Recently in Legal Marketing Trends Category

March 25, 2011

Free NOLO Webinar - Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys

Do you struggle to find quality leads? Does it seem equally hard to convert your prospects into paid clients? Then you'll benefit from our free webinar, Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys. In this dynamic presentation with law firm marketing expert and best-selling author Stephen Fairley, you'll discover proven tactics used by first-rate lawyers across the country who consistently generate more quality leads than their competitors.

Sign up for Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys and learn how to:

  • Attract more qualified prospects immediately.
  •  Implement cutting edge legal marketing strategies to build your practice.
  • Reduce your Cost Per Client Acquisition (CPCA).
  • Increase referrals from current and former clients.

In addition, you'll learn the secrets of Direct Response Marketing and hear about the case study of a small law firm that doubled their leads in 90 days!

This webinar is ideal for:

  • Solo practitioners and principal attorneys at small law firms.
  • Marketing professionals at small law firms.

Meet Your Presenter
Stephen Fairley is the CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation's largest law firm marketing company specializing in lead conversion for small law firms and solo practitioners. Over 7,000 attorneys nationwide have benefited from learning and implementing the proven marketing and lead conversion strategies taught by The Rainmaker Institute. In addition, Stephen is a nationally recognized law firm marketing expert and international best-selling author.

Meet the Organizer
Nolo is passionate about making the law accessible to everyone. Since 1971, our high-quality books, software, legal forms, and online lawyer directory have helped millions of people find answers to their everyday legal and business questions. Nolo's online lawyer directory is a unique tool for attorneys to demonstrate their expertise online and grow their business. To learn more about being listed in Nolo's Lawyer Directory, visit Nolo.com/lawyers/.

Webinar Details
When: March 30, 2011, 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time)
Where: Via computer and/or phone
Cost: Free

There will be a 10-minute question and answer opportunity at the end of the webinar.
Please note that CLE credit is not available for this webinar.

Register now!

If you have any questions, please call 1-877-NOLO-LAW (665-6529).

Nolo's Lawyer Directory
950 Parker Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
www.nolo.com/lawyers/

February 4, 2011

Free Webinar - Social Media for Lawyers

Are you wondering how to use social media in your professional life? Confused about how it's supposed to earn you more money as an attorney? Or what resources are out there specifically designed for attorneys? Then you're invited to our latest webinar, Social Media for Lawyers. In this webinar, presented by lawyer, SEO expert, and founder of Justia, Tim Stanley, we'll show you how to successfully apply social media to your law firm and practice.

Register now: Social Media for Lawyers

Social media has exploded in the past couple of years. It's now become essential for businesses and companies: over 65% of attorneys are using social media to grow their firms. They've discovered their web presence needs to move beyond their firm's website. Sign up for Social Media for Lawyers and you'll learn:

  • How social networking applies to legal professionals

  • Strategies for participating on social media, with an emphasis on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter

  • Which tools will maximize professional benefits

  • Best practices for legal professionals

This webinar is ideal for:

  • Solo practitioners

  • Principal attorneys at small law firms

  • Marketing professionals at small law firms

Meet Your Presenter
Tim Stanley is a computer programmer, lawyer, and CEO of Justia. Prior to starting Justia, Mr. Stanley co-founded FindLaw and served as FindLaw's CEO and Chairman. He is a member of the State Bar of California, the American Association for Justice, American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Meet the Organizer
Nolo is passionate about making the law accessible to everyone. Since 1971, our high-quality books, software, legal forms, and online lawyer directory have helped millions of people find answers to their everyday legal and business questions. Nolo's online lawyer directory is a unique tool for attorneys at small firms to demonstrate their expertise online. To learn more about being listed in Nolo's lawyer directory, visit Nolo.com.

Webinar Details
When: February 17, 2011, 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM (Pacific Standard Time)
Where: Via computer and/or phone
Cost: Free

Space is limited so register today. There will be a 10-minute question and answer opportunity at the end of the webinar.

Please note: CLE credit is not available. Please join us for this exciting event!

Register now to attend this free event!

Nolo's Lawyer Directory
950 Parker Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
www.nolo.com/lawyers/

January 18, 2011

The Scoop On Groupon for Lawyers

Can Groupon, a website that leverages the concept of collective bargaining power to offer daily deals on local businesses work for lawyers? To date, I've seen at least one law firm that gave Groupon a try, though no word on the results of the firm's participation. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Ethics Committee recently opined that Groupon violates state bar rules' prohibiting fee splitting. As I'll discuss in this post, though I don't think Groupon is a particularly promising way for law firms to market a practice (in addition to ethics hurdles, it's also a costly proposition), there is one way that lawyers can benefit from Groupon: as buyers of Groupon discounted servicers, rather than providers of it.

What is Groupon?
By now, most lawyers are probably familiar with Groupon, an online company that offers daily deals at local businesses. One of Wall Street's current darlings, it's been described somewhat derisively as darlings of the tech industry;a modern version of an online coupon book. Basically, Groupon teams up with local businesses who provide a coupon for 50 to 70 percent off a product or service. Groupon emails the deal to registered users, and if enough users commit to purchasing the coupon, the deal goes through. Groupon and the participating business split the proceeds.

How Groupon Benefits Non-Lawyer Businesses
As described here, retailers benefit from Groupon in a number of ways. First, the coupons bring business in the door, and as a result, customers are likely to spend more than just the face value of the Groupon. Second, first time customers may either become repeat customers or refer friends, so the loss on the first, discounted sale can yield future sales down in the line.

Groupon also spares retailers up-front costs of advertising. Though to be sure, Groupon ain't free, the money comes from sale proceeds and not out-of-pocket. If a deal doesn't go through due to insufficient numbers, retailers don't pay. Moreover, even if consumers don't buy a Groupon when offered, they may learn about your business and patronize it even without the discount. I know that I've learned about a couple of activities in my area through Groupon that I later visited even though I never thought to purchase a coupon at the time because I didn't have an immediate use for it.

Still, even though Groupon can benefit businesses, it can also be a big bust. That's because, as discussed here, not all consumers spend in excess of the Groupon or return after having used the coupon. Most importantly - Groupon can be costly to providers. Let's say that a restauranteur offers a $50 meal for $25 and 100 people accept the offer. That's $2500 in proceeds (100 x $25), but the restauranteur only receives $1250. That means the restaurant is obligated to provide $5000 in services for $1250.

A Harvard Business School paper (December 2010) offers a more extensive cost-benefit of Groupon, summarized here. What's interesting is the study found that discount vouchers work better for some businesses than others. Merchants will low cost of goods and highly perishable products - like restaurants, spas, gyms and hotels - fall within that category - every table or room unfilled is lost revenue that can't be recovered. By contrast, retailers of clothing or manufactured products can hold items for future sales, so the marginal business that other providers gain from Groupon is not as urgent for them.

How Can Groupon Work for Lawyers
Selling legal services via Groupon poses somewhat more of a challenge than other items. Since customers have to pre-pay for Groupons, they'll want to purchase a service that they need or might like to use. So whereas a spa can sell a $200 Groupon for a $500 "Day of Beauty," since customers may want to sample that type of service, a customers are unlikely to pay $200 for "$500 Worth of Legal Services" unless they have an immediate need for legal services. Second, most of the Groupons that come to my box are priced so that recipients can redeem the groupon for a full product without spending more than face value. For example, if I buy a $10 Groupon for "$20 worth of food at XYZ Restaurant," it's usually enough for at least one, if not two meals. That's what makes Groupons so appealing. By contrast, if a ten dollar Groupon offered $20 of food at a five-star gourmet restaurant, I doubt that many people would buy it, because they'd have to spend more money at the restaurant in order to get the value of the Groupon.

It's that dynamic that makes Groupons less appealing for legal services. When customers buy a $200 Groupon, they want to receive the full service in return. Presumably, that is why this lawyer anticipated the possibility that a will might not be appropriate, and offered prospective Groupon purchasers a discount on other services. However, consumers might not want to purchase the more expensive service (or simply, might not have the money for it), and might demand a refund of the Groupon instead.

In addition, a Groupon is a form of advance payment for a service. If a lawyer offers a $100 incorporation on Groupon, and fifty clients accept the deal, the lawyer receives $2500 (fifty percent of the $5000 total) once the deal goes through. However, clients might not use the service for another three months. Would that require the lawyer to place the funds in a trust account?

The North Carolina ethics committee identified another ethics problem with Groupon, characterizing it as prohibited fee splitting Consumers pay one price for Groupon and lawyers subsequently split that fee with Groupon, a non-lawyer provider, a practice that violates North Carolina's rules. Though personally, I don't find much mischief in fee splitting as a way to spread advertising costs, I can easily see many other bars taking the same approach.

Though to date, North Carolina is the only disciplinary body that has expressly addressed Groupon, others have ruled on the ethics of other types of discounted services. A number of state disciplinary bodies don't approve of the practice, finding that discounts may be deceptive (for example, offering a "free" consult when a lawyer never charges for consults anyway), or can give rise to a conflict of interest or constitute a "fee" in exchange for referral if given to a third party, like a realtor, for distribution.

So What's the Bottom Line on Groupon for Lawyers?
Personally, I don't really see how Groupon can prove profitable for lawyers. Unless lawyers can offer a discrete service at a discounted rate, it seems that lawyers are bound to lose money. More importantly, unlike restaurants or hotels, will Groupons yield referrals or repeat business for lawyers? I'm skeptical, though if your experience differs, please share it in the comments. Finally, the potential ethical pitfalls associated with Groupon further diminish its desirability for lawyers.

Still - there is one terrific way for you or your law firm to use Groupon: as purchasers, rather than providers of Groupon deals. You can buy Groupons as thank-you gifts for clients and referral sources. Or snap up a bunch of Groupons to a restaurant or coffee shop at the beginning of the year, and use your Groupons throughout to treat colleagues or potential referral sources to a meal. Not only will you keep your costs down, but because you need to pre-pay for Groupons, you'll have more incentive to actually follow through on get togethers or networking meals.

So there you have it, the scoop on Groupon.
June 16, 2010

Marketing by the Checklist

If you've come to this post expecting a checklist of criteria by which to evaluate your current marketing efforts or implement a new marketing initiative, then you've come to the wrong place.  Those kinds of checklists (especially a task list) are useful to be sure, because they make it easier to delegate marketing to a subordinate or assistant so that it doesn't go by the wayside when your schedule picks up.  But today, I'm addressing another category of checklist:  the kind that lawyers use, or at least should use, that outline the steps or procedures involved in handling the substance of a case.

If the "checklist" concept sounds familiar to you, it's because it's the focal point of Anul Gawande's book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, which has been the subject of many-a-recent blog post.  I recently finished the book myself and was convinced by Gawande's thesis:  that the "humble" checklist can minimize error in carrying out complex tasks by helping with memory recall and setting out the minimum necessary steps in a process.  Moreover, by committing routine procedures to a hard and fast list, a checklist frees up professionals to devote more time to the kinds of judgment calls that they always have to make, whether there's a list in place or not.

Gawande draws on examples from medicine, engineering and aviation to demonstrate how checklists can minimize error.  In the medical profession for example, a study showed that by using a checklist for placing a central line (comprised of seemingly mundane tasks like wearing a mask or body-draping a patient), the  the ten-day infection rate was reduced from 11% to zero.  But you can probably imagine situations in your own practice where a checklist - such as the essential elements of a personal injury complaint to a list of documents required to file a bankruptcy petition - could also help avoid error and eliminate the risk of dismissal of a case.

OK.  So you're convinced of the importance of checklists.  But what's that got to do with marketing?  Plenty.  Consider these potential ways to use checklists to market your practice educate your clients and keep your firm at the forefront of their mind.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Create a task-oriented checklist of all of the steps involved in a particular type of proceeding -- for example, a typical divorce dispute.  Post the checklist on your website or blog, or publish it online as a mini-ebook.  The checklist will help clients understand all of the steps involved in even a so-called simple divorce.  As a result, the list can help weed out prospects who aren't really serious about divorce, but nevertheless, eat up your time at a free consultation.  And where a client does hire you, a task-oriented checklist helps clients know what to expect, and also familiarizes them with the amount of work that their case may potentially entail - which can help reduce complaints about excessive fees down the line.

2.   Create a client "to do checklist" - for example, a list of documents that clients should bring to the first meeting or gather together for a bankruptcy filing or preparation of an estate plan.  A client to do checklist will help you to market your practice because it makes clients' lives easier.  Going through a bankruptcy or preparing an estate plan is stressful enough for busy clients; it's even more stressful if they need to keep providing additional information because they forgot to write down a particular item that is required.  Clients will appreciate a checklist that they can work from and they'll appreciate it even more if you offer it on your website and in both paper and computerized format, so that they don't have to keep calling for another copy if they lose the list.  Satisfied clients will provide positive testimonials, which if accurate and sincere, are one of the most effective ways to attract new clients.

3.  Create a post-engagement checklist for clients to use after you've finished the matter for which you were retained.  Even after you've finished a case for a client, there are still matters for which they are responsible, or that may trigger further legal action.  For example, even after an incorporation is complete, the client retains responsibility for filing annual reports and other documents to keep the corporation in good standing.  Creating a checklist of these post-representation matters will help the client avoid problems down the line.  And if you put the checklist on your law firm letterhead (or if you're feeling particularly ambitious, create a branded mobile app for a client to download a checklist on his or her phone), clients can always get in touch with you for follow up questions or problems.

For other matters - like a bankruptcy discharge or a divorce and child custody agreement - you'll want to create a checklist to help clients determine whether they need further assistance.  For example, after a bankruptcy, clients shouldn't be getting calls from creditors whose debts were already discharged - and if they do, they should call you.  Likewise, for divorce matters, a lawyer might identify a list of events - such as loss of a job or an ex-spouse's remarriage or relocation - that may trigger the filing of modification petitions.

Checklists are an ideal marketing tool:  they educate clients and enable lawyers to serve them more effectively.  Checklists aren't as flashy as a T.V. commercial or even a fancy website, but they're inexpensive and most of all, something that lawyers should be creating for their practices anyway.  So when you get around to making a list of the tools that you want to use to market your practice, be sure to include the humble checklist.
May 12, 2010

Marketing Your Practice By Being a Type-A Lawyer

Many lawyers exhibit Type A personalities in the court-room or board-room:  highly competitive, ambitious, business-like and aggressive.  Yet when it comes to choosing the appropriate typography for the documents used in court or exchanged during transactions, these same lawyers are far more laid back, rarely searching for choices beyond the default Times-New Roman.

So how does lawyer typography relate to legal marketing, which after all, is the focus of this blog?   As I'll spell out below, one Helvetica character as a time, in the Internet Age, typography matters to lawyer marketing more than ever, largely because the web makes lawyers' writing so widely accessible.

I.  The Letter of The Law Is Everywhere 

In an Internet Age, lawyers' writings are available to all. These days, virtually every law firm has a website, and many have blogs which together comprise a large portion of lawyers' writing on the Internet.  These sites require careful typography choices to ensure that the site caters to its audience.  Thus, a site aimed at the elderly should employ large font on light backgrounds, while a site for younger folks might use an edgier look. 

But, bear in mind, typography issues aren't limited to on-line postings (and indeed, for websites and blogs, is not as critical because readers can, as a last resort, bypass the site through use of RSS feeds or email).   The more significant typography problems, in my mind, are those related to previously paper-based documents that are now rapidly making their way online.  For example, some law firms publish e-books to show their expertise in a particular subject matter and educate prospective clients.  Lawyers routinely make e-books available for download at their websites or post them at article archiving sites which means that the e-books are viewable by a far broader circle than their predecessors, the pamphlet, the law review article or the treatise.       

Likewise, a decade ago B.E.F. (before e-filing), lawyers submitted hard-copies of pleadings or briefs to the court.  Most of those hard copied documents lived out their existence in practical obscurity in courthouse file cabinets, unviewed by anyone besides the judge and the parties involved in the case.  Fast forward to today when anyone can search PACER or a state electronic filing system and find and download briefs and pleadings.  As with e-books, sites like JD Supra offer lawyers an SEO-charged location to upload work product for colleagues and potential clients to review.

The upshot of all this is that both the substance and style of lawyers' writing, is on display.  More importantly, readers' impression of the the latter can influence their opinion of the former.  For example, a reader who downloads a law firm e-book on Fighting Foreclosure that resembles a legal memo - single spaced, Times New Roman font on white paper - may assume that the e-book is written in complex legal-ese without bothering to take a closer look.  Alternatively, the reader might view the e-book as cheap-looking or homemade and wonder about the firm's financial stability, its availability of support staff or potentially, even its competence.   

Likewise, even the typography in briefs and memos tells a story to those who care to "read between the lines."  For starters, a lawyer's choice of typography for a brief can signal to others whether that lawyer is familiar with the rules of the jurisdiction, which often dictate font selection.  Others may wonder whether the lawyer still using a dated font like courier has actually practiced much in recent years.  Finally, some readers will simply feel annoyed or frustrated as they try to work their way through a fifty page memo on the complexities of securities law in font comfortably visible only under a magnifying glass.  

Granted, most of the concerns just described (with the exception of the one related to ability to follow rules) are based on leaping and most likely, inaccurate assumptions. Nevertheless, whether fair or not, the kinds of negative impressions that clients may glean from a lawyer's chosen typography can result in lost business.

On the flip side, however, smart typography choices can help lawyers market their practice.  Bold fonts and interesting layout make an e-book look so crisp and attractive that clients can't resist reading it.  A font that's compatible with other lawyers with whom you work shows that you know what you're doing.  And a unique typography style -- perhaps an unusual combination of readable and stylish fonts --  can serve as your brand, so that all who see the document  know that it's from your firm even before they flip to the signature page.

II.  A Font of Font Solutions

So how can lawyers pick the type of typography that's right for them?  For major products like e-books, engaging a professional to assist with design and typography choice is probably the best solution.  But hiring professional help may not be within your budget, nor is a designer a cost-effective approach for traditional documents like briefs or memos.

Fortunately, the web is a font of information on font selection.  Below are some resources to get you started:

1.  The beautifully designed Typography for Lawyers site offers the most detailed and comprehensive information on font choices for lawyers.  Plus, it includes examples of each font discussed, so you can see how they look in action.

2.  For transactional lawyers, Adams Drafting principal Ken Adams, describes his preferred choice of Calibri as a font for contract drafts here.

3.  The Seventh Circuit discusses federal court typography requirements and offers advice to lawyers on how to choose, as does this journal article, Painting With Print by Ruth Ann Robbins.

4.  Big Brand System explains different types of font and suggests ways to combine them.

5.  Here's a great infographic (kind of like a flowchart) from Julian Hansen that you can use to select the right font for your project.  (In fact, it's that chart that inspired this post).

Finally, if you're interested in a new font to spiff up a blog or website, Google just introduced a bunch of web fonts, free for download. 

III.  Conclusion

As I stated at the outset, many lawyers are already Type A personalities.  For that reason, it shouldn't be too difficult to convert them into Typography-A students as well, once lawyers wake up and realize how much the "letters of the law" matter to potential clients.




 
October 11, 2009

Marketing to the Do It Yourself-er

Years before I started blogging here at Nolo's Legal Marketing Blawg, I was an unabashed fan of Nolo for its pioneer work in providing legal resources to pro se litigants at a time when they had no other alternatives.  Flash forward three and a half decades, and though other self-help resources now exist, Nolo remains out in front both in the variety of offerings and more importantly, quality of material.   

What's more, the self-help trend is growing faster than ever -- and it's not just because the economic downturn is forcing folks to cut back.   Instead, the move towards self-help is at once driven by generational preferences and technological advancements.

Consider the evidence, like this recent press release about Generation Y's propensity for   taking charge of their own investments instead of relying on a financial manager, broker or other professional.  Gen Y'ers are playing a far more active role in overseeing their finances -- 31 percent are doing their own investment research compared to 12 percent of Boomers, and a full 50 percent are keeping track of their accounts compared to 30 percent of Boomers.  The trend isn't surprising -- after all, Gen Y'ers have grown up online and are accustomed to researching online.  For that reason, Gen Y'ers rated online research as the most important tool for investment information and they frequently use iPhones for stock quotes or to check investments.

Technology is also making self-help options more desirable for consumers. The Chicago Tribunehighlights the growing popularity of self-service Redbox kiosks for videos and self-check out at supermarkets.  Kiosk transactions are expected to surpass $775 billion this year, up from $607 billion in 2008, according to IHL Group, which tracks the self-service industry. It could hit $1.6 trillion by 2013.

So why do lawyers need to learn about DIY and self-help trends?  After all, don't self-help options reduce the need for lawyers?  Not necessarily.  In many instances, self-help products for consumers - like Nolo's books and forms - capture a market segment that either didn't want or couldn't afford to hire a lawyer.  In other words, many self-help options help clients who weren't going to hire lawyers anyway.

The 21st century version of self-help has evolved from the more traditional concept of doing it yourself to save money.  The modern day version of self-help is all about education and empowerment; today's self-help tools aren't intended to displace the need for professionals but rather to supplement the services that they provide.  

In the survey that I mentioned, for all the work that Gen Y'ers are doing in tracking their own investments and researching their portfolio, at the end of the day just 24 percent (compared with 11 percent of Boomers) are actually managing their own accounts.  That still leaves 75 percent of the Gen Y population as potential investment company clients.  And an investment professional's ability to cater to Gen Y's self-help urges -- through services like online research reports on market trends and internet connection to accounts--is what will make them appealing.  

That's why understanding the self-help trend is critical for lawyers.  Acting in a protectionist fashion and keeping information close to the vest for fear that clients won't "buy the cow if they can get the milk for free" won't generate more clients.  Instead, hoarding information will only drive clients to those lawyers who understand and respect their desire to educate themselves and play an active role in their case.

With that goal in mind, what features can you add to your practice to make you more attractive to the independently minded Gen Y'ers, not to mention the kiosk-patronizing consumers who've grown accustomed to the convenience of self service?  Consider the following ideas:

--Start a blog and pack it full of posts related to your practice, such as answering "frequently asked questions" that you hear all the time (will I lose my home in bankruptcy? Is it really a hassle to go through probate?) to explaining how you handle certain types of cases.  You could supplement the blog with a newsletter which is another way to feed information to clients.

--Write an ebook or special report that can help clients better understand or even solve a basic legal problem.  Ebooks and reports educate potential clients, which means that they may self-screen themselves if they learn from your materials that they don't have a case.

--Incorporate tools in your practice that makes it easy for clients to help themselves.  Add a client portal, where clients can log-in and check the status of your case.  Client portals aren't costly -- services like ZohoBasecamp or Clio offer portals and cost $50 per month or less. Plus, the portals will save you time by eliminating, or at least reducing calls from anxious clients seeking updates.

--Offer unbundled services virtually.  If you're interested in trying to capture more reluctant do-it-yourself clients, you might consider providing unbundled services exclusively on line.  Two companies, VLO Tech and Direct Law offer reasonably priced, turn-key systems for serving consumers online.  As a virtual lawyer, you'll provide legal advice and draft and review documents, but the client will still do much of the legwork, such as filing an incorporation with the Secretary of State or executing a will that you've drafted.  

By helping clients help themselves, you help yourself too.  Because when those self-help client need a full service lawyer, they'll turn to the ones who helped them when they didn't need to.