5 Law Firms Win Legal Writing Awards

Law firm marketing, business development, marketing directorKudos to Morrison & Foerster, Debevoise & Plimpton, Brinks Hofer, Winston & Strawn, and Hanify & King, which won the annual Burton Awards in legal writing, presented in association with the Law Library of Congress and sponsored by the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA).

The awards program was established in 1999 and is dedicated principally to rewarding effective  legal writing. The program honors partners in law firms and law school students who use plain, clear and concise language and avoid archaic, stilted legalese. The awards were open only to ALA members and their firms or legal departments.
This year's winners include:
    Best Law Firm Advertisement
    Morrison & Foerster, LLP
    Submitted by Debra Mendez (ALA Member)
    "Conundrum" - June 2007
    Best Law Firm Compendium (TIE)
    Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP
    Submitted by Yolanda R. Cartusciello (ALA Member)
    "Insurance and Investment Management M&A" - September 2007
    Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione
    Submitted by Bruce E. Weisseg (ALA Member)
    "Guide to TTAB Practice, Vols. 1 and 2" - November 2007
    Best Law Firm Newsletter
    Winston & Strawn, LLP
    Submitted by Julie Stafford (ALA Member)
    "Diversity @ Winston & Strawn"- July 2007
    Best Law Firm Profile
    Hanify & King, PC
    Submitted by Robert J. Perry (ALA Member)
    "...one of the premier litigation boutiques in Boston." - December 2007
    Best Law Firm Publication
    Fulbright & Jaworski LLP
    Submitted by Jack Vaughan, Esq. (ALA Member)
    "Trends in Energy Litigation 2007" - October 2007
    About ALA
ALA is the largest international association for professionals involved in the management of law firms, corporate legal departments and government legal agencies. It has more than 10,000 members in 30 countries. The Burton Awards are supported by the Burton Foundation, a volunteer, not-for-profit, academic organization concentrating on legal writing.


Sonnenschein Lays off 37 Lawyers -- Including 6 Partners

Sonnenschein, law firm marketing, layoffToday's Chicago Tribune reports that 619-lawyer Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, one of Chicago's biggest corporate firms, laid off 124 employees, including 37 attorneys, six of whom are partners.  The firm blamed the recession for taking a toll on billings.

As usual, it was all about profits.  Profits per partner (PPP) of $915,000 were just not enough. American Lawyer reports in its May 2008 issue that the average PPP was $1.3 million for the nation's top-grossing law firms.  Sonnenschein ranked No. 68 in PPP among the AmLaw 100.

The layoffs are the result of a failed strategy to lift Sonnenschein's profitability from the middle of the AmLaw 100 into the top echelon. But the growth plans did not materialize.

The firm hoped to boost its profits-per-partner from about $800,000 in 2005, to $1.4 million by 2008. In 2007, the firm's profits-per-partner came in at $915,000, according to American Lawyer.

PPP for other Chicago firms were $1.29 million at Winston & Strawn, $1.155 million at Katten Muchin and a mere $780,000 at Jenner & Block.

The 37 fired Sonnenschein attorneys represented about 5 percent of the firm's 691 lawyers. Of the 37, six are partners, four are of counsel and 27 are associates, a firm spokeswoman confirmed.
The majority of the layoffs involved paralegals, secretaries and other administrative staff. The Chicago office, which is its largest, was the hardest hit by the cuts. Ten lawyers and 30 support employees were let go out of a total of 691 employees in the Sears Tower.

The most affected practice areas were real estate and litigation, the firm's largest practices and traditional strengths. Financing for new real-estate projects has dried up after a mortgage crisis locked up credit markets. The cuts in litigation were more surprising, observers said, because the practice is typically countercyclical.

Sonnenschein's layoffs follow announced reductions at a handful of law firms around the country, including Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner, Thacher Proffitt & Wood and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Many of the lawyers sacked at these firms worked in the securitization of assets, from mortgages to credit cards, a business that has ground to a halt because of the credit crisis.

Last year, Chicago firm Mayer Brown fired or demoted 45 less-productive partners. See Mediocre AmLaw Ranking Sparked Mayer Brown Layoffs. The news, reported by the Tribune, stunned others in the legal community because the firm starkly framed its downsizing as a means of improving profitability.

The cuts at Sonnenschein came after a rapid expansion in recent years. The firm hired dozens of partners from other firms and opened five new offices in smaller markets such as Phoenix and Charlotte. It also quietly trimmed less profitable practices, resulting in the demotion or involuntary departure of more than two dozen partners, according to published reports.

Marketing Hot Spots for Litigators

Now is the time for a litigator to capture bet-the-company patent, class action and stock option backdating cases from corporate clients, especially if you are familiar with the federal rules on e-discovery. We'll be discussing these and other points on Thursday -- tomorrow -- during our Business Development Webinar for Litigators

A study by the Texas mega-firm Fulbright & Jaworski. Their study offers litigators a roadmap to build their practices.

  • Getting on a company’s approved counsel list is a gold mine, and solves the bane of litigators – one-shot cases – with a steady stream of legal work.
  • Business clients are better than consumer clients, because businesses have recurring legal needs. 
  •  A litigator’s happy hunting grounds for patent lawsuits are companies in the manufacturing, retail/wholesale and technology/communications industries.

This work is actually obtainable – regardless of how large the company or how small your law firm is.  According to research, 61% of corporations in 2006 said they fired their primary law firm within the previous 18 months. This shows there are openings for new law firms to capture the work.  There is also a continuing trend for corporations to hire small, specialized litigation boutiques – and even plaintiff’s lawyers – to handle their high-stakes litigation.

Join us this Thursday -- that's tomorrow -- for our

Business Development Webinar for Litigators
Tomorrow, May 29, 2008; 12PM - 1PM Central
LOCATION: on the web, on your computer
TO REGISTER: Contact Program Director Laura Kresich: Tel: (773) 966-9273 or Lkresich@lawmarketing.com. Click here to register instantly with a credit card.

Marketing expert Michael G. Cummings and I have helped litigators at dozens of firms keep their caseload steady -- and growing.  In one case, they helped a litigator at a trial boutique increase her revenue to the firm from $200,000 per year to $2.5 million in one year!  She simply followed their advice, which includes the following.


  • Experienced litigators who want to smooth out the peaks and valleys of their practice.
  • Young litigators eager to build a career in litigation.
  • Marketing partners who plan to build up their firm's litigation practice.
  • Managing partners seeking to maintain and grow the revenue from a solid litigation practice. 

Registration fee: $300.  Click here to register instantly with a credit card or contact Program Director Laura Kresich at (773) 966-9273 or Lkresich@lawmarketing.com  You can display the program in a conference room, put the telephone on speaker mode, and invite as many attendees at your firm as you wish.

A Law Firm Marketing List of Client Service Blogs

In January 2007, JD Hull posted a list of links to blogs dedicated exclusively or in large part to the topic of client service. Leo Bottary, author of the  Client Service Insights blog, just sent me the updated list.

If you have more blogs to contribute, please let me know and I'll add them.


Law Firm Marketers Shudder as Comcast Aquires Plaxo

Plaxo, one of the also-rans in the world on online social networking, has agreed to be bought by an Internet company known for lousy service and poor technical support: Comcast.  Speaking as a Comcast phone, Internet and cable subscriber, here's what you're in for:

  • Endless waits on hold, only to have Comcast hang up on you.
  • Tech support people for business customers who say they don't support Outlook email, only Outlook Express.
  • High charges for business-class services, connected to an office that closes at 5 PM.
  • Unreliable equipment that abruptly stops working. Don't bother calling tech support because they'll tell you to unplug their equipment, stare into space for 1 to 3 minutes, and plug everything back in.
  • A voice mail maze where you have to press phone buttons repeatedly to do something simple -- like change the number of rings before voice mail picks up -- only to have the recording at the end tell you the change must be made on the Web. Then you go to the Web, complete detailed online forms to get a pin, and the last screen says you have to call a toll free number.

My heart goes out to Plaxo "Pulse" users.

A Letter from the CEO and Founders

We are excited to announce some of the biggest news in the history of Plaxo. Plaxo has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by Comcast, the nation's leading provider of entertainment, information and communications products and services. We've got at least a few months to go before the acquisition is completed, but we wanted to send you this note to let you know what's coming up and how it affects you and your account.


Plaxo will remain an independent brand, organization and entity. We've been busy at work on our networked address book service and our next-generation social network, Pulse (if it's been a while, please come back and check out all the new features). And, through additional projects with Comcast, we'll be able to take these services to a lot more users and places than we could on our own... including the TV, phone and more.

If you'd like to read more about some of the great new things we're planning, please read our official announcement.


Ben Golub, Chief Executive Officer
Cameron Ring, Founder and Chief Architect
Todd Masonis, Founder and Vice President of Products


American Airlines to charge $15 to check a bag

As a business traveler, I won't be flying American anymore. They announced today will pull even more seats from its domestic flight schedules in the fourth quarter, trim its workforce and the size of its fleet, and add a $15 fee for passengers' first checked bag.

The airline will ground least 75 mainline and regional planes, making its flights fewer and more crowded. The trouble is, with the price of gasoline at $4 a gallon, driving is not a good option either.

I see a boom in train travel and web meetings.

Allen & Overy's Website Ranked Best for Law Firm Business Development

Allen & Overy is the UK law firm with the website most likely to win business, according to the findings of a new survey.

The "magic circle" giant finished with the highest overall score in the Intendance Fast 50 annual survey ahead of Nabarro, Freeth Cartwright and Herbert Smith. The Intendance Fast 50 winners were announced on April 28 at an event in London.  The Intendance report is now well established and highly regarded. The survey that underpins the report subjects the websites of Britain’s 50 most successful law firms to rigorous scrutiny in four categories – content, usability, design and marketing potential. Allen & Overy was the overall winner, and the winner in the design category.

Nabarro topped the marketing category for its strong branding, while Mishcon de Reya was deemed to have the most user-friendly website, allowing users to access many different types of information from a single page. Freeth Cartwright offered the most depth of content, while A&O’s site was judged to have the best design as well as claiming top spot overall.

The websites of Shoosmiths, Macfarlanes, Howard Kennedy, TLT and Fladgate Fielder placed lowest in the rankings, while Slaughter and May placed ninth-last.

Withers was the biggest climber, moving from last year’s bottom five to the 13th in the latest poll, while national giant Addleshaw Goddard received a special mention for best graduate and corporate social responsibility micro-sites. Addleshaws topped last year’s overall poll but was not included in this year’s main survey.

Intendance is a London and Paris-based web consultancy specializing in the professional services sector.


Law Firm Marketing Advice: 7 Steps to Getting Your Bylined Articles Published

My colleague David M. Freedman of Financial & Legal Communications in Highland Park, Illinois, just released the 2008 edition of his handbook, “Under Your Byline: 7 Steps to Getting Your Bylined Articles Published.”

David has worked as a financial and legal journalist since 1978, and has served as a media relations consultant to professional advisers since 1999.

You can download the handbook free download (37 pages, 825 KB) at www.byline7.com.

Part A: The seven steps

1. Define your target audience (consistent with your marketing strategy).

2. Identify publications for which to write articles.

3. Select topics that are appropriate for your selected publications.

  • An interpretation or explanation of a law or a legal trend, and how to exploit it or comply with it
  • How to avoid or manage disputes in certain situations
  • How to deal with regulatory or law enforcement agencies
  • How to navigate the judicial system or communicate with courthouse personnel
  • How to get along with lawyers (written in self-deprecating style, of course)
  • More topics

4. Conduct research, focus and organize the article, and create an outline.

5. Query editors and get the assignment (or at least some assurance).

6. Compose the article (or collaborate with a coauthor or ghostwriter).

7. Submit the article and work with the editor through the editing process.

Part B: Writing op-ed pieces and columns

Part C: Writing letters to the editor

Part D: Leverage your bylined works for maximum exposure


Here's some good news: data suggest economy not in recession

From Marketwatch:

The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators, which attempts to forecast turning points in the economy, rose 0.1% in April, matching March's gain after falling for the five prior months. "These data certainly reflect a weak economy, but not one in recession," said Ken Goldstein, labor economist at the private research group. The small increases in March and April "could be a signal that the economy may not weaken further."

Free Trade Magazines for Law Firm Marketing

Law firm marketers can now get free trade magazine subscriptions & technical document downloads at http://lawmarketing.tradepub.com/, thanks to a new affiliation I've made with Netline.com.

Browse through the extensive list of free Sales & Marketing magazines, white papers, downloads and podcasts to find the titles that best match your skills and interests.  Topics include Customer Relationship Management (CRM), call center management, advertising and public relations. Simply complete the application form and submit it. Remember to fill out the forms COMPLETELY. All are absolutely free to professionals who qualify.

Check out the current choices:


Website Magazine Has tapped premier talent in the Internet industry for our content and each and every issue will contain practical advice and insights for...
more info


Successful Promotions Shows you how effective imprinted promotional items can be for any kind of campaign....
more info


CRM Magazine Is written for executives responsible for moving the enterprise toward a customer-focused approach....
more info


BusinessWeek Provides the need-to-know information and inspiration that success-driven leaders can't get anywhere else....
more info


Web Wholesaler Provides news and information on buying and selling wholesale merchandise online, online wholesale merchandise sources and managing an...
more info


Creativity Has taken you to the people and the processes behind the ads - who's creating change and how they're doing it....
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License Global Is the only source for trends in merchandising for consumer-based products....
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Direct Covers every aspect of Direct marketing, including postal and regulatory issues, creative, lists, customer relationship management and...
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Event Marketer For Creators of the Brand experience....
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Business Solutions Helping VARs increase profits by integrating complementary technology....
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Brand Packaging Is edited for brand, product, category, group managers, marketing personnel, and the support teams that work with them....
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COVER Magazine Delivers no-nonsense business news and feature stories, designed to improve the retailer's everyday business operations....
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Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM 3.0 Professional Discover how to redefine customer relationships with complete and affordable CRM solution....
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The Dawn of a New Industry - Internet Video Production and Marketing Learn how to effectively produce online video marketing campaigns that can generate more leads and sales for your business....
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Business Publication Connections, 2007 Business Services Marketer's Guide Is a B-to-B marketer's essential media planning resource for business publication data....
more info


A Marketer's Quick Reference Guide for Content Distribution and Marketing Programs Explore quick tips and best practices that will help you produce necessary components to ensure success for your online programs....
more info




Webby Awards go to ABA Journal and Out-Law.com

Out-Law magazine, law firm marketingThe ABA Journal and the website Out-Law.com by the UK firm Pinsent Masons won the 2008 People’s Voice Webby Award in the Law category, it was announced today.

Described by the New York Times as the "the Internet's highest honor," the Webby Awards are administered by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, and received almost 10,000 entries this year.

“It’s enormously gratifying that thousands of our readers took the time to show their support for the site,” said Edward A. Adams, the Journal’s editor and publisher. The site features legal news updated continuously every business day, a directory of more than 1,800 legal blogs, and archives of the magazine.

The IT and e-commerce legal advice site Out-Law.com, states it "has 8,000 pages of free legal news and guidance, mostly on IT and e-commerce issues. These issues can affect any organisation, and OUT-LAW is as much for those in a software start-up as it is for the compliance team at a bank. If and when you need further advice, we hope you'll choose Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM."

To see all the winners, visit http://www.webbyawards.com/webbys/current.php?season=12.

At the June 10 ceremony in Manhattan honoring the winners, Stephen Colbert will receive the Person of the Year award and Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am will receive the Artist of the Year award. The Webby Awards famously limit acceptance speeches to just five words. In recent years, they’ve included Al Gore (”Please don’t recount this vote”), the Beastie Boys (”Can anyone fix my computer?”), and Prince (”Everything you think is true”).

Recession? What Recession -- Part II

oil, energy, law firm marketingThe US economy lost fewer jobs than expected and unemployment nudged up.  “It strongly argues that this downturn will be mild and short- lived,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com. “As long as businesses hold the line on their layoffs, the economy will weaken, but it won’t unravel.”

This is especially true for law firms that represent energy companies, specifically oil companies.  In recent weeks:

  • BP reported that its profit increased 63%, to $7.62 billion.
  • ConocoPhillips posted a 37% percent increase in profit, to $4.37 billion.
  • Royal Dutch Shell net income in the first three months of the year rose 25%, to $9.08 billion.
  • Exxon reported its net income rose by 17% to $10.9 billion.
  • Chevron said first-quarter profit rose 9.5 %, to $5.17 billion
  • A huge underwater oil field discovered late last year has the potential to transform Brazil into a sizable exporter and win it a seat at the table of the world’s oil cartel.

And for law firms, there's even more good news: the companies have all sorts of difficulties that require the hiring of lawyers:

  • They are in an increasingly difficult business environment, marked by rising costs, tightening access to oil fields, and declining profits for refineries.
  • Truckers and drivers are angry at the oil companies, so much so that the price of gasoline has become an issue in the presidential campaign.
  • They may face windfall profits taxes and end to subsidies.
  • There is a drop in oil production due to international contracts, under which oil companies must give a larger share of the oil they produce back to the host governments as prices rise.
  • Exploration and production costs have doubled in recent years.
  • In refining, profit margins have dropped as refiners were unable to pass through all the price increases in crude oil prices.
  • Oil executives have been called before Congress to defend their profits in the last two years.

It's time to stop focusing on real estate, construction, banks, mortgage companies and airlines. Go where the money is: energy, steel, industrial metals, coal companies and railroads. See the 10 Best Performing Industries on MarketWatch.com.

Top Marketers Leaving Philly Law Firms

In an article titled, "Chief Marketing Officers Are Dropping Off at Some Law Firms," (subscription required) the Philadelphia Legal Intelligencer is reporting:

  • Stephen D. Barrett will be leaving Drinker Biddle, but has yet to provide an exact date of departure.  He joined Drinker as its CMO in September 2005 and has been commuting from his Boston home to Philadelphia each week. He would spend the week in the city and travel back to Massachusetts for the weekend.


  • Since January 2008, Duane Morris has seen the departure of its senior marketing manager, Holly Lentz Kleeman, and its senior director of marketing/CRM manager, Pat Purdy now works for Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York.


  • Mark P. Trice, announced in August 2007 that he would be leaving the firm to move to become Chief Marketing Officer at vcfo, a financial consulting and administrative infrastructure support services company in Austin, TX.


  • Blain Banick started at Ballard Spahr in October 2004 as the firm's CMO. He left the firm in the fall of 2007 to take a similar position at Dallas-based Haynes & Boone.


  • Morgan Lewis lost its director of communications, Paul Webb, and decided to do away with the position.