Monday, April 2, 2012

Womble Carlyle, Adrian Dayton, And Transparency

One of the benefits of the internet is that is allows people to say things and hope they go unchecked. One law firm makes this claim, one social media guru makes that claim, and although there are those mean people out there (ahem) that still believe honesty and transparency are important to the legal profession, there's enough kids out there failing to take a closer look in deference to the chance to say "congratulations" and hope to have someone thank them on some social media platform.

Womble Carlyle is a law firm. Adrian Dayton is a social media guru, who calls himself a "evangelist of social media for the legal profession."

Womble Carlyle just made the following announcement:

Womble Carlyle ranked #1 for social media outreach among law firms reviewed.

That's great. Awesome news.

Now let's ask some old school questions; who did the survey?

Social media guru Adrian Dayton studied and graded the social media programs of nearly 60 AmLaw 250 law firms. Womble Carlyle ranked #1 with 74 of 100 possible points. The runner-up firm scored a 56.

Great. If anyone should be doing a survey of law firms and how good they are at social media it surely should be the self anointed social media evangelist for law firms.

But there's something else. Adrian isn't just some social media guru doing an independent survey of law firms:

From the testimonial page of Adrian's website:

“After extensive discussions with Adrian about our firm’s social media strategy, we in client development management at Womble Carlyle decided to have him work with group of our top business development-oriented attorneys during the summer of 2010. We are definitely seeing results and have decided to reengage him to work with attorneys in specific practice groups during 2011. As an attorney and as an individual that is extremely knowledgeable about the field of social media, Adrian has been able to connect with both our senior attorneys and associates alike, helping them to see the potential of social media and build their personal brands. He offers an outsider’s perspective that greatly enhances the work we in client development do with attorneys each day. His experience working with large law firm attorneys sets him apart from his competitors and I highly recommend his services to other firms. On a personal note, I’ve attended several conferences with Adrian. He is a tremendous networker – he practices what he preaches and that more than anything has left a very favorable impression on me.” November 4, 2010

Aden Dauchess,Womble Carlyle

We'll get back to that in a minute...

One of the cornerstones of transparency, is being transparent. When the National Democratic Party says their candidate is winning a congressional race, the first question is "who did the poll?" If the answer is "The National Democratic Party," then we disregard it. If the poll was done by an independant media outlet or other private company on their own, we consider it relevant.

But here we're dealing with lawyers. Where's the transparency?

Did Adrian disclose on whatever results he provided that he was a client of the firm?

Did Womble disclose that they hired Adrian?

Or did both parties figure it didn't matter?

We live in an era where there's an award for getting an award. We congratulate people for being congratulated. We are lauded by our clients, and don't bother to acknowledge that some of us are lauded by our clients because we've asked them to be laudatory.

There are things called "client testimonials," and "peer reviews." The titles mean something. It matters what our peers say, and what our clients say, and it matters that we differentiate the two.

So congratulations Womble Carlyle, I'm glad your client Adrian Dayton, who you hired to help with your social media presence, thinks you're number one.

Anonymous comments are welcome as long as they say something relevant and half-way intelligent and aren't 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


Sam Glover said...

Wait, did Adrian just slight all his other clients? Or does he only have one? Or does the "firms reviewed" not include his other clients, so that we can expect another review for each of his clients?

I'm confused.

Ben Kearney said...

This is so absurd its comical.

Doug Cornelius said...

Adrian and Womble Carlyle should become familiar with Federal Trade Commission "Guidelines on Endorsements":

"If there’s a connection between the endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed."

My Law License said...

Oh Doug, there you go, with your rules and stuff. C'mon man, people are trying to build brands here, there's no need to rain on anyone's parade. Jeez.

Anonymous said...

I have just conducted a survey and found myself to be the best anonymous comentator on this blog. You may congratukate me now.

Jordan said...

Sounds kind of like a shakedown if you ask me...

Adrian rates firms that purchase his service high. Presumably, he rates firms that don't purchase his firm low. (and doesn't say it's him.)

You have to wonder if some partner is sitting in his office going, "Gee, we ranked pretty crappy on the neighbor scale. I know that's stupid and all, but what will our clients think? Will they think we're 'not with it?'"

I once had a biglaw partner tell me he thought all the social media stuff was stupid, and they've never gotten any clients from it, but they "had to have it because everyone else does, so clients expect it." They hired a gal to manage their social media pretty much full time. It's a non-revenue generator, but they think their clients expect it, so they're willing to lose money on it.

Sadly, if their firm ended up on the list and was rated low, this partner would probably suggest they "get on board" so clients don't think they're out of touch or outdated.

You've got to wonder if that's why this "list" was published - to try and shame certain firms into buying his services.

My Law License said...

There's certainly several good theories behind Adrian's tact here. But if you look at his NLJ articles, every one of them is a sales pitch for his social media consulting. He'll always slip in "when I talk to large law firms...." as a way to let the readers know his business. It's basic marketing, and he rarely misses an opportunity.

It's the difference between those who can get business through their reputation, and those that get it through self-promotion. Adrian admitted on this blog long ago that he "oversold" himself, or what I call, "lied," to get in to the social media consulting business.

Once I saw someone driving a porsche at the speed limit and asked "why isn't he going faster in that car?" The answer? "He doesn't have to."

What happened here is beyond unethical. But there will be no amends. There's too many people on the internet that have no idea what happened here, and don't care.

Dave said...

Well, I'll be... so that coffee mug I got from the kid for Father's Day was right... I *am* the #1 Dad!!

Anonymous said...

How is this different than an attorney announcing their seleciton by SuperLawyers, etc.? Correct me if I'm wrong, but firms don't normally disclose whether they're advertisers. Is your point that Adrian is one person and thus there is no believable chinese wall between editorial and advertising? Or is it that clients are more familiar with the SuperLawyers product and so they can see through the veil easier? (I note you advertise your SuperLawyers selection, but as I doubt you are a paid advertiser I don't mean this as a personal attack).

My Law License said...

Anonymous at 12:19. Superlawyers is different. Lawyers are nominated by other lawyers (and yes, some lawyers solicit nominations for themselves) and the results come out. After the results are in and before the magazine is out, the winners are given an opportunity to advertise in the magazine.

Adrian did a study. His client won first place. No one has disclosed that, not Adrian, not the client.


shg said...

Yeah, I remember when I got Turk into SuperLawyers with a tiny bit of arm twisting following a well-placed post about them. Completely legit.

But you are obviously jealous of Adrian's vast success in bootstrapping his twitter rock star fame into financial hegemony. Maybe if Adrian sent you a bottle of wine?

My Law License said...

I think I said Superlawyers was "different," not "legit."

And yes, of course I'm jealous of Adrian. Anyone that can build a reputation on nothing is someone everyone should envy - and pay.

Jordan said...

I got selected by SuperLawyers this year. I've never paid them anything.

When I found out, I immediately called Brian, who drove out to Philadelphia to congratulate me personally on such a monumental achievement. Scott and Turk came too, because Brian was so excited that he had to let them know. Scott even brought balloons with the SuperLawyers logo on them. It was real rad, man... I felt so good about myself.

In any case, the difference is that I've never had any involvement with SuperLawyers before getting selected. One day I got a letter from them and was like "Oh, what's this? Rad. Apparently other lawyers love me."

If I were on the selection committee of SuperLawyers, that might be an important fact to disclose.

Here, Adrian did a survey and he selected his own client as the winner. Except he didn't disclose that the winner was his client. And when his client patted itself on the back as the winner, it didn't disclose that they're a client of Adrian's.

Misleading by omission...?