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Unusually for someone with an engineering degree, this week’s zero-140 interviewee spends her days writing best-selling, award-winning books on networking for the professional services. Heather Townsend (@HeatherTowns) is a name that many firms will know well… someone who really knows her stuff about networking (both on and offline) and that is no more evident than in her new book ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking‘.

A member of the Accountant’s Club Global Advisory Panel, Heather has judged the British Accountancy Awards for the past two years, as well as running The Excedia Group with business partner, Jon Baker.

So… if there’s anyone who ought to be able to communicate well in 140 characters or fewer, it’s Heather…







Elephant Creative: What are you up to right now?

Heather Townsend: Planning a workshop for some senior lawyers on how they can build their on-line footprint to become known as the Go-To-Expert

EC: Fancy explaining what you do, in fewer than 140 characters?

HT: I help professionals, typically lawyers and accountants, become the Go-To-Expert

EC: What’s been your career path to this?

HT: Engineering Degree, Supply Chain Management with P&G & Tesco, then learning & development with BDO LLP, then this

EC: So, what comes first? Coaching, speaking, writing, training or consultancy?

HT: Can I plead the 5th amendment? As long as I have variety I’m happy

EC: Business development and marketing isn’t really something lawyers concern themselves with is it?

HT: Everyone in a law firm is part of the sales team. If you want to be in control of your career, you need to be able to sell and market yourself

EC: Care to explain legal business development and legal marketing in 140 characters or fewer?

HT: Not really! How can you offer services tailored to solve your client’s problems, in a way, which they want to buy from you?

EC: You’re known for championing networking as a skill the professional services need to have… can everyone become great at it?

HT: Yes, everyone can become great at it. Ultimately, it’s not about working the room; it’s about having the right people in your network

EC: Actually… what is networking? Hasn’t it changed rather in recent years?

HT: Effective business networking is the process of finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships

EC: You’ve been referred to as one of the most influential tweeters in the UK… how have you managed it?

HT: Trial, error, discipline. But mainly a strong ‘why’ for using it and religiously sharing and creating high quality content

EC: So, how can law firms do the same, then?

HT: Have a purpose for being on Twitter & share content to attract the right type of followers, & engage with followers

EC: Law firms have been under pressure to move away from the billable hour model and become more commercially aware… Do you think this is a prerequisite for growth in a modern world?

HT: Yes. Clients want transparency and client-centric legal services. The billable hour does not encourage this

EC: To your mind, how good a job are law firms where you work, doing with marketing and business development?

HT: Some do it very well, but most firms could do with a large dollop of help.

EC: What about branding?

HT: If you strip away the logo and colours from a firm’s website, it would be difficult to tell them apart from competitors. Work needed

EC: And social media?

HT: Most firms just punt out press releases and boring legal articles, they need to get client centric 2 make a real difference

EC: There’s no denying that blogging plays an important role in your life. What is your take home message for lawyers thinking of doing the same?

HT: Have a content plan, write for your audience and be passionate about what you do

EC: What should their first three blogs be about?

HT: 3 tips based articles, which help their clients in their personal or professional lives – not 3 write-ups of case precedents

EC: Here at EC, like you, we spend a lot of time talking to law students about building their personal brand online… what advice would you give to a classroom full of the ‘partners of the future’?

HT: Specialise sooner rather than later and get involved in business development activities from day 1

EC: So what, in your opinion, will make a successful partner for tomorrow’s law firm?

HT: Client centric, business winner, commercially astute, people person, business owner, team player, collaborative

EC: What’s your prognosis for the small to medium sized firm in the UK or US, thinking about trying something new?

HT: More likely to survive than firms who are trying to survive without changing anything

EC: How much of a threat, to law firms, do you think the new rafts of online legal service providers are?

HT: Huge threat – the legal marketplace is going through a revolution and firms need to take notice and change

EC: Are there any law firms or lawyers who are doing exciting things in your eyes?

HT: Enyo Law, Brian Inkster, Riverview Law, Suzanne Dibble

EC: And if you were going to recommend three people to follow on Twitter?

HT: VeryBritishProblems (makes me chuckle) JackofKent & Saysitstraight