May 20 '13
This week’s zero-140 interview crosses the pond, to Boston, again and also picks up on our recent Tweeter of the Week award for New Leaf Legal. Shannon Sadowski is an entertainment attorney and one of the two founders of this innovative, entrepreneurial practice. In her own words (more of them to come) “Despite the stereotype, lawyers CAN be entrepreneurs, which we proudly are, and so it’s only natural that we serve them”! Happier in a shared work space for start-ups, than in a marble-clad tower, Shannon has a lot to say about the future of the legal sector and what lawyers need to do to stay in the game.
Elephant Creative: Where are you right now?
Shannon Sadowski: Sitting at my desk overlooking Central Square in Cambridge. The people-watching is fantastic here!
EC: What is New Leaf Legal?
SS: A business and IP firm geared toward start-ups, entrepreneurs, and artists. Our flat-fee model allows our clients to budget upfront.
EC: New Leaf Legal: better than the rest or different from the rest?
SS: Different. Our approach is not for everyone and that’s ok. We’re progressive and laid back, but we are experts in our field.
EC: Five words that best describe the firm?
SS: Transparent, Educational, Customized, Entrepreneurial, and Creative.
EC: So, how did you end up where you have? What’s been your career path to date?
SS: Jessica and I wanted to love practicing law again. Entrepreneurs love what they do, so what better way than to be one and serve them?
EC: We first discovered you at WorkBar in Boston… why set yourself up there?
SS: Cost-effective, and we’re very social. It’s easier to work and generate great work product when you can talk to someone about it.
EC: Business development and marketing isn’t really something lawyers concern themselves with is it?
SS: No, and it’s a huge mistake. The law industry still thinks work should just “appear” on our desks. People need to know you’re worth it.
EC: Care to explain legal business development and legal marketing in 140 characters or fewer?
SS: Be personable and relatable, speak in plain English. Get off your ivory tower but show you are an expert & worth the business investment.
EC: How do you think law firms in the US have been affected by the economy?
SS: It forced a scale down, but it left a lot of young lawyers with expectations that the market couldn’t support by the time they graduated.
EC: And, with this in mind, what do you think the next three years bring?
SS: Cautious re-building, more boutique/small firms, investment in personnel and not marble floors and maple desks (fingers crossed!).
EC: Would you think that changes in technology have affected the way many firms in the US approach business development?
SS: Yes and no. Lots of opportunities, but due to our ethical rules, lots of firms are nervous about technology and marketing, not excited.
EC: Which law firms do you most admire in terms of marketing and business development?
EC: Where have you drawn your inspiration for marketing and developing your own firm?
SS: Design, branding, marketing companies. Our brand is everything – the look, feel, colours, and copy on the website. It’s how people relate.
EC: How important is social media to modern law firms?
SS: Very important, especially for a modern transactional firms (we don’t litigate). We need people to find us BEFORE there is a problem.
EC: What about websites, SEO and blogging?
SS: Different reasons. SEO & Website important for new clients, blogging is an opportunity to keep people engaged – difficult for a law firm.
EC: It’s often said that lawyers struggle to really understand what their clients want. What do your clients want from you?
SS: Personalized solutions from a deep understanding of their business. To listen and educate, not tell them what to do without explanation.
EC: If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change in the legal sector?
SS: The attitude. Everyone knows we’re well-educated, so get off the high horse & solve some problems for clients and keep them in the loop.
EC: There has been a lot of discussion about whether law schools should teach marketing and business development classes. What do you think?
SS: I push for this anytime I speak at a law school. The lack of these skills is crippling opportunities for lawyers to run their own shops.
EC: Finally, what are your long term goals?
SS: Up to ten attorneys with support staff (any larger and you lose culture). Shift to sales and out of doing the work.Retire young and travel.