Firesign has added veteran communicator Erin Curtis-Dierks to the agency. Erin will serve as marketing project manager, developing rollout schedules, coordinating resources and balancing marketing strategy with business needs for Firesign’s law firm and legal tech marketing projects.
Erin brings more than 15 years of experience in marketing, having coordinated communications campaigns in media, consumer goods and education. She refined her project management skills at Quaker Oats and later led teams of marketing and public relations professionals at the University of Kansas and Baker University. Her time in academia particularly readied her for Firesign’s attorney clients as she honed her skill for capturing important information in a timely manner and distilling complex ideas into clear and relevant content.
Erin’s big-picture thinking, conscientious devotion to lists and schedules and healthy dose of levity ensure projects are executed with purpose to help attorneys attract, win and retain business.
On June 19, Firesign received its first AMPS Award from Social Media Club of Kansas City. The agency won Gold in the category of Email Campaign: Brand.
The AMPS Awards recognize the best social campaigns in the Kansas City region. Now in its fourth year, the program celebrates digital marketing campaigns from brands, nonprofits and government entities/educational institutions. Projects are judged by national social media professionals who evaluate campaign goals, implementation and results. More information on the AMPS Awards is available here.
The award was presented at a celebration at Boulevard Brewery.
Social Media Club’s primary mission is to “expand digital media literacy, promote standard technologies, encourage ethical behavior and share best practices.” The Kansas City organization is the country’s most active chapter.
Conferences and trade shows can be a boon to your niche marketing and networking – but often they mean schedules packed with programming, presentations, exhibit hall chitchat, client meetings and more.
If you’re an introvert – and 60 percent of attorneys are – exhaustion can quickly set in at an event like this. While it may sound appealing to stay in your hotel room and cruise the event hashtag with room service, you’d be losing out on face time….and considerable conference ROI.
Jennifer Kahnweiler, the author of The Introverted Leader, says people often equate introversion with being shy or antisocial, but that when it comes to networking, introverts possess a key advantage over their extroverted counterparts: Skilled preparation.
Indeed, you do not have to change or be inauthentic to be successful; you just need a battle plan. Here are six ways to get the most out of your next conference or trade show:
One: Be selective. Determine why you are going to the event and whether it’s worth your time. Instead of attempting to hit every annual event for your industry, pick a few that you think will be the most lucrative for your business, so you can adequately prepare and give each event your full attention.
Two: Plan and prioritize. Schedules and vendor lists are often available ahead of the trade show. Preparation is key, and you don’t need to visit every vendor or attend every seminar. Kahnweiler suggests researching the organizations and individuals ahead of time so you know exactly what booths to visit and exactly which connections to make going in to map out your day.
She also suggests scheduling interviews with potential clients in advance of the trade show. By knowing who you will be speaking with and when you can anticipate conversations and feel confident in your preparedness.
*Tip: If you are more productive during a certain time of day, plan to utilize that time for your most difficult networking opportunities to maximize your efficiency. If you already hate mornings, you will not be enthusiastic for breakfast meet-and-greets.
Three: Build in breaks. While it is imperative to plan where you will be at a trade show, it is equally as essential for introverts to plan when they won’t be there.
Morra Aarons-Mele, a small business owner and author of Hiding in the Bathroom: A Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home), says monitoring your energy levels is the key to surviving a trade show. All of the smiling and schmoozing can “zap” your energy, Aarons-Mele says, so it is important to know your limits.
Stay at a hotel close to the event for a quick escape if you need downtime, Aarons-Mele says. If you find yourself overwhelmed, take 10 minutes for a walk or a latte.
*Tip: Creating small rewards like skipping the cocktail hour after an event for room service and Netflix can be great motivation during a long day.
Four: Set goals. Aarons-Mele says that giving yourself a job or a goal can give you a sense of reward or purpose and help curb anxiety. Whether you are determined to meet a specific individual, collect a certain number of business cards each day, or volunteer to help with the trade show in some capacity, acting with intention and taking on a specific role can help introverts thrive in the hectic trade show environment.
Five: Bring a buddy. Long days of networking can seem overwhelming for one person. Bringing an extroverted friend or colleague to share the limelight — or the burden of networking — can help introverts out of their shell.
Six: Commit. If you go to a conference but do not clear your calendar, it will leave you feeling stressed and scattered, rendering you unable to get what you need out of both. Be present and commit fully to the event; this will ensure you are making the most of your time and your money.
The elevator speech – that quick spiel you use to answer the old “What do you do?” question – is a hang-up for many lawyers. It’s hard to talk about yourself, and harder still to make it brief, meaningful and client-centric.
Turns out poetry can help – haiku, to be exact. (Although some practices may lend themselves to limericks, we know.) Matt Homann, one of my favorite legal innovators, developed a formula to craft a short, sweet and client-focused elevator speech that’s based on Japanese haiku. I love that it forces concision, and it focuses on the client.
The three questions, which must be answered within the specified number of words:
Who do I help? (Answer in five words)
What do I do for them? (Answer in seven words)
Why do they need me? (Answer in five words)
A sample response from a business lawyer could be:
I help small business owners
incorporate their businesses and protect their ideas
so they can sleep better.
I help spouses in conflict
separate their assets and make parenting plans
to keep their kids secure.
Contrast that with the prototypical “I’m an attorney at Such & Such” introduction. The haiku version is human, real and action-oriented.
Break out a pen and paper, and try your own haiku. Think about how you can incorporate it into your firm bio or LinkedIn, profile, too – you now have a great starting point for your personal brand.
I help savvy law firms
Connect with clients who need their help
so they can grow purposefully.
Note: A previous version of this article appeared on Ms. JD.
Forbes has published an article by Firesign’s CEO, Katherine Hollar Barnard, on how attorneys can develop successful niche practices. The piece, “Three Steps to Developing a Successful Legal Niche,” posted May 24.
In it, Barnard discusses how lawyers can define a specialty, build their expertise and market the niche. She writes:
In a landscape full of ever-changing regulations and rapidly developing markets and technologies, opportunities abound for savvy lawyers to carve out distinct practices. Finding a niche isn’t just about differentiating yourself — it can allow for a more efficient practice that offers more value to clients and captures premium rates because of its targeted knowledge.
I have worked in legal marketing for 13 years, and some of the most successful attorneys I have worked with have had some of the most specific niches, from superyacht disputes to gift card transactions.
Are you considering a niche practice of your own or interested in further defining your specialty? These three steps will help you hone your expertise.
This guest post was contributed by Dawn Zerbs, principal of Dawn Celeste LLC. Dawn Celeste is a strategy execution firm that blends thinking and doing; in short, she’s an expert at getting things done. Learn more about Dawn here.
The first quarter of 2018 is almost over. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to set goals to advance your practice. Here are a few tips and topics to help you get started.
Less is more. Set 5 goals or fewer. If you can’t remember and recite your goals using your fingers it is unlikely that you’ll achieve them.
Break it down. Set a measurable goal for the year and immediately divide it by four to create a trackable milestone for each 13-week period. Then break each 13-week milestone into what needs to happen weekly.
Start small. Be honest with yourself about your current performance in the goal area. If you’re starting from ground zero don’t try to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It won’t work. Building habit and routine is hard, but the work is worth it. Start small, celebrate early accomplishments, and enjoy your achievements. Don’t expect to launch from couch potato to marathon-runner in 13 weeks. Get off the couch in the first 13 weeks. Then walk around the house and maybe even jog outside for the next 13 weeks.
Get started. Once you have your goals clearly set and know your 13-week milestones, stop thinking and get started.
Do you need some ideas for goals?
Client Listening. Would you like to begin a post-case debrief or post-transaction satisfaction survey? Or ask your clients what they like and/or dislike about your service? Perhaps do this for your top three clients 2x/ year.
Client Service and Operations. What about improving or setting service standards? Is there something in the operations/administration of your practice that needs improvement? If so, set a goal here.
Professional Development. What legal or non-legal area would you like to learn about or get better in? Set a goal to get closer to your ideal career by planning on taking the time to invest in your own learning and growth.
Community Involvement. Are you active in the community? If so, where do you want to concentrate your efforts to make a bigger impact in 2018? If not, where could you start to serve (remember the start small tip)
Business Development. BD goal-setting opportunities are endless. First, get clear on your overarching objective. Do you want to acquire new clients, expand current clients, or retain existing clients? Pick one. If the latter, Client Listening goes a long, long, way in understanding needs of current clients to expand the relationships. If the objective is to acquire new customers, make sure that your Client Service is top notch so you’ll be referred by existing clients. If you’re building a practice, work with your marketing team, consultant, or mentor to identify your ideal target client. This will direct your speaking, writing, and other marketing efforts for the greatest impact.
What is it that you want to do to improve or enhance your leadership skills in 2018? What specific goal do you want to set for yourself and your practice in 2018 to be your best self? Is it starting or increasing your community service, starting a mentoring program at your firm, or making a commitment to walk beside new lawyers when they join the firm? What are your unique gifts and skills and how can you use those to benefit your career, your clients, and your colleagues?
In setting and achieving goals there are three mantras to follow: 1) Don’t overthink; 2) Don’t underestimate; and 3) Just try it.
Warren Buffett has the ukulele. Jay Leno has antique cars. Richard Branson has kitesurfing.
Most successful people have some kind of recreational hobby – a passion for a musical instrument, a unique collection or a devotion to a certain sports team. (Go Jayhawks!)
Leisure activities have proven benefits, including a positive effect on blood pressure and stress levels. But what if your hobby could also lead to a bigger book of business?
That’s exactly what happened for Breandan Filbert, the founder and managing partner of SalezWORKS, a business training and consulting company. Filbert started a monthly networking-on-horseback group in 2001 with others who shared her love of all things equine.
Filbert can directly tie her “most significant business” today to relationships she formed in that networking group throughout the years – and she’s not alone.
Helen Gulgun Bukulmez, a personal injury and immigration attorney in Kentucky, founded Hiking Lawyers in 2008 when she began meeting other lawyers, judges, clerks and legal staff who shared her passion for the outdoors.
“Initially, it was a laughable idea: hiking lawyers,” Bukulmez said. “Over time, other colleagues saw how hiking provided us with the balance, health and networking we all want in our lives and began joining us.”
A decade later, the group now touts more than 1,000 attorneys across the country and around the world, who frequently share ideas, recommendations and expertise with one another. Shared interests can provide a common denominator, but Bukulmez said business development opportunities come from actively building relationships and offering value.
How can you turn your hobby into a marketing method? Filbert shared her process:
Understand the people in your network. Take time to know their interests – and what their business needs might be. Social media profiles can be very informative.
Look for common ground. Actively cultivate connections who share your passion. Include it on your social media profiles, and share it (when appropriate) in business meetings. (If your contacts don’t share your interests, they might know someone who does.) That added connection will allow you to build affinity and trust.
Create social engagement opportunities. Bringing people together outside of the workplace is key to nurturing these relationships. Filbert mentioned a well-known financial advisor who invites a mixture of current and potential clients on “extreme” hunting trips. By the end of the excursions, he has connected with prospects over a shared experience, transforming many of them into clients.
Transition to a professional level. Between innings or axe tosses, engage your fellow hobbyists in business conversation. Invite them for a meeting to learn how you can help each other.
As Filbert said, the only thing setting you apart from the competition is your ability to forge a stronger bond. The more you share with a client or prospect, the better your chances for referrals and leads. (And you might just have fun doing it.)
From employee handbooks to partnership agreements, there are plenty of resources to help navigate the straightforward “do’s” and “don’ts” of law firm management.
However, there are sometimes unexpected instances that aren’t explicitly covered – like how best to handle the death of a partner. Who should you contact first? What’s the most suitable way to inform your staff? Do you post on the website?
While a partner’s passing may be unexpected, you do not have to be unprepared. Handling sensitive issues is easier with a plan; if you develop a general protocol for these situations, the process will be smoother for your firm and the family. You can balance business needs with empathy and emotional intelligence.
We talked to Courtney Fadler, founder of Courtney Fadler Etiquette. Fadler, a graduate of the Emily Post Institute, stressed the importance of offering condolences to all parties and keeping sentiments focused on the partner’s life and accomplishments. Fadler teaches the three etiquette principles of consideration, respect and honesty.
Here’s how to apply those principles to the passing of a partner:
Work with the family. Fadler says the first point of contact should always be the family of the deceased. The family may wish for privacy, and it is important to know that before communicating a partner’s death to your staff. The family may have specific wishes on where flowers, notes and charitable donations may be sent, and they may not wish to have meals delivered to their home. Remember: They are grieving. Be mindful of putting too much pressure on the family. It is often more helpful to say “We are thinking of doing such-and-such, is that OK?” versus “How can we help?” Don’t put it on them to develop your plan. Be tactful when asking permission to inform staff, clients and the public of a partner’s passing.
Tell your staff as soon as appropriate. Once you have received approval from the family, communicate the partner’s death to other partners and leadership first to discuss the best course of action for your firm. Be efficient in your execution of strategy. Do not let your staff find out in the newspaper or through gossip channels. Give them some time and space to mourn.
Contact clients, too. Make a practical effort to call the decedent’s clients, when possible instead of email. Let them know the new contact at the firm and offer some reassurance.
Post the news on your website and social channels. Once staff and clients know – and with the blessing of the family – make a tasteful announcement on social media. Consider adding a remembrance page on your website’s news section. Don’t immediately erase the deceased; add an In Memoriam header to the partner’s online biography. Fadler says it’s best to have the partner’s email automatically forwarded to someone who can personally respond to each email, whether by phone, email or in person. Make sure your receptionist knows how to direct calls, too.
Remember your colleague. Consider memorializing the individual with a dedicated conference room or internal award. (Again, be sure to get the blessing of the family.) We know one firm that named its annual office putt-putt event after a deceased partner who used to organize it; the firm invites his widow and toasts his memory each year. It is a genuine, heartfelt commemoration.
“In these delicate and sometimes unexpected situations, it’s important to make every decision based on consideration for the family and those closest to the deceased,” Fadler said. “If so, you are probably making great etiquette decisions that will help honor the deceased and be comfortable for all involved.”
The most popular New Year’s resolution in the United States? To get fit and healthy, according to Nielsen data.
A laudable goal, of course, but as purveyors of Enlightened Legal Marketing, we counsel you to think about the health of your practice, too. Purposeful client development is about more than billable hours – it should provide stronger client relationships, more stability of income and more enjoyable work. No offense to six-pack abs, but those are some resolutions worth fighting for.
Our 10 legal marketing resolutions for 2018:
Think about what’s next. Get curious about how the legal profession is changing – and where your place might be in the new reality. One good place to start: The Future of the Professions by Richard and Daniel Susskind. Calibrate Legal’s Jennifer Johnson Scalzi reviewed the book; as she wrote, “If the Susskinds are correct, the entire social rationale for the professions’ existence is disappearing – and their role as stewards of the world’s expert knowledge will inevitably be superseded.” That certainly merits consideration. We’d also recommend following “Today in Legal Artificial Intelligence,” a daily roundup compiled by Market Intelligence, and Robert Ambrogi’s Law Sites Blog. (And maybe a marathon of Battlestar Galactica.)
Manage your online reputation. After you have updated your bio, look at your online presence as a whole. Attorney at Work provides simple tips for monitoring your name, maximizing your Google results, addressing negative reviews and maintaining at least a little privacy.
Talk to your clients. Law firm clients who are asked for feedback are reported to be more satisfied, more likely to recommend their firms and less likely to switch. If you do no other marketing activity in 2018, do this one. Experts from the Legal Marketing Association share some thoughts for getting started.
Execute your plan. Consider some tested methods for following through on resolutions – tell a friend, build in some rewards. Make business development a habit. (A friend says “Spend as much time building your business as you do brushing your teeth.”)
Connect with your next generation of clients. In 2018, members of Generation Y will be 23 to 38 years old. They will purchase more legal services – both on the corporate side, as they ascend within organizations and start their own companies, and on the personal side, as they find new needs for estate planning and family law. How can your firm appeal to Millennial tastes? The Lawyerist lists “What Millennials Want From Their Lawyers.” Interactive websites and fixed fees top the list.
Get clarity on your brand. We don’t mean your logo – we mean your firm identity. Who are you? What do you stand for? If you’re not sure – or if each attorney at your firm would have a different answer – consider a positioning exercise like Firesign’s Firm Foundation, which can brand your firm in two weeks.
Mind your network. “It’s not what you know, it’s who knows what you know,” as Kelly Hoey professes in Build Your Dream Network. (Read the book, or at least this crib sheet.) Indeed, your network will be your No. 1 source of referrals, new work, new hires and job opportunities. Build and cultivate your network with purpose (and good manners and honest dealing).
Call a timeout. Go on vacation; take that sabbatical. Harvard Business Review credits extended time away from the office with a decline in stress and stronger overall well-being. With the help of a lawyer/touring rock musician, we provide some advice for going on the road.
If your firm looks to attract, win or retain more clients in 2018, we would love to help. Contact us today.
Josh Luttrell is a litigator at Tenopir & Huerter in Topeka, Kan. And for six weeks this autumn, he was the keyboard player for an electro-industrial rock band.
Luttrell had developed a friendship with En Esch, the German musician behind KMFDM, Pigface and other bands. He went to see him in concert in Kansas City in September, and the two reacquainted after the show. A few weeks later, En Esch asked Luttrell to play keyboards on a North American tour with Lords of Acid, Combichrist and Christian Death.
“I initially said thanks, but there’s no way,” said Luttrell, whose practice includes criminal defense and family law. “I told my wife, and she insisted that I do it. I figured out the logistics, went to my boss and asked if I could take six weeks off. He said you only live once.”
It may be an unconventional sabbatical, but upon his return Luttrell reported many of the benefits Harvard Business Review attributes to extended time away from the office: a decline in stress, an increase in psychological resources and stronger overall well-being.
“Employers should recognize the practice of law is demanding,” he said. “If you give attorneys a reprieve, they can bring something back that will benefit the firm.”
Harvard Business School agrees; in the studies it shares on sabbaticals, they are found to benefit not only the individual who takes them, but the organization as a whole. Sabbaticals help law firms by maintaining lawyers’ creativity and resilience, but they also provide opportunities for the colleagues to fill in, and serve as a “stress test” for the organizational chart – a meaningful reality check for succession planning.
Sabbatical programs can thrive at law firms of all sizes. Perkins Coie LLP has more than 1,000 attorneys and offers a two-month sabbatical to employees with 10 to 13 years of service. (It’s one reason the firm has been ranked among Fortune’s 100 “Best Companies to Work For.”) Meanwhile, at Hutchinson Black and Cook, LLC, a 25-lawyer firm in Colorado, partners are eligible for a full year off, at full pay, after 10 years of employment and every seventh year thereafter, according to Legal Management magazine.
“The reality is that sabbaticals are a fantastic chance to introduce clients to other attorneys in the firm,” a Hutchinson Black and Cook administrator told Legal Management. “I’ve witnessed this time and time again: attorneys come back and they just look younger – physically. It takes years off their aging.”
Whether your sabbatical is part of a formal firm program or, like Luttrell’s, a serendipity seized, manage it mindfully to make the most of it. The career site The Muse offers several tips:
Get settled. Establish your home base, and start some routines to keep you grounded – specific times for exercise, checking your email, et cetera. As The Muse notes, “Keeping certain tasks consistent can help you stay focused and efficient and establishing some familiarity can help lessen the shock of such a big change.”
Luttrell’s schedule was completely inverted – he would play concerts almost every night, then sleep on the tour bus during the day. He developed a rhythm of communication with the associates who were staffing his cases; they often touched base through text.
Get out of your comfort zone. Learn something new; try new food. Cultivate your curiosity, and remember that your sabbatical is your time for adventure, not the same old-same old.
Luttrell’s adventure took him coast to coast. In six weeks, the band traveled by bus to Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and New Mexico. (The one constant: Burger King.)
Manage your time. At some point, the sabbatical life may start to feel like your new grind – what once was your favorite thing about a new place can become a frustration. (See: Burger King.)
Luttrell said he was surprised by the amount of work involved in the tour. “I always assumed it’s fun all the time. But you sleep, you get there, you unload, you set up, you play. It’s exhausting.”
Be proactive with your calendar; schedule things that excite you.
Document the journey. Share what you’re learning on social media. (Luttrell shared his photos on Facebook.) This is fun for your friends and family, but it also preserves it so you can meditate on it when you get home.
Recognize the experiences that are relevant to your career. Great advice from The Muse: “Try to identify experiences that utilize your skills, help you master new ones, and offer something unique to future [clients and prospects].”
Luttrell said it was “pretty handy” to have an attorney on tour: “There were contract issues with venues. There were certain times you had to deal with authorities or give advice to people; being an attorney helped.” He is considering building a niche practice on bands’ tour issues.
Return home and keep exploring. Have a purposeful plan for reintegration – catching up on correspondence, getting back into the rhythm of your legal practice, reconnecting with your friends and colleagues. Think about how to foster new contacts and skills.
“People want to work with each other again –a lot of connections are made, and a lot of conversations about what’s going to come next,” Luttrell said. “In life, it’s good to be able to go try and experience things like that. I wouldn’t say I necessarily came to my practice different, but I’m inspired to expand and take advantage of connections to do something different.”
Concert footage from Luttrell’s tour via YouTube; he is the keyboard player on the right of En Esch.