Silver Linings in Legal Marketing: Beyond Coronavirus
By Gina Rubel
For most, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live our lives. For several months, we were on stay-at-home lockdowns. Law firms were shut down. Courts were closed (many still are). We wear masks and have stopped shaking hands or blowing out candles on birthday cakes. Networking events, industry conferences, personal celebrations and funerals, all are different. We spend an incredible amount of time on videoconference calls. And many take time to appreciate the silver linings beyond the coronavirus.
Finding the Silver Linings
Recently, I reached out to my network of legal marketing professionals and asked them to share their silver linings. Before I share what they had to say, I thought it only fitting to share my silver linings as well.
Gina Rubel, CEO, Furia Rubel Communications, Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Silver Linings (Personal): For me, I’ve enjoyed family dinners, newfound time with our daughter who would otherwise have been at college, cleaning out every space in our home from the basement to the attic, watching the Marvel series with our son, and more. I have changed my routines to include time every morning in the garden appreciating the flowers, fruits and vegetables, creating floral arrangements for the house on Mondays, and working to create a better workout and meditation routine. That last one seems to be the most difficult.
Silver Linings (Professional): I have witnessed a much higher degree of productivity and accountability from the team. Everyone is doing their part to support our clients’ myriad incident response and pandemic response needs. We connect daily on Zoom and have gotten to know one another better. Somehow, many of the barriers that I perceived as being a CEO have come down. In addition, we have been able to open our doors to two associates (aka interns) who found themselves displaced because of graduating from college and having future plans put on hold. One is now a full-time employee as the other waits to hear when their job will begin at a health-care agency. We have joined the Drexel University Cooperative Education program, something I took part in more than 30 years ago as a student, adding to our team’s diversity. Much of this has led to our decision to remain a virtual agency so we can open our doors to a more diverse pool of applicants across the U.S.
Here are the silver linings shared by other legal marketing professionals:
Jessica Aries, CEO, By Aries, Austin, Texas
Silver Linings (Professional): Due to COVID-19, I was furloughed one week after returning to work from maternity leave. After two years of infertility struggles, my husband and I finally became parents right in the middle of a global pandemic. The timing was epic, and the furlough announcement was just the cherry on top. Becoming an unemployed mother to a 10-week-old made me realize that pride was a luxury for those who do not have mouths to feed. The day after being furloughed, I went on LinkedIn and told the world I needed help. I set aside my fears of what people would think and how I would be judged. I told myself to be brave for my daughter. And so, I was. My call for help was met with a roar from my network. My friends in legal marketing showed up in unimaginable ways. I had job interviews, consulting opportunities, and networking calls set up within 48 hours. But the real kicker is, my firm called me back only three days later to bring me back on board. I went back to my old job for a bit only to launch my own digital marketing consultancy a month later. And now, my little company is shining brightly and growing rapidly. My whole world was turned upside down from COVID — and that is OK. It showed me that being upside down is as temporary as being right-side up. The key is not which way you are turned, but that you are being brave and moving forward.
Morgan Horvitz, Chief Client Relations and Business Development Officer, Galloway, Houston
Silver Linings (Personal): My husband and I have absolutely loved working from home together. We have learned a lot about what the other one does daily and become interested in each other’s work. My husband is a data scientist. Learning more about data modeling and machine learning has been very cool. It has also been very nice that our family is much less busy outside of work. Stripping out the classes for my son and social obligations has allowed us to relax together a lot more and spend more time enjoying each other’s company.
Silver Linings (Professional): Meetings have become more focused and productive, with people really wanting to take care of business, then get off Zoom. This has made the attorneys I work with more willing to meet and strategize, as no time is wasted on either side of the meaty part of the conversation. The pandemic has also allowed me to bring my team together. We work out of two different offices but have (since the pandemic) instituted daily scrum meetings. We see and hear much more from each other than we did before. This is something I will keep doing even after we go back into the offices. People feel connected and we all know what the whole team is working on each day.
Paige Hermann, Project Manager, Content Pilot, Dallas
Silver Linings (Personal): I have lost 70 pounds during the pandemic … no joke! Again, going back to the work-life balance of working from home has afforded me the ability to not feel as if I am always “racing against the clock.” I can now step out of my home office, cook a healthy meal and work out — all within the span of an hour. In the past, my commute was an hour or more. While I worry about the unknown and how the virus will affect us long term, I still feel happier and healthier than I did before the pandemic. Being able to pause and step back from “normal” life has given me new perspective on what is important.
Silver Linings (Professional): I have been able to take the time to focus on professional growth during the pandemic. I have gotten several certifications I had put off due to previously not having enough time. Being able to work from home has been such a blessing as I am far more focused and productive, which has led to a happier and healthier work-life balance. I have also been able to reconnect with clients in a way that we have not in the past via videoconferencing. In the past, we would typically just do conference calls but now, I am trying to do more videoconferencing to have a face-to-face interaction. It is nice to connect with my clients over video and I plan on continuing that.
Rob Kates, Executive Producer, Kates Media, Devon, Pennsylvania
Silver Linings (Personal): Since early March, my inner introvert has not had to come up with an excuse not to go to something I was invited to.
Silver Linings (Professional): To stay in touch with clients and professional friends, I started a video podcast, Legal Marketing Coffee Talk, with some friends and colleagues. We broadcast several days a week and it has not only achieved its original goal but has brought me closer to many of the members of a community I really love. The video podcast also seems to be really enjoyed by our on-air guests and other members of the group and has helped them be more connected.
Lauren Knotts, Communications and PR Manager, McGlinchey, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Silver Lining (Personal): I had a baby in early January. Working from home after maternity leave meant I have been able to spend the first seven months of my son’s life snuggling with him between calls and meetings (as well as bonus quality time with his toddler big brother).
Trish Lilley, Chief Marketing & BD Officer, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, Collingswood, New Jersey, and New York
Silver Linings (Personal): I am enjoying more family time, better eating and more exercise.
Silver Linings (Professional): Institutionally, the pandemic has fueled greater collaboration, which has generated stronger and broader client service and innovation. For our marketing team, the situation has boosted our productivity because we are not hampered with some of the usual “noise” that comes with regular times.
Merry Neitlich, Founder and Managing Partner, EM Consulting, Irvine, California
Silver Linings (Personal): Facilitating change and collaboration through the legal ecosystem has been a personal silver lining along with remaining the reigning U.S. Adult National Figure Skating Champion.
Silver Linings (Professional): Law firms seem to still be grappling with firm management and client issues as we morph and move through this pandemic. I am seeing new energy and awareness and more openness than I have noticed before. The managing partners in our Southern California group are sharing more deeply and collaboratively. Many are experiencing an increase in internal communications within their firms. Attorneys and staff feel included. Some have confided that they hope this type of information sharing continues after the pandemic is over. This is a positive step — perhaps opening problem-solving, for both legal and non-legal issues, to adapting more diversity and inclusion.
Tanvi Rastogi, Senior Marketing Manager, JGL Law, Greenbelt, Maryland
Silver Linings (Personal): The pandemic provided the unique opportunity to use the “extra time” at hand to reanalyze priorities, shift energies to what matters more, and get all small home projects done. Bonus: I got around to reconnecting with extended family and old friends.
Silver Linings (Professional): The silver lining of the pandemic has been having the focused attention of everyone at the firm toward marketing goals. The lack of distraction due to the constraints has pushed us to broaden our horizons and explore new tools and implement fresh approaches.
Roy Sexton, Director of Marketing, Clark Hill, Detroit
Silver Linings (Personal): I have been the featured guest on more basement-run talk shows and podcasts in the past four months than I knew existed and have had a ball doing them. I always wanted to be Gene Rayburn or Mike Douglas when (and if) I grew up. In all seriousness, I have loved the excuse not to run around and travel and take on far too many social engagements. I have always struggled saying “no,” when all I really want is to be home. My husband and I (well, my husband) have made more meals at home than in our 20 years of being together. We have focused on turning our home into the calm, beautiful sanctuary we have always wanted it to be. I have far more meaningful and relaxed phone conversations with my parents than I have had in years. And I have been able to spend what are likely the final months of our dog Lucy’s life with her as my constant “co-worker,” albeit a slightly smelly one who must go tinkle in the yard every 20 minutes.
Silver Linings (Professional): I feel like I have done some of the best work of my career. I just wish the world was not on fire at the same time. However, legal marketing is rife with distractions and well-meaning attorneys who will spend a lot of time and resources arguing fervently for why said distractions (e.g., overpriced sponsorships, holiday parties, sports outings, dinner gatherings) are “essential” to their growth. None of those tactics are available now. One could argue that we are living a case study that is testing the assumptions that any of those tactics were ever necessary. I have long been a proponent of digital marketing — social media, webinars, podcasts, video, thought leadership — paired with strong public relations and media outreach. That is all we have right now. And it is working well. When we eventually return to whatever Ray Bradbury-future-state-norm is on the other side of this, I’m hoping we can retain the kind of measurable, cost-contained, resource-focused, functionally based marketing structures that we’ve seen succeed in so many other industries.
Jennifer Smuts, Chief Marketing Officer, Connolly Gallagher LLP, Wilmington, Delaware
Silver Lining (Personal): More time at home has afforded me the focus I need to reassess, create and pursue a more meaningful life. This includes getting behind causes I am passionate about such as the advancement of women in business and on public/private company boards (like www.2020wob.com), educating myself on issues I’m ignorant about (“How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi), and prioritizing my relationship with my husband and children.
Silver Linings (Professional): Witnessing how law firm leadership thoughtfully manages unpredictable change, the value placed on talent (both attorneys and staff), and the re-creating of a new “business as usual” mentality for Connolly Gallagher — everyone is rolling up their sleeves.
Caitlan McCafferty, Public Relations Account Director, Furia Rubel Communications, Newtown, Pennsylvania
Silver Lining (Personal): I have had the opportunity to spend more time learning. I have had more time to read a new book or watch a documentary. I have also had a chance to catch up with out-of-state friends during Zoom birthday gatherings.
Silver Linings (Professional): The pandemic has caused all of us to reevaluate what is valuable in a time of crisis and how we can help others in business or in our daily lives. It made me get off autopilot in many ways. I find myself even more engaged and thoughtful in my work.
Tom Mariam, President, Mariam Communications, Rye Brook, New York
Silver Lining (Personal): Reuniting with groups of friends and family from long ago via Zoom is a silver lining. I now have regular Zoom calls with friends from college (several different groups), graduate school, former work colleagues, and family members. My wife has done the same with friends and family from her past.
Silver Linings (Professional): Saving the time it takes to be with people physically for a meeting is also a silver lining. We can have meetings almost immediately now, no matter where people are located.
Helena Lawrence, Owner, Sierra Marketing LLC, Arlington, Virginia
Silver Lining (Personal): My silver lining is having time to deepen friendships. Life is not as hectic, and I am not trying to do as many activities. Instead, I am spending my time in social distance situations with friends.
Silver Linings (Professional): The pandemic has given me the time to explore what is important to me and what I am passionate about.
Julie Savarino, Chief Client Value & Development Officer, Business Development, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan
Silver Lining (Professional and Personal): The dramatic increase in sanitization measures due to the novel coronavirus (especially for airplanes, other public transport, hotel rooms and people) will likely result in a significant reduction in cases of the common cold and flu.
Rachel Shields Williams, KM Technology Senior Manager, Sidley Austin, Washington, D.C.
Silver Lining (Personal): A slower pace, more thoughtful interactions that I appreciate, and I savor so much more.
Silver Linings (Professional): I created the home office I always wanted. Also, less time traveling has led to more time for deep thinking.