Showing genuine interest in others leads to higher billing rates
July 19, 2011
Recent studies of how lawyers and non-lawyers find and evaluate legal counsel confirm the practice of law has always been a relationship business and remains a relationship business despite the growing importance and use of the Internet. In combination, the studies indicate that a genuine relationship based on providing relevant information leads to higher hourly billing rates.
The data shows two clear benefits come from clients and colleagues who are consistently kept informed about the legal issues affecting them and about the lawyer’s and a firm’s capabilities and accomplishments. The informed client and colleague give that lawyer and firm a greater percentage of their legal work or referrals than lawyers and firms who do not keep them informed. The data also shows clients pay communicative lawyers and a law firm at higher hourly rates.
If you keep clients and colleagues informed through alerts, meetings and seminars, if you demonstrate a genuine interest in their success, the combined data shows you’ll ultimately be compensated for those efforts. Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, still an international bestseller, made much the same point. One of the book’s key principles: “Become genuinely interested in other people.”
All of the studies affirm that when they need legal help that 75 to 80 percent of people from all walks of life first ask for the name of a lawyer from a friend, family member, colleague or from a lawyer they know or have worked with in the past. However, all of the studies equally confirm that the vetting process has been significantly impacted by the Internet. The data shows that failing to have a robust, comprehensive Internet presence diminishes the chances a referred lawyer will be retained.
For example, one study of 575 in-house lawyers shows most would be “unlikely” to hire a lawyer who was not listed in Martindale-Hubbell. The same study also says that failing to be on LinkedIn or listed as a Super Lawyer® also would “hinder” retention by nearly half of corporate legal departments. Yet another survey shows a dated or scanty personal biography on a firm’s website also may be enough to thwart a personal recommendation.
The surveys I’m relying upon to make these conclusions are:
- The American Bar Association’s Personal Legal Services Survey of 1,000 adults conducted by Harris Research on behalf the Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services;
- ALM’s New Media Engagement Survey, a study of the media and research habits of in-house lawyers;
- BTI Consulting’s recent survey of 575 corporate lawyer’s use of online directories and profiles when evaluating and hiring counsel;
- The Real Rate Report, a landmark compilation and analysis of $4 billion in legal billing by 90,000 timekeepers submitted to 3,600 companies over a three-year period by TyMetrix;
- The 2010 National Marketing Effectiveness Survey, a report on tactics employed, budgeting and results from 125 corporate, transactional and defense firms that my Denver-based law firm marketing consultancy has conducted bi-annually since 1990.