Under performing law firms are nothing new. Some under perform themselves into a merger, and others under perform themselves out of business. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the path or the way.

Altman Weil recently released their Law Firms in Transition report for 2017. Yesterday I posted the `first in this series, tackling the ABA Journal’s Law firm leaders report lawyer oversupply and ‘chronically under performing lawyers’ and the survey highlights.

In it’s ninth year, the survey, for the first time, is looking at change efforts in law firms. Having spent 19+ years working inside law firms, my interest is peaked: Continue Reading Under performing law firm? I hope you are disturbed. (Pt. 2)

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LMA Annual Conference – 2015

We all attend professional conferences. Some are close-knit groups, such as the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference; others will have 10s of thousands in attendance, and take over a whole city (ACC Annual Meeting, CES, NRF’s Big Show).

Sometimes we will know no one attending, other times hundreds due to our level of involvement in the organization.

No matter how many people you know or don’t know, speaker or not, first time attendee or not, you need to prepare to maximize the time you will be there, and out of the office.

I start to prepare for a conference  approximately two weeks or so before my departure. When I say I do these things, I really do them, and I coach others to do so as well for one reason: They work. Continue Reading Don’t be a lurker. 6 Things to Do BEFORE Attending a Conference

Time is certainly flying over at the new firm. Busy meeting people. Busy getting things done. Busy looking for a new legal marketing manager (e-mail/pm me for the job description).

If you are interested in the position, or are reading this because you are trying to learn more about me for our interview, let me share with you some advice.

One of my philosophies that I have borrowed along my legal marketing career is that what we do is all about getting to know, like and trust one another. Without these three things, true relationships cannot be formed, built, nor sustained.

KNOW

If you are interviewing with me, know that I have already Googled you. If you do not know what your Google results look like, you better figure it out fast and ask yourself: “Is this how I want to be known?”

What does your open Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram accounts say about you? Will I learn what I need to know about you, or, worse yet, will what I learn about you lead me to pass on even calling you in for an interview?

LIKE Continue Reading You want to interview with me? Here’s my best advice.

I just read the following post SCOTUSblog Won Readers, Not Clients: Popular blog didn’t work as marketing tool for law firm but was a hit with readers, founders tell UGA audience.

I have to disagree.

In general, and in most cases, a corporate legal blogger might not be able to point to a particular piece of business and say, “I brought that in from writing this blog post on that date.”

However, if written correctly, the attorney can most likely point to their practice and see a correlation between their increased business and the launching of their blog.

I just don’t think the folks at SCOTUSblog are correctly measuring its value.

A corporate legal blog is NOT a business development (read SALES) tool in and of itself. It is there to provide what Nancy Myrland calls “digital breadcrumbs“:

Blogging, just as all other content scattered across the Internet, is what I always refer to as “digital breadcrumbs.” The words, thoughts and opinions we share in these spaces serve to help others find a path to us when they happen to need us, or at least when their interest in our areas of expertise is heightened.

A blog, done right, is an educational tool that will position the author and firm. Avvo‘s Josh King agrees:

Too many attorneys and firms treat them like outbound marketing vehicles, doing more overt sales pitches than information and thought leadership.

Blogs are about value, and education. They are about telling the story you want the general counsel to read as they are doing their due diligence on the attorney and the firm. They are about having the right results on page one when your name is Googled.

Getting back to the softer ROI that we’re talking about, Virtual Marketing Officer, Jayne Navarre, points out that the SCOTUSblog article contradicts itself: Continue Reading How NOT to measure the value of a legal blog

David Freeman has a great video this morning on how to engage in a conversation with a potential client, not just regurgitate a boring and pre-planned elevator speech.

With all due respect I would officially like to kill the concept of the elevator speech and replace it with an approach designed to start a memorable conversation.

I couldn’t agree with David more. No one wants to be talked to, especially by a lawyer, no matter how charming and brilliant you are (wink).

 
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Take a deep breath when meeting someone new. Ask some engaging questions about the other person. Their business. Their industry. Their challenges. And listen to the responses.

If you have the legal skills to help solve their business problems, feel free to share some tips or suggestions.

If there is a potential there for a new relationship to form, you need to start introducing yourself and your firm to the prospect.

Odds are, you won’t walk away with the business today. This is just the first touch point of many that will be needed to establishing that know, like and trust so necessary to converting a prospect into a client.

The most important step in this initial meeting is to walk away with your next step confirmed.

You need to ask for the permission to contact them again:

“I’ll send you a link to that article when I get back to the office.”
“I’ll put you in touch with my partner Bill so that he can get you that information. It really is his specialty.”
“Let’s meet back here for a cup of coffee after the last session. I have some ideas that I’d like to run by you that might help.”

In these initial meetings the 80/20 rule is so important to follw: Listen 80%, speak 20%.

Strategic PlanningA way too short, but link-bait worthy titled article, is making its way into the conversation of legal marketers this week about law firms and strategic planning.

In fact, I am certain that Rita McGrath‘s article in the HBR Blog Network, Creative Destruction Visits the Legal Profession, is sure to be a topic of conversation and buzz at this week’s Marketing Partner Forum (follow along on Twitter at #MPF2013), as well it should be.

We’re chatting about it in my Legal Marketers Extraordinaire group on Facebook (A private group I started. PM me via The Legal Watercooler‘s Facebook page if you want to join).

In many ways I have to agree with Ms. McGrath’s initial paragraph:

Some years ago, I had the rather thankless task of directing a program on strategy for law firms. It was thankless in part because about half the participants didn’t think law firms needed a strategy. They figured if you were smart, served your clients well and worked hard that things would be fine, as they historically often have. Just keep billing those hours! The other half might have been open to the idea that law firms needed a strategy, but completely opposed to having anything other than a consensus-built, senior partner-friendly mechanism for making strategic choices, which almost by definition is doomed to fail. Tough decisions such as which clients to serve and which not; which partners are creating value and which are not; and where to focus in terms of practice expertise and geography are nearly impossible to make by committee.

Over the years, I have been in those meetings. I have sat in on those calls. I have worked to build strategic plans, only to see them fully ignored. Or, better yet, fail because those who did not buy-in picked up their toys and went to another sandbox to play.

Here’s my (short) take on Ms. McGrath’s article from our conversation on the LME group:

Of course she had a less-than-receptive audience. And, speaking with my peers, it’s still not the most receptive audience. Definitely getting better. Still room for lots of improvement.

The good new is that the concepts and implementation of true strategy can be found in large, small, regional firms (but not all). It’s no longer the purview of a few “forward thinking” firms.

And, for the firms that do invest the time, energy, money, and emotional capital to prepare a strategic plan, how well it is carried out, and how many barriers are faced, is still open to debate.

So why is this buzz-worthy considering Ms. McGrath’s experience took place “some years ago”?

Because it is still true today in too many firms.

Yes, there are some firms — mega, large, small, regional, boutique — that really get it and are operating at a highly strategic level. But how many of those firms were driven to this change by the recession? How many will willingly slide back into complacency now that things are looking up again?

And not to mention the rest of the firms that either fell apart during the recession, or squeaked their way through it. They continue to operate as usual, even though the world has completely changed.

I believe that one of the reasons that strategy is so hard to implement in a law firm is because of the emotional investment it requires.

We’re not selling widgets or cans of soda. We’re selling services provided by people. Those people are friends and partners. In many firms, these partners grew up together, joining the firms as summer associates 20 some odd years ago. It’s hard to challenge assumptions and make changes when you are that emotionally invested.

Let’s face it. They just don’t teach this shit in law school. They don’t teach that one day you might be the chairman of a multi-billion dollar operation. Hell, even the most modest of firms are multi-million dollar operations.

One of the roadblocks to strategy, I have found, is that at the end of the day, with all the good advice given and shared, we, as legal marketers and outside consultants, are not shareholders or partners. We are not the owners of the business. We are not personal friends.

We can be impartial because we are not emotionally invested in these people. We’re there to do a job.

If they do not take our advice, or seek our counsel, there is nothing we really can do about it. Sure, we have a seat at the table. But how loud is our voice?

I’ve been doing this legal marketing thing for 15 years now. The industry has changed completely in so many ways. But in other ways it really hasn’t changed too much.

We are still relationship driven, but how we create and manage those relationships is different.

Technology and innovations have changed, but they are still supporting the core of what we do: providing a service.

Lawyers are still skeptical. Clients still hire on the theory of know, like, and trust. We’re still herding cats.

And I am still the Pollyanna out there. I believe if we are moving the ball forward, even at a micro pace, we are making progress. And, readers, we are making progress.

Maybe not to the outside world, but in the inner world of legal marketing, we have made leaps and bounds of change. And we still have so much more to accomplish.

I hope that Ms. McGrath’s article continues to be a beacon of conversation. As it is a conversation I know we are having behind closed doors, in the lobbies during industry conferences, on private Facebook message threads and groups, and hopefully around the conference room table in our boardrooms.

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Words count. Words have meaning. Words on Facebook, Twitter and in the comments section of online publiations are searchable, fully visible, and can define you.

My friend Jayne Navarre at the Virtual Marketing Officer recently wrote this post, Facebook and Politics: Do they mix? Yes, no, maybe? taking on politics on our personal social media accounts.

For the record, I’m in the “maybe” column, as you can see from my comments in Jayne’s post.

As far as I am concerned, it’s not that you are doing it, it’s about how you do it. And here’s why (from Jayne’s post above):

Case on point. I had an opportunity yesterday to refer a professional and I had someone in mind. But, unexpectedly I found a Facebook post from that individual just before I made the call. It was a link to an inciting article, filled with negativity, along side his personal, polarizing comments. I immediately crossed this person off the list. I decided this referral would be wrong for my client—on several levels.

Will it make or break their bottom line, probably not. Still, it made me shiver a bit to realize thata single Facebook post—which is certainly within anyone’s right to free speech—impacted a business opportunity so decisively.

For the most part, people refer business and hire people they know, like and trust. Screw with one of those three and the stream of business you count on to pay your bills and feed your family might start slowing down and you will never know why.

I’m not saying we should never talk about politics. I’m a political junkie, and I enjoy a very thoughtful debate and discussion.

In fact, the sports dude and I had dinner with my sister and her boyfriend last night. It was a libertarian, an independent, and two progressive liberals chatting away. No voices were raised. No one was disrespected. We definitely did not agree on everything discussed. We avoided some topics entirely and on purpose.

We were most definitely spirited and passionate. And that’s the way it should be.

Now you take that “conversation” online, when you are alone, and at your computer, and all sense of decorum seems to get tossed overboard.

You share a meme or a video from a truly biased (right, left or “neutral” until you read the supporters) organization. You comment on that post what you really think. You tweet out a 100 character slam with a couple hashtags.

When you do that, no matter what you share, roughly 50% of the population is not going to agree with you. Add to that mix this truth: You, for the most part, have no idea which of your clients, referral sources, and influencers are in which 50%.

Sitting home alone, you don’t get to see the eye brows raising, the hiding of your posts, the unliking or unfriending of you all together.

A colleague called me last week to brainstorm on a speaker for a program he wanted to host for his firm. Almost in unison we agreed, “Well, you know so-and-so cannot be considered,” based on some online comments and actions.

The person in question just lost the ability to speak to their target audience, and they have NO idea that they were removed from consideration, from a prime opportunity, because of how they conduct themselves online.

I don’t care how locked down you think your Facebook page is, it really isn’t. And I don’t care if you think all of your friends agree with you, because they don’t.

Make no mistake, these things can happen IRL (in real life) as well:

You’re having a private conversation at lunch, and the new general counsel of that company you’re about to meet with later in the day is sitting at the table next to you. He recognizes the person you are talking to, they are acquaintances, which is how his attention made his way to your table and conversation. He is overhearing what you are saying, and he doesn’t like it. You just got bumped off the “go-to” list, and you’ll never understand why.

That’s what sharing an inflammatory meme, video, or article can do. It can show up in someone’s thread because when you share open content, others can see it as well, and can make judgments about you from that. This is often referred to as “listening with your eyes.”

I fully understand that when I comment on CNN’s Reliable Sources Facebook page (my favorite Sunday morning talk show, which I watch with my Twitter Politics List and political hashtags open on my Tweetdeck), everyone can see that, even though my personal Facebook page is closed.

When I share that meme from George Takei, everyone is privy to the fact that I did that.

When I Tweet, and add a hashtag, that is now part of a public conversation and is exposing my words to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people I don’t know.

Any reporter or publication can pick that up and quote me without me knowing about it, until the Google Alert I have set on my name pops up in my reader.

I’m not counseling you to not share or comment on politics, but to be aware of what you are sharing. When you are on a social network, liken it to an IRL open mike, or replying all to everyone at the office when you think you’re not.

Great advice today on CNN’s Reliable Sources from Roll Call’s Associate Politics Editor David Drucker. His comments were in response to the firing of Yahoo! News Washington Bureau Chief, David Chalian, and how reporters need to monitor themselves:

I don’t know how many times per week, I write up an e-mail with a snarky joke to somebody, or a tweet that’s snarky or sarcastic, and then I delete it. Because you have to be careful how your words are going to be interpreted and represented.

Before you hit “post” or “send,” take a look at that snarky e-mail, tweet, post or comment, think about it, and then hit the delete button.

No matter what we do, be it lawyer, legal marketing, consultant, chief, we are representing a brand: be it our firm’s brand, or our personal brand.

It is up to you to manage it.

So, my counsel: Don’t ignore the elections. For the next 60+ days it will be the news around the water cooler. You need to be aware and informed, even if you are not a political junky like me.

However, be respectful of all political opinions. Use judgment. Be observant of the people NOT chiming in on the conversation (those are the people who do not agree with you).

Treat online commentary the same as you would in-person converations. And, remember, you never, ever, ever know who is listening with their eyes.

At the end of the day it always comes back to who do you “know, like, and trust.” We don’t all have to agree politically, but we need to be respectful of differing opinions, as we all have to interact and work together.

Now, go out there and vote early, and vote often.

I just checked my calendar and, yup, it really is 2012.

Other than the earth coming to an end later this year, it’s about fricken time you got a website.

There just aren’t any good excuses out there.

Yeah, I’m talking to you solo and small firms out there.

And this is especially true for those of you who represent consumers – family law, divorces, child custody, employment matters, trusts & estates. I’d add personal injury, DUI and immigration to the list, but those folks are marketing machines.

Seriously. If you Google yourself or your firm, what do you find? If the answer is NOTHING, than you are LOSING business every day, and you don’t even know it.

Case in point:

Continue Reading Get a fricken website already

Legal marketers will throw the phrase “touch point” around and while we understand what it means and why they are important. I wonder about the lawyers out there? Touch points are those little or big interactions you have with clients, potential clients, referral sources, etc. Depending on the relationship, and the legal marketer speaking, it can take upwards of 12 touch points to convert a prospect into a client. Touch points can be phone calls, having coffee, sending an e-mail with a note and a link to an interesting article, an invitation to a firm event, taking a prospect or client to a sporting event, an in-house CLE program, etc. I think most lawyers (and most people) give up after the second or third touch point:

  1. I met the person
  2. I followed up with an e-mail inviting him or her to connect on LinkedIn
  3. I invited the prospect to the firm dinner at X industry event

So, why haven’t they given me their business? Moving on. Don’t give up. You’re still in the wooing stage and some prospects play harder to get than others. The prospective client needs to get to know you , like you, and trust you. Once you have achieved that, you then need to be top-of-mind when a new case or matter presents itself. THAT is what touch points will do for you. They will provide you the platform to build a relationship, and then stay top-of-mind. Touch points do not have to be huge, they just need to be regular and authentic. I had a situation come up this morning and, after thinking about it, I realized that while I could easily and quickly handle it, it would make a great touch point for the attorneys involved. I would urge you, my lawyerly friends, to not let a touch point pass you by. What do I mean by that? Don’t have your secretary or the marketing hack do for you what you can easily do for yourself:

  • Pick up the phone and make the follow up calls yourself to the upcoming firm event.
  • If you’re a member of a LinkedIn Group (and join some if you are not), you should be adding the links to your latest and greatest blog post, not the marketing director.
  • Add the personal note on the firm holiday card, or, better yet, create your own.
  • Don’t wait for your client to discover the firm’s blog … send a personal email and invite.
  • Post to the firm’s blog or website about your latest win, and let your client know why the win/decision is of importance to them.

Basically, it comes down to this, why give someone else brownie points with the client, when you could be collecting them for yourself? (The small print: results will vary, and not every prospect will convert into a client)

As I sat last night watching the State of the Union (SOTU) address, that legal marketer in me kept popping out and wanting to play. So here are a few of my musings:

  • Define your target audience in advance. Know your target audience. Speak to your target audience. Don’t worry about everyone else. It was clear last night from the speech and the comments posted on Twitter’s #SOTU that President Obama wasn’t speaking to the Left, nor to the Right. He was making a conscientious decision to speak to the middle. His ROI from the speech will not be defined by his polling numbers going up from Democrats or Republicans, but from the undecideds.
    • Lawyers and marketers need to define their target audiences for each and every marketing piece that goes out of the office, every blog post written, and business development opportunity taken. This can, will and should change from day-to-day, post-to-post, opportunity-to-opportunity.
    • It’s not necessarily about your current clients, who has hired you in the past, and the work that you have done for them. You now need to reach out to those who have the business you want (which may or may not be the same as the work you have done in the past) and the opportunity to hire you in the future.
    • Speak to the teleprompter.

      Even the President of the United States can benefit from media training. I didn’t notice this until it was mentioned on Facebook by another legal marketer, but Mr. Obama looks at the left teleprompter, then to the right teleprompter, and back to the left telepromter. However, he never addresses the  audience in the middle, where the camera is focused. As such, he never engaged me as a viewer. He never locked eyes with me via my 42″ flat screen. I have a feeling that those who listened to the speech had a much different experience than those of us who were watching it on TV. A GOOD media trainer will FIX this ASAP.

      • Invest in media training. It will benefit you whether you’re going on camera, speaking to a live audience in a courtroom, or at an industry conference.
      • Never go on camera, or give a presentation, if you’re not prepared and ready. At the very least, have someone in your firm grab a video camera of some sort and tape your presentation, and then watch it with a critical eye. Within the first two minutes you will be able to identify areas where you can improve.
      • If you’re reading from prepared remarks, make an outline. Face it. You’re not the President of the United States. For most presentations it is not necessary to write out and recite every word verbatim. Prepare an outline of your remarks and engage the audience instead.
      • If you’re clumsy with PowerPoint, don’t use it. It will hamper your ability to engage the audience.
      • Speak to the crowd. Look around. Make eye contact.
    • Feedback today is live, and sometimes brutal. I was watching SOTU with my Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and with strangers around the world via #SOTU. There’s no more hiding from the truth. There’s no more blowing smoke up someone’s ass. If the president or his handlers are interested in knowing how he did last night, all they had to do was listen. No need for pollsters on this one. The people were speaking loud and clear. I truly hope that someone has pulled the Twitter feed, and is actually reading all the comments under the White House Facebook page, under news posts, from opposition parties, and party stalwarts.
      • If the President of the United States cannot squelch or hide from honest and polarizing opinions, neither can you. Rather than try and prohibit, control or limit social media, embrace it … the good, the bad and the ugly.
      • If you’re speaking at an industry conference, arrange in advance for someone to live-Tweet the program.
      • Make certain that you are following the conversations around you via a Google search on your personal name, the firm name, your top clients.
      • You cannot silence Facebook or Twitter, so don’t try. Lead the conversation instead.
    • Lead by example. Kudos for the legislators who chose to cross the aisle and sit with one another last night. Whether they were sincere about it or not doesn’t matter. Sometimes you just have to act better than you feel, be an example, put your personal grievences to the side, act on behalf of the collective good, rather than just based on your personal benefit. I give a #fail to those who chose not to.
      • Every firm has its quirks, dysfunctions, in-fighting, feuds (I think you know what I’m getting at). Yet, the firm leadership needs to lead by example and not play into the divisiveness.
      • As a firm leader, you have to push your personal agenda to the side for the benefit of the firm as a whole. You are being watched by your other partners, by the associates, staff, clients, press. How you handle difficult personalities, practices working in isolation, greedy partners will be judged and critiqued by all those who look to you for LEADERSHIP.
    • It’s okay to be a Democrat, a Republican, or anything in between, you just have to shake hands and be polite. At the very end of the speech, the president turned around and shook hands with Speaker of the House John Boehner and then Vice President Biden. It would not benefit us as a country if the president was rude. While Mr. Boehner did not agree with every point the president made, he never threw anything at him or acted inappropriately. There were polite smiles and applause. There was decorum.
      • I wager that none of us lives in isolation where every member of our families, all of our friends, colleagues, clients, etc. are of a single political persuasion.
      • We should not have to pretend or ignore that our best client is not a “gasp” Republican “like me,” or our favorite vendor is not a “gasp” Democrat “like me.” It’s okay to not agree on politics. You just have to be polite about it.
      • I have mentioned before that my Facebook Wall is open to all to discuss politics, but we will discuss in a respectful manner at all times. My politics are known by all, but I have to admit that the best conversations I have on the “issues of the day” are with my political opposites.
        • If you persist in making partisan attacks on Twitter, Facebook or through your blog (I am NOT talking about asserting partisan opinions), at a certain point you will no longer be someone I know, like and trust. You will lose my respect, and eventually my business, not because of your politics, but because of your vitriol.
        • Look in the mirror before leaving the house. Seriously. I don’t know who the make-up artists were last night, but the president looked like an Ooompa Loompa. So did Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. (what was up with his hair??). And don’t get me started on the Botoxed “smiles” in the gallery. Creepy.
          • First impressions are made within seconds of meeting someone. Dress well, always.
          • As more attorneys are NOT retiring at 65, but feeling compelled to compete with a younger generation, remember this: BOTOX IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.
          • No matter what your age, a bad dye job is BAD and everyone can tell.
          • You get what you pay for … this is true for leather goods, suits, haircuts, and jewelry (definitely NOT suggesting that you pay retail. I LOVE a good deal/sale).

        As for the speech itself? Well ….

        Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool (via Huffington Post)