Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lunch with a Rock Star

Friday I had the distinct pleasure of sharing lunch with Rock Star UC Hastings Professor Joan Williams. I've known Joan since I attended the first Leadership Academy for Women, at Hastings, in the summer of 2007. A co-founder of the Project for Attorney Retention ("PAR"), Joan and her Legal Rebel colleague Cynthia Calvert are leading women lawyers all across the country to more fulfilling careers in private practice.

Just this week they released Reduced Hours, Full Success: Part-Time Partners in U.S. Law Firms. Their key findings challenge conventional wisdom about part-time lawyers:

• Many respondents had significant books of business, and the majority reported spending as much or more time on business development as full-time partners;

• Most respondents generate significant revenue, billing between 1200 and 1600 hours annually and pushing additional work down to associates;

• Many hold leadership positions in their firms, including managing partner, executive committee member, practice group head, and members of high level committees;

• Client service is foremost, with the vast majority of respondents stating that they do whatever is necessary to be responsive and meet deadlines; and

• Clients of part-time partners are generally supportive.

The survey preceded the Great Recession, so I asked Joan whether a follow up survey of these respondents, post recession, was in the works. It's one thing if women make gains in these areas in good times; will the progress be sustainable through the rough economy? According to Joan, they need funding to do any sort of follow up study.

I sure hope they can find financial support to do so.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Here's a fun and easy branding and networking exercise that has legs. Yesterday I was "twitterviewed" for 22Tweets, which, for the uninitiated, means "Real-time Twitter interviews with practicing lawyers who tweet." The exercise of generating 22 answers about my practice, my values, and my predictions for the future, each within 140 characters, was like a foreign language final exam: by the end of the interview, I was thinking in 140 character chunks. Quite different from standard legalese, and from conversational English!

I think one of the reasons I like Twitter so much is that it's hard to talk about Twitter, Tweeting, Tweeps, Twitterfall, Twittervision, Tweetdeck, etc, without smiling. It's all so Tweet. And here's an odd synchronicity: As I am writing this, I see that I have 222 followers, and I've posted 222 Tweets. Weird.

Whether you followed the twitterview live, or read the static compilation on, you now know more than you wanted to about @CynthiaRRowland. Far more than would ever be posted on a law firm website! That seems to be a good thing.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Seven to Nine Touches

Ahhh, September. The air is crisp, the kids are back in school, and work is in full swing. This year has been no different from years past; shortly after Labor Day, everyone returns to work, looks at the projects that didn't get done over the summer or that must be done by year end, and the phone starts ringing. But for some folks, it still isn't.

Interestingly, a lot of the calls I am getting are from other lawyers and business professionals who are light on work, but looking to finish the year with a strong networking and marketing push. I do sense a lot of anxiety in a lot of people; they seem frustrated that after lunching all year with their friends and business contacts, the work still isn't materializing.

Here's a reminder to those of you who are wondering why the marketing efforts over the last twelve months since the official economic meltdown began don't seem to be paying off: most marketing consultants quote the rule of thumb that it takes seven to nine "touches" on a prospective client before the client is apt to hire a lawyer.

Does that mean that if I take a contact to lunch nine times I'll get the work? Of course not. "Seven to Nine Touches" is, though, a good rule of thumb when developing a marketing strategy for a target market. Think in terms of how to reach a particular prospective client over a course of several years, seven to nine times. Of course, the target needs to be someone who is able to pay, and has the type of legal problems that you are very good at solving. So first, identify the right group of prospects. Then, set in place a strategy for reaching them many times.

The strategy should include a number of different ways to reach the client: perhaps a relevant newsletter or client alert, an invitation to a firm social/networking function, a sporting event, a blog or twitter post about something of importance to the client, a holiday gift, and a seminar invitation. Note the emphasis: "and." Not all of these efforts will resonate with every prospect, and some of them may not need your services for a while. The important thing is to develop a multi-faceted strategy for touching your target group, with the marketing goal being to reach out many times, in many different ways, over many months. And if you are like me, these touches need to be efficient uses of my time, and need to leverage content.

Or, you could identify your ten prospective clients, and invite each of them to lunch seven to nine times.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Haiku #9

Fall thunderstorm rocks
Dog jumps up, horse twists ankle
The stupid cats snooze

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thoughts on the Standard of Care in Pro Bono Representation

Last spring when the mega firms started announcing that they were deferring their incoming associates and instead outsourcing them to nonprofits, with stipend payments at a healthy and livable wage, I wondered whether any nonprofit would find them to be helpful, but I guess a few have. It didn't occur to me that there might be a risk management issue for the deferring law firms.

In an unusual case reported on by the Hinshaw & Culbertson eNewsletter, we see that at least in New York, there is. In MC vs GC, 881 N.Y.S.2d 845, (May 22, 2009), a divorce case, the wife's pro bono representation was botched by an inexperienced young lawyer, whose day job apparently was with a large firm, but who honorably filled the pro bono commitment by taking divorce cases for a nonprofit legal aid organization, InMotion. The lawyer desired to represent the client in an uncontested divorce; instead the matter turned out to be contested, and involved messy issues of child custody and parental relocation. The court ultimately vacated a stipulated judgment based on a finding of duress by the wife's counsel, but stated that:

"Notwithstanding this decision, the court applauds inMotion for its provision of legal services to low-income women, and appreciates that Ms. Smith and her firm were participating pro bono in that effort. However, legal representation should not be provided in a way which does not give individuals a full understanding of their rights and deprives them of their opportunity to be heard on the issues most important to them. In undertaking pro bono representation, Ms. Smith's firm should ensure that counsel taking on pro bono matters receive appropriate support and supervision, so that they can provide pro bono clients with the same careful legal representation that they provide to paying clients."

It is important to note that MC vs DC was not a malpractice action, and there is nothing to suggest that the harmed client sought to recover from the young lawyer, the supervising nonprofit, or the young lawyer's employer. Nevertheless, it serves as a reminder that just as with paying clients, lawyers who represent those without the capacity to pay should remember that the clients are looking for help with their problems, no matter how messy. It does the clients, and the profession, a disservice to offer to solve problems that are simpler than what is actually presented.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Fashion Week

August was a great month for the blog, I wrote more, and better, posts than usual, and due to some good luck managed to increase readership significantly for my little publication. So I thought I should review my statistics and see where the traffic goes, what pages are popular, and where the readers come from. I was surprised, again, to see that the fashion posts remain the most popular. I don't know whether anyone takes my advice or whether people just land there and then mumble something snarky and move on.

But these two facts seem significant: (1) the most common google searches that bring readers to my pages are variations on "what should I wear to work" (33% of the top ten searches relate to apparel) and (2) my three previous posts on what to wear represent 33% of the ten most viewed pages (other than the home page). Obviously, there is no way to determine the gender of the readers. But I think it is fair to assume that it is women who are searching for information on the topic. Fundamentally, I believe it is a reflection of the fact that appearance remains an important topic for women lawyers.

I had been pondering all this early in the week when Alan Davis' Night & Day September eNewsletter hit my inbox. His Pulse Guides are the source for travel advice for Urbanistas. I read them for vacations that I know I'll never be able to take, but they nevertheless get me through the day with some harmless fantasizing. Anyway, the newsletter lists the dates of the New York, DC, London and Paris fashion weeks in September. I doubt there will be anything useful at those fashion shows for dressing middle-age, frumpy women lawyers, but I'd like to go someday anyway.

In the meantime, this all has me thinking about shoes, so it's time for I always sort high to low, for entertainment value. More harmless fantasy, I suppose.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Swine Flu, or Just the Flu

Hey pals, remember what Mom said about not burning the candle at both ends? Well I never listened. After my hectic month of August I now have my first cold in several years. Can't tell if its Swine Flu, all the symptoms seem pretty ordinary and I can't tell if the heat I'm feeling is a hot flash or a high temperature. In any event, here's the best advice our government has to offer:

Watch it and weep.

I'm not taking any of those fancy marketing snake oil remedies but I did have a couple of ice cold glasses of basil lemonade at RN47 at lunch today. Best medicine I've had in a long time!