Okay, so you’re not socially inept. I’d offer my congratulations, but being socially adept and willing to mingle is only part of the battle for a small firm attorney. It’s a necessary but not sufficient component of long-term success. (Remember all that necessary/sufficient crap from the LSAT? Yeah, me neither. It doesn’t matter.)
What does matter is that you find a way to deploy whatever level of social skill that you have. Even Bobby Boucher figured that out. You have to find something to fill in this blank:
Step One: Be a reasonably competent lawyer who’s not socially inept.
Step Two: ??
Step Three: Profit.
So what’s the meat in the Step Sandwich here? I’ll share some of my own experiences, along with some insightful comments from the readers….
I’d like to believe we live on a planet where reason dictates the choices we make as well as the policies of law firms. As numerous personal experiences and Above the Law articles have demonstrated to me, this isn’t always the case. And nowhere is this irrationality more perplexing than firm policies towards LinkedIn recommendations.
LinkedIn has a feature that allows lawyers and clients to write recommendations of each other. For a recommendation to be published online, it has to “accepted” by the person being recommended. The problem is, major law firms are prohibiting the use of LinkedIn recommendations by their attorneys (both inbound and outbound). Referrals and peer-to-peer recommendations are the lifeblood of most practices.
So why are so many firms prohibiting their use online?
My former practice at a small law firm was primarily commercial and residential real estate development. The week after my bar results came in, my boss gave me a stack of documents to read through and let me sit in on a couple of closings. I watched, listened and pretended to take notes. Then one morning he popped his head into my office.
“Why don’t you take the ten o’clock?” It was more of a command than a question, and I responded by nodding and breaking into a sweat. An hour and a half later, I thanked the parties for their patience, staggered back to my office, and began thinking about my career choice. My boss said something supportive but unconvincing, like “it’ll take a few times before you find your rhythm.”
That was my first of many direct experiences with the gap between the theory and the practice of law. This gap, which I filled mostly with sweat, is the subject of a nice post by Bill MacDonald that I stumbled into over the weekend. Specifically, he writes about three aspects of law practice that receive little, if any, attention in law school.
One of his points in particular struck a chord with me — and, given its importance to making money as a small firm lawyer, it deserves some coverage here…
This past week, bestselling author Seth Godin pointed out that most bloggers and users of social media are failing miserably:
There are millions of songs on iTunes that have sold zero copies. Millions of blog posts that get zero visitors each day.
The long tail is real… given the ability, people create more variety. Given the choice, people seek out what’s just right for them to consume. But, and there’s a big but, there’s no guarantee that the ends of the long tail start producing revenue or traffic. And a million times zero is still zero.
So what are attorneys with little or no traffic to their blogs doing wrong? Let’s discuss….
Don’t take it personally. Nobody is perfect, but unfortunately, when it comes to law firm bios — well, most of them stink. They tout the vast accomplishments of the lawyer: where they went to law school, if they graduated with honors, whether they were on law review. Then they often include a laundry list of each and every type of legal matter the attorney has ever dealt with in their life. The main problem is, attorney bios are often created with very little thought into strategy. This is unfortunate, especially considering how important bios are.
Your bio matters to decision makers. Ninety percent of general counsel claim the attorney bios are the most important part of a law firm’s website (2009 Wicker Park Group). Studies have also shown that bios are the most viewed pages on law firm websites, generating over 50% of the page views. If a good bio can help you land one more client this next year, what would that be worth to you? What about five new clients? Perhaps your bio deserves a little more attention than you are giving it.
There are three major problems that plague the bios of law firms, and some of them are pretty easy to fix….
Almost two years ago, I joined Twitter to help find a publisher for a book I was writing. A couple weeks later, a friend I followed on Twitter asked, “Does anybody know a contracts lawyer?” I responded and won a new client. A lawyer winning business on Twitter was somewhat unusual at that time, but it isn’t anymore. In the 2010 ABA Technology Survey Report, 10% of respondents “had a client retain their legal services as a result of use of online communities/social networking.” While 10% may seem small, it represents a dramatic shift in law firm attitudes towards social media.
So how are the successful attorneys doing it? By personally maintaining a presence online: 56% of attorneys reported having a presence in 2010, up from just 43% in 2009 and 15% in 2008. (In 2008, the social networks mentioned in the survey were Facebook, Second Life and LawLink — so times have changed a bit.) Bottom line is, there has been a clear shift over the last three years. Take a look at the classic innovation curve:
For those unfamiliar with the Rogers Innovation Curve, think of the first group of innovators as those who stood in line for the first iPhone, and the second group of early adopters as those who did their research and jumped on for the second version of the iPhone. The early majority represents widespread acceptance of the technology, and the late majority is when people like my father (who just recently stopped dictating emails to his secretary) buy iPhones. The laggards are those who have not yet figured out how to turn on their computers.
Participating in social networks is no longer a fringe activity enjoyed by the innovators and early adopters; it is now enjoyed by the early majority and a piece of the late majority. Social networks have hit the mainstream for lawyers, and since lawyers tend to lag behind the rest of the population in acceptance of new technology, I suspect there is even greater penetration among businesses and key decision makers.
How are different groups of lawyers responding to the social networking revolution?
“The secret to happiness in life is setting low expectations.”
– My Uncle Lyman
Over the past few weeks, in the comments to my ATL posts, there have been a number of questions about whether or not large law firms are bringing in real clients through their law blogs. While we have seen some instances of big wins that have come as a direct result of law blogs, these have been rare. What about the average law blogs? Have blogs lived up to the expectations of Biglaw firms?
My inquiry began by looking at all the law blogs of the Am Law 100 firms. Click here to see the full list. As you can see from the chart, the majority of the law blogs come from just a few firms. In fact, 5 percent of the firms account for 49 percent of the total law blogs of the Am Law 100.
So I went directly to these firms and asked them: Have the law blogs been worth it? Have they been worth the money, the effort, and the (expensive) billable time of the attorneys?
I spoke to several law firm partners and marketing officers to find out….
In a classic Seinfield episode, Jerry gets the phone number of a girl he is interested in from off of a list of people donating money for the AIDS Walk. Jerry does his best to keep this a secret from the girl, but eventually he lets it slip to George, who lets it slip to Susan, who tells her friend, who spills it it to the girl. The girl ends things with Jerry, offended that he would use a charity list to pick her up.
Why did she care? Because the way people get our information and how they use it matter to us. People hold on to their contact info as if it were solid gold. You give up your phone number and email address too easily, and you will be forever harassed by spam.
People do give up their email addresses, though, especially in exchange for information that they really want, or to people they like. This allows for something called permission marketing, an extremely powerful tool for building a prospect list for your practice. List building is an essential aspect of business development that is far too often overlooked. Often lost in the debate over the viability of social media is an improper or ineffective utilization of existing contact lists….
Are you a superstar or a team player? When it comes to law blogs, the question is: do you have your own blog, or are you part of a team that writes a group blog? With over 45% of the Am Law 200 now using blogs, amid mounting evidence that blogs bring both publicity and business, many firms are trying to figure out the best way to build a successful blog.
For those of you who have been living underground for the last year, here is how the two different types of blogs work.
The Personal Law Blog
Lawyer X starts blogging. He is an expert in Computer Fraud Law, and as he blogs and shares his knowledge, he gains credibility and brings publicity to the firm, in the form of website traffic and media mentions. He starts to be seen as a subject matter expert, which helps him build relationships and expand his book of business. The firm makes more money and everybody is happy.
This is one strategy. The second strategy is to have multiple authors in a group law blog.
The Group Law Blog
Lawyers A, B, C, D and E come together as a group to write a blog about Video Game Law. Each week, one or two authors write a blog post that leads to greater exposure for the firm. The practice group is seen as more cutting edge, RFPs can mention the blog, and the increased web traffic results in phone calls that lead to more business. Everyone is happy.
So which type of law blog is right for your firm? I took this question to several active members of the online legal community to get their perspectives….
Writing a book, blog, article or white paper are all great ways to get noticed and build relationships in the legal industry. Unfortunately, practicing lawyers confront great demands on their time, and even though they have good intentions, the work of creating this type of content is often delegated to associates or put off altogether. Part of the problem is that writing blog posts and articles is a loss leader. You spend too much time writing without business coming in, and soon enough you’ll be out of business.
Here is where social media and email marketing comes in. Every article and piece of content you create no longer has just one life. Now it can easily have nine. Hopefully one of these nine lives will give you the extra motivation to start writing more.
Life 1: Blog.
The law blog is your home base for all your new content. Creating blog posts on a regular basis is the single most powerful tool for business development in the online world. The search engines love fresh content, and once you have enough content on your blog, you will create a steady flow of traffic to your site….
We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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