Public Relations, Advertising & Directories

Linda HazeltonJust as we were getting ready to head out to the LMA Annual Conference, news broke that Chambers and Partners had been acquired by private equity house Inflexion. Today’s guest blogger, Linda Hazelton, Hazelton Marketing & Management, picked up the phone and spoke to Mark Wyatt, Chambers’ CEO.

Amongst the many services of Hazelton Marketing & Management is the writing of Chambers and other directory submissions on behalf of lawyers and law firms, so Linda’s insights to our community are very much welcomed, and I want to thank her for writing such a detailed post.


News recently broke regarding Inflexion’s acquisition of Chambers. Inflexion is a mid-market private equity firm “investing in high growth, entrepreneurial businesses.” In Inflexion’s news release, Simon Turner, Managing Partner, said:

The legal services market is a large and growing market which we have tracked for a number of years. Chambers benefits from a leading, global position and a reputation for providing the best rankings and research in the industry. There are multiple opportunities for the business to develop its market leading position internationally and through an enhanced digital offering. We look forward to working with the management team as Chambers embarks on this exciting growth strategy.”

Emphasis added

Mark Wyatt will re-join Chambers as CEO. Mark was previously the Managing Director of Chambers from October 2014 to September 2015. Mark’s quote in the news release referenced Chambers’ expansion plans and driving “[O]ur online presence forward.”

I spoke with Mark on April 9, 2018. He confirmed my supposition that Chambers’ methodology and the rigor with which they conduct research will not change. He is very enthusiastic about working with Inflexion, noting that they are terrific with technology. Since they are not publicly traded, there’s no need to focus on quarterly profits and they take the long view. Mark expects that the improvements in technology will allow them to manage the vast amount of information they have gathered in even more useful ways. Overall, the goal is to strengthen relationships with their clients and to improve at retaining their talented researchers and editors. I think we can anticipate an expanded on-line presence as well as new products such as forums, roundtables, client panels, and the like.
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As you know, I run a secret Facebook group of legal marketers with nearly 1000 members. Every few months a post pops up about this vanity directory or that submission. We snicker. We bitch. We moan. We agree this one you have to do, that one you can ignore. But we’re never happy about having to do these, because they are time consuming, and they don’t directly bring in any new business.

We can now throw all of our snickering out the window now–we’ve got our own ranking.

May I introduce you to the Top 100 Legal Consultants Strategists from our friends at Law Dragon? But let’s keep it real.

This latest list of vanity results are just that: Vanity. There are dubious persons on the list. Glaring exclusions. And a gaggle of retired or no longer focused on this sector members.

But kudos to Law Dragon for tapping into “our” vanity, and I mean that. I’m just hoping that when they come out with their Top 100 in-house legal marketers I make the list (and I really do mean that). Since I control the ad-buying budget for our firm, that would make sense, right? I have an ego. I know who is good in our industry, and who isn’t. If I see “that” person on the list, and I’m not there, well, that just can’t happen.
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toservelawyers

A theme I heard, or just picked up on, at the 2016 LMA Annual Conference is that our role, as legal marketers, is as a service provider to our clients … the lawyers we serve. Yet, sometimes, the relationship seems much more adversarial than it has to be.

Yes, our “job” is to increase the top line, but very few of us are true sales people heading out to bring in new clients to the firm. And it takes finesse to be successful in our roles.

For the most part, our job is to help identify opportunities both internally and externally. To coach and train lawyers. To prepare for the sale. To provide the infrastructure. Too many lawyers want to abdicate (or blame) marketing if they do not have a steady stream of new business. The rainmakers get it. The service partner (which are becoming a dying breed in law firms) do not.

Kirk_surrounded_by_Tribbles
Directories and submissions multiply faster than Tribbles.

So where am I going here? The disdain for a function of our jobs — submissions — has to stop. And the attitude change has to come from us.

Yes. Directories and submissions seem to breed new directories and submissions faster than Tribbles, but can you not see the value? And I’m not talking about pointing to new revenue. The ROI for each of our functions is not necessarily new revenue, and I will argue that directory and submissions do more for us than they do for the lawyers.

Here’s how I came to appreciate the Chambers and Partners submission process, as well as Best Lawyers, and yes, Super Lawyers:

It’s not about bringing in new business.

It’s about the service provider/client relationship we share with the lawyers.

I believe the Chambers/Super Lawyers panel has surpassed the General Counsel panel as one of my favorites at the LMA Annual Conference. Why? Because my CLIENTS, the lawyers, value these and learn something new each time that allows me to serve my clients better.

I wrote about my change of heart here last year in I’m changing my tune on surveys. Once I stopped thinking about how these submissions are a waste of time and don’t bring in any new business, and started to recognize WHY the attorneys value them, I was then able to see how they allow ME to build a better relationship with my CLIENT. At that moment I began to not only  appreciate the submissions and directories, but look forward to them.

Why?
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pauseWell. It’s been a little busy this pre-holiday season as my department is deep in holiday cards, holiday gifts, budgets, business plans, oh my. But this little diddy of a headline caught my eye in today’s Los Angeles Daily Journal (our local legal rag) and I didn’t want to just add it to my “someday” pile for future blog posts:

Defendants sue law firm over ‘defamatory’ release

I don’t even have to quote the article for you to get the gist.
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As an LA Clippers fan, I am disheartened and disgusted by Donald Sterling, his wife, and everyone associated with the franchise who have stood by and co-signed this racist crap.

However, just as his wife is currently being represented by counsel in her attempt to retain her ownership of the team, Donald Sterling deserves the

Photo credit: “The Controversial Topics of Wikipedia” on Wired.com

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?


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