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

Why the generational shift in leadership is impacting the legal industry

Last month came the news that another law firm is closing its doors. This time north of the 49th parallel.

One of Canada’s largest firms seemingly collapsed overnight. But, like most law firm failures, the collapse was a long time coming.

Canada’s online legal magazine, SLAW, sums it up well in this post, Requiem for Heenan Blakie:

Heenan Blaikie died from a combination of greed, poor management and failed leadership wrapped together in an antiquated business structure ill-suited to “more for less” client demands in a marketplace gradually filling with non-traditional competitors.

As I have said repeatedly, the Canadian legal profession is now entering the most disruptive period of time in its history. It has never faced such strong client demands for value and efficiency. It has never faced competition from non-traditional legal providers.

These are structural changes that never go away; they amplify.

And all of this in an environment of flat legal services demand, over capacity and legal tech entrepreneurs!

Layer in partners who are more loyal to themselves than to the firm and one can see that Heenan Blaikie (like every other law firm in Canada) was a house built on sand, not bedrock.

I fear that many of us can insert “name of American law firm” in place of Heenan Blaikie and tell the same story.

Yes, we’re chatting about this in my circles. What does this mean? Why? What will it take to change law firm culture and business models?

Some argue for the ability of non-lawyers to co-own law firms, thereby giving more control of the actual business function to the true professional business people.

Some argue we need true business development and sales people. Lawyers are not necessarily cut out for this.

Some argue that the services themselves need to be repackaged and sold (think AFAs).

Some argue that the growth through lateral hiring binge is unsustainable and a leading cause of law firm failure.

It’s the compensation plans. No, it’s the commoditization of legal services.

And then there are those lawyers who just want things to go back to the way things were. Institutional clients. None of this business development crap.

There are no single right answers. And there are no single wrong ones here either. These are all contributing factors, leading to a perfect storm that will continue to result in the roller coaster of growth through acquisition, and big law failures, along with a lot of mid-sized failures as well.

I’d like to add another layer to the conversation of change and disruption in the legal industry: There is a generational shift taking place and very few people are talking about it, nor the impact it is having on our sales culture, nor our business culture.

Continue reading

Lessons from the Sports Dude: Drive the Conversation

There’s a story breaking in Los Angeles. Our L.A. Rams might be coming home after wandering through the mid-west for the past 20-years.

And the Sports Dude is in there.

Eric Geller LA Rams

As background, the Sports Dude got really, really sick some years ago. It almost took his life, and it definitely impacted his career. He went from Sportscaster of the Year, to hospital patient barely able to make it back to Los Angeles for his life-saving surgeries.

But he’s back. He’s cured. He’s healthy. He reclaimed his life, including marrying his high school sweetheart, and he is claiming his spot in L.A. sports. And my Baby Boomer husband is using social media to pave his way.

We set up his blog, On Any Given Sports Day, several years ago so he could be a part of the conversation. Then his Twitter. And Facebook page. And YouTube channel. And LinkedIn accounts.

By doing so, he is able to be in the middle of any sports story, any where. Connect to people he needs to know, and where THEY are using social media.

Did you know he was the only reporter invited to cover Deacon Jones’ funeral outside the NFL channel?

And it is working.

It is opening the doors to the stadiums and arenas. He has his credentials to most games. He’s back in the press box. He’s freelancing for a couple outfits, and has his eyes on the big prize: The Los Angeles Rams.

He is in the middle of the Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams campaign. He’s active with the booster club, with their more than 25,000 Facebook Fans, and he’s building a sports fan base there.

When on the field covering one story, he makes sure to get video of iconic L.A. sports heroes talking about bringing the team home.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCOfrIBkWZ0

While at a school fundraiser last night the news broke that Rams owner “Silent Stan” Kroenke finally raise[d] his voice has purchased more than 60 acres of prime real estate next to The Fabulous Forum. Big enough to build a stadium. And, as they say: “If you build it, they will come.”

Sport Dude rushed us home, threw on the Clippers game, and fired up his laptop.

He stayed up late writing a story. Posted it to Examiner.com (owned by AEG, by the way), his blog, sent out Twitter links, and then got to sleep around 2:30 am.

He’s back awake, and following the story. He’ll spend the day tweeting, connecting, pushing and nudging the story.

And there’s the lesson: No matter what is going on, stop what you are doing and get in the middle of the story. The story will not wait for you, and the conversations definitely won’t either.

You don’t have to spend the day in front of your laptop doing it. Use your tablet or smart phone while waiting in line for coffee at Starbucks, or waiting for the elevator. But make sure to get your voice in there.

Blog, comment, connect, retweet, follow.

Blog, comment, connect, retweet, follow.

Social media allows all any one of us to jump in the story, and help drive it. All you have to do is:

Blog, comment, connect, retweet, follow.

Why YOU need to care about Congress’ push for accrual based accounting for law firms

My daughter asked me a math question the other night. I replied, “I haven’t had to take a math class since Algebra II.”

Okay, that’s kinda a lie. I had to take stats in college to graduate, and was really happy to get through that class with a C.

But, needless to say, I don’t do math. And I certainly do not do accounting (yet).

Photo courtesy of meisdupid on Photobucket

Scrolling through my e-mails and blog feeds this morning and came across A Call to Arms: I by Adam Smith, Esq.:

I fear that most of you may be unaware that Congress is considering a proposal that would have, I believe, have tremendously negative consequences for Law Land, without any scintilla of a principled justification or countervailing benefit other than a cheap shot one-time hit of revenue heroin. Continue reading

How to avoid random acts of hashtags

Hopefully by now everyone knows what a hashtag is beyond an annoying way that kids talk today.

Or a scroll at the bottom of a TV show.

Hashtags began randomly enough in 2007 and became popularized during the San Diego wildfires of that year.

They allow users of Twitter (and now every other social media) to search and find topics. They are now hyperlinked in the status, so all you have to do is click to get your search results.

Which brings me to random acts of hashtags.

There is a marketing conference taking place right now. I have several friends attending the conference, and they are all using a different hashtag.

Rather than be able to follow one conversation, there are several conversations taking place.

Since I am fortunate to follow many people in my industry, I was able to catch on pretty quick to what was going on with the three separate hashtags.

Unfortunately, I am not that invested that I will build out a multiple hashtag search result into one stream.

You lost me. And you lost me in several places: Continue reading

Legal technology disrupters and why you need to take note

Yes, I am still reading Richard Susskind‘s Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future. Chapter 5: Disruptive Legal Technologies definitely caught my attention:

[A] distinction is commonly drawn between sustaining and disruptive technologies. In broad terms, sustaining technologies are those that support and enhance the way that a business or a market currently operates. In contrast, disruptive technologies fundamentally challenge and change the functioning of a firm or a sector. p. 55

Think in terms of how the introduction of digital cameras killed the film development industry, and how that has impacted ancillary companies like Costco (where I would get my film developed, and then spend a couple hundred dollars).

Susskind goes on to discuss several disruptive technologies and the need to be an early adopter:

in the early days of disruptive technologies, market leaders as well as their customers often dismiss the new systems as superficial and unlikely to take off. Later, however, as they gain acceptance, customers often switch quickly to services based on the new technology, whereas provider, unless they are early adopters, are often too late to recognize their real potential and never manage to regain ground. p. 57.

Wow. How true is that? It would get very tired and repetitive to go over all the new technologies that lawyers and law firms blew off to their regret.

In the chapter, Susskind claims 13 disruptive technologies impacting legal. However, I only want to talk about two:

1. Relentless Connectivity

Due to the inability to physically remove my iPhone from my hand without causing a panic attack, I am always connected. I am connected by e-mail, text, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. You get it.

While that might seem sad to many people, I have come to realize it puts me at an advantage, and my networks as well.

Someone in my network today was looking for an item. I happen to know someone who sells that item. I just connected them and helped them to make a deal.

I see my friends on Facebook constantly looking for sources and referrals. I get direct referrals as a legal marketer. It’s about opportunity and availability.

I am also constantly reminded of what my contacts and connections do for a living when they post or comment on something relevant to their line of work.

If you are not connected to any social networks, and using them all for personal and business connections, you are allowing another person, a competitor, to occupy that space and gain the advantage for the opportunity.

When these technologies combine, and the machines (or whatever kind) are switched on, which seems now to be all the time, the ‘presence’ of lawyers in increasingly visible to their network of contacts,. In turn, client and colleagues will have and expect to have immediate access to lawyers. p. 61

When your client wakes up at 3:00 a.m., I assure you, they will not be calling anyone. They will be firing up their iPad, shooting out messages via text and email, seeing who is online on Facebook. If you wait to get into the office to connect, even if it is at 7:00 a.m., you might be too late.

Don’t fool and kid yourself. Social networks, especially Facebook, are not going anywhere.

2. Big Data

Yes, it’s a buzz term, but there is something behind it. Just like when Kevin O’Keefe and I sat around a table at the Bonaventure Hotel many years ago trying to figure out what this Twitter thing was all about. There is something “there” here.

Very little work has yet been undertaken on the relevance of big data for law. However, I predict that it will prove, in due course, to be of profound significance. For example, by aggregating research data, we might be able to find out what legal issues and concerns are troubling particular communities; by analysing databases of decision by judges and regulators, we may be able to predict outcomes in entirely novel ways; and by collecting huge bodies of commercial contracts and exchanges of emails, we might gain insight into the greatest legal risks that specific sectors face. The disruption here is that crucial insights, correlations, and even algorithms might come to play a central role in legal practice and legal risk management and yet they will not be generated through the work of mainstream lawyers (unless they choose to collaborate with big data scientists). p. 67

Wowsa. Again.

I remember the passion and excitement that hit me with the advent of blogs, and then social networking.

I’m starting to get that same feeling around Big Data. It’s not about aggregation, but the analysis, and actionable predictions.

Which brings me back to connectivity. By being connected, and willing to have a conversation with someone I did not know, who asked the right question (perhaps in the wrong way … inside joke) that caught my attention, my passion to explore this further has been further ignited. Guess we’ll see years down the road if we can get “there” from here.

The most depressing day of the year is today

The most depressing day of the year is today. How’s that for a happy Monday, back to work, after the holidays thought?

I have to admit, there was a part of me feeling a bit of the Monday blues coming on over the weekend.

So I did a quick self-examination.

Who was I getting dressed for work today? Was it the worker amongst workers I have trained to be? Or the self-absorbed, self-important asshole I can revert to with lack of sleep?

I asked myself a few questions to get a reality check:

  • Am I bringing my own agenda to the job? Or am I bringing an attitude of service?
  • Do I believe and convey that my answer is the only right answer? Or am I open and willing to listen to other ideas? Or fears?
  • Do I have an attitude of Holier Than Thou? Or am I embracing and open to all ideas?
  • Do I have a sincere desire to be helpful? Or do I bring an attitude of self-importance?
  • Am I here only for a pay check? Or do I have a sincere desire to be here?
  • Am I motivated by self or service? Or am I motivated by what “you” think about me?
  • Where is my ego in all of this? Did I check it at the door? Or am I using it as a shield?
  • Am I talking at or with you? Am I present in our conversations? Are we collaborating? Or am I, once again, leading with my ego?

When I start to look at who got on the train today, and asked myself these questions, I was quickly able to see why I was the problem on this most depressing day of the year.

By the time my train reached its destination, a different Heather disembarked. This is the only Blue Monday I want to hear about today:

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