What’s it like to fill Jonathan Fitzgarrald’s shoes? Lessons from my first 90 days.

Shoes

Jonathan Fitzgarrald and me headed to Phoenix LMA

I get asked this question a lot these days, “What’s it like to fill Jonathan Fitzgarrald’s shoes?”

I just reply back honestly, “I don’t know. I brought my own.”

“Filling the shoes,” so to speak, of another person is challenging. Filling the shoes of half your dog & pony show can be daunting.

Like myself prior to joining this firm, Jonathan was in his position for nearly eight years. He had seen through a culture change and shift. He saw through the passing of the baton from one generation of law firm leaders to the next. He was witness as the old guard of rainmakers retired, and the new guard took root. The firm Jonathan left is much different than the firm he joined.

And I am now having my own unique experience. I will get to witness the firm I joined on February 23, 2015, evolve into something different. I will hopefully have the ability to influence and help shape things where I can. But that’s not what this blog post is about.

So what is this post about? I suppose my first 90 days (yes, it’s been 90 days), the things that I have noticed, and things that I would share with anyone walking into a new position. Continue reading

Do you have what it takes?

Photo credit: Gina Rubel. #LMA15

In my spiritual community we talk about doing things “for fun and for free.” Apparently, doing for others brings back more reward than doing for yourself.

The same is true in my professional association, The Legal Marketing Association.

My first boss in legal marketing, Frank Moon, saw something in my non-profit, political, and event management experience that he thought would lateral in well to legal. And it has.

He also threw me head first into LMA’s local chapter here in Los Angeles. I could plan a better event. I could bring better ideas to the table. And so my LMA “career” began, somewhere in 1997.

Fast forward almost two decades, and I have done a couple tours of duty on my local board, served as my local chapter president, joined a national committee to get to know Merry Neitlich better, and became good friends with John Byrne as we worked on a Membership Dues Restructuring task-force together (where our recommendations were adopted … 10 years later, lol).

At some point, Diane Hamlin encouraged me to run for the national board, but I didn’t make it (this was back when we had contested elections).  Nathalie Daum told me not to be discouraged and invited me to participate on a national committee and try again the next year. I did and I made it. I also made great friends with Jayne Navarre, and met all these LMA luminaries, who turned out to be legal marketers just like me. Continue reading

I’m changing my tune on surveys

It’s no secret that I (along with most legal marketing professionals) have never been a fan of surveys, and have always done the minimal I need to do, push off the rest, and ignore even more of the survey requests, and subsequent requests to purchase an ad or a plaque.

Somewhere at LMA’s annual conference last week I heard someone say something that changed my mind, attitude, and thought on strategy surrounding these surveys:

It’s the only time I am recognized.

– anonymous lawyer

Sure, attorneys get paid well. Extremely well. But, when you think about it, lawyers really aren’t thanked too often. And that is what they personally get from these accolades. Recognition.

It turns out that getting a “head’s up” from Chambers, a “that-a-boy/girl” from Best or Super Lawyers, or a “you deserve it” from ALM is appreciated.

The attorneys in my firm are my clients. As their strategic partner in all things business development, marketing, and visibility, I have to take into account what motivates them when I am making strategic decisions; visceral reactions won’t cut it.

As legal marketers we are all so focused on the bottom line as a measurement, that sometimes we can lose sight of some of those softer measurements.

Attorneys know (or should know) that these surveys and awards will not bring in a new client. Legal marketers absolutely know that being ranked will not add anything to the bottom line, and will most likely cause chaos and disruption in a department around the deadlines.

But I am changing my tune here. Rather than do the bare minimal, I will set up a strategic plan with each practice group on which surveys we will participate in the following year. We will calendar, plan, and partner together to complete these. We might even buy some ads around the more industry-specific and prestigious awards.

This isn’t an all-out surrender to the lists and surveys, but an openness to see where they do provide value, and sometimes that value is soft.

UPDATE: The mystery storyteller was Cheryl Bame.

My father became a solo practitioner 50 years ago. I asked him what had changed in the years since he became a lawyer and why now so many lawyers want to get on the rankings/awards lists. He said lawyers are in a thankless job and do not get many accolades for their work, so the awards give them that recognition.

The spirit and energy that connects us all

Photo credit Debbie Marcinkowski

Vic in Serta. Photo credit Debbie Marcinkowski

My morning meditation was overtaken today by thoughts of my friend Vic Anderson. Vic has been very ill for a while, but the end is near and I do believe that his energy is increasing as he prepares to say goodbye. And while I am not “that” kind of crunchy, granola kind of gal, I do believe that we are all connected by an energy, and that energy is overwhelming me today.

What I am also very sensitive to are the other pockets of energy where I am connected to others.

Over on the #LMA15 threads I am a member of I am seeing that same spirit and energy connecting us in conversations and experiences. The chatter, which is just an indication of our attachment to one another, continues.

A part of me wanted to exit those threads this morning. I initially saw them as an interruption, as noise, when it was really energy. In the true spirit of Vic, who would never kill a fly, and was known to release crickets into neighborhoods, who am I to remove myself from a circle of energy?

My dear friend Nanea Reeves, wife to Vic, wrote a poignant post this morning, Work/Life Balance and What That Means When Things Fall Apart. I’ve known Nanea and Vic since Nanea was a struggling actress and artist, and Vic was the big cheese on the movie sets in charge of transportation.

I was there when they bought their home that they are now remodeling. And Nanea lead the revolt of my bridesmaids when I chose a blue velvet dress for them to wear, and Nanea was having none of it.

Nanea is now a tech exec, and Vic formed a charity to change the world one kitchen, orphanage, and school at a time.

For the past month or two there have been chants around the world for Vic. When you are in the middle of an energy like that, and truly present, it is impossible to not see how the universe brings us together.

A partner just stopped me in the hall and mentioned I looked sad. I explained that my friend is going to die very soon. He offered to tell me a joke, so we walked into his office. The joke did not lift my spirits, but the furniture and art did. They were all Chinese, which ties back to Vic’s love and passion for Tibet.

Today, there are no coincidences.

Please join me, and just take a moment to offer Vic up in light and love; and enter this circle of energy with us.

LMA – Let the Conference Begin in 1-3-5

us at LMAYes, I’ve been in San Diego since Saturday for the “pre-prom” get togethers. In LMA I have met some of my dearest friends, mentors, colleagues, bosses, inspirations. LMA has allowed me to grow and develop my craft, while maintaining my sanity.

I know the Twitter hashtag (@LMA15) has been blowing up for days, the pictures in the LME Facebook groups are flowing, but the conference actually just kicked off with a great timeline video (Happy 30th Conference Anniversary, LMA).

Dan Pink is our keynote. Were going to learn a 1-3-5 … so let us begin: Continue reading

What happened to pride in service? Can it be found in a law firm?

Many years ago I was vacationing on Dominica and stayed at a hotel that was built out of the original fort. Think Pirates of the Caribbean meets Black Sails.

The dining room was not always clean. The white table clothes were slightly stained with wine spills from the prior diners. However, the service was impeccable. The pride and care the staff took in the most mundane activity of pouring a glass of water is so memorable that almost two decades later I could easily write 500 words to describe it. I hadn’t realized it at time, but noticed it that day, but service in restaurants in the States had really gone downhill since the days of Chasen’s and Scandia.

The art of service — the pride in service — is so rare that when you experience it, you realize how lacking it is around you; whether in a restaurant, behind the meat counter at the supermarket, at Starbucks, or at work.

Which brings me to this week.

I bade farewell to one of my assistants this week, Kaye Heller. I knew and worked with Kaye for a whole month and a week, yet I know one thing for certain: Her attention to detail and pride in her work will be missed at the firm, within my department, and by me.

Whether ordering a lunch service, processing a sponsorship request, or circulating an e-mail touting the firm in the news for the week, nothing was done by Kaye without purpose and care, along with pride and attention to detail.

How rare is this today?

I am the first to admit that my care to detail, while great, is not perfect. I have been known to “phone it in” when I could have dropped everything and given it my all. And, yes, sometimes good enough is good enough for me. In fact, I have been known to have typos in my blog posts; and I’m okay with that.

Not so with Kaye, and the Kayes of the world out there. To these rare souls, I salute you. And to all of us who are service providers, we need to take stock and inventory of our personal service standards and shake off that cloak of complacency. Don’t our clients deserve that?

We talk about client service standards, but how often are they designed around us rather than the client?

A client this week sent one of our partners a birthday cake. I had to take a peek at what the cake looked like. Was it phoned in from Costco? Expensive and fancy from one of the top L.A. bakeries? What caught my attention were the personal details that only the client (not the personal assistant) would know. No Happy Birthday was necessary. The cake reflected the passions of the partner.

In a presentation we did together last year, Dave Bruns talked about the client relationship cycle (which I have completely stolen, by the way). When properly moved along, a client not only becomes loyal, but becomes an advocate of the service provider (works both for lawyers and legal marketers), referring them business.

I’m beginning to see that there is a higher level as well.

At a certain point, the client becomes a true fan of the service provider. The client will go just as far for the service provider as the service provider goes for them. The relationship becomes balanced in this way. A true partnership. I’m sure I’ll find a nice and memorable term for this level of client/service provider symbiotic relationship, so if you have any ideas, post them in the comments and I’ll give you credit in the footnotes of my slides if I use it.

In the meantime, Kaye, we will miss you. We’ll stumble. We’ll be fine. And thank you.

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?

LIKE Continue reading

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.