms you’ll find that there was actually nothing to be apprehensive about. You need to hire lawyers who are well-versed in the language of litigation.

First of all, determine all the possible reasons why you need to hire a law firm. Of course in addition to wanting your tough legal problem solved, you may also want to hire a law firm because you want to augment the legal team you already have in place to increase your chances of winning your case and at the same time let your adversary know that you are determined to win it. Hiring the best law firm also increases your confidence about winning the case because you have a lot of legal experts behind you. And more importantly, you want to be able to win your case without causing too much of a dent in your bank account.

The next thing you need to do is research. Start with legal directories that will help you shortlist the best lawyers within your area complete with phone numbers and background information. You can also try researching online for law firm rankings, that rank the best law firms according to practice, diversity and region. Of course this will all depend on what type of case you have and the details involved.

A law firm’s expertise is based mostly on the fact that they hire the best graduates from top law schools. Since a lawyer’s core worth is based on his intelligence, knowledge and experience, you will increase your chances of winning your case since they will be updated on all the latest nuances of the law and be able to keep up their end of the defense with facts and figures relevant to your case.

While price is a major consideration, remember that the costs you incur will depend on the size of the law firm you need and want to hire. Solo practitioners usually entail lower costs and fees, small firms usually entail lower costs and more personal interaction, mid-size firms usually have more legal resources and therefore the ability to address your legal issues more effectively and large firms are what you need for larger and more complex legal concerns. When you go online, the best legal websites will have all the necessary information posted.

You will also need to check if the websites have posted their accreditation and certification and have very thorough information about their lawyers’ specialties. There are law firms that allow you to download reports and white papers on very popular legal topics, ones that their previous clients have been through so you can get more insights on your particular case and how it could turn out. The more information you have, the more empowered you feel so go for sites that also offer tips and advice on going through difficult legal matters and how to deal after the smoke clears.

And lastly, go for law firms that are able to explain things in a language you’ll understand. Forget about law firms that go technical, it is important to find one that provides personalized service and are very responsive – one who will actually return your calls because they understand time constraints and value your time as much as they value theirs. While most law firms put on an impersonal façade that they mistake as professionalism, a true indication of a competent and able law firm is one that shows the human side of the legal profession. Clear cut and straightforward about the law but at the same time, showing a sympathetic side.

It is easy to feel daunted or intimidated when you enter a legal situation where you need to hire law firms to get you out of it. As long as you know what you need and want and what to expect, hiring lawyers to champion your cause won’t feel so challenging.