My 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.
Websites are suddenly more in vogue again, because you are not going to see attorneys or law firms at conferences or sponsored functions. In early March, Zoom was still the name of a show I watched as a kid on PBS. Today, it joins the pantheon of Googles, Xerox and Kleenex—synonymous with a product or service. Zoom would certainly be “Up” in the drill as a marketing vehicle. I’m not sure “billboards and radio” would’ve made the list today—since you need to actually leave the house and drive somewhere to see a billboard. To some extent, the same could be said for radio. Who thinks the first wave of promo items at trade shows in 2021 will be an unlimited array of masks, hand sanitizer and various cleaning tools? Of course, one of my law firms thought I was a genius for ordering logo hand sanitizers in the fourth quarter of 2019—dumb luck to say the least.
My “down” on press release overload is still valid. Journalism—despite idiotic claims of its demise—is still critical and functioning fully midway through the calendar year. If anything, smart law firms have increased media relations efforts, while the “less smart” cut back on the PR budget. It is important though to make sure pitches have actual news or news value.
And, finally, my “up” comments on ABA Resolution 115 may be even more important today than when it was passed. Good luck speaking against expanding access to justice and affordability of legal services.
Let’s hope that next years’ third edition of the Up/Down drill column is full of “ups”—we deserve it, and ideally post-vaccine.