Why Do I Like Marketing?

Someone asked me this.  She said, “Bruce why do you like marketing?”

This brought me up short.  Why indeed do I like marketing?  I mean for most of my marketing career, probably 95 percent of my time was wasted.  Maybe nowadays it is more like 75 percent of my time is wasted.  There is constant — and I mean constant — failure.  There is an ever-swirling mixture of bad luck and good luck. There is no way to control outcomes, which, as I have written before, are a goodly portion random. It is hard to get people to do it with me and doing it alone doesn’t work. And the risk I take is huge compared to the safety of billing hours — meaning that if I bill hours, I will get paid for those hours, whereas if I go marketing and fail to bring in work, then I don’t get paid at all.

Oh yes, and there is the pressure of the pitch, which, at least in the past, was quite stressful.

I could go on and on about how, well, bad marketing and sales is.

So why in heck do I do this and not only do this, love it so much that it is a passion for me?

Well, one of the (useful) characteristics in my personality is that I am very introspective.  So to the person who asked me this question, I thank you as it has caused me to look within my mind, and here is the best I can think of.

It is sort of like fishing….

To be clear, I hate fishing.  I don’t like worms or hooks or sitting in the sun or shade attacked by bugs and all to catch a slimy fish that I would really not know what to do with.  Fishing isn’t for me.

But I suspect it is the same feeling that a fisherwoman gets.  She goes out knowing that she “might” catch nothing and she “might” catch something.  And it is the fact that she doesn’t know what will happen that makes it exciting.  And the thrill of getting the fish is worth the unpleasantness of sitting around with the hook in the water, and the other fishing accoutrements.

I think it is the same emotion in me.  I am sort of going fishing — every day — and I don’t know whether I will catch anything.  And the thrill of something happening is so exciting that it far outweighs all the negatives I outlined above. There is really nothing like the feeling I get when a client says they want to retain our law firm for legal work. It is dramatically fulfilling.

So that’s me.  What about you?

Well, what about you? What if marketing doesn’t inspire you at all and you just kind of find it a drudge and selling makes you cringe? What should you do?

You probably expect me to say that you should just toughen up and do it anyway and, yes, I have said that before, but as I get older I do wonder if that is the right answer for everyone. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with being honest that marketing and sales isn’t for you and be good with that conclusion.

As I reflect, I guess that is okay as long as you are honest with yourself that such a conclusion will likely cap your career upside and make it — mathematically — more likely that you will earn a lot less money as a lawyer.

If you are good with that conclusion, then maybe it makes sense to indeed skip marketing and sales and live with the consequences.

That decision might feel like a relief, and maybe it is the right decision for some people, but my (strong) advice here is that you not reach a conclusion about sales and marketing until you have practiced at least five years and probably more like 10 years, during which time you have really tried hard to do the marketing and sales.  I know I hated it at first — I loathed it to my core — and then one day it was not that bad, and then it was good, and then it was great.

If you are just starting out your career, you simply don’t know enough about it to make this decision. Not yet.

So to conclude now, I suggest that you first try (hard) to like it and see what happens.  If you find you just are never going to enjoy it, then you should think through the decision I outlined above, i.e., determine whether you will continue to tough it out in sales and marketing or conclude that you just won’t do it and then live with the likely economic career downside but be happy with the decision.

Getting Noticed As An Associate

As a younger attorney, focusing on proving yourself and doing a good job are very important, but so is developing a comfort level in interacting with the (more senior) people you are working for, whether it’s a senior partner or one of your clients.  Most junior lawyers don’t think about this. I know I didn’t. I did what I was told. Instead of being proactive, I was purely reactive. Was this a disaster?  No. But I bet I missed out on a lot of opportunities.

Consider the last meeting you were at where there was a partner running the meeting with the clients. Did you participate in the discussion or just sit quietly at the table?

Are you a believer in this view: “If you sit there quietly and say nothing people may ‘think’ you’re stupid but won’t be sure, but if you open your mouth you will remove all doubt about it.”

Certainly, I was that way for many years. It was basically because I was intimidated and afraid to open my mouth for that very reason.

If you are quiet and passive and do great work, you will do okay, but if you are outspoken and positive you will do much better. Every day is a chance to market yourself.

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Practice an elevator pitch: Assume someone asked you something open-ended like:  “Hey Toby, tell me about yourself. What’s your story?”  What would you say?  You could talk about your sailing hobby, or you could talk about your career and desires. Maybe say something like:  “Well Bruce, I have been at the firm for a year and a half now and I really find myself just loving the joint venture deals. Don’t get me wrong, that I don’t like other stuff too, but the joint ventures seem to fit my personality and the way my brain works. It is sort of like playing chess in the future. I love those deals and hope I get a chance to do a lot more of them.”  Saying something like that makes an implied statement about you that you are smart, eager, focused, and developing key skills. If I were the partner in charge of you, I might not realize it at that moment, but I would certainly be earmarking you for more work on joint ventures.
  1. Introduce yourself: If there is a meeting, introduce yourself confidently with an appropriate handshake and make eye contact. “Hi, my name is Toby. I am Bruce’s associate on this deal. I am really looking forward to working with you on this.”
  2. Ask your colleagues: If you are treated like a potted plant at meetings by the partner you work with, screw up your courage and ask the partner. Maybe something like:  “You know, Bruce, I appreciate the chance to work on the deals, but one concern I have is that I don’t get a real chance to participate in the meetings. I would love it if maybe you could include me in the conversations a bit. I assure you I won’t let you down and say something foolish.”  This may go nowhere I admit, but it may go somewhere you should admit. In any case, you have little to lose in having this conversation and perhaps everything to gain.
  3. Learn about your industry: As I have said repeatedly in prior articles, knowledge is power. So learn everything you can about your industry. If you know the topic du jour it is much easier to participate.
  4. Something gutsy and creative: Before you go into the meeting with a client and the partner, Google the client and learn about her. Perhaps she has a charity she supports. Imagine how cool you will look when you say: “Hi, my name is Toby. I am Bruce’s associate on this deal. I am really looking forward to working with you on this. Also, I looked you up before our meeting and we share a passion in saving whales. I am really impressed with your work on the Save the Whales Initiative.”
  5. Connect with the other associate: Okay, perhaps the team at the table is just above your pay grade or you are just too intimidated to speak to a captain of industry when you are a junior associate. Fair enough. However, certainly, you aren’t afraid to speak to the other junior associate in the room. Possibly she feels the same way. So go ahead and make a friend. Someday she may be your biggest client or you may be hers. You are playing in the same sandbox so build a sand castle together.
  6. If you have an idea, say it for heaven’s sake: I am sure you have been sitting in a meeting and you think you have a thought or perspective that no one else has. It is bubbling up and you are almost about to speak, but you just chicken out and then the moment passes and it is too late, and you missed your chance. Next time that happens, just don’t do that. Speak!  Let it fly. The worst that happens is your idea is a dud and, okay, you don’t have the happiest feeling. But if it is a good thought, well, then suddenly you are participating in the conversation

Ultimately, the advice here comes down to one thing, which is not being afraid. I admit I was afraid for years as a junior associate as it is completely natural in a new unfamiliar setting. But you don’t have to make the same mistakes I made. So I urge you to go for it and see what happens.

The Formula For Success In Rainmaking: This Is Exactly What To Do — Truly!

I have been asking myself a few questions lately. Why is it that many of the top rainmakers still cold-call people when they don’t have to do that anymore? Why do some people succeed in building incredible legal careers and others just don’t? What makes it happen — and what makes it fail to happen?

Of course, no one really “knows,” but I think I have some insight that I will share.

Part of this insight is based on my informal empirical observation of successful rainmakers — and people who fail to make rain — over many years.

And another part of this insight comes from a very interesting book I read recently called The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success, written by Albert-László Barabási, in which he tries as scientifically as possible to evaluate what makes people “successful.”  As a side note, I heartily recommend this book as one you might want to give to your kids or cousins or people in their late teens and early 20s. Or, if you are in your 20s right now, don’t miss this one for sure. I wish I had read it then….

Anyway, here is what I have come up with.

People who succeed in making rain instinctively know that their “network” is the key to success or failure. To be clear, I am not talking about what we all know as “networking.” My point here is related, but at heart, different than that. It is that successful rainmakers sense that the more other people in their industry are aware of what they are up to, the more likely it is that good things will happen.

To delve a little deeper, when you think about it, you can’t really predict what will happen in any particular situation. You start out each year and probably write down some goals for client acquisition. Then at the end of the year, you probably forget to even compare the goals to what happened; however, if you do compare, you will likely find that whatever you planned for didn’t happen; however, other things happened — hopefully better than the ones you planned for. Life — and business — are too unpredictable.

So when you think about it, success or failure comes down to a game of statistics. You don’t know what will happen in any particular situation, but you do know that if you do a lot of things — and you do them well — good things are likely to happen. I make this point in my book, If You Want to Get Rich, Build a Power Niche.

Successful rainmakers figure this statistical theorem out — either intellectually or instinctively — and then act on it.

They realize that simple things like…

  • Being super responsive;
  • Making 1000 percent sure that their reputations are fantastic;
  • Letting people know what they are super-great at; and
  • Being “different” so others remember them

… will all help them in growing their network and increasing the — statistical — chances that they will be successful in client acquisition.

In the Formula book I referenced above, Barabási has his first law of success: “Performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks drive success.”

For example, consider your legal practice — either yourself or your group or your law firm. You or your team may be fantastic in every category that you could be evaluated in. But if there is not a formal measuring scale, how could you “prove” this to a third party? And with legal work, there is almost never a measuring scale.  Even your competition who is dumb as a post and completely incompetent will likely be saying that she/he is super-good as a lawyer in your specialty area, right?  If so, all that will matter to a prospective third party is who says they are better, better (so to speak).

Since you can’t really prove you are “better” to a third party, then if you follow Barabási’s first law, you need to figure out how to effectively use your network to drive success.

My saying is similar to Barabási’s and it is: “It’s the network stupid!”

To finish up this article, here is a quick list of things I think someone should do to drive successful long-term performance in client acquisition (some of which I have written about before):

  • Make sure you have something you can take a reasonable position that you are the absolute best at (i.e., a Power Niche).
  • Get your network started (i.e., the people you know should be aggregated into a single list).
  • Let these people know what you are doing.
  • Be a friendly teammate to others — even your competition – as people tend to move around networks.
  • Be super responsive — don’t blow people off.
  • If you say you are going do to something, do it.
  • Be out and about constantly — in person, by email, however you like to do it, although I have a sense so-called “social media” is less effective.
  • Be different from everyone else so you don’t get forgotten.

And things — good things — will happen to you. You will not be able to predict the clients you will actually get, but you will get clients. And as you keep doing this they will happen more and more.

Good luck!

P.S. I note that this article is adapted from my recent article published under my pseudonym in the real estate world, The Real Estate Philosopher.  You can follow me on Twitter @BStachenfeld.

10 Things You Will Learn From My Book, ‘If You Want To Get Rich, Build A Power Niche’

I have mentioned in previous articles that my book, “If You Want to Get Rich, Build a Power Niche,” is being published soon.  The book will have everything I have learned about marketing in the past 11 years, all in one place.  Here are 10 points I will be making in my book — some of which I have written about before.

The Threebies:  These are three things you have to do, and if you do them you will be successful in rainmaking.  If you don’t you will almost certainly fail — and they are so simple:

  •             Get out and about
  •             Be enthusiastic
  •             Knowledge is power (i.e., have a Power Niche to talk about)

The Importance of Being Different:  Most people think you should try be “better,” but that is just a mistake since you are going toe to toe with your competition and the odds are your competition isn’t a pushover.  Indeed, Sun Tzu says that the most difficult battle to win is direct conflict on an open plain.  Instead of being better, be different!

The Importance of Standing Out:  This is so hard for most people.  Most people would rather cut off a finger than take the risk of making of fool of themselves.  So sad… but so fortunate for those who don’t have this fear.  If you don’t stand out you are forgotten and your marketing and rainmaking plans are doomed to failure.  If you stand out then you might fail — true — but also you might succeed.

Failure Shouldn’t Stop You:  The best batters in the world hit about 300.  They fail 70 percent of the time and are delighted with those results, or they should be.  You will probably fail over 90 percent of the time, and instead of being depressed about that you should be ecstatic if you succeed 10 percent of the time.  This twist of the emotional dial is critical to fuel you during the times when things just don’t go the way you want.

Pitching Perfect:  Pitching is not something to wing.  You need to prepare for it, and I tell you exactly how to do it.  As famous coach John Wooden has said, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” and he is completely correct.

The Importance of a Power Niche:  Of course this is outlined in my book.  The thing I find perplexing is that no matter how many times I drill this lesson in, over 90 percent of lawyers just can’t understand it or if they do, don’t want to invest the time to pull it off.  But it works, just about all the time.  And I am not “just saying” that — I have a ton of empirical evidence.

Things Not to Do:  There isn’t space here, however, I will bet you that over 90 percent of your current marketing efforts are a complete waste of time.  I will lead you through what not to do.  And then you will have a lot of free time — and money — to focus on what you should do.

Statistics and Math:  I will show you that marketing is all a game of statistics.  You just can’t predict outcomes, no matter how hard you try.  This is both depressing and energizing at the same time.  Since you can’t predict things you might want to give up.  However, at the same time — if you are math person — the lack of predictability leads you to the logical conclusion that the most important thing is getting a lot of “at bats” as you don’t know which balls you will hit, but if you keep swinging you will hit balls.

The Power of Networks:  Indeed, there is nothing more important than growing your network piece by piece. This mixes the foregoing lessons of being out and about with statistics.  You don’t know what will happen but you know if you work within your network things will happen and some of those things will be good things.

All of this and much more will be in my book.  It is being published by Morgan James Publishing and will be released on April 23, 2019, with digital copies available now.

My Marketing Regrets: You Don’t Need To Have Them

As people go through life and learn more, they often say, “I wish I knew then, what I know now.”   This was true for myself when I started to really dive into marketing.  When I started out in my legal career, I didn’t know anything about marketing and I didn’t think it was worth my time to worry about it when I could be doing excellent legal work.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Knowing what I know now about marketing and how effective and necessary it is for a thriving career, I kick myself thinking about all the years I wasted not marketing.  I think of all the contacts I lost touch with, all the opportunities I let slide away, and all the things I have could have learned earlier.

So, I am writing this note to urge you to avoid making the mistakes I did earlier in my career.  If you are working crazy hours and can’t find time to market, consider weaving in even 10 minutes a day for career building.  Or, if you are like a younger Bruce, and you are too pigheaded to listen about marketing and the importance of it, poke your head up for just a minute and consider maybe you might be missing something.

Ultimately, there is nothing that will be more important to your building a successful career than marketing yourself within the industry that you are practicing.

So consider taking the time to not make my regrets yours.  Here are some of my biggest regrets.

I loathed marketing and avoided it as much as I could.  Instead, get excited about it.  Read about it.  Have fun with it.  It really is about as exciting as anything anywhere.

I let a zillion people I met over the years slip away through the sands of time.  Instead, don’t let a contact get away. When a prospect tells you, “Toby we simply cannot hire you, as the boss’s brother is our lawyer.”  Most people then give up, but don’t.  The prospect may not stay there — the boss may change — the boss’s lawyer could retire or go in-house.  All sorts of things can happen.  Letting a contact in your industry wither on the vine is a “Marketing Felony” (my phrase).

I sat in my office and cranked out work.  I never left my office.  It was foolish of me.  Instead, get out and about and hang around with people.  Nothing will happen if you don’t do that.  But of course you already know this from my prior writings.

I never read the real estate industry publications.  Why should I?  I was getting paid to work hours and reading the newspaper isn’t that.  Big mistake!  How could I be useful — really useful — to clients if I am not up on every industry trend so I can be a true business advisor?  Answer is I cannot, and therefore I was useless.  Don’t do this.  Instead, read every single thing you can ever single day so you know a ton about the industry that your clients work in.

And I was so afraid.  So afraid of making a fool of myself.  That I never did anything at all.  Of course I understand this natural emotion.  The way it changed for me was 10 years ago when I saw my career flash before my eyes and concluded that conquering fear of failure was easier than simply flushing my career down the toilet.  So don’t be what I was.  Just go out and try things.  Worst case is you will fail and the sun will still rise on you and your career the next day.

So these are my biggest regrets.  I don’t want to live in the past and beat myself up too much and things are just fine right now; however, I know if I had done the opposite of what I did years ago I would be a notch more successful today.

Sometimes Us Old Guys Are Right About Marketing — This Is A ‘Great’ Marketing Tip

Okay, as you know, I am 60 years old.  Boy, I never thought that would ever happen, but here I am.

And as one gets older, one sees all these things happen to the world.  One of them is the expansion of the number of ways of contacting someone.  Long ago it was a letter, then by morse code, then by the old-fashioned phone, then….

But today it is out of control.  I only know a small portion of possible methods, but one could reach someone else by:

  • Email
  • Texting
  • Facebooking (apparently that is now a verb)
  • FaceTime
  • LinkedIn
  • Tweeting
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat

And a bunch more that seem to pop up every day, each more esoteric and techy than the last one.

I am not sure why someone who has his iPhone with him at all times and checks his email every 15 minutes to an hour-ish isn’t in pretty good contact with the world.  But this is not a rant about annoying contacting clutter.  This article is just to give you an extremely useful marketing tip as follows.

It is strongly in your interest to put together an email list.  Yes, email.  Email is utterly wonderful even if it now sounds a bit old-fashioned.

I have created an email list over the years — for myself and for our law firm — and the list keeps growing, expanding into the thousands and even tens of thousands of persons in the real estate world (in which I practice).

We have been building this list religiously for a long time — and it has been extremely useful — however, validation recently occurred when I read an article the Wall Street Journal published only last week called “The Hot New Channel for Reaching Real People: Email.”  The article talks about how companies are slowly reverting back to email marketing and for good reason.

If you think about it, it is unlikely that anyone is scrolling through Facebook to find your marketing message.  On the other hand, they really don’t have that much of a choice but to see it when it ends up in their inbox with a tempting header.

So this is what you do:

  • Collect everyone you know in your industry and make an email list. Every time you meet anyone in your industry, add that person to the list.  Include friends, colleagues, people at work, etc.  Over-inclusive is better than under-inclusive.
  • The list will most likely start small and get larger and larger over time. This is ridiculously simple to do.
  • As the list grows, from time to time reach out to that list with whatever your message is, which, of course, should be about your Power Niche. A few cautionary notes are:
  • Don’t spam people — everyone hates that — and you just end up being deleted.
  • Don’t email people too often — but at the same time, don’t not email them with some reasonable regularity. There is no rule here except too much is bad and too little is bad too.
  • Think of the people you are emailing and make sure you are sending them messages and information of additive value — and over time, they will look forward to what you are sending.
  • And stay on message about your Power Niche. Indeed, just about all of your emails should be related to your Power Niche.

Over time, you will be surprised — and even dramatically surprised — at what comes out of doing this.

How Senior Partners Can Help Associates Market

As I have mentioned in past articles, it is critical that you start marketing early in your career. I kick myself all the time about how I started marketing so late in the game and how much more I could have accomplished had I started at an earlier stage in my career. But of course I had no idea what to do — I needed training and was too dumb to even know that I needed training. Alas…. In any case, I have made it a mission of mine to teach others about what I have learned over the years.

For associates, you are working long hours and focusing on doing the best legal work, and so marketing may get pushed to the side, but I urge you to make it a focus at a very early part of your career and “define your job” as including marketing a component. And it is a lot easier than you might think.

There are many marketing resources that you can use and I have written about a lot of them. However, it is possible that some of the best resources are sitting just down the hall or even in the next office. Those resources are the senior partners you work with.

Many partners have gotten their clients and built their network through various marketing tactics and younger attorneys can learn a lot from them.

So here are a few simple and straightforward ways that associates can get marketing help from friendly Senior Partners:

1. Pick Their Brains — You should be asking the partners you work with as many marketing questions as you can. Let them know you are interested in learning how they got to where they are in their career. Maybe you could even take a partner out for coffee. I have learned that most people would like to be helpful and who doesn’t like to tell people about their accomplishments.

2. Ask Partners to Host a Marketing Seminar — At my firm, we regularly have partners speak to the associates about what marketing initiatives succeeded, but maybe even more importantly, what initiatives just plain failed. Indeed, it is very important to not only talk about successes, but to also mention that failure is common and indeed more likely than not for even the highest quality rainmakers. If this takes the format of a seminar — with multiple senior partners speaking — you can hear from a number of people with different personalities and ideas and see how they approach certain situations with prospects. Even just hearing marketing stories can give you ideas. And I promise — absolutely promise — you will be amazed at how just about all the senior partners have completely different and divergent views about what does and doesn’t work.

3. Tag Along — Ask partners if you can sit it on marketing calls or meetings — especially evening events. Indeed, there is no better learning tool than to see a master in action. Also, to convince a partner to bring “a young whippersnapper along,” you could make the point to the partner that clients often like to see, and get to know, the associate who will work on their matters.

4. Go Whole Hog — Ok, go right on into a senior partner who is a rainmaker and ask her if you could be her mentee. A lot of us senior partners are kind of, well, flattered, and it makes us feel good to take a young attorney on as someone to show the ropes to. I know I feel that way if someone asks me for help.

5. Make it Clear That Marketing is in Your Blood — If a senior partner knows that Toby (the associate) is hugely “into” marketing, the senior partner just wants to have Toby around for marketing things. Good things just start to happen without anyone making any particular plan. Toby just learns a lot and becomes a key player without doing or asking for any of the foregoing things.

‘I Am The Greatest’: A Powerful Marketing Secret That Shouldn’t Be Secret

What is a three-letter word in a crossword puzzle for “the greatest”?

“Ali”

Yes, many years after he hung up his gloves and years after his death, he is still synonymous with “the greatest.”  And why is that?

Very simple — he told everyone that he was the greatest.  Who can forget him on TV, in the ring, in front of the newspapers, saying again and again: “I am the greatest.”

I remember it and it was 30 or 40 years ago.  How could I forget it? It was blazed into my mind.

You know if you tell people you are the greatest at something, some of them will believe it.  Even if you are flat-out lying, some will still believe it.

Is that percentage of believers 1 percent or 99 percent?  Of course, that is subjective pertaining to the matter and your believability, but I do know that it will always be greater than 0 percent.

However, if you don’t tell people you are the greatest, then it is pretty sure that 0 percent will believe it.

So — using basic math, which I always love — it is very simple: in marketing you have to come up with something you can credibly say “I am the greatest” in and then tell people about it unreservedly.

And this is the essence of the Power Niche, about which I have written so extensively.

Of course, you can’t say you are the greatest lawyer in the world, as that is kind of ridiculous — but you can narrow down a “niche” that you can own — and with a moderate amount of work you can become “the greatest” in that niche.

Having been a veteran of several thousand pitches — no exaggeration — I have learned that there is simply no way to avoid this somewhat uncomfortable necessity in business development.

Except for commodity work, clients always want “the best” or, in other words, “the greatest.”  And you have to come up with a way to convincingly be the greatest or you won’t get the gig.  Of course, I don’t advocate lying or even stretching the truth — no way on that.  But it is perfectly legitimate to narrow your market so that you have ownership — greatness — in that market.  Then you are 100 percent telling the truth that you are indeed the best in this smaller Power Niche.

By the way, bolstering what I am saying with a bit more math, I believe I read in The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing there is a statistic that the leader in an industry typically gets 50 percent of the market, number two gets 25 percent, and the rest get the remaining 20 percent.  So you really want to be first in your market, don’t you?

As you read this, I bet you are shriveling up inside and thinking, “I just could never do that.”  If so, well, I suggest you just do it anyway and the way to do it is just practice.  First, in front of a mirror, then with your family or close friends, and then finally at work.  You will be amazed at what happens, which is a version of that famous Ted Talk, “Fake it Till You Make It.”

At first you feel like you are faking it and then, all of a sudden, you aren’t faking it because it is absolutely true and the Power Niche feeds on itself.

You can do this!

Artificial Intelligence: Is It Really A Threat To Us Lawyers?

We have all seen the movies where the really smart people build a robot that they expect to be friendly and then unsurprisingly it tries to take over the world.

In the legal world, there are all of these pundits — which is a fancy word for someone who has often self-promoted herself to be an “expert” — who keep telling me in article after article that any day this will happen to us lawyers.  We will be supplanted and irrelevant.  My favorite story is the one that says that 2000 hours of legal work can be done by a machine in 11 minutes, or something like that.

I am no longer the managing partner of my firm — just the chairman — however, I am still on the job thinking about things like this.  And I read EVERY SINGLE THING I hear about artificial intelligence and the law.  Even the books by the pundits.

And I keep thinking I will find something to worry about or care about — but to cut right to the chase, I simply haven’t seen the slightest threat to us lawyers from AI so far.

The only things I have seen are:

  • Machines that can search lots of documents for litigation. Yes, that eliminated the most horrible drudge work for young litigators; however, this is 10 (or more?) years old.
  • Email — oh yes — that eliminated the thrill that us old-timers can remember, when young lawyers stuffed envelopes to send out by Federal Express. This was a thrilling job; sometimes you would literally be running down the street carrying the packages and chasing down an overnight courier truck.  And how old now is email, about 20 years?
  • Merge programs where you kind of type the stuff into a spreadsheet and the merge program makes it — magically — appear in the documents. This too is about 20 years old.
  • Now recently there is AI that can read simple documents — like ten thousand contracts when you buy a company — and tell you certain things about them.

I know there are other things, but so far the only new things I have seen are simply improvements on the same AI that has been around for many years and has the effect of eliminating rote, drudge, miserable, depressing, and cruddy work from lawyers.

But helping someone put together a deal; negotiate an agreement; go to court; argue with anyone about anything; calm an upset client; think of a way to get a client out of trouble; help a client with business advice; become a trusted advisor; or do just about anything that matters – sorry, but I have seen just about none of AI moving the needle even a little bit.

However, the pundits keep on with their punditry (which apparently is a word according to Microsoft), and my sense — sorry to say — of this punditry is similar to the view that to a man with a hammer everything is a nail.

So yes, someday AI may have an impact on our profession that is more than automating drudge business, but in my view not yet, and not for a long while.

Okay, let me end with this.  I am dumb as a post when it comes to technology.  People make fun of me all the time.  Perhaps I am missing something.  If so, I beg you to let me know.  Just shoot me an email.  I will be eternally grateful.

Work Is Just Great!

So, I just turned 60 years old.  Yikes.  I am supposed to be doing golf, and that cross-country trip, or taking my wife around the world, thinking about health issues.

But — knock wood — I am so far in good health, so I can kind of do anything I want.  I have been perplexed for a few months, wondering what on Earth I should do.

I was thinking about learning the piano, writing fiction, buying into a sports team (truly), backing a sports team, writing poetry, meditation (but not yoga, which I hate) — and this is only a fraction of all the crazy ideas I came up with.

But I kept pacing around the house until my wife said, “Well, Bruce, what do you want to do?” (emphasis added).

I looked at her and said, as if describing a guilty pleasure, “Well, I really like what I do.  I like my job helping build my law firm’s culture and marketing and Power Niches and things like that a lot.  I really want to do more of that….”

She is a good wife and she said — looking at me like I was being silly — “Then why don’t you just do that?”

So that is what I am going to do.

Now why am I writing this article?

The reason is that I keep seeing more and more writings, and societal and even philosophical writings and beliefs, that work is “bad” and leisure is “good.”

This is becoming a societal imperative — that people who work “too much” in the judgment of others are “bad” and those who have a lot of leisure time are “good.”

My response to this is one word: fiddlesticks!

Work can be completely fulfilling and exciting and even thrilling — and building my law firm’s culture and marketing and related matters is a thrill ride for me.  I love what I do!

To those who frown, eye-roll, and give dirty looks to those of us who love what we do for our work, I say, “Who are you to judge?”

Are you really cooler and more wonderful than us work-lovers because you hang out and binge-watch a TV show or lie at the beach or go out to trendy bars where conversation is reduced to nods, grins, headshakes, and other body language (because it is too loud to hear)?

Give me a break.  This view is just self-aggrandizing poppycock.

Everyone has the right to decide what they want to do.

My theory is this:  Someone who feels “compelled” to work and hates it, that isn’t “good” in my judgment.  But someone — like me — who says that one of the reasons I was put on this Earth is to be a great lawyer; to build a wonderful law firm of excellent people; to be a great marketer; to teach lawyering and marketing to others; well, I get a lot of fulfillment from that — and if I want to work, say, 70 to 80 hours a week doing that — don’t tell me there is something “wrong” with that.  I am doing what I love.

And here is the clincher that I think makes my point poignantly.  Think about that coolest guy or gal you look up to as an historical hero.  Think what he/she accomplished in his/her lifetime?  I’ll bet that guy or gal worked like a beaver to do it.

This is, in the end, a bit of a philosophical rant.  I think it is just “wrong” to push everyone to the view that leisure time is “better” than work.  That is no doubt true for some, but not for all.  We all get to decide what we want to do on this Earth while we are here.  And there is nothing at all “wrong” with deciding it is just a lot of fun to work, to achieve, and to accomplish things.