Someone out there (my bet is on Kevin O’Keefe) can tell me the actual percentage of lawyers who are actively engaged in the ever-increasing world of online activity. If a new lawyer was to stumble into the middle of the blawgosphere, or perhaps the tweetosphere, he would be left with the impression that the primary concern of American law is marketing. It appears to be an obsession.
Is this a problem?
In the blawgosphere, my bet is that I’m in the distinct minority on this one since almost every other lawyer, PDs excepted, is client-hunting. They are not shy about it. They want to network and market. They want to establish their brand. They want to be on the cutting edge of . . . the cutting edge.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am a capitalist through and through. I work for a fee. I find no shame in being paid for my services, even as others in my niche tend to prefer what I was informed yesterday was a “larger world view” encompassing the goodness of humankind. Pollyanna I’m not.
But this constant, obsessive, flagrant effort at marketing has me in a twist. Or to be more precise, being a lawyer with a blog and there swept into the assumption that my only purpose here is to self-promote makes me very annoyed. I have nothing against you marketing guys, but I do not want to be tarred along with you.
As Kevin has informed me in no uncertain terms, maintaining Simple Justice is, whether I like it or not, marketing. I understand his point, and reluctantly agree. But it’s no more intentional marketing than beating a case at trial, with the word of my victory spreading amongst my peers and potential clients. I didn’t win the case to market myself, but it’s an unintended consequences. I’m not against it, but I didn’t ask for it either.
What I’m seeing is that the “how to” of marketing, the advice on self-promotion and, worst of all, the language that pervades blawgospheric discourse has become increasingly directed to open, notorious marketing. Many of the most popular blawgs around are solely directed toward marketing. Many of the best writers in the blawgosphere post only about marketing. How to snag the last client on earth will be the final post in the blawgosphere.
Is this all we lawyers are? Is this all we want to be?
I used to think the use of business lingo amongst lawyers was funny. Business people, perhaps feeling left out because lawyers tossed latin around with abandon, came up with cute phrases to conduct their affairs to make the insiders seem more “with it.” The early word, networking, has become so common and old school as to make its user seem out of touch. We used to use the phrase “talk to other people” before networking. How antiquated does that sound?
I’ve seen the phrase “thought sharing” a lot lately. I can’t wait for the CIA to get it’s hands on this one.
Senator, we weren’t torturing the prisoners. We were just thought sharing.
I don’t “thought share,” any more than I network. I do talk to other people from time to time, like normal people do. Sometimes I ask a question of them and sometimes they ask a question of me. We help each other out.
One of my gravest fears for the blawgosphere is that it will turn into one giant infomercial, all about self-promotion and marketing, both to other lawyers (Hey, got a New York case? Send it to me!) and clients (I’m the greatest lawyer since sliced bread. Hire me! Hire me!). Does anybody wonder why there is no cable channel solely dedicated to airing commercials 24/7?
Yes, I realize that there’s a reason why the legal marketing blogs are so popular, far more so than a little criminal law blog like Simple Justice. For every person who visits here and reads a post, they get 100. I’m a midget and they’re giants. Their visitors are lawyers, hungry for more business, a better future and bread on the table.
Someone, I expect, will read this and comment (or at least mutter to himself) so if you don’t like it, don’t do it. If others want to do it, what business is it of yours? There’s always one person who doesn’t get it, and doesn’t get that he doesn’t get it.
The problem is that this obsession with marketing makes the legal profession, if you’re not laughing when I use the word profession, look pathetic. I am part of this profession, and I don’t want to look pathetic because of other people’s choices. I don’t want the public, my potential clients, thinking that we are no better than used car salesman (who are probably now held in higher esteem than lawyers), trying to make a sale any way we can. I don’t want my writing considered just another attempt at self-promotion under the guise of offering substantive ideas.
The newer generation of lawyers never knew a time when lawyer advertising was considered unethical and unprofessional. It was undignified. The very concept of lawyers being dignified is foreign to their experience. Imagine a world where lawyers placed integrity and ethics above the next fee, or bonus, or promotion, and as a result of their integrity, received as much as they earned (think John Houseman saying the word “earned”).
So I’m begging those of you who are busily planning your next marketing assault, scribbling down the latest phrases so that you can thought-share them with your network, to just cool it. How about we lawyers take a week and stop hyping ourselves like the latest submarine sandwich and spend our time “selling” ourselves by showing rather than telling the quality of our efforts, the integrity of our services and the dignity of our profession.
Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody out there thought lawyers were dignified again? Noodle on it.