Federal Court Throws Out Florida's Advertising Rules on Use of Past Results

Court Throws Out Florida’s Lawyer Advertising Rules on Use of Past ResultsAs reported on Law Practice Advisor:

Blasting the Florida Bar, a federal judge threw out state ethics rules that ban the use of past results in lawyer advertising in indoor and outdoor display, television and radio media. The court held that the rules were unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment.

The landmark ruling on December 12, 2014, is a complete rejection of the Florida Bar’s obstinate efforts to suffocate lawyer advertising in a state with 68,500 attorneys. The court granted the plaintiff law firm’s motion for summary judgment, and went on to enjoin the Bar from enforcing Rules 4-7.13 and 4-7.14, which said use of past results is misleading.

The plaintiffs developed, at great expense, an advertising campaign featuring information regarding past recoveries for clients. The ads include a TV segment animated with a cartoon car accident, a courthouse and dollar signs drawn on a dry-erase board. With an attorney voice over, it depicts the words:

Gross proceeds. Results in individual cases are based on the unique facts of each. 

Ruling totally in favor of the law firm, the court ruled there is First Amendment protection for lawyer advertising as commercial speech. It noted that the ethics rules in 44 states impose no blanket restrictions on references to past results.

It noted that the US Supreme Court’s decisions involving commercial speech have been grounded in the faith that the free flow of commercial information is valuable.

For more, read Court Throws Out Florida’s Lawyer Advertising Rules on Use of Past Results.

Demographics of Today's Largest Law Firms

The law firms with the most minorities, women, associates, partners and total lawyers are showing in this new infographic from ALM Legal Intelligence. You may be surprised to see that the firm with the most lawyers is not the firm with the most US lawyers.

Law Firm Demographics in Today's Legal Industry

Print is not dead, because it is more satisfying

Cool Tools catalogDefying conventional wisdom, a founding editor at Wired magazine has pinpointed the formula for succeeding with a print publication in the face competing online alternatives.

“There is something about having that large expanse of real estate in your lap, something about the [print] format, that is extremely satisfying,” says Kevin Kelly. “Having many different things you may be interested in on a page, as opposed to a single thing surrounded by ads as it is on the web, leads to the formation of different connections and leads to a different experience,” he tells the New York Times.

The Internet has demolished the business models of many print publications, ranging from encyclopedias, to newspapers to magazines. According to the NYT, advertising pages for weekly magazines fell 2% from 2012 to 2013, and biweeklies saw a 5.3% decline. More than half the magazines published fewer issues last year.

Yet the print version of the website Cool Tools sold out its first printing immediately, a second printing will go on sale next week and a larger third printing is underway.

Here is the secret to success for a print publication:

  • It is exceptionally-edited. Like the pages of Wired magazine, there are many bite-sized nuggets of interesting information to choose from on the pages. Each one contains a perfectly told story that is hewn to fit its space exactly.There are no walls of text, run-on sentences or sloppy grammar. "Americans lead poorly edited lives," the NYT notes, and it is refreshing to see organized attention to detail.
  • It is highly-designed. Each page features color and black-and-white photos, line drawings and tint blocks of differing sizes. Palettes changes from page to page. Graphic elements are juxtaposed. There is plenty for the cones in your eyes to enjoy.
  • big smile kittenThe combined effect is to make you feel good. As the NYT says of Cool Tools, "Having it in my hands made me happy." It's like savoring a multi-part dessert which you explore in minute detail. The feeling is like nestling in with a good read for as long as the coziness can hold your attention. It captures your imagination like a nice dream that makes you want to stay in bed Sunday morning.
  • It can be shared. You can give a person a book, but you can't do that with an e-book on a Kindle. Sharing means you get to talk about what you've read and enjoy comparing notes. Nothing beats getting a new insight into something you just read.
  • It is practical. People like reading something that can be put to use immediately in their own lives. "Practical" can involve showing you how to make something, demonstrating a method to get something done or giving you a tip on how to live healthier. I'm not discounting reading for entertainment, because nothing is better than doing something for fun. But a practical article will cause you to get a highlighter and start underlining sentences.

When I read that "print is dead" I think only of The Onion's article saying, "the declining medium passed away early Thursday morning. The influential means of communication was 1,803."


Infographic: How to Rank Higher in Google Search Results

Pay attention to your home page and your bio, according to BrandYourself.

  • Bad First Impression: 1.5 Billion names are searched everyday in Google but people generally don’t look great on their first page.
  • If you want to look better, you need to choose your profiles wisely: For example, LinkedIn is the best social network for rankings, while WordPress is the highest ranking personal site builder. Even more interesting, popular pages like about.me really have trouble ranking high.

breaking down a person's Google search results

Exclusive Interview with Santa's Lawyer

Merry Christmas to you my friends. Enjoy this interview from the Lawyers.com video locker. Our news team had seen all the dialogue with Santa...but no one had ever thought to interview his lawyer. Now you can find out:

  • WHY was Santa was busted?
  • WHAT endorsement deal was he offered?
  • WHAT is elf Noel's problem?

Ha Ha Ha and Ho Ho Ho from Wolf Greenfield

One of the continuing pleasures of working in law firm marketing is the annual holiday greeting from the Boston intellectual property law firm Wolf Greenfield. Not only did I get to hear from the warm and lovely Sally Crocker (only the cops call her Sara) but I also got their delightful 2014 calendar.

Of course you can read it online but I just love the physical, paper calendar with the nail hole in it so I can tack it up over my computer monitor (see below).

In years prior you could Plant Wolf Greenfield's Holiday Card and It Will Grow, get magnetized with
A Holiday Greeting with "Stickiness", or just enjoy their wackiness when Wolf Greenfield Deals Humor to Market IP Law.

Merry Christmas and Long May You Run, Sally Crocker and your merry band of colleagues.Happy 2014 from Wolf Greenfield

Get in on the 12 Days of Deals from Lawmarketing.com

LawMarketing.com kicks off its very first '12 Days of Deals'

Stuff your stockings with discounts and deals to grow your law practice from LawMarketing.com. Each day, starting today to Tuesday, December 24th, LawMarketing.com will feature a deal of the day which will include a free gift or a popular item at a 25% savings.

For example, today's deal is a free copy of Top 10 Techniques to Law Firm Success White Paper (a $75 value). This authoritative research identifies the 10 most effective techniques that are absolutely must-do initiatives and will lead to law firm marketing success. Everything in this white paper is based on pragmatic experience and empirical data that was obtained directly via a survey of 377 marketing directors and marketing partners in a variety of capacities.

How does this work?

Top 10 Techniques to Law Firm Success White Paper - FREE Copy ($75 valueSimply visit Lawmarketing.com/12-days-of-deals and enter your details in the online form. A new deal will be delivered to your inbox at 8 AM.  If you like the deal, click through on the email to claim it. 

All deals will be available for the duration of the 12 Days of Deals event. If a deal doesn't interest you, you'll get the new deal in your inbox the following day.

¡Feliz Navidad! Fröhliche Weihnachten メリークリスマス
Veselé vánoce, С Рождеством, Vrolijk kerstfeest and Mutlu Noeller

Expect a Call from the Bully in the GC's Office

overbearing client taking advantage of law firmThe overbearing client who has been trying to chisel down your rates will be calling you soon, acting on reports that law firms are facing flat profits in 2014. Industry consultants are advising GCs to press their unfair advantage on struggling law firms.

"There has never been a more perfect time for in-house counsel to solidify the level of service they can count upon and to have their law firm(s) formally present to them what they feel that they can do for them in the new year," says an article in the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, a publication for in-house lawyers.

The grim news about law firm profits is propaganda. The drumbeat about the tough law firm economy smacks of a concerted PR effort. Two reports in particular are being bandied about by gleeful in-house counsel:

  • It began last summer with a report that "Demand is down and affecting rates, revenue and profits." It was a good headline, but the underlying Citi-Hildebrandt research was more wishy-washy and even said, "low single-digit profit growth is good!"
  • There are bulletins about a dramatic downturn in the attitudes of managing partners regarding price competition, commoditized legal work and more non-hourly billing. This is based on an Altman Weil report, which also said that billing rates are going up and that economic performance was up for 62.8% of law firms in 2012.

The GCs and their stalking horses are ignoring contrary news that the average rates they pay to lawyers are going up, and surveys of GCs saying that they will have more litigation files in 2014.

My advice: when the call comes, be prepared to talk about alternative fee arrangements, lean staffing and prompt status reports. Be ready to offer value-added benefits like free CLE and regular visits to talk about business priorities.

But there's no good reason to give a discount.

Half of All Law Firm Mergers Fail

law firm mergers, car crashIn the third quarter alone, there were 19 law firm mergers and acquisitions announced in the United States, according to Altman Weil MergerLine. There have been a total of 58 law firm combinations announced this year – up 41% compared to the first three quarters of 2012, and the total may top out at 70. According to Altman Weil:

  • Stinson Morrison Hecker, a Midwestern law firm headquartered in Kansas City, announced it would merge with Minneapolis-based Leonard Street and Deinard.
  • Lewis and Roca, a 175-lawyer firm based in Phoenix, merged with Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons, a 75-lawyer Denver-based law firm.
  • Ballard Spahr and Schiff Hardin both picked up small New York City firms in July. 
  • Blank Rome acquired a Houston maritime boutique in August, and Thompson Coburn planted its flag in Los Angeles in September

"Yet a look at history reveals that about 50% of all mergers subsequently fail," says the contrarian voice of Robert Denney in his November RDA Communique. He first raised this point in 2011. "In many cases thereason(s) for the eventual failures were issues that were evident beforehand and should have raised red flags about proceeding with the merger."

Denney identifies 15 red flags that are often issues that can never be resolved. They include post-merger client departures, wide differences in partner incomes, and contrasting work ethics. The list goes on to include one firm having substantial debt or an unfunded pension liability, practices that do not fit and conflicts that cause a major rainmaker to leave.

For further reading, Denney recommends his article A Primer on Law Firm Mergers.

Average U.S. law firm partner rate increases to $381 per hour

In terms of billed hourly rates paid by clients, the average hourly billing rate of a partner in a U.S. law firm is $381 per hour, according to the Enterprise Legal Management Trends Report published by LexisNexis.

Of course, a partner’s practice area has a dramatic impact on the hourly billing rate. For example, advice and counsel for mergers and acquisitions commands a higher-than-average billing rate of $630 (see chart below).

What's interesting is that the research shows an increase in rates starting in 2010. The research says that partners rates increased 2.7% over the previous year, on top of an increase of 2.5% during the previous 12 month period.

Average law firm partner rate increases

The findings run counter to other reports about clients taking discounts, legal work being commoditized, pressure from overseas legal process outsourcing, and a decline in demand for legal services. Reports this year from Citi Hildebrandt and Altman Weil painted a grim portrait of the profession.

"As an amalgam of different law firm sizes, practice areas and locations, it’s a reasonable indicator of how hourly rates are trending. Hourly rates continue to climb, even if growth has slowed. However, these growth rates are well below the high single-digit growth the industry garnered during peak periods prior to 2008," the LexisNexis report states.

The $381 hourly rate is mathematical calculation for a wide range, where partner fees range from $170/hour for insurance defense work, to $392 to employment and labor, and $527 for IP and trademark work.

Median Partner Hourly Rates

The report adds that alternative fee arrangements were used in 10% of matters and 6% of billings in the past year. They are most commonly found in three practice areas: finance, loans and investments; employment and labor; and litigation.

Larry Bodine, journalist, lawyer, law firm marketerLarry Bodine is a journalist, lawyer and business development advisor to law firms. He is currently pursuing a project to publish legal news for consumers in newspapers, TV stations and web sites. For more information, you can reach him at 520.577.9759 and larrybodine.com.

For a related story, see New Statistics Illustrate the Decline of Biglaw