Nine Marketing Ideas That Can Be Ethically Implemented

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1 ABA Section of Litigation Joint Committees CLE Seminar, January 19-21, 2012 You're Only Young Once: The Do's and Don'ts of Developing Business as a "Young Lawyer" Nine Marketing Ideas That Can Be Ethically Implemented David King Keller* Keller Business Development Advisory Group Corte Madera, CA Nine Marketing Ideas That Can Be Ethically Implemented These ideas are excerpted with permission from the book 100 Ways To Grow A Thriving Law Practice i. Nota Bene: Like any list of marketing ideas, you don t expect all to be of benefit to your practice. Scan all these ideas and implement one or two that might enhance your practice revenue. Within the scope of the Rules of Professional Conduct including ABA Model Rule 7.1 ii and ABA Model Rule 4.1 iii, your implementation may vary from the activity described and since ethical standards are always being modified you should review your marketing activity within the context of the current Rules of Professional Conduct for your State, all the States in which you have or seek clients, and the American Bar Association Model Rules prior to implementation. iv 1

2 1. Take a retired judge to lunch They re safe. They don t bite (anymore). And there s no potential conflict. And, wow, do they ever have the contacts! 2. Ask your existing client(s) for a non-billable meeting to learn more about their business You ll blow their minds and garner mountains of respect, (which leads to more business). Past and current clients are your best source for new business, new clients and potential client referrals, but that s not the subject of this non-billable meeting. This is a rapport building session v, preferably over lunch which you buy. Or have the meet at their place where they walk you through the plant to give you a better idea of what they do. 3. Conduct Fifteen Gold Mine interviews Just as most attorneys are willing to give a free 30 minute consultation, so, do those marketing agencies that have a gold mine of ideas some of which they will share for free to try and secure your business. Conduct fifteen FREE interviews of professional idea generators for hire. Generate a long list of free ideas by interviewing three different companies in five different categories who have worked for law firms in the past so they should be familiar with the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct when it comes to advertising and solicitation, and the pertinent Sate Rules of Professional Conduct for same, e.g., CA State Bar RPC Rule vi : three advertising firms, three marketing firms, three public relations firms, three event planners, and three business brochure writers. Ask each how they would grow your net revenue. And then, listen. Keep asking, How, specifically?, and At what cost? Thank each one for their time, and say that you will consider their ideas and cost estimates to implement those ideas serious consideration, because, indeed, you may be presented with an idea that is perceived to have an excellent return on investment (ROI). Be polite and let any company know that you will not be hiring that you appreciated the meeting, but for now will not be retaining their services. You might add that you will keep them in mind for future promotions. When you are done you have had 15 free interviews and each one should have provided you with at least one idea that might use to hire them, or use as an idea starter for a business development action you undertake on your own. In each case, you have had 15 free conversations with professionals who have experience in growing law firm revenue. 2

3 Don t forget that everyone you speak has legal needs at one time or another, and they have clients and friends with legal needs, so, by all means put your best foot forward as to your legal services. 4. Let art attract new clients. Some might recommend: turn your lobby and reception area into a temporary art gallery. Change the art every three to six months. Give the artist an opening reception between 5:30pm to 7:30pm. The artist will help promote your law firm location for the three months he or she is exhibiting there (and probably beyond). The artist s A list, who have been invited to the opening, will now know who and where you are. And be sure to always invite the local media. The media may surprise you and cover the event. Keep it as a community educational art event. Do not conduct any beckoning of business *1 at this art opening. 5. When was last time you had your elevator pitch reviewed by an expert? Some might recommend: tell every friend, club member and business contact something like, Our law firm has some excess capacity. We re accepting new clients now, and would welcome referrals. Is that ethical? Yes, provided you do not offer anything of value for the referral. Be sure to give them a promotional sound bite like, and you probably know we have areas of focus like... (Fill in the blank with your well honed elevator pitch in 15 to 30 seconds). Then add, And I m not sure I mentioned some of our more stellar accomplishments like... (mention two in 30 seconds)... Do all of this in 60 to 90 seconds max. Unless they beg for more. Remember you are doing this within the context of information and education. 6. Can you ethically say FREE, NO CHARGE and NO OBLIGATION for the initial consultation when promoting the firm s practice? Yes, provided you deliver on that promise. Some might recommend: make sure the words free and no charge and no obligation are always included in the first sentence when discussing an initial consult with a potential client. Use the words free and no charge in the last sentence with any new potential client. Lawyers are not famous for being low cost. So, make that first approach by a prospective client as easy as possible. 3

4 7. Can you ethically flex your E-Power with an e-zine? Yes, provided you provide a disclaimer that you are not providing legal advice and that this is not a solicitation and nothing in the document creates an attorney-client relationship and your E-Zine meets all ethical guidelines. You must also announce in which States you are licensed to practice, so, as not to mislead someone from a State in which you are not licensed. View samples of disclaimers by others, Today, in order to compete, and to compete for mind space you must have a monthly e-newsletter. Start a monthly Did-you-know e-newsletter distribution list. Review a dozen examples before launching yours. And have at least three newsletters in reserve, so, you don t miss an deadline. Offer a monthly on Legal Issues of Interest, or Know Your Rights, or Legal News to families, friends, businesses, clients and potential clients. Keep it educational. You ve got plenty of resources to draw from. Use those resources to make you the go-to- resource and the top-ofmind attorney for most, if not all, of your e-news recipients. 8. Can you ethically sponsor a benefit lunch: in honor of a retired or retiring judge? Yes, and others will kick themselves for not thinking of it first. You ll garner prestige within the legal world, and a much heightened awareness by the press and media. One of a dozen media will pick up on the story. Be sure to have a quotable media sound bite from you that honors the judge, as well as a quote from the judge about the judge s past experience in service to the community. The retiring judge just might take a liking to you and you just might gain a lifetime of his or her contacts. Make sure the event is social and not construed as commercial or a beckoning of business *1 in any way. 9. Can you ethically sponsor or Co-sponsor a charitable event? Yes. Get behind one or more charities. All of these events will generate positive publicity! But make sure there is no beckoning of business *1 at the event. 4

5 *1 How do we know when we are beckoning business. For guidance on when you might cross the line of into beckoning business consider these comments by ABA s Will Hornsby, staff counsel in the ABA Division for Legal Services. Back to the Basic of Beckoning : When lawyers are confronted with ethics rules that are obstacles to the way they are communicating, the first question should be whether the rules apply to the communication. We can determine this by a quick look at the constitutional law governing commercial speech. The Supreme Court has said that the states cannot ban a lawyer s commercial speech but they do have the responsibility of controlling it. That is the authority for what we often call the advertising rules. Courts also tell us that commercial speech is that which beckons business or proposes a commercial transaction. So, simply put, if the communication is commercial speech, it is subject to the rules and if it is not commercial speech, it is not subject to the rules. For example, if a blogger does nothing to beckon business on the blog, the state has no authority to impose the restrictions that otherwise control lawyer advertising. vii I believe your key guiding phrase here is commercial speech is that which beckons business or proposes a commercial transaction. So, do not propose a commercial transaction at an event that was advertised as an art opening or an educational event. If someone asks you, What do you do?, you can provide an educational answer. Hypothetical: If you are at an event sponsored by your firm and promoted as a educational event, and someone comes up to you and wants to discuss a specific matter in which they ask you for a cost estimate to perform that commercial transaction, what do you do? You can ask your State ethics hotline that question, but the most conservative response would be to simply inform them that you would be happy to do that by setting up an appointment in which that is the agenda for your meeting. This author is always looking for new marketing ideas and new ethical marketing conundrums, if you have one feel free to send that information or query to * David King Keller, MBA, CMB, NPC, is author of the award winning book, 100 Ways To Grow A Thriving Law Practice. His latest book, The Associate As Rainmaker, Building Your Business Brain, is, at this writing, on the American Bar Association s best seller list. David is a highly regarded 1:1 attorney biz dev coach. He has lectured at UC Hastings College of The Law and The San Francisco Bar. He has led a 100 attorney tele-seminar for one of ABA s national forums. He is an attorney rainmaker coach. Member: ABA, BASF, AAJ, and LMA. C: i Keller, David King, 100 Ways To Grow A Thriving Law Practice, Business Books Publishing, Available at Amazon.com and ii Rule 7.1 Communications Concerning A Lawyer's Services. A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading. For the entire list of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct go to this address at the American Bar Association: model_rules_of_professional_conduct_table_of_contents.html. iii Transactions With Persons Other Than Clients Rule 4.1 Truthfulness In Statements To Others 5

6 In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly: (a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or (b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by Rule 1.6. Web source: American Bar Association website: rule_4_1_truthfulness_in_statements_to_others.html iv For the entire list of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct go to this address at the American Bar Association: model_rules_of_professional_conduct_table_of_contents.html. v For more education and information on the art and science of building rapport ask your law librarian for references, or contact the ABA for their book titled, The Associate As Rainmaker, Building Your Business Brain, or refer to another handout in this seminar titled, Mastering Business Development, The Neuroscience Of Converting A Lead Into A Client:Four Questions You Want To Ask And Twelve Words You Need To Convey Within The Context Of The Rules Of Professional Conduct. vi The State Bar of California Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule Advertising and Solicitation (A) For purposes of this rule, "communication" means any message or offer made by or on behalf of a member concerning the availability for professional employment of a member or a law firm directed to any former, present, or prospective client, including but not limited to the following: et al. We source: vii Law Practice magazine. January/February 2009 Issue Volume 35 Number 1 Page 37. When Testimonials Meet Tweets : Thoughts On The Ethics Of Web 2.0 by Will Hornsby. Will Hornsby is staff counsel in the ABA Division for Legal Services. He is also the author of the ABA book Marketing and Legal Ethics: The Boundaries of Promoting Legal Services. 6

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