Saturday, April 6, 2013

Empathy and Future Lawyers Looking for New Clients

This week, ASL hosted a Solo Practice workshop for its students.  I spoke on marketing a law practice.  For a very long time, I have enjoyed marketing in the law or mediation context.  It gives me an opportunity to describe the joy I feel when I can serve a client competently, efficiently, and at an affordable cost.  It gives me the opportunity to describe the skills, training, experience, and values I can offer potential clients.  It gives me the chance to talk with the folks I'd like to help.

It also gives me a platform for writing about substantive topics that interest me, while -- I hope -- showing I am thoughtful, ethical, and competent.  It also allows me to learn more about people, their concerns, their stressors, and their businesses.  

Recently, I started an online business coaching program called, UpLevel Your Business, offered by Christine Kane.  Last summer, I took her personal coaching program and found it very helpful.  In the first week of her new program, Christine made a comment that really hit home for me.  I am roughly paraphrasing: "Marketing your business, is your business.  It allows you to then apply your skills in a way that helps people." 

She also suggests that my personal story is part of my message to my potential clients.  What I offer the world radiates from me and my marketing message should radiate from that same source of "light."  My message should be a seamless expression of myself and what I want for the world.  She asked me to list 10 cool (or unique) aspects of myself that would help me craft my marketing message.  She also asked me to list the values and beliefs that shaped how I wanted to help people.   

I shared this concept this past week with students.  Earlier this week, I attended the meeting of our new Toastmasters club.  I was "table topics master."  I asked students questions not too distant from the ones I later asked students at the solo practice workshop:  What is your purpose in life?  What motivated you to go to law school?  Who do you want to serve?  Who is your ideal client?  

In an attempt to illustrate how you might use the answers to those questions to begin crafting a marketing message, I wrote: 

As an award winning mediator, I help people:
  • Handle conflict with more power, skill, and wisdom;
  • Protect themselves and the people they love and support; and 
  • Make smarter decisions at times of conflict and transition. 
I also built my talk around the concepts from Seth Godin's books, The Icarus Deception and Tribes.  If we are moving quickly into the connected-era he identifies, how do we adapt marketing techniques to this connected world.   The Law Practice Management Section of the ABA and other advisers to solo practitioners suggest the following ways to find potential clients:  Formal announcements of firm events and changes; business cards; yellow page ads; billboards; TV commercials; public speaking; memberships in organizations, both trade and law; firm brochures; newsletters; published writings; and birthday cards.

In the connected-era, tech savvy lawyers will supplement or supplant these approaches with some of these tools:  Facebook and Link-in postings; business cards with e-commerce components built right in; webpages; search engine strategies; on-line ads; YouTube videos; podcasts; list serve discussions; blogs; FB "likes" and birthday wishes; and automated generation of contact lists. Many of these tech-dependent tools allow lawyers to market to a much broader group of people at much lower cost.  They also allow the lawyer to connect with a very specific "tribe" or ideal client. 

Interestingly, some of my other reading suggests that personal interaction will still matter most in this connected-era.  Traditional marketing approaches always supported this level of interaction.   For instance, in a very compelling book by Richard Susskind called Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (2013), Susskind argues that despite all the "disruption" the legal field will experience over the next decades: "Tomorrow's lawyers will need to acquire various softer skills if they are to win new clients and keep them happy.  In-house lawyers of the future will not only be more demanding on costs, they will be more discerning about the relationships they choose to cultivate with external firms. This will place pressures on law firms to make the most of face-to-face interactions and use social networking systems to maintain regular contact."  

Later, he argues that law firms currently take insufficient time to "immerse themselves in their clients' environments and get a feel for what it is actually like to work in their businesses . . . . [M]ost firms do not grasp, in any given client, the tolerance and appetite for risk, the amount of administration and bureaucracy, the significance and extent and tone of internal communication, and, vitally, the broader strategic and business contexts of the deals and disputes upon which they advise . . . . In other words, law firms lack empathy . . . . This lack of empathy and the inability to listen could be deeply prejudicial to long-term relationships between firms and clients in the future." 

Earlier, Daniel Pink, in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (2008), suggested that the future lies with our ability to engage in high concept, high touch enterprises that reflect and respond to our level of abundance, automation, and the competition from highly competent, more affordable, Asian employees engaged in left-brained work.  

High concept enterprises display the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to direct patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention.

High touch enterprises display the ability to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self, to elicit joy in others, and to pursue purpose and meaning in work and play.   

In what Pink calls the Conceptual Age, we will need to master six right-brained aptitudes:

1.                  Not just function, but also DESIGN.
2.                  Not just argument, but also STORY.
3.                  Not just focus, but also SYMPHONY (seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries, and combining disparate pieces into an arresting new whole).
4.                  Not just logic, but also EMPATHY.
5.                  Not just seriousness, but also PLAY.
6.                  Not just accumulation (of stuff), but also finding MEANING.

I'll apply these concepts in the context of law and mediation in a future blog.  

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