I missed last week’s Legal Marketing Association Conference in Atlanta, but Adam Severson of Dorsey told me I should see the satirical video Truth, Justice & Credibility which opened the conference. You should too; it’s on YouTube.
Normally I try to stay away from YouTube, because I am afraid of spending too much time there. But if you want to know how frustrated marketers get working with lawyers, this short video from EventStreams is an eye opener. And it made me laugh out loud.
The tone is set in one of the first scenes, when the Chief Marketing Officer of a fictional law firm stands in her managing partner’s office waiting for a meeting to start. The manager is reading the New Yorker, pointedly ignoring the CMO. She fidgets, she clears her throat. He makes a face, sighs, and turns to her. The subconscious message: he's willing to work on marketing, but it's about as important as reading the cartoons. Maybe less.
The video ends at the partners’ annual salary review meeting. The managing partner is standing at a large conference room table saying: “We had an excellent year, and business development and marketing are responsible at least in part for the large revenue increases we have.” Then all the lawyers in the room start laughing hysterically. Someone yells “Yeah, what did they do?” When the managing partner proposes a small raise for the chief marketing officer, the partners groan.
To learn about the background of the video, I called Terri Pepper Gavulic of Hildebrandt, one of the chairs of the LMA Conference. The idea for the video started when she and Jennifer Manton of Loeb & Loeb, the other conference chaiperson, decided that they needed something fun and a little different to kick off this year’s conference. Most of the scenarios in the video came from Terri’s professional life, and the actor who played the managing partner was another committee member, Jeff Reade of Cole Valley Software. EventStreams of Atlanta shot the video for free, and Powell Goldstein donated the use of their offices and conference rooms. Terri directed and made a cameo Hitchock appearance. (If you watch the video, Terri is the person who hands a file to the data steward.)
The video was a huge hit with the 1,000 people in the audience for LMA’s opening session. According to Terri, it was “a great way of putting people at ease, especially the 400 members who were attending their first conference. It helped them understand that we are all working hard to overcome the same barriers, and we are making progress.”
I hate to quibble over such a professional and entertaining production. Then again, that’s what blogs are for.
In the first draft of this post, I mentioned that I was struck by the large number of marketing examples and the small number of business development examples in the video. There are vignettes on branding, shortening the firm name, holiday cards, letters and party planning. But there was much less mention of the business development activities that I think will make the most difference to increasing revenue, such as coaching lawyers to increase client satisfaction and to find new clients.
I think this imbalance accurately reflects the job roles and priorities that still apply in some law firms, but I hate being reminded of it. I think lawyers will remain grudging in their acceptance of the profession until they see more direct results from their investment, and I think the most direct path is through business development.
When Terri read my first draft, she emailed this explanation: “The video was intended to take a look at where we've been as a profession - to show how far we've come. The emphasis on business development and sales is a fairly recent focus and evidence of our progress… this was a look back… and we were constrained by our time limits… Hmmm, maybe there's a sequel in the making!”
Warning: The lawyer characters are a bit over the top. So if you are a thin skinned attorney, you should probably skip the video and spend your time on something billable. But if you are the type that enjoys a little exaggeration in the name of satire, the next time you can spare nine minutes, take a look.
If you’re like me, you’ll watch this video a few times. And as you think about all the implications between the lines, you may squirm a little.