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Social media
is the new frontier but
the face-to-face
relationship is still an
integral part of bringing
in new business.
By Glenn Kauth

26 June 2009 w w w.C ANADIAN Law

$ $ $

$ $ lawyer with a small Victoria firm, Erik
Magraken doesn’t have the luxury of
a business development department
thing many lawyers find difficult. “It doesn’t
come naturally to them. In most cases, they’ve
never had to do it. Times are changing. They’re
to help him drum up clients. His expected to do it now.”
firm still does lots of marketing, But as Glendinning points out, generating
but Magraken has also taken it new files shouldn’t be about forcing people into
upon himself to do some of situations they’re not comfortable with. “It really
the work on his own, much is a very personal and individual thing,” says
of it from home. “What I’ve Glendinning, who spoke recently about business
done is I try to commit development at the Rotman’s Business Leadership
one to two hours a day, for Women Lawyers program. Younger lawyers
usually in the evening, with smaller Rolodexes (if they even bother to
for business develop- have one), for example, might better spend their
ment and law firm marketing,” says Magraken, time publishing articles on developments in their
a 32-year-old partner practising personal injury field in order to build their reputations.
law at MacIsaac & Co. Glendinning prefers a personal touch whereby
But while people like Magraken work to get she makes extra efforts to get to know her corpo-
their names out there, lawyers at major firms find rate clients through daily interactions so she can
they, too, are having to work harder to market later ask them to lunch, a golf game, or even less
themselves. With the recession taking a toll on obvious activities like skiing or a hockey game. “It
business mergers, corporate lawyers are finding could be an additional five or 10 minutes on every
themselves with extra time to seek out new work. phone call that could add up to an hour every
While insolvency files and litigation stemming day,” she says.
from the financial distress are filling part of the But as with so many aspects of life these days,
gap, the economic turmoil nevertheless presents a new key strategy for success appears to lie with
a new imperative for practitioners, says Deborah technology. Magraken’s one to two hours a day,
Glendinning, a partner and co-chairwoman of for example, involves for the most part sitting in
the national class actions specialty group at Osler front of a computer screen updating his Twitter
Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in Toronto. “Obviously, feed, his Facebook profile, and his own Insurance
in these economic times, business development is Corp. of British Columbia Law Blog (
something that people need to be focused on.” blog). Magraken also posts content on JDSupra.
Adding to the pressure to mingle at conferenc- com, a web site for sharing legal documents, as
es and shine off the clubs for golfing season are well as a new Canadian web site aiming to be a
changes with the profession itself. Rick Powers, hub for legal information,
a lawyer and associate dean at the University of “It’s basically old-fashioned wine-and-cheese
Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, says schmoozing but it’s done online,” says Magraken,
the big firms can no longer count on rainmakers, who notes success in Internet-based marketing
the three or four senior partners with connec- now involves going beyond having a static web
tions, to bring in work that fills the in-baskets site. Instead, generating files requires regularly
of junior lawyers. “Those people are retiring,” he keeping current on developments in his field,
notes, adding the impetus to network is some- which in his case means tracking cases dealing

w w w. C ANADIAN Law June 2009 27

Legal connections
Erik Magraken of MacIsaac & Co. • Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

firms or individual lawyers while most doing for us other than [increasing] our
of the largest national firms hold back. hits to our web site,” she notes, adding
At Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Simone that as a firm focused on employment law,
Hughes, the firm’s national director it’s already developed a Twitter follow-
of business development, says BLG is ing among other lawyers and arbitrators
using Facebook and LinkedIn but for the since launching its tweet feed in March.
moment is content with testing some of Reposting news items from the Hicks
with the ICBC, the sole provider of auto the newer social media options. “Most Morley web site takes little work. “On
coverage in that province. “I don’t provide of our audience [is] general counsel in the firm side, it’s very low maintenance
legal advice on my blog but I do provide Canada, CEOs, [and] CFOs. So if you [and it takes] little time to post that,” says
a heckuva lot of information,” he says. think about the demographic . . . not all Carnevale.
Finding that information isn’t always easy, of that audience is on YouTube. If we’re The firm has given licence to a hand-
but often what he does is tease out an on that, and our audience is not on that, ful of its lawyers to take a more liberal
interesting tidbit within a court judgment it’s not very cost efficient. We want to be approach to social media. One of them,
involving ICBC and then writes about it. ahead of where they’re going, so in some Dan Michaluk, operates similarly to
Blogs aren’t new, but Twitter is a rela- social media we’re in [a] test phase waiting Magraken by posting information on legal
tively recent phenomenon for many peo- for more bulk usage of it to make it more topics on his blog, which now links to his
ple. It limits people to 140-character post- cost efficient, and in some we’re already Twitter page. The benefit is it is cheap and
ings that are basically micro-blogging. there.” has helped generate client referrals from
That doesn’t leave much room for posting A few Big Law firms have made the other lawyers. Twitter, Michaluk points
useful legal information but, as Magraken leap into tweeting on Twitter: Oslers, out, takes very little time since it usually
points out, Twitter is part of his overall Ogilvy Renault LLP, and Gowling Lafleur involves posting snippets of information
web strategy for driving traffic to his blog. Henderson LLP. BLG, too, was there by that he puts up elsewhere. “I tend to do it
The idea is that many of the 949 people mid-May. For the most part, their tweets in cabs and airport lounges,” he says.
who follow him on Twitter will click over consist of links to news items already In Michaluk’s case, his Twitter feed is
to the ICBC law site. posted on their web sites. It’s a conserva- a blend of the professional and the per-
At the same time, Twitter has been a tive approach but one people involved in sonal. In one recent tweet, for example,
great source for networking with other
lawyers as well as people who know about
using the web to generate business. “What “It’s basically old-fashioned wine-and-
I get from Twitter is I learn how to better
market myself online through the people
cheese schmoozing but it’s done online.”
I follow,” he says. — Erik Magraken, MacIsaac & Co.
The key is search-engine optimization.
“My goal is always to be on the first page
of these search phrases that people use,” he legal marketing say is an appropriate one he briefly described a 17-hour drive with
says. Recently, a Google search for “ICBC given the need to protect a firm’s image a cat that “wouldn’t leave my lap!” The
injury claims lawyer,” for example, ranked and brand on a web site known for speed choice was deliberate, something he says
Magraken as No.1. Regularly updating the and information overload. “You always “shows the real Dan Michaluk as well.”
blog is a big help, as well as posting infor- want to do more, but my hat is off to them And he adds, he and fellow Twittering col-
mation on highly ranked sites such as JD for starting to test it out,” says Michael leagues have the blessing of Hicks Morley
Supra, he points out. Linking his own blog Rabinovici, senior vice president of stra- which trusts their judgment to use the
to people who subsequently return the tegic initiatives, at AR Communications platform responsibly. It’s an arm’s-length
favour also boosts his rankings. Inc. north of Toronto. The goal, he says, is model that he argues is better than that of
As a result, his blog is getting about to use social media to establish oneself as some firms that force lawyers to embed
9,000 hits a month and generating lots of an expert in the field, the benefits of which their blogs within their own web sites.
inquiries from potential clients. “I get con- outweigh legitimate concerns about them. “You limit the ability to use a voice that
tacted probably 60 times a month through “In terms of the business risk, I would say connects with people when you do that.”
the blog from people with personal injury that the risk of inaction is far higher than Still, Michaluk points out he has his
claims,” he says, noting that while the going into it.” own rules, including not tweeting or blog-
initial calls or e-mails may involve simply A boutique firms that is on Twitter is ging about his own cases. “I’m not going
providing information to people consid- Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie to use a matter that I’m working on to
ering legal action, he’s often the person LLP in Toronto. It, too, is moving cau- promote myself or Hicks Morley. It’s just
they think of once they take that step. tiously on what Susan Carnevale, the not worth it,” he says.
Legally speaking, social media sites firm’s manager of marketing services, says Countering the business impacts of
such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are is a test to see how Twitter can benefit the the recession isn’t just about connect-
so far largely the domain of smaller law firm. “It’s hard to tell at this stage what it’s ing to new media, of course. Law firms

w w w. C ANADIAN Law June 2009 29

Law student Omar Ha-Redeye: • Ogilvy Renault LLP
Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP • Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP • Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP • Hicks Morley’s Dan Michaluk:
Legal connections
note, for example, that a lot of Canadian At BLG, meanwhile, Hughes says her
companies have been issuing requests for firm does use metrics and other feedback
proposals for legal work, a trend Hughes practices to gauge what clients think of
chalks up to corporations trying to pare the service it’s offering. “We visit clients
down the number of lawyers they deal and we ask them how they’re doing. We
with. As a result, Oslers’ Glendinning says look at retention numbers. We look at
firms are busy assembling teams to bid trends in the financials.” But, she adds, end of the day, if you don’t tell them what
for the work. In some cases, companies doing business development at a large you’d like from them, it’s going to be a
are asking for a legal strategy document firm, including during a recession, is waste of time,” she says, adding that being
during the bidding process, something largely about strategy. In order to cross- direct is often the best way.
that essentially means lawyers are provid- sell existing clients on legal services in Magraken, however, finds he doesn’t
ing free legal advice. “It can take several other practices, for example, the firm has have to aggressively sell his services to the
lawyers dozens of hours to put something to look at where business is booming and people he hears from on his blog. Instead,
together,” Glendinning notes. where it’s ramping down. “Cross-selling, they often approach him for help after
Thechangeswithincorporatelegalwork or cross-buying, as I would prefer to say, a few interactions by e-mail or on the
also put a particular onus on law firms to is a function of your strategic plan,” she phone. “It shows them that I know what
do more to retain the clients they already says. “Are you interested? Are you a niche I’m talking about rather than me having
have, according to Michael Rynowecer, the market and just doing one thing, or are to tell them that I know what I’m talk-
president of BTI Consulting Group Inc. in you a broader-based line of business, and ing about.” That strategy is a good one,
New York. “Much less [work] is going to you’re going to do it anyway? So if we’re especially for personal injury lawyers who
outside counsel. It’s shrinking,” he said in a recession, what we did is look at our risk a negative reaction by coming on too
at a recent Legal Marketing Association strategic plan and asked, ‘Does this pres- strongly, says Doug Jasinski, a law firm
event in Toronto. Citing statistics from a ent new opportunities, and what do we marketing consultant in Vancouver. Key
recent survey of U.S. in-house counsel, he do about it?’” to success, he notes, “is understanding
noted only 40 per cent were truly satisfied But with the competition for client the channel that they’re using. The danger
with their primary law firm. Instead, most business increasing, predicting where is for lawyers to come in and misunder-
graded outside firms at “perfect B-minus work opportunities are has become more stand the tone of something like Twitter
performance,” they do what the client asks complex. So far, much of it comes from and then suffer a backlash if they miss
of them but aren’t proactive. educated guesses about what law firms the mark by coming off as ambulance
To rate higher, Rynowecer said law believe will happen, but as Hughes points chasing or bringing some of the negative
firms must do better in four key areas: out, they are also considering adopting stereotypes in.”
client focus, understanding the client’s the complicated models financial compa- Of course, avoiding the direct approach
business, showing they have a commit- nies use to predict what their clients will takes away from some of the efficiency of
ment to help, and delivering value for need. “In the law industry, we are evolv- social media as people like Magraken
money spent. Firms that get there can ing into a more sophisticated, data-driven spend up to 10 hours a week on online
earn a 20-per-cent rate premium — thus model. In the current form, it’s more of a marketing without necessarily seeing the
improving client satisfaction can be an hypothesis and [then] test and evolve.” immediate benefits of their efforts. But
important business development goal. But The key question is how to take that as Jasinski notes, the approach is cheap
as Rynowecer pointed out, his data show data to sell legal services to clients. Some of and ultimately can be more effective than
that less than a quarter of law firms seek it involves marketing, something Hughes’ other online marketing efforts such as a
client feedback to see where they rate. team at BLG recently did through a direct- standard web page. “Really, the big trend
For her part, Glendinning already does mail campaign targeting bankruptcy and is away from the online component being
some of the things Rynowecer says will insolvency work. But, she notes, closing the firm web site . . . to innovative firms
help boost client satisfaction, including a deal often requires lawyers to do the looking at ways to extend their presence a
devoting extra time to researching what actual sales work. “Our lawyers are the lot more deeply. I think that makes a lot of
a business does even if it doesn’t relate front line,” she says. “They’re the people sense in recessionary times because a lot of
directly to the legal matters she’s dealing who are directly dealing face-to-face with these tools are either free or inexpensive.
with. “It’s actually about partnering with clients. . . . It seems to work from my What they’re doing is giving lawyers a
the people you work with to help them do experience that the person who does the chance to repurpose and redistribute their
the job they do,” she says, noting that with work, or the top relationship professional, content in multiple forms.” Moreover, he
regulated companies, for example, corpo- is usually that salesperson, although we adds, platforms like Twitter actually work
rate clients will appreciate a lawyer who don’t call them a salesperson.” with lawyers’ busy lives.
takes the time to advise them on new laws For Glendinning, it’s this last aspect that Even law students are using the Twitter-
or rules that might affect their business. can be hardest for lawyers. Nevertheless, blog combination to get their names out
The goal is to improve the relationship by after taking clients to dinner, inviting there and position themselves in the field.
showing that she can solve a client’s prob- them to sports games, or playing a round Omar Ha-Redeye, a second-year student
lems, she points out. of golf, it’s something she has to do. “At the at the University of Western Ontario law

30 June 2009 w w w.C ANADIAN Law

New Canadian web site billing itself as providing free legal resources: • Canadian Lawyer

school, has garnered a lot of attention media wasn’t very difficult. Noting that David Diamond says ads in places like the
through his blog as well as through the less than a year ago he knew very little Yellow Pages and on radio continue to
web sites Law is Cool and Slaw, too, about the technology, he says after hiring work. “Advertising has always been effec-
which he says is already benefiting him a company to set up his blog, he has been tive but it’s very expensive. We wouldn’t do
as he develops a reputation well before he able to figure out most of the details on it if it’s not worth it.” Still, after 30 years in
graduates. “I have lots of informal men- his own. business under a prominent brand name,
torships with lots of lawyers practising in Nevertheless, some law firms still prefer Diamond says younger lawyers at the firm
the field.” conventional advertising to get the word have convinced him to consider social
Perhaps surprisingly, people like out. At personal injury firm Diamond & media as well. “The younger generation is
Magraken say that mastering social Diamond Lawyers in Toronto, for example, pushing me in the right direction.”

w w w. C ANADIAN Law June 2009 31

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