Catherine Alman MacDonagh

I am attending the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Women’s Summit. Our firm is a sponsor, and our partner Karina Sterman was a panelist.

Image of LABJ's Women's Council & AwardsFor the legal marketers reading this post: get out of the office and attend the events you sponsor. I am always “too busy” to attend, but I am reminded once again today why it’s so important.

First of all, I now understand this event, the nuances, and how to market this event within our firm. Even if our table is filled, the “sales” side of the program will always makes space for you to stop by and “get a personal feel” for the event.

Secondly, Karina and I were able to brainstorm some strategies in the back of the room and we are going to create a program for our clients based on some information we heard.

Beyond seeing how our firm can be a better sponsor and take advantage of the program, I’m gleaming good information for ME.

It’s a professional women’s summit. The panels are all about our careers. With 20 years invested in my legal marketing career, there is always more I can learn, and pass along. Continue Reading Free advice on a Friday afternoon

Bob Glaves, executive director for the Chicago Bar Foundation, set off quite a Twitter discussion this week with his post, A New Year’s Resolution for the Legal Profession: Stop Calling People Non-lawyers! We even carried the discussion onto my Facebook group, Legal Marketers Extraordinaire (which topped 1000 members this week!). Inspiring Bob to write the post was something he heard Jordan Furlong say:

we are the only profession who describes everyone who is not one of us as a “non.”

[Jordan’s] right. You don’t hear doctors calling everyone else in the medical field “non-doctors,” or CPAs calling their colleagues “non-CPAs.” In fact, it sounds absurd to even imagine them or any other professionals doing that. Yet that’s exactly what we do as lawyers, and I have certainly been guilty of my share of it over the years.

Continue Reading It’s time to “Ban the Nons”

My brain hurts. There is so much swirling around in there that I’m starting to wonder if I’m suffering from a communication concussion.

I hosted a program yesterday in our firm with Lee Broekman and Judith Gordon from Organic Communication. They were here to discuss communication blockers–I’ll blog about that later on because it’s good stuff–and one of them threw out this gem during our discussion on multitasking:

When we are multi-tasking MRIs show that our brains shrink; we actually lose 15 IQ points, reducing our cognitive levels to that of an 8-year old child.

No wonder my brain hurts.

Not only am I multitasking in the office, my brain is multitasking at all times.

Here I am writing this blog post and wondering about the industry event we’re hosting in the other room; how that new partner is on-boarding, and trying to remind myself to not forget to post that article to her bio; did I send the kid the note about her tags being expired on the car?; don’t forget to text the sports dude that I forgot to pick up lemons and limes at Trader Joe’s last night; and don’t forget to send Catherine and Ben the interview questions about the Coalition of Professional Service Providers.

Okay. I’ve identified the problem. Through experimentation I have concluded that sleep, caffeine, Advil, and eating well are not the solutions to my brain hurt.

Forbes is recommending a Power Hour that looks interesting <<<<<seriously, I expect to see lots of clicks on the link<<<<< and I’m going to take on the challenge to see how this works for me.

But the bigger problem is that I am not writing enough.

Writing, especially for this blog, is what clears my head and allows me to process ideas and concepts. So, good news for the readers of The Legal Watercooler, more blog posts from me.

All I have to do is find the time. So I am headed back to the program that has always boded well for me: David Allen’s Getting Things Done.


Confession time. I’m crazed. Crazy busy at work. A thousand moving pieces. Eighty six internal clients today (and two more joining on Monday). Then there is home. My personal life. Spiritual life. Still haven’t made it to the market. It’s crazy. Nothing has fallen through the cracks, but we’ve gotten close a few too many times.

My project list in the office is insane. And, really, there is no set in stone process for what my department does and our deliverables. And I HATE it.

Part of it is the nature of the beast of legal marketing. My department has dozens of large projects, each with numerous tasks, and then there is the day-to-day stuff that just pops up. I’m getting ready to pick a website redesign company and I can only anticipate the amount of work that is going to spin off. My tools are not sufficient.

As many of you know, one of my closes legal marketing friends is Catherine Alman MacDonagh, and I often refer to Timothy Corcoran as my LMA husband. He really is the east coast version of the Sports Dude.

This dynamic duo travel the country speaking on and training legal industry professionals on process improvement and project management. Two skills, apparently, I was not born with and need to learn. I have been nagging them to come to Los Angeles with their white boards and giant Post-It Notes, and I am happy to say that the teachers are coming and this student is ready!

Please join Greenberg Glusker in welcoming the dynamic duo of Legal Lean Sigma to Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 24 for their one-day session and White Belt Certification in Process Improvement and Project Management:

Why Process Improvement and Project Management?
Today’s law firm and legal department professionals are faced with new challenges and opportunities to help their firms and departments maximize efficiencies and develop competitive advantages. PI and PM provide the concepts, frameworks, and tools that allow us to determine the best way to carry out work to consistently and reliably deliver excellent quality of work and service. By developing and employing strategies that are based on the client perspective, we determine how to create a win-win, leverage best practices, and find innovative ways in how we do and deliver our work.

Legal Lean Sigma Institute
We provide education, tools, and expert consulting support to take you, your organization, and your clients to new levels of excellence. Whether we are working with a law firm, legal department, service provider, or legal aid office (or two or more together), each and every engagement is tailored to the unique needs of our clients.

Legal Lean Sigma® programs are the first to be designed exclusively for the legal profession. You don’t have to spend your time and energy bridging concepts from manufacturing because we did it for you. We use relevant case studies, examples, and success stories from law firms and legal departments so that you can learn about Six Sigma, Lean and PM in the context of what is most important to you.

Read more on their website, and join us. I’ll be sitting in the front row!

Special offer for LMA members and your guests: the early bird rate is locked in … so you can still register for the preferred price here.


cropped-11149468_10153176009878926_9114104145154145142_n1.jpgI remember taking my first Myers-Briggs assessment way back when. I was an ENTJ. The “E” completely confused me. I hated people. I preferred to be alone. Ugh. I had to be an introvert. Right? Wrong.

Fast forward 20 years and I have completely come into my extroversion (is that a word?). I get my energy from being around others. And, more than anything, I get my work energy from the LMA Annual Conference.

Transitioning to a new firm this year has really taxed my mental energy. I have so many ideas swirling around my head every day. There are so many things to do, and many more possibilities as well. I have a great support team back in the office to help me process, wade through my ideas, help me to decide what’s a go, and what’s a no-go.

Continue Reading I don’t need to zone out, I need to zone in.

imageThe Sports Dude and I are sitting on a plane right now headed to Chicago. I have had the privilege for the past six months of attending and participating in The SmithBucklin Leadership Institute, which is culminating this weekend, and we get to bring our +1. If it wasn’t for the merger, and all the work that took place behind the scenes prior to the merger being announced, I would have written on my experience in the Institute more. In short, I don’t think I could have provided the assistance to my partners without the lessons and skills I have learned. I have specifically employed new techniques, avoided some pitfalls, and smoothed over some ruffled feathers, all because of my new leadership skills. As I finish up my final homework assignments, and prepare my final presentations, I am struck most by how prior to the Institute I did a lot of these things, and I knew a lot of these things, but it was instinctive, or by intuition. I had never been taught, or learned it. I picked it up along the way through good examples and incredible mentors, specifically Frank Moon and Steve Barrett; incredible friends and colleagues, like Catherine Alman MacDonagh; and, to be completely candid, some really shitty situations and interactions with some really crappy human beings. What I am walking away with most from my experience these past six months is a heightened awareness of who I am as a leader, and what that means and looks like within the legal industry, my professional association, my job, with my team, my HOA, Girl Scouts, my family, and the list can go on and on. If I could sum it all up: I have become more intentional, and less dependent on my intuition and instincts. So what’s on tap for today? Continue Reading M(erger) – Minus 13 Days: Intuitive v. Intentional

CME_logo Full disclosure: I’m on the conference committee of the Legal Marketing Association Los Angeles Chapter‘s annual Continuing Marketing Education (CME) Conference: BIG IDEAS Brought to Life. I am very proud of the conference, the quality of speakers, the topics, and I cannot wait for the West Coast premier of the Legal Mocktail presented by Catherine MacDonagh and Roberta Montafia. While I was on the LMA-LA board (2001-2004) I started this one-day conference to bring to our local members, especially our coordinators and managers, ideas from our annual conference.

LMA-LA’s Big Board of Prizes.
Can’t win if you don’t register.
To see something you started in the training room at LexisNexis grow into its current incarnation is inspiring. When we say “Big Ideas” we’re not joking. In a TED-style format (1 hour topic sessions. 4 speakers @ 15 minutes.) you will hear new and inspiring ideas. With our networking breaks, you will have the opportunity to meet new people and expand upon those ideas. Thank you to all the speakers who are taking the time to come to the program and bring us such great content. Thank you to the sponsors who make it possible. Thank you to Jonathan Fitzgarrald for inviting me to join the committee. He is always so hard to say no to when he calls. I hope to see many of you there. If you cannot attend, please make sure to pass along the links to your local marketing professionals.

We are all members of a team, whether at work, on a board of directors, a committee at our kid’s school, a sports team, your high school reunion, in our personal relationships, etc. In all my years, I have yet to hear of a team that was not dysfunctional in some way or another. However, until Catherine MacDonagh recommended The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, I had never realized that there is a simple solution for these dysfunctional teams. Note: I said “SIMPLE” not “EASY.”

The Model

  1. The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation of trust.
  2. This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.
  3. A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensure the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.
  4. Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear path of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
  5. Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when tea members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals for the team.

And so, like a chain with just one link broken, teamwork deteriorates if even a single dysfunction is allowed to flourish. (pp. 86-87)

Wow. That’s some truth. Catherine got me hooked on this book when she spoke of “artificial harmony.” Sit on that term for a moment and digest it. That’s what dysfunctional teams do:

  • We create artificial harmony.
  • We leave rooms unspoken.
  • We vote yes when we’re not ready to vote yes just so we can move along.
  • We don’t buy in, so we don’t do.
  • We go along with the group because we don’t want to create conflict.
  • Or, God forbid, have someone not like us.
  • We find ways of getting around the dysfunction, but all that does is create more dysfunction.
  • And, worse yet, we just accept it as a given.

We work at a law firm = we work in a dysfunction environment. But, as long as it isn’t as bad as the dysfunction of that firm over there, we’re doing okay. But we’re not. We, as members of the legal industry, just accept dysfunction as a given. That there is no way out. But this book gives me hope.

Another way to understand this model is to take the opposite approach – a positive one – and imagine how members of truly cohesive teams behave:

  1. They trust on another.
  2. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas.
  3. They commit to decisions and plans of action.
  4. They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans.
  5. They focus on the achievement of collective results.

If this sounds simple, it’s because it is simple, at least in theory, In practice, however, it is extremely difficult because it required levels of discipline and persistence that few teams can muster, (p. 87).

So, there is hope for us. At the least, there’s a whole new consultancy practice waiting to be formed. Catherine???

I know I’ve covered this topic before, but I had another reminder this week about how you should be living your passion. And, if you don’t know what your passion is, you need to find it.

What do I mean by that?

When you love what you do, or who you do it for, it shows. People notice. It differentiates you.

If you hate your job, or are just going through the motions, people notice. It’s a turn off. Rather than exude energy, you suck it out of the room.

My friend Nancy Myrland exemplifies living her passion. As do Jayne Navarre, and Tim Corcoran. You can say the same about Catherine MacDonough, and Keith Wewe. The list can go on and on.

And all these people have something in common. The Legal Marketing Association (LMA). We are all passionate about what we do for a living, we enjoy what we do. And, we do it well.

It’s what differentiates LMA from any other professional association that I know of.

But, if stuck in an elevator, if I told a group of people that my passion was working with lawyers, they’d wonder if they’d walked into a scene out of Devil.

I get it.

A little over five years ago I worked for an AmLaw 100 law firm and I was MISERABLE. It had nothing to do with my firm; I had lost my passion.

My solution was to took some time off through that summer to try and recapture my passion and my enthusiasm.

By mid-summer I realized I loved what I did for a living. I loved the people I get to work with, especially my close friends who I have met through my professional association (LMA).

I didn’t want to leave my industry, but I needed to find a balance between my passion for legal marketing, and the passion I had for the rest of my life.

The passion I live is not limited to legal marketing.

I am passionate about being a mom, and a Girl Scout Leader.

I am passionate about music, sports, and my family.

I am passionate about the Sports Dude and still am amazed that the boy I fell in love with when I was just 16 is the man I am married to today.

My life has its ups and downs. Whose doesn’t. But without that passion to guide me through to the next day, well, I’d be sucking the life out of the world around me as well.

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