Monday, January 2, 2012

2012: The Year Lawyers Become Great Through Lawyering, Not The Internet

Analogize two new restaurants. One with a great website, pictures of the beautiful decor, private rooms and a great wine list, ability to make reservations online, and testimonials from customers like Julie R. and Bob W. It also has an active twitter account and Facebook fan page. "Like" them on Facebook for a free appetizer.

The other, located behind a hard to find strip mall, it only has 12 tables, and the website has a couple typos, with the only contact information being a phone number. It says "call for reservations."

In 3 months, the first restaurant goes out of business.

The food was terrible.

In 3 months, you may be able to get a reservation at restaurant 2 that's not at either 5:30 p.m. or 10:15 p.m.

The food is amazing. Everyone is talking about this place.

Everyone was also talking about restaurant 1.

Restaurant 1 thought they would balance the reality that the food sucked, with their awesome internet presence.

And this is what's going on in the legal profession.

Can't get a job? Create a persona on the internet.

No one is hiring you? Start blogging. Blogs are great for Google attention.

Going out and developing relationships will "take too long? Hire a social media expert to blast your mug and (trumped up) credentials all over the net.

Lawyers are being taught that being a good lawyer is second, or third, to marketing on the internet.

Now I'm not unrealistic, if you're doing a good job and no one knows about it, that's a problem.

The question is: who do you want to know about it?

As I ask lawyers frequently, "tell me if the best case you ever got was from the internet."

When the "I found you on the internet" call comes in, do you see dollar signs? Real, dollar signs?

We all use the internet for the same reason - to find the best deal, the cheapest price. Are you the best deal? The cheapest? Is that what you want to be?

My friend Kevin O'Keefe, (and he is my friend by function of him having bought me a beer and otherwise not giving a crap what I say about him nor taking it personally) who never misses an opportunity to (not so) subtlely pimp his blog sales company, tried to say the same thing, but couldn't help himself from encouraging lawyers to participate in the race to the bottom.

I was almost moved to tears that the leading blog salesman for lawyers would pen a post titled:

You have more than an opportunity as a lawyer in the new year : You have an obligation to be great

And it started off in typical fashion, the marketer paying required homage to the God of Marketing, Seth Godin:

Godin shared what he wrote 9 years ago that applies equally today.

Here's a question that you should clip out and tape to your bathroom mirror. It might save you some angst 15 years from now. The question is, What did you do back when interest rates were at their lowest in 50 years, crime was close to zero, great employees were looking for good jobs, computers made product development and marketing easier than ever, and there was almost no competition for good news about great ideas?

Many people will have to answer that question by saying, "I spent my time waiting, whining, worrying, and wishing." Because that's what seems to be going around these days. Fortunately, though, not everyone will have to confess to having made such a bad choice.

Great stuff. Now is the time to set your path, to stake your claim in your profession.

Kevin continues eloquently with Lord Godin's words:

The thing is, we still live in a world that's filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity -- we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.

Yes, yes, yes.

We, as lawyers, have obligations to do great things, to be "amazing."

Yes. Amen.

And then Kevin makes his (pitch) point:

While recent grads and lawyers who have been practicing for decades bemoan the lack of legal work and opportunities, other lawyers are running laps around them by harnessing the power of the Internet.

Curiously, as in most posts written by former lawyers-turned-marketers and social media experts touting their "trade," there is little to no specific examples. When marketers and social media "experts" are asked why they consistently leave out evidence of their claims, they harken back to their days as lawyers and say "would your clients want their names mentioned in a blog post?" They claim that the attorney-client privilege is somehow relevant to the marketer-desperate lawyer relationship. It protects them from having to admit that their claims are just that - claims.

So I don't know which lawyers are "running laps" around other lawyers by "harnessing the power of the internet."

I had a website and a blog long before the marketers darkened the door of our profession, and I have found that harnessing the power of lawyering much more enriching than harnessing the perceived power of the "where are all the cheap, unknowing and easily duped" clients.

But that's me.

Kevin continues:

The Internet has served as the great equalizer over the last decade. Lawyers have left established firms to chase their dreams of doing the work they want for the types of clients they want with the type of lifestyle they want. Other lawyers have carved out niche practices in larger firms, making them an asset to the firm, as opposed to a liability at the age of 45 or 50.

Lawyers have left established firms to chase their dreams of doing the work they want for the types of clients they want with the type of lifestyle they want?

Because of the internet?

See, I laugh at that, but I'm not Kevin's audience. His audience are those that actually believe that the internet is where their dreams start, and are bound to come true.

People have different types of dreams, I guess.

And then Kevin goes in for the kill (drum roll please):

Never before could a lawyer start a blog to demonstrate their passion, expertise, and care. Rather than a good lawyer taking decades, if ever, to build meaningful business relationships and establish themselves as a go-to lawyer in a niche area of the law, lawyers are doing so in a couple years through blogging.

That's right, the shortcut, the alternative, to developing meaningful business relationships over time and establishing yourself as a go-to lawyer, can be done in a couple years through....


That's according to Kevin O'Keefe, of Lexblog (click link for information on how to buy "turn-key professional blog service.")

Kevin ends his post with Godin's question:

Why not be great?

I agree. But blogging doesn't make you great, it makes you a blogger. It may even make you a shitty blogger.

Lawyering doesn't make you great - it makes you a lawyer. Great lawyering makes great lawyers.

Unless you're selling blogs.

Anonymous comments are welcome as long as they say something relevant and half-way intelligent and arent a vehicle for a coward to attack someone. I trust you understand. Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


Jordan said...

Nice post! ;)

"The Internet has served as the great equalizer over the last decade."

What about the counterpoint to this? It's also allowed a bunch of crappy lawyers to misrepresent their experience, credentials, and capitalization. Anyone with a Twitter account is suddenly an expert in a practice area they've never handled a case in.

"Rather than a good lawyer taking decades, if ever, to build meaningful business relationships and establish themselves as a go-to lawyer in a niche area of the law, lawyers are doing so in a couple years through blogging."

So a professional doesn't need to actually be good at what they do...? They just have to say they're good at it...?

Fine, then I don't care if my doctor has performed 100 successful heart surgeries. I want the one who blogged about them. (Or better yet, just retweeted other people's blog posts about heart surgeries.) That's who I want taking care of my health. Not the doctor who dedicated his life to becoming the most skilled surgeon, who continues to focus on getting better at what s/he does, etc.

Who makes money by writing this kind of crap?

Sean Carter said...

Amen, brother! Amen!

- said...

Brian: In one of Godin's earlier blog posts he answered a question from a lawyer who asked what Godin recommended a lawyer do in the Internet age. Godin replied that if he was a lawyer he would pick a statute and become THE leading expert in that statute's application. What Godin added later is that you have to provide value, not flash.

I find your blog to be refreshing. Thanks.

Daniel Perry