“I want to be a legal marketer when I grow up,” said nobody ever.
Let me start out by saying: I love working in the legal industry and I love working with lawyers. The work can be extremely challenging, but it has the potential to be equally rewarding as well.
I couldn’t sleep this morning in anticipation of a busy week at the 2014 LMA International Conference in Orlando, Florida and I got to thinking, what is it about this event that is so unique?
Legal marketers have the unique distinction of being defined by something they are not: lawyers. The legal profession is the only profession that calls everybody that isn’t a lawyer a non-lawyer. (You would never hear a nurse at a hospital be called a “non-doctor” or a project manager on a build site a “non-engineer.”) You would never mention the fact that the vast majority of lawyers and even managing partners should have the title non-marketer, yet legal marketers are described in these “non” terms. They work in an organization where they are often relegated to a status that isn’t given the respect it deserves.
The non-lawyer title isn’t the only challenge either. The solicitation rules facing lawyers make it very difficult for legal marketers to do traditional business development and sales. In most jurisdictions, it’s against the lawyer’s code of ethics to have marketers sell their services for them. So basically legal marketers can’t practice the law as non-lawyers, and can’t market traditionally because of their non-lawyer status. Yet they are still expected to get results.
What makes matters worse is that they are always a minority in their organizations and although the top CMOs certainly have a seat at the table in making big decisions at law firms, so many others are working like crazy just to make a difference and gain some recognition.
It’s an uphill battle.
However, once a year at the LMA International Conference, these legal marketers get to turn the tables. Over a thousand legal marketers and vendors gather to share case studies and their best new ideas for bringing in business to their firms. For these three days, the distinction of “non-lawyer” is completely irrelevant and everybody is instead judged on the quality of their ideas and results. There’s a great vibe at this conference, and everybody that attends gets a chance to bask in the glow of that positivity.
While it may be true that nobody ever says “I want to be a legal marketer when I grow up,” it isn’t because the career path isn’t a significant one. It’s because it is a sub-specialty within a specialty. Most kids aren’t even aware that legal marketing is a thing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that everyone in legal marketing is glad to be there either. It is a tough job. But for that same reason the LMA conferences are so much fun. For a brief moment legal marketers get to throw their own party and this time the party is for them.
You can follow the LMA Conference this Wednesday to Friday using the hash tag #LMA14. There are a dozen other hashtags for individuals tracks and sessions, but I’ve never had the attention span for learning multiple hash tags for the same event.
I’ll be live tweeting the event using @adriandayton—Unless the call of the sun and 85-degree weather is too much for me.
If you ever visit the legal tabloid Above the Law and you venture into the comments section, you will witness some cynical and downright nasty comments submitted by readers. Most of the comments are anonymous, so the authors speak their mind. If they really hate an article – they’ll tell you. If they hated the headline and the first few sentences, they will simply leave this comment:
For those of you unfamiliar with these sorts of internet abbreviations (more popular ones include LOL, BRB, and G2G), can you guess what this one means?
Too Long; Did Not Read
Now this is among the kinder comments people will leave on Above the Law articles. Do people ever leave this message on your articles or blogs? Probably not, they just leave. They leave if within the first 5 seconds they can’t answer the question: “What here applies to me?”
They are gone, and they won’t take time to leave a rude comment.
ESPN understands that their audience also has a short attention span. So what do they do? They have sign posts for the entire Sportscenter show on the left-hand column of the screen. ESPN was one of the first news shows to do this, but now even my local news station includes signposts. Why did ESPN make the change? Very simple: The die-hard fan will watch the entire episode with or without these, but the casual viewer will only tune in if there is something being covered that they are specifically interested in. They are giving the viewer the right details to attract them as they click through the channels.
CNN understands this concept and has brought this same type of keep-it-simple bullet points to the way they deliver news on mobile devices. I jumped on to CNN yesterday morning to see if there was any important news that day. Instead of 10 different articles to choose from there was a lead article: “5 Things to Know for Your New Day.” Don’t have time to read more than one article? No problem, we boiled five top articles into a brief summary. Why don’t more lawyers write this way?
Here are the four basic lessons: Choose a great headline; Keep the post short (under 1,000 words); Include sign posts that tell the reader exactly where you’re going; And if at all possible put information into list format. People love lists. It helps them understand exactly what they will get by reading your article.
You may never have the athletic ability to be featured on ESPN’s Top Plays, but it doesn’t mean you can’t take a page out of their book and write in a simple and accessible way.
The biggest excuse keeping professionals from using LinkedIn? “I don’t have the time for one more thing.” So here are five things you could do on LinkedIn while drinking your morning coffee. Read more
Did you make partner at your law firm?
Did you make more money last year than this year?
Do you drive a nice car?
Do you live in a big house?
Are you happy?
Would the 12-year-old version of you be impressed by who you have become?
Are you a good person that serves others and society?
Do you have a happy family that loves you?
Do you have time to do the things that matter most to you in life?
We start off our careers and many parts of our lives with a clear perspective of what we want. We can almost taste it, our visions and dreams are so apparent. Then life happens. Marriage, kids, work, more work and then we wake up one day and ask ourselves—is this really what I signed up for? Am I going through the motions or I am getting closer and closer to what I really want most.
I’m not just talking about happiness either, I’m talking about measuring whatever it is that we seek. There is saying in business that in the short team, we tend to set goals that are overly ambitious but in the long term we aren’t ambitious enough. Why the disconnect? In my opinion, it is due to our small attention span. We have attention for survival, we get up, do our work, exercise (maybe) and go home. But our Big Harry Audacious Goals (BHAG’s) as Tim Collins calls them in his bestselling book Good to Great are too often put on the back burner. How many times have I heard that someone wants to: write a book, travel the world, buy rental properties, start a blog or start their own business. But far too few have the focus and determination to start and complete those goals.
When I coach lawyers that haven’t had much success in their careers bringing in business, there is kind of a magic number, they all want to bring in an additional $100-$200,000 of new business in the next year. When I press them with ideas and options on how to get there, far too many of them aren’t willing to do the work. They have no problem setting the BHAG’s, but when it comes to disrupting their lives now, it seems far easier to put it off. In order to accomplish BHAG’s we need to change our behaviors- and this isn’t easy.
These three things have helped me accomplish BHAGs in my life. 1. A clear plan broken down into its components. 2. A defined end date and a way to measure your accomplishment and 3. Accountability. This can come in the form of a coach or peer, but you need someone to keep you honest and keep you focused. Setting and accomplishing big goals is addictive, but it is also extremely rewarding.
When I first started my business I set a goal to move to Australia for a month with my family and to have someone else pay for it. I wrote down the goal, planned a conference in Sydney with a partner I was introduced to through a connection of mine in Australia, found a great sponsor for my conference and was able to not only have a profitable event in Australia, but I was able to achieve a big goal that seemed impossible when I set it. They say we only use a small percentage of our brains, and I believe that setting goals and dreams for our future is one of the most powerful ways to better access the latent portion of our brain.
Don’t be afraid to set big goals, but be ready to pay the price to see them through. You only have one life, make sure it is spent focusing on those things that matter most.
Five years ago this week I walked into the law offices of Jaeckle Fleishmann & Mugel well rested. I had just finished a 4-day surprise birthday cruise my wife had put together for me to celebrate my 30th birthday. I had a great job at a well-respected firm in town. I was tan, relaxed and had no idea how much my life would change in the next few days. The partners were very polite when they came in, closed the door and explained to me that they had to let me go. They let me work the rest of the day and get all my files in order, and that was it. I had no idea my life as a practicing lawyer was over.
That night my friend Noah who had joined a very successful growing company was in town, “You can come work with me!” he offered. True to his word, after a couple of phone interviews, I received an offer from his company. I could make more than I was as a lawyer, but I would have to leave the legal industry. It was a very good job opportunity and at first, I was very persuaded to take it.
“They’re going to give us full health care benefits,” I explained to my wife Natalie, “as well as a laptop and a projector.” The healthcare benefits were especially important. We had an 18-month-old baby and a growing family. Then my wife asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks,
“Are you trying to talk yourself into taking this job?” She continued, “you don’t need to take the job for me.” And that was all it took. I had seen the potential social media had for the legal industry, I had already brought in business to my firm through Twitter and I had the sense that social media was about to explode. Over the next month, I wrote the book Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter Edition. I just wanted to get it written, I didn’t care if I had to give it away for free. I was fortunate enough to meet the ARK Group in the UK who immediately decided to publish the book and distribute it internationally.
I started out with a goal to change the legal industry. Truth is, it didn’t really need much help from me when I started out Twitter had fewer than 8 Million users worldwide and LinkedIn was much smaller. Now there are over half a billion Twitter users and LinkedIn has gone public. I’ve been fortunate enough to ride the wave and enjoy some pretty amazing experiences along the way, including working with some of the most respected firms in the world as well as opportunities to speak in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, England, Canada, most of the United States and next week I fly for my first time to Taipei, Taiwan to give a talk on innovation in the legal industry.
So what has changed in 5 years of talking and writing for the legal industry? Firms in large part have embraced social media as a relevant part of the marketing mix. At the very least, most firms now have some sort of online presence beyond just the website. A firm Twitter account, a group LinkedIn page and maybe a couple of token blogs. What surprises me most is that engagement in social media continues to be very low by individual attorneys.
The formula for success online for attorneys is still very simple. Write about what you know, share it online, build your reputation, bring in more business. Repeat. I’ve been preaching this gospel of social media for a while now and although the idea of social media is inspiring to most lawyers, far too few turn that inspiration into action. Based on my experience analyzing multiple firms, in a given month at the average law firm, less than 10% of the partners ever share articles on Twitter or LinkedIn. It’s a simple formula, yet it hasn’t seemed to catch on.
It requires work and diligence to share updates on a regular basis, but so does everything that brings in business at law firms. I guess what is somewhat discouraging to me is when people don’t understand: Not everybody can be the smiling rainmaker that knows people, but anybody at a firm can share quality content, write useful information, and gain credibility in their industry. You don’t have to be the extrovert, in fact, you can be completely introverted and still find success using social media. Yet few lawyers seem to be taking advantage.
Social media has exploded globally—it’s everywhere. But insides law firms, for the vast majority of lawyers, it hasn’t caught on. Having a LinkedIn profile is not enough. I’m talking about daily active engagement. Firms are just starting to scratch the surface. Once social media reaches a critical mass within law firms, with hundreds of active, engaged users, only then do I think we will really see the potential of social media. Social media isn’t about controlling the message, it’s about empowering the messengers. Will firms ever get there?
Lawyers will eventually catch on, they just aren’t there yet. To all the innovators out there working to move the ball forward, keep preaching.
One of the shows I loved as a kid was Inspector Gadget. That guy had a special invention for everything. His spring shoes and giant retractable punching fist were just a part of him. They often back-fired, but he didn’t hold it against the technology. He didn’t think of the gadgets as technology but as an extension of himself.
For me and other lawyers of a younger generation, we have a similar perspective about LinkedIn and Twitter, these aren’t software to us, they are tools that help us communicate better.
For a huge segment of the lawyer population, they will never see social media that way. Social networks will always be strange and unknowable, and it doesn’t matter how much you prod and pry, they won’t ever see these tools as an extension of self.
I don’t think I understood this when I started out speaking to lawyers about social media five years ago. My thinking was, social media makes sense- it makes lawyers more efficient and better business developers, so eventually everybody will learn to use it.
The error in my thinking was that I didn’t realize that some people will never want to use social media technology to communicate—at least not in its current form. Maybe once it is integrated into their normal routines or seamlessly integrated into other technologies. Until then, stop trying to force a round peg into a square whole. Build a coalition of the willing in your organization for those comfortable with technology and help the technophobes make small incremental improvements knowing that they may never be ready to fully embrace social media.
“Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1!“- C-3PO
“Never tell me the odds.” -Han Solo
Today March Madness begins, with play-in games in Dayton, Ohio. Millions of men, women, and children will fill out brackets with hopes of winning the Billion dollar prize for completing a 100% perfect bracket. Click here to enter https://tournament.fantasysports.yahoo.com/quickenloansbracket/challenge/?qls=BDB_B14qlb03.qlredirect
Your odds of winning are somewhere between 30-150 Billion to 1. Let’s say it takes your 15 minutes to fill out the bracket? At minimum wage, your 15 minutes wasted is worth $1.85 cents. For many big time lawyers, your 15 minutes is worth substantially more. So why do we do it? This is what an economist would call an irrational decision. Other irrational decisions include: buying lottery tickets, flight insurance and buying ad space with Best Lawyers – yet myriads of people continue to make these odd decisions. Why? Because the size of the potential prize is so large that we are overtaken by emotion and fail to consider the infinitely large denominator.
How many irrational business decisions do you make? Attending networking events that are not attended by real referral sources or decision makers, preparing RFP’s for company that are total unknowns and paying for mass media advertising that is so diluted it is almost impossible to hit the mark. How many business decisions do we make on a daily basis where we choose emotion over logic? Unfortunately, far too many. As busy professionals, we need to accept and commit to a clear hierarchy of priorities in order to prevent ourselves from becoming slaves to emotion.
I’m not telling you not to fill out a bracket or buy a lottery ticket again, I’m just saying that you should do so with a clear understanding that you are paying for fantasy. Make sure the majority of your extra time and money go those activities that have potential payoffs based in rationality.