Summer is over, and that means a rash of conferences will be taking place between now and the week before Thanksgiving. Calls for speakers and sponsors are starting to go out for 2019. And my budget and calendar are busted.

Needless to say, I have attended, participated, and planned numerous conferences over the course of my career, and there’s just no excuse for crap programming.

I’m spending time (days out of the office, away from my family, plus travel), money (usually my firm’s, but for my service provider colleagues, it’s their money). And for my clients (the attorneys in my firm for me, but the paying clients for my firm’s attorneys), they are losing access to their trusted adviser/service provider/attorney for those hours or days.

It’s 2018 and there’s just no excuse for bad programming. So why are you still not taking speaking or moderating at a conference seriously? You said yes for a reason.  Continue Reading An Open Letter to Conference Organizers, Panel Moderators, and Speakers

Having been around legal marketing for more than a decade now, I have watched how our firms have tackled diversity and women’s initiatives. The Association of Corporate Counsel is highly vocal on these initiatives, and clients are driving diversity initiatives via the RFP process.

Microsoft made waves last July when it announced the launch of a legal department program that would pay out bonuses for outside counsel diversity, to both the firms and the senior in-house attorneys who work with them. The law firms can nab a 2 percent bonus for showing measurable results in diversity levels—either by increasing the hours worked by minority lawyers on Microsoft matters or by increasing the number of total U.S.-based diverse counsel within the firm. On the in-house side, 5 percent of the bonus that goes to senior Microsoft lawyers is contingent upon whether at least three-quarters of the firms that opted for the first bonus option meet their goal. The in-house component recognizes that matter staffing and management is often jointly handled by outside and inside lawyers.

Whatever your personal opinions are in regards to these types of initiatives, lawsuits like these, “Ex-Associate Claims Mayer Brown Used Her as ‘Marketing Tool,” make it more difficult for firm’s to actively promote diversity.

An African-American former associate at Mayer Brown’s office in Charlotte, N.C., has filed a discrimination suit that claims the law firm used her as a “marketing tool” before firing her in 2008.

Former associate Venus Yvette Springs, a magna cum laude graduate of Duke Law School, alleges that when she was hired in 2007 there were only two other African-Americans at the firm’s Charlotte office and no others in the real estate practice group where she worked. Above the Law was the first to post news of the lawsuit (PDF posted by Above the Law).

“Springs was hired, in whole or in part, because the Charlotte office needed to increase its number of African-American attorneys,” the suit says. “Upon information and belief, firm documents refer to the hiring of an African-American as a ‘marketing tool.’ Springs was used as a marketing tool, asked to attend on behalf of Mayer Brown bar and other functions where diversity would be perceived as a positive. As discussed below, the need for diversity gave way to the firm’s underlying discriminatory culture and practices.”

So, what’s a law firm to do? Not hire a magna cum laude graduate from a well-regarded law school? Bad law firm. What were you thinking? Sending an African-American to attend a program on behalf of the firm? For shame.

I hate to break the news to anyone reading this: EVERY lawyer in the firm is a potential “marketing tool” for the marketing department.

You write well? I’m making you editor of the blog. Tool.

You speak well? You are off to that conference. Tool.

You present well? You are representing the firm at the exhibit hall table at the industry conference. Tool.

You social?? I’m sending you to any and every cocktail party, table of ten I need to fill. Tool.

Grow up. We’re all tools of the firm because we are part of the firm’s success or lack thereof (yes, even I am a tool of the firm). We all have a role to play. Those who embrace these roles will find success within the firm’s political structure, and through their business development efforts. Those who reject it … we’ll, good luck finding a new job once your lawsuit hits the Internet.

It is no surprise to anyone who regularly reads The Legal Watercooler that I am a Twitter fan.

I follow legal marketers, lawyers, PR consultants, members of the media, corporate tweeters, and “gurus.” I follow big law, solos and “recovering” lawyers. I track news, trends and politics on Twitter. Through my follows, I receive insights and diverse perspectives from various parts of the country and the world.

So when I came across the Twitter mosaic, I had to make one. And there they are … my first 300 or so follows. These are the Tweeps I listened to, learned from, and explored with as we all were trying to figure out Twitter and how it applied to our businesses.

These Tweeps represent what I most appreciate from Twitter: diversity of thought, actions and deeds.

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Kevin O’Keefe asked his followers this morning what Twitter means to us as legal professionals.

I could write 140 characters, 10 times over, on what Twitter means to me as a legal professional.

But for brevity sake I’ll limit it to the concept that Twitter is a true melting pot of ideas. For those of us who believe that diversity is more than skin color, Twitter is a Godsend.

Twitter brings together “Big Law” and solos, 1st tier and 3rd tier graduates, West Coast/East Coast, and gasp, Gulf state & fly-over state perspectives. This one little program has become a beacon for in-house professionals, law students and consultants.

Twitter is the great equalizer. No attorneys and “staff” here. On Twitter we — lawyers, marketers, techie, librarians, paralegals, and assistants — equally contribute to the conversation, adding our unique perspectives.

Twitter allows me to quickly branch out from my personal limitations of industry (law) and “practice” disciplines (marketing & business development).

By casting a wide net, I now follow people from different industries, practice disciplines, political persuasions, philosophies, religions, regions and countries. Through Twitter, I am learning how you are applying new concepts, tactics and ideas to your businesses and industries, and play with how I can interpret them to the practice of law.

I was reading Bernard Goldberg’s OpEd piece in the WSJ remembering Tim Russert where he quotes from Russert:

I am for having women in the newsroom and minorities in the newsroom — I’m all for it. It opens up our eyes and gives us different perspectives. But just as well, let’s have people with military experience; let’s have people from all walks of life, people from the top-echelon schools but also people from junior colleges and the so-called middling schools — that’s the pageantry of America . . . You need cultural diversity, you need ideological diversity. You need it.

While Goldberg is focused on media bias in the newsroom, his points resonated with me on so many different levels and I began to ponder how we, as legal professionals, view law firm diversity programs.

At the start, what do we mean by diversity and what are we trying to accomplish? Are we looking to mix up the photos on our websites, increase our stats for an RFP, and perhaps win an award or two? Or are we trying to infuse different perspectives and ideas into how we and our firms view a client’s problems, issues or challenges?

One of the newer trends I am seeing come from our industry (law firms, bar associates and industry groups, etc) is to participate in programs that increase the pipeline of minority students who will eventually attend law schools, thereby increasing the minority candidates to recruit.

This is a great beginning. But, where do we go from there? Will all of those students end up at Harvard, USC or University of Chicago? What about the kids who end up going to 2nd Tier schools like Southwestern, McGeorge or Howard University? How many AmLaw 100 firms have tables set up there?

The question I have is: will we continue to limit our recruitment efforts to the Ivy Leagues and other top tier schools, or will we open it up to the middling schools?

I want to be extremely clear: I’m not saying don’t actively recruit women and minorities. I applaud those efforts. I’m just saying we should not close our eyes to the economic, cultural and ideological diversity that exists as well. At the end of the day, diversity is more than just a color, it’s the way our varying and diverse life experiences, beliefs, attitudes and opinions come together to create a masterpiece.