Photo credit: “The Controversial Topics of Wikipedia” on

An interesting headline caught my eye this week via Forbes: “Disgusting!,” Cry Legal Experts: Is This The Lowest A Top U.S. Law Firm Has Ever Stoop (ht Above the Law).

Quick history lesson: During WWII the Japanese (allegedly) kidnapped (mostly) Korean women and forced them to be “comfort women” (prostitutes).

The case in question involves a U.S. law firm taking on a controversial action surrounding this issue:

Would any self-respecting U.S. law firm represent a client who suggested the Jews deserved the Holocaust? Probably not. As a matter of honor, most law firms would run a mile, and even the least honorable would conclude that the damage to their reputation wasn’t worth it.

Where imperial Japan’s atrocities are concerned, however, at least one top U.S. law firm hasn’t been so choosy. In what is surely one of the most controversial civil suits ever filed in the United States, the Los Angeles office of Chicago-based Mayer Brown is trying to prove that the so-called comfort women – the sex slaves used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II – were no more than common prostitutes.

Not exactly the way I’d like a story on my firm, in Forbes, to begin.

So why am I writing this post?

Call it what you will — a game changer, jumping the shark, yellow journalism, link bait — but something has shifted in the land of corporate communications and management with the advancement of social media.

While law firms like to hold themselves out to be above the fray (we’re a “profession” after all), truth is, we bleed green just like any other business and are susceptible to outside influences.

Earlier this month, the co-founder and CEO of Mozilla was forced to resign due to a relatively small political contribution he personally made to a now unpopular California state proposition.

Prior to the contribution being revealed — several years after the fact — there was no indication that his contribution ever impacted the running of the business, or the management of the employees.

But his personal position is now incredibly unpopular and political forces used social media to put pressure on the company once the contribution was unburied, and he resigned.

Then I saw the Forbes headline this week. And read the comments. And started a discussion. And listened to the debate. And I have one question that cannot be answered … yet:

What does this mean for law firms that take on unpopular or controversial clients or causes?

Continue Reading Controversial Clients and Social Media: Game Changer?

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.

It’s that time of year.

The invoices and renewals are making their way to my inbox.

I’m going over the 2014 budget and looking to see who’s been naughty or nice.

I have to decide who stays and who goes. Who gets voted off my legal marketing island.

My number one request?

Show me the value!

Why should I renew my subscription, whether for a directory listing, or conference sponsorship? Did I get my $2400, $5000, or $10,000 in value?

Three recent and very real scenarios paint the picture for me.

Scenario 1: Annual association membership, including conference sponsorships at additional financial investment. Annual cost: Big Bucks. ROI: Great potential for new relationship building. Speaking opportunities. This group has the right people, but are we meeting them?? It’s definitely valuable, but expensive. Not too sure, but I need answers.

Continue Reading Breaking up is hard to do – Vendor Style

I’ve been working on the business side of law for a long time now. I have attended NUMEROUS general counsel panels. I have read study after study. And I have to ask, “Are any of you listening?”

I was at a presentation yesterday with the good folks at Thomson Reuters. They put up a slide of the general counsel’s top concerns. And then they put up a slide of the managing partners top concerns.

I, being me, raised my hand and asked: “What do you have to say about the complete disconnect between what the GCs are concerned about and what’s keeping the MPs up at tnight?”

I think I caught them off guard with that question because the next slides had nothing to do with bridging the gap between the disconnect.

According to a recently released Altman Weil Chief Legal Officer Survey:

Inside – Outside Relationship
When asked to select the service improvements and innovations they would most like to see from their outside counsel, three of the top four CLO responses involved costs and pricing. CLOs’ first choice for change in law firm services was improved budget forecasting, followed by greater cost reduction, more efficient project management and non-hourly based pricing structures.

However, Chief Legal Officers appear to have little hope that law firms will rise to the challenge. For the fifth straight year, the survey asked CLOs to rate how serious law firms are about changing their legal service delivery model to provide greater value – and for the fifth year, the median rating was a dismal ‘3’ on a scale of 0 (not at all serious) to 10 (doing everything they can).

To balance the picture, CLOs were also asked how much pressure corporations are putting on law firms to change the value proposition. CLOs rated themselves at a median 5 on the scale, as they have for four of the last five years.

After five years of similar responses to this pair of questions, it’s seems pretty clear that Chief Legal Officers have decided to tackle these problems themselves, rather than rely on outside counsel to partner with them on change.

Yet survey after survey of managing partners still show law firms are way too focused and concerned about how to increase rates and billable hours as a strategic goal. Yes, they understand that they are under pressure to increase value to the client, but they don’t want to do so at the expense of their rates and hours.

Tim Corcoran wrote a great piece this week on Big Data: Big Deal or Big Win? I will pay him the highest compliment I can and say that I circulated the post to all my partners with a ‘MUST READ” in the subject header.

Tim breaks down how corporate legal departments and law firms can use their data to make predictive costs to manage projects, and clients.

I’m going to say it again, “Until a law firm places as much emphasis on achieving their clients’ highest goals, we will continue to run around in circles.”

Clients do not want us to not make money or be profitable. They want us to be efficient. They want to know where the hell their money is going. And they want to know that THEIR money is well spent.

They want to know, before they sign on the dotted line, what the project will cost, what the deliverables are, and what they can expect.

Clients do not want surprises.

Law firms want to be profitable. But sometimes they don’t know what that means or how to measure it. Working in a cost-center, I get that. You want to make money, so you often times look to where you can save money, or where the ROI does not directly link back to revenue.

Yes, it costs money to launch a new website. No, I will never be able to link back, with certainty, where we brought in a new client because of a website launch. Just like I cannot tell you how much business or opportunities you have lost out on because you haven’t updated your web bio in 15 years. How many people have clicked on and clicked off because there just wasn’t any content there to read? (Memo to self: send out annual reminder to attorneys to update bios with this year’s wins and accomplishments.)

Times they are a changing.

The habits of the new generation of decision makers is nothing like the prior ones. We all have to adapt to one another. To listen to what the other is saying. Private practice attorneys HAVE to pay attention to what their client are saying and what they want. It is just too easy in this 2.0 world to find someone else who will.

referee-2Hear those doors slamming and heads banging from your legal marketer’s direction? It can mean many different things, but between now and the end of the year, it’s most likely your Chambers & Partners submissions are due. Lucky for me, I work for a boutique and we keep our submissions manageable and simple. But I’ve worked in an AmLaw 100 where we did everything for every one across multiple states, time zones and continents. We had to manage what felt like a non-stop deluge of submissions across states and practice groups. John Hellerman at Hellerman Baretz just posted Clients: The Secret to Your (Chambers) Success:

The research cycle for Chambers USA kicked off on Monday, which means submission season is well and truly underway.  It also means, no doubt, that lots of you are panicking.  You may be wondering whether you’re ready, and if not, where you should be focusing your energy.  The answer is very simple, and involves two words: client referees.

For those of us on this side of the pond, referees are your references. While you might think that having the GC at your favorite Fortune 500 is the best reference due to name recognition and panache, the guy or gal a few notches down on the totem pole is most likely the better choice due to their accessibility, knowledge of the actual work you and the firm are doing, and willingness (and time) to return the call. A few little secrets I’ve learned over the years:

  • Chambers will only call a reference once every 6 months to a year. So if they spoke to your reference in June, they will not speak to her again in September.
  • Chambers will not tell you who is on the do-not-call list.
  • Chambers will not confirm with you which of your references they have contacted.
  • Chamber WILL tell you how many of your references they have reached.

So, if your “interview” period is in August, you might want to give a call mid-month to see how many of your references have been called. If only two out of the ten have been contacted, you need to get your partners on the phone. Who did they reach? Who did they miss? Who is out of town? Who can you substitute in? Great work is great work. But Chambers wants to hear about it from your references.

Kudos to the Legal Marketing Association – Los Angeles Chapter program team on today’s Corporate Counsel Panel. I have to say, I always love me a GC panel. Sure we hear the same ol’ same ol’, but there are always a few new nuggets of information in there.

GC panel
Corporate Counsel Panel
Three things popped out at me:

  1. The importance of LinkedIn. I have never at a panel heard GC after GC rave about LinkedIn. Okay. Four out of six. But they were vocal in their enthusiasm. The connections.The groups. They are using it to vet outside counsel. Learn information. Stay informed of trends. I’ve hyper-linked the LinkedIn profiles below where found.
  2. ACC Daily Newsletter. For those who don’t know what this is, the Association of Corporate Counsel uses Lexology to feed a daily newsletter for ACC members. The members can customize it by industry, practice, region, etc. Where does Lexology get the content? Law firm blogs. Corporate counsel are reading with their eyes and clicking on things that are of importance.
  3. Headlines Count. Whether it’s coming from an e-newsletter, scrolling through a LinkedIn group’s latest postings, or the Lexology daily newsletter, corporate counsel are clicking on the headlines that resonate with them on the issues they are facing today. Harkening back to this post, Why, yes, Amy. I did learn two new things, it’s not WHAT they are about to read, but WHY they need to read it that counts.

I tweeted at #lmamkt some other little tidbits. But those are the biggies that I walked away with, Oh, Yeah. One more: 4. It’s all about relationships. Don’t ever forget that. In Photo: L-R. Deborah Greaves, Secretary & General Counsel, True Religion Brand Jeans; Camilla M. Eng, General Counsel, JM Eagle; Joanne E. Caruso, Vice President, Global Litigation, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.; Jennifer Fisher, Senior Counsel, Intellectual Property, The Boeing Company, Boeing; Sheri Eisner, Associate General Counsel, JAMS; Tammy Brandt, Vice President and General Counsel, ServiceMesh, Inc.

It is no secret that I’m very interested in how teams work, how individuals (ME) fit into a team, and how we all come together to get the job done.

A colleague of mine posted an interesting job description for a Director of Law Firm Marketing and Public Relations:

  • “Intense Measurement” is your mantra. You prescribe to the theory that water boils at 212⁰F. Not at 210⁰ or 211⁰. It has to be 212⁰F. Even if you have 99.5% of the heat you need – your water is at 210⁰F – it won’t boil. Yet if you just tweak one or two small things – move the pot slightly to the right or increase the fuel a hair – suddenly everything changes. The water starts to boil. The same applies to the Marketing and Public Relations Director’s job – you can put lots of effort into it, but nothing “boils” until you look for those missing, magical “degrees” that could change everything. Whether you need to place more “streaming ads” on sports radio stations on Mondays, you need a direct response campaign during the heaviest tax return weeks, or you’re convinced we need a same-sex only divorce site (one in five couples meet online, but three-in-five gay couples meet online)…you never give up and the “perpetual beta” is something that you focus on day-in and day-out;
  • You’re a quick study with strong people skills…you have the ability to read people quickly (and accurately)…you are approachable, inspire candor and welcome multiple points of view;
  • Basic marketing research skills: you know how to collect information, analyze research and develop reports explaining their findings. You use calculations and formulas to evaluate data as you attempt to forecast future trends, and use information you find to support these claims;
  • You have a love and knack for writing, you “rock” in social media marketing, and you can write original copy based on your solid understanding of our primary areas;
  • You are proficient in Microsoft Office and Acrobat, and you know the basics of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, and
  • You can juggle multiple priorities simultaneously, establish clear priorities, meet deadlines and remain laser focused on the goal in a never-ending environment of change.

I love it.

I would hope that the resumes coming in will be include a wider pool of folks who will be the right fit, but perhaps not have the spot-on skill set that you would get from a functionally focused job description.

Some of these skills can easily be learned, especially if you have an inquisitive personality, and enjoy learning new things. But you cannot teach someone to be inquisitive or have a desire to learn.

Reminds me of some interview questions I’ve been asked over the years: “How can you market us in New York when you live in Los Angeles?” “Can you tell us about your experience marketing lawyers within the ABC industry?” “Who are your PR contacts in XYZ community/industry?”

Really? Why not ask me what I’m going to do in my first 90 days?

I don’t need to live in Santa Barbara, or Silicon Valley, or Denver to understand how to build up and learn about those markets, manage resources, and identify opportunities. Yet I have successfully taken on responsibilities in all of those markets, and work with lawyers to expand their practices in each community.

I knew very little about the insurance industry when I took on my current job. Probably why I subscribed to every insurance industry/business publication I could find during that first week.

We recently held a very successful industry conference for one of our practice groups. I didn’t sit in the sessions as my head was focused on all the logistics and I wouldn’t have heard a thing.

One of the lawyerly types said I would probably be bored learning about the minutia of what they do.

Actually, I do need to know what the lawyers do, and how the clients operate, but on a just below the surface level.

As I told one of my partners: I need to know enough about what you do to identify opportunities and help you market your practice.

But the real answer goes a bit deeper then that:

  • I need to understand the marketplace where the attorney operates. I need a clear understanding of who their buyer and influencers are.
  • I need to know the legal resources used, and where to find the answers to questions I might have.
  • I need to know the legal terms, and the major laws and legislation surrounding the industry. Where are the hurdles and brick walls that clients come up against?
  • I need to understand the business lines of the clients involved, and how they are currently operating in the marketplace. I need to have a clear understanding of the business needs and concerns of the client.
  • I don’t need to know enough to do the lawyer’s job.
  • I don’t need to run the client’s business.
  • I need to be able to connect the dots between the client’s business problems and our attorneys’ legal solutions.
  • And I really need to understand how my firm and our attorneys differentiate from our competitors.

So lacking specific industry, marketplace or functional experience should not be a game-stopper for interviewing or hiring an individual for a specific job. For those involved in the hiring process I would want to know:

  • How does she fit in the existing teams within the firm, practices, departments?
  • What are the qualities of his personality that will move projects along and get the job done?
  • Does she have the thirst for knowledge and inquisitive nature to seamlessly take over an existing position, or create a new one?
  • Can he fit in and manage the attorney personalities within our firm and culture?

Back to the questions at hand: Should you be hiring for fit or function. I’ll go with the Pareto principle on this one. 80% fit and 20% function.

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).


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%.

Oh, the bane of the marketing department’s existence: sports tickets. Let’s give a collective eye roll here. They suck time from the department. Too many lawyers use them to “entertain” quote “clients,” who are really personal friends. We know it. And yet, they can be an incredible business development tool, but it is so hard to measure their impact, and the financial investment.

Lucky for me, our client base is not based in Los Angeles, so I just buy tickets as we travel, and I use a broker.

My ticket guy, Matt Anis (who is FABULOUS and always takes care of me when I need tickets in a strange city) from Spotlight Ticket Management, Inc. just sent me their new Business Impact Calculator for sports tickets, and it looks like this: ROI Calculator

From Matt’s email to me:

The Company Ticket ROI Calculator brings together the expertise of the world’s top law firms, auditors, accountants, sports teams, and over 4,000 Spotlight customers into one simple step-by-step analysis of how much you can demand from your company tickets.

Highlighting the tax benefits, legal liabilities, and business impact of your current tickets, the no-cost ROI calculator is a necessary tool for any business with sports, concert, or theater tickets.

Click on the image to go to the live calculator.

I’m not sure how accurate it is, and there is an advanced calculator that you can use as well, but it’s the first time I have every seen anything like this come around, so play around, have fun, and let me know what you think.

06.10.11 christmas stockWell, tis the season and all.

I’m checking out BTI Consulting‘s latest survey where GCs name the most arrogant law firms, and there are no real surprises.

According to Law360’s article, GCs Name Most Arrogant Law Firms:

As the legal industry rebounds from the recession, cockiness is also on the rise, as the number of firms deemed arrogant in a new survey of corporate counsel has ticked upward since last year and doubled from what it was two years ago.

The 2013 BTI Client Services A-Team report, published by The BTI Consulting Group (Wellesley, Mass.), suggests that many of the nation’s legal powerhouses have returned to their smug old ways, no longer desperate for business and no longer willing to budge on fees or otherwise give ground to clients.

So who made the list??

This year’s naughty list includes: Skadden, Kirkland & EllisCravath, Hogan Lovells, Jones Day, King & Spalding, Latham, Quinn Emanuel, Sullivan & Cromwell, Wachtell and Weil Gotshal.

Lest one equates arrogance with service, only four of these firms made BTI’s Top 30 in client service.

As for the Nice List? Here’s the 2013 Client Service 30. The top 10 are:

  1. Jones Day
  2. Mayer Brown
  3. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  4. McGuireWoods
  5. Seyfarth Shaw
  6. Thompson Hine
  7. Kirkland & Ellis
  8. Faegre Baker Daniels
  9. Baker & McKenzie
  10. Sullivan & Cromwell

And, yes, Virginia, it is possible to make the Client Service 30, while avoiding the Arrogance list entirely. Just ask nice guys Seyfarth Shaw, Thompson Hine, and Littler Mendelson.

So, what does this mean? Not too much, obviously. When it comes to “bet the farm” litigation, the “like” in “know, like and trust” can often times be thrown out the window. You need your team to win at any cost, and you’ll put up with that “arrogance,” along with the hourly rates of over $1000.

However, are you going to put up with that type of arrogance or behavior when the stakes are not as high? Or will you take your business elsewhere? Seeing the profits and revenues of the AmLaw 100 and 200, I’d say a lot of that work is being spread about the country. And, according to the Go-To Law Firms ® list, not one firm holds a lock on any one company.

As the recession did show us, corporate counsel are willing to take their business elsewhere, and that is not about to change any time soon.

So while making the arrogance list might lend a smile to the smuggest of the smug, it should also raise eyebrows of caution.

Number one on the client service list, Jones Day, is quite capable of handling any work that the other firms might have. Sure, they are on the arrogance list as well, but not so high as to make the news stories.


If you don’t know BTI, they slice and dice all the fun information on how general counsel see, view, and hire outside counsel; how and if they will spend money; what drives the purchasing decisions. Great pie charts. You can download (for a price) the full BTI survey here.