Monthly Archives: July 2007

Brochures Stink

A show of hands, please. Who has ever considered hiring a law firm after reading an unsolicited brochure? That’s what I thought: nobody.

Yet these tired warhorses of “legal marketing” report dutifully to the in-box daily. Why? So that law firm marketing departments can point to an “accomplishment” at budget time. I don’t mean to pick on the marketing departments. In fact, we get most of our unsolicited brochures directly from lawyers, most of the time with nothing more than a business card stuffed in the little cut-out slot.

We’ll be writing more on how to market legal and professional services (at least to our company). But let us start with one very simple recommendation: dump the brochure. They all say the same things, and they all stink. If you think you’re distinguishing your firm because you “seek cost-effective solutions to difficult challenges,” or if you’re the “go-to firm for ‘bet-the-company’ litigation,” get in line. Everyone else thinks so too. Even fancy Wall Street firms seem to have hired the same advertising/marketing consultants as the mid-Western regionals. Remember, $200/hr insurance defense lawyers can say they represent “Fortune 100® companies” if they get a case or two from an AIG subsidiary every now and then. Avoid generalities.

There are other channels that will be much more effective. Yes, more work is required, but you already knew that.

More on what works next time.

Represent Me, then Sue Me?

It was only a matter of time before law firms started treating their clients as adversaries. Consider the now fairly standard boilerplate engagement letter provision in which the client consents to be sued by its own lawyer.

It’s never stated quite so directly. The waiver is always soft-pedaled with soothing, somewhat apologetic explanations that all boil down to this: We really aren’t a law firm, but are instead a collection of independent franchisees, and we aren’t gong to let the shortsightedness of one of our dopier “partners” stifle our chance to represent a much more lucrative client against you if the opportunity presents itself.

I’m used to seeing these provisions in the national firms’ engagement letters, but they’re even showing up in the smaller firms’ letters.

Of course I strike these routinely and have never had a firm refuse our business because of it. What’s more interesting is that I never get any push back. No hesitation, no negotiation, no comment. The paragraph just disappears. Which makes me wonder why it’s there in the first place.

How candid will the client be if he knows he could meet his own lawyer across the negotiating table on the next transaction . . . or worse: as opposing counsel in court?