Now You Don’t Have To Attend The School Of Hard Knocks To Learn How To Fly Solo

Ever since I started working with attorneys on marketing their firms, I have developed what was called in the old neighborhood a "beef" with law schools. My complaint is simply this: law schools train young people to become associates in big law firms. Sometimes, they train them to be researchers. They even train them to be academics. What they don't do is train them to own a small business called a "law firm." In fact, they seem to teach no business skills at all.

Anyone who has ever worked in corporate America as part of a big organization (I worked for five years at The New York Times Company) and has also owned his or her own business can tell you that there is a world of difference in the skills required. To own and operate your own law firm — and to succeed financially at it — requires knowledge and skills that have nothing to do with your ability as an attorney. In fact, it is quite possible to be a brilliant attorney and starve in the entrepreneurial world of solo practice. That is why I am pleased to have been invited to be on the faculty of Solo Practice University. (Well, that and the huge salary.)

Solo Practice University is the brain child of Susan Cartier Liebel, an attorney, consultant, and coach. She apparently has the same beef with law schools, and has chosen to do something about it, creating the programs law schools should have, but don't. If you are a new attorney who wants to have a solo practice, if you already own your own small firm, if you are currently employed but thinking of going out on your own, I urge you to register and sign up for classes. I know some of the other (so-far-announced) faculty members, and I can assure you that this is a terrific opportunity for you to get the expert advice that can make the difference between flailing about for years or thriving in your practice.

Estate Planning Lawyers Guilty Of “Failure To Market”?

In light of the recent brouhaha between me and another blogger, I thought this article in the Elder Law Journal was interesting (tip of the hat to Jeremy Richey). It says, in effect, lawyers aren’t doing enough marketing of wills, and that is a disservice to the public:

From the abstract:

Disappointing rates of intestacy may be as much a business problem as a legal one. In this interdisciplinary law and business article, the authors investigate whether widespread intestacy may be attributable in part to the failure of the legal industry to market wills effectively. Although attorneys can market within the boundaries of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the majority do not take full advantage of the range of permissible marketing strategies. This Article suggests that attorneys learn the basics of marketing strategy and rely on guidance from marketing experts in order to structure effective programs to educate the public on will drafting services. By integrating both law and business, estate planning lawyers can better serve current and future clients.

It Was 45 Years Ago Today

It's what people say as they get older. "I can't believe it has been 45 years." Well, today, I can't believe it has been 45 years since John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Like Pearl Harbor and now 9/11, everyone has a story about where they were and what they were doing.

I was a boy in Boston, and I worshiped John F. Kennedy. Not for any good reason, mind you. I liked him the way a lot of the kids seem to like Obama today. I liked his speeches. I liked his youth. Also, he was from my hometown. He sounded like rest of us Bostonians — he talked funny.

I remember, during the 1960 election campaign, asking one lady ("lady" — she was probably in her mid -20s at the time, which now seems to me to be a "girl") why she was going to vote for Kennedy. "Well, he's handsome and he's Catholic," she said. My own reasons were only marginally better. But, hey, I was 10 at that time. I also hero-worshipped Ted Williams and Jimmy Piersall and Joe Bellino, whose sister Betty had been my baby-sitter.

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Social Media, Or Twits Who Tweet

The development of the Internet moves at such astounding speed that it is impossible to tell (unless you are way smarter than me, which is unlikely) what is the next big thing in Internet marketing, and what is just the latest fad. Given that, and given that most of it is cost-effective (a marketing phrase that means "free") my attitude is to participate in everything I can until I can see whether it is 1.) an amusing and fun thing to do when I'm bored, 2.) a valuable marketing vehicle for myself and my clients, or 3.) a waste of time.

Naturally most of them end up being some combination of all three. So far I am on YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Solomarketing, and Twitter. At the moment, I am most concerned with Twitter, where you choose people to "follow", which means that every time they burp (actually the correct term is "tweet") I get notified. It's a form of mini-blogging, and there are folks who swear that this is the future of Internet marketing.

 I am going to hang with it for a while, but not forever, if it doesn't prove more valuable. Main complaints: There are guys like Guy Kawasaki, Kevin O'Keefe, and Grant Griffiths (all of whom I like and admire) who seem to tweet every 20 seconds; and there are also a lot of the "what I'm making for dinner" posts — charming and friendly, but with time at a premium…

On the other hand, the main benefits I have seen are the links to interesting articles and sites that would not otherwise have come to my attention. Nice to have a bunch of my friends and acquaintances scouring the Internet for me, searching out the good stuff.

I am currently using an application called Twhirl to manage the many Twitter posts from the many folks I "follow." It annoys me with the frequency of its pinging, so I'm going to try Tweetdeck, in use by some of my friends. I'm also going to cut down on the number of people I follow (sorry, my friends) so that I follow those who tend to tweet only when they have something interesting to say (or point out), as opposed to those who seem to tweet their every thought.

Facebook seems okay to me in this way: Over the years, I have accumulated a number of Internet "friends" most of whom I have never met in person. Since I only interact with those (out of the millions of Facebook members) whom I have accepted as "friends" it proves to be a sort of fun clubhouse in which to hang with my pals.

Some would say that Twitter is the same thing only without the cute photos of your kids (in fact, someone did say that). I am going to keep refining my use of Twitter and see if I like it any better. And when the next mind-blowing killer social media ap comes along, I suppose I'll give it a try, too.

A Tale Of Shrinking Pies And New Cheese

I read recently (I can't recall where, or I'd give credit) about Warren Buffett's advice concerning the stock market. He said that most investment behavior had to do with people being either greedy or fearful. He suggested a contrarian strategy. When other people are being greedy, he said, be fearful. When other people are being fearful, be greedy. I'm no investment guru, but I think if you had followed that advice over the past ten years, your portfolio would have performed awfully well.

The same philosophy applies to the world of legal marketing. If, as many are predicting, we have a recession in Spring '09, the pie (the market for legal services) will be shrinking. That means, in order to grow (or just remain where you are), you need a bigger piece of the pie.

During this time, many law firms will show signs of being fearful. They will cut back their marketing, lay off staff, and take other cost-cutting measures. That's the time for you to be greedy and grab market share. Marketing involves some risk and some outlay of funds. In an uncertain economy, most lawyers will run away from risk and any expenditure of funds. That presents you, the contrarian, with an opportunity. Just as a depressed housing market is a great opportunity to buy up, at bargain prices, houses that will eventually appreciate in value, so a depressed market for legal services is a wonderful opportunity to grab market share that will eventually be worth much more.

Apparently, many attorneys have figured this out, as marketing firms have shown a significant up-tick in business recently. Or maybe it's just that a downturn in revenues has presented that law firms with two choices: hunker down and do nothing — or do some marketing and, in the words of the famous book, go find the new cheese.

The New Technology Of Election Night

On election night, the result being a foregone conclusion, I spent much of the evening watching Comedy Central’s team of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  (Col-bair).  At one point during their "coverage", Colbert was busily tapping away on his laptop when the following exchange took place:

Stewart: What are you doing?
Colbert: I’m blogging. This way people can see me, and read me at the same time! <looks over at Stewart> Why, what are you doing?
Stewart: I’m using my pen to make notes on these index cards, so I’ll have something interesting to talk about.
Colbert: What are you? Amish?

Flash Poll Results In A Tie

A secret ballot of the ten people at work in the office today at SmartMarketing (we didn't poll our other employees who work from home) came out exactly even: five for Obama and five for McCain. Analysis, and projections: Since Southwest Florida is solidly Republican, one might have expected McCain to do better. On the other hand, seven of the ten polled were under age 40, a demographic that tilts strongly to Obama. Based on these results, we project Florida as "too close to call."