Legal Marketing


According to the National Law Journal’s Karen Sloan

Flagship law reviews have seen paid circulation decline significantly during the past three decades, with some facing particularly steep drop-offs lately, according to a study by a professor at the George Mason University School of Law.

The reported paid circulation for the Harvard Law Review, Davies found, was 8,760 in 1979 but a mere 2,029 in 2009 — a decline of nearly 77%. Paid circulation for The Yale Law Journal dropped by more than 57% — from 4,051 in 1980 to 1,725 in 2009.

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UPDATE:

Employers …  may face liability under federal, state and local law for using any information learned from social media about an applicant’s protected class status — race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc. — in a hiring decision.  It may be hard for the employer to prove in later litigation that it only viewed, but didn’t actually use, the information obtained in a social medium when making its hiring decision.  For more visit The National Law Journal

12/24/08 An article by Tresa Baldas of The National Law Journal, Beware: Your ‘tweet’ on Twitter Could be Trouble, suggests that twittering could get you and your employer into trouble.

Here are the NLJ fine points, and my thoughts. Feel free to chime in…

Potential Problem 1 – Users posting tweets from corporate networks could expose company secrets. These conversations, lawyers note, are legally binding and subject to the legal rules of electronic discovery, which means tweets could be subpoenaed in a lawsuit.

Suggestion 1 – Don’t Twitter from your corporate network OR as a matter of company policy, establish a set of guidelines under which employees will be permitted to Twitter from the corporate network.

Potential Problem 2 – Twitter also raises invasion of privacy and defamation issues. Trademark violations could also be alleged if Twitter users appear to have a relationship with a company or product when one does not exist or post tweets to dilute a trademarked name.

Suggestion 2 – The worlds of Twitter, and similar sources, are part of a new frontier. Rules of engagement are created by users and creators everyday. Twitter user @danmartell recently suggested not following anyone who doesn’t have a url associated with their Twitter profile. I see that as a matter “guaranteeing” legitimacy. It’s such an informal world at this time that a simple cease and desist to someone who appears to be misrepresenting themselves would seem to be enough. In regards to watering down a trademarked name… companies would be better served by bringing those folks who are talking about them into the fold than trying to silence them.


Potential Problem 3 – Twitter could also trigger more workplace retaliation and wrongful termination claims, whereby users will claim that they were retaliated against or fired over protected information they tweeted, such as being harassed at work or disclosing a safety violation.

Suggestion 3 – This one is tricky in that workplace retaliation and wrongful termination can be so difficult to prove. Are there any HR people or inside counsel with thoughts on this one?

Final thoughts from the article:

“Be careful what you say,” warned attorney Douglas E. Winter, who heads the electronic discovery unit at Bryan Cave and advises companies about emerging technologies. “Twitter, like any electronic communication tool, is subject to a wide range of potential liability,” he said. “I basically tell people that, yes, it’s a new tool, and it’s very trendy. But no electronic tool should be treated any differently as they emerge.”

Winter stressed that tweets are no different from letters, e-mails or text messages. They can be damaging and discoverable, he said, which could be especially problematic for companies that are heavily regulated and required to preserve and maintain electronic records, such as the securities industry and federal contractors. Twitter records would be one more compliance headache for these companies, he said, not to mention the possibility of privileged information getting out.

And the shorter tweets can be more vulnerable to misinterpretation, said Nolan Goldberg of Proskauer Rose, who sits on the firm’s e-discovery task force, known as the “E-squad.” “You can get yourself in a lot of trouble in 140-character [worth of] words,” he said. “You say it, and you don’t realize that it’s creating a permanent record on the Internet. It can go anywhere.”

Rod Sorensen, a management-side lawyer at San Francisco’s Payne & Fears who counsels employers on technology procedures, agreed.

“They’re quick sound bites and instantaneous, and as we know, instantaneous messages aren’t the most well-thought out,” Sorensen said of Twitter messages. “Someone could, for example, say something when they’re angry or frustrated. It opens the door to poor judgment. And, of course, as with other technology, once it’s released you’re not going to get it back.”

Twitter terms of service can be found here.

Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy dabbling in, learning about and discussing new technologies.  If I can incorporate them into my work life, that’s even better.

One downside to technology — even when designed to bring clients and customers closer — is the law of unintended consequences.  It can become all too easy to get tripped up by all the apps, tools, gadgets, services and products designed to make success… more probable, delivery… faster, communications… enhanced, and results… better.  We can actually end up moving farther apart — from people, purpose and intentions.

Robin Hensley’s Fulton County Daily Report interview with retired attorney Frank Love Jr. inspired some thoughts about bringing customer relationship development back to basics every now and then,  especially during our currently challenging times.  It’s not only good for relationships, but beneficial to your brand.

Pay attention to what is going on.

Such a simple concept, but in a world that is so focused on acting NOW and delivering NOW, it can be easy to miss the little things, or even some big things, during the quest to make things happen. One case in point, I attended a marketing webcast.  I can’t tell you what the topic of the webcast was because all I remember is the speakers saying, you asked for it, so we’re giving it to you.  You asked for it, and we listened.  They would then proceed to talk about their product, which had little to do with the topic of the webcast.  I do remember that much.

Lesson learned: Paying attention to what you deliver is as important as paying attention to what customers SAY they want.

Become known in the neighborhood.

While Frank was literally referring to an example of becoming known within the square blocks where he lived, our professional neighborhoods today can be defined by geography, industry, targeted demographic, occupation — anything imaginable.  I like to think of becoming known in the neighborhood as part of establishing a playground.

And, to get the most out of your playground, Frank suggests that you make sure people know you.  “You have to do something. You can’t just sit around, read books, then go home, have a drink, and go to bed, because if people don’t know you, they’re not going to hire you, and if other lawyers don’t know you, they are not going to refer business to you.”

I sometimes have to remind myself to do it, but stepping away from the Netbook, iPod touch, cell phone — LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook — and actually meeting people in my playground, face-to-face, is a far more valuable and memorable experience.

Lesson learned: While online neighborhoods can be valuable and do serve a purpose, sometimes we need to relegate them to tool status and get out and meet the neighbors… get some face time.

Which brings me to… Get on the phone.

Love suggests establishing personal relationships with a client by talking to them on the telephone.  What a concept!!!  “One of the big problems I have is with all this electronic communication. Instead of picking up the phone and talking to client, you send an e-mail.  There are two things wrong with that. One, it creates a record of whatever you said that is difficult to get rid of.  And two, it’s not a personal thing.  You don’t get a personal response.  You get another e-mail in response. And oftentimes they’re misconstrued.  And so I never did that.”

While I have to admit that I will generally write an email message or send a text before I will make a phone call, I believe Frank is right.   Email makes it easier to communicate with multiple people at one time, but in our efforts to make things simpler, they can become more complicated.

Lesson learned: Sometimes the simplest way to communicate or reach a goal is to pick up the phone.

Be prepared to be flexible.

“If you’re specializing in an area and the business just dries up… you have to learn new skills,” advised Frank.   “You have to take some cases that you wouldn’t take ordinarily, both from a standpoint of money and skill requirements.”  Advice from a man who has lived through several major recessions in the time he’s been practicing law, according to Robin.

Lesson learned: That one is self explanatory.

Ask for it!

Tell your clients you are looking for more business.  “Just say to them, ‘Would you please recommend me if you have a chance?’ You’d be amazed that unless you tell somebody that they won’t think of it.  But if you do tell them that, the chances are very good that that client, if he’s happy with you, which is of course the number one requirement, will send you some clients. Happy clients are a good source of business.”

Like many of you, I’m big on making recommendations and referrals without being asked.  If I like a product, service, person, place or thing… I’m happy to let people know.  Connecting people who can benefit one another is almost second nature.  But, “Ask for it”? Not so fervently.

Lesson learned: There is always someone willing to help, but you may not find out unless you Ask for it!
 

Follow @AndaPR on Twitter for more.

For those who don’t know, Santa Clara University (SCU) is my alma mater. While it has been years since I’ve been there, I have seen the University grow so much and stay at the forefront of technology, social justice, and take a willingness to look forward.

So, I was thrilled to find out that Santa Clara University School of Law is holding an open house in Second Life today. The National Law Journal’s Leigh Jones says it’s considered the first event of its kind! The event is designed to attract potential students and emphasize the law school’s close ties with the technology industry in the Silicon Valley area of California.

Over at the Above the Law blawg, they say

Santa Clara law students could have their law librarian to thank for the school’s foray into the virtual world. Sources report that the new law librarian over at Santa Clara is an avid Second Lifer. In addition, we’ve learned that Santa Clara has hosted other legal seminars in Second Life, over at “Santa Clara Island.”

SCU’s Second Life cyber-campus opened on November 1st. On Santa Clara Island, visitors will find a simulation of SCU’s new library and learning center, including a teaching classroom, reading area, theater, art gallery, bookstore, and café. Other campus buildings, such as the de Saisset Museum and Mission Church, will also have cyber counterparts.

According to the Second Life blog,

over 200 educators from nearly as many universities and colleges use it for classes, research, learning and projects with their students, bringing a new dimension to learning. A large, active education community is engaged in the Grid. Harvard University, Texas State University, and Stanford University have set up virtual campuses where students can meet, attend classes, and create content together.

…or, Recession saves marriages.  Things are so rough, Nolo’s Legal Marketing Blawg says couples are putting off divorce! 

Following are tips for marketing legal services from Nolo’s Legal Marketing Blawg , the Legal Marketing Secrets blog, and Legal Marketing Blog.com.  They offer great tips that can be considered and applied by all professional services firms to keep the currency flowing. 

Nolo’s Legal Marketing Blawg suggests:

1.  Show Clients Your Budget Options 
Identify ways for clients to keep their legal fees low. 

  • Perhaps a client can’t afford your deluxe estate planning package right now, but can pay for the bare essentials.  When the economy improves, the client might decide to pay for an upgrade. 
  • Tell corporate clients that you can draft their incorporation papers but let them take care of the filing on their own to save extra fees. 
  • Instead of charging clients each time they call for a status update, you could implement a secure online portal or project management tool (such as Basecamp or Zoho) where clients can check on the progress of their case themselves or download documents rather than calling you.

2.  Layaway Plans 
Accommodate clients by allowing installment payments or spreading out retainer payments.  Clients would deposit money into a lawyer’s retainer account where it would be help in trust until sufficient funds are collected to pay the cost of the work.

3.  Bring Out the Bargains
Consider the Free Trademarks for Start Ups program that’s being offered by attorney Erik Heels of the Clock Tower Law Group.   Basically, if you’re an already incorporated start-up, Heels will file your first trademark for free. 

Over at the Legal Marketing Secrets blog 5 of Cole Silver, Esq. suggestions are:

  • Review your practice areas and get a clear picture as to each area’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Look for new areas of practice to supplement your current practice.
  • Call your current clients and see how you can help them weather the storm.
  • Network with other lawyers to form joint ventures for increased referrals.
  • Continue to execute more efficient ways to do business.

And above all…
Some firms are cutting their marketing expenses due to the slowdown viewing them as “overhead”.  Don’t make this mistake.  Now is the best time to do more marketing because when the tide changes, clients will remember you were there for them.

Legal Marketing Blog.com grabbed tips from the YouCan’tBuyThat.com

  • “Find ways to engage in conversation with your heavy users and fanatical consumers. More than ever, your brand’s stalkers (again, read clients who could make referrals) are going to help you spread the word.”
  • Invest in good people, as they’ll figure out to get the job done even in the bad times.
  • “All hands on deck,” meaning that everyone in the organization should have a “sales mentality.”
  • Remain consistent, since you don’t want others (clients, referral sources, vendors, or anyone for that matter) to get a whiff of panic emanating from the firm.