My Shingle

The Best Reason Not To Believe The “Experts”

by Carolyn Elefant on November 5, 2006 · 2 comments

in Growing Your Practice, Marketing & Making Money, Social Media

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Over at Lex Blog, Kevin O’Keefe posts about some of the negative reaction to his earlier discussion about how younger lawyers are using MySpace for advertising.  Seems that some marketing experts don’t find MySpace a sufficiently dignified or suitable marketing tool.

While I find much value in the advice that practice management advisors and experts have to offer and indeed, follow much of that advice, I never take it as gospel.  Because for every rule, there’s an exception, for behind every exception there’s an amazing success story.

For me, Tom Goldstein’s amazing success as a Supreme Court practitioner (he’s now at Akin, Gump, after running Goldstein Howe, now Howe Russell)
for several years is the best reason not to listen to experts all of the time.  As this article reports, Goldstein got his start by identifying cases
involving circuit splits and cold calling the losing party, offering to
handle their Supreme Court case for free.  I remember reading about Goldstein in the Washington Post years ago, before he’d even argued his first case (his very first argument was in the Supreme Court).  That article quoted Goldstein’s white shoe colleagues who called him an “ambulance chaser.”  Today, many firms have changed their tune, because they’re also willing to grab Supreme Court cases at no charge to bulk up their resumes.

In addition, Goldstein’s willingness to work for free also runs up
against the advice of most marketers who will tell you to never cut
your rates and (horrors!), certainly never to work for free.  But Goldstein’s free work paid off, by buying him something that no CLE could:  actual Supreme Court experience.  Today, he’s racked up at
least 20 arguments before the court, and with his experience, he can bring value and name his price.

Can you think of a way to practice law that no one’s ever done before?
One that experts sniff up their nose at, one that your colleagues
mock?  If you can, go for it, because I’m sure it’s going to be a winner.

  • http://www.venturelawassociates.com Suzie Dingwall Williams

    Could not agree with you more, unless I actually were you. I hung out my own shingle 5 years ago, after a big firm, big company career and also time as a VC. Everyone told me to position myself as a low cost alternative to larger firms, and I took a chance that everyone might be wrong. Instead, I’ve emphasized my VC background as a way to draw emerging companies (a niche largely abandoned by larger firms as private equity activity has movedup the chain to later stage companies). I’ve focussed on finding early stage companies in the industries for which my town (Toronto) is an acknowledged leader (Animation, telecom, software and biotech) and working with them as advisor and lawyer. (Also sometimes unpaid). Animation and biotech are industries with minimal legal needs in their early stages, so are largely ignored by larger firms. Now that many of them are coming mainstream, I’m the finding that I am the logical go to person for the next wave of these companies.
    As a solo (now micro-boutique) lawyer, I am free to let me marketing materials take whatever form and tone I think works. Instead of sending Xmas cards, every year I try to send the tackiest, cheapest and most humourous item I can find to my clients and network (a pig catapault one year). When a local VC raised another fund, I sent them all tee shirts that printed with the name of the Fund President (X) that read “X is my Homeboy”. They liked them so much they had others printed for their limited partners.
    Lately, I’ve been using my blog in part to express my personality (as well as to provide information for my targeted audience). I’m finding it far more effective than newsletters n drawing new enquiries and in keeping my existing clients linked. I haven’t figured out why yet, but maybe it’s because people want to work with counsel they like, or at least understand. We’ll see.
    (my blog: http://www.venturelaw.blogspot.com)

  • http://www.HowToMakeItRain.com RJON@HowToMakeItRain.com

    Speaking as one of the “experts” I also agree with you on this point. I’ve been saying that MySpace is an untapped goldmine for months now. And why shouldn’t it be, with all the “dignified” lawyers leaving all that business to the rest of us?!?
    In fairness, there are other law firm marketing experts who also agree with both of us on this point. I find that others (who will remain nameless) charge rather large fees and therefore must produce huge results in order to justify those fees. I know, because for a couple of years I did a stint with one of the top law firm marketing consulting shops which had that business model, before I saw the light several years ago and happily returned to focusing exclusively on the small firm market (solos & firms with five or fewer attorneys).
    So as a reformed big firm consultant, let me translate “dignified” for you, from “Consultingease” into plain English. . . If an expert is going to charge a client $100,000 for their law firm marketing advice/guidance (been there/done that), they need track at least $200,000 worth of business back to that advice, just for the client to break-even. And you better make it look complicated or how else do you ensure your six figure fees next year?
    So with this bit of economic reality in mind, the expert must look for the “home run” that will generate many hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business. And quickly enough before the end of the year when their performance gets evaluated. Oh yeah, and it better not seem too straight-forward either so they can be sure to get hired back to do it all over again next year!
    While I am a big fan of MySpace (though admittedly I haven’t yet gotten around the finalizing my page) I think we can all agree it’s not the complex, sure-thing, quick-solution, big-dollar home-run many law firm marketing experts are looking for.
    Again though I need to emphasize there are plenty of law firm marketing experts who, like me, recognize that it’s alot better to give our Rainmaking clients a dozen or so, low-cost, low-risk, easy-to-implement solutions that can each realistically produce $10,000 apiece, than to limit ourselves to only trying to deliver that one “dignified” home run.
    OK, if I end up on the missing persons list, I will expect you to avenge me!
    RJON ROBINS
    http://www.HowToMakeItRain.com
    Helping Lawyers In Small Firms Make ALOT More Money

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