Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100

The nominees for the 2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100 have been released, and for the second year in a row, my lawyer interview blog 22 Tweets was included on the list of the best legal blogs as selected by the editors of the ABA Journal. It's a great honor for me to have 22 Tweets listed alongside so many law blogs that inspire, educate, inform and amuse me every day, but the real credit goes to each and every one of the nearly 90 lawyers who have allowed me to interview them over the past year and a half.

22 Tweets was nominated in the category of "Legal Biz," up against such powerhouses as Adam Smith, Esq, What About Clients?, The Client Revolution, Law21.ca and several other blogs that I read just about every day. I never imagined competing against them in a popularity contest, and don't imagine I'll end up at the top of the heap come December 30, but that won't stop me from seeking your vote for 22 Tweets. You can do it here (you'll need to go through a relatively painless registration process to register before voting). You get 12 votes, one for each category--though you don't have to use them that way--but I'll warn you in advance: you will have a hard time narrowing your list down to 12 blawgs. Really.

So get out there and rock the vote. We're all counting on you.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is it time for a marketing tune-up?

The market appears to be picking up. Clients are getting back to work. New opportunities can’t be far behind. What are you doing to find them? To make sure they show up on your radar? To put yourself in a position to see those opportunities that do present themselves, and to land the work when you pitch for it? Maybe it’s time for a marketing tune-up.

Just like you regularly perform maintenance on your car, you need to perform regular maintenance on your marketing efforts, objectives and plans. You need to modify them to reflect the constant evolution of your practice, your client base, your experience and your network. And as you do that, you should keep in mind some basic notions:

  • Planning is everything. Know where you want to go? How to get there? What it looks like when you’ve arrived? You need a plan. Not a complicated one that accounts for every contingency and takes two or three or six weeks of reflection and drafting and editing. It does have to set goals, realistic, achievable, measurable goals. It does have to understand the clients you want, the work they need, and your ability to perform that work. Plan your route so you don’t end up someplace you don’t want to be.

  • You’re not out to change the world. Yes, you need a plan of action, but you don’t need to change the world, to solve every problem, to cure cancer on your first try. You just need a road map to start. You can build the atlas as you go along. And you can always change your mind when an idea doesn’t work or a potential client doesn’t pan out or a deal falls through. Just don’t get hung up on making it perfect, because that will get in the way of making it in the first place.

  • Focus on opportunities. It’s easy to spend time picking apart ideas, looking at what won’t work, what you can’t do, what you’ll never be able to achieve. But that won’t get you anywhere. Spend your time looking at what you CAN do, not what you can’t. Isolate the opportunities—true opportunities, ones measured in terms of probability not possibility—and the steps needed to realize them. You’ll solve the real problems when you get to them.

  • Be realistic. It’s only an opportunity if you could realistically get the work and do the job better than your competition. If you can convince your client that it makes sense—for them, not just for you—to give you a new assignment. If your experience allows you to tell a credible story, a story that convinces someone who doesn’t know you that they should trust you with the future of their company. If you can’t do that, then you’re probably not going to get the work, and you shouldn’t waste your time chasing it.

  • Don’t neglect your existing clients. Relationships are relationships, and those with clients require the same amount of work as those with potential clients. Providing good legal advice, answering questions, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s isn’t enough. Anticipating client needs, addressing their concerns, understanding their objectives, communicating early and often are essential to maintaining the types of relationships that will not only keep clients coming back, but lead to increased referrals.

  • Don’t forget your homework. Think you know what your clients need? The services they’re looking for? The business problems they’re struggling to solve? Do your research. Read what your clients are saying. What the press is saying about them. What their competitors are doing, what’s going on in their industry, where the growth is in their markets. If you can, talk to your clients about their business, their industry, their competition, their challenges, and most of all how they define success and how well they are achieving it.

  • Execution is everything. You’ve set your objectives. You’ve identified realistic opportunities. You know where you want to go and what you need to do. But a plan is only the beginning. To generate results, you need to execute with discipline, follow-through and flexibility. Sound easy? It really isn’t. If it were, everybody would be doing it already. The part that drives success is execution, and it takes time, commitment and hard work.

As the economy improves and opportunities increase, there’s no time like the present to review your marketing efforts, rethink your marketing objectives and tune-up your marketing plans. You’ll be glad you did.


This post was first published on Construction Law Musings, July 9, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Blawg Review #257

Welcome to Blawg Review. To celebrate the first anniversary of 22 Tweets, our Twitter interviews of practicing lawyers, we’ve put together a special version of Blawg Review. What does that mean? First and foremost, it means that we’ve selected 22 posts from this week’s legal blogs: 22 authors, 22 blawgs, 22 posts.

More importantly, it means that this week there’s no free ride on Blawg Review. We like interviewing lawyers. On Twitter. So Blawg Review #257 does just that: each blawg we’ve included is accompanied by a question in the form of a tweet to its author. We’ll tweet the questions later this week, and compile the responses we get into a 22-lawyer Twitter interview that will be posted to 22Tweets.com. Blawgers, we hope very much that you’ll play along, and look forward to getting your responses tweeted back to us via @22Twts.

22 Blawgs from 22 Tweets

  1. Charon QC, who writes about, well, just about anything and everything under the sun in his weekly “Rive Gauche” post for Charon QC The Blawg, bringing together, among other things, Tesco law in Scotland, forging payslips in Singapore, and the London Sperm Bank: “Rive Gauche: Antique ASBOS, a BNP barrister, Meow Meow drug barons, and a pharamacist who won’t give out contraception because of ‘religious beliefs’..et al

    @charonqc What would you say is the most significant issue facing the legal profession today? Can it be resolved? How?

  2. Stan Abrams, who calls it like it like he sees it in his china/divide post on the Google pull-out of China: “Google’s Hong Kong Gambit Is Public Relations Victory

    @chinahearsay What’s the legal story behind the Google pullout of China? Will there be a public dispute? Who has the upper hand?

  3. Dan Harris, who gives us another insightful post on his China Law Blog. This time it’s a ‘moderate’ post on the state of FDI in China: “Google, Rio Tinto And The Truth About China FDI. BTW, They Are Not Even Really Related.

    @danharris Can foreign companies doing business in China expect short-term repercussions from Google and Rio Tinto?

  4. Sam Bayard, writing in the Citizen Media Law Project blog, on a legal setback for Google that demonstrates the challenges that ISPs and other online intermediaries in a second BRIC economy: “Brazil Fines Google Over Dirty Jokes on Orkut; Brazilian Lawyers Weigh In

    @smbayard How important are safe harbors for ISPs to the development of emerging economies in general and the BRIC economies in particular?

  5. Jay Shepherd in The Client Revolution, who draws an important distinction between the lawyer-as-laborer and the lawyer-as-artist in his ongoing efforts to kill the billable hour: “Art and Labor

    @jayshep Do you ever turn down work because a potential client just doesn’t get value billing? How do you convince the ones on the edge?

  6. Jim Walker, who writes about crime on the high seas in Cruise Law News. Not the swashbuckling kind or the “off the coast of Somalia” kind, but the more common kind encountered on land. Except without a police force: “Your Dream Cruise - The Perfect Place For The Perfect Crime?

    @cruiselaw You represent a diverse group of people in your practice. What is the single most important legal issue for your clients?

  7. Paul Kennedy, who writes in The Defense Rests about the difference between “just” and “fair” and why it’s important: “It’s possible to be just, but not fair

    @PaulBKennedy You blog about a diverse range subjects. What are your objectives for your blog? Are you meeting them? How have they evolved?

  8. Jonathan Turley, who sparks in his eponymous blog a very lively debate on complying with the police, the use of force, and obeying the law in his post “Ninth Circuit Rules Police Officers Were Justified in Tasering Pregnant Woman Three Times Over Traffic Ticket

    @jonathanturley How do you decide which client representations to take on? Are you attracted to them by the legal issues or the people?

  9. Johnny Gardner, who writes an engaging critique of the death penalty in Law and Baseball, not on moral grounds but rather because the stakes are so high and the variables so great in capital punishment cases: “The Death Penalty – I’m all about it

    @lawandbaseball Why did you become a lawyer? Have your views changed since you’ve been practicing?

  10. Ron Coleman, who writes about intellectual property and the two Chinas, and how IP disputes are leading to cooperation across the Taiwan Straits in Likelihood of Confusion: “Two Chinas Policy

    @RonColeman What’s the next big battlefield of intellectual property law? How will it help define IP law in the next decade?

  11. Kevin Underhill, who writes in Lowering the Bar about a rather lengthy Ninth Circuit decision finding that “assault with a dangerous weapon” does not apply in the instance of attacking someone with one’s with bare hands: “Ninth Circuit Grapples With Whether Bare Hands Are ‘Weapons’

    @loweringthebar Was it hard to convince your firm’s leadership to let you blog? Are there ever editorial conflicts? How are they resolved?

  12. Bill Marler writing in Marler Blog, who updates us on the latest chapter in Stephanie Smith’s E. coli poisoning from a tainted hamburger produced by Cargill: “Smith vs Cargill E. coli Trial 2010

    @bmarler Will the Health Care reform legislation have any impact on victims of food-borne illnesses? On the regulation of food producers?

  13. Brian Tannebaum, who calls out lawyers seeking the #1 spot on Google results in “The Ethics Of Lawyer Marketing, And Other Lost Ideals.” You love him, you hate him, but in the end you’re glad he’s there, injecting common sense, clarity and credibility into lawyer marketing in the social media age at My Law License.

    @btannebaum What will the legal ethics landscape look like in 10 years? Will the profession be struggling with the same issues it is today?

  14. Eric Turkewitz in New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog, writing on the health care reform bill and what it means for his clients, personal injury victims: “Health Care Bill: Benefits For Personal Injury Victims

    @turkewitz You’re an active Web 2.0 participant. What specific impact on business, if any, have you see from your online activities?

  15. Adrian Baron, The Nutmeg Lawyer, who indeed articulates the “trials and tribulations of law practice” as he weaves St. Patrick’s Day, the Ides of March, and a lawyer-shopping potential client into his post: “Shamrocks & Shenanigans

    @lawbaron You review law schools on your site. What advice do you have for people going to law school today?

  16. Ken from Popehat, whose post exploring the themes of the film “10 Rules For Dealing With Police” is an unintended but excellent companion piece to Jonathan Turley’s post: “10 Rules For Dealing With Police: Prudence and Subservience

    @popehat You’ve been blogging for a long time, on a very wide range of topics. What drives your blogging? Does it make you a better lawyer?

  17. Rick Horowitz in Probable Cause, who tells the story of a young client desperately in need of help, stuck in a system that cannot give her the treatment she needs: “I’m in a funk

    @RickHorowitz What can society do to help kids like your client whose mental health issues land them in jail? More funding? Better training?

  18. Gideon, whose latest a public defender post reminds us of the fragility of the Constitutional right to counsel that most of us take for granted every day: “Bad ad-Weis: spitting on Barker

    @gideonstrumpet What would you say is the most difficult aspect of being a public defender?

  19. Scott Greenfield in Simple Justice, who defends Harold Comer and his decision to not seek additional DNA testing for his client Hank Skinner in Skinner’s 1994 trial for murder: “Strategic Shunning

    @ScottGreenfield What’s the most significant challenge facing lawyers today? How is it changing the profession? Is there a fix?

  20. Edward Prutschi, writing on Slaw, who gives us a thought-provoking post on making the roads safer by adopting a very innovative approach to reducing the number of people who drive drunk: “Tackling Impaired Driving… By Decriminalizing It

    @prutschi Tell us about one of the more significant client representations you've had. What was it about? Why was it important?

  21. Mark W. Bennett, in a guest post on The Trial Warrior, reports on the U.S. Supreme Court’ in extremis halting of Hank Skinner’s execution: “Guest Post by Mark W. Bennett: A Triumph of Civil Litigation

    @MarkWBennett The SCOTUS stay is clearly a win for Skinner, but what does mean for the rest of us? Why is it a “triumph of civil litigation”

  22. Stephanie Kimbro in Virtual Law Practice, who provides a useful overview of the virtual law practice, what it is and isn’t, how it works, and what clients need to look for when they consider hiring an attorney who delivers legal services online: “Clearing Up the Terminology Before TECHSHOW

    @stephkimbro You must meet many potential clients who worry about VLO security. What’s the one thing that convinces them to hire you?

Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What I’ve learned from a year of 22 Tweets

This week marks the one-year anniversary of 22 Tweets. It’s been a great first year. I’ve learned a lot from the interviews, about the lawyers I’ve interviewed, about the practice of law, about how what I hope is a representative slice of the Web 2.0 legal crowd markets themselves and their practices. And I’ve also learned a great deal about communication and communicating, about messages and crafting them, about stories and articulating them. While it would be hard to sum up everything I've learned in a single blog post, a few lessons stand out:
  • Everybody has a great story to tell. Most of the lawyers I’ve met over the past 20 years have interesting and engaging stories to tell, the kind that convey their passion, intelligence and conviction, the kind that draw you in and keep you on the edge of your seat and make you glad you heard them, the kind that make clients want to hire them. They tell great stories (when they’re not so busy trying to pitch their services that they forget how powerful their own stories are), just like each and every lawyer I interviewed for 22 Tweets.

  • The medium is not the message. Whether you’re tweeting or blogging or meeting with a client or giving a presentation to an auditorium full of your peers, the medium is not the message. The message is the message. And lawyers need to understand and use the full range of communications channels their audiences are using – with a common message, one that conveys their strengths, their differences, their story – if they want to be heard.

  • The message received is the message. Not the message sent. There are few “do-overs” in real life, and even fewer in communication: what you mean is irrelevant if your audience doesn't understand what you are trying to say. Not because you can’t recover from miscommunication, but because when neither of you are aware that you aren't talking about the same thing, you’re not going to know it.

  • Effective communication is hard work. Part of the challenge (and I hope the fun) of being interviewed on 22 Tweets is responding in 140 characters. Finding a way to say who you are, or what you do, or why you do it, in a single tweet takes time and effort and work. And although life doesn't place the same constraints on communication as Twitter does (though many days I wish it would), the people who communicate most effectively apply the same rigor to all their words across all channels.

  • Value is king. Whatever your message, whatever the channels you use to communicate it, whatever the content you provide, unless it adds value to your audience, unless it helps them do their jobs better, make more money, get smarter or sleep better at night, then it probably doesn't hold a lot of value for them. Lawyers are in the business of providing value. Shouldn't your tweets, your blog, your website, your brochures and your speeches provide the same value as your legal work?
It’s been a great first year. Thank you all, readers and interviewees alike, for making it possible.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Legal Services and Chinese Outbound Investment

Steptoe & Johnson opened its first China office in Beijing on March 1 with the stated objective of providing services to "multinational companies operating in China as well as Chinese companies expanding beyond the People’s Republic of China." The opening was covered in an ABA Journal online piece here, and you can read Steptoe's press release here.
How realistic is this objective? On the one hand, there is no doubt that Steptoe, like virtually all international firms with clients active in China, could and should capture a bigger portion of the China-related work of those clients once it opens in China. But can it honestly expect to get meaningful work from Chinese companies on their outbound investment activity? Who is doing that work now? What would Steptoe need to do to break into that circle? Do they have the connections and reputation needed to land new work from Chinese companies? Just how much outbound work is there to go around, anyway?
I'm not trying to pick on Steptoe & Johnson here. Virtually every Western law firm in China is convinced that they can capture Chinese outbound investment work. Yes, there is a real opportunity for those firms representing Chinese companies outside of China. But few firms are positioned to get that work in the short term, and there probably aren't many more that will get it in the medium term either. Even if there is a lot of work available (which is not clear), there is a tremendous amount of competition for that work from both Western law firms already in China and from the top Chinese law firms.
What do you think?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why are we still debating (redux)?

Are you really not yet convinced that you need to develop a more active social networking and social media profile? That you need to understand and use and master social media tools for communicating? Maybe the CEO of Sun Microsystems can convince you:

“As CEO, I need to engage the market, inside and outside Sun, with whatever technology affords me the greatest possible reach. Through blogs, online news, social networking sites, or Twitter, the internet has fundamentally changed how we communicate with one another. Today, we have thousands of employees participating, engaging customers and developers across the world, 24 hours a day. And whether it’s via a half-hour streaming video or a 140-character tweet, we need to reach everyone in the forum and format they choose – not what we choose” (emphasis added)

Jonathan Schwartz in “Should CEOs Twitter?,” Brunswick Review, Winter 2009

Could the message be any clearer? If you want to reach clients and potential clients and journalists and other decision-makers, you don’t get to choose where and how. They’ve already chosen. To communicate, you must do it on the terms of the people you want to reach, in the places they look for information, with the tools they’re using to read it. And if you’re not in the Web 2.0 space, you might as well pack up and go home.

Why are we still debating?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What lessons have you learned?

I read an interesting post today on the Commute by Bike blog: “5 Things I wish I knew when I first started Bike Commuting.” I would add a sixth, but all the same I was struck by how easily these bicycle commuting lessons apply for lawyers:

  1. Route. Plan your route. Know where you want to go and how to get there and what you need to do to move in the right direction. There’s plenty of strategy and business planning resources for lawyers. Read them, then write your own plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to account for every contingency, it doesn’t have to take two weeks of reflection and drafting and editing. It does have to set goals, realistic, achievable, measurable goals. It does have to understand the clients you want, the work they need, and your ability to perform that work. Plan your route so you don’t end up someplace you don’t want to be.

  2. There are some things you shouldn’t economize on. This applies to a wide range of things, from technology to confidentiality to security. It also applies to your time: be frugal, but don’t skimp. Obviously your time is your most valuable asset (even if it shouldn’t be your entire business model), but that doesn’t mean that you should be afraid to spend big on the right things, even when you’re not getting paid for it (see item 3).

  3. A little maintenance goes a long way. Client relationships are like any other relationship. They require work. Not just providing good legal advice. Not just responding to phone calls and emails and questions. Not just making sure that the contracts are signed and the payments are made. Of course you need to do all of those things. But you also need to maintain the relationship, to show your clients how important they are, to ask them how you are performing, to address their concerns and understand their objectives.

  4. Don’t undertake vehicles. Yes, this one took some deciphering: “undertake” apparently means “pass on the right.” So how does this apply to lawyers? It means you need to be where your potential clients can see you. Maybe it’s time to start a blog. Or join the French-American Chamber of Commerce. Or give a talk on the Tax Code. Whatever you do, the first step is figuring out where you clients are, because that’s right where you need to be.

  5. Shop around. Another lesson that could apply to a number of situations, but here’s a valuable one: shopping around with respect to your clients is a great way to make sure you’re doing the work that you want to do, that you’re providing the value that you want to provide, that you’re engaged and committed and passionate about helping your clients, because they are clients that you know you want to have. Sometimes it isn’t practical, but when it is, working for clients that you like and respect will help ensure that you deliver value in everything that you do.

What’s the sixth lesson I learned from bike commuting? “Get on the bike.” The most important step in commuting on a bike is riding the bike, and the most important step in managing your law practice is, well, managing your practice. So get on it.

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