April 28, 2016

DLW: 'Established' Delaware Firms Hold Steady Amid Out-of-State Interest

Delaware.jpgWhen I started HTMLawyers in 2001, my first significant client turned out to be a fast-growing law firm in Wilmington, Delaware. A colleague in American Bar Association circles, Heather Jefferson, had asked me what I was up to at an Annual Meeting. Her response was that she had the perfect firm for me to work with. She was right. And my relationship with the Delaware legal market was underway.

At that time--despite growing up not too far south in Baltimore and attending college and law school an hour north in Philadelphia--I knew little about Delaware outside of visiting my cousin Peter, a Rabbi in Wilmington, and the great value of no sales tax.

In the 15-plus years since, I have become well acquainted with the Delaware legal marketplace. There is quite simply a uniqueness to the practice of law in Delaware that makes it different from every place else. I've had the pleasure of working at some point in time with most of the more prestigious law firms in town. And I'm not kissing up when I tell you that they are some of my favorite people in the business. The Delaware practice boasts some of the best and most sophisticated corporate and bankruptcy practitioners in the land. There are few courts held in higher regard than Chancery. And, for the most part, with few exceptions, I've enjoyed handling various aspects of business and professional development for them. I enjoy my days in Wilmington and grabbing some tax-free goods on the way home.

So when Delaware Law Weekly reporter Tom McParland called me to discuss the current state of the Delaware legal marketplace, I was happy to offer my views.

In 'Established' Delaware Firms Hold Steady Amid Out-of-State Interest, Tom points out that Wilmington firms are seeing little fluctuation in size and work, even as some out-of-town firms have stepped up their presence there, with an eye toward the Court of Chancery and an increasing focus on intellectual property.

The established, indigenous firms have benefited from sophisticated practices and a collegial bar that have insulated them from market vicissitudes and fortified them against pressure from outside firms, said Micah Buchdahl, president of HTMLawyers.

"I still don't see any change in the status or size or use of the established Delaware firms," he said.

"At the end of the day, it sort of comes back to ... you're either part of the Delaware legal community or you're not."

Certainly profound words--from me--on how and why the reality is less has changed than in many other legal markets. There is still a collegial environment among competing firms. The go-to firms, often called upon by the biggest law firms in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, still go to the Wilmington law equivalent of the Big Five (which you can take to be a comparison to accounting firms or more impressively the college basketball union in Philly--another collegial group of competitors). Not to say that there is not an impact and a need to "protect the turf" from outside firms setting up shop and midsize firms looking for a piece of the pie.

As you might guess, I need to circle back to my core--the topic of marketing and business development. In 2001, there were no sophisticated marketing efforts happening in the First State. As one of my favorite local law leaders would often say, "the business just keeps coming over the transom." I didn't even know what transom meant. But the point was that the big local law firms in town were realizing that in order to keep what you've got (and ideally grow in other areas), recruit top talent and stay relevant down the pike, becoming well versed in various forms of strategic marketing and BD was necessary. Delaware firms have held steady. However, it has not been by staying stagnant. It required (and will continue to require) some smart leadership and an investment toward the future.

March 29, 2016

Bridging the Generational Divide: How Millennials Can Communicate with Baby Boomers and Succeed in the Workplace

millenials2.jpgWhat do Baby Boomers expect from millennials in the workplace? How can and should millennials act in the workplace while still preserving their values? This program focuses on how millennials can communicate with Baby Boomers and other generations in a way that is collaborative and allows junior lawyers to thrive.

This diverse panel discussion features five attorneys coming at this hot law practice topic from different roles, ages, geographic locations and career experiences. Join Micah Buchdahl, President, HTMLawyers, Inc., Moorestown, NJ and fellow panelists Jonathan Stemerman, Shareholder, Elliott Greenleaf, P.C., Wilmington, DE; Jared Perez, Shareholder, Wiand Guerra King PA, Tampa, FL; Amy L. Drushal, Shareholder, Trenam Law, Tampa, FL; and Lauren Rikleen, Boston, MA for what should be a provocative and enlightening two hour conversation.

The CLE program takes place as part of the ABA Business Law Spring Meeting on Friday, April 8, 2016 at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal, Canada.

March 15, 2016

LP Magazine - Do Lawyers Rule the Internet?

LPcover_MarApr2016.jpgIn the March/April 2016 issue of the ABA's Law Practice Magazine, my column asks the question: Do Lawyers Rule the Internet? Well, I would not ask the question if the answer did not lean toward "yes."

With the 30th anniversary of ABA TECHSHOW on the horizon (and this is the TECHSHOW issue of the magazine), I examine the role that technology has played on the marketing and delivery of legal services. Google AdWord sales in 2015 approached $70 billion--and with 78 of the 100 most expensive keywords belonging to the legal profession, you realize just the impact the Internet has had on the practice of law, and vice-versa.

Throw in the changing landscape of social media, including changes LinkedIn made to accommodate attorneys (and the rules of professional conduct), and you can judge for yourself--do we indeed rule the web?

January 7, 2016

LP Magazine -- Struggling with Ethics Issues Surrounding Branded Networks

LPcover_JanFeb2016.jpgIn the January/February 2016 issue of the ABA's Law Practice Magazine, I was asked to put on my ethics attorney hat in authoring Struggling with Ethics Issues Surrounding Branded Networks. Issue Editor Nick Gaffney asked me to write this sidebar in a magazine dedicated to the theme of branded legal networks--a huge topic of discussion in law practice management.

There is not a more controversial area of lawyer marketing when it comes to interpretation and enforcement of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) than the issues that arise from the ever-growing legion of branded networks in the legal profession. From Avvo and Justia to Best Lawyers and a slew of entities that may or may not be "lead generation," the issues, rules and opinions vary from state to state. They remain...consistently inconsistent. One thing is for sure, these companies are not going anywhere. The question is where they end up fitting in the long term approach to business development among attorneys.

December 14, 2015

LPT - Inaugural ABA Lead Law Offers Perspectives on Law Firm Leadership

ABA_Lead_Law.pngIn the December issue of the American Bar Association's Law Practice Today, I recap the inaugural ABA Lead Law program, a lawyer leadership conference presented by the American Bar Association's Law Practice Division.

I had the pleasure of being asked to serve as Vice Chair of the ABA Lead Law planning committee, but it was chair Tom Grella who really saw this program through from start to finish. The one day program offered varying perspectives on how attorneys lead and need to lead in their firms and in the profession as a whole.

Read the article for a recap of the speakers and their respective topics. To access the program and materials, visit ABA Lead Law.

November 6, 2015

LP Magazine - Content Marketing Is Outpacing the Ethics Rules

LPcover_novdec2015.jpgIt was watching and reading news coverage from the aftermath of the deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia earlier this year that my marketing column topic came to light. Usually the theme finds me, and in this case, with each press conference, e-mail, press release and newspaper article--it occurred to me that Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules (ABA's Law Practice magazine, November/December 2015).

You can put this column under "Marketing" or "Ethics." It works out well for my areas of focus. I spend the bulk of my time working with law firms on business development efforts. But I also maintain a niche ethics practice that only looks at marketing and advertising issues. Perhaps you will read this column and think of it as an ethics primer. Or you might read it and gain ideas and insight into marketing for a plaintiff's practice. Before submitting my final draft to the Law Practice editors, I decided that I needed some differing perspectives beyond my own. The result was some hefty editing based on those thoughts. You'll read some comments from the ethics attorney I myself turn to for advice, Tom Spahn of McGuireWoods. Some differing views came from my fellow LP columnist, Greg Siskind, who was focused on the value of content. A few unnamed ethics friends gave me some additional feedback and direction.

A number of pieces from The Philadelphia Inquirer's law firm beat writer Chris Mondics touched on many aspects of what I reference in his coverage of the Amtrak disaster--and the issues surrounding "the race for clients." The simple speed of selecting counsel in today's society--ramped up through social media and related technology tools--means that an attorney seeking a piece of this very lucrative pie needs to get moving fast. You might argue that your marketing needs to arrive before the actual matter at hand. The most successful lawyers in this space have figured out how to generate promotional opportunities without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. If you are waiting for the dust to settle--as the 30-day moratorium was built to provide--you will find yourself a day late to the game.

If you have your own perspectives on the column, please shoot me an e-mail. I've already found that this piece has generated some interesting conversations. And I've already built my annual Pennsylvania Bar Institute ethics potpourri CLE for 2016 (delivered next April, August and December)--"The Race for Clients"--from this column.

October 1, 2015

Buchdahl appointed chair of American Bar Association Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education

ABA_Logo.pngMicah U. Buchdahl of Moorestown, New Jersey has been appointed chair of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education (SCOCLE), the entity that oversees CLE for the largest professional organization of lawyers in the world. Buchdahl, president of the law marketing consultancy HTMLawyers, was appointed by ABA president Paulette Brown.


"There are numerous critical issues surrounding the continuing legal education of attorneys," said Buchdahl. "They include diversity of faculty, consistency of educational requirements from state to state, how lawyers should best be positioned to meet CLE requirements and how bar associations are best positioned to deliver them."

Buchdahl, a Pennsylvania licensed attorney, has held numerous ABA leadership positions, including serving as past chair of the Law Practice Division and a board member and presenter for the ABA Institute for New Partners. He received his law degree from the Temple University School of Law in 1991, and his B.A., magna cum laude, from Temple in 1985.

About HTMLawyers:
Since 2001, HTMLawyers has provided attorney marketing and business development consulting services to law firms throughout the world. For more information, please visit www.HTMLawyers.com or our blog at www.MarketingAttorney.com.

About the American Bar Association:
With nearly 400,000 members, the ABA is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. To learn more, visit www.americanbar.org. The Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education works with the ABA's Center for Professional Development to partner with the Association's entities and diverse membership to create and deliver educational programs and services to members and the legal profession that are innovative and of the highest quality.

September 6, 2015

Research Magazine: Bridging the Advisor-Lawyer Gap

advisor-lawyer-relationship-res0915-mi600-resize-600x338.jpgIn the September 2015 issue of Research Magazine, contributing editor Jane Wollman Rusoff writes about building advisor-attorney networks that will generate referrals and benefit clients. In being interviewed for her feature, it was interesting to discuss the relationship from the financial services side of the business rather than starting with my usual legal-side perspective.

While the cross-referral route is often at the heart of many of these relationships--typically between business lawyers and those advising on the numbers side of a matter--the article points out the need for both to work together. At a time when investors' financial needs have become more complex, private attorneys -- such as specialists in estates and trusts, especially, as well as in family/divorce, taxes and elder care -- are an important component of many FAs' networks and in some instances, even considered part of their team.

While I warn about just how close those relationships can get (no fee sharing with non-lawyers in almost every jurisdiction and potential conflicts of interest), there is no question that there is an obvious fit between the two professions. In numerous practices, attorneys I work with on business development strategies will tell me that various finance professionals--from CPAs to planners and investors--are their #1 source of referrals. With that in mind, we often plan social and educational events targeting those relationships. In addition, we often team and partner on marketing efforts aimed directly at the prospective client for both the legal and finance sides.

The article also discusses how those in finance seek sponsorships and advertising opportunities with bar associations and legal publications to get their brands in front of the attorney and law firms. I mention the importance of the attorney recognizing the brand of the soliciting financial entity. Just as in legal, having a name that is recognized and trusted is critical to getting in the door.

For a lawyer or law firm that invests in marketing to financial services for cross-referrals and joint ventures, this article does a great job showing the marketing strategies from the other side of the street.

Launched in 1978, Research Magazine highlights practical advice on how to build a client-centric business, financial tips, as well as business-building topics like personal branding and partnering in teams.

August 28, 2015

LPT -- Big Law Looks to Differentiate and Innovate

LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngLeaders of many of the nation's biggest and baddest law firms converged in New York City recently to discuss the rapidly changing legal landscape and how to adjust not only to survive, but thrive. The oft-repeated themes of innovation, differentiation and collaboration ruled the day.

My article in the August 2015 issue of Law Practice Today (LPT) serves as a recap of the full day inaugural Big Law Summit, put on by Bloomberg BNA. A who's who of managing partners, in-house counsel and various industry experts discussed a wide range of issues ranging from innovating in a risk averse environment to adjusting to changing demands on the client side of big business that want more "value based arrangements."

DLA Piper's Roger Meltzer gave the global firm perspective. The program titled "Harnessing the Power of Collaboration," could have been called "how origination dooms us all." As the infamous quote goes, the first step is in admitting that you have a problem. I was drawn to the Big Law Summit because these law firms are my clients. The issues and answers that ruled the day reinforced those that I experience whenever I'm sitting with a Big Law managing partner or management committee. The conversations struck honestly at the heart of the issues that need to be addressed for major law firms to thrive in today's global marketplace. Kudos to BNA for putting together a well-run and organized program on a subject matter that clearly had an audience.

August 7, 2015

PBI Marketing Ethics CLEs in August--Live in Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Mechanicsburg

PBI.pngIf it is August (another Pennsylvania bar CLE compliance month), then it must be time for another round of ethics CLEs for the PA Bar Institute (PBI). This month, besides my usual PBI ethics potpourri program hour (presented every April, August and December), you can catch me at the Jersey shore too, reprising "Linkedout and Mistweeted - Ethical Uses of Social Networking in Marketing Your Law Practice," a hit program from 2014 (updated!).

"Law Marketing and Ethics 2015 Update: Balancing Smart Business Development, Adhering to the Rules," will be presented in Mechanicsburg on August 20th, Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 27th. In the 38 years since Bates v. Arizona, law firm marketing has grown from whether or not to advertise to committing significant resources toward business development. The trick is to do so in an effective, dignified and ethical fashion. In this newly updated one-hour ethics program, learn about the rules, regulations and ethics opinions that require the greatest attention, how to improve your marketing efforts without missteps, and discuss real-life examples and intriguing hypotheticals in this fast-paced, entertaining course.

When PBI asked if I could reprise Linkedout and Mistweeted as part of the CLE Down the Shore program in Atlantic City on August 14th, I said sure. After all, how much could I really lose at the blackjack and craps tables before and after my session at the Golden Nugget Hotel? The answer, of course, is plenty. At least my room and meal are comped. However, "reprise" is a bit misleading--as my slide deck from December 2014 is already quite outdated. Social media issues continue to be prevalent. The program has been updated through July 2015 to include recent ethics opinions and rule changes impacted by the use of social media for lawyer marketing purposes. What are the implications of LinkedIn's recommendations, endorsements and specialization components? How have state bars addressed these issues? You'll learn the how-to, how-not-to and the latest lessons in social networking participation.

For more information and registration, visit PBI.

July 27, 2015

Law Firms Online -- Rebranding and Client Tracking

July has been a busy month for me in chatting with legal reporters about the law firm world online in 2015, starting with Gina Passarella's piece for The Legal Intelligencer on Morgan Lewis' controversial rebrand. Little did she know when our conversation started that I was involved in Morgan Lewis' first website, some 18 years ago or so and in the firms' shift from mlb.com to morganlewis.com shortly thereafter.

A few weeks later, her American Lawyer Media colleague Lizzy McLellan followed up with Online Rebranding 'Not Just for the Big Guys' in which we discussed rebranding issues impacting midsize firms--where there is not likely a large marketing team with a wealth of resources, yet still needing to deliver a unified message.

In "Firms aim to track clients on websites," California's Daily Journal staff writer Joshua Sebold spoke with me about a topic beyond site development and branding--the way web traffic can be tracked and analyzed in strategic business development. From web cookies to analytics analysis, tracking open rates on e-mail legal alerts, online advertising, social media hooks and tracking URL clicks, the beauty of the online world is still that it offers much greater hard data to identify return on investment than almost any law firm branding effort--online or off. You'd have to go back to tracking phone numbers in a Yellow Pages ad to find anything close. Or as my kids would ask you, "What are the Yellow Pages?"

July 8, 2015

LP Magazine - The True Value of Your Published Work

LPM_JA15_cover-nospine.jpgYou could also call my column in the July/August 2015 issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine, "101 Uses for an Article," but in The True Value of Your Published Work, I discuss how sitting down to write one article can pay dividends in so many ways. The key is not to think about the time spent as writing one article for one publication, but more as writing one thing that will be repurposed in so many ways.

This very blog post you are reading is yet another use of one article. Perhaps you reached this blog post through one of my social media feeds. Or maybe I handed you this very column during a pitch meeting at your law firm or during a subsequent meeting with an attorney about business development planning.

Print deadlines being what they are, I just submitted my next column for Law Practice earlier this week. You won't see it until November. I would never spill the beans on the subject matter, but suffice it to say that while rereading it, I was struck that the column could be turned into an entire CLE program...and you will likely see it as my Ethics Potpourri offering in 2016 for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. It is a little disturbing that this idea came to me in my sleep last night (there are better things to dream about), but it occurred to me that the column could be the centerpiece of the program and the accompanying written materials. In other words, the four hours or so that I put into writing, research and editing will pay numerous dividends moving forward. You get the idea.

There has never been an easier time than now to "get published." The online and offline options are endless. If need be, the ability to self-publish means that even the worst idea in the world can see the light of day. Just go online and read the rantings of some lunatic with access to a computer--you know what I mean. But our writings, offerings and publishing venues are far better...most of the time.

So, if the most recent "published works" on your attorney bio is 1996, take a few hours this weekend and fix it. No excuses. The benefits are endless.

July 7, 2015

Morgan Lewis Took Risks in Its Rebranding

morganlewis.pngIn ALM's The Legal Intelligencer, reporter Gina Passarella writes on Morgan Lewis Took Risks in Its Rebranding. She spoke with me about the effectiveness and controversial aspects of the mega firms' new look, which included a new website among the various rebranding efforts.

Passarella points out that with a new chairwoman and two mergers, the firm is undergoing change. The article also mentions that the rebranding initiatives, led by the firm's marketer, Despina Kartson, started prior to the Bingham McCutchen and Stamford LLC mergers.

While the article states that the firm's goal was to balance the classic and the modern, you can't help but see the dreaded Executive leadership compromise in the end result. The logo itself is staid and very old school. The website and the content "below the fold" (logo and imagery) is closer to The Huffington Post in design, appearance and functionality. So if you cannot agree on classic or modern--do neither and both. I've been at the table of plenty of these branding and rebranding conversations at law firms. I can't say I win many of those battles either.

In my conversation with Passarella, I noted that I quickly picked two sites to compare the ML site to--Coke and Deloitte--basically confirming what I expected to see--very corporate, content driven sites that were more about being a resource or information repository than a sales tool. Just as I do not need Coke to tell me about its brand and business to get me thirsty or Deloitte for professional services, I do not need an explanation as to who the firm is or what they might offer. As the old adage goes, "if you have to ask," you are probably not a Morgan Lewis client (that they want). In the ALM article, I also note that there are a handful of firms (I said dozens, maybe 100, which was stretching it) that have the name recognition amongst their client pool for the "marketing" to have much of an impact.

Morgan Lewis has come a long way since that first website in the late 90s. I enjoyed working with them when it was still MLB.com. Ironically, mlb.com is probably one of the sites today that I access most--for scores and highlights. As a local firm based in my backyard--Philadelphia--they have greater breadth of international locations and practices today. They certainly get diversity points in the leadership category. There is increased sophistication and commitment to business development. Like many mega firms, a compromise on logo and messaging is not going to hurt anybody. But from a corporate branding perspective, it still sends a mixed message.

April 8, 2015

What's in a (Law Firm) Name Change? Wolff & Samson Is No Longer

GWB.jpgIn today's The Record (Bergen County, New Jersey), staff writer Shawn Boburg writes on Former Port Authority chairman David Samson's retirement from the firm he helped found--Wolff & Samson--and the firm's decision to retire their name as well.

Wolff & Samson was founded more than 40 years ago (1972) and has grown into one of New Jersey's largest and best known law firms--with 120+ lawyers in three offices.

As the article states, "A close political confidant and adviser to Governor Christie who has been the subject of an ongoing federal investigation arising out of the George Washington Bridge scandal said Tuesday that he is leaving the powerful law firm that he founded decades ago. And the firm, Wolff & Samson, is erasing David Samson's name from the front door, a move that some see as an effort to protect the firm from any potential fallout that may lie ahead."

Among the topics posed to me by Boburg were the reasons that a law firm might decide to erase a well-known law firm brand, the cost involved and the thoughts behind such a move. With significant experience dealing with law firm name changes over the years, I suggested that it was not likely an easy decision to make--and those opinions among firm management probably varied significantly. I might not have personally advocated for a complete name change, but would have weighed the potential negative publicity of a federal investigation and the blowback onto the firm. While Samson's age (75) points to retirement, how the transition of clients is (and has been) handled would likely give me better insight toward the firm's thought process as well.

The swift name change from Wolff & Samson to Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC erases years of favorable branding in an instant, although one would expect that in the short term little would change with an individual attorney's personal book of business.

Of course, much of the firm's bread & butter is tied to government work. The link between Christie and Samson appear to have been quite favorable to Wolff & Samson--how much of that works still flows from the State of New Jersey without him might have a greater impact than the potential branding issues.

March 18, 2015

LPT -- Law Firm Management Struggles with Multigenerational Issues

LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngThe March 2015 issue of Law Practice Today (LPT) focuses on the theme of multigenerational and multicultural issues at law firms. As Editor in Chief of LPT, I wanted to also serve as the issue editor for this particular topic. It is an interesting one that seems to creep into conversations at my law firms and in bar activities on a daily basis. It is a struggle, and it simply can't be ignored.

Depending on the size and makeup of your firm, you might have traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X and Millennials in the mix. Many articles provide the definitions and traits tied to each. They often have little to do with the lawyer business and more to do with employers and employees in general. I've changed the "generations" around a bit to better identify with the real struggles that law firm management encounters--what I call the originals, "junior" senior partners, next-generation partners and the largest..."others" (entitled "not an equity partner and who cares?).

What this topic really addresses are underlying and overlying issues tied to attorneys of different ages and generations--work-life balance, dual-income households, retirement, telecommuting, technology, social media, the billable hour, nannies and au pairs, quality time with the kids, and materialism. Besides age, factors and issues related to race and gender become part of a firm's cultural makeup. It is one thing to fund a women's initiative and another to have female partners. It is great to have a diversity officer on staff, if the end result is actually diversity. Yet a complaint of many departing attorneys of varying diverse backgrounds is that the culture was simply not comfortable.

Hopefully, this article will resonate with conversations you've had at your firm about hiring, succession, communication and culture. It is not a quick, easy fix--but a philosophical approach that you choose to engage in.