Thoughts and news from the LMA-MN – Midwest Region – Minnesota Local Group

Balancing Act: What Legal Marketing and Blockbuster Filmmaking Have In Common (Updated)

Joss tweet 01 19 15 expanded and shoppedServing multiple constituencies isn’t easy, but we are paid to make it look that way.

As the tweet pictured at right suggests, Hollywood writer-director and Twitter savant Joss Whedon is going through an intensely difficult time right about now. He’s trying to finish putting together a little arthouse picture called Avengers: Age of Ultron. The reported budget is $250 million.

Meanwhile, the marketing starting gun has officially gone off. Perhaps you missed the Age of Ultron preview that set viewing records on YouTube (I know I did my part), but maybe you saw the Super Bowl ad for the film. Featuring erstwhile Avengers teammates Iron Man and the Hulk in a pitched battle, the ad was perfect bait for the NFL fan. Its 30 seconds of action-packed footage cost the studio an astonishing $4.5 million to broadcast during the big game.

As the hype builds to the May 1 release date, the clock is ticking down for Whedon and the rest of his post-production team to live up to Whedon’s previous success with Marvel’s The Avengers, which raked in $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office three years ago.

That Whedon is a lifelong fan of the original Marvel comic book epics (and thus knew what fellow fans wanted to see in an Avengers movie) played a crucial part in that earlier success. Repeat business is what makes blockbusters (and successful law firms). But as we all know, even if you’re the franchise’s number one fan it doesn’t mean the process is easy. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s easy to get your fingers pinched as you make adjustments to the big machine.

Regarding which aspects of his own particular balancing act Whedon was relating to the 1930s trick photo featured in his tweet, we can only speculate. But there are many precarious aspects from which to choose.

In addition to the external pressures of being accountable for the film’s enormous budget, managing an army of crew people, making a release date window, and living up to previous achievements in popcorn sales, there are the storytelling challenges involved. The film’s characters stand on the shoulders of Whedon’s screenplay, in which a balance of interwoven narratives must be struck. If the characters don’t ring true, the story won’t work, and ultimately, the movie as a whole won’t work, either.

In the case of the Avengers films, Whedon has to juggle the narrative arcs of an ensemble of franchise characters like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America (known as the team’s “Big Three”), and the Hulk (the world-famous wildcard and black sheep) with those of several other heroes both established (Hawkeye, the Black Widow) and newly introduced (Age of Ultron will feature at least three: Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and the mysterious Vision). Not to mention the expository screen time required for setting up the world-threating Big Bad, in this case the title’s homicidal robot, Ultron.

Let’s more explicitly relate Whedon’s narrative challenges to our own. Law firms, like superhero teams, are made up of distinctively talented individuals with their own origin stories who have decided to join forces. We luckily don’t have any villains to worry about (not most of us, anyway!), but each of us do have to balance the individual narratives of our attorneys with the dynamic thrust we wish to relate regarding our firm as a collective entity.

My own firm just went through a rebranding effort. As a mid-sized IP boutique with a client-value focus, we did not have a big budget, but still, the consensus view held an update of the firm’s identity was needed. Previous marketing materials trended plain-to-generic IP law, as most of our attorneys specialize in patent work but we have strength in the trademark and IP litigation areas as well.

As we developed new marketing materials such as attorney bios, interviews revealed some common threads about an ethic of service we wanted to emphasize to potential clients. More and more, the support our attorneys provide to one another in the service of our clients’ goals became a theme. But without first honoring the narrative (career) arcs of the individual characters, if you will, we could not have established the animating identity of the team.

As marketers, we are tasked to tell the story of each attorney, each practice group, and their various adventures in law and business. Those narratives need to serve the business development interests of those players but also the larger narrative of what we want our firm to collectively represent to the world. At younger firms, the prestige of your own “Big Three” (or big five, etc. – i.e., name partners and other rainmakers) may be a powerful lure to potential clients, but how do you reflect their glory upon the firm’s service offerings more generally? At older firms, how can you reflect the glory of a storied history upon the attributes of your contemporary attorneys? The approach taken has to be seamless in its logic.

Joss Whedon has said as a writer he has “faith in the narrative” to see his entire effort through to a satisfying result, creatively and commercially. If you can likewise balance the various constituencies of your firm with a narrative worth believing in, you too can walk that ledge without falling.

Ian Carroll is Client Relations and Marketing Manager at Dicke, Billig & Czaja, PLLC. Find him on Twitter @iandeecarroll, and be sure to add #LMAMN to any communiques so he can find you!

You’re Invited! Join Us for the LMA-MN December Program “Aligning Client Feedback with Competitive Intelligence”

Legal Marketing Association Minnesota Chapter
LMA-MN December Program
Wednesday December 17, 2014 from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM CST
Dorsey & Whitney LLP
50 South Sixth Street
Suite 1500
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Driving Directions

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Registration: 11:30 AM

Program: 12:00 -1:30 PM

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Aligning Client Feedback with Competitive Intelligence:
How to Find Clarity and Focus Through the
Eyes of the Client
Competitive Intelligence (CI) is more than data points. The need for multifaceted CI has grown beyond just objective data. In a hyper-competitive marketplace understanding the unique drivers that cause clients to become deeply loyal is what defines the most successful client relationships. This discussion will evaluate the strategies to gain competitive information and how to align this data internally to create client loyalty. We will discuss the tactics to combine customized client feedback with traditional competitive intelligence.

About the presenters:

Jill Weber is Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer for Stinson Leonard Street, where she is responsible for creating and executing marketing and business development strategies, including Fast Forward®, a nationally recognized integrated business development initiative. Jill was named to the National Law Journal’s inaugural list of 50 Business of Law Trailblazers & Pioneers; was recognized as a 2009 “Unsung Legal Hero” by Minnesota Lawyer; was the recipient of the 2007 EXCEL Minnesota Award, sponsored by the Minnesota Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators; and has received three national and 15 local Legal Marketing Association (LMA) “Your Honor” awards. She serves on the LMA Board of Directors, and was co-chair of the 2012 LMA Annual Conference.

Tara Weintritt is a partner in the Wicker Park Group, an international consultancy focused on helping law firms strengthen and deepen their relationships with in-house counsel and business owners through client feedback and other client facing programs.

Tara has conducted hundreds of in-person and telephone client feedback interviews on behalf of her clients. Her practice includes training and conducting client feedback interviews, client service training, mid and end-of-matter feedback training and developing customized business development strategies and training based on what matters most to in-house counsel and executives. One of her key areas of practice includes developing near and long-term strategies to implement the focus, improvement and change necessary for the firm to become true trusted advisors to their clients. Tara is known for not only creating solutions and initiatives, but more importantly customizing the programs, ideas and opportunities to each individual, practice area or firm.

She was named one of the 2013 National Law Journal’s inaugural list of 50 Business of Law Trailblazers & Pioneers, was the co-chair of the 2013 International Legal Marketing Association Conference and served on the Capital (Washington, DC) Legal Marketing Association Board of Directors from 2009-2012. In 2007, The Elite Excellence in Legal Marketing Awards named her “Marketing Director of the Year”. Nominated by her Chairman and Senior Management, Tara won for “creating and leading organizational change focused on client satisfaction and service”.  She is a frequent speaker at law firm and department retreats, as well as legal marketing, business development and leadership conferences and programs.

LMA National Call for Presenters


The Legal Marketing Association is seeking experienced and dynamic presenters to deliver high-level educational programming to our international Chapters and City Groups.


Speaker submission deadline is December 1, 2014


Click here for more information! 

You’re Invited! Join Us for the LMA-MN November Program

Legal Marketing Association Minnesota Chapter
LMA-MN November Program
Wednesday November 12, 2014 from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM CST
Gray Plant Mooty
500 IDS Center
80 South 8th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Driving Directions

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Registration: 11:30 AM

Program: 12:00 -1:30 PM

I can’t make it


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Demystifying Law Firm Finance for Marketing and Business Development Professionals
In this session, current LMA president Tim Corcoran provides an overview of the changing face of law firm finance, from the long-time R.U.L.E.S. approach to the more modern Learning Curve approach.
Tim will discuss the role of Alternative Fee Arrangements, Legal Project Management (LPM), Business Process Improvement (BPI), Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and Big Data on the law firm of the future.
This program is designed to demystify law firm finances so legal marketing and business development professionals can sit at the table as equals with finance professionals and firm leadership.

About the presenter:

Timothy B. Corcoran advises law firm leaders and in-house counsel on business process improvement, legal project management, alternative fees and business development.  He also advises legal technology vendors and service providers on market strategy and sales force readiness. The essence of his consulting practice is to help law firms, in-house counsel and legal vendors profit in a changing marketplace.

Final Reminder: Early Bird Registration Closes TODAY

Legal Marketing Midwest Conference
Thursday October 23, 2014 from 8:00 AM to 5:15 PM CDT
Add to Calendar

Loews Minneapolis Hotel (Formerly Graves 601)
601 1st Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Driving Directions

As legal marketers, we work in an evolving and challenging industry. Recharge with your colleagues during a day of engaging speakers, interactive workshops, and networking. Gain new insights and ideas that will help you bring energy to your firm.
Strategic social marketing, legal marketing ethics, and law firm mergers and acquisitions are just a few hot topics we’ll discuss. And you won’t want to miss Heather Morse’s discussion on generational marketing (a favorite at the national conference this spring)!

We’ll also present the annual LMA-MN Your Honor Awards!Submissions are due September 26, 2014. Click here for more information.

Visit the 2014 Midwest Conference page here. Check back for updated session and speaker information. And don’t forget to support our wonderful sponsors!
Early bird registration is available now through October 9, 2014. Members: $150. Non-members: $175.
lmamn.org   |   #LMAMN  |   @LMAMN
Register now!
I can’t make it


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