Stories & advice from two legal marketers on a quest to shake things up in the law firm community. Learn from our mistakes.
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New Year’s is a time of struggle – for me, anyway.

I spend the weeks leading up to and after thinking of what I want to accomplish in the new year. While my husband feels like the New Year is the time everyone tries to make goals (he’s not the only one to feel that way), I feel like this is just another opportunity to start or do over. I am constantly making plans and goals throughout the year, but the start of another year just seems so fresh and ripe to make new goals.

It’s like an empty notebook – it’s just waiting to be written in! (Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I get excited about.)

Chris Brogan’s “3 Words” post really resonated with me. It’s a general “plan” – not a specific one that most of us make, and are disappointed when it doesn’t go as planned (or maybe that’s just me). [Heather Morse touches a bit on this in today’s blog post.] Or I can’t decide what my goals should be (see below, #2). With 3 Words, it’s less about specific actions and more about focusing your goals on certain areas, which lets those resolutions be more open and fluid.

Without further adieu, my 2015 goals.

  1. Family. 2014 was a huge year for my (growing) family, and I want to continue to focus on doing the best I can at home. This is going to be tough with a new job (more responsibility and time dedicated to work), but that’s why I’m including it. That, and my family comes first. Having a baby has made me shift focus to what matters most in my life – and that’s my husband and daughter (well, and a whole host of other friends and family who complete the family picture). Plus, being with them make me happy, and what’s more important than that?!
  2. Do. I worry too much. I want to pick the right task manager tool that meets all of my needs. I need to find the right word choice for a blog post, or the right idea. I worry about everything there is to possibly worry about, instead of just doing the damn thing and figuring the rest out later. So in 2015, I just want to DO it. (Plus, I have great colleagues (read: LMA friends) who will help me, if I just ask!) So I’ll save the worrying for another year.
  3. Breathe. Again, 2014 was a big year for me. I am no stranger to anxiety, which I why I included this word. As I mentioned, I’ve spent so much time worrying about what I want to accomplish that I lose sight of it. So I want to take a step back and just breathe. Let things go. If I miss something the first time around, there will be another. If I didn’t meet my goals this week, I will meet them another week. Try and try again. I will never fully be satisfied, but I will speak from experience – failing is a lot easier to handle when you’re not anxious about it. :)

I encourage you to think about your 3 Words – what will they be for 2015?

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It’s only been like nine months since I’ve last written…which is appropriate for this post, since I’ll be talking about women in the workforce. But let’s address that elephant in the room – where the hell was I?

PREGNANT.

It’s been a crazy couple years for this gal – marriage, buying a house, having a baby, getting a new job…it just takes a lot out of you. But here I am, getting back on the horse, because writing is what I like to do!

But before I get into today’s post, I’d like to introduce my daughter, Evelyn, born in September!

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I could seriously brag about her all day! Motherhood has been, no joke, a huge adjustment, but it’s been so rewarding and exciting. I can no longer imagine my life without her!

So anyway. This stuff is normally reserved for my baby blog, but now you know. Back to today’s post.


Law firms could possibly be the epitome of the “good ol’ boys club.” An institution that requires one’s precious time as payment in exchange for lots of money, which means that, typically, females are at a disadvantage. Especially mothers.

Laws of nature require the females to physically carry the next generations of human beings, so the probability of a female taking more time off than their male counterparts is high. And even if you hate children, you’re still carrying the burden of your sex. So it’s no wonder males dominate the legal profession.

But it’s sad that law firms place higher value in males because they can “give” more time than females. That, and because females have a tendency to be more empathetic, and therefore we give less to work and more to family (because who else is going to be the “default parent“?). In theory, those values should be promoted – family,  empathy…but not when the billable hour is what brings in money; when more hours billed = more profit. Such is society’s greediness, and our willingness to be dragged along for the ride.

But instead of plugging away, staying just because the money is good; running yourself into the ground day after day; wearing four-inch heels because you have to “keep up” with the rest of the “successful” women; playing the game even though it makes you miserable – why don’t we do something about it? It’s a bit like politics – if you don’t vote, do you really have the “right” to complain about it? Not that one women has the ability to change the world, but essentially, change starts with one person. One person who could start a domino effect.

We might still be in the era where greed takes precedence, but there are enough humans who don’t merely accept the so-called “inevitable” – there are those who find value in the valuable. It’s scary to take the next step – to venture into the unknown, where failure is a possibility. I know lawyers are inherently risk-averse, but…take one! Stop complaining and do something about it. The more individuals that take a stand, the more chance that we can shift the culture that thinks it’ll never change.

So my new year’s resolution is to be the change. Instead of complaining about how women have it hard in law, I’m going to find great examples of law firms doin’ it right. Instead of trying to be the fashionista, I’m going to do what’s right for me – that’s comfy outfits I can put on on-the-fly, shoes that don’t have heels, and “mom-jeans” on casual Fridays – and I will refuse to care when a fabulous-looking partner sashays past my office (and on the flip side, I won’t knock those fashionistas who devote time and energy into their outfits). I pledge to help other women succeed because sometimes, it takes a village. (Also, I will offer to babysit anytime there’s a baby in the office.) And if the law firm model has been around for as long as it has, it’s going to take some dedicated, driven women to change it. It just starts with one.

Where do I sign?

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Not so long ago, there was just Klout. Now there’s a whole host of other social media-driven “leaderboards” (oddly enough, all are gross misspelling of an actual word with the first letter being a “k” – the grammar nerd in me cringes) that give points and rankings based on certain criteria. Some leaderboards are based on retweets, the number of clicks, even usage of hashtags…but are these rankings really something we should be looking into and basing our social media strategy on?

While an app like Klout gives you prizes for your score, others are just rankings of who’s the most “influential” or ranks at the top among the algorithm criteria.  Personally, I don’t buy it. You could argue it’s because I’m never featured at the top…sure, I’m competitive, but I’m not going to start tweeting out junk or misusing a hashtag just to get atop a leaderboard. To me, this defeats the purpose of social media – being social, not using certain tactics to get ranked.

As for whether these leaderboards serve any other purpose than a competition (or perhaps a good place to find people to follow) remains to be seen. What is the real purpose of these types of gamification apps? Monetary gain, for some. But what do you get out of it? That depends on what you’re trying to get out of social media in the first place, of course.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Stop putting emphasis on numbers, algorithms and leaderboards! Instead of trying to compete for all the wrong reasons, think about the right ones – YOUR OWN GOALS. What are you trying to accomplish by using social media and are you meeting those goals? It’s really as simple as that. You want quality and not quantity. (How often have you heard that phrase?!) Don’t empoly certain tactics because it’ll rank you higher, use them in alignment of your strategy. Don’t over-saturate a hashtag because it ranks you higher, or tweet popular content that has nothing to do with your interests or practice because it’ll get retweeted a bunch (I think of Heather Morse-Geller’s Justin Bieber post)…do it because it furthers your goals.

And just because you aren’t ranked doesn’t mean you aren’t engaging your target audience. Go ahead and sign up for them, but don’t let it drive what you’re doing or think that it’s the end of the world if you’re not ranked.

Get to your lawyers before “they” do

My inbox is flooded with vendor emails and one caught my eye – a new ranking system…for LinkedIn! Curious, I opened the sample they sent me – which told me what I already knew, and included things that I’m teaching my lawyers. Great, I’m glad we agree on what should go on to a LinkedIn profile, but I don’t need a new, paid ranking system to tell me that. Or to tell my lawyers. Can you imagine the frenzy if the attorneys found out their “cred” on LinkedIn wasn’t high? It doesn’t matter if we think it’s nonsense – they are competitive and want to be at the top.

The marketing messages from these companies may scare your attorneys into thinking this is a must-have, another type of legal ranking (it’s no wonder we all find ourselves filling out profiles for Super Lawyers, Chambers, and every other legal ranking out there). While these companies may tell you and your lawyers in-house counsel won’t hire you if you’re not ranked, I can predict that when it comes down to your Kred score, companies will NOT dismiss you or your law firm because of it. (Just like most companies won’t dismiss you because you don’t have a social media profile on Twitter.)

So before your attorneys get that direct marketing email, educate them. Give them best practices and teach them how to create a strategy, but let them know these rankings aren’t something to worry about.

What do you think?

Do you have a reason to believe lawyers and legal marketers should be concerned about these types of ranking platforms?

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This is the first of our three-part series exploring the endless quagmire of task management, organization and prioritization of our projects related to both legal marketing and life. Take this challenge with us.


One of my goals in life is to be organized and find/use the “best” and most efficient tools to make my life easier and to save time. Task managers are one such way – especially when there are a multitude of things going on. Work, volunteering, home…hell, even buying a house (and yes, I use a task manager for that)! My memory isn’t what it used to be, and I want to make sure I capture all of those details and complete them in a timely manner. That, and I need help figuring out how to prioritize my time each day.

Over the summer, I spend a lot of time testing out online task managers (just Google “task managers” and see what comes up – too many!).

But WAIT! Hold your horses. Before you even begin to look at task managers, you need to evaluate a few things first.

The key to successful task management is…

METHOD.

If you don’t write lists now, you probably won’t benefit from an online task manager. If your mind is a steel trap, do you need to write things down? Meh. Probably not. What you want to do is find a method based off of what you are already doing. (And hey, if you’re already adding these directly to a task manager, you can skip this post.)

2013-10-09 11.40.16For example, I am a sticky note/notepad writer. An attorney or colleague stops by my desk to ask me to accomplish something, I write it down. I recognize this. So, in order for those tasks to make it on my online task list, I keep a specific notebook for it. My method is that everything I write down on that notepad, or if I write a sticky note on the fly, it sticks on that notepad. At some point during the day (sometimes twice, once in the morning, once before I leave work for the day), I review that list, and those items not already in the task manager are entered (I indicate this in my own way on the notepad, and cross it off once it makes it to my task manager).

You may add tasks to Evernote, or keep emails. Try labeling the note or creating an Outlook folder with action items – like “add to task mgr,” or “to do,” “waiting [on someone].” It really doesn’t matter what you label them so long as there’s a process for tasks making it into the task manager.

At this stage, you’ll want to start noticing particular elements of the tasks – are they deadline driven? Do they fall into particular categories (website updates, proposals, editing, event stages, etc.). It’s a good idea to start writing those “categories” down now (I’ll explain in another post).

Homework:

Start noticing how your “taking” new tasks (physically where they’re housed and what information you’re taking)

Think about what “categories” your new tasks are falling into

Next on the Task Manager Series, we’ll explore about how to evaluate task managers.

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Jeffrey Brandt over at the Firmex blog wrote this article on the future of legal technology. I’m not referencing the post because of Jeffrey’s opinion on technology – though I may have a few opinions on it – but because of this:

I asked the standing room only ILTA crowd, who had ever read the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct? Of those who weren’t attorneys, not a single hand was raised. None. Zero. How can you introduce new technology into the firm without understanding the “rules” by which lawyers are governed?

I must admit I’m a bit dismayed. Granted, I have no idea who was in the room, but come on. If there were any legal marketers there who teach their lawyers how to use technology: shame on you.

I’ve read and reread those model rules and tried to make sense of them. Why wouldn’t I? I coach/train lawyers on how to use technology (the tactical and strategic stuff) – there’s a benefit to knowing those rules. I would be crazy to try to teach an attorney something when I don’t understand the rules that govern them in that space. It’s almost professional suicide.

Tip #1: Context is important.

You have to know context before you can really move forward in your career. The model rules are just one example of why context is important.

Here’s another: let’s say you work at a boutique law firm, it’s helpful to know a bit about the type of law your attorneys are doing, right? This doesn’t mean you have to decipher case law, but at least knowing those “keywords” or technical terms in that area of law can help you greatly when helping lawyers market themselves. (It also helps to not look like an idiot when you walk into a partner’s office to discuss an eBlast and know none of the words they’re using.)

Homework: At the very least, go read the model rules for your state and the “worst-case scenario” state (which is Florida. Don’t even get me started.). If you’re feeling adventurous, go read some “lawyerly” articles on a practice area you work with.

Tip #2: Absorb everything/learn as much as you can.

Related, knowing other areas of marketing can greatly help your career.

I know – from experience – how frustrating it is to get into the workforce and not be able to “specialize” in what you’re good at (or what you think you’re good at). Now that I’m a bit further in my career, I realize how helpful it was to start out as a generalist before specializing in communications. It probably helped that I love to learn and jumped on every opportunity to try something different or another aspect of marketing, but I can understand why young professionals are reluctant to generalize. There were some points in my career where I grumbled about doing events or manually updating contacts, but I am thankful I had the opportunity to gain knowledge in those other areas.

These experiences have shaped the written communications I prepare. I know what it’s like to be an event planner, so the questions I ask our events coordinator are much more specific and insightful (well, maybe our events person wouldn’t go that far) than if I had no knowledge of it. Learn about advertising, business development, research, budgets…get it while you’re young until you can’t stand it anymore. You can’t go backwards (your personal budget and expenses probably wouldn’t allow for it), but you can go forward and use that knowledge to your advantage.

Homework: Ask your boss/supervisor/colleague to get more experience. Identify areas of marketing you want to know more about. (Be strategic and think about where you want to land in the future.) They’re not going to turn you down if you’re eager to learn.

Conclusion: In other words, don’t be a one-trick pony. Know what governs the people you’re working with, lawyers and marketers, alike.

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The other day, a few very well-respected, senior-level legal marketers shared the article from Relevant “Five Lies Every Twentysomething Needs to Stop Believing” (which I read because they told me to).  It resonated with me as a young professional on multiple levels, especially as someone working in a highly competitive professional services environment.

What’s the one bullet point everyone should focus on?

“I don’t have what it takes.”

An attorney I used to work with frequently used the phrase: “I’m often wrong. Never in doubt.”  This guy is a leading litigator and frequently—after the fact—I’d realize that he was completely incorrect about something we’d debated, but I simply accepted his response because he seemed absolutely certain. I’m not saying that it isn’t imperative to know what you’re talking about. I just think that as young professionals, we too often doubt our own knowledge base. And if you’re as smart as I think you are, you aren’t wrong as often as you think. (In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg advocates the fake-it-til-you-make-it approach to self-doubt.)

To build on Laura’s previous post, our personal lives bleed over into our work life. That’s even more so for those of us who share our stories through social media. The absolute worst thing you can do, however, is believe the last bullet point shared in the article:

“I’m a failure.”

Anyone who hasn’t made a slew of mistakes during their twenties is—in my opinion—a professional with far less to offer in their thirties. Our blog’s sub-title pays homage to the war stories Laura and I have shared with each other throughout our careers so far. It happens; and if doesn’t, then you aren’t trying hard enough to be innovative.

There’s nothing here that you probably don’t already know, but the list from Relevant is at least a good starting point as we rebound from a mistake or are about to take on a difficult day.

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It’s been a bit of a dismal summer for me. I don’t need to go into the details, but I will say I’ve surpassed the “rule of 3” (or doubled it, really).

I’ll freely admit that my moods determine how I interact with others – like whether I check my Twitter feed or post content on this blog. I’m only human, and I can’t always help the ‘tude that comes with it.

Thus, my hiatus from the professional world. I understood that what was happening in my personal life would seep into my professional life, because (oh my!) they are pretty much one in the same. We sometimes forget that, or perhaps we’d like to think they exist separately. But they don’t. They bleed into one another.

So while my personal life was in chaos, I knew I couldn’t discuss work when my head and heart weren’t really involved. It didn’t seem fair to me or my connections.

But despite all that misfortune, I learned a few things.

  • My career is an extension of my personal life, not the other way around.
  • We can’t do business – exist at work together – without knowing something about each other on a personal level.
  • Sh*t happens, and it doesn’t just happen to you.

And what does this mean for us? Well, of course, I’m going to tie it back into social networking. Because those channels are all about interacting with another, even if you’re trying to keep it strictly professional.

We are humans, with emotions (even the most apathetic of us), and keeping that out of our career is a little…well, deceptive. Social profiles shouldn’t be used strictly for elevation or SEO, with puffery to project an image that isn’t entirely accurate. Or to cover up life, like it has no impact on you. At its core, social networks are about making a personal connection, even if we’re using them to enhance our reputation and career. Connecting in a human way to form some kind of relationship. Despite our best efforts to keep everything separate and in its own silo (see what I did there?), personal facts creep in.

So when adversity happens—when those lines start to blur—be aware. And use it to your advantage. Seek people who’ve had similar experiences and learn from them. Connect and grow your relationships on a deeper level.

Even out of adversity can good come (that sounds a bit like Yoda). Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. To ask questions, to interact, to voice your opinion, to help and be helped. And hell, be different! That’s what makes you you. You’re not a keyword. You are the sum of your parts – the mistakes, hardships, successes, triumphs…

You are not alone.

And when something in your personal life crosses that line, embrace it. Learn from it. And keep moving forward.

A special note…
Thanks to my friends all over the U.S., many of whom I’ve met via a social network, for your support and encouragement. My network of personal and professional connections have helped me more than I would have ever imagined.

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nine-to-fiveAs the publicity surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In rightfully steers the conversation to the obstacles of women in leadership, the time couldn’t be better to bring up something that’s been bothering me. Over the past year, I’ve made a significant professional change—resulting in my hiatus from this blog as I catch my breath. As with any position, settling into a new firm has been full of adjustments, but one change has been the most striking to me: I’m becoming a better professional now having a successful female in a leadership position above me. Something that bothers me? This seems to be an anomaly for many young professionals at similar stages in their careers.

I came across two articles the other day that worry me: 1.) The most recent wage gap statistics, which are back to 2005 levels. Ladies, this should keep us up at night. And 2.) An article  about “Queen Bee Sydrome,” when the most successful women distance themselves from other females and refuse to help them rise through the ranks.

And we wonder why so few of us sit in Fortune 500 C-suites.

That said, within the legal marketing industry (emphasis on “marketing”), I see positive change on a regular basis. A quick, awesome example: During the LMASE mini-conference in Charlotte, I cornered Erin Corbin Mezaros to let her know that even though she may not remember me, I certainly remember her. During my first 7 months in legal marketing, I found out I was expecting, and at my first LMA Annual Convention, she told me a few extremely comforting anecdotes about accepting her CMO position with a bun in the oven. Here’s what’s most impressive: during the same mini-conference, another colleague of mine (same age as I) pulled Erin aside to thank her for similar advice. She had offered her guidance that she’ll never forget. That’s an amazing professional.

This is a call to action to those of us with the energy and power to change the workplace as we take on bigger roles. Let’s participate in this discussion and set a plan of action for our respective workplaces. Most importantly, look at yourself and your network as you consider your career trajectory. If you aren’t smart women to your professional circle, both younger and more senior, then don’t complain about the salary gap. We can change it for our daughters. That’s my $.02 on what we as young professional women can do in addition to  “leaning in.”

What else can professional women to secure more roles in leadership?

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Facebook and The New York Times recently announced updates that will simplify their now cluttered and complicated websites. And they’re taking a page out of the mobile book to do it.

A couple weeks ago (eons in tech-time), Facebook announced the company reinvented its news feed to remove the “clutter” (Zuckerberg).  You can find a good synopsis of the changes over on Mashable (including a few snapshots of the redesign). Not long after, the The New York Times released its website prototype; a similar transformation.

Gone are the large-format, small-print, printed newspapers; and clunky, flashing, complicated websites. In its place: clean,  uncomplicated, intuitive web-layouts.

An obvious perk to these designs is its responsiveness. They convert well between web and mobile (see responsive design via Great Jakes); a perk to the company. But these sites really have the user in mind. Instead of providing a sensory overload, it neatly packages information in a way that makes it easy to read and navigate.

Face it. With the short attention-span of your average reader, you’ve got just a few seconds to persuade them to stay. So instead of throwing everything you’ve got into single webpage, simplify. Make it easy for the reader.

And law firms should take note of the things that make these designs successful.

Navigable navigation

Instead of cramming a multitude of elements and links on a website, narrow them down and put it a logical hierarchy. Give the user the minimal amount of information to get where they’d want to go. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out portions of your website. You can throw whatever you’ve got at ’em – but you need to give them a choice to opt-in. Let them come to you (if social media had a motto…).

A great law firm example: Bennett Jones. They’ve narrowed it down to just three main navigation options! And yet, you can still get to every important section of the website in a short amount of time. (Nice work, Bennett Jones.)

Is that white space?

Look at it! Nothing is flashing in my eyes.

There are quite a few people out there who spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen; some of us even do it for employment. The point is, we’re over stimulated, and all that white space might be a welcoming site.

Short, to-the-point headlines with images

Headlines. Well, headlines aren’t part of the design – but I have to admit, I like it when the headline actually tells you what you’re getting in the content. And it’s something law firms can control. Make it short and uncomplicated.

Font. We don’t need to argue font choices (ban comic sans!). It’s a no-brainer that fonts should be easy to read, but be careful with purchasing font packages. Font types aren’t always readable across browsers and operating systems. (Or at least select a good default font.)

Images. They really are the highlight of the technology era. And yes, they can “speak 1,000 words” without actually saying anything – capturing a user’s attention much quicker than a short headline. Make them a focal point. (And yes, substitute videos for images.)

The navbar

Many websites have used the navbar as a social sharing tool, but NYT & Facebook use it as site navigation. Much like Facebook mobile’s app, the navbar on the web includes a link to the site’s entire navigation (typically as an expandable sidebar). And a top navbar gives you the bare essentials, like search, home, and news feed updates. It’s a tool that stays with the user no matter where they go.

What else do you notice about these new website designs? Do you think this is a good trend?

(And here, we thought the mobile design was limiting!)

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I can admit I’m a blog junkie. I love finding new blogs for my Google feed reader, to learn more and keep up on industry news and talk. Recently, I’ve notice a lot of bloggers no longer include the date of publication on blog posts.

Personally, I’m a bit hesitant about broadcasting content that could be six months, a year, two years old. How do we know the content is accurate, or not outdated?

No, it’s not the end of the world. It won’t ruin my day either. But we’re in the technology era – things happen quickly, in minutes. Even seconds. That means information becomes useless quite fast. What ended up being a post about how to use Facebook’s timeline will quickly become irrelevant over the next few months. Granted, I read the posts before republishing them, so I’d know if the content was old, but still. What’s the advantage of not including the post date?

For all we know, that dateless post might be one that was published two years ago, and it’s just been republished ( I’ve seen quite a few blogs that have tools that will automatically repost old content, with no human filter to determine whether  the post is still relevant).

What do you think? Should posts include a post date?

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