By ED POLL, Special to Lawyers Weekly
Couplings, like metaphors, create mental pictures that help us to better understand concepts.
How about “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage?” Well, that was in an earlier era. Oops, showing my age again. Perhaps that’s appropriate for having turned another year older and wiser.
Then we have billing and collecting. They go together. Can’t have one without the other. Can’t collect until you bill, which is why prompt billing is so important.
In order to collect without delay or resistance, billing must show value … in the eyes of the beholder, the client … and must communicate to the client whether and how well the objective for the engagement was achieved.
Then, there is pricing and engaging. Other than pro bono work, getting an engagement usually first requires setting a price on the work.
I’m reminded of this now because of a recent pricing conversation with a client I’m coaching. Her prospect asked her to do some work and, obviously, wanted to know how much they needed to invest to achieve the desired result.
Every lawyer must consider three issues to answer this question from a prospect. First, will you be able to achieve the goals of the client? Second, how will you be able to improve the client’s condition? In other words, what will be the value to the client? These two elements are within your control to evaluate and communicate.
The third issue requires an evaluation by the client as to whether they can and want to afford the engagement. Some will say that there is always money available if we as lawyers can demonstrate the value to the client.
I would like to believe this because that, then, leaves the issue of engagement in our control. If we can only demonstrate sufficient improvement (value) to the client, we will (we must) be engaged. And our growth is determined by us, not by others.
However, there seems to be a missing element in this analysis. Perhaps the missing element in this trajectory is our “target.” In order to make this trajectory complete, and more within our control to make happen, we need to properly define our target market, the people who can best understand and use our service.
The way to do so is to focus on the demographics, occupation, location, financials and other characteristics of clients who will give you the work that you want. You thus define what your practice really is (or should be) and who best can use your services. This can change over time, as your skills and interests evolve, the economy changes, and many other factors.
Learn where to find your target market and let prospects know that you can provide what they need. No one tactic will cover all communication opportunities. Use approaches consistent with your comfort zone, your creativity, your availability and your budget.
So, if you can put yourself in front of the people who need you the most, have the money to improve their condition and are emotionally able to engage others to help them, you will increase your personal satisfaction and your revenue dramatically by focusing on clients who will give you the work that you want.
Editor editor: Poll is the principal of LawBiz Management, a national law firm practice-management consultancy based in Venice, Calif. For more information, visit www.lawbiz.com.