If you've ever watched "Judge Judy" or been channel surfing at 3 in the morning, chances are you've come across an ad or two for a local attorney.
You know what we mean. A guy in a suit, sporting slicked-back-hair, stands in front of a wall of law books and promises to help you stick it to the man ("the man" being insurance companies, hospitals, your employer, your estranged spouse, etc.). Rather then compelling you to jot the firm's phone number down, these awesomely bad ads just remind you about why lawyers have such a bad reputation to begin with.
Thankfully, cheap television ads aren't the only -- or even the best -- ways for lawyers to find new clients.
We recently caught up with Larry Bodine, editor-in-chief of Lawyers.com, who's also served as the editor and publisher for the ABA Journal as well as a marketing consultant, assisting more than 250 law firms with business development, individual lawyer coaching and website renewal.
Larry offered advice on how Lawyers must see themselves as being marketers who just happen to have a legal business," he said.
And two of the best ways to market themselves is by building a solid online presence and getting out of the office to meet people on a regular basis. "In order to meet people, an attorney has to set up a social infrastructure -- season tickets to the football game, the symphony or even NASCAR."
Here's what else Larry had to say about marketing:
What's the No. 1 mistake you see lawyers and/or law firms making when marketing themselves?
Failing to be active online is the biggest marketing mistake. LexisNexis will announce new research on September 25 that discovered that three out of four people who actually hired a lawyer within the last year went online to find that lawyer. A total of 58 million people used online resources in the last year to find a lawyer. Attorneys must have a web page as the cornerstone of their online marketing. Each time a new article is published, it should be shared on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It's important for lawyers to publish FAQs that discuss a person's problem -- not just that the attorney practices in a particular area -- because the research shows that people start by researching their legal issue. Smart lawyers put content online that gets them found early in a person's search.
How can lawyers and/or law firms avoid making this mistake?
A blog is an excellent way to start. It should be updated at least once a week, if not more often. A blog allows attorneys to demonstrate their expertise and discuss legal issues that consumers face. The more content that is created, the more there is for Google to index.
What's the best and/or most effective way for a lawyer to market himself? (Your marketing "musts")
- A lawyer must get out of the office and meet people. News business comes in person.
- An attorney must be facile and comfortable with the web, blogging and social media. With the huge growth in social media, a potential client's friends, co-workers and colleagues are online -- and so the attorney must be online too.
- Lawyers should find their counterparts and set up express referral arrangements. For example, a litigator should seek out transactional lawyers. This way, when a file that seems irrelevant comes into the office, it becomes a valuable file that can be referred to another lawyer. The best way to get a referral is to give one.
- Smart lawyers will join and become active in trade associations and organizations that their clients belong to. The best way to do this is to ask current clients what meetings they go to, and to ask to join them. This way, the client can introduce the attorney to other people with similar problems that can be solved by legal services.
What are the biggest turnoffs for consumers when it comes to legal marketing?
Consumers are accustomed to reading reviews online, on websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. When a consumer cannot find any information about a lawyer online, this is a major turnoff. Furthermore, consumers don't like it when they cannot find a rating of a lawyer online. For example, Lawyers.com carries profiles of 1 million lawyers, who can invite their clients or fellow attorneys to rate them. Consumers want to know a lawyer's clients liked them, and whether fellow lawyers respect them. The new LexisNexis research shows that after Google, the top online resource that clients use to profile an attorney is Lawyers.com.
How can a lawyer market himself without seeming sleazy or disingenuous? (Your marketing "no-no's)
Attorneys should market by educating. This is a genuine and authentic way to tell clients about a lawyer's practice. For example this can include:
- Writing blog posts
- Placing FAQs on web sites
- Presenting web seminars
- Giving speeches at organizations of clients
- Publishing white papers on consumer legal issues and offering them free to be downloaded.
- Participating in social media offering links to helpful information.
Where should lawyers market themselves?
Wherever people meet. It can be at the breakfast restaurant downtown, or the business club at lunch or the trade association meeting in the evening. Rainmakers get out of the office and spend time with people. As a rainmaker at Sidley told me, "new business comes in belly-to-belly." He had the belly to match the advice. Attorneys need to get over their cautiousness and incessant focus on the downside ... and learn to play as they did when they were kids.
How should lawyers be using new technology to reach potential clients?
A well-equipped lawyer must have an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy -- something to send texts, read email and make phone calls. I would back this up by getting an iPad -- there's nothing better than a nice, portable screen to be active in social media.
What are the best "old-fashioned" methods for finding clients?
Start by picking a favorite restaurant. I can always tell if an attorney is a rainmaker by whether they have a favorite place to dine. Having a favorite spot means the lawyer regularly takes clients and potential clients out. The attorney also will have a favorite sport -- golfing, sailing, biking -- in which they can involve clients.
What are good resources for helping with marketing while practicing law? (Especially, if you're a small practice, or one-man operation -- who or what can help you with marketing?)
Do what I did: spend time with the lawyers who are rainmakers. Notice how they engage people in conversations and get to know them. Notice how they walk, dress and behave. Notice how they transform a personal relationship into a business relationship. As Yogi Berra said, "You can learn a lot by watching."
Should different types of law firms approach marketing differently? How? (For instance, how should a lawyer who specializes in divorce market himself vs. a lawyer who specializes in business law?)
Business development is universal regardless of the type of firm. There are some differences in finding divorce clients as opposed to small business clients.
How much should you spend on marketing?
Two percent of your law firm's gross revenue (not including salaries of marketing staff)
How often should you run marketing campaigns?
Regularly, often and opportunistically. If people see that a lawyer is consistently providing helpful information that people can put to use in their daily lives, that lawyer will have a following of loyal clients.
Learn more about marketing your legal practice on Business.com.