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Posts Tagged ‘law marketing’

You’ve all heard that fable of the wind and the sun wagering which one could get the traveler to remove his coat. The wind blows and blows faster and stronger, and the traveler holds on even tighter to his coat. Then the sun bursts forwards and the traveler gladly strips off his coat. 🙂

Moral of the story: “As you can see it is easier to influence people with gentleness than with force.”

On Wednesday, I was invited by the non-profit I’m on the board at to listen to a star in the fundraising word, Penelope Burk.  Ms. Burk has spent years since her active fundraising days testing, interviewing and collecting massive amounts of data in North America about fundraising – what works and why.  What she taught me applies perfectly to lawyers.

I will break down some of Penelope’s wisdom and hard data into a few points directly relevant to anyone who is marketing themselves or a small firm. The overall theme never changes but it seems we have to hear it over and over again in different contexts to keep remembering it:

Over soliciting your donor (client) will work once.  As a long term strategy it is the most certain path to failure. The most cost effective ROI is communicating with the client often without asking for money (offering services), building trust so that when you ask (or offer) it’s welcomed.

It remains a mystery why we need Penelope’s hard data and hundreds of interviews to tell us something we essentially already know. Aren’t we all consumers too? I guess we need to be shown with objective data what the results of spam, endless service announcements and oh yes…the infamous “look what I did recently newsletters”.  🙂

Yet, many professionals will panic and fall victim (can I say victim if it’s totally conscious), to this tactic.  They will crash into the rocks with the sweet siren sounds of impressive short-term revenue, from aggressive and impersonal marketing campaigns. Given the fable above, could we call  this between us as passing wind??  Bloated windiness will cost more and more, and one can guarantee a decreasing return on investment, year in year out, from the increased attrition of clients.

Monday I will break down some of Penelope’s work with philanthropy and how it applies to ALL professionals.  Have a great weekend.

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Yesterday, around lunch time, I took part in a twitter discussion on virtual law firms or organizations (VLOs) versus Big Law firms. It was hosted by Larry Bodine, one of the best known names in legal marketing since the late 90s. The twitter handle was  #MHVT.  It reminded me 90’s AOL chat rooms, where everyone is talking at the same time.  It is not easy to follow the threads as the tweets come fast and furious! But I was determined that #The Online Bar (our twitter handle) be present for anything to do with VLOs and big firms!

One participant of note was William Eilers who wrote in his blog about the discussion.  He does a good job of summarizing some of the themes covered.  What is clear from yesterday is that no one really knows what is going on. This reminds me of that story of the four blind men washing an elephant:  Each one thinks the elephant is either the trunk, or the tusks, or the tail, or the huge leathery chest!

Almost everyone in the discussion was focused on what they are seeing right now – a fabulously informative stream of present sense impression.  It was truly informative but it’s also what I meant in the title that most are still shooting at the bird. If you spend time and effort doing what’s already being done (aiming at the clay bird in skeet shooting) you will miss the bird – totally!  You have to aim ahead of the bird.

For example, one question that intrigued me from @lawbill was, “what is a firm?”  Most are earnestly trying to shoot at the bird, or trying to put wings on car so that it flies. You can’t fly into space in a car with wings and a rocket attached. You need to invent a totally new structure.  Same with a law firm, if you look at technology and where it’s going.  It’s overwhelming to consider the possibilities for what firms will look like in 5-10 years.

Maybe, what we were doing yesterday on twitter is one future of the firm.

Another possibility is what I call the “public law firm” (PLF).  A law firm, if you can still call it a firm, which is a meritocracy, totally open and without borders or jurisdiction.  I’ll talk more about this tomorrow.…

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