My year of opportunities for growth

small fish bigger bowl

It’s been an interesting year. Law firm merger. Sports dude started doing his thing for a local radio station. My oldest kid began driver’s training. The youngest turned 13. And I changed jobs.

We’re juggling new schedules, new attitudes, and new expectations. I’ve had a new culture, new people, and new personalities to which I’ve had to acclimate.

And now the holidays are in full swing.

This has brought on a lot of stress, and it was a tough few weeks for me on all fronts: work, family, HOA, and those pesky Girl Scouts (and we’re still a month away from the beginning of Girl Scout Cookie season). Thank goodness for good friends and good colleagues. I’m pretty much on the other side, and now I can reflect on it all.

I’ve been doing this legal marketing thing for a long time. It will soon be 18 years since I was hired at JMBM (when the last M stood for Marmaro). I’d already been in the work force for 10 years, and my skill set fit what Frank Moon was looking for in an assistant manager, and I excelled.

I’ve had a “few” legal marketing jobs since then. I have had many opportunities for growth from within these firms, and through my service positions in LMA. Life has also provided me many opportunities to grow.

This has just been one of those growing years.  Continue reading

ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 is out. The Legal Watercooler is in.

Blawg100WebBadgeHeidi Klum’s tag on her long-running show is “In fashion, one day you are in, the next you are out.”

For those of us who blog on and about the legal industry and practice of law, the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 is the list to make.

For the third year running my blog, The Legal Watercooler, has made the list. As a law school never-was, my parents are very thankful to the ABA for this honor. As I renewed my URL for $9.99 this morning, I couldn’t help but chuckle that my blog was certainly a lot less expensive than going to law school, and has brought my parents many more opportunities to brag about me.

I would be remiss if I did not thank all my readers and fans, and to all who inspire me to take fingers to keyboard. I started this blog at the urging and encouragement of my friend Jayne Navarre, and it really brought the purpose of my professional life full circle. She was my first follow on Twitter, and I want to be just like her when I grow up.

I love the legal industry and I am an opinionated person. The Legal Watercooler began as I needed a place to have a conversation. And conversations we have had, and will continue to have.

Hold that press release: Are you proofing for defamation?

pauseWell. It’s been a little busy this pre-holiday season as my department is deep in holiday cards, holiday gifts, budgets, business plans, oh my.

But this little diddy of a headline caught my eye in today’s Los Angeles Daily Journal (our local legal rag) and I didn’t want to just add it to my “someday” pile for future blog posts:

Defendants sue law firm over ‘defamatory’ release

I don’t even have to quote the article for you to get the gist.

Continue reading

M(erger) – Minus 21 Days: My mind is racing

I feel like I am being hit from all directions: the merger integration; regular work that still needs to get done; Girl Scouts; HOA; my family. Kid #2’s cell phone just died … perfect timing with the new iPhones coming out this week. It’s like it knew ….

My head was just racing last night when I got home from work. I am not overwhelmed; I’m just on all the time. The yoga mat seems to be the only place where I can catch a break. It got so bad last night that I even caught up with the Kardashians to try and kill some brain cells. I ended up staying awake well past my bedtime, which allowed me to enjoy the Baker Hostetler skit on The Tonight Show live. I still think Jay’s Mofo attorney skit was better.

I think today I will shut my office door. Get done what I can get done. And go fill up spiritually after work.

So, what’s on tap today?

  • Got my homework assignment for the leadership class in by COB, Chicago time.
  • Sending attorney stats to Chicago. Time to start updating the numbers.
  • A splint and several hours later and we’re home. Time to log in via my iPad. I really need a new laptop.
  • Need to get up to SFO to meet the partners up there. Where to find the time?
  • Kid #1 just twisted her ankle at school. I can’t make this sh** up. Off to the ER we go.
  • Need to find out: do we pay this 2015 conference sponsorship invoice now, or wait until after the merger? What is the policy on approvals? Guess budget time is coming up ASAP.
  • Need to meet with Bob to review his ideas for the new collateral piece.
  • Got Marty’s edits back. We’re off to the races.

Thanks to everyone who asked about kid #1. Bad sprain, but it’s in her growth plate area, which is starting to fuse, so we need the pediatric orthopedic to check it out. Of course they are at a conference this week, and fully booked next week. But I’m sure I’ll persuade someone to see her ASAP. I just never take no for an answer when I know there has to be a work-around.

And perhaps that’s the tip for the day. Don’t take “no” or silence as an answer when you know there is a “yes” or a response that can be made.

M(erger)-minus 27 days: Have you seen my normal?

A week ago today we were scrambling in preparation of the merger vote to take place that afternoon in both firms.

Today I think we’re all looking for our normal. New normal. Old normal. The familiar. What’s going to stay the same? What’s changing? What’s my new email address and will the old one still work? We need new key cards. Can I finally get a new picture for my key card? Better yet, can I just use my current portrait? My hair looks really good there.

On tap for today:

  • Going.To.Finish.Marty’s.Project.
  • Bios. Bios. Bios. Yes, they are responding.
  • Going to be formally introduced to the marketing team at Hinshaw. It’s been since my Pillsbury days that I was a part of a full “team.” I am definitely looking forward to this.

Just got a text from the kid. Off to urgent care we go.

Update: Acute bronchial spasm. She’s fine. And there just really is never a dull moment, is there?

M(erger)-minus 28 days: What now?

The announcements, press releases, and blogs posts are all out on the merger.

Calls are coming in from clients, reporters, and friends (really, folks, we are not moving to Chicago, and my job status is fine).

So what to do today now that things have calmed down a bit? I mean, besides the “work as usual” work.

  • Send memo to attorneys to update bios now, don’t wait until they are uploaded to Hinshaw website.
  • Checking stats, and tracking media stories.
  • Cleaning my desk of all Phase 1 (per-announcement) projects.
  • Setting up my Phase 2 (announcement to October 1) projects.
  • Cleaning out my in-box, and updating my “Get it Done” lists. What fell threw the cracks?
  • Bringing Marty’s project from the back-burner back to the front.

Other then that? Lawyers want to practice law, and this marketer wants to start marketing. But first things first. Finish Marty’s project. Oh, and write a blog post on something other than the merger. Ack. My leadership class. I have homework. And yoga. I am not missing yoga today.

A heather by any other name

fields of heatherOne of the reasons I started getting interesting in what we now call social media was if you Googled my name back in 2008 all these other Heather Milligans (my name back then) came up and I was lost in the field.

Within a few weeks of establishing my digital footprint, I started to rise in the Google rankings. Eventually solidifying my position, and elbowing out all those other Heather Milligans, and eventually the other Heather Morses.

It was pretty easy to do both. But will what worked then work now? There are a lot more people and more ways to get into the Google search result space.

My friend John M. Byrne wrote today about “Identity Theft: Sharing a Name With Someone (Kinda) Famous.” John is not only competing with all the famous John Byrnes out there, but now his 93-year old grandfather has joined LinkedIn, causing the LME to have some fun at his expense.

John has some great suggestions around creating and sharing content, all of which will work.

I’ll add a few other tips to aid the searcher when trying to narrow down the search results to find you:

  1. Be consistent across your social media platforms with your brand. The Sports Dude shares his name with another entertainment kinda guy: a historical documentary maker. So we always include his middle initial in everything.
  2. Use keywords in everything you post. For the Sports Dude, that includes making sure the keywords in his profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and his blog include references to “sports” “journalist” “broadcast journalist,” etc.
  3. Link to the right content. When blogging, or on Twitter, make sure you are linking to and retweeting the content that reinforces your brand. It will make it easier for people to find you, or confirm that you are the you they want to know.
  4. Guest blog on other blogs. That will help raise awareness, create links, and, once again, put out some bread crumbs to guide people to the real you.

You have to realize, the more common the name, or the more famous the name, the more you have to work at it. It doesn’t have to be difficult, don’t think too hard about it, just be consistent.

If you have found other helpful tips, please share them in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: Simon Herrod on Flickr

Let’s not shoot the (strategically thinking) messenger

Strategic PlanningA way too short, but link-bait worthy titled article, is making its way into the conversation of legal marketers this week about law firms and strategic planning.

In fact, I am certain that Rita McGrath‘s article in the HBR Blog Network, Creative Destruction Visits the Legal Profession, is sure to be a topic of conversation and buzz at this week’s Marketing Partner Forum (follow along on Twitter at #MPF2013), as well it should be.

We’re chatting about it in my Legal Marketers Extraordinaire group on Facebook (A private group I started. PM me via The Legal Watercooler‘s Facebook page if you want to join).

In many ways I have to agree with Ms. McGrath’s initial paragraph:

Some years ago, I had the rather thankless task of directing a program on strategy for law firms. It was thankless in part because about half the participants didn’t think law firms needed a strategy. They figured if you were smart, served your clients well and worked hard that things would be fine, as they historically often have. Just keep billing those hours! The other half might have been open to the idea that law firms needed a strategy, but completely opposed to having anything other than a consensus-built, senior partner-friendly mechanism for making strategic choices, which almost by definition is doomed to fail. Tough decisions such as which clients to serve and which not; which partners are creating value and which are not; and where to focus in terms of practice expertise and geography are nearly impossible to make by committee.

Over the years, I have been in those meetings. I have sat in on those calls. I have worked to build strategic plans, only to see them fully ignored. Or, better yet, fail because those who did not buy-in picked up their toys and went to another sandbox to play.

Here’s my (short) take on Ms. McGrath’s article from our conversation on the LME group:

Of course she had a less-than-receptive audience. And, speaking with my peers, it’s still not the most receptive audience. Definitely getting better. Still room for lots of improvement.

The good new is that the concepts and implementation of true strategy can be found in large, small, regional firms (but not all). It’s no longer the purview of a few “forward thinking” firms.

And, for the firms that do invest the time, energy, money, and emotional capital to prepare a strategic plan, how well it is carried out, and how many barriers are faced, is still open to debate.

So why is this buzz-worthy considering Ms. McGrath’s experience took place “some years ago”?

Because it is still true today in too many firms.

Yes, there are some firms — mega, large, small, regional, boutique — that really get it and are operating at a highly strategic level. But how many of those firms were driven to this change by the recession? How many will willingly slide back into complacency now that things are looking up again?

And not to mention the rest of the firms that either fell apart during the recession, or squeaked their way through it. They continue to operate as usual, even though the world has completely changed.

I believe that one of the reasons that strategy is so hard to implement in a law firm is because of the emotional investment it requires.

We’re not selling widgets or cans of soda. We’re selling services provided by people. Those people are friends and partners. In many firms, these partners grew up together, joining the firms as summer associates 20 some odd years ago. It’s hard to challenge assumptions and make changes when you are that emotionally invested.

Let’s face it. They just don’t teach this shit in law school. They don’t teach that one day you might be the chairman of a multi-billion dollar operation. Hell, even the most modest of firms are multi-million dollar operations.

One of the roadblocks to strategy, I have found, is that at the end of the day, with all the good advice given and shared, we, as legal marketers and outside consultants, are not shareholders or partners. We are not the owners of the business. We are not personal friends.

We can be impartial because we are not emotionally invested in these people. We’re there to do a job.

If they do not take our advice, or seek our counsel, there is nothing we really can do about it. Sure, we have a seat at the table. But how loud is our voice?

I’ve been doing this legal marketing thing for 15 years now. The industry has changed completely in so many ways. But in other ways it really hasn’t changed too much.

We are still relationship driven, but how we create and manage those relationships is different.

Technology and innovations have changed, but they are still supporting the core of what we do: providing a service.

Lawyers are still skeptical. Clients still hire on the theory of know, like, and trust. We’re still herding cats.

And I am still the Pollyanna out there. I believe if we are moving the ball forward, even at a micro pace, we are making progress. And, readers, we are making progress.

Maybe not to the outside world, but in the inner world of legal marketing, we have made leaps and bounds of change. And we still have so much more to accomplish.

I hope that Ms. McGrath’s article continues to be a beacon of conversation. As it is a conversation I know we are having behind closed doors, in the lobbies during industry conferences, on private Facebook message threads and groups, and hopefully around the conference room table in our boardrooms.

Why do some people stay, and some people leave?

Keynote speaker James Kane is here to talk about loyalty. Why do some people stay, and some people leave? But we’re loving his slide deck – it’s all about getting to know him. You can fan him here on Facebook.

Our brains were going crazy during his presentation because we were finding something similar to ourselves in him. We were finding something we liked in him.

Relationships fall into four categories:

  • Antagonistic – I HATE you. I will write, Tweet and share how much I hate you. We have such a need to be social and a part of, that when
  • Transactional – You do something for me, I pay you for it, we’re square. I don’t owe you anything. We think we should be getting love for what we do, but we’re just fulfilling a contract
  • Predisposed – I like you, but I don’t love you. I’m not expecting anything until the game changes and then I need to make a change.
  • Loyal – The strongest relationship. It’s about forgiveness when we make mistakes. It’s about advocacy.

Loyalty is not a brand. It’s not about rewards programs. You cannot bribe someone to love you.

Loyalty is not about stisfaction. Dogs are loyal. Cats are satisfied.

Relationships with our clients is satisfaction. They are transactional. We do something, they pay us, and they are satisfied. They owe us NOTHING.

Satisfaction is a mood.

Loyalty is a behavior.

Satisfaction is the past. What you did for me yesterday.

Loyalty is about the future. What I will do for you tomorrow.

Human beings live in social communities. We learn from one another.

If we’re going to live in communities, I need to know I can trust you.

The process that builds love within the brain, builds loyalty.

Stages of love:

  • Attraction– romantic, can be familiarity. Attraction is contextual – what we know or what we aspire to be. We desire the familiar.
    • In our world this is called marketing. Get them to notice our firm.
    • Our job is to define/figure out what “attractive” means for our clients
  • Passion – Once we make the choice, the two parties define their interests and are willing to overlook everything else the person does to get their end result. We made a choice and we need to defend it. This is the flower, candy and love notes stage.
  • Pair-bonding – This is when the passion might be waining, and wondering why the attraction is not what it used to be. This is where loyalty kicks in. Do you make my life easier? Do you make my life better?

The challenge for us all is: “Do we make their life better?”

Our clients have an abundance of choices. Are they choosing us because they’ve always chosen us? Are they forgetting about the value you have provided in the past? Are they looking for someone else, today, who can provide the value you once provided and still can?

People don’t want a lot of choice, they just want to have control over making that choice.



We walk into every relationship with the expectation of trust. You can then lose trust.

We think we should get great credit for meeting expectations.

Trust is about managing expectations.


We want to feel a part of a bigger community. We want to feel that we have impact. We want to feel that we can change the world. We just don’t have the capacity.

When we can bring a sense of purpose to our firms, and thereby our clients, because we can do nothing without our clients. Don’t take credit for charitable activities. Give the credit to your clinets.


Recognition – Do you know who I am? Do I know the partners in my firm, or just their bios? Why should they feel a sense of loyalty to ME, as their marketer, if I don’t know who they are?

Do you know your clients? Are you taking notes about their needs and want? Use social media to get to know who these clients are? Receptionists should know who is walking in the door. Know something about them. Converse with them with that acknowledgement in mind.

Insight – Next challenge is to be insightful. You need to look beyond the obvious.

Most of us are not looking to save money, we’re looking to MAKE money.

You need to take a step into the back of the room and look around and figure out what is going on. Get that 10,000 ft view of what’s going on with your clients and their challenges.

Proactivity – Having insight takes practice. Being proactive is doing something before someone asks. Doing it when someone asks is just courtesy. Anticipate something I didn’t know I needed, and solve the problem before I knew I had it, and you become invaluable.

Inclusion – Solve my problem, but I need to be part of the process.

WWIC – Why Wasn’t I Consulted?

If you need to roll out a new marketing plan, you need to include others in the process. If not, it’s your plan and they can hate it. Hard to hate something that you helped prepare.

Identity – Do I feel that I know who you are? And do I recognize something in me in you?

You can do this by the things you place in your office, or on your website bio, or through your Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Definitely one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen. Guess I’ll have to go and buy the book.

What’s in your in-box?

I don’t know what’s lurking in your e-mail in-box, but, if it’s anything like mine, it’s not an e-mail from a real person. And, if there is one in there, it’s hard to find between the spam, newsletters, weekly LinkedIn group updates, etc.

I keep sending more and more of my blogs and news subscriptions to my Reader, but my in-box continues to overflow with junk.

So, once again, here I am. Unsubscribing. Blocking spammers. Setting up a folder with a rule for all the newsletters to drop directly there. Setting up RSS Feeds where I can.

I’m doing anything and everything I can to declutter that in-box so I can find the important e-mails. You know. The chain e-mails from my mom ;-).

What was the result? Instead of waking up to 30 e-mail newsletters and spam this morning, I woke up to eight new items in my in-box and 10 new items in my “newsletter” folder, which I can read with my coffee when I get into the office.

Of the eight new items in my in-box, a couple of them were actionable, while the rest need a rule to move them into the newsletter folder.

As the days go by, I’ll continue to cull through my in-box, unsubscribing, blocking and setting up rules to ensure that the e-mail I receive in my in-box is the e-mail I actually want to read.