The New York Law Journal called Ari Kaplan’s first book, The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2008), a “must-have treasure box of marketing ideas,” and CEOs have described his new book, Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace (Wiley, 2011), which was also released in Japanese, as “an essential guide” that “expertly showcases the multitude of opportunities the digital age has brought to the professional services market.”
Ari Kaplan has just launched a new start-up focused on helping law firms become more effective with their marketing efforts through becoming more accountable. LawCountability is here
Dan: Ari thanks for joining me.
Ari: Dan I’m happy to be here.
Dan: Ari in preparation for our chat today I pulled your book Reinventing Professional Services from the shelf that you wrote back in 2011 and it is as relevant today as it was back then but if you were writing it in 2015 how would it change?
Ari: I think somewhat would change about the book is that I would stress even more how important it is to be proactive and how important it is to actually execute, that’s really the biggest issue. Most often the concerns I find with professionals not just generating business but raising their profiles and networking more effectively is that they’re not doing it enough or they’re not doing it at all, we’re not often fighting a battle against something better it’s a battle against nothing and that’s a big issue and I asked myself that question all the time. So I’ve walked the road with the people who are reading my books, or attending my events or listening to anything that I am producing I put myself in their position I’m really in the trenches with them as someone himself is trying to raise his own profile or generate business or grow a practice and I think that when I find myself not producing as much or thinking ‘you know, I feel like I’m slow this month or this month is not as good as it was last year I look back and think “I’m not as proactive, I’m not making enough calls” so I make 100 calls in a week or in a two-week period and then the business will pick up and I’ll think “oh right I’m just not doing as much as I should be doing and there is usually a very good correlation between the two”.
Dan: In the book Ari, you cover a lot of ground; from Personal Branding to Mobility to Social Media to Law Firms adopt being an entrepreneurial vigor to their work. Do you think that the profession sort of by and large are doing this well enough?
Ari:: I have been actually tracking this research I just am trying to finish up the this 2nd edition of my 1st book which is “The Opportunity Maker” which came out in 2008, and have been tracking stats on Attorney and Law Student usage of Social Media back to 2010 and we’ll put it in the new chapters of the book and there is definitely a huge uptick in the usage of LinkedIn obviously, and Twitter for professional purposes by lawyers and those within the legal community and in fact by law students as well but I also ask questions about effectiveness so I ask “Are you an effective networker’? ‘And how would you describe yourself with someone that follows all or doesn’t follow-up? And those correlating questions are much more telling than do you have a LinkedIn account, Do you use Twitter? And I would offer that while many professionals in the legal community have a LinkedIn account that or the even the use Twitter for one purpose or another maybe they use it to follow individuals or to get their news. They’re certainly not using it the optimally and sometimes it’s because they’re not sure how to use it but there are times when they are afraid that it’s too time-consuming, sometimes folks are concerned that it runs afoul of a firm’s policy in some respect and there are firm policies and a lot of firms are now developing these Social Media Strategy policy which lawyers who work at those firms should adhere to but they never say don’t ever use any of these things under any circumstances whatsoever. They just give you some guidelines so work within those guidelines, frankly for the basic usage and the usage that a lot of professionals will want they are perfectly acceptable within that framework.
So as someone that speaks with a lot of large firms around the country I will typically review those policies first, share some of the background with those who are in the audience and then demonstrate how almost any suggestion I make is a viable under that firm’s policy. So I think that a lot of people are using it, I think that could probably using it in a more strategic fashion and they will; time is kind of pushing everyone further to that frankly content is the biggest issue.
Ari: They’re not generating the kind of content that would allow them to take maximum advantage of some of these tools and once they do it’s much easier right? If you’ve written an article it’s much easier than posting it to LinkedIn and to Twitter and even to your Facebook network which has grown beyond friends; I was going to say your Facebook friends but really you see this incredibly expansion of Facebook to not just your friends but to a broader community, maybe the definition of friends is expanding or maybe people are just accepting more friend requests from people who aren’t quite their friends in the sense that they are not regularly in touch with them, they don’t see them outside of the Facebook universe so they’re not quite friends but in fact they are contacts and colleagues that like and trust and would like to share things with. So there’s this increased ecosystem from the social standpoint but content it’s really critical factor there.
Dan: Yeah, I agree Ari I was in a podcast and last week with Kirsten Hudson and we spoke about LinkedIn and I got a response back from a guy said ‘look you know, LinkedIn is not a client acquisition platform at all I’ve never actually had from it, despite my 4 or 5 years of using the platform’ and I suspect that it’s all about you know content and relevance and this guy for him he’s missed the point potentially.
Ari: Well I would like to share a quick anecdote with this gentleman and for your listeners because I am so surprised at how effective it can be and frankly it always makes me laugh when I am surprise because it continues to work and every time it does I always think “I can’t believe that worked” and I mean I think that have been a lot of technique but I’ll give you a quick example and I encourage lots of your listeners to take advantage of this particular technique. So whenever I travel anywhere I do a quick search of LinkedIn for alumni of my law school, people have heard this before and this is not a novel technique but I’m pretty consistent about it and whenever I travel anywhere, when I have time I will search for an alum so there was a trip that I took where I did this, I search for an alum and I tried the search obviously you know there are alums of my law school and my college who do nothing related to the law or nothing related to anything that’s consistent with what I do but I try to find people who are either with a firm or in-house or have some relationship where we could offer each other some mutual benefit, although generally I like just to make the connection. And so I did this once and it was a person who worked for a company within the legal space I could you know, felt like I would like to learn more about them, because I interviewed folks in that space and would love to help them raise their profile but also maybe there’s an opportunity for me to work together, I’m a Ghost Writer for a lot of companies in the legal and legal technology space, I thought hey this could work out great. So we met we really liked each other, we weren’t necessarily in the same class so that’s totally irrelevant. You don’t have to be in the same class with this person. anyway we developed a relationship, a week later, a week this person refers me to her marketing team and someone called me about doing a project with them and I couldn’t believe. And so of course to make this story realistic, I did not get that project and it was a budget issue, they were deciding picture delaying for a little while but when they were ready they did hire me. And it was absolutely hands down one of the best projects I have ever worked on and for one of the best companies I have ever worked with and so that has occurred, I mean they were instances is on Twitter I’ve gotten companies who sponsored me on an event or a hired me to write a speech for one of the executives, just hired me to be the emcee of a conference, that’s surprising and incredibly fun results and I think that I’ve used that word more than once now but it’s sort of an adventure. I like the adventure of it all and the one thing that I will offer that one size doesn’t fit everyone and also one size doesn’t work every time so you need to be versatile , you need to have some diversity but you should stress about it.
I’m not obsessive about any of these particular tools or my usage of any of these tools. When I have some content I post it here, I post it there, I feel like it’s relevant when I see other people have content I try to share their content to help them broadcast what they’re doing and I think that’s just really important.
Dan: It isn’t that complex ecosystem these days but isn’t it really what comes to mind is that I spoke into many lawyers who saw look we just struggle getting through our client file load let alone looking at how we need to be social and focus on client acquisition strategies etc. and I was just reading recently an article by Jay Baer and Jay’s conclusion on all this was look “If you think that the pace is so you know, fanatic at the moment and you can keep up wait for another 12 months because it’s only going to get faster.
Ari: You know I always joke with folks that my job is getting the work, doing the work is a dream. I work with amazing individuals in amazing companies doing very high level projects that I just I can’t believe I have the opportunity to work on. It’s getting the work and I think that that it’s often missed. I’m sure that your listeners are all thinking “gosh I love to do this work and the people that I work with I’m just so fortunate to work with them and so they focus a lot on doing that work as opposed to really getting more of that kind of work and some of it, some of these strategies are often the result of an absence of accountability so I have found over the years; I have had this tremendous privilege of addressing thousands of lawyers around the world and try to share with them good ideas on how they can stand out, how they can leverage technology to raise their profile, how they can meet more of the specific people they’re trying to meet and understand their clients more effectively and their biggest challenge is not that they’re not getting good ideas. Look you’re providing them in these conversations it’s not that those ideas aren’t proven it’s that they don’t execute and they often don’t execute unless there’s a certain absence of accountability and I’ve actually developed a new software platform designed to answer that particular issue, it’s designed to build accountability into your business development, into your professional development and in fact for students into their career development so I’m really proud of it and it’s been a very exciting journey.
Dan: it has some great uptake too Ari, your law accountability platform what with 900 firms did you say when we last spoke?
Ari: So we just celebrated our one year anniversary and we have almost 900 registered users, so lawyers on the system in 15+ cities across the US but they’re also registered users in a few different countries in UK, in Germany and in Mexico actually.
Dan: Well okay how does the platform work?
Ari: the way it works is every single week there is a program, a 10 minute program that I personally deliver and that program will focus on an interesting idea for a follow-up or something related to reconnecting with someone you’ve lost touch with or creating content I got a program on how to write an article about anything in an hour and or sometimes it’s whimsical the connection between some 14:00 letters and LinkedIn groups and sometimes will give you a quick tip on some interesting nuance to Twitter but sometimes it will just say ‘hey do this Google search’ you’ll find this information and you can use it as a means of reaching out or I was at a conference recently and I saw this list of speakers and here’s some example of what you can do with this kind of strategy.
So every single week I’m showing up with what I call ‘The Why’; which is why am I calling? Why am I emailing, Why am I meeting with somebody? And people often tell me that that’s a big challenge you know I would email somebody, I would try to meet them but I don’t know why so law accountability in the first instance provides you with the ‘why’ this quick 10 minute program. We test this actually 30 minutes, 25 minutes 20 minutes we found that 10 minutes was really the threshold for attention and so we have this 10 minute program and that 10 minute program has three tasks associated with it; as means of getting you to take action. So the first task is always to try what I’ve suggested. So if I’m suggesting go into your email account, search for these keywords as an opportunity to find emails `that you have never followed up on, we all have these emails for example that say ‘oh, we should get together’, ‘next time we’re doing something we should get together’. So we all have those in our inbox but we lose them and we lose sight of them and the work gets in the way and so you search for a few different keywords and all of a sudden you have a bunch of emails that basically give you a week’s worth of opportunities to follow-up and so that’s part of the law accountability process. So there are these 3 tasks, try what I’ve suggested, who can you call or email and then when can you meet and then the technology actually follows up with you, it sends you reminders either through your email or we have a dedicated I Phone app that lots of our subscribers are using and it’s really been an amazing adventure to see how people are using it, the kind of benefits they are getting, that people are showing up week after week they can either watch it live when I do it 10:45 AM Eastern on Monday mornings or on demand which is when they can see it anytime they want. There are lots of folks in different time zones so they can watch it at their leisure but we have a whole bunch of different strategies within the system that really encourage people to take action really counteract action and frankly everyone has 10 minutes. Everyone has 10 minutes to try to get the work, to try to develop the relationships and in fact part of the system is that firms have this incredible dashboard that they can actually see who within their firm is on the system, who is accomplishing some of their tasks, who’s setting a series of goals, who’s doing various things and if they need any help in one area or another we have people pair-ups so that there’s a kind of accountability system. Rainmakers work in tandem so we try to adapt that technique with our technology and it’s such a great way to provide a system 17:08 that’s super cost effective but also available to you whenever you needed to be.
Dan: yeah, I think it’s a great idea Ari I hear often say that people say that they struggle with execution you know they can have all the ideas in the world but when it comes to actually getting them out there it just doesn’t happen so having an accountability framework like this is great trigger.
Ari: And people are under the misimpression that this happens in giant spurts and also that there are certain people that are just gifted and prolific business developers and everyone else is just destined to work for those select few and frankly I despise both of those notions. I mean what I really try to offer is the idea that if you did something consistently you would start to see benefits. And I’ll give an example so I did the Iron Man as you know a couple of summers ago and I’m actually doing another one this summer and the Iron Man is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and then a full marathon so a 26 mile run and it sounds ridiculous to most people but most of the training is you know you run for 45 minutes or you bike for an hour or you swim for 45 minutes most of the training is incredibly doable and at some point you kind of work yourself up to going for a 5 hour bike ride and a 6 hour bike ride but you don’t start that way and people don’t realize it’s often the same issue with you with creating and cultivating a client base and a network. It’s done through genuine relationships and really finding ways to spotlight the good work of others and not only just doing great work but doing great work and then referring work to other people who you trust and finding ways to create opportunities for your clients that sounds to the contrary, well my client is there for me to work for them but no sometimes they are probably things that you can do, you can make introductions for your clients and so law accountability will provide these ideas on a weekly basis as a means of getting people to realize that they have the ability. It’s in many ways as much an empowerment tool as an accountability system.
Dan: yeah very true and I know that when we spoke last you use the whole Iron Man as a metaphor in particular the coach you know that you work with and you mentioned that you could probably coach yourself I mean you’ve done it now long enough that you actually know the framework that you have to get through to get ready on race day but having her of having your coach being a part of that whole framework allows you to be accountable to her and that making sure that things are happening the way and when they should happen. And that’s what law accountability is about in essence isn’t it?
Ari: Yeah, I mean I have a wonderful coach and she helped me get through the first one and I’m confident that she’ll help me get through the second one but when you’re doing any kind of activity you know, if you were gonna do a marathon it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that you have to run and then run again and then a little longer and a little longer and so 20:25 was a very long triathlon you know you need to win sometimes, run sometimes, but sometimes, sometimes do them all together but having someone hold you accountable to making sure you’re doing it and doing it properly and being there to answer questions is critical and frankly making even a small investment knowing that I’m paying someone other than the race fees is important because it provides you with the incentive to say well I don’t want to waste my investment and I want to make sure that I’m making this person proud in some respect right so there are all these different elements associated with it and people find the same satisfaction, they have buddies for dieting, for other kinds of athletic training, for any kind of activity that you’re trying to do, there is a layer of accountability I’m just trying to build some technology around doing it in professional services and giving people the opportunity to do it themselves and so every week people show up for these programs and I’ll get feedback and I really try to build the system around the subscribers.
So if someone says Ari, you know it would be really helpful to have a button here I invite in with my developers saying I think we should have a button here and if someone wants an email about this or they want to tweak that way or they want a program that talk about this. Someone asked me for a program about ‘Asking for the business’. I got a the user who said Ari, you know this is all well and good, how do I actually ask for the work and so I did a whole program on ‘Asking for the business’ and any time a subscriber suggests a topic I immediately do some research and try to come up with a way to deliver that specific kind of content for my subscribers and I do the techniques with them so if I give a suggestion for using social media tool or some other level of technology or my blog or whatever I try it and then I report back and so on next week’s program I’ll say ‘you know I tried this it was a really dumb idea, I would not recommend or I say it worked and here’s what happened and here’s something you might expect and oh I didn’t notice that this might occur so you want to think about that’. So I really feel like I’m part of that, you know effort.
Dan: Ari, it’s been 4 years since “Reinventing Professional Services” was published it got rave reviews, lots of law firms read it, they absorbed it and undoubtedly a few implemented your recommendations but are there examples of firms that you think have really nailed it?
Ari: You know, Dan that’s a great question I often joke that I am the Switzerland Legal in the sense that I work with lots of firms through our competitors, lots of legal technology companies that are competitors and they all sort of trust that I don’t promote one thing over another so naming a specific firm I mean I definitely have some in my mind but maybe a specific firm is contrary to my reputation but I will say that there are definitely organizations that are built on a certain culture, a culture of collaboration, a culture of inclusion with respect to the idea that we need to shepherd our junior professionals along and give them the tools to be more like our successful senior professionals and in those organizations they benefit from so many things including lower turnover and a surprising amount of business generation from their younger practitioners and the reason that the younger practitioners don’t leave is because they’re so excited that they’re building their own career we love empowerment, we love to feel as if we are somehow making our way especially here when you’re practicing at any type of organization when you first start someone is generally giving you something. Even if you’re starting out in your own practice you’ll typically get office space in an area and hope to get a referral from someone within your office space we’re hoping that someone will give us something and at some point we want to be able to do it on our own and the sooner we can do it the sooner that we’re familiar with what’s going on and we’re capable, we feel a sense of empowerment that is so much stronger than just being good at what we do which is obviously the benchmark.
So the firms that manage to create that kind of environment are naturally more successful. Also the firms that are more transparent so this is another element of accountability that I really tried to emulate which is a level of transparency for personally to see what you’re doing there’s a way to benchmark your performance against the performance of others within your firm. You don’t actually see their names but you can see their numbers because all of the tasks have a point value. So you start earning points, those points translates to the kind of activities that you’re doing but it’s a real gamification approach as well as a benchmarking approach.
Dan: Yeah, love it.
Ari: The firms have this great dashboard so that they can see who’s doing what, what class year’s, what office, what’s their practice and they can even start comparing while people in this practice just more proactive. You see this in some firms where certain people in certain practices are just more aggressive about generating their business, more aggressive about raising their profile and standing out you know some practices have a blog some practices don’t, some practices are very prolific with their writing some practices aren’t and so the firms that really harness all of that but are very aware of which practice that’s suitable for. Yet again one size doesn’t fit all but the firms that recognize that and allow those groups to grow organically tend to be the most successful.
Dan: It’s funny Ari I was talking with Adrian Dayton, maybe two, three weeks ago on this Podcast and he was talking about ClearView Social which of course is his platform for helping law firms get more social and within the framework that he has or the platform he’s got some of those metrics that show the whole firm as to the amount of people who are sharing what and it’s incredible because it just drives not such and competitive environment but a healthy environment where those attorneys are wanting to you know get more prolific with their content sharing.
Ari: It’s essential for firms to find ways to measure and find ways to just be aware; look firms at the core they’re measuring your time, they’re measuring how many hours you’re spending; actually the firms are extraordinarily adept at making certain calculations, right the realization rate and the billing rates and there are just so many different metrics and you have the savviest group of financial advisors within law firms all over the world so there’s no issue there. It’s all the other stuff and being aware of how much time is spent so what I’ve tried to do is to I see kind of professional development and marketing those teams that firms as the great Chef in this kitchen and law accountability as a great set of knives and I think that layering law accountability into what they’re trying to do and offering a regular sense of not just programming but awareness and showing that we’re investing in you on a regular basis this is one of our suite of tools to help you through this process and giving people who tend to gravitate to technology application where there’s also content because there are lots of tracking there are lots of tracking tools out there, there are lots of reminder tools Lord knows your phone can do all of that stuff but this tells you what to do and then helps you do it as opposed to just asking did you do it. That’s not enough, certainly not enough for busy professionals that are balancing so many different priorities and including personal priorities with respect to their families that they need something that’s mobile, that’s relevant, that’s timely and that’s accessible.
Dan: Yeah I couldn’t agree more it is a great platform lawccountability.com is that where it’s at?
Ari: Yep, it’s lawcountabilitycom it was just profiled in the ABA Journal in the January issue and you know really proud of where it’s going and would welcome the chance to give folks a demo or just talk to people about it.
Dan: Fantastic and Ari where do people reach you personally?
Gosh there’s so many ways right? You can just visit my website arikaplanadvisors.com I also blog at reinventingprofessionals.com and I frequently interview other professionals and other professional services organizations, profile what they’re doing as a means of showcasing their good work to my audience. So anybody who is listening who works in an organization like that I’d be happy to feature you on my blog and you can communicate with me through that.
Dan: Fantastic, Thanks Ari.
Ari: Thank you so much Dan such privilege.
Dan: A great chat there with Ari Kaplan and do take a look at Ari’s platform at lawcountability.com but until next week take care.