Marketing can be intimidating for lawyers, but companies exist that can help practices manage their communications department. In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Monica Bay talks to Christy Burke about what drove her to start her own legal technology marketing company. She discusses her involvement with the Legal Technology Media Group, her experience running a company as a mother, and her advice for other legal tech companies like hers.
Christy Burke founded Burke & Company LLC in 2004, deciding to focus the firm specifically on legal technology communications.
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Law Technology Now
Managing Your Legal Marketing
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Monica Bay: Welcome to Law Technology Now. I am Monica Bay. Support for this podcast and the following message comes from Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw Edge.
Our guest today is Christy Burke. Christie and I have known each other for many, many, many years. Let’s start by having you talk to us about how you grew up with a tech family, and why and how you decided to create your own company?
Christy Burke: Thanks Monica. It’s great to be here with you. I think I was always destined to have my own business actually. Even when I was a kid I did babysitting, I did dog-walking; in my 20s I incorporated a company called CKB Dynamics which was a catering company. I did parties and showers and everything.
So, I always wanted to make my own money. I always wanted to have my own company, and I was kind of a natural thing because I was actually born into an entrepreneurial family. When I was actually born my dad worked for IBM at the time and then he left to start his own business in computer leasing with my mom.
My parents had a computer leasing company for several years and then they founded World Software Corporation which eventually produced the DMS called Worldox, which is still on the market today; and I worked at their businesses in summertime and holidays and their head programmer actually taught me my basic computer skills and I started taking computer courses at school starting in seventh grade.
So, how I started my own business is kind of a little more roundabout than that. After college I did a variety of things, I taught English in Hungary, I worked for an insurance company, I worked for a publishing company, all sort of in relative like marketing and sales and PR, and then I came to New York and I was — no, I was working for an advertising agency on Bluetooth technology when it was first getting started and everyone was like, “What is this Bluetooth thing?”Nobody knew what it was.
So, it sort of tells you where I was at in the evolution of technology and then I went to work at Worldox actually. For four years I ran their marketing, their PR and their reseller channel and I worked on integrations with other software vendors and I got to learn about legal software, a legal technology, and I really drilled down. I wanted to learn everything about the technology which fascinated me from a conceptual standpoint what I was capable of doing.
And, since I represented the company at a lot of trade shows and conferences, I traveled to meet the Bars in their various offices and I got to know a lot of people. I got to know a lot of the editors like you, Monica. We worked together closely for many years and when I decided to hang up my own shingle, my business kind of just popped up and started itself.
I always say, it was not necessarily a conscious decision but all of a sudden I found that I had clients and people that had known me for years, they contacted me, they wanted me to do projects for them, and I just started working. I did anything that people asked me to do, marketing PR events, trade shows; you name it. I just didn’t say no to anything and I just started working in a company back then and it’s been almost 14 years now. So, it’s been a really good run.
Monica Bay: What brought you into focusing on legal and tech? I assume that most of your work was with the legal community, what brought you to that?
Christy Burke: Well, I think, having have sort of a varied background in technology and I went to a Liberal Arts College called Connecticut College where I double-majored in English and Sociology. So, I mostly focused on the humanities in my undergraduate education, but everyone always told me that they thought I should be a lawyer.
Even when I was a kid I took a class called So You Think You Want to Be a Lawyer and I was always arguing every last thing with my poor parents and my sisters and everybody else. I would argue with my teachers to get them to change my grade sometimes, and sometimes they would, sometimes not. But, I think I had this natural affinity for the law, I have a great respect for justice and access to justice.
I never became a lawyer myself, a lot of my friends are lawyers; and so, I think it was a natural fit getting into this niche of legal technology when I worked at Worldox that sort of when I discovered this whole world, which to tell you the truth, I didn’t really know this did before and I think a lot of people don’t believe that it really exists.
I tell my friends, your entire trade show is at legal technology companies that are marketing to law firms and if they know, really, they can’t believe this is true, but to me it’s become my home. The legal-tech industry, when I go to conferences like Legaltech, when I go to ILTA, ABA Techshow, these people are like my extended family and I really — I have great respect for the intelligent people and the creativity, and I just think I found my home and I feel very lucky to have found it.
Monica Bay: So, as you watched through as I did too, how tech originally for lawyers they were like, oh yeah, right, and then it’s grown and grown, and grown and grown, what made you decide to focus more on those areas than the broader ones? What kept you into those two areas?
Christy Burke: Well, I think, I actually — I like flexibility, I like change, I like a variety of things and I think now lawyers are discovering technology more-and-more and I’ve seen it from the challenge side, which is the legal technology, the software providers and the services providers that were struggling to educate, they were struggling to get the technology tools purchased and used. Now that there is a nice renaissance in legal-tech I think in part motivated by the corporate legal operations movement, which is applying a lot of pressure on law firms to be more efficient. But, I think, naturally, efficiency in any profession is something that I really appreciate because you don’t really think anything should take any longer than it needs to take and why not do something quickly and successfully rather than making it long and drawn-out and less productive for everybody.
Monica Bay: In the last 10 years it seems like paper is gone and so much stuff is now online. The way that people are working are often together and you were telling me recently that you have become part of the Legal Technology Media Group and it’s the folks that you’ve talked about are some folks that have been around the legal arena quite a bit. Tell us a little bit about what that is and how that works for you?
Christy Burke: Yes, I am thrilled to have recently joined the Legal Technology Media Group; we call it The LTMG Collective, and it’s something that was started by Chelsey Lambert and Cathy Kenton, were two ladies I know that you know and I admire them like whole a lot.
The Collective is a group of professionals including myself, Cathy, Chelsey and also Jared Correia who is with Red Cave, he is a lawyer, and we are basically — we still run our own companies independently and we have clients outside of the LTMG umbrella all of us, but our idea was to provide a turnkey solution for clients that would need a variety of different things, because I think what I’ve seen is that marketing and outreach communications has become so challenging recently and so competitive, much more so than I would say even 5-10 years ago that clients really need to think bigger when it comes to their outreach to potential customers and media.
So, the four of us together right now that’s The Collective and we are referring business to each other, we’re working on some education things together, we have a blog on the website, which is legaltechmg.com. And, we are really working to try to transform the experience of marketing for legal-tech vendors because we believe strongly that one approach, a one-pronged approach is not enough, really they need to be thinking on a number of different fronts and trying to be as out-front and ubiquitous as possible. So, that’s kind of the background.
Monica Bay: Christy, I am sure you and I feel the same way on some of this stuff, which is that especially big law and even the small law and some of the other folks they just do not know how to sell their stuff. I mean, it’s just amazing how they don’t understand how to tell it to the people who will want them. Why is that there and what do you do for that?
Christy Burke: You are right Monica. What I have seen is that both legal tech companies and law firms seem to expect prospective customers to know why they are great, to come out of the woodwork without a lot of effort and to just buy the product right off the bat and that is not going to happen in most cases. Because in my experience there are very few bluebirds which are unsolicited lucky breaks that come your way, really marketing and communications is hard work.
And as far as press coverage is concerned, 99% of press coverage comes from intentional placement via pitching, press releases, contributed content, and you very seldom get that mythical phone call from a reporter saying I have heard your solution is great or I have heard your software is great or I have heard your law firm is great, tell me about that. It’s just not a very commonplace thing in my experience to happen.
So I think that there is no way to shortcut this. Law firms, if they want to hire the people to do this kind of work, that they want to hire their own marketing people, that’s great; if they want to use agencies, do it yourself technique, especially when you have a bunch of lawyers or technologists that don’t know how to market, it’s really not a very productive way, and if you get a slow start, it’s very hard to develop momentum and it’s very hard to develop traction and adoption of what you are doing.
So really, from the beginning I think they need to drop any entitlement that they have or any expectation that if they build it, people will come, as the Field of Dreams quote goes, they have to do the work, they have to move the ball down the field, they have to get the word out there. And I am not just talking press releases, I am talking social media, I am talking website, I am talking email marketing, there are so many different things that needs to be considered, and if you do it on the cheap and if you don’t pay attention to it, you get what you pay for, which is not enough sometimes to compete with the people that are on top of it.
Monica Bay: Quickly, what would you say are the most obvious one or two mistakes that everybody makes?
Christy Burke: I think complacency is a big mistake, like I was mentioning, sort of expecting business to come in the door, that’s a disaster.
I also think misrepresentation is a big mistake as well. So exaggerating what you are doing, trying to pull a fast one, trying to denigrate competitors, not good in the long run. I think they may get some short-term wins, but let’s face it, this is a very sophisticated market, the buyers are very sophisticated, particularly in legal tech, if you try to sell via smoke and mirrors and the product bombs out, then nobody is happy. So I think honesty is a very good policy.
Monica Bay: Excellent. Well, before we go on, we want to take a quick break and hear a message from our sponsor.
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Monica Bay: And we are back. How did your work change over the last 20 years and what do you predict in 2020?
Christy Burke: The media has changed completely in the last 20 years. I was thinking back and I remembered a publication called Law Office Computing which went defunct several years ago. We have gone along with many other legal tech titles, there were a lot more publications that were covering the industry for a while there and the landscape has changed.
So it’s really nearly impossible to get certain kinds of stories told; like for example, the case study which used to be a mainstay of explaining how products were purchased and chosen and implemented, you can almost not get a case study approved by any law firm anymore. It’s almost impossible to do.
I have been doing PR in legal tech for 18 years. There was a time when it was easier to get more placements on medium interest stories, like your partnerships, executive hires, integrations and stories have to be stronger now to qualify for press coverage.
For example, a new company debuting or a new product mergers and acquisitions funding or a new CEO, these are the strongest horses that will survive. So we are living in a very Darwinistic time, social media and blogs have become just as important, if not more so, than magazines and journals.
And I will say that the good news is that publications need content. They are hungry for content and they are accepting more contributed articles, which provides an opportunity for lawyers and legal tech vendors to show their expertise and to build their brands by contributing pieces to these publications.
Now, I believe this trend is going to only continue and escalate in 2020. There is going to be further trimming and consolidation of the traditional media, greater competition for press coverage, and even more of an onus on the vendor to do its own publishing and activity.
Monica Bay: That sounds really great. So here is another question. You have a wonderful young child, what surprises have you encountered?
Christy Burke: Yes, I do. I have a daughter who is four-and-a-half years old and I will honestly say that everything I was afraid of happening when I became a parent did actually happen. I didn’t sleep through the night for the first four years because my daughter was not a good sleeper. My social life took a total nosedive and I spent much more time at home.
And last but not least, last summer we took the big plunge and moved to the New Jersey suburbs, which is something I never would have expected, although I am actually from New Jersey originally.
But I would say what surprised me most was the huge upside of having a child and I think like all parents I think my daughter is the most amazing creature that ever walked the earth and we love each other beyond measure. We travel together. She comes on business trips with me. I sneak her into the exhibit hall, my clients know who she is, and I am proud to show her that you can be a working mom, but you can also be a baker and a chef and make crafts and do all the other things.
So I think I am surprising myself in the process of being a parent to her and she really believes that she can be anything she wants. Right now she wants to be an astronaut and a ballerina both, so we will see if she has enough time.
But as a parent, I feel like I have the greatest responsibility I have ever had in my entire life, but on the other hand, I get to be a kid again and experience things from my daughter’s eyes. So I think it’s a real win. I love it.
Monica Bay: Well, I am very happy for you and it’s just delightful.
Christy Burke: Thank you.
Monica Bay: So one last question for you. What advice would you give legal tech companies and lawyers?
Christy Burke: I would say know who you are, but be flexible enough to reinvent yourself, and not just once, but several times throughout your career. So when you start your business or your practice, you will be at a certain place in your life and your expertise, but that will change, that will grow, and your business will also change and grow. And as I was just talking about with the media, conditions around you will be shifting as well, so it’s not just you that’s changing.
I would say for legal tech companies, they need to be in it for the long haul. From my experience, it’s a very long sales cycle in legal, so it can sometimes take years to make a sale and there has to be the patience to wait that out and to keep following up and stay with it, but there also has to be a lot more outreach going on to get that funnel down to the sale. So it’s really not like you approach one law firm and they become your customer, that’s basic sales theory, but they have to really go all out in contacting as many ways as they can, as many people as they can in order to get the business, which I believe is out there.
And that’s the bright side. There’s a ton of business out there and many more law firms are getting their feet wet with technology and getting motivated to take it on. So I think there is a lot of opportunity out there.
Lawyers must invest in their own intellectual property and their greatest asset, which is themselves. I think each lawyer represents a definite value proposition that’s unique and there are potential and current clients that are going to benefit from each lawyer’s particular skills and abilities and backgrounds.
So the attorneys that lean in on learning technology, creating social media and online presence for themselves and learn to differentiate themselves from other competitors, those are the ones that are going to do the best.
Monica Bay: Well, at that point, I would love to have you tell our audience if they want to reach you, how can they do that?
Christy Burke: Certainly, thank you Monica. So you can visit me on the web, which is www.burke-company.com and on Twitter, my Twitter handle is @ChristyBurkePR and I also have a LinkedIn company page and a LinkedIn profile, I would be happy to have you as a new connection.
Monica Bay: Terrific. Well, thank you. You were absolutely wonderful and I am so grateful that you took the time to speak with us. Was there anything else that you wanted to say before we say goodbye.
Christy Burke: I just want to say thank you Monica. You have been such a hero for me for so many years and a dear friend and I think the world of you and I really appreciate the chance to come on the show and speak with you today.
Monica Bay: I am very blessed. It goes right back at you too. Thank you so much.
Christy Burke: My pleasure.
Monica Bay: This has been another edition of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network.
If you like what you heard today, please rate us at Apple Podcasts. Join us in the next edition of Law Technology Now. I am Monica Bay signing off.
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