Articles Posted in Internet Marketing

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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 mlb.com to morganlewis.com 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.

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website_image.jpgIn today’s edition of ALM’s The Legal Intelligencer, reporter Gina Passarella writes on Major Changes Could Be in Store for Law Firm Websites. She spoke to me about the state of law firm websites in general and the new K&L Gates Hub in particular.

K&L Gates describes their new “hub” as “a digital destination for timely insight on critical issues at the intersection of business and law. Whether you are in a legal department or are a C-suite executive, we hope you will find our current insight on industry and legal trends to be a valuable resource.” It is not designed to replace the regular law firm website, but provide extensive content on a few topics for a very specific audience.

Websites have come a long, long way since the first one I worked on–for Morgan Lewis–in 1996. I found this screen capture online from 2000, back when mlb.com belonged to the law firm and not to Major League Baseball. In 2000, I was proud to have worked on one of the first unique components on a large law firm website–HSRScan–which was a searchable database of letters interpreting the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (the HSR Act) and its regulations. At the time, moving beyond attorney bios, news, practice area descriptions and maybe some dynamic recruiting content was quite unique. I loved that HSRScan was a database of content that literally did not exist anywhere else.

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LPM_MA15_cover.jpgIn the March/April 2015 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice magazine, my topic is relevant to pretty much every practicing attorney (not to mention almost every human being on the planet). What does your online portfolio look like, and why should you care?

Every week, I will meet, speak with or e-mail a prospective client. While I will send them my own crafted biography, links to my website and blog, and additional information–what they will often be more interested in is what they find when doing a search for my name. With a somewhat unique first and last name, what they see will almost always be me. This is not the case with many that have more mainstream names to search for.

While some individuals and firms are forced to use reputation management companies to “fix” a page of results, most of us simply live with what we see. But the thought that you have no control over what appears is not accurate. Taking advantage of profile pages on powerful sites should help control that first page of results. Few will venture on to page two. Almost nobody will get to page three. And only stalkers are likely going beyond.

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podcasts.jpgIf you would like to hear a short podcast discussing how legal advertising has changed due to the internet and social media, how to launch a successful marketing campaign without getting into trouble with state bars, and some advice to small and big firms about advertising in certain practices and geographic regions, LISTEN HERE to the podcast on the Legal Talk Network. Thanks to interviewer Jason Marsh, Adriana Linares and the LTN team for the opportunity to chat during the ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston, Texas.

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Sangary-Article-201409171849.jpgCall her the Zelig or Forrest Gump of California attorneys, but you can also call her “suspended.”

I’ve seen a lot of fun and strange law firm web site ethics issues come up since the mid-90s, but it is refreshing to see that there are still new takes on the concept of “deceptive and misleading” lawyer advertising online in 2014.

A State Bar Court judge in Sacramento, California has recommended a six month suspension for a Los Angeles attorney who put Photoshop to use in manipulating a photo gallery on her website filled with fake pictures of her with various politicians, celebrities and star athletes. The court found that this photo gallery amounted to deceptive advertising. Read the highly entertaining opinion here.

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domains.pngAmong the very first law firm websites I ever worked on was www.mlb.com. My six year old son accesses the site every morning on his iPad before heading to school or camp to check scores and watch video highlights of last nights’ major league baseball action. Of course, that does not sound like a law firm website, does it? No, it is Major League Baseball (MLB). But in the late 90s, www.mlb.com took you to the website of one of the nation’s largest law firms–Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

Morgan Lewis’ IT people were certainly on their game when they beat baseball to the punch and acquired the domain name that certainly made sense for them–MLB. When working with Morgan Lewis on their initial website and subsequent iterations, we always chuckled at the enormous web traffic that the site garnered. Of course, the bulk of it was people looking for baseball. And as you might imagine, they were none too pleased when they ended up with an antitrust practice area description instead of All-Star game voting results. As a matter of fact, many website visitors e-mailed various unflattering comments regarding what they believed was an inappropriate use of the MLB domain name.

Luckily for Major League Baseball, they were a client of the law firm. And eventually Morgan Lewis provided their client with that prized possession, so they could join the NHL, NBA and NFL in owning the proper online moniker.

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PBI.pngIt is hard to believe that I’ve been teaching the “advertising/marketing” ethics hour for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute for more than a decade now. But what makes it particularly interesting is that my space (pun intended, if you get it) keeps changing with such rapid fire imprecision that it really never gets old. This year I return to the theme of social networking ethics. I could say I’m repeating my program from 2010, but very little is the same. I looked back into my PowerPoint slides to find my first discussion of advertising and social media taking place in 2003. This makes me sound and feel ancient.

As usual, I will be presenting this PBI program live in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in April, August and December of 2014. My April programs take place on the 24th in Pittsburgh and 29th in Philadelphia–from 11:30 am-12:30 pm. For more information and registration, visit PBI.

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