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legal_tech_newsWhat do for-profit and nonprofit legal organizations stand to gain from publishing free or low-cost educational resources? Investment in a public good and expertise, to start, writes Law Technology News reporter Gabrielle Orum Hernández in the November 2016 edition.

In Online Legal Resources Straddle the Line between Public Good and Client Generation, Hernandez asked me about my experiences with the subject matter. I talked about a Hart-Scott-Rodino database I worked on with Morgan Lewis in the 90s—an early adopter for sure. I mentioned how I often use Tom Spahn’s legal ethics opinion summaries database at McGuireWoods—a great free online resource. I pointed out that many online resources that were once considered valuable content—links libraries, FAQs, online forms and brochures—were now often outdated, replaced by short and sweet videos, blog posts and on-demand webinars, podcasts and accredited (free) online continuing legal education (CLE).

But perhaps my most profound comment was sending her to my friend Greg Siskind, the king of online content development for the last 22 years or so at Visalaw.com. Greg’s start as a 26-year-old lawyer in 1994 trying to open up his own shop as a solo immigration attorney is the ultimate online rags-to-riches story—not as an immigrant (he’s from Nashville), but recognizing way back when that content development was the key…way, way before the term “content marketing” came into vogue.

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ABA Law Practice Magazine

ABA Law Practice Magazine

Although I typically write my marketing column around four months before publication (in this case, it was July 4th weekend), my timing for the November/December 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine was spot on. It is early December and I’m in the thick of figuring out 2017 marketing budgets for about a dozen law firms. Micah…how much should we be spending?

In Law Firm Marketing Spending:  How Much Is Enough? I provide the answer.

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It was a pleasure spending some time on Election Day as the guest speaker for the Temple University Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Chatting with students about career experiences and the many changes I’ve seen in both the pro sports and legal professions over the years is 11.8.16always a lot of fun. The audience was attentive and certainly inquisitive.

The PRSSA is the leading pre-professional organization for students interested in public relations and communications. With over 300 chapters and 10,000 members nationwide, PRSSA offers members countless opportunities to succeed. The Temple Chapter of PRSSA is the longest standing chapter in the Philadelphia region, and currently consists of over 120 members.

In providing a rundown of my career, I discussed the good moves and bad ones, relayed some unprintable anecdotes (if you do not tolerate some profanity, you really cannot work in sports…perhaps even the legal industry), tips for internship and job searches, and the many, many changes in both the sports and law worlds over the years—and the related ways it has changed the PR and marketing functions. More than anything I focused on how important relationship-building has been to my life and career (I’m not talking about LinkedIn or Facebook, but those in-person, personal contacts). My “boss” as a Philadelphia Flyers PR intern in 1984—Mark Piazza—remains one of my dearest friends in 2016. And that was just one example of key relationships that went as far back as high school internship experiences with the minor league Baltimore Clippers and the MISL Baltimore Blast. Mark happened to be a Temple Owl as were other important folks I met along the way, people like Ed Waldman at The Baltimore Sun and Marc Zumoff with the Philadelphia Fever. Temple Owls are everywhere. The alumni network is a powerful thing.

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law360In the September 13, 2016 edition of Law360, reporter Kevin Penton writes on 3 Secrets to Retaining Millennial Attorneys. He interviewed me, along with Michael Di Gennero, a senior director with Lateral Link, a recruiting agency; and Danielle Goldstone, a senior consultant with Laurence Simons, a legal and compliance recruiting firm.

In a nutshell, the three tips amounted to expanding options for advancement, being flexible, and being wary of change. The conversation with law firm management regarding what is needed to attract and maintain millennial talent seemingly occurs every day. I’m not sure I agreed with Di Gennero’s take that younger associates want to stay long term but are pushed out by advancement policies. I think the last three associates I worked with extensively at (smaller) firms have already bolted. I don’t think it was me…and each time I was told that it simply wasn’t “a fit.”

I agreed with Goldstone on the importance of work-life balance, with a realistic amount of vacation and personal days—assuming you are really allowed to take them. There is a difference between being given the time and being allowed to actually use it—without “penalty.”

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PBIIn the 15+ years where I’ve taught the marketing & advertising ethics CLE hour of Ethics Potpourri, this years’ program has elicited some of the most fascinating exchanges from the audience. I teach this hour live in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh every April, August and December. The coming weeks include the live presentation in Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 30th. For directions and registration information, visit PBI. If you missed the program in April and can’t make August, the December dates will be here before you know it.

The deadly Amtrak train crash in Pennsylvania last May (2015) serves as the backdrop for a program that examines whether today’s ethics rules regarding solicitation and advertising are still effective in protecting victims and their families?  For an attorney who believes in the reasoning and philosophy of the Rules of Professional Conduct, does waiting out a 30 day moratorium on contact mean you’ve lost out on the lucrative race for clients? The program examines related court cases, ethics opinions and the RPC as they tie into various forms of business development for plaintiff’s attorneys that are seeking clients in a highly competitive marketplace. Some of the concepts might disgust you—but they are kosher. Some might remind you that today’s society, spurred on by a different news cycle, social media and a more cutthroat landscape means changing the way you do business, and get business.

The program flows from a column I wrote for the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine in late 2015, Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules. That column also elicited many e-mails from colleagues on the somewhat controversial subject matter. As I witnessed the aftermath of the deadly crash at home in Philadelphia, I watched the way attorneys used newspaper articles, press conferences, e-mail, social media, press releases and other semi- or non-“advertising” means to promote themselves and position their law firms for prospective clients. It reminded me that so many of the ethics rule in place today to protect the client are simply outdated or ineffective. Judge for yourself.

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LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625My first sit-downs with law firm management to discuss marketing strategies were 20 years ago. In the subsequent two decades, I held those discussions in the board rooms of Amlaw 100 law firms and in conference rooms of law firms with ten or fewer. Their approach to marketing expectations from young attorneys was consistently inconsistent.

Back then I was somewhat of a young lawyer. At least youngish. Not so much anymore. But there is certainly an increase in business development training and marketing support for newer attorneys. How quickly you are expected to assume a marketing role depends on the law firm. The larger the law firm, the less likely you will be asked to originate business any time soon. However, that does not mean you should not be laying the groundwork for when that expectation arrives.

Small and midsize law firms often like to indoctrinate young lawyers into marketing efforts sooner. After all, everyone at a boutique firm is a potential salesperson when out and about. There is a little more pressure to put you in a position to generate opportunities.

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LPM_JA16_1FrontDepts 3.inddAs National Football League coach Chip Kelly begins his first training camp with the San Francisco 49ers, my column in the July/August 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, A Business Development Coaching Clinic: Culture Beats Scheme, seems quite timely.

Much like many law firm BD coaching efforts, I wonder if Coach Kelly—who I believe is a smart guy, as are many of the attorneys I’ve coached—will make the necessary adjustments to learn from his past failings (and past successes). Unfortunately for me, his failings came with the Philadelphia Eagles, where I am a season ticket holder, as opposed to the Oregon Ducks, in which I have no personal allegiance.

The column looks at the heavy investment of time and money many law firms put into “coaching,” often with lukewarm results. I talk about the all-star attorneys—the rainmakers—that already know what they are doing. And the process that needs to be undertaken to make these efforts pay off.

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TLI.jpgWhen I chatted with The Legal Intelligencer’s Lizzy McLellan about Small Firms Look to Attract Middle Class With Flat Rates (TLI, May 6, 2016), she asked me about a law firms’ initiative that touted (in a press release) an original and unique attempt to target the middle class through the firm’s website. Unfortunately, I may have burst her (and that firms’) bubble when I said there was little unique about the website offering and less original about using the Internet to target this massive potential audience.

But it did get us talking about how much of a role the Internet has played in providing legal services options to middle-income individuals and families when it comes to estate planning purposes and related consumer-driven practice areas. I also noted that services from entities such as LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Avvo often were competing with them, although in many instances, they are funneling work back to the same lawyers through various marketing initiatives.

For law firms, success on the web is driven by the power and credibility of their websites, paired with a combination of organic search results and paid online advertising–often a combination of both. But you can expect to spend on quality Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to win the battle of reaching your target audience. Make no mistake, I sit with law firms that are only targeting high wealth or possibly only targeting low wealth (more about quantity in numbers than quality of a matter).

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Thumbnail image for LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngPerhaps it is sad to think that customer or client service has gotten so bad of late that highlighting those that do it well should not be necessary, but it is. So many companies send us off to automated web and voice mail systems, force us to chat with folks half way around the globe that can’t speak the language too well and are flummoxed when forced off script, or in some cases show they simply don’t care. Where I live, Comcast’s monopoly means that no matter what happens I’m still a customer. When disgruntled with some experiences on Priceline, I simply took my business elsewhere. And in most cases, law firm clients can choose to do the same.

So when the service you receive is particularly personalized, attentive and caring, you practically go into shock. In serving as an issue editor for the Marketing-themed April 2016 edition of Law Practice Today (LPT), I contributed a feature story on Client Retention–It’s All in the Listening, which reminds us attorneys just how simple it can be to provide the type of client service that is both memorable and ensures repeat business. Taking some of my favorite personal recent examples–Kimpton’s Monaco chain for hotel travel, my long-time dentist Dr. Robert Marchinek, and two of the top Philadelphia restaurants in Bibou and Helm, I show how some simple listening and responsiveness goes much further than any sophisticated business development game plan can. It is all in the listening. See where you might fall in comparison to knowing the “personal” side of your clients.

With nearly 18 features and columns, the marketing issue of LPT is full of great ideas. In gathering articles for the issue, I thought about what I wanted to hear about and from whom. So I hit up some of the leading experts in the business to teach me something.

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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.