Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cross-Pond Commentary

Are you still sitting on the floor? Me too. I fell off my chair, and haven't been able to pick my big but amazingly cute butt up off the floor since I landed there. No, I know YOU don't care to know anything about my butt. But, I'm still single, and, well, you never know, do ya? And I wasn't talking to you, anyway. . .I was talking to . . . uh . . . you. How YOU doin'? Where was I?

Oh yeah. Falling off the chair. I know! Me too. The same article. Oh, wait. I gotta tell you another story, so I can use this expression.

Years ago, I used to work with this guy named Vinny. Swear to, whatever, he spelled it Vinny. No, not V-i-n-n-i-e, Vinny. Not the story. No, the story is that Vinny'd always make comparisons, every time he told you, well, anything. And he'd always use the same expression: "Same thing, Man, same E-ZACK thing!" Made us HOWL! We'd make him tell the same story again and again, just to hear him say "Same thing, Man, same EZACK thing!"

The funny thing is, I know for SURE that I'd heard Vinny say "Exactly" before. As a one word response. I'd said something, and Vinny said, "Exactly!" But, no matter what, get him going and, before long, here came Vinny and "Same thing, Man, same EZACK thing!"

So, the article. I really don't know where to start. And I gotta be, uh, "carefy." I know the writer did his best not to sound as phumphery as he came across. But, honestly, you're going to use as your example of excellence Marks and Spencer who came to our very own shores not too very long ago and managed their own concept right into the ground? Lost money from the get, alienated even other retailers, and made their very own customers hate them? This is who you'd advise American Law Firms to emulate?

I know I'm not too bright, but even I know retail history well enough to know THOSE lessons. I won't even bring up the painful mid-to-late-80s memories of the vaunted David Jones, late of Australia, empire and their foray into Southern California, but I was there, and I lived it.

While we're at it, it's not so much that I disagree with everything that's been said. I agree, most law firms do an awful job of keeping their non-lawyer professionals, and the half-life of a non-lawyer in most of these jobs is ridiculously short. . .to an outsider, it seems like professional suicide to take one of these jobs in a law firm; I wouldn't do it on a bet, certainly not for what these people are getting paid. Nevertheless, the idea that mere cosmetic or linguistical changes, like Allen & Overy calling a non-lawyer an "Other Professional" makes any difference in the hearts and minds of lawyers is laughable, and ridiculous on its face.

I don't care if you call me a non-lawyer, an "Other Professional" or "Ticky-Boo"; it don't make no never mind to me. . .I'm STILL not in the club, and you know it, and I know it, and you know that I know that you know it, and that's all there is to say about it.

Fortunately, lawyers don't much care about ME. . .my job doesn't require it, and I've been around lawyers my whole life, so I think like you do; it's like being raised by wolves, except not as civilised. I'd be lying, though, if I said the sniffing one another part wasn't a hoot and a holler, but perhaps I've already said too much.

Let's get back to the "future of law firms" issue for just a minute. I think the idea of "branding" law firms is ridiculous on its face. Let's go back to Marketing 101 for jist a minute, m'kay? Aside from all the other things branding is, one of the things that branding for SURE is, is a way to hang a "HOOK" in your brain for future reference, to "tag" something, and to create a sort of utilitarian interface with something that, presumably you'll have a need/desire/want/urge/etc. for in the future (i.e. Coffee, Tissues, Headache Remedies, Tequila, whatever). That's what brands are for. Mrs. Olsen, the referent. Folger's, the Brand. Juan Valdez, the referent. Uh, oh. . .No Brand! See how that there works right there? Colombian Coffee may indeed be the richest in the world, but it's NOT a brand, it's a typology. (I'm talking Principles of Marketing, here, not Brain Real Estate, IP beagles, so calm down, and stop pointing at the R in a circle; I got you).

But here's the thing, like it or don't. . .NOBODY wants to have a Law Firm Brand hanging off a hook in their brain, not even me. And I LOVE law firms Because I'm freakin' weird, but, yeah, I do. But I don't want to have to say "Well, Millicent, MY legal work is always handled by Snooty Puss Brand Lawyers, 'cuz they're just the cuddliest attorneys ever!" Of course, my own very mother would kill me with her bare hands if I ever talked like that, but you get my point, right?

Can you imagine. . .DLA Piper Brand Attorneys at Law? "Oh, I used to work for Cadwalader Brand, but then I came over to Skadden Brand." Because you know they'd MAKE us say "brand." Every time I think of it, I remember Old Dr. Welby, pitching "Sanka Brand Decaffeinated Coffee." I was, like, three seconds old, but I remember that my old Grandpappy used to drink "Sanka." But what ever could "Sanka Brand" be? Even Grandpa didn't know.

One of my friends is a bigtime hifalutin' IP lawyer now, and I told him that story, you know, "When lawyers try not to get 'Aspirin-ed', the search for Brand Identity." I just made that up. Pretty clever, huh? Anyway, he was totally clue free. On the other hand, he's like fourteen years old. . .missed the ads completely, and will never know the joys of seeing Consuelo and Dr. Kiley on the little blue screen. Oh, Consuelo. . .I had such a thing for Consuelo.

My Auntie Regina (no, you have to say it Ruh-jy-nuh. . .I know. . .I still have to suppress a giggle; me a grown-up man), says there's no possible way I can remember Doctor Welby, that I was too young. . .maybe, maybe not. . .but I sure do remember me some Consuelo. Ay, Mami!

Where was I before I drifted off there. . .? Ah, yes! Branding Law Firms Sucks! But wait, sports fans, there's more. There's gonna be a brand valuation round up, a pricing blow-up, and a marketing mix-up. Or something.

Me, I dunno. I'm not sure I'm prepared to take advice from across the pond, no matter whose mouth it falls from, although I DO like the way our cousins sound when they talk. I'm gonna have to think about this a little more. In the meantime, I think I'll have me some Noname Brand Frozen Pizza, chug down a few Store Brand Cervezas, and follow it all up with a nice cup of Colombian Coffee (there, IP beagles. . .I did that for YOU!). Juan Valdez, I LOVE you, Man!

But not as much as my sweet Consuelo.

Remember, YOU are the Otter of your own fat, and that all real products referenced herein are the Intellectual Property of their respective owners. Not me.

James E. Mason
Managing Partner
Mason|McRight Legal Recruiting

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