Case Study: The Power of One FASB Lease Accounting Software Infographic

Microsoft Excel is a remarkably robust tool, but when it comes to implementing the new FASB lease accounting standard (ASC Topic 842), the workhouse spreadsheet software isn’t up to the task.

As of Dec. 15, 2018, all public companies will be required to account for virtually all leases on their balance sheet. While that date seems to be a long way off, companies already should be well under way with identifying, implementing and testing a technology solution that can handle the complexities of the new standard.

Since every corporation that leases space is affected by this rule, and all of those companies will need new software, you’d think savvy software marketers would be all over this. Well, think again.

FASB Lease Accounting Software Implementation Timeline

What Lucernex Got Right

Lucernex, a Dallas-based provider of integrated workplace management system (IWMS) software, consistently comes up as one of the top organic results for a “FASB lease accounting software” search with a simple but highly effective content marketing/SEO tool: an infographic. That’s no small feat.

The success of the Lucernex infographic can be attributed to several factors.

  • Timing – They posted it quickly and prominently in time to ride the first wave of search activity after the new standard was finalized/announced.
  • Keyword rich, SEO-optimized – They did their homework and stuffed the infographic with juicy FASB lease accounting software variants. They also refresh the content regularly to maintain their SEO mojo.
  • Lack of content competition – If their competitors have published comparable — or better — content, it’s not showing up in organic search — or paid, for that matter.
  • Ingenius and engaging – It might be too cartoony from some tastes, but you have to give them credit for focusing on a few critical points and literally animating an otherwise dry topic.

Here’s My Take on a FASB Lease Accounting Infographic

If there’s a FASB lease accounting software company out there — even Lucernex — that wants a fresh take on a FASB infographic, feel free to use the one I created (below). It lays out the key milestones for an achievable (read: non-rushed) FASB lease accounting software implementation timeline.

By now companies should have their system requirements defined and an RFP in the hands of their shortlist of potential technology and implementation partners. To stay on track, the final vendor pick(s) should be made by the end of June.

And then the real fun begins…

FASB lease accounting compliance infographic

Why Is This Post on a Legal Marketing Blog?

If you’ve read this far, you already have the answer. Infographics grab and keep reader attention, even if the reader has only a tangential interest in the topic. Upcoming posts will use this infographic to illustrate how infographics can be some of the most effective, easy-to-create and inexpensive tools in your marketing toolbox.

Straight Talk from General Counsels on How to Win Their Business

Far too much of corporate law practice marketing is predicated on what the firm wants potential clients to know, rather than what general counsels are actually looking for and how they conduct their searches. I came across a gem of a video on the Corporate Counsel section of Law.com that provides a glimpse of what general counsels actually care about when identifying and vetting outside firms.

  • Strong word-of-mouth is a great equalizer; gets you on the short list.

“Be good at what you do. We tend to interview the people we’ve heard about a lot, and we’ve heard about them a lot because they’ve had success in the past. And it doesn’t mean that we’re the kind of company that defers to the absolutely “blue chip” [or] “name brand” in a certain area because that’s an attorney the board will be comfortable with…If you are good at what you’re doing, whether you’re small, new emerging, well-known, we tend to be able to find you.”

Eric Whitaker, General Counsel, Tesla Motors

 

  • It doesn’t matter how good you are if you’re also an ass.

“Can I get along with this person, will they get along with my [internal] clients? Getting along with me is important, but it’s much more important to get along with the clients, because the clients are going to see you in the long term, every day basis. If the people who have to work with you on a daily basis in that transaction can’t stand you, that’s not going to reflect well on me nor is it going to get you repeat business.”

Robert Shives, Senior Director & Associate General Counsel, Fujitsu

 

  • Forget quirky videos and personal narratives; make website attorney bios more search-friendly.

“I absolutely check out bios, because we are frequently vetting new counsel. I look at representative clients, I look at representative matters. One of the things that makes me crazy is when the sites aren’t easy to maneuver. So how you’ve coded your website to be able to sort. Try and do it yourself, as if you’re an outside counsel trying to get to a person with this expertise in this location.”

Renee Lawson, Associate General Counsel, Zynga

 

  • Think rifle, not shotgun.

“One of the things that’s sort of interesting is that a lot of firms describe [themselves] as the everything to everyone. I’m usually looking for something very specific, so if you are an IP/anti-trust/transactional/product liability/labor and employment/estates and trust lawyer – which I have seen – you’re probably not the attorney I’m going to hire. So think about how you’re portraying yourself to the outside world.”

Renee Lawson, Associate General Counsel, Zynga

 

“It’s a credibility issue as well. When one sees that long list of “you’re an expert in every field,” you just pass. You take a pass on that person.”

Megan Pierson, Senior University Counsel, Stanford University

 

  • You’re competing against in-sourcing.

“I hire a lawyer and expect that they’re going to give me 2,000 hours a year for a $200,000 salary — I’m paying them $100 an hour. In reality, if you’re working with me at a high growth company you’re working 3,000 hours a year, so it’s even less [per hour]. My blended rate from law firms for the most part — big law firms — is still $400-$500 an hour.

“It’s simply a situation where, for the most part, law firms have priced themselves out of a whole bunch of work I used to have them do. It’s that simple. When I started in ’99 I would send contracts to law firms, I’d send license agreements to law firms, I’d send some employment issues to law firms. I just don’t do it anymore.”

“If work is going to repeat at all, I’ll bring the expertise  in-house. My in-house teams have simply gotten much bigger, and my outside counsel use has gone down, and it’s a direct result of the economics of it.”

Eric Whitaker, General Counsel, Tesla Motors

  • Billing reviews can be moments of truth.

“I don’t bring everything up with my outside counsel, but I do bring certain things up because we are early in a relationship and I want to set expectations. If I ask you to look at something on a bill, I expect you to look at it, and I expect you to get back to me promptly. And frankly if it even has the slightest appearance of being inflated, wrong, I expect you to say, “I’ve taken care of it,” and I expect you to do it right away.

“If I have to battle for a write-off with you, after I’ve given you the courtesy to bring it to your attention and reviewed your bills that you should have reviewed, you’re not on my list anymore.”

Renee Lawson, Associate General Counsel, Zynga

 

SEO for Law Firms: What Legal Marketers Need to Know About Google’s Panda

In the search engine optimization world, “quality” content doesn’t mean what you might immediately think. It’s not breakthrough ideas compellingly expressed (although that’s part of it, in an indirect way).

From an SEO perspective, quality derives in part from structural elements and patterns within your content (frequency, amount of original content on a site, duplication, unnatural overuse of a word) and the way visitors interact with your content (time on page, bounce rate).

In other words, Google’s Panda search algorithm evaluates the “quality” of your content by how long visitors spend on a page (presumably reading) and whether they visit other pages on your site during the same session. Quality content = high average time on page + low bounce rate.

Digital marketing agency Single Grain created a useful infographic that chronicles Panda’s evolution (so to speak) and highlights what law firm site designers and managers can do to build essential inbound links to their blogs and websites.

 

What are your SEO for law firms tips? Have you made any changes to your website or blog(s) to accommodate the new content paradigm Panda has created?

Content Marketing for Lawyers: 5 Non-Blog Content Types That Can Get You Noticed

It’s almost an old chestnut in “innovation” circles, but some of the most important breakthroughs are not new inventions. Rather, they’re new applications of proven technologies and methods. In a post entitled “Don’t Think Different, Think About Different Things” on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, Art Markman of the University of Texas at Austin cites the example of vacuum cleaner mogul James Dyson.

“Dyson set out to invent a more effective vacuum cleaner. He noticed that vacuums lose suction as the bag fills, because the pores in the bag get clogged. Most people who tried to fix this issue in the past attempted to solve the “bag problem” by crafting a more effective vacuum cleaner bag.

“Instead, Dyson realized a vacuum takes in a combination of dust and air and needs to separate the dust from the air. Once he thought about the problem in this way, he was able to recall his own knowledge about the industrial cyclones used in sawmills. Industrial cyclones use centrifugal force to separate particles from air rather than a filter. He then designed a small industrial cyclone into a vacuum and created a highly successful business.”

The same can be said of content marketing for lawyers. You can wait two or three years for your reputation and new business leads to gestate on your blog, or you can mobilize the full depth and breadth of your content resources through third-party distribution channels like JD Supra. In a recent e-mail exchange, co-founder Adrian Lurssen provided a very helpful summary of JD Supra content types beyond repurposed blog posts:

  1. Favorable court filings – Lurssen notes that intellectual property attorney Ron Coleman’s repository of documents is comprised almost entirely of his own filings —  decisions, pleadings,  motions, memoranda and related work.
  2. Legal analysis – Multi-specialty law firm Lane Powell uses JD Supra to aggregate newsletters, articles, and alerts covering developments in sectors as wide-ranging as transportation, securities, environment and energy, immigration, labor and employment.
  3. Legal forms – Instead of ceding the “forms” business to LegalZoom, templates and samples of complex instruments like a family trust can surface your content in search engines, and help build reputation.
  4. Legal documents of interest (content curation) – In addition to posting his own writing on social networking and Web 2.0 in the legal space, attorney Doug Cornelius  uses his JD Supra portfolio to collect legal documents not written by him but either related to his practice field or of interest to readers of his blog.
  5. Q&A site responses — Versions of responses written for sites like Quora and LegalOnramp also find their way into JD Supra portfolios.

“We are a bridge between two worlds: lawyers, and the people lawyers serve,” Lurssen concluded. “Any content that makes sense, somehow, of the legal implications (business, consumer, other) of our lives —  that’s good content on JD Supra.”

 

The Law of Flash Mobs and Pranks: An Interview with Ruth Carter

“Niche development” in legal marketing typically entails becoming known for a deep focus on particular aspects of a practice area or business segment, expertise in arcane and/or complex issues, or both. What interests me about Ruth Carter’s work in the law of flash mobs and pranks is that she drew from her own experiences and tapped into the cultural zeitgeist to pioneer an entirely new category of law.

Q:  From reading through your blog archives, it seems like your interest in the law of flash mobs and pranks originally derived from your passion for improv and guerilla theater and took root while you were in law school. Is that a fair description? Was there an “ah ha” moment for you, where you decided that it was a niche you wanted to explore in depth?

A: That’s a fair description. My first flash mob was the 2009 No Pants Light Rail Ride when I was a 1L. During that flash mob, I met the people with who I founded Improv AZ.

My real “ah ha” moment came during my 1L summer during my internship with the U.S. Army JAG. I got to spend a few days sitting in on criminal law classes for military police trainees. During my criminal law class, the only crimes we focused on were homicide and manslaughter. We skipped the crimes that are more common and easy to commit. At the military police class, I learned about crimes like solicitation and conspiracy – two crimes that flash mob organizers can commit just in the planning stages of a flash mob. That’s the experience that showed me that flash mob organizers need to be mindful of the legalities of their events at all stages of planning and executing flash mobs.

 

Q: How do you describe your engagement with the topic today? Is it an avocation, or are you developing and marketing your expertise as a unique practice area?

A: I live and breathe flash mob law. I absolutely love it.

I don’t know how much of a demand there is for flash mob law practitioners. I am opening a law firm in January 2012 and I will be listing “flash mob law” as one of my areas of practice.

 

Q: To a layman like me, it appears that the challenge of this niche is understanding the interaction of criminal law, property rights, torts and even constitutional law as they apply to public performance — a classic example of balancing rights and responsibilities. How do you describe it?

A: That’s about right. I describe flash mob law as a combination of criminal, property, tort, First Amendment, intellectual property, and entertainment law.

 

Q: The transgressive nature of flash mobs and pranks is central to their appeal. As an attorney, how do you reconcile those tensions?

A: There is a huge difference between violating cultural norms and breaking the law. One the keys to organizing successful flash mobs is knowing how to push the envelope without crossing the line.

Flash mobs are about doing the unexpected but it should never go so far that it interferes with others’ rights or gets you arrested. It’s about entertaining, amusing, and surprising an unsuspecting audience.

 

Q: Wikipedia takes pains to distinguish between “flash mobs” (brief, seemingly pointless) and “smart mobs” (promotional stunts). Is that a distinction without difference, or are there substantive issues that attach to one or the other type of activity? What about “pranks”?

A: The difference between flash mobs and smart mobs is the intent. Flash mobs have no underlying motivations except to do something entertaining and unexpected. Smart mobs are a form of advertising. They exist to promote causes, services, and products.

My troupe, Improv AZ, only does entertaining flash mobs and pranks. We would entertain the possibility of being hired to do a smart mob, but it is not something we actively seek to do.

The difference between pranks and flash mobs is mainly the size. Pranks are small scale activities that we do not invite the public to join. The only people who are involved in pranks are the organizers, our videographers, and our photographers. No one knows that a prank was planned until the blog and video appear on the internet. The prank that Improv AZ is best known for is the Coroner Prank. The first time we did it, the only people involved were the 4 “coroners” and 2 people who videotaped us.

Flash mobs are large scale events where we invite the hundreds of people on our email list or the general public to participate. Some of the flash mobs that Improv AZ has organized are the annual No Pants Light Rail Ride, the Fake Protest, Welcome Back, and the Epic Super Hero Battle.

 

Q: In your view, what are the biggest public misperceptions about what we can and can’t legally do with guerilla events, stunts, pranks, etc.?

A: From the organizer perspective, the biggest misperception is the idea that you can do whatever you want as long as you have good intentions. That’s not true – your actions matter more and you can be arrested for breaking the law even if you meant no harm. Additionally, some people assume they can do whatever they want in a public place, like shopping malls.

There were a few incidents at the end of 2010 where flash mobs ended badly. There was a dance flash mob at Scottsdale Fashion Square in Arizona that resulted in some people getting banned from the mall for a year. The security there has made it clear that they don’t want any flash mobs on their premises. There was another incident at a mall in northern California where people were invited to come and sing the Hallelujah chorus. So many people showed up to participate that the fire marshal had to come to evacuate people and there were reports that the floor felt like it was giving way.

 

Q: YouTube and shows like “Punk’d” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” have elevated pranks to an entertainment genre. As average folks chase fame and/or fortune with their Flip cams and mobile phones, what legal issues do they need to be aware of?

A: The main thing that people need to be aware of is when they do a prank or flash mob that involves illegal activity, and they put the video on the internet, they may have just published all the evidence that law enforcement needs to charge them with a crime.

 

Q: Flash mobs are increasingly associated with civil disobedience and intentional criminality. Have you found that this conflation is creating more problems for group actions intended for artistic expression, entertainment and commercial purposes?

A: Yes. I cringe every time I read an article that refers to a criminal incident as a “flash mob crime.” These group assaults and robberies hurt the reputation of the real flash mob community when the media refers to them as flash mobs. As organizers, we put significant time, thought, and energy into making sure that our events are legal. We don’t want to be associated with any illegal activities. Some of us argue that the term “flash mob crime” is an oxymoron, because flash mobs cannot include criminal acts.

 

Q: Can you share some lessons you learned the hard way about the legal consequences of flash mobs and pranks?

A: Oh yes. I learned the hard way that just because we planned a prank to be legal, someone still might freak out and call the cops. During Improv AZ’s Coroner Prank #2, we took our body bag for a walk through a mall. The mall cops detained us and called the real cops claiming that we had committed “dozens of felonies.” The police didn’t cite us for anything and the worst thing that happened was some of us were banned from the mall for three months. That was the prank that convinced me to take a criminal procedure class so I would know what authority mall cops and real cops have. Looking back, we probably could have left the mall when the mall cops confronted us despite their instructions to remain there.

 

Q: What are your top five tips for flash mob and prank planners?

  1. Never assume that your flash mob or prank is legal – always look up the applicable state and local laws. When in doubt, consult an attorney.
  2. Be prepared for encounters with the police. Know what they can and can’t do and be ready to respectfully explain why what you’re doing is legal.
  3. Make sure your participants know their do’s and don’ts going into a flash mob. For example, before the No Pants Light Rail Ride, we remind our participants that they must have their genitals and anuses covered per Arizona law. We encourage people not to wear thongs and to wear briefs under their boxers to prevent any unexpected exposure when they sit down.
  4. Don’t do anything in public that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper. Once the photos and video are on the internet, you have no control over who is going to see it – your family, your friends, your employer, etc. It’s not uncommon for the press to be tipped off about upcoming flash mobs and for the footage to end up on the evening news.
  5. If you are arrested, immediately tell law enforcement that you’d like to exercise your right to remain silent and ask to speak to an attorney, and then don’t say anything to anyone until you speak with an attorney.

Known for her daring antics and outgoing personality, Ruth Carter is a co-founder of Improv AZ and the owner of Carter Law Firm, PLLC, a virtual law office specializing in intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Ruth blogs weekly at UndeniableRuth.com.


Content Marketing for Lawyers: Think Outside the Blog

There is a large and expanding universe of legal bloggers clamoring for “thought leadership” status. And it doesn’t matter how jam-packed your blog is with niche-tuned, well-placed keywords and expertly turned meta descriptions. It likely will take at least two or three years to achieve the level of awareness and site traffic needed to support a reliable stream of speaking opportunities, journalist inquires and leads (assuming that’s why you’re blogging).

If you’re not satisfied with grinding out blog posts and patiently waiting for an uncertain payoff a few years along, then start thinking outside your own blog, and merchandising more types of  content than your blog posts.

  1. Create an inventory of content that’s useful, but can’t be easily repurposed for your blog — Lawyers are in the business of creating content — think pleadings. While not suitable for your blog, public record court filings can be of great interest and value to other lawyers and potential clients seeking specific experience and expertise. The same can be said of content types, like journal articles, newsletter stories and CLE presentations that can’t run “as is” on your blog.
  2. Invest in content distribution services — I recently tweeted a link to a friend’s SlideShare presentation, to which he replied “I wish I had as much traffic on my blog as I do on this presentation.” Speaks volumes, doesn’t it? Content hosting and distribution services like JD Supra and SlideShare enable you to open an online storefront for your full content inventory. These platforms are purpose-built to generate visibility and ubiquity for your content that you’re highly unlikely to create through blog SEO alone. Leveraging all your content in this way increases the probability of your content being discovered, and that discovery will drive traffic to your blog and/or website.
  3. Cultivate guest contributor opportunities beyond legal blogs —  Google’s new search algorithm favors quality and frequency, so blogs in crowded and highly competitive segments like “mommy blogs” and small business services are actively recruiting guest contributions from subject matter experts.
What tactics do you rely on in your content marketing strategy?

How To Promote Your Blog Using Slideshare

Thought Leadership for Law Students: An Interview with Online Law Journal Editor Sarah Eli Mattern

The scarcity of strong law student voices in legal social media is conspicuous, so when I encountered the online law journal The Student Appeal on Twitter, I was immediately interested to learn more. Comprised of articles, op-ed pieces and a blog, The Student Appeal serves as a beacon and “town square” for thoughtful content and discussion that might not otherwise be available or relevant to law students.

In this conversation, The Student Appeal co-founder and editor Sarah Eli Mattern discusses her vision and mission for the journal, and her insights on content curation, online community building and thought leadership marketing for law students.

Q: The mission statement on your website begins “We founded The Student Appeal to give law students a professional way to get their names and writing noticed.” What’s the background for that choice? Did you see a lack of opportunity for law student writers? A lack of professional focus by law students in their social media engagement?

 A: I did see a lack of publishing opportunities for law students. While the majority of law schools require students to write at least one legal article before they graduate, students have limited publishing opportunities for those papers. A student can try to publish with their school’s law journal, many of which will publish a handful of student notes annually. What caught my attention was that if almost every student has to write a paper and the majority of students can’t get published, then the effort and arguments those papers contain largely become nothing more than trash.

Keeping in mind that many students don’t wish to publish their papers and some student’s articles are not quality scholarship, I’ve still found that a large percentage of students didn’t feel like they had publication options.

Q: In addition to bringing legal discourse by law students into higher relief, your approach also seems to have an eye toward personal branding. Is that a fair statement? Do you believe law students can improve their career prospects through content marketing?

A: Absolutely. Personal branding is imperative in today’s job market. Any time students can distinguish themselves from the masses by presenting specialized knowledge or accomplishments, they stand a better chance at getting hired. By publishing articles on a topic of interest to lawyers within a specific area of law, students can demonstrate their hard-earned and well-researched knowledge, while also marketing themselves to those same people who may one day hold their resume.

Q:  How do you describe your target audience(s)?

A: We made The Student Appeal an online journal because we want to give anyone the opportunity to access this information. Almost everyone starts his or her research online when they want to know more about something. We want lawyers, law students, and all who care about law and policy issues to read, submit, and interact on our site.

Q: Generally speaking, blogs have relegated long-form content to the periphery of social media. While your site has a blog component, the emphasis is on articles and op-ed pieces. With so much competition for eyeballs and sustained attention, what’s your strategy for attracting and retaining readers?

We expect to attract and retain readers by publishing the most interesting and timely articles possible.

Traditional law journals publish papers with articles upwards of fifty pages. We decided at our inception to limit the length of even our traditional articles. We definitely try to be cognizant of our readers’ time, so we cut pieces to keep them as short as possible while maintaining their integrity. At the same time, we do appreciate the different nature of longer-form content, and we feel it has an important place in legal conversation. Though not everyone will be interested in all of our 10+ page articles, we hope that the breadth of subject matter, combined with the shorter-form opinion editorials, will present enjoyable reads to scholars of all walks of life. It’s this ability to delve into a subject and explore links to other websites and information that we feel brings the most value to our readers.

Q: While not affiliated with an academic institution, do you follow that editorial model? What’s your submission/review process, and what are your criteria for evaluating submissions?

A: Yes and no. When we receive a submission, three editors preliminarily review the article. Those editors send me a brief write up with their impressions, comments, and recommendation on whether the article is publication worthy or not. Then, if approved for publication, we email the author our publication agreement. After the author formally agrees to publish with us, we complete a full edit on the entire piece and send the article back to the author to review our notes. The publication process varies based on the length of the piece, but full articles usually take around two and a half months.

We accept articles and opinions from all political spectrums and ideologies, on any law-related subjects. In our publishing criteria, we do not care if our editors agree or disagree with what is written, only that what is stated is well-thought-out and clearly articulated. We desire to open our audience to many different viewpoints and allow them to come to their own conclusions. We do not promote any particular agenda and we do not answer to a school board, which really gives us a lot of flexibility in publishing more controversial or non-standard legal articles.

Q:  The site launched in April 2011. How have you approached recruiting potential contributors and building site traffic? Do you use the site’s blog and your Twitter participation as marketing tools?

A: Most of our contributors find out about us by word of mouth, but Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites have played a large part in helping us get the word out.

Q: You’re a freshly minted (2011) JD from Florida A&M. What was your inspiration to launch an online law journal? Is publishing your full-time venture, or are you also pursuing a legal career?

A: In the future, I would love nothing more than to work on The Student Appeal full time. Right now though, I want to practice. I know that what I learn from practicing will only help me to grow the site to its full potential.

 Q: Can you share any “Aha” moments you’ve had so far?

 A: On the web side, I have learned a lot about what does and does not work well in a publishing/blog sense. Originally, we wanted to focus more on strictly long-form legal articles. Through our analytics we began to realize that topics covering more current events, and the shorter-form editorials received the most interest. So though we are still committed to publishing full legal articles, we expanded our focus to include shorter-form pieces.

We also originally started the site with a community forum. But after a month or two working in the forum, we decided to replace our forum with a site-wide Facebook-based comment system. This allowed for easier discussion of our popular or more polarized articles, and has helped to create more dialogue between the article author’s and our readers. It’s always humbling to remember that as a publishing site, you are only so great as your authors and readers allow you to be.

Q: Do you have any plans to add other media to your mix (e.g. videos, webinars, conferences)?

A: Nothing definite, but my business partner, Dawson Henry (aka our Web Ninja), and I have discussed it. We would like to see The Student Appeal grow in many directions in the future.

Sarah Eli Mattern is a graduate of Florida A&M University College of Law and a member of the Florida Bar. She co-founded The Student Appeal Law Journal as a way of pursuing her passions, writing and legal research. She currently writes, edits, and manages the online law journal in hopes that it will grow to become a prominent source for legal discourse.

Reconceiving Client Surveys, Part 4: Shorter, More Frequent and In Person

As discussed in the first post of this series, conducting client satisfaction surveys is as much marketing as it is client service. The frequency of surveys, their method of delivery, the breadth and depth of topics covered, and even the way the questions are structured all tell clients a story about your firm.

Frequency – In a professional services environment predicated on deep personal connections with clients, fielding a client satisfaction survey only once a year  seems perfunctory. Even if you have informal channels and tools for gathering  client feedback throughout the year, an official outreach on a quarterly or semi-annual basis telegraphs active interest and engagement — that you don’t take them for granted.

Method of Delivery – If someone can make a persuasive argument as to why mailing/e-mailing law firm client satisfaction survey forms constitutes better client service, please do so in the comment section below. A printed form should be hand-delivered to the intended recipient, accompanied by 1) a statement of appreciation for the client’s business and 2) a spoken, personal invitation to complete the survey candidly. In the case of an e-mail survey, make sure the message doesn’t end up in your client’s inbox without a personal heads-up — by phone or in person — to expect it. Steps 1 & 2 above obtain in this scenario as well.

Breadth and Depth of Topics Covered – Typical surveys take a “kitchen sink” approach, with questions ranging from the make-or-break (“How likely are you to recommend our firm to a friend or colleague?”) to the mundane (“Returns phone calls as promptly as I wish”). This approach inevitably results in questionnaires that are too long, which causes respondents to race through later questions. This is a particularly serious shortcoming when you have open-ended questions at the end of a long survey, because respondents are much less likely to provide thoughtful, detailed comments.

Instead of one long annual survey, consider fielding several smaller ones focused on a single client service category (e.g. core capabilities, responsiveness and collaboration, cost management/value, technology utilization, privacy/data security).  In addition to operationalizing client service conversations, you’ll obtain higher quality feedback.

Question Structure – Open-ended questions yield more useful feedback. If, however, you choose a closed-ended format, take special care in how you structure and word the questions and pre-populated response options (if you’re not using some sort of number or letter rating scale). The worst thing you can do is frame responses in such a way that it appears you’re trying to put words in the respondent’s mouth. Like this actual Big Law firm example [firm’s name is redacted]:

Rating Scale:

A – Exceptional Performance, rarely equaled by other law firms.  XYZ LLC  is the firm I hire for my legal needs.

B – Above Average.  Exceeds my expectations frequently.  I usually call XYZ LLC first.

C – Average.  Satisfactorily meets my standards.  XYZ LLC isn’t my first choice.

D – Below Average.  Failed to meet my standards in a material way.  I am seeking other counsel.

F – Unacceptable.  Without a significant and sustained effort by XYZ LLC to improve, I will discontinue using the firm.

As they say on TV lawyer shows, “Objection. Leading the witness.” Also, doesn’t “D” sound worse than “F”? And would clients experiencing “D”- or “F”-level service even bother filling out a survey form?

 

Social Media for Lawyers: Content Curation vs. App Spam

The social media marketing world currently is in the thrall of “content curation,” and justifiably so. When executed with a coherent vision, purpose and rigor, curation is demonstrably effective in helping content marketers achieve increased website/blog traffic, subject matter authority and followers (aka thought leadership).

One of the most widely cited working definitions of content marketing was coined by social marketing expert Rohit Bhargavan, who describes it as “the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue. The essence of curation, then, is the curator’s informed and discriminating point of view and active participation.

As with most endeavors that require extra personal attention and effort, there’s strong temptation to look for shortcuts —  that means you, Paper.li and SummifyIt’s worth noting that Twitter ranking/management clients like TwitCleaner classify tools that  auto-aggregate and auto-tweet your content feed  as “app spam.” Over-reliance on those tools can negatively impact your social media profile and rankings, and those items are less likely to be shared than ones you’ve clearly considered and bundled on your own.

However, there are other applications that help make the work of genuine curation more manageable. Four of the most promising content curation tools are:

Have you tried any of these tools? How are they working out for you?

 

 

Twitter for Lawyers: No More Excuses

This post originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog Oct. 10.

Amidst all the froth about the new Facebook features and the general release of Google+, it’s easy for social media professionals not to spend much time considering the importance of simple tools.

We can get so focused on mastering the “next big thing” that we overlook applications that might seem basic to some.

But to others have the potential to fundamentally affect whether and how they can productively engage in social media.

For solo and small business owners who have the desire to participate in social media but believe they do not have the time to do so effectively, something as modest as an easier way to compose and schedule tweets can be transformational.

It’s in that sense the Buffer app is a “small wonder.”

While it’s generally thought of as just a tweet scheduling tool, my experience has been that it unlocks the promise of social media for businesses that have been sitting on the sidelines.

Unlike dashboard applications such as HootSuite and TweetDeck, which only allow tweets to be scheduled from within the client, Buffer enables users to compose tweets through a Chrome browser extension, then immediately post or add them to a queue without leaving the web page you’re reading.

Tweets placed in the Buffer queue are sent individually and sequentially based on the recurring schedule you’ve set for that day (as opposed to the Twitter clients mentioned above, which require scheduling to be done as each post is composed).

Schedule as many per day as you like (within reason and follower tolerance, of course).

You can essentially ignore Buffer at that point, but if you choose to, you can edit, reorder, delete, or immediately post your pending tweets from the dashboard.

OK, Buffer might be a one-trick pony right now — but what a trick!

I’m a voracious web surfer and RSS feed reader, and share a lot of content that I find interesting and actionable. But because I tend to do my surfing in the morning and late at night, before Buffer I had to manually copy/paste links and individually schedule a lot of my tweets to space them out.

As a result, I shared less content than I would have liked because scheduling was too cumbersome and time-consuming. Now I can tweet without breaking stride, and without inundating my followers with great clumps of tweets — “set it and forget it,” to borrow a Ron Popeil phrase.

That alone is well worth $10 a month.

So How Is that Transformational?

Buffer has been a very productive tool for me, but for some of my clients it has been almost revelatory.

I work primarily with professional firms and small service businesses, many of whom are wary of – or outright intimidated by – the perceived demands of social media. They understand they’re missing out on marketing and networking opportunities by not participating, but it’s difficult for them to envision an engagement strategy and tactics that would work for them.

For some, Buffer has broken through that reluctance and doubt because it meets them where they are in the adoption curve. It makes sense, it’s easy, it’s immediately useful, and it builds their confidence in – and appetite for — social media engagement.