I am very excited to announce that, in conjunction with the Boston Expert Witness Group, I will be facilitating a webinar on leveraging medical demonstrative evidence, along with radiologist, and radiology expert witness, Dr. Marc Glickstein.
Drawing on his own experience as a seasoned radiologist, expert witness, and medical demonstrative evidence consultant, Dr. Glickstein will reveal what medical demonstrative evidence can be, how an expert can pave the way for its admissibility, and how it can carry the day in litigation.
The webinar will cover:
How medical demonstrative evidence can help your expert fulfill the role of effectively teaching a jury the facts and the medicine that are at the heart of your cases.
What radiological demonstrative evidence is, what it looks like, and why you should be using it toadvocate for your clients and persuade juries.
How to recognize when medical demonstrative evidence cansignificantly impact your chance of winning personal injury and medical malpractice claims, whether you represent a plaintiff or a defendant.
The biggest challenges to admissibilityof medical demonstrative evidence, and how you and your expert witness can work together to get medical illustrations into the jury room.
Why you don’t want to try personal injury and medical malpractice cases without powerful demonstrative aids and the experts who can authenticate them, whether your case is destined for trial or settlement.
For a full description of the webinar, and the registration form, see this post, or click the button below.
I have often written about how, as lawyers, we might reinvent aspects of our craft to make more effective, profitable, modern law practices.
And, though my written comments on this broad subject have been varied in their focus, I have spent a lot of time working on just one aspect of this subject: making complex expert opinion evidence more accessible to litigators.
Missing Opportunities to Make the Most of Expert Opinions
Not long into my professional journey as a lawyer, I started to see places where the right expert opinion evidence was:
Missing from a case entirely,
Misused or misunderstood by one or more attorneys, the judge, or the jury,
Kept from a jury because the wrong expert was hired to convey it, or
Inadequately or ineffectively conveyed to the fact-finder
The first time I ever saw this in court, I was still a law student, and an expert had filed a report in a child welfare case which the petitioner’s attorney summarized as:
[T]ending to show that the subject child’s mother might suffer from a personality disorder, biologically based mental health disorder, depression, or other mental health problem.
The lawyer based her summary on the expert’s having administered a battery of 140 questions to the subject child’s mother. The opportunity to shed any real light on the mother’s mental health status had been missed.
The Two-Fold Problem of Effectively Leveraging Expertise in Litigation
As I practiced, I saw that this was not an uncommon occurrence. I started to look into how lawyers typically hired expert witnesses and realized there were two problems:
The decision of who to contact for an expert opinion was based on the lawyer’s necessarily limited understanding of the field of expertise, and
The options of whom to contact and ultimately hire were limited to the lawyer’s necessarily finite network of experts.
Admittedly, these were both less problematic in niche practices where lawyers face the same kinds of cases again and again, and work with a stable of expertise they have themselves developed over years of refining their craft.
But in so many practices, where lawyers are jacks of all trades, the problems increasingly make litigation unnecessarily challenging.
For example, solo and small firm personal injury lawyers, general practices, and insurance defense firms often run up against these issues, and they can struggle to put together winning case strategies.
How to Align with a Winning Case Strategy
I was recently retained as a consultant on the defense of a high profile case involving a complicated personal injury.
I was able to add value by developing an expert opinion strategy in collaboration with a medical consultant whose job it was to identify the medical issues and the fields of expertise of physicians who address those issues.
In the end, we determined that the case required related experts from complementary fields who would work as a team to develop the evidence. I delivered an approach for retaining the experts that would yield the most effective and consistent evidence while preserving the professional integrity of both resulting opinions.
By front-loading the expert selection process with medical expertise, the defense attorney and I were able to take the case to a dramatically stronger evidentiary stance.
The takeaway: when a case involves complex medical evidence, we do our clients a service by bringing in an interdisciplinary medical-legal consultancy who can highlight evidentiary issues.
One would have to be delusional to expect that reports on BigLaw profit would be anything but bleak.
So, when I picked my most recent copy of the Boston Business Journal out of the mailbox in my office on Friday, I hardly gave the front page article on the legal industry a second look.
But later, as I hunkered down to read what I expected would be mere numerical verification of something every lawyer knows, I was struck by some key data that were missing but which could be extrapolated from the report.
The article, New Reality Sinks in for Law Firms, by Boston Business Journal’s Lisa van der Pool, offered the usual metrics on BigLaw health — annual revenue, and profit per partner — for three of Boston’s leading BigLaw firms.
What were missing were data on the overall profit for each firm, and thus, what I assert are actually the most interesting data of all: margins.
Why Care About Profit Margins
If you know that each law firm is making a profit per partner, and that number seems large, why care about profit margins?
The reason is simple. The BBJ article dealt with some of the world’s preeminent law firms. This means it was assessing:
The demand for some of the best and brightest minds in the entire legal industry.
The premium some of the world’s most successful clients are willing to pay to get the most prestigious legal representation available.
The profit-making capability of some of the world’s leading brands in the industry.
Now, in essence, I am talking about the same thing in all three points, above. But it is important to look at the question of profit from these perspectives because it says something fundamental about the legal industry: how lucrative is law, as a business, at its pinnacle.
Getting to Profit Margin
Note, the numbers displayed in this analysis are actually an expression of markup, not margin. See below.
Summarizing a recent report from Citigroup and Hildebrandt Consulting, van der Pool offered the following metrics:
Profit per Partner
2012 figures, reported in millions.
Holland & Knight
To convert this information into profit per firm, and then, in turn, profit margin, I needed one additional metric for each of these firms: number of partners.
So, I searched the websites of each of the firms listed, and returned the number of partners. Armed with those numbers, I was able to determine firm profit by multiplying the profit per partner by the number of partners per firm.
I was then able to subtract profit from revenue to derive the cost to each firm to provide its services.
Finally, was able to divide revenue by cost to get the profit margins. These numbers represent the amount each firm was able to mark up the services it provided to its clients. Here are the numbers:
Profit per Partner
2012 figures. Dollar amounts are reported in millions. 1 The number of partners was determined by a February 2013 search, and as such, may be slightly different from the 2012 figure.
Holland & Knight
Let me note that something seems off about the Holland & Knight number of partners, which is over double the number of partners at WilmerHale, even though they have loosely the same number of attorneys overall. Because my ability to determine profit was based on multiplying the number of partners by the profit per partner, this made a huge difference in my calculation of their margin.
But that aside, even if we look at the numbers of Goodwin and Wilmer alone, here is a visualization of the data:
Based on that, we can reach a few conclusions:
Though Wilmer looks bigger and healthier according to the data van der Pool reported, once we factor in the number of partners, we see that Goodwin is actually doing a better job capturing profit from the services they provide.
Despite an economic context that van der Pool described as “modest,” and “slow,” there are still healthy margins at all three of the firms she covered.
For more information, see the original article at the Boston Business Journal [subscription required].
Update:Yelena Tsvaygenbaum, a transactional attorney in Boston tipped me off that I had made two missteps in my analysis. For starters, by dividing revenue by cost, I derived markup, not margin. It’s a silly mistake, I confess. But, it does not diminish my analysis of the profitability of law.
To provide the most accurate figure of markup, I would also need to subtract 1 (or 100%) from my numbers. I did not mention this because I felt it would be obvious. But, for the purpose of providing a technically complete analysis, I will do so here.
The revised table should look like this:
Profit per Partner
2012 figures. Dollar amounts are reported in millions. 1 The number of partners was determined by a February 2013 search, and as such, may be slightly different from the 2012 figure.
As a litigator, I was trained to never ask a question I did not already know the answer to. I also learned not to make assumptions.
Nevertheless, I see countless litigators, and other attorneys, who are making these mistakes when it comes to their website content and look.
In a typical situation, a lawyer purchases a website and content without doing any split testing to see whether that site and that content is effective at winning prospects.
Usually, the lawyer will say, “I like blue,” or “I like these sites from my competitors.” In some cases, the lawyer will say, “use this photograph of me,” or “write [XYZ] about my practice.”
But there is very little use of any measurement to determine whether these decisions result in a site that is effective at converting more prospects into paying clients.
In other industries, major players have become obsessive about this. Questions arise as to whether more prospects convert when they see a green button or a red button, whether an image on the left is more effective than one on the right, and other seemingly minute details.
These details matter.
How to Know What Works and What Does Not
Part of the problem in approaching these questions is it may seem to the lawyer paying for the site that there is no way to know the answers.
Those lawyers who are determined to do an investigation often approach it the wrong way.
Take, for example, the lawyer who typically does no advertising. Starting two months ago, however, that lawyer decided to run an ad in a major publication.
Business has been soaring. By all accounts, more business seemed to start coming through the doors within a week of starting the ad campaign.
Was the ad effective?
The truth is, it is impossible to say from that information. One could draw the conclusion that the timing indicates a successful ad campaign.
But what if there is an external factor motivating the demand for the lawyer’s services?
One option would be to compare the demand with that for the lawyer’s competitors.
But even that does not account for all external factors. For example, even if the now-advertising lawyer is doing markedly better than her peers, there is no indication that the surge in demand did not flow from other business development efforts.
The Benefit of Split Testing
The only way to truly isolate the effect of one marketing decision or business development effort from myriad external factors is to do a split test.
What is a split test?
In short, a split test is what you do when you split your audience in half. One half gets one ad, or one message, or one version of your website. The other half gets another.
You run both versions at the same time to similar but separate groups. And, you gather information on which group responds more positively.
It may not be easy to do with print ads, and may be impossible in some other media.
But, it is extremely easy to do on the web. And, when you finish split testing a page of your website, you will know which version generates more business.
Wouldn’t you like to give yourself a raise?
Split Testing Isn’t Just for Nerds
If you think this is too theoretical, or too difficult, or too… anything, think again. Here’s why:
Split testing is powerful stuff. It was, for example, a game changer in both of the last two elections. Daryl Lang wrote about this in Breaking Copy, where he noted that Barack Obama’s split tests resulted in an additional $60 million in donations!
For the fascinating article of how this worked, including screen captures of various versions the Obama campaign tested, see this article.
While I doubt you’ll optimize your site to do an additional $60 million in business, it is safe to say you are probably missing out on opportunities if you don’t question what your prospective clients want to see from you.
Without asking the questions by doing a split test, you’re really just guessing.
And that means, when it comes to generating new business, you may not even know your full potential.
UPDATE: To make it easier for attorneys to do their own split testing, I’ve put together a module for those who are running their sites on Drupal, and want to use Google Content Experiments for split testing. Though it’s not going to take you from start to finish, I hope it is a help to those who do their own websites and want a little help getting started.
If you have any questions about how split testing can work to increase conversions for your law practice, I invite you to be in touch.
Over the week, I was largely validated for my argument that lawyers should be paying a fraction of what they are paying for web development, and that pricing practices are designed to take advantage of our stereotypical technophobia.
However, John Skiba of JD Blogger, pointed out that he felt I had lowballed the price of developing a powerful, responsive website. I agree. A good website will be priced higher than $1,500.
I do, however, have one proviso. I underestimated the price lawyers will be charged for a responsive website. But, I did not underestimate the actual cost of development of it.
It is my assertion that a responsive website should actually cost no more than any other website, and that anyone out there who is pricing them that way is charging a premium just to deliver something other than outdated technology from the last decade.
What exactly is “responsive”?
A lot of people may not know exactly what a responsive website is and what problem is solves, so I need to back up for a second to deliver a succinct explanation. Deferring to Mr. Skiba, with whose explanation I agree wholeheartedly:
A . . . responsive site is a website that that will adjust to the size of screen that it is being viewed on. For instance, . . . JDBlogger is a mobile responsive design. Take a look at the site on your smart phone and compare that to what you see on your desk top computer. The site will adapt to both screens and make it easy to read no matter how large or small the screen is.
This site is also a responsive website. You don’t even have to get out your iPhone to see how it works. Just make the window you are viewing smaller and smaller. You will see how the site adjusts to the width of the window. A mobile device has a really small viewport, so keep shrinking the window until it is really small. The site still looks good.
A responsive website tends to solve some major issues for mobile viewers, including:
Website fonts that are too large or too small for small displays.
Images that take too long to download over slower, mobile connections.
Website viewport sizes that force mobile device users to scroll horizontally in order to read a single line of text.
Design elements that wrap on smaller screens and overlap other areas of the site in a way that looks unintended and unprofessional.
Links, buttons, and other design elements that are too small on a mobile device screen to touch easily with your thumb or index finger.
One of the first really prominent examples of a responsive site was the Boston Globe. Back in 2011, when they did a responsive design, they really broke a lot of new ground. To see a great clip showing how they moved the ball in this arena, see this video:
Still fighting yesterday’s battles?
When the Boston Globe contracted Filament Group to build their super-powerful responsive newspaper website, they were breaking all kinds of new ground. A lot of what they did was completely innovative. They had to develop all kinds of new code not only to power the site, but also to facilite their own development process [computer source code - not for technophobes].
At this point, two years later, it is no longer acceptable for developers to use complexity as a justification for billing more for responsive designs. The ground has been broken, and myriad tools have been developed and released that make responsive design easy. They are available as open source, for free.
For example, I did the responsive design of this site myself. It took me two hours. Here was the formula:
Site base theme – “The Bootstrap,” a responsive base theme for WordPress = FREE
“Twitter Bootstrap,” a framework for designing customizable, responsive sites easily = FREE
“HTML5Boilerplate,” all the basics for developing modern, responsive HTML5 websites = FREE
SASS and Compass, tools that make it easy to customize the look and feel of a site = FREE
Time spent customizing = 2 hrs.
Even if you assume that your web developer is slower than I am, that you have greater demands than I did, and that your developer should get paid more than you do, there’s no way that building a responsive site should cost more than about $1,500 of the developer’s time, though, yes, you will probably pay more than that.
The technology to power a responsive design is available for free and is easy for any experienced developer to pick up and use. The notion that responsive sites should still cost 2-3 times as much as non-responsive ones is one that is rooted in developer laziness and opportunism, not in actual technological considerations.
I would like to see more developers get in front of their attorney clients and listen to their needs, rather than coming up with ways to trick them into paying too much for a website. There is so much opportunity for partnership between attorneys and web developers to create new ways to provide and deliver legal services if we could just start by developing relationships built on honesty, transparency, and trust.
If you are considering a responsive website for your practice and have questions about how much your project should cost you, I invite you to be in touch.
When I look around at the options available to lawyers looking to create their websites, I see two broad categories of choices:
Do everything yourself,
Hire someone else to do it for you
Doing everything yourself is not recommended. I maintain this even if, like me, you are an attorney who previously had a career developing complex websites for hundreds of organizations, develop mobile apps in your spare time, code in ten languages, and built your first website before leaving elementary school. The simple reason is that you should be focusing on business development and practice.
On the other hand, hiring others to develop your web presence for you can be insanely pricey. And, though the price may be no sweat to you to afford, I say “insanely” from the following points of view:
Having full awareness of the costs associated with running all of the various technologies, I can say that a lot of web developers are making a lot of money for what they are offering.
Having a solid understanding of the value a web presence delivers to an attorney, as compared with some other prospecting efforts, I can say that what a lot of web developers are providing is not of much value to lawyers. (I am not saying websites are not valuable, just that what is being delivered is not all that valuable. More on that later.)
Having a very broad grasp on what is out there and what is on the cutting edge, I can say that pricing is not built on principles of fairness because a lot of what is going on could be described as delivering yesterday’s technology at tomorrow’s prices.
[And, I would add to Alexander's list] The actual website or content management system (i.e., what people see when they go to your website.)
Domains cost less than $15/year. Hosts capable of serving an attorney website cost about $10/month. Email is free with hosting. And, a decent website can be built in (generously) twenty hours of semi-skilled work — $1,500 at $75/hour for an okay web developer — and should be redone every three years. Amortized over the three year period, the site itself should cost $500/year.
Yearly, this means that the cost of the technologies needed to build your web presence are $635/year. Depending of course on what you actually get, everything that you pay above this cost measurement for your website is extra profit for the developer or waste.
The above table summarizes the yearly costs assuming you get a new website every three years.
What are companies charging to do it all for you?
Alexander mentioned three companies that offer to do it all for you: LexisNexis, FindLaw, and Avvo. You’ll pay a premium for that. And while I could not get numbers of all of these services, I was able to get numbers readily on Avvo. They were not encouraging.
Avvo, which offers what would best be described as a turnkey/self-service platform as a service is charging $199/month to do it for you. That’s $2,400/year, when, assuming they were buying the technology for it at retail prices, would cost them $635/year to provide to you.
I would estimate that they actually can provide hosting for much cheaper, and website development for next to nothing in terms of marginal cost because they own their own servers and have automated development, nearly removing human labor from the picture. I would guess they can provide their platform to you at a cost of less than $60/year (and I am being generous).
That’s a margin of 4,000%!
How can they justify that?
In attempting to justify this margin, they make several claims that I find to be non-credible:
“Search engine optimized. Our SEO experts automatically optimize your site’s code for your practice area and location.” Remember, search engine optimization is about beating out your competitors. If everyone is search engine optimized in exactly the same way by the same algorithm, the effect is nil.
“You own it. You control it. You own your domain name and content. If you decide to leave, it is yours to take with you.” While you may own the content you write, if you leave, I can guarantee you will not be left with a fully functioning website you can deploy on another host. That’s because giving out the server-side code that fuels your website would be tantamount to giving away the company’s entire competitive advantage in this industry.
“Easy-to-understand reports. Our monthly reports show you the metrics that matter: how many clients find, contact & hire you and how to get more.” While not entirely non-credible, they are offering an analytics package, one of the best of which (Google Analytics) is available for FREE. Basic analytics cannot justify a price point when it is free to anyone who wants it.
“It quickly pays for itself. With pricing at just $199 per month, including a dedicated account manager, Avvo Ignite Starter is a great value that delivers a return on investment – more new clients.” Without an inbound marketing platform like HubSpot (which starts at $200/month), it would be hard to make the case that putting together a website is going to be enough to convert prospective clients.
So, if you are looking for a website, be careful out there. There’s a lot of hogwash, snake-oil, and secret sauce. And at the end of the day, it might cost you a lot of money if you fall for it.
If you are considering building a new website for your practice and have questions about how much your project should cost you, or what resources are available to keep your project within your budget, I invite you to be in touch.
Historically lawyers have not marketed their services through print advertising. We have often relied instead on softer business development tactics, such as networking events, word-of-mouth, referrals, and flat-out luck in order to capture new business.
But in some areas of practice, it may be shortsighted to swear off advertising as significant source of business development. This is especially so when considering new possibilities that are enabled by combining traditional print advertising with other business development practices.
Of course, the effectiveness of print advertising depends in large part on how it’s executed. A large picture of an attorney in the power pose next to his or her phone number is not going to be enough to generate very much business in any but a select few practice areas.
But if you are curious whether print advertising could become a crucial part of your business development plan, you are going to have to consider ten aspects of your advertising campaign in order to give yourself the best shot at a successful outcome. They are:
When considering a publication in which to place your advertisement, it is important to think about the audience you want to reach. Cost aside, putting your ad in the Boston Globe may seem appealing because it is a prestigious publication. But if you are trying to reach a more sophisticated business audience, there may be a more appropriate trade publication. Similarly, if your desired clientel is non-anglophone, you may consider a publication printed in the language your clients speak and read. (Just make sure to design your advertisement in the publication’s language.)
The more people who read the publication in which you advertise, the better off you are, right? Not necessarily. In fact, circulation is one of the largest factors that goes into calculating the price a publisher can demand for ad space. You may be better off with a smaller circulation because it meets your budget and allows you to develop your business over a longer period of time.
Additionally, if your desired clientel are only a small sliver of the circulation, you are paying to reach people who will never bring you business.
Lastly, before you advertise with a publication, take a look at how and where they distribute. Ask yourself:
Do they have “honor boxes” in neighborhoods that meet your target demographic?
Do they employ people who actively sell the publication to commuters?
Is the publication available in stores your target demographic frequents? If so, how is it displayed?
Does the publication offer subscriptions and delivery?
If you can afford a full-page ad, you may want to consider it. But advertising in print is not as simple as picking the largest ad you can afford. For example, if you can only afford an ad taking up 1/16th of a page, your message may go completely unnoticed. Or, it could be buried among more prominent competitors. In such a situation, buying the ad could be a complete waste of money.
Some publications offer you the ability to advertise in color or in black-and-white. It may be true that color ads are more noticeable. But, if the majority of the paper includes color ads, you may actually stand out with black-and-white. And, if you are given the option, black-and-white is always cheaper.
5. Length of campaign
How long will you run your ad? Though I have not performed an exhaustive study of the subject, I have my doubts that running an ad only once will have a significant effect. This is especially so if you purchase a smaller ad toward the back of the publication. To generate continual top-of-mind awareness on a budget, you should consider running a smaller ad over a longer period of time. Most publications will offer you a discount if you commit to running a campaign for longer periods of time.
6. Frequency of campaign
If you are looking for a way to maximize the size of the ad you can afford to purchase, and commit to a long campaign, but are running your advertising efforts on a limited budget, one thing you could consider is decreasing the frequency of your campaign. In other words, if a weekly publication offers you a quarter-page ad at a price you can only afford twice each month, you could run your campaign for half the time (and run out of money), or run your ad in every other issue.
7. Frequency of publication
I recently looked at the price of ad space in two area publications, one publishing daily, and another publishing weekly. Although the daily publication had more affordable ad space and a larger readership, to take advantage of the space, I would have to have run my ads daily. That’s because the day after my ad were to run, there would be another issue in the hands of my audience. With the weekly publication, however, paying the price once means my ad can be seen all week long. Choose carefully.
Be sure to ask any ad reps where in the publication your ad will run. If they tell you its in the back of the publication, negotiate on the price. Remember that many people do not read periodicals cover-to-cover. At least one area daily notes that its publication is designed to be read in its entirety during the length of an average Bostonian’s commute. Even so, the back of the publication contains very different content from the front. Where in the publication is your target clientel likely to spend their time? News? Business? Arts? Sports? Something else?
9. Call to action
What do you ask of the person reading your ad? That they pick up the phone? That they visit your website? That they scan your QR code?
Do not look at how other attorneys are running their ads; bad examples are myriad. Instead, think about something you can actually get your target clientel to do that very day.
For example, you could ask that they visit your website, where you offer a free informational product they can download by providing their name and contact information. So long as you are fully transparent about what you are doing, capturing a lead this way and following up by telephone is probably as close to actively prospecting as attorneys can get, within the requirements of Mass. R. Prof. Conduct 7.3(d). (See Comment 4 for details on why this should be okay.)
You must give your target a reason to take action today. Otherwise, they will forget about you. While this could mean scaring them with the gravity of their legal situation (NOT recommended, but I have seen it done), you could also offer an incentive for them to follow up with you promptly. This usually means offering a discount or an add-on service.
* * *
I’ve done my best to give a broad overview of what to consider when putting together a plan for a print advertising campaign. The bottom line is that there is a lot of complexity in the decisions you will have to make when putting together your plan.
If advertising doesn’t seem to be working for you, it may not be that print advertising is a mistake altogether; rather, you may have to adjust some of the choices you made along the way. Give yourself a budget for your efforts, and experiment over time. When a prospective client reaches out to you or comes by your office, close the loop. Gather information about how they found out about you. That way, you can make informed decisions about how you are spending your money on business development.
What has your experience been using print advertising to bring business into your practice? Have you considered these ten variables in your plan? Others?
This free event will take place on February 4, 2013 at the Boston Bar Association
For more information on “How to Create a Selling System in your Law Firm and Grow Your Practice with Jason Hartz of Sandler Training” a free talk at the Boston Bar Association on February 4 at 1 p.m..
Lawyers are some of the market’s most educated salespeople.
How’s that for a controversial claim? A mere five years ago, putting lawyers and salespeople in the same sentence would have been a disparagement to the profession. Nowadays, it’s stating the obvious. Or at least it should be.
As lawyers, we need to sell our services the same as other professionals. Yes, there are ethical limitations — as there should be. And yes, our approach must be different than the door-to-door folks or telemarketers. Very different, in fact.
But one thing is for certain: if we do not know how to sign clients, we do not have much business in law. That’s because the market now makes decisions on retaining legal representation just like it does for other service providers.
I am passionate about that point.
So much so, in fact, that I am bringing Jason Hartz, a local expert on selling professional services and a sales trainer with Sandler Training, into the Boston Bar Association next month to teach lawyers some incredible selling secrets, including:
How to create a selling system for a law practice,
How to avoid becoming an unpaid legal consultant, and
After my third year of law school I began my job hunt. It was a disaster.
Not surprisingly, one of the things that contributed to its depressing pace was the fact that I started it too late — one month after finishing the bar exam, to be exact. Another: I had not focused on developing my networking skills during law school.
But despite these and the many other self-attributed reasons for my difficulty, I realized after I found my first job, as a public defender, that part of the problem was the lack of jobs on the market. From what I hear, things are not much better these days.
If you are looking for a job, you may find that the lack of jobs has two distinct negative effects on your search. They are:
Even if you are doing everything textbook-right in your job search, there just may not be any jobs available in your network to someone with your qualifications (no matter what they are).
People who would otherwise help you end up on the defensive when you bring up the fact that you are looking for work.
Insofar as the first of these is concerned, there is not much to do but keep your head up, keep looking, and continually find ways to remind yourself and others of your value.
Here is the good news: the second of these is actually completely surmountable. I will tell you how in just a moment. But first, let me explain what I mean.
The lack of jobs puts your network on the defensive when you announce you are looking for work
If you came up to me and told me you were graduating without a job, my heart would bleed for you.
If I liked you at all, your needs would really trouble me. I would remember my own moments of career uncertainty. And I would feel powerless because, despite being a professional problem solver, there would probably be nothing I could do to help you.
At the risk of generalizing: good lawyers are empathic. We are impassioned by the needs of others. And when we know we cannot help you, it feels terrible. To preserve our happiness, we may become defensive when you mention your need for a job.
I experienced this myself when I was searching. Established lawyers with whom I had built rapport would sour at the mention of my employment situation. Looking back, I am sure it upset them; there was nothing they could do for me. I am certain I cut myself off from opportunities by not anticipating this reaction.
If you are finding yourself in the same situation, what can you do?
Rebrand yourself as a service provider and stop acting like you need others to get you a job (even if you do)
Start looking for ways to add value to the relationships you have with those you meet. Focus on making contacts, and on how you can help those contacts with their work. You may find, if you do this, that there are opportunities to monetize some of the relationships you form.
It may not be a job in the strictest sense. But what you may find is an opportunity to support yourself and be relevant within the legal industry, even when full-time white-shoe jobs are impossible to come by.
After I left the public defender’s office, I did this. The results contrasted starkly against those I achieved during my post-law school job search.
I saw what a difference it made to be looking for help from attorneys when the help I sought was not a connection to a job, but a connection to mutually beneficial business opportunities.
Suddenly, I had a place in the conversation, and a reason to attend all kinds of business networking events other than those for the unemployed lawyer. And I had an agenda once I arrived at them.
I had offers from professionals looking to mentor me. I even had offers from a few knowledgable attorneys who wanted to help me learn the ropes of various substantive areas of practice. Within a few months, I had added over one hundred people into my network.
Soon, I was in a position to hire others for small tasks within the business I was creating. I even had an opportunity to hire another lawyer, albiet on a very part-time basis. And I found new business for other attorneys in my network.
I was working on the other side of the job shortage problem — trying to create new jobs, rather than seeking one of the scant few (if any) that presently exists. And lots of people suddenly wanted to help me do that.
So my advice (which I concede I have the bad habit of providing without solicitation) is to make yourself a resource to others, and not a burden. I don’t say this from an insensitive place; merely from a counterintuitive one. Focus on helping others. You might be surprised where you end up.
I want to address one of the most polarizing topics in today’s business world. You either love it, or you hate it; it is either your panacea, or the bane of your existence; but it is rarely anything in between. The topic is social media.
Now before you scoff, telling me that there are myriad more important or more weighty issues in our world — the economy, business ethics, regulation, to name a few — remember, I did not say “one of the most important.” I said, “one of the most polarizing.” And you have got to admit, this is a plausible claim.
Another category for social media might be “one of the most misunderstood” topics of our time. Let me explain.
People who hate social media fall into two camps — those who know very little about what it actually is, and those who know all about it on a technical level, but are using it for the wrong purpose.
Those who love it — they either get it, or they fail to grasp other important activities in the marketplace.
The rift seems to come from the fact that some people claim that social media has replaced traditional selling techniques. Take this excerpt from yesterday’s Harvard Business Review blog post, in which Phillip Delves Broughton calls business owners out for just that issue:
You often hear nowadays that the old ways of selling are being replaced. That the availability of information online has made it more important for sellers to be transparent, to team up with their customers rather than to outwit them. All the magic of old-school salespeople is being replaced by talk of click-through rates and win-win partnerships. The danger is that if you fall for all this, . . . [y]our faith in technology will eventually [be the death of your business].
The thing is that social media isn’t any more about selling than prospecting is. Both create opportunities to sell. Neither one of them is actually sales.
If you think that typing away at your blog and tweeting all day long will replace your need to sell your services, you will be out of business just as soon as you run out of money. The same goes for most prospecting activities. Unless you are selling a good or service that can be closed over the telephone or after a panel discussion or webinar, you will not make a sale without scheduling an appointment and getting in front of your prospects.
What it does do is create an opportunity to connect with our prospects and clients, and to bring value to the table. As Broughton noted in HBR, “Good salespeople have always been good partners to their customers. They know that if their customers succeed, they will succeed.” If I can help clients succeed by engaging them through social media, I have done good work.
But connecting on social media does not alleviate the need I have to sell. If I thought that it did, I would be without clients, and my livelihood would suffer.
What have your experiences been with using social media? Do you agree or disagree with categorizing social media as a prospecting activity, rather than a selling activity? Why?