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We invite you to read our weekly Public Reputation tips which integrate various marketing disciplines including media relations, marketing strategy, creative focus and web/technology/2.0.  Please send us your comments or questions and join our conversation.

Public Reputation Tip of the Week

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September 24, 2014
Sue Remley

804-304-2894

Most lawyers understand that building and maintaining a professional network, both in-person and via social media, is imperative to garnering referrals and cultivating their law firm business development efforts. Unfortunately, after expending a lot of effort, some personal and social networking relationships languish even while others “stick” and grow. Therefore, we are constantly repeating and reenergizing the business development process.

In the interest of time and sanity, I have started encouraging attorneys to “mine the weaker links.” This means reviewing your current network contacts and circling back to those whom you haven’t engaged with in the past few years. This works equally well in-person and via social media.

Here are some tips for mining your weaker links that will make the networking process easier.

In-person networking:

  • Reengage with your alumni networks – Attend a local alumni activity or annual event. Be sure to reach out to your contacts before the event and encourage them to attend. Even if they do not attend, you have reconnected via a call, email or social media engagement.
  • Attend a local bar association meeting – As your law practice and career develop, it’s often difficult to stay engaged locally. Take an opportunity to renew relationships with local professional contacts throughout the year.
  • Visit a trade or community organization event – Most good networkers have been actively engaged in various organizations throughout their careers. Make time to revisit organizations that you formerly served or belong to.
  • Mentor and introduce – The best way to engage and grow a professional network is to assist others. Take the time to help people newer to the business development process by introducing them to your contacts. You will reconnect with old acquaintances and meet new people in the process.

Social networking:

  • Review your LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends – Select three or four people each month whom you haven’t engaged with for a while. Send a personal reengagement message. Ask for an update, and emphasize your interest in helping them as opposed to asking them for assistance.
  • Use social media technology to engage and reengage – Consider using web services, such as enterprisejungle.com and trendr.com, that cull your contacts and introduce and/or reintroduce you to professionals in your area with similar characteristics.
  • Post information of broader interest – Instead of posting only the type of information that caters to your closest social media contacts, try adding posts with your larger network in mind.
  • Try a new social media platform – Invite a few of your existing social media connections to join you on a new platform. New platforms are emerging on an ongoing basis, so try them out and determine whether they work for you and your network.

You can quickly invigorate your personal network without building new relationships from the ground up by setting aside a few hours to reconnect. Take advantage of the time and effort you expended years or months ago, and remember to freely offer introductions. Take advantage of new applications and aggregators to stay or get back in touch more quickly and efficiently.

You do not have to try everything or try it all at once. Just take some time each month or quarter to investigate what is available.

If you have any questions or insights regarding these tips, please post a comment or contact Sue Remley at sremley@jaffepr.com or 804.304.2894. 

September 10, 2014
Lisa Altman

301-943-9948

Summer ended last week, and my kids went back to school. A new school year means a fresh start. Along with it comes the excitement of a new routine, new teachers, new friends, new extracurricular activities and even new shoes. How does this correlate to the legal market, and how can law firms take advantage of the back-to-school spirit?

The following are a few back-to-school-inspired tips for lawyers and legal marketers.

Get Organized

As my daughter and I labeled her school supplies and loaded up her new backpack, I was reminded to revisit my own to-do list, clear out my inbox, and follow up with colleagues and clients I’ve been unable to connect with this summer. For law firms, now is a great time to review marketing and business development plans that were put in place at the beginning of the year to ensure strategies and goals are on track for the fourth quarter

Check In with Old Friends

With camp and summer vacations, sometimes it is hard to stay in touch with friends and clients throughout the summer months. As school started, I encouraged my daughter to connect and re-establish friendships by scheduling playdates. As clients return from summer vacations, invite them for coffee or lunch to reconnect and check on current and future matters. Have any priorities shifted? What are they working on that you can assist with? Can you offer guidance on any issues?

Join a Club

Back to school means a myriad of extracurricular activities to choose from. As the kids join the soccer team and sign up for art classes, consider joining a legal organization like LMA or the ABA, or a trade association like PRSA or IABC. Back to school is also a great time to further explore hobbies and personal goals. Depending on your interests, consider signing up for a local photography class or joining a Road Runners Club in your neighborhood. By joining a group outside your law firm that reflects your personal interests, you will learn while expanding your network and making new contacts.

Get to Know Your Teacher

We all know the teacher can make or break the school year. I take every opportunity to get to know my kids’ teachers by volunteering, attending back-to-school night and checking in from time to time to see how I can lend a hand. Now is a great time to schedule a meeting with firm management to discuss the firm’s overall marketing strategy and its end-of-year goals. 

Do Extra Credit

I always encourage my kids to go the extra mile with their studies, and you can do the same with your client relationships. For example, take time to follow your colleagues and clients on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This will ensure you stay informed of their professional and personal interests, allowing you to relate to them better.

Feel free to contact Lisa Altman at laltman@jaffepr.com or call me at 301.943.9948 to further discuss your back-to-school strategies.

August 20, 2014
Stephanie Holtzman

240-381-5382

It’s August and, while many are squeezing out the last moments of summertime fun, the calendar is filling up with law firm rankings and awards deadlines for the coming months. With so many opportunities, how do you select the right candidates to nominate? Here are five tips to ensure you are putting your best attorneys forward to benefit your law firm’s public reputation.

  1. Study the questions and know the publication: Before you get started, carefully review the ranking submission process and make sure that you understand what is required and when. Scheduling a timeline is helpful to keep you on track. If possible, review the list of winners from previous years. See if you can identify any trends in whom they selected. It may vary from year to year, but this will give you a sense and help you identify the best candidates in your law firm. It will also help you figure out how steep the competition is.
     
  2. Select an attorney who fits the requirements: Make sure you select an attorney who has a story to tell that fits what the publication wants to know. If the attorney’s experience is not relevant to the specific award, find someone else. You also want to ensure that you are representing attorneys and/or practice groups that fit the strategic goals of the firm. Attorney rankings are time-consuming, and not making the proper decisions early on can lead to a lot of wasted time, frustration and disappointment.
     
  3. Select an attorney who has cases that can be discussed on the record: Many rankings submissions require that candidates list representative experience, often within a certain timeframe. Make sure that the candidate has casework that can be listed on the record. A couple of confidential matters are OK, but the majority should be publishable. Otherwise, it is hard for the publication to get a true sense of the candidate—and nearly impossible to profile a candidate who wins. Also, many attorney rankings require that candidates list references. While this can be tricky, it is important to select clients who are comfortable being on the record on the firm’s behalf. If you aren’t sure, call and find out ahead of time or find someone else. Never list someone if you aren’t confident that they will come through.
     
  4. Look to previous submissions for material: As my colleague Susan Holmes outlined in a recent blog post, there is a silver lining to consistently submitting nominations on the firm’s behalf. An archive of previous submissions gives you a deeper understanding of the attorneys and practice groups in your firm, a sense of the matters they are working on, and whether they can be listed on the record. It is often helpful to have approved language that can be repurposed in other submissions.
     
  5. Pro bono never hurts. Nominations frequently ask for the attorney’s pro bono or charity work. While it is not always relevant to the actual topic of the nomination, a candidate who has a strong record of pro bono work, or is dedicated to volunteering, can often stand apart from the crowd. Even if the question isn’t asked directly, weaving this information into the summary portion of the nomination is usually a good idea.

Thinking through these steps before you select an attorney to nominate will help ensure your best chance for selection. But even if your attorney is not chosen, the exercise will still give you deeper insight into the firm and perhaps uncover more opportunities to market it.

To discuss attorney rankings submissions and other issues related to law firm media relations, email Stephanie Holtzman at sholtzman@jaffepr.com.

August 6, 2014
Michelle Samuels

917-975-1280

Summer is a fickle friend. You wait for its arrival all year (at least I do), but once it’s here, it’s fleeting. A brief vacation, some time at the pool and then, before you know it, it is September, and summer is over.

In between vacation, pool time and your workload, what can you do to maximize your summer so your practice will benefit come September? The answer: Use some quick and easy summer law firm marketing tactics! After all, August tends to be the slowest summer month for attorneys and their clients, so use this time wisely to make marketing inroads that will benefit your practice once the weather turns cooler and things get busier.

Read the news with an agenda While you scan the news to see how a new regulation will affect your practice area or where things stand with that litigation you are tracking, think about which clients also would care about the news you come across. Take the time to share a relevant article with key clients, along with a personalized note about why you are flagging the article, what they may be concerned about and an offer to discuss those issues at their convenience. This technique is like a shortcut to drafting your own client alert, but can still yield good results. And, most importantly, it shows clients they are always on your mind.

Teach yourself some social media skills – You may have joined LinkedIn or Twitter, but let’s face it, you haven’t been taking full advantage of all that social networks have to offer. Dedicate some time to getting a better handle on how to maximize your social media presence by joining relevant industry groups on LinkedIn, publishing a LinkedIn article or following relevant Twitter handles. It can only help your legal marketing efforts (as long as you follow your law firm’s social media policy rules) and make it easier to maintain your social media efforts year-round.

Plan ahead for your fall marketing efforts – Remember the famous fable of the ant and the grasshopper? Be the ant, not the grasshopper! If your marketing plans for September onward are sketchy – or, worse, non-existent – then it’s time to gear up. Things will get busy in the fall, and it is best to prepare now. Schedule time to write an article or client alert based on an upcoming regulation/litigation/transactional matter coming down in the fall (and give yourself due dates). Make sure you have plans to attend or speak at a relevant industry event. Speaking engagements book up around six-plus months in advance, so submit a proposal to speak for yourself or at least one of your attorney clients in the spring now if you are just getting started. If you prefer to just attend an event, challenge yourself to meet and exchange contact information with other attendees to obtain the best return on your investment of time and money.

Like the ant in our story, if you spend some time in August thinking about legal marketing in between pool time and vacation, you will be prepared come September.

Any suggestions of marketing tactics you like to employ over the summer? Share them below, or email Michelle Samuels at msamuels@jaffepr.com.

July 23, 2014
Keith Ecker

573-289-3558

We here at Jaffe talk a lot about the evolution of the legal industry, but change is not unique to our marketplace. In fact, the entire English language is a constantly shifting construct. A sentence construction or word choice that our grade school teachers might once have considered grammatical sacrilege might now be the acceptable status quo.

As a legal marketer, it’s important that you are up to date on the latest in sentence structure, word choice and punctuation rules. Not only will your knowledge ensure accuracy in your business communications, but it also will facilitate the principal purpose of writing – to be clearly understood by your audience. That’s why I am providing you with examples of English grammar rules that have gone the way of the dinosaur.

  • Two spaces good, one space bad: The issue of how many spaces to use after a period is so contentious that I have seen editor friends of mine become enemies in the blink of an eye. The truth is, however, that one space after a period is the proper format. While it was true that two spaces were the norm, that was literally more than 40 years ago. If you are still double-tapping the spacebar after you complete a sentence, you need to try to break that habit.
  • “Because” should never start a sentence: I abhor this rule that my teachers instilled in me in grade school. You certainly can start a sentence with “because.” Granted, it should be used in a dependent clause that is joined to an independent clause via a comma. For example, “Because I sprained my ankle, I could not run in the race.” See? Perfectly acceptable in a grammatical sense, and it creates an interesting structure.
  • Always use “more than” instead of “over”: This is a new one, though for many of you, the original rule was probably unknown anyway. But the truth is, according to the AP Style Guide, you formerly should never have said “over 1 million served” or “over a billion metric tons.” Instead, a writer was supposed to use “more than.” However, as of this year, the AP changed its attitude and decided to become agnostic when it comes to the use of these two phrases. So feel free to use either “over” or “more than” interchangeably.
  • Impact is exclusively a noun: While it will annoy grammarians if you use impact as a verb – as in “How will our marketing strategy impact sales?” – the truth is that it has become commonly accepted for people, particularly those in a white-collar business setting, to use impact either as a noun or a verb. That said, if seeing “impact” used as action language unnerves you, you can always exchange it for “affect” instead.
  • Passive voice is always wrong: There is no arguing that passive voice is not the ideal sentence construction at least 90 percent of the time. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and you find them frequently in the legal context. Specifically, if the thing that is being affected by the action is more important than the ones doing the action, then passive voice can be acceptable. This is often seen in write-ups regarding new legislation or legal decisions, as in “The bill was passed by Congress” or “The decision was made by the Supreme Court.” While you could flip both of these sentences around to give them an active structure, it could be argued that leading with the bill or the decision is the better option because of the emphasis the writer wishes to express.  

Do you have any grammar rules that you think are ready to be put out to pasture? Are business communications ready for “LOLs” and emoticons? Leave a comment or send me, Keith Ecker, a message at kecker@jaffepr.com

July 9, 2014
Joi Scardo

850-830-2356

Every lawyer, practice group and law firm has a brand. The savvy among us understand the importance of controlling our brand’s image and devote appropriate levels of budget, staffing and investment time to brand planning, strategy and implementation. To be truly effective, however, an additional step is required: ongoing brand monitoring.

Years ago, when people talked about our brands, it was behind our backs, and we almost never found out about it. Today, the speed and reach of technology means most of these conversations are happening right before our own eyes, as well as those of our clients and prospective clients. The number of locations where our brands might be mentioned is mind-boggling, and the conversations are occurring – regardless of whether we consent to them or even know about them.

We can hope that the conversations about us are positive, but unhappy clients and even our competitors can be less than kind in an instant, with nothing more than a single blog post or tweet. We’ve all read the horror stories of brands for which such comments spiraled into a disaster. While the brands of law firms and lawyers might not have the same public profiles as, say, Taco Bell, one could argue that the repercussions of unchecked negative comments could be more devastating.  

On the other side of this coin, brand monitoring can give you an opportunity to personally thank those who have made positive comments and provides intelligence about where your targeted audience is engaging.

7 Tools that Monitor Law Firm Brands

For years, lawyers have monitored their clients, the clients’ industries and their competitors using online tools. Do not overlook using those same free and easy-to-use tools to monitor and protect your reputation.

Google Alerts: These alerts will search the entire web for mentions of your brand, including some social networks. Set up an alert for your name and your law firm’s name. Include typical variations of each, including at least one for the key areas in which you practice.

Twitter: To keep up with tweets about your brand, run a search using Twitter’s advanced search tool, and save the search for ongoing monitoring. As an alternative to remembering to run your saved search, Tweetalarm keeps track of Twitter conversations for you. With this tool, you also can track who is tweeting your website or blog, even if they use a shortened URL like bit.ly.

Facebook: If you maintain a Facebook page for professional, rather than personal, networking, use the search feature to view mentions in different areas of this network. Make use of search filters to see results in specific areas such as public posts, posts in groups, pages, etc. If you have one or more groups dedicated to your professional brand, remember to set up notifications for postings.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is recognized as the leading social network for professionals and should be one of the tools you regularly use to network and to monitor your brand. Simply run a search for your name and your firm’s name through the search box at the top of the page. You can narrow search results to include only mentions by people in their profiles, group mentions and mentions in LinkedIn Answers.

Google+: While not yet as widely used as some other social networks, Google+ continues to gain in usage and has a search box where you can find anything about your brand happening on its network. Narrow your search from “Everything” to just Google+ posts to see updates that mention your law firm and lawyers’ names.

YouTube: Thanks to the ability to record videos from webcams and post them immediately, YouTube should not be overlooked in brand monitoring. Use the site’s main search box to find videos about your brand. Any videos resulting from your search can be sorted by number of views.

HootSuite: If you participate in more than one social networking site, you might want to use a tool such as HootSuite to monitor social media. HootSuite allows you to track and manage multiple accounts, including those on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. It is free for up to five accounts and has a mobile app.

Don’t Fear the Commitment

So, you run a search on your brand using one or more of these tools and find that the insightful article you published last month has been retweeted numerous times and the free counsel you provided to your favorite charity has been mentioned on its blog. Nice. Your brand is in fine shape.

Right?

Just because the results are good today doesn’t mean they will be the same tomorrow or next month. Creating and keeping a positive online brand for your law firm and attorneys is an ongoing process, and one you should not neglect.

What are you doing to monitor your law firm’s brand? Do you need assistance in putting a monitoring program in place? Leave a comment below or contact Joi Scardo at jscardo@jaffepr.com.

May 21, 2014
Vivian Hood

904-220-1915

It’s done: the tentative discussions, the intense negotiations, the signed agreements, the handshakes. Your law firm is proud to have a new lateral hire – a partner with fresh promise and possibility.

The success and satisfaction of a lateral hire has a strong correlation to a firm’s commitment to an integration process, as a March 2014 lateral partner satisfaction survey confirms. Aric Press, editor-in-chief at American Lawyer Media, wrote in his news story about the findings that, “They wanted specifics on matters ranging from cross-selling their practices to announcing their arrivals …”

How does your firm prepare for an announcement of a new attorney? Here are a few questions to consider.

  • Does the firm have a standard plan of action or checklist to be used every time a lateral joins, or has this been an ad hoc process?
  • Is there a media relations plan in place targeting relevant national, local and industry trade publications for the new lateral?
  • Is the news about the new lawyer, or group of lawyers, worth considering for an advance news story? Depending on the experience, public personage or value of the lateral growth, it might be appropriate to secure media interest in advance with the promise of an embargo. This can go well with reporters with whom the firm has a good and trusting relationship.

Beware, however: The idea of announcing a lateral before the deal is done is risky. I will never forget a firm that, years ago, forged enthusiastically ahead with a news blast on a Friday to make the Monday print news cycle. Unfortunately, over the weekend, discussions fell apart and the high-profile lawyer walked away from the firm. It was embarrassing for all the parties when the news broke on Monday morning about his move to the firm and quickly turned into news about him not joining the firm. All things considered, it’s best to wait to announce until after all parties sign the arrangement.

  • Will the new lawyer be available for media interviews after the announcement, or is she going on a “no email” two-week vacation? If she will be absent, wait for her return. The news doesn’t have to be released on the exact date of the signed agreement.
  • How can your firm’s social media platforms be effectively used for the announcement?
  • What is the plan to continue leveraging the lateral’s news announcement? What profile opportunities exist for local, regional or industry trade press?
  • How will you approach the announcement internally? Ideally, the first internal communication to the firm – in advance of sharing it with media – should mention how the new lawyer can benefit the firm’s existing clients and other firm practices for immediate cross-selling opportunities and introductions.

While these communications-related tips for announcing a new lawyer are only one part of a larger integration plan, law firm marketing professionals should be prepared with a consistent approach. A law firm’s growth strategy depends on the success of these lateral movements, and each firm needs a strategy that fits the firm’s overall business goals.

For tips on strategic and effective announcements about lateral hires, please contact Vivian Hood at vhood@jaffepr.com

May 7, 2014
Michelle Samuels

917-975-1280

What attorneys can learn in their media relationships from how we treat our mothers

Perhaps you buy your mom flowers and send her a card. Or you take her out to brunch. Maybe you and your kids (her grandkids) make something homemade for her. Or maybe you don’t believe in “Hallmark holidays” and feel Mother’s Day should be all the time, not just on a Sunday in May.

No matter what Mother’s Day philosophy you subscribe to, the bottom line is you are supposed to make mom feel loved and appreciated, right?

Keep that philosophy in mind when dealing with reporters. Reporters may not expect brunch and flowers this Sunday, but they do appreciate when you, as a source and resource for their publication’s coverage, treat them with respect and appreciation. Here are five basic tips to keep in mind for maintaining a strong attorney-reporter relationship. (Your mom wouldn’t mind if you followed these guidelines in your relationship with her, too.)

Return phone calls: Seems like a no-brainer, but if reporters call with questions (whether an interview has been scheduled or not), call them back. If you are asked questions you can’t or shouldn’t answer, just tell the reporter you can’t talk about that and, if possible, find the right person at the firm who can. 

Keep your appointments: We are all busy and may need to reschedule things once in a while. However, if you have plans with a reporter for lunch or for a phone interview, try to keep them. If you need to reschedule, do so with enough time so it doesn’t inconvenience the reporter too much, and confirm an alternate time as soon as possible. If you must reschedule at the last minute, you’d better have a good excuse.

Show you are invested in the relationship for the long term: Providing a heads-up to a reporter on an interesting case currently being decided or regulation going into effect shows you are trying to help him/her, even when the benefit to you is not entirely obvious. Same goes for offering to discuss an issue on background to educate the reporter or connecting a reporter with a client on a specific topic if requested.

Be interesting: Getting quoted is about sounding concise, relevant and interesting. Talking to a reporter as though he/she is your law firm associate or taking too long to get to your main point usually kills your chances of being quoted. As in any conversation with a time limit, impart the information in an easy-to-understand way, and make sure you explain why the topic is interesting or why people should care.

Respect boundaries: Some reporters are fine with running quotes by attorneys for an accuracy check. However, accuracy doesn’t mean turning a one-line quote into a full-blown paragraph of legalese. If a reporter is courteous enough to let you review a quote for accuracy, only review it for factual accuracy, and turn it around quickly. The reporter is often on deadline at that point and needs to submit the story to his/her editor for review. Turning quotes around quickly shows you are a reliable source and respect the reporter’s needs.

What are your tried-and-true guidelines for maintaining a good relationship with a reporter (or your mother)? Do many of the same rules apply? Leave a comment below or email me at msamuels@jaffepr.com.

May 4, 2014
Joi Scardo

850-830-2356

In today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest Tumblr, Flickr and all the other social platforms, networking for lawyers is easier than ever. If you are using one or more of these tools to engage clients and prospective clients, congratulations! According to a Fast Company article published in November, the fastest growing demographic on Twitter is the 55-64 age bracket. The 45-54 year age bracket is the fastest growing demographic on both Facebook and Google+. Given these numbers, it only makes sense to engage through social media.

Just like traditional networking, social networking for attorneys is all about engagement — communicating, building your following, connecting with your online audience and creating relationships. These platforms are free and quick, and they provide tools to target your message to key audiences and to track results.

With all the benefits afforded by social media, one might start to feel a false sense of “connection.” For lawyers, maintaining an active face-to-face networking calendar remains an important part of law firm business development. Because legal services are professional services, prospective clients hire the professional who has their trust and confidence, and with whom they feel comfortable.

Three Tips for Re-energizing Your Networking

If you too value in-person contact, here are a few pointers to help you reinvigorate your networking efforts. 

  1. Make it easy. Re-energize your in-person networking program by first inviting clients with whom you’ve recently worked. Given that your relationship is current, you likely will have an easier time finding topics of conversation. You might even consider asking the client for feedback on your recent engagement.
  2. Make it comfortable. Select a restaurant with an atmosphere and noise level suitable for a private conversation. Arrive early to make certain your table is in a quiet, low-traffic area of the restaurant. Silence your cellphone, and devote your attention to your guest.
  3. Make it a habit. Set a calendar reminder for taking one client, prospect or referral source to lunch once a month. If you commit to a certain date, say, the second Tuesday of the month, you are less likely to sacrifice the date to another meeting.

Social networking is a great tool for attorneys to increase revenue, but it should complement, not replace, one-on-one interaction. Rather than checking in via Facebook at your favorite lunch spot tomorrow, call a client and invite them to meet you there.

Do you have your own in-person networking tips for lawyers? Leave a comment, or contact me at jscardo@jaffepr.com

May 1, 2014
Kimberly Alford Rice

609-458-0415

Thirty-four gigabytes. That’s how much data it’s estimated each American consumes daily via all forms of media: TV, newspaper, Internet, radio, you name it. Statistically, this volume of data comprises 100,000 words on average.

These statistics illustrate how noisy our world has become, particularly in the last five to 10 years as emerging technologies place us in the middle of broad communication networks that span the globe.

Recognizing that our world is indeed a very noisy place with essentially infinite data and media messages bombarding us at all times requires that we are highly sensitized to our communication styles if we ever want to be heard and perceived as effective communicators, persuaders and people others seek out.

The Steps to Mastering Communication Skills for Lawyers

Below are six concrete steps lawyers can take to step up their game to communicate effectively. After all, with more than half of a lawyer’s job relying upon the spoken word, perfecting your communication style is a wise investment in your future.

  1. Think before you speak. No, really. Human beings have a tremendous capacity to listen, absorb and respond to messages at a relatively high rate. Because of this, it is very tempting to get caught up in the fast-paced process (depending on what part of the country you live), and instead of actively listening and absorbing your audiences’ messages, you volley back and forth in the interaction, sometimes faster than your mind can compute.

    To become a more effective communicator, you must demonstrate a disciplined approach in your oral communications. Before you pop off a quick response, stop yourself to consider the impact of your words, verifying whether or not it is in your or their best interest to respond so quickly. Pouncing too quickly to respond can short circuit the communications process and/or cause you to suffer the consequences of an ill-timed response.

    I recommend adopting a 20-second rule. Before you respond, take 20 seconds (at minimum) to consider the implications of your words. Remember, what goes around comes around. You have a choice; make the right one. 
     
  2. Consider your audience. Just as important as it is to be mindful of your words, so too should you be mindful of your audience. The same message is not appropriate for every audience. What do I mean by that? As a practicing lawyer, what you say to a referral source about your practice would be different than what you would say to a client or client contact about your practice. Because we create impressions — and yes, visual images in the minds of our listeners — you must be purposeful and careful of how you relate to your audience with your words. Practice is required to perfect this skill. 
     
  3. Listen first and second, then speak. We have all heard that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Simply put, we do not learn when we are speaking. It is imperative that as professional services providers you actively listen to clients, colleagues, referral sources, networking partners, and so on, to learn how you might support and help them (e.g., business opportunities). Impossible as it is to spew out all the ways we are qualified to “help” others, it is just poor form to do so before understanding what the needs are. Listen up, and you’ll be surprised at what you might learn and the opportunities that present themselves. 
     
  4. Mind the communications gap. Too many miscommunications occur when we “think” we told someone (message sent) but find later either we did not or the listener did not remember it (message received) the way we intended. It matters not where the miscommunication occurred, but rather how to avoid miscommunications. First, refer to tip #1 above: Think before you speak to ensure that you are in control of your message. Second, to become a more effective speaker, it is advised to confirm with your audience that the message received is the message you intended to send.

    How do you do this? Ask for feedback, e.g., “Are you with me?” and “Does this make sense?” Adapt these feedback questions to your natural communications style, and you will likely see eyes light up when you speak. 
     
  5. Accentuate the positive; look inside first. When we choose to lead with the negative we often are talking only to ourselves. Nobody wants to listen to negativity, especially when there is so much that is negative coming at us in the media. To become a more effective communicator, check that you are not guilty of spreading negativity to others in your conversations, presentations and in networking situations. The positive approach can be learned via disciplined practice and/or having a pal send you a signal if you go off the “positive” reservation. 
     
  6. Make every word count. KISS — keep it short and simple. Do not belabor a point. Do not offend your audience by offering too many examples when they understand your point in one. Treat words as the golden charms that they are. There is no glory in pontificating your message to feed an ego or to merely fill space. We simply have too many words in our day to waste the excess unnecessarily. 

Becoming a more effective communicator requires a concerted effort on your behalf that entails practice and a willingness to adapt to new ways of thinking. Few things have more of an impact than to present your well-crafted message and to be understood through the spoken word across all platforms. Making a presentation to an audience of clients and trade contacts and moving people to action based on your words, that is success.

Have your own ideas about effective communication skills for lawyers? Leave a comment or contact Kimberly Alford Rice at krice@jaffepr.com.

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