~ Archive for Law Firm Marketing ~

The Benefits of Blogging, Explained

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Back at the start of the holidays I was interviewed for and quoted in an article on attorney blogging that ran in the Boston Business Journal and Portfolio.com. The article was titled Blogged down or Legal Nightmare depending on which publication it appeared in, and it weighed some of the benefits and challenges lawyers face in maintaining legal blogs. You can read that article here and here.

Ever since it ran, I’ve been meaning to follow up with more explanatory material. Here’s my take…

The Benefits of Blogging

Blogs can be a very effective way for professionals to raise their visibility and position themselves as accessible, helpful experts on a specific topic or niche practice. By writing about and commenting on and linking to other useful information in an area of expertise, a lawyer can help to demonstrate his/her knowledge around that subject and maybe even become a “thought leader.”

Blogs have an advantage over typical web sites in that blogs have a built-in syndication feed. Each time you publish a blog post, a news feed is sent out automatically that alerts the search engines and news aggregator sites. (A traditional web site waits for the search engines to come to it.)

So, the more often you post, the more attractive your blog becomes to search engines — not necessarily for its frequency, but for the collection of relevant information you’ve amassed around related keywords. Unfortunately, this is also what leads to a lot of the junk blogs out there. For instance, a lot of personal injury attorneys are notoriously bad bloggers that methodically regurgitate verdict and settlement reports from news sources in order to create a blog post that uses lots of keywords around, say, motorcycle accidents, or cerebral palsy. Then, as a last paragraph, they add on a statement about if you need a motorcycle accident attorney, contact us. That type of blogging is not flattering for the profession and some of it borders on plagerism.

Blogs become extremely effective when they provide “information of value” in the form of original material and commentary. If you can write something extremely relevant and informative, you will gain the benefit of viral marketing — where other web sites and bloggers will comment on and link to your blog post, as well as share it on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and the like.

It’s tempting for some to use the technology of blogs to gain the attention of search engines. But the real success in blogging comes from creating conversations, demonstrating your expertise.

Most lawyers I know are afraid of starting a blog. They are afraid because they don’t feel they have the time to do it, and they think anyone will be able to post crazy stuff on their blog. And they don’t really understand what a blog is. Blogs are still a little bit of a mystery.

Probably the best way for lawyers to use blogs is with help from the in-house marketing department and/or from a web marketing consultant. This way the attorney can concentrate on the content of the blog and allow the blog expert to setup and take advantage of the technology, execute and publish the posts, and provide ongoing direction and support for maximum impact.

Social Media — A Definition

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I’ve been doing an “Introduction to Social Media for Attorney Marketing” luncheon seminar, and one thing that people have told me they really appreciate is that I start out by giving a definition of social media. We can’t seem to read 3 pages on the web without encountering the phrase “social media,” but do we really know what it is? Here’s how I define it.

Social Media Defined

Social media are nothing more than a special class of web sites — second-generation web sites, if you will. Think of first-generation web sites as those that are created by an authority of some sort (the New York Times, WebMD, Smith & Smith law firm) that publish information to the internet for you to come and read using a “top-down,” one-to-many publishing model. Second-generation, social media web sites, by contrast, are platforms that provide users the ability and tools to create and publish their own mini web sites or web pages. The content on these sites is not created from on high, but created by the participants — from the “bottom up” — using a many-to-many model. We become active participants in creating, commenting, rating and recommending content rather than passive consumers of it.

Social media sites have 3 defining characteristics.

  • Majority of content is user generated
  • High degree of participation/interaction between users
  • Easily integrates with other sites

By this definition then, social media platforms include things like blogs (such as Blogger, WordPress, Typepad), social networking (Facebook, Linkedin), social bookmarking (Delicious, Stumble Upon) news sharing (Digg, Yahoo!  Buzz) and photo and video sharing sites (Flickr, Vimio and YouTube). These are, of course, just a few examples.

As time goes on, these categories are blurring. In addition, traditional media (such as the New York Times) are enabling social media capabilities within their traditional publishing models creating a new kind of hybrid.

Hope that helps. If anyone has anything to add to this definition, please feel free to comment.

Discussion of Attorney Advertising and Ethics in Light of Web 2.0

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Over at the Lawyerist is a good post discussing the implications of attorney advertising rules and ethics guidelines in light of new web technologies such as Linkedin. There don’t seem to be any clear answers, but some important things to think about… see the post at: Legal marketing ethics in a Web 2.0 world, by Leora Maccabee.

I’d appreciate additional conversation/comments on this topic.

Thanks!

Twitter 101: Twitter Is For Listening

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Twitter
I’ve been dabbling in Twitter for the past year trying to evaluate it for use by attorneys for marketing purposes, as well as for my own curiosity. Initially, I was skeptical as it seemed to be dominated by self-promoting “shouters” (I think I am borrowing that term from Kevin O’Keefe). And it still is. It is also dominated by persons who tweet constantly about Twitter, just the way bloggers used to blog only about blogging. This seems to be the natural progression of new media — the early adopters use the new medium to talk about the new medium.

Twitter Is For Listening

However, despite all the self-promotion and social mediabation, Twitter has some real benefits. I used to advise lawyers (as long as 2 months ago) to not worry about Twitter, at least until they have completed and mastered Linkedin. But now I’m recommending that you should pay attention. Even if you don’t see how you could ever use Twitter in business, use it to “listen” to the marketplace, or your peers, or your competitors (or your clients!) by using Twitter search, and by building your network. As more people start to use social media tools, they turn from talking about the tools, to actually talking about their business.

The other reason you should jump onto the Twitter bandwagon is that, if used properly, it can tremendously benefit your visibility on the web and search engine optimization. Grab your name or keyword specific handle now. Figure out how to use it later. Or have your someone teach you, coach you, or assist you in mining the benefits of Twitter. Until then, keep listening to me via this blog, or, follow me on Twitter at: amyblog.

“Listening” via Twitter is how I found this presentation: Twitter 101 for Business, via Rex Gradeless.

Read more posts like this on: Amy Campbell’s Web Log.

Alternative Fees Beat: Who Is Doing It? and How?

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This is just a quick pointer to Jim Hassett’s blog, Legal Business Development, where he has released the initial findings from his survey of AmLaw 100 firms on alternative billing arrangements. There’s been lots of talk about alternative fees, but Hassett has been busy getting answers. And now, without further ado, I give you over to Jim

Click on: Alternative fees survey

The New Marketing Is the Old Marketing — Just Different Tools

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Social media and new technologies are disrupting the marketing world, and yet the basics of selling professional services still start with building awareness. People buy from people that they know, like and trust. This video has been making the rounds, but I had to post it here because it makes such a great point — watch it here.


Thanks to the Legal Water Cooler where I last saw it.

The first part references the legendary “man in the chair” ad designed in 1958 for McGraw-Hill publications.

Social Media for Attorney Marketing: Recommended Reading

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I just gave a presentation on Introduction to Social Media for Attorney Marketing, and these are the recommended reading links I offered for further exploration (with brief notes on why I included each link). They are posted here for those who attended the presentation as well as those who did not. Click away…

• Where To Focus With Social Networking
September 22, 2009 – Excellent article just published this week that supports everything we talked about today

• Using the Web to Network, By Olivia Clarke, Chicago Lawyer
March 6, 2009 – Good exploration of the generational approaches to social media among lawyers

• Toot Your Own Horn: The Fine Art of Self Promotion
July 2009 – Contains a list of the types of things that are newsworthy for attorneys and fair game for promoting via firm news items, blog posts, Linked in status line updates, twitter tweets, etc.

• Networks for Counsel 2009 Study
August 2009 – Leader Networks conducted the second annual international study of lawyers use of social media, conducted on behalf of Martindale-Hubbell

• Twitter Explained (1 funny, 1 serious)
March 2009 – My blog post linking to a funny video from the Daily Show about Twitter and Social Media (meant for a laugh), and a more serious post from Carol Elefant: To Twitter or Not To Twitter? That Is the Question for Lawyers

• Is Social Media a Fad?
August 2009 – A short film with the amazing statistics that tell the social media story (despite the drama and hyperbole) in promotion of the book, Socialnomics

UPDATE: Can’t stop adding to this list! Here’s another good article…

• Top 20 Ways to Quickly Becoming a Recognized Subject Matter Expert on LinkedIn

… and more!

• Social Networking and the New Workplace – A more in-depth look at the risks and rewards of social media at work from a lawyer’s perspective.

• Drafting Trouble-Free Social Media Policies

Legal Marketing Lessons from the Recession

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Law360 has compiled an 80-page white paper on lessons for law firms from the financial crisis. One section is devoted to business development that outlines creative approaches that are on-target for readers of this blog. Here’s a look at the marketing articles you’ll find if you download this free paper (which is only about 1/3 of the document which also covers management and cost-cutting topics)…

Getting Creative With Business Development

  • Windows for building business in the downturn
  • Experts share secrets to cross-selling clients
  • In-house counsel urge firms to push specialties
  • Social networking spurs firms to log on or lose out
  • Upheaval forces firms to rethink markeing
  • Experts say firms should refine ads, not abandon them
  • In-house counsel seek value through RFPs
  • Study finds firms should weigh costs of RFPs.

To download the PDF, click on: Law360 Presents Lessons For Law Firms

Concurrent with the release of the whitepaper, Law360 is launching four new news sections today, covering the practice areas of Appellate, Contract, Corporate Finance and International Trade.

Marketing Legal Services the Free Way

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FreeThe ever-thoughtful and social-media-savvy Doug Cornelius has a great blog post, Free and Law Firms, commenting on the book Free: The Future of a Radical Price and how it applies to the marketing of legal services. The book is written by Chris Anderson, the same guy who brought us Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, a book that neatly describes new markets as shaped by the internet. Read Doug’s post, then order the book, and then start thinking about how it might impact the business of law firms.

Also, take a look at these links offered by Cornelius, and see how they might impact or shape how you approach, offer and sell your legal services.

Thanks for a great post Doug. Anderson’s last book did much to shape my thinking about marketing on the web, so I’ve ordered ‘Free’ for express delivery so I can read on my summer vacation.

UPDATE: Since posting the above I found another post by Jordan Furlong on the same subject: Free and the GP.

Creating a Firm Policy for Social Networking?

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As interest in social networking continues to grow, firms are recognizing many of the benefits, and then asking how can we control what our employees do with these viral tools? I know several firms personally that are working to adopt “social media policies” or social networking policies that include guidelines for employee use of collaborative web sites such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and blogs — both for personal and professional use.

The best resource I’ve found to help tackle the drafting of a firm policy is from Jaffe Associates. They offer a Social Media Policy Template that will provide you with a giant step in the right direction. You can download the template for your own use.

Am Law 200 Is Out for 2009

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The American Lawyer has published its annual listing of the top 200 law firms. They slice and dice it a few ways — by gross revenue, revenue per lawyer, profits per partner…

You’ll need to be a registered user to read much of the information, however, the lead article below is accessible to all. It reveals that conventional legal marketing wisdom hasn’t necessarily been the road to success during this economic downturn.

Where the Work Was
It wasn’t in New York — or at Am Law 100 firms. Think middle markets and out-of-favor practice areas.
The American Lawyer
By Amy Kolz
June 01, 2009

Reports of their demise, it turns out, were premature. For years, the regional firms that constitute much of the Second Hundred were told that they were exactly the wrong size: too big to compete with the narrow focus of boutiques and too small to match The Am Law 100′s national footprints and marquee names. But last year, as the financial sector began its meltdown, the Second Hundred’s slow-growth strategies were vindicated.

Read full article here: Where the work was.

Ten Easy Ways to Improve Your Law Firm Web Site — On The Cheap

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webFor many law firms, a full web site redesign is a luxury not currently possible. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on every effort to improve your web site. Below is a list of 10 ways to make your current site work better for your firm. See how many of these you can accomplish. And, if you have additional tips — specific ways you’ve improved your current web site — please use the comment feature on this post to add yours. Thanks!

1. Update Attorney Bios. Make sure your attorney bios are up to date. Highlight recent significant experience, link to recent articles and seminars, and update any memberships, board positions, and attorney accolades. Attorney bios are the most read pages on any law firm site, so make sure they are up to date and that they effectively position your attorneys for the types of work that they are currently pursuing.

2. Update Attorney Photos. Are your attorney bios an asset or a liability? Using a good professional photographer who can retouch photos to present attorneys at their best is a worthwhile investment.

3. Rewrite Practice Area Descriptions. Chances are your practices and the type of work you emphasize has changed since your web site went live. Also, make sure you highlight some of your most recent, relevant experience in the types of work that you most covet — even if in a quick list of bullets. Be sure list the services you offer in the vernacular of your clients and their needs, not in lawyer speak. Remember that people come to your web site, often on a recommendation, to see if you are indeed a good fit for their needs. Make sure your web pages give them what they are looking for.

4. Clean Out The Closets. Eliminate information that is out of date, such as news releases about attorneys who are no longer with the firm, and fix or eliminate broken links. Mine the archives and take old articles out of circulation, and/or update and recycle them by republishing the updated version. Don’t let your web visitors find skeletons in your closet. Show that your house is in order.

5. Rewrite the Directions Page. Add better directions to your offices and create a page (or pages) that can be easily printed out for driving directions that includes all important information such as address, phone numbers, etc. Provide links to popular mapping sites such as Google Maps so visitors can get additional location information. For many, using the directions to your offices from your web site will be their very first interaction with your firm — make sure it is a good one!

6. Add Metadata. Add meaningful and unique “metadata” to each page of the web site, especially page titles and page descriptions to better position your site’s information for search engines.

7. Update Images. You can easily change the look of your site without redesigning it, simply by replacing the images used in your current design. If your site’s images have grown stale or don’t represent the look you want, you may be able to create new images at the same size and proportion as the old ones, and simply replace them for a brand new look.

8. Edit for Clarity and Conciseness. Take a look at all the language on your web site. Can you say it better? Shorter? Use more specific examples? Break up long blocks of text into smaller paragraphs, and use subheads to break up information and make it easier to scan. And, while you’re at it, edit to make sure the messaging on the web site is up to date with the messaging your lawyers are using in pitching their services.

9. Add an Informational Offer. Give away some free information that will help establish or confirm your expertise in a given area. For instance, a booklet on “Questions and Answers on Trademarks,” an online quiz on “Licensing for Video Game Developers,” or a PDF pamphlet on “What You Need To Know About Medical Malpractice Law in Vermont.” Doing so engages the visitor, and brings them one step closer to doing business with you. And once you have developed an informational product you can then leverage it in your print advertising and other integrated marketing programs.

10. Add More News. Show what your attorneys are up to by adding more news to your web site. Articles about attorney awards, speaking engagements, recent articles and press coverage will help to demonstrate the specific expertise of your attorneys and keep your site looking fresh in the eyes of both visitors and search engines.

See more articles on improving your web site on my Infoworks! site.

Martindale Hubbell Blown to Bits?

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I can’t offer my own opinion on Martindale-Hubbell Connected — the Lexis Nexis venture into bringing its traditional directory product into the world of social networking and Web 2.0 and regain some relevance in the realm of lawyer shopping — because it is a closed system and I haven’t been able to see how it works. (Isn’t a non-open system breaking rule #1 of Web 2.0?) But Doug Cornelius and Kevin O’Keefe, two web savvy lawyers, bloggers, Linkedin guys, Tweeters (you get the idea) have a few things to say about their experiences with Martindale’s Connected product over on Kevin’s blog. Read:

Martindale – Hubbell Connected : Will it go anywhere?

And here’s the direct link to Cornelius’ thoughtful post:

Martindale-Hubbell Connected – My Thoughts

In fairness to Martindale Hubbell, the system is still in Beta. But it has been making very slow progress. It reminds me of the saga of the Encyclopedia Britannica ($2,200, 20-volume set) and how it was paradigm shafted by Microsoft’s Encarta CD-ROM (ultimately a free bundled product) as told by Philip Evans and Thomas S. Wurster in Blown to Bits: How the New Economy of Information Transforms Strategy.

Must Read: Trust-based Business Development in a Recession

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Below, I’ve indexed 5 day’s worth of excellent blog tracks left by the seminar last week on Trust-based Business Development in a Recession from Trusted Advisor Associates a.k.a. Charles H. Green et al. I found it a little difficult to access the full 5 days in order, so I am linking to each day’s post here to ensure that more people get to read this great stuff — make yourself one of them! : )

Day 1 – Trust-based Business Development in a Recession

Day 2 – Principle 1, Client Focus

Day 3 – Principle 2, Collaboration

Day 4 – Principle 3, Long-Term and Relationship Focus

Day 5 – Principle 4, Transparency

Wrap-up: 62 Sales Tips for a Recession – Based on Trust

12 Tips on Contrarian Consulting

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I enjoyed finding these 12 tips from “contrarian consultant” Alan Weiss. Just another list of how to be the kind of advisor that clients gladly pay to work with, but with an off-beat resonance that’s memorable. Some of his contrarian concepts”

  • “never focus on a sale”
  • “there’s no such thing as an elevator pitch”
  • “ignore unsolicited feedback”

Link here to view these ideas in context.

What A Successful Marketing/Business Development Team Looks Like

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The latest article on my pet project Legal Marketing Reader is now live. Getting Marketing and Business Development on the Same Page, authored by Robert Buday, Bernie Thiel, Susan Buddenbaum, and Tim Parker (from the Bloom Group and the Alterra Group), maps out how business development and marketing folks can be more effective through collaboration and distinct roles.

The issue, they say, boils down to this:

“Regardless of their marketing and business development models, most professional firms are not playing the same game on the same team, using the same game plan, or keeping the same scorecard. By game plan, we mean they aren’t pitching the same services and bringing the same “point of view” to market at the same time.”

Clearly, collaboration is critical to marketing and business development effectiveness. But how?

Solving the problem, they say, begins with creating a multidisciplinary team that is organized around a specific campaign that brings to market one point of view at a time.

The team for the most successful firms looks something like this:

  • A marketing generalist skilled in managing large-scale programs and events who can act as the overall project manager of the campaign
  • Editors and writers who are experienced in communicating management concepts and writing about them in a compelling way
  • A public relations professional who can communicate the point of view to appropriate media and analysts
  • Digital media experts who can leverage Internet-oriented channels
  • Business developers who sell services covered by the campaign or who can act as a liaison to the broader business development community
  • Fee-earning professionals who are knowledgeable about the content on which the campaign is based

For a wonderfully in depth explanation of this approach, based on their own research, please check out the full article here: Law Firms: Getting Marketing and Business Development on the Same Page.

In tough times, it is the firms that invest in integrated marketing systems that will benefit in the long run.

As the editor of Legal Marketing Reader, I send the authors at big “Thank You!” for contributing this article.

More on What Other Firms Are Doing

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From Tom Fishburne’s This One Time, At Brand Camp – TomFishburne.com
Published with permission.

See also, previous post: Marketing Budgets in 2009: What Other Firms Are Doing

Marketing Budgets in 2009: What Other Firms Are Doing

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One thing I’ve noticed having traveled in legal marketing circles for several years is that lawyers LOVE to know the answer to this question: “What are other firms doing?” So to help answer that burning inquiry, I am posting this quick article pointer to:

As firms cut marketing, others see opportunity
By Karen Sloan, Staff Reporter
National Law Journal

In the article Sloan states that while some firms will be cutting marketing department budgets, other firms “plan to maintain or increase the amount they spend on marketing in 2009 in an attempt to add clients and bolster their brand while their competitors pull back.”

To read the article, click on: law firm marketing budgets 2009.

Large Law Firms Getting Serious About Value? An Introduction to The ACC Value Challenge

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There is a move afoot in the legal industry to get serious about a topic that’s been batted around again and again with no real change in behavior. The topic? Alternative billing, moving away from the billable hour, flat-fee services — whatever you want to call it, it is the move to reconnect value to legal services fees. The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is leading the movement, called the ACC Value Challenge. And its best friend has been the growing economic crisis. Susan Hackett, ACC senior vice president and general counsel, introduced attendees to the concept at the New England Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association‘s annual conference last week in Boston. Here’s my report.

The ACC Challenge started taking shape over the last year or so, said Hackett and the economy has certainly created the “perfect storm” effect. “It’s not that we are operating out of fear because of what the marketplace brings us,” said Hackett, “but it is certainly an opportunity — a perfect time to meet the value challenge head on.”

“There has been a disconnect between firms and clients for years,” said Hackett. “What we are trying to do is reconnect value and cost.”

In-house departments have had significant success lowering their costs, while outside costs continue to rise 6- to 7-percent per year, sometimes more.” With all the talk about alternative billing arrangements,” said Hackett, “the amount of work billed not on an hourly basis is less than 5 percent.”

The work of the ACC Value Challenge is bringing together the two sides in very structured environments to work out a solution that serves both sides. She shared some of the comments from sessions to date that help to illustrate the disconnect.

An in-house opinion:

“As a manager of my client’s legal spend, I can no longer authorize work from $350/hour associates who are stunningly inexperienced and unsupervised, and who are looking to meet their firm’s unrealistic billing targets by rotating in and out of our work. If you gave me an associate who’d stay with my work, become expert in my matters, and develop into a leading lawyer for us, I’d gladly authorize that; but I’m not paying a legion of associates whose primary contributions are to other clients’ work and the firm’s outrageous profits per partner ratings.”

A outside counsel opinion:

“In-house counsel talk a big game about wanting alternative fees and arrangements when they bid out work, but whenever we propose an innovative way to staff or bill their project, they either select the legacy firm that proposed the same old hourly rate any way, or they come back to us and say they like the idea, but how about we just give them a 10% fee cut instead.”

One of the big sticking points is the cost of associates. As an aside, Hackett explained that a first-year associate can cost a firm $450,000 before they start their first day of work. The ACC Value Challenge concentrates a lot on the associate class. Hackett has been working on getting the word out about The ACC Challenge which she sees as a 10-year project. She sees it playing out practice group by practice group, where certain commodity-type legal services, such as single-matter employment litigation matters, can be subjected to closer historical cost analysis by the firm and the client to determine the actual costs of the average job — and then those in the market can move to charge that price (fixed fee) or better it.

Clients generally express no problems with a $1,000-an-hour partner who is worth it and who can answer the question in 20 minutes, but they do have a problem with a $350-an-hour associate who has no experience and spends hour after hour reinventing work that’s been done countless times in the firm or elsewhere.

“The in-house community is electrified on this issue,” said Hackett who has been working with corporate counsel for 20 years. She also made it clear that in-house can blame only themselves. “The client owns this problem,” said Hackett, “the billable hour was created by the client.” She further declared, “Clients are now ready to fix the problem…” and asked the Boston legal marketers, “where is your firm going to be?”

For more information on the ACC Value Challenge, how to participate, and tools for your firm, see the web site.

Small firm reaction

It is interesting to note that after the presentation at the cocktail reception, I spoke with several colleagues who are marketing directors from small and mid-sized firms who said (roughly paraphrased),

“We are already doing these things (respective to alternative billing and value billing, and eliminating entry-level associates), but clients continue to hire the legacy firms and opt for the familiar.”

Just more evidence of the disconnect.

UPDATED 1/13/09: Here’s a related podcast from the LegalTalkNetwork where Paul D. Boynton Esq., interviews the ACC’s Susan Hackett about the Value Challenge… click to listen. listen to the mp3

Law Firms Feel Strain of Layoffs and Cutbacks

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Just a quick article pointer to NYTimes story… wanted to add it to the mix.

Law Firms Feel Strain of Layoffs and Cutbacks

By JONATHAN D. GLATER
Published: November 12, 2008
Some established firms have collapsed outright, others are laying off by the hundreds, and others still are seeking mergers with larger firms to try and weather the storm.

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