Author Topic: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves  (Read 872 times)

Blonde Lawyer

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Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« on: April 13, 2018, 08:01:44 AM »
I'm curious about what you spend yourself versus what is reimbursable.  Here is my dilemma.  My firm likes us to be members of the city bar association and a few other industry groups that are unique to our practice area.  They pay for those memberships.  Those groups have events, usually dinners that are $50/plate and we are expected to go to some of those.  No one dinner is mandatory but we wouldn't be meeting expectations if we skipped all of them.  There is at least one dinner per month between the different organizations, probably two.

My firm had been reimbursing all of those dinners and now it is starting to reconsider that.  I'm pretty close with my boss and I was honest and said I'd probably stop going to them if he stopped reimbursing them.  His take was you have to eat dinner anyway and I responded that at this point in time I'm rarely eating out and I don't spend $50 on dinner usually.  He knows that we just finished paying my husband's grad school tuition without loans, that I'm in the middle of fertility treatments (without loans) and that I also paid off my law school student loans last year.  He knows this because I needed to explain why I didn't jump at the "great deal" of joining the local country club for  the discounted initiation fee of $15,000.  That's a round of IVF.  A lot of business happens at that country club though and I'm missing out on a lot of opportunities.  I'm okay with that.

But, I'm at a point in my career now where I'm not just a worker bee.  I need to be attending events and often buying other people lunch.  As I came up the ranks, the senior person always paid for my lunch.  Now I'm first chairing trials where we run and get lunch and I pay for my associates.  My firm lets us expense those only when they can be passed on to the client.

I've been asked to take a leadership role in one of those bar groups.  I'm not sure if I want the extra work but I know it's good for my career.  I'm going out to lunch with the person currently in that role today.  I will pay and I want to expense it but I'm not sure if my firm will reject it.

So, do your firms pay for all this stuff? If they don't, how much do you consider it just the cost of your job (like having a suit and a phone) and pay it anyway? I'm really just hurting myself if I completely opt out.

ETA: I'm also concerned because I do go out for fancy meals with my husband once every few months.  It is something that is important to us but we don't do it that often.  I sometimes see my boss at these fancy restaurants.  I don't want him to get annoyed that I spend money on that but won't spend money to attend a bar dinner.  But a quarterly date night with my husband is totally different then sitting with a bunch of lawyers hearing about the latest updates to the court system while eating banquet chicken for the same price as my "fancy" date night meal.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2018, 08:06:38 AM by Blonde Lawyer »

MayDay

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2018, 09:46:47 AM »
Ugh.

I think they should pay.

It's a business expense! Period. If you were solo, it wouldn't be you paying from take home, you'd pay from pre-salary money.

Maybe this is one of those law specific things,like how non profits make people share hotel rooms on work trips (KILL ME NOW I QUIT). But that is a strong no. You need a business development budget from the firm if they want you to do business development.if you are funding your own business development, you might as well start your own firmso you get to keep the money from your marketing expenses. Why would you pay for his marketing?

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blinx7

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2018, 09:49:19 AM »
My firm pays for most things but I do other things on my own.

My background is in "substantive field X."  My firm practices in "niche X-1."

So they pay for everything related to "niche X-1."  Sometimes I do extra networking things in substantive field X on the sly and paid for those myself.  Keeping options open and all. 

Your situation does not sound like mine, I would expect them to pay. 

Lucky Penny Acres

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2018, 01:48:55 PM »
I think the costs of bar associations and related bar dinners sound like business development expenses that the firm should cover because that is part of the cost of bringing in new business. They should also cover other meals and expenses with respect to clients / prospective clients - such as business travel to meet prospective clients in other cities.

Lunch with junior attorneys / colleagues is a little less clear.  That isn't really a business development expense for the firm, but is a nice thing for the junior attorneys and will ensure that they work on your items in priority. That might be something you have to pay for yourself unless you can convince the firm that it adds value by building a closer-knit team.


GU

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2018, 01:42:12 PM »
Is $50 a month really something to worry about? If you got even one referral from attending one of these dinners, wouldn't that lead to a decade or more of "$50 dinners" in fees? If you're going to be a business owner and entrepreneur—and that's what being a partner at a law firm is—you have to escape the employee mindset of "I shouldn't have to pay for anything work-related." Sometimes you have to spend a little money to make some money.

Regarding the leadership position in the bar association, just do it. Most such positions are temporary, and while they're a minor pain in the butt at the time, you can put it on your website/resume/etc. forever. Even if you slack off and do the bare minimum, it's still a line on the resume.

Eventually, you have to figure out which marketing strategies work best for you, and which ones are "worth it." And remember, once you have enough business, you can do whatever you want. That is the secret of private practice that most younger lawyers forget—you have no power unless you have clients.

inline five

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2018, 05:54:06 PM »
Ya gotta spend money to make money.

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2018, 06:24:56 PM »
It’s a law firm.  They’re supposed to pay all this stuff directly on firm checks and cards. It’s frankly shocking that they do it as a reimbursement and that they’re reconsidering it.  Most firms in New York pay for bar association memberships and attendance at big dinners.

Moreover, it’s typical for the firm to have policy regarding taking people out to dinners and lunches for biz dev purposes.  It’s usually in a written policy,  As an associate, I was told not to spend more than a billable hour cost without partner approval.  In other words, if I took someone’s general counsel out to lunch, I could comfortably spend $200 without anyone batting an eye.
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GU

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2018, 02:07:58 PM »
It’s a law firm.  They’re supposed to pay all this stuff directly on firm checks and cards. It’s frankly shocking that they do it as a reimbursement and that they’re reconsidering it.  Most firms in New York pay for bar association memberships and attendance at big dinners.

Moreover, it’s typical for the firm to have policy regarding taking people out to dinners and lunches for biz dev purposes.  It’s usually in a written policy,  As an associate, I was told not to spend more than a billable hour cost without partner approval.  In other words, if I took someone’s general counsel out to lunch, I could comfortably spend $200 without anyone batting an eye.

Actually, it's not uncommon for law firms (and other professional services firms) to force their associates to pay for business expenses on their own credit card and get reimbursed later.

Also, I was picturing the dinners blondelawyer was talking about as charitable or fundraiser type dinners, which firms are a lot more variable on paying for, especially since you can write these off on your tax return.

You're seemingly approaching this from a NY biglaw perspective. Based on her write-up, I got the feeling that blondelawyer is at a small- or medium-sized firm, and perhaps not in a major legal market like NY/SF/CHI/DC/etc. For example, country clubs in those areas have much higher buy-ins than $15k, even with a discount. Expenses are probably handled differently at these types of firms.

Much Fishing to Do

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2018, 03:14:15 PM »
$50-$100/month?  I'd say if you're at a biglaw firm making $160k+ consider it a small cost of doing business at the top but if you're making $60k this is a pain.  Also, if you have any desire to make partner you need to show you can bring in clients and that means making connections.  $1k/year is a small price for that.

Stachless

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Re: Question for the lawyers or others who market themselves
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2018, 10:34:31 AM »
This strikes me as one of those 'frugal vs. cheap' topics.  Don't skimp on minor expenses that *could* make a big impact on your bottom line!  Also, (and I realize this is easier said than done) try to take people you like out to dinners and such.  I get to schmooze a bit for my job, and the quality of the company makes all the difference!

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