Patrick Palace has some good ideas in his ABA Solo magazine article How to Use Bad Reviews to Attract Good Clients (ABA members only). The most important idea is that negative reviews can be a net positive–if you know how to respond. Here’s one specific tip:

Timely responses are even more important for negative reviews. Don’t let a negative review sit without a response. Readers may adopt it if you don’t respond. Your response should be targeted to the readers of the review. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are responding for the sole purpose of answering the reviewer’s challenges. Your response should take the higher ground and give value to all readers. Never suggest that the reviewer is unreasonable or wrong. In fact, give the reviewer full deference and grace. Thank the reviewer for bringing these issues to your attention. Taking the higher ground is always the best method. For example, by answering in a positive manner, you aren’t seen as aggressive, defensive, and angry. By inviting the reviewer to contact you personally to discuss the problems and look for a solution, you show your reasonableness and willingness to hear your client’s problems. Your response tells readers that you are ready and willing to fix their problems. You convey that your clients/customers are not just numbers, that profit is not your only goal, and that customer service is your priority. By answering quickly, you tell everyone that you are responsive and that reviews are important to you. In the end, remember to be empathetic. Be real. Use the review as an opportunity to gain other readers’ trust.

Can you do well by doing good? Hard to argue with opinions expressed by Lexblog founder Kevin O’Keefe in his Facebook feed:
Other than some criminal defense, appellate, immigration and plaintiff’s trial lawyers, I don’t see many lawyers blogging with conviction. The numbers are lower in larger firms.
If you feel comfortable getting out there, the opportunity is certainly there to provide thought provoking opinions and advocate change.
Look at civil rights, pro bono and immigration lawyers advocating for change.
They’re not only making a difference in the law by advocating for change, but they’re making a name for themselves. Though the latter may not have been their goal.
Yes, it’s likely you’ll alienate some people, but expecting everyone to love you forever is foolhardy.
Advocating change, stating an opinion and calling out others can be done in a tasteful fashion. You need not stick a thumb in anyone’s eye.

One point for the practical-minded: Controversy can actually be good marketing. As noted by Conrad Saam in Lunch Hour Marketing at the Legal Talk Network:

I go out of my way to embrace someone from the local black lives matter movement. I sit down with them on video and we have a conversation about what transpired and I put that on my website. I don’t throw that on YouTube, I put that on my website. …

[I]f you have a piece of content that is very raw, very real, very relevant and very newsworthy and frankly, very link worthy for people to link back to your site, I would stoke that like mad. Again, you cannot let SEO dive to everything that you’re doing but that’s the kind of thing that a really, really good SEO agency would be thinking about.

Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations, by Dennis Kennedy. 212 pages. Kindle and paperback versions are available.

The late World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer liked to say “When I play the Ruy, it’s like milking a cow.” What he meant was that when he played his favorite opening setup, the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5) he could count on a steady, predictable stream of wins.

Dennis Kennedy‘s new book tries to make innovation in law firms or other organizations like milking a cow. Rather than waiting for a lightning strike of creativity, approach the innovation process systematically, step by step, until you get the results you want.

Are you weary of trying to let some contract facilitator lead your group to come up with new approaches through a workshop featuring a swarm of sticky notes and too few new ideas? This book provides a welcome alternative: A systematic, comprehensive approach to innovation.

Kennedy has long had a well-deserved reputation as a top legal technology expert, but in this book he moves beyond tech to take a broader look at innovation in all areas. The playing field is larger, but so are the potential benefits.

One of the key concepts is distinguishing optimization and innovation. Optimization is doing what you are already doing in a more efficient way. It is a subset of innovation, which might involve new business models. Optimizing is relatively easy, but the truly ambitious will seek larger benefits.

Successful Innovation Book

There’s a lot to like about this book, including:

  • It emphasizes focused, practical solutions rather than generalities and theoretical constructs. For example, in Chapter 1, rather than spend 20 pages defining innovation, he gives multiple definitions and closes with the advice: “Get to work on innovation, however you define it, and let others talk.”
  • It moves beyond technologies to take a broader view of innovation.
  • The author does not pretend to be the only person with worthwhile ideas on this topic. He summarizes the best approaches taken by other experts before providing his original ideas. A well-organized list of other innovation resources is a welcome plus.
  • Kennedy has a knack for expressing useful ideas in a pithy fashion. Each chapter ends with a “Pro Tip.” The last chapter consists of “57 Tips for Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law.” Dennis generously provides a free copy through his website.

One of my favorite “Pro Tips” concludes Chapter 19, “Personnel and Who’s In Charge.” Dennis suggests “Do not hire a group of people who look and think like you do.” The biggest benefit of diversity is not the warm feeling of knowing that you are politically correct, but avoiding what in the military is known as “incestuous amplification.”

A recurring theme of this book is the importance of enhancing customer value. Kennedy is 100% right about this. My only suggestion for a second edition of this book is including more examples, case studies. These are a strong point of Jack Newton’s popular book The Client Centered Law Firm.

Dennis does not merely talk innovation: He does innovation. Rather than go with a conventional book publisher, Kennedy self-published the book, working through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (includes option for on-demand paperback publishing as well as eBook).

I used to think of “vanity press” in a condescendingly, as primarily for authors whose work was not good enough to interest a “real” publisher. This book has changed my attitude. There are multiple advantages to self-publishing, including speedier development and reducing the cost to purchasers. It is yet another example of how the Internet enables “disintermediation,” or cutting out the middleman.

Kennedy is in a better position to self-publish than most authors. Having a respected third party (in this case, an established conventional publisher) select a book for publication serves a sort of credentialing function, “validating” the book for potential readers. Kennedy’s track record as a recognized expert and author allows him to “self-validate.”

Dennis found the results of self-publishing so beneficial that he explained in an interview posted at his podcast, the Kennedy-Mighell Report that the odds are 95% that he will self-publish his next book.

 

Conclusion: There is wisdom here, in full and satisfying measure. If you are looking to get better results from your organization, whether a law firm or other legal organization, you can’t do better than letting this book be your guide.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I learned that Dennis is an inexhaustible fount of creativity when we worked together for several years on The Internet Roundtable, an LLRX.com column about lawyer marketing on the Internet. His breadth of experience, including corporate law firms, in-house counsel with Mastercard and author qualifies him to address innovation in a variety of contexts.

He has written several books previously, including the well-regarded Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, 2nd Edition, with Tom Mighell.

His Legal Talk Network podcast The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast is one of my favorite multi-tasking partners. He is currently a respected legal technology consultant and an adjunct professor at Michigan State University College of Law and the University of Michigan Law School. Kennedy is available for speaking engagements.

Many lawyers contribute their time to worthy causes, but they are often not aware that they can and should get some benefit from their altruism.

Backlinks (links other websites build to yours) are critically important to search engine optimization (SEO). They are even more powerful when they come from websites (including blogs) geographically close to you, since they boost your rank in Google search results in your area.

You can do well by doing good. However, you have to close the loop. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging the people or organizations you help to recognize this by building a link back to your website.

Advanced link building: “we are killing black men….”

Hat tip to Conrad Saam, author of Own the Map, the best book I know about current law firm marketing techniques.

Glad to see Lexblog saying good things about us:

Jerry Lawson is a leader in the world of legal tech. After years of working as a civil service lawyer, Jerry has returned to the legal tech field to serve as President of New Strategies in Legal Tech LLC. He also has extensive experience in legal marketing and served as a charter member of the American Bar Association’s eLawyering group. His familiarity with legal tech shows in his personable and informative blog, New Ideas Legal Tech. Since retiring from practicing and launching the blog, he has also set up a personal blog entitled Netlawtools, where he shares his personal musings on legal tech topics.

Knowledge Management projects live or die on the quantity and quality of information that system users share. Intuitively, the higher percentage of users participate would seem like a critical factor. This is one of the situations where intuition can lead you astray

Pareto’s Law: The 80-20 Rule

A century ago, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that roughly 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Roughly 80% of the peas came from 20% of the pea pods in his garden. The Pareto Principle, also known as the “80-20 rule,” or “the law of the vital few” is believed to at least very roughly apply across a wide variety of endeavors: 80% of the arrests come from 20% of police officers, 80% of sales come from 20% of customers, and so on. 

Most likely, your intranet contributors will sort themselves out similarly. The more contributors the better, but it’s not a mark of failure if a relatively small number provide a disproportionate share of the value. Don’t fall into the trap of spending too much time trying to motivate the unmotivatable. Concentrate on getting a healthy level of contributions from your “vital few,” and don’t be too disappointed if most contribute little.

 

I used to think of “vanity press” condescendingly, viewing it as primarily for authors whose work was not good enough to interest a “real” publisher. Dennis Kennedy’s new books Make LinkedIn Work for You and Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law, have changed my attitude. Rather than go with a conventional book publisher, Kennedy self-published both books, working through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. This includes an option for on-demand paperback publishing as well as eBook).

There are multiple advantages to self-publishing, including speedier development and reducing the cost to purchasers. It is yet another example of how the Internet enables “disintermediation,” or cutting out the middleman, in this case conventional book publishers.

Kennedy is in a better position to self-publish than most authors. Having a respected third party (in this case, an established conventional publisher) select a book for publication serves a sort of credentialing function, “validating” the book for potential readers. Kennedy’s track record as a recognized expert and author allows him to “self-validate.”

Dennis found the results of self-publishing so beneficial that he explained in an interview posted at his podcast, the Kennedy-Mighell Report that the odds are 95% that he will self-publish his next book.

Changes in the book industry make self publishing an attractive option for many lawyers, including those who have a high profile that lets them self-validate and who would improve their reputation by having a book in print.

With these books, Kennedy demonstrates that he does not merely preach innovation, he practices it. Many ambitious lawyers would benefit from following his example.

No doubt, allowing lawyers and other contributors to law firm knowledge management databases via intranets and other techniques to “brand” their contributions by having their names attached is a powerful motivation technique. However, there are times when its complete opposite, anonymity, has greater power.

Some of your best lawyers may have great material, but be too cautious to post something they don’t have time to vet thoroughly. Maintaining an area of your intranet for anonymous contributions can make these lawyers more likely to contribute. It will also encourage those who fear that their supervisors may resent any time they spend contributing to a group effort instead of concentrating solely on tasks more likely to improve the supervisor’s next performance appraisal.

It’s true that anonymous information tends to be less reliable, but this need not be a showstopper. Many times lawyers just need a lead, a tip about a legal theory that would not otherwise occur to them. Once they learn about an idea, they can usually can confirm or refute it.

Good lawyers verify the most important information they use. Even authors of respected treatises can err. The fact that a source is anonymous merely serves as a reminder to do the vetting I would usually do with any other critical piece of information.