John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall and I’m here today with Katherine Larkin‑Wong, President of Ms. JD and Nicole Chiu‑Wang, the Board of Directors and Chair of Marketing Communications Committee, and Jane Rosales, the Social Media Marketing Manager also at Ms. JD.
How important is it that an attorney is an authority in their main practice area versus trying to be good at too many things and with a particular emphasis on if there is any difference for a male or a female?
Nicole Chiu‑Wang: Hi, John, this is Nicole. I’m going to jump in. Basically, it all depends on where that attorney is in their career. For us at Ms. JD, we focus on attorneys that are in the earlier stages of their career.
At that point, it depends on what firm they’re in and whether they’re in a firm with a general practice or a small firm with a specialty or if they’re allowed to sample different practice areas and if they know what they want to do. There are a lot of factors that go into that.
I don’t think it would be appropriate to say that for all individuals, they should either focus on being general. It really depends on the individual and where they see their career transitioning and growing. That’s the prospective we take at Ms. JD.
Katie, do you have anything to add?
Katherine Larkin‑Wong: No, I think that’s perfect. I do think the further you get along in your career, the more important that specialization is.
I think that’s particularly true if you’re at one of the law firms where the expectation is that you’re more of a specialist and that putting together teams of specialists is what makes the firm successful.
But I agree. I think particularly early on, you’re allowed to be more of a generalist.
The one other thing, I’d say, for people to consider is some of these areas that are not directly in your vein of legal practice, but can be a great way to raise your profile. Ms. JD is a fantastic example of this.
Issues surrounding women and career and women in the law are not necessarily in the vein of my every day practice, but my involvement with Ms. JD and my ability to speak and blog and tweet about these issues, that’s certainly raised my profile.
John: That’s a really good point. I found that interesting that you’re saying the younger attorneys, they get a little more of a break. That’s actually good to hear.
At the same time, I’ve been thinking that even though you’re probably more expected to specialize as you get older, wouldn’t it give a younger attorney a bit of a leg up if they specialize early? And maybe not.
Katherine: This is key. I’ll take that one. That can vary a lot. We hesitate to tell people to specialize too much too early. Especially in the current job market, you need to be willing to figure out what a firm or an organization needs and be willing to bend a bit to that.
The other thing is that a lot of the time, at the end of the day, if you’re pushing legal boundaries, you’re going to be in places that are new and unfamiliar to you, even if you’re working in a practice area that you’re really familiar with.
Getting comfortable doing something that is not necessarily right in the vein of things that you’ve done before is not a bad thing for a young lawyer to do. We call it “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
John: That’s great. You’re going to have a lot more opportunities if you’re a little more open, especially at first. I get it. That’s really helpful.
The next one. Do people generally hire based on a law firm’s brand, or individual attorneys, and how much influence do attorneys of substance in their website bio pages, have on hiring decisions?
Katherine: It’s key again, John. You can take this question from two different sides. You can take it from what are clients looking for, and then you can take it from what are firms looking for when they’re hiring individual attorneys.
Certainly, an individual attorney who has made their mark and really has built a book of business and is known as being an expert in a particular area can likely carry that book of business with them wherever they go. That can make you very valuable as an attorney and a partner.
On the other hand, there are certainly law firms that just have good brands. They’ve built those brands with really impressive practices, and they have [inaudible 05:04] attorneys that people look for.
But the reality is that the firm itself just has an excellent brand and particularly an excellent brand in a particular area, and so people turn to the firm.
You can develop both ways, but I do think that it depends on which way you’re talking.
Nicole, you might want to add on this. You’ve done a lot of [inaudible 05:28] attorney recruiting and seen that side of things.
Nicole Chiu‑Wang: I think that the website bio pages, they’re oftentimes the first place that somebody goes to look into an attorney. In that respect website bio pages are incredibly important because they’re our first impression.
Now in the digital age, with all the different social media platforms and profiles we have, at “Ms. JD” we have taken a strong stance on telling all of our community members that they need to have up to date and very proactive “LinkedIn” profile pages even if they aren’t job searching because this is now who you are.
We all have faces and brands on the Internet now and you need it all to be working for you. If you’re just using it passively, then you might as well not be using it all.
I would say that not only do your website bio pages have a lot to do with it but also LinkedIn profiles, for example, and anything…If you Google yourself and something comes up that you don’t want to see, everybody’s got to work on SEO for themselves, as well.
John McDougall: Those are really great thoughts. A little bit of a summary that I was taking away was both the brand is important and the individual attorneys are important.
Going to the Legal Marketing Association conference in Orlando a couple of weeks ago I was amazed that the workshop on LinkedIn was packed. There was a big study done talking about how LinkedIn, out of all the social networks for attorneys, that’s certainly the major one.
Those are all great thoughts. When you first look at an attorney’s website how do you now if the attorneys or the firm, when you first get to the firm’s site, is credible and can be trusted?
Katherine: I think this is tough one, to be honest, John. I think there are no rules of the road here.
To be honest, I will just peek back on what you’re saying about LinkedIn, which is, attorneys have to be really careful and watch out for their ethics rules.
Even the endorsements on LinkedIn, some bar association and supreme courts are coming out and saying that those violate the advertising rules that are in place for attorneys as ethics.
If you’re an attorney and you’re using LinkedIn, make sure you’re up to date on what your ethics rules are. You may or may not need to turn off endorsements.
I do think it’s tough. I think there are no straightforward rules of the road.
There are rating agencies for attorneys and you can certainly look at those. You can ask around, and look for references, and do things like that, but I can’t tell you that, “This is how you can determine if someone’s credible from the law firm website.”
Jane and Nicole, I don’t know if you have a thought?
Nicole: I just think that generally, having dabbled in legal recruiting for a period of time, one thing that we would check would be what organizations that person is involved in, what school they went to.
There are general checkmarks you can look at a person. It’s a very shallow way to look at a person, but there are certain things you can verify based on what’s listed on a website.
Like everything online, people can lie. I have the strong belief that attorneys generally don’t because it would be bad business.
That’s, I think, what some people will look at to see, is membership in different organizations, whether they be legal or non‑legal.
John: Those are excellent thoughts. What are a few of the most important thought leadership activities for attorneys, such as blogging, public relations, being an author, bio pages, client alerts and newsletters, and/or social media?
Katherine: Sara Holtz, who writes a lot on women and rainmakers, says that you have to figure out what works for you and your client base. You cannot say that there is a single thing that works for everyone.
You have to figure out what works for you. If you are someone who is generally an introvert and scared to death of public speaking, that may not be the best use of you time in terms of getting out there and building business.
I think to some extent you need to know yourself. That needs to be number one.
Then I think you need to figure out how people who are being successful at this are doing it. It’s not enough to simply put a blog out there.
You need to then take that blog and send it to clients who would be interested in it, post it on LinkedIn, post it on Twitter, find other avenues to be promoting that.
I find blogging opportunities, and even articles that other people have written are a great excuse to follow up with contacts, but you have to be doing those additional pieces.
It’s a very crowded market out there. If you’re not utilizing all of those connections, you’re missing out on something. At the very least, as attorneys, our time is so limited.
When you’re spending time doing something that is not direct client work, make sure you work that for everything its worth. It doesn’t make any sense to not do that to me. That’s basic and straightforward.
I think all of the things that you mentioned can be very successful. I’ve seen attorneys who have been successful with them.
My advice is to know yourself and then find people who have been successful doing things the way that you want to do them and pick their brains. Use that as kind of a model, and then adjust it to what’s working for you.
That also, by the way, means you need to track. You need to be paying attention to what’s actually getting you results. And as Sara Holtz, I mentioned some great tips on how to do that.
Katherine: I’m just going to pop in really quick and say that there are different platforms and communities out there that will help you get the word out about what you’re doing and make sure that it is seen and credible.
For example, at Ms JD, we are an open source for our community members to use as a blogging platform. In that way we’re throwing the legitimacy of our brand to our community members and saying use it as a platform. Use it as your personal blog page. We have like a Tumblr for attorneys.
We are a top legal blog, so that’s a service that we provide to our members. In addition, we throw our social media muscle behind really good blog posts, and we will help them promote them to get the word out.
There are other people who are doing things to try to help. There are resources out there. I think it’s up to the individual. You figure out what works for you. You don’t have to do it alone. There are other people that want to help.
John: That sounds great. What is the URL of your blog?
Katherine: It is www.ms‑jd.org.
John: So it’s on the main URL? The site itself is largely a blog, and there’s a lot of content you’re saying?
Katherine: We have a lot of other resources in addition to the blog, but we started as a blog. We’ve expanded far from there since our beginning into a really strong organization. The blog is still a core part of who we are and something we’re really proud to provide for our community.
John: That sounds great. It sounds like a good resource.
Nicole: I just want to add that one of the things that we’ve done really effectively is we’ve taken our online offline.
I think you have to remember that an online connection is not a substitute for an offline connection. I think that’s easy to forget sometimes in today’s very socially drive world, which I love being a part of.
Those connections become so much stronger when you can also make them offline. We host a lot of events and things like that that enable our community to connect online but to also connect offline.
That just starts as the community aspect but also the connections that people are making along the way.
John: I think it’s great to bring it full circle from the Internet and networking there but then always try to bring it back to in person.
If a law firm comes up frequently in natural search results versus advertisements like Google Ads, does that say something about their authority to some degree? Or maybe not?
Ranking in Google, is there anything that’s going to pass some credibility from that? How important is Google, in general, to attorneys?
Katherine: I guess this is one where different people will disagree on this, to be honest. I think it depends a lot on your practice and how you’re getting your clients. Certainly good SCO results are rarely negative [laughs] , unless it’s a negative article.
I don’t think that hurts you, but I’m hesitant to say that a law firm coming often in search results means that they’re necessarily a good law firm. I think that just means that they’ve got a good marketing team and they’re good at search engine optimization. That’s my initial take on that.
I don’t know if Nicole or Jane has other thoughts on that.
Nicole: I agree. All the big law firms now have marketing departments. I’m sure all of them have people dedicated to search engine optimization, SCO. That’s what I would take it as.
Maybe I’m becoming jaded in that being in the start‑up tech space where SCO is just the biggest buzz word there ever was.
John: There are certainly a lot of black hat SEOs out there working for all kinds of people, including law firms, to get them ranked number one. It’s harder now with Google Panda and Penguin, which is a good thing.
They’re getting better at bringing the better results to the top without it being too easy for people to get SPAM to the top. With that said, you certainly can’t just go by that.
Google, of course, with trillions of searches, is certainly important for your strategy.
Are you aware that Google, with its authorship program and various social media sites like Klout.com, even though that may not be a perfect tool, have patented algorithms to determine if someone is a trusted author and influential person?
Katherine: I certainly am. I use Klout, in part, because I love their new app. I’m a huge fan of it. I think it’s great at helping you discover content that you might not have discovered otherwise. It’s not my full content purse, but it is a content purse that I use. I think that’s helpful.
At the end of the day, you have to be paying attention to what you’re putting out there online and what’s associated with your brand, in part because all of these algorithms determine what they’re showing up and how often you’re showing up.
Building a followership that really matches who you are is important and will help you organically become more important to the types of people that you want to become important to. That’s my initial take on it. Nicole and Jane, you guys both do a lot more on this stuff, so jump in.
Jane Rosales: I was just going to say that the new version of Klout is great with finding content to share online from legitimate sources, and sources that I would never typically look in.
It’s really great for the content, and it’s helpful in terms of finding followers but also knowing how often they’re shared. There are followers on Twitter. Sometimes you can find fake followers. That’s not helpful to me.
I want to know who’s legitimate online. Klout is helpful in that way because they’re interacting with other people and the higher the Klout number, it’s helpful, but it’s not perfect, that algorithm.
But their new Klout is great for finding new content.
John: Anything else to add to that? I thought that was interesting you both are using Klout to find good content from influential people, whether it’s the perfect score, the Klout algorithm. It’s not divining.
Perfectly people are the perfect authorities, but in a way that doesn’t matter necessarily that it’s perfect. It’s you’re finding great content from authoritative people and you can be the judge when you check out their blogs as you found them through Klout.
I think that’s interesting. Any other thoughts on that?
Nicole: I’ve worked with bloggers and influencers in my current non‑role position as a start‑up.
One of the things, because this is who we work with, we don’t just rely on Klout, but I think Klout is a great tool for somebody that doesn’t have the time to actually scope out whether this person bought their followers because you can do that.
Bought their Facebook likes, for example…
Nicole: …or something like that.
John: On Fiverr. [laughs]
Nicole: There’s no excuse…Exactly. There’s no excuse for looking and seeing how engaged someone’s users are in terms of re‑tweets and interactions and comments on blog posts and that sort of thing.
I think Klout is a great resource for people that maybe don’t…It is a lot of time to look into people.
John: That’s great. I don’t use it enough actually. I think you guys just inspired me to go look for more influences on Klout. That’s great.
What we’re going to do now is wrap up this part of it and then we’re going to do part two. Thank you guys so much and I’ll be back in a minute after a little outro here.