EP 57 – Harlan Schillinger – The Most Common Gap Law Firms Need to Address to Increase Their Bottom Line Quickly

Harlan Schillinger is widely recognized as the “Grandfather of Legal Advertising”. He invented television advertising in the legal community when no one else was doing it. He began his career in television work in 1975 and began creating a series of television commercials for the legal category in 1977. If you are interested in speaking with Harlan or learning more about him, please visit his website and reach out at harlanschillinger.com

Determining What Others Are Not Doing and Doing That

When you are advertising, you are filling a gap and you get what you ask for in that. Once you figure out what other people are not doing, you need to do that. Harlan learned early on that it is always more important to listen to others than to talk when you are in a conversation. His wife tells him every day to be interested, not interesting. You could be the sheep in advertising and follow what everybody else is doing, but that does not set you apart from anyone else. One of the biggest holes in a law firm’s bucket is intake and conversion. It is filling in on what other people are not doing. If others are not following up on leads, or not tracking leads, or not tracking their business’ metrics, the solution is to do that and you will see the outcome when you do things like that. What You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know. 

The single issue that lawyers point out is that they count what they have, not what they do not have. Smart operators recognize that it is a business – it has to be run like a business and you have to implement very strong business tactics such as accountability and metrics. Do not look to another lawyer to copy, but instead look at what a successful business is doing. Lawyers often see what is in front of them, but they do not see what they do not see. Take a look at the calls you are getting and not the case you are writing. You can measure the cases, but if you do not have any initial calls, what are you measuring? To increase business, you have to figure out what you are not doing and that takes a lot of humbleness. Step back and look at what you do not see, that is where you will make the gains.

Strategizing Your Marketing and Understanding the Business

Talk to the public the same way that you would talk to a jury. You cannot fool a jury – you have to be real and you have to be credible. You talk to the public like you are talking to a jury because you are telling a story. You always have to be who you are and that is the backbone of Harlan’s strategy as well as the strategy that he employs on the people that he works with. It’s what makes sense. If you look at television commercials that are out there and all of the advertising, they all say “we will do this for you” or “we will get you that”. The lawyers that he works with separate themselves.

The biggest thing that lawyers are not doing in understanding and running their businesses are not looking at the metrics. The metrics do not lie. You have to follow the metrics and put those steps in place. You cannot run your practice on your gut, and you cannot run it with just folders and sticky notes. It is all about communication and building relationships. You need to be tech-oriented and you need to have the tools to be able to implement all of those things. Most law firms do not make it easy for people to do business with them. A simple question that you could ask during intake is, “What is the best way for me to communicate with you?” Could you imagine how much smoother things would go in the future if you discussed forms of communication and what works best for others?

It all comes down to what your hunger is and what you drive behind everything is. The culture in your firm and marketing is what will separate you. People are going to come to you not because they think they got a good settlement, but because of how you made them feel. Make your clients feel like a million dollars – that is how you build a business. Just because you are making a lot of money does not mean that you are doing all of it right. You fill a void and that is how you gain and provide business. Surround yourself with smart people and get your business metrics in place.

Operating Your Business Like a Sports Franchise

Begin operating your business like you would a sports franchise. Everybody on that team has a job. You draft players to either throw or catch the ball. If you do not have a team set up with everybody in place and the best players on the team, then you have a real challenge of winning a championship. Drafting the right players, having everyone know what their job is, and having a process in place is what is going to win a super bowl or any kind of championship or winning the business of your dreams. If you want the best practice or the best team, you better surround yourself with the best players.

Managing all of this is very difficult and understanding it is difficult. Surround yourself with people who are much better and much smarter than you are. The entrepreneurs of the world are ideas people, but they had to have other people to help them implement those ideas. Watching Michael Jordan in The Last Dance, they never won a championship until they changed their philosophy. They began to draft players that could work well with Michael. Michael orchestrated the team and everybody’s level for the team. They took the ball out of Michael’s hands and put motivation in his hands and he motivated everyone to step up and that is how they won 4 championships in a row. You cannot have just one person, it has to be a team effort.

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