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ABA’s Law Practice Today Webzine

When I sat down to write No Law Firm Niche is Hotter Right Now than Diversity a few weeks ago (and published today), in the March 2019 edition of the ABA’s Law Practice Today (LPT) webzine, it was Paul Weiss getting the negative publicity fresh off an unflattering  feature in the Sunday New York Times.

Of course, this week, another white shoe New York law firm, Willke Farr, was getting to put its own crisis communications plan into play, when firm co-chair Gordon Caplan was placed on leave in the wake of the hottest news story of the week—the college admissions cheating scandal. In Law360’s Did Willkie’s Reaction To Admissions Scandal Miss The Mark?, reporter Aebra Coe asked me about the firm’s action and reaction, and potential for long-term damage to the firm brand. From a PR standpoint, there are huge differences between the stories—one is about the firm as a whole; the other is really about the behavior of an attorney that works there. In neither case will the law firm suffer any serious repercussions (as should be the case), but no big-time business likes to wake up to these calls from the media. But how to properly handle crisis communication is an article and a subject for another day.

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LPcover_MarchApril2019-235x300I read many articles on the morning after an Eagles win in my local newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer. On the day after a loss, I read a few less—but win or lose, I enjoy the Up/Down drill that points out the highs and the lows with a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or simply two thumbs going sideways. So I thought I could copy the concept in what I plan on having as an annual column, The Law Marketing Up/Down Drill in the March/April 2019 issue of the ABA Law Practice Magazine.

For my column, the beauty of the up/down drill is that it allows me to cover a myriad of hot topics and areas of interest in law firm marketing circles—rather than just focusing on one. You’ll need to click over to the column above for the detail, but here is a synopsis of the subject matter addressed. You may not agree with my opinion or perspective on all of them. I’d love to hear from you.

Online Reviews

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LPcoverNovDec2018-235x300Perhaps life has really been about search all along. We search for the right job, the right spouse, the right schools, the right restaurants, pretty much the right everything. So Google has either made searching easier, or harder, depending on how you look at it.

In today’s legal marketplace, as lawyers, we want to make sure that we can be found by those doing the searching. What complicates things for people like me in the “law marketing biz” is that the methods, tools, tricks and rules keep changing—those pesky algorithms—meaning that you need some sort of online PhD to keep your law firm clients on track, so they can be found by their prospective clients. So it made sense for me to address this fluid subject matter in my November/December 2018 ABA Law Practice Magazine column, In Search of…Lawyers and Clients (For 2019 and Beyond).

As is the case with most of my marketing columns, the topic finds me. Every day, I’m working and talking with different attorneys at different law firms in different parts of the country—and whatever topic comes up the most is often my next column. A few conversations on the most effective search mechanisms left my head spinning. I’m not going to lie about it either. I had no idea what newsjacking or hyperlocalization or geo-fencing was. I did not know all the nuances of what could and could not go into various forms of Facebook advertising. And focusing on things like “snippets” in Google definitely helped me steer some of my law firms in the right direction.

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ABA’s Law Practice Today

Ethical issues and dilemmas hit the legal profession from all angles. In serving as issue editor for the September 2018 edition of the ABA’s Law Practice Today (LPT) webzine, I sought to address a wide variety of subjects from attorneys with different practices and backgrounds.

Of course, I authored my own piece, What Do the Revised Rules for Lawyer Advertising Mean for Me?, recapping the recently adopted Resolution 101, passed by the House of Delegates at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago this past August. These suggested amendments to the Model Rules (7.1 through 7.5) relate to the realities of today’s lawyer advertising. While change is long overdue, it will be interesting to see the true impact that they may or may not have on state bar regulations and subsequent enforcement.

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ALI-300x108While the calendar year might not turn for another four months, the new “bar year” is here. Of course, for some of us, the New Year is now—with Rosh Hashanah falling days after my upcoming ALI webcast. It is a time of reflection and planning, and also atonement for the one or two sins that I may have somehow committed in the past year. This is a good time for evaluating your current business development efforts and determining which you’d like to continue or change in the coming year. Regardless of personal philosophy, your network is the centerpiece of business development. Many firms will now be asking you to figure out your BD plan for 2019, including budget requests. This is also one of the primary times of the year when lawyers put a little more effort into “non-billable” activity and involvement. I always say that the key periods are post-Labor Day until Thanksgiving; and again from post-New Year’s Day (the January 1st edition) until Memorial Day. We work most of our magic in those two sweet spots on the calendar.

REGISTER NOW:  Building a Better Business Network: Getting More Out of Contacts, Connections, and Clients

Join me for this live ALI webcast on Friday, September 7, 2018, from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Eastern. In one hour, pick up a CLE ethics credit and learn about the best ways to build your network within the ethical boundaries that we all follow in our respective states’ Rules of Professional Conduct. We’ll also go through the recent changes to the ABA Model Rules as they relate to marketing, advertising and solicitation in 7.1-7.5, just approved by the House of Delegate in August during the ABA Annual Meeting.

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Home of AAJ 2018 Annual Convention

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) Annual Convention that recently took place July 7-10, 2018 in Denver, Colorado, was an eye-opening experience. I was asked to speak on Avoiding Ethical Missteps in Promoting Your Firm, as part of a Professional Negligence Section CLE Program track. Besides a multitude of CLE programs on themes that ranged from trampoline injuries to the hugely popular (standing room only) sexual assault litigation group programs in what is now the #MeToo era, I found that a walk through the Expo Hall offered dozens of vendors providing products and services geared toward marketing, business development, and simply getting leads…and converting them. Some were quite entrepreneurial and unique; some made me a bit queasy (regardless of whether I was wearing my marketing attorney hat or ethics attorney hat, or both). There are seemingly hundreds of companies with the “best” web development, SEO and PPC strategies. And, yet, there were products that got me to stop, watch a demo, and grab a business card.

The track in which I participated as a faculty member, Professional Negligence, offered an excellent day of subjects and attorney speakers, including: Finding Damages Through Every Witness Defense and Plaintiff, J. Jude Basile; my Avoiding Ethical Missteps in Promoting Your Firm session; Cross-Examination of Defendants in Medical Negligence Cases, Paul A. Casi; Captivating the Jury, William P. Lightfoot; Leveling the Playing Field:  A Jury Selection System that Roots Out Bias, Keith R. Mitnik; Practical Application of Electronic Medical Records for Trial, James Puga and Don Hanson; The Affordable Care Act:  Are Future Damages a Thing of the Past?, Emily G. Thomas; Topics in Calculating Economic Damages for Personal Injury and Wrongful Death, Gene A. Trevino; Direct Examination or “The Heart of the Trial”:  Direct Examination From A to Z, Thomas J. Vesper; and Avoiding Legal Malpractice, David L. Wikstrom.

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LPcover_JulyAugust2018-234x300Whenever I pass a roadside diner promising something like “world’s best cherry pie,” I think about lawyer advertising restrictions. Because no law firm or lawyer could tout themselves as the best or greatest—and many of the taglines, phrases and symbols used to market products and services to consumers are restricted or outright prohibited in the legal profession.

Of course, I’m a sucker for that cherry pie. And it never is remotely close to the best I’ve ever had, but I also know the difference between a marketing message and stark reality. Which all somehow leads into the topic of my marketing column in the July/August 2018 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, Law Marketing Model Rule Revisions – Better Late than Never?

It remains to be seen what will actually happen to the proposed model rule changes to law marketing and advertising when it gets to the ABA House of Delegates in August. After all, it is a long way from the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility (which arrived via multiple reports starting in 2015 from the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers—APRL) to the House floor. The debates at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver this past February volleyed back and forth between those that thought the suggested revisions went too far, and others who firmly believed they did not go far enough. Of course, once something is approved—state bars often like to remind us that they are nothing more than “model” rules, and that the states will decide themselves what direction lawyer advertising should go in down the pike.

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NewMexicoCLE-300x156Recently, I had the privilege of serving on a panel at the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division continuing legal education program on the ethics of virtual and multi-jurisdictional lawyering in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The program was co-sponsored by the State Bar of New Mexico, and took place on May 18, 2018 at the Inn and Spa at Loretto.

Moderated by Albuquerque-based practitioner Charles Gurd, panelists included fellow Philadelphia area attorney Dan Siegel, and Charity Anastasio, Associate Practice Management Advisor at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. It struck me that the audience interest, interaction and participation were greater than in the vast majority of CLEs that I teach. These two intertwining and overlapping issues—virtual law practices and multi-state jurisdictional issues—go hand in hand, and often create as many questions as answers.

When I’m driving down I-95 and leave New Jersey to cross into Delaware, I know it. When I then cross from Delaware into Maryland, I know it as well. I also know that if I’m caught speeding in Delaware, the only police I need to worry about are the ones with Delaware on the side panels. Of course, reciprocity when it comes to fines and points are sometimes blurry, but not nearly as confusing as crossing state lines in your law practice, typically on the Internet. However, as many of the CLE audience opined, most lawyers today have practices that are not confined to one or two states.

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The Inaugural Law Mentoring Weekend at the University of Delaware

No law school? No problem.

The Legal Professional Preparatory Program and HenLaw Society at the University of Delaware just held their inaugural Law Mentoring Weekend on campus at Clayton Hall in Newark, Delaware. The program was designed to provide mentoring skills and actual mentoring (from U-D alumni) to students interested in pursuing legal careers while also offering attorneys that are U-D alums an opportunity to network with colleagues.

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ALI-300x108When ALI CLE asked me to present an ethics CLE on lawyer advertising, I hesitated. After all, I’ve been teaching this course across the country for more than 20 years. But the timing was right. There were hot-button issues sitting on my desk, and the equally red-hot debate over making the first substantial changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct related to law firm marketing since Bates v Arizona in 1977. So I said yes.

In the days leading up to my presentation (taped on March 23rd), there were articles in the local (Philadelphia) daily newspaper discussing geo-targeting billboards for Johnnie Cochran’s law firm (despite the fact that the famed OJ Simpson attorney passed away in 2005). There was U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissing the remaining (false advertising) claims in Larry Pitt’s lawsuit against competitor Lundy Law. I discussed earlier Pitt-Lundy battles in the 2013 version of my CLE. Yet they are both news items here in 2018. Social Media has been an integral part of my CLE since flashing up my MySpace profile in 2007. While I tout Facebook as being an integral part of marketing for many attorneys, the news was also covering just how our data was being used by the likes of Cambridge Analytica—that same market data we use to generate prospective clients was also being used for evil, and not good. The news was not fake, but apparently some of the Facebook users were. And, of course, there is the debate over proposed changes to the ABA model rules (for advertising and solicitation), scheduled to go before the House of Delegates this August during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago. So if that is just what is going on in my neck of the woods, and at the national level, you can imagine what else is out there.

If you are in need of an ethics credit for continuing legal education compliance and/or your law firm markets—this is a perfect use of one hour to catch up on the latest trends and discussions related to the always-prickly subject matter of appropriate (and inappropriate) lawyer advertising and solicitation.