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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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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Every year, I look forward to attending LMA’s National Conference. The excitement starts about 6 months in advance, seeing which one of my LMA besties are going, who wants to stick around for an extra day of bonding…It reminds me of how lucky I’ve been to (1) attend these past few years and (2) to meet such great people I’ve kept in touch with for more than 5 years.

It also reminds me of my first time. I’m naturally an outgoing and while it was a bit daunting at first, I didn’t have much trouble finding people to talk to and persuade to make my friends. But it’s not easy for everyone. So here are some things to keep in mind (even for those of you who are veterans):

  • Meet new people. Hanging out with your chapter members is great! But if you live nearby and can see them anytime, venture out. This is perhaps your one chance during the year to make connections all over the country. Who knows, maybe you’ll find new best friends (I found a few!).
  • Participate! This is your chance to be outgoing. No one there knows you’re shy unless you show it. And guess what, you’re not the only one feeling that way. So step out of your comfort zone. And think of it this way – if you really embarrass yourself, you may never see them again! At least introduce yourself. Put on a smile – I swear, it works wonders.
  • Get the most bang for your buck. Attend as many of the events, sessions and dinners as possible. It’s networking. And as most of us LMAers say, you get the most benefit out of your membership from talking with other members. So go do it. This isn’t necessarily a vacation for you, as cold as it may be at home.
  • Plan ahead. Be strategic on what sessions you attend. Especially if this is your first time. Wow your boss and attorneys with new ideas and strategies. Take some solid takeaways with you. This is easy to plan ahead for – you’ve got the conference brochure. Even identify speakers and vendors you want to meet. Even ask others for an introduction.
  • Wear comfy shoes. (Some generally practical advice for you.) This is a given. But hey, if you want to wear those high heels just make sure you’re used to them (I’m sure Rebecca can elaborate on this, that fashion diva!)
  • Curb your drinking. It’s easy to make a fool of yourself when drunk. Avoid it as much as possible to prevent others from getting a bad impression.
  • Join the conversation, if you’re so inclined. Hop on Twitter and follow #LMA14.
  • Re-energize.  Invigorate your love of legal marketing. It’s hard to pinpoint how this happens, but I think it comes from chatting with colleagues. Sure, we’re all competitors on some level, but what works at one firm won’t work in the same way as another. So chat away! Ask question, give your opinion.
  • Don’t forget to have fun. That’s just a given, right?

Hopefully, I will see/meet you in Orlando! (Seriously. Follow Rebecca and me on Twitter or LinkedIn – we’d love to meet you!)

What are your conference tips?

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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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A Fine Line: Retweeting Kudos

March 5th, 2013 | Posted by Laura Toledo in Social - (0 Comments)

A little promotion goes a long way. At least, in my opinion, it does. So I always wonder what motive people have for retweeting/reposting (and every other social-media verb) every piece of content that contains their name.

For example: I write a blog post. I Tweet a link to my blog post. Others Tweet the same links, sometimes with kudos included. I retweet each person’s tweet about my blog post without adding anything to the conversation (or even a thank you).

What does that accomplish? It tells my reader that others like my blog post, sure. But doesn’t it “say” something between the lines? That you really like seeing your name out there? You’re trying as hard as you possibly can to get noticed, or alert your followers to greatness?

I see the potential marketing exposure – but is it the kind you want? Is there really a purpose in reposting the same link, from others, multiple times?

To be honest, I see more marketers use this tactic than lawyers. But, it feels a little dirty to me. I understand it when you’re replying (so your followers can follow the conversation), but the rest? Maybe I’m missing something.

Twitter isn’t about YOU, an individual. It’s the collective – giving and receiving information. If that’s the way you want to use it, I don’t have to follow you. (And I won’t.) But let’s put it out there – is there a reason to retweet/repost every kudo you receive?

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Copyright 2011: Laura Gutierrez, Rebecca Wissler. The Legal Shakeup.
Logo and header images designed by the talented Janet Klingbeil.