John Corey, President and founding partner of Green Target, has been seeing a downward trend in gross revenues and profits per partner as results continue to be released by Am Law 100 and 200 firms. Corey stated, "As more firms report their financials — 106 have had their results published through [March 22] – we’re seeing the average gross revenue and PPEP trend downward. Both are at 4% today, whereas a few weeks ago they were in the 7% range. The biggest firms tend to report early, and we saw many strong reports coming out of the Am Law 50 in particular. A number of factors have played into that, such as reduction in equity partner head counts and contingency victories, among other factors. A major area of focus, however, continues to be on demand and revenue growth. As the industry navigates what continues to be a flat-demand environment, firms are aggressively implementing strategies to grow the top line through laterals with portable books of business, mergers and other growth plays."
In this article, author Bruce MacEwen writes that BigLaw is facing a potential threat from low-cost providers. One provider of document review, he notes, has been demonstrating "consistently and convincingly" that their quality is superior to that of a BigLaw firm working on the same document sets. The founder of that firm related to MacEwen that for every dollar of revenue made, BigLaw loses three. Disruption is certainly something that all firms have to be aware of. As MacEwen notes, "It's all about price. The market is trying to tell us something. My counsel would be to listen."
Wells Fargo is looking to spend less money on outside lawyers, continuing the trend of belt-tightening, both inside and outside the banking industry. The firm’s focus on legal expenses is the latest example of a bank clamping down on expenses at a time when low interest rates and new regulations are making it more difficult to increase revenue. The results of an Altman Weil survey indicate that the trend of cutting outside lawyers will continue, with 29% of survey respondents stating they expect to decrease the use of outside counsel in the next 12 months.
Most major U.S. law firms have been victims of security breaches, and the unwelcome threats likely operated covertly for 8 to 9 months before they were discovered. For many firms, the first sign of insidious action comes from a knock on the firm’s door by the FBI. "The biggest threat to law firms' data are its own users who aren’t trying to do damage," said Ben Schorr, CEO of Roland, Schorr & Tower. Schorr shared an anecdote of a law firm that unwittingly allowed its receptionist access to read, edit and delete client documents on the firm’s server. At another firm, an associate with Internet connection issues in his office used his own unprotected Wi-Fi router to work on client matters, rendering the firm’s security measures useless. Some of the security tips offered by the panel at ABA Techshow include regularly updating firewalls and security programs, and ensuring your smartphones are protected by an alphanumeric passcode of at least 12 characters.
New, free apps are making it easy to convert to and from PDF on your mobile device. An app for converting into PDF is called Sonic PDF Creator. The app is available for iOS and Android devices. The app is reputed to be very user friendly. Another app, Able2Extract PDF Converter, converts both ways, converting PDF documents into Word, Excel, PowerPoint or text formats, and from office formats to PDF. It is also available for iOS and Android platforms.
The LawZam app allows consumers to engage in free consultations with lawyers using an iPhone through face-to-face consultations conducted live via videoconferencing. Consumers who use the app can either browse the list of all available attorneys or search by zip code, area of law, or lawyer name. Search results show the lawyer’s contact and biographical information and areas of practice. A "consult" button on the lawyer’s bio brings up a form for the consumer to send the lawyer a message. If the lawyer is online, the consult button initiates a text-messaging or videoconferencing session. Lawyers who register with LawZam agree not to charge fees for the initial consultations. Consumers are told that they have no obligation to hire any lawyer they meet through the service. The app is optimized for iPhone 5, but is compatible as far back as the iPhone 3GS. It is also compatible with iPad and iPod touch.
Bruce Hennes of Hennes Paynter Communications spoke at the annual ABA Bar Leadership Institute in Chicago, and shared some guidelines he uses for damage control after an unfavorable situation:
"Tell the truth", because it always comes out in the end;
Don't wait until the media knocks on your door. "Tell it first", and control the trajectory of the story; and,
"Tell it all", as avoiding the issues may have disastrous consequences. "Tell everything you are legally, ethically, and morally allowed to tell."
Further, to recover from being the "villain", use the "Three 'F' Formula": "F"-up, fess up, and fix up. This way, you force the media to write the story about you being a vindicator rather than a villain.
In an age when consumers decide within seconds whether or not to abandon a website, marketers at "big" firms need to act more like agile startups, maneuvering and adapting in real-time. The authors write, "we've seen large companies adopt a startup mindset and cut campaign development times by 50%." In order to achieve those results, the authors suggest the following:
Get serious about "test and learn" - High-performing startups constantly seek new customer insights and adjust their approach as they learn more. TripAdvisor uses a "dummy banner" approach to try out a banner instead of the traditional focus group methodology. This method costs nothing and gives TripAdvisor a quick, accurate read on features;
Embrace experimentation and "good enough." - Learn from your failures, and find the balance between "perfect" and cost-effective;
Simplify your metrics - Focus on metrics that tell you whether your campaign is working and what you might change in the future; and,
Work faster, not harder - Many campaigns should take days, not months, to roll out. Mapping out your steps and simplifying documents can cut development times significantly.
The FTC's latest regulations contain items that law firms will need to be aware of for social media marketing. The main item of interest for firms in this article is the fact that disclosures must be "clear and conspicuous", including on space-constrained ads on Twitter and Facebook. As the article states, "While adding "Ad:" to the beginning of a post might not be the sexiest way to advertise your product over social media, it helps ensure consumer trust and keeps the FTC happy."
Many attorneys build a good portion of their practices on referrals – yet, why is it so many feel embarrassed to ask for a referral? The author, Stephen Fairley, believes that these attorneys are not looking at referrals in the right way. They see them as asking for a favor, when in fact you should regard it as extending a favor. The secret to getting a lot of referrals is to make it about them, not about you. Think about what benefits you offer your referral sources and what problems you may help them solve. Look for key moments when you can secure a referral, like after you have won a case for a client. You also need to make it as easy as possible for people to refer you. Provide them with a written document that outlines the characteristics of your ideal client. Create white papers, or give seminars that solve problems their clients may be experiencing and co-brand them, so your referral source benefits.
Law firms can make mistakes setting up and managing their pay-per-click (PPC) accounts, which can cost the firms thousands in irrelevant ad spending. Ken Vandre relates his experience from working with law firms, and shares these common mistakes and solutions:
Poor geographic-targeting - Ensure you adjust your campaign to the area you want your ads targeted;
Targeting the display network - The default setting is to target both Google search and the display network, which includes advertising in places like YouTube, Google partner sites, and others. If the display network is left on, you may be wasting your PPC budget;
Poorly chosen keywords - Use keywords that will drive relevant and significant traffic. Use negative keywords to help narrow the scope of traffic being targeted;
No conversion tracking - Without proper tracking, you cannot calculate your ROI. Ensure you have a tracking program in place; and,
Poor ad copy - Use keywords and a strong call to action. This combination will set you above the competition.
New research from Technorati(pdf) shows that of all the social mediums, blogs are most likely to influence a purchase (31.1%), running behind retail sites (56%), and brand sites (34%). While not head and shoulders above Facebook, LinkedIn and others, the report notes that blogs rank higher than Twitter for shaping consumer opinions, and rank higher than LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Google+ for motivating purchasing decisions.