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LP Magazine - Leadership IssueThe third annual Up-Down Drill, which played off my favorite morning-after column in The Philadelphia Inquirer after an Eagles game (why did Jeff McLane stop doing it?), was one of the more difficult to write. In the November/December 2021 issue of Law Practice, The Law Marketing Up/Down Drill tackles relationship-building, lawyer ratings, webinars, social justice and getting back out in the real world for in-person business development.

It was especially difficult to write due to my failure to prognosticate exactly how COVID would play out since the first quarter of 2020. It is still hard to believe we’re getting ready to hit the two year mark—and normalcy still seems to still be slightly in the rear view mirror (remembering that “objects are closer than they appear”). However, I finally got to go out and do my first in-person presentation last weekend—a law firm retreat in the DC area—in front of a crowd and without a mask over my mouth), so there is that. See my next LP column for more about the return of the law firm retreat.

Roaring back—hopefully—is true blue relationship building. While Zoom happy hours and wine tastings were quite the creation, the option of grabbing a drink or lunch or golfing has never looked so good. And as I’ve been counseling my law firm clients, strike while the iron is hot. People are not overbooked or over traveling yet—and are eager to accept the invites. That will not last forever. The “I’m way too busy to get together” will return in time.

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E-Coffee series

E-Coffee with the Experts — Micah Buchdahl

I did not know Dawood Bukhari, Chief of Partnerships for Digital Web Solutions before he reached out to invite me to his E-Coffee with Experts series. I did my usual legwork—looked him up, the company, saw a nice YouTube page that housed the conversations. Watched a few. Thought it would be cool to get the animated head shot of myself (although I like to think of myself as being somewhat animated to begin with. I said, sure I’ll do it.

We traded a few Q&A emails that translated into our nearly 40-minute Zoom discussion. I talked about what makes law marketing different from other industries. Covered SEO and digital platforms, infographics, online legal directories (are there even offline ones anymore?), press releases, podcasts, and Google Local Ad services. I covered an area that lawyers have struggled with—dealing with negative feedback over the Internet. And had the opportunity to talk about how I got into law marketing in the first place, provide a little background and recap some of the experiences from the “early years” of Internet marketing (remember the late 90s?).

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LPcover_JulyAugust2021-231x300Yes, I went with the lowest hanging fruit of topics for my marketing column in the July/August 2021 issue of Law Practice, Getting to In-House Without Ending Up in the Outhouse, by doling out pearls of wisdom as it relates to a law firm’s successful pitching of corporate counsel. It never fails to draw an audience.

Unfortunately, one of the key pieces of advice is simply this—everyone is different. It is a very subjective measuring stick. And for some reason, many articles written, and programs presented respond to a handful of in-house folks’ personal philosophies as if they were trends in the industry. When I drafted the column, I used as an example the Benjamin Moore & Co. decision to dismiss its entire legal department. Spoiler alert—it was not a trend. It was a one-off. And if I were writing the same column from scratch today, I’d replace that example with the recent uproar created by Eric Grossman, Morgan Stanley’s longtime chief legal officer, who sent a “warning” to the bank’s outside law firms about their policies allowing remote work and “the lack of urgency to return lawyers to the office.” Hey, if that is a “requirement” for Eric and/or Morgan Stanley—then perhaps my law firm would comply to get or retain the business. Because, as I said, it is a subjective target.

Of course, putting the squeeze on law firms to get attorneys back into the office is probably a little tone deaf today. Most of the law firms I work with and interact with most certainly would like to see attorneys and staff back in the workplace—but not at the expense of health and safety. They also must balance the happiness of associates—who are often in positions to bolt for greener pastures if they don’t like the arrangement. Work from Morgan Stanley would be great; but if you don’t have lawyers to staff it, then you lose regardless.

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LPcover_MarchApril2021-231x300Earlier this week, I read an interesting article about how business travel will never fully return, because you can just go on Zoom, saving a ton of time and money. The story and premise all made sense until a quote at the end saying that the first time someone lost a sales pitch to a competitor that presented in-person—they’ll be right back on those airplanes. And I shook my head knowing that was so true.

Zoom fatigue is very real. Many of us have slowly chopped down on screen time whenever possible. However, when you really think, imagine life without it the last year? At least we see each other’s faces. What if the whole year was just thousands of hours of faceless conference calls?

Most of my phone and videoconferencing meetings with attorneys and law firms these last 13 months or so have revolved around the topic of my marketing column in the March/April 2021 issue of Law Practice, Replacing Face-to-Face in Business Development. While the subject of virtual online meetings is already old and stale (if you have not figured it out by now, nobody can help you), unfortunately we are still living a life of staying relevant and visible without the fun part of business networking—lunches, conferences, social outings—all those things that in the end really seal the deal for new business, winning business, referrals and references. I hope this column is soon very outdated (I’d like it to be laughable), but the timeline I give out about resuming face-to-face is a moving needle. So we still need to approach much of 2021 like we did most of 2020. Having said that, I’m scheduled to get dose one of the vaccine this week—and with it you start to think a little more wide-eyed about the people you can see and the places you can go. My calendar now shows some very possible business and conference travel in Q4. You can only hope.

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2021_marketing_plan_budgetThis is the time of year where I sit down with my marketing committees to review what successes we had with our 2020 marketing plan and budget. The same for many one on one discussions with individual attorneys on his/her business development plans. Well, I’m not taking the blame for any failures this year—just say “COVID” and try again. So in this month’s issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Today webzine, I ask and answer–what should your marketing plan and budget look like for the coming year?

At a time where I seem to read daily outdated articles on topics such as branding yourself in online meetings (that was useful a year ago)—and has about the same relevance as an article on which pagers might be best for effective client communication. As my kids responded, “what’s a pager?”  Or equally perceptive reminders that we’re all using LinkedIn more, and online content (webinars, podcasts and tweets) is all the rage. Yes, the first half of 2021 will pretty much resemble most of 2020—but getting ready for some degree of normalcy is certainly in the cards. At least, that’s what we’re planning for.

So read this LPT article to help you and your law firm plan accordingly, and most effectively, for marketing in the New Year. While much of it is not rocket science, it is important to still plan thoughtfully and strategically, lay out a game plan, and most importantly—don’t stop marketing. In a time with so little human interaction and removal of the most effective (and fun) methods of networking, staying visible and relevant is critical. At least until we meet again, perhaps to grab a beer in the lobby bar of your favorite (not virtual, not remote, but in-person!) legal conference.

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BLMIf you want to read a powerful piece about the hottest topic in law firm marketing circles this year, the lead feature in the December 2020 edition of the ABA’s Law Practice Today webzine hits the target with How Can the Legal Sector Have a More Meaningful Conversation About Race?

The process may be difficult for some, but the conversations need to happen – the days of sitting back and maintaining a desensitized outlook on this problem must end. So how do legal professionals discuss race and social justice in these trying times? The answer is to listen to those with experience and those affected.

The article includes perspectives from major law firm leaders throughout the U.S., including Skadden, Morrison & Foerster, Morgan Lewis and Holland & Hart.

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LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625

ABA’s Law Practice Today Webzine

Over my 25+ years of working with law firms on business development, addressing the issue of law firm names is not really one of my favorites—because it rarely comes without some painful internal issues to address.

There are the firms that want to drop the second, third or fourth names (if you have more, you’ve got a real problem) from the law firm name—usually just in regard to branding and the logo (and the website, e-mail address and social media accounts), while keeping the full “legal name” intact. It is easier when those names are for attorneys that are deceased (sorry to say), because it is a lot tougher when the lawyer whose name is coming off the signage is still sitting right there.

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Law Practice Magazine CoverA favorite business development endeavor for many lawyers (me included) is involvement on a nonprofit board. It can be time-consuming, potentially expensive and sometimes frustrating, but it is a do-good activity that ideally is tied to an area of interest and passion. In my November/December 2020 marketing column in Law Practice, I write on Profiting from Nonprofit Board Involvement.

The heart of my column comes from conversations with leaders of BoardAssist, a nonprofit itself that matches prospective board members with nonprofits in the New York metropolitan area (including New Jersey and Connecticut). Cynthia Remec, the executive director and founder of BoardAssist, is a former attorney who started her career at Pillsbury Winthrop and Weil Gotshal. I also received valuable input from Richard Hall, a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and a longtime member of its board of directors.

Like many aspects of our lives, nonprofits are reeling in the midst of a pandemic where time, money and resources are hard to come by. For board members, there is the teeny, tiny silver lining of being able to conduct most of these meetings from the comfort of home. However, that in-person human interaction is lost. And I’ve heard a number of people lament that they miss the free snacks at meetings. I, myself, will trade sitting at home in sweats and buying a box of munchkins out of pocket. But, seriously, it is true that removing the travel element (sometimes involving getting on a plane) can make donating your time simpler and easier. Bottom line—nonprofits need us to step up now, more than ever.

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ABA Law Practice MagazineMy annual Law Marketing Up/Down Drill column in the July/August 2020 issue of Law Practice tackles the topics of diversity, websites, billboards & radio, press releases and ABA Resolution 115. Of course, I wrote this piece in the first week of March, in a seemingly different universe.

If I were writing this column today, the “hot topics” for the up/down drill would probably be quite different or certainly with a changed focus. Discussions of diversity in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and protests related to racial injustice and inequality are more important than discussing the shortcomings of the Mansfield Rule. I admittedly never crafted law firm communications before on office closings for Juneteenth, or what law firms were proactively doing in response to protests in various U.S. cities.

It’s the third paragraph of this blog post and I’m just referencing COVID-19 for the first time. It’s changed the way the world and society functions, so obviously it has a huge impact on law marketing as well. Some of that impact includes cutting of staff and budgets. I had one law firm cut my marketing program on March 16th!—effectively the first Monday of the pandemic in the country—almost in a rush to decide marketing wasn’t a necessity (it still is, mind you). Most law firms, however, realize that staying visible now is at least as important, if not more so, than ever. With the removal of most in-person contact for the foreseeable future, we’ve pivoted business development plans to a mostly online marketplace.

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ABA_Journal_June_July_2020-225x300In the June/July 2020 issue of the ABA Journal, Cynthia Sharp asks me about how attorneys can best respond to negative online reviews in “Trashed by Clients Online? Ethically responding to negative reviews,” a subject that I’ve discussed with many attorneys and clients over the years.

It is probably the topic that brings me the most questions during my marketing ethics-related CLE programs. In a recent webinar for the American Legal Institute (ALI), Ethically Navigating the Three Rs: Lawyer Ratings, Rankings, and Reviews, I focus solely on this area as it relates to attorney advertising. And I’ve written about the subject matter multiple times in my ABA Law Practice magazine column as well. Mostly, because unlike many areas of attorney marketing ethics, this one is quite “real” to many lawyers that have been bitten by disgruntled former clients, or unhappy ex-employees, shady competitors or just someone that plain doesn’t like you. The combustible mix of not being able to opt-out of the review process and the sheer fact that this stuff can be highly visible in your online portfolio can be deadly. And many attorneys have responded poorly—and violated ethics rules in the process.

The power of the online review—on Google, Yelp, Facebook, or numerous sites that are legal-specific—has grown exponentially in recent years. Early on, the issues often stemmed from reviews on legal site Avvo (which rewarded attorneys for having reviews in their profiles), and Yelp—the initial home of choice for the disgruntled…there is nothing like being ripped by a Yelper. Facebook could be especially critical to the consumer-facing law practice. But it was really the elevation of reviews on Google that increased the potential for reward and damage. If you think about the evolution of Google in the online marketplace—from sponsored results to adwords; SEO spends on organic results, local/mapped searching and various efforts at developing a social media component (mostly without success), the incorporation of Google Reviews and the related visibility in a search result puts a spotlight on them for the end-user and adds another concern for reputation management of your online portfolio.

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