Deborah Weinstock Q&A

June 1, 2021
Deborah Weinstock reflects on 37 years in legal marketing with the same firm.

“I loved, loved working on the radio show we produced with WCCO Radio, “Minnesota Law, Presented by Moss & Barnett.” It ran every Saturday morning from May 2008 through October 2012. We worked very hard to come up with timely and relevant topics every week for our listeners. In no way did we want the show to come off as an infomercial – it was strictly informational. Our goal was to present news and information to our listeners about a wide variety of legal issues and current developments in the law, as well as introduce our listeners to important guests active in the Minnesota legal community, including judges, law school professionals, legal aid and veterans advocates, local bar association professionals, and more.”

Did you ever imagine that you would still be at Moss & Barnett today when you started in 1983?

Actually, I did see that as a possibility, as long as I was valued and provided with the opportunity to grow, learn, and advance while at the firm. Moss & Barnett encourages life-long education and advancement and has always promoted from within whenever possible. We have many team members who started out as legal secretaries or in some other role who are now working as paralegals, leading or working on the firm’s administrative and IT teams, and some who have gone on to get their law degrees and work as attorneys. I have always enjoyed working in the legal industry and specifically for a law firm. It is challenging, interesting, and complex work.

You began your career as a legal secretary and moved into marketing at a time when few law firms had marketing departments. What were those days like?

Full disclosure that the firm had had a full-time marketing professional (in the early 1990s) long before I was asked to take on the marketing role in 2006. Larger firms were hiring marketing professionals and building marketing teams, but it was still not as commonplace in the small to mid-sized firms. Back in the early days, website technology was clunky and awkward. Receptionists and secretaries played a vital role in the marketing relationship as they were answering, screening, and placing calls for the attorneys they worked with. There were no direct dial numbers and everything went through the main switchboard (the receptionist) and then through secretaries. Fax machines were a marvel when they arrived on the scene. Clients were coming in to the office much more frequently then, which made the role of receptionist and legal secretary hugely important. Receptionists were often the first point of contact. Print media was the main marketing medium used to reach out to clients and referral sources, including firm brochures, client reports, and newsletters. Bios were difficult to update and change as everything was print and not digital. Martindale-Hubbell was the “bible” for finding and locating attorneys. Every law firm had the Martindale-Hubbell directory in their libraries as Google searching was in its infancy. The Internet and digital changed everything! To be honest, I miss putting together a beautiful print piece which can be held and touched and saved for posterity, and I still believe that every lawyer needs a strong team – legal secretaries, marketing professionals, etc. – supporting and enhancing their business development and relationship building efforts. It was very challenging, but also very exciting, to take on this new legal marketing role. It was, basically, a sink or swim proposition. There was no one at the firm to teach me the ropes and I had no prior marketing experience. What I did have was a good understanding of and appreciation for the firm, its people, its culture, and our clients. I was basically given a file cabinet with marketing files and dug in. Right out of the gate, we rebranded the firm, developed a new logo, produced two award-winning client reports, launched a new website, and continued producing our quarterly newsletter. Key to my success was joining the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and becoming actively involved in its Minnesota Chapter. I was a team of one, and LMA provided me the opportunity to meet other legal marketing professionals who I could learn from and collaborate and exchange ideas with. It is because of the generosity of others, who took the time to share their expertise and knowledge with me, that I have been able to advance and grow throughout my career.

What is one truism about law firm marketing that is the same now as 37 years ago?

It is still all about relationships and maintaining those relationships. Two truisms always stand out for me: “People do business with people”, and “One size fits one.” It still falls on the individual attorneys to build those relationships and their practices, first by becoming top-notch experts in their respective fields, and then demonstrating that expertise with exceptional client service and through writing, speaking, entertaining, community engagement, etc. – whatever works best for that individual. My job is to support those efforts however and in whatever way I can and to find effective ways to share our firm’s story and to get the word out about how we can partner with businesses and individuals to minimize risk and provide successful outcomes for whatever issues they may face.

Few people stay at a company for three years anymore, much less 37. What is it about Moss & Barnett that has kept you there?

Moss & Barnett values its employees – all of its employees. As mentioned previously, the firm promotes learning and advancement from within whenever possible. The firm has a very good benefits package, including a 401(k) plan that is hard to beat. Most importantly, I have been very fortunate throughout my career at Moss & Barnett to work with some incredibly talented and amazing attorneys, who I respect, as well as work with a talented team of professionals, some of whom have become life-long friends. I have always felt I was an important and valuable member of a team. On a side note, while I was raising my two children, Moss & Barnett allowed me the opportunity to work flexible hours – long before flexibility to accommodate work/life balance was even heard of. I started the firm’s evening secretarial program, then moved to a combination of days and evenings, and then finally moved back to full‑time days when my youngest went into first grade. That work/life flexibility was ahead of its time back then, and it is something I am forever grateful for.

Do you have any colleagues that have been there as long as you?

Yes, I do. I have four other colleagues, who are not attorneys, who have been with the firm for over 35 years and an additional five more who have been with the firm for over 30 years. Moss & Barnett has many attorneys who have spent their entire career or most of their career here. It says a lot about the firm and its culture, in my opinion, to have people stay with an organization for that length of time.

How has Moss & Barnett’s positioning in the marketplace changed through the years? 

We always felt that we were a well-kept secret in the marketplace. Moss & Barnett is respected and highly regarded in the legal community. However, we wanted to become more well-known within the overall community, as well. That was one of the reasons we launched our “Minnesota Law” radio program in partnership with WCCO Radio back in 2008. We recently invested in a high-quality, easy-to-navigate website; we continue to produce a quarterly firm newsletter that covers a variety of legal topics, as well as push out digital alerts when a legal topic or issue warrants it; our attorney continue to speak, write about, and present on a variety of important legal topics; the firm’s attorneys are active in various bar associations and the provision of pro bono legal services; the firm provides financial support to organizations that provide access to legal services for underserved communities; and, most recently, we launched a firm-wide philanthropic initiative, “M&B Cares,” to provide volunteers for various community projects to go along with financial contributions. Our law firm enjoys a long and colorful history of individuals, partnerships, and associations going all the way back to 1892. Today, Moss & Barnett continues to expand, serving clients regionally, nationally, and internationally, developing new practice areas, and improving services for our clients.

What’s your favorite moment from your time at Moss & Barnett?

I loved, loved working on the radio show we produced with WCCO Radio, “Minnesota Law, Presented by Moss & Barnett.” It ran every Saturday morning from May 2008 through October 2012. We worked very hard to come up with timely and relevant topics every week for our listeners. In no way did we want the show to come off as an infomercial – it was strictly informational. Our goal was to present news and information to our listeners about a wide variety of legal issues and current developments in the law, as well as introduce our listeners to important guests active in the Minnesota legal community, including judges, law school professionals, legal aid and veterans advocates, local bar association professionals, and more. We incorporated all of our marketing tools and skills into producing and promoting the show, including diving into digital marketing, creating a brand, logo, and Twitter handle for the show, learning podcasting skills, developing relationships within the community, and, most importantly, showcasing the expertise of our professionals. Audio from all of the shows can be found on our website, LawMoss.com, or at mossandbarnettonwcco.com. Those audio files contain such good information. That initiative is the one I am most proud of so far in my legal marketing career.