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LPcover_JanFeb2016.jpgIn the January/February 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, I was asked to put on my ethics attorney hat in authoring Struggling with Ethics Issues Surrounding Branded Networks. Issue Editor Nick Gaffney asked me to write this sidebar in a magazine dedicated to the theme of branded legal networks–a huge topic of discussion in law practice management.

There is not a more controversial area of lawyer marketing when it comes to interpretation and enforcement of the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC) than the issues that arise from the ever-growing legion of branded networks in the legal profession. From Avvo and Justia to Best Lawyers and a slew of entities that may or may not be “lead generation,” the issues, rules and opinions vary from state to state. They remain…consistently inconsistent. One thing is for sure, these companies are not going anywhere. The question is where they end up fitting in the long term approach to business development among attorneys.

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ABA_Lead_Law.pngIn the December issue of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Today, I recap the inaugural ABA Lead Law program, a lawyer leadership conference presented by the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division.

I had the pleasure of being asked to serve as Vice Chair of the ABA Lead Law planning committee, but it was chair Tom Grella who really saw this program through from start to finish. The one day program offered varying perspectives on how attorneys lead and need to lead in their firms and in the profession as a whole.

Read the article for a recap of the speakers and their respective topics. To access the program and materials, visit ABA Lead Law.

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LPcover_novdec2015.jpgIt was watching and reading news coverage from the aftermath of the deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia earlier this year that my marketing column topic came to light. Usually the theme finds me, and in this case, with each press conference, e-mail, press release and newspaper article–it occurred to me that Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules (ABA’s Law Practice magazine, November/December 2015).

You can put this column under “Marketing” or “Ethics.” It works out well for my areas of focus. I spend the bulk of my time working with law firms on business development efforts. But I also maintain a niche ethics practice that only looks at marketing and advertising issues. Perhaps you will read this column and think of it as an ethics primer. Or you might read it and gain ideas and insight into marketing for a plaintiff’s practice. Before submitting my final draft to the Law Practice editors, I decided that I needed some differing perspectives beyond my own. The result was some hefty editing based on those thoughts. You’ll read some comments from the ethics attorney I myself turn to for advice, Tom Spahn of McGuireWoods. Some differing views came from my fellow LP columnist, Greg Siskind, who was focused on the value of content. A few unnamed ethics friends gave me some additional feedback and direction.

A number of pieces from The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s law firm beat writer Chris Mondics touched on many aspects of what I reference in his coverage of the Amtrak disaster–and the issues surrounding “the race for clients.” The simple speed of selecting counsel in today’s society–ramped up through social media and related technology tools–means that an attorney seeking a piece of this very lucrative pie needs to get moving fast. You might argue that your marketing needs to arrive before the actual matter at hand. The most successful lawyers in this space have figured out how to generate promotional opportunities without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. If you are waiting for the dust to settle–as the 30-day moratorium was built to provide–you will find yourself a day late to the game.

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ABA_Logo.pngMicah U. Buchdahl of Moorestown, New Jersey has been appointed chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education (SCOCLE), the entity that oversees CLE for the largest professional organization of lawyers in the world. Buchdahl, president of the law marketing consultancy HTMLawyers, was appointed by ABA president Paulette Brown.

READ PRESS RELEASE HERE

“There are numerous critical issues surrounding the continuing legal education of attorneys,” said Buchdahl. “They include diversity of faculty, consistency of educational requirements from state to state, how lawyers should best be positioned to meet CLE requirements and how bar associations are best positioned to deliver them.”

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advisor-lawyer-relationship-res0915-mi600-resize-600x338.jpgIn the September 2015 issue of Research Magazine, contributing editor Jane Wollman Rusoff writes about building advisor-attorney networks that will generate referrals and benefit clients. In being interviewed for her feature, it was interesting to discuss the relationship from the financial services side of the business rather than starting with my usual legal-side perspective.

While the cross-referral route is often at the heart of many of these relationships–typically between business lawyers and those advising on the numbers side of a matter–the article points out the need for both to work together. At a time when investors’ financial needs have become more complex, private attorneys — such as specialists in estates and trusts, especially, as well as in family/divorce, taxes and elder care — are an important component of many FAs’ networks and in some instances, even considered part of their team.

While I warn about just how close those relationships can get (no fee sharing with non-lawyers in almost every jurisdiction and potential conflicts of interest), there is no question that there is an obvious fit between the two professions. In numerous practices, attorneys I work with on business development strategies will tell me that various finance professionals–from CPAs to planners and investors–are their #1 source of referrals. With that in mind, we often plan social and educational events targeting those relationships. In addition, we often team and partner on marketing efforts aimed directly at the prospective client for both the legal and finance sides.

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LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngLeaders of many of the nation’s biggest and baddest law firms converged in New York City recently to discuss the rapidly changing legal landscape and how to adjust not only to survive, but thrive. The oft-repeated themes of innovation, differentiation and collaboration ruled the day.

My article in the August 2015 issue of Law Practice Today (LPT) serves as a recap of the full day inaugural Big Law Summit, put on by Bloomberg BNA. A who’s who of managing partners, in-house counsel and various industry experts discussed a wide range of issues ranging from innovating in a risk averse environment to adjusting to changing demands on the client side of big business that want more “value based arrangements.”

DLA Piper’s Roger Meltzer gave the global firm perspective. The program titled “Harnessing the Power of Collaboration,” could have been called “how origination dooms us all.” As the infamous quote goes, the first step is in admitting that you have a problem. I was drawn to the Big Law Summit because these law firms are my clients. The issues and answers that ruled the day reinforced those that I experience whenever I’m sitting with a Big Law managing partner or management committee. The conversations struck honestly at the heart of the issues that need to be addressed for major law firms to thrive in today’s global marketplace. Kudos to BNA for putting together a well-run and organized program on a subject matter that clearly had an audience.

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PBI.pngIf it is August (another Pennsylvania bar CLE compliance month), then it must be time for another round of ethics CLEs for the PA Bar Institute (PBI). This month, besides my usual PBI ethics potpourri program hour (presented every April, August and December), you can catch me at the Jersey shore too, reprising “Linkedout and Mistweeted – Ethical Uses of Social Networking in Marketing Your Law Practice,” a hit program from 2014 (updated!).

Law Marketing and Ethics 2015 Update: Balancing Smart Business Development, Adhering to the Rules,” will be presented in Mechanicsburg on August 20th, Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 27th. In the 38 years since Bates v. Arizona, law firm marketing has grown from whether or not to advertise to committing significant resources toward business development. The trick is to do so in an effective, dignified and ethical fashion. In this newly updated one-hour ethics program, learn about the rules, regulations and ethics opinions that require the greatest attention, how to improve your marketing efforts without missteps, and discuss real-life examples and intriguing hypotheticals in this fast-paced, entertaining course.

When PBI asked if I could reprise Linkedout and Mistweeted as part of the CLE Down the Shore program in Atlantic City on August 14th, I said sure. After all, how much could I really lose at the blackjack and craps tables before and after my session at the Golden Nugget Hotel? The answer, of course, is plenty. At least my room and meal are comped. However, “reprise” is a bit misleading–as my slide deck from December 2014 is already quite outdated. Social media issues continue to be prevalent. The program has been updated through July 2015 to include recent ethics opinions and rule changes impacted by the use of social media for lawyer marketing purposes. What are the implications of LinkedIn’s recommendations, endorsements and specialization components? How have state bars addressed these issues? You’ll learn the how-to, how-not-to and the latest lessons in social networking participation.

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July has been a busy month for me in chatting with legal reporters about the law firm world online in 2015, starting with Gina Passarella’s piece for The Legal Intelligencer on Morgan Lewis’ controversial rebrand. Little did she know when our conversation started that I was involved in Morgan Lewis’ first website, some 18 years ago or so and in the firms’ shift from mlb.com to morganlewis.com shortly thereafter.

A few weeks later, her American Lawyer Media colleague Lizzy McLellan followed up with Online Rebranding ‘Not Just for the Big Guys’ in which we discussed rebranding issues impacting midsize firms–where there is not likely a large marketing team with a wealth of resources, yet still needing to deliver a unified message.

In “Firms aim to track clients on websites,” California’s Daily Journal staff writer Joshua Sebold spoke with me about a topic beyond site development and branding–the way web traffic can be tracked and analyzed in strategic business development. From web cookies to analytics analysis, tracking open rates on e-mail legal alerts, online advertising, social media hooks and tracking URL clicks, the beauty of the online world is still that it offers much greater hard data to identify return on investment than almost any law firm branding effort–online or off. You’d have to go back to tracking phone numbers in a Yellow Pages ad to find anything close. Or as my kids would ask you, “What are the Yellow Pages?”

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LPM_JA15_cover-nospine.jpgYou could also call my column in the July/August 2015 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice magazine, “101 Uses for an Article,” but in The True Value of Your Published Work, I discuss how sitting down to write one article can pay dividends in so many ways. The key is not to think about the time spent as writing one article for one publication, but more as writing one thing that will be repurposed in so many ways.

This very blog post you are reading is yet another use of one article. Perhaps you reached this blog post through one of my social media feeds. Or maybe I handed you this very column during a pitch meeting at your law firm or during a subsequent meeting with an attorney about business development planning.

Print deadlines being what they are, I just submitted my next column for Law Practice earlier this week. You won’t see it until November. I would never spill the beans on the subject matter, but suffice it to say that while rereading it, I was struck that the column could be turned into an entire CLE program…and you will likely see it as my Ethics Potpourri offering in 2016 for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. It is a little disturbing that this idea came to me in my sleep last night (there are better things to dream about), but it occurred to me that the column could be the centerpiece of the program and the accompanying written materials. In other words, the four hours or so that I put into writing, research and editing will pay numerous dividends moving forward. You get the idea.

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morganlewis.pngIn ALM’s The Legal Intelligencer, reporter Gina Passarella writes on Morgan Lewis Took Risks in Its Rebranding. She spoke with me about the effectiveness and controversial aspects of the mega firms’ new look, which included a new website among the various rebranding efforts.

Passarella points out that with a new chairwoman and two mergers, the firm is undergoing change. The article also mentions that the rebranding initiatives, led by the firm’s marketer, Despina Kartson, started prior to the Bingham McCutchen and Stamford LLC mergers.

While the article states that the firm’s goal was to balance the classic and the modern, you can’t help but see the dreaded Executive leadership compromise in the end result. The logo itself is staid and very old school. The website and the content “below the fold” (logo and imagery) is closer to The Huffington Post in design, appearance and functionality. So if you cannot agree on classic or modern–do neither and both. I’ve been at the table of plenty of these branding and rebranding conversations at law firms. I can’t say I win many of those battles either.