Lawyers, it’s time to cut the apron strings and do for yourselves what your marketing department has been doing for far too long. Legal marketers, it’s time to cut the apron strings and empower your attorneys to do for themselves what you have — begrudgingly — done for them for far too long. Let’s face it. Many of us are in a dysfunctional relationship at work with which Dr. Laura would have a field day. I can hear the call now:

Hi Dr. Laura. My name is __________ and I’ve been a fan for a really long time. I have a terrific job. I earn a great 6-figure salary, and I have the opportunity to work with some really  smart people. I’ve got a degree hanging on my wall, and a window overlooking, well, it doesn’t have the best view, but it’s a window office nonetheless. Anyway, Partner X walked into my office (well, he didn’t really walk into my office, I bumped into him in the hall) and he asked me to get his profile loaded on LinkedIn because one of his really important clients sent him an invitation. But that’s not what I’m calling about. Dr. Laura, I was hired here with the promise of a seat at the table. But that’s not what’s happening. Partner X wants me to bring in more business, get him a speaking engagement at this incredibly prestigious conference that he’s never attended, make reservations for him and a client at a fancy restaurant in our building, and complete an RFP that’s due in two days, but has been sitting on his desk for two weeks. Dr. Laura, how do I get Partner X to respect me as a professional?

Well, Dr. Laura isn’t here right now, so for 5 cents I’ll share with you my experience: Grow up and cut the apron strings. You know something brought his on, and it began yesterday with a conversation over on the Legal Marketing Association‘s listserv where one of our colleagues asked how to get LinkedIn to load all her attorneys’ profiles for her. It continued in the car with a Dr. Laura call about getting your kids to take personal responsibility. And finished off with a conversation last night with a girlfriend about cutting the apron strings to her son because one of her jobs, as a mother, is to help create an independent human being who contributes to society. Which got me thinking about my role in creating rainmaking lawyers. Basically, I don’t. I really can’t. Rainmakers just are. Rainmakers have their own set of personality traits. Then there are the rest of the attorneys who are expected to make their own rain as well. And THAT is where my job gets interesting. Think about it. Rainmakers are independent and aggressive. Rainmakers make it happen. They don’t turn to the marketing department to do it for them.  They don’t wait around for a new client to drop in their lap. They take care of business, and (speaking from personal experience) the legal marketer’s biggest gripe is that they always call us in at the last minute, or they are running outside the firm’s parameters and we need to reign them in “just a little.” So let’s take a step back and take a deeper look at my three points from my day yesterday:

Loading profiles to LinkedIn

This is bigger than LinkedIn. The success of any social media and social networking program is the SOCIAL aspect. While it’s okay to set up an attorney’s profile with their bio and picture, the attorney needs to OWN their profile, OWN their relationships and utilize the tools, otherwise LinkedIn is just another website. But, then again, this is also bigger than social media and social networking. It’s about delegating most of your business development to someone down the hall, which cannot be done to a successful conclusion. Tim Corcoran summed it up nicely in a private Facebook conversation (for which he gave me permission to quote):

Lawyers can delegate marketing, which is about increasing visibility and awareness in the target market. They cannot delegate all of business development, which is about making and nurturing relationships in the marketplace, and moving potential buyers to paying clients. Social networking lies in the middle because some of it is marketing … and some of it is BD. Helping to get lawyers started on LinkedIn by uploading bios is okay, but stopping there so they can check off “Get a LinkedIn profile” on their to-do list is silly.
So, go ahead and pre-load their profile on LinkedIn, but TEACH them how to utilize the tool to their advantage. PARTNER with your partner. Don’t do the minimal amount of work and HOPE they get the most out of the tool, conference, opportunity, etc. Don’t finish a TASK and think the job is now done.

Taking personal responsibility:

I admit it. I loved this call on the Dr. Laura show yesterday because they were talking about MY life: a 9-year old kid who can’t seem to take personal responsibility for ANYTHING. It’s always someone else’s fault. Or, in the case of the dysfunctional attorney/legal marketers relationship: it’s always someone else’s job and responsibility. Attorneys, it’s time to step up and take personal responsibility for your marketing and business development, and not point finger down the hall when your billable hours are down. I’m not asking you to craft brochures or create ads, but I am asking that you not delegate the development of personal relationships to someone else. It WON’T work. I cannot tell you how often over the past 12 years I’ve been in legal marketing that I have had an attorney lament: “I’m too busy to do X, Y or Z.” And then a year or two later the same attorney comes running into my office (whether I’m still working there or not) in a panic because that big case is settling and they have nothing in the pipeline; their contact at Acme-Big Client retired; the client was just bought out my another company who is happy with their current counsel, etc. Real simple: You cannot outsource the development of relationships. Period. You have to put in the time. Every day. ALWAYS. YOU need to identify, connect, and then maintain those relationships YOURSELF. That’s the “authentic” piece to this puzzle. Social networking platforms, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, are great for this. Twitter is being used successfully to identify relationships that can be enhanced and built upon. That’s what a SMART phone is great for … they all come with applications to help you keep  in touch via your social media and social networking platforms. Upgrade today! And, yeah, it takes work, and then some more work. But you can make it work for you. The marketing department can help you build your structure and train you, via the social web platforms, or in the “real” world. But in the “real” world, it takes the attorney’s participation as well. To get on that panel at that conference YOU need to be involved and engaged. You need to join the committee, put in the time. Yes, there are some conferences where you can write a check, helicopter in, give a presentation, and leave before shaking a hand, but you will achieve NO benefit from it. Identifying and developing relationships = attorney’s responsibility. Creating the environment to develop the relationships … that you can outsource to me and my team.

Here’s a little side-note/secret: speaking at the conference isn’t the goal. Building relationships is. The relationships are built at the committee level. They are built at the bar the night before the conference really kicks off. They are built during the really hideous lunch, or at the reception.They are built by hanging out at your firm’s table in the exhibit hall. They are built through CONVERSATIONS.

Cutting the Apron Strings:

As a senior marketer, it is my duty and responsibility to coach, train, prod, and develop these attorneys to be the best that they can be. If I constantly do for them what they can and should do for themselves, I am am not only participating in the dysfunctional behavior, I am actually creating it.

  • You’re an adult, if you write a marketing plan, than do it. My job is not to manage your plan. My job is to help you create it, put it into motion, achieve results.
  • I will give you an idea for a blog post, I will edit it and I will post it, but I won’t write it.
  • I will get all the details for speaking at the conference, but if someone needs to join the committee, it’s not going to be me.
  • I’ll format your PowerPoint, but you have to get me the outline.
  • I will (have my secretary) fill out the check request to join the organization, but you need to attend the meetings, fill the table of ten, SHOW UP.
  • I will prepare the proposal, but you need to write the cover letter and make the follow up call.
  • I will fill out the Chambers’ survey, but if you don’t get me a list of your recent cases/matters, well, you’re not going to get ranked very high, so don’t blame me.
  • If you say you’re going to do something, than do it. I really don’t have the time or the inclination to follow up to make sure you called and followed up on that … fill in the blank.

I think you get the picture. The great thing about social media and social networking tools is that they allow for a perfect opportunity to “deputize” each attorney to be their own legal marketing or PR enthusiast. As we deputize our attorneys to take ownership of their SOCIAL footprint, I know we can EMPOWER them to take ownership in other areas as well.