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Ari Kaplan

What Am I

I’m training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in 2018. When I do my long run for the week, I prefer to listen to podcasts instead of music. It’s easier to be distracted from the pain I’m inflicting on myself and find a rhythm with 30-minute episodes rather than 3-minute songs.

Recently I’ve used my training to catch up on the podcast Unthinkable, hosted by Jay Acunzo. I met Jay in 2016 when we were both speakers at Content Marketing World where he spoke about how being different leads to success in business. I always get something good out of every episode.

Be an Authority
This run started with his interview with marketing consultant, author, and speaker Robert Rose. Robert says he prefers to be called an “authority” rather than an “expert,” in part because the words “authority” has the root “author.” An expert knows a subject, but an author created it. I love this! I am absolutely stealing this for two reasons:

  1. I love the idea of being an authority on social media law (I did write the book on this stuff), and
  2. The State Bar doesn’t allow lawyers to call themselves “specialists” unless you’ve been certified through their process. This gets around that issue.

Be an Exception
Jay says, “To be exceptional, you have to be an exception.” Statements like this remind me that it’s ok to be me, and when I embrace and run with my unconventional ideas, things tend to work out. And I don’t do what I do just to be weird, but because it’s what works for me. I’m just being me. When I try to fit into someone else’s box is when things go sideways.

Jay is all about intuition. He highlights people who are successful because they trusted their gut. They ask the right questions and find the answers from within. I believe in this too. My gut feeling is never wrong – sometimes inaccurate, but never wrong. I know when I’m going with my gut, I’m doing what’s in alignment with who I am.

What Am I?
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been mulling over this question. It started back in September when I saw my friend, Ari Kaplan, speak at ASU Law School about making opportunities for yourself. I don’t know what Ari said, but it inspired me to write, “I’m an artist” in my notebook.

When it comes down to the basics, I think that’s what I am. I’m a writer, a musician, a creator. I’m happiest when I’m creating, learning, sharing, and when what I do makes a difference.

Looking to the future, I can picture myself taking music lessons and going to ballet classes (in male attire with Rocky’s leg warmers). I also see myself zipping around on my orange skateboard and learning how to be a survivalist (not that I like camping, but I bet it’s handy stuff to know). Being a lawyer pays the bills, but more and more, I accept that this is what I do. It’s not who I am.

For now, I’m putting more energy into being creative. On the wall where I put my to-do items on sticky notes, I added one that says, “Just Write.” When I saw Ann Handley speak at Content Marketing World, she inspired me to devote time to writing every day, even if no one ever sees it. And I’m listening to more music, pulling from my entire iTunes library, and not just my race day playlist.

Day 71/90 – Paying it Forward

Day 71 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to help a fellow lawyer understand the benefits of blogging to get more clients.

Hanging with Peter Shankman - Love this guy!

Hanging with Peter Shankman – Love this guy!

One of my legal eagle friends popped by my office today to pick my brain about using social media to get more clients. She was thinking about using LinkedIn to post long form content. I suggested she start a blog instead.

I love blogging and using social media. I prefer blogging to posting long form content on social media platforms because it gives me more control over my content and I have people visiting my site weeks, months, even years after I wrote a post to read my content.

I showed her the backside of the Carter Law Firm website to see how my readership has steadily grown over the last three years. I wanted her to see that my readership has grown steadily because I keep putting out quality content on a regular basis. Eight out of the top ten pages of my site today are blog posts. I don’t share this to brag. I share this to show that blogging works.

Helping other lawyers understand how social media and blogging work makes me so happy. It’s my way of paying it forward from the people who have helped me so much over the years. This is an area that is always growing and developing so it’s always fun to see what’s coming down the pike next. Here are the top three people I recommended she follow to learn more about how to use social media effectively:

If you want to know more about the legal issues that go along with blogging, I wrote the book on that.

This discussion got me so jazzed up that I recorded an episode of Unsolicited Advice about it:

In case you missed it: Day 70 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I had a spontaneous dinner date with my friend Chad!

Going Pantsless was the Best Thing I Did in Law School

The best thing I did in law school was the 2009 No Pants Light Rail Ride in Phoenix, Arizona. The people I met there opened the doors to the opportunities that made me the lawyer and the person I am today.

Photo by Jamey Peachy

Improv Everywhere has been doing the No Pants Subway Ride since 2002. In preparation for the 2009 ride, they invited everyone to organize No Pants Rides on the same day in cities all over the world. Jeff Moriarty conspired with a small group of his friends to do a ride on the newly opened light rail in Phoenix. I was a first-year law student and really a nobody in my school and the greater legal community. I didn’t know Jeff back then, but I saw the event on Facebook and signed up to do it with some of my friends.

On the day of the ride, all of my friends who were supposed to do the No Pants Ride with me chickened out. I wasn’t surprised. I said, “You guys all suck. I’m going without you” and I headed out to Tempe to meet my fellow pantsless riders. I figured Jeff had to be a cool guy for organizing the ride, so I purposely stood next to him on the ride and chatted all the way to our final destination.

The rest is history. I can show you, in 7 connections or less, how participating in the 2009 No Pants Ride led to some of my best professional opportunities and experiences.

No Pants Ride >>> Establishing Myself as a Legal Expert

  • Many of the people at the 2009 No Pants Ride are involved in blogging. This inspired me to have a blog.
  • Jeff Moriarty helped me create UndeniableRuth.com in January 2010.
  • I wrote, and still write, weekly posts about legal issues.
  • My posts demonstrated that I have a unique voice and competence in certain areas of law.
  • I parlayed my expertise into opportunities to write dozens of guest blog posts; provide quotes for news articles and blogs; participate in TV, radio, and podcast interviews; and give presentations at conferences.

No Pants Ride >>> Sponsor A Law Kid  

  • I met Jeff at the 2009 No Pants Ride.
  • Jeff is the creator of Ignite Phoenix. He encouraged me to apply to be an Ignite presenter.
  • I was selected for Ignite Phoenix #5 to present Frosting the Law.
  • Kade Dworkin was one of my fellow presenters at Ignite Phoenix #5.
  • Kade had a podcast in 2010 called Meet My Followers where he interviewed his Twitter followers.
  • One of Kade’s guests was Jason Sadler, founder of I Wear Your Shirt.
  • I Wear Your Shirt inspired me to create Sponsor A Law Kid, that funded part of my final semester of law school in 2011.

No Pants Ride >>> Paid Blogger for Attorney at Work

  • A group of us from the 2009 No Pants Ride founded Improv AZ to continue to do flash mobs and pranks in Phoenix.
  • Planning events with Improv AZ sparked my interest in flash mob law.
  • I asked Ari Kaplan whether this might be a viable niche.
  • Ari used my interest in an article for Law Practice Magazine in the fall of 2009.
  • The editor of the magazine, Mark Feldman, loved it. He continued to follow me and blog.
  • When Mark created Attorney at Work with Joan Feldman and Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, they invited me to be one of their professional bloggers in 2011.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg. I can show how the No Pants Ride led to making some of my best professional connections, writing my first book, developing an interest in podcasting, and meeting some of the most wonderful people in my life.

The 2012 Global No Pants Ride is this Sunday, January 8th in at least 56 cities. If there’s a ride near you, you should go. You never know what will come out of it.

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How Networking Works

When I started law school, the career services office often spoke about the value of networking, but no one really went into the nuts and bolts of how to do it. Many of my peers had little or no professional experience, so they tried to network as best they could but often made blunders, like showing up at networking events with resumes in hand expecting to get a job interview or a job offer. They weren’t taught that networking is about creating and maintaining a professional network. It’s a continuous process, not an event.

I want to share a recent experience that shows how networking works for me.

Stepping Stones by oatsy40 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Stepping Stones by oatsy40 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

During the spring semester of my 1L at Arizona State University, the school invited author Ari Kaplan to speak at the school about how to create professional opportunities for yourself. I appreciated the fact that he encouraged people to be interesting and to stand out from the crowd. While he was still talking, I found him on LinkedIn and sent him a request to connect.

I stayed in contact with Ari. He was the person I called when I had a professional development question that I didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone at my law school because I was afraid it would hurt my reputation. Yes, despite being daring and outspoken, I’m very thoughtful about my actions.

I spent my 1L summer with the U.S. Army JAG and I got to sit in on some of the training classes for military police officers. I learned a lot about crimes that they didn’t cover during law school, like solicitation and conspiracy. As a co-founder of Improv AZ, it made me think about the ways we could get arrested just for planning a prank or flash mob.

Ari often speaks about the benefit of creating a professional niche. I sent him an email asking if he thought flash mob law was viable niche for me. He wrote me back that night. He was working on an article on creating a targeted niche for the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine. He said his article as written was dry and he asked if he could use me as an example of someone who is using his suggestions. I was ecstatic. Mark Feldman at Law Practice Magazine loved Ari’s article so much he contacted me to get pictures from Improv AZ’s flash mobs to go with it.

Ari and I regularly keep in touch, and I continue to explore my niche by writing about the legal side of various pranks and flash mobs. Having a blog, especially one with a candid approach made me stand out from my peers and opened the door to many opportunities to be a guest blogger.

Recently, I received an unexpected email from Mark Feldman. He started new venture, Attorney at Work, with his wife Joan Feldman and Merrilyn Astin Tarlton. This site provides practical information and advice on creating a law practice. They thought my writing was “wonderful,” and they invited me to bring my “undeniable Ruth voice” to their site as a monthly writer.

I’m excited to announce that starting this month, I am a contributing writer for Attorney at Work. My monthly posts will focus on the real-world technical side of lawyering.

I never expected an opportunity like this to fall into my lap, and it didn’t happen overnight. This was two years in the making through maintaining relationships, having a regular public presence, and doing consistent good work. That’s networking.

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Reinventing Professional Services – Top 5 Tips For Lawyers

Photo courtesy of Ari Kaplan Advisors

Ari Kaplan’s new book, Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace addresses the question of how professionals can integrate new technologies into their businesses to be more influential and effective.  Loaded with resources and stories from professionals in all industries, Ari’s book provides suggestions about how to use social media, blogging, e-newsletters, and video/audio recordings that makes them less daunting.

As I read this book, I reflected on the legal profession, which has the stereotypes of being dignified and particular, and where deviating from the norm is often frowned upon.  Many lawyers and law firms shy away from online resources and tools.  Perhaps this is because of the strict rules in the profession about advertising and soliciting clients, or because members the profession have a low tolerance for making mistakes.

I’ve compiled the top five lessons lawyers can integrate from this book into their professional lives.

1.       Social Media is a Tool, not the Goal.
It seems that a lot of professionals think that having a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, or a blog is enough, but then they never use them.  Doing this is like buying a hammer and never building anything.  These professionals do not understand that these are tools to communicate more effectively with other professionals and clients.  These are merely channels to “cultivate relationships.”  These are fantastic tools for building trust by being genuine and consistent.  Using these tools is not a one-time event; it requires “habitual participation.”

2.       Be a “Visible Enthusiastic Expert.”
This is one of the best lessons I took from this book.  Being a visible enthusiastic expert means being part of the online conversation on topics where you have interest and expertise.  It’s important to contribute “rich content” and to convey your passion.  Conversing with other experts in an online forum is an effective way to become associated with them.  Even the simple act of sharing a link to another’s work shows that you are aware and informed about a topic.  Additionally, being transparent about who you are and what you can do without being a salesperson conveys to others that you care about a particular issue or population.

3.       Pick Your Targets.
Having a solid online presence is a good start, but it’s not the end.  When there are people you want to connect with, you have to reach out to them.  Don’t wait for them to find you.  Websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ are instant ice-breakers for introducing yourself to new people.  They provide comfortable opportunities to ask a person for advice or for an informational interview.  If your first attempt at interaction fails to produce the desired result, be sure to follow up.

4.       Do Not Be Afraid to Fail.
Law students are instilled with the notion that they must always be perfect – perfect appearance, perfect cover letters, perfect work product, etc.  They graduate thinking the worst thing they could do is misspell a word on an email.  This can make them gun shy to try new things.  Ari’s book demonstrates that most of these new tools are easier to use than you think.  He encourages readers to consider who they want to connect with, where they are interacting, and to join the conversation.  He promises that you will fail some of the time, and that’s ok.  If you try using an e-newsletter and it doesn’t work for you, you can use another tool like blogging or LinkedIn to reach your audience.  Figuring out what works for you and your business is part of the process.

5.       Never Forget the Value of In-Person Contact
Using technology to communicate with someone is less intimidating than picking up the phone; however it is more impersonal.  Nothing will ever replace face-to-face contact, which is more personal and memorable.  It is important to look for opportunities to meet people in person whenever possible and to continue to build relationships with thoughtful follow up.

Using these tips and tools requires willingness and commitment.  The potential benefits of using technology should overpower any fears that come with trying new things.  Always keep in mind that these tools are to facilitate interaction, not for self-promotion.

Ari Kaplan, a Fastcase50 honoree, is the principle of Ari Kaplan Advisors in New York City and the author of The Opportunity Maker, Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (Thomson-West, 2011).  I bartered this blog post in exchange for a copy of his new book. 

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Bar Exam Wisdom from Legal All-Stars

The bar exam is tomorrow!  I’m praying that what everyone has told me about law school and bar exam prep being harder than the bar exam is true.  I’m ready to kick this test’s ass and to get it behind me.

I have met some amazing legal minds during law school.  I asked a few of them to share some final words of wisdom.

“Don’t try too hard. All you have to do is pass; you don’t have to ace the test.”
Sam Glover, Lawyerist editor-in-chief and ABA Legal Rebel

Bring it on!

Image by pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold via Flickr

“Trust your preparation.  I had the good fortune of studying for the 1997 New York and New Jersey bar exams with my wife (my girlfriend at the time) who was the smartest law student I knew (and is now the most gifted lawyer I know).  If you sincerely completed all of the practice questions and tests the course required, and trained yourself to respond (correctly as often as possible) within the allotted time, you should pass.  That said, I still remember feeling intimidated after seeing the person sitting next to me smiling widely before the exam began on the first day at the Javits Center.  In response, I lowered my head and simply tried to concentrate on the test.  Block out all distractions and solely focus on your goal of passing.  Then, once it is over, let it go and enjoy some time off.”
Ari Kaplan, founder of Ari Kaplan Advisors and author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace

“It is a stupid test. Most of the time, people less intelligent than you pass it. Sometimes people smarter than you fail it. If you pass, you get to be an attorney. If you fail, you cannot immediately be an attorney. Either way, you are a winner of sorts. Eat a decent breakfast and completely wipe the test out of your mind after the last question. Most people use the bar exam as another reason to be unhappy and stressed out. Don’t do that.”
Tyler Coulson, former associate of Sidley Austin, left his law firm to walk across the US with his dog

“Hyperventilating won’t help. Really. The day before the VA bar exam (my first bar exam), I had this mini-panic attack. I suddenly felt the weight of it. However, after a glimpse of rationale thought, I decided that, with less than 24 hours to go, I was better just taking the day easy and letting fate – or rather all of my hard work – take its course. Worrying can be productive but not when it is time to perform.  If you have studied, then simply go out and play your legal instrument. This is one of the last tests of your life where 75-90% will pass. Listen to the symphony in your head and play elegantly.”
Mark Britton, founder of Avvo and ABA Legal Rebel

At this point, there’s nothing more we can do but to walk into the test and do what we know how to do: kick ass.

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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It’s Official – I Have a Big Brain

A few weeks ago I got a message from Jonathan McNamara of the Phoenix New Times informing me that I had been nominated and was a finalist for the 2011 Big Brain Awards.  The Big Brain Awards are annual awards give out by the New Times to exceptional and innovative people in the arts in the Phoenix community.  I never thought that I would be nominated, let alone a finalist.  The committee started with nearly 400 nominees and whittled the list down to 18 finalists, 3 in each of 6 categories.  I’m a finalist in the Performing Arts category.

I was selected as a finalist because of my work with Improv AZ and because of Sponsor A Law Kid.  I am very excited and humbled to be nominated.  I have been blown away by the phenomenal people I’ve met in the Phoenix area in the last two years that to be singled out for my work is quite an honor.

I will find out if I’m a Big Brain winner or just honored to be nominated this Saturday at Artopia.

None of this could have happened without the love, support, and guidance from some special people in my life:

There are two special people I need to single out and thank for their support and guidance.

  1. Jeff Moriarty – If it wasn’t for Jeff organizing the first No Pants Ride, none of this would have ever happened.  There wouldn’t be Improv AZ, and I wouldn’t have met most of the amazing people in my life today.  Jeff was also the person who encouraged me to become a blogger and helped make Undeniable Ruth possible.
  2. Evo Terra – Evo is one of the most outspoken and brilliant people that I know.  A few months ago I asked him how he he developed a thick skin against criticism.  He responded, “Figure out who’s opinions matter to you. Then genuinely do not give a shit what anyone else thinks.”  That is easier said than done, but those have become my guiding words when I’m against people who disagree with what I write or what I do.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me get this far.  I’m up against some phenomenal people this Saturday: Tom Leveen and Joseph Perez.  While it would be nice to win, I will be pleased regardless of the outcome.

 

 

Twitter – The Untapped Resource for Law Students

I joined Twitter about 16 months ago.  I originally joined to keep in touch with my friends while I was in Missouri with the U.S. Army JAG last summer.  Since then, it has become one of my primary networking tools.  It is the easiest way I know to start a conversation with someone.  I’m surprised by how few students at my law school are using it.

Free twitter badge
Image via Wikipedia

A few months ago, Twitter helped me break the ice with Sam Glover when he spoke at my school.  Recently, it helped me create a connection with Tim Eigo and Arizona Attorney Magazine.  I don’t know how he found me, but he started following me in August and said that he liked this blog.  I went on LinkedIn and the Arizona Bar Association website to confirm his identity and then started a conversation with him.  That led to a lunch and hopefully this is the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Twitter has given me the ability to connect with a vast number of people, entities, and information that I otherwise would not have the time to seek out on my own.  It is the main way that I keep up with developments in the legal profession.  It also helps me stay informed about what my friends, local businesses, and celebrities are doing.

Online Best Colleges.com and Rasmussen College published their lists for the Top 100 Legal Twitter Feeds.  These are all wonderful people to follow.  Like them, I also want to acknowledge some of my favorite legal people and entities on Twitter who consistently post informative and entertaining content.

I also want to give props to Erin Biencourt, a 2L at Arizona State University, who is new to Twitter.  She claims that she needs me to give her Twitter lessons because she’s still figuring out how retweets and replies work.  She’s doing better than she realizes because she’s already overcome the biggest hurdle just by becoming part of the conversation.

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