Juggling Your Law Firm, Home Life and Winning in Business

After two weeks of practicing law, I was shocked and dismayed when I opened my first paycheck and realized that at a small personal injury firm, I was making close to nothing and could not even pay my rent. My boss sat me down and said, “In order for you to be successful you need to bring in business.”  I hit the streets running. I met with unions and spoke at events and quickly realized that I had an ability to market to get business. I was compassionate and could listen and was able to garner large settlements in negotiations easily. After building up business in my law practice I started a company that soon became the largest litigation funding company in the country where I ran the attorney marketing department. Since inception I have traveled the country and have met with and presented to hundreds of law firms. I see what works and what does not work.

Fast forward 26 years and I am now an owner of a fast-growing multi-platform financial service company specializing in plaintiff funding, transportation and medical funding. I run our marketing department and am proud to say that we have achieved growth in a competitive marketplace with organic marketing. We have not spent money on ads, SEO or TV spots. We simply create a buzz because we have mastered the 3 Ps. The 3 Ps are passion, promotion and publicity. These are the recipe for the success of my company, Momentum Funding and have also been the formula for the most successful woman run law firms across the country.

As lawyers, we were never taught in law school how to market or how to run a business. Many of you will be judged, promoted and compensated based on bringing in new clients. Many of you can advocate for others. That is how you were trained in law school. However, when it comes to advocating for yourself to get business you are more uncomfortable. Not to mention, that after a long day of work you find it exhausting to spend your evenings at networking events.

The first step is to find your passion and then promote it. Find your niche and focus on telling your own personal story. Writing a business plan can help you discover what sets you apart from other lawyers. For example, what do you specialize in? One lawyer I know was previously a registered nurse. She uses her medical knowledge and background to market as a nurse lawyer. This furthers her litigation strategy and increases her settlements. Other lawyers refer her cases as they know she has the expertise to work on complex medical cases. The nurse lawyer promotes herself by speaking at events, writing articles and setting herself up as the lawyer with medical expertise.

Another lawyer I know handles car defect cases. She is a mother who became an advocate in her state and local governments to change the car seat laws in her state. She had young children at the time and was able to take her passion for children and help others. She uses this passion to create a name for herself. As a result, lawyers across the country refer her product liability and catastrophic cases. Her passion was promoted by her involvement in government where she has become a leader in her state trial organization, creating a name for herself politically and professionally.

One of my favorite marketing niches is the lawyer who has become the motorcycle lawyer. She had a case early in her career where an injured motorcyclist hired her and she settled his case for a considerable amount of money. She then became passionate about motorcyclists and joined many local motorcycle clubs and advertised in motorcycle publications. She is also plastered all over billboards in her geographic market and has become a household name in her community.

Finally, the third P is promotion. Promote yourself through many channels and you will soon determine which channel works for you. Community outreach and charity are key. Find the organizations you feel passionate about and involve your friends and family. This way you can involve your family in order to have the balance you need in your home life. Some lawyers find that speaking engagements and/or political involvement will help promote them. Finally, take on a leadership role in a local organization.

Publicize depending on your budget. As my company Momentum Funding does, you can publicize through organic channels on a small budget by writing articles, contacting the press when you speak at newsworthy events and marketing to your database through emails, letters, and website promotion.

Finally, in order to achieve the balance, you need to juggle your work with your home life and have FUN doing what you love.

A Guide on Dealing with the Media

A Guide on Dealing with the Media

How to Win With the Media

Fake News. The term makes me cringe.  Not only because it’s generally said as a preemptive strike by people who want to distance themselves from any present or future unflattering stories, but because it often is just not true.

I’m not speaking about the National Enquirer or US Magazine, I can’t vouch for entertainment or celebrity news, but I can vouch for news reporters. I’ve been one since the late ‘70s and have worked in about nine newsrooms, some radio, mostly television, affiliates, owned stations and CNN.  Reporters work long, hard hours, often for very little pay.  Print reporters, who generally make less than broadcasters, make much less, work even harder and with less of the glory, in my opinion.

Journalism is a calling, one fewer and fewer young people are entering. Journalism schools are being overrun with public relations majors.  PR job hours are more normal and the pay is generally better.

But there may be times when your law firm needs to get out its story. You have a great case and want the public to understand. You may be looking for others who are harmed by a drug or a device, or may want to win your argument in the court of public opinion.

No consumer should have to wait the many years a mass tort takes to understand the dangers of a device or drug that your discovery has uncovered.

I’m thinking talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

Twenty years ago, physician and professor of environmental medicine and occupational health, Dr. Samuel Epstein, of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, told me never to use talcum baby powder genitally.  It is linked to cancer because of asbestos fibers found in the talc. The particles lodge near the ovaries, causing irritation and eventually cancer.

How many lives could have been saved had his warning received widespread attention decades ago?

Only today is the public hearing about this warning buried in the long-overdue litigation and the enormous jury verdicts for plaintiffs that have made the headlines. 

The public shouldn’t have to wait to get this important information!

The media is the way to get out the word. But how do you pitch a story without being taken for a ride?

Hopefully, you are a news consumer in your local area and from national outlets, radio, newspapers, broadcast.  There is always a friendly reporter in your area. 

Consumer “On Your Side” types are still a feature of every television newsroom.  Contact them or find someone who works a similar “beat” for a newspaper. Don’t leave out alternative papers. They too have readership and reach.

Have a meeting over coffee. Let them know you are well-meaning and that as a personal injury lawyer you too work “in the public interest,” just like holders of the public airwaves (broadcast).

The bottom line is this – whoever gets a story to a reporter first is the narrative that will likely prevail.   

So find a friendly face in the crowd and tell them the story.

But what if there are things that cannot yet be revealed?

Understand that reporters use a language.

Most reporter follow the Society of Professional JournalistsCode of Conduct. It is a good and thorough code for professional conduct. Read it.  Cite it to them. Most reporters have been encouraged to follow at some point in their career. 

Here is the language you use with a friendly reporter including the ground rules for information that can and cannot be revealed.   

Off the Record – means they cannot use it.  They must find another source to go “On the Record” with that information.  Make sure your reporter understands that promise.

On Background – Meaning they can use the information but it didn’t come from you. It is simply the context they need to tell a story.

For the Record – Means that you can be quoted.  Make sure you are carefully crafting what you want to say. There are generally no do-overs.

Have your reporter friend recite what they mean when they say “Off the 
Record,” so you can check their understanding just in case they have a different interpretation.

They may look at your with surprise.  How do you know that?   Well you’ve read the code of conduct and you understand the rules. Do they?  If they do not, finish your coffee and say have a nice day.

Again, reporters work long, hard hours and for little pay. It is a calling and a good reporter is passionate about that calling. Reporting is one of the fastest ways to see the world and come face-to-face with issues of our time. Occasionally you even have a front row seat to history.

These people do exist and they can be immensely important in helping you craft your narrative to the public.

Use the media to your own ends and you may find your story, your litigation, gains traction to bring you clients and to raise awareness of a real and emerging danger that the public needs to know now, not years from now when the harm has already occurred.

3 Successful Tips for Getting Your Exhibit Admitted Into Evidence

Presenting a well thought out demonstrative has the power to compel a jury to see angles of your case words can’t illustrate. But laying the foundation for getting your exhibit admitted into evidence is a major part of the battle lawyers often overlook.

Taking steps to properly lay the foundation for your exhibit will ensure you and your visual team are on the same page in illustrating the most important evidence, communicating the core themes of your argument, and complying with all the requirements necessary to prove your exhibit is admissibly bulletproof.

We break the process down into these three simple steps.

1) Collaborate Early With Your Exhibit Team

Meeting with your exhibit team early enables both you and your team to foresee all the requirements needed to recreate an accurate presentation that includes all the facts, statistics and evidence to strengthen your case. It also allows time to organize all the technical assets required to produce the most powerful presentation possible.

2) Establish a Clear Understanding with Your Exhibit Team About the Themes of Your Case

The evidence doesn’t speak for itself as persuasively as the larger story. Making sure your team has a clear understanding of the larger arguments you’ll be communicating to a jury will ensure the production process connects the evidence with the more compelling themes of your case – resulting in a clear, cohesive message that resonates with the jury.

3) Adhere to a Proofing Process that Allows Expert Witness to Provide Feedback for Revisions in a Timely Manner

The final step to ensuring your exhibit will be admitted into evidence is to have your key expert participate in the proofing process to ensure he or she agrees w what has been created represents an accurate account of what happened. Adhering to a proofing protocol that incorporates your expert’s feedback as early as possible will minimize the amount of revisions and ensure your exhibit is finished both timely and most importantly, accurately – with a feeling of confidence that it will overcome any objection from the opposition.

Once you have an expert-approved trial exhibit that communicates the themes of your case while being accurately grounded in hard evidence, you will be ready to have it admitted into evidence with peace of mind.

High Impact’s team of visual strategists, artists and developers can build and customize your digital presentation for any case involving personal injury, medical malpractice, birth trauma – or any subject involving complex information.

Ms. Esquire: How the Legal Field Is Changing for Women

Ms. Esquire: How the Legal Field Is Changing for Women

Law has traditionally been a men’s profession. It wasn’t until 1868 that the first female lawyer in the United States – Arabella “Belle” Mansfield – was admitted to a state bar association. Fifty years ago, female lawyers were unheard of. Even thirty years ago, the percentage of women in law was woefully small.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s that females began joining the ranks of the legal profession en masse. In 2000,an estimated 28.9 percent of all lawyers in the U.S. were women. At the beginning of 2017, that percentage had grown to 36 percent.

Now, we live in a world in which the legal field is changing to become friendlier and more accessible to women who aspire to practice the law in a wide variety of areas. There are women judges – even three female U.S. Supreme Court justices – as well as female litigators, general counsels, law school professors, and law school deans.

In this state alone, we’ve had multiple female chief justices of the Supreme Court of Alabama, including our current Chief Justice Lyn Stuart. In the 2016 elections, furthermore, nine female judges – African American females, even – were elected as circuit and district judges in Jefferson County.

What’s more is that more and more women lawyers are joining the elite ranks of partnership, even in some of the nation’s biggest firms. As of 2017,over one-fifth of all partners in the nation were female. An estimated 18 percent of the managing partners in the nation’s 200 largest law firms were women. And nearly half of all associates and summer associates were female.

Within my firm – Hare, Wynn Newell & Newton – we have three female associates and three female staff attorneys. Our women lawyers have been recognized nationally for excellence and are a part of the thriving legal community in our state.

The future looks bright, as well: women received 47.3 percent of all law school degrees awarded. (Plus, 54 percent of leadership positions in collegiate law reviews are women, and 49 percent of all editors-in-chief are women.)

The legal field is changing for the better for women. Our daughters are growing up knowing that if they have the aspiration and ability, they, too, can become lawyers – and even partners and deans and judges. They see that women are capable of driving substantial changes to policy at all levels and are influencing the practice of law all across the country. They also can see how female lawyers can use their experience as a catalyst for involving themselves in the community at large, whether it is as an activist, nonprofit advocate, or politician.

I personally want my daughter to see me as a role model and learn that life is about helping others with the talents and gifts we have. When it comes to law, women have a unique ability dig deep into others’ lives and tell their stories. I want my daughter and other daughters to believe they have that abililty, too – the ability to have compassion for people and their situations.

Some of the progress was made the old-fashioned way, through decades of perseverance, determination, and hard work from trailblazers. Some of the progress being made today and into the future is accomplished by groups likeMs. JD, a student-founded nonprofit working to support women in the legal profession.

Every time a mother, guidance counselor, teacher, or mentor tells a young woman that yes, the law could be for them, though, more progress is made – one woman at a time.

It’s an exciting time to be a female practicing law in today’s America. There are still challenges that need to be overcome – for example, there is only one female lawyer in the Alabama legislature – but female lawyers have shown that women are just as capable in practicing law as men, and can provide rich insight and experience to the ever-changing nature of jurisprudence. There are real benefits to having women at the table, not just in the conference room but in the courtroom, and there are many situations in which having a woman represent a client is a real advantage for the client.

Support our nation’s young women as they choose a career, and if their dreams happen to settle on the practice of law, encourage and cultivate them. They can – and with hard work, will – become a reality

Networking 101

Networking 101: What They Forgot To Teach You In Law School

Everyone knows that being a speaker at a high profile seminar is the professional equivalent of getting a huge endorsement from some icon in your industry — being asked to speak means you must be knowledgeable, interesting — you must be a “player.” So, you have instant credibility as you wander the halls of the event hotel — you’re invited to the speakers’ reception, you get a special badge and ribbon, you’re elite.

But what if you’re an attendee, swimming in a sea of people, trying to make a name for yourself at a conference? How do you connect with others and establish yourself amongst all your peers? You are attending the conference to hopefully learn, but more importantly, to lay the foundation for future business deals and partnerships. The alliances and relationships that you begin with other attendees at seminars will likely come into play in the future. The time will likely come when you will need an ally or information — knowing who to contact at that moment will be critical. When that big problem or choice opportunity lands on your desk, you’ll be glad to know who to reach out to for answers, advice, or partnership. Conferences are where these professional relationships are built and cultivated.

Most legal conferences and trade shows are set up with the attendee in mind: the organizers want their seminar to be “user friendly” and they want you, the attendee, to be able to make the most of your time there and then in turn, want to return again and again. Keep that in mind as you are planning — the organizers should be your resource, your ally.

Here are some specific tips that will help you navigate your way through your next seminar:

1. If They Build It, You Should Come

At Mass Torts Made Perfect, we’ve established a forum and reception specifically for 1st time attendees. First Timers are invited to a workshop where we discuss the different aspects of the program and answer their questions, and then have an informal cocktail party where they can begin the practice of networking. But out of 200 or so first-timers, only around 100 attend this event organized especially for them. 50% of them are missing out on this exclusive introduction and opportunity to really gain a foothold at the seminar, and the chance to meet some of the speakers who attend. It’s important that if the seminar organizers invite you to a special event that you attend — they are doing this for you! Your time at the seminar is important — don’t waste it wandering around alone when you could be at a great networking event.

2. Location, Location, Location

Stand next to the bar at the cocktail party, or next to the coffee urn at breakfast. Just doing that will probably solve all of your networking challenges! It may seem obvious, but in the meeting room, sit at a table with other attendees — don’t just hang in the seats in the back. Definitely attend any lunch or meal event and sit at a table with others — most of the attendees are in the same boat you’re in — they don’t know anyone either. At MTMP, we work with our vendors to host several meals, and it’s surprising how many people skip the luncheons or reception to go back to their room to read email or go shopping, or go sit by the pool. This is a working conference and every event is meant to help the attendee maximize his or her time there.

3. Meet the Vendors — They Are Smarter Than You!

The exhibit hall at MTMP is full of vendors who are there to tell you about the latest greatest trends in their industry. Don’t be afraid of them — they won’t bite. (And they often have cool giveaways and raffles for things like flat screen T.V.s and iPads!). These vendors are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and genuinely interested in finding those attendees who could benefit from their product or service. If you visit their booths, you’ll find that they have a lot of information to share, and they tend to know a lot of the players and are extremely well-connected. Many of them have been doing this for 15, 20 years. They are not to be avoided — they are a fantastic resource — use them!

4. Embrace Your Inner Extrovert

Knowing what your objectives are when you attend a seminar is important — you need to figure out what you want to accomplish while you’re there. If you want to get involved in the new Essure project, approach the Essure speakers after their talk. If you are looking to meet specific lawyers from firms you’re interested in working with, enlist the help of the seminar staff to find those attendees. You will need to reach out repeatedly, and that can be difficult even for people who consider themselves social. Just remember that it’s a numbers game — the more times you reach out, the more chances you’ll have to make a good connection.

Oh, and lastly — wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be glad you did!