Ignore blogs at your own peril

Patentlyo_1 Brian Pitts, the public relations manager at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicgo, has a nice recap of my presentation to the Chicago LMA on why law firms should have blogs:

"Blogs can be a great tool for establishing a law firm and especially for building awareness of a specific practice group or individual lawyer," Bodine said. "Another way to look at a blog is to consider it a 'niche magazine' published by an attorney or firm."

They are easy to use, cheap, and are highly visible, driving traffic to the Web site. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo rank blogs highly. Once a blog is set up, it's easy to keep it fresh with new postings that you have commitment from the lawyers to contribute their thoughts.

Another selling of having a blog gives the firm and authors instant credibility and "expert" status. From a public relations perspective, blogs can be invaluable. Bodine mentioned that he has been interviewed by numerous reporters who heard of him through his blog. Savvy journalists navigate the blog world to find story ideas.

Patently-O -- a patent law blog by McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP -- gets more than 30,000 visitors to blog each week to read the latest patent law news and information. The firm has gotten some many new business leads, including an inquiry from a FORTUNE 100 company. See http://patentlaw.typepad.com/patent/. Author Dennis Crouch said the blog patent prosecution and litigation work, and referrals from lawyers he's never met - but who have read the blog.

The No. 1 Law Blog according to Blawg.org, is Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd, written by litigator Patrick Lamb. See http://patricklamb.typepad.com/perfectservice. He says his blog is the best marketing tool he's used in his 20 years of law practice.

For the full story, see http://www.lmachicago.org/news/news.asp?news_id=454.

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Why Go to RFP Hell?

Hell Recently a member of the LawMarketing Listserv asked how her firm could get more RFPs for legal work from corporations.  My reaction was, "why would you want to go to Hell?"

RFPs are onerous chores leading to hideous events where clients get the chance to dictate terms, chisel down your fees and turn you into a fungible commodity.  Nobody wants to be fungible.

Yet the allure of getting an RFP sparkles.  Professional firms imagine the exhilaration of making it to the "short list."  Visions of sugarplums dance in their heads.  They envision a river of work coming from the major corporation and the impressiveness of representing it.  It's like residents of New Orleans looking forward to Hurricane Katrina.  The firms eagerly compete to get invited to the beauty contest where the winners are picked.  It's more like competing to be the first to be hanged.

There's a frightening example of Pfizer's beauty contest on Law.com (registration required).

  • Law firms had to complete a 50-page RFP divided into 12 sections to get into this Hell.  Firms had to spell out their history handling product litigation, minority hiring statistics, alternative fee arrangements, references and industry knowledge.  Pfizer wanted budget forecasts, annual revenue breakdowns, the percentage of revenue the firm derived from its top client, and the lowest rate the firm offered, which would be frozen.  Some firms hired outside consultants or teams of associates to spend hundreds of hours to complete the RFP.
  • Finalists had to go to Pfizer's headquarters and suffer through a painful fee review with a "procurement executive known for wrangling discounts on copy paper and paper clips."
  • The company summoned lawyers from 103 law firms to a New York hotel ballroom on an icy day.
  • Many attendees would lose Pfizer work, including Alston & Bird, Arnold & Porter, Gibson Dunn, Jones Day, and Mayer Brown.  Everyone was so nervous that they didn't touch anything on the food table.
  • Only 24 (out of 103) firms would get any work.  What a wretched lot they would be.

So you see, an RFP is an invitation to put your head into a noose and go through the client's procurement system.  Firms enter a "partnering" system, where they will become the junior partner and lose all control. 

The good news is that only a minority of corporations issue RFPs, because so few law firms respond to them.  Meanwhile the trend of "Pinpointing" is starting to catch on, where corporations reach over the mega-firms and hire regional and small firms to carry out specialized work.  Perhaps one day the odious practice of issuing RFPs will go to Hell, where it deserves eternal damnation.

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Totally Connected with My Sky Card

Skycard As I write this, my train is approaching Elmhurst, IL, on my way home from Chicago.  I'm sitting on the upper deck of the train, which has no outlet and no connection to the Internet.  However, I'm online using my Verizon Sky Card.

I've finally joined the 21st century. I can get online anywhere with my laptop now.  I got sick and tired of searching around for wi-fi hotspots.  I was completely annoyed with Starbucks that would not be hotspots.  And I was frustrated with building my schedule around the hotspots I knew existed.  Now I have canceled my $29/mo T-Mobile hotspot subscription.  It was OK while it lasted.

The Sky Card pops into a slot in the side of my computer.  It's a cell phone with its own number, but no one will every call it.  And the beauty is that I can connect online at broadband speeds, not ridiculous 14.4K modem speeds. Of course, it isn't cheap at $59/month, but for a guy like me, it's totally worth it.

I was able to update my Web site www.Lawmarketing.com just now.  I was able to check my email and reply to a number of messages.  I posted a couple of messages to the LawMarketing Listserv. And the sweetest thing is that I can log onto my blog and update it -- from a moving train.

I had seen businessmen with Sky Cards plugged into their laptops when I was traveling.  They'd be at airports and hotels, logging on the clicking away.  I didn't know where they got it until I bought a new Verizon cell phone (Verizon was listed No. 1 in service by Consumer Reports).  I bought a Treo 650, which syncs to my computer and carries all 4,000 of my contacts.  It turns out that the Sky Card was an add-on in a package deal I bought.

If you don't have one of these babies plugged into your laptop, you should consider it.

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The Definitive Blogging Policy

Ibmlogo_1Now that more law firms are getting into blogging, many marketers are struggling to articule rules for firmwide blogs and individual professional blogs.  Everybody's looking for some rules to follow and no one wants to get "dooced" (fired.)

IBM has long encouraged employees to be active on the Internet, and today has and astounding 4,000 employee bloggers among their 320,000 employees in 175 locations. In six pages they have developed enlightened and perhaps the definitive guidelines for IBM bloggers.  Here are the 11 key points:

1. Know and follow IBM's Business Conduct Guidelines. [Key elaboration: In general, what you do on your own time is your affair. However, activities in or outside of work that affect your IBM job performance, the performance of others, or IBM's business interests are a proper focus for company policy.]

    2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time - protect your privacy.

    3. Identify yourself - name and, when relevant, role at IBM - when you blog about IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.

    4. If you publish a blog or post to a blog and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with IBM, use a disclaimer such as this: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions."

    5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.

    6. Don't provide IBM's or another's confidential or other proprietary information.

    7. Don't cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval.

    8. Respect your audience. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc., and show proper consideration for others' privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory - such as politics and religion.

    9. Find out who else is blogging on the topic, and cite them.

    10. Don't pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don't alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.

    11. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective.

    James Snell

    "The core principles -- written by IBM bloggers over a period of ten days using an internal wiki -- are designed to guide IBMers as they figure out what they're going to blog about so they don't end up like certain notable ex-employees of certain notable other companies," said James Snell, a member of the IBM's Software Standards Strategy Group.

    They drew heavily upon our own experiences as bloggers and the prior art in this space provided by Sun, Microsoft, Groove and many others who have drafted policies and guidelines for their employees.

    The final draft was polished by the corporate communications and legal staff, but the bullet points were written by IBM's bloggers based on what they felt was important -- both for them and for the company.

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    New Timepieces for Lawyers Track Time in Billable Blocks

    BillablehourswatchThe Billable Hour Company sells watches and clocks that divide the hour into six-minute increments--the same way lawyers bill their time. The Billable Hourô timepieces could be neat gifts for many special occasions in a lawyer's life, or a 'thank you' and holiday gifts. The company's two watch styles and two desk clock models are available at www.TheBillableHour.com.

    Founders Mark and Lisa Solomon, both practicing lawyers, said, "The idea came up during a conversation about work," said Mark. "Billing is a huge preoccupation of lawyers; it's a topic of conversation everywhere they gather," he explained. "Since lawyers often bill in tenths of an hour, at one point I said there should be special watches for lawyers that were marked every 6 minutes."

    Lisa suggested the $49.95 watches and desk clocks are perfect gifts for many special occasions, like winning a big case or closing a big deal, graduating from law school, passing the bar exam or being admitted to the bar, making partner, and joining or opening a new firm.

    "They're also a particularly good choice for other professionals who want to thank lawyers for referring business to them," she continued, "because the recipient will think of the gift-giver every time he looks at his watch, which will keep the giver top of the mind when it's time to make another referral."

    The company offers two watch styles--a black leather band or a gold-tone band--and two desk clock models. The timepieces are sold through the company's website: www.TheBillableHour.com.

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    CPAs -- Food and Wine

    Stonefield_cover_3Who says CPAs don't have flair?  Those Harley-riding number-crunchers at Stonefield Josephson, Inc. have produced an elegant, 16-page four-color cookbook, entitled "CPAs -- Food & Wine" for clients. Now that's added value!

    Arguably the most marketing-savvy CPA firm in the country, this is the latest clever promotional foray by the California-based CPA and business advice firm.  They are known for their advertisements showing CPAs riding motorcycles and their unique "Back Porch" section of their Web site. With 30 spunky professionals, the firm has offices in Santa Monica, Irvine, San Francisco and Walnut Creek.

    Steve Martin lookalike Jeffrey M. Garrison, who is also the President of the firm, graces the cover and welcomes readers on the inside pages with a tray of martinis with two green olives, each.

    Stonefield_inside

    The 11 recipes by firm partners include Killer Seared Tuna with Ginger and Scallions, Chicken Tarragon with Endive Leaves, Hearty Lasagna and New Orleans Style Gumbo.  Yum, these CPAs know how to cook and eat! Readers can share their own recipes with the firm's online Back Porch, "where we share what's up with life inside and outside the office. We welcome your thoughts on the Back Porch or any aspect of our business."

    The firm's services include accounting, auditing, tax planning for businesses, estates and individuals, and information systems consulting.  CPA Bob Sullivan's gumbo includes onion, celery, garlic, green pepper, tomatoes, okra, shrimp, sugar, parsley, bay leaf and two tablespoons of Louisiana hot sauce. Sommelier Garrison offers drink suggestions to pair with the entrees.

    The photo shoot was done at San Francisco's Matrix Fillmore, and the quality shows. The marketing message is thoughtfully restrained to the back cover, displaying the firm's URL, toll free number and tag line "We Pay Attention." 

    Congrats to Lyne Noella, Director of Corporate Strategy, lnoella@sjaccounting.com and Jill Joffrion, Marketing Coordinator, jjoffrion@sjaccounting.com for another job well done. "As accountants and professionals, we are often required to present a buttoned-up image. What happens when the real work gets done is a lot more fun . . ." Garrison says.

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    Top Ten Reasons Blogs are a Bad Idea

    I picked this priceless comment from a marketingl listserv:

    "My name is Sonny Cohen. I sell blogs and know a lot about them.  But I've joined a 12 step program. So maybe I can start by asking forgiveness.  Then I'll tell you why blogs are a stupid idea for law firms and should be avoided - perhaps prohibited by management.  There is management in law firms, right?  Sometimes that's not clear.

    Top Ten Reasons Blogs are a Bad Idea:

    10) They might fail.  Goodness knows you don't want to try something that isn't 100% guaranteed to work. 

    9) Those in marketing can't control it. Its those renegades over in the IP practice area.  The one's who it is rumored keep Macintoshes in their homes.  And I think some of them are just associates.  So what do they know?

    8) Somebody might call you an early adopter. You know pioneer's are the one's with the arrows in their backs. Turtles who stick their heads out of their shells, well, whack!  Mom said, "Don't grow up to be an early adopter - be a lawyer."

    7) I.T. doesn't approve  let alone know much about them

    6) Somebody might take issue with something stated in the blog and, well, everyone knows that controversy is disastrous not to mention newsworthy, viral and eye-catching

    5) There's no good source for pre-chewed & digested blog content like professional services firms purchase for their regionally protected newsletter which they pass off as their own knowledge. 

    4) Marketing is sure that, after about 63 blogging days, the buck lands on their desk and they'll be <shudder> ghost writing content

    3) On some marketers scale, it doesn't make the top 5 list, which I gather is the maximum number of marketing initiatives a law firm can handle at any one time.

    2) Those who are rumored to be succeeding are selfishly posting content to their blog and not extolling the virtues of blogging.

    1) And the number one reason blogs are a bad idea is that, although a new blog is created every 2 seconds, that search engines are favoring blog content with algorithmically driven prominence, and blogs are really nothing more than a website with a simple content management system, the only people who seem to understand them are two guys name Larry (Bodine) and Kevin (O'Keefe)."

    --
    Sonny Cohen
    Chief Marketing Officer
    Law Firm Internet Strategist | Duo Consulting
    Web Content Management Experts
    888.339.7434 | Toll Free

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    Jamming at IBM: Birth of a new marketing medium

    Consultantjam Now there is a genuine way that law firms can get valid internal input when trying to:

    • Define the firm's brand.
    • Pick new industries and companies to target.
    • Create new services for clients to buy.
    • Define what the firm's values are.

    IBM is using a new collaborative online medium to capture best practices, solve urgent company issues, get ideas to change company agendas, and explore the company's values and beliefs.  It's called "Jamming," according to Michael Wing, Vice President of Strategic Communications at IBM's Madison Avenue offices in Manhattan. AND it replaces knowledge management, which he said is a "30-year failure."

    Getting consensus is tough at a company with 175 locations and 369,000 employees.  It's no easier at any size law firm.

    Wing spoke at the recent Strategic Research Institute conference "Blogs and Social Networks." A Jam is a global online brainstorming event -- "a threaded discussion in a Web environment."  Here's how it works: an employee goes to the company intranet and clicks on the topic of the Jam.  Then they type in their thoughts in a message, using their real names. They have a 48 to 96-hour time period to make a comment, and then the Jam closes.  No comment is deleted, even negative ones or calls to unionize IBM.

    To make sense of the thousands of messages, IBM uses eClassifier, JamAlyzer and SurfAid to sort them into topics, spot emerging patterns and put structure on all the comments.  Then they use the ideas to run the $96 billion company.

    Here are some of the questions IBM posed to its entire workforce, and the results they got:

    WorldJam (May 2001): Urgent IBM issues:

    • 52,595 participants (unique users)
    • 6,000+  ideas
    • 268,000+ views of posted ideas

    ManagerJam (July 2002): The changing workforce and the role of the manager

    • 8,123 participants (unique users)
    • 4,500 ideas
    • Framed agenda for two-year program

    ConsultantJam (Feb. 2003) - helped accelerate the acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC)

    • 8,560 participants (unique users)
    • 2,960 ideas

    According to Wing:

    A jam is not:

    §         An announcement vehicle

    §         A top-down communications tool

    §         A community creator / definer: it's a population, not a community

    §         A personal soapbox

    §         A chat room: no one is anonymous

    A jam is:

    §         Best-practice capture - an idea socialization vehicle

    §         Global collaboration - find people you otherwise would never meet

    §         Democratic -  equal access and freedom-of-action for all

    §         Pragmatic -  participants rate actionable ideas and behaviors

    §         Organizational research tool -  a population snapshot, a barometer of culture change

    §         An event - an organizational intervention that begins and ends

    Imagine the marketing and business development uses for a Jam at a law firm!  Look for an upcoming article on The LawMarketing Portal by Mike Wing on Jamming and how your firm can use it.

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    $10 Solution to Lost Business Cards

    Ever forget to bring your business cards?

    So here I am at a conference, hundreds of miles from home, and I discovered I forgot to bring my business cards.  I've known other people in the same situation who have phoned their secretaries and told them to Fed-Ex their cards to them, for early AM delivery.

    I went to an insty-printer outside the hotel that would print 50 cards overnight for $100.  Then I went to the FedEx Kinko's which was closed at Noon.  Criminey!

    Then I got creative.  I grabbed my laptop and went to the business center at the Hyatt where the conference is behing held.  They had Avery Ink Jet Business Card stock on hand.  I sat down and opened Word, and re-created my business card.  I even inserted my logo, which I had on my hard drive.

    I saved the "business.doc" file to the USB flash file I always carry with me, plugged it into the business center's computer.  I reopened word, chose Tools | Letters and Mailings | Envelopes and Labels, selected Labels and chose Business Card #8371.  I clicked "print" and out of the hotel's color printer came 20 perfectly done business cards.

    Time spent: 10 minutes in the business center.  Result: instant.  Cost: $10.60.




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    Instant Communication

    David_teten I just had the coolest experience.  I am sitting in the audience at the Strategic Research Institute conference "Beyond Blogs and Social Networks."  David Teten, author of the new book The Virtual Handshake was speaking about how to use blogs to see the future, create "buzzstorms," and to produce hit products by using blogs. He offered to send listeners a copy of his PowerPoint presentation.

    I'm at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City, which is a T-mobile hotspot.  So I logged online and emailed David as he was leaving the stage.  Within 5 minutes he emailed me the link where I could get his slides: http://teten.com/assets/docs/Teten-David-Intro-Social-Software.pdf

    Technology is sooooooooooooo cool.

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    Marketers say Sky Radio's "Pay to Play" Promos a Flop

    Sky_radio This snippet just in from a listserv I read.  Original copy is from The Recorder newspaper (see bottom for source):

    When plaintiff attorney Reed Kathrein agreed to be interviewed on a program that's piped through passenger headsets on some of America's largest airlines, he didn't balk at shelling out several thousands of dollars for the opportunity.

    Many lawyers like the Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins partner find attractive the possibility of being featured on Sky Radio Network's Forbes Radio Channel. The program has featured impressive names such as Alan Dershowitz, David Boies, Dan Webb and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

    But despite the appeal to lawyers' egos, many in the marketing departments of big firms aren't so enamored with the advertising opportunity.

    Not only do marketers question how many travelers listen to the programming, they also object to the producers' sales techniques.

    "It's frustrating from a marketing standpoint," said John Buchanan, director of communications at Heller Ehrman. "[Producers] go to the attorneys, and the attorneys don't have the bigger picture. They say, 'You are one of the leading attorneys in the country.' That is not actually accurate in some cases."

    For Kathrein, it was seeing the names of some of his competitors that compelled him to agree to be interviewed. While Kathrein didn't name any of these lawyers, the company's Web site features prominently, for example, Melvyn Weiss, a partner with Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman.

    "I wanted to test it to see if it reached any audience," said Kathrein. "It reached mostly lawyers, but that's good in a sense. In this business, a lot of what you do is referrals and reputation."

    Sky Radio Network producer Stephen Murphy said it costs about $5,900 for each attorney to go on the program. Some of the guests, such as Kathrein, enjoy discounts, and with 30 percent of the show paid for through corporate sponsorship, some of the biggest names don't pay. For instance, Dershowitz, Boies, Webb and Lockyer didn't pay to go on the show. Larry Sonsini, according to the show's producers, did.

    "It is a pay-to-play model," said Murphy......................................

    For the rest of the story go to www.Callaw.com and search for Vanity Fare, The Recorder, November 30, 2005