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A Strategy For Growing Your Practice: The Science

I have written and spoken often about the importance of business development planning for lawyers and law firms. Many law firms have taken their cue from other industries and have created firm-wide business development plans.  Many of those firms have taken the next step and required BD plans from each of their fee earning professionals.

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SC&C’s Kathryn Szymczyk Presents IPIC Webinar: Are You Ready For “The Amazon Effect”?

SC&C’s Kathryn Szymczyk will be hosting a webinar for the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC) on the mindset and skills lawyers need to thrive in today’s legal marketplace.  The session will be moderated by Elizabeth Dipchand of Dipchand LLP. The session will start with some background on “The Amazon Effect” and how it is influencing the legal marketplace.

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Networking Emergency Tool Kit

Everything you need to make the most of conference season.

Conference season is getting underway and many of us are preparing to make the most of the opportunity to meet face to face with our clients and potential clients.  We can be the best lawyer in the world but if we don’t take advantage of the chance to foster relationships, we may find our dream clients heading to the competition. In this blog post, we offer some tools and suggestions for raising your networking game.

Conversation Starters:

Many of my clients – from the most junior to the most senior – ask me if there are a list of questions to kick-start conversations at conferences or meetings.  For those of you who like the idea of having a list to refer to, I offer the following (for those of you who don’t, scroll down for more tips below!):

  • “What do you think of the conference this year?”
  • “How long have you worked for your Firm/company?”
  • “How large is your department?”
  • “What’s the scope of your role within the company?”
  • “I understand you recently joined the Firm from x Firm.  How is the transition going?”
  • “How are the recent changes in law/regulations affecting your business?”
  • “What issues come up for you most in x jurisdiction/country/area of law?”
  • “Have you always worked with healthcare companies or have you worked in other industries?”

What do all of these questions have in common? They are all “open-ended questions” which commonly start with “what” and “how” (try to avoid “why” because it can make people feel defensive). These type of questions cannot be answered by yes or no and, therefore, keep the conversation going.

In addition to having a few good conversation starters in your back pocket, it is just as important to show up with the right mindset in order to be a networker who sees results.  I offer the following tips in that regard:

    1. Show Up Ready to Connect: No one likes talking to the person who is scanning the room or clearly thinking about something else.  In order to show up ready to connect with others, we must first quiet our own minds.  One effective way of doing so is to use breathing techniques that help us attune to the present and the person across from us as opposed to our own thoughts.  I encourage you to try the 4-7-8 breath exercise (outlined at the bottom of this post) before heading out for the day or before an important meeting.
    2. Find What You Like and How You Are Alike:  People like people who like them and people like people who are like them.  If your first comment can be a genuine compliment on something you appreciate about the person (their company/firm, their role, a speech they gave), do so.  If you can then focus on some insight, passion, obstacle or opportunity you have in common, you will be surprised how quickly you can foster conversation and connection.  Of course, in order to be successful, this must be done genuinely and sincerely and with a willingness to share our own thoughts and opinions (otherwise it may feel like an interrogation!).
    3. Preparation Will Set You Free:  Make sure you have more to talk about then the weather or your trip to the conference.  Any research or thought you can invest in identifying topics/stories/experiences that may be of interest to the attendees, the more confident and at ease you will feel with starting conversations.  For example, I always make sure I read the first few pages of the Economist before I go to an international conference so I at least know the headlines of what is going on in several countries.  It is enough to start a conversation and it is very endearing to people when you know something about their country.  Bonus points if you know a case, development of the law or new product/service relevant to their country or company and of interest to you and your practice.
    4. Show Up Curious and Ready to Listen:  You can have all the tips and conversation starters in the world but if you are not genuinely curious and focused on the people you are speaking with, you can completely fail to make a connection.  These tips on active listening can make all the difference:
      • Pause: Give people room to respond and talk about themselves.  You are not the only person responsible for the conversation.  Silence is the most effective listening skill!
      • Focus:  Put your attention over there on the prospect – not on what you want to say about yourself or the work that is sitting on your desk back at the office (the breathing exercises above will help you with that).  Challenge yourself to find something you have in common (see #2 above).
      • Encourage:  Use verbal and physical cues to add energy to the conversation and show you are interested.
      • Reflect back: Repeat what the other person says in their words so you both can confirm for your self AND show them you understand what they are saying.
      • Clarify: If you don’t understand something, have the confidence to say so.  You don’t need to know all the answers and the person will appreciate the opportunity to expand on their thoughts. People love to speak about themselves.  Take advantage of it.
    5. Know What You Want and Why You Should Get It:  To turn this from an exercise in meeting friends into a successful business development tool, we must take the time to consider what information, connections, reputation, and opportunities we are trying to foster at this event.  In other words, we need a focused and intentional strategy for success. You can see our prior blog post on why creating a strategy is important here and how to create one on the fly here.  Your strategy should include knowing the 3 things that make you the best person to get the clients and work that you want – your unique selling proposition (USP), if you will.  If it isn’t top of mind then how can you convey it?  And if you want to convey it, it is worthwhile preparing some stories, examples, and anecdotes ahead of time.  You will be surprised at how easy they come up in conversation once you have done this.

    Showing up ready to connect with curiosity and open-ended questions can take time and practice.  It also requires us to show some vulnerability.  As lawyers, we are trained to show up with solutions and to not ask any questions we don’t know the answers to.  Workshops and coaching help my clients with this mindset shift. With the right tools, support and practice, you too can be a master networker.  Happy networking!

    How can SC&C help? If you or your team would like help becoming master networkers contact us at kathryn@sccignites.com to find out about our experiential workshops, Firm retreats and one-on-one coaching programs.  We are offering free 30-minute sample coaching sessions to the first 20 people to respond.  Email us with “Sample Coaching Session” in the subject line.

    P.S. The 4-7-8 Breath Exercise mentioned above goes like this.  Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward:

    • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
    • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
    • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
    • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
    • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

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Innovation from Within: Why law firms need to engage Millennials and other right-brained thinkers to thrive.

 

 

It’s clear. The mounting pressures facing the legal services sector are not part of a cycle – they are here to stay. Simple tweaks are no longer going to cut it. We need to face the facts. But, are we equipped to do so? Do we have the right mindset, perspective and training?  Law firms are struggling to adapt while remaining profitable.  Statistics show that the majority are simply increasing fees, increasing billable hour expectations and cutting staff.  These tactics are not only ultimately unsuccessful, they result in an atmosphere of fight, flight, and freeze – exactly the opposite of what has led the most successful companies to thrive in today’s economy.  However, recent conversations, articles, and books have shown me that a few of the more intrepid among us have dared to think outside the box and are beginning to reap the rewards.  How can firms set themselves up to innovate from the inside instead of being left by the wayside?

Some of you may have seen a transcript of a lecture delivered by Dana Robinson (Founding Partner of TechLaw LLC and adjunct professor at the University of San Diego) circulating on LinkedIn here. Dana congratulates the Millennials in his first year IP law class, for having the creativity and innovation that will attract today’s most attractive clients.  He states:

“Left-brained law firms doing work for left-brained businesses are on the way out.  As right-brained businesses take over, they require creative attorneys who think outside the box.  The law firms of the future are like the client they will serve: creative, flexible, fun.”

Creative. Flexible. Fun. When is the last time you heard those three words used to describe a traditional law firm?  However, based on what I have heard from in-house counsel around the world and based on the positive results I have seen enjoyed by some of the most creative and innovative in the profession, I think he has hit the nail on the head.

What does fun have to do with it?

Let’s tackle the “fun” part first.  Traditionally, lawyers have equated being professional with being formal and holding our clients at arm’s length.  Many of us are very cynical about expressing emotions, especially those that reveal any vulnerability.  In the extreme, this has led to attitudes of condescension and pretension, especially among the older generation of lawyers.  These are the two characteristics I have heard most in-house counsel reject outright when choosing a trusted advisor today.

Many of us have discovered that forming some type of personal connection with contacts and clients does seem to translate into winning work.  The reason for that is very simple, and yet so few in the legal profession seem curious about how to hone and leverage this as a professional skill and tool.  Human beings, no matter what we like to think, make decisions based on emotions.  We also remember and are drawn to people and ideas that have a positive emotion attached to them.  Furthermore, feelings of familiarity – when combined with positive emotions – foster feelings of trust.

Need any more reasons to work on your “soft” skills?  Given the abundance of choice, the ability to make a genuine personal connection with our clients and contacts is an essential professional skill for lawyers today.

When is the last time you had fun with your clients or potential clients?

Being creative in the service industry means co-creating.

We have all heard the elusive phrase “trusted advisor” when we talk about what clients want in a lawyer.  But what does that mean?  

As noted above, the “trust” element often comes through familiarity and shared positive emotions.  

Being an “advisor” implies an expertise in the area of interest.  Many lawyers make the mistake of thinking that they only need to be an expert in the law.  However, busy in-house counsel with tight budgets and a multitude of responsibilities want advice that is delivered in the context of their business reality.  This requires lawyers to have two woefully underutilized skills: active listening and deep curiosity.   Clients hold the key to our relevance these days.  Without acquiring the mindset and skills to respond to this reality, lawyers and their law firms will be left behind.  

When is the last time you truly felt you were co-creating with your client?

If you don’t bend, you might break (or at least be left behind).

In Mitch Kowalski’s attention-grabbing book, The Great Legal Reformation, (an absolute must read for anyone looking to stay ahead in the legal services industry) he begins by telling the story of four University of Toronto computer science students who were accepted into a collaboration with IBM to use its artificial intelligence (AI) program. Although none of them had a legal background, they created ROSS – one of the top breakthrough technologies in the legal profession to date.  We would all do well to consider the question Mr. Kowalski poses: “How was it that a small group of very young Millennials so quickly grasped the potential of AI in legal services and acted upon it, yet an industry filled with thousands of mature, well-educated lawyers, did not?”.

That antiquated formality and hierarchical condescension, favoured by so many lawyers in large law firms (and informing the business and compensation models used) dampens creativity and innovation within the firm.  Those Millennials that were so creative in law school, learn soon enough to abandon such an approach.  Billable targets keep them tied to their desks with little time for co-creating and innovating with their clients.  No one is happy.  

When was the last time your firm invested in a lawyer’s radical new idea firmly based on feedback from clients?

So what can you do to stay ahead of the game?

Leaving aside necessary changes to business models and compensation structures, below we offer a few ideas of what law firms can do to create an atmosphere where creativity and innovation thrive.  

  • Provide (non-technical) Professional Skills Training:  Our clients hold the key to our relevance.  We need to be able to connect with them in a meaningful way in order to respond creatively and innovatively to their needs. Unfortunately, these professional skills, and how to efficiently apply them, have not traditionally been part of our legal training.  We need to catch up with the rest of the marketplace.  Training and practice using professional skills such as curiosity, open-ended questions, and active listening will build emotional intelligence and right-brained thinking among lawyers.  Read about SC&C’s workshops here.
  • Provide Support to Your Team:  Many lawyers feel overwhelmed with the fact that it is no longer enough to be a technical expert. This discomfort makes them resistant to taking on new habits and new perspectives. Don’t leave your star technical players behind. Many firms are making one-on-one coaching available to individual lawyers to help them identify and pursue who they need to be and what they need do in order to meet today’s challenges.  Coaching also helps those that are already thinking creatively and innovatively to maximize their potential and follow through on new ideas.  Read about SC&C’s coaching here.
  • Engage Millennials:  Instead of bemoaning what this generation of lawyers is not bringing to the table, firms can benefit from tapping into what Millenials do offer.  Consider providing workshops and forums for Millennials in order to engage them and access their natural aptitudes for thinking outside the box. Contact us to hear about our Millennial Programs.  Read our case study here.
  • Foster Collaboration:  Working as part of a team and sharing ideas can accelerate creativity and innovation.  Consider bringing cohorts of lawyers together to brainstorm clients needs and gaps in the market.  A trained facilitator or group coach can create the right environment to spark participation and help turn ideas into calls to action.  
  • Create Leaders That Foster Innovation: In order for creativity and innovation to thrive, leaders of the firm must learn the skills to create the necessary environment for engagement.  Many CEOs and management teams in the corporate world are acquiring coaching skills that have been shown to help change the perspectives and habits of their entire team. Read about SC&C’s “Train the Trainers” courses here.

 

About SC&C: Our Team of coaches, facilitators, and trainers work with lawyers and firms to build their capacity to bring in bigger and better business, leading to a more profitable and satisfying practice. Based in Canada, with ties around the world, we can help you where you are to build the international clientele that you want. Contact us at info@sccignites.com.

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Case Study: Getting the Whole Team Onboard for BD

 

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Many of my clients struggle with engaging their Associates in the task of promoting the Firm: Why do they show no initiative? Why aren’t they more hungry? What more can I do?

Do these questions sound familiar?  There can be many things at play, of course, however, our work with an IP Boutique found success in engaging the firm’s Associates and bringing back enthusiasm and confidence to the partners. A BD reset, if you will.

1. Step One: A Written BD Strategy for the Firm

Our first step was to ensure everyone was on the same page. We facilitated discussions with the partners which resulted in a concrete strategy for the coming year; including 5 objectives, associated target audiences; desired outcomes and activities for achieving them. It is surprising, even to our clients themselves, how few of them have written BD strategies. The Managing Partner of this Firm noted “Like many firms, although the partners had a general idea of what our goals were, we had not taken the time to write a detailed Business Development strategy nor had we shared specific objectives with the other professionals and other role players in the firm.”


2. Step Two: Share the Strategy

Once you have a written Strategy you can set concrete expectations for your team. Sharing your Strategy with your Associates – especially when it includes concrete objectives and desired outcomes – gives them a sense of purpose and sets expectations. These are two things that we are all motivated by. This is the time to inform them that you expect that the whole firm will find a way of contributing to meeting the Strategy objectives. Assure them that you understand that everyone will contribute differently depending on their experience and aptitudes and that you will be providing them with training and mentoring to help them meet their potential.

 

3. Step Three: Provide Experiential Learning Supported By Coaching

Many of us have sat through business development training only to go back to our desks with great plans but no ideas for implementing them. This is made worse when our “day job” is staring us in the face. As such, SC&C provided a three hour experiential workshop for Associates.  It was designed to create a mind-set shift among Associates to begin thinking of their practice as a business that was in support of the overall firm’s business. The course took them through the practicalities of creating S.M.A.R.T. goals and tracking their success and was supported by group and individual coaching.

 

4. Step Four: Learn and Practice Together

A second experiential learning session included Partners and was about the fundamentals of BD, namely, fostering a relationship with clients and potential clients. It included role play, a chance to practice in teams and groups and a chance for Partners to assume a structured mentoring role that they have now institutionalized at the firm.

 

5. Step Five: Mentoring

Partners were given training and tips on how to mentor Associates to raise their BD potential. They had the chance to practice the tips and see the results during our Firm session of experiential learning. Each partner was given an Objective and a Team who they would be working with to meet that objective.

5. Step Six: Set Up an Accountability System

Using the firm’s existing resources, we co-created an internal system for all professionals to submit and be held accountable to their individual BD Strategies. Mentors scheduled on going accountability appointments with their Team and individual Associates. The BD and Marketing Department knew what everyone was working towards so they were able to provide targeted support to the lawyers throughout the year.

The Results?

The following are testimonials provided by the Managing Partner and another Senior Partner of this IP Boutique, respectively:

“As Kathryn predicted, this had the effect of engaging all members of our Team. It also gave us the opportunity for every member in our Team to prepare his/her own Business Development strategy, which falls within the ambit of the firm’s BD strategy. It enables everybody working on different aspects of the firm’s goals and doing so as a Team. We could also formulate a plan for execution with a timeline and deliverables. We are very optimistic about the new business that this spike in BD activity will bring to our Firm.”

“It was fantastic having you here. You gave us a big push in the right direction … I like that what you have left us with is focused and very practical yet would have taken us years to reach ourselves, if at all. As a firm we are re-invigorated and excited about our BD”.

About SC&C: Our Team of coaches, facilitators and trainers, work with lawyers and law firms to build their capacity to bring in bigger and better business, leading to a more profitable and satisfying practice. Based in Canada, with ties around the world, we can help you where you are to build the international clientele that you want. Contact us at info@sccignites.com.

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Tips for Sales Conversations for Lawyers

 

Many of us know that in today’s market we need to be doing a better job at promoting ourselves.  We understand the logic that “sales” is now part of our job but we struggle with the reality of what that means and how to do it.

For many of us, the real problem lies with our deep rooted beliefs about “sales”.  What if “sales” was really about taking the time to find out what issues face our clients and then finding ways that we can help them?  Based on what works in other industries and what I have seen work in ours, I offer the following tips for having intentional conversations that lead to business:

1. Intentionally Connect

Open the door to more meaningful business conversations by establishing a personal connection with your prospects. Lawyers are notorious for keeping clients at arms length and taking a formal approach to relationships; thereby missing a chance to build rapport with clients or potential clients. Move beyond comments about the weather and time zones and take the time to find out what you might share in common with your prospect. This is the pathway to personal connection.  While it is true that some people are not interested in spending a lot of time having a friendly conversation, consider leading with more personal comments and leave it to them to make the switch in the conversation to business.
Tip:  “People like people who like them and people who are like them.”  Find something you share in common with your prospect.  Identify something you genuinely like about them or their approach and reflect it back in a casual conversation.  You will be amazed by how quickly this fosters connection.


2. Find Your Relevance – Be Curious About Their Unique Issues

As lawyers it has been drilled into us to never ask a question we do not know the answer to. Although this approach may be essential for the courtroom, it is a major obstacle to succeeding at sales conversations. Don’t assume you know what your prospect needs or that you have a generic solution that is relevant to them. Be genuinely curious about them and ask open ended questions.  They hold the key to your relevance so shouldn’t you take the time to hear what they have to say?  Furthermore, by showing you care about what concerns them, you will gain their trust and stand out from the competition as a true trusted advisor.
Tip:  Put the focus on them by asking open ended questions that begin with “how” and “what” which will illicit more useful information and help your client frame their issues.  This is what will set you apart as a true trusted advisor. For examples of effective questions, see Irene Leonard’s blog post here.

 

3. Show Them (Don’t tell them) You Are The Right Person For The Job

Once you have led your client to frame their real issues, offer some preliminary comments on how you can help them.  This is also a chance for you to identify why you are uniquely positioned for the work and provide them assurances that they can rely on you.  Use concrete examples from your past experiences to help them understand what you can offer. Through observations and intelligent questions, show them that you understand their industry, their business and the challenges they face.
Tip:  Preparation is key.  If you have the opportunity, research in advance to understand the issues your prospect may be facing.  Do not limit your comments to a narrow area of law without some knowledge of the context.  Ensure you have some understanding of the broader business issues at play. 

 

4. Overcome Obstacles

There may be reasons that are getting in the way of your prospect sending you work.  Use curiosity and open-ended questions to uncover these obstacles. These questions will not always be easy but if you have managed to create a trusting environment through the above steps, your prospect will most likely welcome the opportunity for a frank discussion with you.
Tip:  Consider coming right out and asking “Are there any obstacles keeping us from working together?” or “How can I help you take the next step?” or “What issues are you facing internally that might prevent you from getting my help?”

See Jamie Pennington’s post entitled Seven Questions That Get You Work“.

 

5. Follow Up: Feed Don’t Chase

It is estimated that lawyers leave about 80% of work in the pipeline due to their failure to follow up in a meaningful way with prospects.  See SC&C’s blog post here.  If you have followed the above steps you will have a wide variety of potential reasons to get in touch with your clients. Think of follow up as “feeding” not “chasing”.  Ensure that your follow up is about feeding your prospects with information of interest to them (see #3 above).

Tip:  There are many ways of following up including connecting on LinkedIn, sending them an article or an update with a personal note, or getting in touch with them before a conference you are attending.  Take every occasion to connect.  On average, it takes between 5 and 12 “touches” before a prospect becomes a client.

 

About SC&C: Our Team of coaches, facilitators and trainers, work with lawyers and firms to build their capacity to bring in bigger and better business, leading to a more profitable and satisfying practice. Based in Canada, with ties around the world, we can help you where you are to build the international clientele that you want. Contact us at info@sccignites.com.

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Submissions for Ranking Publications: Five Reasons You Should Bother

Ranking Publications: Five Reasons You Should Bother

The deadline for submissions for Managing Intellectual Property’s 2016 IP Stars is November 8, 2015, prompting many to again consider the importance of appearing in major ranking publications. I continue to believe, and to advise my clients, that such ranking publications (those that do not require you to “pay to play”) are a great business development tool. Every year we are offered the opportunity to make submissions about ourselves and our firms – at no cost to us. To ignore or not take seriously this opportunity would be a mistake.

Many of us have questioned the methodology behind the rankings used by the research teams – especially when our competitors are ranked ahead of us or, worse, we aren’t ranked at all! One thing is certain, editors cannot consider information that they do not have.

Here are five reasons to take some time and effort to complete submissions to the major ranking publications:

1. Ranking publications may be the only third party information potential clients can get about you. Can you really afford not to show up in major ranking publications? There has been a significant increase in the use of online tools (such as rankings) among in- house counsel, especially when searching for international representation. Showing up in the rankings of a well-reputed industry publication can increase your credibility.

2. Influence what is written about you. You are the best person to describe you, your Firm and the services you offer. Without information provided by you, the researchers are unlikely to know the true depth and breadth of your practice. In my experience, well crafted submissions can turn up almost word for word in the editorial comments of ranking publications. Feed them the right lines and you get yourself some free advertising!

3. Use the results to build credibility online. Many of us do include our rankings in our email signatures. Don’t forget to also list this information on your LinkedIn profile and your website. Even better is to utilise favourable editorial comments about your Firm as testimonials on your website and/or consider posting an update on LinkedIn.

4. Well-crafted submissions can and should be re-purposed. Crafting submissions presents the opportunity to put into words what your Firm does and who does it. Writing about this in the context of rankings will help you articulate this in terms of your competitive advantage i.e. what differentiates you from your competitors and why clients have chosen you. This is exactly the information needed for successful websites, LinkedIn profiles, marketing materials and responses to RFP’s.

5. A chance to acknowledge, announce and celebrate your successes this year. Submissions for rankings often require that you list your “work highlights”, indicate growth areas in your Firm and list your most significant clients over the last year. It is a great opportunity to take stock and to celebrate your successes (or motivate you to do better next year!). Once completed, consider presenting the submissions to your entire team, with some encouraging words, champagne, bonuses ….

Drafting ranking submissions does require an understanding of the industry and the law. It is also time-consuming work that can take away from billable hours. SC&C has the industry knowledge and understanding to ensure you take the best advantage of this important business development opportunity.


BLG-Szymczyk-2694-By-Valerie-Keeler-Valberg-Imaging-copyHow can SC&C help?

Want to increase your chances of being ranked higher? Want to influence what is highlighted about you and your team when ranked? SC&C can help. Contact me at kathryn@sccignites.com or on +1 647 978 5502 to find out more.

As always, we would love to hear from you! Please leave your comments below. Feel free to post this article on LinkedIn, forward it or tweet it using the icons below.

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Attending a Conference? Answer These 4 Questions To Dramatically Increase Your ROI

Attending a Conference? Answer These 4 Questions To Dramatically Increase Your ROI

Conference season is already under way. Perhaps you are reading this from a lecture hall or hotel lobby and asking yourself how you can make the most out of the next few days. The answer is, you need a business development strategy. In his article in Forbes Magazine, conference networking guru Mike Ambassador Bruny notes “many rely on serendipity when it comes to making connections at conferences – and if you don’t know what you are looking for, serendipity can become a missed opportunity.” Don’t have a conference strategy? Just taking the time to answer the following four questions* will result in a mini-strategy that will increase your chances of seeing a return on your investment from conference attendance.

1. How Do You Want To Show Up? Take a few minutes to consider which of your intrinsic qualities, characteristics and traits would lead your ideal client to choose you. Then, make sure the way you dress, act, communicate and connect at a conference reflect those things. For example, if you pride yourself on being very responsive to clients, arrive early to events or meetings. If you have a superior attention to detail, let your attire reflect that as well. If your creative solutions set your work apart, gather some people from the conference to join you for a unique experience in the city you are in. The truth of the matter is that people notice these things.

2. What Role Will You Play? Decide what your primary purpose for attendance at this particular conference is and then ensure you play a role to support that purpose. For example, perhaps you are looking to expand your practice into a new area or new market. This may lead you to take a more passive role to gather information from people you meet. Alternatively, your Firm may have just changed names, partners or direction. In that case, your role will likely be much more about meeting as many people as possible and getting the message out.

3. What Are The 3 Messages You Want People to Hear About You/Your Firm? Although it might seem contrived, taking the time to identify and write down the three messages you want people at the conference to hear will not only focus you but also allow you to be more relaxed and authentic. As anyone who has prepared well for a speech will know, the more preparation you do in advance, the more natural and persuasive you can be.

4. What Concrete Outcomes Are You Looking For And By When? Conferences are expensive and time consuming. Of course they have the side benefit of being fun and a great opportunity to meet with old friends. At the end of the day, however, you have a job to do. Identifying 2-4 concrete and time bound goals for yourself is highly likely to lead to success. Studies have shown that when we set goals, we automatically act in a way that is in furtherance of those goals. Give it a try!

Of course, in order to see significant results, a complete conference strategy needs more lead-time and should be part of a larger annual business development strategy. And don’t forget, your strategy shouldn’t stop when you leave the conference. See our past blog posts on the importance of follow up and how to do it effectively.

P.S.

Thought these great Tips on Working the Room from Kintish with some amusing visuals might help too!

Enjoy conference season everyone!  Hope to see you out there.

*The origins of these 4 questions come from Mary Murphy, Global Conversations, an inspiring coach and mentor. Try them out when preparing for any meeting, event or conversation – whether it be professional or personal. You will be pleasantly surprised with the results.


BLG-Szymczyk-2694-By-Valerie-Keeler-Valberg-Imaging-copyHow can SC&C help?

Do you want to increase your return on investment from conference attendance? Do your Associates or Junior Partners need training and coaching on business development? SC&C can help. Contact me at kathryn@sccignites.com or on +1 647 978 5502 to find out more.

As always, we would love to hear from you! Please leave your comments below. Feel free to post this article on LinkedIn, forward it or tweet it using the icons below.

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How To Turn Your New Client Into Your Best Business Development Asset

How To Turn Your New Client Into Your Best Business Development Asset

So, you have followed our tips for preparation, tips for meetings and tips for follow up and have had a wildly successfully conference season resulting in a new corporate client?  Congratulations!  Time to take a business development break?  Not so fast.  As was recently confirmed for SC&C through an interview with Myrtha Hurtado Rivas (Global Head Trademarks, Copyright, Domain Names, Novartis Pharma AG), in-house IP counsel look to each other first when searching for new counsel.  The question becomes, how do you guarantee rave reviews and turn your new client into your best source of new business? SC&C has taken note of Ms. Hurtado Rivas’ comments in Part II of her interview and compiled the following tips to consider:

1. Provide Updates:  Ms. Hurtado Rivas notes that, for her, updates from counsel on changes to the law are like manna from heaven.  This is especially true if the update is concise and timely and the author has included a personal note to specify how the development is relevant to the industry/situation of the recipient.  Such updates show that you are informed, pro-active and have an efficient team behind you.

2. Visit Them In Their Offices: If an issue arises, or you can combine it with other travel, consider an in-person visit.  Go prepared to give a presentation or address an issue.  The more face-to-face meetings you have with your client (provided they are useful) the more they get to know you and feel that you care.  Familiarity breeds trust, which is the best currency in building business.

3. Follow Their Protocols: Many in-house counsel spend significant time and money putting protocols in place to help them handle multiple portfolios in multiple jurisdictions.  Make sure you follow these protocols to the “T”.  If the client has not provided you with any such protocols, consider co-creating one with them.  The more you can do to simplify their life, the more likely they will be to say good things about you.

4. Initiate Talks On How To Improve: Don’t wait for in-house counsel to come to you when a problem arises.  Address the problem head on and provide a solution and an undertaking to never let it happen again.  They will likely appreciate your honesty and your initiative and the issue itself will fade from their memory.

5. Increase Efficiencies: When reviewing her current counsel, Ms. Hurtado Rivas looks at how they have worked to increase efficiencies. She wants teams that work as lean and as smart as possible. In this economic climate, part of your business development strategy should be finding ways to present cost saving ideas to the client in the form of alternative fee arrangements.

6. Raise your Credibility and Promote Your Services: There are a myriad of ways that you can subtly inform your clients about you, your practice and your Firm.  The more information they know about you, the more likely they will be to pass it on.  Some tricks to consider:

– Include a sentence about your Firm as part of your email signature e.g. ABC is an award-winning one-stop resource for IP in X, that combines the experience of a top tier law firm with the flexibility and personal approach of an IP Boutique.”

– Include a slightly longer “About Us” section at the bottom of any newsletter or update you send out.

– If possible, take opportunities to mention highlights about you and your Firm that may be of interest to the client.

– Ensure email signature, updates, and newsletters all contain active links to your website.

– Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and contains information about your practice, the practice of your Firm and any awards, rankings or projects.  Then connect with your clients and consider sending updates and publishing posts in your area of expertise.

7. Ask For Testimonials: Although using your own words to promote yourself is good, there is nothing better than using the words of a satisfied client – especially in-house counsel.  After you receive positive feedback, strike while the iron is hot and ask for a testimonial.  Make your request personal, specific and structured to make it as easy as possible for your client to oblige.  Get their approval before posting it on your website or using it in promotional material.

Follow these tips and next thing you know, your clients will be doing your business development for you!


BLG-Szymczyk-2694-By-Valerie-Keeler-Valberg-Imaging-copyHow can SC&C help?

Want to be more strategic in the way you develop business?  Need assistance implementing any of the above tips? SC&C can help.  Please contact me at kathryn@sccignites.com or on +1 647 978 5502 to find out more.

As always, we would love to hear from you! Please leave your comments below. Feel free to post this article on LinkedIn, forward it or tweet it using the icons below.

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What In-House Counsel Want Part II: Our Interview with Global Head Trademarks, Novartis Pharma AG

What In-House Counsel Want Part II:
Tips for IP Professionals Serving In-House Counsel

Myrtha-Hurtado-RivasIn March of this year, I interviewed Myrtha Hurtado Rivas, Global Head Trademarks, Domain Names & Copyright, Novartis Pharma AG. It was a chance for us to STEP IN to the shoes of in-house counsel. Below is part of my interview with Myrtha wherein she shares her concerns, requirements and tips for IP professionals serving in-house counsel. The full interview was published in the INTA issue of The Trademark Lawyer Magazine.

What Do You Want More Of?

KS: Myrtha, you have spent almost 10 years as in-house counsel for pharmaceutical companies and, as such, work every day with counsel from around the world. What is the one thing you wish you saw more of from your foreign associates?

MHR: What we are missing the most is people being proactive with updates on changes to the law. Receiving a personalized email that acknowledges who I am and provides me with useful information such as, “We know you are the leader of the Trademark Group. Are you aware that our law is undergoing changes in Sri Lanka regarding x topic? Attached is a short memorandum”, is like gold from heaven. I would like to see all of my Agents actively keeping me informed of the changes in their jurisdiction that will have an impact on the future of my business.

What Do You Want Less Of?

KS: What are the things that you wish you never saw from your Agents?

MHR: There are two things that I wish Agents never did: 1. Ignore protocols we have put into place; and, 2. provide legal opinions that are not concise and to the point. We spend a lot of time putting protocols in place to make our work more efficient and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. These include simple things like what to put in the subject line of emails to us, how to invoice us etc. We ensure all of our Agents have this information and still, some of them do not follow these simple guidelines. Also, we ask for concise answers to our questions that include recommendations for next steps, timing and costs. We do not need to see wording from legislation or excerpts from jurisprudence copied and pasted into legal opinions. We assume recommendations are based on solid reasoning.

Who Do You Want To Correspond With?

KS: Many of my clients worry that if the initial contact was made with them, as Partner of the Firm, you expect to receive all further correspondence from them or that they should be actively overseeing or at least copied on the work that is done. Is this true?

MHR: No. We try to make sure that people understand that it’s actually not about giving us the honour of following our cases. I always tell our Agents, “I assume that the right person at the right level is doing the job.” I don’t want an attorney typing an invoice but, at the same time, I don’t want an inexperienced paralegal reviewing a search. We only want to pay for the person who is really executing the job. If I see that the Managing Partner of the law firm is copied, I always ask, “Am I going to be billed for the Managing Partner reading those emails? I hope not.”

Most important for us is that the name and phone number of the person who is actually doing the work is at the bottom of any email. I don’t want to call the Managing Partner and hear, “I have to get an update from the Associate who actually did the work”. I want to know that whenever I pick up the phone, my time is well invested and my call goes straight to the right person.

KS: So, I guess you do not want to receive emails from generic email addresses such as “info@xxx.com?

MRH: Yes, that is generally true. I would make an exception with respect to those processes that we have tried to automate. If such matters come out of a generic inbox, and go to a generic inbox on our end, I am fine with that as long as I know who is responsible at the Agents end for managing the process. In that regard, we share our organizational chart with our Agents and we request that our Agents do the same. You will be surprised that many Agents do not do so even if they are asked 3 or 4 times. So, it’s interesting that there appears to be a certain reluctance to disclose clearly who is doing what.

What Has The Greatest Influence on Your Decision to Retain/Keep Outside Counsel?

KS: When looking for new counsel or deciding whether to stay with existing counsel, what influences your decision?

MRH: One of the tipping point questions for us when reviewing counsel now, is: “How have you worked on increasing efficiency within your Team in the last two years?” (For example, limiting the amount of correspondence, limiting docketing items etc.). Basically, we want to know what processes and tools they are using to increase efficiency and what is the benefit to us. Sadly, it is my experience that 50% of law firms outside of North America and Western Europe, never work on this. I want to work with counsel, especially on the prosecution side, that are working from a “Six Sigma” type, “Lean” perspective. I want to see them push the envelope every year to see how they can be working with less people, which will mean less cost to us, of course.

I look much more favourably upon those Firms that have been proactive and come to us with discounts based on increased efficiency then those Firms who simply give us a discount when we ask for it. For me, it really comes down to having a proactive attitude and it starts with prosecution but I have found that with law firms with this approach, it percolates to litigation, to conflicts and to everything else. That is how you can differentiate between a good Firm and an excellent Firm.

KS: And that is why, as you have told me in the past, you are very open minded about working with smaller Firms, correct? Provided they are using the processes and tools to be able to handle your bandwidth with less people?

MRH: Definitely, I think small doesn’t mean bad. I think small Firms just need to be very transparent with respect to how much work they can handle. It has happened in the past that a small Firm will pitch not just to work with my division but also want to handle the portfolios of other divisions. Sometimes they are just too eager and it has caused us to drop them because we don’t feel safe. But generally speaking, I like working with small Firms of at least 15 people or more, provided they have the requisite expertise. Often such Firms are run by people who have left bigger Firms and want to offer something different/better. To me this is a good sign.

KS: Thank you so much for your time and candor, Myrtha. It has given us a chance to see what it is like to be in your shoes and how outside counsel might be able to assist you better.

Want more tips about working with in-house counsel? Go here: How To Turn You New Client Into Your Best Business Development Asset.