On Marketing and Miami

It has come to be accepted, in these rather odd times, that in order to make your presence felt as an emerging lawyer, social media must be incorporated into your marketing.  The reasons, as you’ve likely heard countless times, has little to do with any concrete statistics evidencing a correlation between the amount of clicks and the amount of cash, as it does anecdotal evidence of those who do not practice and who instead takes solace in the comforting blanket of consulting.  The problem persists and multiplies when one combines the insecurity of an uncertain field for new attorneys with delusions of grandeur from those who claim they can find you paying clients, anywhere and anytime.  This leads to an attitude of “waiting for the phone to ring” instead of actually hitting the pavement and finding clients.  Not getting calls?  Your keywords may be off.  Cash flow not looking so hot?  Perhaps you’re not updating your firm news section on the site enough.  And on, and on, and on, we continue to travel into the sales dribble until we’re out thousands of dollars with almost nothing to show for it.  There are still others who continue to hype something called a “virtual practice” allowing you to practice law on your terms; how and where you want. Needless to say this magic sauce is bottled and sold for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to anyone who has an interest in making money while working for only a few hours a day.  And, really, who would possibly want to do that other than anyone ever born?  But the glaring issue that none of these consultants wish to deal with as they make their money, is the party is getting really crowded.  And I don’t think anyone is really making any money.  With the exception of some people I know who have inherited small fortunes, one cannot really make real money while working only a few hours a day.   The real lesson has been, and continues to be, that one must toil at their craft.  You cannot hope to grow your firm by listening to those who promise endless riches by simply re-designing your blog or creating interactive Facebook pages.

This weekend I found myself on a business trip (LOL) to Miami to visit a few dear clients of mine who had organized a huge, incredible art show at Art Basel, an annual art festival. These clients came to me from a referral from a prior client.  On the flight over, I sat next to an older gentlemen, originally from Brooklyn, who had moved to Florida.  For approximately 54 years he has worked in the beauty industry.  First owning his own salons, then selling them, then owning more, then consulting and working with some of the biggest names of the industry.  Approximately 3 hours of conversation surrounding life and business ensued.  Sharing with him some of the frustrations I’ve faced myself when deciding when to grow, and how fast, he told me that there were a few keys to getting bigger and bigger in almost any business. The first is having a passion for what you do.  The passion allows you to do do the second; working harder than the others around you.  He made no mention of google sponsored ads, nor of Skype consultations, or anything of the like.  His advice is echoed by every successful businessman in almost every industry, yet some of us refuse to heed it in the belief that we to can get where we need to go if only we change the way the internet perceives us. It is complete and utter nonsense and yet it keeps being peddled as some potion that works for everyone.

A year ago, I was with Brian Tannebaum, having lunch in Miami.  He graciously accepted an invite from a young guy who wanted to pick his brain about a few things.  Our conversation turned to law firms and marketing and issues that practicing attorneys face.  Needless to say we discussed internet marketers pitching their wares.  I said that I wanted more and more internet marketers to come into the playing field.  I wanted more attorneys to offer seminars describing how to practice law while sitting on the beach and still loving what you do in the process and charging whatever you want for it.  I wanted scores more of these consultants to come forward and regurgitate the same “straightforward solutions” as those who said you could time the stock market in your spare time.  Those who said you could leverage your home to the hilt and use that money to buy another home and leverage that home, etc.  The people who, without explanation, keep insisting that their courses are in fact great values!  The people who use money back guarantees like the shopping channels who sell vacuums.  I want scores of those people to open up their own form of “consultant shops”.  Because as this industry grows, the message becomes so constant that attorneys will finally realize that it’s not going to do what they think it will.  The internet may get you clients but it will not grow your practice on it’s own.  The internet may allow you to impress a client for a moment, but it will not allow you to keep that client happy.  The internet will never, ever, ever allow you to sit on a beach and help your clients on the schedule you want, and have them pay you on the timetables you set. That’s not real life.  If it was, I’d be on a beach right now and not packed into a plane like a sardine thinking about the consultations I have tomorrow and the reply brief that’s due.  Success in this law, if it ever comes, comes from  working  incredibly hard for your clients and earning their trust and the trust of their colleagues who may later become your clients.  You have a better chance of growing my practice if I attend seminars, conferences, dinners, alumni events and speak to other, you know, humans. The irony of all of this is that the secret sauce (though it has absolutely no guarantee of working) stares at us all and we keep looking for a better sauce.  One that isn’t as tough to open.  One that allows us to use it on our terms.  I’d love it if an internet marketer were able to show me that sauce.  Until then, I will keep working, keep having sleepless nights here and there, for the dream of something bigger.  Something more consistent, knowing full well that such a thing is not, and should never be, guaranteed.