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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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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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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Social networks make it easier for users to voice their opinion—opinions about anything and everything. But just because you can voice your opinion in no way means you should.

Writing has always been a release for me. I’m one of those almost-30-year-olds who still keeps a written diary. Weird for a technology fiend, but there’s a reason – because I’m human, and I have bad days. And because I have a career, one that can be public, I make sure to keep those bad days to myself. As much as I’d like to publicly vent my frustrations, I know better. Nothing good would come out of it, aside from some pressure being relieved. But apart from a temporary fix, I would be presented with a long-term problem. One that affects my career and reputation that I’ve worked hard to build.

A few weeks ago, Rebecca and I attended the Legal Marketing Association’s National Conference in Dallas. It was my third conference in so many years. With over 1,000 attendees, there were more Tweeters this year than any other. More users = more personalities, and a few who decided to use Twitter as their soapbox.

I must say…I was disappointed that people I consider colleagues took to Twitter to voice their negative opinions. Fine, you don’t like a presenter. Maybe a session was a joke, and you think you can do better. Or, maybe you’re listening from afar, and feel like you need to poke fun (I mean, who doesn’t have unlimited time to do this? [sarcasm, people]). It’s one thing to give criticisms, but entirely another to rip someone to shreds. And to do it on a platform where meanings are easily misconstrued. Online communities make it easy to “hide” behind a profile picture or as “anonymous,” but it’s cowardly to do so to hurt another human being.

I hope these people realized that senior members of our organization were “listening.” And so were the presenters who worked to put their presentation together – that doesn’t change, good presentation or bad. And these users who decided to publicly attack – their reputation is on the line because of the things they decided to publish. No one thinks you’re any funnier for making a mean-spirited quip about someone else.

As marketing professionals, especially legal marketers, we have to be very careful about how we’re perceived. It’s hard enough to work for lawyers, who have ethics they must abide by; now pile on some negativity and it’s likely you’ll be talked to about it. Why make it harder on yourself? Your colleagues, your lawyers, your law firm aren’t going to find the humor and may be quick to judge. Social networks still haven’t “earned” their rightful place in law firms, so it’s pertinent that you put your best foot forward, and not do anything that may jeopardize the hard work you’ve put in. Not only the hard work in your realm, but the work all of us in legal marketing have collectively put in.

Have an opinion, great – everyone should have an opinion. But keep the most negative ones to yourself. Before you publish, ask yourself, “what am I getting out of this?” A quick fix? A witty feeling? I would hope that, if the situation was reversed, and you were on stage in front of your peers, that you wouldn’t have the same experience as some of our presenters did this year.

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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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With email, we can sometimes inconsiderate and too quick. We miss typos, accidently send to someone we didn’t want to, or hit the “Reply All” button and have all recipients see our response when we didn’t want them to.

We don’t always give a lot of thought to email composition, and that can sometimes lead to trouble.

Recently, a friend of mine was going through her superior’s email inbox to look for an email that was relevant to a project. Imagine her surprise when she opened up the inbox to find an email about her from another manager in a different department. Let’s just say he wasn’t singing her praises, and not for any good reason that she, her boss or her firm’s HR department could attribute.

Let me make clear that email is not the kind of tool to you use to reprimand anyone. The same advice we give attorneys about using social media—don’t post anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the New York Times—applies to emails. Instead of talking calmly with my friend’s boss, this manager decided to put it in writing, only to have the object of his frustration see it. The results? Upset marketing and HR departments, and now a total lack of professional trust…something all departments of a law firm need.

Be very careful with your wording in emails. Even a bit of frustration could creep into your composition, and if the recipient decides to forward it on, then what? So keep your two cents to yourself, and don’t make a record of it.

If you have an issue, instead of writing an email veiled in tones no one but you can decipher, talk face-to-face. Address the issue in a calm matter. The thing about working with other people is that we all have different backgrounds and experiences, and our meaning can be misconstrued without corresponding body language and vocal tone.

Story update: I asked my friend what happened after her firm’s HR department talked to the manager who said some unwarranted things. She got an apology…an apology that this manager wasn’t aware my friend had access to her boss’s email. That was it. Not the type of conduct you’d want to see in your managers.

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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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image via corporette.com

I can’t stop thinking about a recent survey completed by Proctor & Gamble that measured perception of competence among women wearing varying amounts of makeup.  According to coverage of the survey on HuffPost, “the study examined the relationship between the amount of makeup a woman wears and her perceived attractiveness, competence, likability, and trustworthiness in the eyes of others.” As the majority of the legal marketers I know are women, I think we all walk a fine line when it comes to perception within our respective firms. Our use of makeup is one way we can distinguish ourselves, but we also run the risk of permeating the misconception that marketing is “fluff” if we present an overdone appearance. To be clear, this is just my opinion, and I certainly wear my share of makeup on the daily. So I want to know what the rest of you think. Are you even cognizant of the amount of makeup you wear in our more conservative office environments? Despite that this topic may seem inconsequential to some Shakeup readers, it is absolutely a personal branding issue and one we should think about as we address our attorneys every day and assert ourselves as credible resources.

This topic generated a ton of discussion on one of my favorite “working woman” blogs, Corporette. The general consensus was that the way we present ourselves in the office is a reflection on our judgement. By overdoing something like the dark red lips on the lady in the bottom right photo, we may project that we are vain–or as the survey revealed, untrustworthy, yikes! Alternatively, the photos on the far left may project that these women can barely get it together to arrive at work on time, let alone worry about their appearance.

This survey is hardly groundbreaking and as with most things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle (probably photo 2 in many offices, but photo 3 down here below the Mason Dixon). To me, this is just an interesting issue that professional women approach daily. Do you have staple lip colors that you use for daily office wear? Added credibility at meetings? Convenient for day-to-night?

I’m interested to know your advice and/or tips? I also want to hear from industry veterans. Enlighten us, pros.

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Image via markfrisk.com

I recently attended a meeting with Suzy Sour, a seasoned marketing professional who has decades of experience beyond my own. What surprised me was that, despite her lengthy career in the corporate environment, she demonstrated very little professional decorum with regards to our discussion. Our group consisted of a few professionals with comparable experience to Sour’s, but most of us have been in the professional services marketing arena for less than fifteen years. Throughout the roundtable meeting, some of the “less seasoned” marketers introduced new ideas or concepts that are being introduced within the legal marketing space. Suzy Sour, unfortunately, immediately answered that something similar had been done in the past and it was unsuccessful. “Next.” It was a strange response to ideas that could certainly have been developed into fresh new campaigns.

What any meeting’s Suzy Sour doesn’t understand is that by relentlessly reminding the group of her seniority through negativity, she is not asserting herself as a leader. She is alienating herself from the group, who would now like to work with anyone but her. A true team player listens and participates. And, in my opinion, a true leader facilitates. Don’t be the Suzy Sour of your meeting. You’ll leave the meeting unsatisfied and just as insecure as when it started.

A few tips for getting the most out of a meeting (whether it’s LMA, ALA, whatever):

1. Speak up.  Your colleagues have gathered to share ideas and information. That means they want to hear your thoughts, too!  You’re all there because more brains equal more ideas. However, if you disagree with a statement made by your colleagues, try to add another idea or build on it, as opposed to immediate, direct dissent. You’ll be rewarded for this. My favorite quote from Tracey Lalonde of Akina (She is my hero!) is that instead of preparing a rebuttal with “No, but,” choose to say “Yes, and…” Priceless advice. Practice it.

2. Spearhead an Initiative. For Shakeup readers in the early stages of our careers, this can be intimidating. What I’ve learned so far is that I know WAY more than I thought I did. You may have 15, 20, even 25 years less experience than a colleague, but there’s a reason you’re valuable. You have fresh ideas. Share them.

3. Follow Up, Quickly. This is me stereotyping and generalizing (sue me.). Those of us new to our careers get things done quickly. We have to. So if you do volunteer to take charge of an action item or lead a committee, follow up within the day on what’s coming next and in a timely manner regarding your progress. Many of us feel like we have something to prove (because we do.) and by demonstrating your commitment and reliability, you’re showing group leaders that you are a professional ready for more responsibility.

The takeaway: Suzy Sour’s only hurt themselves. By being an enthusiastic participant during a professional discussion, you’ll not only hear more from your colleagues, but they will also better “hear” you.

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How often do you sit in meetings where half the audience is on their phone? It annoys most legal marketers, and we typically make it a point to let our lawyers know this is, for the most part, not acceptable.

Sorry, lawyers – you are notorious for doing this. It’s one thing if you’re expecting a call, or if you know it’s an important client. But another thing to completely ignore the featured speaker who traveled across state lines to get there.

One of many “etiquettes” taught to attorneys including being “present,” which means stashing that phone away and concentrating on what’s happening in the meeting. We advise our attorneys to do so; I know many other legal markets that do the same.

Imagine my utter surprise when at least five of my fellow marketers had their phone during a recent seminar. We were in a small space, so this was noticeable. And let me clarify – there was no note-taking or Tweeting. If we are telling our clients – in our case, the attorneys – that they need to be courteous to and mindful of the out-of-town speaker, then why is it acceptable for us to do so? The answer: it’s not acceptable.

So, don’t go if you’re not interested in the topic. And if you get bored, pretend to take notes. Just don’t make the speaker feel awkward or boring.

Do you have tips or other cell phone etiquette?

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