During this 50 minute conversation, I sit down virtually with two lawyers who are intimately involved in social justice in Minneapolis. Travis Kowitz is white man, shot by a pepper bullet while live streaming the first two nights of the protests after George Floyd’s murder. Emily Cooper is a black woman pushing the cause of entrepreneurship to Minneapolis’ black community as the path to financial and personal freedom. Both are gritty, ambitious, lightly profane, and deeply committed to the part lawyers can play in the movement for social justice. We spend time talking through the history of systemic racism, specifically in Minneapolis.
From a lawyer marketing perspective, get inspired with some of the tactical approaches these two have taken in getting deeply involved in the community. My hope is that by listening to this, you may be inspired to go beyond carefully worded statements and donations and get more involved.
“words are just words, but when I take notice its about what actions people take behind the words; because words are just pandering. Is anyone actually doing anything?” – Emily Cooper
The focus of this series is exposing the huge gap between the Black Lives Matter movement and lawyers, many of whom went into the profession specifically to advance the cause of social justice. We talk with hands-on, driven lawyers who are actively involved, on the streets in their communities, far beyond making bail fund donations or publishing carefully worded statements of support. We challenge the trepidations felt by many lawyers, starting with “I don’t want to say the wrong thing.” This is a raw, uncomfortable, and oftentimes painful dialogue that needs to happen. You won’t agree with everything you hear; you’ll probably feel offended. All the more reason to listen.
Things aren’t great right now. As a Seattle-based company, we’re feeling the squeeze. Our office is just about empty, the buses haven’t been full in a week, and we just had to move our upcoming conference to virtual, instead of the Las Vegas rager we had planned. Since we’re figuring out how to run our business during this viral time, I decided to try and help you with some tips and tricks.
1. Adjust your GMB listing
The first thing you need to do is to let your customers know when you are and are not going to be available. If you’re shutting down your office for the foreseeable future, make that clear. Google has created a Google My Business advice doc for COVID-19 with instructions on how to update your listing.
2. Change your voicemail
Don’t expect people to know what’s going on. You will probably still get incoming calls, and if they get sent to voicemail during your listed working hours they will probably be upset. Leave a voicemail message with a number or email where they can reach you. Explain why you’re not in the office. If they don’t understand, they just don’t understand the severity of the situation.
3. Get ready to take calls remotely
Make sure you have online meeting capabilities. This means having access to quality wifi, a microphone that doesn’t make you sound like you’re shouting from the bottom of a well. Find a place where you can have a professional video call while working remotely. As a lawyer, you should be able to do a good chunk of your work from home. Don’t completely shut off consultations; if people are willing to trade in-person for over the phone, don’t throw that away.
4. Think long term
We don’t know how long this is going to last. Prepare for it to last a few months. How will your firm need to adapt? Maybe you’ll need to make your services more advice-based than representational if courts begin to shut down. Think about how you might need to stretch your operating budget and how you’ll keep getting clients. Everyone’s going to be hit hard by this, so at least you’re not alone.
We’re currently in a pandemic situation. We’ve heard some response that this is an overreaction, but since no one here is a health official we choose to take the health officials seriously when they say this is a crisis. It’s better to have an abundance of caution than pay the price for negligence.
If you are one of our clients and are wondering how to reach your account executive, send them an email or call their direct line. Calling into our mainline could easily get you to voicemail, and we want to avoid that.
Law firm marketing is an industry full of swindlers. Bad marketers are always trying to sell you more than you need, won’t tell you how their add-ons are helping you, and don’t produce the results they promise. Scams are all over, which is why you need to be able to recognize when you’re overpaying or are paying for the wrong things.
But what are the things you should be paying for? This depends on your practice, your firm, and your goals. Any marketer who says they have a one-size-fits-all, guaranteed to work plan is lying. No marketer can guarantee digital marketing success unless they’re physically (and illegally) paying off someone at Google, and every plan should be customizable. Every firm is different.
What Does My Practice Need?
Every practice has its strengths and weaknesses. Personal injury firms tend to need large amounts of advertising due to the highly competitive market and can afford it because of their high case values. Immigration lawyers, on the other hand, tend to have high caseloads with lower case values, meaning they need specific and cost-effective advertising. If an immigration lawyer is being sold an expensive new website and thousands of dollars in monthly ad-spend they are likely being ripped off.
Before speaking with a digital marketing firm you need to make sure you know your business. What is your budget and what are your goals? A good firm should be able to work with your needs. If they are pressuring you to spend more than you are comfortable with without providing data to support their suggestions, run.
But what does your firm actually need? This depends on the infrastructure you already have built up. If you have a functional, scalable, beautiful website ready to go, you shouldn’t have to purchase a new one. When you already have Local SEO services set up you might not need to purchase more. If you are just starting out, you might need to invest a bit more. The best way to avoid being scammed is by doing research into what’s typically needed for a firm of your size and practice.
The best indicator of a scam is a lack of transparency. If the firm you are talking to refuses to answer your questions directly you might want to raise a red flag. Marketers are good at making their product sound appealing, and rhetoric can be powerful and deceiving. Make sure your questions get answered and keep an eye out for non-answers. If you realize they didn’t actually tell you anything, press them harder. Make sure you know exactly what you should be getting and why you’re paying for it.
Talk to a Firm You Can Trust
If you’re curious about a trustworthy firm, call Mockingbird! We’re proud of our transparency, work ethic, and relationships with our clients and would love to talk with you about your firm.
As our agency continues to grow, we’ve been getting hit up by an increasing number of vendors with “can’t miss demos” and offerings sure to help us “take our clients to the next level.” Normally we’re kind of aloof and take a “we’ll find you” approach to identifying potential partners. However, a savvy move from SharpSpring that consisted of an unsolicited maze (pictured below) and a generous offer to buy lunch for our team may have changed our entire philosophy.
Every Friday our team meets to discuss the latest tactics, solutions, and opportunities for our clients. We share notes (and a few beers) during the weekly “Thinking & Drinking” meeting, and up to this point all it’s been lacking is consistent catering.
That’s where you come in!
We Can Be Bought…
If you buy us lunch, we’ll be your captive audience for 30 minutes while you run through all the reasons we should buy/use/recommend your company’s tools/products/services. We’re not even going to be that picky about what you’re shilling…only what we’re eating.
Give us $250 for lunch and we’ll give you 30 minutes of our time.
As a savvy marketer you’re probably already doing the math on this and realizing it’s too good an opportunity to pass up. But, to sweeten the pot we’ll also give you the following:
Hypercritical feedback on your presentation skills
A brutally honest assessment of your product or service
A blog post from one of our team members about your company’s pitch
The unlikely chance at legitimately selling us on something we didn’t know we needed
At worst, you get a bit of free coverage on our blog and the chance to write-off $250 as a “marketing expense.” At best, you’ve gained the once in a lifetime chance to pitch a market leading agency for the cost of several pizzas and a couple cases of beer.
Fill out the contact form or call to schedule your pitch. Slots are going to fill up fast, so don’t delay. We look forward to hearing what you do and why we should care.
Our job is to candidly advise on the status of marketing, even when problems are self created (see above).
Being extremely selective in choosing exceptional clients fosters a genuine partnership where that honesty is appreciated.
Last week we f’d up. This was for a large, long standing client who has spent well over $200K with us. The long and short of it…while building out a Google Ads campaign for a client’s new office, we inadvertently deleted an existing one – and historical data, drives quality score and quality score drives economic efficiency – therefore the ads aren’t going to perform as well (for a short time). Our error is going to cost the client some money.
Here’s the exchange that happened between my AE and our client late Friday afternoon:
I have some bad news. While I was helping get the XXXXXX campaign edited, I accidentally removed the XXXXX campaign. I called support to try and get it back but they said there’s nothing they can do. I was able to duplicate the campaign, so it’s currently running on the same settings, with the same ads and keywords.
Since the original campaign was removed, we essentially are starting over with a brand new campaign. We still have access to the data from the original, but any authority that it had is now gone. It’s going to take a while for the campaign to start running the way it was.
Again, I’m very sorry. Please let me know if you have any questions or want to discuss this further.
That was at 5:22 pm on Friday. Client wrote back at 8:20 on Saturday morning:
I thought it was super classy for you to let me know about the XXXX campaign. I’ve used so many marketing firms and the reason why I was so attracted to Mockingbird was because Conrad was so upfront and honest with me. And I believe this extends to the entire company. Basically, other marketing companies tend to [be] very squirreley and Mockingbird is so honest, and that’s why I love working with Mockingbird. For example, you consistently say, “XXXX, you should use us for this…” and you also say, “Dan, I’ll be honest, you may be able to get a better value somewhere else.” I really appreciate that candor.
I think the XXXXX campaign is a perfect example of why I enjoy working with Mockingbird so much. There was virtually no way that I ever would have realized that the XXXXX campaign was deleted. I’m just not smart enough to figure that out. But you saying, “look, XXXX, although you would have never realized this, I mistakenly deleted the XXXXX campaign and the paid searches may not be as good as before” was a super classy move.
So, final thought:
First, thank you for letting me know about what occurred with the XXXX campaign. I greatly appreciate your honesty about that.
Second, do not worry about. Mistakes happen, so not a big deal.
One of our 10 Commandments is “Proactively Deliver Bad News.” This is vital in our role as consultants/advisors/experts. News from the marketing side of things is not always positive and a good agency won’t shy away from delivering bad news…even (or perhaps especially) when its our fault. And clients…you should recognize that us technical agencies almost always have the ability and access to hide any mistakes or concerns from you. That should never be our role, but as our client pointed out…he most likely would never have noticed. Ask yourself: when is the last time your agency told you things aren’t going well?
I occasionally send a personalized thank you gift to vendors or clients… in fact would much rather do that then send out a package to get lost among all of the typical holiday corporate packages. (Although, Seth, keep those cookies coming in December, they are to die for.)
Today we sent out one of our favorites: Women’s Small Business Training through Rescue.org. If you want to make a difference in the world, considering browsing through the micro donations you can make at this amazing site.
Hourly based work seems like the right approach…especially when it comes to marketing services. You only pay when you need something and you pay a pre-determined, agreed upon amount. Concerns over contractors delivering deliberately slow work aside, hourly engagements are easy to understand, and for an agency, easy to agree to. Furthermore, hourly engagements enable consultants to be called into battle when needed.
Hourly billing makes it very easy to bid on work – there’s no need to scope the requirements of a specific client and there’s flexibility to increase or decrease budgets as necessary. As a marketing agency, hourly billing also plays conveniently into one of our 10 Commandments: It Might Not Be Our Fault, But It’s Still Our Problem. When we have a client who has some emergency, we drop everything to address that emergency. An hourly billing arrangement makes this very simple.
Despite that, hourly billing is a horrible way to structure an arrangement with a marketing agency because it encourages a reactive, instead of proactive relationship.
A brief non-legal anecdote….
We just fired our accounting firm after a nagging feeling that everything wasn’t being done both on time and entirely well. (btw – we’ve signed up with a firm called Accountfully that seems to approach their business in the same way we approach ours.) In our kick off call with Accountfully, they uncovered time and time again, stupid sloppy errors from our previous firm. Of course, we were getting what we paid for – or paying for what we got – the time it took to do 90% of the job well. But of course, with accounting (even more so than with marketing), I don’t want a 90% well done job. I want a third party, outsourced, I’m-not-going-to-worry-about-this-because-an-expert-is-already-proactively-looking-out-for-me peace of mind. So we’ve transitioned our arrangement from an hourly bill to a monthly retainer. And yes, I’m going to spend more money on accounting this year than last…except of course that that final 10% – the proactive part that ensures we keep the tax man happy is going to be managed proactively for me.
The reality is, we were paying our accountant for what they did…it’s just that what they did wasn’t a) done well and b) what they needed to do. A retainer (with a good firm) means you have someone proactively monitoring your business instead of reacting to your requests. And for a function you don’t understand or hate (in my world – accounting), that’s the way it should be.
I joined Avvo back in 2006, when it was just the flea of an idea. Today Avvo announced they’ve been sold to Internet Brands for an undisclosed 🙂 amount. Congrats to Mark, Sendi, Sachin, Josh and the rest of the team who made this happen and many thanks – especially to Mark for kicking off my career in Legal SEO over a decade ago.
Back in October of last year, Mockingbird received another Cease and Desist Demand – this time from Jesse Brodsky at Lawyer’s of Distinction. Turns out he was miffed at our post “When the Top 10% Means Nothing” which exposed his company, Lawyers of Distinction’s Top 10% Award as a charlatan scam. In short, Jesse makes his living peddling overpriced plaques to naive or egotistical lawyers.
I’ve posted a full transcript of Brodsky’s C&D letter, but here are some of the true gems amidst his defamation claims:
Your article is actionable and we will be initiating lawsuits against the author individually, as well as Mockingbird Marketing if this post is not immediately removed from the internet.
Among Jesse’s major concerns:
you refer to our offices as being in a strip shopping center, when in fact we have a corporate office in a traditional office building.
I’m not certain exactly how I was supposed to remove content from the Internet – apparently Jesse doesn’t really know how that Internet works. But, because Jesse threatened not only me, but also the author directly (Kelsey – one of our best people at Mockingbird) – I enlisted the counsel of renowned Ethics Counsel Brian Tannebaum*, to allay Kelsey’s concerns over being personally targeted by an overzealous lawyer. Brian’s reply to her:
if I were you, the thing I’d be worried about right now is what you are going to eat for breakfast. After that I’d start concerning myself with lunch and then plans for the weekend. I’d put worrying about what you wrote right below whether you are soon to run out of toothpaste.
Naturally, I told Brodsky to go stick his head in the sand.
Jesse – So nice to finally put a name to your distinguished company. Congratulations on the new office space – if you could kindly forward me the dates of your office upgrade, I’d be most appreciative. Finally, our post will stand. As you may suspect, it is almost impossible to remove a post from the Internet, regardless of pugnacious lawyers.
Good luck with your future endeavors. I trust you won’t need to reach out to me again.
Like a true bully, Brodsky backed down, never coming good on his litigation threats. To be fair, I was admittedly hoping my snark would inspire a lawsuit so we could further introduce Jesse to the practical practice of law and Florida’s anti-SLAPP legislation, but he didn’t bite. I thought we’d dig just a little deeper into Lawyers of Distinction. First their vetting process, which their Eligibility page describes as the following:
Independent Research to Identify Potential Candidates – Verdicts, Settlements, Experience, Reputation, Honors, Awards, Special Licenses, Bar Certifications, Professional Activities, Community Service, Pro Bono, Scholarly Writings, Lectures, Educational Background, Public Service, Other Outstanding Achievements
Nominations & Invitations – Candidates are identified either by nomination or by the Lawyers of Distinction organization directly. Nominations are accepted from members of Lawyers of Distinction, fellow attorneys, and current or former clients.
Review Application & Background Check – Lawyers of Distinction conducts independent research and background checks to ensure all potential candidates meet LOD standards. The attorney must have no ethical violations within the past five years.
Confirmation of Membership – All attorneys who meet the criteria of our screening process have demonstrated a high degree of peer recognition and professional competence, placing them in the top 10% of all attorneys in the United States.
They also claim in their footer that:
Lawyers of Distinction members have been selected based upon a review and vetting process by our Selection Committee… These potential candidates who meet the criteria of our screening process have demonstrated a high degree of peer recognition and professional competence, placing them in the top 10% of all attorneys in the United States. Attorneys may nominate other peers they feel warrant recognition or may nominate themselves. These candidates undergo the same rigorous review process.
So I thought I’d evaluate the vetting process, applying to Lawyers of Distinction membership, on behalf of my kid’s pet chicken, Zippy. Surely their “rigorous review process” would disqualify a 3 1/2 month old Golden Wyandotte? (Ignoring for the moment that lawyers can self-nominate, which must be the epitome of egotistical self-supplication.)
First, I fired up an email address for Zippy through Yahoo and then impersonated retired comedian, Jon Stewart (no email address needed) to nominate Zippy:
I thought the Jon Stewart reference might be a red flag for Lawyers of Distinction, but a few days later, Zippy’s Yahoo account got mail announcing her nomination and inviting her to take the next step…..
The key to this email is this sentence: “upon completion of your application you’ll have access….” So, all Zippy needs to get the plaque is a completed application and $775? Seriously?
Surely they wanted to know more information about Zippy. What about the background checks? Independent Research? and Zippys scholarly writings? Verdicts… Settlements…. Bar Certifications? Surely that would follow in the next phase of the process; at a minimum, LOD would want to know what state Zippy was licensed in? a bar number? or a release to perform the background check? Some of her awards? Some bio information? But alas, the application required nothing more than a name, address and a domain (although, I felt certainly someone would at the very least check out www.deshickeenlaw.com, find out it was not operational and then reject Zippy’s application…)
Apparently no one at LOD bothered to review Zippy’s non-existent website, www.DeShickeenLaw.com before shepherding me to the payment screen. In the next step, LOD was very happy to order up a plaque for a 3 month old hen, placing her in Top 10% Among Lawyers.
And the most insidious part of this is the literal fine print, the part that says, “The membership shall renew annually unless Lawyers of Distinction is notified of non-renewal.” So every year, Zippy’s credit card is going to get pinged for another $775. That’s a pretty good revenue stream. In summation, after impersonating a comedian, nominating a chicken and submitting nothing more than a non-existent website, I can purchase an annual subscription for a plaque for a tidy sum, for a hen who is still too young to even lay an egg.”
Dogs Among the Top 10% of Lawyers
Now, while I couldn’t bring myself to send Jesse $775 via credit card, apparently, not one, but two different canines footed the bill and have made it through Lawyers of Distinction’s rigorous vetting process. Meet, Shasharoosticus a Lawyer of Distinction (My Dog is Better Than Your Lawyer) and canine to (real) attorney Andrew Tolchin and wait till you hear teacup poodle, Lucy’s acceptance speech.
Brodsky and Baker….
I wanted to know more about Jesse… who is this guy duping lawyers into these overpriced lacquered boards? Turns out Jesse Brodsky sent us our C&D just 4 months after being admitted to the Florida State Bar….
Now, Lawyers of Distinction has really upped their marketing since Brodsky has come on board. Recently I’ve started seeing them more frequently, advertising in legal rags, Twitter and prolifically on Facebook. And they’ve been around since before Brodsky’s first year of law school. I had thought perhaps this was the entrepreneurial endeavor of a feckless law student – as I was unable to find anyone else associated with the company. So I looked up Lawyers of Distinction in the Florida Business Directory to uncover, the long term owner, attorney Robert B. Baker of Baker and Zimmerman, who registered the business back in 2009. Ironically, the Baker and Zimmerman site is devoid of any mention of Lawyers of Distinction – in fact neither Baker nor Zimmerman is a recipient. According to Avvo, Baker has been suspended in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York and was reprimanded by the Florida Bar. I’m pretty sure if this makes him decidedly under qualified to vet the Top 10% of Lawyers.
The First Amendment and Bogus Awards
All of this brings about serious first amendment issues. During my time at Avvo, we ran into challenges of our right to publish the Avvo Rating and ended up working with Bruce Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine, the country’s foremost expert on the intersection of the 1st amendment and the Internet. I’ve invited Bruce to join us next week for a webinar called Blogging and the First Amendment. We plan to discuss the legal framework for publishing online content as it pertains to the First Amendment, including the right of Lawyers of Distinction to publish the clearly bogus awards as well as our right to call them to the carpet for doing so. I’d invite you to join us, January 9th at 1:30 Pacific time.
And if you’d like a running log of lawyers duped into this service, try the Lawyers of Distinction Twitter Feed. But you won’t find Zippy on there… she’s too smart.
*Brian Tannebaum is not a lawyer of distinction. The only plaques he displays are of his prodigious high end wine collection, and then, only upon specific request.