Monthly Archives: March 2011

Online Video Now First Stop For Consumers

Video has always been a powerful tool for marketing on the web, and I’ve posted about its potential for lawyers several times over the past two years. But whereas I’d always viewed video as a tool to personalize a website and help encourage more trusted relationships, now, video is becoming a first stop for consumers seeking information, reports The New York Times. Companies are responding to the demand, and using video to demonstrate products or offer instructions on how to fix electronic parts. One grill company is building demand for its grill and other outside cooking products by posting videos on how to fry turkeys or smoke a beef brisket.

Video’s value isn’t limited to educating customers about consumer products, though. It’s equally useful for professionals, as I learned first hand myself earlier this year, when I was involved in making a decision about a pacemaker for a family member. Because I didn’t know much about pacemakers, naturally, I turned to the Internet. I saw lots of complicated diagrams as well as brief articles about the procedure but what I found most useful were a series of videos by a doctor, describing how a pacemaker is installed as well as the risks of surgery.

Many lawyers already have videos posted on YouTube, but many of these videos are what I would consider “vanity pieces,” telling about the lawyer rather than providing useful information. So even though video has been around for a while, there’s still a wide open field for lawyers willing to create informative videos to help potential clients understand the issues involved in their legal matter.

A Business Niche for Your Business

As you probably know by know, I’m an aficionado of niche practice. So I’m always looking for the next emerging niche to share, and with this month’s release of the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, I’ve stumbled on a treasure trove.

In 2010, Latinos experienced the largest entrepreneurial activity increase of all race demographics. In addition, the latest Census data also shows that between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population of the United States grew from 13 to 16 percent – or 35 million to 50 million. Thus, a niche law practice that caters to Latino businesses, or serves the Latino population may have strong potential.

The Kauffman study also found that certain states enjoyed higher entrepreneurial activity in 2010 than others. Nevada and Georgia ranked first, followed by California, Louisiana and Colorado. So if you’re interested in representing new businesses and start-ups and have some flexibility in where you can locate, these are the states to target.

Free Webinar – Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys

Do you struggle to find quality leads? Does it seem equally hard to convert your prospects into paid clients? Then you’ll benefit from our free webinar, Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys. In this dynamic presentation with law firm marketing expert and best-selling author Stephen Fairley, you’ll discover proven tactics used by first-rate lawyers across the country who consistently generate more quality leads than their competitors.

Sign up for Lead Generation Strategies for Attorneys and learn how to:

  • Attract more qualified prospects immediately.
  • Implement cutting edge legal marketing strategies to build your practice.
  • Reduce your Cost Per Client Acquisition (CPCA).
  • Increase referrals from current and former clients.

In addition, you’ll learn the secrets of Direct Response Marketing and hear about the case study of a small law firm that doubled their leads in 90 days!

This webinar is ideal for:

  • Solo practitioners and principal attorneys at small law firms.
  • Marketing professionals at small law firms.

Meet Your Presenter
Stephen Fairley is the CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in lead conversion for small law firms and solo practitioners. Over 7,000 attorneys nationwide have benefited from learning and implementing the proven marketing and lead conversion strategies taught by The Rainmaker Institute. In addition, Stephen is a nationally recognized law firm marketing expert and international best-selling author.

Meet the Organizer
Nolo is passionate about making the law accessible to everyone. Since 1971, our high-quality books, software, legal forms, and online lawyer directory have helped millions of people find answers to their everyday legal and business questions. Nolo’s online lawyer directory is a unique tool for attorneys to demonstrate their expertise online and grow their business. To learn more about being listed in Nolo’s Lawyer Directory, visit Nolo.com/lawyers/.

Webinar Details
When: March 30, 2011, 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time)
Where: Via computer and/or phone
Cost: Free

There will be a 10-minute question and answer opportunity at the end of the webinar.
Please note that CLE credit is not available for this webinar.

Register now!

If you have any questions, please call 1-877-NOLO-LAW (665-6529).

Using Skype for a Marketing Competitive Edge

Once upon a time, lawyers starting out were encouraged to rent ground-level office space on Main Street or down the block from the courthouse to capture walk-in traffic. These days, that advice isn’t as persuasive as lawyers are taking advantage of technology to move out of costly conventional office space and work from home or part-time virtual space. And even those lawyers who still practice in a central location frequently limit walk-in appointments because they’re disruptive to workflow and most walk-in prospects aren’t prepared to pay.

But just as technology taketh-away the conventional walk-in client, so too it giveth a 21st century version: the Skype-in client. For those unfamiliar, Skype is a platform that supports video-calls and video-conferences, where participants can converse and see each other over the computer or even their phone. Skype’s been around for a while, but the quality has continued to improve such that it’s ready for prime-time professional use. Law firms are taking notice too – for example, consider this California based firm, The Trust Store which just announced that it will meet with clients online via Skype.

Meeting with clients online through Skype is a great way to give your firm a competitive advantage. For starters, it’s a neat use of technology that is bound to stand out. Second – and somewhat surprisingly, Skype is a less-intimidating way to use technology than, for example, requiring a client to log-in to a site and fill out a form. Many otherwise tech-challenged folks (my parents, for example, come to mind) are being introduced to Skype as a way to keep in touch with family members who may be stationed overseas or who’ve moved to other parts of the country. As a result, they’re more comfortable with Skype than they might be with a conventional online portal. Third, Skype adds credibility to the attorney- client relationship and builds trust. Through Skype, clients can see that they are meeting with an actual lawyer. Though of course it’s conceivable that a charlatan could hire an actor to pose as a lawyer and collect payments and run, it’s far more difficult to set up this type of ruse than, for example, to create an anonymous website. Finally, since most computers have video recording built in, you could (with a client’s consent of course) record Skype calls to avoid any future misunderstanding about what’s been said.

In addition to holding client meetings on line, lawyers can also use Skype to set up a proverbial “walk-in shingle” on the main street that is the world wide web. As with any walk in arrangement, a client could just come in and wait, first-come, first-served for a turn. Or a lawyer could use some of the online scheduling tools that I discussed here and ask clients to make an appointment. Moreover, Skype can facilitate the kind of after-hours availability that is convenient to clients who work 9-5. Though many lawyers may not want to cut into their weekend to trek to the office to meet clients, through Skype, they can meet at a home office.

If you’re going to use Skype, bear in mind that certain best practices apply. For starters (and hopefully obvious to most), you can’t show up in your pajamas with a five-o-clock shadow or a greasy pony-tail. Nor should you Skype from an easy-chair in front of the television or a coffee shop. Because clients can see you on Skype, it’s important to come across as professionally as you would in an offline, face-to-face meeting.

You may also want to practice a Skype call and have a friend record you on the other end so you can see how you come across over the monitor. As this article on Skype for job interviews notes, Skype hones in on a waist-up shot “so if your eyes are shifting or darting around, people may wonder whether you’re not telling the truth or that you are extremely nervous.” Likewise, a user might focus on the camera, and may not appear to be making real eye contact. In addition, you may need to use a microphone to ensure high quality sound.

In a few years, Skype will be fully ripe – and all clients will expect to reach a lawyer by video-phone. Why not carve out your on-line walk-in office space now, because everyone else stakes a claim?

Rating Responses to Negative Ratings

When it comes to lawyer rating systems, resistance is futile. Even four years after its launch, many lawyers still refuse to claim their free profile on Avvo, a lawyer-rating site because they fear negative feedback from clients. Of course, in contrast to four years ago, Avvo isn’t the only game in town for ratings; just last month, MyLegal.com threw its hat into the lawyer rating ring. And even without lawyer-specific sites, clients still have the option of posting comments about their lawyers on general review sites like Yelp.

Given that various efforts – from boycotts to lawsuits – haven’t shut down ratings sites, lawyers need to focus their efforts on how to deal with them. I’ve already posted about the value that positive client can add to a ratings site, and how to obtain meaningful testimonials. But what’s a lawyer’s recourse when he or she receives negative reviews at a client rating site? That’s what I’ll discuss below.

First, the chances of negative reviews are far less than you might expect, so relax. According to a 2007 survey by BazaarVoice, almost 80 percent of consumers who provide feedback at product sites leave favorable reviews. Others who comment do so with the intent of being constructive, rather than vindictive. Yelp’s statistics confirm these results: only 17 percent of Yelp reviews are one or two stars. The bottom line is that lawyers don’t need to fear ratings sites.

Still, there will be times when a client may post a negative review, which raises the question of how to respond – if at all. Many retailers grapple with this problem as well. Last week, a New York restaurant owner who’d received a poor review from a customer penned a post for the New York Times small business blog, puzzling over how to address his critic, who posted his complaints on several ratings sites. In response, Yelp’s business manager empathized and recommended a three-pronged approach: (1) stay calm and cool off after a negative review is posted to avoid overreacting; (2) make an effort to respond privately to acknowledge the complaints and (3) respond publicly to correct any inaccuracies without being defensive.

But how do these suggestions work for lawyers? Certainly, maintaining a level head makes sense, as does a private contact if you’re certain that a particular client wrote the review (e.g., he or she sends you a copy or uses his/her name)

Unfortunately for lawyers, a public response proves sticky because of confidentiality concerns. Although presumably clients will post a reviews anonymously, it’s possible that they may include enough identifying information that it’s impossible to respond without breaching an attorney-client privilege.Consider, for example, a client who complains that “My lawyer sold me out in a custody case. I was a perfect dad to a 7 and 9 year old and my wife dumped me for a guy in Peru. Open and shut.” If you respond that you couldn’t raise certain issues in the case because your client told you a few hours before trial that he’d had several affairs before his wife left, you’d be violating attorney client privilege.

As a professional, you also have to consider that the world is watching your response. If your response to a client complaint comes across as arrogant and rude, potential clients who see your response may be turned off. Thus, rather than react to defensively to an accusation that “this lawyer will run up the bill and not do any work or return phone calls,” you might respond in a way that educates both the clients – and other site visitors – about your policies:

I don’t know who posted this response, but I wish you had mentioned your concerns about the bill while I was handling your case. As we discussed, this type of matter can easily become costly very quickly, and if you had concerns, we could have discussed different options as I have done with several other clients, with great success in the past. In addition, it is my policy to return phone calls within 24 hours of receiving them. However, as you know, I only accept weekend calls if they are an emergency, and when I am in court, I may need 48 hours to return a call. Perhaps you called on a weekend or when I was in court. In any event, without knowing who posted this comment, I cannot provide a more thorough response.

In addition, you might try to deter a client from posting a review by proactively seeking feedback when the matter closes out. Some lawyers survey all clients about their experience. If you sense that a client was, for whatever reason, particularly dissatisfied, you could speak with them personally or discount their bill. These actions may suffice to placate clients so that they won’t feel the need to spew on line.

For lawyers with common names, it is possible that a client may mistakenly leave a review for you that was intended for someone else. That is one reason why it is important to claim your site and include a photo – so that the client can properly identify you. However, if you are fairly certain that the review is erroneous – perhaps the client references a case in a New York court and you are licensed only in Connecticut – you should post a response suggesting the potential confusion, and contact the site owner to see if the comment can be removed.

Of course, all of this advice presupposes a reasonable commenter. There will always be disgruntled clients who will post over-the-top, venomous rants. Ultimately, these are best left ignored, because these types of commenters are looking to pick a fight. At the same time, prospective clients are not likely to view these screeds as having much credibility.

Ratings sites are not going away. Even if they did, clients would find a million other ways to criticize their lawyers – from DIY websites to Facebook pages or Twitter. Businesses have found ways to deal with feedback and criticism on line. Lawyers too must find their way.

Introducing the Nolo Law Office

We are excited to announce the launch of our newest product: The Nolo Law Office! We know attorneys are busy running their legal practice and so we want to make their job easier. The Nolo Law Office is a complete online resource for practicing attorneys.

What can attorneys do with the Nolo Law Office? They can download legal forms, keep up to date on legal areas outside their expertise, and learn how to market their firm effectively. Attorneys who are members of Nolo’s Lawyer Directory will have access to:

  • Over 300 legal forms across all practice areas
  • Over 150 e-books on various legal topics
  • Numerous legal articles (content you can use to market your practice)
  • Unlimited use of our best-selling online applications: Nolo’s Online Will and Living Trust
  • Webinar archive (topics so far include social media, SEO, niche practice development)

Specifically designed for the small firm and solo practitioner attorney, the Nolo Law Office membership plan is an additional resource for attorneys, whatever their expertise, to better represent the consumer, to practice law more easily, and to market and grow their practice.

For more information about a listing in the Nolo Lawyer Directory and/or access to the Nolo Law Office, please call 1-877-NOLO-LAW (665-6529), or visit us online at Nolo.com/lawyers/.