Mark this day down on your calendars, kids. We will one day look back on November 18, 2014, as the first day in the long anticipated end to the dreaded billable hour.

From today’s American Lawyer:

Law firms have been calling for the end of the billable hour for decades. And since the 2008 recession, they have increasingly offered cost-conscious clients alternative fee arrangements.

Now Jackson Lewis says it wants to take the next step in the evolutionary process of alternative fee arrangements by eliminating the billable hour as an evaluative tool for its 293 associates. As of Jan. 1, associates at the labor and employment firm will be assessed on efficiency, client service, responsiveness, team-orientation and pro-bono commitment in an effort to align the way Jackson Lewis “deliver[s] legal services with clients’ needs,” according to firm chair Vincent Cino. (The firm’s compensation model for partners is based on revenue rather than hours.)

“The billable hour is directly opposed to the best interest of the client and to the provider of service because by its very nature it adds an artificial barrier to the accomplishment of the only real objective, which is a quality legal product for a set and expected price,” Cino says.

Whether you agree or not that the “billable hour is directly opposed to the best interest of the client” you have had to wonder, at some point in your career, “Well, how did we get here?”

Continue Reading You had me at “the billable hour is directly opposed to the best interest of the client …”

I’m reading a new survey from ALM, New Partners Ambivalent About Rainmaking, Survey Finds, and am aghast at the naïveté of the respondents. Apparently, 49% of new partners surveyed don’t think that their ability to make rain is a deciding factor in their being promoted to partner (equity or non-equity).

Asked how important they think certain factors were in their promotion, 84.4 percent of respondents said they believe they were promoted according to their ability to perform first-class legal work, and 60 percent cited the strength of their commitment to the firm. (Respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer.) Just under half—49 percent—of new partners said that their ability to bring in new clients was an important factor in their promotion, although equity partners saw developing clients of their own as somewhat more important than nonequity partners did. “Associates are not adequately aware that they effectively need their own book of business of approximately $750,000 to $1 million to be a partner at a large law firm,” one respondent wrote in the survey. “Even if an associate is promoted, they are destined to be unsuccessful as a partner without this size of a book.”

Wow. Without clients, you know the people who write big checks to the firm, there is no firm. Clients do not appear out of nothing. Those relationships have to be developed over time, years actually, then maintained and hopefully built. Institutional clients no longer exist. You cannot make partner and expect — poof! — originating credits miraculously appear. And to the 84% who think the ability to do first-class legal work is what got you promoted, let me clue you in on something: The ability to do first-class work is stipulated; you would have been fired years before if you could not do so. And while business development might not be the most comfortable of tasks for an individual, it is very important to a firm that their equity partners bring in new business. A law firm cannot exist on service partners alone (unless you hire a Pete). Business development (sales) is not a talent many of us are born with, but it can be learned and developed over time for many (not all). But it first must be engrained into the culture of the firm. Too many firms do not support business development, but expect the results. There is no training or coaching to learn the skills necessary to accomplish the tasks. There are no rewards, in the form of hourly requirement credits, for business development. Too often the hurdles to get approval become insurmountable, and I haven’t even touched on the compensation system. How timely that Dave Bruns and I will be presenting next week at the ALM West Coast Law Firm Marketing & Business Development Leadership Forum in San Francisco: The Total Package: Business Development Integration for Success. This is a topic that is near and dear to the business development teams across the country, and we hope to discuss what firms need to do to support the success of their business development programs.  

I went to bed last night so confused. It felt like Wednesday, but, no, it was only Monday night. Something tells me this is going to be a long week. Not only do we have to integrate the two firms, but I have homework for my leadership class (assignment due tomorrow), and I found out last night that my Girl Scout neighborhood treasury job just doubled my work load.Yeah to being a volunteer.

Seriously. Can’t a girl catch a break around here? Oh, and it’s Babe Ruth Bobble-head night at Dodger Stadium. I really want to go, but it’s a school night. The Sports Dude will be working the game. It feels like I haven’t seen him awake in a week  … thank goodness the team hits the road for about 10 days starting tomorrow. We’re actually going to catch them at Wrigley Stadium next week. Go Blue!

So here we go. Twenty-two more days until the merger. What’s on tap today?

  • Yikes. Can’t believe it’s been that long since I updated that brochure. Well, nothing like merging to get you to update some of your older collateral pieces.
  • Homework assignment (write my eulogy) done.
  • Need to figure out how travel and expenses will work as of October 1.
  • Booking flights for my October travel.
  • Yoga. From the cramped muscles I have right now, I need more yoga, not less.
  • Where is Marty? I need him to sign off on his project.
  • Wonder what my new title is going to be?
  • Time to put the new tagline to bed and get the new collateral and business cards to print.
  • Need to integrate the two employment law blogs. Time to bring some more teams together.
  • Need to pull our diversity stats for the overall firm report. Luckily, I do have that … just need to update.
  • Met with my counterpart from the other firm on new materials for joint client visits. Need to get him our collateral on the group so we can create a new piece.

Tip: Before merging documents clean them up. Now’s the time to update the numbers, information, representative cases, etc. It’s also a great time to clean out your files. Dump the old and stale.

In my 20s I received a great piece of dating advice: Don’t answer the door on a first date wearing a wedding dress.

I would say similar advice applies to lawyers: Don’t show up for the first meeting with a potential client carrying a proposal and an engagement letter.

I am in the process of looking for a very specialized law firm to handle a very specialized matter for a specific type of business. I am the new president of my HOA, which is a stock corporation (coop), not a condominium. Our issues are different, as are the legal requirements set by the state, to be reflected in our governing documents.

I thought my email inquiry was clear: “Do you work with Stock Cooperative HOAs? We are looking for a firm to handle the updating and revising of all of our governing documents.

The reply back within hours from the administrative assistant included 1,818 words in the reply (that’s four full pages if you’re wondering), along with two attachments.

Wow. Holy boiler-plate.

I was looking for a yes or no answer and I got a whole crap load of copy-paste gunk, a 21-page proposal misidentifying our type of association as well as our governing documents, along with a 7-page fee agreement and engagement letter “signed” by one of the name partners. However, the did customize our association’s name on the cover of the proposal.

Sadly, my simple question was never really answered: Do you represent businesses like mine? The admin said yes, but their marketing materials don’t lead me to believe that is true.

If we were on a first date I would have been tempted to excuse myself to use the restroom and just keep on going out the back door.

Considering the admin didn’t even got my name right, my first inclination is to pass on the firm, even though they are considered one of the top in the field. That or send the admin an invitation to the next LMA-LA event so she can learn how to properly market her firm.

But I’ll speak with an attorney first before I pass on the firm. Bad legal marketing shouldn’t stand in the way of good legal work. Let’s face it, not everyone can be a legal marketer extraordinaire.

Thanks to the folks at Spark Media Solutions for doing a great round of post-session interviews after our presentation, Generational Marketing: Strategies and tactics for engagement with Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials.They really picked up on the main themes of our session, and provides a great recap of our session.

Jonathan Fitzgarrald and I appreciate the feedback we received, and look forward to presenting next week in Orlando at the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference.

question markFor quite a while now I keep telling attorneys in my firm that we need a Pete. For those of you who do not watch Mad Men, Pete Campbell is the head of accounts and a partner at Sterling, Cooper, Draper and the other guy. His job is to go out, find the business, wine and dine (and throw in a whore house or two) the clients. He is not an ad man. He’s a BD (business development) guy. Client services professional. And his role to the firm is key in their success:

  1. He finds the client.
  2. He is a bridge between the client and the creative team.
  3. He keeps the client happy and coming back for more.

Once Pete interests a client in the firm, he then introduces them to Don Draper, one of the agency’s partners and senior creative directors. Don then starts to get the potential client interested in the pizazz of what an advertising campaign run by him would look like. Once they get the green light to prepare a formal pitch, Don then brings his team together. Peggy, the head copy writer, and on her way to becoming a partner, along with the media buyers, art directors, and junior copywriters. They then work together to pull the pitch together and present to the client.

We need a Pete
Advertising Agency – New Business Flow Chart

Nothing about this flow chart is unique. Accounting and other professional services businesses are run this way. They all have a Pete.

Law firms? For the most part, we don’t have a Pete. And our flow charts for new business doesn’t look like their process at all. Continue Reading Mad Men and Law Firms: We Need a Pete

I caught a post today from Jaimie Field, one of my Legal Marketing Extraordinaires, Rainmaking Recommendation #91: The Mathematics of Time for Rainmaking where she breaks down the myth that you don’t have time to make rain. She’s right. I don’t care how busy your practice is, you can find the time to make some rain.

We are going to start with a few assumptions:

  1. That you are required to bill 2000 hours per year, and
  2. That you like to sleep.

That means you have to average 40 hours a week for 50 weeks of billable time (I’m giving you two weeks of vacation a year – am I nice or what?) or 160 hours per month. So let’s talk about just one month of time (and we aren’t even going to discuss working weekends): On average, there are 20 business days per month. 20 business days x 24 hours per day = 480 hours total hours. 480 hours – 160 hours (8 hours of sleep per night for 20 nights) = 320 hours left 320 hours – 160 hours of billable time per month = 160 hours left Even if you work out 1 hour per day for those 20 working days you have 140 hours remaining per month.  Those 140 hours per month (and remember, this is only during the working week, this does not include weekends) equals 7 hours per business day to use any way you want.

Fine. You’re busy. I get it. Plus you have to add in a commute, the gym, watching a TV show or game. But even with all that, you still have a good three hours a day in which to market, or goof off around the office, hang out on Facebook, or play video games. Which one’s going to make you money? Here are some suggestions on what to do with some of those three hours: Continue Reading Rainmaking Math … You have the time

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

Where they Boomers got their name.

Generational marketing is a term that I picked up at the Chief Marketing Officer Institute earlier this year, and something Jonathan Fitzgarrald and I continue to toy with in terms of how this applies to legal marketing.

In short, generational marketing recognizes that the different generations make purchasing decisions in different ways from one another.

The different life phases we are in presently, coupled with our upbringing and societal norms, provide us with different perspective than those we follow, or those who follow us.

Roger Daltry is now 69. What happened to not trusting anyone over 30?

For example, I’m an earlier member of Generation X (born 1961 – 1981). I came of age during the Cold War.

I was raised by my Silent Generation parents (1925 – 1942), who came of age post-WWII. Only one of their five kids are a Baby Boomer (1943 – 1960). The rest of us are Gen-X.

And my parents were raised by their G.I. Generation parents (1901 – 1924), who grew up during, and were shaped by, the Great Depression.

One of the greatest challenges I face in the work place is working with the Millennial generation who were raised with technology at their fingertips (sometimes referred to as Gen Y; 1982 – 2000). The Baby Boomers really don’t get them at all.

Continue Reading Talking ’bout my generation

A fellow legal marketer recently brought up Avvo in my Legal Marketers Extraordinaire Group on Facebook (message me on the Legal Watercooler’s Facebook page if you would like to join).

She was wondering about the value.

Avvo has always had its distractors, but I’ve always taken a “meh” position. Why? Because I’m in corporate law.

Here’s what I had to say about Avvo:

Avvo has incredible sway amongst consumers and has high search results.

If I was counseling a consumer lawyer (PI, trusts & estates, criminal, etc), I would definitely recommend Avvo and every Best, Super, lawyers.com they could get into. 

For my corporate lawyers, not so much.

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I also believe Avvo will grow in its prominence. Lisa Bloom, Gloria Allred‘s daughter, is a CNN contributor. Just flipped the TV on and there she is with “Avvo Legal Advisor and Spokesperson” under her name.

Kevin O’Keefe had several things to say, but he touched on something that should not be ignored:

Do not worry about search in the sense of getting your lawyers found, worry about what people see when they search the name of your lawyer. That’s the most important search. Avvo profiles will come up near the top on a Google search for the lawyer’s name.

To me that’s the value. If it is popping up in search results when you type in Attorney Name and Law Firm, then it is important.

That is key here. If you Google and Avvo pops up, it is important to that lawyer. Period. The less they do in social the higher it will rank, and there will be nothing to balance it out on the first page. So for that lawyer who doesn’t write or do media, doesn’t blog, doesn’t tweet, not on LinkedIn, Avvo might be the only thing other than their firm’s bio for a legal purchases see when they do their due diligence search.

I typed in the name of one of our partners, Larry Golub. Page after page of great content. He’s a frequent blogger, speaker at conferences, and media source for the firm.

He has an Avvo profile, but after page three of Google I stopped searching for it.

I did the test with a different partner, Marina Karvelas. While she does blog here and there, and has been a media resource, she is not a prolific blogger, speaker, content creator.  Her Avvo profile shows up on page one of Google.

Larry does not have to worry about Avvo. Marina should to a minimal extent. She just needs to make sure that the information is accurate and up to date. Same with anything else that is popping up in the first 1-3 pages of Google (although recent surveys are showing fewer and fewer people are clicking to page 2).

Now, my college roommate is a family law attorney and getting ready to hang up her shingle. She knows where all the dead bodies are buried, so to speak, so she will be getting lots of free legal marketing advice. Towards the top of my list for her is that she create and maintain a robust profile on Avvo. Why? Because consumers are using Avvo to research and conduct their due diligence.

In short, if you are a consumer attorney in any way, shape or form, care a lot.

If Avvo is showing up in your Google search results, but you represent corporate counsel, just claim your profile and make sure the information is accurate. If you don’t like the results, work to raise your profile ranking in Avvo, or create more highly indexed and original content to bury it.

If it’s not showing up in your search results, you don’t worry too much about it.

However, do not make the mistake of dismissing the good folks at Avvo. They are providing a much needed service to consumers out there. Time will only tell if that service will trickle over to being a resource for the business world and corporate counsel.