On October 6, our Chapter put on a half-day program for our members that consisted of two different but equally engaging portions.
First, keynote speaker John Plank, a well-known presentation coach, shared with the audience his tips and guidelines for making presentations and public speeches. Every legal marketer, at some stage of his or her career, is called upon to make a presentation in a business context, and many people freeze at the thought of "giving a speech."
Plank said, "Everyone hates presentations but loves stories. So my advice is: Go into story mode." Long before people knew how to read and write, they knew how to tell stories - and oral communication of a narrative is still what makes people listen. He also told the audience that a presentation to a group of attorneys must be the "simplest and best," not one that is too long and won't be retained by the audience. "Without retention, your presentation has no lasting influence," he said.
"Nothing will accelerate your career more than talking effectively about what you know," Plank said.
The second portion of the program was a corporate general counsel panel discussion moderated by Jose Cunningham, chief marketing & business development officer of Crowell & Moring, and featuring Mark Herrmann, vice president and chief counsel - litigation, Aon; Beth Nolan, senior vice president and general counsel, George Washington University; Julie Ortmeier, associate general counsel, Carfax, Inc.; and Elizabeth Banker, a partner at Zwillinger Genetski LLP, and former associate general counsel, Yahoo! Inc.
The panelists spoke openly and frankly about the qualities that they prefer and those they disdain in law firm lawyers and about the best ways of approaching them.
Banker said, for example, that when she was at Yahoo!, she received many e-mails from law firms asking if they could help with ongoing litigation - but they had nothing to say to differentiate them from other law firms.
Nolan said that as the general counsel of a university, she finds that the "number one thing" is that a lawyer should "know my business and how it operates ... Universities are unique and complex environments."
Herrmann, whose company deals with complex reinsurance matters, told the audience that "word of mouth from those whom I trust" is a thousand times more important than any other factor in selecting outside counsel. He also said that he would look at blogs in his highly specialized practice area when choosing counsel, but that "most blogs are just not very good."
Ortmeier said she looks at partner bios in law firm websites but that "I don't know that I've ever looked at a practice group description in my life."
Banker and Herrmann concluded with a notable disagreement: Banker said, "Finding a smart attorney is fairly easy. Finding a smart attorney whom you really want to work with is much harder."
Herrmann said, "I disagree. I want a great lawyer, not necessarily someone I want to have a beer with."
Jonathan Groner is a public relations and writing consultant in Washington, DC.