Writing Content That Reaches Business Clients

As more and more of our professional interactions move online and the number of emails we receive on our smartphones continues to mushroom, law firms that serve businesses and other entities need to devote more resources to creating engaging content. The bar is higher now than ever before as law firms, HR and accounting firms, and all sorts of trade publications compete to grab the attention of the same audiences with the same sophisticated explanations of developments in the law.

News that once seemed noteworthy, such as an attorney being recognized by Super Lawyers or a woman being promoted to partner, has now become commonplace and unlikely to cut through the noise of similar announcements from other firms. Mentioning these developments is appropriate, but it’s not going to establish your firm as a thought leader.

Neither is merely summarizing the latest bill in your area of the law. Just about every one of your competitors is probably working on the same description of what a certain new law says. To create content worth sharing, you’ll need to go a step further.

Educate your audience about what matters most from the perspective of an expert. Stand out from the constant flood of emails by creating strategic content that informs people about where they should be putting their attention and the steps they may need to take. Go beyond the law itself and connect the dots for your potential clients and referral sources in a way that allows them to prioritize.

In today’s world, you need to create curated content. That’s the kind of content that counts.

The Best Way for Law Firms to Increase Their Profitability in 2021

If you want to increase law firm profitability, you have to track it relentlessly and share the results of your analysis widely.


Although profits-per-partner has become a widely known metric for large law firms, most smaller firms don’t track profits assiduously. There is a world of difference between having your accountant calculate profits at year’s end for tax purposes and measuring profits on an ongoing basis for use as a decision-making tool.


Here are five elements of financial planning that your firm can implement to increase profitability in 2021.


  1. Start tracking revenues and expenses by practice area. This will allow you to run year-to-year comparisons and identify which people and practice areas are doing exceptionally well or underperforming.


  1. Create quarterly revenue goals by practice area and, if applicable, by office. And put these in writing.


  1. Use a consistent measurement, like full-time equivalent (FTE), to allocate overhead among profit centers.


  1. Communicate, on a regular basis, the firm’s progress toward meeting quarterly goals. As consultants to law firms, we have seen how weekly reports to partners can be easy to ignore; monthly reporting tends to work best, especially if the firm engages in meaningful discussions about the results.


  1. Create a marketing budget that is aligned with your revenue goals. Too often, the marketing plans prepared by individual lawyers (assuming they are asked to prepare such plans) are nothing more than rehashed versions of prior years’ reports. Instead, focus on each marketing activity in terms of its potential profitability. This will help you to avoid one of the biggest problems facing law firms – a lack of investment in effective marketing.


Understandably, lawyers are drawn more to growing their books of business than to worrying about boring accounting principles. When, as now, law firms, clients, and their vendors might be receiving government loans, it is especially important to be able to determine how your business is actually performing. More than ever, you should focus on profitability.

The Plight of Law Firm Marketing Departments

We’ve begun to see a disturbing trend in professional services as organizations respond to the economic impact of the coronavirus. Faced with an uncertain future and looking to cut costs wherever possible, some firms are trimming their marketing departments as a way to reduce expenses.

We are aware of at least one Am Law 200 firm that has frozen business development spending, including certain reimbursements for partners. Notably, some firms are going as far as to lay off or furlough their marketing teams, including senior officers.

This is a curious move. Billion-dollar entities should be able to afford to keep senior marketing officers on the payroll for a few months. Moreover, C-level executives have expertise and institutional knowledge that should make them valuable in a crisis and hard to replace.

Perhaps certain law firm managing partners are showing just how little they value their most senior administrative managers. Large law firms have historically favored paying lawyers and resisted paying top dollar to senior administrative managers. In a crisis, firms might be reverting back to this tendency, and the marketing department is bearing the brunt of administrative cost-cutting efforts. As hiring needs decline, it is possible that HR departments will be next to see cutbacks.

In many ways, it’s harder to lose the head of marketing (which is happening now) than to fire your 29th-most productive partner. That is why all of these reductions in law firm administrative management should serve as a warning to underperforming attorneys.  Given what large firms have demonstrated recently, no one should be shocked when firms go after senior lawyers, especially high-earning service partners in disfavored practice areas.

Marketing: Professionals Must Define Needs

If you’re waiting for potential clients to voice a need right now, you may be waiting a while. And they’ll be losing out in the meantime.

Even under the best of circumstances, clients are often shortsighted or mistaken about what is in their self-interest. As a professional, you are likely more attuned to the consequences of inaction than your clients are. You recognize that, in this moment when many are especially reluctant to spend money, addressing issues sooner rather than later will be well worth the upfront costs. All the unknowns will make a lot of business owners want to hit the pause button when it’s more important than ever to deal with certain problems.

During a crisis, it’s crucial for business development that professionals define the needs they serve. Landlords without rent coming in probably aren’t looking to hire a law firm even though a workout could save them from foreclosure. Likewise, retailers seeing a huge drop in sales probably aren’t looking to pay their employment lawyer. It’s up to the lawyer to explain the benefits of an updated employment handbook and new training processes, as well as the costs associated with non-compliance when it comes to the new rules around paid sick leave.

You, as the provider of such preventative measures and other valuable solutions, should take it upon yourself to anticipate these needs and articulate them in your messaging. The people you’re speaking to will likely be feeling the instinct to crawl into their shells, and it’s your job to clearly explain why that isn’t in their best interest.

Describe the problem these clients can expect down the line if they don’t take certain steps now. Then, have something specific and deliverable to offer that will solve this for your audience before it has the chance to become a bigger issue.

While you’re very much aware of the ways you can provide critical support to your clients right now, they may not be. Make these points clear to give them the best chance to weather this crisis and yourself the best chance to help.

How to Get More People to Read Your Law Firm’s E-Newsletter

There is a straightforward and massively overlooked way to improve the effectiveness of your e-newsletter and other electronic communications: sending messages to relevant sub-sections of your recipient list. Just as you wouldn’t send holiday cards that say “Merry Christmas” to folks who don’t celebrate Christmas, you shouldn’t always send a single message to your entire email database. This seems like common-sense advice, but as consultants to law firms, we know that many attorneys violate this rule and few fully appreciate the potential benefits of segmenting their databases.

Let’s use the example of an estate and tax planning law firm to show you a more effective way to maintain your database. At a minimum, keep track of the city, state, and zip code of every potential recipient. You may be attending a conference in a particular city and want to notify only people who live or work nearby.  And you may not want to send information about a change in California law to people who live in other states.

Next, identify specific categories of referral sources. In our example (the estate and tax planning firm), this typically includes CPAs and financial advisors, so you should segment your database accordingly. This will, for example, allow you to avoid sending messages to CPAs during the height of tax season.

Most law firms receive many of their referrals from other lawyers, so you should generally segment your database to include at least two sub-categories of attorneys. One category should consist of lawyers who broadly do what you do. The other should contain every other kind of lawyer. Segmenting your database in this way will allow you to write content that is specifically targeted to each audience. You will also be able to send some messages that you don’t want your competitors reading.

Larger law firms need to decide whether to segment their lists by originating attorney or by practice area. It is often most effective for lawyers to contribute their individual email lists to the creation of a larger database. But this is hard to accomplish at firms where lawyers view clients as their clients as opposed to firm clients. This lack of cooperation among partners is more likely to happen at firms with “eat-what-you-kill” compensation plans.

Marketing professionals and advertisers know the power of segmenting your database into finer and more specific segments. Readers respond better and more frequently when they feel that a message is specifically directed to them.  And modern e-newsletter services make it easy to identify which segments of your database will receive certain messages.

Market segmentation is a powerful tool for reaching your intended audiences. The first step is to collect and input the data.

What Not to Do When You’re Not Busy Enough

When lawyers and other professionals are used to being busy, it can be especially challenging when they hit a slow patch. Two sub-optimal responses tend to repeat themselves.

1. Overcompensating

You know the feeling. You haven’t worked out for weeks or months. You feel bad about it so you tell yourself that you will get back on track by going to the gym four days a week for the next three months.

How does this usually turn out?

A similar dynamic applies when lawyers and other professionals feel that they have neglected their marketing and networking efforts.  They feel bad about it and they overcompensate.

This is the lawyer who schedules 10 networking events in 30 days when they previously attended five events in the prior six months.

Likewise, this is the impulse that causes five blog posts to be written in the first week or sparks a sudden commitment to launch a podcast.

And how do these typically turn out?

Exactly like most New Years Eve commitments tend to workout. The commitment bursts on the scene like a supernova but fades out fast.

2.  Constructive Avoidance

The second sub-optimal response to having too few clients in the pipeline is to avoid the problem by keeping busy.

This explains the actions of the attorneys who suddenly volunteer for all sorts of projects, such as organizing bar association conferences, or take on work at one half of their normal hourly rate.

Why do smart professionals ignore a problem as important as not having enough good, well-paying clients?

It’s because it’s painful not to be busy and helping people feels good. Moreover, constructive avoidance is especially likely to take place when you lack confidence that your business development efforts will be successful.

The good news is that overcompensation and constructive avoidance are common and fixable. Focusing on growing your business during slow times is a skill you can improve. The first step is to slow yourself down. Recognize that panic and avoidance is kind of like being in a trance.   You can slow things down and get more comfortable with being momentarily uncomfortable.

Successful practices manage ups and downs. They recognize that falling short happens. It’s part of the process of succeeding. You can learn to observe dispassionately the stress you feel about lack of clients. And being able to recognize that it’s natural for flow of incoming clients to vary, will take the sting out of the pressure that comes from feelings that arise when you’re not busy enough. If you visualize the uncomfortable feeling without being overwhelmed by it, you will take an important first step towards avoiding either overcompensating or engaging in constructive avoidance.

And if part of your stress about business development is caused by a sense that what you have tried to do isn’t working or that you don’t know what you should do to attract new clients, that’s where business consultants can be especially helpful.  It’s much easier for us to assess your situation dispassionately than it is for you to self diagnose.