Today I caught up with Ed Poll. Ed coaches and consults attorneys throughout the country in the areas of starting and operating a law practice and case management, strategic planning, profitability analysis, and practice development. He blogs at LawBiz, is a syndicated columnist and regular contributor to several major legal publications. His latest book, Life After Law: What Will You Do With the Next 6,000 Days? has received national recognition for helping lawyers plan for the time they decide to leave the practice of law.
In this post, part 2 of 2, he offers tips on marketing, legal technology, planning for retirement, and more.
1. What types of marketing techniques should lawyers consider trying that are “outside the box”?
Generally speaking, I don’t think most people react well to “outside the box” marketing. What may be outside the box for the individual person is not necessarily so for someone else. So when I work with my clients I try to understand their soft spot–what they’re capable of doing. And once I understand that–if it’s speaking, marketing, networking–I generally push them to pursue that a little bit.
But, it seems to me that when you’re talking about outside the box you mean marketing or creative work others aren’t doing. For example, a number of years ago there was a firm in Chicago that had a marketing campaign where they promised that clients would be satisfied with their service. They said that if you’re not completely satisfied, tell us and we’ll adjust your fee to zero. No one had done this before so in that way it was outside the box and it made a splash. And the firm grew quickly after that–they set the standard.
Another example–a different Chicago firm put a challenge on their website: call your present attorney, then call us. If your current lawyer calls you back before we do, we’ll give $100 to a charity of your choice. So they put their money where their mouth was and challenged the client to compare their current lawyer’s responsiveness to theirs. To me, that’s outside the box.
2. Do you think blogging is a worthwhile endeavor for attorneys? Why or why not?
In terms of producing revenue for a law firm I think there’s still an open discussion on this. People like you, me, and Kevin O’Keefe might say that blogging and social media produces hard dollars and active clients for the law firm. But I think there’s been at least one study that says there’s not a clear cut connection.
Even so, I still think blogging is worthwhile because when you blog and write about your expertise–as opposed to the fact that you’re having coffee–then you’re demonstrate your expertise by doing so. Another benefit–you get into the habit of writing. And if you blog regularly, you will likely be contacted by reporters or even publishing houses. For example, within a 2 week period last month I was contacted by 3 different publishing houses asking me to write books for them.
Sure, I’ve written 15 books but all of these opportunities truly came from my blog, a place where I share my ideas about running a law practice. I think lawyers should get into the habit of doing this. Even though it can be time consuming, you can definitely find the time if you try. Think about it, there are 52 weeks in a year, 7 days in a week, and 24 hours in a day. That’s a lot of time, and somewhere along the way you can find the time to write a few words in a blog post. So if you write about what you enjoy and your areas of expertise, you’ll enjoy it. So, I think that’s important.
3. What technologies are changing the way that lawyers deliver legal services to their clients?
I think the greatest change in the law is technology. Technology is the catalyst for change in the legal community and it’s giving us the ability to do the same work faster and at a lower cost–in other words, with less people. I think that’s going to impact the legal community in many ways, many of which we don’t yet entirely understand. Technology is getting to a point where all information will be integrated into one platform from which lawyers will be able to do everything, from research to billing and more. And that’s going to cause clients to expect their lawyers to offer a finished product at a lower cost.
Another example–communication. I’ve been told that email is passe and that other technology, such as secure client portals, will soon replace it. The bottom line is that the technology genie has been let out of the bag. Just as technology has changed many other businesses, it is just now changing the practice of law.
4. Your new book “Life After Law” was just released. What are the top 3 takeaways for lawyers from this book?
One of the things I learned while writing my book is that the most feared word in the English language is “retirement”. I was interviewing someone earlier today who talked about going into retirement. He explained that I’m going from a “who’s who” to “who’s he?” For many lawyers their career is a large part of their identity. But once you stop practicing law you’re no longer a lawyer, so what are you? That’s really important to think about.
There’s an expression amongst retirees–are you a PIP– a Previously Important Person? So one of the things I talk about in the book is how to make sure you’re a who’s who. By that I don’t mean that the world still knows who you are but that you know who you are. Whether it’s being on a non-profit board, working in the garden, or in my case, riding a bike. The number one goal is to have a plan. Where do you want to go? If we don’t know where we want to go, we’re going to be afraid to make the change from where we are.
Another lesson is that we only have 4 options and most of us don’t realize that at a conscious level. We can: 1) close our practice, 2) merge it, 3) sell it, or 4) we can die in our boots. And I’m suggesting that dying in our boots isn’t a viable option–it’s not one we should take. That being said, it’s often the option most lawyers choose to take and that’s a mistake. It doesn’t protect your family and it leaves your clients in an abyss, charged with finding their own way out without a road map.
The third lesson is literally there really is life after law. If we look at the traditional retirement age–it’s 65. The reason it is 65 is because when social security was first implemented, only a small percentage of people lived beyond 65. Now the average age of death today is 85. With those 20 years, we literally have another career span available to us. So, rest assured, there is life after law. You just have to plan for it.