If we’re friends on Facebook you know that I had an encounter last night that ended in a very awkward moment for the other person. It probably wasn’t the most spiritual thing I could do to post about it, but what can I say? I saw a lesson there … for me. When I lead with my ego I ALWAYS learn a lesson. The hard way. I am ALWAYS right-sided. My ego is smashed. I have found out that if I lead with my ego, I will find humility through the ensuing humiliation. So what does this have to do with legal marketing? Everything. In a profession where I am often referred to by the lawyers, lumped together with every other staffer, from the copy room to the C-Suite, as a “non-lawyer,” I have had to learn how to find my place. It is such a fine balance. In other businesses, the marketing and sales team are seen as revenue drivers, strategic team members, leaders. In many a law firm we are seen as nothing more than a cost center and a annoying, and pricy, necessity. On average, in most companies, the marketing budget is 10% of revenue. In a law firm, yeah, not so much. As in 2-5%. If you’re lucky. I’ve been in legal marketing for 16 years and that percentage has stayed consistent. I have had three situations, one as recent as last week, that have been a personal evolution and a reminder that when I think I am hot shit, I will be reminded by some force in the universe that I am not. My humility (and ego) must rest in that I do this (writing this blog, volunteer service and speaking in LMA) for fun and for free. And, in return, I have found that I learn more about myself, legal marketing, business, and leadership than I realize. Lesson One: A few years ago I received a phone call from a CMO friend of mine. He asked where his managing partner might have heard me speak recently. I was on a roll. Several webinars, and I had been flown back to the Virginia Bar Association’s annual meeting at the Homestead to present on social media. I was becoming hot shit. We deduced he heard me speak at the VBA. My friend then invited me to present to his executive committee on social media, and where the industry was at the moment. I rocked it. An hour video conference turned into two. Not a Blackberry in sight the whole time. I got a call the next day from my friend. Expecting accolades and thanks, perhaps a gift certificate to my favorite spa in appreciation, I instead got the best advice I had ever received in the form of a lecture:
Heather, I know what your thinking,” the call began. “You’re thinking that you can go off and be a consultant. That you’ll just work with local firms, perhaps those nearby in San Diego or Orange County that you can drive to, or a short plane ride to San Francisco, or Phoenix. And you’d be really good at it. But then the calls will start to come in from back east and other parts of the country, with large offers of money to give up your weekends to speak at a partner retreat, or spend days in their offices. Sure, you’ll make a lot of money doing it. At the height of my consultancy I was making (wow, that’s a big number) a year.
So far, not the call I was expecting. But my friend did not stop. He continued:
Don’t do it, Heather. It’s not worth it. I did it and I missed it all. I missed my kids. I missed their events. You cannot make that time up. Instead, just stay doing what you are doing. Hone your craft and your skills. Build your reputation. There will be time for all of that other stuff down the line.
I heard him. My ego and I cannot thank Jim Durham enough. He halted me in my tracks. He made me reflect and think about what was most important to me. For my family. For my kids. At that time. I was right where I needed to be to be the best me, the best mom, the best legal marketer I could be. There would be time down the line for anything else that might come to be. Lesson two: I had just come off the stage from presenting at a conference in San Francisco on social media. My ego was whirling around as people were coming up to me, providing me praise and accolades for a job well done. (as you can tell, I don’t often learn a lesson the first time around). I saw a woman standing to the side, waiting for me. I politely signaled that I saw her, and once I was done with the fan club surrounding me (my ego), we’d chat. She was petite and I was in heels, so I had to bend down a bit to talk to her. She said, “You don’t know me, but I went to high school with Todd, and I recently Googled him and found your blog post.” Gasp. Not what I was expecting. And the tears welled up inside of me. Here I was. Taken off guard, speechless, and crying in the middle of a beautiful meeting room at the City Club of San Francisco with a room full of legal marketers staring at me. I was fully revealed in my human form. She went on to say, “We have a reunion coming up and I was searching out people I knew from high school. Your post was so touching. I am so sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing about him.” I was yanked back down to earth in that moment. I wrote that post on Todd because I did not want his legacy to be nothing as he died before social media took shape. I wanted people who knew him and searched for Todd Sidney Slome to find something on the Internet other than the SSI notice that he had died. He was much more than a birth-date, and a date of death. He was the man I was supposed to marry. He was the writer who still inspires me today. And he got really, really sick. And he died. Ego deflated. Once again. This thing called life was not about me and my ego. There was a bigger world to which I am an active member, and I cannot forget where I came from and why I am who I am today, and the people who have touched me along the way. Heather returned safely to earth that day. Lesson three: My presentation with Jonathan Fitzgarrald at the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference went well. Really, really well. The pre-buzz was crazy. We were pumped. And we knocked it out of the ball park. But something had shifted, just a bit inside me and I didn’t notice it at first. I did not feel lofty by ego. I felt humbled by the attention. I was truly touched by the response, and the feedback. I spent my time at the conference trying to meet new people, or build stronger relationships with those in my outer circle. For those few days I tried to avoid surrounding myself with my friends and clique. I was a bit more open to walking around, talking to new people. And then it hit me. I was isolating myself from my closest friends because of the attention. Where before I would soak it in and feed my inner beast, this time around I didn’t feel the need. And I needed to back away from it a bit. But I did so instinctively. After I spoke, I went back to my room, kicked off the 5-inch heels (I was standing next to Jonathan for an hour, after all), and slipped on a pair of jeans and Toms. I was there at the conference to learn myself, so off to different sessions I ran, and became a participant in the crowd. I owned what I knew, and brought it to other sessions like the Think Tank on Disruptive Business Models (one of my three favorite sessions). But I hope I did so with a purpose, and not to feed my ego. Lessons Back Home: So here I am. Back home from LMA and ready to go. But rather than lead with my ego, I have parked it in my office and am trying to listen to my firm, my partners, and then apply the lessons I learned at LMA as appropriate. When I lead with my ego, nothing gets accomplished. I learn nothing. No one is helped. I am offensive. And I will be right-sided. Some how. And it won’t be pretty. Lesson (finally) learned.