I am not proud to admit this, but it is possible that my three-year-old niece knows more about branding than I do. I learned this the other day when I was reading my niece one of her favorite books, Fancy Nancy.
For those of you who not know Nancy, she is a little girl who loves to dress fancy, act fancy and talk fancy. For example, this little girl does not say that her favorite color is purple. She prefers fuchsia, a word that is “fancy” for purple. Similarly, Nancy does not want a new hairdo. No, Nancy uses the fancy word “coiffure” instead. For some reason, my niece loves Nancy, but I think she is a showoff. When asked why she loves the know-it-all Nancy, my niece explained that she made things sound better.
Maybe my niece had a point. If you want your small firm to sound better, then use fancy words. As Nancy would explain, do not call yourself a “trial lawyer.” Everyone knows that “litigator” is fancy for trial lawyer. Or is it?
Yesterday was the last day of July, and baseball fans know that this day is important because it’s the trade deadline. (Seamheads and baseball lawyers understand that it’s actually only the nonwaiver-trade deadline, but why take the fun out of it?) So I spent some time this weekend following the interwebs to see whether the Red Sox would do anything to improve their league-leading team (and even better, thwart the Yankees from improving at the same time).
At one point, there were reports that the Red Sox had traded for A’s pitcher Rich Harden. But the Sox scuttled the deal once they learned that the oft-injured Harden had a hospital bracelet tattooed on his arm to save time. (They ended up acquiring left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard, who is injured slightly less often than Harden.)
But as I was watching the annual trade-deadline special on the New England Sports Network after Sunday’s game (apparently, I have no life), I saw a laptop commercial that only a law firm could appreciate.
Whose ad it was and why it made me think of the sorry state of law-firm marketing, after the jump.…
A friend of mine is a plaintiff’s lawyer in Boston. We’ve opposed each other on several cases, and our interactions (always on the phone; weirdly, we’ve never met in person) are characterized by good-natured but acerbic jabs. Typically, he would bemoan my clients’ “colossally stupid” behavior. For my part, I would make fun of his firm’s name.
Don’t get me wrong: his firm is one of the most respected plaintiff’s firms in town. But its name follows the classic ego-gratifying law-firm style of putting all the partners’ surnames on the letterhead. With Biglaw firms, this doesn’t matter much, because the name partners tend to be, well, not-so-much alive. And the sheer number of partners at big firms means that ego notwithstanding, most aren’t getting their names on the sign.
But small firms have (by definition) fewer partners — with just as much ego. And they tend to be living. So the firm names are long and subject to frequent change.
Why is this a problem for small firms, and what they should do about it?
Twenty years ago this September, I started law school not knowing anyone there. More importantly, no one there knew me.
Now, mind you, this was at Boston College Law School, where such things aren’t really emphasized. I mean, it’s not like at that school across the Charles, where people like the Winklevii both wear and file suits. At BC Law, which (at least back then) prided itself on being a kinder, gentler law school, it wasn’t really about who you knew, or who knew you. (Yes, one of those whos should really be a whom, but only someone at Harvard would actually say it that way.)
Still, it’s nice to have people know who are you are, and it’s a useful skill to develop for after school, when you need to know how to market your services as a lawyer.
So three weeks after school started, almost everyone knew my name. You see, I had a secret weapon.…
As an in-house lawyer who occasionally influences our selection of outside counsel, I hear an awful lot of law firm pitches. And I must admit that I’m often entertained by them. I spent better than 25 years in the private practice of law, where attracting new business was an important part of the game. I was never sure which pitches had a chance and which didn’t, so it’s pretty amusing to sit on the other side of the table to see how other folks approach this.
I recently saw one good pitch and one bad one, and I just have to share.
First, the bad one. Several lawyers from a firm visited us for a chance to explain their firm’s capabilities. I don’t remember why we were meeting with them — we actually had a need for them; someone recommended them; someone important asked us to meet with them as a favor; whatever. I used to think that getting in the door to meet with potential clients was a big achievement; I now realize that it meant less than I thought.
Anyway, these guys started the pitch the usual way: The firm has lots of great lawyers who’ve done lots of great things in their lives. The firm is divided into several departments, and those divisions should for some reason matter to me. A couple of magazines had bestowed some awards on the firm or its lawyers. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
On a nice, lazy, summer Friday, it’s good to know that rudeness still exists this world.
Today’s example of questionable behavior comes from a midsized Midwestern law firm. Yeah, apparently Midwestern manners don’t extend to how you treat people while you are rejecting them. This firm decided to use its rejection letters as an opportunity to market its new iPhone/iPad application.
It’s an app for people looking for work, of course…
Law firm advertising is expensive and certain methods may be cost-prohibitive for small firms. For instance, a small firm may not be able to afford a television or print campaign. Enter online marketing including, among other things, Google AdWords and sponsored links. In 2009, a law firm filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin state court challenging certain marketing strategies as an invasion of privacy, as defined in the Wisconsin privacy statute. Luckily for consumers and small firms, the court disagreed.
The case involved the two most prominent personal injury firms in Wisconsin. One of them, Cannon & Dunphy, used a Google AdWords PPC (price-per-click) strategy (and other search engines) to bid on the name of the state’s largest personal injury firm, Habush, Habush & Rottier. In other words, when a user would search the terms Habush or Rottier, a Cannon & Dunphy link would show up in the shaded section as a Sponsored Link.
Habush sued Cannon, alleging that Cannon’s online marketing campaign violated Wis. Stat. §995.50. That statute prohibits “the use, for advertising purposes or for purposes of trade, of the name . . . of any living person, without having first obtained the written consent of the person,” and provides a cause of action where such an invasion of privacy was unreasonable.
There is a small-firm lawyer I know who does not appear to me to be super at anything, other than perhaps being super-gross (yes, I am aware that I speak like a little girl on the playground). I recall a meeting in his office wherein he used his pen to clean his teeth, which resulted in his pen exploding on his shirt. Undeterred by his mess, this man continued to advocate for his client by explaining to me “all’s” he knew about a certain subject. As I was getting up to leave that meeting, I saw several wall mountings that indicated that he had been selected for inclusion in the SuperLawyers listing for several years in a row.
That experience made me wonder whether the SuperLawyers list, at least when it comes to small-firm attorneys, was somewhat less than “super.” Indeed, I felt that small-firm lawyers were disproportionately recognized as SuperLawyers. Who does not know a small-firm attorney selected for inclusion in that list?
So I decided to expose the SuperLawyers conspiracy….
Anthony Weiner at today's press conference (via Getty Images).
* Kashmir Hill’s take on Weinergate. She shares my admiration for Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sculpted physique, as showcased in his shirtless pics. [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]
* Charles Colman poses a question for intellectual-property types to puzzle over: “at what point is a slogan so descriptive that it would simply be unreasonable to let just one company use it”? [Law of Fashion]
* Ross Fishman asks: How can law firms in smaller cities and legal markets generate inbound referrals? [Ross's Law Marketing Blog]
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
Register today for the LGBT Bar’s Meet the Power Brokers: Financial Regulators event, held on Thursday, March 13 from 4:00 – 7:30pm. The event is specifically geared towards financial regulation and features an educational workshop and networking reception. Topics discussed will include the role of financial regulators, new rules and regulations related to the Dodd-Frank Act and developments in nation and international capital market regulation.
A reception will follow the workshop, allowing financial professionals to network and build relationships with individuals practicing in similar areas. The workshop will be streamed live via webinar for those individuals who are unable to attend the event in DC. For more information and to register, visit LGBTBar.org or contact Liz Youngblood at (202) 637-7661 or [email protected].
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