Recently in Business Development Category

September 6, 2015

Research Magazine: Bridging the Advisor-Lawyer Gap

advisor-lawyer-relationship-res0915-mi600-resize-600x338.jpgIn the September 2015 issue of Research Magazine, contributing editor Jane Wollman Rusoff writes about building advisor-attorney networks that will generate referrals and benefit clients. In being interviewed for her feature, it was interesting to discuss the relationship from the financial services side of the business rather than starting with my usual legal-side perspective.

While the cross-referral route is often at the heart of many of these relationships--typically between business lawyers and those advising on the numbers side of a matter--the article points out the need for both to work together. At a time when investors' financial needs have become more complex, private attorneys -- such as specialists in estates and trusts, especially, as well as in family/divorce, taxes and elder care -- are an important component of many FAs' networks and in some instances, even considered part of their team.

While I warn about just how close those relationships can get (no fee sharing with non-lawyers in almost every jurisdiction and potential conflicts of interest), there is no question that there is an obvious fit between the two professions. In numerous practices, attorneys I work with on business development strategies will tell me that various finance professionals--from CPAs to planners and investors--are their #1 source of referrals. With that in mind, we often plan social and educational events targeting those relationships. In addition, we often team and partner on marketing efforts aimed directly at the prospective client for both the legal and finance sides.

The article also discusses how those in finance seek sponsorships and advertising opportunities with bar associations and legal publications to get their brands in front of the attorney and law firms. I mention the importance of the attorney recognizing the brand of the soliciting financial entity. Just as in legal, having a name that is recognized and trusted is critical to getting in the door.

For a lawyer or law firm that invests in marketing to financial services for cross-referrals and joint ventures, this article does a great job showing the marketing strategies from the other side of the street.

Launched in 1978, Research Magazine highlights practical advice on how to build a client-centric business, financial tips, as well as business-building topics like personal branding and partnering in teams.

August 28, 2015

LPT -- Big Law Looks to Differentiate and Innovate

LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngLeaders of many of the nation's biggest and baddest law firms converged in New York City recently to discuss the rapidly changing legal landscape and how to adjust not only to survive, but thrive. The oft-repeated themes of innovation, differentiation and collaboration ruled the day.

My article in the August 2015 issue of Law Practice Today (LPT) serves as a recap of the full day inaugural Big Law Summit, put on by Bloomberg BNA. A who's who of managing partners, in-house counsel and various industry experts discussed a wide range of issues ranging from innovating in a risk averse environment to adjusting to changing demands on the client side of big business that want more "value based arrangements."

DLA Piper's Roger Meltzer gave the global firm perspective. The program titled "Harnessing the Power of Collaboration," could have been called "how origination dooms us all." As the infamous quote goes, the first step is in admitting that you have a problem. I was drawn to the Big Law Summit because these law firms are my clients. The issues and answers that ruled the day reinforced those that I experience whenever I'm sitting with a Big Law managing partner or management committee. The conversations struck honestly at the heart of the issues that need to be addressed for major law firms to thrive in today's global marketplace. Kudos to BNA for putting together a well-run and organized program on a subject matter that clearly had an audience.

July 8, 2015

LP Magazine - The True Value of Your Published Work

LPM_JA15_cover-nospine.jpgYou could also call my column in the July/August 2015 issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine, "101 Uses for an Article," but in The True Value of Your Published Work, I discuss how sitting down to write one article can pay dividends in so many ways. The key is not to think about the time spent as writing one article for one publication, but more as writing one thing that will be repurposed in so many ways.

This very blog post you are reading is yet another use of one article. Perhaps you reached this blog post through one of my social media feeds. Or maybe I handed you this very column during a pitch meeting at your law firm or during a subsequent meeting with an attorney about business development planning.

Print deadlines being what they are, I just submitted my next column for Law Practice earlier this week. You won't see it until November. I would never spill the beans on the subject matter, but suffice it to say that while rereading it, I was struck that the column could be turned into an entire CLE program...and you will likely see it as my Ethics Potpourri offering in 2016 for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. It is a little disturbing that this idea came to me in my sleep last night (there are better things to dream about), but it occurred to me that the column could be the centerpiece of the program and the accompanying written materials. In other words, the four hours or so that I put into writing, research and editing will pay numerous dividends moving forward. You get the idea.

There has never been an easier time than now to "get published." The online and offline options are endless. If need be, the ability to self-publish means that even the worst idea in the world can see the light of day. Just go online and read the rantings of some lunatic with access to a computer--you know what I mean. But our writings, offerings and publishing venues are far better...most of the time.

So, if the most recent "published works" on your attorney bio is 1996, take a few hours this weekend and fix it. No excuses. The benefits are endless.

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.

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.

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.

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 15, 2013

Bloomberg BNA: Some Procurement Practices Thriving Despite Sequestration, Budget Cuts

seque.jpgSequestration may be bad for the economy, but it has boosted some law firms' federal procurement practices, attorneys and marketing professionals told Bloomberg BNA, in an article by reporter David Hansen, published on November 14, 2013.

Those interviewed in the article included McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP Partner Elizabeth Ferrell, Lateral Link Group LLC Principal Larry Latourette, Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) Personal Finances Researcher Dan Auble, CRP Research Director Sarah Bryner, George Washington University Law School Assistant Dean for Field Placement Jessica Tillipman, and yours truly.

The story touches on what sequestration has meant for law firms' federal procurement practices, including the impact on those practice groups, their desperate need to recruit experienced government contract attorneys for both litigation and lobbying, the impact on lobbying efforts, and internships--namely unpaid law school interns to fill staffing needs.

I provided the marketing and business development perspective to Hansen's piece, discussing how large law firms were winning big, thanks to the uncertainty surrounding federal budgets and the numerous practice groups positively impacted--including tax, banking, employment, corporate, immigration and litigation. I also noted that while midsize firms might not be able to grab a piece of the pie without already servicing impacted clients, there are niche opportunities in targeting small businesses that are not positioned to retain big law.

To read the article in its entirety, please visit Bloomberg BNA.

August 26, 2013

WMT: Law Firms Join the Apps Craze

If it appears this month's Web Marketing Today article on law firm apps is courtesy of the Department of Redundancy Department, I apologize. In the time I was writing it, I was also interviewed on the subject by two law publication journalists reacting to what must have seemed like an onslaught on law firm press releases touting the latest & greatest app. But I certainly saved some of my tips and examples for the loyal WMT audience.

In Corporate Secretary magazine, Abigail Caplovitz Field writes on "Law firms offer mobile apps to attract new clients." Her article revolves around two US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) apps developed by Latham & Watkins and O'Melveny & Myers. In developing apps, the type of law firm and the related content runs the gamut from global mega firms to mom & pop shops.

Almost every attorney involved in the development of an app at a law firm will (accurately) tell you that the expectation is not that it will generate new clients, but more likely offer a branding or awareness tool that (hopefully) will be seen as an added-value item by clients, colleagues and the media.

The keys to success are not necessarily first-to-market with an idea. For the most part, you will rely on some element of push from your marketing professionals to get the app into the hands of interested parties. I'm sorry to say that not a lot of people are perusing law firm apps when in the iTunes store downloading the latest version of Candy Crush. It takes a strong engine to get the word out and put the app in the right places for the right people. The reality is that most people that download your app will look at it once, think it is slightly interesting, and never return.

For an app to truly be effective in the long haul, it means constant updating. Recently, I flash backed to a project I worked on with Morgan Lewis in the late 90s. A partner at the firm had the idea for creating an online resource which we called HSRscan, containing information about the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 and its regulations. The data was unique and the relatively new "Internet" seemed an ideal place to market this content. Blogs were just coming into being. But what really would have been a perfect fit was an app (I did not have a crystal ball to identify this stuff or I would not still be working and writing these blog posts). Does the attorney or practice group have a specific idea that would provide a unique resource to the public at large?

In a blog post on July 24th, I recap and point to Gina Passarella's piece for American Lawyer Media on "Deciding whether law firms should have an app for that." Her article looks at vastly different examples from the Latham and O'Melveny apps, including family law (for consumers), labor & employment, and recruiting.

If you are considering app development for your law firm, I encourage you to read the three articles cited in this blog post--my WMT column and the stories from Corporate Secretary and The Legal Intelligencer. This should give you enough background to determine an effective route for your idea. Apps are not for every firm. At the same time, it is not about firm size, resources or budget; it is about having an effective idea for an impact tool.

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.


Micah Buchdahl, HTMLawyers, Inc., Moorestown, NJ

Amy Drushal, Trenam Kemker, Tampa, FL

Walter Karnstein, Hewlett-Packard, Portland, OR

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 19, 2013

WMT: LinkedIn for Attorneys

LinkedIn.jpgFor lawyers, there is so much more to LinkedIn than creating a profile, getting some connections and joining a few groups. The real value of participation is from the other products and services they offer. In this month's Web Marketing Today column, I try to address some of the components that go "beyond the basics."

Personally, I probably don't use LinkedIn the same way as many other marketing professionals or attorneys. I find the tool extremely valuable--but more as a super-powered directory of contacts for lead generation, competitive intelligence and a better source of data about people and companies. I find it very useful when following up with someone, learning more about a business card picked up at a networking function or refining a list of prospective clients. Others, however, spend hours on end building a network and doing a slightly more sophisticated method of cold calling.

As noted in the column, there is no disputing the power of LinkedIn. It is the second search result when looking myself up on Google--behind only my own website. With 200 million-plus users, there is a pretty good chance that the professional I'm looking for is in the network. He or she may have a skeletal profile and three contacts--but they are there nonetheless.

Like many friends and colleagues, I'm on Facebook multiple times each day. But I'm there to show you what my kids are up to, talk Phillies, Eagles, or Temple Owls basketball. My wife--a master at the "check in"--makes it easier for me to get served with a subpoena, since you know what restaurant to find me in on Saturday night. While I do mix personal and professional contacts, it is clearly a social environment. Depending on your practice area, it might be fertile ground for marketing. And with recent changes in design, it is becoming a more viable advertising option for law practices as well. But it is not for everyone.

Twitter, the third major player in today's social media circles, skews a little younger. The audience is huge, and loyal followers are avid. But, once again, the interest in participating among law firms is not always there. Somebody has to be tweeting all the time, and that does not work everywhere.

You may or may not choose to engage in Facebook or Twitter, but any business professional should maintain a level of activity on LinkedIn.

February 1, 2013

Drexel Law's Improv Class Provides Unique Professional Development Training

Thumbnail image for sctv-734261.jpgIt is rare that I make a trip to Chicago or Toronto without spending an evening at Second City. There is nothing more entertaining (to me) than great improvisational comedy. Growing up, I was a Second City TV groupie of sorts, now possessing the entire DVD collection of SCTV. I love the creativity, thinking on your feet and ability to laugh at oneself (and others). So it was easy to talk about Drexel University Law School's "Improv for Lawyers" class in an article written this week by Associated Press reporter Kathy Matheson.

Matheson was writing about the uniqueness of such a law school elective, taught by actress/comedian Sharon Geller, who has also provided improv training as a CLE to lawyers in various settings. While this all coincidentally took place in my home base of Philadelphia, it was my role in the American Bar Association--as a past chair of the Law Practice Management Section and a current member of the ABA's Standing Committee on CLE that led her to ask about my experience and views on the subject. I was asked about the uniqueness of the program and the value to a new or seasoned attorney.

In many law firm retreats where I've participated in some manner--either in organization, as a speaker, or in conjunction with a business development project--an improv session taught by one of many skilled troupes in the United States (including Second City traveling casts) is used to develop skills including team building, public speaking, "thinking on your feet" and training for improved client and prospective client interactions. Improv has also been used by a number of law firms I work with for associate and partner professional development training programs in-house. Whether or not they qualify as "substantive legal training" as a CLE is a state-by-state matter--but that is a subject for another post. Whether or not it is CLE accredited, the program provides a useful training ground that incorporates numerous elements of law practice.

The Drexel class is a huge hit. The school has always been known for providing some out-of-the-box "real world" training. In a short time, the law school has done a nice job carving out space and a good reputation in an excellent Philadelphia area law school market (led, of course, by my undergrad and law school alma mater Temple).

In the AP article, Matheson quotes a former course participant and present Ballard Spahr associate about being prepared for responding to difficult things or difficult people. Yes, those are not wasted skills for a new attorney to possess. And at a time where law firms are becoming increasingly more focused on PD and business development, an ability to be creative, think outside the box and challenge conventions is not a bad thing to include in the workplace curriculum. Many law firms should take note of the interest that a course such as this one has generated. It takes some guts and personality to succeed on the improv stage. There is no question that the skill set translates to the practice of law.

January 22, 2013

NYT on NLRB Rulings; Law Firms should review social media policies

newyorktimes.jpgRecent rulings and advisories by the National Labor Relations Board regarding social media policies in the workplace impact law firms in a variety of ways. Today's New York Times article by Steven Greenhouse reviews how the NLRB is basically telling employers to scale back limitations as it relates to many social media policies that might be seen as illegal blanket restrictions.

Can you really stop Facebook and Twitter from happening in today's workplace? Nope.

The NLRB says workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether you are in the employee cafeteria or on Facebook. Although Facebook might have better food options (I said that. It is not in the article).

The bottom line--many companies are rewriting social media rules. If you want to read about social media in the workplace from an employment law perspective, you are better off going to Molly DiBianca on The Delaware Employment Law Blog. I'm here to discuss the potential impact on the law firm from an ethics compliance and business development perspective.

Having taught social media courses at many law firms, written a few of the policies myself, and conducted ethics compliance reviews for a number of the AMLAW 200, I can tell you that some of the policies--both written, unwritten and suggested--are somewhat out of whack with recent developments. I often remind some firms that they might "suggest" or "guide" employees (lawyers and staff alike), but some of the policies I've seen have been overbroad and overreaching. The Rules of Professional Conduct take care of many of the ethics issues for the lawyers. However, there are plenty of gray areas as they relate to LinkedIn profiles, Facebook posts and tweets.

Be sure your law firm's approach to social media is appropriate. Because it is one thing to read about a corporation coming out on the short end of these rulings; it is another for a client to see you listed as one of the offending parties.