6 Ways To Be Your Own Legal Marketing Coach

While it’s always beneficial to have an outside opinion, not everyone has the budget or inclination to hire a CMO or marketing coach. And let’s be honest-even the most expensive coach can’t force attorneys to put their ideas into practice. By pulling from a coach’s overall strategy and adapting the ideas to your own daily marketing initiatives, you can propel yourself forward…on your own. Here are my best tips for being your own marketing and business development coach.

1. Be accountable to SOMEONE.
One of the greatest benefits of a coach is that you are always accountable to them. Identify someone (Spouse? Partner? Paralegal? Assistant? Colleague?) to keep you on track and ask them to check in and remind you to work on marketing and business development. If you’re not comfortable asking for help, set time in your (Outlook?) calendar and send yourself reminders. Even better? Enlist a partner in your marketing and business development journey and keep each other honest on what you’ve been doing to further the cause.

2. Get organized.
I present all my clients with a marketing binder at our second meeting. It contains a first draft of their marketing plan, articles that I think will help them with their efforts, and worksheets to keep track of their successes and challenges. While your binder doesn’t have to be as elaborate, it’s smart to have one place to collect all your ideas and plans. Print out relevant blog posts and articles, keep contact info for potential collaborators, list ideas for speeches or seminars and keep a list of referral sources.

3. Have a plan.
Though it may not be a formal marketing plan, you should, at the very least, sit down and brainstorm your marketing and business development goals. Then formulate a specific course of action (ie. Write one article a week; start a blog; set up 3 speaking engagements…) for reaching those goals. Keep in mind that the goals don’t have to be finance-related. Connecting with 5 old clients can be a fantastic goal if most of your business comes from referrals, while writing a book (or e-book) can help you build credibility within your practice area.

4. Send yourself inspiration.
I’m always passing on information to my clients that I think is relevant to their marketing goals. You can do the same. Sign up for tips and emails on marketing blogs (they don’t have to be law-related) and funnel them into a specific folder for you to peruse when you have the time to concentrate. Set aside an hour on the weekends, at night or early in the morning once or twice a week to clean out the folder and keep the tips or advice that you think you can apply.

5. Remove yourself.
I know it’s easier said than done, but try to be somewhat objective when evaluating your progress and initiatives. Step back and look in from outside. Read your articles or blog posts, look at your marketing materials and view presentations from the point of view of clients, potential clients, colleagues and referral sources. By putting yourself in their shoes you’ll speak more directly and create more powerful materials.

6. Make marketing a priority.
Marketing coaches help clients by steering their focus towards business development. Do the same for yourself. Just as I mentioned above, set aside time (as you would if you had a formal coach) to strategize and work on your plan of action. The only way to achieve results is to be dedicated and committed to the process.

No one can make you a successful marketer-except you. By adapting some of the strategies of marketing professionals, it becomes simply a matter of time and focus to help you reach your goals. Stay on track, stick to the plan and constantly refresh your thinking and research with new ideas and advice. As hard as it may sound you CAN be your own coach!

Are Canadian Courts Adapting With New Technologies?

The cornerstone of any free society is a thriving court system which takes the approach to justice very seriously. For a court system to truly serve its constituents it has to keep up with the technology and the Canadian legal system is no exception.

Fortunately, the modern technological advances that have been woven into the Canadian courts have proven to not only be cost effective but also to serve the greater good.

I see you!

There is a practical aspect of adapting technology to court use and that has to do with geography. Beyond our vibrant urban cities, Canada is a vast land of abundant resources and environments. The current population stands at 30 million + but we are scattered all across the Canadian landscape. As such, it’s not uncommon for a judge to be issuing rulings 1,500 miles from the main courthouse. This is where video conferencing has made a huge difference in terms of expediting court cases.

With video conferencing, a judge can review, cross examine and make a ruling on an applicant who might be several miles away. By adapting video conferencing there is also a great reduction in the need for prisoner escort costs. In some cases, a video conference is a benefit when a hardened criminal can remain incarcerated without the chance of getting contraband passed to them outside the confines of the jail. This is definitely a case where swift justice can prevail.

Shuffling papers…

Another positive use of technology is with case management, especially the large amounts of paperwork to manage. New software and systems have been created that allow documents to be created, edited and stored virtually on secure servers. It allows court clerks instant access to case files and removes redundant data entry.

As with the video conferencing, upgrading to a case-management system for certain court documents is a cost saver not only on paper but also physical storage space. The caution is to insure that these documents are secure. Safeguards need to be put into place to make sure only designated court personnel would have access to these types of records. By the same token, these files have to be properly updated to insure that an innocent party has their record expunged.

Efficiency is the key

During the actual trial, technology can play a role when it comes to evidence presentation. A power point presentation is easy to compile and understand. It’s also helpful when it comes to reviewing that evidence if it is kept on a single file as opposed to scattered over dozens of charts and placards. Many courts have upgraded old transcript recording to new digital recording methods. Once again technology proves to streamline a process while reducing costs.

Clearly, the Canadian courts are putting technology to work. The question then becomes how dominant will that technology become and will there be safeguards to protect privacy? Ironically, the answer to that will be decided by the courts.

Challenges of the Legal Services Act

The imminent introduction of the Legal Services Act presents new challenges for high street firms as it enables companies other than solicitors to provide legal services under what is known as an Alternative Business Structure (ABS). This means that individuals can visit an ABS for various legal services, such as, wills, probate and conveyancing. Already companies such as Co-op, the AA and Saga have become ABSs in direct competition with the traditional high street solicitors practice.

The problem facing a majority of solicitor’s practices is that large companies will clearly have a commercial advantage over the high street legal practice that used to dot every high street. Going forward a well known ‘brand’ will get custom regardless of the quality of their legal service merely due to their reputation in other areas. They also benefit from economies of scale, so can undercut the prices of smaller high street solicitors and advertise aggressively, knowing that their smaller rivals cannot compete. In addition, they have the benefit of convenience; why visit a solicitor when you can get a will written while doing the weekly shop? A survey by Yougov has shown that 60% of those surveyed would buy legal services from a known retail brand rather than a local solicitor. This makes the future look very gloomy for the average high street solicitors practice. You only have to glance down a high street to see the lack of independent retailers due to being priced out by large corporate brands. By visiting the same brand for legal services, the legal profession will go the same way.

More worryingly, critics argue that it will damage the independence of the profession. Solicitors often work in small partnerships, independent from the clients they serve, striving to provide good quality legal services building client confidence, loyalty and client recommendations. However, bring in a major retailer with interests in several sectors and the outlook changes dramatically. Solicitors are responsible for their own reputation which is earned through the service they provide, making them personally liable for the work they undertake. Larger retailers simply do not have the same degree of liability; if a mistake is made it does not affect the company on a national scale. With large companies there is also the possibility that they will only be interested in the relatively simple tasks in order to make a quick buck, leaving the riskier and more expensive work for their high street competitors.

If an ABS can offer routine legal services without what may appear to be a hefty price tag, why choose a high street firm? Firstly, there is the personal service and client relationship; a solicitor can build up a strong relationship with a client over several years, thus better understanding the needs of each situation. In law, due to the vast diversity of situations, there simply cannot be an effective one size fits all model (the likely approach of the likes of the AA, Co-op etc). Instead of a mass-produced product, a high street solicitor can offer you an approach tailored to meet your needs. Most solicitors firms operate in a team of highly qualified specialists to provide a quality service rather than one solicitor heading a large group of paralegals or unqualified legal assistants. Put simply, high street firms offer quality over quantity. To ensure their future high street law firms have to maintain their professional standards.

It is true that high street firms need to adapt to have a chance of competing with big business. However, the days of the sole practitioner will soon be gone. For the smaller firms to survive they may no alternative but to merge with other professional services, such as, accountants and IFA’s to provide all business and personal services under one roof. No matter what steps they take, high street solicitors need to show that they are just as accessible and approachable as the big brands. Ultimately, receiving legal advice is a service: you pay for the quality you receive. Buying a house or deciding who inherits your worldly possessions is an important decision. Why cut corners to save a few pounds when a quality personal service is around the corner waiting to help?