Scott Limmer

How Providing Value is a Key to Business Development

Oscar and Scott discuss how Value is the second core element that you need to focus on to improve your law practice.

Episode transcript


INTRO:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice: two lawyers, a podcast, and a plan to help any solo or small firm, hosted by Scott Limmer and Oscar Michelen.

SCOTT:                      Hi everybody, this is Scott.

OSCAR:                      And this is Oscar.

SCOTT:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice Podcast. We’d like to thank everybody for the last few weeks. Oscar and I are having a lot of fun doing these podcasts. So Oscar, what is it that we’re going to talk about this week?

OSCAR:                      Last week, we talked about authenticity, our first core principle, and how it can help develop your practice and yourself, and be more responsive to clients, etc., and that leads into our second core principle which is value. When we talk about value, it’s something that’s mentioned quite a bit in the market place these days. Consumers in particular have a lot more have a lot more choices. They have a wider selection of different folks, vendors, stores, etc. they can go to and they are looking for once that give them value, give them something maybe a little bit beyond even the product that they are buying whether it’s connected to information that’s provided, a functional website, maybe a new use of technology, something different that differentiates that product from the field and makes it more valuable to them when they shop or use that service.

SCOTT:                      So in terms of giving value then, Oscar, what would an attorney do in terms of trying to give value to their clients?

OSCAR:                      Well, obviously the first thing that comes to mind when people hear that is good service, right? I mean, quality legal advice, responsiveness to phone calls, responsiveness to emails, all of that is important. We’ll get into that later.

SCOTT:                      And I think everyone who is listening to this would probably agree that they are all probably good at it and that’s something that they can wrap their head around. It’s something they’ve tried to do their whole career – do good work for their clients.

OSCAR:                      Yeah, I mean, that’s the starting point and if you’re not going to do that, then definitely, nothing in this podcast is going to help you. So this is for those who want to fine tune beyond that and value applies not just to clients but also to the other people that you might interact with – your referral partners, your networking partners, even other attorneys who you may or may not refer business to that you have contact with. So it’s something that it’s going to be different for each and every person to determine how they can add that additional value to their practice and to those that they want to provide it to. So we’re going to talk about general practice pointers, etc. that are applicable to all types of practice and then you can determine which fits for you and how to modify for your practice, but let’s start with the basic definition. What do you mean by value, Scott?

SCOTT:                      So a basic definition of value would be first of all, it’s the natural outgrowth of being authentic. I think if you lead an authentic life and are authentic in your business, then giving value to your clients, associates, and anyone you come into contact will be a natural thing, but giving value could be defined as anything you do that helps or is of interest to someone. It’s really, it’s anything. It’s doing that good work. It’s being a good friend. It’s giving good advice. It’s building trust between yourself and someone. It’s finding a good opportunity for a referral partner. It’s leaving a review for someone. Anything you can do to try to help another person in any way to further your business, to further their business, is giving value.

OSCAR:                      And this can be in the context of the matter that you’re representing the client on or outside of that. A quick example, let’s say my business, I deal a lot with restaurant clients. If I see something and added a new law, a new enforcement policy, something that maybe doesn’t relate to the exact matter that I’m working on, I’ll send that client an email. I’ll send them maybe even a written letter if that’s how they prefer to communicate and say, “Hey, you should have a heads up on this. Take a look at this.” Towards the end of the year, we remind them that at the start of the year, they have to sign new forms for their employees, things of that nature that they might not be thinking of on their own and it shows that you’re thinking of them, for them all the time.

SCOTT:                      Let me give you an example for my practice, Oscar. Criminal practice, I come into contact with a lot of younger clients. When I started becoming involved in special education, I started questioning the parents and seeing if they had IEPs and if they were going to CSE meetings. If they did, I’d offer to represent them for no charge. It was to get myself some experience. It was to try to help these clients any way I could and they were grateful and truthfully, I was grateful. It was a win-win situation for both.

OSCAR:                      If you think about the total time that you put out in investing into that compared to other things that you might do that don’t generate value…

SCOTT:                      Sure, sure.

OSCAR:                      …it comes back to you ten times over because it’s authentic. it’s something you want to help out and it’s also something that’s important to the client because they are getting representation that they wouldn’t otherwise have, and it makes your advice and your relationship all that more meaningful to them.

SCOTT:                      So let’s talk a little bit about the client’s search for value. I think the consumer these days is very savvy especially, I notice potential clients that come into the office. It’s not like it used to be where they come in and they really wouldn’t know anything. You would be their guide through everything and maybe they had a friend who was in trouble a couple of years ago and they had some ideas about what happened, but now, they are equipped with as much information as they can find out for themselves. We all know what the internet is. People go online. They get copies of the law. They see what the charges are. They come to client meetings very equipped with information.

OSCAR:                      And, by the way, they are often coming to client meetings with the lawyers who have provided that information to them and have already started setting up the expectation that this is a good resource and is someone who is going to provide value to them over and beyond their personal representation. So that’s a critical point. Apart from that, it’s even in that initial client meeting, the value starts from there. Listen to the client. Give the client enough time to make sure that they tell you their side of the story, the time to give you all the facts, and more importantly, right at that point, you should start giving at least some ideas of where you think the case or the matter is going to head. That’s where they get value immediately, right at the outset at that initial client meeting.

SCOTT:                      Again, it’s all the competition. If somebody comes in, if you’re a Personal Injury attorney and somebody comes in to talk to you, they are probably equipped with the knowledge that you are going to get a third of the fee and that every attorney they are going to go to is going to get a third of the fee. So I think there may be more questions in their mind, as to “Why should I use this specific attorney? Why is this attorney better than someone else?” and I think you have to give value to the client to show them that you are the attorney that they should hire.

OSCAR:                      And this is where it coordinates with the last topic we discussed, “Authenticity”, which is, in that initial client meeting, send out the message in any way, shape or form of what makes you different from others. If you have a good blog site that shows information, point them to it. Let them see that you are a leader in the industry in that particular area, that you have written articles that are related to it. Maybe you could bring up a similar case or two, something that shows that they are in the right place and that you’ve built up this kind of practice that is perfect for the matter that they are coming to on. So you have to have laid a lot of this ground work before they come to you. In some instances it’s that very ground work that going to lead them to you after they conduct their internet search or even ask for referrals from friends or neighbors who might be the ones doing the searching for them.

So I think those first few times that you have contact with the client, it is critical that they come away feeling that, “Hey, yes this lawyer knows what he’s doing but I am also going to get something a little extra than all the others in the field.” Someone who is either going to, for example, be able to keep my costs down. Like for example Scott said, “You get a third.” Explain why maybe you are going to be able to reduce the out-of-pocket expenses. Maybe get a quicker resolution, something that’s going to show them that, not all lawyers are the same even though they all charge the same fee. Could it be more streamlined practices? Are you going to be able to file the complaint right away? Get started right away. Make a commitment to them that it will be handled in a way that is either more expeditious or more efficient, or in some other way, you can differentiate yourself from all the other guys out there.

SCOTT:                      So Oscar, I’d like to switch topics a little bit and I’d like to talk a little bit about where my understanding of giving value and being authentic came from. As I’ve said on the podcast before, I never really did a lot of networking before a couple of years ago and I joined a networking group about three years ago. When I joined, I was like, “All right, well maybe I’ll get some business. Maybe I’ll refer some business.” The first thing they taught me is was their motto is “Giver’s gain” and the idea was to give and not get. I understood what it meant and it made sense to me, but I really didn’t, I really didn’t feel it.

OSCAR:                      You didn’t embrace it.

SCOTT:                      I really didn’t and you know, as time went on, I started to get it. It was more about just giving referrals. It was really building relationships. In my referral group, what we do is we do these things called “one-to-ones” and we meet outside the referral meeting, you know, occasionally for coffee, for lunch, for breakfast and you get to know each other. I got to know a lot of these guys and I’m fairly good friends with some of them now, and the relationships built and the trust built, and I understand what it’s about now – being authentic, being in relationships with other business professionals, giving the value of your profession, of your relationship. That’s why I talk about friendship, I talk about business advice, leaving reviews, all these things that you can do for your referral partners are fantastic. They are magic.

OSCAR:                      Again, it’s going to separate you from other networking contacts that they may have. They are going to say, “Hey, you know this guy does follow up. It’s very important. “He says he’s going to do something and he does it. I asked him to go check this out for me and see if can leave a review if he thought it was favorable and he did so.” And it’s a completely transferable thing to clients as well. Just the same way – you make a promise to the client, you keep the promise. You make a client a promise to refer a partner, you keep that promise – as simple as a returned phone call.

SCOTT:                      Oh absolutely.

OSCAR:                      As simple as an initial call. Don’t wait for the client to call you. Don’t wait for a referral partner to call you. Reach out and make that one cold call to the client, “Hey, this is what is happening on your file. This is what I’m doing. Here’s a copy of every document that I’m sending out.” Going back to the referral partner, calling him up and saying, “Hey, I went on that site, I reviewed it, checked it out,” etc. So it takes effort. Soon, it becomes second nature.

SCOTT:                      It’s funny you say that – second nature – and I know I keep referring back to my networking group. We’ve got a guy in my networking group. He’s the Personal Injury guy. You can’t not want to refer stuff to this guy. This guy comes in every day. He’s got referrals for everybody. Wherever he goes, he gets into conversations with people. He’ll get referrals for our computer guy, for our card guys. He loves doing it and he gets it back because, how could you not want to refer something to this guy?

OSCAR:                      Right. And it probably started out with him sitting there, thinking like, “Oh, who do I know that might need this service?”

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      “Who do I know might need that service?” And he realizes that in almost all these conversations that he has – either in the court house, at the office, in family functions or wherever – he’s always thinking about that and saying, “Hey, I know somebody. I know a guy. Let me give it to this person,” and you know, reaching out to that and giving it over to a referral partner, then that means when he has that nature of business for you, you are the first guy he’s going to think of because you’ve been calling him, you’ve been reaching out to him, you’ve been doing what you’ve promised to do and you’ve been giving him value outside the other fold.

SCOTT:                      And when he refers somebody to me, I make it my business. Listen, it’s obviously good business practice to call somebody back immediately but I make sure that I call the person back immediately. I want to give that value to my referral partner. I want his clients to know that he referred somebody good and make sure that value goes directly to him and his client. He gets the benefit of that.

OSCAR:                      And I even call that person back even if I don’t get hired or if it wasn’t the right matter for me, to thank them and let them know, “Hey, John called me but it wasn’t really the right thing for my firm and I told him to give you a call back. I have a name if you want to refer him to somebody else.” Don’t just steer your referral client to somebody else, give it back to the original person.

SCOTT:                      Right, of course.

OSCAR:                      Let him make the decision and therefore, gain the credit for finding the right person for his contact. So all of those things are also as I said, the same back to the client, right? We are calling the client back. We are making cold calls on occasion to keep them posted. You were responding to emails. We are letting them know what’s happening on the case on a regular and consistent basis, and I highly recommend if you can do that through email, to save yourselves the time and then maybe once a month or whatever, make that call to the client, to catch them up. Obviously, every case is going to be different. On some cases, when they are active, you are dealing with the client on a more regular basis, you don’t need to do that. But a lot of times, particularly in civil litigation, cases sit for a while, nothing’s happening. Send an email. Send a call. Do whatever it takes to keep that client thinking about you and recognizing that you are thinking about them.

SCOTT:                      Let me tell you another networking story. We’ve got another attorney in our group. He is a young guy. He’s been out of law school for two years and this is his first. He doesn’t know what to do, he’s learning, okay? And we have an insurance guy in our group too. So what does this guy do? He introduces his boss at his law firm to our insurance guy. Next thing you know, they are doing a deal. Look at the value that my friend provided to his firm, to his boss by introducing somebody that he knew that he could rely on to do the right thing. The value that went to him, it’s astronomical. It’s an amazing thing.

OSCAR:                      Right. But the important thing is, too, when people think about getting involved in networking and we are talking about that in depth…

SCOTT:                      Yes, most definitely.

OSCAR:                      … in podcasts coming up to prepare you for it because we think it’s critical, absolutely critical to rebooting your law practice. But they think it’s just a nice breakfast. They will smooch a little. You know, don’t bother. Have breakfast with your family, have breakfast with somebody else because you really have to think about which group you are going to go with. Take a look at the other participants. Are they folks that you can refer things to and refer things back to you? How long are they going on? What’s the nature of the discussions?

SCOTT:                      You see if you could form relationships with these guys.

OSCAR:                      Exactly.

SCOTT:                      You’ve got make sure it’s a good group. You just go into a group of people and think, “Oh, we are going to refer stuff,” and nobody’s into it. People come and they don’t come. Can’t do it. My group, you know, probably 80-90% of the people come every week and it works.

OSCAR:                      Right. And then, you know, it may take a while.

SCOTT:                      Yeah.

OSCAR:                      You know, you may have to balance from one to another if it doesn’t work for you. So please keep that in mind. There’s nothing here that’s going to be an overnight success. It’s going to require you to think about what you want to do, who you want to work with and how you can provide that value to those particular networking partners.

SCOTT:                      Right. And like we said before, there’s many different ways to provide the value: It’s getting clients, it’s leaving a review, it’s giving good business advice, it’s anything you could do that helps them, helps further their business.

OSCAR:                      Keeping them posted about changes maybe in their industry, even though you may not work in that field.

SCOTT:                      Right. Exactly. Exactly. And you know another way to give value, you know a lot of people, you know Oscar and I both blog. We try not to write anything too cookie cutter and do anything that’s not interesting or write six, seven times a week. We usually, Oscar blogs when something interests him, I blog once every two weeks on each of my sites and we try to give value to the person reading it. We don’t want to waste their time. We want to write something interesting, again give them value for lack of a better word.

OSCAR:                      Right. The real thing there is again, similar to networking, a lot of people walk around and they hear from marketing gurus and emails from folks who are trying to sell them software to boost their law firm practice. You know, you’ve got to network and you’ve got a blog. They are like, “What does that even mean? How do I even go about doing that?” There is no point in creating a blog unless you are going to put a little time into it to think about what it is you want to write about, what are the topics that you are going to cover, and do it on a relatively consistent basis. I see lots of lawyers, and lots of law blogs. They start off at a fever pitch. One or two articles a week. Consistent for like the first two months, three months and the next thing you know, it drops off the table.

Try to set a limit for yourself that you think you can live with. I do try, at the very least, once a week and not less than once every 10 days. If I can get two out in 10 days, that’s great, but I try to consistently stay with one a week. They don’t have to be very long, but they have to be pointed to the sense of what kind of area do you want to talk about that a client will want to read that and think that this person is, again, providing something to them, this information, this free information, that shows them that you know what you are talking about, that you could be relied on to give good advice in that area.

SCOTT:                      So, you know, I was reading a business book about giving value and it summed it up as succinctly as this – what you want to do is you want to build up a fan base. I really like the thought of that. You want people who you either do a good job for or who know you do a good job, singing you praises. That’s what you want to see come from your efforts, your authenticity, and your giving value.

OSCAR:                      Right.   And it takes a while to build up again. You are not going to write a blog, I mean you may be lucky you happen to write about an article that suits the one person who finds it, but it’s going to take a while for you to build an audience, and it doesn’t matter whether 10 people follow it or 100 people follow it, the point is, that you have it there for others to find, that you can lead them to. Obviously, if you are able to develop a voice that gets people following you on a regular basis, that’s great, but don’t think that it’s wasted if you are only getting friends and family and some clients who follow it because the idea of it is not just for them to find you, it’s for you to point it to clients and referral partners to say, “Hey, I wrote an article about that. I have a blog about that.”

I can tell you that in my own experience, that’s been the most favorable thing about my blog, although I do have, now that’s it’s been going for a while, a fair number, 200 folks, growing all the time, who follow it. It gets read about, let’s say, I have about 1,000 to 1,500 views on an article once it hits and more go along the way, but it’s far more beneficial from the law practice point when I’m meeting with clients or referral partners and saying, “Oh, check it out. I wrote an article about that. If you have questions about that, here’s the link to my blog article about it.”

SCOTT:                      So we’re going to talk about blogging more in future episodes. One of the reasons we talk about it so much in depth is because it just seems to be so important to get your thoughts and ideas out there on the internet and allow people to see them. It’s really one of the best ways that we, Oscar and I, have discovered to give value to our practice. So one of the other things I just wanted to hit on as we seem to be ending this episode is that we talked last episode that value plus authenticity will equal success, and I do believe that but I also believe something else, Oscar. I believe that value plus authenticity will equal contentedness. I believe that by being authentic, by giving value, what could be bad about that? You’re helping other people. You’re being genuine. It feels nice to be nice to people.

OSCAR:                      Not only that. Also, when you think about these things, it also makes you feel like you’re being a lawyer.

SCOTT:                      Exactly.

OSCAR:                      It makes you feel like you’re providing a service. It makes you feel like you’re taking some time to think about what you want to talk about, write about, to discuss with the people that you end up networking with, with your clients, etc., and it makes you start to feel that you’re building up a little bit of credibility in your area and that folks will be able to find that credibility about you, and if you will, kind of double check the advice that you’re giving them in that initial client meeting by going back, looking at what you’ve done, looking at other cases that you’ve had, other articles that you’ve written, etc. So it does build up your satisfaction, your professional satisfaction at the same time, and it’s extraordinarily important. I’m glad you mentioned that.

SCOTT:                      So we’d like to thank everybody for joining us this week. If you have any questions for us, you can reach us at our email addresses, or you can also call us at 516-900-4842, leave a comment, a question, a suggestion for future show. We’d love to hear from you.

OSCAR:                      And and we want you to think about something for next week and in your practice. Let’s develop three ways that you think you can add value to a relationship that you have – either a client relationship or a network relationship, or a fellow attorney who refers you business – that relationship. Three simple ways, work on it, and start moving towards those three things.

SCOTT:                      And next week, we’re going to start a two-episode series on beginning to network. The first episode is going to be Preparing Yourself Mentally to Network and then the second episode is going to be Preparing Yourself Online to Network. Thank again everybody for listening and we will talk to you next week.

OSCAR:                      Take care.

OUTRO:                     This has been Reboot your Law Practice with Oscar Michelin and Scott Limmer.

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