Dammit. We’re a BUSINESS, Texas Center for Legal Ethics, not just a profession

I was having a perfectly pleasant Friday afternoon until a member of the LME posted about the Texas Center for Legal Ethics’ Opinion 642:

CONCLUSION

Under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, a Texas law firm may not use “officer” or “principal” in the job titles for non-lawyer employees of the firm.

The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct also prohibit a Texas law firm from paying or agreeing to pay specified bonuses to non-lawyer employees contingent upon the firm’s achieving a specified level of revenue or profit.  A Texas law firm may, however, consider its revenue, expenses, and profit in determining whether to pay bonuses to non-lawyer employees and the amount of such bonuses.

What is the problem that the Texas Center for Legal Ethics is attempting to correct?

While most likely a plaintiff’s firm or SEO marketing company pissed somebody off, the following questions posed could apply to any corporate law firm:

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

1.  May a Texas law firm include the terms “officer” or “principal” in the job titles of the firm’s non-lawyer employees?

2.  May a Texas law firm pay or agree to pay specified bonuses to non-lawyer employees contingent upon the firm’s achieving a specified amount of revenue or profit?

In other words, let’s just prevent a law firm from, gasp, attempting to act like a business.

Continue reading

Controversial Clients and Social Media: The Donald Sterling Edition

As an LA Clippers fan, I am disheartened and disgusted by Donald Sterling, his wife, and everyone associated with the franchise who have stood by and co-signed this racist crap.

However, just as his wife is currently being represented by counsel in her attempt to retain her ownership of the team, Donald Sterling deserves the same, controversial or not.

Yet, in our social media warfare world, TMZ is reporting that eight major law firms have rejected his attempts to retain counsel. Donald Sterling is “radioactive.”

Our sources say partners in the firms feel representing Sterling would alienate both their African American clients and corporate clients that are hyper-sensitive to controversy.

One source closely connected with Sterling tells TMZ … it’s especially galling for the Clippers owner, because a number of partners in these firms have called him from time to time asking for favors, including tickets to games.

They are reporting major firms in Los Angeles and San Francisco, which brings to mind several AmLaw 100 firms who are not shy or meek when it comes to their client base.

I am sad to say this, but I told yo so.

Mad Men, Lawyers and the Drudgery of Business Development


In the most recent episode of Mad Men we meet up again with our protagonist Don Draper, going through the motions of showing up to work. On time. Saying the proper hellos, then walking into his office and shutting the door.

Don has lost the trust of his partners. He has no work. He is bored. He sits in his office  and waits. For something. Something to happen. Waiting for the phone to ring.

When the call comes, from Peggy Olson, his former underling — not a mentee — he is insulted. He is being asked to do a job several rungs down the ladder.

But Don has yet to rehab his reputation. He is still on the outs with his partners who are unwilling to fire him. So he just sits in his office collecting a very large check.

Don, being Don, scoffs and gets rip roaring drunk. He causes chaos.

The work he wants, he cannot get. He has not earned back the right. He can see the future, it’s computers, but he cannot touch it.

Freddy Rumsen, his sober friend and ghost copy-writer, who has yet to repair all the damage he caused in his drunken days, tells Don to “just do your job.” Continue reading

Mad Men, Lawyers, Ego and Trust

mad-men-season-7-poster-featuredA new season of Mad Men is in full swing, and once again, I continue to find themes that translate from a 1960s fictional advertising agency to a new millennium legal industry (for more posts, click here).

Our protagonist Don Draper was a bad boy last season. Getting drunk at the wrong time. Sleeping with the wrong wife (the neighbor’s). Telling his truth at the wrong time.

He sacrificed his employees trust, and his partners faith, for his own selfish and self-centered reasons.

Oh, sure, at the time Don surely thought he was right and justified to tell the truth. But he didn’t pause. He didn’t temper it against, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”

Don was wrong because his truth, at that moment, wasn’t necessary. It was selfish and self-centered.

Oh, Don. How I relate to you.

You see, dear readers, I have a secret of my own. I too can be consumed by my ego, as well as my self-centered and selfish impulses.

I can say things out of turn that hurt others, including myself, all under the guise of “truth.”

But when I pause, reflect, find that moment of self-awareness … when I find my true truth, I have to not only apologize for my actions, but I have to mend my ways.

And how Don did that last night was masterful.

  • He opened up and humbled himself to his daughter and wife.
  • He accepted the consequences of his actions.
  • He humbled himself in the office where he was once the named partner.
  • He accepted his penance with a simple, “Okay.”
  • He did not argue.
  • He did not justify.
  • He did not beg.
  • He left his ego at the door.

As a leader, Don now has to rebuild the trust of his partners, his team, his friends, and his family.

Each will take a different path.

But if he stays the course, Don will hopefully rebuild trust where it can be.

He can, without ego, let go where he cannot.

And he can move forward, a changed man, either way.

Making the case for JD Supra, Lexology, YouTube and so on

While I might play an uber-techie at work, I really depend upon much smarter and techier people than me to make sense out of all this stuff flying at me on a daily (hourly) basis. For instance, one of my go-to smarties is Jayne Navarre for all things digital technology in the legal space.

Via a LinkedIn Group that I scan, Eric Peter Hoffman posted the following video on the new (now implemented) algorithms of Hummingbird and Penguin (sounds like a couple of Batman villains) that finally makes sense.

It is also a simple explanation as to why law firm blogs really must use the services of JD Supra, Lexology, YouTube, Wikipedia, and the like to push our content to the top search results pages. SEO alone ain’t gonna get you there alone.

Want attribution? Make it easy.

Don’t camouflage your Twitter address if you want attribution

We had an interesting conversation at the LMA Annual Conference about attribution while live-Tweeting at a conference. Nancy Myrland very nicely captures the discussion in her post, Who Said That? How to Live Tweet a Conference.

To aid attendees at our session on Generational Marketing: Strategies and tactics for engagement with Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials, Jonathan Fitzgarrald and I deliberately included our Twitter addresses not only on the opening slide, but in the footers. (Click here for the slides)

If we wanted the attribution, we didn’t want to make you work for it.  And it worked. The Twitter thread was incredible, lots of attribution to us both. Lots of feedback. And many new followers.

I just realized today, however, that for those reading this blog and wanting to share it on Twitter, it’s not as easy to find my Twitter address for attribution.

It hit me because I was reading a post from Lloyd Pearson while on my commute this morning, Chambers USA 2014-15: Get Organized via my reader. The post was easy for me to share from my iPhone, but his Twitter address didn’t auto fill. I was about to hit the tunnel, so I sent it off without attribution. Not really like me.

I have become so accustomed when using Bitly or Tweetdeck for the app to auto fill the name, but it doesn’t do so always, making it difficult to attribute on the fly unless you already know the person’s Twitter address, or are really determined.

To make things easier, I just updated my blog image that you see on the desktop to hyperlink to my Twitter profile, and added my address in the caption, and I urge you to do the same.

And when you do the update, check your mobile app version. My image doesn’t show up, so I have updated the subtitle of my blog to include it as well.

Not as pretty, but this is about engagement, conversation, and attribution.

 

Controversial Clients and Social Media: Game Changer?

Photo credit: “The Controversial Topics of Wikipedia” on Wired.com

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?

Continue reading

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