Building relationships and establishing meaningful connections, both with clients and attorneys, is a fundamental facet of a legal marketing and business development role.
That’s the theme of the LMA’s Midwest Conference happening in Chicago this October, and today, Ed Lovatt is very lucky to welcome the keynote speaker, to give us a glimpse of what to expect from the event, plus his industry experience on the topic.
Rich Bracken, former legal BD and Client Service Director turned Motivational Speaker and High-Performance Coach, joins us to discuss the power of personal branding, emotional intelligence, and empathy in legal marketing and BD, as well as a sneak preview of his upcoming keynote, Become Unstoppable!
Rich and Ed explore:
- Rich's career journey from legal marketing and BD to his current role as a speaker and coach
- The point at which Rich realized the important role empathy and emotional intelligence play in legal business development
- What legal marketing and BD professionals can do to better engage with their attorneys
- How marketing and BD professionals can apply EQ and mindfulness approaches to enhance their work lives and become more productive and efficient
- The opportunity for firms to encourage these behaviors
- Advice for legal marketing and BD folks looking to engage their lawyers more empathetically
Ed: Welcome to the podcast. Today, we are going to be talking about establishing meaningful connections and this is specific to a sneak peak of the LMA Midwest Regional Conference which is happening in October. And it's really building relationships and establishing meaningful connections, both with clients and attorneys. It's actually a fundamental facet of any legal marketing and business development role. That's the theme of the LMA Midwest conference. And today, we're very lucky to welcome the keynote speaker to give us a little glimpse of what to expect from the event. Plus a little background and industry expertise that he has on the topic. Rich Bracken, former legal BD and client service director turned motivational speaker and high-performance coach. He joins us today to discuss the power of personal branding, emotional intelligence, and empathy in legal marketing and BD as well as the sneak preview that I mentioned of the up-and-coming keynote, Become Unstoppable!
Rich, welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you on.
Rich: I appreciate the invitation. I'm excited to have this conversation and I think my voice may change quite a bit during this because having lived in England and having my southern accent I may sound like I'm talking in tongues today if I go through different accents, but it's great to talk to you. I can listen to you all day, so I'll try to stop talking so I can listen to you and ask that question.
Ed: I think it'll be quite entertaining for the listeners. If your accent is chopping and changing,
Rich: We're gonna have fun, my friend, we're gonna have fun.
Ed: As long as you do a good impersonation of me, I don't mind at all.
Rich: Well, I can't be nearly as handsome, but I'll do my best later on. I'll give it a go.
Ed: Well, thank you. As we're on audio only the listeners will just have to imagine, how good-looking this duo could be Rich. We chatted beforehand and it was great actually, sort of digging into a little bit of your knowledge and your expertise. Could you tell us about your career journey from legal marketing and BD to your role now as a motivational speaker and sort of maybe that key moment as to how it came about?
Rich: Sure, you know, my career leading up to entering legal BD and marketing was primarily corporate a lot of health care. And so I got into legal marketing here in Kansas City years ago. And then it was it was fantastic. And you know, the joke I always tell is that before I got into legal marketing I wanted to be an attorney at one point back in high school and I figured out how much reading you had to do to do that. And I was like, no thanks. Marketing sounds fun. And so when I got into legal marketing, I was like these people are smart, you know, they're attorneys, they should get this. This is gonna be an absolute cakewalk. I don't think there's a punch line there. So if you're listening, you're probably laughing. But I think it was one of those realizations that it was gonna take a whole different level of the business acumen of my abilities. And so it really was a unique challenge. During that time in my first law firm, I didn't do a really good job of taking care of myself, you know, as we all know, as BD managers and directors and marketing, you know, business professionals within law firms, there's a lot of pressure all the time. We're always on call, we're always trying to keep up, we're always trying to meet the demands of our firm. And I wasn't doing a very good job of maintaining my own personal well-being. And so one day I'm in my office and I have all the web MD symptoms of a heart attack. You know, my arm had gone numb, I was sweating, my heart rate went through the roof. And so I got up and I drove myself to the ER. I walked by my supervisor's office and said " I'm leaving and I don't know if I'm coming back".
And so it was my pivotal moment, you know, I'd like to say it was something very inspirational. It was actually me sitting in the ER, with an EKG machine hooked up to me. And so I realized at that point, thankfully it wasn't a heart attack, but my doctor confirmed there was a massive panic attack because I wasn't sleeping well, and I was not dealing with my stress and anxiety very well. And, you know, for all other indications I was a very healthy person. And what was ironic was that the doctor was a very slow day in the ER. I remember distinctly and the doctor spent some time talking with me through my anxiety and what was going on. And he mentioned that he had been studying this thing called Emotional Intelligence. He recommended like, you know, Doctor Travis Bradbury's book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 it was a game changer for him. And so I was open to the idea and the more I started studying it. The more it helped me and it made me realize that this was a very universal topic and that it was something that not only I as a business professional in a law firm could use but others could as well. And so I marry that - this is the more comic side of me. I marry that with my lifelong passion of being the host of the price is right. You know, rest in peace, Bob Barker. But I just, I've always had this lack of fear of public speaking. I've always had this lack of fear of stages and cameras and microphones which most people is their number one fear. And so I figured I have this knowledge of emotional intelligence that could help tons of people in my industry and this unique lack of public speaking key notting whatever you wanna call it.
My first presentation was at the Legal Marketing Association P3 Conference in Chicago, ironically, so kind of kind of coming back home here uh for the Midwest conference. And I realized really quickly as I looked at the agenda that I was the only topic that was not financially or project management driven. So I'm glaring, you know, one of these people, you know, not like the other kind of situation. And I thought to myself, this room is either going to be dead empty or packed like there's no gray area here and it was wall-to-wall people. And I realized then, especially after the conversations I had afterward, that I was onto something and so I continued to pursue that and it was never like I always wanted to do it just to help people, business professionals, attorneys. And the more I talked about it, the more I realized people needed to hear these things. And so it was that moment, so the ER visit and then I would say the P3 conference years ago where it was just like this, I've got to do this, I've got to pursue this. I wanna help as many people as possible. And so that kind of launched it and here I am six years later, you know, giving global keynotes virtually, you know, touring the country, giving keynotes to organizations and house council groups, all kinds of organizations because this is a topic that we all need to talk about more.
Ed: Absolutely. And it sounds… I mean, what a story. It came about from something that was definitely not planned or expected and probably slightly concerning.
Rich: Extremely concerning. Yeah, but it was, you know, as anybody who has known me for 2.5 minutes, I look for the silver lining as much as I possibly can if there is a silver lining to being hooked up to an EKG machine. It's the fact that I've now launched this path of helping people and the conversations and the emails and the feedback that I get from these presentations is just it is what it is exactly what I need to do.
Ed: I'm very glad Rich that you actually, went to the doctor rather than posting web MD because you could look into that and with heartburn and it'll tell you that you're on death door.
Rich: Right? You either have a really bad hangnail or you're on the doorstep of death. So, act accordingly.
Ed: Yes, Rich just following on from what you said, what do you think? Marketing and BD professionals in law firms can do better when engaging with their attorneys when it comes to things like emotional intelligence and perhaps empathy.
Rich: Yeah, I think for the individual because I will say that it starts with us first. You know, we are in a service mentality, we are in a service role. But if you're not serving yourself first, you can't be effective elsewhere. Case in point me, you know, here I was thinking I was doing all the right things, doing all the right things for my attorneys. I was working late, getting up early, working more and I wasn't taking care of myself. So my message to everyone, if you take nothing else away from this conversation is that you need to take care of yourself first and foremost, put yourself first and a lot of people struggle with that because we feel like we need to be on all the time. We need to be ready for our attorneys all the time. We need to be ready for what's coming next and we don't take that time to focus on ourselves. And so I think the self-awareness and the self-management piece of emotional intelligence, understanding your emotions and then what you do with them and how you take care of yourself is beyond critical for anybody to be successful, especially long term because it helps you understand where your limits are. It helps you set better boundaries, it helps you be more confident in what you're doing. So, from a mental health standpoint and a performance standpoint, the self part of emotional intelligence is critical. And then when you think about the other side of it engaging others. So social awareness which is more body language, tonality, how you are engaging, how you're asking questions, active listening, and then relationship management because I will say no matter how big or small your firm is. If you think about everybody on your firm roster, you probably have a different relationship if you graded it on a scale from 1 to 10. And so what can you do to raise those relationships that are maybe a little bit lower up, up a little bit, you know, if you've got a three or a four, how do you get them to maybe even just a five? You know, there were attorneys that I worked with that they were never gonna be buddies. They were never gonna be friends, we were never gonna go grab a beer. But if I could just get them to just a baseline understanding that were good, that was a win for me. So I think the more and more business professionals and law firms engage and become more vocal and more out front leading the firm, I think, understanding to take care of yourself and then also understanding how you can engage your attorneys and engage your firm members and also your clients too because professionals are taking more of a client facing role, hopefully, because that's just the way things need to go.
Ed: I'm glad you said that because I was actually at a course, a training program down in Atlanta last week. And one of the messages. There were hundreds of messages, but one was to set yourself up first before you set anybody else up because to be the best at doing that, you have to be in the best situation. And they, they compared it to and it's a bit of funny, a bit of a joke in that it's very simple the way they compared it. But they said it's like the airline safety video, put the gas mask on yourself before you put it on others. And it's kind of like, look after yourself, make sure that you're in the best position. So I'm glad that that was, that was the message that you kind of put across there. It was really important when we spoke before. I have a bit of a question for you and we, this is a preview to your keynote speech. So we don't want to give too much away as to what might, what you might be saying on the day. But is there a way that marketing and BD professionals can apply a mindfulness approach to enhance their work lives and maybe become sort of more productive, and more efficient in the workplace because of that?
Rich: Oh, absolutely. And I see that you're trying to get all the secrets out for my keynote. I see what you're doing there.
Ed: You can give as much as you like and, and hold back. I don't want you to do the whole keynote speech now because I'm gonna be there as well.
Rich: So, welcome to my keynote. Here we go. No, you know, I think emotional intelligence and mindfulness, are the two things that I, if I look back on my career working in law firms, the two things I wish I would have done more often. One from a self-care standpoint, being more confident in what I had to say, you know, there were so many meetings that I would come out of that, I just kind of took it on the chin or I just sat there and took notes and OK. Yeah, sure. I'll get it done and then I would walk out of there and no disrespect to anyone, but I would walk out and I would go back to my office. I'm like, what a minute, I have two marketing degrees and this individual that just barraged me about what they didn't like about this marketing piece has zero like they, yes, I mean, to a level, you have to understand the client service and what they need. But I literally sacrificed the knowledge and the ability to guide that person and consult that person and give them a better option than just doing what I thought or what I thought they wanted. And I think two more and more often what I learned works very well. And because I will also say, and you know, if you're listening, you're probably gonna laugh at this next statement too. Is that not every idea that was brought to me was a really fantastic one? And so there are times where the improv training that I took on, which I highly recommend everyone to go take improv, take one improv class and it changes your life. And so, the theory behind improv is the "yes and" theory, I think about it when I think about ideas that come in that I'm not necessarily on board with or maybe aren't aligned with my timeline, and instead of just taking it and stressing out on how am I gonna make this happen. How am I gonna fit this into my schedule? How am I gonna get this done? You could say, "oh yes, I can do that. And there's also this other option." So you're not saying "no" because we all know that our attorneys don't want to hear that. But you're saying "yes, and there's also this other option." So "Yes, we could go do this marketing flyer and put all of your accolades and it will literally come with a magnifying glass to read it because the font is so small" or a "Yes, that's an option. And also there's this other option that we can make it a little bit more condensed and graphic and make it more appealing to watch or look at." So I think there's that piece of it and then I think on the other side, you know, again tying back to the ability to not push back or not disagree, but really guide them and consult them in the right direction because deep down we all know that we have the right answers, but you know, asking more questions. So with social awareness, it's really all about active listening, but also understanding and asking deeper questions. So instead of somebody saying "I want to go do this" or "I wanna do this event" or "I want to do this marketing blast" or "I want to do this webinar" instead of saying, "OK, sure", and how do we figure this out in all the while you don't agree with it at all? You can ask more questions, asking questions is an OK thing. And I think a lot of times and maybe I'm just speaking for myself, I've talked with enough people over the years in our positions that sometimes we don't ask those follow-up questions. Sometimes we don't dig a little deeper into why you want to do this. What's the point? What's the goal? Have you thought through this? So that social awareness piece comes in really critical in these kinds of moments to go back and say, OK, tell me more. Explain this. How do you see this playing out? What are your goals get very explicit all with the understanding and you can say this out loud, you know, I wanna help you get to the best level of success with this. So I want to ask a few questions to understand exactly where you're coming from. What we can do to make this as successful as possible? Nobody is ever gonna balk at you saying I want you to look great. I wanna understand what your goals are and what your intent is so that I can help you get there. So I think it's that those pieces of understanding that you have a ton of knowledge and you have a wealth of knowledge to share with your firm and with your attorneys, but then also asking the right questions.
Ed: Digging in a little bit more sort of analyze the situation and then you're going to have more information to work with. Right?
Rich: Absolutely. Yeah, you know. I think if anything, you know, ask the attorneys what they do with their clients, do, they ask further questions? Of course, they do, you know, they need to understand all of the details. They need to understand all of the angles, all of the blind spots, and all of the potential roadblocks to do the same thing with them on their marketing and business development initiatives. What are they afraid of? Are there things that they're concerned about? What are their goals? What does success look like? Asking those questions actually develops a better relationship with those attorneys because you can understand them better.
Ed: Makes perfect sense now that you say it out loud.
Rich: I wish, I'm trying to talk to me like eight years ago, but hopefully this resonates with somebody out there that's in that position where they feel like they're saying yes to everything. Just ask more questions. It's OK to do that.
Ed: I'm sure it will. There’s a handful of people who are probably nodding as they're listening to this now. More than a handful would be great. And then it's really hitting the right spot is there or even is the opportunity for firms to encourage this behavior? Is there something that you have an example of that has perhaps improved efficiencies or even aided business growth? Is this sorry, this is like a two-pronged question, I suppose. Do you have an example from perhaps when you were working within law firms and an example now?
Rich: Absolutely, I think one more and more law firms and I've been getting more speaking engagement requests from law firms and from legal organizations because the conversation around emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and how it not only helps the individual but how, how it helps the business as well have become more and more critical. And I've got several firms through the end of this year and going into next year that I'm, I'm lined up to talk to because their BD team and their attorneys understand that it's a critical piece of the individual, personal goals. So managing your self-care and, your mental health, and your well-being more, more efficiently. But then also, you know, and one of the questions I got from one of the law firms I talked to was, well, how do you deal with those people that don't want to hear these kinds of things or that think that they have it all together. And I have talked with those firms like I and I have worked in those firms where yes, there are the people that understand, they need to hear this to be better individually. And then some are like, you know, I need to go make money. I need to go get new clients. Like, "Why are you bothering me with this?" And so the way I divide it is that some are gonna want to hear the things I'm gonna talk about and they're going to want to have better health, you know, better mental health, better well-being. I've had more attorneys reach out to me after the presentation saying thank you for sharing this. I needed to have the realization that I needed to take better care of myself to be better for my clients, for my family, for my team, and for everyone. But then for those that are just financially driven, which we all know that there are, there's a lot of statistics around how these kinds of activities and how firms can engage emotional intelligence and how they can engage better well-being.
There are tons of statistics about how it improves; for instance, 58% of your performance as an individual professionally has to do with emotional intelligence. So you could be in and again, we've all worked with these people too. You could be brilliantly smart, you can know the law inside and out. You could write the law. I don't know, I mean, you could be the smartest person in the legal world but if you don't have the right temperament, if you don't have the right communication ability, if you're not taking care of yourself, if you're not engaging other people, if you're not going into your client conversations with empathy, that's nearly 60% of what you do. You know, and I always joke when I give my presentation, I say, you know, "We all know a hothead and if you're not, if you don't know one, you may be that person, but those people are limiting their ability." So I tell, I flat out tell firms when I talk to them, "Look, you're either gonna benefit because you want to hear this or you're gonna realize you've been leaving tons of money on the table because you've not been doing the little things that you can do for your clients to improve your client service."
You know, another thing is that firms that, that engage emotional intelligence and that's that, you know, make it part of their culture and that their leadership is emotionally intelligent, they outperform their sales goals and targets by nearly 20%. So again, financially, if you want to outperform your sales goals, if you wanna have better client service, stickier clients if you want to land and expand clients, and cross-sell emotional intelligence has everything to do with all of that stuff. And so it's great for those that want to hear it to be better. But it's also critical for those who are just trying to drive revenue growth and client service improvement.
Ed: I'm loving these statistics and I work very much in a factual way. So getting the actual numbers that make sense, I mean, it really starts to add up, doesn't it?
Rich: Oh, absolutely.
Ed: Can you repeat the 58% statistic again, I was gonna write it down as you said it.
Rich: Yeah. So emotional intelligence is 58%. It is accountable for 58% of your performance. So think about it, think about 60 you know, round it up to 60% I'm terrible with, I'm not great at maths, but if you round it up to 60% of your performance as an individual has to do with your emotional intelligence. 40% of your intellect and your skill, you know, the numbers speak for themselves. Other statistics that I always share are that 90% of top performers have a high EQ and then there's also a cultural battle going on with law firms on, you know, laterals and, and retention of attorneys and growing their firm. And 70% of an employee's view of a company's culture. A firm's culture comes directly from leadership and emotional intelligence. So if you have managing partners, practice group leaders that are more emotionally intelligent, that are more engaged, that are more conversational and empathetic and successful in that way, you're gonna have teams that are gonna be built. You're gonna retain attorneys when people come calling to try to get them to move over to a different firm, you're going to attract better talent because people want to be in a good culture.
Ed: Now that you're saying it, I'm going through my head and I'm thinking, oh yeah, that team that I spoke with. Yeah, that will make sense. It starts to set up.
Rich: I don't like it. It sounds utopian and it all, it's the thing is that everything that you can do to erase your emotional intelligence is super easy. And so a lot of people will say, that sounds all well and good. Well, it can be and it's just a matter of implementing it in your culture and making it a part of who your teams are and holding people accountable to those things because, you know, we've all encountered firms or attorneys that just don't have good leadership culture that just don't have good, you know, relationship management or they don't care of themselves and they're difficult to talk to or they're just absolute jerks and those are the firms that are gonna start losing attorneys because people are people and you don't want to be talked to like that you don't want to be treated poorly. And so, you know, when people always say “Oh, it's a soft skill.” I'm like, it's not a soft skill, stop calling it that it is an absolutely critical skill. If you want to be successful, if you want your firm to be successful, and if you want your business professionals to be successful, treat everybody equally and understand that everybody has value to bring.
Ed: Do you think? So you're saying, achieving a high EQ is learnable or achievable?
Rich: 100% and that's the other, you know, there are a lot of statements that I make during my presentations, especially to legal organizations where I stop and laugh because I've been in the industry. So I can, it's almost like talking about your family. You can joke about your family but nobody else can. But I always say like you, you can raise your emotional intelligence, but you can't raise your IQ, your IQ peaks out at a certain point. So no matter how high or low your IQ is, you're set and with your emotional intelligence, you can actually work on that. It is fixable. It is raiseable, you can do things every single day and it will fluctuate too. So it's not just, you know, you can raise it and then it stays. You're gonna have days. I talk about this stuff all the time. I have bad days too. I have days where I'm not as emotionally intelligent as I'd like to be, but I know how to fix those things. I know how to rectify any kind of a decline or a slip. I know how to fix those. But if you don't, and I go back to my previous self and if this resonates with you, I will encourage you to study this more and I'm happy to help anybody. But there were times where I would start slipping, maybe to have a couple of good days, then I'd have a really bad day and that bad day was so hard to recover from. And it took me a week, two weeks just to get through it mentally. But now that I've understood what my emotional intelligence was and what it now is I can get back to center. I always talk about keeping your feet shoulder with apart like I can take a shot now and I don't fall down as easily. But when I do get knocked down, I get back up pretty quickly.
Ed: There's a lot to take in here Rich. And I'm the first thing I'm gonna say is I'm gutted that you just said I can't improve my IQ.
Rich: I always say I always say it about my own. I'm like that, that just confirmed that I didn't need to be an attorney because my IQ was set at a certain age and I just kind of wrote me out of that potential.
Ed: There, it is. It's done now. You can't change it.
Rich: Like a career shift, I guess I'll go talk to people for a living.
Ed: Yeah, I suppose IQ can always go down, it might not go up though.
Ed: Ok. We've gone down a different tangent there. Rich. It's been great chatting with you and I don't want to delve too much deeper because I want to hear you with the keynote at L MA Midwest and I know that there'll be people listening t also gonna be keen now to hear more from you. I do want to maybe close the conversation out with asking you what's your one piece of advice for legal marketing and BD folks looking to engage their lawyers more empathetically.
Rich: Sure. And that's a great question and the answer that I'm gonna give applies from the business professional to attorney relationship. But also it's something you need to coach your attorneys on for clients, better client service to help them out. So the one thing that I always say, and I go back to the social awareness piece of it, understanding that, you know, and again, one of the loving jabs that I take is that nobody went to law school to not be perfect. Nobody spent that amount of time effort money not to think like "It's okay if I make a mistake". They don't want to make mistakes, they don't want to be the one that doesn't know something. So whenever an attorney comes to you for help on something they're asking you in a very uncomfortable mindset because, at the core of themselves, they don't want to not know something. So to come to you and talk about marketing or sales or client service, that's a very uncomfortable conversation because they don't on the whole, teach that in law school and you have all the wealth and knowledge. So understanding that when they come to you, they are in a very vulnerable position, whether they, whether or not they act like it is a whole different ballgame. But if you understand at the core of them, there's some discomfort there. If you look at them and say, look, I got you, we'll figure this out no matter what it is and it could be the best or worst idea. It could be the best or worst lead time. We'll figure this out. Let's talk through it by just engaging them and understanding that they're coming to you with frustration and that you can be the problem solver or you could be, the solution provider is huge. And where I always tell attorneys when I'm coaching them directly when I'm talking to them about emotional intelligence.
Every time your client calls or every time your client emails, it's the same scenario from attorney to attorney. There's no attorney, especially attorneys who want to contact another attorney because they don't know something. So if you think about your clients when they email you or call you. They have a question. That question is coming out of probably a couple of different things. One, I've walked this scenario through and I don't know the answer to the problem two, I've walked this scenario through and I think I know, but my confidence is not where it needs to be. And so I need your help carrying me the rest of the way here. We need to collaborate on an answer. We need, I need your advice on how to get there. When I tell my attorneys, like, look, would you feel really happy or thrilled about picking up the phone and calling somebody and paying them hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour to answer a question because you don't know it? Of course not. But if you say, hey, look, let's figure this out. How can I help? What solution can I provide? Empathy goes a long way because people feel, and want to feel taken care of. They want to feel, especially in situations like that, whether it's business professional to attorney or attorney to in-house counsel, they want to feel that you hear them, you hear their frustration, you hear their problem, and that you're there to help them. And even if you don't have the direct answer you're willing to find a solution for them and put the shoe on the other foot. Like if you were in the same position, if you don't know something and you have to ask somebody else when somebody says “Hey, look, we'll figure this out. I got you. Let's work through this together emotionally and psychologically.” That feels so good just to know that somebody is out there caring about our success.
So I encourage you all to take a more empathetic and I don't care if it's your favorite attorney or your least favorite attorney. Put a smile on, and say “Hey, look, let's figure this out. How can I help? Let's get to the bottom of this.” That changes the dynamic with even your most difficult attorney.
Ed: Some brilliant messages in there. Fantastic Rich. It's been wonderful to chat with you and get to know you more through this podcast and obviously our chats beforehand. I'm really looking forward to meeting you in Chicago in um… It's just about a month's time now, as of recording. But yeah, it'll be great to listen to your keynote speaking session, especially now that I know you a bit more and see you in a couple of weeks.
Rich: Excellent, I'm looking forward to it. I appreciate you having me on the podcast and hopefully, this helped at least one person, but I feel like there are a lot of people that are gonna be transformed by this. So I'm really appreciative of the opportunity to help people out.
Ed: Hopefully people will listen to this Rich and then by the time your keynote speech comes around, they'll be gathered in the room desperate to grab you afterward to dig down into a few more little details.
Rich: Well, I will welcome those opportunities and ahead of time, I'm gonna be blasting this out everywhere. So by the time you, if you're listening to this, you probably saw the LinkedIn post or the obnoxious social post because I want everybody to hear this because I want everybody to be better and I don't want them to go through what I went through.
Ed: Rich we shall see you soon. Thank you so much.
Rich: Thank you.