Articles Posted in Internet Marketing

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SM_Pic_LPT_2018-300x144In the March 2018 issue of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Today webzine, I put around 2,500 words to web in my article, What’s New in Social Media Marketing for Lawyers? It seems like just yesterday that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (and plenty others) came into our lives. It’s been longer than that…as a nine year old post this morning on Facebook reminded me of an event from days’ gone by. The tools have changed, and for business development purposes, lawyers have had to change with them.

In preparing to write the feature, I kept putting down notes on various social media news, programs and events—seemingly by the hour. At the same time I write this very blog post, I’m mere minutes away from moderating an ABA CLE on The Law and Social Media: Tips for Every Lawyer, with my colleagues Cynthia Dahl, Kathryn Deal and Molly DiBianca, covering social media issues that range from employment law matters to tweeting jurors, messaging witnesses, friending judges, cybercrime and prosecution, DMCA and trademark issues, virtual law practices, professionalism, and marketing.

Just last week, the ABA released Formal Opinion 480 from the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility reminding lawyers of the confidentiality obligations for lawyer blogging and tweeting. It is an opinion that has been widely panned as being late to the game. This provides another reminder as to the speed that social media runs. The suggestions are already somewhat old and outdated.

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Online legal referral and attorney rating service

For some attorneys—even 40+ years after Bates v. Arizona—marketing itself is a disruption. But when AVVO, the online legal referral and attorney rating service, came along in 2006, it created some of the more significant disruptions to the legal marketing industry. With the company being acquired by Internet Brands last week, the question is whether the business will remain cutting edge?

Of course, as is usually the case, the company touts that things will remain the same and be “business as usual” under new ownership. But that is rarely the case. I would argue that Martindale, Nolo and Total Attorneys—all businesses acquired by Internet Brands (makers of such sites as WebMD, Fodor’s Travel and MySummerCamps) no longer have the same impact they did before being acquired. When Findlaw was acquired by Thomson in 2001, it basically ceased being Findlaw (after the typical “business as usual” period of time). If you want to see the original premise of Findlaw today, you go to Justia. Martindale-Hubbell, founded in 1868 by attorney James Martindale (talk about being ahead of the curve on marketing! I always thought Greg Siskind was first with everything), was what most law firms considered the one piece of business development they would pay for. And pay for they did for over 100 years until the Internet killed the golden goose. When I first started visiting law firms to discuss marketing in 1996, I was often sent to see the librarian—because she updated the Martindale listings—that (plus perhaps the holiday card) was the extent of “marketing.”

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legal_tech_newsWhat do for-profit and nonprofit legal organizations stand to gain from publishing free or low-cost educational resources? Investment in a public good and expertise, to start, writes Law Technology News reporter Gabrielle Orum Hernández in the November 2016 edition.

In Online Legal Resources Straddle the Line between Public Good and Client Generation, Hernandez asked me about my experiences with the subject matter. I talked about a Hart-Scott-Rodino database I worked on with Morgan Lewis in the 90s—an early adopter for sure. I mentioned how I often use Tom Spahn’s legal ethics opinion summaries database at McGuireWoods—a great free online resource. I pointed out that many online resources that were once considered valuable content—links libraries, FAQs, online forms and brochures—were now often outdated, replaced by short and sweet videos, blog posts and on-demand webinars, podcasts and accredited (free) online continuing legal education (CLE).

But perhaps my most profound comment was sending her to my friend Greg Siskind, the king of online content development for the last 22 years or so at Greg’s start as a 26-year-old lawyer in 1994 trying to open up his own shop as a solo immigration attorney is the ultimate online rags-to-riches story—not as an immigrant (he’s from Nashville), but recognizing way back when that content development was the key…way, way before the term “content marketing” came into vogue.

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TLI.jpgWhen I chatted with The Legal Intelligencer’s Lizzy McLellan about Small Firms Look to Attract Middle Class With Flat Rates (TLI, May 6, 2016), she asked me about a law firms’ initiative that touted (in a press release) an original and unique attempt to target the middle class through the firm’s website. Unfortunately, I may have burst her (and that firms’) bubble when I said there was little unique about the website offering and less original about using the Internet to target this massive potential audience.

But it did get us talking about how much of a role the Internet has played in providing legal services options to middle-income individuals and families when it comes to estate planning purposes and related consumer-driven practice areas. I also noted that services from entities such as LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer and Avvo often were competing with them, although in many instances, they are funneling work back to the same lawyers through various marketing initiatives.

For law firms, success on the web is driven by the power and credibility of their websites, paired with a combination of organic search results and paid online advertising–often a combination of both. But you can expect to spend on quality Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to win the battle of reaching your target audience. Make no mistake, I sit with law firms that are only targeting high wealth or possibly only targeting low wealth (more about quantity in numbers than quality of a matter).

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Thumbnail image for LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngPerhaps it is sad to think that customer or client service has gotten so bad of late that highlighting those that do it well should not be necessary, but it is. So many companies send us off to automated web and voice mail systems, force us to chat with folks half way around the globe that can’t speak the language too well and are flummoxed when forced off script, or in some cases show they simply don’t care. Where I live, Comcast’s monopoly means that no matter what happens I’m still a customer. When disgruntled with some experiences on Priceline, I simply took my business elsewhere. And in most cases, law firm clients can choose to do the same.

So when the service you receive is particularly personalized, attentive and caring, you practically go into shock. In serving as an issue editor for the Marketing-themed April 2016 edition of Law Practice Today (LPT), I contributed a feature story on Client Retention–It’s All in the Listening, which reminds us attorneys just how simple it can be to provide the type of client service that is both memorable and ensures repeat business. Taking some of my favorite personal recent examples–Kimpton’s Monaco chain for hotel travel, my long-time dentist Dr. Robert Marchinek, and two of the top Philadelphia restaurants in Bibou and Helm, I show how some simple listening and responsiveness goes much further than any sophisticated business development game plan can. It is all in the listening. See where you might fall in comparison to knowing the “personal” side of your clients.

With nearly 18 features and columns, the marketing issue of LPT is full of great ideas. In gathering articles for the issue, I thought about what I wanted to hear about and from whom. So I hit up some of the leading experts in the business to teach me something.

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LPcover_MarApr2016.jpgIn the March/April 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, my column asks the question: Do Lawyers Rule the Internet? Well, I would not ask the question if the answer did not lean toward “yes.”

With the 30th anniversary of ABA TECHSHOW on the horizon (and this is the TECHSHOW issue of the magazine), I examine the role that technology has played on the marketing and delivery of legal services. Google AdWord sales in 2015 approached $70 billion–and with 78 of the 100 most expensive keywords belonging to the legal profession, you realize just the impact the Internet has had on the practice of law, and vice-versa.

Throw in the changing landscape of social media, including changes LinkedIn made to accommodate attorneys (and the rules of professional conduct), and you can judge for yourself–do we indeed rule the web?

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LPcover_novdec2015.jpgIt was watching and reading news coverage from the aftermath of the deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia earlier this year that my marketing column topic came to light. Usually the theme finds me, and in this case, with each press conference, e-mail, press release and newspaper article–it occurred to me that Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules (ABA’s Law Practice magazine, November/December 2015).

You can put this column under “Marketing” or “Ethics.” It works out well for my areas of focus. I spend the bulk of my time working with law firms on business development efforts. But I also maintain a niche ethics practice that only looks at marketing and advertising issues. Perhaps you will read this column and think of it as an ethics primer. Or you might read it and gain ideas and insight into marketing for a plaintiff’s practice. Before submitting my final draft to the Law Practice editors, I decided that I needed some differing perspectives beyond my own. The result was some hefty editing based on those thoughts. You’ll read some comments from the ethics attorney I myself turn to for advice, Tom Spahn of McGuireWoods. Some differing views came from my fellow LP columnist, Greg Siskind, who was focused on the value of content. A few unnamed ethics friends gave me some additional feedback and direction.

A number of pieces from The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s law firm beat writer Chris Mondics touched on many aspects of what I reference in his coverage of the Amtrak disaster–and the issues surrounding “the race for clients.” The simple speed of selecting counsel in today’s society–ramped up through social media and related technology tools–means that an attorney seeking a piece of this very lucrative pie needs to get moving fast. You might argue that your marketing needs to arrive before the actual matter at hand. The most successful lawyers in this space have figured out how to generate promotional opportunities without violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. If you are waiting for the dust to settle–as the 30-day moratorium was built to provide–you will find yourself a day late to the game.

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PBI.pngIf it is August (another Pennsylvania bar CLE compliance month), then it must be time for another round of ethics CLEs for the PA Bar Institute (PBI). This month, besides my usual PBI ethics potpourri program hour (presented every April, August and December), you can catch me at the Jersey shore too, reprising “Linkedout and Mistweeted – Ethical Uses of Social Networking in Marketing Your Law Practice,” a hit program from 2014 (updated!).

Law Marketing and Ethics 2015 Update: Balancing Smart Business Development, Adhering to the Rules,” will be presented in Mechanicsburg on August 20th, Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 27th. In the 38 years since Bates v. Arizona, law firm marketing has grown from whether or not to advertise to committing significant resources toward business development. The trick is to do so in an effective, dignified and ethical fashion. In this newly updated one-hour ethics program, learn about the rules, regulations and ethics opinions that require the greatest attention, how to improve your marketing efforts without missteps, and discuss real-life examples and intriguing hypotheticals in this fast-paced, entertaining course.

When PBI asked if I could reprise Linkedout and Mistweeted as part of the CLE Down the Shore program in Atlantic City on August 14th, I said sure. After all, how much could I really lose at the blackjack and craps tables before and after my session at the Golden Nugget Hotel? The answer, of course, is plenty. At least my room and meal are comped. However, “reprise” is a bit misleading–as my slide deck from December 2014 is already quite outdated. Social media issues continue to be prevalent. The program has been updated through July 2015 to include recent ethics opinions and rule changes impacted by the use of social media for lawyer marketing purposes. What are the implications of LinkedIn’s recommendations, endorsements and specialization components? How have state bars addressed these issues? You’ll learn the how-to, how-not-to and the latest lessons in social networking participation.

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July has been a busy month for me in chatting with legal reporters about the law firm world online in 2015, starting with Gina Passarella’s piece for The Legal Intelligencer on Morgan Lewis’ controversial rebrand. Little did she know when our conversation started that I was involved in Morgan Lewis’ first website, some 18 years ago or so and in the firms’ shift from to shortly thereafter.

A few weeks later, her American Lawyer Media colleague Lizzy McLellan followed up with Online Rebranding ‘Not Just for the Big Guys’ in which we discussed rebranding issues impacting midsize firms–where there is not likely a large marketing team with a wealth of resources, yet still needing to deliver a unified message.

In “Firms aim to track clients on websites,” California’s Daily Journal staff writer Joshua Sebold spoke with me about a topic beyond site development and branding–the way web traffic can be tracked and analyzed in strategic business development. From web cookies to analytics analysis, tracking open rates on e-mail legal alerts, online advertising, social media hooks and tracking URL clicks, the beauty of the online world is still that it offers much greater hard data to identify return on investment than almost any law firm branding effort–online or off. You’d have to go back to tracking phone numbers in a Yellow Pages ad to find anything close. Or as my kids would ask you, “What are the Yellow Pages?”

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morganlewis.pngIn ALM’s The Legal Intelligencer, reporter Gina Passarella writes on Morgan Lewis Took Risks in Its Rebranding. She spoke with me about the effectiveness and controversial aspects of the mega firms’ new look, which included a new website among the various rebranding efforts.

Passarella points out that with a new chairwoman and two mergers, the firm is undergoing change. The article also mentions that the rebranding initiatives, led by the firm’s marketer, Despina Kartson, started prior to the Bingham McCutchen and Stamford LLC mergers.

While the article states that the firm’s goal was to balance the classic and the modern, you can’t help but see the dreaded Executive leadership compromise in the end result. The logo itself is staid and very old school. The website and the content “below the fold” (logo and imagery) is closer to The Huffington Post in design, appearance and functionality. So if you cannot agree on classic or modern–do neither and both. I’ve been at the table of plenty of these branding and rebranding conversations at law firms. I can’t say I win many of those battles either.