Tag Archives: communication

Social Media For Law Firms: How To Get Your Content Out There!

So, you’re a law firm manager and you’ve finally got on board with using social media to promote your firm’s services, to evolve with the technological times, and to attract new employees and clients.

Of course, it’s difficult to constantly update your LinkedIn account, Twitter feeds, and blog posts, but you’ve assigned associates for each task and are feeling confident about the endeavor.

The problem is, how do you get people to actually read it?

There are many strategies for increasing the readership of your online legal content—from increasing your number of Twitter followers to increasing the number of website hits by new users.

Here are a few tips on how to get your content shared, and the upsides and downsides of each idea:

1. Publish your posts on media aggregators.

Upside: Websites like Reddit, Shoutwire, and Digg allow individuals to submit links to websites, blog posts, or any Internet-based page. The community of readers then votes up (or down) the link based on a review of its content. Create flashy titles and you’ll likely see in a flash the rise of your readership.

Downside: Comments by readers can be harsh. The anonymity of the Internet allows people to write down criticisms (NSFW) that may end up permanently cached on the World Wide Web.

2. Add website sharing buttons.

Upside: Your firm’s website should have links to all of your social media accounts, as well as ways to share your posts. Programs like “Click to Tweet” make this easy.

Downside: Your firm may need a small amount of Internet savvy to create buttons on your website and restore broken links.

3. Create interesting content.

Upside: This is so obvious your firm is likely already doing it! Nevertheless, remember to write thoughtful arguments accompanied with eye-catching photos. There’s so much competition already when it comes to online content, your firm’s additions must stand out.

Downside: Yes, this requires a little more time and thought to write captivating posts and tweets.

4. Do your research.

Upside: If you know what time your readers are log on then you’ll know the best time to publish your posts. Maybe you’re getting a lot of hits first thing in the morning. People are remiss to start work at 8am and decide to read legal news or browse the web. With this knowledge, you can now set your social media to publish at certain times to target your audience.

Downside: Due diligence on your casework is no longer enough. Time to do due diligence on your business development, too.

5. Crossover multiple social media platforms.

Upside: Happy you finally mastered the art of blogging for your firm? Time to summarize that blog post on your LinkedIn and Facebook page and compile a 140-character hook for your Twitter account. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same ideas on different mediums.

Downside: Now you’ll have to memorize more usernames and passwords. More social media means more potential backlash.

In the end, it’s possible to get your firm’s name and reputation out there.

But, just be careful what your wish for. The New York Police Department (NYPD) recently tried to increase its social media presence to interact with its target audience (“the people”). Instead of wielding the hashtag to promote its officers, however, the NYPD received a top-5 trending Twitter bashtag.

The Assciated Press (via NPR) reports:

“The nation’s largest police force learned the hard way that there are legions online devoted to short-circuiting even the best-intentioned public relations campaign—in this case, the NYPD’s Twitter invitation to people to post feel-good photos of themselves posing with New York’s Finest.

What #myNYPD got instead was a montage of hundreds of news images of baton-wielding cops arresting protesters, pulling suspects by the hair, unleashing pepper spray and taking down a bloodied 84-year-old man for jaywalking.”

So, use the above tips to get your firm’s content shared on social media. Just be sure it’s content that you truly want shared.


The question for organizations is how do you use these tools to open up communications with your workers, candidates and customers, while protecting your reputation as an organization? Attend C4CM’s course, “Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: Developing a Successful Social Media Employer Branding Strategy.

If you’re looking for tips on communication practices in the workplace, read C4CM’s guide “Communication Skills for Managers: Tips, Techniques, and Best Practice Strategies to Communicate More Effectively.

Applying successful communication techniques gives you two important advantages: 1)You’ll create a harder-working and more productive employee workforce, and 2) you’ll be less likely to fall into the clutches of employee lawsuits.

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A To F: Alphabetical List Of Outdated Legal Technology

We’ve already complained about Luddite lawyers.

Technology is not only a pragmatic requirement of the practice of law; it is now an ethical one, too.

If your IT Department isn’t already the most integral and important part of your firm, it’s like you’re falling behind. Furthermore, if you use any of the following items on a day-to-day basis, it’s like your operations are as outdated, as well.

Eliminate some of these machines and office mores to get back on track.

“A” for Associates.

Associates are on the decline, and law firm employees on the rise.

Associate compensation models are changing as the legal marketplace becomes overpopulated with a generation of lawyers with very different workplace attitudes and expectations.

Firms are recognizing the growing obsolescence of the traditional lockstep model and are taking steps to rework it or replace it. Firms now have an opportunity to be much more creative in how their attorneys are paid and to use compensation as a way to drive long-term value. To create long-term value and retain good attorneys, a firm first needs to design a strong, coherent, and attractive strategy.

Rather than firing secretaries or de-equitizing partners, Greenberg Traurig law firm has created a new strategy for hiring associates in the form of a “residency program.” Firm managers view this program as a way to attract talented associates without having to endure the costly and risky hiring process. Also, it allows junior lawyers to sign on who may not have made the cut in the first place, reports Law21.

In addition, junior lawyers work case matters without billing their work at the high rates clients have come to expect. Sitting on conference calls and gaining on-the-job training, these “resident” attorneys gain the job experience needed to succeed in the future and sustain life in an over-saturated market today.

Greenberg is simultaneously creating a new non-shareholder-track position called the practice group attorney, similar to the positions at law firms Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. 

The age of the Associate is over.

“B” for Binders

Why are you till making copies, printing out transcripts, and creating binders? Sure, every once in awhile, there’s a need for a hard-copy backup binder. But, it’s time to go digital.

Papers can be scanned, digitally stored, text-recognized, and then made searchable to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your law firm.

Binders are out, and electronic case material software—MyCase, Amicus Attorney, AdvantageLaw, LegalFiles, and OneNote—is in.

“C” for Conference calls

How many people really benefit from conference calls? Already, it’s impossible for more than one person to speak, and—often—people accidentally speak over one another.

Is a conference call more efficient than a memo? Do five people really need to bill the client for the same call?

Conference calls can easily be replaced with a quick person-to-person conversation, memorandums circulated over email, lists distributing work product, or—for the advanced law firm—discussions over a wiki (Learn how to create one here).

Ditch the conference call and develop your social capital at in-person conferences instead.

“D” for Dictaphones

Della may have used a Dictaphone for Perry Mason, but outside the world of black and white television is the real world of iPhones and Macbooks.

Your smartphone, tablet, and computer is capable of recording and even transcribing audio. So why are you still using cassette tape recorders? The Dictaphone should die in a fiery death, the app Dragon Dictation, however, is worth its weight in Silicon.

“E” for E-mail

Experts agree, e-mail is outdated. A meeting-less morning, a conference-call free afternoon, or e-mail-less day goes a long way in productivity for the firm and project deliverables for your clients.

Reading and answering e-mail takes up approximately 28 percent of the average workweek for employees, reports a 2012 study by McKinsey & Company. Communicating and collaborating internally takes up 14 percent of the workweek, and searching and gathering information just 19 percent.

Have you ever e-mailed a colleague who shares a wall with you? If so, it’s time to reconsider your e-mail etiquette and e-mail frequency.

Electronic communication certainly has its advantages. But, its overuse has made e-mail under-perform in comparison to old-fashioned office visits.

“F” for Faxes

Ok, keep your fax machine. But only if it’s paid for or used as a paperweight, museum item, or reminder to what legal assistants had to go through to file motions in the past. Otherwise, stick to e-filings or eFaxing.

If you’re having trouble keeping up with times, just consult The Center For Competitive Management (C4CM)’s list of courses and audio conferences on technology integration for law firms.

Also, keep reading this blog, http://lawfirmsuccess.wordpress.com/, for more tips of the legal trade.

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Tips For Handling Difficult Conversations In The Workplace

There’s a reason this article is about “tips” and not “tricks” for handling difficult conversations in the workplace. It’s because there is no way to avoid important human resources conversations: poor hygiene, denial of a raise or promotion, firing…

Take, for example, the recent layoffs at law firm Arent Fox. The Above the Law Blog reports that the law firm, faced with financial difficulties, has recently fired members of their staff. The law firm issued a statement, saying:

“Effective this week, the firm reduced the number of support staff by approximately 20 people in various offices and departments. Like many firms across the country, we are making hard choices to ensure that our resources are aligned with demand. This was a difficult decision that was made even harder because we are losing good people who have helped make Arent Fox an excellent law firm. Those affected are being provided with severance pay and health benefits. We wish them the best.”

Certainly, firing employees is difficult. But, so is explaining these firing to your clients and other colleagues. Arent Fox did an excellent job discussing this sensitive issue.

Why? They kept it short, honest, timely, contextual, and classy.

In general, the rules—if there are any—for handling difficult conversations are simple.

Be honest.

Being honest involves leaving emotion at the door. Honesty doesn’t mean telling an employee how you really feel: they’re incompetent, lazy, and toxic team member! Honesty involves concrete examples of poor performance, for example, or poor hygiene, if that’s the case.

Don’t hide behind excuses. If you’re firing a person for poor performace, bring up documented instances where that was the case.

In the case of Arent Fox, they admitted that individuals who were laid off had contributed greatly to the firm. Like any company in financial straights, however, there are tough decisions to be made. The statement issued by the firm is thus honest and understandable, although unfortunate.

Be timely.

As a corollary, honesty requires documentation and timely reports.

If you plan on using a complaint by a coworker against one of your subordinates, you need to bring it to their attention immediately. Give the subordinate in question time to defend or correct their behavior.

If you come to them even a week or two later, it’s likely they will simply deny the claim. And, it’ll be too long for you (or them) to truly remember the offense.

If you suspect, as a partner or senior manager, that there will be arbitrary lay-offs in the future, issue a statement alluding to that fact. Nothing is worse than being caught off guard by the financial woes of your employer.

Allow your employees to arrange their affairs in enough time. That way, like at Arendt Fox, employees who were let-go know that they will have severance pay and health benefits, and have hopefully put a job lead or two in order.

Be consistent.

Finally, be consistent in your statements. When faced with difficult conversations, it’s easy to talk in a circle. The important thing is to keep focused on the topic at hand, and to not make contradictory statements.

For example, if you are denying a person’s request for a raise because you don’t have the budget, don’t then promote (with a raise) another colleague. And, if you do, address the situation. Perhaps there’s only room in the budget for one raise, and the other person is more senior or more skilled.

Inconsistency can be interpreted as dishonesty, which—as mentioned earlier—is the easiest way to lose the respect of a subordinate and lose you handle on this difficult conversation.

In the end, there are also emotional and legal ramifications to holding difficult conversations in the workplace.

Read C4CM’s Guide on Handling Difficult Conversations: Communication Strategies for the Workplace to learn more. The 108-page guide provides practical and realistic solutions for tackling the hardest elements of workplace interactions, including:

  • Job Performance
  • Disciplinary Action
  • Termination of Employment
  • Employee Complaints about the Workplace
  • Disabilities (Related to Job Accommodations)
  • Personal Presentation/Hygiene

-WB

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56% Of Consumers Use Social Media To Search For Attorneys

 How Your Firm Can Profit From & Avoid Pitfalls Of Social Media

This Spring, Tumblr hit the 100 Million mark—100 million blogs, that is. If we’re talking about numbers in terms of profit, Tumblr far exceeded mere millions. In May, social blogging platform CEO David Karp sold the company to Yahoo! for a cool $1.1 billion.

Karp, for those who don’t already know, is a 26-year old high school drop out who built Tumblr while still living at his mother’s New York City apartment in 2007, writes Brian Warner for Celebrity Net Worth.

In the same period it can take lawyers to settle a single lawsuit, Karp created and sold a billion-dollar business. If there was ever a time to praise the popularity of social media, Tumblr’s milestone in millions of blogs could certainly serve that purpose.

That’s why it’s not surprising to read in a recent study conducted by The Research Intelligence Group that 56 percent of consumers and 72 percent of minorities who searched for an attorney in the past year reported doing so via social media.

In fact, over one-fifth of survey participants went so far as to consult the social media pages of the specific lawyers or firms that they were considering during this search for legal representation, reports Kevin O’Keefe for Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

Law is a time-honored profession. As such, it maintains certain traditions and history. Ergo, lawyers aren’t often known for being on the cutting edge of technology.

Nevertheless, most law firms today have a website. Keeping that website up-to-date is critical.

Firm websites help you attract more clients, rise in search engine rankings, keep up with technological developments for electronic legal tools, update your firm and practice area information, and increase interaction with the legal community and community of potential clients, in general.

Recently the Virginia Supreme Court in Horace Hunter v. Virginia State Bar ruled on the extent to which law firms can promote their practice and previous legal wins via a blog or website:

“The Virginia majority held that Hunter did not have to seek clients’ permission to discuss past closed cases, even if there was a possibility that the clients would suffer embarrassment or some other harm by the public airing of their affairs. The court also ruled that Hunter’s blogging about past courtroom successes on his firm’s website constituted an advertisement, even though he also included commentary on the criminal justice system. As a result, the majority said he should have included a standard disclaimer cautioning against too much reliance on past results.” (via Above The Law)

Thus, with proper disclaimers, your firm can join the Twittersphere.

In the end, websites, blogs, Twitter, and other social media are not a new development in technology. The Research Intelligence Group’s survey shows that although the number of Internet users declined with age, a surprising 30 percent of survey respondents above the age of 50 were also professed social media users.

And, among survey respondents, nearly one-quarter made a final selection of a lawyer based, in part, on what they gleaned through their social media research, according to Kevin O’Keefe for Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

So, what are a few “must-haves” for attorney websites?

LexisNexis’ own blog suggests:

  • Areas of Law Practiced. Specify your areas of legal expertise and the services that you offer in each of those areas. If visitors can’t find this information quickly, or if it’s unclear, they are likely to leave the site.
  • Experience. Prospective clients want to know how long you have practiced law and whether you have previously handled cases like theirs.
  • Education. Reassure visitors that you have the know-how to resolve their legal issues. Tell them where you went to law school, and when and where you passed the bar exam.
  • Photos. Offer a glimpse of your personality through pictures, but remember to always use professional-looking shots. People who visit your site are searching for an attorney they can trust, not a drinking buddy.
  • Biographical Data. Sharing information about your family and your interests/hobbies conveys personality and helps build connections with potential clients. Just don’t overdo it. (But if your goal is to secure referrals from corporate counsel, our research indicates you should minimize such details.)

However, training your team in technology serves your clients in more ways than one.

In today’s Facebook world, lawyers use social media to attract clients, but they can also have an obligation to perform research on social media sites during investigations, as well.

Social media profiles are a potential treasure trove of information in litigation. But using social networking can ensnare attorneys in ethical traps in two different ways: (1) when accessing information in someone else’s profile, and (2) when an attorney’s own profile information might be used against them.

How can you effectively use social networks to gather information to gain a legal edge while ethically keeping out of trouble?

C4CM’s comprehensive webinar, Using Social Media in Legal Investigations: Traversing the Ethical Minefieldon July 16, 2013, from 2:00 P.M to 3:15 P.M. Eastern time, explores key strategies to improve your legal investigation on social media while keeping yourself safe from legal and ethical pitfalls.

If you’ve found this blog post via social media, you’re off to a great start. Keep up the momentum by exploring other important online tools for law firm managers here.

With so many consumers consulting social media, it’s time for law firm professionals to (*ah hem*) follow suit.

-WB

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The School Of Life (For Lawyers)

If you’re in need of inspiration, simply browse the courses offered by The School of Life. Exactly as it sounds, the school of life provides lessons and seminars to improve your experience as a human being in this world.

But, how about improving your experience as a law firm professional?

If you’re in search to derive meaning from your work, you need only go as far as the calendar for August 2013. It turns out, the School of Life could easily be renamed a School of Life for Lawyers.

The first class offered is How To Be Confident. As a law firm professional, there are three reasons you should be confident.

First, for the employee, you’ll earn more respect in the workplace with confidence in your work product. For associates looking for promotion, it’s far better to stand by your deliverables than to deliver blame when something goes array.

Take ownership of your work and you may one day own the workplace as law firm partner.

Second, confidence translates well into the courtroom. Being prepared is often translated into confidence. Judge and jury will be more apt to believe your story when they think you are confident in what you’re speaking about. This means no hesitation in your speech, consistency in your presentation, knowing your audience, and recovering nimbly in the event of an accidental blunder.

Third, as a law firm manager, confidence brings calm. Whether it’s the anxious client or the terrified first-year attorney, a boss with confidence is one who is heeded. When you’re in a time crunch, appearing frantic and hesitant will relay to your subordinates. If you need your subordinates at work or a client on the stand to be confident, they’ll only learn how by mimicking your own behavior.

The next class offered is How To Find A Job You Love. Ideally, you already love your job. But, if you don’t, learn to make the best of it by seeking out new responsibilities around the office or participating in pro-bono work.

Law firm managers should be especially attentive the level of morale at their firm. Studies show happiness translates into efficiency in any profession.

The third class offered is How To Be Cool.

Cool lawyers spend their lunch hour creatively. That means playing the Lunch Game. Play lunch roulette where once a week law firm professionals are randomly assigned a lunch group. That way, your firm begins to bond at all levels. You’ll be surprised how much your employees will learn about the firm by lunching with a different department.

If that’s not for you, try eating out once a month together. A change in scenery might lead to a change in thinking necessary to crack a case.

Whether it’s dining room DJ booths or levitating workstations, “cool” law firms are also more productive ones. Nothing improves innovation rates like a change of pace and tradition.

Finally, one of the last courses is How To Have Better Conversations.

Learning to talk is not just for toddlers. In fact, having productive conversations is key for law firm professionals. Great leaders are also great conversationalists.

In an interview with Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind, authors of Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power Their Organizations, the ideacast develops the view that Leadership Is a Conversation.

“If you think about what organization is all about, it’s just basically a bunch of conversations that are happening at the same time,” answers Mr. Groysberg.

“What leaders do is facilitate the conversations that actually produce value, that actually engage employees; its what distinguishes some of the best corporations.”

Think about the key elements of what makes interpersonal and productive conversation among friends. These conversations include four elements; they are interactive, intimate, inclusive, and intentional.

“When you place this conversation in an organization, many of these attributes disappear,” laments Mr. Groysberg.

By restoring these four elements of conversation into your everyday workplace dialogue, you will empower yourself as a manager or en envalue yourself as an employee.

In the end, law firm success may not depend on the courses offered at the School of Life. But, reading the titles for such courses provides enough fodder for thought for a lifetime. If your firm lacks confidence, passion, coolness, or productive conversation, it may be time for your profesionals to be re-schooled.

-WB

*Note, this website is in no way affiliated with The School of Life, nor is it promoting any of the SoL’s course offerings.

C4CM does, however, offer its own selection of valuable courses for life and lawyers, including:

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How To Handle Needy Clients (& Still Get Work Done!)

Whether you’re practicing in large corporate firm or small mom-and-pop shop, as an attorney, you’ll keep facing the same issue: lengthy client consultation.

It may be in-person or over the phone, but lengthy client conversations happen, and they cost your firm money. Unfortunately, you can’t always bill these consultations as a client call.

In fact, keeping up with the issues your clients face is part of the job. It’s important to address client concerns, lay out case timetables, and explain the legal process. However, clients often can’t tell the difference between a legal issue and one, well, for a different type of professional—the psychiatrist.

“Clients want to talk about things that have nothing to do with the legal work I have to do. They ask the same questions that you can’t answer: ‘When will this be over?’ or, ‘Do you think (this) will happen?’ You’re tired of telling the client, ‘I don’t know, but just be patient.’ The client calls and says he “read” this, or “heard” this,’ or worse, ‘My friend had a case like this and…’” recalls Brian Tannebaum in his Above The Law article, “Strengthening the Attorney/Client Relationship.”

The problem is, law is personal.

For the small-business owner faced with the risk of losing his legacy, successfully passing on a business to his children that he built for decades from the ground up is no small issue at all. The woman filing for divorce or fighting for custody of children is understandably emotional. Imprisonment or freedom is, for many, a choice between life or death.

Everyday occurrences for attorneys are special occasions—and mostly stressful ones—for clients. Nevertheless, attorneys can’t play therapist to every needy client.

So how can you avoid unnecessarily long client consultations? Try empowering your assistant.

Train your assistant to handle those difficult client calls. For example, a legal assistant should understand the legal process and be aware of specific case updates or news to answer most client questions. He or she can certainly learn to disarm angry clients or soothe anxious ones.

Make sure it doesn’t seem like you are dismissing your clients. For example, don’t use phrases like “let me hand you to my assistant.” Instead, say things like “Mary handles your invoices,” or “John is really the person you should speak to…”

Get in the habit of handing off certain business or client calls to your assistant, that way your clients are comfortable hear his or her voice.

More than that, make sure your clients are aware of your assistant’s extensive expertise. Assistants come in all shapes and sizes. Because of the technical and complicated nature of law, legal assistants stand apart in specialization and certification.

Not to mention the billable hour of your assistant is less cumbersome than senior partner time.

When you have particularly needy clients, don’t shirk their calls. Due diligence involves, sometimes, a bit of handholding. Give your assistant a quick brief about the specific needs of your client, and have them handle status update phone calls or emails. Your assistant should always keep a tone of confidence and authority.

The idea is to empower your assistant, not enfeeble your clients.

Assistants shouldn’t, obviously, handle all communication. But, to keep up with the demands of your practice, there’s nothing wrong with managing the time of your clients and your staff more efficiently.

With this in mind, make sure you hire an experienced and knowledgeable legal assistant. With so many lawyers and legal professionals out of work, there’s labor-lost when it comes to hiring the right man or woman for the job. Consider looking for a person with a psychology background, as that’s the role they frequently play.

Start by writing a job description for the ideal candidate. Then, include adequate training that should include, for example, client interaction guidelines.

Boost the attorney-client relationship at your firm by not actually handling the relationship, yourself.

-WB

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Handling Sensitive Conversations With Clients & Associates: Code Talkers, Navajo & The Language Of Law

“Code talkers” refers to persons who use an obscure language as a means to transmit secret messages.

The use of Navajo during World War II is perhaps the best known example of code talkers. Philip Johnston, a civil engineer for the city of Los Angeles, first proposed the use of Navajo to the United States Marine Corps. Johnston was a World War I veteran who was raised on the Navajo reservation as the son of a missionary.

As one of the few non-Navajos to speak the language fluently, Johnston knew that the complex grammar, the fact that the language was unwritten, and mutually intelligible pronunciation with the even the language’s closest relatives within the Na-Dene family meant Navajo could provide meaningful information across enemy lines, as well as an undecipherable code.The use of Navajo code talkers in World War II was invaluable in winning the war, but the practice of using code talkers in wartime dates back to World War I.

In fact, the first known use of Native Americans in the American military to transmit messages under fire was a group of Cherokee troops in the U.S. 30th Infantry Division during the Second Battle of the Somme in 1918. The unit was under British command at the time.

Cherokee is the only Southern Iroquoian language that remains spoken today. And yet, on March 25, 2011, Google announced the option to perform searches in Cherokee. As of November 2012, Gmail is supported in Cherokee, and on December 18, 2012, Microsoft announced Windows 8 will be released in Cherokee, containing “nearly 180,000 words and phrases” in this Native American language.

“Why do organizations like Microsoft and Google care about languages with so few speakers?” asks Nataly Kelly for the Harvard Business Review Blog.

“Without a doubt, providing members of linguistic minority groups with access to technology in their native tongues is very important. It empowers these communities, enabling their languages to survive and thrive in the digital age,” Kelly answers.

But that’s not all. In an analysis of gross domestic product by language use, Mark Davies discovered in 2003 that English and Chinese held the highest purchasing power, followed by Japanese, Spanish, and Russian, i.e., $87.50 of every $100 spend corresponds to a person who speaks a world language (via HBR).

Kelly goes on to argue that the remaining percept of micro-language speakers, like Cherokee or Navajo speakers, still possess a powerful and influential market share.

However, there’s another reason why businesses should care about language. Communication today, whether via code, programming, tweets, or traditional press releases, is an important and powerful tool.

For law firms, the extent to which you can effectively communicate your services and practice philosophy to clients affects your profitability. In his article “From Biglaw to Boutique: Networking Contraditions,” Tom Wallerstein stresses the need for partners to ask clients for work.

He points out that lawyers asking their acquaintances for work doesn’t have to be laced with a clandestine agenda. Nevertheless, “beating around the bush” won’t boost your firm’s bottom line.

Furthermore, attract clients by speaking in their language. If you want to represent a young, upcoming start-up in technology, the first step would be increasing your Klout score (or, at least, knowing what one is).

Clear language is important for selling your firm to clients. It’s also important for keeping them.

Your clients are no longer restricted to a single national, cultural, or language border. Especially in a melting pot like America, clients come from a variety of countries and cultures around the world, and their businesses serve a variety of different interests and needs.

Law firms are in the business of servicing micro-language clients—put in a single room, your engineering clients, corporate clients, and criminally prosecuted individuals will stress words, phrases, and their general demands differently.

This means your use of language should be meaningful and direct, but also universal. Unlike the intent of code talkers in military ventures, the language of law firms should aim to be understood by all. There should be no hidden messages, agendas, tricks, legal jargon, fine print or fees.

Retain your clients with a clearly written, custom retainer.

Finally, language is important in internal communication. Ethnic, cultural, and gender differences exist within, as well as outside the firm. It’s not just about preventing workplace discrimination suits with a one-size fits all policy, but it’s about making employees feel heard.

When associate competence and career goals are understood, management can them employ them in more productive ways. This is only possible with effective, adaptive internal dialogue.

So, not only is it important to know the language or your own law firm, but it is also equally important to know the language spoken by your clients and their customers. Cracking the code of sustainable business strategies is knowing when to speak up, what to say, and how exactly to say it.

For more information, listen to C4CM’s audio guide on Handling Difficult Conversations: Communication Strategies for the Workplace.

-WB

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How One Person Can Ruin A Good Thing: A New App Restores Efficiency In Email

Some people know how to ruin a good thing.

It was the first person to use a cell phone in the movie theatre, the first person to run over a pedestrian with their skateboard, and the first person to get too drunk at a work function. Now we have to watch annoying advertisements about how “silence is golden,” ride skateboards exclusively in the skate park, and pay cash at the once open office-party bar.

The problem is, all good things come to an end… and they usually come to an end quickly.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently,” Warren Buffett once said. In business, one failure, one event, or one person is all it takes to ruin a good thing.

Unfortunately, the same applies to the Internet.

Once considered the best thing to happen to business, the World Wide Web is opening a world wide can of worms. From Facebook browsing during office hours to computer viruses, the Internet has put workplace efficiency in jeopardy.

With marketers trolling for bits, cookies, and IP addresses, say goodbye to your privacy. With sites like Wikipedia, forget finding reliable information online. With the immediacy of email, proper etiquette has been replaced by emoticons.

“As our inboxes have become more demanding, we have all become less responsive — because we get so many messages it’s hard to keep up. But the harder it is to keep up, the more messages (‘I just thought I’d send another email asking if you got my first two emails’) we send,” writes Sarah Green for the Harvard business Review Blog.

“The problem with ‘responsiveness’ is that email then becomes like a hydra—cut off one head (answer one email) and you spawn nine more,” continues Ms. Green. “The more responsive you are, the more email you receive, and the more responsive you need to be.”

On a personal level, you can put an end this inefficient desire to be “responsive” by following some simple steps here.

Or, you can tap into new technology. Take, for example, Yesware.

Yesware is an ad-on to Google Mail that transforms what many have ruined in electronic communication—informal or inappropriate greetings, responsiveness, and excessive urgency—into a good thing once again.

Geared toward salesmen, Yesware is an ideal email productivity app for lawyers. With Yesware, law firm professionals can:

  • Get alerts each time someone opens an email or clicks on a link
  • Know exactly when to follow up with your clients and prospects
  • Know where in the world your message is being viewed
  • View the device that prospects are using to open your email

In addition, the Yesware app is customizable. Restore formal language in business communication with Yesware’s email templates:

  • Choose your best templates by seeing which ones your customers reply tomost
  • Incorporate links and rich text to send great looking messages at the click of a button—every time
  • Use [brackets] to indicate custom fields to make your templates even faster and easier to use

Finally, seize business opportunities with Yesware’s analytics functions:

  • Know exactly who is best to follow up with by using our personal tracking reports and gauge your email opens for the last 30 days
  • See where in the world people open your emails from inside your inbox
  • Find out if your message is reaching top decision makers
  • Prioritize your email prospecting with subject filters and email activity sorting

Forbes says about the app, “If You Want To Be Awesome At Emails, Add Yesware To Your Gmail Today.”

According to Forbes, Yesware raised a Series A of $4M from IDG Ventures and Golden Venture Partners (alongside Google Ventures and Foundry Group that participated in their $1M seed round in 2011) exactly one year ago. So, it’s only a matter of time before somebody finds a way to ruin the efficiency of web-based business behavior that Yesware has finally restored.

Say “yes” to Yesware (or similar productivity solutions) and salvage efficiency from email.

-WB

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Legal Conversations: How To Know When In-Person, Phone or Email Responses Are Appropriate

Communication has never been simple. Think about those difficult relationship conversations or heated workplace debates. But, in today’s modern world, communication problems are exacerbated by technology.

Templates for thank-you notes and get-well-soon cards used to be the source of discussion. Now, it’s hard to know when to pick up the phone or a pen.

Worse yet, it’s nearly impossible to derive tone from an email. And, efficacy comes into play. Especially within law firms—do I call my colleague or email him? How much will I have to charge the client for a phone call when just a quick email will suffice?

It’s hard to know when replying to a client, colleague, or superior, whether am in-person conversation, phone call, or email correspondence is enough.

Here’s a quick guide for legal conversation that hopefully clears up any conversational etiquette problems for the modern professional.

1. In-person conversations

Nobody wants to bother the boss. But, sometimes it’s important to put in face time. For important conversations—urgent casework issues, problems with coworkers, quitting, or promotion requests—an in-person conversation is a must.

It can also be helpful to pop-in a supervisor’s office if you haven’t seen them in awhile. Although there are some benefits to remaining invisible at work, it’s also a sure-fire way to stay invisible during year-end bonus allocations or promotion opportunities.

However, don’t be an annoying brown-nose. Also, don’t pester superiors with minor issues (like you need a new office chair). A quick “I got your email, the answer is yes,” merits an in-person interaction; a long-winded (and likewise costly) conversation detailing your every move for the week does not.

2. Phone call

First, to be clear, unless you are friends outside work (you have nicknames for each other) or operate in a small company, always introduce yourself with your full name. This clears up any confusion and also establishes boundaries for the phone conversation—it’s work related, professional, and brief.

Second, these days workplace etiquette regarding phone calls is complicated. Many people prefer in-person visits—they’re more personal—and others choose the efficiency of email. Phone calls lie in the gray area in-between.

So, conduct phone calls wisely. Phone calls can be useful between colleagues in offices in different geographical locations. Phone calls are a friendly way to contact clients.

Phone calls (or, especially, in-person meetings) are also a great way to keep conversations private. Beware of creating a paper-trail from confidential or sensitive statements. Or, you may, one day, have to pay the piper, like DLA Piper.

Within the same office, phone calls are useful to schedule a time for in-person meetings (to avoid back-and-forth email chains or the always awkward “just stopping by to ask when I can stop by…”). Be aware of the norms and routines of your particular office. For some, calling a colleague in the next room is considered time-conscious and productive. For others, it’s just plain lazy.

3. Email correspondence

Finally, email is the primary method of communication these days. It’s quick, immediate, and sensitive to other people’s time and work priorities.

However, be sure you follow proper email etiquette: don’t put the body of your emai; in the subject line ; practice high-tech politeness; stop calling every email and task “urgent”; and don’t be so efficient with your words (and abbreviations) that all meaning is lost.

These days, you usually can’t go wrong with e-mail.

At the same time, don’t forget the power of handwritten letters. Special occasions, thank-you notes, and anything important is worth the wait.

-WB

 

What’s the most difficult conversation to have with employees? Communicating Compensation. So, use C4CM’s essential guide to facilitate the conversation. Communicating Compensation to Employees will provide your firm with a powerful resource that gives you clear communication guidelines to manage difficult conversations and improve existing systems.

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U.S. Postal Service Halts Mail, But Why Letters Should Live On

For centuries, letters have delivered gratitude and good news. And, with the mere lick of a postage stamp, sincere, honest, and timely thanks can make anybody’s day.

Sadly, the U.S. Postal Service plans to stop delivering and collecting letters and other first-class mail on Saturdays starting August 5, 2013. This marks the end of an era, which started Saturday mail delivery in 1863, reports CNN.

The U.S. Postal Service reported a loss of $16 billion in 2012, but the new plan will save roughly $2 billion per year.   “It’s a responsible decision. It makes common sense,” said Patrick Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO of the postal service to CNN.

Sometimes it’s just about business.

But, just because mail delivery will suffer, doesn’t mean your expressions of gratitude to clients or employees have to. Once, the pony express wouldn’t give up, night or day, rain or shine. Now, it’s your law firm’s opportunity to ensure that posting letters doesn’t become an anachronism of the age.

Here are five letters your law firm should not forget to write:

1. Thank-you letters. Yes, the holiday party was de facto mandatory, but that doesn’t mean name partners shouldn’t write letters of thanks. Thank you notes should be specific to each person, hand-written and sincere.

2. Acceptance letters. Just because your assistant is in charge of drafting all associate offer letters, doesn’t mean your firm shouldn’t put in any effort in writing an acceptance letters for new hires. Don’t forget to focus on “you” as opposed to “we”. Instead of “we enjoyed meeting you,” or “we look forward to having you join our team,” try “you showed exceptional promise among an already impressive class of first-years,” or “you were poised and primed for work—characteristics to be admired.”

3. Rejection letters. Sometimes law firms must give bad news. Perhaps it’s human resources’ rejection of an employee application or maybe it’s the unfortunate lay-off of an esteemed attorney. Rejection letters are not fun to write, but they’re even worse to read. That’s why you should be as direct as possible. Don’t use flowery language. At the same time, don’t beat around the bush. Be courteous but honest in your reasons for rejection—your reader will be glad for it. Finally, as uncomfortable as it may be, it’s important to write rejection letters because worse than the words inside them is a lack of communication whatsoever.

4. Client engagement letters. It’s not corny to welcome a new client on board! In fact, personalized letters to clients—whether confirming their engagement with the firm or simply “checking in” on a monthly basis—are a way to maintain relationships with current clients. It may also help boost the positive word-of-mouth recommendations that are responsible for attracting new ones.

5. Letters of praise. Don’t write letters of complaint. Although it may be tempting when you feel cheated or insulted, for example, of all people, lawyers should know the consequences of putting things in writing. So, each time you’re inspired to write a letter of protest, write one of praise, instead. Choose an employee who has exhibited exceptional work product of late (or, if you must, just choose one at random!). Write him or her a brief note of appreciation for their positive attitude, attention to detail, or ability to work well in teams. Whatever the reason, writing a letter that will make a person’s day (and likely make them more productive) is far better than writing a letter that, well, won’t.

The U.S. Postal Service may be cutting back on mail, but your firm shouldn’t look to.

There’s a reason this government agency has accumulated so much debt. Despite the best efforts of Google, Yahoo, and AOL, there’s nothing like the postman saying, “you’ve got mail” in person.

Law firms manage a business, team of associates, and group of clients that can all benefit from a few key mailed letters. Personalization and postage lead to success.

-WB

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