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.

Super Bowl Commericals, Lawyers and Legal Marketing

Time for some Monday morning quarterbacking and dissecting of the game around the water cooler. For the Sports Dude, it will be about the game (and I will never live it down, but his prediction was 27-24 Patriots); for me, it’s about the commercials … and legal marketing.

Let’s just do it. Nationwide. What were you thinking???

Dead kids and the Super Bowl? Who thought that was a good combination?

In their defense/press release, well …

The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance. We want to build awareness of an issue that is near and dear to all of us—the safety and well being of our children.

And here’s where they failed: the viewing public did not want to have this conversation. It was thrust upon us. It didn’t feel right. After watching heart-warming, after heart-warming kids and dads and puppies we got sucked in … and slapped down.

It’s not that the viewers (up to 50% of American households had the game on) were not willing to have deep conversations. At my house we discussed the Like A Girl commercial, and repeated it so everyone could see it, especially all the girls.

We also discussed domestic violence and how powerful this message was:

We just didn’t expect, nor did we want, to discuss dead kids at a Super Bowl party where we were watching it with our kids.

So what does this have to do with lawyers and legal marketing? It has everything to do with it.

Lawyers have a message. It’s an important message. But that message needs to be presented at the right time and the right place; deliver it at the wrong time, and not only will it fall on deaf ears, you can completely ruin a relationship and tarnish your brand.

In coaching a lawyer for a meeting we walk through it all: location, who will be there, where are you in the sales cycle, what to say, what not to say, and what materials, if any, to bring, and the all important follow up.

Introduce a packet or pitch too early, and you will lose the ability to move that prospect to a client. Wait too long and you’ll never stop the random acts of lunch and baseball games.

Pitch the wrong person, and you’ll never get the work, wondering why your competitor always seems to win the new business over you.

Never pitch and you’ll never make partner.

And this is where a good rainmaker succeeds. For many it is instintive, but I will argue that it is just as easy to make this an intention. You just need the perpective. Pause. Get outside yourself. Place yourself into the shoes of your client. Speak with your legal marketer, or a successful rainmaker in your firm.

It’s not rocket science, but it is nuanced. Some attorneys get it instinctively, most do not. This isn’t taught in law school, or any where else. It’s about the human connection. And that’s why all those puppy and dad commercials work.

How to set up your marketing plan for 2015

I started this year off wiping down my white board and getting ready to plan my year.


So much white. So much potential. So many ideas.

I am not a huge fan of large and intense marketing plans; they usually just end up buried in some drawer somewhere, only to be pulled out at the end of the year to be revised for the next year. I prefer A Daily Resolution:

By setting daily resolutions and having daily goals, I am setting myself up for success. By doing this, day after day, I will achieve something wonderful over a span of time (could be one week or one year). The end results might not be exactly what others expect, or what I expected myself, however, the flexibility will allow me to alter my plans as to best accomplish what needs to get done today. Flexibility will allow me to adjust my sails to the changes in the economy, in technology, in my personal and professional relationships. By focusing on what can and must be accomplished today, I can set aside worrying about things that I have no power or control over (yet).

I’m not saying, implying or inferring in any way, shape or form that you should not have, nor should you abandon, long-term plans and goals. I am just saying, break those action steps into daily activities, actions and resolutions. Focus on what can and must be done today.

In other words, you do need a plan, but you don’t need a complicated one. What I do, and suggest to the masses, is to focus on three to five larger ideas (buckets) that you can rattle off the tip of your tongue. Under each bucket fall the specific tasks. Those become your daily resolutions.

So here’s my white board now.

IMG_9185Eventually all the white will disappear filled in with ideas, tasks, notes, and more. I continue to manage my tasks through Get it Done, and am spending time this week cleaning out all my emails (work, personal, Girl Scouts) to make sure I am good to go.

So Happy New Year to everyone. I look forward to a productive year, and look forward to the new experiences and good things to come.

You had me at “the billable hour is directly opposed to the best interest of the client …”

Mark this day down on your calendars, kids. We will one day look back on November 18, 2014, as the first day in the long anticipated end to the dreaded billable hour.

From today’s American Lawyer:

Law firms have been calling for the end of the billable hour for decades. And since the 2008 recession, they have increasingly offered cost-conscious clients alternative fee arrangements.

Now Jackson Lewis says it wants to take the next step in the evolutionary process of alternative fee arrangements by eliminating the billable hour as an evaluative tool for its 293 associates. As of Jan. 1, associates at the labor and employment firm will be assessed on efficiency, client service, responsiveness, team-orientation and pro-bono commitment in an effort to align the way Jackson Lewis “deliver[s] legal services with clients’ needs,” according to firm chair Vincent Cino. (The firm’s compensation model for partners is based on revenue rather than hours.)

“The billable hour is directly opposed to the best interest of the client and to the provider of service because by its very nature it adds an artificial barrier to the accomplishment of the only real objective, which is a quality legal product for a set and expected price,” Cino says.

Whether you agree or not that the “billable hour is directly opposed to the best interest of the client” you have had to wonder, at some point in your career, “Well, how did we get here?”

Continue reading

Can a law firm exist without clients? 49% of new partners surveyed think so.

I’m reading a new survey from ALM, New Partners Ambivalent About Rainmaking, Survey Finds, and am aghast at the naïveté of the respondents. Apparently, 49% of new partners surveyed don’t think that their ability to make rain is a deciding factor in their being promoted to partner (equity or non-equity).

Asked how important they think certain factors were in their promotion, 84.4 percent of respondents said they believe they were promoted according to their ability to perform first-class legal work, and 60 percent cited the strength of their commitment to the firm. (Respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer.) Just under half—49 percent—of new partners said that their ability to bring in new clients was an important factor in their promotion, although equity partners saw developing clients of their own as somewhat more important than nonequity partners did.

“Associates are not adequately aware that they effectively need their own book of business of approximately $750,000 to $1 million to be a partner at a large law firm,” one respondent wrote in the survey. “Even if an associate is promoted, they are destined to be unsuccessful as a partner without this size of a book.”

Wow. Without clients, you know the people who write big checks to the firm, there is no firm. Clients do not appear out of nothing. Those relationships have to be developed over time, years actually, then maintained and hopefully built. Institutional clients no longer exist. You cannot make partner and expect — poof! — originating credits miraculously appear.

And to the 84% who think the ability to do first-class legal work is what got you promoted, let me clue you in on something: The ability to do first-class work is stipulated; you would have been fired years before if you could not do so.

And while business development might not be the most comfortable of tasks for an individual, it is very important to a firm that their equity partners bring in new business. A law firm cannot exist on service partners alone (unless you hire a Pete).

Business development (sales) is not a talent many of us are born with, but it can be learned and developed over time for many (not all). But it first must be engrained into the culture of the firm. Too many firms do not support business development, but expect the results. There is no training or coaching to learn the skills necessary to accomplish the tasks. There are no rewards, in the form of hourly requirement credits, for business development. Too often the hurdles to get approval become insurmountable, and I haven’t even touched on the compensation system.

How timely that Dave Bruns and I will be presenting next week at the ALM West Coast Law Firm Marketing & Business Development Leadership Forum in San Francisco: The Total Package: Business Development Integration for Success. This is a topic that is near and dear to the business development teams across the country, and we hope to discuss what firms need to do to support the success of their business development programs.


M(erger) – Minus 22 Days: Can’t a girl catch a break around here?

I went to bed last night so confused. It felt like Wednesday, but, no, it was only Monday night. Something tells me this is going to be a long week. Not only do we have to integrate the two firms, but I have homework for my leadership class (assignment due tomorrow), and I found out last night that my Girl Scout neighborhood treasury job just doubled my work load.Yeah to being a volunteer.

Seriously. Can’t a girl catch a break around here? Oh, and it’s Babe Ruth Bobble-head night at Dodger Stadium. I really want to go, but it’s a school night. The Sports Dude will be working the game. It feels like I haven’t seen him awake in a week  … thank goodness the team hits the road for about 10 days starting tomorrow. We’re actually going to catch them at Wrigley Stadium next week. Go Blue!

So here we go. Twenty-two more days until the merger. What’s on tap today?

  • Yikes. Can’t believe it’s been that long since I updated that brochure. Well, nothing like merging to get you to update some of your older collateral pieces.
  • Homework assignment (write my eulogy) done.
  • Need to figure out how travel and expenses will work as of October 1.
  • Booking flights for my October travel.
  • Yoga. From the cramped muscles I have right now, I need more yoga, not less.
  • Where is Marty? I need him to sign off on his project.
  • Wonder what my new title is going to be?
  • Time to put the new tagline to bed and get the new collateral and business cards to print.
  • Need to integrate the two employment law blogs. Time to bring some more teams together.
  • Need to pull our diversity stats for the overall firm report. Luckily, I do have that … just need to update.
  • Met with my counterpart from the other firm on new materials for joint client visits. Need to get him our collateral on the group so we can create a new piece.

Tip: Before merging documents clean them up. Now’s the time to update the numbers, information, representative cases, etc. It’s also a great time to clean out your files. Dump the old and stale.

I’m hiring a law firm. Oy!

In my 20s I received a great piece of dating advice: Don’t answer the door on a first date wearing a wedding dress.

I would say similar advice applies to lawyers: Don’t show up for the first meeting with a potential client carrying a proposal and an engagement letter.

I am in the process of looking for a very specialized law firm to handle a very specialized matter for a specific type of business. I am the new president of my HOA, which is a stock corporation (coop), not a condominium. Our issues are different, as are the legal requirements set by the state, to be reflected in our governing documents.

I thought my email inquiry was clear: “Do you work with Stock Cooperative HOAs? We are looking for a firm to handle the updating and revising of all of our governing documents.

The reply back within hours from the administrative assistant included 1,818 words in the reply (that’s four full pages if you’re wondering), along with two attachments.

Wow. Holy boiler-plate.

I was looking for a yes or no answer and I got a whole crap load of copy-paste gunk, a 21-page proposal misidentifying our type of association as well as our governing documents, along with a 7-page fee agreement and engagement letter “signed” by one of the name partners. However, the did customize our association’s name on the cover of the proposal.

Sadly, my simple question was never really answered: Do you represent businesses like mine? The admin said yes, but their marketing materials don’t lead me to believe that is true.

If we were on a first date I would have been tempted to excuse myself to use the restroom and just keep on going out the back door.

Considering the admin didn’t even got my name right, my first inclination is to pass on the firm, even though they are considered one of the top in the field. That or send the admin an invitation to the next LMA-LA event so she can learn how to properly market her firm.

But I’ll speak with an attorney first before I pass on the firm. Bad legal marketing shouldn’t stand in the way of good legal work. Let’s face it, not everyone can be a legal marketer extraordinaire.

Session Recap: Generational Marketing (video)

Thanks to the folks at Spark Media Solutions for doing a great round of post-session interviews after our presentation, Generational Marketing: Strategies and tactics for engagement with Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials.They really picked up on the main themes of our session, and provides a great recap of our session.

Jonathan Fitzgarrald and I appreciate the feedback we received, and look forward to presenting next week in Orlando at the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference.

Mad Men and Law Firms: We Need a Pete

question markFor quite a while now I keep telling attorneys in my firm that we need a Pete.

For those of you who do not watch Mad Men, Pete Campbell is the head of accounts and a partner at Sterling, Cooper, Draper and the other guy.

His job is to go out, find the business, wine and dine (and throw in a whore house or two) the clients. He is not an ad man. He’s a BD (business development) guy. Client services professional.

And his role to the firm is key in their success:

  1. He finds the client.
  2. He is a bridge between the client and the creative team.
  3. He keeps the client happy and coming back for more.

Once Pete interests a client in the firm, he then introduces them to Don Draper, one of the agency’s partners and senior creative directors. Don then starts to get the potential client interested in the pizazz of what an advertising campaign run by him would look like.

Once they get the green light to prepare a formal pitch, Don then brings his team together. Peggy, the head copy writer, and on her way to becoming a partner, along with the media buyers, art directors, and junior copywriters. They then work together to pull the pitch together and present to the client.

We need a Pete

Advertising Agency – New Business Flow Chart

Nothing about this flow chart is unique. Accounting and other professional services businesses are run this way. They all have a Pete.

Law firms? For the most part, we don’t have a Pete. And our flow charts for new business doesn’t look like their process at all. Continue reading