LMA Annual Conference 2014

If we’re friends on Facebook you know that I had an encounter last night that ended in a very awkward moment for the other person. It probably wasn’t the most spiritual thing I could do to post about it, but what can I say? I saw a lesson there … for me. When I lead with my ego I ALWAYS learn a lesson. The hard way. I am ALWAYS right-sided. My ego is smashed. I have found out that if I lead with my ego, I will find humility through the ensuing humiliation. So what does this have to do with legal marketing? Everything. In a profession where I am often referred to by the lawyers, lumped together with every other staffer, from the copy room to the C-Suite, as a “non-lawyer,” I have had to learn how to find my place. It is such a fine balance. In other businesses, the marketing and sales team are seen as revenue drivers, strategic team members, leaders. In many a law firm we are seen as nothing more than a cost center and a annoying, and pricy, necessity. On average, in most companies, the marketing budget is 10% of revenue. In a law firm, yeah, not so much. As in 2-5%. If you’re lucky. I’ve been in legal marketing for 16 years and that percentage has stayed consistent. I have had three situations, one as recent as last week, that have been a personal evolution and a reminder that when I think I am hot shit, I will be reminded by some force in the universe that I am not. My humility (and ego) must rest in that I do this (writing this blog, volunteer service and speaking in LMA) for fun and for free. And, in return, I have found that I learn more about myself, legal marketing, business, and leadership than I realize.
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It’s Monday afternoon and I have finally cleared my e-mail, spoke to a partner, posted a session recap/guest blog post (with three more in the que), and realize I have not personally provided any major content about the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual conference last week, except for my Twitter feed. Looks like I’m skipping the gym today.

First of all, the LMA annual conference is exactly what Tim Corcoran, our president, described in his opening remarks: part educational & networking conference, part family reunion, part high school reunion. And we all know who the crazy uncle is. There are so many layers to the LMA annual conference, that when I look at the conference from each individual pair of eyes, I find that it only tells one side of the story. Family reunion: It was wonderful to see so many of my former colleagues from across my career in legal marketing. Kevin McMurdo from Perkins Coie, Ellen Musante and Corey Garver from my Pillsbury days. Not to mention all the current and former committee and task force members I have worked with throughout the years at both the local and international levels. High School reunion: Some of my closest and dearest friends I have met through LMA. While we are in constant contact via Facebook, getting to see one another live is beyond measure. We have actually started to form an “after prom” event so we can focus on our business and networking while at the conference, knowing we’ll have our personal social time once the conference ends. Scenes from an LMA Conference Education & networking: Really, there is no better place in the industry for marketing professionals to gather. We are a strange breed, and only in LMA are “competitors” so open and willing to share, help one another as we traverse this road, mentor one another, and on board new legal marketers.

One of my favorite slides, ever, from Matt Homann
One of my favorite slides, ever, from Matt Homann

This year I found the two most powerful sessions, for me, to be the first and the last I attended.
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Denise NixThank you to guest blogger Denise Nix, Marketing and Business Development Manager at Glaser Weil, for providing her insights into “When Firm Culture Gets In the Way of Firm Success: How to Overcome the Stumbling Blocks” from the recent Legal Marketing Association annual conference.”


Realizing that no marketing or business development strategy will

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

Last month came the news that another law firm is closing its doors. This time north of the 49th parallel.

One of Canada’s largest firms seemingly collapsed overnight. But, like most law firm failures, the collapse was a long time coming.

Canada’s online legal magazine, SLAW, sums it up well in this post, Requiem for Heenan Blakie:

Heenan Blaikie died from a combination of greed, poor management and failed leadership wrapped together in an antiquated business structure ill-suited to “more for less” client demands in a marketplace gradually filling with non-traditional competitors.

As I have said repeatedly, the Canadian legal profession is now entering the most disruptive period of time in its history. It has never faced such strong client demands for value and efficiency. It has never faced competition from non-traditional legal providers.

These are structural changes that never go away; they amplify.

And all of this in an environment of flat legal services demand, over capacity and legal tech entrepreneurs!

Layer in partners who are more loyal to themselves than to the firm and one can see that Heenan Blaikie (like every other law firm in Canada) was a house built on sand, not bedrock.

I fear that many of us can insert “name of American law firm” in place of Heenan Blaikie and tell the same story.

Yes, we’re chatting about this in my circles. What does this mean? Why? What will it take to change law firm culture and business models?

Some argue for the ability of non-lawyers to co-own law firms, thereby giving more control of the actual business function to the true professional business people.

Some argue we need true business development and sales people. Lawyers are not necessarily cut out for this.

Some argue that the services themselves need to be repackaged and sold (think AFAs).

Some argue that the growth through lateral hiring binge is unsustainable and a leading cause of law firm failure.

It’s the compensation plans. No, it’s the commoditization of legal services.

And then there are those lawyers who just want things to go back to the way things were. Institutional clients. None of this business development crap.

There are no single right answers. And there are no single wrong ones here either. These are all contributing factors, leading to a perfect storm that will continue to result in the roller coaster of growth through acquisition, and big law failures, along with a lot of mid-sized failures as well.

I’d like to add another layer to the conversation of change and disruption in the legal industry: There is a generational shift taking place and very few people are talking about it, nor the impact it is having on our sales culture, nor our business culture.


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