Networking, Thought Sharing and Enough Already

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.

62 comments on “Networking, Thought Sharing and Enough Already

  1. Joseph Dang

    How does one go about showing quality work, if there is no work to be done? How does one go about showing quality work, with nobody to show it to?

    As a lawyer with an established practice, they can make this choice. As a new lawyer (or existing lawyer with no book) … there are bills to pay.

    Horses for courses. For every lawyer, quality work is paramount. For some, they need clients to show off their quality work.

  2. SHG

    Well, I guess a young lawyer can always market his head off about what a great job he would do if someone would hire him.  Or he can spend his time trying to hustle up a client, do well, and have the client sing his praises. 

    If you have no one show your work to, how do you know if it’s any good?  Maybe you have no clients for a reason?

  3. Joseph Dang

    Are we getting into a “chicken or the egg” discussion?

    Experienced lawyers may not have clients for several reasons, some of which have nothing to do with quality of work. You’ll know if your work is good if the client is happy with the result. You hope he or she goes and sings your praises, but how does this help if they don’t know anyone else who needs an attorney? How do you go and get your next client so you can perform quality work again?

    I’m not saying abandon the quality work/referral system. But in some cases, life forces you to speed it up somewhat.

    You used the word “hustle.” One definition of hustle? “to sell or promote energetically and aggressively”

  4. SHG

    And I’m not saying that lawyers in search of clients should sit home twiddling their thumbs.  I am, however, saying that all hype all the time is unbearable, undignified and unproductive.  There are ways to market without sounding like Crazy Eddie, and there are times to cool the marketing and be a lawyer.

  5. Joseph Dang

    I can definitely agree with that. It doesn’t have to be extremes one way or the other. The right answer is usually somewhere in the middle, and where that middle ground is, will be different for each circumstance.

    For attorneys trying to build a book, cooling their marketing efforts and being a lawyer is the goal. That indicates they have clients to serve.

  6. J-dog

    … which, of course, (among other things) may turn out to be good marketing, too. At least in other contexts, doing a good job for some clients/students/customers/patients/readers/whatever is good marketing, among other things.

    I know of one local attorney who has done a fair amount of pro bono work, largely because he wants to be helpful and believes he has an obligation to do some; I know of several folks who have gone to him for other, paying things, in large part because he did good for his nonpaying clients; they might not have heard of him otherwise.

    Orthogonally: one of the folks who took my carry class this last weekend ran into my name (and URL) well, here*. That’s not why I comment here, pinky swear, although it doesn’t bother me any if stuff I’d do anyway also makes me a few dollars.

    ____________
    * I don’t think he was googling for Hawaiian shirts, but . . .

  7. CEJ

    “Does anybody wonder why there is no cable channel solely dedicated to airing commercials 24/7?”

    I think there is more than one; and I do wonder about the people who watch the Home Shopping channel 24/7!

  8. Mike

    I hate the guys who leave comments with link backs to their sites. So in the name field, they’ll type, “Georgia DUI Lawyer.”

    Incidentally, I don’t read many blogs because of the excessive marketing. I read your blog and maybe 5-10 others. None of the blogs I read have any marketing on them.

    Too many times, you’ll see a post that seems promising, then it will say: “In these types of cases, the defendant needs an experienced defense lawyer to represent him,” with links to their firm. Ugh.

  9. SHG

    Aren’t the considering making Home shopping an Olympic sport, the only one that can be performed in high heels?

  10. SHG

    I get that too, so when they leave a worthwhile comment, meaning something beyond the hire me crap, I’ve made a habit of altering the name and url to eliminate the marketing.  My comments are not someone else’s marketing opportunity.

    As for blog posts, I think Norm said it best at C&F when he wrote, “if any potential client reads my posts, they would never retain me.”

  11. Grant Griffiths

    Scott — I could not agree more and we sell, market and build blogs for lawyers. However, when are we not marketing? Your comment that word of mouth about a case you may have just won is marketing. Going to a Rotary meeting and speaking about what you do is marketing. Everything we do, it seems we are marketing. Even sending out a letter or an email is marketing. Our letters have our letterhead on them don’t them? Marketing…

    However, I do disagree that every blogger is marketing only. The key to doing a legal blog is doing what most lawyers are reluctant to do, giving away for free as much information as one can to better educate the public on that particular area of law. The reason not every lawyer is blogging is because of fear. Fear they may give something away. Once the legal profession gets over itself and realizes a better educated consumer is better for everyone the better it will be.

    Yes, even a lawyer who does provide a huge amount of free legal information on a legal blog is marketing. That is the beast we all have created. From the first time lawyers started to running yellow page ads to now, lawyers doing a Web site or blog, they are marketing.

    Excessive marketing? The sites that try to jam down your throat how great they are and only talk about themselves are doing just that. They are only marketing by only talking about themselves. A legal blog done right where the blogger/lawyer gives away information in a form and fashion the visitor can use gets it right. They are teaching their consumer and in turn selling. But they are selling not by jamming it all down their throat.

    If all you do is sell, your visitors will see this and not become readers. If you provide information, your visitors will become your readers and in turn, when they need your help, they will become your clients. And even if they don’t need your help directly, they just may send a friend or family member to you who does.

    To think we don’t or aren’t selling something in everything we do is at best just plain naive. The key is how we do it.

  12. SHG

    Thanks Grant.  To me, there’s a huge difference between active and passive marketing.  From the philosophical viewpoint that everything we do is “marketing” in some sense, we all market all the time.  But it may not be our purpose or motive, and we just can’t help it.  Clearly, this isn’t the same as speaking to a Rotary meeting about the benefits of living wills.

    The problem I see is that people inclined toward marketing turn a blinder eye toward its downside then others.  What they see as a good thing is perceived poorly by the target audience, and by those of us who don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as active marketers.    So while you are correct to say it’s naive to think there’s no marketing, it’s entirely different from intentional or active marketing.  And we all know the difference between the two.

  13. Grant Griffiths

    Once again we agree. You just say it better then me. The problem as it seems you and I both see it are the ones who are always marketing in that active fashion. Those are the same ones who don’t shut up long enough to realize what their customers want or need. They are also the ones who miss what is keeping their clients or customers up at night with worry.

    It is the always active marketing ones who are so hung up on themselves, or have the “I” always in their eye, they miss what is important. The only thing that matters is what our clients and/or customers need. Thats it. You can’t see this if you are always in the “I” mode.

    There are going to be those times when we have to be active or perhaps pro-active in our marketing. And we all have to remember to not tar them when this is necessary too.

    Thanks again Scott for a great post and some great comments too.d

  14. J-dog

    I don’t know whether to feel flattered or insulted (“Learn to live with ambiguity,” Goldman teaches us) but, in any case, the term, used that way, is common in my social circle. (Yes, we’re strange.)

  15. That Lawyer Dude

    Scott,
    I doubt anybody who blogs for meaning does so only for the work, or only for the clients. For me, my blog and my tweets and my meetings, and my answering questions on Avvo and Lawguru and my time spent on Listserves and bulletin boards and writing articles and speaking at CLEs are all opportunities to teach others about something I love doing…practicing law.

    I also like to post about my victories and good ideas (the few I have)because what we do is difficult and often demoralizing and reading about someone’s win or good idea is a way to encourage others to keep at it.

    That said, I would not be able to do all of this other work without the fact that doing this stuff is a way to get clients.

    There was never a time when lawyers didn’t market. That is how Martindale-Hubbell came to be. The truth is that Big-law always had the upper-hand in marketing so they made the rules about lawyers not advertising. Not because there was some altruism to it but because that would have given “unworthies” (ie Jews, Italians and minorites) a chance to flourish. I remember my great uncle telling me the story of the first of his SCOTUS wins (he won 7 times) they wouldn’t let him sit in the well because when they asked him his name, they couldn’t believe he was really a lawyer. Legal advertising only evened the playing field a little. It allowed lawyers with money to invest to be seen. Of course we were limited to the Yellow Pages and those guys ripped off the young and solo lawyer with their ridiculous fees and bait and switches.

    The Internet has been the great equalizer and any lawyer who is worth the work is cheating clients if he doesn’t let them know about his services. Instead of seeing marketing as a bad thing for our profession, maybe we need to get off of our pedestals and see that it is the best thing that ever happened to consumers of legal services. Great lawyers who no one ever heard about now had a chance for small investment of time and funds can now compete with the biggest of the advertisers for clients and clients are getting to pick from among a greater and more diverse group of lawyers than ever before.

    Clients are not stupid, they can tell the difference between someone who is trying to make a difference and someone who is trying to make a buck. Just like the guy on Twitter who tweets only his own blog or accomplishments is soon a very lonely tweeter, the lawyer who only pushes his own “brand” at people without backing it up will be seen as the fraud he is, now far sooner than in days of old. For the betterment of the profession and the consumers, long live the ethical & intelligent marketing lawyer.

  16. Shaula

    So while you are correct to say it’s naive to think there’s no marketing, it’s entirely different from intentional or active marketing.

    Amen.

    Uber-geek Dave Winer recently wrote a good post on what defines great blogging. You’ll notice that “self-promotion” doesn’t make the list. On the other hand, his criteria map well to the blogs I enjoy reading, yours very much included.

    I am the first person to advice business people NOT to embrace the latest social media trend, not unless:
    – they understand how much time it takes and they can commit the time to do it well;
    – they have a passion for it* (where “it” equals writing for a blog, recording and editing audio for a podcast, creating quality video for a videocast, etc.);
    – they can realistically commit to quality standards that reflect well on their professional brand;
    – they are prepared to create content in a way that provides value to their audience.

    In other words, social media is a lot of work to do well and it requires a low self-orientation.

    Because you’re absolutely right: we do all know the difference between shallow self-promotion–at least on the audience side, if not on the producer side.

    Any time you want to be the cranky old man of the blawgosphere, I’ve got your back.

    *I once worked with a politician who hated writing but wound up having a campaign blog. With about 6 posts. ‘Nuff said.

  17. SHG

    I doubt anybody who blogs for meaning does so only for the work, or only for the clients.

    Only?  But what about 90%?  What about 51%?  Excessive engagement in active marketing doesn’t require it be the exclusive purpose, just the active purpose.  It doesn’t preclude a lawyer from being competent, nor even brilliant.  It doesn’t mean they don’t “love what they do.”  It means that they are out there trying too hard to sell themselves, hard enough that it emits an unpleasant odor that permeates the blawgosphere.

  18. bizsugar.com

    The key to social media marketing success isn’t what you think

    Successful social media marketing is entirely different from intentional or active marketing. Your customers know the difference. Do you?

  19. Mark Merenda

    Tony makes a number of excellent points about the ridiculous elitism of lawyers conducting themselves as some sort of medieval guild — making rules to keep newcomers out, or at least difficult to succeed. And isn’t this a false dichotomy — trying to make a buck vs. trying to help the public? Can’t lawyers do both? What’s wrong with making a buck?
    As to marketing, there’s a difference between “marketing” and “advertising.” As Tony points out, there has always been marketing, even it’s only having drinks with the good old boys at the country club. There are only two essentials in business: 1. you have a product or service, and 2. you let other people know about it. Some ways of letting people know about it are “dignified” like publishing articles in distinguished legal journals or speaking at symposia. Others are more aggressive/blatant/undignified, if you like those words. Some are effective and some are not. Some are effective in the short run but not in the long run. Some are effective for one practice area and useless in another.
    When are lawyers going to admit they are in business? An attorney has a special role under the law and special ethical concerns. (So do journalists, by the way.) But, in most cases, the attorney works for a law firm. A law firm is a business. And any business needs marketing.

  20. SHG

    Mark,

    Go sell your sleaze elsewhere.  Do you really feel compelled to push the envelope here so that I’m forced to call you an unmitigated whore and utter disgrace.  Go find some gutter to wallow and stay away from here.

  21. Gideon

    You make a buck because you help the public. If you’re in this profession, the money, the marketing, the self-promotion should be a nonfactor. It will come, if you do your job well.

    But when you sell yourself so hard, it tells me that you’re not very good at being a crim. defense lawyer and that you don’t really care if you were doing insurance defense instead.

  22. SHG

    Gid, he couldn’t care less.  He’s not a lawyer.  He sells his services to lawyers to market for them, which is why he will say or do anything to convince lawyers that they should market themselves.  I’m done with this sleezeball.  I have seriously had enough with these non-lawyers trying hype lawyers that it just fine for them to roll in the mud.   Let them do it in the gutter where they live, but not here. 

    Lawyers already look like scum to the public.  They don’t need this vulture’s help.  And he won’t find a forum to spew his garbage here.  He’s done.

  23. Mark Bennett

    If that was a Princess Bride reference, it was:
    Inigo: Who are you?
    Wesley: No one of consequence.
    Inigo: I must know…
    Wesley: Learn to live with disappointment
    Inigo: okay …

  24. SHG

    Good questions.  If it were up to me, any active marketing would be excessive, rendering how hard irrelevant.  In case you haven’t noticed, this is getting increasingly out of control.  The public thinks we’re scum.  Must we prove it?

  25. Mark Bennett

    “So while you are correct to say it’s naive to think there’s no marketing, it’s entirely different from intentional or active marketing. And we all know the difference between the two.”

    I’m afraid we don’t. Are you contending that the lawyer going to speak to the Rotary Club in 1957 was not intentionally and actively trying to increase his visibility in hopes of getting more business?

    We’ve established that we all market our practices and our selves. The rest, I think, is just haggling about price.

  26. SHG

    Then you’ve missed the mark by a mile.  Marketing happens, whether we want to or not, but we do not “all market our practices and ourselves.”  We practice law.  That our practice has the unintended consequence of marketing is beyond our control.  If it is done intentionally, then it’s entirely different.  And unless one deludes oneself, we know the difference.

  27. Mark Bennett

    I had noticed. It’s the few lawyers who are scum who make the other 5% look bad. But the public has thought we were scum for at least as long as I’ve been practicing, and probably for as long as you have been practicing.

    Can you define “active marketing”? Or is it something you just know when you see it?

  28. Lisa Solomon

    Wow, Scott, I think you’ve gone way too far here. So some lawyers maintain blogs (and do other education-based marketing such as writing articles and speaking) primarily as a marketing tool, rather than as a result of some more “worthy” desire to benefit society by sharing information. So.Freaking.What. The result is the same: the public has *free* access to information about the law.

    Just as in any business, doing good – even great – work is not enough. And doing good for others is also not enough. If you want the profession to be “dignified,” attacking people who provide information is counterproductive.

    And to take your anger out on Mark Merenda, of all legal marketing experts, is really unbelieveable. I’ve known Mark for two years through his frequent, and extremely helpful, post on two listservs devoted to marketing for solos. He freely shares information that is helpful to list members, even though most list members are not in his target market (because, frankly, we can’t afford him). He is all about marketing in a dignified, ethical way.

    And what’s your view on former lawyers who now advise lawyers about marketing, Like Josh Fruchter or Kevin O’Keefe? What about lawyers who currently practice *and* advise other lawyers about marketing, like Ben Glass? Are they sleazeballs, too? Or is it different because they’re lawyers, and Mark isn’t?

    We’re lucky that wonderful human beings like Tony Collelouri/ThatLawyerDude (who, as I recall, speaks to at-risk high school students about the law) and Ben Glass (who puts together teams to run marathons to raise money for charity) are involved in legal marketing. They – along with Josh, Mark and Kevin – are precisely the kind of people we want engaging in, and advising others about, legal marketing.

  29. Mark Bennett

    I think you’ve walked yourself into an untenable position, and you’re contorting reality to try to fit it.

    Again, take the example of the lawyer in 1957 speaking to the Rotary Club. He’s marketing himself and his practice. His conscious desire is to have more clients as a result. Just because he doesn’t call it “marketing” doesn’t mean it’s not.

    If your position is that we shouldn’t think of anything we do as “marketing” because that pollutes it, and because (as we have seen) the marketing tends to devour the intent to be helpful, then fine.

    But if “marketing happens”, isn’t the more truthful thing to admit that we all market ourselves in one way or another, rather than pretend we don’t?

    I will bet you could find ways to practice law, helping the client just as much as you do now, that would result in your having less business. For example, you could ask clients not to tell their friends about the great work you’ve done for them. You could stop informing the public (through this blog) about the things that make better lawyers better. Then you could claim even more innocence of the sin of marketing than you can now.

    On the other hand, if you thought a little more about the marketing that you’re doing unintentionally, maybe more people would come to you instead of hiring Biglaw travel agents or other of the undesirables you blog regularly about.

  30. Jessica Foley

    Ok, This is why lawyers have a bad name. You need to stop making fun of other lawyers who clearly have an interest in helping the public and getting their name out there. Your name isn’t going to get itself out there unless you are always giving back and marketing. You get a not-guilty on a what was thought to be a slam-dunk murder conviction? In about 10 minutes you are old news.

    Please don’t make fun of Mark Merenda. He’s a professional marketer for lawyers? You know why? Because lawyers are so busy working, that they often forget that they have a business to run! Newsflash, most people charged with a crime look in the yellow pages or the internet because they are too embarrassed to ask family or friends for referrals.

    Also, Tony is a good lawyer. Just because he doesn’t seem to require as much downtime as the rest of us, doesn’t mean he’s a sleaze.

    Sometimes traditional marketing doesn’t work. For example, I’m not really ‘in’ with the good ole boys. As hard as I try, they are still going to call the old guy when their family gets in trouble. I’m a good lawyer and experienced, and for me blogging is a good way to give me some credibility and give information to people who might not want or need to hire a lawyer.

    Let’s stop this while we’re ahead.

  31. SHG

    Active marketing is engaging in conduct for the exclusive or primary purpose of selling one’s services without any redeeming professional purpose.  Educating others, meeting with others, writing about the law, falls outside active marketing. 

    Mark, the problem (and my reaction to it) is exacerbated by the fact that many, if not most, of the people who are engaged in the blawgsophere aside from the lawprofs and PDs have become unabashed self-promoters.  And then there is this ever-increasing group of people whose incomes are derived from lawyer marketing, who have become emboldened by the fact that so many of the lawyers online are clearly here only for the marketing benefit, and are shameless in making that point clear.  It’s gone too far.  It’s reached the point of being disgraceful, and because of the support of having so many others who will throw dignity and professionalism to the wind, lawyers have become utterly disinhibited. 

  32. Lisa Solomon

    If you’re going to do that, you should really say so above the comment entry box. Otherwise, you’re essentially stealing the intellectual property of such commenters, who didn’t agree to provide you with their valuable content for nothing in return.

  33. Shaula

    Gentlemen, I’d like to point out an article by Charles H. Green, co-author with David Maister and Rob Galford of The Trusted Advisor, that may address the lack of understanding here.

    Charlie’s article is titled “How to Increase Trust by Getting Off Your S“.

    His thesis, to which I subscribe, is that if you go into any kind of interaction with a high self-orientation (i.e., you’re in it for yourself), the people around you can tell, and you thereby not only reduce their willingness to trust you, but by extension you reduce your ability to close the deal, get the witness to open up, win the girl, etc.

    In contrast, if you have a low self-orientation, the people around you can tell the difference when you are truly there to serve their needs, and as a byproduct your results are completely different.

    It seems to me that Mark is talking about a very high self-orientation approach to blogging, and to business promotion, where lawyers and bloggers are by definition in it to promote their own interests, while Scott is talking about a separate universe of low self-orientation.

    Mark, does that make any more sense?

    I recommend that you try reading The Trusted Advisor–not because it will change your mind (I doubt it will), but you may find it interesting reading, and it should definitely make more sense of (what I understand to be) Scott’s perspective. Alternatively, you can check out for free David Maister’s blog, Passion, People and Principles (currently in mothballs, alas, but still available online) and Charlie Green’s blog Trust Matters.

    [And in full disclosure, I’ve had the pleasure of working with David in the past, and I have a close friend who works with Charlie, but I’m not on the payroll of either one.]

  34. That Lawyer Dude

    Scott Name calling is beneath you. I know Mr. Merenda and I have watched him help lawyers and he is ethical and giving.

    As for your statements about Marketing, Take a look at the last Chapter of Monroe Freedman’s “Lawyer Ethics in an Adversarial system.” The Chapter is called “Your Duty To Chase Ambulances.”

  35. Mark Bennett

    If it’s the “exclusive or primary selling purpose with no redeeming professional purpose” test, then we’re in agreement. Lawyers should not engage in activities for the exclusive or primary purpose of selling their services without any redeeming professional purpose.

    But that leaves out a lot of legal marketing that doesn’t pass my smell test. Maybe my threshold for acceptable marketing is higher than yours?

  36. SHG

    Probably not, but since tests require the ability to express them, that’s the best I’ve got at the moment.

  37. SHG

    Tony, if someone like Merenda is who you think is ethical, then there’s not much to discuss. I thnk otherwise. and I’ve made that painfully clear.

  38. Mark Bennett

    Bullshit.
    This is Scott’s blog.

    Commenters offer up their “valuable content” (yeah, right) with no reasonable expectation of gain. And if they are stupid enough to expect Scott Greenfield, of all people, to give them something in return for their “valuable content”, they’re idiots and deserve to have their comments edited.

  39. SHG

    Stealing the intellectual property of commenters?  You’ve got to be kidding.  Aside from the fact that it is stated in the sidebar, had you bothered to look, that’s quite a bizarre assertion.

  40. SHG

    I suspect it’s not Tony who’s doing the rallying, but someone else who’s rallying the troops to defend the right of lawyers to demean themselves at will, not to mention the legion of  those who market to those marketing lawyers.  Given the nature of the ever-marketing blawgosphere, there ought to be plenty who exclaim about the joys and ethics of ambulance chasing, as Tony has chosen to do.

  41. Gideon

    As someone without a dog in the marketing fight, let me add another cent or two.

    Just what the heck is this “legal marketing”? We’re not talking about taking out ads in the papers or running commercials, are we?

    No, what we’re talking about is pushing an online presence in an overzealous manner. We’re talking about tweets on twitter, blog posts that do nothing but make you seem important: In essence, spam wrapped in the garb of a lawyer.

    Seriously. How am I wrong? Find me a blogger who does both well: Writes about himself AND provides some information to the reading public. There isn’t one.

    Take a look at the law firm that has potentially gained the greatest exposure in the last few years: Akin Gump (or whatever the heck it is now).

    They provide an invaluable service and have exploited a niche, without once mentioning their services. Yet, if you read the cert petitions, their name is mentioned more and more frequently now as counsel of record.

    That’s the way it should be done.

    The problem with lawyers doing “education-based marketing” primarily as a marketing tool is that it stinks. Stinks from a mile away and anyone can tell.

  42. SHG

    Now you’re going to catch the ire of all the happy marketers, who are going to tell you how they have to market, how being great isn’t good enough, how this is a business, and all the other crap they tell themselves to convince themselves that they haven’t slid down the slope into the gutter. 

    This is what’s become of lawyers.  Wannabe used car salesmen.  Why not just advertise 50% off sales, or buy one felony, get one free!

  43. SHG

    I have been asked by a mutual friend of Mark Merenda’s and mine in the blawgosphere to offer an explanation for why my response attacked Merenda.  This is by no means an apology, but as a courtesy I will do so.  This thread was over 3 days ago, and today Merenda decided to come back and reopen it, with the comment above arguing about “the ridiculous elitism of lawyers conducting themselves as some sort of medieval guild — making rules to keep newcomers out, or at least difficult to succeed.”

    I find this intolerable.  As anyone who reads SJ knows, I am strongly against the self-promotion that has taken hold on lawyers in general and the blawgosphere in particular.  I believe that this demeans the profession, to the extent one can still call it a profession, and all those in it, myself included.  I have had enough of it.

    The discussion was had, nicely, and it was over.  Merenda decided to resurrect it, by making comments as quoted above.  He is free to promote whatever he thinks is appropriate on his own blog or anywhere that approach is welcome.  It is not welcome here.  This is my blog.  My home.  And I do not have to tolerate anyone promoting conduct that I believe to be disgraceful and inappropriate.  And by coming back again today and starting this up again, he pushed me too far.

    I didn’t start out the day with an intention of attacking Mark Merenda, but this will not be a place to promote impropriety.  He pushed too far, and that was the reason for my response.  You don’t have to agree with me, but the time for polite discussion was over.

  44. Lisa Solomon

    I stand corrected: I didn’t look in the sidebar.

    However, as for commenters posting with no reasonable expectation of gain, as Mark Bennett asserts, that is not a valid assumption. Anyone who peruses this blog will see that commenters’ names are linkbacks to their websites. That creates a reasonable expectation of the “gain” provided by a linkback.

  45. SHG

    If you are commenting here for person gain, then I would strongly urge you not to comment here again.  I assure you, I will edit or delete as I please.

  46. Bob Kraft

    My goodness ladies and gentlemen, this is getting ugly.

    Mark Merenda is a friend of mine, and I’m proud of that. I’ve never known him to do anything unethical or dishonest.

    I’ve been practicing law since 1971, before lawyers were permitted to advertise in any way. I was doing just fine under the old system, and I was unhappy about the change. I do think the public is much more well-informed now that lawyers can advertise, but I believe most legal advertising I see is tasteless, if not offensive.

    That’s why I appreciate professionals such as Mark Merenda, who believe in a dignified approach to marketing.

    Would I rather go back to the pre-advertising days? It doesn’t matter, because that’s not going to happen. The best I can hope for is that lawyers who decide to market, do so with some respect to our profession, and not make us more vulnerable to being the butt of jokes.

  47. Gideon

    It may be an outcome of posting elsewhere, but it’s not a realistic “gain”. The number of people clicking on your blog from the comments elsewhere is directly proportional to the content of your comment.

  48. Mark Bennett

    Okay, Scott, I’m coming around to your way of thinking.

    When marketing is the driving force, commenters have “a reasonable expectation of the gain provided by a linkback”, and removing that link is “theft of their intellectual property”, something is seriously haywire.

  49. Susan Cartier Liebel

    Wow…having been away all day I got to miss all of the fun 🙂

    Fortunately, I can say I *know* both Scott and Mark and the truth is if the two of them sat down in a bar together and had a few beers they’d probably end up having a higher regard for one another then these comments indicate. They’d argue their positions, agree to disagree and it would be over.

    This is more an ideological argument about a major bone of contention in the profession – marketing. Mark just became a voodoo doll for Scott because he wandered into the path of his building upset about marketing. There still remains a large contingent of lawyers who have a low boiling point when it comes to marketing.

    I dare say if I had stepped into it, I’d be full of pin holes, too.

    I agree with Bob. We can’t go back. But we can go forward with dignity and showing respect for the profession while recognizing today we simply have to ‘do more’ then we did yesterday in order to create thriving practices.

    We can only hope the majority ‘do more’ in a way which doesn’t denigrate the profession which is already suffering a serious image problem. And there is nothing wrong with asking advice from someone who knows how to do it.

    That’s why the Mark Merenda’s of the world are able to work. They didn’t create the market for their services; they survive because lawyers realize they need help.

    If you are a lawyer who is fortunate enough not to need help, terrific.

    But there are many lawyers, especially solos, who need some professional guidance on how to let people know they offer legal services.

  50. My Shingle

    Two Great Solo Resources: Blawging for Lawyers, Solomarketing List

    I don’t generally post endorsements or recommendations about products or services at my site. But every so often, as now, I’ll make an exception where I believe that the service is worth passing on to others. First up is my…

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