Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Why “Law of the Jungle” Sells

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Last night I got to introduce John Otis, TIME and Global Post correspondent in Bogota, before a local World Affairs Council event. John recently published Law of the Jungle: The Hunt for Colombian Guerrillas, American Hostages, and Buried Treasure. Many years ago as a young journalist he made his way from Minnesota to South America with his typewriter crammed in his backpack; the typewriter took up so much room that he had to abandon his sleeping bag.
John read from his fascinating book, a fact which I later described on my Facebook page.  What interested me was the response that I got.  Although my comments were brief, a number of friends emailed me asking where they could buy the book (answer: Amazon).  Since my description was minimal, I concluded that it was the book’s snappy, intriguing title which had garnered so much attention.  Words like “Buried Treasure” do pique the imagination.

So, when writing articles, blog posts, or even letters to clients, how can you grab your reader’s attention? Although allusions to the “Jungle” and “Hostages” may not be appropriate, writing in a compelling way (not legalese) will set you apart from most lawyers.  Need help?  There are plenty of books, like Words that Work, to give you guidance.

Introducing John Otis

Introducing John Otis


What Lawyers Can Learn from the Social Media Phenomenon: FarmVille

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

What can lawyers possibly learn from FarmVille’s international social media success? As discussed in my Global Rainmaking blog, FarmVille’s creators took an idea that appealed to a wide variety of people, regardless of gender, culture or age–and developed it into a global phenomenon. Similarly, international lawyers who work with a wide variety of clients must think of social media strategies that appeal to prospective clients regardless of culture.  For more suggestions, read Learn from FarmVille’s Social Media Success.

Reaching more clients globally thanks to social media’s global growth

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

For more on this, see today’s post in my Global Rainmaking Blog.

Social Media for International Lawyers: Who, What, Why, Where and How

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Recently, lots of international lawyers (from Caracas to New York to Tokyo) have been asking me about the advantages, necessity and advisability of using social media. Here are some of the most common Q&As.

WHO: Who should try social media? Every lawyer who wants to extend his/her reach internationally.  As of today, Alexa.com reports that the second highest percentage of traffic to LinkedIn comes from India (44% from US; 13.7% from India)–and this trend is growing. This means that if you want to extend  your networks of contacts in India, LinkedIn would be a pretty good place to start.

WHY: Why use it? Social networking is an easy and cost-effective way for lawyers to expand their networks internationally. It enhances–not replaces–personal relationship building. Will social networking bring in clients?  Sometimes.  I have had several clients find me on LinkedIn, and then hire me (without having met me personally). However, I really use social media to develop a broader range of contacts, and renew and solidify current relationships. It’s also a great way to stay abreast of current trends–easily done by joining “groups” on LinkedIn (like the International Bar Association group), Facebook and the like. Social media can also be a powerful “personal branding” tool.  Isn’t it better to define your own brand on the web–instead of letting other people (and any negative news stories) do it for you?

WHERE:  Where should I participate? So many sites…so little time.  So, focus your efforts. Lawyers benefit from joining general professional networking sites like LinkedIn and Xing (popular in Europe), and ones expressly for lawyers (like Martindale-Hubbell Connected). Lawyers can raise their profile with by commenting on blog posts, whether in publications like the ABA Journal online (as I did for this article on how Twitter is spawning legal work),or Law.com, or in one of the many private legal blogs (like the award winning China Law Blog).  Better yet, post comments to industry blogs read by your ideal clients; for example, if you want to reach accountants, post comment on these accounting blogs.

WHAT: What should I write? Whether you are blogging, posting comments online, creating social media profiles, or tweeting, do it with your personal brand in mind.  What do you want people to know about you?  What professional expertise can you show?  Remember, authenticity is imperative; don’t pretend that you’re something that you’re not.  However, lack of experience shouldn’t stop you from joining the multitude of conversations available through social media. Most of all, look for ways to be helpful to others via social media.

HOW: How do I start? Just do it! Log onto sites like Facebook (yes, it’s increasingly being used for professional purposes) and create a profile, or read some of the many helpful articles about social media basics for beginners.  Of course, also check your firm’s website and make sure that your profile there is up to date. The more that you network elsewhere on the web, the more hits your firm profile will get–so make sure it’s accurate (and flattering!)

Let the conversation begin!

For some in-person insights on this topic, if you are in New York on April 13, 2010, please join me for a panel discussion on Social Networking for Lawyers: How Lawyers Can Use it to Enhance Their Marketing Success at the ABA’s Section of International Law’s Spring Meeting.  It will be an interesting session featuring Dr. Silvia Hodges, Dan Harris, Frank Sommerfield and me, followed by a session of Speed Networking for International Lawyers.

Creative Billing Strategies Across the Globe

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

“Creative Billing Strategies across the Globe”, by Janet H. Moore, first appeared in the Legal Marketing Association’s Strategies Magazine (October 2009, V 11.N09)

Clients are scrutinizing their legal bills—and are increasingly dissatisfied with traditional, hourly billing. “Hourly rates on their own are outdated and can be viewed as rewarding slow working practices,” explains Jonathan Mortimer, Head of Dispute Resolution of Langleys Solicitors in York, England.

So, what kinds of creative billing strategies are lawyers using to keep clients satisfied–and build client trust?  After all, according to Silvia Hodges, who teaches professional services marketing at Emerson College, “what really counts is that the client believes the firm has his/her best interests in mind.” Here are some ways to do that.

Contingent Fees and Third Party Funding

Although only specific jurisdictions (like the United States and some parts of Canada) permit some variation on contingent fee arrangements, contingent fee arrangements are increasingly popular in the US—in large part because clients only pay upon a successful result (recovery or defense).   Even the mainstream media is taking note of contingent fee popularity; for example,  last year Fast Company’s published an article (appropriately titled “Caffinated, Aggressive & Brash, Esq.”) celebrating the contingent fee success of Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges.

Despite its attractive features, some clients hesitate to accept contingent fee arrangements.  Barry Barnett, a partner at Susman Godfrey LLP and author of Blawgletter, explains that clients  often worry about how to negotiate contingent fee arrangements, or fear losing control over how the case proceeds.  And some clients simply dislike giving their lawyers “an entrepreneurial interest in litigation”, concludes Barnett.

In England, litigants commonly resort to insurance because “the fees and costs risks normally inherent in commercial disputes are much more manageable,” notes Paul Jonson in Pannone LLP’s Manchester, England office. In his firm’s contingent cases, clients pay reduced hourly rates, and the firm receives the balance of its fees from the recovery (if the case is successful) or from insurance (up to a limit).

Third party litigation funding has gained popularity not only in the UK but also in Australia, Austria, Germany and certain other jurisdictions. Although usually designed so that the client (not the lawyer) deals directly with the funder, critics say that lawyers end up serving two masters—the client and the funder. (See “Lawyers Divided Over Third Party Litigation Funding” by Neil Hodge, International Bar News (April 2009).

Sharing Risk of Future Income Streams

Even transactional matters can be structured so that lawyers bear some risk.  For example, Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy LLP won acclaim for sharing some risk with—and creating legal fee predictability for—one of its clients. A&O’s website describes how the firm helped Markit Group create an online data service.  A&O received reduced hourly fees, coupled with a fixed fee for each data delivery from the client to its ultimate consumers. Because A&O’s future income stream was contingent on the data service’s popularity in the marketplace, A&O shared some financial risk with its client.

Fixed Fees

With an office in Quingdao, China, Dan Harris’s Seattle based firm, Harris & Moure, pllc, handles a lot of work in China–75% of it for a fixed fee.  Harris managed to convince a number of the Chinese law firms to the same; however, he explains, “this was not easy to do because most high end Chinese law firms will not accept anything other than the billable hour.” His firm has used fixed fee billing in China for both routine matters (like trademarks) and complex matters (like arbitration)—but not for joint ventures (with documents in both Chinese and English) because his firm’s fixed fee quotes come out too high.

Paris-based Blake Redding, a partner in the international boutique VistaLaw LLC, feels that such lump sum arrangements can work well. He describes how one large European multinational paid a lump sum in exchange for his firm’s (1) a hotline service from the multinational’s legal department to the firm, (2) strategic support through brainstorming and planning, and (3) handling commercial litigation involving less than a certain amount. Redding has also seen lump sums used in large transactions, after which the general counsel “will, if satisfied, add a bonus element.”

Some firms have relinquished the billable hour altogether in favor of fixed, value-based pricing, such as Boston-based Exemplar Law, LLC.  After all, clients seem to like fixed fee arrangements; as Dan Harris reports, “amazingly enough, we have never had even one single complaint about them.”

All You Can Eat

VistaLaw’s Michael Whitener describes a variation on fixed fees—which he dubs “All You Can Eat.” For a fixed sum, the client gets all the legal services desired (with some limits). Whitener explains, “The client loves it because they have legal services on call and certainty regarding their monthly legal costs.  We love it because it’s steady income, we have the opportunity to get more integrated with the client (since the client uses us more), and we’re freed from the tyranny of the billable hour.”

Fee-Capping

In the Middle East, the downturn in the financial markets, the influx of new law firms, and the popularity of law firm panels and/or RfPs, have put “additional pressure on law firms to become more ‘creative’ in pricing for work,” explains Clifford Chance partner John Graham. Graham, who relocated to Abu Dhabi earlier this year, sees clients requiring “individual negotiated caps applied to each of multiple work streams (sometimes with ‘spill-over’ from phase to phase).” Clients tend to scrutinize the fee-cap assumptions “line-by-line”, explains Graham, noting that most fee-capping arrangements also include a discount or uplift, depending on the transaction’s success.

Deferred Payments

Francisco Ugarte, a partner in Santiago, Chile’s Carey y Cia Ltda., notes that his firm has occasionally consented to deferred payments in order to keep good clients happy. In these circumstances, the client defers a portion of the legal fees; it pays the deferred sum when the client closes a subsequent deal or financing “irrespective of whether or not we are retained as counsel on the second deal.  This fee arrangement, of course, strengthens the client’s loyalty with the firm.”

Share Ownership

“How we get paid really depends on the client,” explains Doug Stinmetz, whose Stinmetz Law Firm PLLC works extensively for Russian clients through its offices in Moscow, New York and Houston.  Stinmetz’s firm has always used creative billing arrangements.  Sometimes the firm even takes an ownership stake in a client—although it is careful to sequester the shares in a separate fund not under the firm’s management.

Pay What You Wish a/k/a “Radiohead Billing”

Using out-of-the-box thinking, Michael Whitener imagines the day in which a “radically creative firm” would go further and implement “Radiohead Billing”.  Just as the band Radiohead let fans download their music and pay whatever they wished—including zero—Whitener wonders whether law firms should do the same. That, Whitener concludes, “would perhaps be the ultimate value proposition.”

Janet H. Moore, JD, ACC, is an experienced international business lawyer who works as a global rainmaking strategist, executive coach for lawyers, and international trainer. Contact her at Janet@GlobalRainmaking.com or through www.GlobalRainmaking.com.

.

BREAK OUT BOX:

For more thoughts on:

1. Creative billing, see Mark A. Robertson and James A. Calloway’s Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies that Work (3ed Ed.) (ABA Publishing 2008).

2. Services provided for free, see Chris Anderson’s Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business (Wired Magazine online 2-25-08).