Volume 103, 2014 • $6.95
Executive Presence: I Know I Need It – How Do I Get It?
Jessika M. Ferm The Importance of Case Status Meetings
Kendra Brodin LexisNexis Survey: The Discomfort of Collections
Carla Del Bove Brennan
Marketing and Advertising Tips
Expert Tips for Making Your Website Better
Doing Well by Doing Good
Janet Ellen Raasch
Big Career Built on Small Cases
Attorney of the Month
Bill Shapiro PLEASANT SURPRISE
Can the Traditional Pyramid Law Firm Structure Meet Today’s Price and Service Pressures?
Darin M. Klemchuk
How to Increase Profits Over 30 Percent
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TABLE OF CONTENTS features
NICHE PRACTITIONER OF THE MONTH
6 Eric Traut
Big Career Built on Small Cases by Karen Gorden
8 Executive Presence
I Know I Need It — How Do I Get It? by Jessika M. Ferm
9 Marketing and Advertising Tips for Law Firms by Ali Asadii
EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER Brian Topor EDITOR Jennifer Appel CREATIVE SERVICES Skidmutro Creative Partners
13 Can the Traditional Pyramid Law Firm Structure Meet Today’s Price and Service Pressures? by Darin M. Klemchuk
14 The Importance of Case Status Meetings
CIRCULATION Angela Watson
by Kendra Brodin
PHOTOGRAPHY Chris Griffiths
ATTORNEY OF THE MONTH
16 Bill Shapiro
STAFF WRITERS Jennifer Hadley Bridget Brookman Karen Gorden CONTRIBUTING EDITORIALISTS Matt Delucia Kendra Brodin Jessika M. Ferm Janet Ellen Raasch Darin M Klemchuk Cole Silver Carla Del Bove Brennan Ali Asadii Christopher Walton Monty McIntyre WEBMASTER Mariusz Opalka ADVERTISING INQUIRIES info@AttorneyJournal.us SUBMIT AN ARTICLE Editorial@AttorneyJournal.us OFFICE 10601-G Tierrasanta Blvd., Suite 131 San Diego, CA 92124 P 858.505.0314 • F 858.524.5808 www.AttorneyJournal.us ADDRESS CHANGES Address corrections can be made via fax, email or postal mail.
Pleasant Surprise by Jennifer Hadley
22 Doing Well by Doing Good Law Firm Social Responsibility by Janet Ellen Raasch
26 10 Tips to Make Your Law Firm’s Website Better, From an Expert in Law Firm Website Development by Matt DeLucia
28 How to Increase Your Law Firm Profits Over 30 Percent by Cole Silver
30 LexisNexis Survey
The Discomfort of Collections in Law Firm Billing by Carla Del Bove Brennan
Editorial material appears in Attorney Journal as an informational service for readers. Article contents are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of Attorney Journal. Attorney Journal makes every effort to publish credible, responsible advertisements. Inclusion of product advertisements or announcements does not imply endorsement. Attorney Journal is a trademark of Sticky Media, LLC. Not affiliated with any other trade publication or association. Copyright 2014 by Sticky Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without written permission from Sticky Media, LLC. Printed in the USA
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CTITIONER NICHE PREAM O OF TH
BUILT ON SMALL CASES How Eric Traut Became A Leading Attorney In Expedited and Traditional Jury Trials by Karen Gorden
ric Traut sheepishly admits that his initial career plans did not involve becoming an AV-Preeminent Rated attorney. Never did he imagine that he’d be named the youngest attorney to ever receive the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. Instead, says Traut, “I was going to be a DJ. I wanted to be Rick Dees,” he chuckles. However, while attending California State University, Fullerton, and watching his brother, Jim Traut, at work as an established Orange County trial attorney, Eric found himself switching gears entirely. “My brother is 18 years older than me and he was a successful trial attorney,” Eric explains of his now partner in the Traut Firm. “I watched him in trial one day and remember thinking, 6
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
‘Wow! To have someone trusting you that much had to be so difficult, but so rewarding,’” he says. He quickly changed his focus in school, and decided he would one day work for the DA’s office, or perhaps as a public defender. Yet, after being admitted to the Bar in 1990, his brother offered him an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
Laying The Foundation When he was getting started, “Jim had a bunch of smaller, harder-to-win cases, and needed help. He let me know that if I took them, I could be the one to try them. We had very little chance, but I knew it would be a great opportunity to get trial experience,” Traut says. “I tried 10 cases within my first three
“I PLAN TO KEEP SPEAKING, AND I’M HAPPY WITH MY PRACTICE. I INTEND TO KEEP TRYING CASES FOR A LONG TIME”
years. I lost a lot of them. But I learned how to present evidence in the right way. I learned which witnesses you call, and those you don’t. I learned how to talk to the jury. I learned how not to rely on notes,” he says. “I honestly believe that for new attorneys, it’s important to go to trial with your cases, because it is the only way to gain experience.” Not only did Traut learn how to be a trial attorney in his early years, he learned why he loved being a trial attorney. He learned that his ability to positively impact the lives of others was far more rewarding than he even suspected it might be. “Every year there are a handful of cases that we handle that change lives. When someone is seriously hurt, and we can set him or her up with a life care plan, it feels good. When it’s a make-or-break case, such as in a wrongful death case, and we can help a family to survive without the breadwinner, or when we can set up an annuity for a child who has been paralyzed in an accident, so that she has money to live on, it is unbelievably rewarding,” he says.
Solidifying Status as Trial Specialist As the result of his hard work, dedication and acute trial skills, Traut earned a reputation with insurance carriers as someone who isn’t afraid to take a case to trial, a trait he continues to be known for in the significant cases he handles today. “If there is a case that has a settlement offer below the value of our request, opposing counsel knows I will likely take them to trial,” he says, “because my clients deserve the best.” More than just going to trial, Traut will take the cases and win, which is exactly what he has done for the last 25 years. In doing so, the legal community at large began to notice. Traut became the youngest member ever admitted to the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). Four years later, he would serve as President of the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association, and by 2010 would serve as the President of the Orange County Chapter of ABOTA. His peers also selected him for inclusion to the list of Super Lawyers, the Top 50 Orange County and the Top 100 Southern California Lists. With his star on the rise, Traut began writing more articles and accepting more and more speaking engagements, instructing fellow attorneys on how to try small cases sensibly. “I had learned how to hone in on evidence that is needed, and learned not to belabor things that are irrelevant,” he says. Not surprisingly, that’s led to a practice based almost entirely on word-of-mouth referrals, primarily from fellow attorneys. “Roughly 180 attorneys have referred cases to me. The majority
of them practice in other areas, such as criminal defense, or estates, so they send their injured parties to me,” he says.
Emerging as Expert in Expedited Trials In addition to recognition from fellow attorneys, others in the legal community began coming to Traut for his expertise in handling cases economically and expeditiously. By way of example, Traut has co-authored multiple articles on the topic of the Expedited Jury Trial system for ABOTA with Orange County Judge Steven Perk. He also became an early adopter of the Expedited Jury Trial system, which became available in California in 2011. “The Expedited Jury Trial system hasn’t yet taken off to a great extent, but I believe that it will,” he says. Traut is certainly doing his part to personally promote the usefulness of these trials. On January 30, 2015, he will conduct the first public Expedited Jury Trial using one of his own cases for an ABOTA seminar. The live trial will be held in the Orange County Superior Court Dept. 1, and Traut is expecting a full house. With 97 jury trials under his belt, Traut has a multitude of experiences to rely on in his practice and for his upcoming seminar, and as such, his more immediate focus is on how he can continue to give back to the legal community that has supported him on his journey. “I plan to keep speaking, and I’m happy with my practice. I plan to keep trying cases for a long time,” he says. In the meantime, he’s relishing his role as the current President of the Orange County Bar Foundation, for the opportunity it affords him to give back. “I’m really passionate about the work that the Orange County Bar Foundation is doing for the community. We work with inner city kids to introduce them to the judicial system, get them interested in the law, and stay out of trouble. We help get them jobs in law firms, and I know that we’re really helping these kids, who might have never otherwise had a chance. My involvement in this organization is incredibly rewarding.” n Contact: Eric Traut Traut Firm www.trautfirm.com firstname.lastname@example.org 714-835-7000 Griffin Towers - Suite 700 5 Hutton Centre Dr. Santa Ana, CA 92707 Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
Executive Presence I Know I Need It—How Do I Get It? by Jessika M. Ferm Jessika M. Ferm is a writer, coach, speaker, and consultant on leadership, management, and business topics and is known for her “no frills no fluff” approach to sharing information. She is the President of J.Ferm, LLC, an international leadership consulting firm and is the trusted adviser to leaders and managers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to start-ups. For more information or to sign up for the free “Leading Edge” newsletter, visit: jferm.com or visit nofrillsnofluff.com. Article Source: http://EzineArticles. com/?expert=Jessika_M._Ferm. EzineArticles.com/5357942
Executive presence—we all know when we’re around someone who has it. Executive presence is hard to define, but it encompasses a combination of physical, mental and emotional qualities that cause an individual to project a certain level of sophistication, charisma and energy. While a business presence is a highly personal matter and there is no “one size fits all” formula to developing one, there are some tips that can help you get started at differentiating yourself professionally. IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE: Research indicates that people with good posture who carry themselves erectly are perceived as having confidence. An important aspect of projecting executive presence is the ability to communicate positively through body language. The good news is that it doesn’t matter if you are tall or short, you can easily maximize your executive presence by standing up straight, positioning your head with ears aligned with the shoulders, and relaxing the arms. It is a deceivingly simple exercise and for many it takes years to correct the hunched-over position we have become accustomed to after years of working in front of computers. Posture is so important that actors and celebrities are now hiring posture coaches to help them exude confidence and increased presence in order to get noticed. COMMUNICATE STRATEGICALLY: Some clients who come to us for executive presence coaching realize that they aren’t being noticed by key decision-makers and are often passed over for promotional opportunities or challenging assignments. It isn’t that they aren’t good performers or great team players, they just seem to get lost in the crowd. One strategy to get noticed without being abrasive is to start asking meaningful questions in meetings or sharing information that others may find valuable. Leaders with a high executive presence quotient are inquisitive and curious. They come across as caring and engaged without self-importance or bravado. This strategy works for introverts and extroverts alike. If you tend to dominate meetings with your comments and feedback, practicing asking questions instead of making statements shows a heightened sense of selfawareness and it invites others to join the conversation. MANAGE YOUR BODY LANGUAGE: We all send nonverbal signals about how we feel, think or perceive a situation. If we are impatient, we may tap our feet or hands or we may be 88 Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
prone to interrupting others. One of my clients said, “I’m tapping my fingers to send a message that the person needs to speed up what they are saying.” My response to this type of statement is always, “Does it make that person speed up?” and the answer is always “No.” Instead, we are sending an ineffective signal that we are impatient and that the other person’s information or presentation isn’t valuable. Instead of sending non-verbal signals, which are often confusing, consider tactfully asking the person to hit some key points or communicate with him or her after the presentation how they could have been more effective. Once you can master your non-verbal communication signals, you will come across as a person who is caring, considerate, and a great listener. These are all aspects of executive presence. ACCEPT YOUR FLAWS: The first three tips offer you some tactical solutions for developing your executive presence right away. Accepting your flaws and developing increased selfawareness may take a lifetime. It is an ongoing process with no end in sight. The good news is that you can begin by coming across as more self-aware immediately. Get comfortable accepting your flaws or mistakes by admitting to them or acknowledging critical feedback. I know this isn’t easy, but it will work wonders for your executive presence. For example, if you are told you made a mistake, practice responding with, “Thank you for pointing that out. What one action step can I take to avoid this mistake in the future?” or “I wasn’t aware that I was doing that. Thank you for sharing your feedback. It allows me to improve.” Most of us are defensive about our flaws and weaknesses and our natural response is to fight back or defend. People with high degrees of executive presence are non-judgmental of themselves and others and they are open to accepting information in a neutral manner because they understand that’s how they learn and improve. These four tips will help you get started in developing your executive presence. One good exercise is to evaluate yourself on a scale form 1-10 (1 being lowest and 10 being highest), and rate yourself on where you feel your executive presence is right now. Implement a few of these strategies and re-rate yourself in about six months. You may even want to ask a trusted friend or colleague to rate you pre- and post- to see if you are making significant steps forward. n
Marketing & Advertising Tips for Law Firms by Ali Asadii Ali Asadii, MBA, MA(IT) is a talented author and experienced business consultant. As owner of Asadi Business Consulting, he enjoys becoming directly involved in helping businesses become more effective in today’s challenging business climate. For more information contact Ali at ali@ aprofitmaker.com or via the web at aprofitmaker.com. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ali_Asadii.
As recently as 10-15 years ago, law firms rarely looked at advertising and marketing seriously. Clients usually came through referrals and personal networking. Times have changed. With enormous competition in the market, law firms are finding it necessary to invest in advertising and marketing to promote awareness about their services. While the basic principles of advertising and marketing management remain the same, certain modifications may be needed to create strategies that will specifically benefit law firms. Some of these areas are discussed below.
1 IDENTIFICATION OF TARGET CUSTOMERS If your firm specializes in corporate law dealing specifically with environmental issues, your target could be companies that manufacture industrial products or construction companies that require environmental clearances. Ensuring that your marketing strategies are specifically targeted makes them more cost-effective as you get greater returns. Online marketing strategies should also focus on your niche by linking to and advertising on relevant websites.
2 AN EFFECTIVE LAW WEBSITE You must have original, relevant content and make certain that the site is search engine optimized (SEO), which ensures that your website has a high ranking in search engine results pages. Describe your services and previous successes, as well as have testimonials and knowledgeable articles on important points of law that people may not be clear about. Offer some simple advice online. When potential clients trust your services, they will be more likely to come to you with their business. The home page should have relevant information about your services so that prospective clients can know if you will be able to help them. You should display contact details prominently in order for people to get in touch with you easily. Testimonials that you post will inspire confidence about your services and may influence potential clients to come to you. Choose your images carefully to ensure they do not overwhelm the website. They should add value and clarity and make the site look attractive.
3 NETWORKING TIPS FOR LAWYERS Word of mouth still remains a popular method that people use to hire lawyers, so networking is particularly important. You can arrange talks about relevant legal topics for companies, which would provide an opportunity to network with decision-makers and possibly meet a prospective client or two. You may also discover an opportunity for more work with an existing client. Make sure you attend functions
organized by professional legal associations in your city and state. You will have an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other legal professionals. You should also network online on such social networking sites as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
4 BEST WAYS TO GET MORE CLIENTS Blog The best way to position yourself as an expert in a specific
area of law is by building a blog online for your area of specialization. Contribute regularly to the blog and share links with other legal experts. As your blog develops, you may add more visitors and comments. Even if it does not become especially popular, you will still have a body of work to show that you are an expert and active in the field. Even if you cannot contribute to the blog yourself, you can hire a freelance writer to blog on your behalf. Website You must develop a great website. Use your website as a potent marketing tool. Your website has good reach, and it costs much less to reach potential clients if you have organized it well. Print and Radio Media Use media such as local newspapers or radio to attract local clients. You can do this by writing informative columns in newspapers and participating in local talk shows. Such involvement may take a little time to get going, but once you develop this niche, it will self-perpetuate. Look for innovative connections or partnerships that are mutually beneficial. For example, if you offer prenuptial agreement service, you may benefit from working with wedding planners or any associated service provider.
5 COMPETITION ANALYSIS FOR LAW FIRMS Competition analysis is essential for designing effective marketing strategies. Find out how your competitors’ websites rank in the search engine results page. Are they higher than yours? In that case, you can get tips from their website design. Does your website follow SEO norms? It is a good idea to find out about what services are offered by your competitor and the pricing. If you discover that your closest competitor is charging a lower price than you are for a particular service, the easiest thing to do would be to lower your own price, but doing so is not the best approach. Potential clients may even react negatively. Remember, marketing is all about perception. The right strategy would be to position your service as offering more value for the clients’ money than your competitors can and making sure you deliver what you promise. No one will even remember that your prices are higher. n Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
COMMUNITY news nBrown & Charbonneau, LLP is pleased to announce that Gregory G. Brown, a Senior Partner in the firm’s Business Litigation Dept., has achieved the rating of AV Preeminent® from Martindale-Hubbell®. The AV Preeminent® rating is the highest possible rating given to a lawyer and is established wholly on a peer-review GREGORY G. BROWN basis. To qualify as AV Preeminent®, a lawyer’s expertise, experience, integrity and overall professional excellence must be rated at the highest level by lawyers and members of the judiciary. Mr. Brown has experience in business litigation matters, fraud, partnership and shareholder disputes, contract disputes, unfair competition and trade secret litigation, trust litigation, personal injury and complex divorce cases. Mr. Brown is a Board Certified Trial Specialist and is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He has been named to Super Lawyers for six (6) consecutive years. He is also part of an elite group of trial lawyers named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers. Mr. Brown has also received the Lead Counsel Rating and AVVO’s highest rating of Superb 10.0/10.0.
nFour Newmeyer & Dillion, LLP attorneys were selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America®, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. In addition ,founding partner Gregory Dillion was named the Best Lawyers® 2015 Orange County Lawyer of the Year for real estate litigation. Michael Cucchissi, Joseph Ferrentino and Thomas Newmeyer, partners in Newmeyer & Dillion’s Newport Beach office, were included in the 21st edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Cucchissi focuses on real estate development and real estate finance; Ferrentino practices civil litigation in business, construction, real estate, governmental tort, products liability, and insurance; and Newmeyer, one of the law firm’s founders, has an active trial and appellate practice covering all areas of business litigation.
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
nKeller Rackauckas LLP is pleased to announce that Michelle M. Peterson has joined the firm as Of Counsel. Michelle’s practice areas include appellate law, law and motion, and trial strategy. During her legal career of 30+ years, Michelle has honed her craft in legal analysis, motion and writ practice in complex MICHELLE M. PETERSON litigation, trial preparation and appellate advocacy. Michelle has written hundreds of substantive motions and responses in federal and state trial courts, and a like volume of briefs and petitions in appellate courts. She has also done extensive “behind the scenes” analyses on settlement strategies and case-specific methods of persuading jurors, trial judges and arbitrators, often in matters with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Michelle also worked as an enforcement attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., where she took testimony from approximately 200 witnesses, and obtained extensive first-hand experience in government investigative and administrative proceedings. nBerger Kahn has been included in the Best Lawyers of America list for Southern California. Managing Partner Craig Simon was selected for inclusion in the practice area of Insurance Law and Partner David Ezra selected for inclusion in the practice area of Commercial Litigation. Berger Kahn congratulates Craig and CRAIG SIMON David on their recognition. Best Lawyers selects less than 3% of the Bar to their list and according to Best Lawyers, “Inclusion in Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. The methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues…Best Lawyers employs a sophisticated, DAVID EZRA conscientious, rational and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services.”
COMMUNITY news nRutan & Tucker, LLP, has been chosen by National Philanthropy Day Orange County for the “Outstanding Medium-Sized Business/Corporation” award and will be honored at the annual National Philanthropy Day awards luncheon event in November. This award recognizes a corporation that has created a culture of philanthropy and has demonstrated an outstanding commitment STEVE NICHOLS to philanthropy through its financial support of one or more nonprofit organizations, leadership involvement, and volunteer participation and commitment of its workforce in establishing a role model for other businesses in our community. “We are very proud of this award”, said Steve Nichols, the firm’s managing partner. “It is truly a reflection of the character of our firm and those who work here.” nFisher & Phillips LLP today announced that four Irvine, Calif.-based partners— Karl R. Lindegren, James J. McDonald, Jr., Warren L. Nelson and John M. Polson— have been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2015© (Copyright 2014 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, S.C.). All four attorneys practice labor and employment law representing management. Firm-wide, 86 attorneys from Fisher & KARL R. LINDEGREN Phillips were selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2015.
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Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
Can the Traditional Pyramid Law Firm Structure Meet Today’s Price and Service Pressures? by Darin M. Klemchuk Darin M. Klemchuk is the Managing Partner of Klemchuk Kubasta LLP and an intellectual property (IP) trial lawyer located in Dallas, Texas, with significant experience enforcing patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret rights. More information about Mr. Klemchuk can be found at his bio at http://www.kk-llp.com/attorneys/detail?id=3. Article Source: http:// EzineArticles.com/?expert=Darin_M_Klemchuk
ollowing the deep economic recession of 2008, more and more corporate legal departments and general counsel have demanded concessions on hourly rates, volume discounts, and alternative fee arrangements. While the traditional law firm pyramid model is far from extinct and likely will never go away, questions exist whether it is flexible enough to meet these demands. To be sure, technology and economic pressures to the pyramid model are driving dynamic change in the legal field and in how law firms are structured in particular. This article addresses potential solutions to these challenges. In the traditional pyramid law firm model, the base is broad and comprises a pool of associates that generally narrows as they advance toward partnership. Depending on the firm, this narrowing continues through senior associates and income partners to the much narrower top of equity partners only. As you move up the pyramid, compensation and hourly rates generally increase. In a true pyramid model, an attorney either moves up or moves out if they do not make it to the next level. This model is used in other professional services businesses as well. While this model has been extremely successful for over a century, it can exclude mid- to highly-experienced level attorneys that are qualified to provide legal services,
but do not want the additional demands of the traditional law firm. For example, an attorney that is a parent with young children may want to work a 30-40 hour week, but cannot handle the demands of a heavy litigation load. Or, a partnerlevel attorney that prefers providing legal services over developing new business. In many firms, the top of the pyramid can only be reached by an attorney that generates millions of dollars in origination. Not all attorneys want this demand as part of their professional life. Another model—referred to as the “Diamond” model—focuses a significant portion of the attorney work force on the middle. This includes senior associates and partner-level attorneys that are experienced and capable, but do not want to be on the traditional equity partnership track. Staff attorneys as well as para-professionals provide additional staffing opportunities. By controlling the overhead load per attorney, a “diamond” law firm theoretically can provide legal services at lower costs to clients. Additional efficiency can be gained by focusing the firm’s business on one or a few practice areas, e.g. a “boutique” model. While the future of the diamondshaped model is yet to be determined, they present interesting potential solutions to lowering the cost of legal services. n Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
The IMPORTANCE of CASE STATUS MEETINGS by Kendra Brodin
any attorneys don’t believe there is any value in case status meetings. Some believe that their work is their business and they don’t need to share what is going on with anyone else. Others don’t want to hear about the other attorneys’ cases. And still others think it’s a waste of their billable time. However, there is a good case for these case status meetings. They can be effective in managing work, and can also be good for morale. There are 4 other benefits worth considering:
1 They are good for brainstorming. When you feel stuck, what do you do? If you like to bounce the problem off of others, a case status meeting is the perfect place to do so. You can get a plethora of ideas from a lot of different perspectives, and may come up with things you would have never thought of on your own. Other attorneys can share tricks and tips they’ve used before, and you can share what ideas worked or which ones didn’t, and why. 2 They can provide a training ground. For new attorneys, or attorneys who are venturing into a different area of practice, a case status meeting can be a great way to learn. If you evaluate the worth of a case, or the strong or weak points on both sides, everyone in attendance can come away with something valuable. 3 It improves law firm cohesion. If you have a weekly or semimonthly meeting, the attorneys will get to know each other better. It will also help people to feel less isolated. Once you get a good sense of what each attorney’s strong points are, you know who you can turn to between meetings for help. 14
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
When you know that every person at the meeting is on your side, you feel more confident.
4 It can save your law firm money. A case status meeting can create cost effectiveness by managing work in the best way possible. It can cut down on hours spent doing tasks that aren’t necessary, and it can keep people on track. When you get a new case, you review it and have to come up with a game plan. Think of how exciting it is to know that you have a case status meeting coming up, and you can take your new case to that meeting and get advice and direction from the beginning. Just remember this: when it’s your turn to report on any of your cases, whether they are new or ongoing, keep it brief so the meeting doesn’t last too long. Be open to input from others because you never know what kinds of gems will come your way. Also, when you’re listening to other people report, be interested. Listen closely, ask relevant questions, and give helpful advice. If the other people at the meeting believe you’re valuable, they’ll be more apt to reciprocate to you. A case status meeting doesn’t have to be a waste of time. It can be a great way to build a strong team and a solid firm. n Kendra Brodin, MSW, JD is author of the Happy In Law blog found at KendraBrodin.com and founder of WomenLawyersOnline. com. With a powerful background as an attorney and social worker, Kendra helps lawyers experience the best of life and legal practice, while helping law firms attract, retain, and advance their best and brightest women attorneys. For more information, please visit the website mentioned above. Article Source: http:// EzineArticles.com/?expert=Kendra_Brodin
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DTIGlobal.com Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
SURPRISE Bill Shapiro never expected to become one of OC’s top trial attorneys, but talent and passion coupled with a commitment to civility and desire to create positive changes in the world have made him precisely that for 37 years and counting. by Jennifer Hadley
received some terrific advice right after passing the Bar. A great lawyer told me: Do everything you can to preserve a reputation of integrity, credibility, reliability, and being a man of your word,” says William D. Shapiro, AV-rated trial attorney and partner at Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, Inc. (RCRSD). For nearly 40 years, Shapiro has taken that advice to heart, putting everything he has into the exclusive litigation and trials of personal injury and wrongful death cases on behalf of those victimized by negligent driving and conduct, defective products and roadways. Yet to hear Bill tell it, he never had big dreams of becoming one of Southern California’s “Top Rated Lawyers,” nor did he imagine he’d be named to lists such as the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Lawyers in America,” or one of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” as ranked by National Lawyers of America. Shapiro is also a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow in the International Society of Barristers, and an Advocate in the American Board of Trial Advocates. He certainly never expected to be named “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by both the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association and the Consumer Attorneys of the Inland Empire or to receive the nomination for “Trial Lawyer of the Year” by Cal ABOTA. On the contrary, Bill merely wanted to be someone who helped create positive change. “I am one of many trial attorneys who have been able to make a positive change in the world. Trial lawyers care about people. Contrary to what people may think, we aren’t just out for ourselves. Those of us who do this day in and day out know that the biggest enjoyment we get is from being able to 16 Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
help people and create change. We help get unsafe products off of the market, we help create laws to protect people and we help those who are gravely injured to have some quality of life. If we waited for government to make these changes, we’d still be waiting. So I know that one person really can make a difference,” he says.
TAPPING INTO TALENT However, as a young man, Shapiro’s dreams were simpler. “While earning my B.S. in Physical Education, and a California teaching credential, my plan was to go into teaching and coaching. I knew I wanted to work with and help people,” he says. “But on a daily run up State College Blvd, I noted the newly placed words ‘School of Law’ on a building I saw being built. I thought to myself: Could I? That set in motion the challenge of my life. My admission to law school began my infatuation and infection with the law and it’s been that way ever since. I am so thankful for that fateful run. That day not only changed my life, but guided me to what was to be my calling. My love of the law has never diminished.” As soon as he began clerking for a personal injury firm, he knew he’d found his area of practice. “I loved the challenge posed by plaintiff’s personal injury litigation. I savored being creative, digging, investigating, burning midnight oil to get a leg up, maximizing on preparation so as not to be outprepared. I was hungry then and remain hungry to this day,” he says. Thus, after being admitted to the Bar, Shapiro returned to the firm and became a partner in Peach, Shapiro & Peach
© christopher TODD studios
OF THE MONTH
© christopher TODD studios
Top Left to Right: Partners Scot D. WilsonDaniel S. Robinson, Karen Barth Menzies, Allan F. Davis and Bill Shapiro. Bottom Left to Right: Partners Kevin F. Calcagnie, Mark P. Robinson and Jeoffrey L. Robinson.
in 1979. By 1983, he’d opened his own practice, which he ran to tremendous success before ultimately partnering with Mark Robinson to merge his practice in 2010, forming RCRSD. Along the way, Shapiro learned to look for inspiration from others, to help him to become the type of lawyer and the type of man he wanted to be. “Over the years I had observed many people and noted there are some things I like about some people and some things I’ll do without. I have long studied great trial lawyers, great athletes, great musicians, great people—and some not so great—but I still learn something and take it home,” he says. By way of example, he recalls trying a case in his first year as a trial attorney, facing off against nationally renowned defense attorney John Costanzo. “We were representing a quadriplegic suing a major auto manufacturer. The senior partner at my firm wanted to refer it, but I wanted to try it. When it came up for trial I had only tried 2 soft tissue cases. The trial lasted 4 months and I think I learned more in that trial than I did in law school. I lost the case, but John invited me to his office after I reversed the verdict on appeal and settled the case. I was humbled by his compliments on my effort, skill and fortitude. I learned how to not be afraid to lose. As a trial lawyer, you can’t be afraid to lose.” But Shapiro also knows that he’s learned a lot from those outside of the legal field, citing UCLA Coach John Wooden as someone who he admires. “His teachings should be studied by all. [He] promotes learning and mastering the fundamentals; always being prepared; doing your talking with action not words. These are the things I strive to conquer in each case and in everything I do. I ask my staff all of the time: If this was your 18 Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
case, what would you expect your lawyer to be doing?” Shapiro also says that many other great attorneys and friends have helped him to develop his own style of lawyering. “A great friend of mine has a commandment which I subscribe to and strive towards: Be nice, to everybody, all of the time. Another great lawyer told me: Never try a case for the wrong reason. Yet another attorney told me: Always handle a case like it was your mother’s case. I try to live by these, and share these tips with young lawyers I mentor or those I teach,” he says.
RESPECT FOR OTHERS: A FIRM’S STRENGTH It was Shapiro’s ability to recognize the strengths in others which would ultimately lead him to merge his practice with likeminded attorneys. “After working closely with Mark Robinson Jr. in Orange County, we decided to merge my practice in 2010 to form Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis,” he says. “We are a trial law firm of 30 lawyers with offices in Orange County, Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Eight partners are joined by 22 associates making up the trial teams for our clients. Assistants, paralegals, legal secretaries, investigators and other staff members are a critical part of our trial teams and we’re proud of the depth of each litigation trial team. Whether an individual case, mass tort or class action, each litigation is handled by teams who see each case through to the end. In addition to our talented paralegal and legal secretarial staff, we include in-house nurses, a full investigation team, an IT crew,
that cooperation and civility translates into weakness. In fact, I believe just the opposite. By being cooperative and treating others as you’d expect to be treated, you are demonstrating the true strength of your case,” he says. This respect for everyone from Shapiro and his colleagues has resulted in a caseload that includes countless referrals of catastrophic and mass tort cases from attorneys nationwide. “We are honored to have our referring lawyers and over the last 5 years, we have paid millions of dollars of referral fees and we are happy to do so. We understand that just as we don’t handle family, criminal, or estate planning law, many lawyers don’t handle catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death or product liability cases,” Shapiro adds. “We take pride in serving their referrals.” Furthermore, the reputation that Shapiro and his colleagues have earned has led them to enjoy a nationwide practice. “Having established great relationships around the state and country has provided us the ability to work cases nationwide, as we have associate counsel in virtually every state in the country. This allows us to be involved with many Multidistrict Litigation (MDLs) Class Actions, Pharma cases, and even individual cases.”
RCRSD: THE NEXT 40 With a career that has been marked by award after award of million- and multimillion-dollar verdicts, Shapiro also has multiple published cases, including Thompson vs. Mercury Casualty Co. (2000) 84 Cal App 4th 90, and Lobo vs. Tamco (2010) 182 Cal App 4th 297, which led to creation of new laws.
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as well as skilled and knowledgeable assistants who handle everything needed for our trial efforts.” RCRSD is a full litigation firm with the utmost respect for the clients it serves. “Handling the types of cases we handle takes depth. It takes depth of skill, knowledge, resources and desire. These cases are expensive and to get the results our clients are entitled to, it truly takes a comprehensive legal team, and the legal resources RCRSD is willing to provide. After nearly 37 years of handling only these types of cases, and surrounding ourselves with attorneys and staff who do nothing but sophisticated and catastrophic cases, I’m proud to say we provide among the best in product liability/personal injury legal services,” Shapiro says. The desire to win for deserving clients has resulted in a firm of attorneys who have what Shapiro calls a respectful “bedside manner.” “The notion of bedside manner is not only critical in the medical field, it’s essential in the legal field. Clients entrusting their case to us have the right to know what is good and what is not so good. They can take it, if it’s delivered in the right manner. We keep clients posted on the good, the bad and the ugly, as we never want a situation where reality doesn’t set in until the trial. By keeping clients and our referring attorneys posted on cases, they are knowledgeable and prepared for what is coming. Too many lawyers fail to just tell their clients the true status. This does nothing but create distance and conflict, so at RCRSD we keep our clients well-informed,” Shapiro explains. When it comes to working with fellow attorneys, whether they are referring attorneys or opposing counsel, Shapiro insists on creating a dialogue of civility and respect. “I don’t believe
Contact: Bill Shapiro: Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis, Inc. www.rcrsd.com firstname.lastname@example.org 888-701-1288 19 Corporate Plaza Newport Beach, CA 92660 20 Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
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There doesn’t seem to be much that Shapiro still has left to accomplish, but he has no plans of slowing down. In fact, he plans to continue to work as hard as ever, particularly when it comes to giving back to the legal community. For more than 30 years, he’s dedicated himself to giving back to the legal community in a variety of ways. Since 1980, he’s been on the Executive Board of the Legal Aid Society Inland Empire, having served in the clinics on a monthly basis. He has handled countless pro bono cases, and RCRSD continues to welcome those cases on behalf of those less fortunate. Along with his wife, Shapiro also established the “William and Susan Shapiro Scholarship” for students at Western State University, College of Law, years ago. He serves on the Board of Directors of the John Lewis King Scholarship Fund, and supports the Public Law Center in Orange County alongside his colleagues at RCRSD. In addition, Shapiro, along with his partners Mark Robinson and Kevin Calcagnie, is dedicated to the teaching of Trial Practice, being on the Adjunct faculty of Western State University, College of Law, and UCI Law School. Not surprisingly, Shapiro has no doubt that good things are in store for the future of RCRSD. “RCRSD will continue to grow. We have tremendous talent, with skillful and dedicated partners and lawyers who have every reason to believe the firm will grow and flourish. We are paperless, with communication features that are second to none. We bring technology into the courtrooms as well as into depositions. But what we are most proud of is that we have a full command of the fundamentals of the law. Irrespective of technology, the fundamentals of law must still be practiced and we strive to master that. There are no short cuts, no excuses, and nothing is half-done.” As for when Shapiro is not working to help victims of catastrophic personal injury or heirs who’ve lost loved ones, create change or educate others, he’s typically enjoying time playing the pedal steel guitar, lead guitar and banjo in a country rock group, having Sunday dinners with his three sons or scuba diving with his wife. Yet for someone as accomplished as Shapiro, he remains remarkably humble in regard to the success he’s realized, and the positive changes he’s been able to make. “It was unexpected, but I guess I did pretty well,” he says simply. n
» EDUCATION • Western State University College of Law, Fullerton, California; Juris Doctor, 1978; Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, Charter Member • California State University, Fullerton, California California State Teaching Credential, K-12, 1975 • California State University, Fullerton, California Bachelor of Science, Physical Education, 1974 • Chaffey College, Alta Loma, California; Associate of Arts, General Education 1972
» RECOGNITION • Best Lawyers in America, U.S. News & World Report • SuperLawyer, Los Angeles Times Magazine • Best Lawyers in Orange County, Orange County Register, Metro • Best Lawyers in Inland Empire, Inland Empire Magazine • Top 100 Trial Lawyers, National Lawyers of America • RCRSD, named One of America’s 30 Most Influential Law Firms by Trial Lawyer Magazine • Southern California’s Top Rated Lawyers, American Law Magazine, published in LA Times • A-V Preeminent, One of the Preeminent lawyers in America, Martindale-Hubbell • Certified Specialist in Civil Trial Advocacy, Specialization by State Bar of California • Board Certification in Civil Trial Advocacy, National Board of Trial Advocacy • Master, Joseph B. Campbell INN’s of Court • Recognition for expertise in Bad Faith, Personal Injury & Product Liability Trials, Consumer Attorneys of California • California Judicial College, Attorney participant (1986)
» AWARDS • Trial Lawyer of the Year, 2014 Consumer Attorneys of California, Inland Empire Chapter; • John B. Surr Award, 2013, presented by the San Bernardino County Bar Association: Awarded to the Member of the Legal Community Who has Best Exemplified the High Standards of the Profession and the Administration of Justice • Top Gun, Trial Lawyer of the Year, 2013, Orange County Trial Lawyers Association • Trial Lawyer of the Year, 2013 nomination, Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles
DOING WELL BY
DOING GOOD LAW FIRM SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY by Janet Ellen Raasch
Corporations increasingly subscribe to the principle of corporate social responsibility. CSR is based on the belief that a demonstration of concern for the environment, human rights, community development and the welfare of their employees can make a corporation more profitable. And if not more profitable, at least a better place to work.
Community Investment Advisor and director of the Encana Cares Foundation, Encana Oil & Gas (USA); and Amy Venturi, director of community relations & karma at Brownstein. Moderator was Cori Plotkin, president of Barefoot PR. At law firms, the product is the people—the lawyers and support staff who provide high-quality legal services. It is an easy fit. There are many ways that this ‘product’ can contribute time, talent and treasure to socially responsible activities.
Law firms can learn from corporate experience to create their own social responsibility programs. Such programs can help law firms to do well by doing good. They can strengthen the firm’s reputation and market position. They can help the firm identify with the culture and CSR activities of clients and potential clients. They can help lawyers and staff find more meaning in their work and improve as human beings. In the words of the social responsibility Karma Committee at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: Be kind. Be generous. Be concerned. Donate time. Donate effort. Donate money. Just find a cause and give. You’ll quickly discover giving is also receiving. A panel discussion about how law firms can learn about CSR and introduce some of its elements into their own models was sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. The program was held May 8 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in downtown Denver. Panelists included Sarah Hogan, vice president of Barefoot PR; Bruce DeBoskey, lawyer and founder of The DeBoskey Group, which focuses on philanthropic advising; Joyce Witte,
Law firm social responsibility is all about making a difference within the community and the profession, and within a firm. Even the best efforts will make no impact if spread too thin. You cannot maximize the value of your contributions or tell your story if your efforts are too diluted. To decide how to most effectively invest its resources, a law firm needs a social responsibility focus and a strategy. Social responsibility efforts must be authentic. Law firms and other entities should always avoid ‘green-washing’—telling a story that is aspirational, but not really true. Know yourself. Let your firm’s unique culture and skills determine which efforts to pursue and which to avoid. When examining your culture, don’t limit yourself to partner input. Law firms are small communities, almost like families. Any effort to define culture and social responsibility should represent not only the interests of lawyers, but the interests of all levels of support staff. Efforts must be meaningful throughout the firm. The benefits to employee recruitment, retention and satisfaction can be remarkable.
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
Social responsibility: Focus and strategy
DeBoskey outlined three types of community involvement and stated his belief that a good social responsibility plan includes elements of all three. In a traditional model, an organization ‘gives back’ randomly to the community when asked—as a good citizen, rather than for any strategic purposes. In a social responsibility model, these efforts align with the capabilities of the business—like the legal skills of lawyers. Every non-profit needs legal advice. At it’s most sophisticated, a social responsibility program involves using your core product—legal services—as a tool for social change. Volunteer with organizations like the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, or the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center. A strong focus makes it much easier to make decisions. Encana, for example, focuses its charitable giving strategy on issues surrounding its product — natural gas. Brownstein will donate money only if the request comes from a client, or if one of their attorneys is a member of the organization and on the board. Law firms looking for additional advice can find valuable resources within the Corporate Community Investment Network. CCIN is an association for professionals whose primary responsibility is to manage community investment programs in a for-profit business setting. Many corporations and a few law firms have actually created separate foundations to mange some of their giving. A foundation comes with more restrictions and different tax methods. As entities with a life of their own, however, foundations are more likely than one-off efforts to continue a useful existence.
Social responsibility: Good policies make good decisions Strategy and focus provide the foundation for an effective social responsibility policy. Most law firms are inundated with requests from good causes asking for their support. A policy helps you know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” In the law firm model, where all partners are owners with a sense of entitlement to resources, it can be very difficult to say no. A keenly focused policy makes it much easier to do so and keep the firm’s efforts on track. Encana, for example, uses a five-step tool to determine the level of fit between a request and the company’s strategic goals in the field of natural gas—with level five being the largest commitment and level one the lowest. Level five efforts integrate core product or service and often involve natural gas vehicles and energy efficiency initiatives using natural gas. These efforts contribute to best practices and leading trends in the industry, while enhancing the company’s reputation as a leader. Level four efforts focus on strategic partnerships and often involve sustainable and long-term solutions like workforce development initiatives, signature programs (which can be repeated in other markets) and multi-year grants.
Level three efforts include strategic grants to assist with projects, programs or initiatives made to local non-profits aligned with natural gas. Level two efforts include responsive giving, which is a onetime gift for a broad community effort that has local support. Participation of company representatives is required. Level one efforts include the “t-shirt and banner” category, which contains one-day items like dinners, receptions, golf tournaments, events and races. These offer the least impact and awareness for the money, and therefore the least support. At Brownstein, requests made to the firm are judged by two factors. The firm considers only requests made by clients and requests made by organizations where one of its attorneys participates at the board level.
Social responsibility: Engagement Effective social responsibility programs involve not only checkbook involvement, but personal and professional involvement. At Brownstein, the brand has always been about being out in the community. Six years ago, Venturi was asked to formalize this essential component of the firm’s culture into a social responsibility program that would further energize lawyers. She started by spending 15 minutes with each of the attorneys, to discover their passions—which were used to identify a good non-profit match. After all, lawyers and staff will stay involved and do their best only when an organization is something that they care deeply about. If there is no engagement, the placement will backfire. Finally, Venturi offers the lawyer’s services to the non-profit in some capacity—but it must be at the board level. Otherwise, she won’t make the match. Project Karma is a Brownstein program dedicated to volunteer opportunities, and maintains a committee in each of the firm’s 12 offices. It sponsors informal lunch & learn presentations by local non-profits to encourage interest. The message about active engagement by lawyers and staff must come from the top. Brownstein makes it very clear that the path to partnership for a new attorney is based not only on legal skills, but also on engagement and involvement with the community. It is important to add a community involvement component to lawyer reviews, even if it is only one goal a year. That lets the lawyers know that you are serious. The Colorado Supreme Court asks every lawyer to contribute 50 hours of pro bono work each year. Integrating these programs leads to win/win results for the firm. Not every firm can match the efforts of a large company like Encana or a large law firm like Brownstein. However, there are good matches for firms of every size. Once again, it is all a matter of focus. In fact, it is much easier to get five members of a small firm to focus on a strategic initiative than 500 lawyers in a huge firm. If a law firm has $10,000 to donate, that money goes a lot further Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
and has a lot more impact to one organization than do $100 donations spread across 100 organizations. Smaller law firms can also multiply their impact by partnering with others in an industry, like vendors or clients, to support a particular non-profit.
Social responsibility: Return on investment Corporations measure the results of their social responsibility programs, and use these results to make decisions on efforts going forward. Law firms should do the same. At the end of the year, Encana uses its five-level model (outlined above) to analyze our charitable giving. How much was given at each level? Then the company sends a form to each non-profit, asking the recipient to evaluate outcomes (statistics for what was accomplished), process (did efforts meet the intended audience) and impact (what difference did it make). Encana asks recipients to reply within 60 days, and uses this information to calculate return on investment. Those who do not report back are not eligible for further contributions. The non-profits might gripe at first, but they seem to change their
minds once they’ve been through the process—finding that it has useful strategic value. It is entirely appropriate to ask a non-profit to document the results they’ve achieved based on your contribution. It lets them know that you are truly invested in the organization. They will see you more as partners and engage you differently. Most corporations have created and benefited from wellthought-through and strategic social responsibility programs. Law firms are starting to do the same. A program with tight focus and strict guidelines guarantees maximum impact and awareness in exchange for a law firm’s commitment of time, talent and treasure. n Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter and blogger ( constantcontentblog.com ) who works closely with professional services providers—especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal professionals—to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the Internet as well as articles and books for print. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or email@example.com. Article Source: http://EzineArticles. com/?expert=Janet_Ellen_Raasch
Areas of Expertise Business/Commercial • Class Action Complex Litigation • Construction Employment/Wage and Hour Insurance Coverage/Bad Faith • Intellectual Property Legal Malpractice • Medical Malpractice Personal Injury • Probate Real Property/CEQA/Land Use • Wrongful Death
Past President: San Diego County Bar Association 2014 President of the San Diego Chapter of the American Board of Trial Avocates (ABOTA) Listed in The Best Lawyers In America, Super Lawyers and Top Attorneys 26 Years of Experience as a Mediator and Arbitrator 34 Years of Extensive Civil Litigation Experience Representing Plaintiffs and Defendants
M A. MI, E. Mediator, Arbitrator & Referee ADR Services, Inc.
Relentless Optimist® | Rapid, Reasonable Resolution™
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Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
TO MAKE YOUR LAW FIRM’S WEBSITE BETTER
From an Expert in Law Firm Website Development by Matt DeLucia
PRESENT THE IMPRESSION THAT YOU WANT TO HEAR FROM YOUR VISITORS. Most websites do a decent job of expressing who they are and what they do, but the most important aspect of business is to get the lead, so providing an easy way to contact you on every single page of your website should be a website’s essential goal and its primary function. Some websites do this by trying to get people to fill out a form on the side or bottom of every page, and while this is a good idea in theory, in practice it’s a terrible one. NO ONE likes filling out forms, even when you pay them to do it! The ease of initiating communication, even if you have a quick form, is lost. Instead, if you insist on a form, provide one box for their name and another for their email or phone (never both) and then a large box where they can paste whatever message they choose. In addition, on every page, make sure a phone number is available in TEXT form so mobile users can click on it and contact you easily. Same with email; every page should have a general email address to provide an easy method of contact with a single click. Why make it hard for people to reach you? SELECT APPROPRIATE IMAGES FOR YOUR FIRM’S WEBSITE. Just like a bad reputation, a bad image can be 26
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
eternal in the minds of potential clients, so it’s important that any imagery used to represent you on your website is not only professionally photographed, but is suitable to your particular practice. An image should not be cliché, overly playful to the point of distraction, or ambiguous in its meaning. It should not allow even the most uncreative person in the world the slightest doubt as to why that image symbolizes your firm’s personality, the work your firm does, or represents where your firm is located. If possible, attach a slogan or phrase to each photo to more accurately convey your message. USE A LITTLE SOCIAL MEDIA, IF NOT A LOT. Maybe you don’t have a Twitter account (good idea!), and perhaps your Facebook page is embarrassing, but what about Linkedin? If you don’t at least have a page there, create one, add a link there that directs visitors back to your attorney bio page, and then link back to Linkedin from your firm’s bio page by placing their logo on it. Bingo, you’re now utilizing social media, go tell your friends! This simple exercise will increase awareness of your firm and its website, especially if all attorneys at your firm do it. If you create your own blog and link to your bio page from it, that’s even better.
YOUR FIRM SAYS THEY UNDERSTAND THEIR CLIENTS’ BUSINESS. MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE DEMONSTRATES THIS. While many law firms are not comfortable with listing clients (many are, though, and the ones that do this have a distinct advantage over ones that do not), there is nothing wrong with listing the types of industries your firm typically represents. But why not take this to the next level, and, next to each industry you list, show a short paragraph or two that describes the legal challenges that companies in that industry generally face from year to year. You can also list testimonials or case studies (with or without the client name mentioned) that will further enhance your reputation in that particular field. The more you show of your expertise in that industry, the more people will look at you as a legal expert and call on you when needed. MAKE IT EASY FOR EVERYONE AT YOUR FIRM TO CONTRIBUTE CONTENT. While some law firm websites suffer from bad design or disingenuous navigation, many more suffer from a lack of content. This is amazing to me; most lawyers, even if they don’t enjoy writing, generally do it very well, even if what they write is prone to excessive legal terminology. But in today’s content-rich world, beggars can’t be choosers; the best websites are the ones with the most content, and even better than that are the ones with the most up-to-date content. So with that said, why don’t we try to get ALL our lawyers involved in the writing? Easier said than done of course, but if your firm allows each lawyer to have their own blog, and that blog is connected to the main site and therefore will encourage visitors, isn’t that a nice way to let everyone play? Having a content management system that empowers your entire firm is better than giving the rein to one or two thought leaders! KEEP YOUR SITE’S DESIGN MODERNIZED. Even if you like your law firm’s current website, it may be out of date with today’s standards. Here is a scenario that is perhaps not as uncommon as you would think: a large company and potential new client is going to hire a new law firm and they have narrowed their selection down to two firms with equally positive reputations. One firm has an awesome website and the other (yours) has an out-of-date one. Do you think this small difference in image will sway their business decision one way or the other? If you’re not sure, then it’s time to update your website! n Matt DeLucia is the President of Business Edge Internet Design. Business Edge is a Connecticut- and New York Citybased solutions provider specializing in business areas such as law firm web design, print brochures, flash, ecommerce, content management. For a quote on a website redesign for your law firm please call us at 212-931-8538 or visit business-edge.com. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Matt_Delucia Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
HOW TO INCREASE
YOUR LAW FIRM
PROFITS OVER 30 PERCENT
In the competitive and commoditized world of legal services, we’re told we must have an effective marketing campaign to get new clients. And when most of us think about marketing, we envision glossy brochures glorifying the firm’s pedigree, power lunches, or shaking hands at useless and annoying networking events, mixing sweaty palms with pigs in a blanket, all in one massive business card swap. We often forget about the acres of diamonds already at our feet. What about you? Are you properly differentiating your practice in the marketplace? Are you tying in a targeted value proposition coupled with an irresistible offer? Are you leveraging all of your existing assets by maximizing the value of your networks, utilizing strategic partners and relationships? Most importantly, are you properly serving your existing clients?
DID YOU KNOW THAT:
· The costs of attracting a new client are 5 to 12 times greater than the cost of keeping an existing client. · The return on investment is up to 10 times higher for investments in client retention than for the acquisition of a new client. · Converting new clients takes more time, effort and expense
than is required for current clients. Existing clients have greater usage levels and can be easily cross sold. Existing clients are less price sensitive. Existing clients exponentially increases profits. Existing clients are the best referral source for new clients. More than 80% of new business comes from existing clients. Having a single individual accountable for firmwide client service boosts per-attorney profits by up to 41.2%! Equally as important, were you aware that dissatisfied clients tell an average of 1,020 people and up to 93% of dissatisfied clients will not return to you and won’t tell you why! The statistics also indicate that many corporate clients are dissatisfied with their law firms; only 24% would recommend their primary law firms. This client dissatisfaction is not due to a lack of legal expertise; it’s primarily due to poor client service or perceived indifference. Failing to treat your existing clients like the treasure they are will not only prevent you from utilizing your best resource, but ignoring them will start a spiraling effect of lost revenues and
· · · · ·
28 Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
by Cole Silver
severe damage to your reputation. By the time you figure out what happened, the damage may be irreversible. If you don’t take care of the client...someone else will! With the number of lawyers exponentially increasing, and many clients making their selection of firms based on price, the only true differentiator is client service. Your experience, firm, capabilities, and responsiveness are minimum requirements today and no longer make you stand out in the market. And just plain vanilla client satisfaction is not enough either. Today, you need to “engage” the client in a deeper and more personal way. You have to know their “needs and wants” and be able to address them in an individual and memorable manner. It’s only through this “total client experience” that you beat the competition and win their business before they look elsewhere. Clients desperately want to work with someone they know and trust, who knows their industry, their market, their company, their situation, their people, their concerns and their desires. They want you to listen to them, know more about them, understand them, and work with them as a trusted partner. By engaging the client through emotional differentiators like trust, confidence, commitment and likability, you’ll demonstrate that you truly care about them and that they are the most important client in the world. If you can discover and align to these issues, the client will view you as a trusted partner and not just another lawyer; never thinking of leaving you because deep down inside they know they’re not going to get this “experience” anywhere else. As lawyers, we’re trained to give advice because that’s what we do. But the fact is that nobody ever became wealthy or highly successful by telling people what they need. However, a whole lot of people have been richly rewarded giving people exactly what they want. It doesn’t matter what you think...only what your client thinks. And it doesn’t matter what you want...only what they want! And what is it they want? They want what we all want... empathy, compassion, comfort, understanding, respect, their problem solved and, mostly, to feel appreciated and important. As someone once commented, “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” So, how do you go about giving people what they want? You start out by listening, serving, educating and providing
a memorable experience. Find their pain and what they truly desire by anticipating their needs and surpassing their expectations. The result is that when they need a lawyer... you’re at the top of their list because you were there for them. You solved their problems without making any demands. You cared and acted in a way that made them feel appreciated. They will then seek you out because people have an innate desire to reciprocate when they are given something or treated in a certain way. Your one-time client becomes a client for life, a constant source of referrals and new business opportunities.
APPOINT A CLIENT AMBASSADOR A client-centric organization eludes most firms because lawyers are extremely busy and are for the most part highly focused on the legal work product. They inherently believe that if you win the case or close the transaction successfully, you have succeeded and the client will stay with the firm. But this is no longer the case. If you fail to continuously engage the client, you’re out of sight and out of mind, allowing your competitors an opening to beat you out for the client’s future business and referrals. The only way to consistently provide a high level of client experience, and drive it deep into the fabric of the firm, is to have one person totally devoted to ensuring the client is heard and attended to in a memorable way. Someone who understands the client, who is an empathic listener, and who comprehends the unique dynamics of the attorney-client relationship. That’s why you should have a Client Ambassador. Several firms like Reed Smith, Orrick Herrington and Stanislaw Ashbaugh have already jumped on this idea, knowing full well that marketing officers or managing partners cannot fill this role.
AND WHAT WOULD THIS CLIENT AMBASSADOR DO? HERE ARE SOME IDEAS:
· Ensure the client experience is memorable and exceeds
their expectations. This includes everything from the office appearance, how calls are handled, billing issues, employee interaction, etc. Meet or speak with clients for regular feedback. Train employees on how to deal with difficult client situations ensuring that everyone in the firm is on the same page. Work with the marketing department and firm leaders to increase cross selling, referrals, and new business opportunities. Help prioritize marketing initiatives by soliciting client reactions and opinions. Meet with firm leaders, providing ideas to drive practice group and firm profitability. Ensure attorneys and clients “match up” advancing attorneyclient chemistry. Stimulate change and improvements before the client leaves the firm. Benchmark competitors regarding service delivery improvements. Reactivate old clients. Ensure proper follow-up on client concerns. Help clients succeed in non-legal areas through education and referrals.
· · · · · · · · · · ·
· Champion firm successes and its value proposition to clients and the marketplace. · Provide metrics to ensure increased profits, usage and realization rates. · Help market the firm with client seminars and promotions. · Transaction or litigation analysis and commentary. · Address billing disputes. · Help implement an employee reward system for outstanding client service. · Tracking and monitoring client satisfaction and service. THE EVIDENCE IS COMPELLING Research conducted by world-renowned BTI Consulting Group revealed that having a single individual accountable for firmwide client service boosts per-attorney profits by up to 41.2%. BTI performed a comprehensive analysis of how over 160 distinct, yet interrelated, marketing activities impact firm revenue, profitability and growth. This research, based on more than 140 interviews with Chief Marketing Officers, Managing Partners, Directors of Business Development and other marketing executives, definitively identified the marketing practices that deliver the best returns. The practice of having one individual accountable for firmwide client service stands out as the single most powerful driver behind higher profits per attorney. If you want to discover new business opportunities; uncover problems and concerns before clients leave or damage your reputation; convey that your firm truly values the client relationship; discover client reactions to new marketing and business ideas; discover why clients choose your firm in the first place; increase service and usage levels; reduce your marketing costs; and increase per-attorney profits over 40%, then you absolutely must appoint your own Client Ambassador.
CONCLUSION Are you convinced yet about where you should spend most of your time and marketing dollars and why a Client Ambassador will pay off handsomely for your firm? Maintaining loyal clients will do more to increase your bottom line than any marketing, PR or advertising campaign. Client-focused retention and loyalty strategies should be the overriding goal and objective of all your business development efforts because it’s a lot less costly than traditional marketing tactics, is ethical, simple, and represents a highly effective economical and leverage strategy. The “client only marketing strategy” is a powerful one and represents the lynchpin of most successful law firms. And having a dedicated Client Ambassador is an easy way to implement this dynamic strategy. n Cole Silver is a lawyer and certified career and marketing consultant. His Expert Audio Series and book, “How to Create Wealth and Freedom in your Law Practice”, 101 Powerful Client Development & Retention Strategies for Attorneys can be ordered by going to findcareersuccess.com. Cole is available for speaking engagements and consulting and can be reached by calling 609-306-8098 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Cole_Silver Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014 29
Study Finds More than 73% of Small Law Firms Experience Past Due Client Accounts; Many Lawyers Struggle with Resolution reported substantially lower percentages of clients who allowed legal invoices to become past due.
· Invoicing and billing takes eight hours per month, on average.
Most small law firms (61%) reported spending about eight hours per month on their billing process, though about a quarter spend up to 16 hours. More than half of law firms (58%) felt they were already spending too much time on the billing process.
· Despite tools, small law avoids client analysis. More than 80%
of small law firms report having a standardized billing process and using technology to manage invoices—and most use software designed for law firms with integrated invoicing and billing. The data suggests law firms have features for analyzing a client base to identify distinguishing trends between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ clients but these go unused.
The Discomfort of Collections · Sentiment: Lawyers dislike asking clients for money. Many of in Law Firm Billing the open-ended comments expressed the notion that lawyers enjoy LexisNexis® Legal & Professional, a leading provider of content and technology solutions, announced today the results of a survey of U.S.-based small law firms. The survey found a majority of small law firms struggle with past due client accounts. About half said as much as 39% of client accounts are typically past due, and while law firms cite client financial hardship as the principle cause, the data also pointed to process defects and that lawyers are uncomfortable engaging in financial discussions. In the words of one respondent, “Attorneys have a problem asking for money after the retainer and throughout the process of working.” “The survey results reflect what we hear anecdotally quite often: Lawyers enjoy the practice of law and dislike the business of law,” said James Paterson, senior director of product management at LexisNexis, who leads the direction of software including the LexisNexis PCLaw® practice management solution. “Following up on collections or past due accounts is perhaps the least favorite law firm business activity, but it’s incredibly important to a healthy law practice.”
Key findings in the survey include:
· Most small law firms wrestle with past due accounts. More
than 73% of small law firms surveyed say they experience past due client accounts at least some of the time. More than half (53%) say between 10% and 39% of their total client base is typically past due.
· Client financial hardship is often the source, but so too are
business processes. Small law firms overwhelmingly (83%) cite client financial struggles as the principle reason clients allow law firm invoices to elapse past due. However, there were notable indications to suggest client communication, value appraisal and a lack of law firm business process are significant contributing factors.
· Write-offs and billing discounts pervasive. A majority of law
firms surveyed (71%) report providing discounts or writing off legal work even before invoicing clients. Interestingly, those law firms that say they never provide discounts on legal fees also 30
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 103, 2014
practicing law but find financial conversations uncomfortable. For example, one lawyer at a small law firm cited “the discomfort of past due billing discussions,” and that seeking payment for legal services rendered “makes me feel greedy…even if I know I’ve earned the fees charged, it is still an unpleasant task.” “Most of the respondents to this survey were from law firms with just one or two attorneys—in essence small business entrepreneurs,” added Paterson. “This survey surfaced a collective discomfort with asking for money. Law firms need to realize there’s nothing embarrassing about asking to be paid for what they’ve earned. The data identifies a clear need to provide small law firms with tips, techniques and tools that facilitate this process.” This study aimed to understand challenges and opportunities facing small law firms during the process of billing and invoicing. The survey was conducted online from July 23, 2014, to August 1, 2014, and distributed to the readership of a third-party media publication dedicated to helping lawyers build better practices. Respondents were required to identify as a practicing attorney or a legal professional supporting a U.S-based law firm. Three hundred and nine (N=309) attorneys or legal professionals, from more than 16 practice areas, with broad representation from 47 different states and Washington, D.C., participated in the survey. Respondents were provided an incentive—a chance to be entered in a random drawing for one of 13 prizes—to complete the survey. n LexisNexis Legal & Professional is a leading global provider of content and technology solutions that enable professionals in legal, corporate, tax, government, academic and non-profit organizations to make informed decisions and achieve better business outcomes. As a digital pioneer, the company was the first to bring legal and business information online with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. Today, LexisNexis Legal & Professional harnesses leading-edge technology and world-class content, to help professionals work in faster, easier and more effective ways.
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