What Should Lawyers And Accountants Worry About In The Current Economic Downturn?

Bruce Marcus has a great article about the economic downturn. I love his analogy:

"An economy is an hydraulic system – a closed system in which pressure at one end translates into pressure elsewhere in the system. In other words, nothing happens in an economy without reactions elsewhere in the system. In economics, there’s the added element of fear. Fear of the known and fear of the unknown, which is the worst kind, and adds to the pressure."

Here's his advice for lawyers and accountants:

Are there defensive measures to be taken? Yes (except maybe for those lawyers and accountants invested in mortgage backed securities). The answer lies in firm management. And do it now – before the deluge hits your firm.

  • First, reassess the situation. Check your client list for potential weak companies. Weak companies that may be caught up in the economic downturn become slow payers, and then no payers. Either increase collection methods, or be prepared to let them go and cut your losses.
  • Second, check your firm. You don’t want to give up real talent, but in today’s climate, you don’t want to carry staff (including partners) who aren’t carrying their share of the load.
  • Third, think productivity. Review all your management processes, from partnership agreements to cash flow management to marketing.  Make sure your electronics are up-to-date, and are really saving you money. Look for potential return on perks and club memberships.  Preserve capital as best you can. And take your banker to lunch – you may need him or her.
  • Fourth, look to your marketing. It’s not an expense, its an investment. If you use it wisely, and give the marketing professionals a chance, sound marketing may give you the best return on your investment.
  • Fifth, pay closer attention to the industries your major clients are in. That’s where the early warning signs will be.

And finally, the economy really is like an hydraulic system, which means that anything that happens at one end will eventually get to you. Pay attention  and avoid surprises. You may come out ahead of the economy, whether it’s a recession, depression, or phase of the moon.


Largest law firms all have expanding firm profiles at LinkedIn

Kevin O'Keefe reports that LinkedIn, the largest and most popular professional social network, has detailed firm profiles on each of the largest law firms in the country.

Here's Kevin's of the LinkedIn law firm profiles for AmLaw's top 20 largest firms with the number of their LinkedIn members in just my LinkedIn network. Click on the firm's name to see their LinkedIn profile.


How Bingham won 11 Awards for its Branding Campaign

Bingham McCutchen’s 2007 branding campaign proved to be the big winner at the 2008 Legal Marketing Association Your Honor Awards. Bingham earned first place awards for branding identity and advertising, and second place recognition for web site design at the LMA National Conference in Los Angeles. Earlier in 2008, Bingham secured nine regional LMA awards, six from the New England chapter in Boston and three from the Bay Area chapter in San Francisco.

Among the many winners was Bingham’s Bear and Baby ad was also named Law Firm Ad of the Year by The Wall Street Journal Law Blog and was featured on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” with host Stephen Colbert reiterating his well-known fear of bears and calling Bingham “the No. 2 threat to America.”

Bingham Director of the Office of the Chair and Firmwide Marketing Tracee Whitley and Bingham Creative Director Don Easdon offer the insiders’ view on building an award-winning branding campaign.  Read about it only on the LawMarketing Portal at www.LawMarketing.com.


How Many Clients Does It Take To Change a Lightbulb? A Lawyer Strikes Back

Here's a joke book for lawyers written by Giovanni Diviacchi, and "independent entertainment professional" in the Washington D.C. Metro Area: humor by lawyers about pain-in-the-neck clients.

It's a 38-page book you can get on Amazon.com for $9 at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0805970398/ref=dp_bib_1

Here's a review from Amazon: "This short book serves as an excellent training guide for the all too serious novice lawyer about to embark on the real world of client-lawyer relationships. With a keen eye toward the peculiar personalities that afflict the human species and the blatantly outrageous behaviors that defy reason, Diviacchi reveals a bit too much of what may truly go on in the mind of the client and the daily world of the lawyer. The tales/jokes in this book will lighten up any stuffy dinner party."

And another: "I'm buying this book for all my friends in Law School and those already in the legal profession. It's refreshing to see the humor from the Attorney's perspective, since we always seem to be the butt of the jokes. It's one funny book!"

Giovanni's day job is being a Senior Business Analyst at Fannie Mae, but he's also standup comic who appears with the name Slimm Slappy.  He says the book has been awarded been awarded the prestigious The Stephen T. Colbert Award For The Literary Excellence, which is good enough for me.




Hyper Teams: Big Returns from Deepening Relationships

Would you be interested in an investment that yields $18 for every $1 you put into it?  It’s not from the tables in Las Vegas; and it’s a lot more predictable than a hedge fund.  It’s what St. Louis-based law firm Bryan Cave earned when it created a business development program they called “hyper teams.”  Their program merited a runner-up recognition at the LMA awards in January, but these results prove that runner-up never looked so good.

“We called them ‘hyper’ because the idea was to create a three-person team quickly, pick a client or prospect and visit them within 30 days,” said Beth Pearson, National Business Development Manager for the firm. “The whole idea was to get things done quickly.  We didn’t want any lawyer to get bogged down.  If it would take two months to meet a target, I would call the team back in and we’d pick a different target.”

“Part of the hyper team process is to get you away from planning, research and things that keep you in your office instead of talking to people,” Pearson said.  “The program focuses on action.”

Even though Bryan Cave has 800 attorneys practicing in 15 offices worldwide, a lawyer working at any size law firm can incorporate the magic of the hyper team approach into their own business development activities.

For the rest of the story see the latest issue of Originate!, the business development newsletter at http://www.pbdi.org/originate/.  It's the first article and it's free.  Click the red "Subscribe Now" button to read all the articles.


Beginning of the end of the recession

I believe we are at the bottom of the economic downturn that I first spotted last August, Get Ready for the Coming Recession .  I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and better economic times for law firms are approaching.  Here's the evidence:

  • Real estate lawyers are adapting -- learning to handle workout transactions, taking on foreclosure work, tax appeals, commercial transactions and zoning work; holding "fix my credit" seminars for first-time home buyers, and targeting real estate investors and foreclosure specialists as clients.  NB: I'll be speaking on "Innovative Marketing Strategies for Real Estate Lawyers" sponsored by Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund on May 20 in suburban Chicago.
  • Law firms shut down spending and cut costs sharply during the first quarter.  This ended on April 1, when the second quarter began, and law firms are beginning to spend money on marketing gain.  I've seen this among my own law firm clients.
  • Google reported that its earnings of rose 30%, which was better than stock analysts expected. This is important in two ways -- first it shows that despite the real estate marketing, other parts of the economy are doing great.  Second it gives clients a sense of optimism, which is a key element in ending the recession. See Earnings Optimism Boosts Stocks
  • Some Wall Street bosses now profess to see light at the end of the tunnel, and they may be right. “The worst is behind us,” Richard Fuld, Lehman’s chief executive, told the New York Times. See Worst May Be Over. Still, It’s Not Pretty
  • Investors Intelligence editor Michael Burke says that the stock marketing is bottoming. This will cause clients to make investments, because nobody wants to miss the buying opportunity. "We could be moving pretty much to the upside starting in July or so," he predicted.
  • Marvin Appel, editor of Systems & Forecasts, a biweekly investment newsletter said, "My general market outlook is that the worst is over," Appel said. "Not that the consumer is doing great, but the bad news is out."  Consumer discretionary spending, which had dropped sharply, typically is the first to fall heading into recession,but it also rebounds earlier than other market sectors.

So I think we're at the bottom of the recession now.  There's only one way to go from here -- up.

Chicago Law Firm Uses CRM to get a Competitive Edge

David Stevenson, law firm marketingThe partners at 45-lawyer Chicago law firm Williams Montgomery & John wanted to be more involved in client development. However, their packed schedules left them little bandwidth to focus on contacts, follow-ups and networking to meet new prospective clients. And they also have no marketing staff.

For Managing Partner David Stevenson the answer was technology: installing a CRM system.  After installing ContactEase, the firm found many business development benefits:

  • Streamlined workflow for marketing.
  • A depth of information about client relationships.
  • More targeted business development efforts.
  • Efficient use of lawyer time.
  • Monitoring partner's business development activities.
  • Building team work among partners
  • Centralized information

To read his story, visit the LawMarketing Portal at www.lawmarketing.com and click on "CRM as a Competitive Edge for Client Development."



Webby "Honorees" Include Four Law Firms

While the Webby awards winners will not be announced until after May 6, four law firms have made it as finalists, which are identified as "honorees."


Official Honoree

Agency/Credited Organization


Bingham McCutchen LLP

CBA.org - Canadian Bar Association

Canadian Bar Association


Online Legal Services limited

Justice Talking

NPR's Justice Talking-Annenberg Public Policy Center


Law.com / ALM Media Inc.

Manpower Employment Law Blawg: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Employment Law (But Didn't Want To Pay A Layer To Ask)

Primum Marketing Communications

McCarthy-Tetrault - Web site

henderson bas

Morrison & Foerster Careers

Morrison & Foerster LLP / Cahan & Associates

Practicing Law in the California Tradition

Inherent, Inc.

The Modern Woman's Divorce Guide

The Modern Woman's Divorce Guide

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform

APCO Worldwide


TheAttorneyStore.com, Inc.


Kudos to Bingham McCutchen, McCarthy-Tetrault, Musick, Peeler & Garrett and Morrison & Foerster!  Here's the link to the official honorees in the law website category




Can You Beat this 25-question Sales Training Quiz?

business development, sales trainingIn the 16 years I've been in law firm marketing, I've seen at least 25 scenarios where law firms need sales training.  Typically, it's the reason that a partner or marketing director calls me in the first place.  These situations are found in law firms of any size, any practice and any location. 

Take this short quiz to see if any of the scenarios apply to you. If you circle 3 or more, you need sales training.

  1. Most of our rainmakers are over age 65.
  2. Few mid-level partners have opened a file on their own.
  3. The firm recently lost a top 10 client.
  4. Roughly 10% of our partners generate 80% of the new files.
  5. Most partners are content to be "service partners" and only bill hours.
  6. Lawyers resist developing new business, saying "I went to law school so I'd never have to sell," or something similar.
  7. Our associates are not encouraged to generate new business
  8. Business development does not come up in lawyer compensation reviews.
  9. There is no incentive or bonus (besides an origination credit) for generating new business.
  10. Few or no partners have individual business development plans in writing.
  11. About half of the lawyers are willing to market, but they don't know where to begin or what to do.
  12. We have an eat-what-you-kill compensation system.
  13. Our lawyers belong to many organizations as members, but few of them are in a leadership position or on the board.
  14. Cross-selling is a goal of the firm, but it doesn't seem to happen.
  15. Our lawyers have referred a client to another firm for a matter, even though we have partners who could do the work.
  16. Most of our lawyers are active in only bar associations and lawyer groups -- not in any organizations of clients.
  17. The firm has no client teams, or else they are inactive.
  18. The firm does not premeditatedly identify industries where it has experience with the aim of pursuing potential business clients in those industries.
  19. Our lawyers decline to pursue a potential client, because they say another law firm already has all their their legal work.
  20. We do a lot of marketing -- seminars, brochures, sports tickets, sponsorships, public relations and advertising -- but can't track any specific client to the initiatives.
  21. We reimburse the business development expenses of partners, but few of them spend all of their account.
  22. Business development time spent by lawyers is not tracked.
  23. The firm has never broadcast a Webinar.
  24. The firm has no blog.
  25. Our lawyers meet to discuss business development, conduct research and make plans -- but don't act on them.

Sound familiar? If you saw your firm in 3 or more of these scenarios, it's time to train the lawyers how to sell legal services and to coach them to write personal business development plans.  For a free consultation, please telephone me at 630.942.0977.


Major Law Firms Starting Blogs

Kevin O'Keefe has issued a State of the AmLaw 200 blogosphere showing that blogging has grown significantly among the nation's largest law firms:

Growth highlights:

  • Over 25% of AmLaw 200 law firms have blogs.
  • 10% of AmLaw 200 law firms have more than one blog.
  • 36% growth in last 6 months in the number of AmLaw 200 law firms publishing blogs.
  • 49% growth in last 6 months in total number of blogs being published by AmLaw 200 law firms (some firms have more than one blog).

A year ago only 39 AmLaw 200 firms were blogging, producing a total of 74 blogs.  Today, 53 of the 2007 AmLaw 200 firms were blogging, producing a total of 110 blogs.  Many of them are blogs branded with the firm name:


In a thorough piece of research, Kevin has set out links to all the law firm blogs by firm name, and dozens by the name of the blog itself.

A Pox on United Airlines: Join my email campaign

This miserable airline battered my trusty rolling suitcase into uselessness and then blew me off.  Join my email campaign (see bottom) to let United know that we customers won't put up with this abuse.

They told me they had no liability for wrecking my luggage!

  • It didn't matter that I travel a lot in my business and am a target customer. 
  • It didn't matter that I have been a Mileage Plus member since the 1980s.
  • It didn't matter that I've flown hundreds of thousands of miles on United.

Marketing Lesson No. 1: Treat your long-time clients well.  Don't do things to make your customers hate you.

I knew I was in for a bad time when I landed at the airport and my suitcase was not on the conveyor belt.  I reported my lost luggage and the United Airlines agent, who gave me an 800 number to call if my bag wasn't found soon.  When they later delivered it to my house, the extendable handle was jammed shut.  The suitcase would no longer roll, which was the point of having it.  Plus the metal zipper pull had been torn off.

Marketing Lesson No. 2: Don't damage your customer's belongings.

I called the 800 number, which led to a voice mail maze.  All I could learn were the hours the United luggage office was open way back at the airport.  There was no way to call ahead to find out if they would fix the suitcase.  So I had to drive 45 minutes, park my car half a mile away, and carry the damaged bag to the United office.

Marketing Lesson No. 3: Make it easy for your customers to reach you. Adding a personal touch by not hiding your contact information is what people want.

The moment I showed the United agent the bag, she blurted, "we're not responsible for damage to the luggage exterior."  I asked, "then what are you responsible for?"  She pulled out heavily-photocopied form (click on the image to see it full-size) that said the airline was not responsible for broken wheels or feet, lost pull straps, pockets, pull handles, hanger hooks and more.  It was outraged.  "Just because you say so, now I have to incur the cost of a new suitcase."  Then I added, "I'll be flying Southwest from now on."

Marketing Lesson No. 4: If you make a mistake, take responsibility for it.  Don't tell the customer "that's just too bad.".

If you have ever had a bad experience with United's baggage handling, please join me in emailing

Graham Atkinson
United Airlines Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer
Email: graham.atkinson@united.com

Ballard Spahr hires a full-time client interviewer

Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll has hired veteran journalist Debra Nussbaum to be a full-time client interviewer.

She has more than 30 years of newspaper reporting experience, beginning her career at The Minneapolis Star, then writing about real estate for The Philadelphia Inquirer and about schools for The New York Times.

She started in the firm's Philadelphia office six weeks ago and is just now starting to meet with clients in what firm Chairman Arthur Makadon calls candid interviews in which the clients can talk about what type of service they are getting, any problems that have arisen and what needs to be done better.  Kudos to Law.com for breaking the news.

Ballard Spahr, with more than 500 lawyers and eleven offices, had an outside company handle client relations work and found the information gathered to be invaluable, he said. "Too often we were just not aware of what our clients were thinking," he told Law.com. "That can lead, over time, to an erosion of the client relationship."

While Nussbaum, who is not a lawyer, may be accompanied to some of the meetings by lawyers in the firm, Makadon said it would never be with any lawyers who work with the client being interviewed.  He said the firm is just interested in hearing how the client perceives the relationship, whether the firm agrees or not. He said it is important that the firm not try to defend itself in these meetings but just listen to the feedback.

Ballard Spahr will initially focus on the firm's 300 or so top clients for the first round of interviews. Makadon said they are the clients in which multiple firm lawyers are involved in several different practice areas so that the firm gets feedback from several different people within the client organization.  

From an industry perspective, this is great news for the marketing profession. Client interviewers are a perfect extension of the marketing function, not a replacement.  Gathering data about clients is what marketing is supposed to be all about.

The issue will be whether the lawyers take the client feedback seriously and respond to client wishes.  Nothing is worse than asking a client's opinion and then ignoring it.

Best of luck, Debra!


Rethinking business cards

"I think how we market ourselves deserves to be re-examined. Marketing is about getting noticed, in a good way. Traditional marketing is no longer effective; people rely on it only because it's familiar," wrote Ernie the Attorney, a/k/a Ernest Svenson of New Orleans.   Right on, brother.

Picture_6The issue came up because he had just made up new business cards. He decided to make them different.

"A few years ago, when I was still working for the large law firm, I jokingly had some 'Ernie the Attorney' cards made. Whenever I ran into people who knew me from this blog I gave them this card on the left (click on it to enlarge it). The black & white photo is what used to appear on the banner of this weblog, so it was sort of a 'branding' thing."

"People loved the card, and always made a big deal about it. They wanted to know where the picture was taken (the Metro in Paris) and if I had taken it (yes). It seemed like the card had 'special powers' because it always created a small buzz. Soon I started giving these cards to everyone, even folks who didn't know I had a blog. Same result."

Picture_9"When I started my solo practice, I still felt obliged to have traditional business cards. I couldn't say why exactly. I thought maybe for when I needed to give contact information to, say, a court reporter. This card here (pictured left) is the result: it had my phone number, email address, physical address, fax number and so forth. And I think we can agree that it's pretty dull."

"I found that if I gave my 'Ernie the Attorney' card to one person in a group and my business card to another person, the latter would feel cheated and ask me if they could have one of the 'special cards.'

Picture_5Recently he updated his blog design with a photo of the skyline of New Orleans. He decided to use the same photo for his business cards.

"I decided to re-examine the whole business card concept. What exactly do I want my business card to do? First, I want it to be cool enough that people still find it interesting when I give it to them. That's the most important thing. And it would be best if I present the same 'brand image' as my websites."

Frankly, if people want to find me all they have to do is Google 'ernie attorney' or 'ernest svenson' and they'll find all the information they need. Even if I didn't have a business card, it would be easy for people to contact me if they wanted to. My business card should encourage them to contact me, and I've learned that traditional business cards don't do much in the way of 'encouraging.'


HP still offers the Worst Customer Service EVER

Worst customer service EVER from HPTwo years ago I wrote a post called Worst Customer Service EVER about Hewlett-Packard's wretched customer support for printers.  It's more worse than before ever and remains in the Hall of Shame.

The message is clear: HP printers are defective and their support matches the quality of the printers.  I strongly advise you to buy any other brand of printer, or else you'll have to deal with these snakes.

It began when the scanner function stopped working on my HP Officejet 6310 All-in-One, which I purchased on January 1, 2007.  The printer was only 14 months old and was working fine otherwise.  So I uninstalled the original installation, and re-installed the software using the original CD that came with the printer.  Unfortunately, it stopped installing the software at 19% progress.

I called HP technical support at (800) 474-6836 which immediately pointed out that printer was out of warranty.  I asked if I could download the installation software on the HP site and they said no.  They said I had to purhcase their support at $39 per hour.  They said I could buy a replacement CD for $10.  Having no choice, I bought the disk.

The replacement disk didn't work either.  It would start installing the printer software, and mysteriously hang up midway and cease working.  When I called HP tech support they again pointed out the the printer was out of warranty.  I told them the printer seemed to be OK, but the problem was with the defective software they had just sold me. 

They ignored everything I said and repeated that I had to buy their help for $39 per hour.  They also said I should check the HP.com site, where I found a driver to get the device to print at least.  Again, HP offered the worst customer service ever.  Apparently, my HP printer was defective and their brand-new software was defective too -- and they didn't care. HP = horrible printers.

Here's the amazing part: they emailed me a survey asking about my experience with the useless bastards I had called.  I rated them a "0" (worst) to "1" (next to worst) on every question. I hope somebody in their marketing or sales department gets the message: if you treat your customers like dirt, they will say bad things about you and never buy your defective HP products again.