I know I have been a bit radio silent these past couple months, but for good reason. I’ve been busy. Really busy. As in my California insurance regulatory law and litigation boutique, Barger & Wolen, announced this morning that we are merging with Chicago-based, national law firm, Hinshaw & Culbertson, (press release). Hello, AmLaw 200 (I’m thinking somewhere around 125-130). It’s been a crazy, whirlwind romance, and vetting process. Of course, just a couple weeks ago, I got the brilliant idea of just jotting down my notes on what I was working on that day, sort of a “merger diary.” As my work up until today has been focused on either due diligence, pulling together the partner books, and prepping the press releases and announcements, the real work is about to begin, so hopefully this will turn out to be an interesting series. My diary entries will be short and possibly pithy. But will hopefully give you an idea of what we’re working on behind the scenes that week as we move towards our October 1, 2014, launch date, and beyond. We have a lot to integrate, from our blogs and social media, to our culture, and then there’s the technology, billing systems, etc. where marketing doesn’t have a direct touch. Oh, and did I mention anywhere that Girl Scouts is back in session (meeting tonight), and I am the new president of our HOA (after recalling the former board) where we are having to address our decaying infrastructure (the pipes) that the former board decided to just ignore (hence the recall). We’ll just weave that into the story line as well. So, let’s begin with today as we countdown to the “going live” date of October 1, 2014. Merger Diary – M(erger) minus 29 Days (September 2, 2014) Of course last night (well, this morning … early) is the night that I am hit with insomnia. I’ll be running on Adrenalin and caffeine today. Had the Sports Dude take the kids to school so I can get in extra early. Walked in the doors by 7:15 a.m. and I was not the first one here.
- Press releases are out and Reuters has called to set up interviews already. Followed by Law360 and American Lawyer.
- Press release posted to our website first thing, and sent off to JDSupra for blasting; now for the blogs.
- Update signature blocks with hyperlink to the press release.
- Added to all our social media channels. Sent links to All B&W with hyperlinks for them to gain easy access to share.
- e-Newsletter is out. 20% open rate so far. Not bad.
- Collecting articles as they come in. Reposting to our social media sites.
Tip: Have on hand list of recent case wins for reporters. They’ll ask for it. On the home front: Girl Scouts tonight. Luckily they’re mid-pottery/jewelry patch and I don’t have to do a thing other than open the doors. Got the contract for the replacement of the irrigation pipes, only to find out that more and different pipes are decaying and on the verge of collapse. The good news is we have the money to cover this. But it’s going to eat into a hefty chunk of it. Merger Diary – M minus 30 Days Today is Labor Day and I am sitting on my couch, logged into my work computer.
- Prepping digital press release for the website, and setting up the blogs so I can flip the switch first thing Tuesday morning.
Merger Diary – M minus 33 Days
- Waiting for approval for the website image notifying of the merger.
- Finish e-announcement.
- All client names approved for the press releases.
- Scan media for leaks.
- Talking Points memo is done. Sent off to media partners, along with the press releases.
- Labor Day weekend is calling, and the Sports Dude and I have tickets for Retro Futura tonight. I need a nap.
Merger diary – Vote Day (August 28, 2014)
- Press releases are done, and onto the vote we go.
- Client call lists are finalized and distributed, along with a script to help the conversation along.
- Found a caterer, last minute (as in 6:15 pm last night), to set up for a celebration this afternoon.
- Website graphic off to the management committee for approval.
- Prepping the e-client alert for Tuesday.
- Vote is in … YES! I am back in the AmLaw … looks like about 125 – 130.
- Time to start calling my people. First two calls are to the Adrians: Adrian Dayton because I completely blew him off on a project and couldn’t tell him why; and, Adrian Lurssen so we can get JDSupra lined up for distribution first thing on Tuesday.
- Stop the calls. It’s party time here: Attendance is MANDATORY.
Tip. When calling a caterer last minute, make certain you confirm who is supplying the ice. Thank you to the other law firms in our elevator bank for sharing. Merger Diary – Vote minus 1 day
- Had our media communications team call. My “to do” list just got a lot longer.
- Confirming the little details, finalizing the press release.
- Preparing emails for associates and staff, giving direction for after the vote, and until the press releases hit.
- Finalizing the graphics for the website home pages.
- The big question of the day: Champagne toast after the vote, or at 4:00 pm?
- Neither, going for full celebration.
- Fingers crossed. Looks like the Talking Points memo is finalized. We’ll see if I get any more feedback.
- Tagline for the merger submitted. Waiting for approval.
Tip: Let it go. You will not make the gym this week for lunchtime yoga. Merger Diary – Vote minus 2 days
- Still pulling my master contact list for after the vote together. Should be finalized by today.
- Drafting email/talking points for those points of contact.
- Press releases circulating to the executive and management committees for final sign off.
- We do plan to name clients, and will get confirmation during our calls.
- Finalizing the Talking Points memo in preparation for our media prep call with the spokespersons.
- Determined which PR firm is sending out which release to which lists.
- Great question for tomorrow’s “Talking Points” meeting: How do we handle conflict checks post-vote, pre-merger? (Answer, the IT departments were all over it. No worries).
Merger Diary – Vote minus 3 days Ugh. I woke up at 4:00 am with all the things we need to do this week.
- Pulling the last few lists together for the master contact after the vote.
- Need to circulate the press releases today to the EC for their sign-off.
- Write the talking points memos and draft an email for our partners to use when calling clients.
- Partners are still working to clear the last of the conflicts. So glad that’s not on my to-do list.
- Just made my first “need to know” call to our web designer. We’re creating the image announcement for the homepage.
This is getting very real. So here we go. Merger Diary – Vote minus 5 days
- Herding lawyers to get me their final contacts so I can create a master call list (don’t want multiple calls or emails after the vote).
- Press release ready to go to the Barger & Wolen executive committee for their approval.
- Coordinating the timing of the vote in both offices.
- Hopefully the media will have left for his long weekend before this leaks out (thank you Labor Day). We have close to 600 calls to make and personalized emails to send.
Merger Diary – Vote minus 6 days
- Go-to media partners’ eyes are on the press releases this morning …
- … updating and revising press releases this afternoon.
- Creating a very, very, very long list of things to do in Phase 1 leading up to the formal announcement on September 2; Phase 2, vote to the October 1 merger date; and, Phase 3, integration moving forward.
- Met with ED on my role at the combined firm. Very exciting …
Merger Diary – Vote minus 7 days
- I need to know by end of week who needs to be personally called, emailed, or can just be added to the announcement list.
- Need to draft an email the attorneys can send out to clients, include key bullets from the business case memo.
Tip. Create a business case memo from both firm’s perspectives. It will come in handy when crafting communication messages, from the press releases, to sample scripts. Diary – Vote minus 8 days
- The executive partners are off in Chicago working out some more details today.
- Back in LA we’re finishing up the press releases, and starting to brainstorm on a tagline post-merger.
- Need to prepare an announcement for the homepage of our website. Guess it’s time to let our web designer in on the news.
- Now might be a really great time to firm up my check list. This merger is getting real.
Tip: Make sure to bring in your photographer during some of these meetings to capture candid shots and professional group pictures for media use. Tip: Plan and prepare multiple press releases focused on your major markets. For us, that’s the national legal press (law.com, ALM), California press (business journals, The Recorder, Daily Journal), and industry specific media.