In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Guy is joined by Alan Kaplinsky, the senior counsel and for 25 years the chair of the consumer financial services group at the Ballard Spahr law firm. He is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award of the American College of consumer financial services law. Alan has been consistently ranked as a tier 1 lawyer by Chambers, USA in the area of consumer, financial services, regulation, litigation, and government enforcement. He also launched Ballard Spahr’s blog Consumer Finance Monitor in 2011 as well as their podcast show which goes by the same name in 2018.
1. How did you decide to go from just practicing law to then launching a blog?
I had a very successful niche practice at our firm, and prior to that, I was at another law firm for many years. Then in 2010, I would say lightning struck when Congress enacted the Dodd-frank Act. They created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or I’ll refer to it as CFPB. That was the complete game changer for all of our clients, the banking industry, the consumer finance industry, and our practice group at the firm. I felt that this was going to be a really good time, a propitious time to get into podcasting. Well, initially, a blog in 2010. We were the first blog at our law firm. At that time it was a very controversial thing. The chairman of our firm at that time thought it was unseemly for a large law firm to have a blog. Fortunately, myself and the marketing director convinced him that it was worth giving it a try. So that’s how we launched our blog. It was called CFP Monitor, and it got launched on the same day that the CFPB became operational. We’ve now been doing it for eleven years. We’re very fortunate to have a person, a very experienced consumer, and financial services lawyer, who manages the blog, monitors developments in the area, and very often writes the blog for the very busy lawyers in our group who don’t have the time to do it. Not too many law firms have that luxury, so we’re very fortunate.
2. After you had to blog for a while, why did you decide to launch a podcast?
It’s very interesting, and this is a generational thing. One day I was out to dinner with my son, who’s not a lawyer, but he’s involved in the New York Times Electronic Addition. He’s a business person and has an MBA. He asked me, “What are you doing in the area of social media?” So I told him, “Why? We do a lot of webinars and we have our blog. It’s been very successful with thousands and thousands of subscribers.” I asked what else we should be doing. He said we didn’t have a podcast, asking who do you want to appeal to? Are you appealing just to your contemporaries? Or do you want to appeal to generation X and the millennials? I wanted to appeal to everybody. So that was really the conversation that then led to us, myself, and our marketing team looking into podcasting, and we explored it. Then in September 2018, we decided to launch the podcast, and we’ve been doing it on a weekly basis ever since then.
3. How has the podcast generated business for you? Are there other benefits to launching a podcast that doesn’t necessarily relate to generating business?
When we organized the podcast, the main purpose was not to generate business. Many of our listeners from the beginning were already clients. We launched the podcast as a way to serve clients that were grappling with a very complex and constantly shifting legal landscape in the consumer finance area. The goal here was to provide value beyond legal services. It’s the way for us to partner with our already existing clients, and we see the podcast as a way to maintain and continue dialogue with them. It provides the benefit to them, and of course, provides the benefit to us. Never do we use the podcast or the blog as a way to generate business. Our podcast was successful because we concentrated on a niche area that is now no longer such a niche area. Since the CFB was created, every law firm in the country wanted to get into consumer finance. But our firm didn’t decide to do just the general podcast at that time.
So we’re focusing on a narrow area where we already know there’s a lot of interest since we’ve got a lot of clients. The key, at least, to my success with the podcast was to narrow the scope of it. You don’t want to be all things to everybody. You gotta have a defined audience. And you want an audience that’s gonna come back. You want repeat business, not in the sense of people coming to you with clients, but you want people to anticipate your podcast. The business will come in if you have a good podcast, and it’s that you show your knowledge and your erudition. If they like your podcast and your blog, people will contact you, but that shouldn’t be the overarching goal.
First look at the practice areas in your firm, and see what’s already been done. Think of smaller practice areas, niche practice areas where there isn’t so much competition. You want to see where the competition is. Look for a successful practice group with a proven track record. It will probably be one of the practice groups in your firm that has been successful year after year. Then focus on that. That’s how I would get my foot in the door. What I wouldn’t do is start a podcast and basically cover every legal topic under the sun. There’s too much competition. There are too many people already doing it. You gotta take a close look at your firm. Look at it in the mirror and analyze it. Where are your strengths? Where is there less competition?
You can listen to Ballard Spahr’s podcast here.
Check out our newest ebook The Law Firm Guide to Podcasting here.