How law firms can start playing like a team online

In my early days as a social media user I had a small network and, as a result, a small voice. I was like an iPhone speaker fighting to be heard in a stadium full of people.

How did I find an audience? Very simple, I enlisted the help of allies.

Some of the allies had small audiences like I did, but by joining forces our combined audience was much larger. Then I met friends like Julio Varela, Gini Dietrich and Justin Bracket and all of our networks grew together.

What did my allies do for me? When I was first writing my posts, they would share them with their networks. If the content was really good, they would comment about it in their blog posts. I was hitting more than ten times the people.alliesBIG

My audience back then: 1,000 followers

The combined audience of myself and my allies: 20,000+ followers

In the same way, lawyers within the same firm need to be allies to each other. When lawyer A writes a new blog post, lawyer B should share it to his LinkedIn network. When lawyer B writes a new post, lawyer A should do the same. Just imagine if every lawyer shared the content that their neighbors created. The potential audience of that content would go from 250 (the average number of connections on Linkedin by an AmLaw 100 lawyer, according to our research of over 5,000 profiles) to 25,000!

What about crossover? What if some of them have the same connections? Will those connections feel like they’re being ‘spammed?’

Good question, but to answer the question we need to understand the nature of social networks. These aren’t inboxes filling up with information, they are rivers of information, with articles constantly flowing by. When the first article is posted, if you don’t happen to be online that morning, you miss it. The second article, you might just see when you logon to LinkedIn. If the article is posted repeatedly, you may think, “looks like this is something I should read, people keep sharing it.”

Crossover and shared connections is a good thing. We could take this to the extreme and ask, “What if 500 lawyers at the same firm share the same article at the same time?” This would not be a good thing. But let’s face it, does any law firm ever have the ability to get all 500 of their lawyers to do the same thing at the same time? At most they get 10% to 20% of their lawyers to share something, but each will share what they want, when they want, in their own way.

The internet is a lonely place sometimes; That’s why you need allies. Every lawyer who is blogging, writing, and sharing online shouldn’t have to look any further then their own firm to find allies to help build them up and create a larger audience for their content.

Joining the Early Shift

Do you remember the classic TV show The Twilight Zone? There was one episode in particular that I think about some time. There was a soldier that suddenly noticed time had stopped, for everybody but him. He walked around and there were people outside frozen in time. Everything was standing perfectly still.o-TWILIGHT-ZONE-BRYAN-SINGER-facebook

Waking up early feels a little bit like that old episode. Everyone is asleep in their beds, and the roads and sidewalks are almost completely empty. I’ve discovered early mornings this year, and I love it. I’ve been waking up at about 5:30 and heading to Cross Fit or hitting the golf course. I can complete 9 holes of golf before many people are even awake. I’m not the only one out there, but I might as well be.

I’ve really been enjoying these early mornings, and it got me to thinking that staying up late doesn’t compare. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy binge watching shows on Netflix and staying up late with a good book, but there is something magical about early mornings. No distractions, just the chance to accomplish what matters most to you.

I’ve been a night owl for the last few years, it was really the only way to keep my sanity after working a long day and finally getting the kids to sleep. Staying up late was the only way to get a break, until I joined the early shift. I may be behind on Luther, Orange is the New Black, and Sherlock – but I’m getting stronger and my golf game is showing signs of improvement and those things are more satisfying to me than a great episode of my favorite show.

Do Blogging Lawyers Leave Law Firms?

It was five years ago last month: I was visiting Minneapolis for the first time and I had just taken the train in from the airport to save money. I headed up to one of the top floors in one of the biggest buildings in the city and walked into my very first meeting with an AmLaw 100 firm. I explained to the Marketing Director the basic philosophy behind blogging and social media, and when I was finished he only had one question for me, “Won’t they leave?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If you show the lawyers how to build their individual reputation so that they can bring in their own clients, what do they need the law firm for?”

Are lawyers that learn to bring in their own business more likely to leave the firm?

Before I answer that question, lets look at the two options:

Option A: Lawyer learns to blog, and begins to build his own business and may consider leaving the firm.

Option B: Lawyer doesn’t learn to blog, is incapable of bringing in business and stays.

Isn’t the idea to create a law firm full of Option A partners, and then make it worth their while to stay at the firm? If firms live in fear of creating growth opportunities for their lawyers, then they aren’t creating a very positive work environment. Additionally, if lawyers don’t feel like they can learn and grow in your firm, they may just leave anyway.

Now there is a counterpoint — most large law firms want to build the firm’s reputation, not the individual lawyer’s reputation. They want to be known for their “deep bench” not just for a handful of superstars. That makes some sense, but it is a much tougher sell from a branding perspective. Compare your firm to a basketball team: Which pitch will sell more tickets?

Option A: “Come see Lebron James play tonight, the best basketball player since Michael Jordan”

Option B: “Come see the Generals play tonight, all of our starters and all of our bench players are better than the average NBA player.”

It isn’t all about the stars, but icons within law firms can be very persuasive in bringing in new business. Clients don’t want a lawyer with ERISA experience, they want THE expert on ERISA. They don’t want a real estate lawyer that has worked on every type of commercial transaction, they want the lawyer that has specialized in what they are specifically looking for. Having more stars at your firm doesn’t dilute the firm’s brand and message, it amplifies it. When a firm has a number of lawyers that are seen as the very best, it creates a sense that every lawyer at the firm has a similarly impressive background. LeBron-James-King-Wallpaper-1024x640

Do blogging lawyers leave law firms? Sometimes, but lawyers that never learn to blog may stick around forever without ever reaching their potential. Don’t be afraid of creating stars, instead find a way to put them in the right place at the right time with the tools to be their very best, and your firm will reap the rewards.

5 Key Questions Lawyers Should Answer Each Year

Let’s face it, lawyers aren’t like other business people. There is a very simple reason for this, most business people are in business because they either like business or have an aptitude for business. Lawyers are different, they are lawyers because they attended law school and are very good at a certain type of thinking and problem solving. Lawyers aren’t bad at business, but on average they aren’t business people at heart. So how do law firms motivate the lawyer to think like business people?business-plan-in-trash

One option is to have the lawyers create business plans, but in my opinion this is generally ineffective. They create a 2-3 page plan, and then don’t look at it again until the next year. In normal businesses in the real world, the business plan is everything. All decisions are made based on what the plan and strategy indicate. Many lawyers like to think that they live in a different world, where the same business realities don’t quite apply to them. They don’t have the luxury of thinking about plans and strategy, they are too busy working for clients and stretching to hit their billable hours for the month.

Having no plan or a plan that is rarely looked at, aren’t good options, so how do we change this mindset? This past week I came back with a lot of great ideas from the Legal Sales and Service Organization’s (LSSO) Raindance Conference in Chicago. But I think the best idea came from Beth Cuzzone, the Director of Business Development at Goulston & Storrs who shared with me something they do at her firm. For the Partners they create a one page Contribution Plan. This plan asks the lawyers five simple questions regarding the contribution they are expected to make to the firm. Here they are:

1. What measurable goals have you set for yourself?

2. What are the search terms for your practice? (Or how would potential clients search for you using a Google search)

3. Who are your top three clients?

4. Who are your top prospects?

5. Who are your top referral sources?

Bonus: other ways you contribute

This is a great approach for lawyers because it frames the business plan in a different light. The contribution plan recognizes that the lawyers aren’t expect to run their own business, but they are expected to contribute as partners, and that contribution must be more substantial than billable hours. Your contribution above and beyond billable hours doesn’t have to be rainmaking, but it has to be something measurable and substantial.

Some legal marketers try to change the lawyers, but you can’t change lawyers into business people anymore than you can turn a dog into a cat. Lawyers are experts at a certain type of thinking, they sometimes just need help focusing that brain power in the right direction. These five questions provide a simple and accessible way for lawyers to adopt more of a business mindset, while maintaining their unique status as lawyers.

 

Keanu Reeves and the Truth About Sensational Headlines

This past weekend I started a discussion online that became my most commented on discussion of all time. I received 83 total comments. Was it Bill_&_Tedbecause I made some brilliant observation? Perhaps I asked the key question that lawyers everywhere were dying to know that answer to? No, it wasn’t any of that. It was more sensational, but far less relevant. In my red-eye flight back from Los Angeles to New York City I sat in front of Keanu Reeves. You may have remembered him from such movies as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and I think he was in The Matrix. (And approximately infinity other movies.)

The point is this, sensational headlines just like my celebrity spotting can grab attention, they get people to click on articles, but they don’t really serve much of a purpose beyond that. If you are a brilliant litigator for example, you can write an article with Justin Bieber in the title that will get hundreds, maybe even thousands of clicks and even generate some comments, but how do those views advance your reputation as a litigator? Will they even be viewed by any potential clients? It is highly unlikely. In the world of content marketing, sensational headlines are referred to as “link bait.” These headlines get you to click and view because hey, I’m curious about “10 ways to use Duct Tape to make money,” or “5 child celebrities that turned out to live completely unremarkable lives.” But lawyers need to do more.

As we continue the discussion, I want to add that headlines do matter. The headline is almost more important than that body of the article, because if the headline doesn’t get people to read, then the article will not succeed. But here are a few guidelines for creating excellent headlines:

1. Keep it short.

Twitter only allows tweets to be 140 characters long, yet our attention span for headlines is even shorter. No more than six or seven words is ideal. My headline is eight words long, but I can cheat because I’m writing the article.

2. Include urgency or a call to action in your headline.

Don’t you hate those newscasters that announce the upcoming news, “Tonight at 9, learn why your drinking might kill you.” Seriously? I have poisonous drinking water, and you are going to make me wait until 9 to find out why? News is the worst at this, making everything overly urgent. If you are sharing news with people that is time sensitive, you should let them know. It makes for a compelling headline and once they actually read the article they will understand why you had the need to make it urgent.

3. People love list.

“Top 5 reasons your drinking water may be killing you.” Just kidding, your water is just fine. Or is it?

People love lists because they know exactly what they are going to get. Before your intended audience takes the time to click on any article you write, they are going to ask themselves, “what am I going to get out of reading this article?” Putting things into list format may be overdone online, but it is still very effective, especially if you deliver great content and information through your list.

Now back to sensational headlines. What if you are a trusts and estate attorney, should you write an article with an angle about Donald Sterling’s family trust and the Clippers. The answer is actually yes, because this news is relevant to your practice! Will all the traffic be relevant and come from potential clients? Absolutely not, but some of the traffic may be relevant. What if your are an environmental lawyer, can you include Donald Sterling’s name in a headline that says, “Donald Sterling May Be Toxic to the Clippers, But How Can Brownfield Redevelopment Help You Clean Up Toxic Waste From Your City?” Absolutely not. You are grasping for straws.

Use sensational headlines only when the sensation is directly relevant to your expertise.

I know what you are thinking, but wait Adrian, you just used a celebrity siting to create a sensational headline, didn’t you violate your own rule? Well, I actually get an exception because my article is actually about sensational headlines. Anyway, for those that were wondering, I did get a picture of Mr. Reeves, but I had to real subtly take a selfie with him in the background.

In the words of Bill S. Preston from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Write excellent headlines, not just sensational ones (he might not have actually said that.)

Mr Reeves

Adrian Dayton with Mr Reeves