Articles Posted in Business Development

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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