Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don’t Trust that Google Ranking: The New Personalized Search Blindfold

When marketing your business online, don’t be fooled by Google’s personalized search. With Google’s recent announcement that personalized search will be in play even when you’re not signed into Google, it gets harder to track your overall SEO efforts. (This column courtesy of guest writer Kevin Kaiser; see below.)

Google decided they would automatically enroll everyone (even without being signed into a Google account) into personalized search and make you opt out if you don’t want it. It works by using a cookie that stores the last 180 days of search queries and web history to give you the most personalized search.

The best way to illustrate this is through an example. I am writing this as a guest columnist based in Missouri (see below). When I do a search for “South Florida bankruptcy lawyer” while outside the state of Florida, I get the following results: #1 spot “;” #2 spot “;” and #3 spot “”

Now I don’t ever search for bankruptcy lawyers in South Florida, so I would consider this a fairly “normal” search for that query. What I mean by “normal” is that I’ve cleared all my history and cookies and performed only this search, so Google has no information on my search history or web history. “Normal” in the sense that it’s universal for everyone is dead.

If you’re in South Florida you may get something completely different than me. And if you’re a South Florida bankruptcy lawyer and do a search for ‘South Florida bankruptcy lawyer’, you see yourself #3, but you visit your site all the time, always click on it, and that’s why it’s so high for all your related search queries you’re tracking. For me, you may show up at #22.

To help see what you will look like to most users on their first query in a specific niche, you will want to disable Google’s ability to track your web history. To do this, perform a query in Google. Then, on the results page click “Web History” located in the top right corner. On the next page, click on the link that says “Disable customizations based on search activity”. This will make it so that the browser you’re using won’t let Google track your search history. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not signed into Google as well.

SEO, rank is now becoming a bit of a ‘myth’. It was easy to be able to do a simple query and see where your site ranked for the majority of searchers, but now it’s not the case anymore. You have to watch your analytics/traffic to make informed decisions about how your marketing campaign is going. If you see a big drop in organic traffic, yet your site hasn’t dropped rank for many keywords or maybe even went higher in rank, it’s obviously not the same case for the rest of searchers.

So is SEO dead? While the universal personal results make it hard to track, SEO is still important to get that initial exposure to potential clients. Having keyword-rich titles and meta tags, as well as great content and lots of links, you have a good chance of being in the first couple results. And that matters more than ever now as when a user visits your site and not many others in your niche, there is a much higher chance Google will try to send them to your site again for a similar query.

This guest post was written by Kevin Kaiser of, specializing in educating consumers about surety bonds.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monthly Retainers Replace Billable Hours at San Francisco Law Firm

Alternative billing is the rule rather than the exception at San Francisco law firm Smithline Jha, according to a recent The Recorder article titled "Small Law Firm Woos Clients with Monthly Subscription Fees."

A key benefit to clients, who tend to be venture-backed firms, is that they have a fixed monthly expenses to budget. Monthly retainers range from $6,000 to $12,000, according to the article.

The firm's website outlines their approach to subscription pricing.

According to the article:
Now clients tend to invite them to the deal table earlier, while terms are still being discussed, rather than bringing them in to review a ready-made contract. "They're not afraid to call anymore," Jha said. "They didn't feel like the meter was running every time they talked to us. The net effect was we got so much closer to our clients."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Successful Holiday Networking: What to Say after “Hello”

Business networking can be like speed dating; you only have a few minutes to make a positive first impression.

In this season of holiday parties, now is the time to invest a few minutes in reviewing your business development goals. Be selective on where you spend your networking time. Focus on those holiday events that offer the highest concentration of your best prospects and skip the rest. Ideally these opportunities are local, but a national or regional practice may dictate that you travel to mingle with the movers and shakers.

Your approach to each new person you meet will vary somewhat with their situation. When introduced, you must determine if they are: a) a prospect; b) a source of referrals; and/or c) a power broker. Plan accordingly. Here are some conversational basics to maximize your networking efforts.

Rule #1: Remember the prospect’s name. Do this by repeating your new contact’s name when you speak with them (e.g., very nice to meet you, John). Try to create some type of word or image association that will help you establish their name in your memory. Reinforce your recall by introducing your contact to others who stop by and say hello while the two of you are talking.

Rule #2: Ask for a business card. Take note of the information provided, including their title, office location, and any description of services offered. Offer one of your cards in return. Be prepared with a brief but concise “elevator pitch.” Here is an example:

I am Jane Smith, an elder law attorney with Smith, Johnson & Jones. Our firm has 10 attorneys working from offices in City 1, City 2 and City 3. We help older Americans and their families plan for the healthcare, housing and financial needs required for a secure retirement. Our clients achieve a healthier, more satisfactory lifestyle by knowing their affairs are in order.

Rule #3: Try to qualify your lead. Chit-chatting about current events may be interesting, but it doesn’t help you determine if this person is a potential fit for your legal services. Qualifying questions revolve around the characteristics of your ideal client profile. Ask about:

Demographics. If your practice serves business accounts, try to uncover some key facts like staff size, number of offices, years in business, typical customers, sales cycle, and other pertinent points. If consumers or high net worth individuals are your clients, ask questions about family size, education, cars, home ownership, travel, and hobbies.

Business or Personal Challenges. Try to skillfully uncover areas of concern facing the business executive or consumer. Is there new legislation or existing regulatory compliance requirements that pose a burden for the businessperson? Are they hiring or downsizing? Is financing available for their needs? Consumer issues are likely to be more sensitive, so one approach is to talk about common challenges faced by your clients and see how your prospect responds.

Existing Legal Relationships. It is very helpful to know if your prospect is already working with an attorney. If the answer is “yes,” proceed cautiously. Perhaps you have a specialized level of knowledge that may be of interest to the prospect.

Rule #4: Follow up. If you are able to develop a good rapport with the prospect, ask for permission to call for lunch or coffee. It may take 5-6 meetings and a period of time to convert the prospect to a client, so you might as well get started. This will also give you a better chance to understand the benefits your customer will derive from the right solution to their legal challenges.

Rule #5. Track your leads. Avoid the common trap of spending valuable time on networking, only to lose touch with your leads due to work conflicts. Set up a “pipeline” or lead management system that works for you. Common lead tracking software programs include Act!, Goldmine,, Contact Ease, Interaction by LexisNexis, Microsoft Outlook, or Microsoft Contacts.

Adding even 10-20 new qualified prospects to your pipeline over the holidays can make a big difference in your 2010 business development results.

Networking is a two-way street. Be prepared, listen carefully, and learn how you can help the many prospective clients, friends, and acquaintances you meet. Remember, business development is a process and not an event. Never stop marketing!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

5 Success Strategies for 2010 Legal Marketing

If 2009 is the opening bell in a longer term legal industry transformation, lawyers planning for business development success in 2010 need a new marketing playbook. Unprecedented attorney lay-offs, billable hour pressures, and a shift in purchasing power associated with the ACC Value Challenge all underscore the necessity of entering the New Year with a sharply defined law firm marketing plan featuring clearly defined goals and metrics.

Stake out your market, your ideal clients, and the substantive legal issues where you can offer a competitive advantage. Build your position as a thought leader through education-based campaigns to attract and retain qualified prospects, using the professional marketing techniques outlined below.

Legal Marketing Step #1. Position yourself as an expert through the conferences, magazines, social media communities, and websites that target your ideal client. Focus on 3 to 5 specific hot topics.

Legal Marketing Step #2. A referral network is important, but it is only one of many marketing channels. Successful rainmakers attract qualified prospects through speaking, publishing, and PR to supplement referral sources.

Legal Marketing Step #3. Build a strong lead generation system that maintains on-going prospect communications. Attorneys throw away marketing dollars when they lose track of leads after only one or two contacts.

Legal Marketing Step #4. Maximize your search engine marketing with social media, legal directories, online advertising, and an effective website. Internet marketing techniques that looked aggressive in the past are now widely accepted, putting late adopters at a disadvantage.

Legal Marketing Step #5. Current and past clients are your best source of new business, since they already know and trust you. Start the New Year with an informative letter to your entire client list.

For attorneys who want to take their law practice to the next level, a free sample attorney marketing plan is online at

Friday, December 04, 2009

Google Tips on AdWords Performance

You can view a very informative video on the AttorneySync site titled Your Law Firm and the Google Ad Auction.

In just 9 minutes you will hear the Google Chief Economist explain key factors behind quality scores (hint: click-thru rates, relevance, and landing page quality), ad rank, and cost per click pricing.

Thanks to LinkedIn member Argyrios (Gyi) Tsakalakis of Apcero, LLC for bringing this to our attention.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Attorney Rankings Helpful but Imperfect, Survey Shows

While lawyers, small business owners and consumers use attorney ratings web sites for personal and professional purposes, concerns over the credibility and reliability of these ratings websites exist according to a survey conducted by LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. A summary of the key finding is online here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Florida Supreme Court Rules on Website Advertising

The Florida Supreme Court has taken the position that lawyers’ websites must comply with all Bar advertising regulations, except the requirement that they be submitted to the Bar for review.

The Florida Bar News reports that lawyer Web sites may not:
  • Make statements that characterize the quality of legal services being offered
  • Provide information regarding past results
  • Include testimonials
Read about Florida's ruling on website advertising.

Read the Court's Revised Opinion of November 19, 2009.

Attorney Bio Page Search Engine Tips

Optimize your lawyer bio page for search engines with these five simple steps.

1. When describing yourself, include a geographic reference to the city, state or region where you practice.

If you work in a large metropolitan area, include local counties or other jurisdictions. A Chicago area attorney, for example, might want to mention the five "collar" counties (Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, etc.), while a New York lawyer should specifiy the relevant boroughs.

2. Use highly ranked Google keywords to describe your practice.

You can identify the best keywords by using the free Google AdWords keyword tool.
Here are a few samples of how you should describe yourself in your lawyer bio page:
- Chicago Zoning Attorney (name here)
- Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer (name here)
- Miami Family Lawyer (name here)
- New York Trademark attorney (name here)

3. Anticipate the use of snyonyms. Of course the most common example is lawyer and attorney; use both in your bio. A person in need of a divorce may look for a "divorce lawyer," or a "family law attorney," while a car accident victim might search for a "accident attorney," or an "injury lawyer."

Spending a few minutes to include the right keyword descriptors in your bio can add up to real dollars by attracting additional qualified prospects to your attorney bio page.

4. Describe the audience you serve. You can help prospects determine if you are the right attorney for them - and eliminate useless inquiries - by stating your ideal client base. If your practice focuses on healthcare professionals and hospitals, say so. If high net worth families are your target audience, describe this in your bio page and on your website. Dont' be afraid to limit your practice.

5. List your speeches and articles, and include links where possible. This serves several purposes. While not exactly an endorsement, your participation with respected legal and industry organizations demonstrates your leadership capabilities. Ideally, you can also generate some in-bound links to your bio page to strengthen your Google page rank. Finally, readers will gain an understanding of where you practice geographically and the depth of your expertise by the topics you address.

IN CLOSING, have you updated your attorney bio page recently? Now is a good time. Take a look back at the year to see if you need to add missing events, or future speaking engagements. A current photo is also recommended.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Put your Attorney Bio Page to the Google Test

Lawyers looking for new clients should check their bio pages to make sure they pass the Google test.

What is the Google test, you might ask?

It's simple. Just search for your own legal services on Google and see what comes up. If you show up on the first search engine results page (SERP), that's great. If not, there's work to be done.

You can get first page Google search engine visibility in one of three ways:

1. Your name can come up in the free search results. If it does, congratulations. You've either worked very hard at this (probably by investing in search engine optimization) or you have a very specialized field. First page placement can be hard to achieve, particularly for personal injury attorneys in large cities where the competition is fierce.

2. Google Maps can display your law firm. This is free and available by listing your site here with Google Maps.

3. Start a Google Adwords online advertising campaign and pay to place a text ad on the first page of the search engine results. This is an auction system, so placement varies with competition and bid price. See

Tomorrow we'll talk about how to write search engine-optimized content for your bio page.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Foley Tops 2010 BTI Client Service 30 List

The 2010 BTI Client Service 30 list is out, and the ten top ranked law firms are:

1. Foley & Lardner
2. Jones Day
3. Baker Botts
4. Alston & Bird
5. DLA Piper
6. Kirkland & Ellis
7. Holland & Knight
8. Morrison & Foerster
9. Sidley & Austin
10. Baker & McKenzie

Over 240 Corporate Counsel at Fortune 100 companies were interviewed to identify the law firms that provide superior service in regard to: Client Focus, Commitment to Help, Legal Skills and Provides Value for the Dollar.

BTI reports that law firms which excel at client service, especially in the areas of greatest importance to corporate counsel, enjoy the following benefits:
  • 30% higher profits than other law firms
  • 7% rate premiums across all staff levels
  • Double the fees from a single client
  • 35% higher client retention
These are eye-popping numbers, and underscore the value in adopting a service-oriented approach to the practice of law.

Read more about the BTI 2010 BTI Client Service 30 List.

Friday, November 06, 2009

NJ Allows Super Lawyers Promotions

The New Jersey Supreme Court has approved promotion of "Super Lawyers" and "Best Lawyers in America" designation, according to an ABA Journal article titled, "Revised N.J. Ethics Allows Lawyers to Tout Super Lawyers Designation."

Any ad referencing the designation must identify the name of the ratings service. A disclaimer is also required, "No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court."

Read more at the Super Lawyers Blog.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

FTC Rules on Testimonials, Bloggers, and Endorsements

Lawyers and law firm marketers beware! New FTC rules require greater accuracy and transparency, effective December 1.

"Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides – which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” – the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor."

While the use of testimonials, endorsements and other forms of advertising are closely regulated by state bar associations, some attorneys may try to circumvent these rules through the use of third party marketing services. The FTC rules present another safeguard for consumers, similar to the FTC's earlier CAN-SPAM Act regarding email solicitation.

Read the FTC Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lovells and Hogan & Hartson Discuss Merger

Lovells, a London law firm, is in merger talks with Washington-based Hogan & Hartson. The proposed deal would create a law firm with a strong litigation focus and a size just below the big four British "Magic Circle" international firms. Read the full story at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Focus on Client Closes the Sale

"How can I help you?" This simple question prompted an international financial services company to retain an AmLaw 100 attorney I met in NYC this week.

Recalling the incident, the winning attorney described how he was in competition with many other highly qualified lawyers for this prized account. Rather than spend most of the client meeting describing his many accomplishments, however, this experienced practitioner chose to give only a brief background of his experience.

The bulk of the client meeting was then devoted to a discussion of the prospect's business goals, as well as the obstacles that stood in the way of their success. Skillful questioning by the attorney helped to uncover U.S. regulatory requirements that were inhibiting growth plans, as well as some of the workarounds that had already been considered.

The international financial services firm later explained that other attorneys spent most of the allotted interview time talking about themselves, leaving little opportunity to address the client's needs.

The learning here is that the basic act of listening can be a winning formula for new business development. Demonstrate a sincere interest in helping a prospect succeed, and you may do so as well.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Future Look at Corporate Lawyers

Technology, price pressures, and increase regulatory compliance are three key factors in fundamental changes facing the legal industry, according to Richard Susskind, author of "The End of Lawyers?"

In an article titled "Five Types of Corporate Lawyers Predicted for the Future" (, 10/19/09), Susskind predicts that lawyers at traditional large, billable hour firms will be forced to gravitate to one of five paths:

1. Expert trusted advisor
2. Enhanced practitioner
3. Legal knowledge engineer
4. Legal risk manager
5. Legal hybrid

Given the actions taken by ACC in its continuing drive toward greater value (see yesterday's post), these predictions appear to have a strong basis in today's market. Attorneys should take heed of their personal career goals and plan accordingly.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

ACC Launches Law Firm Client Satisfaction Ratings

The Association of Corporate Counsel will launch the ACC Value Index, a component of the ACC Value Challenge, at its 2009 Annual Meeting in Boston on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at the Hynes Convention Center.

According to an ACC press release:

The ACC Value Index is a client satisfaction measurement tool where members share evaluations of the law firms they engage. It is also an instrument to help shape the thinking and dialogue between firms and in-house counsel about what constitutes “good value” in legal services.

Using a five-point scale (1=Poor, 5=Excellent), members score their outside counsel on the following criteria:

- Understanding objectives/expectations
- Legal expertise
- Efficiency/process management
- Responsiveness/ communication
- Predictable cost/budgeting skills and
- Results delivered/execution

They also answer the important question: would you hire this firm again? Members will be able to browse or search the ACC Value Index based on firm name, matter type or office location.

Read the full ACC Value Index release here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Proper Pipeline Pumps the Profits

A South Florida personal injury attorney was telling me a story about how times were good when the Yellow Pages ad campaign he ran several years ago kept the phones ringing. Intake levels were strong, and the law firm didn't need to do much else to keep revenue flowing.

Fast forward to today, and the phone book ads no longer deliver the same level of results. Reasons include increased competition, higher costs, and of course the transition to the Internet. Now what?

It's a common mistake to stop marketing when you get busy. One very successful client told me he learned the hard way that the best time to get new business is when you are busy. But how can you do this?

Here are some tips to plan marketing programs that deliver steady lead generation:

1. Use an integrated approach to business development, meaning multiple channels (i.e., speaking, publishing, direct mail, Internet marketing and more). Monitor your results. When something stops working, either tweak it for better performance or replace the campaign.

2. Market to current and past clients; they are your best source of new revenue. An email or direct mail piece every 3-4 months is a great way to stay in touch.

3. The Internet allows you to market 24/7 with relatively little effort. Invest in a Google AdWords campaign, search engine marketing, a blog, social media, and other techniques that bring attention to your law firm and traffic to your website.

Legal marketing is definitely getting more complicated these days, so hire an experienced marketer if you don't have the right level of resources in-house. Your time is best spent on billable hours.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

10 Ideas for Legal Blog Posts

The Attorney Sync legal marketing blog offers these ideas for blog posts:

1. Make a list
2. Share a link
3. Tell a story
4. Share your legal expertise
5. Read other legal blogs

Read all 10 ideas, plus more info on the above, here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Florida Lawyers Embrace Certification

Adoption law and education law are the two newest board certification areas available to Florida lawyers. The Florida Bar News reports that certification applications increased this year by as much as 27% in some areas.

A lawyer who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and who meets the standards prescribed by the Florida Supreme Court may become board certified in one or more of the 22 certification fields. More than 4,100 Florida lawyers are board certified.

Certified attorneys are the only lawyers allowed to identify or advertise themselves as "Florida Bar Board Certified," experts or specialists.

Louis B. “Buck” Vocelle, Jr., Chair of the Board of Legal Specialization and Education, is quoted as saying, "The numbers in the individual areas for marital and family law, appellate practice, immigration and nationality and tax law are most impressive, and aviation law and admiralty and maritime law have good showings.”

Increased lawyer interest in certification is attributed to Florida Board promotion, greater consumer awareness, and competitive forces among lawyers.

Click here for more information on The Florida Bar Lawyer Certification program.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Social Media Policies in the Office

Twitter and Facebook are increasingly being banned in the workplace, according to two recent surveys covered in an October 8th article titled "Companies Say No to Friending or Tweeting."

In some law firms, like Florida-based Gunster Yoakley, lawyers are allowed to use social media tools for business development. Access is not allowed, however, for the firm's support personnel.

The article quotes Gaida Zirkelbach, an associate at Gunster who focuses on technology and the Internet, as saying, "I think what's happening is social media is starting to simmer, and the lawyers and the PR teams, the HR teams and marketing teams are realizing there are all these problems."

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Deadline Management can Minimize Malpractice Claims

Calendaring errors are the No. 1 cause of malpractice claims filed against law firms, according to a Texas Bar Journal article written by Judd Kessler of Abacus Data Systems.

The American Bar Association estimates that nearly 20 percent of all malpractice claims involve missed deadlines or administrative errors, according to the article. Because of this, many insurance carriers require firms to invest in electronic calendaring and docket control software systems and will not write premiums for companies who do not have these in place.

Customer satisfaction is an important law firm marketing consideration, and calendar management is a deceptively simple way to reduce malpractice claims.

Monday, October 05, 2009 Attracts Attention, an online service that matches consumers with attorneys, has signed up 250 law firm clients according to an article in today's Sun-Sentinel. The site, designed to attract consumers who have a potential legal claim, attracts 25,000 visitors a month.

The firm describes itself as an online network rather than a legal directory or a referral service. Whatever it is, it is making some attorneys uncomfortable with the concept.

High traffic areas on the site include personal injury, loan modification, foreclosures and employment. In addition to Florida, the firm advertises in Texas, California, New York and Pennsylvania. 2010 revenues are projected at $10 million, according to President Vincent Celentano.

Read the firm's FAQ page for attorneys.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Law Firm Tag Lines

Tag lines for 101 leading U.S. and international law firms were compiled by Steve Matthews and are posted on his blog StemLegal.

My vote for the best attention-grabber is "Damn Fine Litigators," used by Foster Townsend Graham of London, Ontario. They are obviously not subject to the scrutiny of any state bar association in the U.S.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Search Engine Ranking Factors

Leading SEO experts give high ratings to keyword focused anchor text links from external sources, external link popularity (quantity/quality of external links), keyword use anywhere in the title tag, and the diversity of link sources (links from many unique root domains) in a recent survey of recommended search engine marketing techniques published by

Questionable techniques for search engine marketing include various forms of cloaking and hiding text with same/similar colored text/background.

What this means for law firms that want to improve their search engine positioning is:

1. Effective search engine marketing includes both on-site optimization and off-site link building with reputable sources.
2. Quality of incoming sources is frequently evaluated by factors like Google Page Rank. (Do you know what your site's page rank is?)
3. Select your search engine marketing vendors carefully. Knowledge of the legal market is important.

Read the full search engine optimization survey results here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Google Maps adds Place Pages

Local search engine marketing for lawyers just got a boost with "Place Pages" on Google Maps. A Place Page is a web page for every place in the world, organizing all the world's information for that place. There are Place Pages for businesses, points of interest, transit stations, landmarks, and cities all over the world.

Users looking for local law firms (and other businesses) can easily view ratings for your law firm, reviews, related maps, find nearby transit options showing them how to get to you, and take a look at your business with a Street View preview - and it's all on one page.

If you are not already on Google Maps, add your firm here:

From a lawyer's perspective (in addition to enhancing your own firm's listing), you can find a restaurant to take your client to lunch when you are visiting their office. You can also see what other prospects you might find in the building or neighborhood after your client visit, and tap into your social media network to get an introduction.

Local search is an important search engine marketing tool for law firms. Make sure your firm is found when prospects are looking for your legal services. Google is a good place to start.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rainmakers Share Biz Dev Tools

Chicago zoning attorney Donna Pugh of Foley & Lardner uses client cruises, enhanced biography listings, and the more traditional techniques of speaking and writing to develop new business relationships, according to a September 24th article in the Wisconsin Law Journal written by Karl Robe. She even delves into purchasing Google AdWords and online directory space.

Pugh is quoted as saying, “I’m targeting general counsels’ younger staff members who use online searches to compile the initial list of attorneys specializing in land use and zoning issues in Chicago."

Other marketing techniques mentioned in the article include commissioning an industry trend study with a qualified research group, and scheduling pre-determined points of contact with clients and prospects throughout the year.

Read the full story here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Scribd Draws Lawyer Attention ... from Court

Copyright infringement is at the heart of a lawsuit filed against social publishing site Scribd recently, as reported on September 19th by CNET News.

"Scribd managers have "built a technology that's broken barriers to copyright infringement on a global scale and in the process have also built one of the largest readerships in the world," the attorneys representing the class wrote in the complaint."

Scribd reportedly has built a following of tens of millions of readers every month, and has published 10 million documents, according to the site.

Read the full story on the Scribd lawsuit here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Scribd Social Publishing

Scribd is the largest social publishing company in the world, the Website where tens of millions of people each month publish and discover original writings and documents. On Scribd, you can quickly and easily turn nearly any file—including PDF, Word, PowerPoint and Excel—into a Web document and share it with the world. Visit Scribd for more details.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Environmental Law a High Growth Area

"Climate change and renewable energy developments are the next big thing in environmental and energy law," said Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia Law School's new Center for Climate Change Law and senior counsel to Arnold & Porter. "Every law firm that has a practice in either of those areas is trying to position itself so that when the major work arrives, they will be able to grab a good chunk of it."

Read the full story, Law Firms Prep Clients for Climate Policy Implications, The New York Times, 9/18/09.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't Dis the Judge: A Lawyer's Guide to Social Media

A Florida lawyer who vents about a judge, with a blog post describing her as an "evil, unfair witch," draws the attention of The Florida Bar and the Florida Supreme Court.

The New York Times covers this incident and more in a September 12th article titled, "A Legal Battle: Online Attitude vs. Rules of the Bar."

Finding the right balance between ethical behavior, attorney advertising rules, and free speech is a daily challenge for lawyers and law firms that is being played out online.

South Florida lawyers can learn more at the upcoming Broward County Bar Association's Bench & Bar program on Friday, October 16th. This Rainmaking Lady is honored to be moderating a 3:00 p.m. panel titled, "Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter." Speakers will include Bob White of Gunster Yoakley, Rob Brighton of Ruden McClosky, and Michael Schwager of Becker & Poliakoff.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Attorneys Embrace Social Media

Over 70 percent of lawyers are members of an online social network, according to the second annual "Networks for Counsel Survey" of almost 1,500 lawyers commissioned by LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell®. This number is up nearly 25 percent over the past year, with 30 percent growth reported among lawyers aged 46 and over. More than 50 percent of respondents think online networks have the potential to change the business and practice of law, while 65 percent expressed interest in joining an online professional network designed specifically for their profession.

Read the full press release on lawyers' use of social media.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Survey Shows Drop in Average Revenues per Lawyer

"The 2009 Survey of Law Firm Economics by Incisive Legal Intelligence, a leading source of business intelligence for the legal profession, reveals that participating U.S. law firms saw drops in virtually all key financial performance metrics last year. While average hourly billing rates for equity partners reached $332, an increase of less than 1% over the prior year, the hours billed by the average partner decreased by 2% to 1,681. Average revenues per lawyer reported by participating firms were $413,086, representing a decrease of 4% from the prior year."

Read the full press release.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Law Firm Builds 600 Facebook Fans

"The Vetstein Law Group, P.C. of Framingham, Massachusetts may be small in stature, but with the help of Facebook, the firm has recruited one of the largest law firm Facebook followings in the United States, with over 600 subscribing fans on its Facebook Fan page. With a following that large, the leading law firm marketing site, JD Supra, recently featured the firm for its successful Facebook marketing campaign. The firm's Facebook Fan page can be found at"

Above taken from a September 8th press release.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Social Media Helps Corporate Counsel Trim Legal Budgets

Corporate counsel are sharing tips online about how to lower their legal fees, according to an article today titled "Lawyer Fees Cut as Corporate Counsel Network for Tips" on Bloomberg.

"Cash-strapped in-house attorneys are swapping such ideas and other information on Web sites like those owned by LinkedIn Corp., which connects professionals around the world. Corporate lawyers’ use of social networks -- some invitation-only -- grew about 50 percent in 2009, LexisNexis said after surveying 1,474 attorneys."

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Florida Bar Examiners Peeks into Facebook

The Florida Board of Bar Examiners' Character and Fitness Commission recommended in a recent report that the board consider expanding its current review of personal Web sites during background investigations “as deemed necessary” and determine whether a question should be added to The Florida Bar application to require that all such sites be listed and access granted to the board.

After further review, the Board decided to adopt a policy that the investigation of social networking Web sites be conducted on a case-by-case basis.

Read about Florida and Facebook here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Florida Home Loan Modifications and Lawyers Draw Attention

Loan modification firms offering foreclosure defense services are under scrutiny, according to an August 23rd article in the Sun Sentinel.

Real estate lawyers have an established history of helping consumers who are facing mortgage foreclosure. In the past couple of years, some attorneys have been lured in-house by loan modification firms that are trying to skirt rules against collecting fees in advance of results.

The 2008 Foreclosure Rescue Act prohibits upfront fees for mortgage modification services, although legislators agreed that Florida lawyers doing foreclosure or modification work were exempt in some situations.

Consumer complaints are rising as loan modification firms fail to deliver as promised. Common issues include:

1. Work that should have been performed by attorneys was actually done by non-lawyers.
2. Loan modification firms collected money in advance for work that was never done.
3. Loan modification firms refused to issue refunds when requested.

From a legal marketing perspective, this means that real estate law firms need to take extra care to educate their clients about legal rights in foreclosures, and to set reasonable expectations for what will happen when in the loan modification process. It is actually a selling point for law firms to demonstrate why they are the right choice to assist consumers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Louisiana Updates Attorney Advertising Rules

On Aug. 19, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Martin L.C. Feldman signed a Judgment, in keeping with the Order and Reasons issued on Aug. 3 ruling on cross motions for summary judgment. The Judgment upholds most of the challenged provisions of the Louisiana advertising rules scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1, 2009.

The Judgment grants the defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment as to:

Rule 7.2 (c) (1) (D) – References to Testimonials of Past Results

Rule 7.2 (c) (1) (E) – Communications that Promise Results

Rule 7.2 (c) (1) (J) – Portrayal of a Judge or Jury

Rule 7.2 (c) (1) (L) – Use of Mottos that State or Imply An Ability to Obtain Results

Rule 7.2 (c) (1) (I) – Non-Authentic Scenes

Rule 7.2(c)(10) – Disclosures and Disclaimers

Rule 7.2(c)(11) and Rule 7.6(c)(3) – Payment by Non-Advertising Lawyer and Electronic Mail Communications

The Judgment grants the plaintiffs’ Motions for Summary Judgment in part and enjoins the defendants from enforcing:

Rule 7.5(b)(2)(C) – Additional Disclosure Requirements for a Non-lawyer Spokesperson

Rule 7.6(d) – Internet Advertising, and Rule 7.7 (as it applies to the filing requirements for Internet advertising).

Read the court ruling here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Call for Speakers: Broward County Attorneys on Social Media

The Oct 16th Broward County "Bench and Bar" features several Internet marketing panels that I have the honor of moderating. If you are a local attorney who successfully uses Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or YouTube, consider sharing some tips with your peers. Drop me an email this week if you are interested in speaking (

Click here for the 2009 Bench-Bar Convention site.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seven Lost Secrets of Success

This book about advertising legend Bruce Barton (1886-1967) recounts his timeless marketing and copywriting techniques that continue to be relevant in legal marketing and other industries.

Unknown to many today, Mr. Barton was "the second B in BBDO," which remains an advertising powerhouse with 15,000 employees in 79 countries.

Mr. Barton's seven secrets to marketing and advertising success include:

1. Reveal the business that no one knows. Applied to a law firm, this means less emphasis on legal services per se and more of an emphasis on benefits realized by the client (i.e., increased market share when a solidly written patent application is approved, or family financial security from a well-crafted trust and estate plan).

2. Establish yourself as an expert in your field (which is exactly what we recommend in our book Courting Your Clients).

3. Learn to use "story selling" methods to demonstrate how you improve the personal and/or business lives of your clients.

4. Challenge clients to "travel the upward path," like the Marines who are looking for "a few good men."

5. Marketing won't work if sincerity is missing.

6. Give yourself away. This is particularly relevant in today's Internet environment. Offer value to your prospects and they will come looking for you when in need of your services.

7. Sharpen the knife. Intended for written marketing and advertising copy, it could apply to legal work as well. Polish your pitch until it is perfect, pruning unnecessary words and focusing on effectiveness rather than cleverness.

Those interested in legal marketing will find this to be an easy read. "The Seven Lost Secrets of Success," by Joe Vitale, Wiley 2007.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bye, Bye to Billable Hour?

Pfizer, Cisco Systems and American Express are all expanding alternative billing arrangements as economic pressures force cost savings on legal bills, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal titled, 'Billable Hour' Under Attack.

"I have told firms you cannot make your historical profit margins" on Pfizer work, said the pharmaceutical giant's general counsel, Amy Schulman.

The article cites a BTI Consulting Group study, stating that alternative billing arrangements totaled $13.1 billion this year, up 52% from $8.6 billion in the comparable 2008 period.

Law firms co-operating with flat fee billing arrangements include Orrick Herrington, Saul Ewing, and Sidley Austin.

While the move to alternate billing is not new or news, that fact that it appears prominently on the front page of the Wall Street Journal means that trends are accelerating and more Fortune 500 GCs will certainly follow their peers.

The leverage model within law firms, with less experienced associates billing relatively high rates and hours (from the client's perspective), is being called into question.

Law firms, like other business entities, are being forced to re-evaluate their value, pricing model, and client relationships. Proactive firms - those who initiate the alternative billing discussion - are likely to find a willing ear. More importantly, they may discover improved "client lifetime value" built on a mutual respect and shared commitments.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How The Mighty Fall

There are five stages of corporate decline, most of which are avoidable, according to author Jim Collins in his new book "How the Mighty Fall." The book is in answer to the question, "what causes an organization to fail?" Equally important, it helps leaders identify characteristics that put a successful firm on the slippery slope to potential failure.

The author of "Good to Great" and co-author of "Built to Last" identifies the five stages of decline as:

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success
Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More
Stage 3: Denial of Risk or Peril
Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation
Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

Matching similar firms with comparable early performance (Ames v. WalMart, Circuit City v. Best Buy) before history proved one a winner and the other a loser, the author documents these five categories as progressively responsible for ultimate failures if not reversed by a strong leader (i.e., Gerstner at IBM, Mulcahy at Xerox).

While law firms don't make or sell widgets like the corporate giants studied in this book, it has important implications for attorneys in two ways:

1. The elements of success and stages of decline apply to law firms also; and
2. Lawyers may gain increased insight into corporate performance factors as a result of reading this book.

Collins' recommendations resulting from his research include:

1. Talent. Make sure the right people are in the right seats. The right leaders and the right values can turn a company around (or presumably prevent it from going off course in the first place).
2. Core competency. Don't take your eye off the primary business line responsible for the company's success unless it is a conscious decision to move in a new direction.
3. Accept responsibility; avoid placing blame. Failure to tackle reality accelerates the rate of decline.
4. Build lasting greatness with succession planning, thought discipline, culture discipline and a focus on the customer.

Collins introduces the "hedgehog concept," an operating model that reflects understanding of three intersecting circles:
1. what you can be the best in the world at
2. what you are deeply passionate about; and
3. what best drives your economic or resource engine

This book is a quick read at 122 pages plus appendices, but rich in insight on organizational performance.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Compare Legal Billing to ABA Guide

Alternative billing by law firms continues to be a hot topic. Here is a reference link to the ABA's Model Rule 1.5 on Fees in a Client-Lawyer Relationship.

(a) A lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:
  1. the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
  2. the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
  3. the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
  4. the amount involved and the results obtained;
  5. the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
  6. the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
  7. the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and
  8. whether the fee is fixed or contingent.
Read the full ABA Model Rule 1.5 on Fees. These factors can be used as a basis for formulating alternate billing arrangements that differ from the standard billable hour.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Publish Blog Posts to Twitter

Attorneys who publish a blog can use Twitter to further disseminate their blog posts. It's an easy way for an attorney to test this social media application.

STEP 1. You will need:

a. A blog that is published on a regular basis
b. A Twitter account. Sign up at
c. A TwitterFeed account. Sign up at
d. Identify the URL for your blog's RSS or Atom feed (see

STEP 2. Put all the pieces together:

a. Log in to your TwitterFeed account
b. Indicate the Twitter account to receive the posts (e.g.,
c. Identify the blog name and feed URL you want to publish
d. Set up the automated feed schedule (once an hour is the default)

Now, test to make sure it all works properly. Ask the blog author to publish a new post to the blog, and watch to make sure it passes to the Twitter stream. If this is not working, you will need to review your steps.

Since Twitter only publishes 140 characters, the rest of the post will be represented by a link that TwitterFeed creates to the full blog post. This means that the writer needs to be mindful of putting important keywords in the first 100+ characters.

Using this technique, lawyers can easily participate in Twitter. It's an easy first step if you are new to Twitter.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

10,000 Attorneys in Texas State Bar's Social Network

Since starting the first-ever social network by a bar association in 2007, the online group has grown to over 10,000 attorneys. The "Texas Bar Circle" has formed over 250 subject matter groups, and is creating a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Read the full story at

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sponsorships Out, Business Development In

Law firms are cutting back on expensive branding sponsorhips and focusing instead on more measurable business development activities, according to a National Law Journal article titled "No More 'Chalets': Legal Marketing Focuses on Building Business" by Karen Sloan.

Sponsorship dollars are being directed toward industry conferences and client events, but away from sporting and cultural activities.

While not surprising, this could be a good move in several ways:

1. Firms are being forced to identify those marketing investments that are truly generating business. Measuring ROI is always a good idea.

2. Lead analysis is also helpful. Firms should always ask new clients how they heard about the firm, and most law firms are diligent about tracking leads.

3. The process of selling may be drawing more attention at the Managing Partner level during these lean times. Sales productivty analysis can result in a higher quality of lead and better conversion rates.

Law firms that can present themselves as experts through substantive education-based marketing designed to help clients navigate today's dramatic changes in financing, legislation, and government regulation may find they can gain a competitive advantage.

Seven Legal Marketing Trends to Recession-Proof your Practice

Here are seven proven trends in legal marketing circles that can help you to generate more revenue by staying close to your customers while also rounding up new prospects. The good news is that many of these activities are free or low cost, although some time commitment is required.

1. Social media. Internet-based communications have changed dramatically, with rapid development in the area of “one-to-many” messaging. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube are excellent examples of how one person can broadcast a message easily and immediately.

2. Search engine marketing. If you are not naturally on the first page of Google search results, try a “micro-site,” updated meta tags, a blog, or more frequent news announcements to gain higher placement. Combining all of these elements into one campaign will serve as an accelerator.

3. Customer retention. Your best option for new revenue is always your current client list. Don’t forget past clients and inactive accounts also. More frequent messaging in the form of a newsletter or client alert serves to remind clients that you are available to help them, their friends, relatives, or co-workers.

4. Interactive events. As traditional print media shrink with the movement of advertisers from print to online, more law firms and businesses are exploring sponsorships, seminars, CLE programs, and other events as a high-touch way to reach out to prospects using a more personalized approach.

5. Increased networking. If you don’t already have a written “referral network” plan in place, now is the time to start. List your referral sources in A/B/C priority, and establish a schedule for frequency of interactions through breakfasts, lunches, email, or phone calls.

6. Alternative billing. No, the billable hour is not dead. However, more clients are looking for fixed fee or even success-based pay formulas. Consider what might work for your firm.

7. Lead management systems. Chances are that you are using a contact management system for your existing clients. Now add a weekly “pipeline report” to track the status of prospects through the various stages of initial meeting, presentation, proposal, and engagement.

A critical element in today’s electronic marketing is that clients and prospects can talk back in a variety of ways. You will want to focus not only on what you say to clients, but what they say in response. Make a point to listen when a client requests a new type of service or a variation on a past service. Perhaps others would be interested in this as well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Insurance Defense Internet Marketing

How important is search engine marketing to an insurance defense law firm? The topic came up this weekend as I was making a presentation to a group of insurance defense lawyers.

Speaking, publishing and networking are the old tried and true business development techniques used by most attorneys, and this group was no exception. As the topic turned to Internet marketing, with its emphasis on keywords, meta tags, and search engine visibility, many in the group appeared impassive.

One attendee expressed a belief that many probably were thinking, which is that insurance defense work does not result from incoming leads via the law firm's website.

This is a fair assessment, and I do agree with it. For senior rainmakers with a well established book of business built on long-term relationships, the Internet is probably just a basic marketing requirement similar to a law firm brochure.

However, even insurance company GCs and paralegals turn to the Internet when their referral network does not yield results. This could be particularly true if an insurance carrier needs local counsel outside of their established geographic network of law firms or requires specialized knowledge of an unusual insurance coverage or bad faith matter.

The beauty of Internet marketing is that it is easily measured. A quick search of the Google keyword reseach tool indicates monthly volumes for insurance defense related terms as follows:

550,000 monthly searches for "insurance attorneys"
74,000 searches in June for "insurance attorney"
2,900 searches in June for "insurance defense attorney"
2,600 June searches for forms of "insurance defense lawyer"

Recognizing that "insurance attorneys" could be a search for the plaintiff or defense side, an even split yields 225,000 potential monthly searches. (Email me if you want a copy of the insurance defense keyword research.)

As a legal marketer, I see that law firms get business based on their preferred marketing campaigns. Failure to implement Internet lead generation programs may be leaving money on the table. Law firms with seasoned rainmakers who are thinking of retirement in the next 5-10 years may find that the coveted book of business does not easily carry over to the next generation lawyer in the firm, putting more pressure on other leads sources..

The progressive insurance defense law firm that does understand and appreciate the many benefits to be gained by building a strong Internet marketing campaign will be the beneficiary of an additional stream of new business.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Wall Street Journal Launches Legal Ads

Google, Martindale and many other legal directories face new online advertising competition from the Wall Street Journal.

"Local Legal Leverage" is the catchy name for an ad program being launched as part of the paper's Digital Network. Organized by metro area, the Journal is now accepting up to 3 simultaneous law firm advertisers for any given region.

Advertising rates reportedly start as low as $1,000 per month. Details online at

Given the Journal's upscale readership, this service seems particularly well suited to corporate and defense firms that want to reach the GC audience. The plaintiff's bar is already a master of online advertising, so this also gives PI attorneys a way to reach affluent business readers in their community.

The bottom line, of course, is to determine the ROI on any advertising program like this. While branding is important, in today's economy it helps to also get vaible leads that turn into real engagements. Offering a free white paper or webinar is frequently a good way to measure response for online campaigns.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Twitter Client Impact for Law Firms

Attorneys now need to be aware of how Twitter and other social media sites can affect their clients. Today's Wall Street Journal article ("For Companies, a Tweet in Time can Avert PR Mess") is a case in point.

Lawyers have been spending time wondering, should I Twitter? If so, how often? What should I Twitter about? Another equally important question is, what does Twitter mean for my clients?

Today's WSJ article points out several ways that progressive companies keep a close pulse on Twitter streams. Fortune 500 firms like Ford Motor, PepsiCo, and Southwest Airlines rely on good word of mouth advertising, so they have started to use software and dedicated employees to monitor consumer feedback about their brand experiences. As soon as they see signs of potential trouble, they begin to respond immediately.

Here are a few basic tools that can help you monitor social media traffic that mentions your firm or a client firm:

1. Twitter Search ( allows you to find tweets that mention certain words or phrases.

2. LinkedIn offers a "Company Buzz" feature that also allows you to search tweets for certain search terms.

3. Google Alerts are always a good source also to monitor the blogosphere, news, and other Internet posts.

Depending on the type of clients served by your law firm, now might be a good time to speak with clients about how social media affects their business and reputation. You may even find some new services that you can offer!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Get Your Googlejuice

Googlejuice is the “magic elixir” when Google favors your website, according to “What Would Google Do?” author Jeff Jarvis.

Here are eight steps Mr. Jarvis recommends to increase your search engine marketing efforts:

1. Post lots of descriptive data about your firm on the web, and make sure it can be easily found by the search engines.

2. Write for both man and machine using clear language.

3. Keep web pages simple, with minimal use of moving parts.

4. Avoid hiding information in database-driven content management systems that are not readily available to search engine spiders.

5. Give all web pages a static “permalink” to serve both current and long tail searchers.

6. Create separate pages for separate topics. In the legal market, this translates to one page per practice area, attorney, office location, etc.

7. Encourage others to link to your site, and make it easy for them to do so.

8. Brand every page on your site, since you never know the entrance point for traffic coming to your site from the search engines.

I will add two more tips to round this list up to 10 tips for search engine marketing:

9. Know the keywords that searchers use when looking for your services. You can find keywords in your web logs or search tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.

10. Add fresh content to your site once a week if possible. This gives the search engines a reason to return often.

Implement these steps and you will see your website visitor traffic increase gradually over time.

Please offer other suggestions via comments to this post.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Do Lawyers Really Need to Know about Widget Networks?

On more than one recent occasion, I've sat across from a lawyer who is talking about Google and not the law. This is both good and bad!

It's good news that attorneys understand the importance of search engine marketing in today's competitive business environment. Whether it is having the right meta tags or focusing on keyword density, the law firms that optimize their website for search engine performance will benefit from increased lead generation.

The bad news is that Internet marketing technology changes so rapidly, an attorney can get distracted from the practice of law. Spending time figuring out how and where you should be on Twitter and other social media may be important, but not more so than serving your clients.

What is the right balance? Client service comes first, followed closely by business development. A good first step is to determine how you can use Internet marketing techniques (email marketing, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.) to stay in touch with your current clients and existing prospects. These are the BEST sources for new revenue fast.

Pick some successful attorneys or law firms in your field of practice who you know are good at both rainmaking and using the Internet. Observe what they do to increase their visibility online, and emulate some of their best practices.

If you are not technically inclined, find someone who is to help you efficiently identify the search engine marketing techniques that are right for your firm.

By the way, there really is such a thing as "widget networks." More on this topic at a future date.

Friday, July 24, 2009

McDonald Hopkins Law Firm Announces Expansion

Growth through acquisitions is a good strategy in today's law firm market. Attracting seasoned legal professionals who bring a solid book of business is a sensible way for all parties to benefit.

One example is today's expansion announcement by the West Palm Beach office of business advisory law firm McDonald Hopkins.

The 130 attorney firm, with offices in Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit as well as Florida, has attracted the founder and two attorneys of the commercial litigation firm Coates Law Firm.

Read the full press release, which proudly announces that the firm is bucking economic trends by expanding.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New York Legal Marketing Website Launched

Legal Expert Connections announces the launch of, featuring law firm marketing and forensic marketing services for New York experts and attorneys. Read the full release.

"Social media, search engine optimization and online PPC advertising make forensic and law firm marketing increasing complex," said Margaret Grisdela, president and author of the legal marketing book "Courting Your Clients." "As an outsourced legal marketing firm, we help attorneys and experts quickly implement affordable, effective business development campaigns."

The website outlines the services Legal Expert Connections offers New York lawyers and experts, including Internet and search engine marketing, article placement, arrangement of speaking engagements, attorney marketing plans, referral network management, law firm brochures, law firm websites and marketing communications (newsletters, client alerts, and direct mail).

Thought leadership marketing, which utilizes a variety of marketing techniques to help attorneys and experts stand out in their field, is another service available to New York firms.

Some legal marketing services, like article placement, speaking engagements, and PR, are available on a pay-for-performance basis, making it a low-risk option for attorneys.

Through an interactive feature of the website, visitors can chat online with legal marketing experts, in addition to contacting them by telephone and e-mail.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Legal Birds-Lawyers on Twitter

Justia now offers "Legal Birds," a site featuring legal professionals on Twitter. Organized by category and practice area, visitors can easily get to know the lawyers, law librarians and legal academics who actively Twitter on a regular basis.

Legal Birds offers a practical way to cut through the clutter of Twitter to easily find what legal leaders have to say today. For those attorneys who are wondering "what the heck is Twitter? should I be on Twitter?" this is a great place to start. You can select attorneys that you want to follow through your own Twitter account, and get ideas that you might be able to use in your own legal marketing campaigns.

This legal marketing tip comes courtesy of Internet-savvy trust and estates lawyer Patti Spencer with Spencer Law Firm in Lancaster, PA.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Blogging About The Bench

Legal ears and eyes have been glued to the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor this week. I listened in also, via NPR on morning and evening drive time.

As a legal marketer, I was impressed with the strategic positioning that Akin Gump has achieved with their "Scotus" blog, short for Supreme Court of the United States Blog (see

Akin Gump appellate attorneys were commenting right alongside Nina Totenberg, NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent, as a partner in the news coverage. The firm is also offering live coverage of the hearings at

This is an excellent example of a blog that offers timely, substantive news coverage for Supreme Court observers. Gaining a national spotlight in this way brings favorable attention from all the key players involved in appellate law.

Technology gives law firms a wide variety of tools available for self-publishing user-generated content, and this week's SCOTUS blog performance demonstrates how well blogs can help a law firm distinguish itself in a highly competitive market.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Legal Marketing Tip: Make it Easy for New Clients to Buy from You

Here are a few tips to help convince reluctant purchasers of legal services decide that they should retain you.

- Suggest starting with a less expensive project. This will help you and the client get acquainted. You can make sure the client is right for you, and they can do the same. One way to do this is to break a larger project down into smaller increments. Once the client has confidence in the working relationship, they will have less hesitation to embark on a larger, more expensive engagement.

- Offer references before they are requested. Provide letters from other clients, or facilitate in-person meetings with other clients to share news of your successful legal efforts. Of course, be mindful of any state bar regulations regarding the use of testimonials.

- Try to clearly define what you will do for the client. It can be hard to measure quality in the delivery of a service (like legal advice), and clearly establishing expectations for deliverables is one way to measure success.

- Make it easy for the client to cancel the project. This may sound contrary to your ideal arrangement, but if the client has an easy out they may be more inclined to move forward with a matter.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Strategic Pricing: A Study in Contrasts

While GM bankruptcy advisors are drawing ire for "staggering" fees, advice on value pricing is available in the current Journal of Accountancy.

Two GM consultants (Evercore Partners and AlixPartners) are being singled out by the bankruptcy trustee for overlapping and "excessive" fees reportedly totalling $130 million for one year, according to a story this week in the New York Times DealBook titled Trustee Objects to Fees for G.M. Advisers.

Of course, high fees are lightning rods for controversy, particularly in the turbo-charged GM bankruptcy. What is particularly striking is the lack of perceived value contained in the billing statements. Some of the hourly fees are apparently unspecified, but nonetheless add up to a potential $16 million per month for one consultant. Millions of dollars are also requested in "success fees." (How will the GM bankruptcy be considered a success, one wonders?)

Contrast this situation with an article by Ronald J. Baker in the current Journal of Accountancy titled Pricing on Purpose: How to Implement Value Pricing in Your Firm. The author opens by saying "a business is defined by the value it creates for its customers." He goes on to say that pricing by the hour is the wrong way to measure value.

Value is defined in part by what the client is willing to pay. A crucial value pricing consideration is the cost to the client of the problem that needs to be fixed. For example, if I have a $100K problem I might think that a $25K solution is a great value even if it translates into a high hourly rate. The author outlines 8 steps for pricing on purpose.

It's worth your while to read the value pricing article. Attorneys and other consultants can take a lesson from the accounting profession in learning how to more effectively communicate the value and delivery of professional services. If alternative billing is to win out over the billable hour model, this is a good place to start.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Announcing a New Law Firm (continued)

Yesterday we talked about ways to issue an announcement about a new law firm using direct mail. There are certainly many other steps that can be taken to get the word out, including:
  1. Issue a press release or prepare a company release for distribution to the local media. Target the "People on the Move" columns in the business publications. Also send this release to your city, county, state, and/or national bar association.
  2. Post your new site on legal directories like Martindale, FindLaw, Avvo, Justia, and others.
  3. Get a free listing on Google Maps
  4. Polish up your "elevator pitch" and tell everyone you meet
  5. Send an email announcement using Constant Contact or a similar inexpensive email service
  6. Take advantage of social media, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and others
  7. Consider publishing articles about your new practice areas on sites like JDSupra,, or online article distributors
  8. Reach out to your referral network and let them know how to reach you
  9. Join a leads club like BNI, or create your own leads group
  10. Look for speaking opportunities to attract clients

Have fun, and remember: Never stop marketing!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to Announce a New Law Firm

Today's "Ask a Legal Marketer" question comes from an attorney in California who plans to open a new criminal defense law office next month.

Attorney referrals will play an important role in new business development, so he is thinking of acquiring a list of attorney names from the local county bar association for a mailing. So far, so good.

This campaign could become expensive quite quickly, however, based on postage alone to an anticipated list of thousands. Here are a few ways to manage the roll-out cost for this direct mail campaign:
  1. Stagger the mailing so that announcements are sent over time, like a certain amount every week or month. This will provide a better chance to gauge the response rate.
  2. Rather than mail to an entire Bar association list, use "selects" that enable you to limit the list to particular "sections" of interest or zip codes.

While you want to manage costs, there are certain expenditures that can help improve your return.

  1. Use first class postage. It may cost a little more, but you will get returns to determine the bad addresses that should be removed from your list.
  2. Your mail will be more favorably considered by the recipient.
  3. The Post Office takes extra special care of first class mailings, particularly in delivery timing.

We also had some discussion of the format for an announcement. Postcards are inexpensive, but a printed invitation card on a heavier card stock, mailed in a closed face envelope will generally make a better impression on a legal audience. Local printers can help, or national legal printers like Blumberg, Tuttle Printing, Crane's, or others.

There are many nuances to direct mail, but these are some immediate thoughts. Of course, you don't want to undertake any promotional campaigns for a new law firm until your website and email address are fully up and running.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sacramento Law Firm Volunteerism Gets Visibility

An annual "Doggy Dash" sponsored by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals gave the Sacramento-based tax law firm of Roni Lynn Deutch, A Professional Tax Corporation, and its associated tax preparation franchise, RDTC Inc., a chance to do good and get known.

The marketing expertise demonstrated by Ms. Deutch and her team is an example of building your personal brand as a way to stand apart from the competition. Visit the firm's site at and you will see that she is known as "The Tax Lady." She is the author of "The Tax Lady's Guide To Beating The IRS And Saving Big Bucks On Your Taxes." Carrying the theme further, her phone number is 1‑888‑TAX‑LADY.

Attorneys looking to do something different to promote their own law firm may get some ideas from The Tax Lady's campaign.

Read the press release here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Future of Law Firms

Is law firm marketing a waste of time? Attorneys who feel this way are perhaps not receiving the type of valuable business development services needed to help them acquire new strategic accounts, retain existing clients, and increase firm profitability.

Law firm marketing is just one of many topics covered in an interesting story about the future of law firms, published in the The Philadelphia Business Journal on May 22nd.

As U.S. corporations struggle with economic challenges, can the legal profession be far behind? A panel of attorneys and legal educators shared their views on the topic.

Other prognostications from these experts:

  • Law firm boutiques will grow in importance, both for the benefits of specialization and lower billable rates
  • Law firms will need to expand internationally in order to keep pace with clients
  • Governments are becoming more important consumers of legal services, putting downward price pressure on hourly rates
  • Law firm cost structures will be forced to change, with less emphasis on inexperienced associates charging relatively high hourly rates
  • "Law firms are fragile in terms of trust and confidence," requiring careful management of a law firm's perception in the marketplace.
Read the full story.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Business Development Training for Lawyers

Better late than never, but attorneys who are just now discovering how to get a client are fighting an uphill battle. The Wall Street Journal reports today in two related articles that lawyers are gaining a new appreciation for business training and business development techniques.

The best time to look for new business is before you are in desperate need. This Rainmaking Lady believes that you should never stop marketing.

While some attorney are taking classes on business development, and others are hiring marketing coaches, the most successful attorneys continue to diligently work their long-cultivated referral network, get more business from existing or past clients, and stick close to their clearly defined goals.

Read the WSJ Law Blog article.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Web Sites Outlive some Law Firms

What happens to a law firm's web site when the firm closes? looks at 13 failed firms for online ghosts. See the full story.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Responding to a Law Firm PR Crisis

An unfortunate Manhattan insurance defense firm that shall go unnamed here found itself the subject of a Daily News (New York) story today. In preparation for an office move, the firm was cleaning out some old client files. Rather than dispose of them confidentially, the Daily News found six overflowing dumpsters full of intact client files on the street.

Yikes! This warrants immediate implementation of the firm's crisis plan. (There is a crisis plan, right?)

Here are a few law firm crisis communication tips:

1. Recover the trash
2. Determine what happened
3. Plan to notify any client whose files were affected
4. Try to make some amends, like offering anti-identify theft protection
5. Appoint one person as the media spokesperson (inside or outside of the firm)
6. Some type of a public statement appears to be in order
7. Notify key clients personally
8. Hire an attorney
9. Post information to the website, like a firm contact for client questions
10. Instruct employees on what to do (which is direct all inquiries to one person)

This firm has a tough challenge.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Launched by Fortune 500

Improved diversity in the workplace is a primary goal of the LCLD, announced yesterday by senior legal officials from Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Coca Cola, O'Melveny & Myers, DLA Piper, and other firms.

“The LCLD is doing what no other initiative has done – uniting the legal industry’s senior leaders in one organization to address and resolve the enormous diversity challenges in our profession,” said Rick Palmore, General Counsel of General Mills and Chair of the LCLD Board.

One goal is to promote the ACC's Call to Action in regard to law firm diversity.

As part of this initiative, several very positive actions are being pursued that can apply to other types of corporate-legal collaborative efforts. These include:

1. Samples of "best practices" are being collected from throughout the corporate and legal market for use in building a knowledge base.

2. Success metrics are being defined through goal establishment and achievement measures.

3. Identification of outreach efforts proven to work in facilitating the success of professionals from diverse backgrounds.

From a legal marketing perspective, it is not clear if the group has launched a website to extend the reach of the press release. A website can serve to invite interested parties to sign up for an email list, seek volunteers for committee activities, attract candidates for the Executive Director position, promote sponsors, and more. They may be missing an important opportunity in this regard.

Read the full press release here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Corporate Twitter Policy in 140 Characters

Since it's all about Twitter these days, here is a corporate Twitter policy that I just came across. It is the work of attorney Jay Shepherd of the Shepherd Law Group.

Read the full story.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cal Bar Monitors Loan Modification Ads

Watch TV for even a few minutes these days and you are likely to see an ad for a loan modification service. Same for radio advertising.

Some of these ads sound very promising ... are they too good to be true?

The California State Bar is asking that very question. Last month the Bar began notifying lawyers that the chief trial counsel’s office wants to monitor their loan modification-related advertising.

"Included in the scrutiny of violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct regarding false and misleading advertising, bar prosecutors will be looking at whether lawyers are guaranteeing success in securing loan modifications or are implying that they have expertise or a special license from the State Bar to work on foreclosure cases, said Chief Trial Counsel Scott Drexel."

Read the full story here. Other state bar associations are undoubtedly paying attention. Florida requires all TV advertising on any topic be filed for approval in advance of use. Check with your local state bar association for any recent rule changes that may apply to your firm.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Relevance in Legal Marketing

I recently read the book, "Relevance: Making Stuff that Matters," by Tim Manners (Penguin Books, 2008). While focused primarily on consumer marketing, the basic concepts are worth some discussion in regard to legal marketing.

The main premise of the book is that advertising (print, TV, etc.) is no longer relevant, in part because it can not be held accountable for results. Another key reason is that advertising disrupts our lives with irrelevant messages.

The author states that the ultimate accountability in marketing is how relevant the brand is to the consumer.

Does this hold for law firm advertising? I would answer yes and no. The "yes" is in regard to general purpose "image" advertising. In fact, I recently heard an active law firm advertiser admit that their weekly print ads in the local business press did not generate new business. The purpose here is to increase your firm's name recognition.

Legal advertising can be useful and productive for consumer oriented law firms, like family law or personal injury law.

"Direct response" TV advertising, for example, which encourages the viewer to make a phone call handled by an intake center, can easily be measured. The same holds true, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, to billboard advertising or the Yellow Pages.

Search engine marketing for law firms, including pay-per-click ads like Google AdWords, is another form of advertising that is very effective for lead generation.

One concept in the book that is highly relevant to legal marketing is this: focus on solving your customer's problems. Nike does this very well, for example. They listen to clients, understand what their needs are, then create a series of special events to bring clients together with the Nike brand to reinforce the relationship.

Finally, author Tim Manners advises readers to connect with their most progressive, creative clients, then build client needs / suggestions into new product and service development.

Law firms that create a favorable experience for clients as they go through the legal process will see a strong return on investment in client satisfaction, referrals and repeat business.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Link Law Firm Marketing to Breaking News

Here's an example of how one enterprising Grand Rapids, Michigan law firm used breaking news to create a "hook" for press coverage.

The labor and employment law firm of Palmer & Wood, P.C., is advising employers on creating emergency preparedness plans for the outbreak of H1N1 flu (aka swine flu). The Grand Rapids Press gave attorney Greg Palmer top billing in a May 2nd story titled "Law firm preps business for health crisis during swine flu scare."

This PR technique - one of many covered in my legal marketing book Courting Your Clients - works reliably when a breaking news story opens the door to reach reporters scrambling for experts available to quote on various aspects of the news.

News coverage like this can be used for front page web site postings, direct mail to clients, inclusion in proposal packages, and other purposes. (Alas, I couldn't find a web site for Palmer & Wood.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seven Strategic Uses of Law Firm Excess Capacity

Here are seven ideas on how law firms can repurpose available associate or partner hours for a longer term investment in potential new business:

1. Assign an associate to go in-house on the client side for a flat rate or other alternative billing arrangement. Make them available to tackle some of the stubborn issues that might benefit from in-depth analysis to uncover new solutions.

2. Take a leadership role in an industry trade association committee that is addressing regulatory change or standards-setting. Looking ahead 50 years, we are facing dramatic changes in energy policy, healthcare, financial instruments, and ethics. What will be the legal platform for these issues?

3. Bar associations at the local, state and national level are also grappling with these complex societal changes. Get involved! Lawyer referrals represent a significant source of new business leads, and this is an effective way to demonstrate your firm's expertise.

4. Regulatory and executive branch agencies appear to be changing the rules on a daily basis in a way that transcends party politics (bankruptcy law, securities law, and contract rights come to mind). What does this mean for the law? Lawyers can help to analyze, interpret and guide change.

5. Law schools and courts can benefit from highly experienced lawyers who can share their knowledge and expertise.

6. Pro bono work is always in need of qualified attorneys.

7. Pick a emerging topic and build a knowledge base within your firm, expressed in the form of high profile speaking engagements and publishing opportunities.

Of course, not every firm can afford to make an investment of this nature. But those that do have an opportunity to build a place for themselves as a "thought leader" in the long run.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wharton Profs Analyze Law Firm Business Practices

Will the billable hour business model wither in the economic downturn?

This is one of many law firm business practices scrutinized by Wharton professors in a FORBES article today titled "New Fee Structure for Law Firms."

Referring to the ACC Value Challenge, the article notes that now is a time when clients clearly are pressing law firms for alternative billing arrangements like retainers or even success fees.

The traditional partnership structure, where multitudes of associates generate highly profitable billing leverage, is falling victim to staff cuts as large transactions disappear.

What is the answer to survival in the short run? What will law firms look like in the long run? The Wharton profs suggest the following:

1. Law firms should think strategically, rather than taking a problem-based approach. In part, this means "articulating the firm's competitive advantage and value proposition." (This Rainmaking Lady notes that any law firm not already doing basic planning is destined for deep trouble in any market.)

2. Develop deeper client relationships to strengthen ties between the law firm and corporate client. This will involve the active support of law firm partners, associates and support staff working in concert.

3. Diligently assess talent within the firm, and align skill sets to best solve challenges faced by both clients and the firm.

Good advice, but not necessarily profound. These are "best practices" that should be included in any law firm's approach to business development in good times or bad. Now is a good time to get back to the basics!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Big Firm Lawyers Find Happiness in Downsizing

A combination of economic factors, coupled with a desire for a better work-life balance, are causing some well-established large firm partners to seek the flexibility of a smaller or solo practice, according the an April 13th Lawyers USA article by Correy Stephenson.

Technology today makes it relatively easy and affordable to replicate big-firm operating systems -- including practice management software, intranets, websites, and contact management databases -- in a small firm environment. Attorneys can stay "LinkedIn" to maintain contact with a seamless network of former co-workers, clients and friends.

Clients enjoy the benefit of high-powered legal talent at significantly reduced rates. In fact, this is a key differentiating factor that the newly untethered big-firm alum has to offer prospective clients. Almost half (46%) of private practitioners choose a solo practice, and 76% of law firms have five or fewer attorneys according to 2000 stats from the American Bar Foundation, making it essential for the new firm to stand apart from its competitors.

Emphasizing success at a well respected firm, along with a list of impressive representative matters, will help the entrepreneurial small firm lawyer build their client list despite today's tough market outlook.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wombley Carlyle Realigns Core Focus

Acknowledging price pressure from big-firm laid off lawyers who hang out their own shingle, 530 attorney law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC is taking a number of initiatives to bring costs in line with the new market realities. Read the full article in today's Winston-Salem Journal.

Firm cost reductions aiming for a $5 million annual expense reduction include:
  1. Salary cuts of 10% for most employees
  2. Selected job cuts
  3. Streamlining of non-legal administrative functions
  4. Cutting back on rent and other occupancy costs

Somehow the firm's "confidential" layoff memo was posted to the Internet.

Citing the ACC Value Challenge, Womble emphasizes that corporate clients - themselves facing drastic restructuring - are looking for lower cost structures and flexible billing policies from their legal partners.

As the business world accelerates its rate of change, law firms that focus on core competencies, while outsourcing support functions, are more likely to survive and even thrive as a leaner organization. As difficult as this may be to navigate, those firms that procrastinate are likely to pay an even higher price than mere discomfort.