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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 It reminded me that so many of the ethics rule in place today to protect the client are simply outdated or ineffective.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.

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law360.jpgIn today’s Law360, reporter Matthew Bultman writes on How to Manage the Millennial Lawyer. This is certainly one of the years’ hottest law firm management topics, and my interview with Matthew came on the heels of my panel participation in Bridging the Generational Divide: How Millennials Can Communicate with Baby Boomers and Succeed in the Workplace at the recent ABA Business Law Spring Meeting in Montreal.

“Running a major law firm has always had its challenges, but firm leaders in recent years have found themselves facing a new question: how to best manage millennials, a tech-savvy generation that values flexibility and wants meaning in work,” writes Bultman. “The truth of stereotypes around millennials — that they’re entitled, job hoppers, nonconformist — is debatable. But what is true, according to the Pew Research Center, is that the generation now makes up the largest section of the workforce.”

“You can’t keep things status quo or business as usual,” said Micah Buchdahl, the president of law marketing company HTMLawyers Inc. “There is a realization in BigLaw that you have to make these shifts if you’re going to attract the same caliber of talent you always have. A failure to do that will not put you in the market for the best talent that’s out there.”

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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.

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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?

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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.