Over the last five years there’s been a sea change caused by cell phones and tablets that affect how clients find lawyers. Today, most clients go online to find a lawyer. In fact, more clients searching for an attorney found one from internet content than they did from referrals, according to the Perceptio marketing firm. In the old days people would talk to workers and friend and attorneys, but what they prefer much more is discreetly searching with a laptop.
There are five business development step attorneys can take online to capitalize on this change.
- Broadcast your event live online with Livestreaming. Livestreaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat have become popular. A user simply downloads the app to their cell phone, and uses the camera to broadcast what it sees live. I’ve been recommending that lawyers get familiar with livestreaming because you can broadcast an event that you create.
Here’s a practical business development idea that really works. A law firm can devote $1000 (or more) to create a scholarship, approach a law school and ask it to pick the winner. Then you schedule event where the scholarship is awarded. You invite everyone in your office bring their cell phones to the event, open up Meerkat or Periscope and live broadcast the whole ceremony live from multiple phones. You can notify all you contact and friends in advance to tune in to watch the broadcast. It’ s a tech-savvy way to put something live on the web, and to capture the firm doing something good.
- Use the killer app: blogging. It’s true that the more you blog, the more clients you will get. But you need to update you blog at least 2-3 times a week with fresh, practical and useful information that clients can’t find on any other website. The ABA found that 39.4% of all law firms say blogging has resulted in clients or referrals.
The trick is to view yourself as an editor. Make it your job to spot the issues, get any documents or opinions, and assign them to someone else to write. Specify that they write in plain English and not legalese, and to aim for a length of 300-400 words per post.
For example, as Editor for The National Trial Lawyers, I work with three law students at different schools. I’ll find an opinion and assign it to them in Basecamp, they’ll type a draft it in WordPress on the NTL site, where I can edit and publish it. Every Friday we have a Skype call where I’ll go over their work. It’s a system that works very well. We have a content machine at The National Trial Lawyers
Law students really eager to get any kind of real-world experience and they’ll jump on an opportunity to get published with a byline. I recommend that lawyers simply call the dean of their local law school and say they have writing jobs paying $14 an hour, and that you’d like to get 4-5 students writing for the firm. You will supply what they write about and seek one post per day.
You can also assign associates and paralegals in your own firm to write articles, and there are tons of freelance writers available to create content for you.
- Create a non-branded informational website. The idea is to focus on a single topic and to provide ample information that consumers are seeking, as opposed to publishing material about litigation or law. Drugwatch.com is a perfect example, where consumers can look up drugs, lawsuits and FDA recalls. It looks like WebMD – not a law firm website — and has information that a person would get in an online encyclopedia. The site is sponsored by the Petersen law firm in Washington, DC. Newsome Melton in Orlando, FL. sponsors BrainandSpinalCord.org. It is a font of information about brain and spinal injuries, the top 10 rehab hospitals, physicians who are specialize in spinal surgery, statistics, treatment options and a video library about Medicare and Medicaid.
Both sites are a success because they provide self-help information to clients as they are researching their situation. The tactic works equally well for corporate or large defense firms, which can create clients-only forums on topics such as mergers and acquisitions or intellectual property.
- Take steps to generate positive online reviews. Another thing that’s changed in the last few years is the new importance of online review sites. For example, when a person visits Amazon.com, they will read the reviews and see how many stars there are. That behavior applies potential clients as well. For personal injury lawyers, the top review sites are FindLaw.com, Avvo.com, Yelp.com, Lawyers.com and Thumbtack.com. See http://bit.ly/1MORIjM.
Getting a positive review starts with the initial interview of the client. Tell them that you get your business from referrals, and that if you get a good outcome for the client, you will ask them to give you a good review. This establishes your expectations up front.
The perfect time to request the review is when you deliver good news or walk the check over to them. Assign staff to give tech support to your clients in writing a Google review or opening a Yelp account. Offer help so you can capture the client when they’re most pleased with the law firm.
Even general counsel will go to a website to find a review. They too will find some place online that they’re going to find reviews. Many of these reviews are in the billing auditing systems that the corporations use to check attorney fees, like Serengeti. The Association of Corporate Counsel has several special interest groups where GCs trade notes all the time.
- Join the Social Media Cocktail Party. Social media continues to account for a large and growing portion of online traffic. It’s a 24/7 virtual cocktail party where everyone is invited and anyone can say whatever they like about your firm and even you.
For a business lawyer the best social medium is LinkedIn. It’s a professional forum and people belong for business purposes. Accordingly, lawyers should publish a detailed profile with a color picture. The next step is to join a LinkedIn group of clients. Lawyers should follow a conversation in a group and comment every now and then. This positions a lawyer as an authority and leads to meeting other members of the group.
I’ve had terrific results with Twitter, attracting 23,600 followers to @LarryBodine. In my work I have very rapidly built up large followings of potential clients for law firms, legal publications and lawyer associations by posting several times a day and using popular hashtags. See https://ritetag.com for help with hashtags. I like Twitter because you can talk to people and engage with others. I’ve actually met people on Twitter, they’ve sent me work and we became friends, and we’ve met at conferences and gone out to dinner. Social media really works.
Google+ is an overlooked source for getting on the first page of Google. Using a Gmail address, an attorney can quickly create a Google My Business page. You can build an audience by following other people and anticipating they’ll follow back. Google+ also has many attorney groups focusing on every aspect of law and trials. A lawyer can add a new post in the “What’s New with You?” box, allowing visitors to click a +1 or +2 circle, showing that they like the post. The more plusses you get, the more likely you are to turn up on the first page of Google.
And if you need some moral support as you face the new year, take these words to heart:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”