This is the second of two posts on associate marketing early in their career.  As I mentioned last time, I’ve addressed the topic in 2014; and friend and colleague Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has recently completed his treatise entitled The Ultimate Law Firm Associate’s Marketing Checklist.

In this post, I’ll speak to some of Fishman’s marketing ideas for years two through five and beyond. [Again, a caveat:  in many BigLaw firms not only are young lawyers not encouraged to learn about marketing; but discouraged from doing so, because it would interfere with meeting billable hour requirements.]  So, my posts are for the rest of you attorneys.  Many of the activities covered you should continue throughout your career.  They are not just year-specific.

Second Year

  • Continue working on becoming a “great lawyer” (never stop this);
  • Add names to your mailing lists and increase connections on LinkedIn and Facebook (classmates, new contacts, clients and bar association lawyers you meet);
  • Focus on LinkedIn professional groups in your practice area; and
  • Read bar and trade publications/blogs to increase technical skills.

Third Year

  • Increase activity in bar and trade associations that could be the source of new work;
  • Become more proactive within your network;
  • Master one or more “elevator speeches” for different audiences;
  • Find a marketing mentor within or outside the firm;
  • Attend training opportunities by firm’s marketing and business development staff; and
  • Consistently update your bio and LinkedIn profile.

Fourth/Fifth Year and Beyond

  • Be more active and seek leadership positions in bar, civic and trade organizations (where permissible);
  • Latch on early to a young rainmaker within the firm;
  • Learn more about the business and industry of clients you do work for;
  • Keep an up-to-date list of your cases/transactions;
  • Look to write and speak on topics relating to your growing expertise (and look for other opportunities to re-use an article as a speech, and vice a versa);
  • Build up your network with other professionals who can refer clients;
  • Reduce bar activities (as a marketing tool), if other lawyers are not a source of referrals;
  • Seek assistance regularly for the firm’s marketing professionals; and
  • Visit your client contacts often (off-the-clock).

“Remember that providing highest-quality technical skills and extremely responsive client service (emphasis mine) are essential elements of your firm’s marketing to its existing clients,” according to Fishman.  I couldn’t agree more, and with many other things he says in his book.  You should get a copy, if your marketing department hasn’t purchased copies it yet.


P.S. No I do not receive a penny from the sale of the book, but maybe I ………… never mind.

In today’s competitive marketplace, and with the client scrutiny that impacts many firms, it is more critical than ever that all lawyers contribute to the growth of their law firms.

On the Managing Partner Forum this month, there is an article by Gail Crosley, CPA that was pretty darn good about pointing out the differences between drivers and passengers, and their respective contributions (or lack thereof) to the growth of their firms. Being an accountant, presumably she was talking about accounting firms; but the analogy is just as applicable to law firms.

She talks about how drivers:

  • exercise initiative;
  • assume a leadership role;
  • develop or expand a practice area; and
  • take the firm in a favorable direction;

In the legal world, I like to refer to drivers as rainmakers.  Those partners who contribute little in terms of marketing and business development are pretty much along for the ride; thus, simply passengers.  They rely on others to keep the work coming in, and expect it will always be that way.

In the New Normal, that approach is not viable or sustainable. Partners who rely on other partners to support their practice by giving them work will find it increasingly difficult for their partners to continue doing so.  Other more junior lawyers at lower rates will be given the work, if for no other reason that clients will/are refusing to pay the higher rates.

The result is not pretty.  The non-rainmakers will be de-equitized, paid less, or, as is often the case, asked to leave.  In the first month of this blog’s existence (January 2005), I wrote a post entitled “Rainmakers Don’t Get Fired!” It is no less true today, but in Crosley’s parlance, I should say that drivers won’t be left behind, but there will be less and less room for passengers.

It seems pretty straight forward then, that you should become a driver in your firm, if you are not already.

Oh my goodness!  How unfortunate.

You obviously must not be a very good lawyer.  Or just maybe you were smart enough to fend off the snake-oil-directory salesperson.  Sure, some unsophisticated clients may be impressed with your being in the “Best”, “Top”, “Prominent”, “Super”, etc. lawyer directory.  Most clients, particularly corporate clients, don’t care, period.  They want to know what you can do for them.

IMHO  these directories, particularly the “pay-to-play” ones, are worthless.  They are a waste of valuable marketing dollars. I could go on and on about why, but I won’t.

Reason: I couldn’t begin to put it as well as one of the brightest legal marketing consultants out there has put it.  Ross Fishman of Fishman Marketing has a post today on Attorney at Work entitled “Those Stupid Superlative Directories.”  Not only is it an entertaining piece, but spot on. It is a MUST read.

I simply can’t improve on it.


P.S. I got an email from a reporter today asking me to comment on what should be left out of RFPs. Take a WILD guess what one of my suggestions will be.


Having covered how crucial staff is to the practice of law numerous times several times over the last 10+ years on this blog, a refresher on some issues may be in order.

For example:

  • Receptionist. I have argued that the receptionist should be the highest paid marketing person, because of his or her being the initial face and voice of the firm often. He or she should be the best you can hire, which is why you need to pay them more;
  • Marketing staff. Beyond the official marketing staff, everyone employed by the law firm is marketing the law firm, one way or another – good or bad. How they treat not only clients, but people in general, how they act in public, how they dress, and so forth all project a brand; and
  • And everyone else, including accounting, HR, copy room, etc. for the same reasons. (click here for 21 posts on the importance of the receptionist, empowering your staff, their importance in the marketing effort, and other related topics.)

Beyond the obvious, the critical point to remember is that law firms wouldn’t exist without staff. They should be treated with upmost respect. If they are not appreciated, morale is low, turnover is high, and hiring and training new staff is expensive. Just ask your HR department or administrator, if you have any doubts.

When I was in-house marketer, I remember a lateral hire from a prominent New York law firm, who lasted two years.  His demise was in no small measure due to the way he treated staff, especially his shared secretary. His inflated ego and distain for the “peons” led to problems in getting things accomplished. His secretary was often “too busy” with her other lawyers to do his work. His work, apparently, became substandard due to missing deadlines. I expect the attitude toward his secretary and others wasn’t the main reason he was let go, but it hurt his cause. Another example involved a paralegal and “missing” pages from documents because of how the copy room staff was treated. Then, there was the legacy partner who couldn’t keep a secretary for more than a month or two. All either quit or obtained a new assignments.

It is shameful how ignorant some “educated” people really are. Such behavior is not unique to lawyers, of course, but that is beyond the scope here.

Jared Correia, assistant director and senior law practice advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program, had a post on Attorney at Work last week that reminds us how important support staff is to any law practice. Because, as he states, they :

  1. do the majority of the office’s work;
  2. are better with technology;
  3. are better with the business/financial aspects;
  4. often are more involved with client service; and
  5. particularly with newer lawyers, often “know more … about substantive law, and probably the practice of it, too.”

Bottom line: not only does staff play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of a law firm, but due to their interaction with clients and what that can mean in retaining and attracting clients, they deserve a great deal more respect than some receive.

Well, 2015 is almost here. Time to plan your business development strategies for the coming year. One simple one (albeit a feared one by some lawyers), involves seeking feedback from clients to ensure (or improve) the quality of legal services provided. No one needs to be reminded of how tough and competitive the legal marketplace has become.

Mary Taylor Lokensgard, a former practicing attorney, has an interesting post on Attorney at Work today. She delves into the realm of asking for feedback, her take on what it is and isn’t, how to get it, the reason you ask for it, who to ask, what to ask, and finally, how to ask. It is worth a read.

I have my own take on some of her thoughts on feedback, and as usual include them often in parentheses.

  • What it is, what it is. It isn’t a blaming or defensive effort, nor intended to merely gain praise. Lokensgard prefers to call it “corrective feedback.” (In my personal experience feedback has been more positive than negative, and particularly helpful if done by someone other than the responsible/billing attorney. It is better done by the managing partner, the firm’s marketing director, or an outside consultant). She also talks about neutral feedback, which I had not thought about previously and I like it because, as she puts it, it might spark “a new idea that never would have occurred to you if left to your own devices”; and
  • How to get feedback. Start by asking yourself what you want to improve, and who, when and how you should be asking. (I’m not sure that many lawyers would know what needs improvement until they ask the feedback questions, quite frankly. So let’s go directly to the who, when and how);
    • Who should be asked? Obviously that would be clients and former clients. I’ve gained valuable information from asking past law firm clients, more good than you would think. Lokensgard also suggests asking the clients’ non-lawyer staff (not without clearing it of course), and other outside people you may come into contact with in your practice. That may include courthouse personnel, and judges and jurors (not without their permission);
    • When to ask? During and after an engagement. Also, one could seek feedback (more accurately input) at the beginning of the matter which could elicit good information about how matter should be handled. (Here’s Telephone Interview Questions) I often ask); and
    • How should you ask? I have argued for some time the best feedback is obtained in-person, next by telephone interviews, and last, IMHO, in written form. If in written form, I’d like Lokensgard’s suggestion of making the questions VERY specific and detailed enough to obtain a yes or no answer. Clients are busy people too, and often the reason they don’t respond well to written surveys.

The important thing to remember regarding any feedback or client satisfaction program, is that if you don’t do it and there are problems (minor or otherwise), your clients may leave for another law firm in this most competitive market. And you may not even know it until it’s too late.

I’m serious! The world has changed. In my 27 years as a legal marketer and in-house in several firms, I have never seen the situation more serious in terms of lawyers being de-equitized or flat-out fired for not bringing in business.  Back in the nineties I was with law firms that quietly – very quietly – would advise partners to leave because they were not pulling their weight in terms of bringing in work.

That was the inspiration behind a post I did in the first month of this blog in January 2005.  My post “Rainmakers Don’t Get Fired” discussed a messy firing of a partner at then named Sidley Austin Brown & Wood.  As I pointed out then, I had not seen a rainmaker who developed significant business for themselves or other lawyers in a firm ever be let go.

And it is no different today. But, more and more lawyers will be let go in today’s tough, competitive legal world.  The reason is simple.  Clients are more demanding and less willing to pay whatever a firm wants to charge.  Accordingly, there is and will continue to be much smaller pies to share, and too many partners do not want to “sell” or don’t know how. In the the “good ole days” most lawyers didn’t have to market, because their plates were usually pretty full, especially in BigLaw firms.  So, not to worry.  Things will be fine.

With the definite move to outsourcing specific work to smaller or foreign firms, and to the use of high quality, mid-size regional firms, it is only going to get worse for the non-producers in any size firm.  It is time partners woke up to the need to develop business NOW!

Further, if your firm has a marketing department, don’t fool yourself into thinking that they will (or should) solve the problem.  Developing business (selling) is primarily up to the individual lawyer.  The marketing/business development staff is there to assist, guide and otherwise support the lawyers’ efforts.

Fellow legal marketing coach, Mike O’Horo had an interesting article last week about how lawyers avoid selling in favor of the latest marketing fad, which, of course, they hope means they won’t have to personally sell.

Well, folks.  That ain’t going to cut it.  More and more partners will get fired, if they do not get involved in serious business development efforts directly.  Planning to do it won’t work alone.  If you haven’t been developing business all along, you will need a coach to help you IMHO.  He/she could be an internal coach (if you are lucky enough to have one in-house) or an external one that you feel comfortable working with.  Because chances are you won’t pull it off by yourself.

Bottom line: time to start developing business or looking for a new job.

In today’s competitive legal world, it is more important than ever to be a GREAT lawyer. That has less to do with your law school credentials than you may think.  Of course clients want great results when it comes to their legal matter. Yes, your capabilities matter in that regard. And in the good old days that may have been enough. Not anymore.

In the new normal (and actually in the old normal for that matter) a great lawyer possesses certain characteristics that set her or him apart. And they actually play a bigger role in how “great” you are perceived by clients.

In a truly little (4” x 6″, 53 pages), but dynamite book published in 2006, those characteristics were spelled out by Jim Durham in what he titled “The Essential Little Book of Great Lawyering.” Coming across this book again, I thought it worth a revisit and recommend it to your reading.  The following is a brief summary of some of those GREAT characteristics:

  • Always be available to clients;
  • Know and understand each (at least key) client’s business;
  • Give practical advice (in a business context), don’t just do good legal work;
  • Add greater value to client’s business/situation;
  • Personalize relationships;
  • Deliver on promises (every time); and
  • Be loyal and seek meaningful feedback.

Good lawyers may have some of these traits.  Great lawyers exude them all. Oh yeah, they also do great legal work.

Lawyers know about networking, but most, except the real Rainmakers, don’t like it. It isn’t exactly like having a root canal to them, but they would rather be practicing law.  Nonetheless, the majority do recognize the need for it.

Roy Ginsburg has a post on Attorney at Work that talks about how networking is a numbers game and compares the undertaking to baseball.  His analogy to baseball is of course timely, as my beloved Red Sox just won the World Series (yes, I’m a real fan, who suffered all those many years growing up in the area).

Although Ginsburg is primarily focusing on networking for prospects, I prefer to concentrate on clients and referral sources, since they are the reason for 80-90% of legal work for lawyers (although the purpose is prospecting as well).  I like his four points:

  • Keep swinging.  Even with clients and referral sources, getting them to agree to a lunch or coffee sometimes is not easy, as they are busy people too.  I tell lawyers I coach to not give up easily.  Don’t take it personally, when they don’t immediately return your call or email about taking time out of their day.  Marketing is also a game of percentages;
  • Don’t get bogged down or in a slump. Eventually, you need to refocus your efforts, but not without giving it a major league effort (sorry, couldn’t resist).  I encourage the development of a quarterly contact list, and then reaching out in some manner (quick email, telephone call, and yes, even lunch) to each person on the list at least quarterly;
  • Network trade groups. Get actively involved in trade groups where your ideal clients hang out. That can be a certain bar association committee, if those lawyers are an important source of your referrals.  Like in baseball, it’s a game of contact….contact and more contact; and
  • Hang in there and be persistent.  No one said it would be easy.  From high school ball to the major leagues is not a walk in the park (I know, I need to stop this, but the analogy is valid).  It is hard work and takes time to become a legal major league player (rainmaker).

Hell, it took the Boston Red Sox 86 years to win another World Series.  And their hard work has paid off again!  Yours will too.

In response to the question “What do you do?”, saying that you are a tax lawyer, or employment lawyer or whatever is not a good reply.  More on that in a moment.

In the online ABA Journal: Law News Now this month, an article entitled “50 Simple Ways You Can Market Your Practice” by Stephanie Francis Ward provides some good tips that will help lawyers develop business. I really like many of them.  However, I take issue with one in particular.  I’m not being critical of the author, who is a journalist after all and not a legal marketer.  My guess is that she just got some bad advice somewhere.

My issue is with Tip “23.The best elevator speech? ‘Hi, I’m a lawyer.  What do you do?’” Although it appears to be a question, the tip comes across as a statement.  Or it is incomplete because it ends there.   IMHO that is the worst possible self-introduction a lawyer can make.  If the other person is not a lawyer, the conversation could very well come to a screeching halt.  Reasons vary, but might include: putting people off, some people simply don’t like lawyers (or maybe they’re jealous), feel less educated, or the statement simply comes across as arrogant, know-it-all or I’m smarter than the average bear, or whatever.  Sorry, but such an opening is just dumb.

Better to say something like, if for instance you are an employment lawyer representing companies, “I help employers avoid and resolve employee issues.” Which may lead to the obvious “How do you do that?”….and the discussion is underway, rather than shut down.

It is advisable to have more than one elevator speech, of course, depending on the circumstances and the audience.  But, it does take work and practice to develop an effective and meaningful one. Try them out on colleagues and friends.  It is best to delay disclosing your occupation until you’ve laid the groundwork as to how you help people with their problems.

How timely in this particular month that my old standby for marketing ideas would address the relationship between politics and marketing.  Larry Smith and Richard Levick in 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals state in today’s meditation:

“All marketing is even more local than politics. Marketing is one person at a time.”

We are in the personal service business, which means that we need to get just that – personal.
And that is done one person at a time.  Whether that is face-to-face or via social media, it is still one person at a time.  Surrogates can’t do it for you in the end.

This is more critical today.  If you aren’t sure about that, just read Jennifer Smith’s post on WSJ’s Law Blog entitled “Law Firm 3rd Quarter Checkup” from last week.  The state of the legal business is NOT good.  All the more reason to be undertaking more marketing and business development, and doing so by focusing on one person at a time.  Oh yeah, and since it is hunting season that means focusing with a rifle, rather than a shotgun.