Archive for the ‘ Public Relations, Advertising & Directories ’ Category

Controversial Clients and Social Media: Game Changer?

Photo credit: “The Controversial Topics of Wikipedia” on

An interesting headline caught my eye this week via Forbes: “Disgusting!,” Cry Legal Experts: Is This The Lowest A Top U.S. Law Firm Has Ever Stoop (ht Above the Law).

Quick history lesson: During WWII the Japanese (allegedly) kidnapped (mostly) Korean women and forced them to be “comfort women” (prostitutes).

The case in question involves a U.S. law firm taking on a controversial action surrounding this issue:

Would any self-respecting U.S. law firm represent a client who suggested the Jews deserved the Holocaust? Probably not. As a matter of honor, most law firms would run a mile, and even the least honorable would conclude that the damage to their reputation wasn’t worth it.

Where imperial Japan’s atrocities are concerned, however, at least one top U.S. law firm hasn’t been so choosy. In what is surely one of the most controversial civil suits ever filed in the United States, the Los Angeles office of Chicago-based Mayer Brown is trying to prove that the so-called comfort women – the sex slaves used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II – were no more than common prostitutes.

Not exactly the way I’d like a story on my firm, in Forbes, to begin.

So why am I writing this post?

Call it what you will — a game changer, jumping the shark, yellow journalism, link bait — but something has shifted in the land of corporate communications and management with the advancement of social media.

While law firms like to hold themselves out to be above the fray (we’re a “profession” after all), truth is, we bleed green just like any other business and are susceptible to outside influences.

Earlier this month, the co-founder and CEO of Mozilla was forced to resign due to a relatively small political contribution he personally made to a now unpopular California state proposition.

Prior to the contribution being revealed — several years after the fact — there was no indication that his contribution ever impacted the running of the business, or the management of the employees.

But his personal position is now incredibly unpopular and political forces used social media to put pressure on the company once the contribution was unburied, and he resigned.

Then I saw the Forbes headline this week. And read the comments. And started a discussion. And listened to the debate. And I have one question that cannot be answered … yet:

What does this mean for law firms that take on unpopular or controversial clients or causes?

Prior to social media, would the corporate clients of any AmLaw 100 firm know if their firm or attorney was representing (insert unpopular cause or person)? For those of us in legal marketing and PR we know how difficult it is to get the New York Times, or any publication other than from the legal industry, to include the name of your firm in a story.

Law firms were, for the most part, immune from the general public’s gaze.

Now, with a Google search, particularly through Google Scholar, you can easily identify the law firm and the lawyer involved in most every notorious case or cause.

A quick blog post, a few links on Twitter, perhaps a petition, perhaps a HuffPost cover, and game on.

We are seeing the pressure being placed on businesses, political causes, and whether or not a kid gets an experimental (and potentially life-saving) medical treatment.

Bubba Watson found out that the food police didn’t like his Waffle House visit after winning The Masters (guess he should have gone to Disney World). Luckily, enough people have enjoyed a late night feast at WH and the feigned controversy lost wind quickly. But not everyone gets off that easily.

I’m thinking about Sea World and Blackfish, and the inability to have a conversation or a debate on the issue. Sea World does have a paid ad — Truth About Blackfish — at the top of any search for Blackfish, but I’m not going there on social media or anywhere else.

Seriously. Right now, there is no other side to the debate. You are against Sea World. Period. I am ready to go through my Facebook photos and delete every picture I have of my family and Girl Scout troop at Sea World dating back eight years ago.

And forget making a political contribution. I’m done. Who knows what will come back to haunt me when?

I thought it was bad enough having worked for Handgun Control, Inc. in the ’90s. I actually updated my resume with the newer name, The Brady Campaign, to soften the controversy. But I assure you, in almost every job interview I have had it has come up in conversation, and not always in a positive way.

Why would any of us think that this type of social media pressure will not impact law firms and lawyers?

While every accused criminal is entitled to a defense by our constitution, no law firm is under any requirement to represent an individual or corporation in a civil matter.

Will lawyers second guess taking on a client, even if they believe in the case, or just want the money? Will the law firm jettison the offending lawyer and client to appease the Twitterverse? Not like it hasn’t happened before in our above-the-fray world.

Let’s not forget that not every client, cause, or position is controversial when engaged. Not every opinion or stance is forever. While it was very unpopular, at the time, to take on the board of education in Brown v. Board of Education, times and attitudes changed and those spat upon are now hailed, and vice versa.

I don’t know the Mozilla CEO. I don’t know the lawyers at Mayer Brown. I do know that in a “free” country the idea that we have to hide our affiliations, beliefs, or clients lest we are monetarily attacked for supporting a bad or unpopular position is a dangerous path to walk.

Yes. There have always been economic boycotts, but this is different. It is the absolute shutting down of speech with the only resolve being the closing of a business or the black balling of a person. And while not a First Amendment issue, it is a worrisome one to me.

So what’s the answer here? What does this mean for law firms that take on unpopular or controversial clients or causes?

I don’t know the answer. This is another one of those “It will be interesting to see where we’re at in five years” situations.

Trends in Media/Pr for Law Firms: What’s Valuable and Effective Today

Denise NixThank you to guest blogger Denise Nix, Marketing and Business Development Manager at Glaser Weil, for providing her insights into “Trends in Media/Pr for Law Firms: What’s Valuable and Effective Today” from the recent Legal Marketing Association annual conference.”

Really the only LMA session this year to focus exclusively on the PR side of marketing, the panel broke down the topics into The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Future.



THE GOOD – sharing good news (new hires, successful outcomes, office moves, etc.)

  • “Content is queen” because it is used to create relationships and connections, and build awareness. Scoring (measuring and weighing reach of content and what it leads to in terms of hires, matters and other opportunities – or engagement) is key. Engagement is what we create from that content. (Eleanor)
  • All firms should have media policies, written and circulated to all staff and attorneys regularly. (Kathy) Make them a part of the staff handbook. (Paul)
  • PR can be used to influence litigation (Eleanor) or create the right visuals on the courthouse steps (Lisa). Attorneys are being, and should be, proactive in how they write court documents on cases that are, or might, be followed by the media. While the attorney may not be able to comment on the case, key message points in the filing intro will get the point into the press. (Kathy)

THE BAD – handling bad news about the firm or its client

  • Have a crisis communications plan in place (Jaffe has downloadable templates on its website. ) Identify a spokesperson and practice the key message points with him or her. Keep internal staff informed – a well-written memo with your key messages is a good strategy, especially if there is a chance it may be leaked. (Kathy)
  • “Killing” a story is difficult, but can happen. Get partners involved if need-be (Lisa) or ask for a delay to at least get your message together (Kathy).

THE UGLY – surveys, directories and submissions

  • The audience groaned at this topic, but a few indicated they have received business from these.
  • Think about how to use the content in a new way once the information is published.
  • Use the information gathering step to really mine the attorneys for information about themselves and their practices to be re-purposed for other uses. Turn it into “marketing gold.” (Kathy)
  • Be strategic when dealing with the politics of who is being submitted and who is not (Susan). Be transparent with the reasons why and use as incentive for work/communication in the future (Paul).

THE FUTURE – social media

  • “Social media is the megaphone” for your content. (Kathy)
  • Social media is like winning the PR lottery – use these platforms to drive traffic to blogs, website, etc. (Eleanor)

Can someone pull the plug on Martindale-Hubbell already?

Oh, Martindale, what happened? Your brand was once the bomb diggity, as my teen would put it, but here you are now, just another product sold to Internet Brands, oh, I mean “in partnership with” Internet Brands.

Kevin O’Keefe wonders Does Martindale-Hubbell, as we knew it, still exist?

The Martindale-Hubbell and “brands” live on, but does Martindale-Hubbell still exist as lawyers have come to know the company.

I’ve written about the slow demise of the Martindale brand numerous times in this blog. A list of articles can be found here.

Personally, I find no value in the old brand today. The AV rating doesn’t mean anything any more. I have found that it is only being used to sell vanity ads in ALM publications (Step Away from the Vanity Ads), and a bygone reminder of a profession that has evolved into a very sophisticated business.

Other than a few RFPs asking to list your MH rating alongside the attorneys other stats, I really cannot see a MH rating being a determining factor in the hiring of a lawyer, especially any lawyer under 40 who just doesn’t care, or have an affinity for the brand.

Sadly, I think it is time for someone to pull the plug on the MH brand and allow it to die with the dignity it deserves.

Google Profiles + Google Author Ranks + Google In-Depth Articles = WAKE UP!!!

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Wake up and smell the coffee people.

Wake up and smell the coffee: Google matters. Google counts. Copyblogger said so this morning (Seriously. Go get some coffee and click on the article. It’s a must read today):

A forewarning from Google’s Chairman

Just 19 days after my predictions for 2013, the Wall Street Journal published its comments on The New Digital Age, a book written by Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt. These comments included this quote (bold is mine):

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

This is a powerful statement by one of the most powerful people in Google. Schmidt makes it clear that Authorship will be a very material factor in search ranking.

For those of us operating in the legal community this is REALLY good new. Why? Because lawyers have content. Lots of it. The job of the legal marketer is to help them get that content into digital, and connect with the Google game.

I’m not talking about gaming Google, but realizing that Google has a strategy to promote good content, and we legal marketers and lawyers need to stay awake and on top of it. Continue reading

Do Avvo and like directories matter?

A fellow legal marketer recently brought up Avvo in my Legal Marketers Extraordinaire Group on Facebook (message me on the Legal Watercooler’s Facebook page if you would like to join).

She was wondering about the value.

Avvo has always had its distractors, but I’ve always taken a “meh” position. Why? Because I’m in corporate law.

Here’s what I had to say about Avvo:

Avvo has incredible sway amongst consumers and has high search results.

If I was counseling a consumer lawyer (PI, trusts & estates, criminal, etc), I would definitely recommend Avvo and every Best, Super, they could get into. 

For my corporate lawyers, not so much.


I also believe Avvo will grow in its prominence. Lisa Bloom, Gloria Allred‘s daughter, is a CNN contributor. Just flipped the TV on and there she is with “Avvo Legal Advisor and Spokesperson” under her name.

Kevin O’Keefe had several things to say, but he touched on something that should not be ignored:

Do not worry about search in the sense of getting your lawyers found, worry about what people see when they search the name of your lawyer. That’s the most important search. Avvo profiles will come up near the top on a Google search for the lawyer’s name.

To me that’s the value. If it is popping up in search results when you type in Attorney Name and Law Firm, then it is important.

That is key here. If you Google and Avvo pops up, it is important to that lawyer. Period. The less they do in social the higher it will rank, and there will be nothing to balance it out on the first page. So for that lawyer who doesn’t write or do media, doesn’t blog, doesn’t tweet, not on LinkedIn, Avvo might be the only thing other than their firm’s bio for a legal purchases see when they do their due diligence search.

I typed in the name of one of our partners, Larry Golub. Page after page of great content. He’s a frequent blogger, speaker at conferences, and media source for the firm.

He has an Avvo profile, but after page three of Google I stopped searching for it.

I did the test with a different partner, Marina Karvelas. While she does blog here and there, and has been a media resource, she is not a prolific blogger, speaker, content creator.  Her Avvo profile shows up on page one of Google.

Larry does not have to worry about Avvo. Marina should to a minimal extent. She just needs to make sure that the information is accurate and up to date. Same with anything else that is popping up in the first 1-3 pages of Google (although recent surveys are showing fewer and fewer people are clicking to page 2).

Now, my college roommate is a family law attorney and getting ready to hang up her shingle. She knows where all the dead bodies are buried, so to speak, so she will be getting lots of free legal marketing advice. Towards the top of my list for her is that she create and maintain a robust profile on Avvo. Why? Because consumers are using Avvo to research and conduct their due diligence.

In short, if you are a consumer attorney in any way, shape or form, care a lot.

If Avvo is showing up in your Google search results, but you represent corporate counsel, just claim your profile and make sure the information is accurate. If you don’t like the results, work to raise your profile ranking in Avvo, or create more highly indexed and original content to bury it.

If it’s not showing up in your search results, you don’t worry too much about it.

However, do not make the mistake of dismissing the good folks at Avvo. They are providing a much needed service to consumers out there. Time will only tell if that service will trickle over to being a resource for the business world and corporate counsel.

Lawyer Award Season is Upon Us

referee-2Hear those doors slamming and heads banging from your legal marketer’s direction? It can mean many different things, but between now and the end of the year, it’s most likely your Chambers & Partners submissions are due.

Lucky for me, I work for a boutique and we keep our submissions manageable and simple.

But I’ve worked in an AmLaw 100 where we did everything for every one across multiple states, time zones and continents. We had to manage what felt like a non-stop deluge of submissions across states and practice groups.

John Hellerman at Hellerman Baretz just posted Clients: The Secret to Your (Chambers) Success:

The research cycle for Chambers USA kicked off on Monday, which means submission season is well and truly underway.  It also means, no doubt, that lots of you are panicking.  You may be wondering whether you’re ready, and if not, where you should be focusing your energy.  The answer is very simple, and involves two words: client referees.

For those of us on this side of the pond, referees are your references.

While you might think that having the GC at your favorite Fortune 500 is the best reference due to name recognition and panache, the guy or gal a few notches down on the totem pole is most likely the better choice due to their accessibility, knowledge of the actual work you and the firm are doing, and willingness (and time) to return the call.

A few little secrets I’ve learned over the years:

  • Chambers will only call a reference once every 6 months to a year. So if they spoke to your reference in June, they will not speak to her again in September.
  • Chambers will not tell you who is on the do-not-call list.
  • Chambers will not confirm with you which of your references they have contacted.
  • Chamber WILL tell you how many of your references they have reached.

So, if your “interview” period is in August, you might want to give a call mid-month to see how many of your references have been called. If only two out of the ten have been contacted, you need to get your partners on the phone. Who did they reach? Who did they miss? Who is out of town? Who can you substitute in?

Great work is great work. But Chambers wants to hear about it from your references.

Release the Kraken and Unlock that Content

Just sat in another program where the editor of legal publication said that under absolutely no circumstance will they open up their content. It is all safely tucked behind a firewall. They are in the business of selling newspapers, after all.

I disagree with you, Mr. Editor. You are in the business of distributing content.

Yes. You need to make money. But you want to make money off content that my law firm and my lawyers produce, either by writing articles, being interviewed, submitting our wins and losses, joining your submissions of best whatever.

As far as I am concerned, a publication is only as good as my hyperlinks to it.

If you lock away all of your content, you provide very little value to me and my firm.

I am not asking you to give away your content. But make it searchable. Accessible.

Include the headline, byline and first paragraph. Law360 does that. Gives me something to link to. Sure, it’s a paid service to read the content. I put (subs. req.) after the hyperlinks. But they give me something to hyperlink.

Oh, and I pay Law360 for that service, by the way. And happily so.

So release the Kraken and unlock that content. Or at least give me a little tease.

We are all Moore. We are all Boston.

I am beside myself tonight. The news is horrible coming out of Moore, Oklahoma. And it keeps getting worse.

But that is not what is upsetting me the most.

It’s the damn auto tweets and posts that seem so out of place between the devastating news.

Here I am. Sitting safe and sound in Los Angeles. Yet I feel like I am there.

Social media provided me a first hand account of what was happening to my friends and colleagues in and around Oklahoma City today.

  • Patrick picked up his kids at school while his wife was huddling in the stairwell of her work.
  • Stacy was with the kids in the middle of the house as the storm passed through Tulsa.
  • My friend Tim is a reporter in Norman. I sent him a note via Facebook. I cannot imagine what he has seen today.

When The Voice tweeted out asking who I was going to vote for, I replied:

@heather_morse: .@NBCTheVoice no voting. Too busy praying for the missing children in Moore, OK. #stopautotweets

A few if us are commenting on Twitter how the auto tweets need to stop. It was only a month ago I wrote this piece, When tragedy strikes pull your auto posts immediately.

And yet someone on my feed defended them. She’s from OK. She thinks it’s OK to tweet about other things.

I disagree.

When you have hundreds, if not thousands of followers, you don’t know who is going to be offended. Who is turning to Twitter or Facebook to try and find and connect with family since phone lines are down.

How hard is it to just stop for 24 hours? Give everyone a breather from what you are eating, or what seminar you have coming up? We don’t have to always have something witty or pithy to say.

What does the disregard for others who are personally impacted by a disaster like this say about your brand? About you?

And it’s not just in social media.

I had an “owner representative” from my timeshare call me tonight. I told her that I found her call to be highly ill timed due to what was going on in Oklahoma. She didn’t get it and, oops, we were disconnected. Normally I’d call back and complain, but I was too invested in the news to care.

All I know is that tonight my heart is breaking for people I do not know. For the children. For their families. For the young man who was crying that all he owned in the world were the clothes he was wearing and his shoes.

I don’t want to be sold anything right now.

I don’t want a robo-call or auto post to invade my space.

I am turning to my social streams for news. Updates. Hope.

To quote Woodsy Owl, “Give a hoot. Don’t pollute” my social streams.

Step away from the vanity ad …

trouble-with-tribblesNot sure if you’ve checked your in-box yet, but there’s another opportunity for you to purchase an ad based on your latest ranking.

Oh, I know you are a preeminently, super, best lawyer, but please, stop buying these ads.

The opportunities appear to be multiplying like tribbles, or ads for male enhancement paraphernalia in my junk mail folder.

Yes, this one looks cool, and that magazine is great, but no one, no one, no one, especially a general counsel, will base their purchasing decisions on these ads and rankings.

I have seen a few RFPs asking to know how many lawyers are Chambers or Martindale AV ® ranked, but I am very skeptical of how and why that question got in there in the first place.

These “opportunities” are all about playing on the lawyer’s vanity, and some company making money off the plaque, video, or ad.

Not sure if you realize this, but they never contact the marketing department on these opportunities, because they know what we know:

  • They mean nothing.
  • They are all for show.
  • They are all about selling advertising.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against advertising when it is part of a branding campaign and done well. However, the purchasing of a vanity ads does not fall into this category. I do believe that you can strategically use the information to your advantage, but it needs to be strategic, which does not include purchasing an ad.

General counsel do not hire you because of a ranking. They hire you because they have a business problem, and you have the skills and knowledge to solve that problem.

You do not need one of these countless directories to tell that story for you.

With all that said, if you’re cool with knowing that we will not be able to measure new business back to the vanity ad, that it is all for show, and it does not influence the purchasing decisions of general counsel, I’ll go ahead and spend your money for you. I’d rather get a new pair of shoes. But what the hell. At the end of the day, it’s not my money.

Just what we needed. ANOTHER legal directory.

Going through my e-mails this morning and guess what?? I’ve been selected to join the newest and greatest online legal directory, ever.

Seriously, people. Stop with the new legal directories. I don’t care if it’s online. Made for the global world today. Will bring me all the clients my firm will ever need. Or that it is free.


What latent needs is your new directory going to satisfy that any of the dozens currently on the market are not?

Please, I beg of you. Why do we need a new legal directory? The lawyers are not, for the most part, using the ones that are out there. Why? Because that’s not how people purchase legal services, and the attorneys see no inherent benefit to them to spend the time and effort to join, yet another, online legal directory.

For the most part, we are still in a referral model. Or we’re Googling by issue or business problem. Which is why it is important to have a footprint on the Internet. But being listed in a “new” legal directory will not do much.

A sophisticated purchaser of legal services “might” got to, but not many these days (check your Web site stats).  Some might do a Google search. But, for the most part, they will pick up the phone and place a call, or tap out an e-mail, to their colleagues, or current counsel, and get a referral.

Then they will do their due diligence, which is what having an Internet footprint is all about.

Rant over.

Going back to do real work that actually has the probability of bringing in new business.


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