Tough Times for Accounting Associations

Julie_lindy_1 A stunning 40% of executives expert there to be fewer associations of accounting firms in the next two years than exist today, according to the April 2005 issue of Inside Public Accounting. 

(In law, they're referred to as law firm networks, and for a complete list of them, see Law Firm Networks - Everything You Need to Know on the LawMarketing Portal,

An example is PKF International, with 380 member firms, 470 offices, and more than 13,000 partners and staff in 119 Countries. According to the newsletter, member accounting firms are demanding help with proposals, lead generation, opportunities to collaborate on big jobs and meaningful referrals.  Getting new business is what the associations are all about.  Here's the list of the top 10, according to IPA:

Top 10 Accounting
Firm Association
Total Fee
Income ($mil)
Web Site
PricewaterhouseCoopers 17,600.0
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu 16,400.0
Ernst & Young 14,500.0
KPMG 13,500.0
BDO International 3,017.5
RSM International 2,128.0
Grant Thornton 2,092.0
Baker Tilly International 1,815.0
Moores Rowland Intern'l 1,794.0
Horwath International 1,788.7

Up to now associations have been supplying staff training, continuing accounting education and marketing support, but the firms want services that boost their bottom line. 

Accounting firms are "looking for some basic things that they weren't getting from their membership: referred business; down-and-dirty meetings where they can share experience and expertise and get in and out quickly; international connections -- and they want those things without the burden of high costs," reports the newsletter, edited by Julie Lindy in Atlanta.

In response, the associations are getting picky about who's allowed to become a member.  "The firm that merely pays its dues and contributes little else, and the one that can't be counted on for quality referrals and work, is becoming less and less welcome."

McGuireWoods ad campaign launches

Mcguirewoods McguireWoods rattled the Chicago legal market by running ads starting this week that markets its ability to tailor fees for its legal services that go beyond the traditional hourly rate.  I obtained a copy of one of the ads in case you missed it.  Click on the image to see the full size version.

Here's the body copy:

"The longer lawyers take, the more they make. Does that align their interest with yours? McGuireWoods has been working in Chicago for over 100 years. We understand how to create alternative fee programs that aren't based on time. Whether it be a fixed fee, success fee or some other alternative, we have learned that companies make better decisions when they know the cost up front. If your lawyers serve the clock more than your needs, we would like to discuss how we can help. Off the clock, of course."

Professional firm marketing could use more of this kind of edgy advertising.  The beauty of the campaign is that most firms will already offer an alternative fee; but McGuireWoods is promoting the fact.  It reminds me of the service guarantee that Ungaretti & Harris offered a few years ago.  Basically, if you were unhappy with their work, they'd be willing to talk about a discount.  Most firms would do the same, but the Ungaretti firm promoted the fact.  I thought it was a fabulous tactic!  The way it was reported in the press, including the New York Times, was that for the first time a law firm was offering a money-back guarantee!

The Chicago legal community huffed and puffed about it, but it was the novel marketer that will be forever remembered.


Getting PR from Bloggers

Edelman The Edelman PR firm has published an excellent document about Blogging, entitled Trust "MeDIA" -- it's a 22 page document that is "the 1.0 Guide to the Blogosphere for Marketers & Company Stakeholders." 

Bloggers are now as desirable as newspaper and TV reporters as PR targets.  Edelman has some excellent tips for getting PR from bloggers.  I quote:

* Read the blog. Try to understand what and why the readers like the blog site.

* Bloggers write about only what's interesting to them, so connect with the blog author by sharing information that his or her readers might appreciate.

* Engage with the blogger on topics he or she has raised, thus establishing the relationship first.

* Don't wear out your welcome. Make choices about who to contact, when to contact, and how frequently.

* As with mainstream media writers, what's important are the relationship and trust developed over time.

Edelman2 * Provide information, kernels, links, and other resources; don't just shower bloggers with canned press releases. Instead of sending a press release as a Word document, for example, send only the link to the press release on the company Web site. Send links to existing news stories, blog entries, videos, audio recordings or other resources that bloggers so love to share.

* Beware of spam. Contact bloggers judiciously, always conscious that everyone likes as little spam as possible. (Comment sections on blogs already are being targeted by traditional spam, so don't add to the fray).

* Be honest and transparent about your motives and intentions. Make sure the blogger knows you are a marketing or PR professional.

* Read the blog author's "rules of contact." Honor "do not call" requests. If a blogger makes it clear that he/she no longer wants to hear from you (whether by phone or e-mail), remove the name from your list.

* Choose the best person to engage with bloggers. Bloggers might prefer to also talk to someone in the company directly involved in the product, news, issue or event rather than with a spokesperson.

* Like all writers and reporters, bloggers like being first...with an insight, an angle, the actual news, etc. Spread around your "tips" and "exclusives" so that no one feels slighted.

Thanks to Kevin O'Keefe for announcing that this report was available on his blog.


Sachnoff Annual Report Knocks Your Socks Off

Sachnoff_postcard_2The marketing maestros at Sachnoff & Weaver appear to be the first law firm to publish their annual report for 2004, and it's a real winner.

The 38-page perfect-bound, art book quality publication reviews the greatest hits of the firm's 10 practices.  In litigation, they won a patent infringement case for Eastman Kodak against Sun Microsystems (at right) and a favorable settlement affecting the their client's ownership in Chicago Board of Trade just before it went public.

Other success stories recount how the transactional lawyers took Standard Park Corporation public, and helped MultiPlan, Inc. in its $250 million acquisition of BCE Emergis Inc.

Each page is concise with the text, boldfaces the client names and has a picture to go with a client success story on the right hand page.

The 2004 highlights booklet is so good, I think the 140-lawyer firm can throw away all their brochures and just use the annual highlights instead.

Kudos to Vice President Client Services & Strategic Planning Dean Harakas, Marketing Manager Jason Isadore and the rest of the marketing team.


Guffaws at McGuire Woods' Ad Campaign

Patrick_lamb_3Patrick Lamb, a partner over at 31-lawyer Butler, Rubin, Saltarelli & Boyd, couldn't contain his skepticism of McGuireWoods' new ad campaign which challenges the notion of hourly billing.  "Forgive me if I stifle a guffaw," he wrote in his blog "In Search of Perfect Client Service."

"In my mind, this kind of marketing plays into client's cynicism about lawyers use of alternative fees.  In the minds of many clients, lawyers take a "I"m with you win or draw" approach to alternative fees, taking upside risk for good results but never taking downside risk.  That approach will never work," he says.

But he's not totally unconvinced.  "I honestly hope McGuire Woods is successful, since any progress in efforts to bill our clients according to the value (to them) of our work is a step forward.  But forgive me if I don't bet the ranch just yet."


McGuireWoods ad campaign challenges hourly billing

Mcguirewoods_2From the April 18 Chicago Tribune:

Hourly legal fees under attack
Traditional billing by time spent is standard at most big law firms, but McGuireWoods is advertising alternatives

By Ameet Sachdev, Tribune staff reporter

Year after year, the most pressing concern for in-house corporate law departments is controlling skyrocketing legal costs.  While most law firms pay lip service to helping companies address this issue, at least one is staking its reputation on it.

In an advertising campaign to begin Monday, McGuireWoods LLP will market its ability to tailor fees for its legal services that go beyond the traditional hourly rate. The ads, to appear in Crain's Chicago Business, the Midwest edition of Fortune magazine and other local publications, is expected to create a stir in the Chicago legal community because the Richmond, Va.-based firm is taking shots at the competition.

In one ad, a pudgy, balding, middle-aged man in a business suit leans back in a chair and blows bubbles into the air. The caption reads, "Law firms that charge strictly by the hour are about to have their bubbles burst."

In the genteel world of corporate law firms, this sort of edgy advertising is highly unusual. Most big law firms rarely advertise, and when they do, they usually brag about big verdicts or how hard they work.

McGuireWoods also is attacking one of the sacred cows of the legal world: the billable hour.

McGuireWoods is challenging conventional wisdom, in part, to raise its profile in the highly competitive Chicago legal market.

The marketing campaign comes nearly two years after the firm made a big splash in Chicago by acquiring the 101-year-old Ross & Hardies.  While the merger more than tripled the size of McGuireWoods' office, to about 175 lawyers, the firm still is trying to establish a name in a city with nationally prominent players like Kirkland & Ellis, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw and Sidley Austin Brown & Wood.

One way to do that, McGuireWoods' leaders say, is to be more responsive to clients.

Survey after survey of in-house law departments shows that their top priority is reducing the money they spend on outside law firms.  Some of the growth in legal expenses is out of their control, as companies deal with more lawsuits and regulations and turn to outside lawyers to handle these matters.

But one of the biggest factors in the rise in corporate legal spending is tied to the hourly rate.  Billing by the hour inevitably creates incentives for lawyers to be less efficient, legal experts say. Mergers between law firms also have created upward pressure on hourly rates, as larger firms tend to charge higher rates.

It's no surprise, then, that calls for alternatives to hourly billing have fallen on deaf ears inside law firms.

Less than 3 percent of in-house counsel reported that their law firms offered alternative fee arrangements, according to a 2003 survey of corporate counsel that was performed by Serengeti Law, which sells Internet-based billing systems to companies.

"Some firms don't have any inclination to do [alternative fee arrangements] because they can get all the work they want at the rates they are charging," said Craig Hunt, senior vice president and general counsel at Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., a Chicago-based packaging company.

But companies want more predictability in their legal costs that hourly rates don't offer, Hunt said.

Several types of legal work, Hunt said, lend themselves to fixed, upfront fees, such as filing patent and trademark applications.

One Chicago firm has found that alternative arrangements work in handling large, complex lawsuits. Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, a boutique litigation firm, typically charges a flat fee, payable in monthly installments. The client retains a percentage that it pays only if the firm is successful. Otherwise, the client keeps the money.

"We like to get paid for results rather than the hours," said Sidney "Skip" Herman, Bartlit Beck's managing partner.

McGuireWoods has been offering alternatives to hourly bills for years. About 35 percent of the firm's annual revenue of about $300 million comes from alternative billing arrangements.

Now it wants its lawyers to spend more time talking about fees with clients to come up with the best solution, which could be an hourly rate.

"We want to be a cutting-edge law firm," said partner Robert Pristave. "We think this will help us better understand our clients' needs and provide better service."


4 Top PR Trends

Joan_stewart_1Joan Stewart, affectionately known as The Publicity Hound, has spotted 4 new trends in public relations.  They are reprinted from "The Publicity Hound's Tips of the Week," a free ezine featuring tips, tricks and tools for generating free publicity.  You can subscribe at and receive free by email the handy list "89 Reaons to Send a News Release."  Here are the trends:

Trend #1: Blogging

By far, this is the most important development in the last year, and not just for PR people. Even though blogs have been around for several years, they're growing at the rate of at least 30,000 new blogs a day. Yes, a DAY. You no longer have to rely only on the media to get your message to the masses. You can create your own blog (short for web log) in an hour or two, and communicate directly with your customers and the public. Blog expert Peter Blackshaw of Inteliseek said blogs are like "megaphones on steroids." He told a group of about 130 PR people: "Whether you think bloggers are crackpots or not, many consumers trust them more than they trust you." (Stay tuned next week as I introduce The Publicity Hound's blog.)

Trend #2: RSS Feeds

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It means you automatically send your blog posts or new content at your website to those who ask for it. That might include everybody from your customers and shareholders to journalists who cover your topic. You, too, can use RSS feeds as a valuable research tool, and a great way to check up on what your competitors are doing if you subscribe to RSS feeds from their sites and from blogs that keep you up to date on industry trends.

Trend #3: Online Media Rooms

Surveys show an increasing number of journalists are doing research online. Yet they're frustrated by the inability of companies to post up-to-date, relevant information at their websites. Reporters are bothered by things such as flash sites, poor navigation, no immediate contact information, forms they're asked to fill out, no print-quality images, and things they must download. Remember that many of them are still on slow dial-up connections.

Trend #4: PR Measurement

Gone are the days when people measured the success of their PR campaigns by a bucket full of clippings. These days, smart promoters are measuring business outcomes. They're asking questions like: Did our publicity change minds? Move markets? Influence people's decisions? Did we sell more? Did we increase market share? In other words, before you begin a PR campaign, carefully define your goals. Then launch the campaign. Then judge the success of the campaign by whether or not the publicity helped you reach your goals.


The Parable of the Lawyer Turned Hunter

Harold_ruvoldtThere's a wonderful interview with Harold Ruvolt of Edwards & Angell on developing a marketing plan, on page 32 of the March/April issue of Law Firm Inc.  He cites a telling parable:

"We discussed the parable of a lawyer is who decides that he doesn't want to be a lawyer anymore. Instead, he wants to live out in the country, and he wants to be a hunter.

"So he moves to the country, and after six weeks, he is starving. And his friend comes and says, "What happened?" And he replies, "You know, I just am not succeeding as a hunter."

"And his friend says, "Well, what do you do everyday?"

"And the lawyer turned hunter says, Oh, it's easy.  I sit and wait until the animals come find me because I am the greatest hunter in the world."  


"And then we took that parable through all of the different aspects of the marketing approaches lawyers make, such as, "I go to the forest with my gun and I just shoot everything that moves."

You know, that's kind of the the way professional marketing is done.


Personality Test for Business Development

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and be the person to generate your own new business?  According to technology marketing expert Phillip Lay, the most successful business developers in today's depressed tech sector are smart, self-starting, non-conformist thinkers who are determined to go through walls to achieve their mission.

According to author Seth Godin, "it has never been more important for companies to hire entrepreneurial business developers who can proactively operate within the context of the firm's mission and values to anticipate customer needs."

To that end, the Business Career Personality Test allows you to assess your interests and learn how your compare to established entrepreneurs. Take the BCII yourself. The test takes 30 minutes to complete, will score automatically, and provides interpretive materials on-line. It's a wonderful personality test for business development, sales and marketing.

I just took it and the results said: "The average score for the general business comparison group is 50. 10 points higher or lower represents a significant variation from the norm. My score was 62!  A score of 60 or higher is indicative of interests and self-description that is very similar to that of entrepreneurs.

"Perhaps the best way to think about a high or very high range Entrepreneurial Attributes Scales (EAS) scale score is as an indication that you will value entrepreneurial organizational cultures, whether or not you choose to start or own your own business. The results said that an entrepreneurial culture is one that:

  • values individual initiative.
  • provides genuine autonomy.
  • moves profit and loss responsibility as far down in the organizational structure as possible.
  • aggressively structures compensation to reward individual initiative.
  • assumes that individuals are willing to take compensation risks in favor of exceptional compensation opportunities that will be realized with the success of the business.

"Entrepreneurial cultures attract individuals who see themselves as innovative, creative, autonomous, prefer less structure in job descriptions, are less tied to traditional definitions of career progress and are more willing to take risks (though the effective entrepreneur, like any effective business professional, always seeks to reduce risk)."

The test is free. Take the BCII yourself.


What Percentage of Revenue Should be Spent on Marketing?

Money2This question is answered amply in the new March 2005 issue of Law Practice, published by the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association.

The magazine asked me, "How much money should I spend?" and here's my answer (from page 35).

Whatever you're spending, it isn't enough. The typical corporation spends from 10 to 15 percent of revenues on marketing. In contrast, the 2004 Altman Weil Survey of Law Firm Economics indicates that the national average that law firms spend on marketing as a percentage of revenues has actually dropped to 1.7 percent. This is pathetic. Marketing is the jet fuel that makes companies fly.

The ratio of marketing dollars to revenues decreases as firms grow larger--nine-lawyer firms spend 2.0 percent while firms with more than 150 lawyers spend 1.5 percent. And the ratio decreases according to market size--firms in markets with populations of less than 250,000 spend 1.8 percent, while firms in markets with 1 million or more spend 1.6 percent.

Just as important as percentage spent, which has not changed materially in the past 10 years, is how law firms spend their promotional dollars. Money spent on tables at charity functions, ads in symphony concert programs or mass-mailed holiday cards is wasted. It's dumping the jet fuel overboard. Investments should only be made in marketing activities that are measurable.

For example, if you present a seminar you must follow up to see which attendees became clients. You should tune up your Web site so that it addresses client issues and generates phone calls to lawyers. And if you participate in a trade show at a conference of general counsel, you must tally up the new files that came in as a result.

Marketing should be viewed as an investment. Law firms should spend money on business development and should expect more business in return.

Spend $14K to $17K per lawyer

According to The BTI Consulting Group (on page 13), marketing budgets between $14,000 and $17,000 per lawyer garner the optimal return, delivering the highest positive impact on a law firm's revenue growth and profits per lawyer. These figures are based on more than 140 interviews with managing partners, directors of marketing and directors of business development in Amlaw 100 and Amlaw 200 firms.

"Only 9.6% of law firms target their spending to these levels," notes Michael B. Rynowecer, BTI's President. The payback at these spending levels is more than twice that of firms that under commit to their marketing budgets.

"Over 80 percent of law firms under-commit resources to support their marketing activities. These firms are at risk of never investing enough in marketing--they struggle to see return on their marketing investment and ultimately may eliminate the very marketing practices that cement financial success," he said.

For more detail, see BTI Survey: "12 Marketing Practices Drive Pacesetting Performance" on the LawMarketing Portal.


The Disappearance of Associates from Law Firm Web Sites

When I was an in-house marketing director, I recall the New York partners being paranoid about listing the firm's associates on the firm Web site.  They were afraid that a Web bio with contact information would make them easier targets for recruiters to poach.  We published the information anyway, because we were publishing bios for associates in all the other offices.  The partners were just being paranoid.

Buffalo Springfield got it right in "For what it's worth" in 1969: "Paranoia strikes deep, Into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid.You step out of line, the man come and take you away."

The paranoia is back.  Associate bios on Baker & McKenzie's Web site are not live links. All you get is their name, city, practice and email address. Neither Schulte Roth & Zabel nor Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in New York list associate phone numbers.  The list goes on.

The reason given, again, is that firms fear poachers will steal their associates, which I think is preposterous.  Professional recruiters say it is easy to get all the information about all the associates regardless of what's omitted from the firm Web site. "Unless they put all their associates in the witness protection program, there's no sensible way to prevent recruiters from finding out who's practicing in a particular area," recruiter Jonathan Lindsey told the National Law Journal.

All that the firms accomplish by disappearing their associates online is:

  • Damaging their Web site as a marketing vehicle.
  • Insulting the associate lawyers by not giving them any visibility online.  How can they market when it's hard for a prospect to get in touch with them?
  • Showing their paranoia that they have hired lawyers with no loyalty who will skip out at the first scent of more money.
  • Suggesting that their firms are sweatshops from which the associates are eager to flee.

The correct way to keep associates is to give them interesting assignments, let them have contact with clients, let them get into hearings and deal rooms, mentor them, show that the firm cares about them, and last of all, pay them the market rate for a salary.  This makes them invulnerable to recruiters, particularly those who just look up phone numbers on Web sites.


Tech Tips for Busy Marketers

Aba_techshowNearly 1,500 people attended ABA Techshow in Chicago, which concludes on Saturday.  Attendance was up, I believe, because of all the buzz about blogging.  It's the hot thing right now.  By next year everyone will have one, but for now, blogging is the bomb.

One of the programs I enjoyed most was "60 Tips in 60 Minutes" (on April 1, no fooling) featuring the collective tech wisdom of Reid Trautz of Washington, DC, Ellen Freedman of Pennsylvania, Daniel E. Pinnington, of Director of practicePRO in Toronto and Laura Calloway of Alabama.  I gleaned the following tech tips that marketers can put to use.

  1. When buying gadgets, read TEST, a review by Wired magazine of 250 products such as phones, cameras, speakers, MP3 players and TVs.  Just go to and download the 8 MEG PDF. 

  2. Reid_trautz If you are looking to buy a new cell phone or service, go to - which has news, features, and reviews of 533 phones, and comparisons of carriers.

  3. For a more secure Web browser get Firefox 1.01- the browser from Mozilla automatically blocks popups, lets you set multiple home pages and offers tabbed browsing - so you can open multiple sites in different tabs at the same time, allowing you to move quickly from one to another.  It's free.

  4. Beware of metadata: it is automatically created in computer files like Word and Excel.  To see what it covers, click on File | Properties and you'll see: the document's date created, last printed, last accessed. If you send the document to someone, they can see all this as well as see deleted data by opening the reviewing screen.  To eliminate metadata use Payne Consulting's metadata assistant -  Better yet, send the file as a PDF.

  5. When you donate your computers, be sure to clean the hard drives to avoid accidental disclosure of confidential info.  Use Disk CleanUp,; Sanitizer,; DataEraser; or Darik's Boot and Nuke,

  6. Don't be fooled by spyware disguised as anti-spyware software, which is actually spyware itself and will add more malicious software to your computer without your knowing it.  See or

  7. Email is inherently unreliable. Don't assume your messages arrived even if they don't bounce.  Don't assume that delivery went through even if you got a delivery receipt.  Don't respond with hostility because you assume your email was ignored - chances are it never arrived.  If you send something mission-critical, make sure you ask whether it arrived safe and sound.

  8. Use a desktop search engine to find any Word, PowerPoint, Emails, or Excel files on your computer.  Versions are offered by Google, Copernic and Yahoo. (Google comes in 3rd in the reviews.)

  9. It's very difficult to proofread your own writing.  So try text-to-speech conversion, which reads your work to you so you can catch proofreading errors faster. Visit for more information. There is a free version; the full version costs $60.

  10. Get a satellite high speed Internet connection for your laptop, desktop or PDA at, when you absolutely, positively must get online.

  11. Use Google Image Search to find a picture or graphic of just about anything.  The best free online clip art, including photos, cartoons, animation and sound, is found at Microsoft Office Online Clip Art at

  12. You can recover lost data files, even if Windows doesn't recognize the drive.  Use the software tools to recover your data from GetDataBack at and Recover My Files

  13. Buy a USB memory thumb drive.  It provides quick, reliable storage that fits in your pocket, permits file transfer, spot backup, offers capacities from 128MB to 2GB and costs from $20 to a few hundred dollars.

  14. View the full path to Word Files, rather than merely the file name (which can be hard to locate later on).  Open MS Word, right click on the task bar, select Customize | Commands | Web, left click on "Address" and drag it onto the task bar.

  15. Printing for road warriors: buy the Canon BJC-85 portable printer with 720 x 360 dpi printing, only $290.

  16. Surf the Web offline.  In Internet Explorer, go the desired Web site, select Favorites, select Add to Favorites, select Make Available Offline, select Customize.   Follow the wizard prompts to decide how much get down to three levels. Select OK to synchronize the website for offline viewing. The more levels you select, the more disk space you use and the longer it takes to copy. Remember to unselect Make Available Offline to free up disk space later when you no longer need the material offline.

  17. Have you Googled yourself lately? You need to know how the rest of the world sees you through the eyes of the Web.  You will find good and bad stuff about yourself, so make it a weekly habit.  Remember to search variations of your name in quotes.