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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Author Archives: Rebecca

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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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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Just a few months into my time at the firm, I held a LinkedIn tutorial lunch for all of our members. After presenting a seminar loaded with LinkedIn data, social media tips, and examples of ways other firms effectively use the site, I knew our attorneys would be  ready to test the social media waters with confidence. The smug smirk was smacked right off my face when, after sitting patiently through my presentation, a partner stood up and declared LinkedIn “dangerous.” This partner then proceeded to explain the ethical implications of social media use on their bar licenses, as the “black and white” rules have yet to be decided. The partner concluded by suggesting that if you want to keep your bar license safe, you should stay out of this space entirely. Partner : 1; Rebecca, Social Media Evangelist & Dangerous Advisor: 0.

What happened? Despite the plethora of data in my presentation suggesting this is a safe and time-worthy marketing tool, I had serious damage control to do, and it had to be done on an individual basis. This was my mistake: I had yet to build trust among the members of the firm. I was brand new. Why would I think I could waltz in, speak social media-ese for an hour, and convince them all to try something totally foreign and uncomfortable? Huge mistake. Lesson learned.

Photo from JamesKane.com

During behavioral scientist James Kane’s keynote speech at this year’s Legal Marketing Association conference, client loyalty was the pervasive theme. He likened our firms to communities, built on loyalty and trust. But how do we know who to trust? What I thought was most insightful was his suggestion that simply satisfying our clients is about the past. Loyalty is about the future. Knowing where they want to go–and, what seems to be difficult for some attorneys–asking where they need to be are ways to exhibit genuine care for our clients. I made a mistake in building trust by not considering the wide array of concerns that may exist in the “community” of my law firm. I should have had more conversations, however informal, with my attorneys before promoting LinkedIn to evaluate their concerns and address them to the group as a whole. This way, an entire seminar would not have been negated by one person’s strongly-worded reservations.

I could have learned a lot about how to launch a marketing program at a new firm, had I met James Kane three years ago. But from this point on, I’ll heed his advice  (Check out Lindsay Griffiths’ full re-cap) when introducing new concepts to my firm. Kane advocates finding commonalities with your clients to build trust, citing studies that reveal an increase in brain activity when we find something familiar in another person. As important as it is to educate our attorneys about establishing common grounds with their clients, we must also remember that the attorneys in our firm are our own clients. I have 40. Across the board, they have varying levels of knowledge, interests and reservations about all of our marketing initiatives. I’ve learned that before addressing anything to the entire group, I need to know how they feel about the topic, concerns, and, most importantly, establish that I care enough about them that I’m meeting their needs and assuaging their worries. I’m their partner and they can trust me.

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Photo from Live Positive Way

It’s taken me a while to get back into the swing of blogging after spending an inspirational week with my legal marketing friends at LMA12. However, recent commentary about our industry as a whole lit a fire under my ass, so here I am.

During LMA President Alycia Sutor’s opening speech, she pumped us up as any organization’s president should, urging us to look at our jobs beyond the day-to-day and analyze whether we are considering the big picture (“What if?” – Check out Heather Morse-Geller’s re-cap). As inspired as I was by Alycia, I realized during her speech that LMA is truly transformative. Here’s why: no matter your level of experience as a legal marketer, this conference provides a forum to stop and reflect on our current place in our firms, where we want to be in our firms, and whether we are living up to the expectations set by both our attorneys and ourselves. That’s the “big picture” surrounding each year’s LMA meeting.

When other “professionals” put our entire industry on blast because of panelists or other legal marketers whom they feel lack credibility, they are being shortsighted. In response to Laura’s unexpectedly controversial post, I don’t think she was proposing a new world order of social media rainbows and butterflies. I think she was simply bringing to light the irony of professionals who specialize in image and branding painting a very negative view of themselves using a social media platform. That’s simply my interpretation. I will say that in many of our firms, there is certainly room for a positive person to encourage attorneys to get involved in the community, coach them to make a call to a brand new contact (I call this the “first date”), and reassure them that despite pursuing a goal for two years, perhaps, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s one of the reasons that we “delicate teacups” have jobs.

Scott Greenfield’s reactions to Laura’s post indicate exactly why attorneys employ marketing professionals: to more strategically target an audience and to better understand that group. Our blog is geared towards legal marketing professionals who may not understand the implications of looking like jerks on Twitter to the people who may be reviewing their resumes in a few years. Just a simple word to the wise.

As Heather Morse-Geller clarified in Laura’s comments, there is a clear difference between constructive criticism and using the anonymity of the internet to be disruptive. Kevin O’Keefe states it best in his comments:

Some lawyers don’t know the first thing about what to do with the fact that they can do good work and then how to use relationships and word of mouth (something that comes as naturally as breathing to most folks – especially those outside the law). These folks may need some help with marketing and business development. Not fluff, but business development founded on being a good lawyer dedicated to working their tail off for their clients.

Having visited Laura’s firm and having met their lawyers and their director of marketing, I believe her firm’s business development is founded on those principals.

What we are trying to do in our daily jobs, with our countless tweets and LinkedIn conversations, and during our annual conference has nothing to do with “making legal marketing look legitimate.” It’s as simple as taking the time see how we stack up to our peers, find out what makes them better at their jobs and take those principles back to our respective offices. Because legal marketing is a real thing, and if business development trends in the legal industry continue in their current direction, we aren’t going anywhere.

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OK, so this is basically our Superbowl. As we take deep breaths, review the agenda for the one hundredth time, Google the panelists, and pack this year’s interpretation of “business casual,” I invite first time attendees of the Legal Marketing Association’s annual meeting to read these extremely helpful posts I found today.

First of all, read Laura Hudson’s “Top Ten Tips” for getting the most out of your time at LMA. It’s extremely thorough and right on point. I also think you should check out Nancy Myrland‘s post from pre-Superbowl 2011 (LMA in Orlando) “Are you comfortable meeting people at conferences?”  Nancy provides some very simple conversation starters that will at least get your gears turning and arm you with an ice breaker.

“Hi, my name is Rebecca. This is my first LMA conference. How many years have you been attending?” Enter, conversation. Learn it. Live it.

Last year I cringed more than once when I saw young legal marketers walking through the halls with ear buds in…wasting not only their firm’s money, but also invaluable opportunities to develop their careers. Please, don’t make me cringe.

As always, I’m really looking forward to connecting with new and old friends at this year’s meeting. Please introduce yourself to me and look for frequent updates from Laura and me here at The Legal Shakeup and our Twitter feeds. Happy LMA!

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WE CAN DO IT!

The other day I was lucky enough to meet Susan at the birthday party of a mutual friend of our two-year-old daughters. During the 90-minute “safari” ride, we discussed our careers and I discovered that she is the director of sales at New Orleans most recently renovated and majorly hyped hotel. I mentioned that in my roles both at the law firm and as Legal Marketing Association city chair, we are always looking for great venues for events and that we should find a way to work together soon. It gave me energy not only to meet another working mother whose job I admired, but also to connect with a new potential friend.

Then she said something that made my head spin.

She asked how I manage to chair a group, work full-time, be a mom and, basically, still brush my hair every day. Belittling her own appearance soon after, she then dropped her bag and declared hopelessly, “I am such a mom.”

I’ve been struggling with this every day since we met. Her statement reminded me of a recent story on The Grindstone, which cited a 2009 study on perceptions of career-minded mothers:

“A 2009 study in the Academy of Management Journal showed that even in a company where men felt more pressure to juggle their job responsibilities and home life, the management team assumed women were having a harder time. Based on this assumption, bosses viewed their female employees as less suitable for promotions and increased responsibility.”

This is such an annoying statistic. Lindsay Cross writes that “these discussions can also lead to unfair prejudice in the workplace,” but she acknowledges conversations with colleagues concerning juggling, motherhood issues, etc., can be extremely beneficial for all of us. I couldn’t agree more. Because of what I’d classify as an “informal alliance” of mothers around me, I found the perfect childcare solution for my infant upon returning to work, the ultimate diaper rash fix (anything with “triple” in the name), and assurance that my toddler’s headbeating tantrums will soon pass. Sure, I could have done some Googling to research, but I trust these women and admire their careers. The confidence they have in their professional lives permeates into their methods as parents, and that’s why this network is crucial to every office environment. Why would we be held to a higher standard? Maybe because we frequently tap into our network to improve our processes in multiple facets of our lives. We have more answers.

This is why Susan’s comment has stayed with me. By denegrading herself as “such a mom” while she juggled her bags and toddler toys, she validated the idea that mothers struggle more than other women–or as Lindsay suggested–confirming the bias. I’d like to think we have access to invaluable resources and a common bond not found in our relationships with some of our childless peers, which results in “such a mom” being an positive thing. We all have moments where we don’t seem to have it all together, but I’d like to think we can focus more on our Chaka Khan moments then when we feel we’re failing, thus joining our management in holding ourselves to the highest standard.

In your office do you feel working mothers are held to a higher standard? Do you think they need to work harder to prove themselves?

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The Shareholders Meeting. via IGN TV.

A few months after gathering my bearings at the firm, I called the first marketing committee meeting, which consisted of two partners and myself. To say it was an organizational mess would be an understatement. Being the firm’s first marketing director and facing a website re-launch among countless additional “stage 1 marketing” obstacles, I felt like my mind was racing and I had no clue where to begin. An hour and a half later, the three of us were on the same page—I think—having  discussed the next few months of marketing initiatives for the firm, but our action items were unclear and the necessary follow-up tasks were hazy. One of my marketing partners politely asked, “Next meeting, can we have an agenda?”

“Yes. Yes, you can.” Doh.

As a young professional in a law firm, accounting firm, or any professional services environment where you are expected to drive the bus for seasoned vets, meetings can be an intimidating environment. Here are a few more tips to staying on track.

  1. Is a meeting really necessary? Ask yourself this first. If a discussion between all invited attendees will influence the next steps, then the answer is “yes.” If it’s going to be a one-way conversation, the answer is “no,” and you can relay your info via email.
  2. Set an agenda. This is crucial. Don’t be like me. The aforementioned meeting could have been 30-45 minutes had I properly organized my thoughts and set expectations for the discussion. Also, distribute it BEFOREHAND via email so attendees aren’t blindsided by a topic and come to the table with organized thoughts.
  3. Start on time. This is most important when working with slaves to the billable hour. Be respectful of that. They’ll appreciate it.
  4. Begin with what has been accomplished since your last meeting. “Today we’re going to follow up on the website renovation progress we decided to move forward with during our last month.”
  5. Control the meeting. This is the most important tip I can give you, especially when driving a discussion among strong personalities. I find that it’s also the hardest thing to do. Here are some sub-tips to my tips on how to stay in control of the debate (taken from this post):
    1. Get feedback from everyone. Having a clear leader in a meeting does not stifle feedback and collaboration, it ensures it. Without a leader, the opinionated loudmouths, who do not necessarily have the best ideas, will dominate the discussion, while the more reticent can’t get a word in edgewise. Draw out the quiet people by asking questions like, “Jane, you’ve had a lot of experience with that company, what is your opinion of their proposal?” Of course, some people are quiet because they have nothing insightful to offer. A good leader knows which is which.
    2. Ask good questions. Sometimes people can’t come up with the right solution simply because the leader isn’t asking the right questions. Ask questions that will really make people think and look at something from another angle.
    3. Shut down disruptions. It’s perhaps the hardest part of the job, but a leader must tactfully shut down people who are getting off-track, whether they’re simply going on and on or they’re just way off-topic. Wait for the bloviator to take a breath and then say something like:
      1. “That might be a good subject to discuss another time, but let’s get back to talking about X.”
      2. “Why don’t the two of us discuss that after the meeting.”
      3. “Good point but we need to get back to agenda.”
      4. “Let’s table that for now but we can put it on the agenda for next time.”
      5. “I’ve just signaled for Tom to render you unconscious with a blow dart to the neck.”
  6. Set specific action items. Conclude the meeting by assigning action items when appropriate.

Luckily for everyone around me, my meetings are much more efficient since utilizing these steps. For any young professional, stepping into a leadership role and getting things done can seem like a daunting task, but it can be made much easier by facilitating an efficient discussion.

So what do you think? Did I miss anything?

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At my very first legal marketing networking event, a wise woman advised me to “absolutely have an advocate” for marketing at my firm. For newish legal marketers—especially solo marketers—this is make or break advice regarding the success of your initiatives and overall job satisfaction.

A recent situation in my office reminded me of how crucial it is to have a supportive team behind the marketing department. It also made me reflect on the difficulties of our position overall and the tremendous ways that my marketing partners have helped me convince our attorneys that “marketing” is not a four-letter word. It really isn’t. Within the first few months at my new firm, I held a LinkedIn Lunch & Learn for all of our partners. The first hurdle would be attendance, and the “mandatory” stamp on the email from a managing partner took care of that. The second challenge proved to be more difficult. When Partner A described my LinkedIn tutorial as “dangerous” in front of the other members, I could feel my face burn as I hastily spewed out the many statistics about law firm use of LinkedIn that I’d already reviewed. My marketing partner’s interjection with a statement that the network is beneficial to the firm and that this is the direction in which we’re moving was a welcome buoy. As many solo marketers work to build credibility within the firm, accepting this type of support when it’s most needed is, in my opinion, not a sign of weakness, but an indication of business savvy. Know when to accept help.

The aforementioned “situation.” After Partner B informed me of the “historical” way law firms approach client development—inheriting a long-time client from one senior relationship partner—I knew that my marketing cheerleaders would have to intervene to ensure our business development momentum keeps its current pace (and moves further into the current decade). His concern lies in the fact that his colleagues might be drinking too much of the Marketing Kool-Aid, thus forgetting how it’s always been done. The horror.

Despite these sporadic hiccups, the cultural shift at my firm towards a more market-minded environment has been slow, steady and successful thus far. The advice I received during month one couldn’t have been more helpful. To take it a step further for solo marketers and, especially, early career legal marketers establishing credibility within your law firms, treat your marketing partners like you advise they treat their most prized client. This is the relationship that should be the most important to you in your office and you should set an example of how to nurture the clients you value most.

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My LinkedIn groups. Doesn't this look helpful?

But I really don’t. If any Shakeup readers have a LinkedIn group that you find essential, by all means, please let us know. I’m always torn about these things. A group for “Legal Marketers In The Know”? Well, count me in! Another group for LMA’ers attending the national conference? That’s me, too! My list of groups is absolutely out of control.

Unfortunately, the value of my LinkedIn groups has not increased with the quantity in my roster. Most are filled with sales pitches, job seeker whom I do not know and other useless information. I’ve found that there is nothing on LinkedIn that I don’t already receive through a hashtag I follow on Twitter. It’s almost certain that if anyone involved with the Legal Marketing Association is posting information on LinkedIn, one of my Tweeps will add it to our #lmamkt conversation. I’m simply not getting anything that I don’t find elsewhere.

I, like many legal marketers in small to mid-size firms, am part of an extremely small department that needs to make the most of our resources. Although my homilies on the benefits of LinkedIn to my attorneys will continue, I will not waste my time educating them about the groups. Join your alumni association if you choose. Join your fraternity group if you’d like to help alums find a job. But I am officially done damaging my credibility by waxing poetic on the virtues of these groups.

How do you feel? Any LinkedIn group that you feel strongly benefits your career?

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Tips for Better Lists in 2012

January 1st, 2012 | Posted by Rebecca in How-To | Practical Advice - (1 Comments)

Photo from www.dumblittleman.com

Laura’s post about organization in 2012 couldn’t be more helpful. Building on the topic of self-improvement for the New Year, organization is something I constantly struggle to improve, not just in January. The only way I’ve ever been able to get a handle on my growing responsibilities is through “My List.” My “List” is, simply stated, my guiding light. It is so holy that, yes, it deserves to be capitalized.

Despite accepting the List as my organizational M.O., sub-categorization is necessary, and that’s where the trouble occurs. Cristina Lourosa-Ricardo’s recent Wall Street Journal article, “Conquering a To-Do List That’s Too Ambitious” spoke to me. Here are a few tips on how we can create and, in my case, live by, our most efficient lists.

1. Divide the list into categories according to time required. According to Julie Morgenstern, a time management expert, effective to-do lists reflect tasks that can be completed fairly easily. I also remember a senior-level legal marketer remarking that her lists are divided into A, B, C and D priorities and she tries to cross at least one of the lower priorities off her list each day (the A’s are non-negotiable).

2. Decide whether handwritten or digital lists work best for you. My life is validated with each horizontal line I use to cross off my tasks, so I’m a handwritten list gal. However, Lourosa-Ricardo cites a popular app called Life Balance by Llamagraphics that not only allows user to enter tasks for completion but also prioritizes items by effort required and time commitment.

3. Pick one to three tasks to absolutely complete each day. This tip is from Ali Luke of the Aliventures blog. She writes that by re-writing your list each morning and choosing your non-negotiable tasks to complete that day, you will be more likely to cruise through your cumbersome lists. Noted, Ali.

Personally, I’m a fan of the “A, B, C, D” prioritization system, but I still have issues with completing the C’s and D’s. As always, I’m interested to know how other professionals get it all done. Give us your tips! And here’s to tearing through My List in 2012. Happy New Year!

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