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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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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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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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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If you’re in legal marketing, it’s good to be a part of an organization to learn what’s going on in the marketing landscape and meet new people. Since legal marketing is a new niche, there are few organizations that cater specifically to us. And one of those organizations – one I am admittedly a part of – is the Legal Marketing Association. And like Rebecca said, this is our Superbowl.

Every year, they hold an annual conference, and I am once again very excited to attend. Rebecca and I will be live-blogging from Dallas, so stay tuned. Also, check out Lindsay Griffiths’s list of live-tweeters. Follow the hashtag #LMA12 and make sure to meet Rebecca & me in person. We’re always happy to meet and learn from others!

If you happen to be attending, or will be following the conversations via social media, here are the sessions I’ll be attending:

  1. Day 1, Track 3: Data+Relationships: The Web Strategy Revolution
  2. Day 1, Track 1: Rise of the Machines: Putting Technology to Work for Us
  3. Day 2, Track 2: Love & Marriage: Horse & Carriage, Marketing & IT? You Can’t Have One Without the Other
  4. Day 2, Track 1: New Technologies for Law Firm Marketing: Case Studies in Mobile and Video

And here are the sessions Rebecca will be attending:

  1. Pre-conference: SMORS: Smart Marketing on Limited Resources
  2. Day 1, Track 2: Leveraging the Big 4 Consulting Best Practices to Bolster Your Business Development Strategies
  3. Day 1, Track 4: The Evolution of the Law Firm Brand: How to Promote Individual Attorneys Within the Parameters of the Firm’s Brand
  4. Day 2, Track 3: Competitive Intelligence: Not Just Client Information
  5. Day 2, Track 4: Using Simple, Practical and Meaningful Measures to Drive Marketing and Business Development Activity

Both Rebecca and I will be attending the Shared Interest Group – or SIG – tweet-up on Thursday from 10-11 a.m. Contact us for more details if you’re interested in becoming part of the SIG.

NOTE:

There are a few “haters” of legal marketing who will be trying to interject their thoughts in our stream. Fine, let them. Engaging them isn’t going to do anything but egg them on. They’re not worth it. So block them if you feel like it, don’t reply, and let their thoughts fall on deaf ears. Seriously. It’s not worth it. They have nothing better to do than pick fights.

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