Friday, May 08, 2009

Responding to a Law Firm PR Crisis

An unfortunate Manhattan insurance defense firm that shall go unnamed here found itself the subject of a Daily News (New York) story today. In preparation for an office move, the firm was cleaning out some old client files. Rather than dispose of them confidentially, the Daily News found six overflowing dumpsters full of intact client files on the street.

Yikes! This warrants immediate implementation of the firm's crisis plan. (There is a crisis plan, right?)

Here are a few law firm crisis communication tips:

1. Recover the trash
2. Determine what happened
3. Plan to notify any client whose files were affected
4. Try to make some amends, like offering anti-identify theft protection
5. Appoint one person as the media spokesperson (inside or outside of the firm)
6. Some type of a public statement appears to be in order
7. Notify key clients personally
8. Hire an attorney
9. Post information to the website, like a firm contact for client questions
10. Instruct employees on what to do (which is direct all inquiries to one person)

This firm has a tough challenge.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Launched by Fortune 500

Improved diversity in the workplace is a primary goal of the LCLD, announced yesterday by senior legal officials from Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Coca Cola, O'Melveny & Myers, DLA Piper, and other firms.

“The LCLD is doing what no other initiative has done – uniting the legal industry’s senior leaders in one organization to address and resolve the enormous diversity challenges in our profession,” said Rick Palmore, General Counsel of General Mills and Chair of the LCLD Board.

One goal is to promote the ACC's Call to Action in regard to law firm diversity.

As part of this initiative, several very positive actions are being pursued that can apply to other types of corporate-legal collaborative efforts. These include:

1. Samples of "best practices" are being collected from throughout the corporate and legal market for use in building a knowledge base.

2. Success metrics are being defined through goal establishment and achievement measures.

3. Identification of outreach efforts proven to work in facilitating the success of professionals from diverse backgrounds.

From a legal marketing perspective, it is not clear if the group has launched a website to extend the reach of the press release. A website can serve to invite interested parties to sign up for an email list, seek volunteers for committee activities, attract candidates for the Executive Director position, promote sponsors, and more. They may be missing an important opportunity in this regard.

Read the full press release here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Corporate Twitter Policy in 140 Characters

Since it's all about Twitter these days, here is a corporate Twitter policy that I just came across. It is the work of attorney Jay Shepherd of the Shepherd Law Group.

Read the full story.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cal Bar Monitors Loan Modification Ads

Watch TV for even a few minutes these days and you are likely to see an ad for a loan modification service. Same for radio advertising.

Some of these ads sound very promising ... are they too good to be true?

The California State Bar is asking that very question. Last month the Bar began notifying lawyers that the chief trial counsel’s office wants to monitor their loan modification-related advertising.

"Included in the scrutiny of violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct regarding false and misleading advertising, bar prosecutors will be looking at whether lawyers are guaranteeing success in securing loan modifications or are implying that they have expertise or a special license from the State Bar to work on foreclosure cases, said Chief Trial Counsel Scott Drexel."

Read the full story here. Other state bar associations are undoubtedly paying attention. Florida requires all TV advertising on any topic be filed for approval in advance of use. Check with your local state bar association for any recent rule changes that may apply to your firm.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Relevance in Legal Marketing

I recently read the book, "Relevance: Making Stuff that Matters," by Tim Manners (Penguin Books, 2008). While focused primarily on consumer marketing, the basic concepts are worth some discussion in regard to legal marketing.

The main premise of the book is that advertising (print, TV, etc.) is no longer relevant, in part because it can not be held accountable for results. Another key reason is that advertising disrupts our lives with irrelevant messages.

The author states that the ultimate accountability in marketing is how relevant the brand is to the consumer.

Does this hold for law firm advertising? I would answer yes and no. The "yes" is in regard to general purpose "image" advertising. In fact, I recently heard an active law firm advertiser admit that their weekly print ads in the local business press did not generate new business. The purpose here is to increase your firm's name recognition.

Legal advertising can be useful and productive for consumer oriented law firms, like family law or personal injury law.

"Direct response" TV advertising, for example, which encourages the viewer to make a phone call handled by an intake center, can easily be measured. The same holds true, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, to billboard advertising or the Yellow Pages.

Search engine marketing for law firms, including pay-per-click ads like Google AdWords, is another form of advertising that is very effective for lead generation.

One concept in the book that is highly relevant to legal marketing is this: focus on solving your customer's problems. Nike does this very well, for example. They listen to clients, understand what their needs are, then create a series of special events to bring clients together with the Nike brand to reinforce the relationship.

Finally, author Tim Manners advises readers to connect with their most progressive, creative clients, then build client needs / suggestions into new product and service development.

Law firms that create a favorable experience for clients as they go through the legal process will see a strong return on investment in client satisfaction, referrals and repeat business.