This article was first published in the Lex Witness January 2018 issue.
It’s a brand-new year! An opportunity to review the last year, and set some goals for the next one.
Below is a comprised version of several advises we have shared over the years, on how firms have built themselves to being successful brands and grow themselves in a strategic and effective manner. Let’s revisit these and resolve to incorporate them in your annual goals for 2018.
Resolve to Build an ‘Intrapreneurial’ Culture
A growing and successful business should always encourage and reward an ‘intrapreneurial’ mind-set and attitude among all the firm members. This effectively means that the team members should be encouraged to think on the overall growth of the firm, which in turn benefits themselves. There are a variety of ways to do this, including efficient lawyers and employees being compensated for his or her non-billable contributions. Insist on the term “our” instead of “mine” and “yours.” Leaders must do everything possible to promote trust, teamwork and fairness within the firm. Resist the temptation to enhance profitably through cost cutting. Profitable firms look at long-term impacts.
Resolve to Invest in the Internal Stakeholders
Your employees are your assets. In a service based industry, your talent is your product and your capital, and it is crucial to value and develop your in-house talents. Investing in the development of your talent is a guaranteed approach to not only new client acquisition, but also ensuring your existing clients are satisfied. In this highly competitive industry, clients have too many choices for legal service providers.
Since no one is going to stay forever, it is crucial to ‘invest’ and mentor talent for future. The best leaders are wise enough to identify and mentor a successor for their roles. Then give that person important, high-profile assignments so that the firm’s people gain trust and confidence in the successor’s leadership skills well before the torch is actually passed.
Resolve to Invest in Business Development
Invest in the rule of 2.5% & 200 hours. This means that a law firm investing time and man hours in positioning exercises should be observant and determined in taking such activities seriously, and abide by certain guidelines on how to go about it.
It is crucial to create a business plan right at the very beginning. Then calculate the 2.5 percent of the firm’s gross revenue. This includes the money that is directly spent on generating new business, like on taking clients out to lunch, or business development trips, conference sponsorships and so on. When you take out such a measurable and tangible sum out of your firm’s revenue and invest it back into growing the firm, you psychologically become accountable to every initiative you pursue.
Alongside the monetary investment, it is key to put in man-hours in all positioning and active business development initiatives. This may sound like a lot, but when you break it down on a per week basis, it’s really only about four hours a week. You can meet a referral source for coffee, or take a client out for lunch. All these short and non-time-consuming tasks can be weaved into your weekly to-do list, and before you know it, you have already devoted more than 200 hours in a year!
Resolve to Develop a Strategic Branding Plan
A good strategic plan encompasses the entire firm’s best interests, and is both top-down (stating top-level firm goals) and bottom-up (incorporating strategic practice area goals and individual capabilities). It addresses immediate opportunities and practice strengths along with the overall development of the firm and its clients. A strategic plan does not necessarily have to be bold or transformational to be meaningful and effective. The plan should still describe the firm’s philosophy, ambitions and desired behaviors.
Does your branding budget sheet run into 5 or even 6 figure spends? Or is it just about a few thousands. It doesn’t really matter though. Unless there remains a logic behind every penny spent, it’s nothing but a mere expense. Introspect as to how much was spent and why? You should be able to justify every spending with a result in return, whether tangible or intangible. This could be for the sake of awareness, brand building, profiling etc. So right from the awareness index to business development pulse, make sure you cross check it all.
Resolve to Calculate Your ROI
Most law firms know that ROI stands for return on investment, but many do not fully understand how to determine their ROI or how to use benchmark information to improve it. Branding and positioning is essential for maintaining a successful law practice. Law firms that have managed to refine their marketing efforts to produce a positive ROI are staying ahead of their competition. Some firms deduct their investment amount from the earned fees when calculating ROI. Most do not.
Not only is it necessary to account for fixed expense the firm incurs on a regular basis towards a particular initiative, it also is important to consider the amount of time your firm invested in the campaign and include that as part of the overall cost.
Consult the Experts
Branding & strategic growth can be a challenging task to handle on your own. Hire a branding & growth strategist, and methodically work towards identifying your vision, and start building a brand for yourself.
I am the Principal Consultant at the Lex Witness Strategic Counsel Desk, an invitation based initiative, which caters to various entities who seek to create and improve their brand and undertake market activation strategies in the Indian legal market space. Much beyond the space of the magazine, the Strategic Counsel Desk aspires to provide a holistic framework for the firm’s positioning and business growth, primarily focusing on the strength in the Indian legal industry.