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.

March 9, 2015

The Legal Intelligencer--Major Changes Could Be in Store for Law Firm Websites

website_image.jpgIn today's edition of ALM's The Legal Intelligencer, reporter Gina Passarella writes on Major Changes Could Be in Store for Law Firm Websites. She spoke to me about the state of law firm websites in general and the new K&L Gates Hub in particular.

K&L Gates describes their new "hub" as "a digital destination for timely insight on critical issues at the intersection of business and law. Whether you are in a legal department or are a C-suite executive, we hope you will find our current insight on industry and legal trends to be a valuable resource." It is not designed to replace the regular law firm website, but provide extensive content on a few topics for a very specific audience.

Websites have come a long, long way since the first one I worked on--for Morgan Lewis--in 1996. I found this screen capture online from 2000, back when mlb.com belonged to the law firm and not to Major League Baseball. In 2000, I was proud to have worked on one of the first unique components on a large law firm website--HSRScan--which was a searchable database of letters interpreting the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (the HSR Act) and its regulations. At the time, moving beyond attorney bios, news, practice area descriptions and maybe some dynamic recruiting content was quite unique. I loved that HSRScan was a database of content that literally did not exist anywhere else.

While sites have come a long way in sophistication and content, the reality is that most today are extremely similar--with the same databases cranking out the same data, and the usual array of bells & whistles. K&L Gates does a nice job organizing the enormous amount of content that they harness among their attorneys, offices and practice groups. Few firms are going to have that level of depth, and fewer are going to have the staffing resources to build it and keep it up. With a 100-person marketing and business development team, they probably have the bandwidth to keep the hub up to date and growing.

For those few firms without a 100-person marketing department, you might be focused on other elements of the Internet--strong use of social media sites, mobile-friendly sites (a must), SEO (when applicable) and various combinations of the same Hub-type content--videos, webinars, blogs and client alerts. The ship has sailed on truly unique law firm websites and blogs, but that does not mean the same elements can't be reconfigured in a different delivery mechanism. And just because it is not unique does not mean that it is not a necessity.

March 5, 2015

LP Magazine -- Effectively Managing and Maintaining Your Online Portfolio

LPM_MA15_cover.jpgIn the March/April 2015 issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine, my topic is relevant to pretty much every practicing attorney (not to mention almost every human being on the planet). What does your online portfolio look like, and why should you care?

Every week, I will meet, speak with or e-mail a prospective client. While I will send them my own crafted biography, links to my website and blog, and additional information--what they will often be more interested in is what they find when doing a search for my name. With a somewhat unique first and last name, what they see will almost always be me. This is not the case with many that have more mainstream names to search for.

While some individuals and firms are forced to use reputation management companies to "fix" a page of results, most of us simply live with what we see. But the thought that you have no control over what appears is not accurate. Taking advantage of profile pages on powerful sites should help control that first page of results. Few will venture on to page two. Almost nobody will get to page three. And only stalkers are likely going beyond.

On this given day, I went and did what I try and do every few weeks--search for myself and see what pops. A Google search for Micah Buchdahl landed nearly 4,000 results--but only nine are on the all-important page one. Chances are pretty good that on the day you take a look, your results will vary. But here are today's top nine...

1. The bio page on my website at www.HTMLawyers.com.
2. My LinkedIn profile.
3. My bibliography of articles on Web Marketing Today.
4. My Twitter feed
5. My Facebook page
6. This blog (marketingattorney.com)
7. One of my many articles on Law Practice Today, where I serve as Editor in Chief.
8. My bio on the ABA Law Practice Division site.
9. A recent podcast on the Legal Talk Network.

Page two included Justia, Avvo, Google+ and others that often will show up on a first page. The bottom line is that while I don't "control" the page, the website, articles, speaking, blogging and social media profiles populate a page with positive results that enhance my portfolio. And when I ask you what your online portfolio might look like, make sure you know the answer. It could be the difference between being retained and getting passed over.

February 20, 2015

Ted Olson Keynotes ABA New Partner Institute in DC - April 17th

TOlson.jpgSince the inception of the ABA New Partner Institute in 2011, I have had the privilege of serving on the planning board and speaking on business development each year. While many law firms provide excellent professional development to its attorneys from summer associate through associate and ideally partnership, ABA New Partner provides something unique that you can't get in-house--different firm perspectives and philosophies, and the opportunity to network with fellow new partners from around the country--new partners eager to help one another build a bigger book of business.

This year, for the first time, New Partner moves to Washington, DC. And it is difficult to think of hearing from a bigger name partner than Ted Olson, and a more prestigious firm than Gibson Dunn.

For less than the cost of a billable hour, New Partner takes place as a one day conference in the heart of Washington. Make sure your law firm is represented with one or more of your new, recent or soon-to-be partners. It is built as a 50-person maximum program to better allow networking and intimacy among attendees and faculty.

Registration includes CLE credits, course materials, networking breakfast, lunch and networking reception. A special conference room rate is also available at the nearby Capitol Hilton. The program takes place at the ABA, 1050 Connecticut Avenue NW.

Substantive panel programs with an expert faculty from law firms and in-house counsel include:

• Advancement to Ownership - What Happens Next?
Learn some of the key financial and personal considerations associated with becoming partner.

• Ethical Considerations in Business Development and Marketing
Learn techniques on how to build or increase your book of business, all the while taking into consideration how the Rules of Professional Conduct come into play for compliance with the standards of the states in which your practice and solicit business.

• The Pitfalls of Partnership

Minimize your potential liability as a newly-appointed representative of your firm and learn how the economics of a law firm work, including how to increase profitability for yourself and your firm.

• Transitioning from Mentee to Supervisor: Partner Responsibilities Under the Rules of Professional Conduct
Examine the mechanics of mentoring, learn the art of delegation, and receive tips on how - as a new partner - you can build meaningful and constructive relationships.

If you have any questions about the ABA New Partner Institute, please feel free to contact me directly. Be sure your law firm is in attendance.

February 17, 2015

Legal Talk Network Podcast: The Legal Advertising Landscape

podcasts.jpgIf you would like to hear a short podcast discussing how legal advertising has changed due to the internet and social media, how to launch a successful marketing campaign without getting into trouble with state bars, and some advice to small and big firms about advertising in certain practices and geographic regions, LISTEN HERE to the podcast on the Legal Talk Network. Thanks to interviewer Jason Marsh, Adriana Linares and the LTN team for the opportunity to chat during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston, Texas.

January 6, 2015

LPT: (Women) Progressing into Partnership--Road Rules for a New Role

road-rules-logo.jpgThe December 2014 issue of Law Practice Today (LPT) is dedicated to the theme of New Partners, in advance of the annual ABA New Partners Institute in Washington, DC on April 17th. Amy Drushal of Trenam Kemker (a speaker for the NPI and co-chair of the first NP conference a few years back) served as issue editor.

I will also be presenting at NPI (and has served on the planning committee each year) on the topic of business development. However, at the recent ABA Women Rainmakers Mid-Career Workshop, I spoke on the topic of women progressing into partnership. While not talking, I took copious notes from esteemed fellow panelists for an article theme that fit right into the subject of partnership--whether you are trying to get there or are just arriving.

How do you get to partner? What are the criteria? What are the expectations? Can you have it all?

(Women) Progressing into Partnership--Road Rules for a New Role

Those were some of the questions answered during a panel presentation at the recent ABA Women Rainmakers Mid-Career Workshop in San Diego, California. The program, entitled "Progressing into Partnership--Road Rules for a New Role," featured a balanced panel of four attorneys--two men and two women--from various perspectives.
The panel included Ali Sylvia, managing partner of Plews Shadley Racher & Braun in Indianapolis, Indiana; Rori Goldman, a director at Hill Fulwider, a 13-attorney firm, also based in Indianapolis; Bob Young, chair of the ABA Law Practice Division and a partner at English Lucas Priest & Owsley in Bowling Green, Kentucky; and moderator Tom Bolt, chair-elect of the Law Practice Division and managing attorney of BoltNagi PC in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

January 6, 2015

LP Magazine - Embracing the Changing Face of PR (and a tribute to Lou Corletto)

LPM_ND14_cover.jpgIn the November/December 2014 issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine, I write about Embracing the Changing Face of PR. In the column, I write about how much the concept of PR has changed with time and technology. While I still believe that PR is a significant part of business development, the way you utilize it and how it works has little resemblance to the way that it functioned a decade or two ago.

With print deadlines for Law Practice coming about four months prior to publication, it was summertime when I sat down to write this piece. What the column does not tell you is why I chose this particular issue to address PR. At that time, my first boss, Lou Corletto, had just passed away. I started my professional career as a PR professional, before law school, before a lot of things. In high school and undergrad, I had PR internships with the Baltimore Blast and Philadelphia Fever of the Major Indoor Soccer League (and at the league office). But my first formal PR training came via an internship with the Philadelphia Flyers. I learned a lot from the PR triumvirate of Rodger Gottlieb, Mark Piazza and Joe Kadlec. To this day, Mark and Joe are among my dearest personal friends. I "see" Rodger on LinkedIn from time to time, and while not in touch, have always appreciated what he did for me. They played a role in suggesting to the Washington Capitals that they hire me the following year. The Caps PR director was a long-time, old school, gentleman named Louis Corletto. For his memorial service, I sent along my thoughts and remembrances (ironically, an ABA meeting prevented me from attending in person). The memorial took place in Richmond, Virginia in August. I thought this would be an appropriate forum for sharing those words. Thanks Lou.

LOU CORLETTO MEMORIAL

I'm sorry that I could not be in Virginia today to say a proper goodbye to my dear friend Lou. He hired me as his public relations assistant for the Washington Capitals nearly 3 decades ago in 1985. I was a fresh out of college, 22 year old know it all that came to him via Temple University and a PR internship with the Philadelphia Flyers.

No matter how condescending or insubordinate I was, Lou never raised his voice, never disciplined me, never did anything but show patience and try to teach me the way that maybe I should behave. He was a tremendous mentor who knew how to treat people--regardless of rank or stature. I was especially appreciative of the way he would treat my parents as they entered the Capital Centre--like they were the Mom and Dad of someone quite important.

One particular anecdote in 1986 has always stuck with me. Lou asked me to include in the media notes a welcome to corporate sponsor Ace Hardware. He was under some fire by the Caps marketing guy. I said that the media notes were for the media, not to welcome sponsors. Lou asked if I could please do it. I responded that I did not want to, but would if he ORDERED me to do it as my boss. He said that he would not order me to do it, but hoped I would.

I did not. Later that night, he came up to me and said "you couldn't have done that for me?" I said "I told you if you wanted them in, you needed to insist upon it." He never brought it up again. He would not punish me and rarely said no to a request from me. The sheer disappointment in his face that night was enough to make sure I never did something like that again. He did not order, instruct, yell or curse--Lou Corletto got things done with kindness, respect and a hearty laugh.

As a young man, I'd complain that all he did was play golf at Congressional or have lunch with Larry King at Duke Ziebert's. All this while I slaved away at the typewriter doing the real PR work. As I matured, I learned that any punk can write game notes, but not everybody can pick up the phone and ask George Michael at NBC or George Solomon at the Washington Post for a favor. As the years went on, knowing that he enjoyed so many moments like those only lightened my heart.

Fast forward to the late 90s. I had gone to law school and was living outside of Philly in Voorhees, New Jersey. Lou showed up unannounced. He was at the train station and needed a place to stay. I had a little one bedroom apartment. Lou stayed with me, sleeping on the futon in the living room and making phone calls--looking to get back on his feet. I listened as he called some of the great people in the NHL--David Poile, Bill Torrey, Larry Pleau, John Halligan, his dear friend Nate Greenberg and others--looking for help in getting another opportunity to do what he did best. It was impressive that he made the calls and that everyone would take the calls as well. As we spent time together, I told him this was my penitence, the payback for the Ace Hardware omission. This was my chance to give back to someone who deserved it. He just laughed and said that he loved me. Lou could only remember the half full part of dealing with me. That is how he lived his life.

Eventually, with the help of our mutual friend George Starr, we saw Lou on to his next stop in Raleigh, North Carolina. I told him my young girlfriend did not understand what this guy was doing at my apartment. Lou understood. Today that girlfriend is my wife of 14 years. Lou loved hearing about my six year old son and 10 year old daughter as they've grown up. In our conversations, he always told me how much he appreciated me. He never let the rocky times keep him down. Lou was ever the optimist. I enjoyed sitting with Commissioner Lou at a Southern Hockey League game and PR director Lou at a Major Indoor Soccer League game. But it was his love of the Caps and the NHL that brought the widest smile to his face. He truly appreciated everything and everybody. I learned a lot from the man. There are times where I could stand to learn a little more. I'll always cherish his friendship and miss him. As NHL photographer Bruce Bennett said upon hearing of his passing, he is up there in that great press room in the sky smiling and laughing and taking care of people. That is what he did. Rest in peace, Lou. I'll always appreciate the times we had together--good and bad--but especially appreciate that you only saw the good in people.

October 3, 2014

ABA Women Rainmakers Mid-Career Workshop: Progressing into Partner--Road Rules

Women_Rainmakers.jpgThe biannual ABA Women Rainmakers Mid-Career Workshop will take place November 7-8, 2014 at The US Grant hotel in San Diego, California. I will be speaking on a panel entitled "Progressing into Partner--Road Rules," with an esteemed faculty that includes Rori Goldman of Hill Fulwider, Ali Sylvia of Plews Shadley Racher & Braun and Law Practice Division chair Bob Young of English Lucas Priest & Owsley.

I often remark to people that as a summer associate at Bernstein Shur in Portland, Maine, I quickly realized that my personality and career goals did not equate to a likelihood of becoming a partner at a law firm. It had nothing to do with Bernstein Shur--an excellent firm with outstanding people--but simply the partnership process at firms in general. My philosophy--right or wrong--was that if I was not going to be on a partnership track at a law firm, I'd just as well not be at a law firm at all. I won't go into whether that thinking was right or wrong, but that was my approach at the time. In retrospect, I still think it was the proper path for me.

Of course, back in the day, most attorneys entered a law firm as summers or first years with the belief or understanding that you would put your head down for 6-10 years and lift it when the partnership committee came a'votin'. That is certainly way different today. As a matter of fact, most would argue that it is the opposite. Most attorneys start "training" at a law firm knowing they would not likely be there for the long haul--whether it is your choosing or the law firm deciding--maybe it is for life/work balance, maybe you seek a different area of practice, decide to relocate, or join a client in-house--the odds of becoming partner are better than a college basketball player making it to the NBA, but not enough for me to place a wager on it in Vegas.

The great irony today is that while I did take the successful approach of starting my own business and thus instantly becoming partner (although my wife sometimes barks orders that make me think I'm a first year Associate), my clients are those very law firms--midsize to large U.S. law firms that annually go through the "who makes partner" ritual. And, in many cases, I've found myself involved in some of those conversations with law firm management. Does he or she have what it takes? Do they or can they develop a book of business? Do they understand what it takes to step up? Just how profitable is their practice? Is it really a loss if they leave? Can we compromise on a non-equity or "of counsel" role? And on and on...

An area of great satisfaction for me now is to see attorneys at law firms that I worked with a dozen years ago as summer associates or first years' becoming partners at those firms. People I saw as rookies and pups are now inching toward management committees. I've seen those that I expected to become partners reach their goal. I've seen others become partners at other firms. Or go inside with a client. Quit entirely and stay at home. Or continue to wonder with frustration if that partnership invite will ever come (in most cases, probably not).

But reaching partnership takes more than simply hard work. It takes planning and strategizing. It takes a road map. And, in the area I often am speaking about, it takes an understanding and embracing of business development at the earliest stage possible to enhance those odds. For women in particular (this is about the ABA Women Rainmakers Mid-Career Workshop after all), there are unique challenges that can go hand in hand with all of the aforementioned issues.

In 2010, I was asked by ABA Young Lawyers Division chair David Wolfe to help plan and speak at the inaugural ABA New Partners Conference. The NP conference co-chairs were young attorneys (and both now full-fledged partners at their respective law firms) Dan McKenna of Ballard Spahr and Amy Drushal of Trenam Kemker. I am still involved in the planning of ABA New Partners, taking place April 16-17, 2015 in Washington, DC. Each year I speak on the all-important area of business development for new partners. But I've also had the chance to become better exposed to so many of the other criteria and responsibilities that come with being a new partner (as opposed to making partner). While learning your craft, doing great work and taking care of your bosses and clients are certainly the biggest factors in making the move from associate to partner--there is more to the recipe. Make sure you know the proper ingredients at your firm. Like most great recipes, there are plenty of different ways to make the stew; just know which ingredients are weighed most heavily in your kitchen.

And, of course, consider attending either/or/both conferences in 2014 and 2015. If you'd like to learn more about them, feel free to give me a call or shoot me an e-mail.

September 19, 2014

Attorney's Fake Celebrity Photo Gallery on Website Draws Suspension

Sangary-Article-201409171849.jpgCall her the Zelig or Forrest Gump of California attorneys, but you can also call her "suspended."

I've seen a lot of fun and strange law firm web site ethics issues come up since the mid-90s, but it is refreshing to see that there are still new takes on the concept of "deceptive and misleading" lawyer advertising online in 2014.

A State Bar Court judge in Sacramento, California has recommended a six month suspension for a Los Angeles attorney who put Photoshop to use in manipulating a photo gallery on her website filled with fake pictures of her with various politicians, celebrities and star athletes. The court found that this photo gallery amounted to deceptive advertising. Read the highly entertaining opinion here.

Svetlana Sangary's website describes her litigation boutique in similar ways to most related practices. However, when contacted by the state bar investigating the photos (and another complaint), there was a failure to respond for many months.

Perhaps, she was at the Emmys or lunching with Jamie Foxx--both sounding far more fun than answering to this stuff in court--but was more likely photoshopping another shot out of US Weekly. Among the interesting tidbits in the handling of this matter are:

  • She refused to remove the photos in question even after contacted by the State Bar.
  • Her 16 page response also included 148 pages of exhibits ranging from an article about Natalie Portman (now that is a photo opp I'd enjoy) to an array of e-mails and canceled checks.
  • The judge noted her response as "bizarre".
  • She cited a First Amendment right to remain silent.

There are politicians from both parties--Obama, Biden, Gore, two Clintons and a Schwarzenegger to name a few. Hollywood elite from Streisand to Clooney; DiCaprio to Baldwin. People that annoy me like Dr. Phil and Larry King. People I'd like to hang with like Jennifer Garner and Magic Johnson (and Paris Hilton, although I would not usually admit to that one).

Perhaps more entertaining are some of the Yelp reviews I read in looking to learn more about this attorney. Her 6.1 on Avvo will likely take a hit, since that included a 5/5 for professional conduct. My guess is that someone is vetting each accolade, testimonial and result posted for her in various places online.

It was probably close to a decade ago that an attorney came up to me after one of my internet marketing ethics programs for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute in Philadelphia. He was somewhat irate (and annoyed) by a Philadelphia lawyer that displayed a "photo gallery" on his website of him with various politicians and celebrities. He believed that the use of such photos were deceptive and misleading--suggesting to potential clients that he had relationships with these folks and potentially might be suggesting they are clients.

Now this CLE audience member actually expected me to "do something about it." I still remember responding that I was not the ethics police and that he was free to report this website to the state bar. I don't know if he ever did. But I did start using that website as an example in my seminars of a "potential issue." Just minutes ago, I went back online to see if that photo gallery was still a part of the law firm website in 2014--and sure enough, it was. In a twist of irony, many of the politicians and celebs in those photos are the exact same people photoshopped in Ms. Sangary's gallery--although I do believe his to be authentic.

You might ask me why I don't "name names" in this example (as I often do). Well, I'm still not the ethics police. And while I don't know the guy personally, he seems like a good person and is involved in some related organizations outside of the legal profession that I'm also in. So, I'd rather just be nice about it (this time). However, I've always suggested in my CLEs that a proper disclaimer in regard to the photo gallery and his relationships might go a long way to appeasing anyone believing the use to be deceptive and misleading advertising. And I might suggest that these two photo gallery examples--from Philadelphia and Los Angeles--will likely make it into my 2015 ethics CLE.

The marketer side of me finds both examples to be entertaining. Although I doubt she can fall back on the "no such thing as bad publicity" argument in this situation. The ethics attorney side of me wonders if the deceptive and misleading argument would still be an issue if indeed those photos were real. Perhaps that is a case of first impression somewhere else for another day.

For Ms. Sangary, the bar court judge also recommended a three year probationary period to go with the six month suspension, and a retaking of a professional responsibility exam. Only in Hollywood.

September 8, 2014

Peak Season for Law Firm Marketing & Business Development Is Here; Hurry before the Thanksgiving Lull hits!

peak_season.jpgIt was a joyous day on my work calendar after Labor Day when the kids went back to school. The camp bus pickup at 9 am is replaced by the school bus pickup at 7:25 am. Extended day at school moves the "end of day" from 4 pm to 6 pm. The sunscreen, towels and related daily chores are replaced by much simpler tasks. And while family vacations are nice, they are not exactly relaxing. Many of those work trips are far less stressful.

While summer time is fun, the reality is that a lot of business and work hits the back burners after Memorial Day. If there is one thing I learned when I started working with law firms on marketing efforts back in 1997, it is that there are two significant time frames where little to nothing gets done--the first is from Thanksgiving until after New Year's. The second (and much longer) are the months of June, July and August. Because marketing falls below "work for clients" and "family commitments/vacations" on most schedules, it means little in my world gets done.

This did not stop a bunch of law firms from discussing business development plans for the coming year during the summer months. It was just made clear that nothing was going to happen until the fall. And I still had a few law firm clients that wanted to launch some advertising campaigns or related marketing ventures--that I quickly put the kibosh on. Because just as people do just enough to get by during the heat of summer, that also includes interest in reading business publications, attending CLEs and other events that don't involve BBQs, concerts and the beach.

This leads us to the huge importance of the fall on our business calendars. There is not a higher peak time of the year than the September-October-November months for marketing and BD initiatives. We hunker down and get back to work, but just as critical, businesses are evaluating their lawyers, costs and needs for budget planning in the next calendar year. These are the months that generally tell me what kind of year I'm going to have in 2015. When January hits, many of these decisions have now been made. It is important for your law firm to be positioned properly (from a brand perspective, market position, messaging and identity) now to maximize visibility and possibilities for retention and growth. While I spent the summer telling many of you to not bother doing much in the public eye because nobody is paying attention, the reverse is true in the harvest season. The winter holiday lull will be here before you know it. And while ramping up again in January is certainly important, the real peak time to position you for a strong "next year" are right now.

July 14, 2014

LP Magazine - Age over Beauty? Marketing a Law Firm's Anniversary

2014-july-august-cover107x139_jpg_imagep_107x141.pngIn the July/August 2014 issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine, I address the always-sensitive subject of age. In this case, it is about the marketing value of a law firms' years. It is yet another subject that seems to present itself to me with clients a few times every year. How young is too young? And how old is too old? And is there value in touting age--and more specifically--an anniversary to clients and prospects?

Many law firms have taken anniversaries--literally as short as the one year mark and as long as 200 years--and looked to make them into marketable events. In some cases with good success; in others, it simply does not work. My column provides anecdotal examples of ways your firm may or may not commemorate a business birthday. When you look at all the possibilities, you might be surprised to find that some of the ideas and scenarios fit right into an upcoming anniversary of your law firms' entry into the marketplace. We often look for excuses to celebrate. We often look for ways to manufacture firm "news." Somewhere in the middle is the marketing of a law firms' anniversary. If you are going to invest time, money and effort into such a commemoration, read my column first. It should serve as a guide to ways to ensure the highest level of business development return possible.

July 11, 2014

WMT: The Price You Pay for the Right Domain Name

domains.pngAmong the very first law firm websites I ever worked on was www.mlb.com. My six year old son accesses the site every morning on his iPad before heading to school or camp to check scores and watch video highlights of last nights' major league baseball action. Of course, that does not sound like a law firm website, does it? No, it is Major League Baseball (MLB). But in the late 90s, www.mlb.com took you to the website of one of the nation's largest law firms--Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

Morgan Lewis' IT people were certainly on their game when they beat baseball to the punch and acquired the domain name that certainly made sense for them--MLB. When working with Morgan Lewis on their initial website and subsequent iterations, we always chuckled at the enormous web traffic that the site garnered. Of course, the bulk of it was people looking for baseball. And as you might imagine, they were none too pleased when they ended up with an antitrust practice area description instead of All-Star game voting results. As a matter of fact, many website visitors e-mailed various unflattering comments regarding what they believed was an inappropriate use of the MLB domain name.

Luckily for Major League Baseball, they were a client of the law firm. And eventually Morgan Lewis provided their client with that prized possession, so they could join the NHL, NBA and NFL in owning the proper online moniker.

Truth be told, while having mlb.com was nice, there really was no great benefit to owning what the marketplace would perceive as the wrong domain name. But that was not the case in the early days of the World Wide Web, where initials and abbreviations ruled. The present-day domain name, Morganlewis.com is considered the proper and appropriate domain name for the 2000s. In the end, they took care of the client and have this great anecdote of the "early days of the web" to tell.

This, of course, is a roundabout way of introducing this months' Web Marketing Today column topic on the price of purchasing the right domain name in 2014. When a new law firm is formed or renamed today, the chances of the preferred domain name being available is pretty slim. The irony is that in many cases it is not because another business beat you to it. Much of the time it is because one of the many domain name entrepreneurs out there have stockpiled hundreds of thousands of names to resell to those that want or need them. It is big business. And in many cases, there are lots of middle men trying to broker sales between the owner and business--which simply means an additional mark-up.

The article details concerns and considerations when seeking to buy a domain name for your law firm in the present day, from avoiding scams to purchasing the proper name for use in professional services. Although the options for a domain name are endless (and can be purchased for a few bucks), the proper domain name for your law firm is typically very limited. It is your e-mail address and as much a part of letterhead or a business card as your phone number. Be sure to follow the proper steps in acquiring a domain name for use in your new law firm entity. Don't bother trying for mlb.com--it is taken.

June 13, 2014

Lily Buchdahl Provides The Weather on Fox 29 Philadelphia

For some attorneys, there is nothing more nerve-wracking than appearing on television. For my 10 year old daughter, Lily, it is one thing to say you want to be on TV and another to experience it. As part of a charity auction, Lily's Mom and I purchased the opportunity for her to do the weather forecast on the local Fox television station's morning show, Good Day.

We knew someone besides Lily was on the morning show as well, since the paparazzi were not outside waiting on me (I don't think). In the green room (which was much sparser than one might imagine) we met a few of the other guests. Actress Meagan Good was promoting her movie, Think Like A Man Too. She rolled in about 10 minutes before her segment with an entourage of six people (four very young and two around my age). She sweetly said hello to my kids and wished Lily luck with her segment on the way out. All told, I think she was in the building for 20 minutes.

Shortly thereafter, Colin Quinn came in (only needing one very nice lady to accompany him; I'm assuming his publicist). He was promoting his new tour, Unconstitutional. Of everyone in the building, including the Fox folks, Mr. Quinn took the time to chat with all of us. When we told him that Lily was interested in acting and singing, he said his biggest piece of advice was to "always try to write your own stuff." It is always a pleasure to meet someone that takes a few minutes to talk to people. I always liked his stuff. Now I like it even more. You never know who you are going to meet and chat with. Maybe they'll do a little bit to help promote your tour. A little positive PR in the legal industry never hurts.

Lily got a great dose of the reality of live television. The segment before hers dealt with who you might have sex with before your wedding night (celebrities, exes, best man and other great choices). Luckily, she did not seem to be too focused on that content. But I'm sure the parents of her girlfriends from school watching enjoyed it. Two of the three Fox anchors never spoke a word to her. She got miked up, met the host handling the weather, did her two minutes and was out the door.

Most importantly, her report was "fair and balanced." After all, it was Fox. I'm always amazed how many lawyers get nervous before public speaking and media interviews. Regardless of your age, the more you do it, the more comfortable you become. I know that Lily's weather experience will serve her well from a "nerves" standpoint down the road. And I'll look to see Colin Quinn's Unconstitutional tour--because as many of my law firm clients know--everyone prefers to send business to people that they like.

FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

April 22, 2014

LinkedOut and MisTweeted: Ethical Uses of Social Networking in Marketing Your Law Practice

PBI.pngIt is hard to believe that I've been teaching the "advertising/marketing" ethics hour for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute for more than a decade now. But what makes it particularly interesting is that my space (pun intended, if you get it) keeps changing with such rapid fire imprecision that it really never gets old. This year I return to the theme of social networking ethics. I could say I'm repeating my program from 2010, but very little is the same. I looked back into my PowerPoint slides to find my first discussion of advertising and social media taking place in 2003. This makes me sound and feel ancient.

As usual, I will be presenting this PBI program live in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in April, August and December of 2014. My April programs take place on the 24th in Pittsburgh and 29th in Philadelphia--from 11:30 am-12:30 pm. For more information and registration, visit PBI.

Course Description:

Understanding social media is critical to the practice of law--Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networking sites not only enter into almost every practice, but are key tools for law firm marketing and business development efforts. However, many lawyers have failed to understand the ethical implications as they relate to the Rules of Professional Conduct. What issues should you be aware of when delving into social networking for generating business opportunities? What are the implications of using LinkedIn's recommendations, endorsements and specialization components? How have state bars addressed these issues in recent rule changes and new ethics opinions? You'll learn the how-to, how-not-to and the latest lessons in social networking participation.