Legal PR Advice Public Relations Insights Beyond the Bar Fri, 24 May 2013 16:02:18 +0000 en hourly 1 How to Get Ranked on a Daily Journal List Fri, 24 May 2013 16:02:18 +0000 Cheryl

Yesterday, I gave you tips on how to get ranked in Chambers USA based on comments by Laura Mills, editor of Chambers USA.  David Houston, editor of the Daily Journal was also a panelist at Wednesday’s Legal Marketing Association program in Los Angeles and he provided similar advice about submissions for his publications’ list.   The following are highlights of his comments on how to get the attention of the paper’s editorial staff:

  • Tell us about the work in real time. If an attorney was involved in a case or deal, inform the staff.  Even if the paper does not write about them, they still want a heads up.
  • Consider scheduling roundtables with the editorial staff, but not during the selection process.  This will give the editorial team the chance to put a face with a name and learn about your firm’s practices/deals/cases.
  • Wondering about extensions? David said file your weakest submissions early. By the 11th hour, the editorial team is fatigued and may not have the energy to identify great candidates.
  • When writing the nominations, give the highlights.  There is no need to provide a lot of narrative. They can find that information on your firm’s website.
  • You want to get their attention?  David said his staff is reading hundreds of  nominations and at some point they all start sounding the same.  Make an effort to tell the staff why your candidate stands out.
  • If the attorney you are nominating has handled a case or deal that is novel, unique or let to a decision that impacted the legal or business industry, explain it clearly and play it up.  Reporters wil ultimately have to write articles about the attorneys on the list so it’s wide to explain why your candidate is newsworthy.

What about the coveted Top 100 Lawyers in California?  David said people are chosen for this list based on their work.  If you attorney has a recognizable name in the industry and was involved in high-profile cases or deals, chances are that attorney will be ranked with or without submitting a formal nomination.  But, feel free to send an email to remind the editorial staff of that attorney, listing some of those highlights, or put in a call into David to remind him. The editorial staff plays a great role in nominating attorneys in their beats so you can contact them as well.  Beyond the big players, consider nominating the up-and-coming attorneys and people whose work is done outside of California since the publication is not focused on matters outside of the state.  And, there is no maximum number of attorneys a firm can nominate for the top 100.

How to get ignored or dumped from the list?  It’s the same thing Laura Mills said about Chamber’s; Lying.  David and his staff are always skeptical (it’s the nature of reporters) so they will question the facts in the nomination, such as whether someone is lead counsel.  In one case, David got a call from an attorney on the East Coast stating that his partner took credit for all of his work. Clearly state whether your candidate was lead or co-counsel.

It seems like the Daily Journal is offering new lists each year and 2014 will be no exception. Watch out for an entertainment supplement in 2014.

And, for those attorneys who like to rub shoulders with other top lawyers in their field?  The DJ will offer more networking opportunities. There will be two Top 40 parties, one in Southern California and the other in Northern California.

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Directories, Rankings, and Accolades: What you need to know Thu, 23 May 2013 16:33:33 +0000 Cheryl

Rankings Directories, Rankings, and Accolades: What you need to knowDirectories, Rankings and Awards are the cause of massive headaches for the marketer and PR processionals who are responsible for developing them, yet rankings and awards are not going anywhere. In fact, they are multiplying like rabbits in springtime.

Knowing how important our role is in this process, the Los Angeles chapter of the Legal Marketing Association held a program on the topic moderated by Laura Shovlowsky, marketing and business development manager at Proskauer Rose. The panelists provided some insight into what we need to know to be efficient and more importantly successful, and hopefully make the process less painful.   Even if you are not submitting to Chambers or the Daily Journal, a California-based legal publication, some of this information is still relevant for other business and legal awards and rankings.

So, what do you need to know to successfully submit to Chambers?  Here are the highlights from Chambers’ Editor Laura Mills:

Best practices:

  • Use the submission template. People often try to create their own but the Chambers submission tells you exactly the information you need.
  • Do not put an attorney bio on the submission. It’s what Laura called the ‘wall of texts’. Her researcher can find that information online.
  • Quality over quantity
  • Make sure to target the work that stands out and show what is unique about the work
  • Make clear what is confidential
  • Submit 15 references only and max out list
  • Overloading information is misguided because researchers get fatigued
  • Do not be a jerk (especially attorneys) on the phone, even though it will not affect your ranking
  • Do not lie to the researchers
  • If you put a ‘dud’ on the phone with a researcher, the chances of that attorney being interviewed the following year is slim to none.
  • A big submission is considered 20 pages.  Avoid sending more as her team gets fatigued.
  • Be aware that submitting needs to be on time this year, as Chambers is scaling back on its interviews of firm partners.
  • You do not need to repeat contacts and clients, as the researchers will not call them more than once.
  • No need to submit references early.  That will not help with your rankings.
  • Research begins one month after reference information is submitted.    For example if a deadline is July 1, your firm clients will be contacted about a month later.
  • All information needs to be uploaded to the website.  If you send it to a researcher that does not mean it was officially submitted.

According to Laura, her researchers will look at state level submissions for nation-wide rankings. And, if the state and national nominations were not enough, Laura said there are two new lists this year:

  • Managing Partner Interviews. Chambers will choose firms that it has on its radar and/or firms that have been ranked in the past.
  • Chambers 100, a ranking of the top 100 attorneys in the USA.

So when your attorneys ask you about how to get ranked?  Here is the response: Either you had a great year and everyone is talking about you or, you may have had several years of good work and Chambers will look at who has been talked about by others and may accommodate for people who consistently get nice comments.

How to fall off the list? Lying. And, if  and attorney has had multiple years of no feedback or negative feedback, do not expect to be on this year’s list.


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Is Writing an eBook Worth Your Time? Thu, 02 May 2013 18:27:47 +0000 Cheryl

Warning!  Writing an ebook takes a lot of your time and someone will profit from it, just not you.

The emails never say that. Instead, companies hide behind enticing offers masked as exciting marketing opportunities.

Today, my client received an urgent invitation from a publishing company to be an author of ebook, which claims this opportunity will help him become a ‘recognized legal expert in his field.’  The company says it is “only publishing a limited number of titles in each practice area,” and, in order to take advantage of this exclusive offer, the attorney must contact the company “as soon as possible.”

James Publishing advertises that it has been in the ebook publishing business since 1981. What makes me skeptical is that the parent company recently launched a marketing division to provide firms and lawyers with website and online marketing services.  To savvy marketers and public relations professionals, this ebook offer looks like a scam.   But, to an unsophisticated buyer, the offer to write 50 – 100 page ebook for the legal industry looks like a great opportunity.

Why did I tell my client to decline this invitation?  By the time the book is written, he could have written several articles which could be published in a variety of legal and business trade publications. The content could also be used for posts on the law firm’s blog or an industry trade group blog, especially ones that prefer original content.   Valuable time could be spent creating presentations for trade groups or clients, or attending networking functions. And, everyone can publish an ebook, so he won’t be in an exclusive club of high profile authors who get mega book deals from well known publishing houses.

We all know these companies prey on unsuspecting attorneys who do not have experience to determine what is a legitimate marketing/PR opportunity. That is why the publication’s website is full of books written by attorneys.

Hopefully your attorneys will forward these emails to you.  Or, if you receive an offer, reference this blog post if you are not sure how to respond.



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Writing Advice for Lawyers Mon, 11 Mar 2013 23:27:45 +0000 Cheryl

I review a lot of articles, bios, client alerts, news releases, and blog posts for lawyers.  Since I have a journalism background I often get frustrated with the way lawyers approach their (non-legal) writing.  I know the best writing captures a reader’s attention with a smart and creative headline and a strong opening that gives the reader the news up front. For example, the first paragraph should contain the “hook” as to why this is an important piece. Can you imagine picking up the New York Times or Wall Street Journal with boring and confusing headlines and articles that begin with the history of an issue rather why we should care about the topic? No one would buy the papers or visit the websites.

The ABA Journal this month offers us insights as to why lawyers may not be the best writers. Article author Bryan Garner, president of LawPress, Inc. and editor of Black’s Law Dictionary points to a series of studies conducted in 1999 by two Cornell psychologists who penned an explanation called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

We all know how critical good writing is for business communications. But as lawyers delve deeper into marketing and public relations to attract potential clients, written communication is now a broader critical skill.  Law schools need to recognize this, too.  Law graduates have to be more than a good student, they have to generate business, and the best client relationships are fundamentally about strong communication skills.

Schools need start teaching business and journalism writing so the layers who leave law school understand how to effectively write in a manner that speaks to the client – the business people that rely on the lawyers to communicate ideas, and issues. Young lawyers should take the initiative to take courses on their own that will help their business writing skills whether at a local university or attend programs provided by their law firms. This skill is essential not just for communicating with clients, but also in writing important client alerts, and getting published in the business (and legal) press.  If this happened, it would make the writing process less painful for everyone involved, especially the public relations professional who has to edit the work.

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Social Media Solidifies Client Relationships Thu, 07 Mar 2013 01:12:15 +0000 Cheryl

I have a client who is extremely active on social media. She maintains a well-read blog, posts regularly on Linkedin and Twitter and adds insightful and amusing antidotes on her Facebook page.  She is open about her professional and personal life, which I admire because I am not as forthcoming. But, as a consultant to her firm, I am appreciative.

If you are invited into your clients’ social circles online, consider yourself lucky.  This insider view means you are more than a trusted advisor, but considered a friend too. And that will  make you even more valuable to your clients.

I use social media to monitor my client’s daily activities. It tells me whether she is in the office or out sick, attending an industry conference, traveling for business or pleasure or having a personal crisis.   Because I value her time, I may avoid calling her when I know she is out of the office or handling a personal situation.  Because I know so much about her professional and person life, I rarely start our conversations about work.  And I always inquire about her family, her comments on Facebook and her blog.  I don’t do this because I have to, but because I truly care about what is going on in her life.  She pays me to support her attorneys, but I also want to support her.  To make her life easier.

I think my clients prefer to have that personal connection with me rather than just being all business. It makes for a much more meaningful relationship.   And it shows that I care about her more than the monthly retainer.

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Where is your network when you need it? Mon, 04 Mar 2013 18:42:43 +0000 Cheryl

Out of Work Where is your network when you need it?News broke last week of 65 people let go from Patton Boggs.  Whenever I see news of layoffs or hear of someone forced to find a new job, I wonder how many of those people are scrambling to connect with their online (Linkedin, especially) and in-person networks. I know they are to updating their online profiles and scheduling breakfasts, lunches and dinners with friends, business contacts and clients. I assume some are searching for networking events to attend with their newfound free time or have decided now is the time to join a trade group to connect with people who may hook them up with recruiters or new jobs.

If they are all doing all this now, it is going to be a long, painful and frustrating process.  But, it did not have to be.

Building a network should be done on an ongoing basis – especially when you are not looking for job or new business.  When you are desperate, it is more challenging to focus on valuable connections, and those with whom you are connecting know you have an agenda this is one-sided.  Connecting with referral sources and clients via Linkedin has to be done even when your plate is full.  Joining networking groups and attending those events has to happen even when your schedule is booked with client or firm matters.

Landing a new client or a job can take six months to a year.   Maintaining a vibrant network undoubtedly shortens that time frame.

Will you have a robust network when you need it?

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Fall In Love Again With Your Blog Thu, 14 Feb 2013 19:06:26 +0000 Cheryl

In Love Fall In Love Again With Your BlogBlogs are like relationships and relationships go through many stages.  When the flame dims, it’s a signal that it is time to stroke the fire that made you fall in love with blogging and all that it has to offer.

That is how I feel about my blog.  When I started it, I blogged at least twice a week, maybe three times. I nurtured it, fed it with relevant content that readers would enjoy, but mostly, I spent time with it because I was passionate about blogging and it was fun.

On Valentine’s Day I thought it was the perfect opportunity to remind myself and others of ways to keep the blogging love alive.

  • Re-ignite your passion.  Write about what inspires you. I know many people struggle to find topics for blog posts.  But, good ideas are everywhere.  Monitor breaking news. Check the court dockets for filings and decisions.  Look at industry trends.  Use the topic for an upcoming presentation at the next CLE or industry conference.  There is always more than one angle or argument to an issue.  Use that to inspire your next post.
  • Invest quality time. Like all relationships, whether personal or professional, we need to devote time to making them work. The same is true for blogging.  Carve out time in your schedule to write a post. How much time?  Invest as much as you can, but make sure the time you spend involves quality writing and analysis.
  • Gift Giving.  Shower your blog with appreciation, and in turn your readers will benefit from it.  Think of every post as an opportunity to give a small gift.  It could be a link to a great resource, tips the reader can use immediately, or offer a review that can help people make a good decision or avoid a bad one.
  • Keep things interesting. Surprise your readers with regular updates on topics that are valuable to them or their jobs.   Your blog screams for new and different to avoid being bored or stale.

Whether you realize it or not, your blog is committed to your relationship, and in some cases it may be working harder at generating readership, increasing exposure to your firm and practice and attracting potential business leads.  Use this Valentine’s Day to show our blog and readers some love.

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Legal Administrator’s Playbook for Marketing Wed, 13 Feb 2013 17:45:22 +0000 Cheryl

Legal Administrators are often tasked with wearing more than one hat, and  marketing is often one of them. A responsibility that they frequently have little or no training and some times struggle with managing it all.   That was the purpose of yesterday’s Greater Los Angeles Chapter of Association of Legal Administrators panel, which included Vickie Spang, CMO of Sheppard Mullin, Tiffany Truffo, CMO of Haight Brown & Bonesteel, and myself, moderated by Jonathan Fitzgarrald, CMO of Greenberg Glusker.

While we shared a roadmap covering some of the most pressing issues in legal marketing, we started with the basics; clarifying the role of marketing and how it impacts every administrative function within a firm including lateral recruiting.

Tiffany gave the smart tip that all marketing should start with one objective.

Truffo Video

We also explored the budget process by giving an overview of typical sizes of marketing budgets as well as how to hold an attorney accountable for their goals and spend.  Every firm, and every lawyer can have different goals; Vicki said her attorneys are hungry for events and seminars.

Spang Video

On the topic of public relations we offered opinions on the benefits of having an in-house resource and how to maximize the use of an outside PR consultant. That again is determined by resources and budgets.  Of course, that conversation included how to measure the ROI of the consultant by setting expectations and having measurable goals.

Social media was a topic of great interest to the entire audience so we provided our insights on the best social media site to use, such as Linkedin, and how to address a firm’s interest in blogs.

Jonathan said his one highly practical piece of advice for an administrator: be the filter for marketing activities.

Fitzgarrald Video

At the end, I suggested that the administrator can be a crtical resource for public relations, as they often are the eyes and ears of what is happening at the firm.

The importance of the role of an administrator stakes in marketing is essential for a firm to have a smart, cost-effective strategy that maximizes the internal and external resources of the firm. And, for us, deepening the relationship with them adds another in-house advocate and champion for furthering our efforts.


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Relating to the Public: The Customer Service/Customer Loyalty Connection Thu, 31 Jan 2013 17:12:59 +0000 Cheryl

Customer Service is King Relating to the Public: The Customer Service/Customer Loyalty ConnectionI can’t tell you how many times I have called a receptionist at a law firm and the person on the other end of the phone does not know the names of their marketing or PR staff.   The same goes for calling a company and having the person on the other end of the line be dismissive about my request to connect with someone who can help me solve my problem.  It’s very frustrating.

There is a lot of talk amongst the PR community about customer loyalty being tied to customer service.    A recent study from CFI group explores call center satisfaction and how they are rapidly transforming into contact centers; raising customer satisfaction and likely recommendations.   Another recent study by AchieveGlobal, a global workforce development firm, explored the emotional aspect of customer service by revealing that customers prefer good service to problem resolution: one in three respondents preferred being treated well over having their issues resolved immediately.   Public relations includes, well, relating to the public. More than just media relations and article placement, when done right public relations must involve staff and attorney training including the fundamental skills how to interact with firm clients.

AchieveGlobal’s Why Your Customers Stay or Stray: Insight From Global Customer Experience Researchfurther reveals that the behaviors most irritating to customers stem from detached emotional awareness and connection. Almost half (46 percent) of respondents noted that being rude, short, nasty, unhelpful and impatient was the greatest customer service mistake that they have experienced. Using a canned script in dealing with issues (17 percent) and saying “no” or “I don’t know” (16 percent) also ranked amongst the top customer experience failures.

A firm’s communication team should be involved with customer service training.  PR is critical to the success of a firm’s public image.   A negative client experience not only threatens the reputation of the brand, but it may impact whether a firm gets a referral or more work from the client.  And, no amount of media or article placements can overcome those bad customer experiences.

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Despite Recent CA Court of Appeals Case, Legal Marketing Pays Off Mon, 03 Dec 2012 20:27:36 +0000 Cheryl

The Recorder published an article today about a 2011 defamation lawsuit San Francisco-based attorney William Gwire brought against a former client that may create new law and possibly will serve as a warning to lawyers: Market yourself enough, and you become an assailable public figure.   The lawsuit against Elliot Blumberg, a hedge fund manager, resulted from Blumberg’s “scathing” review of Gwire on the consumer site

Review sites like have created a PR nightmare for lawyers and other professionals. It’s tough to get rid of them. I recently dealt with a possible ‘defamation’ situation involving a lawyer and a disgruntled defendant, but was told that the positing on the Internet is considered free speech and there was not much we could do to stop the individual from posting more defamatory comments.

But Gwire’s case raises another question. Could it discourage lawyers from promoting themselves if a judge finds Gwire to be a limited-purpose public figure as a result of his aggressive marketing efforts?

The Recorder quoted several attorneys about the issue including Jason Skaggs of Skaggs Faucette in Palo Alto who wrote in the appeal brief, ”Gwire’s voluntary self-promotion, use of the media for his professional advancement, and purported expertise regarding attorney billing practices and the performance of other attorneys makes his own performance as an attorney fair game for criticisms like those levied by Blumberg.”

Skaggs says the review is protected speech — not just because Blumberg has evidence to back up the claim that Gwire mishandled his case, but because Gwire has lost some protections against public criticism by aggressively marketing himself as a top-flight lawyer.

Kelli Sager, a Davis Wright Tremaine who defends defamation cases, explained that “a lawyer who seeks out opportunities to be in the press, gives speeches, appears publicly, writes articles and does all the things that cause one to be well-known that go beyond being a lawyer may become a public figure.”

Sager added that most lawyers don’t even think about the possibility of becoming public figures by marketing themselves extensively.

Jeremy Rosen, a free-speech expert at Horvitz & Levy, cautioned that First Amendment law is “murky” and that case outcomes vary widely nationwide. The “better reasoned” lines of cases, he said, “is one that would say if you market yourself in the particular area and the lawsuit is about your work in that area then you are a limited public figure.” But not all judges agree, and rulings tend to rely heavily on the specific fact patterns.

“There’s not a consistent bright-line rule,” he said.

Despite what happens in this case, I do not think lawyers should stop promoting themselves. That’s not just because I am active member of the legal marketing community, but because marketing and PR play an important role in doing business, attracting new clients and developing thought leadership. In today’s business climate, an attorney can’t afford not to promote him or herself.   I would hate to see that go away as a result of this case.

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