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April 22, 2014

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

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

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

Course Description:

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

April 21, 2014

Lawyers Shifting Facebook Strategies

fb-like.pngLike and Like. This is like two Facebook posts in one.

For my April 2014 contribution to Web Marketing Today, I return to a topic that I last covered just 11 months ago in May 2013. So much has changed in the social media space in a relatively short time. The players are still the players. But with Facebook changing--more focus on mobile and more focus on revenue (advertising options)--you simply can't sit around and stay status quo.

On the marketing side, it has certainly gotten my attention. Many law firms are finding that Facebook provides brand awareness options that are sharper, cheaper and more focused than many traditional advertising methods. And you do not need to be targeting a mass consumer audience to find ways to use some of these tools effectively. The bottom line is this--there are two ultra-powerful websites in the world--Google and Facebook--and if you don't exist on both, your online universe is not operating at full strength.

A special thanks to Robyn Davis Sekula, a communications consultant in Kentucky. She is an excellent guide on using social media for clients, including but not limited to law firms. Robyn provided some good examples for the article along with low cost to no cost tips for posting on Facebook. I had the privilege of working on a project with Robyn--and now we're fast Facebook friends.

ABA Journal Podcast -- How lawyers can get the most out of Facebook's paid status updates

If you'd rather hear my voice than read an article, listen in on my recent ABA Journal podcast on the subject. Moderated by reporter Stephanie Francis Ward, I joined two colleagues with different perspectives for a spirited discussion. Nicole Hyland, a partner with New York's Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, focused on ethics issues (usually my area of concentration on these programs) and Anthony Johnson, an Arkansas plaintiffs' personal injury lawyer, gave his perspective on using Facebook advertising options to obtain new clients.

All three machers (look it up--it is Yiddish--and would likely be referenced by Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons or one of Dan Schneider's shows on Nickelodeon) - Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn--with Google+ likely on the horizon as #4--are still growing and refining their products. They are all relevant to all law firms--but the targets, usage and focus certainly vary significantly.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I did not invite you to find my personal page on Facebook and be sure to "like" my Facebook company page as well. Or Twitter. Or, of course, LinkedIn.

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 14, 2014

The Marketing Value of Work-Family Balance

workingmother.pngPerhaps this post is just an excuse to brag about my wife, Ivy Brown, who was recently honored as a Working Mother of the Year in the advertising industry by Working Mothers Magazine and the Advertising Women of New York.

The event itself was pretty remarkable. There were more than 750 attendees in the grand ballroom of the Marriott Marquis in New York City. The tables were a who's-who of leadership from blue chip companies--from Johnson & Johnson and Comcast to Facebook and Sony. The commissioner of the National Basketball Association was at the NBA table, honoring a working mom from his organization.

A highlight was definitely watching the short video our kids put together to commemorate the occasion. They were asked the question, "what do you like to do with your Mom?" Lily, 9, scripted out the video with her brother Benjamin, 5. They put notes on a white board and had me videotape it (with an iPad) until they approved the final version (14 takes later). Talk about marketing. Besides the big screen at the awards, this video has appeared everywhere, from internal company newsletters to social media and in their classrooms at Moorestown Friends School. Lily's performance earned her the gig of making the "lunch is served" announcement at the awards program (where she quickly memorized the cue card and showed no fear in standing on the stage in front of the crowd).


In watching the event, from the initial announcement of honorees through the luncheon itself and the promotion after, I marveled at the marketing value tied to it. In our age of two-working-parent households, millennial "philosophies" and societal changes in attitude toward who works in a family and how a company handles it, there is a lot to learn from this program.

With increased pressure from corporate America to make sure your workforce is diverse, many law firms have found attracting viable candidates difficult. Again, looking at it purely through marketing eyes, you see the heavily promoted women's initiatives, diversity efforts and paternity policies splashed across websites and brochures. The goal is twofold--to attract diverse lawyers and to show your corporate clients that you care about it. Reality, in some instances, might be another story. But, hey, if we do a good job marketing it...that's not my problem.

With the Working Mothers' honor, my wife received recognition internally (promoted within J&J), externally (through PR) and everywhere from her school to friends and acquaintances on Facebook. I had the chance to put faces to names at the luncheon. She gets positive promotion that will ideally positively impact her career down the road. J&J gets positive promotion as a company that does not just sell products to Moms but creates an atmosphere and culture in the workplace conducive to working hard and successfully raising a family. The kids get to see Mom honored at a huge event (although skipping school was easily a benefit as well). The parents and in-laws get to attend. And the husband takes photos, smiles and writes a blog post about it. In recognizing work-life balance, everybody wins.

The Working Mothers were divided into three categories. Congratulations to all the Moms that work with the Dads and their respective employers to achieve work-life balance:

TRAILBLAZER MOMS

Claudia Strauss: CEO, Grey Activation & PR, Grey New York
Barbara Ross Miller: VP, Consumer Marketing Solutions Group, Sony Electronics
Marjorie Porter: EVP, Brand Agency Leader, Publicis Kaplan Thaler

ESTABLISHED MOMS

Linda Gharib: SVP, Digital Marketing, Head of Cross-Channel Initiatives, Citi
Stacey Larson: Managing Director, National TV Investments, OMD
Dawn Matson: Director of Media Planning, Kohl's Dept Stores
Cheryl Guerin: EVP/Group Executive, US Marketing, MasterCard Worldwide
Val DiFebo: CEO, Deutsch New York
Joy Schwartz: President, Havas Worldwide Chicago
Gina Hughes: SVP Marketing, AMC
Ivy Brown: Senior Marketing Director, Global Brand Management, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care
Jeanne Boland: SVP, Director of Client Services, Local Media, BPN
Eileen Diskin: VP, Marketing Communications and Strategy, Comcast

NEW TO MOTHERHOOD MOMS

Rachel Cohn: Americas Lead, Global Partnerships, Facebook
Erin Quintana: SVP, Business Partner, J3
Rachel Jacobson: SVP, Global Marketing Partnerships, National Basketball Association
Christi Woodworth: Director of Digital Communications & Social Media, Sonic Drive-in
Monika Grabania-Dailerian: Group Director, Strategic Planning, Mindshare
Ritu Trivedi: Managing Director of Digital Marketplace, Mediavest
Kelly Wenzel: CMO, Centro

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 11, 2014

WMT: Super Bowl Sunday Brings a Lawyer the Ultimate Viral Video

Casino.pngKnow your audience. That is my response to the many "water cooler" conversations about what might be the most successful lawyer viral video to date. I'd love to know--and will likely ultimately ask him--what expectations Jamie Casino had when deciding to buy expensive and lengthy local TV ad time on the Super Bowl; and, more importantly, was it a successful new business generator? But for a personal injury practice looking to stand out in a crowded field to an everyday Joe audience--BINGO.

In this month's Web Marketing Today article, I discuss the wild, raging online viral video success of the sleekly-produced, Hollywood movie quality, two minute ad for a personal injury lawyer. It is like nothing you've ever seen before. When all is said and done, it won't matter that it originally ran for two minutes on the Fox television affiliate in Savannah, Georgia during the Super Bowl. The vast majority of the international viewing audience will see it on YouTube or embedded on another site.

The majority of my clients are midsize and large corporate law firms. None of this would be remotely interesting to them. Actually, they'd generally find it somewhat horrifying. Our marketing and business development strategies are as far away from a consumer-oriented TV ad than placing a huge billboard on I-95. But when I do get to work on marketing for a plaintiffs' practice or other consumer-driven area of law, the concepts of branding and lead generation are totally different--and can be a lot of fun.

I mention in the WMT piece that if the Casino Law Super Bowl buy was my idea, I'd declare myself a genius. The story itself (the true story) is different and totally compelling. The production quality is something you'd see in a movie theater. Casino, a fellow Temple Owl like me, looks and sounds like a movie actor. While much of the content of the ad appears more about vindicating his deceased brother's memory, bashing the local chief of police, and denouncing bad guys (who he will no longer represent), Casino can now combine this ad with his "traditional" (and entertaining) ads for personal injury. The last line of the two minutes? "I speak for innocent victims that cannot speak for themselves." A refreshing break from "we don't get paid until you do." Because imitation is the best form of flattery, expect a knock-off somewhere in the legal sphere come next Super Bowl Sunday--when I'll be busy watching the Philadelphia Eagles finally reach the Promised Land. Or just watching the commercials.

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 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.

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.

September 12, 2013

Fox Rothschild hopes I'm inscribed in the Book of Life for 5774

rosh_hashana.jpgLaw firm clients know how much I love the annual holiday card agenda items each summer. You can't hear the sarcasm in reading a blog post, but it is there. Topics of political correctness, hard copy versus electronic, mailing list and CRM issues equate to multiple meetings and numerous arguments. These conversations are debated and renewed each year. And the harsh reality is that those cards--delivered anywhere from mid-December to early January often get lost in the flood of well wishes we each send out and receive. To be frank, if you do or don't send me one--I likely won't recall it.

Of course, there are still cards that stand out from the crowd--for right and wrong reasons. I see some cards that I do feel are politically incorrect in the theme and message. Some firms have turned (successfully) to humor and use of e-cards--like Akin Gump and Manatt Phelps. I always receive an early Thanksgiving card from Bill Bowser and the employment law department at Young Conaway in Wilmington. It arrives before the others, thus stands out in the crowd. Infinite PR sends out a postcard with their holiday card allowing me to choose which charity they will make a donation to. That concept stands out as well. But it was a "first" for me that I enjoyed receiving via e-mail last week. While driving to Baltimore on Erev (the first night of) Rosh Hashana, I received an e-card from Fox Rothschild wishing me a happy (Jewish) New Year. I enjoyed the greeting and the thought, and was impressed by the uniqueness of a holiday e-card that was outside the scope of the winter holidays, Thanksgiving and what most people consider New Year's (on January 1...5774, by the way, is the 2013 year on the Hebrew calendar). Differentiation and standing out...that is what it's all about. L'shana tova right back at you.

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.

August 5, 2013

NY Says LinkedIn "Specialties" Verboten for Law Firms; Attorneys? Sometimes, but mostly NO.

specialties.jpgIf you've attended any of my Internet marketing ethics CLEs since I started teaching them in the late 90s, you know I said this was coming. Remember when my prime example of social media was a MySpace profile? Yeah, things have changed a bit. But concern about the content in unforeseen online content has always been something I examine in writing and reviewing law firm marketing efforts.

On June 26, 2013, the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics issued Opinion 972, which in a nutshell says that "a Law firm may not list its services under heading of "Specialties" on a social media site, and lawyer may not do so unless certified as a specialist by an appropriate organization or governmental authority." The opinion cites adherence to RPC rule 7.4.

In most cases and most states, I've discouraged attorneys from utilizing the "specialties" category for some time. In some cases, I suggest doing so with an added disclaimer pointing to the RPC. However, this is the first ethics opinion I'm aware of that really addresses the particular issue head on.

Since only individual lawyers and not law firms are the possible specialists, firms can't list practice areas under the category on a law firm LinkedIn (or related type of site) profile. However, individual attorneys may list fields of law provided that they are acceptable specialties. Here is a hint for you...most are not. Thus using the specialties category to laundry list areas of practice are most likely not acceptable.

These likely only impacts profiles of about a zillion New York lawyers and law firms. Not to mention law firms with a New York office, etc. And my guess is that a bunch of other states follow this lead, while others will not. I don't see this being accepted everywhere (sort of like state bar opinions on "daily deal" sites). Please consult your own state bar(s) to ensure compliance on this issue.

Figure this is the tip of the iceberg as state bars begins to figure out where the use of social media shakes out in numerous areas that impact the Rules of Professional Conduct, highlighted by advertising and marketing restrictions and issues.