ClaimKare

Take comfort in your claim.

Tip 9: Describe Your Ideal Client

So far we have figured out your niche and the economics of your law firm and clients. Now we need to throw in some empathy. Yes, empathy.  I can see you rolling your eyes. When I was a practicing attorney, my dad recommended that I read the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  I remember reading the first chapter in disgust.  Goals, dreams, vision?  How could I worry about those things when I needed to bill 2000 hours.  My singular goal was to bill my hours. Sadly, if you want to make it rain, you can’t focus entirely on hours.  You have to focus on the customer.  And the best way to focus on the customer is to develop empathy. Here’s how client development coach and former rainmaker Cordell Parvin describes empathy: Empathy is the ability to see the legal matter from the client’s perspective. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was after speaking to the AGC Highway Contractors. The Contractor who was president that year said after my presentation that he felt like I had been in his office for the last 25 years because in my presentation I demonstrated that level of understanding. You become better at empathy by learning to ask great questions and then actively listening. Those are two lost arts in the legal profession. We talk a lot, but don’t listen nearly as well. Empathy, to me, is the ability to step in the shoes of your customer.  One of the best ways to do this is to start with a description of your ideal client (H/T to Duct Tape Marketing, where I first read about this concept). This exercise is easy and should take about 15 minutes.  Think about one potential client.  Write down his or her name.  Then describe that persons day.  What do they look like?  What do they do during the day?  What time do they wake up?  How old?  What do they eat?  What drives them?  Do they like technology?  Do they like email?  Do they prefer phone calls? That’s it.  Develop your ideal client profile.  It’s much easier to step into their shoes after you understand how they tick.   Please follow and like us:

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Tip 8: Understand Client Economics

The other day,  I was having coffee with a lawyer friend that works at a construction firm.  We started discussing our younger days, when we were lawyers cutting our teeth.  We started talking about how much more we know now about the construction industry then we did when we first started. For example, on a $100 million project, what is a good profit margin for a construction firm? 5 percent, or $5 million. I never understood this math when I was a practicing attorney and it would have helped out a lot.  Construction firms don’t want to pay for lawyers or legal services; construction firms most definitely don’t want to be in the middle of litigation.  It’s an added expense for companies that have razor sharp profit margins. Here’s some more math. A construction firm works on ten $10 million projects, and the firm expects $500,000 profit on each.  But one project goes bad and the firm suffers a $10 million loss.  Now the construction firm is bankrupt; the $5 million in profits have been devoured by the $10 million loss. This math matters because it can help you understand your clients better.  Construction firms avoid litigation at all costs. On the other hand, the surety industry suffers from $750,000,000 to $1 billion in losses every year.  As a result, sureties anticipate litigation and are prepared to pay lawyers to manage it.  Not surprisingly, many sureties have panel counsel in every state with negotiated rates that apply across the country. Spend some time exploring the economics of your clients.  It will help you serve them better.  If you want to read up on how to break down a company’s business model, I highly recommend Business Model Generation. Please follow and like us:

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Tip 7: Who Are You, As A Law Firm?

When I used to practice, I viewed rainmakers as magicians — voila, they had clients. But how? Then we launched ClaimKit and I started talking to rainmakers on a regular basis. But even more important, I got to talk to the rainmakers’ clients. The clients would explain to me how they perceived the lawyers out there. And it was a true eyeopener. I got to observe them up close. I will be publishing 30 tips to Build a Practice in December. Please email me if you have any questions: chris@claimkit.com. We’ve already talked about law firm economics, which is dictated by how your law firm pays equity partners.  But how does your law firm make money? I’ve worked at two law firms.  At one of the law firms, my focus was litigation.  We represented big companies that suffered large losses.  The firm made money by putting a small army of attorneys on a large case that would last one to three years.  The small army would then learn every nook and cranny of the case, and uncover every possible fact, both good and bad. I worked at a second law firm.  My practice group represented big companies, but the focus was smaller, more discrete legal issues.  To be honest with you, I am not sure I ever totally figured out how this firm made money (they definitely made money).  Within my practice group, a partner and one or two associates worked on specific issues and served as the subject matter expert.  For example, one lawyer might be an expert at cost accounting. Every law firm focuses on labor utilization rate.  If there are 10 attorneys, the law firm wants to make sure each one is billing enough hours to hit the predetermined amount that is necessary to be profitable at a certain level. But how a law firm gets those billable hours is unique to each firm. I would argue that it was easier to become a rainmaker at law firm two.  When you focus on a discrete issue and become an expert in that issue, you can find clients that need your services.  Whereas, in bet-the-company litigation, general counsel will lean on the rainmakers that have successfully handled cases in the past. And all of this ties back to picking the right niche.  Isn’t that a coincidence? Please follow and like us:

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Tip 6: Understand Law Firm Economics

When I used to practice, I viewed rainmakers as magicians — voila, they had clients. But how? Then we launched ClaimKit and I started talking to rainmakers on a regular basis. But even more important, I got to talk to the rainmakers’ clients. The clients would explain to me how they perceived the lawyers out there. And it was a true eyeopener. I got to observe them up close. I will be publishing 30 tips to Build a Practice in December. Please email me if you have any questions: chris@claimkit.com. Last week, a good lawyer friend of mine sent me the following note: How does a rainmaker share his client with other lawyers in the firm? I love this question because it seems so easy on the face. Rainmaker Randy simply needs to tell Customer Charlie that Partner Paul is really smart when it comes to labor contracts and Customer Charlie should call Partner Paul. Or even better, Rainmaker Randy could introduce the two. It should work like that. It typically doesn’t work like that. And the reason is simple: law firm economics. Before I go into more details, I want to make sure that this does not appear like some tirade against how law firms work. It’s not. Nearly every service-based industry works this way. Think about Mad Men: there were a handful of rainmakers in the advertising firm that controlled the key customers. Large consulting firms, like McKinsey or Deloitte, work the same way. The financial model is called “eat what you kill.” It has it’s positives and negatives, like any financial structure. If you want to understand how your law firm works, you have to understand how the lawyers in your firm are paid. Payment creates incentives for a certain type of behavior. If the law firm partners distribute profits equally, what do you think will happen in the above scenario? Rainmaker Randy will happily share his customer with Partner Paul because that means the firm is generating more work. However, if the firm focuses on a distribution of profits based on “eat what you kill,” then Rainmaker Randy has to think twice about sharing his customer with another partner. What if that partner does such an incredible job that the customer sends all of his labor law work to the firm? If that occurs, then Rainmaker Randy may find that he has a tenuous grasp on […]

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Tip 5: Be a Niche Know It All

When I used to practice, I viewed rainmakers as magicians — voila, they had clients. But how? Then we launched ClaimKit and I started talking to rainmakers on a regular basis. But even more important, I got to talk to the rainmakers’ clients. The clients would explain to me how they perceived the lawyers out there. And it was a true eyeopener. I got to observe them up close. I will be publishing 30 tips to Build a Practice in December. Please email me if you have any questions: chris@claimkit.com. I am continuing to bang on the niche thing.  Building a legal niche makes it easier to stand out, be heard, and eventually land clients.  If you want to be a rainmaker, figure out what practice area you will focus on.  And then get really smart about that practice area. But how do you get really smart about a practice area? Thankfully, this might be the easiest part of becoming a rainmaker.  You can use two free internet tools and become an expert in any topic. Free Tool 1:  Google Alerts Go to the Google Alerts page:  https://www.google.com/alerts Login to your Google account. Then create an alert in the toolbar at the top. I did this for green building when I first started.  I do this now for the following topics: “Construction Claim” OR “Change Order” “Takeover Agreement” AND “Surety” Construction Cloud Surety Cloud Chris Cheatham ClaimKit Google scours the internet with its creepy web crawlers, identifies articles that hit on the topics above, and then sends them to me via email on a weekly or daily basis. You can even set how often you get updates sent to your inbox.  When you get the emails, read them.  Save the interesting ones.  It’s that easy.  It’s like a personalized e-newspaper to help you learn about your chosen niche. Free Tool 2:  RSS Reader RSS Readers might be the most underutilized internet tool on the planet.  Do you have websites that you check everyday for news?  Most people do; and most people should be using an RSS Reader instead. There are a lot of RSS Readers out there.  My preference is Feedly.  I could sit here and try to explain to you how RSS Readers work, but this page does a great job of it:  What the Heck is RSS? RSS is a simply an Internet technology standard that allows busy people to […]

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Tip 4: Pick a Big Enough Legal Market

When I used to practice, I viewed rainmakers as magicians — voila, they had clients. But how? Then we launched ClaimKit and I started talking to rainmakers on a regular basis. But even more important, I got to talk to the rainmakers’ clients. The clients would explain to me how they perceived the lawyers out there. And it was a true eyeopener. I got to observe them up close. I will be publishing 30 tips to Build a Practice in December. Please email me if you have any questions: chris@claimkit.com. Before you settle on your legal niche, there is one more thing to do: figure out your market size. Evaluating the market size is a business concept I never understood as a lawyer. I had to figure it out in a hurry during the ClaimKit fundraising effort. Market size is how many people can buy from you and how much do they spend on similar services or software. In typing this, I realize the difficulty of establishing the market size for a particular niche legal market. But with the internet and Google at your disposal, anything is possible. Establishing a market size is a difficult task, but it is worth it. It’s worth it to avoid the mistake I made in picking too small a niche. I’ve already written about how I chose my prior niche of green building law, and, specifically, LEED certified buildings. If I had done some simple math, I would have seen that my market size was too small. It’s actually kind of painful to type this. According to the LEED organization, as of 2014, 12,000 new construction projects have been LEED certified. In 2008, when I chose my niche, this number was most likely 25 percent, or 3000 LEED Certified projects. Lets assume 1 percent of those projects result in claims and litigation. That’s 30 potential lawsuits. That is a terribly small market size. When you think about your market size where do you start? If you are focused on developing a state-specific practice, start with state numbers. If you are focused on a national practice, use nationwide numbers. I would love to know what you uncover about your niche. Please follow and like us:

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