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Pondering the 'Former Lawyer Selling Marketing Advice'

This post is going to be about legal marketing. But first let's talk about Drew Manning, a fitness trainer in Salt Lake City, Utah. Drew worked to stay in incredible physical shape his whole life -- until May 2011. That was when he decided to spend six months doing the exact opposite: eating unhealthy food and not exercising at all, with the goal of getting completely out of shape. So far, his plan is "succeeding," as he has gained more than 75 pounds of fat. Check out the results so far (he has since pushed to 269 pounds):

Manning

On Nov. 5, 2011, when the six months is up, Drew says he will then spend the next six months getting fit again. Beginning on that date, he will carefully document everything in his healthy diet plan and his specific exercise regimen so that he can show others who want to get in shape along with him exactly what to do.

Drew's "Fit2Fat2Fit" experiment has captured the attention of millions of people, and has landed him on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, on the homepage of Yahoo and elsewhere. I think there are two reasons for this interest. First, of course, is the train-wreck nature of his massive weight gain. The intentional transformation above is simply jarring and may be unprecedented (with the exception of a couple of actors like Robert DeNiro and Tom Hanks, who I recall piled on weight for movie roles).

Second, and even more interesting to me, Drew seems to have drawn the attention of thousands of people who are eagerly counting down the days until Nov. 5 so that they can follow Drew's diet and exercise plan and join him in the journey back to "fit." In a world that is choked with thousands of different diets and workout plans, why has Drew attracted such interest in what he is about to do?

I suspect that is because people, myself included, have little doubt that Drew is going to succeed in getting back in top shape, and will in short order look just like he does in the May 2011 photo. Why do I think that? Because he has already proven that he knows exactly how to achieve his desired fitness results, and has successfully done so for himself in the past. 

Back to legal marketing. For a while now, Brian Tannebaum has argued on his My Law License blog that practicing lawyers must be skeptical of the "former lawyer selling marketing advice." Why, Tannebaum asks, are these lawyers even in the business of selling marketing advice? "Is it because they made a fortune in the practice of law and now want to cash in on the 'secrets' to making money as a lawyer?" He thinks not.

In short, Tannebaum says that lawyers who want legal marketing advice "should only pay real marketing professionals - not lawyers." He argues that most lawyers selling marketing advice have no track record of success as lawyers, and therefore have no business selling marketing advice to lawyers. 

Tannebaum renewed his criticism on Twitter this weekend, when he saw that Niki Black had given the keynote speech at the LexisNexis 2011 Practice Management Annual Conference on Sept. 22, 2011. He wrote tweets, including:

  • "How does a non practicing lawyer keynote a practice management conference?..."
  • "I mean, if you were paying to learn about managing your practice, wouldn't you want to hear from someone who manages one? I guess not."

As a neutral observer of this debate, my take is that it is not completely black and white. Yes, I agree that it would be ideal to learn how to manage or market a law practice from someone who has successfully done just that for themselves in the past. That would be the Drew Manning of legal marketing -- someone who can show you the specific results they have achieved in their own practice and whose success leaves you reasonably confident that if you follow their guidance, you can achieve positive results in your own.  

But what about the lawyer-turned-legal marketer who has never successfully marketed a practice of their own?  Does that mean they do not know what they are doing or that their marketing advice will not work for lawyers? Maybe, but not necessarily. To further torture this legal marketer-personal trainer analogy, I once was trying to find a personal trainer and met with one who looked much more like the "after" photo above than the "before."  I was tempted to look for other options because I wondered if this meant that he could not bring his clients results. In that case, at least, I took a chance on the guy and learned that, despite his own appearance, he was quite knowledgeable and great at obtaining results for others.  

In short, even if you've never proved it on yourself, you may still be a completely legitimate provider of services. But you better find some other way to prove to the world that what you are selling actually works.

Posted by Bruce Carton on November 1, 2011 at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

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