Don’t Be The Sucker

Don’t Be The Sucker

white picket fenceSo the other day I had to paint a fence. It was a thankless task. The hot winter sun was bearing down on me. The fence spread out and seemed to get longer as the day wore on. A friend walked by and asked me what I was doing. I said, “I’m painting this fence! What a blast! I haven’t had this much fun since that night in the law library when I was throwing raisins at people. You should join me!” “Really? It’s that much fun?” “Yep! Here’s a brush.” “Okay!!” Another friend walked by. “What are you two doing?” “We’re painting this fence! It’s a blast!! Great way to be outdoors and work up a bit of a sweat. So glad we have this opportunity! Want to join us?” “Really? It’s that much fun?” “Yep! Here’s a brush.” And just like that, I had two helpers, and after recruiting a few more people for free labor I got the fence painted in no time.

Confession: I might have plagiarized that story.

When I started my practice, I was surprised at how many people wanted to help me gain exposure. People in charge of newsletters reached out to me with offers to let me write for them. Lawyer directory services that have blogs offered to let me write posts for them. Legal marketplaces matching lawyers and clients offered to let me write content. These folks were truly selfless in their desire to promote my practice by featuring on their websites content that I wrote.

One company wanted me to write an article on forming a venture capital fund, and after I said “sure,” they sent me a long list of instructions, with items such as making sure that when someone runs a Google search for the keyword, all the important pieces of information found in the top 10 pages of search results for that keyword are included, and “if there is anything that is not included, you should have a good reason as to why not.” Okay then!

That aside, I was touched that these companies were so focused on me and my practice, instead of just on promoting their own businesses. They didn’t really care if my supplying them with content happened to help drive traffic to their own websites, increasing the value of the ads appearing on their site (including ads by competing lawyers).

Or did they?


Maybe they’re not so selfless. Maybe they really do care about promoting their own businesses. Maybe my practice isn’t all that important to them, and maybe in fact they’re just looking for cheap content. Maybe I’m the friend walking by who gets convinced to paint the fence. If you don’t know who the sucker is in the first half-hour…

After painting fences for a while, I’ve arrived at a conclusion: if you’re going to do something, do it for yourself. That’s why we have our own practices to begin with, right? Because we’d rather be doing things for ourselves, instead of another person, or another firm. Why spend a couple of hours compiling an article that’s going to rank high if it’s only going to appear on somebody else’s website? Where’s the logic in that?

It’s true that appearing on a marketplace website or some other platform will get you some exposure that you may not have otherwise. But ask yourself: who is being exposed to you? If it’s a lawyer-focused website, then you might get other lawyers contacting you for free advice (so they can better serve their own paying clients). Maybe once in a blue moon a small referral? Whereas if you have blog posts, videos, and the like on your site, there’s a greater likelihood that the people who see your content will be people who may actually want to engage you.

And hey, who knows, maybe you can convince some people to write for your site, paying them in exposure bucks. After all, you’d rather be Tom than the thankless souls he got to paint for the fence for him, no?

gary-rossGary J. Ross opened his own practice, Jackson Ross PLLC, in 2013 after several years in Biglaw and the federal government. Gary handles corporate and securities matters for startups, large and small businesses, private equity funds, and investors in each, and also has a number of non-profit clients. You can reach Gary by email at


Published at Fri, 10 Feb 2017 00:18:47 +0000

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