Category Archives: law

New York City Bar Association Small Law Symposium is Thursday – See you there

NYCBA Small Law Symposium

The New York City Bar Association’s 14th Annual Small Law Firm Practice Management Symposium is this coming Thursday, November 9. It’s an honor to be presenting for the second year in a row.

Whether you are just starting out or been practicing for decades, I can personally vouch that the Symposium offers valuable guidance on both managing and growing a practice.

I particularly like the open dialogue between presenters and attendees. Discussion flushes out what’s on people’s minds and you walk away with information you can put to work immediately.

Unlike other bar associations, the NYCBA has no hangups about giving preference to bar committee members, authors or “non-vendors” as presenters. NYCBA is looking for top shelf and up to date information from presenters, especially on technology and innovation.

In the New York City Area? Consider attending. The program runs from 8:30 – 5:00 and is a steal at $65 for members and $100 for non-members. There’s also plenty of time to network with colleagues throughout the day at the Exhibit Hall and during the complimentary breakfast, luncheon and reception.

I’ll be on mid-morning with Tim Baran of Good2bSocial to discuss the power of networking through the Internet for growing your business.

  • How to develop a strategy?
  • How to define your audience?
  • The importance of listening, and how to do so, before engaging.
  • Role of content, in any form, for building relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation.
  • Publishing mediums, whether your own blog or third party publications such as Above The Law, Forbes or Bar Associations.
  • Role of social media and how to use it – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.

See the Symposium brochure for more information.

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NYC Legal Blogging and Social Media Workshop, Wednesday the 8th

Lawyer? Law student? Legal marketing professional? Legal tech entrepreneur?

Forget what you may have been told. Learn how to really use blogging and social media in a strategic fashion to build a name and nurture relationships.

Lawline and LexBlog are hosting a “Legal Blogging and Social Media Workshop” next Wednesday, November 8 from 5 to 6:30 at WeWork Tower 49, 12 East 49th Street, 11th floor.

I’ll teach a little and lead a discussion on:

  • Developing a strategy for blogging and social media as a legal professional
  • Importance of “listening” and how it’s done
  • Role of blogging to learn, network and advance the law
  • How and why of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Walk away with a whole new perspective on networking online and with role model lawyers to follow

Better yet, we’ll have a Beer for Bloggers (and others) a couple blocks away at Connolly’s Pub at 14 E 47th St.

You can register here. Space is limited so try and come if you register so we get a good feel on attendees.

With LexBlog now a WeWork tenant, get ready to see more of these workshops and bootcamp like events. Like November 16 in London. 😉

Hope to see some of you there.

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Could individual lawyer blogs be more effective than group law blogs?

group or individual law blogs

Though many, if not most, law blogs are published by a group of lawyers at a law firm, blogs published by an individual lawyer may work better for developing business.

When I started blogging back in the stone age I thought of blogs as a conversation. One blogger expressing their thoughts and commentary, often referencing what another blogger posted, with other bloggers responding on their blog.

Blogs were very personality driven. That didn’t necessarily mean law bloggers were blogging about personal items or being ultra opinionated, it just meant the bloggers had a unique voice, tone or sense of humor that resonated with followers.

When law blogs started to take off about a decade ago, large law firms, with lawyers segmented by practice or industry groups, gravitated to group blogs for any number of reasons.

  • Budgets for marketing often followed groups versus individual lawyers.
  • Egos. In some cases, every lawyer in a practice group had to be listed as an author in the “About” section of the blog.
  • Law firms can be “firm brand” centric versus “individual brands.” One major firm drove a rainmaking lawyer out because he was developing too big of a brand with his individual blog being followed by general counsel and peer law firms.
  • Content. Law firms fear that an individual lawyer will not post often enough.
  • Rather than strategically focused on niches, law firms launched practice group blogs.

But pursuant to the latest GC Excellence Report, the reputation of the individual lawyer is the single most important factor for general counsel when deciding which law firm to use, ranking ahead of the firm’s reputation and well ahead of the firm’s brand.

A blogging lawyer can certainly enhance their reputation by publishing on a group blog, but it’s not as easy.

No question there are some great practice group and topic specific group law blogs, but when I go to rattle off the names of lawyers who have knocked it out of the park from a business development standpoint from blogging I tend to hit on those who did so with their own blogs.

Allison Rowe in equine law, Jeff Nowak on FMLA matters, Dan Schwartz on Connecticut employment law, Staci Riordan in fashion law, Peter Mahler on business dissolution and David Donoghue on IP litigation. These lawyers achieved outstanding reputations through blogging and generated significant business as a result.

Why might individual law blogs be more successful for business development?

  • Conversational style and tone. Not every individual law blog is written in a conversational style (as one would talk), buy more are. Readers are also apt to develop a comfort with the blogger’s tone.
  • Social media is critical for bloggers. Not just for distribution, but in further developing trust, relationships and a name. Sharing posts from your own blog tends to be more social and more personable in nature and draws more engagement.
  • Bloggers tend to get cited as much, if not more than, blogs. It tends to be how we cite things in the law, ie “per Professor XYX writing on…”
  • Bloggers tend to be remembered, by name, more than blogs. I’d guess that most of the readers of this blog or Robert Ambrogi’s blog, both fourteen years old, would not remember the names of our blogs if asked – if asked, they say it’s Kevin O’Keefe’s or Bob Ambrogi’s blog.
  • Individual bloggers getting a lot of invitations to speak. Speaking builds names and relationships.
  • The business of the law is all about relationships. It’s harder to build relationships when you head out as a publication, versus an an individual blogging lawyer.
  • Bloggers need attagirl’s and attaboy’s to keep going. The love you receive as an individual blogger tends to be greater.
  • People, including general counsel, hire lawyers, not law firms. Same goes with who people tend to follow, trust and enjoy.

Sure, there are any number of ways to make a group law blogs work for business development. A good number of firms have done so.

There’s just a number of reasons individual law blogs may be more successful — especially so in large firms, where general counsel value the reputation of individual lawyers above the firm’s brand and reputation.

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Study: Individual Lawyer’s Reputation Ranks First For General Counsel

Reputation of individual lawyer

Law firms may want to invest more in marketing individual lawyers, versus practice groups and the law firm as whole.

Pursuant to the latest GC Excellence Report, an indidual lawyer’s reputation ranks first by general counsel in selecting a law firm. And it’s by an almost ten to one margin over the importance of a law firm’s brand.

From the Global Legal Post reporting on the study:

The reputation of the individual is the single most important factor when deciding which law firm to use, according to the latest benchmarking research. Three in four general counsel (74 per cent) say this was the top factor when selecting a law firm compared to 39 per cent who opted for price. It is the first time in the GC Excellence Benchmark report research, which has been conducted over five years, that reputation has topped the bill.

Personal relationships and reputation eclipsed law firm brands and global presence, items firms appear to be emphasize in their marketing and business development efforts.

The research, conducted in association with TerraLex, revealed that both the individual and team reputation scored high above that of the firm’s brand as the most important factor – only seven per cent chose the law firm brand as important whilst 61 per cent valued the reputation of the law firm. Clients were less impressed with a global presence with only 18 per cent valuing this, down from 22 per cent two years ago whilst personal relationships with the external team was valued by 40 per cent.

It may be a challenge for firms to set individual lawyers apart, but it’s becoming increasingly important.

The cult of the individual has been growing in recent years, according to PR strategist Geraldine McGrory of McGrory Communications. She pointed out that personal profile was now a key differentiator for private practice lawyers and taking steps to ensure they were seen to be top of their league was key. It presented a challenge for law firms, however, as developing a firmwide brand and managing individual profiles had to be carefully handled. She said this meant law firms had to reassess how they dealt with both to maximise the R-Factor.

It’s long been said that people pick lawyers, not law firms. This study seems to confirm that in the case of general counsel.

Also important to note is that a lawyer with a strong reputation may not be as suspecptible to pressure on price. The study found reputaton being more important than price for general counsel – by about a two to one margin.

With the Internet — blogging and social media — acting as accelerators of reputation and relationship growth, an investment in marketing/business development here could be a wise move for individual lawyers and their law firms, on behalf of individual lawyers.

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Legal tech booming while pace of investment in legal tech is stalling

Chatting with Bob Ambrogi, while he was visiting Seattle this week, we agreed that legal tech was growing like at no other time.

Tech’s been around legal for a long time and we’ve had a lot of folks like he and I involved in legal tech companies and its coverage for a couple decades or more. But the last three or four years have brought us a slew of companies and solutions disrupting legal like never before.

So I was surprised to read Holden Page’s story at crunchbase that investment in legal tech startups hit a hard peak in 2015 and has been on the decline since.

While over a billion has been placed in legal tech startups, the pace of that investment in terms of deal and dollar volume has stalled.

Included in this stalling are startups that look to help lawyers automate and improve workflows through new software and services, and startups that look to do away with lawyers using artificial intelligence and other software innovations. Crunchbase puts both markets of legal tech startups under one category. For the purposes of this article, we will be examining both sides of the coin, with later reporting on the progress being made in each individual market.

Here’s the peak and valleys of venture capital investment depicted.

legal tech vc investment

2015’s peak was made by a couple big investments. $125 million in Chicago-based Relativity and $71.5 million in Avvo, representing the majority of the $132 million total raised by the Seattle company.

While VC investment is on the decline, VC money may not be needed. It doesn’t take as much money to get a tech company up and going as it has in the past. Open source, lower hosting costs and social media for marketing/selling has made it possible for those willing to put in sweat equity and, in some cases, take a small investment. Ambrogi’s charting the number of legal startups, now close to 700, is proof positive of that.

Page also notes that seed-stage funding (smaller investment until business can cash flow or until it is ready for further investment) in legal tech companies has risen in 2017. For many companies a seed investment is all they’ll need,

From 2011 to 2014, over 50 percent of the funding rounds made in legal startups were in the seed stage. And while the percentage of seed-stage deals dropped from 2015 to 2016, 2017 YTD has seen a rebound with nearly 45 percent of known funding rounds being made in the seed stage. This is bucking the overall trend seen in 2017, especially in the US, where seed-stage investment has experienced declines in favor of late-stage deals.

Seed-stage startups attracting funding in 2017 include Juro, which helps companies manage their contracts using AI. CourtBuddy also received a $1 million seed-stage funding round in 2017. The startup, which won the American Bar Association’s Legal Access Award for 2017, matches clients to affordable lawyers.

Page cautions that larger investments could also remain tough in legal with bar associations fighting innovative legal services and lawyers slow to grasp technology.

But while seed-stage investments show promise, it’s no guarantee that legal tech startups will rebound in terms of deal and dollar volume as a whole. It’s possible that regulatory hurdles, of which large startups like Avvo have run into, could prove too difficult to overcome. VCs likely aren’t fans of funding lawyers to combat, well, more lawyers.

Additionally, modernizing software services for lawyers isn’t a slam dunk. Many lawyers are slow to adopt technology—why fix what’s not broken—and tech entrepreneurs who weren’t once lawyers may find it difficult to break into a somewhat insular community. Moving fast and breaking things is not a welcome attitude when selling to lawyers due to various ethical constraints.

Smart legal tech entrepreneurs should not view the decline of venture capital investment as limiting their chances for success. Most companies do not need venture capital and raising such money is not always a sign of success. Ask around, raising money can be a curse.

VC money in legal tech may be on the decline, but law firms and large traditional legal players such as RELX (LexisNexis), Thomson Retuter (West), and ALM should not expect to see disruption in legal slowed. Both law firms and these companies will be heavily impacted by legal tech startups which never received venture capital.

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ALM’s portfolio of legal publication sites receive upgrade

ALM upgrade law.com

ALM (p/k/a American Lawyer Media) upgraded the user interface of its digital publications this week.

From Gina Passarella, the Executive Editor of The American Lawyer:

Our improvements will deliver the same breaking news and in-depth analysis of core U.S. and international business of law trends, but in a more visually appealing, intuitive and user-friendly fashion.

The new design, including the vastly improved mobile experience, puts all of ALM’s news at your fingertips. You can still start your day at The American Lawyer but also easily access ALM’s broader offerings across publications, topics and geographies.

And from Zach Warren, Editor In Chief of LegalTech News:

Just like many of the legal technologies out there, we decided to do our own user interface upgrade, and we hope that the result is a more reliable, streamlined, and ultimately enjoyable experience. If you’re browsing on the Web, you’ll notice a more up-to-date looking home page and intuitive taxonomy, which allows for easier navigation to get to the types of articles you want. And if you’re browsing on mobile, as so many of our readers do, then you’ll get the same upgraded experience with a brand new, from-the-ground-up mobile site.

ALM has about twenty legal publications that are curated into the law.com site. I believe each of the publications ran on separate sites and separate domains until now. Each publication is now running on the law.com domain – though the user experience may not be effected by that as each publication is running as folder or subdirectory, ie, www.law.com/legaltechnews and the RSS feeds remain separate.

In addition to the interface, it appears ALM is going to blend news from its sister publications into other sister publications – or least make it easier to navigate the curated news on law.com. From Passarella:

Our reporters and editors talk to lawyers every day. We know it’s more vital than ever that you stay abreast of developments across multiple areas of interest in addition to business of law, including your practice areas, industry developments, your local professional community and your professional networks.

A lawyer who practices IP law as a partner at a large firm in New York needs to know what’s happening in Texas courts–and Texas Lawyer can provide that. That IP practitioner will also want the latest on big IP cases before judges in Delaware or California or at the Federal Circuit–so easy access to Delaware Law Weekly or The Recorder is helpful. Readers also benefit from insight into how other large firms are handling rate pressure, or the evolving thinking around compensation practices, topics we at The American Lawyer explore daily. The new law.com platform makes navigating all of those areas of interest easy and intuitive while still allowing you to keep The American Lawyer accessible and better than ever on mobile and your desktop.

ALM hasn’t said whether they’ve upgraded or changed their publishing platforn.

Pages do appear to be loading faster, both directly and on my news aggregator, Feedly (I subscribe to a feed of all publications through law.com). If so, that’ll make for a much improved user experience. I have been frustrated by slow load times to the point that I often just skip reading and sharing stories from ALM reporters. Improved speed would also make for an improved user experience for viewing ALM stories shared on social media.

No question the mobile interface is a big improvement. Some quirks remain with the “responsive breaks” on my iPhone being off on images, borders and some ad presentation. My guess is they’ll be worked out.

I’m not sure who runs products and tech at ALM. It would be interesting to getting their take on the upgrades and what they’re continuing to work on. Also makes for good social media dialogue with users.

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Channel 9 and donuts

Channel 9

Every company talks about being real, open and authentic and nobody does it it, my company, LexBlog included.

Being real, open and authentic requires a a company letting the outside world know what makes the company tick, what they’re working on, what they’re learning, what they’re struggling with and so much more.

This message, communication and engagement obviously has to come from the company’s team members – its employees. It sure can’t come from marketing, communications and PR – that would be lipstick in this situation.

With technology, enabling open and authentic dialogue is a snap. A blog and Facebook come to mind.

A blog works best as it enables a company to capture this historical “team diary,” enables indexing on Google for shared research, easy subscription via RSS and email and social sharing by the team and the public across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

So a blog it is for LexBlog – donuts.lexblog.com. Everyone of my teammates will have the capability of openly sharing what they’re working on. Tech, editorial, products, sales, support/success, operations and accounting, all are in.

No one is going to question each other for sharing too much. God knows, I am open as all get out about what LexBlog is working, what I’m excited about and where we’re challenged – on the road and, when I make the time, online. Let “being smart” be your guide.

The inspiration for donuts comes from blogging – as it was and still is – a conversation. Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) and Shel Israel (@shelisrael) authored the book, Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, eleven years ago.

The book is about how blogs, bloggers and the blogosphere is changing how businesses communicate with their consumers and other stakeholders. Rather than marketing speak, have an open dialogue with the outside world – or at least those who listen in.

And enabling the world to listen in is what being an open and authentic organization is all about.

Thirteen years ago, Scoble and three fellow Microsoft employees created Channel 9 for their company.

Microsoft was viewed as the evil empire. With Channel 9, Microsoft customers could listen in just as passengers on United Airlines could listen in on an unfiltered conversation in the cockpit via its audio Channel 9.

Channel 9 enabled Microsoft employees to share thoughts and work via blog-like posting and other media. Channel 9 enabled a conversation between Microsoft employees and its audience of customers, developers and the media – bloggers and traditional.

Rather than public relations, marketing and its chairman, Bill Gates, Microsoft could have a real voice through its employees and listen to people as real people themselves.

Customers/developers could nurture relationships with Microsoft employees, share input and feedback with Microsoft developers and ultimately, shape future product development.

When it came time to buy, customers (often technology companies and their developers) were buying products they knew were coming, that they helped shape, and from people they trusted and from a company with whom they had a real relationship.

Microsoft employees learned through this dialogue. First they shaped their thinking through writing and by attracting people with similar interests they grew a “learning network.”

The “Channel 9 Doctrine” is inspiring and can guide our efforts at “donuts.”

  1. Channel 9 is all about the conversation. Channel 9 should inspire Microsoft and our customers to talk in an honest and human voice. Channel 9 is not a marketing tool, not a PR tool, not a lead generation tool.
  2. Be a human being. Channel 9 is a place for us to be ourselves, to share who we are, and for us to learn who our customers are
  3. Learn by listening. When our customers speak, learn from them. Don’t get defensive, don’t argue for the sake of argument. Listen and take what benefits you to heart.
  4. Be smart. Think before you speak, there are some conversations which have no benefit other than to reinforce stereotypes or create negative situations.
  5. Marketing has no place on Channel 9. When we spend money on Channel 9 the goal is to surprise and delight, not to promote or preach.
  6. Don’t shock the system. Lasting change only happens in baby steps.
  7. Know when to turn the mic off. There are some topics which will only result in problems when you discuss them. This has nothing to do with censorship, but with working within the reality of the system that exists in our world today. You will not change anything by taking on legal or financial issues, you will only shock the system, spook the passengers, and create a negative situation.
  8. Don’t be a jerk. Nobody likes mean people.
  9. Commit to the conversation. Don’t stop listening just because you are busy. Don’t stop participating because you don’t agree with someone. Relationships are not built in a day, be in it for the long haul and we will all reap the benefits as an industry.

Hey, donuts is just starting. One post from Garry Vander Voort, our COO is all we’ve got so far. But I am optimistic, I’ve got a heck of a talented, caring and passionate team. I can’t wait to turn their thinking loose on you – and your thinking loose on us. .

Why “donuts?” It seemed obvious, with all our products named after doughnut types from a Seattle donut chain. Maybe Josh Lynch, our CTO, can chime in with why donuts for product names.

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Taking your reading to networking

Content engage relationships

I am a big believer that content is nothing more than the currency of relationships.

I’m not dismissing the value of content, any more than I would dismiss the value of words at an offline networking event. Without words how could you engage others and get to know them?

But I’m not going to measure the success of my words or my content, like others do, by whether I used the right words (the ones that ranked) and how much traffic my words got. There has to be something more.

When I read a good post or article, whether from a blogger, reporter, columnist or business person (lawyers included), I look to meet the person. Online and maybe later, offline.

If someone can add value to my life with what they’ve had to say online, maybe there’s something more to be gained through getting to know them.

What do I do?

  • Share their piece on Twitter, giving the person the appropriate attribute by including their Twitter handle at the end of my tweet. This lets them know I appreciate their thoughts and that I wanted the world to know it was their piece, not mine. The person then gets both an email and a notice on letting them know that I shared their piece. (Another good reason you need to use your Twitter in your name if you write.)
  • I look them up on other social networks and look for ways to connect. This morning I came across a piece by Gretchen Reynolds, “Phys Ed” columnist at the New York Times, about a study which found that running has a positive impact on brain neurons and can delay the onset of dementia. I run every day and my father died Alzheimer’s, I liked that Reynolds regularly writes on running. I looked her up on Facebook and was disappointed that she did not use Facebook as a way to engage her readers. Facebook enables me to get to know people, professionally and personally, in a real and authentic way. Facebook, through its algorithms and my Fabian friends is also a wonderful way to get news and information that’s valuable to my life.
  • With some people I’ll ask to connect with them on LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn in my travels to look up people I may want to meet.

Everyone wants to post content. Some, so much so that they’ll have others write it for them. But that content is only valuable if it leads to building a name and relationships.

Take advantage of this and get out and engage and network with those content producers — especially those you’d live to meet.

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Why is baseball the greatest sport in the world?

baseball greatest game

Why is baseball the greatest sport? Because just when you think you’ve seen it all, you witness what the Cubs did in their playoff win over the Nationals last night.

With two outs in the top of the fifth inning the Cubs saw four consecutive batters reach: one by an intentional walk, one on a passed-ball strikeout, one on catcher’s interference, and the fourth on a hit-by-pitch.

Those four events have never happened before in the same half-inning, at least not in the more than 2.73 million half innings in Baseball Reference’s database.

Only 22 half innings have had 3. Only 5 games had all 4.

The Cubs somehow pulled that off, to the chagrin of Nats’ manager Dusty Baker who was dying watching it, seemingly for the first time in the history of the sport.

In case you’re wondering how many ways there are to get to first base. Six. Add a fielder’s choice and a fielder’s error, the later of which would arguably include the pass ball on a third strike. I’m not counting going on as a pinch runner.

So, the Cubs did cover each of the ways to get to first without an out — all in a half inning and in consecutive batters.

May never happen again. Pretty neat.

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Legal Trends Report : Referrals the leading way lawyers get clients

Clio Legal Trends Report

Despite all the money law firms spend on Internet marketing, more people choose a lawyer by a referral from a friend, relative or another lawyer than any other method. By far.

This from the 2017 Legal Trends Report, just released by Clio, a leading practice management solution provider.

When it comes to looking for a lawyer, consumers indicated that they sought referrals from friends/family (62%) and from other lawyers (31%). Online search (37%) and directory listings (28%) trailed. TV ads (13%), online ads (13%), radio ads (7%), and billboard ads (6%) had a much lower influence among respondents.

How do consumer find a lawyer?

Clio releases its annual Legal Trends Report to help lawyers make smart decisions about the future of their practice. Using anonymized data from 60,000 users, supplemented by large-scale surveys, Clio was able to make numerous findings, including where lawyers spend their time and where their concerns lie.

Business development, for lawyers, is the near the top of the list on both fronts. 33% of lawyers’ non-billable time is spent on business development. 41% of lawyers said they would spend even more time, if they had it, getting clients.

While data has become the world’s most valuable commodity, lawyers make their decisions in the dark. Lawyers go with what they think versus what they should know, based on data. Often it’s just “do what other lawyers do.”

Client procurement fits that mold perfectly. Survey results showed that 54% of law firms actively advertise to acquire new clients, yet 91% of firms can’t calculate a return on their advertising investments, and 94% don’t know how much it costs them to acquire a new client.

The data also shows that advertising is not the best use of a lawyers money – whether the ad is online or offline. Putting time and money into generating referrals is what the data shows lawyers should be doing.

Fortunately for lawyers, the Internet enhances a lawyer’s ability to get referrals from friends, family, business associates and fellow lawyers. Referrals are all about relationships and having a strong reputation. The Internet accelerates relationships and the building of a name.

Lawyers have the time for business development. 33% of their non-billable time is going into getting clients. The problem lies in spending their time doing the right thing.

Lawyers need to move away from promoting themselves on the Internet. That’s advertising.

Lawyers need to put their time into networking online. Think listening to the online discussion/writing of their target audience, including influencers and engaging that audience where they gather.

This comes from using a news aggregator or Twitter for listening, a blog for engaging in the “conversation,” and the use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for further engagement and networking.

Sure, it takes time to learn how to blog and use social media, effectively. It takes even more time to do it.

But it’s time lawyers actually have, according to the Legal Trends Report. A third of a lawyers non-billable time is going into client procurement.

It’s data that’s been lacking. Lawyers put their time and money into things that don’t work and have no idea how much time it cost them to acquire a new client.

No more. With the Legal Trends Report, lawyers know that their time is best spent in activities that generate referals.

With the Internet, that means building relationships and a name through blogging and social media.

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