Recently in Ask The Marketing Attorney Mailbag Category

November 14, 2007

ASK THE MAM -- How can I become a Super Lawyer, or something else? Rank me. Name me. Make me a star.

DEAR MAM: I read your comments in a recent article in Conde Nast Portfolio, and was wondering how easy it is to become a Super Lawyer? And how can I get rated somewhere? SINCERELY YOURS, LC, New York, NY

DEAR LC: To be honest, if you have a heartbeat and a JD, and can not get ranked by somebody somewhere, you've got serious problems. As a matter of fact, you can send me a thousand bucks and I will name you the "Marketing Attorney Lawyer of the Week" (complete with an e-mailed PDF of a "plaque" and a gold star sticker from my three year old daughter's sticker book. I know it sounds sarcastic, but call me if you've got the grand handy.

Continue reading "ASK THE MAM -- How can I become a Super Lawyer, or something else? Rank me. Name me. Make me a star." »

December 27, 2006

ASK THE MAM -- More Verizon Yellow Pages Woes

DEAR MAM: I read your recent post on Verizon Yellow Pages. I too have had enormous frustrations with their practices--how much things cost? When the deadlines occur? Errors in the ads? What should I do? Is there a person or department you suggest I contact with Verizon? SINCERELY YOURS, JB, Phoenix, AZ

DEAR JB: To be honest, I'm encouraging firms I work with to stop all Verizon Yellow Pages advertising, because of these types of issues. The reality, in my opinion, is that it is a dying entity. Besides the fact that there are numerous competitors (I do not know which book I keep in my own kitchen--Verizon or Yellow Book--myself), when I need to look something up, I go online anyway. And for one of my law firm clients, we have spent more time trying to resolve a dispute with Verizon this past year than we have on our own business development plan. The best bet is to simply cancel your listing all together. You can always go back later (regardless of "losing your spot in line" sales gimmickery). Perhaps, you will get a new manager or rep that can start you off fresh, or simply try some other marketing tools for a year or two and see how things net out. I have chosen to redirect some of the Verizon money to Yellow Book, simply to see if the product, services and results are any better. Please feel free to contact me privately for further information. Thanks for writing. I feel your pain. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

November 7, 2006

ASK THE MAM -- Boutique or Big Firm?

DEAR MAM: I practice employment law at what would probably be considered a megafirm. A few of us are wondering whether it might be better to venture out on our own. In today's market, do you think our futures are brighter staying put (we are on the partnership track, we think) or going out on our own? SINCERELY YOURS, JC, New York, NY

DEAR JC: Oh, the dilemma of sucking it up and earning big bucks with little life, or rolling the dice on making a good income and doing what you want. I know it well. Contrary to some recent reports, many have found recent success finding a niche that stands between a solo and a boutique--the mini-boutique. In most cases, the mini-boutique has a specialty in which a corporate client finds greater value and lower cost. In most cases that I've dealt with, the mini-b is started by partners that have a book of business to get rolling. So, unless you know that there will be some clients to get going, you might hold off a littler longer. Some of the mini-bs that have met with great success are IP and employment practices.

You think that you are on the partnership track? If you are within three years of that next level, stay the course and then reconsider venturing out. If you are a third-year associate, unless you have some clients that will be making the move, you may struggle. And, of course, there is always the opportunity to find a better fit at a full-size boutique. The grass is always greener, baby! Let me know how things play out. SINCERELY YOURS, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

October 30, 2006

ASK THE MAM -- Yellow Pages Advertising

DEAR MAM: Where do you stand on Yellow Pages advertising? My gut is that it is a waste. However, so many still spend so much on it. SINCERELY YOURS, SP, Minneapolis, MN

DEAR SP: You've struck a nerve. There is no entity that has less of a shot of getting a piece of marketing dollar from one of my firms than Verizon Yellow Pages or Super Book or whatever they call themselves. Dealing with Verizon is the worst vendor interaction experience that I have faced ANYWHERE on ANYTHING. I am in the process of looking for law firms that have had similar issues with Verizon sales personnel. Since I am not interested in getting into litigation with them, I'll leave it at that. However, firms with such experiences should contact me privately. I've had much better experiences dealing with the folks at Yellow Book. But that does not really answer your question. In some undersaturated markets, there are still consumer-oriented firms that see and get value from Yellow Pages-style advertising. However, the impact in today's market is far less than it once was. It has become an overpriced entity that is often too crowded to be effective. If you have a huge budget, I still put money aside for a Yellow Book, but if my dollars are tight, I go elsewhere first. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

October 26, 2006

ASK THE MAM -- VANITY NUMBERS

DEAR MAM: I just read your response to the NY man who was asking about online law directories. I am just starting to market an 800 vanity number and want to know what are your feelings on vanity numbers?
SINCERELY YOURS, KK, Santa Ana, CA

DEAR KK: Much like domain names, my first and often last question in response to a vanity phone number is "how intuitive is it?" Naturally, I see no value in a 1-800-ANTITRUST for a corporate law firm. However, for many plaintiffs' firms, a vanity number that resonates with the consumer can have tremendous value. Of course, it needs to be part of a solid, overall marketing plan. I often pass billboards for PI firms that highlight ridiculous phone numbers and web addresses. So ridiculous that I can not offer up an example, because they are so "not memorable." A number that sticks in my head after I get out of the car, or turn off the radio or TV, is a winner. That is the question you need to ask yourself. And when purchasing a vanity number from a third party (not the phone company), you should take a hard look at the cost versus the potential benefits. Thanks for writing. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

September 2, 2005

ASK THE MAM -- DIRECTORIES, DIRECTORIES AND MORE DIRECTORIES

DEAR MAM: There are many attorney directories out there--MH, Best Lawyers, Who's Who, Chambers, Lawyers Diary and Manual, etc...Using criteria such as how long the publication has been in existence, who receives it, how many people receive it, and how much it costs, which ones would you recommend to use and which ones would you recommend to ignore? SINCERELY YOURS, MD, New York, NY

DEAR MD: This is a question I receive daily. Just yesterday, I returned a solicitation call for a “Best Attorneys”, A “Who’s Who”, and a “Best Lawyers”. No kidding! The “Best Lawyers” was actually a forwarded e-mail from a “winning” attorney asking the same type of questions that you are asking.

Because I’m in a nice mood today, I’ll avoid calling any publication out on the carpet. Like Superman, Supergirl and Superlawyers. However, I usually ask attorneys this question: “Which do you use?” and “Which do your clients use?” The answer is generally neither. Most of these publications are ego-driven, vanity sells that impress two people—yourself and your grandma. Maybe, if you are single, a hot date. But, that is less likely.

Your questions about how long a publication is in existence or who gets it or how much it costs are meaningless to me. I receive lots of books that I never crack. I only care about whether it positively impacts a business development effort. My usual approach at most firms is to keep Martindale (with a pared down listing; I want you to read the full bio at the firm web site); often buy the firm listing in Chambers USA (although they are starting to annoy me, especially by billing me in UK funds); might buy an expanded listing in the rare local rag that is honoring lawyers if the firm is selling legal services to the housewives (and househusbands) that read it (i.e. consumer-driven practices). I do not care about expanded listings, ads, plaques and which publications you bought ad space in. The next GC that tells me he or she has used one of these publications (outside of the aforementioned two) will be the first. I’ve heard MH. Some read Chambers. The rest get play in the attorney’s bio and sometimes in a local press release about it. There is no harm in the freebies.

And do not even get me started on all the online stuff. That makes the publications look legit.

Hope I answered your question. Thanks for writing. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

September 2, 2005

ASK THE MAM -- LAW FIRMS HIRING EDITORS FOR IMPROVED WRITING

DEAR MAM: I’m looking for the answer to this question: does it make sense for a law firm to employ an editor? Editors find ways to present information so it’s easy to follow, so it’s easy to find answers to questions. In other fields, editors work with Subject Matter Experts who know the material (but who may not know the best way to present it). Why not have them work with lawyers to make pleadings as effective and persuasive as possible? Sincerely, MT, San Francisco, CA

DEAR MT: I am going to answer your question along two completely different lines. First, while the concept of hiring an editor to work on pleadings, briefs and other legal documents might sound smart, the reality is that “legal writing” is in a world of its own. I still remember struggling through my 1L legal writing course in law school, because I was at a distinct disadvantage—I knew how to write. I was coming off a year reporting for The Baltimore Sun, and using real journalistic approaches to legal writing. Most lawyers can not write for their lives, but they know how to write legal stuff. Do you think someone putting together a one million page brief full of baloney is going to want it skillfully edited by a non-lawyer? Not to mention having to go through it again, since you might make editorial changes that alter the argument.

Now, for the second part of my answer. Many firms hire former journalists, editors and skilled writers for the marketing team. Because that stuff, when written by lawyers, is deadly. Some of the best law firm marketers I know are former journalists that lead a law firm’s publication and public relations efforts. They will also tell you that the pay is significantly better than what they would earn writing for a newspaper or magazine. The down side is that it is extremely boring. And instead of getting your stuff edited by skilled editors, you get your stuff edited by those same lawyers. It can be frustrating. But, it pays well. And polished marketing collateral, be it a magazine, client alert, press release, newsletter or article, does stand out. If you get a good paying publications job at a law firm, send me a gift certificate for dinner somewhere. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

July 18, 2005

ASK THE MAM -- Martindale Listings

Dear MAM: I was wondering where you stand on Martindale. Is it still a necessary expense? And do people care about ratings and the other things they are selling? Sincerely, J.E., Clark, NJ

Dear J.E.: Repeatedly, in my work with firms and meetings with In-House counsel, Martindale continues to be an important and necessary component for any firm's marketing effort. The real question is to what extent.

Not only do decision-makers still count on MH as "the" lawyer directory, but many more than you and I would like to think still use the damn books! Why? Habit, age and comfort.

The value of the ratings are much more questionable. Those that rate high are generally those that took the time to make sure they rated high. You have to be pretty lame to try and get yourself a good rating and fail.

In regard to other MH elements. I see very little added-value in many of the added-value items. I prefer to trim the listings (you only need to be found, and subsequently redirected to your full bio on your own web site). I have never met a GC that read the articles or used the other "tools" to any great extent. It is still the ONLY real directory that anyone uses in the industry with any consistency, however.

I hope that answers your question. Yes, you still need to buy the listing. No, you probably do not need to worry about many of the other client service components. Of course, whether your audience is a GC or Johnny Consumer will play a role in how and where you are listed.

Thanks, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

March 30, 2005

ASK THE MAM--MARKETING CONFERENCES

Dear MAM: I get something in the mail almost every day for one law marketing conference or another. Which do you attend?
Thanks for any light you can shed. Sincerely yours, D.G., Orlando, FL

Dear DG: We are obviously on the same mailing lists. I can tell you that I've pocketed my cash and do not even consider "conferences" like the Marketing Partner Forum (nothing more than a boondoggle and sponsor-fest) or the LMA National Conference (you would think that it might improve one year; it does not). To be a full LMA member requires a heartbeat and a dues payment, following an ill-conceived plan to self-destruct last year. There seem to be about a dozen other for-profit seminars that rarely look much better.

My advice has not changed much. Look for solid non-legal marketing seminars in your hometown, through the AMA or other organizations. While it might seem like a shameless plug for the non-profit, ABA Law Practice Management section, as chair of the Marketing Core Group, I've insisted on high-level programs and speakers. I know first-hand they are not vendor or sponsor-run, and it is worth looking into.

I should also note that some regional LMA chapters offer programs that are far superior than the national organization.
Thanks for writing. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

January 10, 2005

ASK THE MAM -- LEGIT LAW DIRECTORIES

Dear MAM: I recently received the following e-mail from a law directory that I had never heard of. Is it legit? Do you suggest trying it out? It read as follows:

#1 Search Result on Google

January 10, 2005 - The Law Firm Directory at http://www.MegaFirms.com is now featured as the #1 search result for "law firms" at Google.com. Since its launch in early 2004, Megafirms.com has attracted nearly 10% of all searches for "LAW FIRMS" on Google by consumers and corporate counsel searching the web for qualified representation.

MegaFirms.com is the most cost-effective means of getting your Firm noticed online without having to monitor click-through charges. And this month we are offering a free companion listing at gLawyers.com, The Lawyer Directory featured on Google searches for "lawyers."

For more information, simply direct your Browser to http://www.MegaFirms.com or purchase a listing directly from our secure online server at:

https://secure.cnchost.com/megafirms.com/lawfirms/listing/

The Lawz Incorporated
http://www.MegaFirms.com
850 West Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94607
Phone: 510/717-LAWZ

Connecting Qualified U.S. Law Firms With Consumers on the Internet Since 1997.

Thanks for your help. Sincerely yours, J.C., San Diego, CA

Dear JC: I received this same e-mail and had never heard of it until today. I also did a few of the suggested searches. First, the top ranking on Google was a paid-for sponsorship. I have no idea how long it has been there and how long it will remain. It is a paid-for spot. I did not see the site listed in the regular results. Second, I did a bunch of additional searches and could not find it. The bottom line with all legal directories is to see how they come up on YOUR searches. And look deeper into the company's advertising and content. I have no idea how good or bad this particular site is. However, I rarely come across anyone that is not using Martindale.com or Lawyers.com for general lawyer searches. Not to say that others are not worth trying out...at the right price and with the right research. Thanks for writing. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

September 13, 2004

Ask The MAM -- Budgets

Dear MAM: It is budget time at our firm. How do you go and ask for more marketing money? Sincerely yours, Cynthia L., San Francisco, CA

Dear Cynthia: First, make sure you ask about your salary increase. Worry about the firm budget later. The most important thing is to provide a concise overview of the previous year(s) spending and how it impacted the firm. I’m not talking about pure ROI, but simply showing what you spent and what you got. I also always assume that I will not get everything I need. So, break down and prioritize—showing everything you must have, would love to have, and in a perfect world would have. Let them see the menu and choose. If you do it right, they should give your budget a bump. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

August 30, 2004

Ask The MAM -- Logo Design

Dear MAM: We are a small firm. How much should we spend on getting a logo designed? Sincerely yours, Ellen M., San Diego, CA


Dear Ellen: I’ve worked with firms on logo/brand development budgets that range from $199 to tens of thousands of dollars. You need to keep a few things in mind – this is your identity (so if it looks cheap or chintzy, so do you); it should last forever, or close to it (Sears just changed its logo for the third time in about 120 years); keep in mind when and where you will use it, and how much it will cost to replicate; have outside forces help you (you are too close to the action); and make sure the decision-making process includes multiple people within the firm, possibly clients, your marketing team, and the logo design people (who generally know design, not how it incorporates into your business model and strategies). Also keep in mind that most law firms do limited advertising, meaning that the chances of a symbol or too-clever graphic being truly branded is slim and usually none. During a recent logo exercise, I asked a senior partner which law firm logo—anywhere in the world—was his favorite. He said that absolutely none came to mind. I told him his answer was correct. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

August 16, 2004

Ask The MAM -- PUBLIC RELATIONS EFFORTS FOR LAW FIRMS

Dear MAM: We are putting together a marketing plan and budget for next year. How important is public relations in the overall scheme of things? Sincerely, Monica S., Arlington, VA

Dear Monica: I have preached for many years that PR is one of the most underutilized and valuable components in any business development arsenal. Now, I have a slight bias in that I started my professional career as a public relations person--long before law school came calling. However, I've always argued that a strong PR effort will have a greater impact than any advertising or promotion--be it print, electronic, speaking or otherwise.

While good PR still ends up costing some coin, in the long-term it allows for some level of ROI (i.e. is our firm getting play? Did a press matter generate a lead?) for evaluating whether your effort is successful. The flip side is that truly good PR takes some time. The company that offers quick hits is usually more "fly by night" than those that put training, strategy, preparation and proper placement into play.

A PR program is always integral to any of my marketing plans and programs. However, when a firm wants a serious, dedicated effort, I often encourage putting out a decent amount of money and line item "PR". Most large law firm marketing departments provide little to no true PR. They hire one of a number of good companies to handle public and media relations for them.

The best PR program I've seen in many years took place at the ABA Annual Meeting in Atlanta. It featured a fantastic panel including Nicholas Gaffney, who with Jamie Diaferia, run Infinite PR. They are both lawyers and former journalists. Bobbie Batista, the former CNN Newsie that runs Atamira Communications. Bob Weiss, a former journalist, who runs Alyn-Weiss public relations and marketing in Denver. And the very impressive GC of USAirways, Elizabeth Lanier. They addressed everything from relationships with the media to crisis & litigation publicity, ethical considerations, and ways to both generate story interest and handle the media when they come a' calling. As chair of the ABA Law Practice Management marketing core group, I am hoping to have the program re-run at least once more in the next year. It was a great two-hour course for those with little to moderate experience with public relations in the legal sector. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

July 2, 2004

Ask The MAM -- Law Marketing Conferences

Dear MAM: The partners at my firm allow me to attend one major marketing conference per year. Which one should I choose? Sincerely, J.C., Washington, DC

Dear J: If you are like most law firm marketers, you will choose the best location and lie about attending the sessions. Hmmm…Florida, Arizona, California, London? If you really care about learning something, you will probably forego the vacation and look for a good educational experience. You are unlikely to learn anything great at the LMA Conferences. I attend, but only to schmooze. It is the same re-packaged elementary techniques year after year. They try, but LMA is losing steam and ground—both in local chapters and nationally. The new PM Forum North America has lots of programs and offers an alternative to LMA. I used to recommend the Marketing Partner Forum, back in the day when Julie Savarino ran one of the nation’s premier events. However, it slipped when it became a Glasser Legal Works event and Glasser is now owned by Findlaw, so it has slipped even further (product pitches!). There have been some decent events put on by North Star Conferences and by Mealeys of late. I saw an excellent program coming up in Australia, but that might be pushing your budget. Of course, I always push my non-profit programs on behalf of the ABA Law Practice Management. At the ABA Annual Meeting in Atlanta, I’m doing a marketing ethics program. Our section is also doing an outstanding PR Crisis Management program. These are designed for CLE and all the time and money is donated. Many of the best overall events are not geared toward law firms, but general marketing programs put on by the likes of the American Marketing Association. As a matter of fact, the best programs I’ve attended this year were webinars that cost absolutely nothing! So, here is my advice. Attend a few free webinars and look for some cost-effective programs in your backyard (lots of good ones in DC) to learn. Stay away from those designed to sucker law firms and learn from real marketers. Then take the boondoggle “marketing conference” of your choice in a nice location and relax. After all, those partners are tough. You’ve earned the break. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY

June 21, 2004

Ask The MAM -- Yellow Pages Advertising

Dear MAM: A I recently went out on my own as a solo. I’m trying to decide whether it is worth ponying up for an ad in my local yellow pages. What is your take on yellow pages advertising? Sincerely, James S., Milwaukee, WI

Dear James: I know many attorneys that have continuously spent big bucks on yellow pages advertising. Trust me, if they were not getting results that made the purchase profitable, they would not be re-upping for annual commitments that can run close to six-figures in certain markets.

Yellow Pages advertising for lawyers are pricey and competitive. The sales reps for many of these outfits (there are now so many yellow-papered directories with choices and options that you need a rocket scientist to figure it all out) rarely make it easier to compare apples with apples, not to mention get a listing of price quotes and options. I recently dealt with a Verizon rep in one of my law firm customer’s markets that never gave me a straight answer on deadlines, prices or options. When the proofs arrived, they were wrong. Yet, in many markets, the books have the lawyers convinced they have no choice but to do as they are told! Pay up, shut up and be happy you get in the book. If it was up to me, he would have lost the business. Lucky for him.

Remember the following…(1) Yellow Page ads are targeted toward consumers. If you are targeting corporations or small businesses, there are probably more effective ways to spend the cash; (2) you should be able to track calls and clients that get to you via these ads. Figuring out true ROI in this day and age is often hard. In the case of yellow pages, it is usually rather easy to know if you are profiting on the venture. If an ad cost $30,000 and you know that it led to fees of $90,000, well, stop crying. If you received a lot of off-target phone calls, people price-shopping and a few cases totaling three grand, think again; (3) take the time to make your ad stand out and try targeting an audience as opposed to shooting bbs at the side of a barn; (4) price shop among “yellow pages” options in your neighborhood. They players in your city or suburb may differ from my own; (5) be wary of online yellow page knockoffs and telemarketing schemes making you think that you will appear in “your” yellow pages, instead of a poor facsimile.

Finally, do not hesitate to ask colleagues that advertise in your market about their experiences. The ABA Law Practice Management section also sells a good book on the art of attorney yellow page ads. Of course, be sure they are ethically sound. Let me know how things work out for you. Sincerely yours, THE MARKETING ATTORNEY