Articles Posted in In The News

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Point-Counterpoint - Model Rule 5.5

SNL’s Point-Counterpoint

Perhaps, I’ve never (co) authored an article with a smaller potential audience than the great give-and-take on the bandied-about subject of Model Rule 5.5 under the Rules of Professional Conduct. In the November 2022 edition of the American Bar Association’s online webzine, Law Practice Today (LPT), together with Charity Anastasio of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), we debate the viability of a revision.

In Point-Counterpoint:  The Likelihood of Revising RPC 5.5, we ask and answer the questionIs the Association of Professional Lawyers’ Proposal for a Revised Model Rule 5.5 on its way, or DOA?

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ABA Law Practice Magazine

Marketing Column

In the November/December 2022 marketing column in the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Magazine, Marketing Ethics Compliance Continues to Confound, I combine a number of business development topics into one.

When writing my column, I often start by thinking about what “hot” areas I’m working on at the moment. In the 21 years-plus since launching HTMLawyers, I’d say most years that the bulk of law firm clients have been on the marketing and business development guidance side; a slight amount dedicated to my related but separate ethics practice. However, in recent years, it has flipped. I find myself spending a lot of time behind the desk reviewing a vast variety of marketing campaigns for law firms around the nation—not to give my two cents on the marketing aspects, but to review for ethics compliance. I help law firm managing partners and GCs sleep better at night. They don’t want to be at the helm when that disciplinary letter rolls in, or worse. It is a practice area loaded with inconsistencies, confusion and varied levels of enforcement. All of which makes it a super fun area to practice.

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LPcover_JulyAugust2022-231x300The last few years of recruiting and hiring marketing staff for law firms has certainly been interesting. On the plus side, law firms continue to invest in marketing and business development personnel. Some might argue that it is even more important as we come out of COVID and start to connect and reconnect with clients, prospective clients, and referral sources. The law firms that have retained me have been wiling to make the proper investment to hire the right people. On the minus side, depending on geographic location (I’ve placed marketers in the MidAtlantic, Northeast, Midwest, and South in the last year), the pool of candidates can be quite shallow. I won’t go into specifics, but some markets simply have more available talent than others.

My marketing column in the July/August 2022 issue of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Magazine, Staffing Your Law Firm Marketing Team, addresses many of the issues and concerns that law firms have (or should have) when it comes to new hires. Like the job market everywhere, there are lots of moving people and moving parts. In some cities, the best some law firms can do is poach junior personnel from competing law firms by overpaying. This is happening more at the lower to mid-level positions on a marketing team. To oversimplify things, you end up hiring someone else’s marketing coordinator by offering him/her $75k when they are earning 50k where they are.

Pre-COVID, there was no talk of hybrid versus fully remote, and less discussion of a willingness to hire in a satellite office market versus one of a law firm’s more substantial office locations. As I often tell my law firm clients, I’m still a bit old school when it comes to having a marketer that you can see and interact with at the water cooler on occasion. On the flip side, I’ve had some marketers complain to me that it made no sense to sit in an office when 95% of the attorneys there are working from home (or the shore, or in the Virgin Islands somewhere). I’ve found that “back in the office” is more about geography than a law firm deciding across the board. I’ve sat down in many law firm offices across the country in the last year—yet not a single visit to New York City (which is a quick New Jersey commuter train from my home), although I’ve been to ballgames and other sporting events in NYC.

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LPcover_MarchApril2022-232x300In that brief time snugly between delta and omicron, I had the opportunity to speak at a law firm retreat. Live. In-Person. With people. No masks. In a hotel. Food served. It was circa 2019 and it was so nice to put on a suit and close the Zoom app.  In the March/April 2022 issue of Law Practice, I discuss The Return of Law Firm Retreats.

An argument can be made that the law firm retreat in 2022 or 2023 will look and feel a lot different from those in the past. For a myriad of reasons:

Mergers and movement of attorneys and practice groups did not stop over the last few years, meaning there are lots of people at your law firm that you’ve never actually met before. The retreat becomes the perfect venue for getting acquainted.

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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_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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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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