April 16, 2014

Marketing for Law Firms: Priorities, Purpose, and Pay Grades

In today's The Legal Intelligencer, reporter Gina Passarella writes about the trend toward sticking "business development" into the titles of many Philadelphia law firm lead marketers. She could have changed the title to "Philly Law Marketers should not let the revolving door hit them on the way out."

The latest step (or misstep) for many of these firms is to add or change the CMO title to lead or include "business development" in it. Somehow, law firm management thinks this will make it all better. The irony is that most of the hires and candidates have the same set of credentials as their predecessors. It is nothing but semantics. Few have true BD experience, backgrounds or credentials. But that has not stopped many of these management committees from moving forward with their umpteenth marketing head of the last decade.

I often find myself reminding law firm management committees that there certainly is a connection between business development and marketing. In reality, every single employee of a law firm is somehow engaged in BD. We are all in business and we all are trying to develop more of the same. Marketing provides the image, messaging, tools and resources to develop said business. In corporate America, many CMOs are held to a number--meeting a revenue target, increasing market share, balancing the budget between them. In most law firms, it is the attorney that either generates a number--or not. They rely on the marketing team to give them what is needed to develop business. There are exceptions. But generally that is how it works.

Ms. Passarella cites Dilworth Paxson, Blank Rome, Ballard Spahr, Montgomery McCracken and Pepper Hamilton as just SOME of the firms where the marketing merry go round have made recent stops. This is certainly not a knock on the personnel. And it is not really a knock on firm management either. It is simply a reminder that law firms continue to struggle with the priorities, purpose and pay grades...which ironically is the title for an upcoming ABA webinar on the subject.

On May 5, 2014, I moderate and speak on a panel designed to address some of these very issues. My fellow panelists include Nick Gaffney of Infinite PR, who will address issues of public relations and media relations. Maziel Abrego is Practice Development Manager for Vedder Price. A former president of the New York chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, Maziel has bucked the trend with significant longevity at large law firms. All three of us are trained attorneys and marketers. We will discuss the issues that law firm management face in determining the best routes for spending and staffing marketing and business development. Thanks to Saturno Design's underwriting, the ABA webinar cost is well under $100. A small price to pay to avoid blowing another couple hundred grand.

Law firm marketing and business development efforts have increased significantly in the last decade. Recent shifts in firm demographics, client, and market pressures are making it more important than ever that a law firm's leadership and management has a working knowledge of the core aspects of any successful marketing plan and department.

We will discuss what a management team needs to know about the effective components among marketing efforts, staffing and spending. Learn first-hand what is working for the competition and what truly is a proper amount of time, money and resources for your practice.

Topics include: branding and advertising, technology tools (including web and social media), networks and professional associations, marketing materials, public and media relations, professional development training, proposals and pitches, ratings & rankings, sponsorships, community/charitable giving, ethics compliance, client surveys, staffing, and budgeting. CLICK HERE for more information and registration.

March 21, 2014

WMT: Is there commonality in marketing a law firm and a restaurant?

opentable.jpgIn my monthly contribution to Web Marketing Today, I go off the reservation a bit (pun intended) in discussing Open Table, restaurants and customer service compared to professional services, law firms and client service. In Using Customer Reviews to Drive Sales, I discuss positive (and negative) customer service experiences and how the same concepts and data drive similar patterns for a law practice.

Fine dining is a centerpiece in the health and well-being of my marriage. Every Saturday night is date night, come hell or high water, and with it one of many great restaurants in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Regardless of how busy we get with work, travel and dealing with the kids, we take a few hours and a few bucks each weekend to partake in a nice dinner. It is our household's major discretionary spend (and when you add wine and a babysitter, it adds up fast). Our Facebook followers know that each week they'll be clued in on a new, hot or long-time favorite eatery for future consideration.

The chances of your restaurant being selected as a destination are heavily weighted by whether you show up on Open Table. I peruse the reservation options weeks in advance and look at my profile to remind myself where we are going over the next month or two. On the flip side, the participating restaurant gets to know a lot about me before I walk in the door--and that is where the possibilities of developing customer satisfaction and loyalty exist.

What spurred on this topic in writing my WMT piece for March was an invitation to dinner at Estia Taverna, a restaurant opening near our home, which is an off-shoot of a favorite spot in Philadelphia, Estia, and before that the sister restaurant we often enjoyed in New York City, Avra.

My follow-up reviews on Open Table puts me as one of the 25 most prolific reviewers on the entire site. I use Open Table when traveling as well. Ironically, the places we frequent the most--Bibou and Le Cheri--from Pierre and Charlotte Calmels (perhaps the top chef/restaurateurs in Philly) don't show up in most of my Open Table reviews (they use OT, but we end up locking in our reservations at the restaurant--never leaving either without the next one--and they know how to develop a following and loyalty through impeccable food and service).

I also juxtapose the positive--Estia Taverna, Bibou, the Phoenician in Scottsdale, the Four Seasons, Moore Brothers Wine Company among them--with the negative--my airline, which shall remain nameless, Priceline and dining establishments that failed to take advantage of the data sitting right there to cherry-pick. Read the piece and see if you can see where good client service for a lawyer overlaps with running a successful restaurant, hotel or similar establishment. The key takeaway is whether you take advantage of the data that exists (often through web-based sites and software) for your practice.

Fifty Great Local Web Marketing Ideas

If you do not subscribe to the free Web Marketing Today newsletter, they are providing a complimentary e-book on 50 Great Local Web Marketing Ideas to all new subscribers. I've contributed two of the 50 (and learned a few tricks from my fellow contributors as well).

March 14, 2014

The Marketing Value of Work-Family Balance

workingmother.pngPerhaps this post is just an excuse to brag about my wife, Ivy Brown, who was recently honored as a Working Mother of the Year in the advertising industry by Working Mothers Magazine and the Advertising Women of New York.

The event itself was pretty remarkable. There were more than 750 attendees in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Marquis in New York City. The tables were a who's-who of leadership from blue chip companies--from Johnson & Johnson and Comcast to Facebook and Sony. The commissioner of the National Basketball Association was at the NBA table, honoring a working mom from his organization.

A highlight was definitely watching the short video our kids put together to commemorate the occasion. They were asked the question, "what do you like to do with your Mom?" Lily, 9, scripted out the video with her brother Benjamin, 5. They put notes on a white board and had me videotape it (with an iPad) until they approved the final version (14 takes later). Talk about marketing. Besides the big screen at the awards, this video has appeared everywhere, from internal company newsletters to social media and in their classrooms at Moorestown Friends School. Lily's performance earned her the gig of making the "lunch is served" announcement at the awards program (where she quickly memorized the cue card and showed no fear in standing on the stage in front of the crowd).

In watching the event, from the initial announcement of honorees through the luncheon itself and the promotion after, I marveled at the marketing value tied to it. In our age of two-working-parent households, millennial "philosophies" and societal changes in attitude toward who works in a family and how a company handles it, there is a lot to learn from this program.

With increased pressure from corporate America to make sure your workforce is diverse, many law firms have found attracting viable candidates difficult. Again, looking at it purely through marketing eyes, you see the heavily promoted women's initiatives, diversity efforts and paternity policies splashed across websites and brochures. The goal is twofold--to attract diverse lawyers and to show your corporate clients that you care about it. Reality, in some instances, might be another story. But, hey, if we do a good job marketing it...that's not my problem.

With the Working Mothers' honor, my wife received recognition internally (promoted within J&J), externally (through PR) and everywhere from her school to friends and acquaintances on Facebook. I had the chance to put faces to names at the luncheon. She gets positive promotion that will ideally positively impact her career down the road. J&J gets positive promotion as a company that does not just sell products to Moms but creates an atmosphere and culture in the workplace conducive to working hard and successfully raising a family. The kids get to see Mom honored at a huge event (although skipping school was easily a benefit as well). The parents and in-laws get to attend. And the husband takes photos, smiles and writes a blog post about it. In recognizing work-life balance, everybody wins.

The Working Mothers were divided into three categories. Congratulations to all the Moms that work with the Dads and their respective employers to achieve work-life balance:


Claudia Strauss: CEO, Grey Activation & PR, Grey New York
Barbara Ross Miller: VP, Consumer Marketing Solutions Group, Sony Electronics
Marjorie Porter: EVP, Brand Agency Leader, Publicis Kaplan Thaler


Linda Gharib: SVP, Digital Marketing, Head of Cross-Channel Initiatives, Citi
Stacey Larson: Managing Director, National TV Investments, OMD
Dawn Matson: Director of Media Planning, Kohl's Dept Stores
Cheryl Guerin: EVP/Group Executive, US Marketing, MasterCard Worldwide
Val DiFebo: CEO, Deutsch New York
Joy Schwartz: President, Havas Worldwide Chicago
Gina Hughes: SVP Marketing, AMC
Ivy Brown: Senior Marketing Director, Global Brand Management, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care
Jeanne Boland: SVP, Director of Client Services, Local Media, BPN
Eileen Diskin: VP, Marketing Communications and Strategy, Comcast


Rachel Cohn: Americas Lead, Global Partnerships, Facebook
Erin Quintana: SVP, Business Partner, J3
Rachel Jacobson: SVP, Global Marketing Partnerships, National Basketball Association
Christi Woodworth: Director of Digital Communications & Social Media, Sonic Drive-in
Monika Grabania-Dailerian: Group Director, Strategic Planning, Mindshare
Ritu Trivedi: Managing Director of Digital Marketplace, Mediavest
Kelly Wenzel: CMO, Centro

March 11, 2014

LP Magazine - The Impact of the Three R's: Ratings, Rankings and Reviews

2014-march-april-cover107x139_jpg_imagep_107x141.pngIn the March/April 2014 issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine, I address a law firm marketing topic that never seems to lose steam--the impact of lawyer ratings, rankings and reviews on the legal profession.

Of course, I should not really complain. The topic has proven to be great fodder for my Pennsylvania Bar Institute ethics courses; I've been quoted countless times in the media on the subject; in the ABA Law Practice Division, we led the "educational" charge with major panels (and participation from all the players in the business) for both the ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference and an ABA Annual Meeting. Last October, an ABA CLE Premier Speaker Series program on the subject attracted nearly 5,000 attorneys. Everyone always is interested and has an opinion.

It has been fascinating to watch the evolution of the industry over the last 15-odd years. To think, when I first became a lawyer, the only thing you really knew about was Martindale-Hubbell. Today, the brand struggles mightily with shifts from across the pond (the UK's Chambers publication); from known ranking brands such as U.S. News & World Reports; from thousands of local-yokel attorney "awards"; and both legal and non-legal online reviews from the likes of Avvo and Yelp. The business has never stopped booming, but it has definitely changed--a lot.

What has not changed? The ego sell to many lawyers. The interest in "how did we do?" that varies significantly based on law firm size, areas of practice and client type. And, of course, there is the level of profitability that these companies have found selling in the legal space.

In the last few years, I've definitely established closer relationships with many of these companies. For the most part, I've found the executive leadership to be smart, friendly and accommodating (while there are some that I still find highly questionable). We both have jobs to do--and my clients care about how they perform here--which means that I care too. Read the column and look back at prior blog posts addressing the subject--you will likely find that I've learned to change with the times as well.

February 11, 2014

WMT: Super Bowl Sunday Brings a Lawyer the Ultimate Viral Video

Casino.pngKnow your audience. That is my response to the many "water cooler" conversations about what might be the most successful lawyer viral video to date. I'd love to know--and will likely ultimately ask him--what expectations Jamie Casino had when deciding to buy expensive and lengthy local TV ad time on the Super Bowl; and, more importantly, was it a successful new business generator? But for a personal injury practice looking to stand out in a crowded field to an everyday Joe audience--BINGO.

In this month's Web Marketing Today article, I discuss the wild, raging online viral video success of the sleekly-produced, Hollywood movie quality, two minute ad for a personal injury lawyer. It is like nothing you've ever seen before. When all is said and done, it won't matter that it originally ran for two minutes on the Fox television affiliate in Savannah, Georgia during the Super Bowl. The vast majority of the international viewing audience will see it on YouTube or embedded on another site.

The majority of my clients are midsize and large corporate law firms. None of this would be remotely interesting to them. Actually, they'd generally find it somewhat horrifying. Our marketing and business development strategies are as far away from a consumer-oriented TV ad than placing a huge billboard on I-95. But when I do get to work on marketing for a plaintiffs' practice or other consumer-driven area of law, the concepts of branding and lead generation are totally different--and can be a lot of fun.

I mention in the WMT piece that if the Casino Law Super Bowl buy was my idea, I'd declare myself a genius. The story itself (the true story) is different and totally compelling. The production quality is something you'd see in a movie theater. Casino, a fellow Temple Owl like me, looks and sounds like a movie actor. While much of the content of the ad appears more about vindicating his deceased brother's memory, bashing the local chief of police, and denouncing bad guys (who he will no longer represent), Casino can now combine this ad with his "traditional" (and entertaining) ads for personal injury. The last line of the two minutes? "I speak for innocent victims that cannot speak for themselves." A refreshing break from "we don't get paid until you do." Because imitation is the best form of flattery, expect a knock-off somewhere in the legal sphere come next Super Bowl Sunday--when I'll be busy watching the Philadelphia Eagles finally reach the Promised Land. Or just watching the commercials.

February 2, 2014

ABA Journal CLE: Leveraging the Press -- Marketing Yourself through the Media

press_hat.jpgJoin me on February 13th in Washington, DC for a full-day tutorial on media and press relations, presented by the ABA Journal, in conjunction with the ABA Center for Professional Development.

I still recall my old friend Dan Leary telling me about a conversation they were having in the Major Indoor Soccer League office back in 1986. I was the PR Director of the New York Express and Sports Illustrated had sent top reporter Franz Lidz to spend the week shadowing the team. He was writing an SI piece about the importance of the New York franchise to soccer in the United States. Leary told me that in the league office they were trying to guess how high in the story I would be quoted. The answer was paragraph two. I might have been 23 years old, but I knew how to get myself quoted and interviewed--on TV, in the New York Times, Washington Post, SI and major dailies throughout the country.

In my pro sports days, I was known as a go-to guy by the media--for quotes, for off the record stuff, for ideas to fill a column or a TV interview. If you were a journalist, you knew that I'd call you back fast, tell you something you did not already know, and provide a colorful quote (even if I was giving an evasive answer). When I needed a favor--put this in the paper, don't put this in the paper, quote this guy, do a feature on this player--I was paid back for being a reliable source. Some of the stuff I pulled was pretty clever. But even today, I would not write about it or give specific examples--I'm not sure the statute of limitations has run on everything. And many of those conversations and interactions were certainly off the record. But I was not a lawyer yet, so the Rules of Professional Conduct did not apply.

Fast forward a few decades and I'm still involved in media relations and PR--but now it is as an attorney--and I'm usually more interested in getting a law firm client media exposure than myself. It is a vastly different media world now as well. The late 80s was long, long, long before the Internet, blogs, social media and an accompanying change in the art of Journalism (still one of my favorite professions). After all, this is a BLOG POST--an entirely different way of delivering a message and finding an audience.

In my business of law firm marketing, media plays varying roles in the game plan. Depending on the market--which might be based on practice, geography or a combination of the two--press relations can be extremely valuable or of little interest. In general, I'm a firm believer that a good quote in a big-time publication or positive airtime on radio or television is immensely more valuable than a print ad, commercial, newsletter, seminar or website. It is "free" and considered much more objective and reliable (in most cases). Most attorneys say they would love to be on TV, quoted in the Wall Street Journal or a talking head on CNN, but few know how to make it happen.

In some cases, there is legitimate fear on the part of many lawyers in being misquoted when dealing with certain media channels. The lower level the publication and the more junior the journalist, the greater a chance that "this is off the record" might not be adhered to. In some instances, your client is interested in less media, not more media. And it is important to understand their preference. Of course, sometimes the media provides tremendous power with influencing jury pools and opinions in the court of public opinion.

Here are my top three missteps in trying to develop better press relationships between a journalist and an attorney:

1. BORING! The attorney is so concerned about saying something improper or inflammatory that he or she basically says nothing interesting at all. And your TV/radio voice demeanor puts the audience to sleep.

2. TOO LATE! In this day and age, most journalists are looking for a quote, reaction or interview yesterday. Returning the media inquiry phone call tomorrow is literally a day late and a dollar short.

3. THAT'S NOT NEWS! Whether it is a dull press release or a lame idea of what is newsworthy, I'm often pushing back on law firms asking me to get news coverage on something utterly meaningless to anybody in the outside world. I'd give you a list of examples, but my clients would recognize them and not be pleased with me. I have to make a living.

On February 13, 2014 in Washington, DC, I am part of an A-list faculty providing a day-long program on marketing yourself through the media. The program also includes advice on blogging, social media, and ethics. George Washington University law professor and media personality Jonathan Turley will provide the key note address.

I will be sitting on two of the program panels, including "So you want to be on TV?" with Jennifer Brandt of Cozen O'Connor and Seth Price of Price Benowitz. I'll also discuss "Social Media -- Your Personal Printing Press .. . do's and don'ts" on a panel with David Lat, Steven Anderson and Seth Price.

If your law firm is interested in developing or improving press relations, it is worth spending a cool February day in the nation's capital. To learn more and register, CLICK HERE. Or feel free to contact me directly for additional information.

December 26, 2013

Robert Grey to Keynote Fourth Annual ABA New Partners Conference

Former ABA President Robert Grey will keynote the fourth annual ABA New Partners Conference, taking place on February 6-7, 2014 at the Swissotel in Chicago, Illinois. Advance registration for the full conference is only $300 for ABA members and $350 for non-members, making it the most affordable conference of its kind in the country. Between the programs and networking opportunities, this is a must-attend conference for any law firm new partners and those on the cusp of partnership.

Among the networking events are an opening welcome reception at Baker & McKenzie on February 6th, breakfast and lunch on February 7th, and a concluding reception. The always useful "speed dating" networking event following breakfast and before the programming is a not to be missed opportunity to meet other new partners from around the country. One of the things that really sets this conference apart from all others (and provides something internal professional development curriculum can't) is the opportunity to meet other new partners and compare trials and tribulations. It also offers an outstanding opportunity to network for future referrals. Learn how other law firms and management teams face the challenges of partnership in today's economy.

Visit the New Partner Conference page to learn more about the programs and schedule. A nationally renowned faculty of law firm and legal industry leaders address topics including:

Advancement to Ownership: What Happens Now?

Ethical Considerations in Business Development & Marketing (Ethics CLE) -- New partners often find themselves with increased expectations in the area of business development and marketing. To make matters more difficult, many are unaware of the often complicated ethics rules that come into play when engaging in these practices. This 90 minute session will provide you with successful techniques on how to build or increase your book of business using tools that span from live networking to social networking; online, offline, across state lines, rankings and ratings, organizational involvement and solicitation... highlighting where the Rules of Professional Conduct come into play for compliance with the standards of the states in which you both practice and solicit business.

The Pitfalls of Partnership (CLE)

Transitioning from Mentee to Supervisor: Partner Responsibilities under the Rules of Professional

Many thanks to the generous sponsors that allow this conference to keep the registration costs so low and the quality of faculty, facilities and dining functions high--Avvo, Justia, ABA Law Practice Division and Trenum Kemker.

December 23, 2013

LPT: ABA New Partner Conference Edition

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fb-lpt-sm.pngIn advance of the fourth edition of the ABA's New Partner Conference, Law Practice Today highlights the topic with an issue dedicated to the theme of new partners. With the New Year upon us, many new partners are taking their places at the management tables of law firms throughout the country. Yet many find themselves wondering what the new role brings with it. Many of the New Partner Conference speakers and planning board members have authored the articles that coincide with their respective program topics.

LPT issue editor and conference speaker Amy Drushal of Trenam Kemker in Tampa, Florida, authors Transitioning from Associate to Partner: What now? Yours truly, also a conference presenter, writes about the new partner's role in marketing and business development. Kerri-Ann Bent and Vanessa Cotto write on the effects of mentoring on the duty to supervise.

Avvo honcho Mark Britton discusses the New Partner Cheese--taking lessons from "who moved my cheese" to the law firm board room. Justia's Tim Stanley, with co-authors Ken Min Chan and David Kemp, writes about building great relationships online, focusing on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.

The professional development article this month, on how "big law" can reinvigorate the practice of law, comes from Jen Bluestein, Brad Kaufman and Richard Rosenbaum.

Thank you to all those that contributed to this month's issue of LPT. Best wishes to all the new partners out there. May the experience bring the rewards that your arduous path from associate required. I hope it proved worth the effort and the wait!

To access the December 2013 issue of Law Practice Today, click here.

November 21, 2013

WMT: The Upside/Downside of Online Publicity for Lawsuits

publicity.jpgIn this month's Web Marketing Today column, Pros and Cons of Online Publicity for Lawyers, I write about the issues that struck me coming out of Perez v. Factory Direct of Secaucus, LLC. There is a significant difference in determining the impact of media attention on a case in the "traditional media" days versus the "blog/social media" era. That is the lesson defendants' counsel for Ashley Furniture learned when filing suit against the plaintiffs' law firm for defamation--stemming from online publicity.

My article breaks down the impact and pros/cons that all parties involved--plaintiff, defendant, and counsel for both sides--in measuring how the World Wide Web might affect not only the outcome of a case, but the long-term consequences that can be far more detrimental than whether you won, lost or settled.

As I note, I would never have heard about what I'd suggest is a relatively common "employee lawsuit against an employer for wrongful termination"-type filing if not for the third party action taken by one law firm against the other for what amounts to unwanted publicity on the case.

If they thought there was unwanted publicity before, man, talk about massive unwanted publicity now. Lots and lots of media coverage about the case--all stemming from the subsequent suit. Long after the actual case is resolved--and I might never remember to go find the actual outcome in the end--the Ashley Furniture case will live on. You have to believe they'd like to put that genie back in the bottle.

These considerations go far beyond employment law, although that is the example in this instance. It is something that simply did not exist 10-15 years ago. Attorneys need to stay on top of the changing "public perception" landscape when evaluating when and where to take those cases outside of the courtroom.

November 15, 2013

Bloomberg BNA: Some Procurement Practices Thriving Despite Sequestration, Budget Cuts

seque.jpgSequestration may be bad for the economy, but it has boosted some law firms' federal procurement practices, attorneys and marketing professionals told Bloomberg BNA, in an article by reporter David Hansen, published on November 14, 2013.

Those interviewed in the article included McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP Partner Elizabeth Ferrell, Lateral Link Group LLC Principal Larry Latourette, Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) Personal Finances Researcher Dan Auble, CRP Research Director Sarah Bryner, George Washington University Law School Assistant Dean for Field Placement Jessica Tillipman, and yours truly.

The story touches on what sequestration has meant for law firms' federal procurement practices, including the impact on those practice groups, their desperate need to recruit experienced government contract attorneys for both litigation and lobbying, the impact on lobbying efforts, and internships--namely unpaid law school interns to fill staffing needs.

I provided the marketing and business development perspective to Hansen's piece, discussing how large law firms were winning big, thanks to the uncertainty surrounding federal budgets and the numerous practice groups positively impacted--including tax, banking, employment, corporate, immigration and litigation. I also noted that while midsize firms might not be able to grab a piece of the pie without already servicing impacted clients, there are niche opportunities in targeting small businesses that are not positioned to retain big law.

To read the article in its entirety, please visit Bloomberg BNA.

November 1, 2013

Your ABA: 10 Tips for Approaching Lawyer Rankings and Ratings

In the November 2013 issue of Your ABA, the monthly e-news for attorney members, they have effectively recapped my October CLE on lawyer rankings and ratings with an excellent top ten list of suggestions, based on speaker comments and the examples provided.

Nearly 5,000 ABA members tuned into the monthly ABA CLE Premier Speaker Series, which I led along with my esteemed colleagues--Florida Bar ethics counsel Elizabeth Tarbert and Best Lawyers co-founder and President Steve Naifeh. We were able to provide three very different perspectives of a powerful industry in the legal marketplace. Tarbert focused on bar compliance issues. Naifeh gave the perspective of the companies in this space. And I fell somewhere in the middle--since I provide guidance on ethics issues as an attorney and guidance on participation as a marketer.

The topic continues to spark controversy and interest in the profession--and will continue to do so as our business evolves. From the "original" Martindale AV to tier one in Chambers USA; top honors in the Best Lawyers/US News & World Reports law firm rankings to effective visibility on Avvo; working the popularity polls for your local-yokel "Top" Lawyer lists in your hometown to the truckload of lists, surveys and rankings from American Lawyer Media publications. There are thousands to choose from. Figuring out which matter is just the start of the process.

October 29, 2013

LP Magazine - Branding is the Heart of Your Marketing Message

november-december13cover.jpgIn the November/December 2013 issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine, my marketing column talks about a favorite topic of many law firms (sarcasm) - branding! My constant yipping, yapping and yammering at the conference room table to law firm partners about branding is often met by head nods, eye rolls and that innate sense they believe my briefcase contains a liter bottle of snake oil.

Truth be told, there is really no such thing as marketing without branding. Because what we are doing with all that time, money and energy is developing, enhancing, refreshing or creating a brand or brands. Together with determining market position and looking to increase market share, the brand truly is the heart of the marketing message. This article should provide attorneys with a quick primer on what goes into branding--and why you need to care about it. There is a reason corporations spend huge sums of money protecting their brand--because that is what the public is buying. And damage to a brand or a weak brand identity will eventually lead to your demise.

Many attorneys and some law firm marketers still seem to think that a brand is a logo--determining colors and what type of coffee mug to put it on. When was the last time your firm refreshed its brand? Or conducted a branding & positioning audit? If you don't know the answer, it has been too long. You've likely added an office here, a new practice area there, an attorney or two along the way. All of those components can shift your focus. If this is a topic of interest, you can learn more about Brand Development & Strategy here.

October 24, 2013

The End of Internships? Recent court rulings will only damage job prospects for many

interns.jpgThe recent spate of class action lawsuits by unpaid interns seeking pay is disturbing. Perhaps it is yet another example of my own failure to fully understand millennials. Or maybe these young 'ins don't understand that they are crippling their own job prospects. Unfortunately, many will no longer get the chance to decide for themselves. For many premier companies and opportunities, internships will be a thing of the past.

There has been lots of coverage about the legal underpinnings of these cases. And I was particularly intrigued by a guest blog post on Forbes.com from Jack Newhouse, a lawyer with Virginia & Ambinder in New York. He represents interns in lawsuits against Warner Music Group, Atlantic Recording, Chung King Studios, Viacom, Sony, Universal Music Group, Bad Boy Entertainment, Donna Karan, and Madison Square Garden Company. In his post, Unpaid Intern Lawsuits May Reduce Job Opportunities, Newhouse is basically instructing employers about the need to change with the times to avoid these payouts later. Instead, many employers are simply choosing to eliminate the internships altogether. But what he does not talk about is how damaging this is to the job prospects of many college kids entering the real world.

The success that I had in developing my public relations and marketing resume was built around unpaid internships. From the Baltimore Blast of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) while in high school to internships with the Philadelphia Fever, MISL league office and the Philadelphia Flyers in college. Yes, they were unpaid. Yes, there was some grunt work. I still recall the pain of preparing and copying the weekly press clippings for distribution to the Flyers' brass. Boring! And additional "administrative" responsibilities that did not really enhance my portfolio. We called it "paying our dues." And for each of those lackluster chores came the opportunity to write articles for Flyer Magazine, draft a press release, work hands-on with members of the media, and hang out in the press box.

My Flyers internship ended with trips to New York, Quebec and Edmonton on the road through the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985. A few months later, those same mentors were instrumental in getting me in position for a full-time job as Assistant Director of Public Relations for the Washington Capitals. Many of those front office personnel and media contacts from the MISL and NHL provided me with significant career opportunities. And a great many are still close personal friends today. All that from those unpaid internships. I recall being grateful that the Flyers paid for my subway transit pass to get me from the Temple University campus to the Spectrum. I assume the statute of limitations has run on those internships, but I can assure you that getting paid was the last of my concerns in building experience for the long run. I would never trade a minimum wage stipend for the experience and enjoyment I received.

On this very day that I'm writing this post, my parents are dropping my nephew Max off at his sports radio internship in Baltimore. Max is a high school senior preparing for college in the fall. His duties include some of the typical intern chores. He has also had the opportunity to work on-air and write for the station's blog. This is invaluable experience that will serve him both on college applications and in future job applications. What he gains in experience far outweighs any financial gain.

In reading some of these lawsuit filings, I understand that not all internships are as rewarding as those that I experienced. Some companies do take advantage of internships to simply save on "menial tasks" costs. But a vast majority of those that I've seen and been involved with--including many law firms--are golden opportunities for experience, networking and social development. Even some of those internships that provide little in the "meat and potatoes" experience category still show potential employers who the go-getters are, who has a solid work ethic, and still puts an elite company name on your resume.

Nearly 20 years ago, I interviewed with a National Hockey League general manager for a front office position that reported directly to him. I had my experiences in pro sports PR and marketing, and my law degree. During the interview, he said that he could sense I'd have trouble doing a few of the job requirements--such as perhaps picking up his dry cleaning or getting him a sandwich. I replied that I would not have a problem with it, if he picked me up a sandwich from time to time as well. As you might surmise, he did not hire me. And as you might surmise, I was not interested in picking up anyone's dry cleaning (although ironically, my wife makes me do those same things without compensation today. Perhaps husbands should file class actions for appropriate rewards for these duties.).

When working with the NBA, I was told about how one of the most powerful sports agents in the business got his opportunity. He would get pizzas, dry cleaning and run other errands for a budding NBA superstar. He gained trust and later additional responsibilities. He is routinely on the list of most powerful executives in sports. Without the pizza delivery, who knows where he would be? Most likely not a multimillionaire.

As a lawyer who has worked for some of the companies affected, I know that the counselor in me might even cast a vote for eliminating some or all of an internship program. That would be my responsibility as an attorney advising a corporation. But the "real life" person inside me would dread giving that point of view. Unpaid internships can be the greatest learning experience you'll ever receive. I'd hate to think that some might not even have the opportunity to decide for him or herself.

October 22, 2013

Mis-Tweet by Reed Smith Partner Highlights Social Media Ethics Issues

Last night, my five year old son asked me what the "f" word was. While dancing around the answer, my nine year old daughter suggested she knew it and was pretty sure she had heard it from me. I won't lie to you. I've used it from time to time. I'm sure while sitting in Lincoln Financial Field for the last nine Philadelphia Eagles home losses in a row, I've used it 10-10,000 times. But never online.


However, when Reed Smith real estate partner Steven Regan cursed at SCOTUS on Twitter, the story became a Reed Smith partner cursing on Twitter. It was not really about Steve. He quickly deleted his Twitter account, and if the firm functions like most big law firms I work with on these issues, he was probably met with a much more private profanity from some of his partners in management. If they were one of my clients for social media compliance, I might have actually said, "Steve, WTF!"

Unlike much of the work I do in making sure a law firm's marketing efforts are compliant with the rules of professional conduct and the states in which they practice/market, this is not an ethics violation (although I did find one here, which I'll point out in a moment). This is just bad publicity. Public relations crisis management. You simply don't want people thinking your law firm does not know how to properly use social media. Especially a firm like Reed Smith, which has a significant media and advertising practice.

I had the privilege yesterday of addressing nearly 5,000 attorneys in an ABA CLE webinar on ethics issues relating to lawyer ratings, rankings and reviews. It was interesting that many of the questions in the Q&A revolved around what an attorney can and can't do on LinkedIn--focusing on areas such as specialization, recommendations, testimonials and endorsements. Unlike technology such as blogs, states have been much quicker to start recognizing that social media needs rules, opinions and guidelines quickly. I started teaching law firms about social media in 2003 (10 years ago), before anyone was thinking about Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. At that time, I had an account on MySpace. It is a powerful environment that falls into many gray areas--personal versus private, advertising and marketing, business or family. The complicated mix makes compliance and staying out of hot water even tougher. Yet, it is too big an arena not to be engaged. It is important to understand the sites, your state bar rules and how it plays at your law firm.


Just to point out the small ethics misstep in Steve's Twitter description...the use of "specializes in"... a no-no in most states and most instances. I did note that his description does not identify his employer--which is a good thing--although, as everyone learned...that did not really matter, did it?

October 21, 2013

WMT: Everyone's A Critic (Online) - How a Lawyer Should Respond to Internet Criticism

After taking a one month "sabbatical" from my monthly Web Marketing Today article, I address a topic that is becoming increasingly important for the legal professional--how to respond to online criticism.

How Lawyers Should Respond to Online Criticism addresses dos and don'ts as they relate to the growing slate of websites that allow for posting of "reviews", whether you are a plumber, doctor or lawyer. As I often teach, this is not an area where you have the option to participate. If I'm a client and want to post a positive or negative review of your professional product for the world to see--I can.

I've often used the power of Internet-based reviews myself. When my realtor pissed me off a few years back, I let a number of websites know what I thought of her. It did not go unnoticed. I'm a huge review contributor to Open Table--posting at least one a week after every dining experience. I often hear back from restaurants for the good and the bad.

We lawyers are not built to handle negative criticism that well in an online world. The adversarial nature of the business is not conducive to the court of public opinion--now readily accessible via Yelp, Avvo, Google Plus and a myriad of legal and non-legal, consumer and business sites.

The anonymous reviewer makes this tricky. In some cases, protected by the First Amendment. In other cases, litigation seeks to unmask a perpetrator. This month's WMT contribution addresses the issues, discusses real-life examples and provides tips for avoiding and/or responding to trouble.