Recently in American Bar Association Category

April 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 2, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 26, 2013

Robert Grey to Keynote Fourth Annual ABA New Partners Conference

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

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

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

Advancement to Ownership: What Happens Now?

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

The Pitfalls of Partnership (CLE)

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

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

December 23, 2013

LPT: ABA New Partner Conference Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 1, 2013

Your ABA: 10 Tips for Approaching Lawyer Rankings and Ratings

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

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

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

October 29, 2013

LP Magazine - Branding is the Heart of Your Marketing Message

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

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

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

September 27, 2013

ABA CLE Premier Speaker Series -- Lawyer Rankings and Ratings: The Impact on Ethics and the Profession

ABA_CLE.pngAmerican Bar Association members receive free continuing legal education credits through the monthly CLE Premier Speaker Series. Sponsored by the ABA and the Center for Professional Development, thousands of attorneys participate in each month's complimentary webinar program.

It is a tremendous honor to have my program, Lawyer Rankings and Ratings: The Impact on Ethics and the Profession, selected for inclusion, on Monday, October 21, 2013 from 1-2:30 pm Eastern Time. If you are an ABA member, be sure to take advantage of attending this timely and topical CLE.

There may not be a bigger "industry" in law firm marketing and business development circles than the continued growth and proliferation of rankings and ratings. The Rules of Professional Conduct and ethics opinions have tried in vain to develop workable ethics barriers and parameters, however, the impact on the profession is significant--from the time and money spent to the permissible uses for promotion. Learn about ratings and their methodologies, and the ethical considerations voiced by various state and national bar associations. From long-time services by Martindale, American Lawyer Media, Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers; to relative newcomers such as Chambers USA and Avvo; and the thousands of other companies that have recognized there is a lot of money to be made in the business of lawyer rankings. Are they helping buyers of legal services make more informed decisions or hindering the profession as a whole?

If the program is half as good as our planning calls, the different perspectives from the panel should prove fascinating. As a moderator and panelist, I represent both the perspectives of an ethics attorney and of a law firm marketer. For many years, through my involvement in the ABA Law Practice Division, I've authored articles and moderated programs on the subject for Law Practice Today and the biannual ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference.

Steven Naifeh, President of Best Lawyers, represents the "industry", as one of the most respected attorneys running one of the more respected "players" in the field. He offers an historical perspective and understanding of ranking growth and success, changes in methodologies and strategies.

Elizabeth Tarbert, Ethics Counsel for The Florida Bar, provides a point-of-view from the state bar regulatory perspective. Of course, Florida is one of the most active states in regard to attorney advertising and marketing regulation, with more rules, opinions and supporting documentation on what you can and can't do than pretty much anywhere. My rule of thumb on issues regarding advertising regulation is that if it flies in Florida, you are likely safe just about anywhere else.

Between me, Steve and Elizabeth, the panel should provide a healthy debate on a hot button topic. When you throw in elements of the Internet--from social media to review sites--the potential issues and topics of conversation broaden significantly. It should prove to be an ethics CLE that will be anything but boring.

July 25, 2013

Buchdahl to present Ethics CLE on Building a Book of Business at ABA Annual Meeting

aba_yld_logo.jpgIf you are attending the upcoming ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, you are welcome to attend this complimentary continuing legal education program being put on by the ABA Young Lawyers Division, at the Palace Hotel (Presidio, Second Floor) on Friday, August 9, 2013 from 11 am-noon PT. For more information, click here, or contact me directly for more information.

Moderated by Amy Drushal, a partner at Trenam Kemker in Tampa, Florida, I will offer tips and strategies alongside panelist Walter Karnstein, in-house counsel at Hewlett-Packard, who will provide the all-important corporate counsel perspective.

ETHICS CLE PROGRAM: Building a Book of Business: Ethical Boundaries and Sound Approaches to Business Development & Marketing

Whether you are starting out on your own, reaching for partnership ranks or simply looking for new clients and matters, building a book of business is imperative to your success. But the task can be daunting - with so many options out there, ethical boundaries and little time/money to waste. This professional development CLE will provide tips for utilizing networking, online tools and sound marketing techniques while avoiding missteps with the Rules of Professional Conduct as it relates to advertising and solicitation. The panel includes perspectives from a law firm partner, a corporate counsel and an ethics attorney that focuses on business development strategies.

Speakers:

Micah Buchdahl, HTMLawyers, Inc., Moorestown, NJ

Amy Drushal, Trenam Kemker, Tampa, FL

Walter Karnstein, Hewlett-Packard, Portland, OR

July 8, 2013

LP Magazine - Proper Hiring & Staffing of your Law Firm's Marketing Team

july-august13cover_jpg_imagep_107x141.pngIn the July/August 2013 issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine, my marketing column addresses a sensitive topic for many firms and law firm marketers--hiring and staffing. When I first became involved in recruiting and job placement of marketing staff for law firms, it was generally the last piece of the puzzle in developing a marketing foundation at a firm. Over time, more firms approached me to handle their recruiting efforts for law marketing professionals, as they found that most of the search efforts (either on their own or through non-lawyer marketing recruiters) ended up yielding them the same cast of characters and the same mediocre results.

As a practicing attorney with an expertise in marketing and business development, I can often better identify the candidates that match up with the particular practice areas and lawyer backgrounds.

Over time, many legal marketing professionals have sent me resumes or scheduled conversations so that they are on the radar when a job placement occurs in their geographic area. Make no mistake--the law marketing market is a lucrative one. Some markets have more jobs than qualified candidates. Others simply pay very well. Either way, it allows for speedy upward mobility--which often creates a game of hopscotch across many of the same mid-size to large law firms in a given city. Knowing whether a candidate is moving up due to success or simply being moved out is often a critical component to putting forth successful candidates.

Read the column to learn more about the process--from whom to hire to how much to pay; what are the credentials your law firm needs and what is the formula for success? It is an area of law practice that is finally ripening in regard to sophistication as the early generation of law firm marketers (often employees with little to no actual marketing training) is replaced by skilled and trained business development professionals.

May 23, 2013

ABA President Reappoints Buchdahl to Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education

aba_cpd_general_sm.jpgAmerican Bar Association (ABA) incoming President James R. Silkenat has reappointed attorney Micah Buchdahl to a three year term on the Standing Committee of Continuing Legal Education (SCOCLE). The committee is a driving force behind all aspects of lawyer professional development and continuing legal education programming.

Buchdahl is President of Moorestown, New Jersey-based HTMLawyers, a law marketing consultancy, where he works with law firms around the globe on business development initiatives and strategies. He is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania.

The ABA Center for Professional Development (formerly Center for CLE) is guided by the SCOCLE, working closely with experts from ABA Sections and other entities and from the profession at large in developing programs and products. It serves as the central resource for the ABA and the profession for up-to-the-minute, quality CLE distributed through a variety of convenient formats.

Buchdahl served one year on an appointment by ABA President Laurel Bellows before his reappointment by Silkenat. During this time, he served on the SCOCLE's marketing committee. He also developed programming for the ABA Premier Speaker series, where he will lead an ethics CLE program on attorney ratings & rankings in October 2013. In addition, Buchdahl is Editor in Chief of the ABA's Law Practice Today, the most widely disseminated online resource on law practice management in the legal profession.

A past chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA, Buchdahl developed the ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference, a standalone business development workshop. He is a longtime faculty member of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, teaching ethics annually for more than a decade.

The SCOCLE is chaired by Vincent Polley. The Director of the ABA Center for Professional Development is Jill Eckert McCall.

May 15, 2013

LPT: Professional Development

PD_image.jpgFor the May issue of Law Practice Today, focusing on the theme of professional development, I asked my colleague Megan Greenberg, formerly Director of Professional Development at Richards Layton in Delaware to lead the charge as issue editor. Megan's experience as a practicing attorney and PD director, along with her involvement in the Professional Development Consortium (PDC) made her the perfect person to put together leading experts and authors, with timely qualified topics on the ever-increasing role of PD in the law firm.

If you are looking for a compendium of professional development topics and expertise, look no further than this month's LPT. Among the highlights are:

Peta Gordon's very timely piece on "The Other Half." With the popularity of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's best-seller Lean In, the author talks about work/life balance following the birth of her second child. Peta is a senior associate in Kaye Scholer's litigation department. Her story will resonate with many female attorneys working to balance a demanding professional life with raising a family.

Nick Gaffney's Roundtable series takes on Law Firm Associate Perspectives on Professional Development, with contributions from Chandana Ravindranath, an Associate at DLA Piper in New York, Henry Warnock, with Ford Harrison in Atlanta, and Tracy Weiss, an associate at Greenberg Traurig in Phoenix.

Why are associate attrition rates so high? Author Rachel Silverman asks and answers the question in "Associate Engagement Is No Laughing Matter." A key reason is a lack of genuine engagement in the most important drivers of professional satisfaction. A savvy associate engagement strategy will increase your associates' motivation and productivity--and your bottom line.

Of course, I'm going to highlight my own contribution. In "Ethics Imperative to Business Development Learning," I address the way PD and marketing programs intersection when it comes to ethics compliance. From websites and social media, ratings and rankings, the ethical implications of marketing activities are varied and complex. Ensure your professional development program isn't forgetting the ethics component of marketing. It is highly embarrassing to law firm management than the letter from the state disciplinary counsel citing a firm for violating the RPC in marketing, advertising or solicitation.

To read the May issue, CLICK HERE.

March 16, 2013

Hunter v. Virginia State Bar: The Blog Debate Continues -- Disclaimers are a must

blog_icon1.jpgOn February 28th, the Virginia Supreme Court held that a disclaimer was required under the state's advertising rules when posting results on a website. This is the latest outcome in the seemingly never-ending battle between Horace Hunter and the Virginia State Bar. This has been a widely watched case among ethics attorneys like myself that follow the bouncing ball of state bar advertising restrictions and first amendment scholars looking at the "free speech" argument. Is the next stop the U.S. Supreme Court?

Last April (2012), I was part of an ABA CLE panel that discussed "Is Your Legal Blog Compliant? Ethical considerations in the wake of Hunter v. Virginia State Bar." The panel included Mr. Hunter, myself, employment law blogger Molly DiBianca and noted Virginia ethics attorney Tom Spahn. We discussed and debated the many issues in the case. It is effectively a case of first impression in the law blogosphere. That was prior to the case heading up the ladder to the state supreme court. Read more about the program in Your ABA's e-news--Blogs can be legal minefields.

Blogs have been around since the late 1990s, yet this cyberspace battle in Virginia is the first real challenge by a state bar to the often cloudy areas of interpretation. Is a blog advertising, marketing, editorial, personal, or business? Where does the First Amendment end and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct begin? Should a state bar look at a blog as marketing or something else?

I've found that heavy bloggers and those that sell blogs to law firms are often quite vocal in the opinion that the blog is somehow "media" and exempt from rules under "marketing." As a former journalist, I've always been disturbed by the concept that someone with a blog is suddenly a "reporter." Clearly, there are blogs that have become popular enough in the mainstream that they become influencers and sometimes garner "media" status for credentialing and access. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to credential bloggers for various conferences. Usually they are just too cheap to register. And in most cases, I've never heard of them. There are blogs that are clearly online media. But they are usually a standalone entity and not promotional in the sense that the goal is anything more than traffic generation. The goal of most lawyer blogs is to generate business as lawyers--whether it is direct or in many cases, helping with search engine optimization, increasing media inquiries or branding visibility. Any way you slice it, we are not doing it as a personal "dear diary."

The ethics attorney part of me clearly believes that a law firm or lawyer blog is advertising, marketing or a communication that falls under the respective RPC. It is simply ridiculous to differentiate between a law firm website and a law firm blog (with, of course, exceptions). When doing an ethics compliance review of a blog, I look at numerous factors--including disclaimers, links to the main site, bar states of contributors and various other criteria in making sure a law firm blog is compliant--based on advertising and solicitation rules, not based on the concept that the attorney is an objective journalist making a comment.

Of course, if you are reading this, you realize that this is a blog! I do it for all the aforementioned reasons. But if you think the underlying goal is anything less than business development...please. We blog to get attention--for our practice, for our business. Not that there is anything wrong with that. We give advice, opinions and provide news for our niche targets.

It will be interesting if Hunter gets to the U.S. Supreme Court. Because a ruling there would likely elevate or dilute the level of restriction and requirements accompanying the thousands of law firm blogs out there. A good blog offers expert opinion--but it is marketing. This is not The New York Times.

March 15, 2013

LPT: Young Lawyers Survival Guide

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fb-lpt-sm.pngThis month marks the first of our two annual "Young Lawyers Survival Guide" issues of Law Practice Today, developed in coordination with the ABA's Young Lawyers Division. Thanks to issue editor Elizabeth Henslee for putting together an outstanding collection of articles designed with the young lawyer audience in mind--although almost all of the content is relevant to attorneys of all ages.

New to LPT this month are two rotating bimonthly features, including Professional Development (now rotating with Career Paths) and Diversity & Inclusion (rotating with Women Rainmakers). This month, Jennifer Bluestein writes about time management. Jen is the Director of Professional Development at Greenberg Traurig. She also serves as Chair of the Professional Development Consortium (PDC). LPT is working with the PDC to produce timely articles on PD. We also welcome a contribution from Aracely Munoz Petrich on watching the Supreme Court with apprehension. Aracely is the vice chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee of the ABA Law Practice Management Section. Professional development and diversity are becoming more and more significant in the day-to-day operations of a law firm. LPT's editorial board recognizes that there is a demand and interest in more features relating to those important law practice management topics.

A renowned panel of experts from the academic world and law firm world participate in a roundtable discussion, moderated by Nicholas Gaffney of Infinite PR, on what law firms expect from new lawyers. Gaffney's roundtable series appears a few times each year, and provides multiple perspectives on our monthly issue themes.

To read the March issue, click here.

Thanks,

Micah Buchdahl
Editor in Chief
Law Practice Today

February 27, 2013

LP Magazine - Charitable Deductions, Marketing Opportunities

Thumbnail image for march-april13cover.jpgMy marketing column in the March/April issue of Law Practice focuses on the many ways that charitable involvement--be it time or money--can also pay significant dividends for a law firm's marketing efforts. Too often it is not fully embraced (or simply ignored) as a tie-in to everything from image branding to professional development.

If you have a law firm marketer, is s/he aware of and involved in charitable contributions? Is this discussed by the marketing partner and marketing committee? There are so many ancillary benefits that come from "doing good" that unwittingly get overlooked. Is there an internal list that shows charitable involvement--financial contributions, pro bono, board appointments, events, relevancy to clients? "Giving back" is a hallmark of law firm involvement in a community. Being recognized for those efforts is far greater "branding" than a promotional advertisement or marketing campaign. Read the article to see if your law practice is making the most of your philanthropic endeavors.