Sunday, February 28, 2010

Twitter Top Ten

This post originally ran in March of 2009.  Lately most of my new followers are--get this--current clients.  Maybe my client base is unusually active in cyberspace, but I think it's more likely that they are typical.  I think they are pleased to find me, and even more pleased when I follow them back.  In any event, here are all the reasons I continue to use Twitter:

Regular readers know that when I have a creative block I resort to my old stand-by, a top ten list. The subject of my list is easy today: it seems that Twitter is gaining momentum, (see, e.g. Much Chatter about Twitter) so I pondered all the reasons a busy lawyer should start playing with it. I actually came up with a lot more than 10 reasons but some of them aren't fit to print. So here are my top ten professional reasons lawyers should learn about Twitter:

1. Use it to drive traffic to your website or blog. Yes, it works. Twitter is a new "on demand" manner of communicating. Lawyers are finding other lawyers, clients are finding lawyers, and lawyers are finding clients using Twitter. The distinction from existing tools (websites, email newsletters, blogs, and, gag, snail mail) is in the immediacy, brevity, and sorting capabilities of Twitter.

2. Learn a new language. Somedays I cannot figure out what 140 characters mean when it is something like "RT@mansbestfriend IMHO #hashtag is 4 #dogs, RU kidding?" Things like that used to mean something obscene but nowadays it could be legal advice. Even if you aren't interested in using Twitter, in a few years you'll probably find the language as useful as, say, Spanish, if you practice in California.

3. Learn to be concise. Consider that someday briefs may be limited to 140 characters (wouldn't that help everyone get to the point!)

4. Learn to categorize streams of information into relevant themes. Use Tweetdeck to sort the chatter into the categories you care about, and soon you'll be dialed in to conversations, sort of the way you might dial in to a radio station. There are other tools at Twitter Toolbox, and probably other places, too.

5. Display your technical hip-ness to clients. A lot of businesses are indeed using Twitter. If you at least have a passing familiarity with how it works, you might be able to make the short list when legal help is needed.

6. Take a stab at coining new legal terms. For example, to be fired for an inappropriate twitter is to be twerminated (posted by yours truly, March 23, 2009). I'd also like to toss out twasted (meaning twittering while under the influence). Will Twitter my next legal term of art soon, but you'll need to follow me to be among the first to know.

7. Have fun. Play. Try to improve your HappyTweets score. Perhaps, like smiling even if you don't feel happy, tweeting pleasant messages will also improve your outlook. Playing usually does. Even lawyers need to have fun, sometimes.

8. Similarly, Twittervision.

9. Live dangerously. It has become obvious that inappropriate twittering about friends, lovers, co-workers, bosses, neighbors, and/or clients can put you in hot water, and unlike a blog post or web page, you can't easily remove a Twitter once posted. Test your self control.

10. Develop a Following and Feel Like a God. Every new follower does wonders for the self-esteem, when feeling particularly beaten down by the practice of law.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Tiger Comes Down from the Mountain

May you come into a good fortune!  Or, as is more traditional in this season, Gung Hay Fat Choy.  It's the year of the Tiger, as you probably know.  The photo today is a picture of a piece of embroidery I picked up in Vietnam 10 years ago on a client trip.  The embroidered characters, I was told, mean something to the effect of "the Tiger comes down from the Mountain."

In any event, Happy New Year.  I was reminded of this by a card I received by paper mail from another law firm, wishing me the same.  What a standout message, it was not at all lost in the shuffle of my mail, since at this time of year I get very few pieces of paper mail.  So add that to your list of potential ways to reach out to your contacts and remind them you are still around, still practicing, and wish them well.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Just When You Thought the Playing Field was Level...

So I'm a little delinquent in writing posts. I've been busy. Well, mostly I've been watching the Olympics in the evening and not looking for inspiration. In case you were wondering, the one winter sport I want to try before I die is the bobsled. That just seems like so much fun. I don't especially like skiing (never have enjoyed the ride up; just doesn't justify the run down the hill, no matter how fun) and though I can ice skate, I'm just not the type to kiss & cry in front of millions. Curling seems silly. Hockey is way too violent. And I am really sure I would be permanently injured if I tried to stand up on a snow board. But I can sit in a sled and go fast.

In any event, I was a bit dismayed on reading in this morning's New York Times that Women Can Only Test the Hills. Apparently Olympic ski jumping is off limits for the fairer sex. I was dismayed, but not outraged, when I read that there are still some unenlightened people in this world who believe men are somehow more capable (or is it dispensible?) than women, thereby justifying excluding women ski jumpers from the Olympic games. Women certainly can and do ski jump. I did I debate the pros and cons of letting natural selection remove from the gene pool the crazies who think it's a good idea to try to fly by strapping long narrow slick boards to one's feet so as to build speed sliding down a steep slope of ice, off a ramp and into cold, thin air with the goal of landing on snow going really fast a hundred fifty or so feet down a mountain. Perhaps it is a good thing to discourage women who want to do such a thing, by excluding them from Olympic-level ambition in that sport.

So this evening as I sat down to watch the men try this nutty challenge, my daughter walks into the room and watches the men jump. "Wow, that's cool. I want to do that!" So I told her that of course she could try but that she shouldn't shoot for Olympics in that sport, because she's automatically excluded by her gender. SHE was outraged, and decided she should write a letter to President Obama protesting the injustice. I didn't discourage her. I am sure somehow or other this is his fault, too.

Still, the point shouldn't be ignored. No matter how you look at it, it just isn't right to exclude women from the pinnacles of any profession or sport. No matter how foolish the ambition seems to the rest of the world.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Haiku #14

I see spring flowers,
Daffodils, mustard, poppies.
Note to self: must smile!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marketing Reality, or Reality Marketing

The first six weeks of this year I've seen a plethora of advice hitting my email inbox from consultants pitching their services to help lawyers with their marketing. There's no shortage of ideas for how to engage with people that might become clients, as well as coaching advice on how to speak, stand, dress, write, etc. Pay them for their advice if you like, but here is some free advice that's probably worth about as much as you will pay for it:

I think a lot of this advising and coaching misses the mark unless two fundamental issues are addressed before even beginning a marketing plan. First, do you have skills to sell that anyone wants to buy? Although it is certainly true that young lawyers need to learn to network and develop a mindset that will enable them to attract clients later in their career, what passes for "marketing" advice to young lawyers is not going to be helpful unless and until the young lawyer has figured out what she is selling, who she is selling it to, and why anyone would want to pay for it. For at least the first five years (and usually more like 10 years) of career development for most young lawyers, nearly all professional development efforts should be focused on skill building and substantive expertise. Clients don't want skilled sales people for lawyers, they want skilled lawyers. And the best way to get there? Lots of practice in an area with growing legal needs. CLE. Substantive bar association committee work. Writing papers for publication. Public speaking on substantive areas.

And, for many seasoned lawyers whose practice areas have disappeared, it's now time to retool in a different area. Let's face it, you know it deep down: there is not the same demand for the same legal skills that there was 2 years ago. If your practice area has dried up, or become much more competitive, three words to contemplate: Darwin. Adapt. Change.

Second, your marketing plan needs to be developed around answering the prospective client or referral source's real question: what's in it for me? When I am hiring a professional or looking to refer a client I can't help, I'm really most interested in three things: properly-priced expert advice in the area, information I can't get anywhere else, and the prospect of business referrals back to me. If I know more than one person that fits those three criteria, then I might think about whether I personally like the person or not. But whether I like them or not is the last criteria, not the first. I wouldn't hire someone just because she's friendly, takes me to lunch, knows my kids' names. She's got to be an expert and a prospect for return business.

Of course, I think most lawyers will agree that successful practice development requires putting a personal face forward to prospective clients that shows we're human, we're likable, we're approachable and responsive counsel who will give good advice and get the job done. Hence the focus on the personal side of marketing—shared meals, special events, personal notes about family, and so on.

But in the race to present one's personality to the client, it's important to keep in mind that these soft factors are likely to result in new work only if the proposed soft sell involves something that the prospect or referral source actually believes will address a personal need. Much of the friendly, hey-I'm-really-nice marketing plans miss that mark entirely. Clients and prospects are probably not looking for new friends. If they are looking for a lawyer at all, the goal is not to find someone who can remember all their kids' names, their favorite sport team, or whatever. I find it pretty easy to identify folks who are not really interested in the same things I am and so will never be close friends, but who pursue referrals and business from me as if we were. It's pretty obvious whether the friendship is genuine.

On the other hand, I do know that many close business relationships arise out of friendships developed on the golf course, at PTA meetings, and so on. But I think those are at heart friendships, not business relationships. If you are hoping to develop a business relationship with someone who is not a close personal friend, you'll probably have more success by focusing your efforts on showing your skills, not how neat you are.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ambition, Recognition, Nomination

You may recall that for a while I had a fairly regular "book club" feature, and you may be wondering what I've been reading lately. I've actually started a bunch of books but can't seem to finish any before I get distracted by yet another great read. My reading list at the moment includes Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives, (Anna Fels), When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present (Gail Collins) and Blink (Malcolm Gladwell). One of these days I'll finish all three of them, perhaps next time I have a long plane trip. Haven't travelled in a while, so I suppose that's my excuse.

In the meantime, while you're waiting for my reviews, if you know any ambitious women who are also awesome leaders, consider them for a couple of awards now in search of nominees:

For Lawyers:

Submit a Nomination for the 2010 Jean Allard Glass Cutter Award by 2/12/2010. The ABA Business Law Section's Diversity Committee is seeking nominations for its 18th Annual Jean Allard Glass Cutter Award. The Award will be presented during the Section Luncheon at the 2010 Spring Meeting in Denver, CO. The Jean Allard Glass Cutter Award is presented to an exceptional woman business lawyer who has made significant contributions both to the profession and to the Section of Business Law. The Award is named for Jean Allard, the first woman to chair the Section.

The nomination deadline is February 12, 2010.

For San Francisco Bay Area Community Leaders:

Nominate an outstanding individual or organization in the San Francisco Bay Area community for The San Francisco Foundation 2010 Community Leadership Awards. The Foundation's message:

"In these extraordinary times, we turn to extraordinary leaders for their innovations and solutions as we work toward a more vibrant region. The San Francisco Foundation Community Leadership Awards recognize individuals and organizations whose leadership has made a significant impact in their particular Bay Area communities. This work may confront societal or civic issues, address health or environmental concerns, or promote arts and humanities. One of the four Awards is designated for an under-recognized, mature artist who has made a significant and ongoing contribution in the Bay Area."

Awards are $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for organizations. Individuals and nonprofit organizations in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties are eligible.

The deadline for nominations is 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 1, 2010.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Good Grief, and Situational Ethics

The fall out from the bail outs and the housing "crisis" seems to continue to reverberate; I had hoped that with the new calendar we'd all be able to put the nightmare of 2009 behind us. Underwater homeowners seem to have gotten past the first few stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining) and now are moving reluctantly from depression to acceptance. With acceptance comes the willingness to move on, and for many, move on means, literally, move on and hand the keys to the bank.

But handing over the keys, so to speak, is being roundly criticized by the banks and the neighbors left behind as an ethical failing. Is it really? Or is it more appropriate to characterize the decision to walk away from debt as purely an economic decision just like any other?

At the organizational level, some wonder whether the current financial crisis could have been avoided if ethical behavior was more valued as a must-have soft skill in the business world and taught to employees. My friend Peggy Klaus is studying whether, if we placed more importance on ethics and less on self-interest and greed, would today's world look different? Would our neighborhoods be more stable? Do men and women have a different view on the subject? Take Peggy's survey Ethics in the Workplace, and provide some statistical data for her study.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Pro Bono Publico

There seems to be a great divide among lawyers around the concept of pro bono work for indigent individuals who need legal representation: those who think it is a fine thing for other lawyers to do (but wouldn't spare a moment to actually help), those who think of it as a business development opportunity (and confuse uncompensated service to others with marketing), and those who really do derive personal satisfaction by helping others with their legal skills. The first two categories of lawyers really are missing one of the most satisfying aspects of professional life. Those who truly give of themselves find much greater professional satisfaction in their careers by giving freely to low income or indigent individuals who cannot afford a lawyer.

Here is a testimonial from a friend who really understands the concept of pro bono. She walks the walk and talks the talk of a lawyer committed to legal services for individuals who can't afford to pay for legal advice.



Video courtesy of Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.