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LPcover_MarchApril2020-231x300In preparing a recent pitch presentation to in-house counsel for a law firm client, I kept steering the attorneys to point out what was unique about them. There was the generic fluff—great client service, accolades of all kinds, alternative fee arrangements, a wonderful team of lawyers and staff, brand name clients, blah, blah, blah—none of which really made them much different than any other solid, competent law firm. The differentiators are in the substantive work product, and often, in what you give back to the community and the profession. Not every law firm does pro bono, but they should. In the March/April 2020 issue of the ABA Law Practice Magazine, I delve into The Marketing Case for Pro Bono.

Regardless of whether pro bono is voluntary or mandatory in your state, there is a lot of upside to doing it. I was telling my old softball buddy Sam Silver, a top tier litigator at Schnader in Philadelphia, that it seemed like half the time I read a front page story about him in the newspaper that it was about a big-time, high profile matter for a client; and the other half of the time it was about a big-time, high profile pro bono client. This makes for the perfect mix of doing good for the non-paying client and doing good for the paying one. When he recently became President, Board of Directors, for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, I immediately sent a lawyer wanting to volunteer his way.

In some cases, you might get a call from a Judge asking if you might have some time to give back. You probably don’t want to say no—and it certainly does not hurt to say yes. When I attended the Professionalism Day program at the federal court in Camden, New Jersey last October, there was a program put together by the Judiciary to talk about Reentry Court, highlighting lawyers that had given of their time. Those participants included a few from the Big Law category and a sole practitioner. No firm was too small or too big to take part.

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NWLSO Diversity Panel

Pictured left to right: Allison Turner, Micah Buchdahl, Josephine Lee, Monsurat Adebanjo, Carla Luna (moderator), Najee Thornton, Lisa Levey

When I was first contacted by Ms. JD, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the success of aspiring and early career women lawyers, and invited to speak at the National Women Law Students’ Organization (NWLSO) Leadership Academy, my first thought was—do they know I’m a guy?

I perused the organization’s website, found the event at Harvard Law School, and scrolled through the all-female faculty and attendee lists. Later, I was joined for my panel session by Najee Thornton, an Associate in the Santa Monica, CA office of Fenwick & West—so for a short time, I had some company.  But I was assured that yes, they knew I was a male, and they’d love to have me participate. So I figured that it would be a great learning experience, and really, what could go wrong?

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ABA’s Law Practice Today Webzine

Being super-active in the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division means collaboration is a necessity. So in the November 2019 edition of Law Practice Today (LPT), I get to combine my role as Associate Editor of the webzine with my participation in the Ethics & Professionalism Committee to formulate our annual “Ethics Issue.”

Of course, that typically means I will need to contribute a feature as well, so I’ve authored “Maintaining Ethical Boundaries on the Gray Web of Marketing,” which discusses the difficulty many law firms are having today in determining how to effectively and ethically market themselves on the Internet without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. Suffice it to say–easier said than done. And as the title suggests, it is far from black & white. There are issues of jurisdictional boundaries, fee-sharing, unauthorized practice of law and understanding where the RPC, ethics opinions and enforcement kick in (or don’t). I recently told a colleague that the sophistication level of aggressive online law marketers is well beyond the long arm of the (disciplinary) law. I used to put a ton of time and energy into making sure there was ethics compliance with a “standard” law firm website—text, disclaimers, bar admissions, etc. Today a typical website—regardless of the look & feel—is pretty ho-hum at the end of the day—office locations, bios, practices, industries, representative matters, blah, blah, blah…but it is in the realm of SEO, cookies, social media and all sorts of traffic drivers where the real issues lie below the surface of the World Wide Web. Have a read.

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LPcover_NovDec2019-231x300There was some sense of irony that on the same day the latest issue of Law Practice arrived via the U.S. Mail that I was in Philadelphia talking to the Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association at their 2019 GPLLA Institute Bringing a Marketing Mindset into the Law Library program at Drexel’s Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy. You may be wondering how I am going to tie in that speaking engagement into the subject for my marketing column in the November/December 2019 issue of the ABA Law Practice Magazine, Marketing Musical Chairs.

At the GPLLA program, I was asked to speak on the topic of “Marketing Your Organization’s Milestone Anniversaries.” For my remarks, I was able to basically work from my magazine marketing column from 2014 on Age over Beauty? Marketing a Law Firm’s Anniversary. Another friendly marketing reminder on the power of blogs and search—in making content not only still relevant six years later, but repurposing itself into a speaking slot.

What do librarians have to do with the rapid turnover of professional marketing personnel in the law firm business? Well…back when I started working with law firms on marketing and business development initiatives in the late ‘90s, it was not unusual for a law firm to point me towards the library when chatting with the person in charge of marketing. While we were technically nearly two decades beyond Bates vs. Arizona and the ability for lawyers to market themselves at the time, attorneys were super slow to accept and adapt. So the person that updated the text-heavy, pay by the line, six-figure investment that was the Martindale-Hubbell print directory listings was marketing in their eyes.

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ALI-300x108Of all the topics I have presented on in 22+ years of teaching law marketing ethics CLEs, my program on navigating the Three Rs—Ratings, Rankings and Reviews—may be my favorite. If you need your ethics credit, find your law firm often enveloped in dealing with the 3 Rs, or just enjoy the subject matter, join me for this live webcast on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 from 1-2 pm ET.

REGISTER NOW:  Ethically Navigating the Three Rs: Lawyer Ratings, Rankings, and Reviews

In putting together the ALI program, I was amazed not only by how much new information and materials were out there, but how much this area of lawyer advertising ethics had changed in recent years—sometimes for the better, often not. Ratings and Rankings have continued to grow exponentially—as if that was even seemingly possible. Outcries over the years to clamp down on the proliferation of businesses in this space have not only gone unanswered but have led to even more players in the space. There is simply too much money to be made, and plenty of egos to feed. But it is the impact of online reviews that have had the greatest impact among the three Rs. I get more audience questions after a CLE presentation about painful and problematic first-hand experiences in an attorney having to handle the impact of a negative review. On the flip side, many law firms are finding that the online review space is not only unavoidable but can be lucrative.

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LPcover_JulyAugust2019-237x300In the nearly 20 years that I’ve run my law marketing consultancy, HTMLawyers, there are few things I enjoy more than the in-person pitch. For me, those pitches are always at law firms, and often are delivered to a variety of audiences—a few select attorneys, a management committee, or marketing committee. But I always feel like if I have the opportunity to describe my services and offerings “live” that I have a great chance of getting the business.

Of course, I also find from time to time that those opportunities are not real. Some firms are just looking for free advice, others are looking to get a better price out of their current providers, and some really have no idea what they are looking for (but it is not what I’m selling). While I never hesitate to spend out-of-pocket travel and time on a pitch invite that sounds viable, I still feel a bit deflated when I quickly realize I was wasting my time. But that goes with the territory. On the flip side, there are pitches that I thought were a waste of time and turned out to be quite lucrative. Yet others did not pay off at that moment in time, but many years later. In some cases, declining the invite–which I did not too long ago from an Am Law 200 law firm—can be the smartest move yet. You just know it is a loser. So you don’t waste your billable time and money on something that was not going to be profitable.

Just this week I was preparing one of my law firm clients for a huge pitch opportunity at a Fortune 100 company. In reviewing the correspondence between the in-house legal department and the law firm, I was as excited about it as if it was me doing the pitching. Because I know that getting in the door to sit down with corporate counsel and pitch a law firms’ services is as good as it gets in business development. Yet I continue to be amazed how many law firms blow it…and that is the subject for my marketing column in the July/August 2019 issue of the ABA Law Practice Magazine, Wild Pitches: Law Firms Often Miss the Strike Zone.

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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.