Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

Farragut actually said: Damn the torpedoes!..Go ahead,  full speed
I'm invoking Admiral Farragut for a reason.


My syndicator, PositivelyPittsburgLiveMagazine.com, or PPLMagLive, reached 2.5 million page views during THIS YEAR. 


By reading this blog, you've contributed to that!


This syndication page routinely gets 62,000 views a month, with a 11.6 % monthly growth average.


This is a big deal for Joanne Quinn-Smith, who founded the online magazine five years ago. It's a portal for radio shows, tv channels, and just about everything you could want from the New Media. It wasn't even a domain name five years ago.


Her "damn the torpedoes" attitude has inspired literally millions. 


And Joanne has turned into the Goddess of New Media. Her course, Web 2.0 Gorilla Branding, and her Techno Granny talk shows are remarkable. Her patience as a mentor is unparalleled, since she is my mentor and hasn't kicked me to the curb yet. She's supported or helped dozens of entrepreneurs get on their feet -- including me.


Now, Joanne has a new project: to create the world's biggest hug!


Full disclosure: I am a sponsor of the Hug-A-Thon. For a good reason - who DOESN'T like a hug? See below for ways you can help.


Anyway, back to the topic at hand.


Joanne has been an entrepreneur and entertainer for as long as I've been alive. She's the only one who can do her story justice, but she's started and lost more businesses than my granddaughter has unicorns. And that's a lot.


She started PPLMagLive 5 years ago when her limousine business floated down the Ohio River during Hurricane Ivan. A grandmother starting a business about Web Technology on the Web is unusual now, but in 2007 it was unheard of. But she persisted. And she made it work. 


And now she wants to say "thanks" to her hometown.


 The first, annual Hug-a-Thon Pittsburgh™ Day brings local, regional, and national exposure and recognition for the City of Pittsburgh and to four, non-profit organizations—Cancer Caring Center, Sickle Cell Society, Inc., Pittsburgh Passion’s Passion for Life Foundation, and Operation Troop Appreciation. A number of activities during 2012 will culminate in a major event on September 6, 2012. The places to get hugs are tentatively scheduled at the City County Building, Market Square, Katz Plaza, and underneath Macy’s Clock from 2:30 to 5:00 PM.

You can "LIKE" the Hug-A-Thon on Facebook for the best information. 


But funding for a non-profit project like this doesn't come easy. A Hug-A-Thon needs huggers and funding for silly legal things like insurance and venues. If you can't actually spare a hug, sponsor the event and the charities it supports. If you have any ability to manage an Indie-Go-Go or Kickstarter campaign, contact the program or leave a comment on this blog. 


Big hugs to Joanne and her team at PPL and the Hug-A-Thon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rule Your Domain: the importance of choosing carefully in 5 reasons flat


You want to pick a domain name. Someone told you it was important to have a Web site. Cool. welcome to the late 20th century!

But what domain? Foremost, you should always own your name and any variations. You should own your business name. You should have a tagline, and own that. You should own all of the suffixes:.co,.mobi,.com,.net, and so forth for all of your domain names.

"So what do I call it?" you ask. Don't just pick anything that's available or funny.
Here are five reasons why your domain name can be one of the most important business decisions you make:
  1. It tells potential customers you understand a problem they have.
  2. It tells potential customers that you, and only you, can solve their problems.
  3. It tells potential customers what kind of audience you help.
  4. It solidifies your brand in potential customers' heads.
  5. It's your virtual storefront.


You may have noticed something: the only part of that list that concerns you is the last item.

Now, before you even start, memorize these rules.
·     


RULE 1



RULE II

Finally, imprint this in your marketing DNA:

THE ONE RULE TO RULE THEM ALL

Your domain name needs to instantly position you as someone who a) cares about your potential client's problems and b) can SOLVE them. 

If you're serious about a domain name, you need to see it as an extension of your marketing, and you need recognize that this will be your first introduction to your potential clientele.

Ask yourself: 
What's the primary objective for my domain name? 

Do you want new clients? Do you want to announce a new blog or build a tribe of attorneys who will recommend you? Do you want to get people excited about a new book?

For example, I want people to know about my upcoming book, DOMINATE: How Smart Lawyers Crush Their Competition. I want to reserve a domain and create a place where people can learn about the book.

Do I use the title, or do I use something that will inform about the book? How about DominateHow2CrushCompetition (title)? Or do I use YouCanCrushYourCompetition (goal of the book)? I have a friend whose website is icanmakeyourich. He's a marketer. That gets people's attention.

Then ask yourself:

What's my target population (T-POP)?

Let's assume you're an estate planning attorney.  Your T-POP is easy: people who want estate planning. 


  • But what age? 
  • Parents of young children? 
  • A couple where one or both travel for work? 
  • Sandwich generation caregivers? 
  • Retirees who have just now realized that they really need to do something?
  • Does your T-POP know what "estate planning" is?


Your domain name has to be memorable and appeal to the tribe you want. That will only work if you address your T-POP's needs and problems.

Choose a name that will speak to those needs and problems. For example, estate-planning-sucks.com might really appeal to GenX and millennials, because it's funny and it says how they feel about writing a will. But your potential boomer clients could be really offended by it. They may agree that it does, but the phrase has a different meaning for them. Always use the right language for the right T-POP.


It's like wearing a really nice suit to court as opposed to a t-shirt that says "They killed Kenny!" I saw this at the store the other day. Ouch - mainly because the picture was stretched across the guy's ample belly.



Say you want your domain name to convince new college graduates or new parents that they need estate planning. Numbers and letters will work because the domain name will look like a text message - wills4u or plnurfutr. That's how millennials communicate, and they'll remember the site and assume you speak their language.

Something like "myestateplanningattorney" works for aging boomers, and perhaps the sandwich generation because it's more formal and gives them the sense of ownership and belonging. I quibble with this one because it doesn't tell the client anything about your practice. Neither does the name of your firm or business. You want to reassure this T-POP that writing a will or setting up a trust does not mean they will die or lose their independence.

Remember it's about your T-POP and their needs and problems. Address issues that keep them awake about not having a will, or planning for their future, or leaving a legacy.

Why not do something with pieces of estate planning that your desired tribe will recognize? Wills are the most obvious thing, although "Trusts" will appeal to certain crowd too. "Avoiding probate" will appeal to caregivers. Words like "protect" and "future" and "generations" appeal to retirees.

It's important not to simply think of some clever names and throw them up to see what sticks. Go to the Google keyword tool and check out what people are looking for. See which proposed domain gets the most hits and go from there.

Remember your PO and T-POP and your domain will be your most valuable asset.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cloudfundraising for Lawyers: How to Confuse a Counsel

BoingBoing.net brings us this week's education in cloudfunding. I have long thought to review the legal and ethical mechanics of the thing ever since President Obama signed the cloudfunding provisions of the JOBS Act. He did this over strenuous objections from the SEC, which is new in and of itself. BoingBoinb beat me to it, and reality is stranger than any hypothetical I could have created to illustrate the possibilities of cloudfunding.

The entire story is posted here.

It sort of reminds of the Flying Circus sketch, "How to Confuse a Cat."

Long story short, FunnyJunk and The Oatmeal are sort of the Hatfields and McCoys of the create-and-repost world of the internet. The thing started when The Oatmeal claimed FunnyJunk stole its original comics, reposted, and monetized them. The Oatmeal produces original content that's actually pretty good.

In a gesture of bonhommie, the owner of FunnyJunk to some of the stolen material down. Nice.

If you're The Oatmeal, all done and settled, right? Wrong.

Enter Charles Carreon, the litigator who successfully litigated the sex.com case. For Internet geeks like me, this is the case that made website domains personal property. So, apparently, he knows a thing or two about shenanigans on the internet.

Carreon is no slouch. He sent a demand letter to TheOatmeal, requesting damages for defamation because TheOatmeal's post accused FunnyJunk of copyright violation, which can - under certain circumstances - be a criminal offense. Oh, and that TheOatmeal had defamed FunnyJunk. When a defendant defames a claimant by accusing them of a criminal act, that's Defamation Per Se. For such defamation, FunnyJunk required $20,000. If it was not paid, FunnyJunk and its incredibly successful internet lawyer would take TheOatmeal.com to federal court.

Matt Inman, TheOatmeal's founder, responded in kind, sort of, by proposing that any $20,000 paid in response to the letter should go to cancer research. Inman then started a fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo to get the $20,000 for cancer. Inman raised the $20,000 in 64 minutes. To date the campaign has raised $142,000.

Carreon has filed a complaint with the crowdfunding site, asserting that the campaign violates IndiGoGo's standards. IndiGoGo remains silent on the matter, but Carreon is confused, according to an MSNBC article:

"I really did not expect that he would marshal an army of people who would besiege my website and send me a string of obscene emails," [Carreon] says. ... "It's an education in the power of mob psychology and the Internet," Carreon told [the reporter].
Now I don't post this to mock FunnyJunk or it's attorney. They're doing that job very well themselves. The true lesson here is not the power of the Internet or mob psychology. 

Rather, lawyers should be aware of the power of crowdfunding and educate themselves - there is a powerful new game out there, and it's a frontier worth exploring.




Monday, June 4, 2012

Your Future as a Lawyer: One BIG Reason You Should Romanticize the Law

I try really hard to make Legal Shoe's advice open to all types of entrepreneurs, but since law is my frame of reference, I find it pretty hard not to worry about the next generation of lawyerpreneurs. They are in for an uphill climb - that's the reality.

A propos of nothing, these thoughts occurred to me while I was writing a review of Private Lives, which for Pittsburgh area readers, is playing at the O'Reilly Theatre through June 24. It's a comedy about softening hard edges, attraction, domestic strife, and it struck me as a metaphor for my 50-year love affair with the law.

Don't forget that you can soften the hard edges of your legal career by remembering why the law seemed attractive to you in the first place.

But here is one reason. Lawrence Lessing's graduation speech and John Marshall Law School in Atlanta. It's your assigned reading for today.




Everyone is a little high after they finish any arduous graduate program. So it's easy to be filled with starry-eyed wonder that Lessing, a prominent Harvard Law professor, would encourage young graduates to hang up their own shingle without any business accumen or training. Practice for the people! Redefine what law means in the United States! Your children and your children's children will rise up and call you blessed.

There is ONE reason you should let this vision influence your thoughts about practicing law.

It softens the hard edges. Let me say that again:

IT SOFTENS THE HARD EDGES.

A law practice, or any entrepreneurial venture, has a lot of hard edges: clients don't pay on time if at all, it's touch to keep a consistent pipeline of clients coming through the door, and you may feel the incredible burden of losing more fights than you win.

But you also have an incredible chance to leave the lives of the people around you better, whether it's your family, your clients, or the people you meet while you're trying to hawk your wares.

So this Monday, two weeks into a jobless summer, or even two weeks into your dream job, take ownership of your decision to become a lawyer. Take ownership of your decision to be an entrepreneur. Get the help you need to make it happen. Or as Lessing says:

… as you begin your career as a lawyer, as you begin to dig yourself out of the financial hole that you are in, as you enter a field too many think is just corrupt, don't think just about your families and the pride they can't hide today.

Leave it better, lawyers, than we lawyers who have educated you have given it to you. Leave it in a place that your mother and your daughter, your father and your son, can respect. Not corrupt, but true. Not just rich, but just.


Is there any other reason to be a lawyer?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Business Plans Suck. Planning your legal career doesn't.

Two years ago, I was enduring the unending humidity of a Maryland summer. When you are trapped in air conditioning and unemployed, you're likely to pick up anything.

Now I've practically memorized Scot Gerber's "Never Get A Real Job." It's a primer for starting and running an enterprise. GET THIS BOOK, if only to read the chapter called "Business Plans Suck."

A business plan is a waste of time.

Planning is essential. But The Business Plan has taken on a life of its own. Here are a few realities:

The Business Plan is mostly fiction.

None of the things you write in The Business Plan will happen when you say they will.

No one reads the darn thing. I haven't read my business plan since I put it together in 2010. Why? It sucked. It had numbers and graphs and testimonials, and the bank put it in my file and never looked at it again.

A startup plan is NOT a waste of time.

Here is the difference. Like the Constitution, your startup plan is a living document. You can allow yourself to experiment with a startup plan. A startup plan can help you identify your best business model. A startup plan can be anything you want. But it should have some clearly defined goals, milestones, and ideas. You might want to think about money, but don't do that until you have a clear idea of your product, your market, and your selling strategy.

Your startup plan is short, sweet, and can be accepted on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo without any fuss or changes.

Scott Gerber recommends 8 questions to ask, and I like them. They are not mine. They are Scott Gerber's. Get his book to help you figure out how to implement them into your startup plan. 

1. What is the service your business performs or the product it provides today? 
2. How does your business produce or provide the product or service right now? 
3. How will customers use your product or service as it exists right now? 
4. How will your business generate immediate revenue? 
5. Who are the primary clients your business will target immediately? 
6. How will you market your start-up to prospective clients with the resources you have at your direct disposal? 
7. How are you different than your competitors right now? 
8. What are the secondary and tertiary client bases you will target once you’ve attained success with your primary base?

See, Gerber, Scott (2010-11-02). Never Get a "Real" Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke (pp. 91-92). John Wiley and Sons. Kindle Edition. 

I'm a Lawyer. I don't have anything to sell. So I don't need a plan.

Yes you do, so stop making excuses. You sell this thing called knowledge. You have a product, which is your advice, your skill, and your assistance. Figure it out. If you don't know what your product is, how are you going to attract clients? 

Any plan is better than none at all. You can illustrate your plan any way you'd like. Some people draw pictures of their plans. Others draw incredibly complicated "mind maps." I like mind maps, because I think chaotically. A mind map helps tremendously before you hone your offering to a few unique points. Brainstorm, get some friends over for wine and pizza, be as creative as you possibly can with your plan and your business model. 

Then refine it. 

What would you put in your business plan?



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Three Strategic Planning Essentials to Make Your Practice Work

Have any of these things just happened to you?

1. I just graduated from law school and I have no job with anyone but me, a small law firm engagement, my dream job with a judge or BigLaw firm.

2.  I finished my first year of law school and still have most of my brain cells left. I have no job, a small firm engagement, or my dream clerkship with a judge or BigLaw firm (yay free baseball all summer!)

3.  I'm just starting law school in the fall and I have no idea why I signed up for this.

You can resolve each of these three situations with a simple acronym: PPM. In my environmental law world, it's parts per million, but do not get it confused. Rather, to make any business venture succeed, your PPM is:

PLAN

PEOPLE

MONEY

You must have each component of PPM in your practice. It's a really good idea to incorporate these during law school, too, just to get into the habit. Warning: this is a short introduction; I'll cover these in detail over the remaining week.

Plan

You will never get anywhere without a plan. Feel free to leave your disagreements in the Comments section. The fact is, you are always executing your plan or someone else's plan. If you're executing someone else's plan, it's likely you're an employee. If you're executing your own plan, you either a very smart employee, or you're working on developing your own practice. 

Your plan doesn't have to be long. It has to be good. It has to be clearly stated. It has to be workable. Don't fall into the trap that your plan needs to have graphs and projections, unless you're a visual thinking. Your plan is your roadmap, not a funding piece.

People

Without the right people in your practice, it will go nowhere. I can hear you saying to yourself "I have no employees; I'm a law student/associate/solo." Feh. You need the right people around you as soon as you start school. Build a network within your class and especially with upper classes. Learn how to gauge personalities. As an associate in a practice, you can network with other people in the firm and other young lawyers outside your firm. 

The people you choose to be with is a reflection of you and your practice. If you have the wrong people in your corner, your practice will be a confusing mess. 

Money

Money makes your plan function and pays your people. I hope you know that already. 

But you can bootstrap, seek investors, ethically seek sponsorships, and maybe even crowdsource to manage the bottom line. There are entire graduate programs devoted to raising capital, and I won't bore you with a crash course on fundraising (at least until Friday).

Today, just start with a plan.







Wednesday, May 16, 2012

12 predictions about your career in Law

I'm in Philadelphia. This week, Drexel and Penn graduated another crop of law students. They were bright-eyed and confident in their future careers, believing that they were going to really enjoy that summer clerkship at Walmart.

I didn't get invited to speak. Here is the speech I would have given.

Congratulations, all of you. You're justifiably proud of yourselves. Some of you graduated Summa Cum Laude. Others graduated Magna Cum Laude or even Cum Laude. Most of you, like me, graduated Thank You Lawd. All of you stand on the brink of the best of times and the worst of times.. You are facing a different world, and I'm going to show you 12 ways your future career is going to be different from mine. If you apply the ideas today, you will still be practicing law in 10 years. If not, the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse will ride you down. Here they are, without explanation or fluff.


  1. You will be competing with a global workforce.
  2. Your target demographic has changed A LOT.
  3. Self-help Clients will shop for services, not lawyers.
  4. Clients will want the lowest price, which means firms will "unbundle” their professional offerings, and outsource as much as possible. Many already do. See The modern bankruptcy practice.
  5. Lawyers will have to learn how to commoditize some of their offerings. There clients will look for a package before they ask for a bespoke service.Lawyers will run to the Cloud for data sharing, collaboration, and the competition for attention there will be fierce.
  6. The most successful lawyers will have to be entrepreneurial, which means they’ll be marketing their “product” not themselves. There is material for a week's worth of blogs in this statement.
  7. Guidance from professional disciplinary bodies will become increasingly confused as the ways that lawyers solicit clients proliferate quickly.
  8. Lawyers will be increasingly required to promote themselves and market their own practices, whether they’re in a firm or not.
  9. The debacle at Dewey Leboeuf teaches us that the model for gigantic law firms is dead, and probably should never have existed in the first place. That is not to say that the model for a global law firm is dead. You just don't need to be Dewey Leboeuf to be one.
  10. Lawyers will stop selling their time and will sell their knowledge instead. The billable hour, like the gigantic law firm, is dead.
  11. The best lawyers will operate an enterprise that includes a sophisticated marketing plan promoting a unique product.
  12. The Lawyer who does something different will succeed. Don’t follow the lemmings over the cliff.
These predictions are not meant to depress. What I want you to do with this is go forth. Be Creative. Change the World. Do it Differently. You can. You have to.

Thanks, and good luck!













Wednesday, April 25, 2012

TOP 5 Reasons YOU Should Start Using Fiverr NOW.

Fiverr.com, or Fiverr to veteran users, seems to be the topic du jour these days.

I've been following an extensive discussion on the amazing Solosez discussion list about Fiverr over the last two weeks.

It was interesting enough for Carolyn Elefant to ask for tips about it in her marvelous blog, My Shingle.

I was attracted to both of these discussions: thanks to Joanne Quinn Smith, aka the technogranny, I have several brain cells called Fiverr, so I see it all over the place now.

If you've never heard of Fiverr, reserve a few brain cells for it. It's a terrific way to get professional help from all over the world, all for $5 per gig. You can go on Fiverr, too, and make a little money if your accounts payable are running behind.

Still need convincing, here are my TOP Five reasons, all based on social proof, why you should use Fiverr for your next project.

1. The wicked cool banner you see at the top of this blog.

I've had some terrific response to the new banner. It looks great. It cost me five dollars. I have two more in the works, and I sort of need to get them finished. They look great, too. My only contribution was to request a pair of red shoes. My designer, Nancy, came up with everything else. Wait until you see what she's done with The-Barefoot-Barrister, my new coaching site.

2. My buddy JG Francoeur, The Messy Manager, loves it.

Here's what JG says: "Got this video done by Fiverr - Best $5 ever spent... MESSY Manager - Grab Your FREE COPY!: http://t.co/0zIFQPQy via @youtube."

BTW, you should really take him up on his offer because it's a terrific book. 

3. The list of my Solosez colleagues who like Fiverr is as long as my arm.

Solo and small firm lawyerpreneurs (I think I may just have coined a new word!) have to be frugal. The Fivver projects ranged from Facebook makeovers, to web & business card design, to fancy craigslist ads. None of the reviews were negative. But you have to be careful - there are some reports of malware stored in images, and some so-called SEO experts may not be quite reputable - billable professionals would need to steer from - and report - any negative experiences. 

Fiverr rates its providers on timeliness and customer approval, so check around and READ THE RECOMMENDATIONS. Providers do get negative ratings for tardiness, bad customer reaction, and quality issues, so pay attention to that.

4. You'll probably be doing a mitzvah for somebody.

The woman who does my banners is from Greece. Do have any idea how far five hard Washingtons go in Greece? Or Turkey, or India, or Ukraine, or in the United States? Literally, you may be putting food on a family's table for a week. Or you may be buying beer for some hard-up college student. Who cares? Someone is putting themselves out there to make an income they wouldn't otherwise have. And, as Carolyn Elefant notes,  

  • if you’re skilled enough to cut a video opening in 10 minutes and can churn out six in an hour, that’s $30, which honestly, is more than document reviewers earn these days.

5. It's all about the Lincolns, baby.

It's five dollars. Seriously. That's cheaper than some Starbucks drinks. And if you need something done quickly, and reasonably well, you can do that with Fiverr. Nancy turned around drafts of my project in about 36 hours. A few comments later, and within a week I had my banner, and two other sizes for advertising on other blogs (see the small version at Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine).

For the price and turnaround time, you may not get stellar quality. But you'll get an idea of what the purveyor can do, and you can hire her or him for more expensive gigs.

Happy Birthday PPL!

Speaking of FIVES --- Happy Birthday PPL

Positively Pittsburgh Live Magazine, The Technogrannyshow, and all of their related wonderfulness turn five years old today! In five years, its founder Joanne Quinn Smith, has grown her online web programs into an international empire of wonderful content and fun programs. 

You have to appreciate these impressive stats:

The Positively Pittsburgh Live site has had more than 1 million listeners.

Her sites have:
220,000  hits per month
62,000 unique page views per month
Viewer Growth: 11.6% per month

These stats don't take into account the evangelistic graduates of her many marketing training programs. I'm a recent grad of the Web 2,0 Gorilla Branding training, and the program is freaking amazing. 

Check out her Positive Pittsburghers site. It's a Fiverr banner.