Thursday, December 19, 2013

Five Legal Marketing Strategies for 2014 Success

As the New Year approaches, law firms that bring a fresh, disciplined approach to 2014 business development campaigns will be the most likely to succeed. Here are five recommendations to jump start your law firm marketing efforts in 2014.

Market to Current and Past Clients

Your competitors covet your clients. It is well worth your time to stay close to both current and past accounts, particularly since they are your best source for new business. A quarterly “Client Alert” in email and/or direct mail format is productive yet not burdensome. It does not have to be long (two to four pages is ideal) but it should be substantive.

Start right now to compose a January letter to your client base. The beginning of the New Year is a perfect time to market. Use your holiday list as the basis for a letter advising clients on legal considerations that will affect their business or family in the coming 12 months. Offer a call-to-action, like a free consultation or an educational seminar, to accelerate the business development process.

Update Your Referral Network

Networking is the primary source of new business for many attorneys. No matter how well networking works for you, it can always perform at a higher level with a little time and attention. Write down your referral sources, prioritize them, and set up a schedule in your calendar to stay in touch. Work your list on a monthly basis for best results, and remember to reciprocate with leads for your network members.

Target Your Ideal Prospects

Business oriented law firms might target the chief litigation counsel for national hotel chains or big box retailers with South Florida operations. Employment defense law firms could target specific employers, as well as insurance carriers offering EPLI coverage in Florida. Law firms with a consumer-oriented practice—like family law, estate planning, or personal injury—could also benefit by targeting prospects based on demographics or affiliations (country club, children’s school, motorcycle clubs, etc.).

Your target "wish list" will bring focus to all marketing and outreach efforts, providing leverage for your marketing investments and a better ability to measure results. The size of a target list will vary by firm, and for most will range between 100 and 1,000 prospects. Get down to the level of a specific target person’s name, with business affiliation and contact information, recorded in a fielded Excel file to facilitate a weekly or monthly review of next steps in the business development process.

Prepare for the Sales Process

Now that you have a targeted prospect list, there are certain basic sales support materials needed to convert these prospects to clients. Start the New Year with an updated supply of law firm brochures, bio pages, and practice area pages. Electronic PDF files of these key marketing materials can be posted to your website, and also printed in short runs for proposals or prospecting meetings. Related business development tools may include a PowerPoint template, tabletop exhibit, or proposal outline.

Get Social

LinkedIn is the social media outlet that supports all types of law firm practice. Plan now to take your LinkedIn profile to the next level of performance and visibility in 2014. Increasing the number of connections (for those under 500 connections) is a natural starting point. Consider also posting a "status update" to your profile once or twice a month, which will then go out to your network members. Other ideas include posting a video, a PowerPoint presentation, or participating in groups.

The right Internet campaign can bring almost immediate results. Twitter and Facebook can also be productive, particularly for law firms with a consumer-oriented practice.

Closing Observations

One of the most challenging aspects of law firm marketing is the need to balance the daily demands of a busy law practice with the commitment to keep looking for more clients. One way to overcome this obstacle is to establish an in-house Marketing Committee that meets on a monthly basis, particularly if a non-attorney staff member is given the responsibility for day-to-day campaign management. Outside consultants may also serve to bring industry experience, structure, and discipline to the business development effort.

Remember, never stop marketing! Marketing is a process and not an event. The author welcomes your feedback.

Click on the link to download Five Legal Marketing Strategies for 2014 Success in PDF format. This article first appeared in the November, 2013 Palm Beach County and Fort Lauderdale issue of Attorney at Law magazine.

About the Author: Margaret Grisdela is president of Legal Expert Connections, a national legal marketing agency. She is also the author of Courting Your Clients (now in its 2nd edition). Contact her at 561-266-1030 or

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Social Media Marketing for Florida Lawyers: Proceed with Caution

In an earlier post titled The Florida Bar Warns Lawyers Against LinkedIn Skills & Expertise, we advised Florida attorneys to be aware of the Bar's strict interpretation of attorney advertising guidelines when it comes to the use of LinkedIn.

Below is an excerpt from a recent article written by Gary Blankenship in The Florida Bar News on the topic:

The pitfalls for lawyers navigating LinkedIn, the online business networking site, should be explored in a Bar advisory advertising opinion, according to the Standing Committee on Advertising.

The committee at a special October 29 meeting voted to ask the Bar Board of Governors to direct the committee to prepare that advisory opinion. The vote came shortly after the committee voted 3-1 to tell a law firm it should not list its practice areas on LinkedIn because LinkedIn lists those under the heading of “Specialties.”

The vote included contacting LinkedIn to let it know that some of its practices could be problematic for Florida Bar members.

The committee noted that under Bar rules, only a lawyer who is certified can claim to be a specialist or expert and that privilege is limited to the lawyer, not his or her law firm. The rules also require that an advertising lawyer list the areas in which he or she is certified. Committee members said that could cause a problem as lawyers using LinkedIn lists areas under “Specialties” for which certification is not available.

“We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s begun to come down the pike with this whole issue with the Bar and the Internet and social media,” said committee member Al Alsobrook, a former public member of the Board of Governors.

Click on the link to read the full article in The Florida Bar News.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Florida Bar Warns Lawyers Against LinkedIn Skills & Expertise

Florida lawyers should not list their practice areas under the header “Skills and Expertise” on LinkedIn, according to a September 11, 2013 advisory attorney advertising opinion.

In a letter to an undisclosed Tampa attorney, the Bar states that only board certified attorneys can use the terms “certified,” “specialist,” or “expert.” Law firms and non-certified lawyers cannot claim specialization or expertise in a particular practice area.

The Florida Bar cites a similar New York State Bar Association Opinion 972 in its ruling.

The Florida Bar will consider a corresponding legal marketing topic at its upcoming October 8th meeting.

In the meantime, the attorney who received the letter has 30 days to request a review by the Florida Standing Committee on Advertising.


There actually may be two separate but related issues at work here. One is simply the display of skills, like “Divorce Law” or “Insurance Defense Law.” The other issue is whether your network connections can then “endorse” you for your skills.

The Florida Bar appears to be saying not to list your skills in the first place. Further, there appears to be concern (separately) that the “endorsements” could be considered “testimonials.” The Florida Bar rules were changed recently to allow testimonials that meet certain guidelines.

Your LinkedIn Skills & Expertise section can be edited as follows:
- Go to Profile, Edit Profile
- Scroll down to the “Skills & Expertise” section, then
- Select whether to display or not display your endorsements


The finer points of social media marketing on LinkedIn and Twitter are still being addressed by The Florida Bar, so stay tuned!

See the story “LinkedIn Lawyers – Mind Your Language!” published on

Author Margaret Grisdela is available at 1-866-417-7025 or via email to answer your questions about legal marketing in Florida or other states. Let's connect on LinkedIn.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Law Firm Twitter Posts Must Comply with Advertising Rules, Says Florida Bar

A law firm name and location must now be included in the 140 character limit of a tweet posted on Twitter, says The Florida Bar.

Speaking at an August meeting hosted by the South Florida Group of the Legal Marketing Association, the Ethics and Advertising Counsel for The Florida Bar emphasized that the recently revised attorney advertising guidelines clarify requirements in regard to law firm social media marketing.

All forms of lawyer advertising in Florida must now include the name of one lawyer, law firm, referral service, or lawyer directory responsible for the content. The location of the advertiser must also be disclosed. A county name may now serve as a geographic identifier, in addition to a city or town.

Law firms with long names have a dilemma and will need to determine if the first few of several partner names will suffice (as is customary in other forms of usage), or if a URL might satisfy the rules.

The following is an excerpt from The Florida Bar Standing Committee on Advertising Guidelines for Networking Sites (page 117):

Pages appearing on networking sites that are used to promote the lawyer or law firm’s practice are subject to the lawyer advertising rules. These pages must therefore comply with all of the general regulations set forth in Rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.18 and 4-7.21. Regulations include prohibitions against any misleading information, which includes references to past results that are not objectively verifiable, predictions or guaranties of results, and testimonials that fail to comply with the requirements listed in Rule 4-7.13(b)(8). Regulations also include prohibitions against statements characterizing skills, experience, reputation or record unless they are objectively verifiable.

How to Make Twitter Comply with Attorney Advertising

Twitter posts are already short at only 140 characters. If you plan to add a link to your Tweet, subtract a few more characters for the abbreviated URL.

This @RainmakingLady suggests that Florida law firms review their Twitter publication procedures and start to incorporate the new rules now. While tweets and other forms of social media need to comply with Bar rules, they are not required to be filed for review.

Many law firms automate the distribution of a blog feed through Twitter as one of several ways to increase social media visibility. If your law firm publishes a blog, post authors will need to limit article titles to a pre-determined character count that allows for the inclusion of the firm name and location in the tweet. Alternatively, law firms may wish to de-automate the blog distribution in favor of manual Twitter posts announcing a new blog item.

Why Law Firms Outside of Florida Should Take Notice

There are two primary reasons why the Florida rules have some national interest.

First, the Florida State Bar maintains relatively strict attorney advertising standards when judged on a national perspective. While rules vary widely from state to state, the Florida rules can stand as a proxy for “reasonable and customary” industry practices in regard to advertising rules. Firms that comply with Florida rules are likely to be in compliance with the advertising restrictions imposed by other states as well.

Second, attorneys who advertise for business within the state of Florida are subject to the attorney advertising guidelines of The Florida Bar. However, Rule 4-7.11(b) restricts the right by out-of-state lawyers to practice and advertise within the state to those who are authorized by federal law to provide legal services in Florida (immigration, patents, etc.).

Florida Now Regulates All Forms of Lawyer Advertising

The Florida Bar’s Handbook on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, now in its 10th edition, was issued in the spring of 2013 after years of debate about what should and should not be regulated in terms of lawyer advertising. The answer in short is: Everything.

The Handbook now consists of 127 pages of highly detailed rules, guidelines and checklists. Rule 4-7.11(a), the opening paragraph of the new rules, sets the stage:

Florida’s lawyer advertising rules apply to all forms of communication seeking legal employment in any print or electronic forum, including but not limited to newspapers, magazines, brochures, flyers, television, radio, direct mail, electronic mail, and Internet, including banners, pop-ups, websites, social networking, and video sharing media.

Click on the link to access Florida’s Handbook on Lawyer Advertising and Solicitation, 10th edition, 2013.

Author Margaret Grisdela is available at 1-866-417-7025 or via email to answer your questions about legal marketing in Florida or other states. Let's connect on LinkedIn.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Affordable Care Act Sparks Legal Hiring Boom

Spiking demand for healthcare attorneys is bringing welcome news to a legal market struggling with increasingly cost-consciousness clients in other sectors.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Wanted: Health-Care Legal Experts,” corporate clients spent $5.72 billion on legal advice for regulatory matters, including health care, in 2012. That number is expected to increase to $6 billion this year. Highlights of this article appear below.

Millions of Americans are expected to sign up for health insurance when the Affordable Care Act takes effect in January, 2014, some perhaps for the first time in their lives.

Many complex regulations and industry-specific provisions, all imposing compliance requirements on companies of all types and sizes, are included in the Act. As a result, many companies are seeking experienced healthcare lawyers to help them understand the implications of the impending regulations.

Several existing healthcare laws have been revised, and many new ones have been drafted, contributing to a confusing network of legal complexities. For instance:
  • An existing law intended to reduce conflicts of interest during patient service referrals for services such as x-rays has made it trickier for hospitals to structure contracts or acquire doctor groups
  • A new rule mandates the disclosure of financial ties between health-care providers and companies that make drugs and medical devices
Lawyers with the ability to clarify the technicalities of this legislation will find themselves very busy both before and after the Act is put into effect. Specifically, lawyers with expertise in the following areas are expected to be in demand:
  • Health-care fraud
  • Hospital mergers
  • Medical technology investments
  • Medicare audits
  • Reimbursement disputes
Many major law firms contain substantial healthcare practices, but more often than not, cost-conscious clients bring their legal work to smaller and more affordable firms. One healthcare attorney is quoted as saying, “The more they tinker with the federal regulations, the more work we have.”

In addition to changes in medical practices and insurance coverage, the organization and payment of healthcare is also being reformed with the Affordable Care Act. In an attempt to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs, many new healthcare delivery models are being tested, and could possibly replace the traditional fee-for-service approach.

The Affordable Care Act has been described as an extremely complex piece of legislation. This is likely to be good news for healthcare attorneys, who will find a steady supply of clients in need of immediate legal assistance.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

New Florida Bar Attorney Advertising Rules Take Effect May 1

Ads for Florida attorneys may now contain testimonials and statements of past results that are objectively verifiable, according to new rules that went into effect today.

All forms of advertising are now covered by the updated rules, which previously addressed many online campaigns in separate guidelines.

This is a major step forward for The Florida Bar, which has been working on updating the advertising rules in conjunction with the Florida Supreme Court for many years. Florida still remains one of the most restrictive state bars in regard to regulation of attorney advertising.

Florida attorneys, as well as out-of-state attorneys who offer legal services in Florida, will want to become familiar newly published advertising guidelines. Here are highlights, as summarized by the Bar.
  • The rules have been completely reorganized and renumbered, starting at Rule 4-7.11 and going through 4-7.23 – Rules 4-7.1 through 4-7.10 will be vacant
  • All advertisements must be filed at least 20 days in advance of their planned use, unless they are exempt - Rule 4-7.19(a)
  • All ad rules apply to websites and social networking and video sharing sites in addition to other media such as print, t.v. and radio - Rule 4-7.11(a) [Websites will remain exempt from the filing requirement – Rule 4-7.20(g)]
  • Unduly manipulative techniques are prohibited, including appeals to emotions rather than rational evaluation of lawyer qualifications – Rule 4-7.15(a)
  • Ads may not use authority figures, or actors portraying authority figures, to endorse, recommend, or act as a spokesperson for, the advertising lawyer – Rule 4-7.15(b)
  • Lawyers may not offer economic incentives to view an ad or hire a lawyer, except for a discounted fee – Rule 4-7.15(d)
  • Nonlawyers may not pay for a lawyer’s ads – Rule 4-7.17(c)
  • Every page or panel of a direct mail advertisement and its envelope must include a prominent “Advertisement” in ink that contrasts with both the background and other text – Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(B)
  • Direct email advertisements must begin the subject line with the word “Advertisement” – Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(B)
  • Direct email ads, in addition to other direct mail ads, must include a statement of qualifications and experience – Rule 4-7.18(b)(2)(C)
  • Lawyer referral service ads must contain an affirmative statement that lawyers pay the service to get referrals – Rule 4-7.22(a)(11)
  • New rule 4-7.23 defines and imposes requirements for lawyers participating in lawyer directories
Changes that loosen previous restrictions include:
  • Ads may contain:
    • objectively verifiable past results – Rule 4-7.13(b)(2)
    • objectively verifiable characterizations of skill, experience, reputation or record – Rule 4-7.13(b)(3)
    • testimonials, subject to specific restrictions and disclaimers – Rule 4-7.13(b)(8)
  • The geographic disclosure of a bona fide office may be by county instead of or in addition to city or town – Rule 4-7.12(a)(2)
  • The name of the law firm can be used in the advertisement in addition to or instead of the name of the lawyer responsible for the content – Rule 4-7.12(a)(1)
Click on the link to read more about the Florida Bar attorney advertising rules.

About the Author: Legal marketing consultant Margaret Grisdela is available to discuss business development goals for small to mid-sized law firms. Contact her or 1-866-417-7025.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fannie & Freddie Panel Counsel Rules Changing

Effective 6/1/13, new referrals for Freddie Mac Default Legal Matters (and also Fannie Mae cases) must be sent to law firms selected and approved by Servicers. The two agencies appear to be on parallel paths in these initiatives, under requirements from their regulator the Federal Housing Financing Agency.

As you might expect, there is a lengthy Guide available online:

Servicers must fill out a form (Guide Exhibit 99) and submit it to Freddie Mac for each law firm they would like to approve. Freddie will respond with a “no objection” or “objection” response.

Law firms that are already in the Freddie Mac network must qualify under these new procedures in order to obtain future work (but not for the retention of legacy work).

Law firms selected to receive referrals must attend Freddie Mac training, which will be available starting on April 15, 2013. Presumably training is web-based; details are not apparent on the Freddie website.

On a related note, click on the link to review the maximum 2013 attorney’s or trustee’s fees that Fannie Mae allows for legal work related to foreclosures of whole mortgage loans, participation pool mortgage loans, and MBS mortgage loans serviced under special servicing options.

Legal Marketing Consultant

Legal marketing consultant Margaret Grisdela is available to discuss business development goals for small to mid-sized law firms. Contact her at, 1-866-417-7025, or via email.  

Friday, March 08, 2013

Four Tips for Law Firm Marketing Success

Law firm marketing communications that are clear, concise, consistent, and constant have the best chance for successful revenue generation.

Yesterday I was speaking with a marketing professional who spent several years in communications and brand management for the consulting division of a Big Four accounting firm. She emphasized the 4Cs, and it struck me that these same principles guide productive law firm marketing campaigns.

  1. Clear. Be bold in selecting a niche for your practice or firm. Specialists have an easier chance to stand out in today's crowded legal market. As state and federal regulations require increasing levels of compliance, for example, attorneys with in-depth knowledge can provide greater value to General Counsel or consumer clients. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that a narrow focus generates stronger returns.

  2. Concise. Delivering information clearly and in a few words sounds easy but is not. Just because you know the full scope of services offered by your firm does not mean that clients or prospects understand this. Use, words, pictures, and social media to crisply define your service offerings.

  3. Consistent. It takes five or six impressions for your message to even get noticed. This is particularly true in print advertising, direct mail campaigns, and even online promotions. Many marketers tire of the investment, and stop short of breaking through the clutter of competing messages. It's best if you go into a campaign with a plan for multiple "touch points" to get a prospect's attention.

  4. Constant. Staying the course is a definite measure of success in any law firm marketing campaign. It is very easy to stop marketing when you get busy, but the ideal approach is to create a system that keeps generating your marketing message even if you can't. Many times this means assigning an internal person (but not a lawyer) to the task, or hiring outside resources.
Remember, marketing is a process and not an event. Never stop marketing!

Legal Marketing Consultant

Legal marketing consultant Margaret Grisdela is available to discuss business development goals for small to mid-sized law firms. Contact her at, 1-866-417-7025, or via email.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Legal Market Outlook for 2013

Law firm billable hours, revenue, and profits are projected to remain under pressure this year, according to a 2013 Client Advisory recently published by Hildebrandt Consulting and Citi.

The litigation and corporate sectors of the legal market, which together represent over 50% of the total legal spend, saw either flat (litigation) or nominal growth of 1% (corporate) in 2012 over 2011.

Employment law is a bright spot, with a 4% growth rate in 2012. As corporations rush to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, employment law guidance on matters such as the use of independent contractors and full-time versus part-time status will likely be in continued demand.

Bankruptcy, real estate, IP litigation, and tax law services declined in 2012, according to the report. The drop in real estate and bankruptcy law may parallel modest economic improvement in the economy at large, which in a countercyclical way is a positive trend overall.

Below is a chart that summarizes legal market practice area performance.

Successful law firms will embrace volatility, according to the report. Recommendations for survival in the short and long term include:
  • Understand client needs
  • Rethink your business model
  • Outsource low value-add functions
  • Maintain the firm’s culture
  • Differentiate your law firm
Legal Marketing Consultant

Legal marketing consultant Margaret Grisdela is available to discuss business development goals for small to mid-sized law firms. Contact her at,, at 1-866-417-7025, or via email.