Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Guru Speaketh

I'll bet you were just asking yourself "Self, when is this bozo gonna give me some Gurulicious-like advice for my bad self." I was wondering the same thing, my own bad self.

And then, just as we were about to throw in the proverbial neckbones and bayleaf, NO, I mean towel, I ended up getting a phone call from my own Favourite favourite Guru of all Gurus, Oh Wah Tagoo Guru. Yes. From Siam. How DID you know that?

And, you may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong? And you may tell yourself, My God, what have I done? Maybe not. But, apparently, the Marketing Gurus NEVER ask themselves these questions. Maybe they spend too much time with Gabriel Byrne. But what they DON'T do is give you anything new, exciting, or clever. You guys aren't hiring these goofballs are you?

Obviously, we here at Mason|McRight Legal Recruiting are TOTAL PROFESSIONALS and would never badmouth someone by name. Oh, HELL no! We're gonna be all sneaky about it, and do it all second-hand, with a lot of clever misdirection and verbal tricks. Because they might know as many beagles as we do (although, they don't luv you like we do. . .pant, pant, pant. . . ). And they're prolly nicer to you too. We leave you weak and begging for more.

It's not really our fault. . .we were mostly raised by sixteen-year-old babysitters. I don't believe I need to say anything else; that pretty much explains it all.

Anyway, Mahketing Experts. They're all over the place. Thick as fleas. And TWICE as helpful. Let's do a colonoscopy on some of the brilliant Law Firm Marketing ideas that 're being flung around this year. And remember, you DIDN'T hear it here first. . .but, on las otras hand, you didn't hear it from those marketing geschmurtzers either.

You prolly heard from your mama, or in any good class on etiquette and manners. Or, in your undergraduate "bidness success" class. Or in Lawyering II-The Wrath of BigLaw. . .oops, I mean, Professional Lawyering. Dang! I gotta remember, INSIDE VOICE! (Oh, come on, that was HELLA funny!). You just need to ask yourself one question: "Am I actually writing checks to these people?" I can't bear to look. Let's just say that we'll all have to bear our own private shame our own special way, and move on.

Here we go. Most of the most common advice I read, all over the web, on "paid" sites, and free ones, was "make a plan, make a budget, and then, implement your plan." I was, needless to say, knocked over like a Drunken Duck (which is what I'm planning to order for dinner. . .I've been craving it for WEEKS. . .I love me some duck).

You're KIDDING! Make a plan? Get a Budget? Implement the Plan. Oh, STOP! The sizzling genius is about to overload my limited intellectual capacity. Yours too, I reckon. Oh, and get this. Don't procrastinate. Do it right now. Don't dilly-dally, especially you, over there in the corner, looking at the Bagels. . .we're especially talking to YOU. Get to movin', there, you. I especially like the one who said, essentially, "If you find something that works, NEVER TELL ANYONE WHAT IT WAS/IS. . .something." I stopped listening after a while. Did this person, who, theoretically, gets paid for giving advice, just tell EVERYBODY that if s/he finds something that actually, really works well, that s/he is gonna keep it to him/herself? I thought so too.

Some of the advice was obvious, we thought, but, as I was preparing this little missive, one of OUR in-house Marketing people said "Whoa, there Scooter. Hold la phone, Mister Boy, and don't be makin' no assumptions 'bout no Marketing, unless you know the facts."

The point is, what is obvious to the Goose may not be obvious to the Gander. And if you don't know that you should be planning your marketing efforts, and visiting clients, and returning phone calls, and doing things to make yourself Top Of Mind, and making sure you don't leave money on the table, and other stuff like that there, then maybe you do need to hire an external marketing consultant to babysit you through the rough patches. And maybe you do need a Personal Coach, or an Executive Coach, or, heck, maybe both, to help you remember to dot your "i"s and cross your "t"s.

One thing I DID notice whilst I was perusing is that some of the Law Firms just don't get it. Some Law firms have the right idea, and they're paying an appropriate salary for true expertise. But, just for giggles, I checked out some of the salaries listed, and I was, frankly, appalled. Especially when I saw what the firms wanted in terms of experience.

No foolin', I saw a well-respected law firm, who we know is not struggling financially, that wanted a Marketing Director/Chief/Something with about a decade of experience, IN LAW FIRMS, for less than 50K. Are you kidding? Just in terms of the Basic Salary Formula, which doesn't even catch up with people, you guys are TOTALLY under market.

For those of you who MISSED that day in Job Analysis and Compensation Class, you COULD take the person's age as a baseline, add up their education, experience, and other factors, and come up with a figure, but I wouldn't, for the obvious Legal Reasons. But, even if the person is, say, 32 (just out of college, then directly into Marketing), the around 50K figure is JUST TOO LOW.

At a minimum, this job values out to something like a high five figures to mid low sixes job, when you take into account experience, background, responsibilities, and so on, based on what most Law Firms are looking for. I saw jobs for Marketing Directors at Law Firms in LA for, like 75-80K. You MUST be high. Good luck with that.

See, part of the problem is that law firms don't really GET marketing. Well, Law Firms do. Lawyers don't. Most of them. And it's okay. Unless you don't really have a background in Marketing. Because there actually IS something to it. . .you need to know what you're doing. You wouldn't let a Marketer try a case (even if it were legal. . .work with me here). Why would you assume that just a law degree would prepare you for marketing? Here's the bad news. . .it doesn't.

Yeah, I KNOW that a whole class of Former Lawyers are now Law Firm Marketing experts. I'm sure their letters of recommendation are impressive. They probably sound good on stage. So, ask them some questions. Ask them about the Principles of Marketing. Ask them what an Integrated Marketing Plan IS. Ask them how Marketing differs from Sales, or if it does. Then ask them why they left Lawyering for Marketing. We believe there are a lot of smart people doing all kinds of things. But we also think that every firm is different. Unique. Special. Make sure that YOUR Marketing Consultant is thinking about YOUR firm, not just THEIR particular program.

The truly awful BAD news is that you wouldn't really need much of a marketing effort if you'd just do a better job of lawyering for your clients that you do have. Call 'em. Talk to them. Return their calls. Staff well and wisely. Hire good, smart, communication-wise lawyers (they're out there), who, if they aren't good with people, and many of the best lawyers are NOT, are smart enough to have someone on their team who IS, and who can do that icky communicating. If they don't have someone, GET someone for them.

Let me give you an example. I know a lawyer who is in charge of the Legal work for a major MAJOR company. Loves the client. Loves the Law Firm. Has no interest in leaving. But we talk, a lot. Because he's funny. And whip smart. And, someday, I'll get him. Maybe. But, in the meantime, we talk. His client LOVES him. His team LOVES him. The Firm LOVES him. Why? Because, he's smart, and funny, and easy to talk to, and he returns calls, and emails, and so on. Maybe not immediately. But as soon as he can. And he apologises for the delay. And he's a big dang deal hifalutin' fancy pants attorney, making millions, and lawyering up a storm.

What's the lesson: If you learn to do the SOFT SIDE of Lawyering, you should. Most lawyers are far better at it than they think; they just don't like it, or they're not comfortable with it. Not a good enough reason not to do it. If you can't do it, find someone who CAN do it for you. Because, if you do it, and do it well, your clients, and your other contacts, will do half of YOUR work to build your practice and make more money for you. The End.

One Final Topic: Hot Areas, Cold Areas. . .is this, or is this not, my area?

I only have one thing to say about this. Ignore everybody who tells you to reassess because of what's going on in the legal arena right now. Yeah, some people got burned. What? People who took on clients with a substantial stake in the sub-prime mortgage market got burned? You're kidding, right? Oh, STOP!

Lemme see if I understand this. Your client takes on a whole bunch of debt from people who can't qualify for a regular mortgage, because they don't have good enough credit. But, because the client saw that a bunch of people made a bunch of money in that market, that was enough for them, despite the predatory lending practices, the enormous default rate, and the absolutely horrible reputation in the "NOT" subprime market of some of the operators, obviously not the clients that were represented by the vast majority of BigLaw firms, but still, enough of them so that one would have thought that the "good guys" would have off-loaded their portfolios a long time ago.

Of course, BigLaw being BigLaw, highly respected firms can't very well tell their equally highly respected clients to take back their Subprime Mortgage Finance-Related business, "but we want to keep everything else, if it's just the same to you."

And nobody, nobody, nobody, saw the handwriting on the wall, despite the fact that, for at least the past couple of months, even over the past year, even Hollywood has been writing scripts implicating sub-prime lenders in all kinds of viciousness, and suggesting, not to put too fine a point on it, that "they'll get theirs" (keeping in mind that the writer's strike means that these scripts were hanging around for a while too, by the way).

So, now you're watching your friends get pounded in the, well, the popo, and you're nervosa, and you're saying to yourself "Self, wtf, shall I "change my way of living, and if that ain't enough. . ." oh, shall I "change the way I strut my stuff?" (Love that song, by the way).

The WeeJames Board (like a Ouija [tm alert!] Board, but FAR more fun, and WAY more accurate, I think), says "Oh, Hell No!" Unless, you know, you're in with the subprime boys and girls, in which case run for the hills, or call your Friendly Legal Recruiter (BING!).

Outside of that, stay who you are. You know your area. Maybe John Travolta didn't like to do anything that wasn't in his "area." Maybe you haven't been to all the other areas to check them out. After all, Miranda HAD "been to the area." But you might not have. Nevertheless, you have a certain expertise. Focus on that. You are the expert. In your little corner of the Law, you are the king. Say it with me, won't you? Just like Jeremy Irons: "I. Am. The King!" But don't go throwing anyone off no cliffs, if you please. Just sayin'.

"Yes, Sire, you are the king." How kewl are you? Nobody knows ADA Compliance like you! You are the Master of Litigation. You, on the other hand, know SEC Regulation like nobody's business.

In other words, stay the course. If your firm is acting skitchy, talk to someone. If things are just jumpity because everyone is jumpity, then live with the fact that everyone is jumpity.

Things will settle out. But your expertise is what people are looking to hire. If you're in the wrong area because you got stuck there, and you hate it, then yeah, change immediately, before you get destroyed, but NEVER change areas because of a slight downturn. That would be the worst idea ever.

And, no, we do NOT think the economy is going to hell, and we don't think this is going to be a bad year for law firms. We feel good about it. We think you have to be smarter than last year. Pick wisely. Spend wisely. But we still think it's going to be a Very Good Year.

If only we could control the Marketing people. . .we're starting to wonder if they've been breeding. Until we know for sure, spray. Be conservative, but spray. That's the best advice we can give you. Oh, and take a client to lunch (we were just kidding about spraying).

James E. Mason
Managing Partner (Marketing Experiment gone wrong. . .see what happens?!)
Mason|McRight Legal Recruiting

P.S. Escabeche or Carpaccio?

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