Author Archive

A few thoughts on turning 50

As I prepare to turn 50 (yeah, 50) this weekend, I can’t help but reflect. Who wouldn’t.

I’m thinking back to the panic I felt when I was turning 24 (yeah, 24). It was going to be non-stop from that day forward to 25, and 25 was a quarter of a century, and halfway to 50.

And here I am. 50.

I am in a great place. I thought I’d be panicked, and I have had my moments throughout the year, but I’m good. I might go so far as to say, “50 is looking pretty sweet.”

Reflecting, my 20s were all about trying to figure out my path; what did I want to be when I grew up? I was a kid trying to be an adult. I wore the right shoes and the right clothes. I wore my hair up and made sure the outsides looked the part of the role I was playing (administrative assistant, grassroots organizer, lobbyist). What I didn’t understand was why the adults (those over 40) still thought of me as a kid.

My 30s were all about trying to fill the adult shoes around me — wife, mother, event planner, legal marketer. I was “in my 30s,” respect me. And the people around me were starting to. However, my insides were still so insecure. The clothes fit, but they were not comfortable. Impostor syndrome was in full force.

My 40s were where I found my true and authentic self. I shed the layers that no longer had meaning, no longer fit, no longer felt comfortable. The death of my college boyfriend really propelled me forward. Life was too short, and it was starting to speed up. If this is all there was, it wasn’t enough, and the only way it was going to change was by me changing it.

And here I am, less than a week away from 50.

My life is not perfect, but my insides are at peace. The impostor syndrome that was still lurking around until a few years ago has completely left me. I feel 100% at peace in my skin, and in my life. I no longer “think” something is true, I “know” it to be true. I also know how to know something without being arrogant or smug about it.

I was looking for a graphic for this post and everything I found about turning 50 is about trying to feel and look like you did in your 20s or 30s, or a joke about getting old.

I don’t want to feel like I did in my 20s or 30s, and I am fine with how I look. And turning 50 to me is not about the jokes of getting old (although my dad, I’m sure, did get me a subscription to AARP), but about the reflection of where I am, how I got here, what I can share and pass along, and where I get to go today.

If nothing else, my experience has taught me that I am just one part of a greater whole. How I experience that today is different, not better, than it was in my 20s, 30s, and 40s.

So here I am.

You want to interview with me? Here’s my best advice.

Time is certainly flying over at the new firm. Busy meeting people. Busy getting things done. Busy looking for a new legal marketing manager (e-mail/pm me for the job description).

If you are interested in the position, or are reading this because you are trying to learn more about me for our interview, let me share with you some advice.

One of my philosophies that I have borrowed along my legal marketing career is that what we do is all about getting to know, like and trust one another. Without these three things, true relationships cannot be formed, built, nor sustained.

KNOW

If you are interviewing with me, know that I have already Googled you. If you do not know what your Google results look like, you better figure it out fast and ask yourself: “Is this how I want to be known?”

What does your open Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram accounts say about you? Will I learn what I need to know about you, or, worse yet, will what I learn about you lead me to pass on even calling you in for an interview?

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Adam Levine, Lawyers and Legal Marketing: Are you a fan of your clients?

First off, I have been a wee bit busy these past two weeks. I said goodbye to Barger & Wolen and hello to Greenberg Glusker. My Girl Scout troop has sold more than 6,000 boxes of cookies, and we have five (yes, FIVE) booths this weekend. I attended the all-attorney retreat, which was awesome, except for being sick, which wasn’t.

So here I am. Almost two full weeks in and I’m finding my way with nearly 100 new attorneys, three floors, my team (both in-house and outside consultants), a new computer system, projects in motion, projects kicking off …

And then this story, Adam Levine Had The Best Reaction When A 10-Year-Old Superfan Had A Panic Attack Meeting Him, hit my Facebook feed earlier this week, and I can’t shake it. I still tear up when I read it.

If you have not read it, stop now and read it. I’ll wait.

It’s a sweet story, right? Adam Levine is a nice Jewish boy who didn’t go to law school, but I bet his grandma’s pretty darn proud of him this week.

But the story really made me wonder: Are you a fan of your fans? Are you a fan of your clients?

It reminded me of this story about Taylor Swift “stalking” her fans, and then going out shopping and surprising them with Christmas presents?

Sweet. Right?

If you still are not adding one plus one, I’ll do the legal marketing math for you:

  1. Appreciate your clients. Without them, you’re just a guy or gal with a fancy piece of paper in a frame.
  2. Be your client’s #1 fan. Learn about them. Stalk them (in a healthy and completely legal way). Respond to them.
  3. It’s the personal touch. Whether it’s laying down while your client is having a panic attack, or commenting on a blog post, sending flowers on someone’s first day on the job, or showing up at a family funeral. It’s those little, personal touches that reinforce the personal connection.

If this thing that we do — life — is about our personal connections, about knowing, liking and trusting one another, why, why, why do we STOP when we get off the elevator? Why do we take clients (and referral sources) for granted?

One thing I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (amongst a long list of things) about my new firm is their support of our attorneys being fans of their clients. It is something that they just do instinctively. And I get to work with that.

How cool is that?

Now it’s time to say goodbye

On September 4, 2007, I got off the elevator on the 47th floor of this ivory tower and set about creating a marketing and business development program for Barger & Wolen LLP as their first marketing director. It has been quite a journey. We survived a recession; changes to our clients’ industry; the advent of social media; the passing of the torch from one generation to the next; and a merger with an AmLaw 200 firm.

It’s been seven years, five months, 16 days, and in a couple hours I will leave behind my keycard and a lot of memories as I head to Century City and take the helm of the marketing operations for another firm (details on Monday).

Today is about reflecting on my experiences and what working for this firm has meant to me, and a few of the life and business lessons that I am taking with me.

When I first started out in legal marketing, the average tenure of a legal marketer was about 2.5 years, and my resume affirms that this was true for me as well.

A couple years ago, while serving on the Legal Marketing Association’s board of directors, we ran the numbers: Approximately 3/4 of LMA membership turns over every four years. With a membership of more than 3000, that’s a lot of people. Some stay in the industry, not renewing their memberships, but many more leave.

I have come to learn that it takes a certain type of personality to stay and work in-house as a senior legal marketer year in and year out. Most senior legal marketers jump out to consult at some point. More just jump out to other industries along the way.

Having been at my firm for almost 7.5 years I have a new perspective on the advantages afforded both the law firm and the legal marketer that comes with longevity in the role.

Deeper and personal relationships = honest conversations

I was speaking with a partner last week and he remarked that I spoke to him like his wife does. Smiling I replied we worked together longer than most marriages last.

My longevity at my firm has allowed me to build true and personal relationships with many of the lawyers that extend beyond nine to five and Facebook. I have the ability to walk into a partner’s office and tell him or her the truth, or ask the difficult questions, sometimes in a not too subtle way.

Deeper and personal relationships allow us to speak candidly with one another. While we might not always agree, we are honest with one another.

Culture changes take time

In Leading Change, the author suggests that it takes three to 10 years to shift culture. Without longevity in a position the legal marketer will either never affect a culture change, or will never see the fruits of their labor. For me, seeing those changes has been the most rewarding aspect of my job and tenure at the firm.

I often tell the story of a senior partner who raised his voice at me during my first few weeks at the firm. He had no interest in this “marketing mumbo-jumbo” and didn’t understand why we had to do it. Fast forward seven years and our conversation turned to how I had to “come along” in the merger because of my importance and value to him, his practice, and the firm.

I could have missed it all.

A true team allows you to get things done

In law firms the lawyer default in regards to business development always circles back to “cross-selling.” Truth be told, cross-selling rarely works. Why? Because there is no team. You cannot throw a group of people in a room and expect them to give away something they have in hopes of getting something that really isn’t guaranteed from someone they do not really know, perhaps they do not like, and who they definitely do not trust.

It’s the same with the administrative departments. We compete against one another for resources (time, money, people). But for a well-run firm, you need these departments to work collaboratively to create a functioning business, and time affords you the opportunity to develop these teams, and there is nothing like a challenge to bring everyone together.

I don’t know any firm that over the course of 7.5 years did not have a challenge or 10 to over come. Revenues down. Recession. Boom times in the wrong area. Scandals. Partner departures. Layoffs. Market crashes. Office moves. A merger. All of these provide opportunity for the administrative leaders to band together and solidify themselves as a team working on common goals.

Opportunities abound

Last year my firm supported my participation in the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute. It was a lot of time out of the office: five trips to Chicago over the course of six months. Prior to that the firm supported my leadership role on LMA’s board of directors, with four in-person board meetings per year and lots of office hours devoted to my projects.

My eye has now turned towards George Washington University’s Masters in Law Firm Management program. It’s going to be impossible to convince a group of strangers that they should welcome and support sending me away for what constitutes a couple weeks of additional paid time off to do something that may or may not provide a direct benefit to the firm.

For me to do this I will need the support of my new firm. But I have to earn the that support, and that will take time. I won’t make it there for 2016, but I’ll get there.

It’s a truly bittersweet day today. I have packed up my boxes, cleaned out my paper and digital files, tranfered my documents from the older Barger & Wolen server to the new firm’s system, and transitioned my active projects amongst the team back east.

One thing I do know is that my shoes will be filled, and that’s a good and healthy thing. They might not be filled by someone who appreciates Stuart Weitzman as much as I do, or by someone who sees things the way that I see them, but that person will bring their own personality, traits, ideas, and energy to the team here.

And that is perhaps the last things I have learned through staying in my position as long as I have:

Sometimes it’s the right time to go

Marketing is a creative position. You have to grow as a legal marketer, or you will be of no benefit to your firm or your attorneys. But sometimes you have moved the ball as far as you can and it’s going to take someone else to pick it up and take the lead. Stay too long and you become a liability.

I leave here today having done the best job that I could every day for seven years, five months, and 16 days.

Why supporting LMA education is about the firm, not the legal marketer

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While working at a certain AmLaw 50 firm I submitted to attend the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference. It was denied.

In speaking with the firm’s managing partner I asked her a few simple questions:

  1. So I’m as good as you need me to be?
  2. I know everything I need do know to do my job not only today, but tomorrow?
  3. You don’t need me to grow past where I am today?

There was an uncomfortable amount of silence, followed by her reply: “Have a great time at the conference.”

Since that conversation, yes, I have left that firm. There was also a tumultuous recession. Blogs were introduced, followed by social media. Firms started to focus on pricing, because clients insisted upon it. Project management is taking root. A generational shift in leadership has begun. The profession of law grew up and became a business

If I do not learn, I do not grow, and I become a liability to my firm, not an asset.

Yes. I will leave a firm at some point. But hopefully I will leave the firm in a different place, headed down a different path, because of the things I have learned at LMA and introduced to the marketing team, the attorneys, and the firm.

Yes, I admit, my attendance at the LMA conference is like a family and high school reunion wrapped in one.

It is also the place where I pick up new tools; meet new people who become colleagues I call upon in the future; am introduced to new products; and find inspiration.

All of these things allow me to do my job better. I always come back from LMA ready to try something new. I have fresh ideas and a new perspective.

Of all the conferences I can attend, I choose to be at LMA. I was on the board when we selected this location. I blocked my calendar off rights then and there. I don’t miss it. I have even had LMA written into my employment agreements. That is how important LMA and the annual conference are to me.

I am just really turning my eye to the conference agenda, but the content is exciting, touches on all the vertices of what I need to do, and is located in my college town (no, I did not go to the “party school” … I went to the “smart school” on the bluffs in La Jolla — inside joke for San Diegan college students), so I get to hang out with my college roommate and introduce her to my LMA peeps … hopefully she won’t tell too many stories.

I plan to arrive in San Diego bright and early Sunday morning. There may or may not be plans to hit my favorite Mexican restaurant/bar in La Jolla, so make sure we connect on Twitter @heather_morse before heading down.

The Grammys, lawyers and legal marketing: Stay true to your brand

I don’t know what it is with my brain, legal marketing, and pop culture, but while watching the Grammys last night I couldn’t help but find lessons and similarities between the Grammys, lawyers and legal marketing.

What I saw last night was a living, breathing lesson on how to successfully (and not so successfully) evolve an older brand — in this case Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Annie Lennox.

Let’s do it.

#GrammyDon’t

Oh, Madonna. I love you. I prounced around my living room in the ’80s singing along as I shreaded my clothes and wore too many belts at once. But I grew up, and it’s time you did as well. But last night. Wow. Your original fan-base was just embarassed by your get-up, and your attempts to dance like you were still 24. Time to grow up … we sure have.

#LMAMKT Lesson: I am watching the AmLaw 100-200 start to shift their leadership from the older boomers (and the generation before them), to a younger one. These 50, 75, 100+ year-old brands need to carefully evolve themselves. You need to follow your client base’s lead. Some brands alienate their current client base to appease a new and hipper “it” crowd (Brobeck); while others have gracefully evolved without stunts (Skadden) finding relevenace with each new generation.

#GrammyDon’t

When you are known as one of the greatest musicians of all time — a f***ing Beatle, for God’s sake — you don’t play back up guitar and singer to anyone. You don’t align yourself with the flavor of the day to try and find relevance.  It falls flat and the new crowd wonders who the hell you are.

#LMAMKT Lesson: You are your brand. Don’t dilute it or water it down. Why are you lowering your rates? Why are you taking on lesser-valued work? Why are you entering markets where you have no reason or business case to be there? Why are you opening offices in cool, hip areas when your brand is boring and white shoed?

Don’t become the Michael Kors of legal. Don’t become your grandpa trying to be something he isn’t. And just because it worked for Skadden, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Skadden is being true to THEIR brand, and that’s why their evolution works.

#GrammyDo

Oh, Annie. Not only did you smack Ryan Seacrest down with your shade on 50 Shades of Grey, you were the epitome of style and grace on the Red Carpet, and your duet with Hozier was perfection. It was your night to shine last night and you did so by remaining 100% true to who you are and your brand: An accomplished and intellegent woman, and musician.

Last night you not only introduced yourself to a younger generation — who are now excited to learn more about you, your music, and your brand — you did so without alienating your original fan base. You made this GenExer proud.

So what’s the final takeaway?

You cannot slap a cool logo on an old brand and expect a younger generation to fawn over it. The authenticity needs to be there. Annie succeeded where Madonna and Sir Paul failed as she held true to who she was at all times. Her evolution was not awkward or forced, but a progression that made sense and was welcomed by all.

What lawyers and legal marketers can learn from Pete Carroll’s call

If you were watching the game on Sunday those last two minutes were excrutiating. And then that last call. OMG. What was Pete Carroll thinking with that last call?

And then I read this piece today, Requiem For a Gambler: Why Pete Carroll Wasn’t Wrong, by Rob Pait, and I got it. Pete made the right call, and we can all learn from it.

The play was a gamble. Carroll admitted as much after the game. He thought the Patriots would be ready for a running play, and took a chance on a passing play. He took full accountability. Naturally, Pete’s being roasted on the Internet by Seahawks fans, who are using “idiot”, “brainless”, and “he should walk up to a cliff and keep walking” in their post-game commentary.

Here’s the thing. Like most of us in our business pursuits, he didn’t make the wrong call.

In order to get into the Super Bowl, Pete’s team needed to execute on one risky play after another to come from behind and beat the Green Bay Packers. He was hailed as a motivational genius. At the end of the first half of Sunday’s game, he took a risk by passing for a touchdown instead of settling for a sure-thing field goal. Chat boards were praising Pete as a master tactician.

Pete did what Pete does. He took calculated risks, and most of the time those risks work. A highly-visible risk didn’t, and now he’s an idiot.

If the play had worked, Pete would have been a genius. But it didn’t. This time. But it has been all season. Where would the Seahawks been this season without Pete taking risks? Without a culture of trying different things? Without a good leader, and a good support system for that leader?

Isn’t that what we should be emulating and celebrating?

Those of us in the legal industry work in a very risk-adverse culture. However, we do need to take risks. Those risks might not take place on the one yard line, and won’t result in being hailed as world champions with the ring to prove it, but we still take risks and step outside our comfort zone. Most of the time those risks do work out; however, sometimes they don’t. Rather than run back to our offices and swearing off said activity forever, or firing the messenger, perhaps a moment to gain perspective is really the next indicated step:

  1. What went right?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What can be done differently next time?
  4. What lessons were learned?

Within our business environments and law firms we need to learn “how to support appropriate risk without punishing the occasional loss” otherwise we will create “an environment that kills innovation and cedes markets to more nimble, forward-thinking competitors.” And isn’t that what leadership is all about?

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