Give Marketing a Seat at the Table

As originally posted in the National Law Journal on March 22, 2012

More than 1,000 in-house legal marketers and at least as many vendors converged in Dallas recently for the 2012 Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference.

The excitement and positive vibe at this event is always something to behold. Why are the legal marketers so thrilled to get together? In a word, acceptance. Their peers treat them like the experts they are, while in their own firms they often are left out of major decisions.

Legal marketers tend to have a thankless job. As nonlawyers, they are denied credit for their firms’ successes, but are quickly blamed for any missteps. Not all firms take this attitude but, in my experience, it is far too common. Since legal marketers can never become full partners in the firm, they too often are relegated to second-class status. Unfortunately, far too many of them simply grin and bear it.

How to explain this? Many of the chief marketing officers and legal marketers I know are extremely intelligent and capable, but are not as good at one key component: negotiation. Trained lawyers will win the argument every single time. First, because they generally have strong personalities; second, because they are the owners of the law firms and have the final say.  Read more

Are Social Media Worth Your Time?

As originally posted in the National Law Journal on March 12, 2012

In a recent survey of social-media trends by The National Law Journal affiliate ALM Legal Intelligence, 44 percent of the law firms questioned cited “lack of time” as their biggest obstacle to expanding their use of social media.

This leads to two thoughts — that lawyers aren’t spending time on social media because they don’t think it works, or that they simply are not very good managers of their time. The report’s findings suggest ways around these major impediments to broader use of social media within law firms.

The ALM report, Fans, Followers and Connections: Social Media ROI for Law Firms, makes the case that social media produce a clear return on investment. Sixty-one percent of the firms surveyed reported that using blogs helped them land speaking engagements, while 58 percent reported an increase in the number of calls from reporters. While their rates of success varied widely, one firm counted 75 telephone calls from reporters as a result of their blogs.

Publicity is nice, but what about new ­business? Are blogs and social media bringing in new clients?

Apparently. More than half of firms surveyed received leads on new matters and 41 percent reported that social media and blogging brought in between $5,000 and $200,000 in new business.

So what was different about the firms that reported success and the ones that did not? Time. The firms that were successful in their use of social media were able to persuade their lawyers to make them a priority.

Blogs require a huge time commitment. Approximately 75 percent of the firms updated their blogs at least weekly; the rest updated far less frequently, posting only once during each month or less. In my experience, blogs that are updated that infrequently are difficult to sustain and are far less likely to produce measurable results. To find success, bloggers need to make time to post on a regular basis. Sixty-six percent of the firms surveyed reported publishing new posts either weekly or twice per week. This frequency of posting requires a substantial amount of time, but has proven successful.

So how do firms convince their lawyers that blogging is worth the time?

It helps to point to the success their competition is having — lawyers are more often persuaded by precedent than by hard data, after all. I’ve interviewed dozens of bloggers during the past year, and those who update their blogs regularly assure me that, yes, blogging is absolutely worth it. Some land new matters and some only gain greater visibility, but in the vast majority of the cases blogging and social media open the lawyers to new contacts and referral sources, and help them build high-value relationships that would not have been possible but for their use of social media.

Perhaps one of the most interesting ­findings involved a case study at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. “A typical attorney in the firm has up to 100 visitors to their firm bio page each month,” said Aden Dauchess, the firm’s director of digital media. “The active bloggers and users of social media have at least 200 visitors each month — and several have 500 or more visitors to their bio page every month.”

In other words, there is a measurable difference in exposure for lawyers who take the time to use social media compared with those who do not.

When I was growing up, whenever I complained that I didn’t have the time to join the football team or practice the piano, my father would reply, “We do the things in life we want to do.” With fresh data making the case for ­blogging and social media all the time, it is no longer a question of whether these tools work. The ­question is whether you will organize your time to make them work for you.

Law Students: Get Blogging

As originally published in The National Law Journal on March 1, 2012

There has been a rising controversy about the utility of a traditional law school education. Lawyers finish school prepared to think like lawyers, but are they prepared to develop business and survive in a competitive economy?

Well, no, not usually. To remedy this situation, Fordham University School of Law brought in Silvia Hodges, who earned the first doctorate degree on record in legal services marketing. Last spring, she launched a course on the topic. While a far cry from the usual torts or constitutional law curricula, her class is essential. It aids law students in developing their personal brands.

It is never too early to start developing your personal brand, according to Hodges. “Why wait?” she said. “Take courses in the area you want to focus on, join associations and interest groups, etc. — and blog about it. All this will help build your own brand and distinguish you from the many other young lawyers out there. This will put you in front of firms and potential clients.”

This message has resonated with Hodges’ students. “I’ll be working at a Manhattan law firm this summer and hope to begin my career there, and want to give myself as many tools as possible to improve my value to that firm,” 2L Andrew Fleischman said.

Building your brand is all about improving your value. “Blogging is a great tool to help law students accomplish this,” Hodges said. “Great posts show that you are familiar with the topic. You become part of the discussion, become known among those interested in the topic. Having valuable contacts online is part of becoming a thought leader. You get your name out, it gives you visibility and helps you with search engine optimization. Your name and content will pop up when people look for your topic. Hopefully, this will help you get hired.”

Launching a blog can be intimidating, but free platforms like WordPress and Blogger make it easy. Hodges recommended that aspiring lawyers begin by “focusing on a niche you are really interested in. Do research and understand which platform works best for your viewpoint. Learn as much as you can about this topic and write brief, intriguing, easy-to-read blog posts on a regular basis.”

You can see some of the work of Silvia’s students at www.legalblogger.com. While none of her students has landed a job yet from blogging, their blog posts have elicited comments, dialogues and retweets — even a mention on Twitter by Roseanne Barr, who linked to a student’s post.

“This is the social media age,” said 3L Ellie Mochkin, student of Hodges’. “I do not want to be the lawyer who is lagging behind the fast pace of growth and improvement in marketing, business and advertising.”

Hodges wants to create lawyers who are great in two ways.

“We want them to be strong lawyers from a technical as well as a business point of view,” she said. “I want them to get the big picture of what life as a lawyer is all about. It is important that they find their niche and play to their strengths. There are too many lawyers out there who are supposedly unhappy in their jobs, and I think it is partially because they fall into positions instead of figuring out what their strength are and what the real opportunities are in the market.”

To help them get there, Hodges starts with a basic SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threats) analysis. Later, they write marketing plans and in the end they get experience blogging and writing about topics they find particularly engaging. She forces aspiring IP lawyers to ask, “What is going on in my industry? How can I relate to this?”

This may sound far more like business school than law school, but it just makes sense. With a growing number of students leaving law school for the unemployment queues, saddled with huge debts, it is about time that law schools start preparing students for the business of law.