Articles Posted in ABA Law Practice Management Section

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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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ABA Midyear Meeting, Vancouver, B.C., 2018

If you are attending the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver the first weekend in February, reside in the B.C. area or simply are looking to escape to Canada (as so many U.S. citizens and non-citizens now are), be sure to attend this free CLE program, Fishing for Prospects – Ethical Limitations Can Create Muddy Waters in Catching New Clients on Saturday, February 3, 2018 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PST at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown.

This ABA CLE, co-sponsored by the Law Practice Division and the Young Lawyers Division focuses on ethical strategies for business development and relationship building.  We will cover ethic rules and related pitfalls when soliciting new clients and advertising your practice. The Rules of Professional Conduct, various US Supreme Court cases and numerous state bar ethics opinions can create an often-unseen myriad of issues when soliciting new clients.

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LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625In a world where every law firm is (or says) they are “full-service,” comes this issue of Law Practice Today dedicated to niche practice marketing. Depending on your firm, practice and related industries, a niche can be many things to many people—with no real right or wrong answers…so begins the intro to my article on The Pros and Cons of Niche Practice Marketing in the November 2017 edition of the ABA’s Law Practice Today (LPT) webzine.

As a member of LPT’s Board of Editors, past Editor-In-Chief and past chair of the ABA Law Practice Division, I’ve long-enjoyed seeing the growth of the law practice webzine—which is delivered in the inbox of every ABA member (that opts into e-mail) and numerous syndicated bar association partners throughout the country, giving it the largest circulation of any online law practice resource in the U.S. I had the pleasure of serving as issue editor for the niche practice issue, with my colleagues Editor-In-Chief Andrea Malone of White & Williams in Philadelphia and Associate Editor Amy Drushal at Trenam Law in Tampa, Florida.

It is unusual for me to contribute two pieces to an issue, but I had to add a sidebar on How Niche Marketing Helped Me Escape an Arizona Traffic Jam as well. It goes hand-in-hand with an interesting article on When Photo Radar is Worse Than DUI by my (now) favorite firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. You’ll learn about the niche at R&R Law Group, along with how solid marketing efforts brought this educated consumer (that would be me) to their practice for counsel. Spoiler alert—they were 100% successful in their representation of the client.

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LPcover_NovDec2017-235x300When I wrote my marketing column for the November/December 2017 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, Revisiting Lawyer Ratings and Rankings, I lamented how dealing with the R&R industry felt like it took up time during every single working day. So it seemed somewhat ironic that the magazine arrived in my mailbox on the same day that I penned more than a half dozen press releases for law firms announcing their results from the 2018 U.S. News/Best Lawyers’ “Best Law Firms” honors.

Now it happens that as ratings go, I have respect for the good people at Best Lawyers and U.S. News. They are always easy to work with—and unlike some others named in the column—they avoid the used car sales approach with my law firm clients. They lend a guiding hand with the process, regardless of how much the firm might be spending on the “award” product line. Perhaps your experiences have varied. We all have very subjective feelings to who and what in this business is credible. You may find the ones that give you the highest honors to certainly be the most legitimate!

What entities are referenced by name in this month’s column? In order of appearance:  Best Lawyers and U.S. News, Chambers USA, Avvo, American Lawyer Media (ALM), Lawyers of Distinction, Expertise.com, Yelp, Super Lawyers, Rising Stars and Martindale.

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ABA Law Practice Magazine

Ah, the ancient art of face-to-face. Ironically, it is still perhaps the greatest business development tool known to man (and woman). Yet, as we seemingly get busier and busier each day, face time has been replaced by FaceTime and Facebook and all other sorts of live-people-avoidance tools aided by a variety of technologies.

This is not to say that those all-important “touches” that remind people of you, your law firm, your brand, your expertise—delivered by e-mail, newsletter, social media, pure advertising, online search or secondary public and media relations efforts are not effective. A touch is a touch. But actually seeing someone in the flesh in their office, at a meeting, over lunch or some other public space is still the most powerful and likely way to generate a new referral or matter.

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ABA Law Practice Magazine, March/April 2017

Diversity as a business development tool cuts both ways. For those law firms that lack it, there is often frustration in knowing there are matters and clients that they will lose. For those that have it, there are endless opportunities to be rewarded.

It was ironic that the March/April 2017 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine arrived the same week that I was working on another ABA responsibility—the March 1st implementation of the ABA’s new CLE diversity policy. As chair of the Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education (SCOCLE), I have had the privilege of being involved in the many years where this policy was discussed, and ultimately adopted. Now I have the opportunity to oversee the implementation of a policy—that quite simply—requires an ABA program to meet a certain diversity threshold among the faculty, or not be accredited by the association. It is not unlike the requirement of many corporate legal departments that will dole out work to diverse lawyers.

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ABA Law Practice Magazine

ABA Law Practice Magazine

Although I typically write my marketing column around four months before publication (in this case, it was July 4th weekend), my timing for the November/December 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine was spot on. It is early December and I’m in the thick of figuring out 2017 marketing budgets for about a dozen law firms. Micah…how much should we be spending?

In Law Firm Marketing Spending:  How Much Is Enough? I provide the answer.

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LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625My first sit-downs with law firm management to discuss marketing strategies were 20 years ago. In the subsequent two decades, I held those discussions in the board rooms of Amlaw 100 law firms and in conference rooms of law firms with ten or fewer. Their approach to marketing expectations from young attorneys was consistently inconsistent.

Back then I was somewhat of a young lawyer. At least youngish. Not so much anymore. But there is certainly an increase in business development training and marketing support for newer attorneys. How quickly you are expected to assume a marketing role depends on the law firm. The larger the law firm, the less likely you will be asked to originate business any time soon. However, that does not mean you should not be laying the groundwork for when that expectation arrives.

Small and midsize law firms often like to indoctrinate young lawyers into marketing efforts sooner. After all, everyone at a boutique firm is a potential salesperson when out and about. There is a little more pressure to put you in a position to generate opportunities.

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LPM_JA16_1FrontDepts 3.inddAs National Football League coach Chip Kelly begins his first training camp with the San Francisco 49ers, my column in the July/August 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, A Business Development Coaching Clinic: Culture Beats Scheme, seems quite timely.

Much like many law firm BD coaching efforts, I wonder if Coach Kelly—who I believe is a smart guy, as are many of the attorneys I’ve coached—will make the necessary adjustments to learn from his past failings (and past successes). Unfortunately for me, his failings came with the Philadelphia Eagles, where I am a season ticket holder, as opposed to the Oregon Ducks, in which I have no personal allegiance.

The column looks at the heavy investment of time and money many law firms put into “coaching,” often with lukewarm results. I talk about the all-star attorneys—the rainmakers—that already know what they are doing. And the process that needs to be undertaken to make these efforts pay off.