Legal Marketing: What You’re Missing at SXSW 2012

Every spring the social media and entertainment industries converge on Austin, Texas for SXSW (shorthand for South by Southwest), one of the most frantically busy and buzz-worthy conferences of the year.

For all the claims about lawyers as consummate networkers, I marvel that SXSW is not awash in IP, entertainment and small business/startup lawyers. The superabundance of crowded parties, meet-ups, hospitality pavilions and special events are a networker’s dream — start-up businesses, start-up films and start-up bands, all in need of lawyers with specific expertise.

Rocket Lawyer jumped into the networking fray this year with a Sociable Lawyer Premiere Event last Friday to promote its On Call lead referral program. Despite it being an uncharacteristically cold and rainy afternoon, a crowd of young lawyers converged on a Sixth Street bar to connect. I spent a while talking to some first-year associates about their experience with the controversial forms-driven service, and it was clear that Rocket Lawyer was on to something — building and strengthening connections with the current generation of solo and small-firm attorneys who “get it.”

A hidden bonus for lawyers at  SXSW is the free CLE. Yes, you can get free CLE as part of your SXSW admission.  I don’t know when they started, but for the past several years Lommen Abdo Law Firm has run a really interesting CLE track called “Legal Issues in the Music, Film and Emerging Technology Industries”  Talk about a marketing ROI goldmine….

This year the program boasts more than 40 industry leaders on different 13 panels. All SXSW registrants are welcome, but attorneys can register for up to 13 CLE credits and are given preferential access if the session is full.

Tomorrow’s sessions include:

Gimme Shelter from the Storm Clouds

As more products and services move to the proverbial cloud, from shared collaboration, commercial product offerings, and user-uploaded content, new business models are created while extant business models come under attack. This panel will explore the disruption caused by some new cloud-based services and how this disruption is affecting existing industries. For example, who is responsible for liabilities arising from the use or exploitation of content stored in the cloud; should Congress change the law to impose new liability/responsibilities on operators of cloud-based services; what rights, if any, do consumers have to perpetual access to their content in the cloud; can a user transfer their content in the cloud to another device or person? These and other questions will be addressed by the distinguished panel.

The Automobile as Network Node

Automobiles are increasingly connected to computer networks and are used to collect, use and share vehicle-related information. They also provide a delivery mechanism for driving, entertainment and other content and information. This panel will discuss legal issues arising out of and related to the collection, use and disclosure of vehicle-related information and related emerging legal issues of data use in or related to vehicles.

CLE panels later this week during the music festival portion include:

Royalties in the Digital Space: What, Where and How Much Are They?

Identifying, following and actually collecting essential money from a myriad of digital sources is a growing challenge. With the help of sophisticated music accountants, this panel will show what is at stake, and where and how to secure this income.

Licensing Madness: Exploitations a Go-Go

In a world where music is being licensed to promote, enhance, advertise and image almost everything, the deals and protocols are as varied as the uses themselves. The panel will identify uses and review common terms and deal expectations.

Run for Cover: The Future of Cloud Commerce

As traditional music consumer consumption habits evaporate into the cloud, a new legal and language lexicon casts a mighty shadow over the music business. This panel will analyze whether subscriptions and other alternatives present promise or problems in the new music economy.

Any interest in working with me to pitch social media for law firms panel ideas for next year’s SXSW?

Content Curation for Law Firms: One E-mail a Week Could Transform Your Social Media Training

Before you launched your firm’s social media platforms — blog, LinkedIn, Twitter — you made sure to conduct a training session for the attorneys and staff you’d being relying on to create content and engage in conversations. You might have even brought in an outside speaker to reinforce and expand on your guidance.

A few months later, the early enthusiasm has died off. Authors are struggling with ideas for their next blog post, LinkedIn profiles are complete but networking on the site is dormant, and Twitter just doesn’t make sense to anyone.

So what’s the next step? More training? And how much training will be required going forward?

Maintenance Mode

If reality TV weight loss programs have taught us nothing else, the gains achieved during a period of intensive training can quickly reverse without consistent ongoing support, encouragement and self-help resources. As a hedge against backsliding and “yo-yo” social media participation between training sessions, try a simple content curation technique that reminds, encourages and enables your team: a weekly digest of links to “how to” posts and videos.

  • DIY curation — A robust RSS feed is a curator’s best friend, providing a continual stream of fresh ideas from your favorite content creators. Its downside, of course, is continual vigilance. That RSS mailbox can fill up quickly, and it takes time to sift the wheat from the chaff.
  • Curating the curators — Why add to your workload when plenty of people are already curating the best “how to” tips for you — for free. Just subscribe to a few sites that regularly post lists of links to useful and interesting posts. “Fetching Friday” is a weekly feature on kikolani.com comprised of links to noteworthy posts from around the interwebs on blogging, business, SEO and social media . My own twice-weekly “Endeavor to Be Useful” feature takes a similar approach, but focuses more on law firm marketing. Also worth following is the LexisNexis Best Practices in Lawyer Blogs weekly e-newsletter.
What are your favorite sites for content curation and “how-to” tips?

 

 

 

Law Students: 3 Reasons Why Journalism and Social Media Are Lousy “Safety” Careers

It’s too late for some grads, but it’s finally dawning on current law school students that there might not be a job as a lawyer for them when they finish.

Pragmatic law students are keeping their eyes on the prize (a career in law), but also identifying alternative career paths where their training will be valued and utilized. Despite what law school placement offices, purveyors of hosted blogging services for lawyers, and the publication that runs the law school ranking cartel say, pursuing a career in journalism or social media after law school would be like doubling down on a bet in order to win back half your money.

  1. Going from bad to worse: There are fewer salaried journalism jobs than there are salaried law jobs, and journalism’s numbers are declining faster. The few remaining journalism jobs are likely to be in niche segments where a legal background is not an advantage.
  2. Stiff competition: An interest in writing, and some desultory blogging and tweeting will not be enough to get you interviewed, let alone get a job. Even graduating journalism and public relations undergrads will have more direct experience with basic skills like writing for daily deadlines, knowledge of website development (HTML, XML, CSS) and social media monitoring platforms like Radian6. You’ll also be competing with unemployed/underemployed mid- and senior-level practitioners who will have even more experience and insights.
  3. Adjust your salary expectations downward: As the infographic below illustrates, salaries for entry-level social media jobs (without relevant work experience you’ll likely only be considered for those) don’t pay well, and salaries don’t ramp up into even the low six figures for several years (and that’s if you’re lucky). With undergrad AND law school debt to service, you might not be able to afford to chase your back-up dream.


One Bright Spot

As content marketing picks up speed in legal marketing, the demand for legal content — and therefore ghostwriters/paid contributors — is growing. Judging by what I’ve heard from former lawyers who are now full-time legal website copywriters, they get to do what they love for better pay than toughing it out as a solo.

 

Market Research for Law Firms: What Legal Marketers Need to Know About Millennials

Last summer I wrote a piece for the Texas Bar Journal about how “digital natives” will transform the ways law firms and clients communicate and collaborate. This recent Bazaarvoice infographic illustrates how much Millennials rely on social proof in their choices of goods and services.

The Girl’s Guide to Law School: An Interview with Alison Monahan

After I first encountered Alison Monahan on Twitter and spent time reading her blog, The Girl’s Guide to Law School, I knew immediately I had found a kindred spirit. Balancing gimlet-eyed candor with an encouraging and supportive tone, Alison’s insights and actionable advice are a welcome tonic.

Clearly, other people have had the same experience. Only a few months into her blog, Alison’s distinctive storytelling is already widely sought and shared.

Q: A clear POV is essential to effective blogging. I love your blog’s tagline because it succinctly and clearly communicates what the content is about: “Get In, Get Through, Stay You.” Is law school basically an ordeal to be endured? A survival exercise?

A: I’ll be honest – I enjoyed many parts of law school. I found it intellectually interesting, and I liked that I was gaining insight into things I’d been vaguely aware of, but had never thought much about. Now, when I read a newspaper article about a Supreme Court decision, I understand nuances that I would have completely missed before, and I generally know why the case came out the way it did. That’s pretty cool!

The actual day-to-day experience of law school, however, left a lot to be desired. I’d done a previous graduate degree (in architecture), so I had a point of comparison that a lot of law students don’t have. I knew what it was like to work really hard and learn something that was challenging, but I found law school much, much more unpleasant than I’d expected. Part of it was probably that I went to a fancy school in New York City, and I was coming from California, but I just didn’t think most people were very nice! That, more than anything, made it an ordeal to be endured.

 

Q: In addition to the keen insights and impeccable writing, in my mind what distinguishes your blog is its highly personal nature. In the “About” page of your blog you write: “Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight and lots of research, I understand more about why law school is so unpleasant, particularly for women. I started this website to share what I’ve learned, and I hope you use my knowledge to make your own law school experience more satisfying and less unpleasant.” Is the blog also therapeutic for you?

A: Interesting question! I think I got most of my law school angst out with my actual therapist, who was really fantastic and helped me reframe the challenges of law school as something I could chose, or not chose, to flip out about. She was absolutely life-changing, and I encourage anyone who’s struggling with law school stress, or any other aspect of your life, to take advantage of the student health services at your school. You almost certainly get free therapy sessions, and it’s a great thing to take advantage of. You’ll learn all kinds of useful coping skills, which you’ll be able to employ throughout your life as a lawyer (trust me, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice). Even if it’s scary to call and make that first appointment, you’ll be glad you did.

As for the blog, there are a few posts that were somewhat therapeutic, I suppose. The post I was most reluctant to publish, and held on to for weeks before I put it out there, was about getting a cold offer from a law firm. Some variant of this story happens all the time at law firms, but it’s something no one ever talks about. Ultimately, I published it for a few reasons. One, just to let people know that this does happen, and that it could happen to them, even if they’ve got great credentials, and worked hard, and have always been successful. Two, to show that, if this sort of thing does happen to you, it’s not the end of the world. Your life will go on, your career will go on, and you’re not a total failure just because one particular law firm doesn’t want to hire you. And, finally, I published it because I could. In the end, it was cathartic to realize that I could tell this story, which is customarily shrouded in secrecy, and nothing bad would happen. At that point, the experience lost any power over me. I think I was holding on, at least a little bit, to the idea that this was somehow my fault, and that I should be ashamed of it, but, after publishing the post, I don’t feel that way at all!

 

Q: When you launched the blog in September 2011 there were already several prominent blogs and Twitter chats addressing current and aspiring law students, and legal education is a frequent topic across the legal blawgosphere. What do you see as your unique contributions to that discourse?

A: I try, above all, to be helpful. That sounds simple, but it’s not. There’s a ton of information out there for prospective, and actual, law students, and some of it is very good. But a lot of it misses the mark, in my opinion, because it’s not particularly action oriented.

For example, I read a law school guide, which said something along the lines of “It’s important to make an outline in law school, and there are various ways to do this. Try several and see what works best for you.” This is true, as far as it goes, but it’s not very helpful. If I’m a new law student reading this, I have no idea how to make a law school outline. Telling me there are various options doesn’t help – it just confuses me even more.

What I try to do instead is to get down to the nitty-gritty: Why do you need to make an outline, and what are some ways you might do it? Hopefully, after reading these posts, a new law student would have a clear idea what the goal of outlining is (which might enable them to come up with a unique way of getting to the goal), and they’d have some practical options to try.

 

Q: Judging from site analytics and comments, what topics/individual posts have resonated most strongly with your readers?

A: My most popular post ever was Why Every Law Student Should Be on Twitter, which got picked up by Above the Law. Beyond that (which was kind of a one-off), the most popular content is the posts debunking myths about law school and the legal profession.

 

Q: While some blogs embrace the frustration and bitterness endemic to law school and the legal profession, your content by contrast seems preternaturally calm and pragmatic. Is that your nature, or is it a byproduct of your experience in the crucible?

A: Probably a little from Column A, and a little from Column B. It’s definitely easier to be calm and collected about the law school/law firm experience when you’re not in the middle of it! If you’d caught me during law school exam time, I most definitely would NOT have been calm! More like completely crazy. But I think it’s good for people who are in the middle of these stress-inducing situations to know that it won’t always be like this – they too can come out on the other side and live a nice life, even if it doesn’t seem like that’s a possibility at the moment.

 

Q: Your bio on the site is a bit cryptic, with a whiff of mystery: “I’m a 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School. I was a member of the Columbia Law Review, I clerked for a federal judge, and I did a stint in BigLaw. In short, I did what lots of people think they want to do when they apply to law school. Trust me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Be careful what you wish for.” Are you still a practicing attorney?

A: Right now I’m only doing pro bono work. A couple of times since I left BigLaw, I’ve explored starting a small practice with friends. For various reasons, the stars haven’t aligned yet on that, but it’s a possibility going forward. I don’t think I’d work for another firm, since I have a more entrepreneurial mindset, but I’m not completely opposed to practicing law again at some point in the future. My California bar membership is active, but I’ve officially “retired” in Massachusetts.

 

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your legal blogging journey so far?

A: This sounds like a cliché, but it’s the people I’ve met. Lawyers get a bad rap, but many of them are interesting, intelligent people who want to make a difference in the world. Having a legal blog is a great way to reach out to people, since I can ask them to share their experiences and advice. Most people are happy to help, and have really useful info to share with aspiring lawyers.

 

Q: Can you share any “ah ha” moments – good or bad?

A: Sure, I had two very early on, in the first week or so after I launched The Girl’s Guide. In all honesty, I didn’t expect anyone to find or read the site for awhile. I’d told all of my friends about it, of course, and I reached out to some old law school professors (shamelessly, I admit), but the idea that a random person on the internet might find it, and read it, seemed a bit farfetched.

So, I launched it and went on about my life. Within a few days, one of my posts on scheduling clerkship interviews was a top Google result, and someone had found me on Twitter and asked me to guest post regularly on their site. I was shocked, on both accounts.

The “ah ha” moment was twofold. One, search engine optimization and social media really work and can help you spread ideas very efficiently. Two, people might actually want to read this stuff!

 

Q: How’s Twitter working out for you? Do you actively participate on other social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn discussion groups)?

A: Twitter’s the best! I was reluctant to join (and only did so because my web designer added a “Follow me on Twitter” button to the site), but it’s turned out to be awesome. I love how there’s such a community vibe to the whole thing, where everyone’s trying to post useful content that other people will appreciate. And it’s amazing how easily people can connect. I’ve got a bunch of “Twitter friends” now, that I’d never have met otherwise.

I’m also on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I think those have their place, even if they’re less active (at least for me). LinkedIn groups for law students and such are useful, because you can spread content and build a reputation as someone who knows what they’re talking about and is trying to help. My own LinkedIn group is pretty small, and I generally forget to update it. Facebook’s getting more active as I make more connections, but Twitter’s the clear winner for me!

 

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

A: Actually, yes, there are a couple of exciting things I’m working on. I’d like to start doing some podcasts, so I’m talking with Ann Levine about possible topics for her Blog Talk Radio show. I’m also working with Lee Faller Burgess, of Amicus Tutoring, on a course to demystify the law school experience, which we hope will be really helpful, and make law school less of an ordeal. Stay tuned!

 

Q: What do you say to prospective law students who ask “Is it worth it?”

A: I guess I’d ask what they mean by that. My question in return would be, “What do you want to get out of it?” If a prospective law student can answer that question with a decent level of detail, then we can start evaluating whether law school can meet their expectations.

I don’t think you can say, in the abstract, that law school is “worth it” or “not worth it.” Sure, you could calculate the cost to attend and your expected level of earnings over a given career path, and say you’ll be financially better off (or not) if you go to law school and everything goes according to plan. But that calculation leaves out a lot – Will you like your job? Will your work be meaningful? Will you be able to eat dinner with your kids (or even have time to have them)? Will this path make you happy?

These are big questions, and most of them can only be answered in retrospect. The mission for the prospective law student is to get as close to an answer in the here-and-now as they realistically can.

The way to do that, I think, is to find out as much as possible about the profession, and to talk to lots of practicing (and former) lawyers. When people are gathering information, it’s critical to be aware of natural heuristic biases (paying more attention to information that confirms your preexisting opinion, for example, and less to information that contradicts it).

The hardest part of this analysis is to find a way to really listen to what people are telling you. There’s a lot of wishful thinking out there, and law schools, to be frank, sometimes prey on this. The reality is that law’s a difficult profession, and it’s not a path to guaranteed riches. For the right person, it’s a good option. But far too many prospective students either fail to do their research, or put aside the feeling that maybe this isn’t a good idea, and end up bitter and disgruntled.

Don’t let this be you! Make sure you know what you’re getting into, before you commit to a legal career. Only later will you know if it was worth it.

Thanks a lot for having me on Shatterbox!

 

Alison Monahan started The Girl’s Guide to Law School to help aspiring lawyers have a better law school experience. She’s a 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School, where she was a member of the Columbia Law Review. After graduation, she clerked for a (totally awesome) federal judge for a year, then worked as a patent litigator in a San Francisco BigLaw firm.

If you’d like, feel free to follow The Girl’s Guide to Law School on Twitter at @GirlsGuideToLS, join our Facebook or LinkedIn groups, or sign up for our highly-coveted weekly newsletter.  

Law Practice Management: Fortune Favors the Bold

If you believe Vivia Chen’s recent post on Careerist, neither chief legal officers at corporations nor their outside counsel firms are seriously interested in alternative fee arrangements. Chen bolstered her thesis with an opinion from Corporate Counsel writer Nigel Holloway: “True, more than three-quarters of legal departments surveyed are initiating talks with their law firms over alternative fee arrangements, but these rarely bear fruit.”

What this perfunctory analysis elides is that even if clients are not aggressively pushing for AFAs, that doesn’t mean they are unquestioningly paying whatever bills they get. There are other reliable, time-tested ways to lower costs. As long as outside firms are willing to write off billable hours, clients can achieve their cost and productivity objectives without the trouble of negotiating complicated new service agreements.

While the profession dithers with what to do about the billable hours pricing model, a few firms are pioneering a wide range of technology-enabled efficiency and cost saving applications. As Hamlet observed, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

 

Hal M. Stewart, Chief Operating Officer of Chadbourne & Parke, recently offered a more action-oriented take on  how innovative law firms are lowering operating expenses. His excellent post outlines nine innovative technology applications already in use by some law firms that offer significant opportunities for cost reduction and organizational effectiveness:

  • Full digitization of incoming mail
  • “Hoteling” office space arrangements
  • E-billing for law firm vendors
  • Workflow automation for billing adjustments and A/R write-offs
  • Automated notification for AFA threshold reporting
  • Unified VOIP communication, collaboration and messaging infrastructure
  • Social media for recruitment and associate communications
  • Workflow-enabled transaction experience systems
  • Data mining for alternative fee arrangement pricing

The pressure on both in-house legal departments and outside counsel to deliver exceptional legal services at competitive rates is real and growing. AFAs are only one piece of the puzzle.

Do you think there’s a tipping point coming for bold moves into cost control and reduction, or will it continue to be  more talked about than acted on?

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.

Six Sigma for Law Firms: Move Over Client Surveys, Make Way for Net Promoter Scores

As I’ve written about previously, I am proud of my GE pedigree, particularly the invaluable Six Sigma and “Lean” training in operational rigor, analysis, continuous improvement, measurement and repeatable processes. So I was interested and encouraged to see Lisa Damon of Seyfarth Shaw honored as one of the ABA’s 2011 Legal Rebels for her work championing SeyfarthLean, the firm’s Six Sigma-inflected initiative to drive strategy and operational effectiveness that delivers both cost reduction for clients and revenue growth for the firm.

And earlier this week I came across a post by Darryl Mountain on the SLAW blog that discussed how to apply a standard Six Sigma DMAIC tool — the fishbone diagram — to analyze legal problems.

It seems like the time might be right for innovative firms to consider importing another quality and customer engagement tool from the business sector into law practice management: the Net Promoter Score, a customer/client loyalty metric and a operational discipline for using customer feedback to fuel profitable growth. Adopted by companies like GE, P&G, Intuit and American Express, the NPS is derived from a single question posed to customers/clients: “How likely are you to recommend [Company X] to a friend or colleague?”

Survey participants respond on a 0-to-10 point rating scale divided into three groupings:

  • Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will continue buying and
    will refer others, fueling growth.
  • Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who
    might be receptive to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your
    brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.

To calculate the Net Promoter Score (NPS), subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. In concert with the survey, NPS companies develop an operational model to drive improvements in customer loyalty and enable profitable growth. Key elements of the model include leadership commitment, effective business processes, and systems to deliver real-time information to employees so they can respond to customer feedback.

Studies examining the NPS “loyalty effect” have shown that companies with the highest customer loyalty typically increase revenues at more than twice the rate of competitors.

Know of any law firms that have tried NPS or a similar methodology with clients?

Texas Wildfires: Austin Bar Offers Free CLE for Disaster Recovery Volunteers

I don’t know if this is a common response by local bar associations. If not, it should be. I’m very proud to be an Austinite.

From the Texas Bar Blog:

The Austin Bar Association is offering a free CLE training for attorney volunteers responding to legal questions and providing assistance to all those affected by the wildfires. The training will be Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at the Austin Bar Association, 816 Congress Ave., Suite 700, Austin.

The cost is free to Austin Bar Association and Austin Young Lawyers Association members. The CLE credit for this training is 2.0 hours MCLE ethics credit.

This training will cover:

  •  Ethics & Pro Bono Service
  •  FEMA & Public Benefits
  •  Home Ownership Issues (title/mortgage, tax & fencing, barn, pens)
  •  Landlord-Tenant Concerns
  •  Insurance and Consumer Law Issues
  •  Pet and Animal Welfare Law

Read the full agenda.

Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas is providing malpractice coverage to lawyers volunteering through the Austin Bar.

To RSVP for this training, please contact Marissa Lara-Arebalo at 512-472-0279, x100 or at Marissa@austinbar.org.

Thank you to all the volunteer attorneys and donors for your support in helping evacuees affected by the Bastrop wildfires.

LegalZoom: What Does Not Destroy Me, Makes Me Stronger

The news broke today that a widely watched Missouri class action suit against online legal forms company LegalZoom alleging the unauthorized practice of law has been settled. Did the plaintiffs’ team unmask LegalZoom’s misdeeds and bring this hideous threat to the legal profession to its knees? Nah.

Final terms still have to be worked out and approved by the court, but the major bullet points reportedly include:

  • TBD compensation for Missouri customers
  • TBD changes in the way LegalZoom operates in Missouri
  • No admission or finding of wrongdoing by LegalZoom
  • LegalZoom continues to operate in Missouri

In other words, LegalZoom saves some litigation expense and now has a roadmap for beating back similar cases in other jurisdictions, and in the process will become a stronger, savvier competitor nationwide.