Jay Harrington’s recent Attorney at Work article (https://www.attorneyatwork.com/30-day-business-development-plan-for-lawyers-during-the-covid-19-crisis/) on creating a business development plan during this difficult time, was right on point. Now is not the time to sell, but to show empathy towards your clients. Think client care versus client service. Here are my thoughts on how to reach out to clients empathically:
- Pick up the phone and call them directly to only see how things are going for them personally and professionally. Listen intently. Do not mention legal work or your problems or struggles unless they ask. Don’t try to solve their problems. Simply empathize and let them know you care. Leave a voicemail if you do not reach them personally and follow-up with an email.
- Send specific clients your firm’s COVID related materials relevant to their situation with a personal email letting them know why this specific release might be of interest and why. Even if you know they are on an “alert” list and may have already gotten the materials, chances are they are overwhelmed with COVID alerts and may have overlooked your piece. Customizing an email and attaching what is relevant to them will resonate with them in a way a broad-based alert does not.
- If you have clients who are working or own in an “essential” business (healthcare, supply chain, etc.) consider sending them cookies, lunch, doughnuts to show you care.
AT THE SAME TIME
Make a list of your clients and think through what legal issues they may face on the other side of this virus? Look at what your firm can provide broadly and not just want you can provide to your clients – think deep and wide. Issues you might consider include:
- Litigation of all types including
- Changes in policy and procedures
- Employment law (including handbook updates)
- Privacy and security
- Supply chain disruption
- Personal estate planning
- International trade disputes
- And more…
How do you approach clients? Gently. Your clients are stressed out already, so you do not want to risk “freaking” them out even more. However, taking a reactive approach to what may be coming could backfire. For that reason, after you have thoughtfully considered what risks each of your clients may face, you should reach out to them and let them know certain legal realities may come to pass for them and simply say you want them to be aware. Answer any questions they have and provide them the comfort of knowing you are there to help them.
Providing ongoing check-ins with your clients proactively is very important as things are changing almost daily.
For those of you who have clients who may not be impacted or are simply not as busy now, here are a few things I would encourage you to do that will be productive and could pay dividends in the future:
- Work on your bio – Read your bio aloud and think as if you were a client. Would you hire you? Does your bio stand out or is it boring and mundane? It is updated you’re your latest publications, presentations, and experience?
- Work on LinkedIn – Review your current connections and make sure you have connected to all your clients, referral sources and prospects. Add new meaningful connections. Update your profile including your headline statement, experience and add your publications and presentations.
- Consider other social media outlets to spread your expertise including Twitter and Instagram.
- Create great content showing off your expertise.
- Research your competitors. What are they doing that you should be doing? What are their key differentiators? Where are they speaking and writing?
- Review and clean up your outlook contacts.
- Create a new and/or better prospect list of referral sources, past/present clients, and current prospects. Think strategically about how to reach out to each of these contacts.
- Create an implementable BD Plan. Schedule time on your calendar each week from now till year-end to make your plan a reality.
- Review trade associations and industry groups which may offer speaking or writing opportunities for you.
- Work on your sales skills – Review free videos and sales content via the internet. YouTube has tons of great video content and there is an endless supply of publications you can read to improve your sales capabilities on the internet.
- Learn a new area of law that may be in demand – Take a CLE or online course on topics including bankruptcy, resolving commercial disputes or commercial real estate negotiations.
FINALLY, WHILE WORKING FROM HOME
- Designate a workspace – Most of you have probably already done this, but for many others, you find yourself moving from the kitchen table to the den and then to the bedroom to finish your work at night. If possible, find a place where you can work with the least amount of interruptions and only work there. This will prevent you from losing track of paperwork and help you stay more organized. It also has the extra added benefit of allowing you to feel that you are “going to work” versus just hanging out in the kitchen in your PJs.
- Finish your day – Because we are working remotely, many have work in front of them throughout the day and night. It becomes tempting to pick up work at 9:00 p.m. just because we see it and think we have a few free minutes to get one more thing done. Don’t. Once you have completed your tasks for the day, “go home” and move away from your designated workspace.
- Set a routine – If possible, set a routine that aligns with your former “normal” routine. This includes going to bed at the same time, getting up at the same time, getting dressed and moving to your workspace.
- Work your flow – We all have certain times of the day when we have more mental focus and clarity. Figure out what time of day you can focus and work to get your most important tasks done during this time.
- Plan your day in advance and day by day – The “new normal” requires all of us to plan our days differently. If you have a spouse or children at home, to the extent possible, work with them to plan your next day to include your work time, childcare time, family time and personal time. Each day may flow a bit differently but setting an expectation of how the day should go will reduce your stress and ease tension in the home. Inevitably, there will be things that happen “off-schedule” so be prepared to be flexible and communicate quickly changes in the plan.
- Maintain your health – As our stress level increases so does our food and alcohol consumption. Remember, just because you walk by the fridge more often does not mean you can open it! Work to maintain meal structure and healthy exercise habits.
- Do one thing each day that will bring a smile to someone else.
- Stop watching the news.
- Give yourself permission to be stressed out and not quite as productive on any given day – but continue to strive each day to be productive.
- Count your blessings.
As we all work to get to the other side of this virus, I hope you find these tips helpful and encouraging. We will get past this and the future will be bright. Hang in there.