Marketing & Communications

For those who attended the Legal Marketing Association‘s annual conference in Orlando last week, it was an incredible few days of education, networking and camaraderie. Perhaps it was the location, or maybe there is truly a sense of “recovery” from the recession, but the mood was light, up beat, ENERGETIC. Many of us took to our Twitter accounts to document our experiences. You can still read those here. And then there were the LMA Bloggers. Here’s a quick recap of our posts to date.

Heather Morse, The Legal Watercooler

The Legal WatercoolerHeather Morse

Jonathan Fitzgarrald - Bad for the Brand

Bad for the Brand, Jonathan Fitzgarrald

Laura Gutierrez - Duets Blog

Duets Blog, Laura Gutierrez

The Hubbard Perspective, Hubbard One

Larry Bodine - LawMarketing Blog

LawMarketing Blog, Larry Bodine

Cheryl Bame - Legal PR Advice

Legal PR Advice, Cheryl Bame

Tom Matte - The Matte Pad

The Matte Pad, Tom Matte

Nancy Myrland - Myrland Marketing

Myrland Marketing, Nancy Myrland

Russell Lawson - Progressive Marketing Blog

Progressive Marketing Blog, Russell Lawson

Kevin O

Real Lawyers Have Blogs, Kevin O’Keefe

Lindsay Griffiths - Zen and the Art of Legal Networking

Zen & The Art of Legal Networks, Lindsay Griffiths

Jeff Williford (courtesy of Lindsay Griffiths)
At the Disney Institute, presentation at LMA last week, Jeff Williford talked about creativity. It’s easy for us to point and say, “Well, of course everyone who works for Disney is creative.” However, Jeff challenged us to look at our own creativity. We’re all creative people … even the lawyers amongst us. Walt Disney once said:

Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.

When we were little children, our parents could give us a box of 64 Crayola Crayons and a sheet of white paper, and we would create magic. A box of mismatched Legos would keep us entertained for hours. Somewhere along our paths, coloring books replaced those plain sheets of paper, and we were encouraged to “stay within the lines.” Legos were introduced in kits with full instructions on how to build a Millennium Falcon. Over time, as we started school, and began to grow up, our creative instincts were pushed aside. We started to fall in line, coloring in the lines, with all the other kids.

New and in the Box - going for $1500 on eBay
Jeff’s challenge to us last week to go to our next meeting and take notes with a crayon. I don’t know if I will go that far, but I hear what he is saying. We enter meetings with a fixed way of viewing the problem or challenge. We look to others in the room to validate us. We need to remove the lines, the borders, the proper order of things, and look to the endless possibilities available to us. If you think about it, we’re all being paid, from marketing director to lawyer, for our creativity:

  • How do we see the problem?
  • What are the solutions we can provide?
  • What are the steps we can take?

Our solutions might not be in 64 magical colors, but they certainly should not be limited to just black and white.

Are you getting excited? The Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference kicks off in just one week. I know many of you are going through the online materials, flipping through the agenda, trying to decide which sessions to attend. Just remember, there’s MORE at LMA. The MORE sessions (Mentoring Opportunities with Real-life Experts) are round-table discussions facilitated by leading LMA members. As a member of the conference committee, I had the pleasure, with Catherine Alman MacDonagh, to help coordinate these sessions and I hope you check them out:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 – Conference Day Two

10:45a.m.-12:00 p.m.

  • ABA 20/20 Commission and State Bar Developments
  • Avoiding Ethical Pitfalls – Examining Ethics-related and Regulation Issues
    • What are the top legal ethics mistakes that fall through the cracks? Are you aware of the importance of conflict checks? What are the ethics involved in social media, multi-jurisdictional practices, and offices that cross state boundaries? Join this roundtable discussion to find out, in addition to discussing recent court decisions in legal ethics cases and what they mean for you.
    • Facilitator: Russell Lawson, Sands Anderson
  • Branching Out – Explore Legal Marketing Career Paths
    • Uncover potential legal marketing career paths, and take this opportunity to meet a mentor/match make with LMA’s finest to help you transition into your new position/career.
    • Facilitator: Roberta Montafia
  • Confessions of a Legal Marketer – the Clean Slate Table
    • Own up to your legal marketing mistakes in a ‘safe’ environment – hear others ‘horror stories’ to know that you’re not alone and it’s OK to move on.
    • Facilitator Megan McKeon, McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP
  • Ways in which to Collaborate with the ACC Value Challenge
    • Explore the value proposition of value based billing and AFAs, and ways in which your firm can become a supporting organization of the ACC Value Challenge.
    • Facilitator: Felice Wagner, Sutherland
  • Convergence of Knowledge Management and Business Intelligence
    • As content continues to grow exponentially in the public domain and is increasingly merged with proprietary content, a need to effectively harness, manage, and act on this information will gain greater importance.  More and more, legal professionals that perform the function of business intelligence and business development are being asked to find actionable insights from a wide array of different sources. Knowledge Management can, and will, play an increasing role in ensuring that these folks are finding the actionable information that they need to achieve their business and practice objectives.
    • Facilitator: Peter J. Ozolin, Manzama

1:45-3:00 p.m.

  • Top Tips for Marketing on a Shoe String
    • How do you continue to market without a budget? It is possible. Participate in this roundtable to share and learn marketing and business development ideas with little to no budget that bring big rewards.
    • Facilitator: Adam Stock, Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP
  • What’s next for the Legal industry?
    • The recession is almost over, now what? What practices are now on the rise? If the pyramid is out, and everything in the legal industry is shifting, what business models are now at play? This thought-provoking discussion will get you thinking about the implications surrounding the 21st century legal business model.
    • Facilitator: Maggie Watkins, Best Best & Krieger LLP
  • How do you Transition a Lawyer from a Hot Practice when their Practice has run cold?
    • Learn ways in which you, as a legal marketer, can play a part in allocating resources appropriately, so when a practice group runs cold, you’re prepared to help identify and transition a partner, using their current expertise to identify and renew their practice.
    • Facilitator: Tracy LaLonde, Akina
  • Adding a Value Proposition to your Marketing Department
    • As the structure of today’s law firms changes, so too does the look and feel of today’s legal marketing departments, and the way in which marketing and business development work together. Learn how you can add service standards to your marketing department, by recognizing your firm’s culture and how you should work within it as opposed to allowing it to impede you and your priority projects.
    • Facilitator: Kevin McMurdo, Perkins Coie
  • Quick Facilitation Tips to make you more Effective in your Day
    • There are many quick tips and ideas you should be adding to your tool box to make you more effective in your day to day functions and to increase your success rate with selling ideas. Learn them here!
    • Facilitator Beth Cuzzone, Goulston & Storrs
  • Ways in which to have Better Relationships with your Vendors
    • Vendors can be your best resources. Do you have the relationship you need for maximum support and access to critical information? How do you even frame a conversation with a vendor to ensure you get what you want from it?
    • Facilitator: Tim Corcoran, Thomson Reuters

Contrary to some perceptions, marketing isn’t about throwing your message out to the broadest group of people and hoping something sticks. To me, where professional service marketing is concerned, which legal is a part of, targeted and niche marketing is one of the most effective approaches. For instance, it’s hard to market a general litigation, IP practice or corporate practice. It is much easier to market a construction defects, medical device practice or emerging technology practice. The target is narrowed, and you can then broaden your efforts and grow your visibility within that segment. I am in NO WAY saying limit yourself to one segment or industry, or that this is the ONLY way to market. It’s just one way of making rain. At a prior firm I had a rainmaker in the corporate department who always marketed to three industries: One that was red-hot right now, one that was on it’s way out, and one on it’s way up. While managing his red-hot practice, he was learning about and making connections with the up-and-coming industry, while winding things down with that once hot, but not so much now, industry. This partner was one of several rainmakers within the firm, each one with a different way of making rain that worked for him or her. Cordell Parvin writes about this in his post today, Lawyer Marketing Key Point: Narrow Your Client Base and Widen Your Visibility.

As you know, I began my client development efforts as a commercial litigator. I struggled to figure out how I could market myself. I was flailing away marketing to everyone. Unfortunately for me, there were several older and better known commercial litigators in my home town. I changed my focus and narrowed my target market to highway and transportation construction contractors. It was by far the most important decision I made in my career. I actually widened my practice, to include contracts and every day advice. I narrowed my client base so I could be more valuable as a trusted advisor.

Cordell then runs through a few examples of helping his clients narrow their niche before concluding:

So, if you are marketing to everyone and not finding any success, you can narrow your focus to a smaller group, find a niche practice, or continue marketing to a wider audience. Whatever approach, use the tools, like blogging to widen your visibility. These are examples demonstrating there is more than one way to make rain.

So, if you’re tired of throwing spaghetti up against the wall, hoping something sticks, you might want to try narrowing your niche.

As I sat last night watching the State of the Union (SOTU) address, that legal marketer in me kept popping out and wanting to play. So here are a few of my musings:

  • Define your target audience in advance. Know your target audience. Speak to your target audience. Don’t worry about everyone else. It was clear last night from the speech and the comments posted on Twitter’s #SOTU that President Obama wasn’t speaking to the Left, nor to the Right. He was making a conscientious decision to speak to the middle. His ROI from the speech will not be defined by his polling numbers going up from Democrats or Republicans, but from the undecideds.
    • Lawyers and marketers need to define their target audiences for each and every marketing piece that goes out of the office, every blog post written, and business development opportunity taken. This can, will and should change from day-to-day, post-to-post, opportunity-to-opportunity.
    • It’s not necessarily about your current clients, who has hired you in the past, and the work that you have done for them. You now need to reach out to those who have the business you want (which may or may not be the same as the work you have done in the past) and the opportunity to hire you in the future.
    • Speak to the teleprompter.

      Even the President of the United States can benefit from media training. I didn’t notice this until it was mentioned on Facebook by another legal marketer, but Mr. Obama looks at the left teleprompter, then to the right teleprompter, and back to the left telepromter. However, he never addresses the  audience in the middle, where the camera is focused. As such, he never engaged me as a viewer. He never locked eyes with me via my 42″ flat screen. I have a feeling that those who listened to the speech had a much different experience than those of us who were watching it on TV. A GOOD media trainer will FIX this ASAP.

      • Invest in media training. It will benefit you whether you’re going on camera, speaking to a live audience in a courtroom, or at an industry conference.
      • Never go on camera, or give a presentation, if you’re not prepared and ready. At the very least, have someone in your firm grab a video camera of some sort and tape your presentation, and then watch it with a critical eye. Within the first two minutes you will be able to identify areas where you can improve.
      • If you’re reading from prepared remarks, make an outline. Face it. You’re not the President of the United States. For most presentations it is not necessary to write out and recite every word verbatim. Prepare an outline of your remarks and engage the audience instead.
      • If you’re clumsy with PowerPoint, don’t use it. It will hamper your ability to engage the audience.
      • Speak to the crowd. Look around. Make eye contact.
    • Feedback today is live, and sometimes brutal. I was watching SOTU with my Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and with strangers around the world via #SOTU. There’s no more hiding from the truth. There’s no more blowing smoke up someone’s ass. If the president or his handlers are interested in knowing how he did last night, all they had to do was listen. No need for pollsters on this one. The people were speaking loud and clear. I truly hope that someone has pulled the Twitter feed, and is actually reading all the comments under the White House Facebook page, under news posts, from opposition parties, and party stalwarts.
      • If the President of the United States cannot squelch or hide from honest and polarizing opinions, neither can you. Rather than try and prohibit, control or limit social media, embrace it … the good, the bad and the ugly.
      • If you’re speaking at an industry conference, arrange in advance for someone to live-Tweet the program.
      • Make certain that you are following the conversations around you via a Google search on your personal name, the firm name, your top clients.
      • You cannot silence Facebook or Twitter, so don’t try. Lead the conversation instead.
    • Lead by example. Kudos for the legislators who chose to cross the aisle and sit with one another last night. Whether they were sincere about it or not doesn’t matter. Sometimes you just have to act better than you feel, be an example, put your personal grievences to the side, act on behalf of the collective good, rather than just based on your personal benefit. I give a #fail to those who chose not to.
      • Every firm has its quirks, dysfunctions, in-fighting, feuds (I think you know what I’m getting at). Yet, the firm leadership needs to lead by example and not play into the divisiveness.
      • As a firm leader, you have to push your personal agenda to the side for the benefit of the firm as a whole. You are being watched by your other partners, by the associates, staff, clients, press. How you handle difficult personalities, practices working in isolation, greedy partners will be judged and critiqued by all those who look to you for LEADERSHIP.
    • It’s okay to be a Democrat, a Republican, or anything in between, you just have to shake hands and be polite. At the very end of the speech, the president turned around and shook hands with Speaker of the House John Boehner and then Vice President Biden. It would not benefit us as a country if the president was rude. While Mr. Boehner did not agree with every point the president made, he never threw anything at him or acted inappropriately. There were polite smiles and applause. There was decorum.
      • I wager that none of us lives in isolation where every member of our families, all of our friends, colleagues, clients, etc. are of a single political persuasion.
      • We should not have to pretend or ignore that our best client is not a “gasp” Republican “like me,” or our favorite vendor is not a “gasp” Democrat “like me.” It’s okay to not agree on politics. You just have to be polite about it.
      • I have mentioned before that my Facebook Wall is open to all to discuss politics, but we will discuss in a respectful manner at all times. My politics are known by all, but I have to admit that the best conversations I have on the “issues of the day” are with my political opposites.
        • If you persist in making partisan attacks on Twitter, Facebook or through your blog (I am NOT talking about asserting partisan opinions), at a certain point you will no longer be someone I know, like and trust. You will lose my respect, and eventually my business, not because of your politics, but because of your vitriol.
        • Look in the mirror before leaving the house. Seriously. I don’t know who the make-up artists were last night, but the president looked like an Ooompa Loompa. So did Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. (what was up with his hair??). And don’t get me started on the Botoxed “smiles” in the gallery. Creepy.
          • First impressions are made within seconds of meeting someone. Dress well, always.
          • As more attorneys are NOT retiring at 65, but feeling compelled to compete with a younger generation, remember this: BOTOX IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.
          • No matter what your age, a bad dye job is BAD and everyone can tell.
          • You get what you pay for … this is true for leather goods, suits, haircuts, and jewelry (definitely NOT suggesting that you pay retail. I LOVE a good deal/sale).

        As for the speech itself? Well ….

        Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool (via Huffington Post)

        Get it into your heads: Marketing and Business Development are NOT about today! I had a great reminder of this from a partner in my firm. He began building a relationship with his client’s subsidiary 10 years ago. Yes I said TEN as in X or 3,650 days (plus a couple leap years). The work had been handled by another firm and the client was very happy. Until last month. My partner got the call that the work was available and was he interested? Of course he said yes. About 18 months ago our firm was asked to fill out the “preferred provider” forms from one of our clients, who was being bought out by a bigger fish. We did very little work for either entity, and the work we did was in a very specific market segment. We filled out the forms, and we do the quarterly updates. We’ve flagged the client in CNS for new cases being filed, and have sent them over when appropriate. No new business. Until now. Got the call. We’re on the list. We have offices where they’re seeing a problem arising. The work would expand our relationship in another market segment. Can we do this? Of course we can do this! When exerting marketing and business development efforts, it is desirable to see immediate results. Unfortunately, immediate results rarely happen. Most of your efforts won’t be realized until months or years down the road. Relationships take time. However, you must position yourself to be in the right place at the right time. Marketing and business development are not about the work you are doing today, but the work that will come in the door when your current matters have wrapped up and the files sent to off-site storage.

        I’m speaking on a webinar next month with Ed Poll and Kevin O’Keefe. I’ll have more details on that once everything is finalized. The topic of social networking and advertising came up, and it got me thinking. Social media isn’t advertising, per se, but it is migrating into an umbrella term for everything we do on the social web. Sort of like how “legal marketing” is an umbrella term for everything we do, including MarComm, business development, PR, the dreaded holiday cards (by the way, shout out to Pillsbury for being one of the only firms to successfully implement an e-card). Social media is built around individuals. It is about connecting, publicizing, networking, advertising, branding, business development, education. It is done on different platforms, and those platforms can be used for a multitude of purposes. For instance, I can connect on Twitter. I can also publicize my blog, build my brand, advertise an upcoming event, broadcast news, ask for assistance, etc. Sometimes I’m connecting personally. Sometimes professionally. Sometimes I want to have a say in the conversation. And sometimes I just need to vent to the universe. Social media and social networking are not static, nor do they maintain a singleness of purpose. It has been bandied about that in the Internet-age there is no longer privacy. We share openly (sometimes too openly) on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, etc. Everything we do has the potential to be broadcasted to the world. Literally. No matter what your privacy settings are set at, you are part of this new world, whether you like it or not (Facebook photo-tagging, for instance). If you think about this way, everything we do is an advertisement of ourselves. We no longer have the luxury of separate “personal,” “professional” and “social” personas. They have all morphed into one person. At the school holiday program today, I chatted legal marketing with one parent; updated another on the adopt-a-family program I’m organizing with Girl Scouts;  one mother asked to be introduced to the sports dude because she recognized him from my Facebook page; and the sports dude recognized a fraternity brother from college who was sitting in front of us. What I do online, at my kids’ school, in the Girl Scout meetings, at work, in my personal life are all now connected. By listening to those in my social network, I am seeing that my “brand” is that of an engaged, active mom and career woman who still makes time to have fun (seeing both Billy Idol and X this week!). There’s no more compartmentalizing me. I am a living, breathing, walking advertisement of what I do and who I am. So, while social media and social networking are not “advertising” per se, I’m starting to think of it as product placement. I am a product placement in my own life. What this means, to me, is that I have to protect my brand in all areas of my life. I cannot act up in one world, and not see the reverberations in another. People will make judgments of me based on what I post on my blog, on Twitter or my personal Facebook Wall (or, your Wall since Facebook is now posting those on MY Wall too #fail). Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’m certain that only time will tell. People will get burned and learn the hard way. Others will master and succeed. Others will be clueless and just “wonder why”? Personally, I’m embracing this. I am finding benefits. I am also aware of the pitfalls. But, most of all, what I have found is that social media/networking is creating a more natural and authentic me. I am transparent, and I have very little to hide, and even fewer places to hide them.

        No one likes to think that they are a type, or so a psychologist told Don Draper last night in the latest episode of Mad Men. But, we’re all a type:

        • We all have personal and professional experiences that influence every decision we make, every day;
        • We all receive and digest information differently;
        • We all want what we want, versus what is expected of us.

        For years, twelve or so now, I have listened to presentations of corporate counsel talking about what they want from their outside counsel. It rarely changes. I’ve listened to private practice attorneys talk about what they want (usually premium work and more billable hours) from corporate counsel. That never changes. I’ve listened to legal marketers trying to figure out how to get lawyers to interact with clients on the clients’ playing fields, and not the attorneys’. The only thing that changes here are the legal marketers. All kidding aside, over the years it seems to me that the only thing to have really changed in respect to client relations is the technology used to deliver the messages. We have gone from “Out of the Office” pink message pads to voicemail. Then came e-mail, and now text messages. We’ve gone from printed newsletters to PDFs to blogs. But we’re still conveying the same messages. And while the delivery methods have evolved, the senders and receivers of the messages have not. We’re all a personality type. Whether you subscribe to I-Speak (intuiter, thinker, feeler, sensor), Myers-Brigg (extravert/introvert; sensor/intuiter; thinker/feeler; judging/perceiving); DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientious), or a multitude of other personality systems, the goal is to get one type of person to work and communicate better with another type. All the systems, however, have one thing in common: By better understanding how we personally process and receive information, and by learning how to identify how others do the same, we best communicate and work with one another. The system works for inter-office relations, client teams, attorney/client management, beauty contests, sales calls, etc. Now, back to last night’s Mad Men and our star, Don Draper. While everyone around the conference table grabs a pencil and cookie on cue and begins filling in their bubbles, Don gets up, shakes the psychologist’s hand, apologizes and heads off to his office for a drink. He doesn’t see how understanding himself better will sell more Lucky Strikes. He IS Don Draper, after all. Unfortunately for Don, and for many lawyers, that’s his biggest problem. He cannot see the world through anyone’s perspective other than his own. He has created his world (his own personal sandbox), and everyone must play his game, his way, or get out … and, as we saw in last week’s episode, that goes for clients, too. Unfortunately, this style doesn’t work for the rest of the world (and, really, I don’t think it’s working too well for Don either). For us, I believe by understanding how WE see the world; how WE make decisions; how WE handle stressful situations; how WE prefer to receive, process and deliver information, we can then better understand how our clients and potential clients will do the same. By way of example, I am quite certain that I am as self-absorbed as the next person. It was incredibly enlightening to discover at my first real job after college, that not everyone is an ENTJ like myself, or an intuitor, or a driver. Over the years I have taken many self-assessments during training and coaching sessions. As I have better come to understand myself, I have been able to look at my co-workers in a different light, respecting our personality differences, and differing styles of work. I see how we complement one another, and how, at times, we unknowingly work against one another when we do not compromise our styles. And while some might think the following a form of manipulation, I have found that by understanding the different personality styles and types about me, I can better manage (package) the way I deliver information so that those about me, especially my CLIENTS (who are the attorneys in my firm, and for the most part are thinkers),  can better receive the messages I am trying to convey. Last night Roger Sterling summed it up this way: “It’s a great job … except for one thing … the clients.” I will sum it up like this: “The clients, and all of their differing personality styles and types, make my job great!!” Well, at least it’s never boring.

        Kudos and thanks to Jonathan Fitzgarrald and Cheryl Bame for gathering together some of our colleagues to produce: Law Firm Marketing Leaders: Tips from a Collection of Experts,” (pdf). Enjoy the “5 Tips” on the following topics from some of legal marketing’s finest:

        While getting ready for school and work this morning, my 7-year old asked me what I did at work. She knows my office is up really high in the tallest building west of the Mississippi. She knows that I have a really cool white board that she likes to draw on. She knows I work with lawyers, but that I’m not one. She’s seven and doesn’t understand terminology like “business development,” “collateral,” and “reputation management.” She knows all about the Internet; it’s where she plays with her Webkinz, watches Fred videos on YouTube (click at your own risk. Really annoying), and e-mails her friend Tamaki in Japan. However, she doesn’t understand “social media” and “social networking.” To her, Facebook is just a place where I share pictures of her sticking out her tongue. Truth be told, I had an associate ask me the same question recently: “What do you do?” So what do I do?? I’m a legal marketer, which doesn’t really convey too much. Personally, I think of my title as an an umbrella term that includes numerous job responsibilities:

        • I’m the guardian of the firm’s image. Whether graphic, website, blogs, invitations, tribute ads, behavior at external events, etc.
        • I’m responsible for “external happy.” That’s fancy speak for client relations, external events, conferences, client communications, etc. “Internal happy” belongs to HR and administration.
        • I’m chief psychiatrist. My door is always available for shutting for you to vent your frustrations, as long as you’re willing to take on some of my solutions.
        • I’m the messenger. I carry information between partners and offices … and get to act as a conduit.
        • I’m the conduit. Since I know what you’re doing, and what the partner down the hall, or across the country is doing, I can start making meaningful connections.
        • I’m the impartial party. Since I’m not affected by the compensation structure, I have no problems seeing beyond the dollar signs and billable hour requirements when it comes to new business development.
        • I’m the cheerleader. If it’s a good idea, I’ll root for it loud and strong.
        • I’m the story assignment desk. I troll the news and court verdicts for blog ideas, and assign partners to write up posts and client alerts (whether they do it or not, well, that’s another job).
        • I’m the traffic cop. Gotta make sure those deadlines are kept.
        • I’m the referee. Sometimes between staff. Sometimes between partners.
        • I’m the virus (or antidote, depending on your perspective). I slowly infect the partnership with new ideas, spreading marketing and business development ideas and concepts, which slowly change the way the attorneys approach their new business generation.
        • I’m the master-manipulator. If it’s a good idea, I’ll make sure that at some point it becomes your good idea and gets implemented.

        So, what’s my job … I’m in charge of making sure “It “ gets done. “It’s” a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. And “It” changes on any given day.