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/.

Gaming the Competition

AmLaw Daily reports on new bar association on the block: the Video Game Bar Association (VGBA), a worldwide organization for lawyers who specialize in video game law. Launched last week, the group already has a board in place, comprised of two biglaw attorneys, two in-house counsel and a solo who practice in the video game field. According to Patrick Sweeney of Reed Smith, a VGBA founder and board member, at least 60 lawyers who have attended past industry events expressed interest in a bar association for video game law.

If you’re interested in video game law but haven’t broken into the field, the VGBA won’t be much help. As described here, VGBA membership is limited to attorneys who have practiced for two or more years predominantly in the games industry and are recommended by two existing members from different firms. Membership is expected to cost around $100 per year or less.

On one level, starting an association with your competitors seems counter-intuitive, particularly in a specialized field with a finite number of clients (in other words, it’s different from the trial lawyers’ association or NACBA, where millions of consumer clients have a need for services). Still, overall, there are numerous benefits to teaming up with competitors. First, by pooling resources, VGBA lawyers can stay abreast of new industry developments at a lower cost. Second, because many video companies have in-house counsel, an organization that brings together in-house counsel and lawyers in private practice can lead to more work. Likewise, the mixture of small and large firms in the same organization can result in referrals, with large firms referring small matters to the solos, and solos teaming up with big firms or direct referring bet-the-company types of cases.

Moreover, by teaming up and creating a quasi-elite group with membership requirements, the VGBA lawyers may wind up competing for work with each other, but they’ll lock out competition from Johnny-come-lately’s who want to dabble in a sexy area. I can easily see VGBA gaining industry cache, with video companies seeking lawyers going directly to the VGBA roster.

Have you ever thought of joining up with competitors this way – or do you belong to a similar group? What’s your view of this marketing approach? Post your comments below.

Free Webinar – Social Media for Lawyers

Are you wondering how to use social media in your professional life? Confused about how it’s supposed to earn you more money as an attorney? Or what resources are out there specifically designed for attorneys? Then you’re invited to our latest webinar, Social Media for Lawyers. In this webinar, presented by lawyer, SEO expert, and founder of Justia, Tim Stanley, we’ll show you how to successfully apply social media to your law firm and practice.

Register now: Social Media for Lawyers

Social media has exploded in the past couple of years. It’s now become essential for businesses and companies: over 65% of attorneys are using social media to grow their firms. They’ve discovered their web presence needs to move beyond their firm’s website. Sign up for Social Media for Lawyers and you’ll learn:

  • How social networking applies to legal professionals
  • Strategies for participating on social media, with an emphasis on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
  • Which tools will maximize professional benefits
  • Best practices for legal professionals

This webinar is ideal for:

  • Solo practitioners
  • Principal attorneys at small law firms
  • Marketing professionals at small law firms

 

Meet Your Presenter
Tim Stanley is a computer programmer, lawyer, and CEO of Justia. Prior to starting Justia, Mr. Stanley co-founded FindLaw and served as FindLaw’s CEO and Chairman. He is a member of the State Bar of California, the American Association for Justice, American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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 at small firms to demonstrate their expertise online. To learn more about being listed in Nolo’s lawyer directory, visit Nolo.com.

Webinar Details
When: February 17, 2011, 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM (Pacific Standard Time)
Where: Via computer and/or phone
Cost: Free

Space is limited so register today. There will be a 10-minute question and answer opportunity at the end of the webinar.

Please note: CLE credit is not available. Please join us for this exciting event!

Register now to attend this free event!

Selling How, Not What, You Practice

When marketing to prospective clients, lawyers focus largely on what they practice. Law firm websites describe what kinds of legal matters you handle, blogs focus on what types of issues you commonly encounter in your area of practice and elevator speeches reduce what you do to a catchy 30 second sound bite.

The trouble with selling what you do is that most clients don’t understand enough to distinguish you from your competitors. You may have achieved great results in the family law or traffic ticket cases that you handle but many other lawyers have too. How’s a client to know whether a victor before a particular judge is more meaningful than a win before another? Likewise, can a client understand that the 4 wins you secured in tough cases are worth far more than the 10 wins another lawyer may have obtained in simple matters.

But though clients may not understand what you do, they’re capable of comprehending how you do it. Some clients may be interested in knowing that you make house calls or can meet with them via Skype or some other kind of online networking system. Or that you send invoices electronically, or routine updates or don’t bill for computerized research services. So tell clients how you practice law, and you’ll work wife them if they retain you.

The Scoop On Groupon for Lawyers

Can Groupon, a website that leverages the concept of collective bargaining power to offer daily deals on local businesses work for lawyers? To date, I’ve seen at least one law firm that gave Groupon a try, though no word on the results of the firm’s participation. Meanwhile, the North Carolina Ethics Committee recently opined that Groupon violates state bar rules’ prohibiting fee splitting. As I’ll discuss in this post, though I don’t think Groupon is a particularly promising way for law firms to market a practice (in addition to ethics hurdles, it’s also a costly proposition), there is one way that lawyers can benefit from Groupon: as buyers of Groupon discounted servicers, rather than providers of it.

What is Groupon?
By now, most lawyers are probably familiar with Groupon, an online company that offers daily deals at local businesses. One of Wall Street’s current darlings, it’s been described somewhat derisively as darlings of the tech industry;a modern version of an online coupon book. Basically, Groupon teams up with local businesses who provide a coupon for 50 to 70 percent off a product or service. Groupon emails the deal to registered users, and if enough users commit to purchasing the coupon, the deal goes through. Groupon and the participating business split the proceeds.

How Groupon Benefits Non-Lawyer Businesses
As described here, retailers benefit from Groupon in a number of ways. First, the coupons bring business in the door, and as a result, customers are likely to spend more than just the face value of the Groupon. Second, first time customers may either become repeat customers or refer friends, so the loss on the first, discounted sale can yield future sales down in the line.

Groupon also spares retailers up-front costs of advertising. Though to be sure, Groupon ain’t free, the money comes from sale proceeds and not out-of-pocket. If a deal doesn’t go through due to insufficient numbers, retailers don’t pay. Moreover, even if consumers don’t buy a Groupon when offered, they may learn about your business and patronize it even without the discount. I know that I’ve learned about a couple of activities in my area through Groupon that I later visited even though I never thought to purchase a coupon at the time because I didn’t have an immediate use for it.

Still, even though Groupon can benefit businesses, it can also be a big bust. That’s because, as discussed here, not all consumers spend in excess of the Groupon or return after having used the coupon. Most importantly – Groupon can be costly to providers. Let’s say that a restauranteur offers a $50 meal for $25 and 100 people accept the offer. That’s $2500 in proceeds (100 x $25), but the restauranteur only receives $1250. That means the restaurant is obligated to provide $5000 in services for $1250.

A Harvard Business School paper (December 2010) offers a more extensive cost-benefit of Groupon, summarized here. What’s interesting is the study found that discount vouchers work better for some businesses than others. Merchants will low cost of goods and highly perishable products – like restaurants, spas, gyms and hotels – fall within that category – every table or room unfilled is lost revenue that can’t be recovered. By contrast, retailers of clothing or manufactured products can hold items for future sales, so the marginal business that other providers gain from Groupon is not as urgent for them.

How Can Groupon Work for Lawyers
Selling legal services via Groupon poses somewhat more of a challenge than other items. Since customers have to pre-pay for Groupons, they’ll want to purchase a service that they need or might like to use. So whereas a spa can sell a $200 Groupon for a $500 “Day of Beauty,” since customers may want to sample that type of service, a customers are unlikely to pay $200 for “$500 Worth of Legal Services” unless they have an immediate need for legal services. Second, most of the Groupons that come to my box are priced so that recipients can redeem the groupon for a full product without spending more than face value. For example, if I buy a $10 Groupon for “$20 worth of food at XYZ Restaurant,” it’s usually enough for at least one, if not two meals. That’s what makes Groupons so appealing. By contrast, if a ten dollar Groupon offered $20 of food at a five-star gourmet restaurant, I doubt that many people would buy it, because they’d have to spend more money at the restaurant in order to get the value of the Groupon.

It’s that dynamic that makes Groupons less appealing for legal services. When customers buy a $200 Groupon, they want to receive the full service in return. Presumably, that is why this lawyer anticipated the possibility that a will might not be appropriate, and offered prospective Groupon purchasers a discount on other services. However, consumers might not want to purchase the more expensive service (or simply, might not have the money for it), and might demand a refund of the Groupon instead.

In addition, a Groupon is a form of advance payment for a service. If a lawyer offers a $100 incorporation on Groupon, and fifty clients accept the deal, the lawyer receives $2500 (fifty percent of the $5000 total) once the deal goes through. However, clients might not use the service for another three months. Would that require the lawyer to place the funds in a trust account?

The North Carolina ethics committee identified another ethics problem with Groupon, characterizing it as prohibited fee splitting Consumers pay one price for Groupon and lawyers subsequently split that fee with Groupon, a non-lawyer provider, a practice that violates North Carolina’s rules. Though personally, I don’t find much mischief in fee splitting as a way to spread advertising costs, I can easily see many other bars taking the same approach.

Though to date, North Carolina is the only disciplinary body that has expressly addressed Groupon, others have ruled on the ethics of other types of discounted services. A number of state disciplinary bodies don’t approve of the practice, finding that discounts may be deceptive (for example, offering a “free” consult when a lawyer never charges for consults anyway), or can give rise to a conflict of interest or constitute a “fee” in exchange for referral if given to a third party, like a realtor, for distribution.

So What’s the Bottom Line on Groupon for Lawyers?
Personally, I don’t really see how Groupon can prove profitable for lawyers. Unless lawyers can offer a discrete service at a discounted rate, it seems that lawyers are bound to lose money. More importantly, unlike restaurants or hotels, will Groupons yield referrals or repeat business for lawyers? I’m skeptical, though if your experience differs, please share it in the comments. Finally, the potential ethical pitfalls associated with Groupon further diminish its desirability for lawyers.

Still – there is one terrific way for you or your law firm to use Groupon: as purchasers, rather than providers of Groupon deals. You can buy Groupons as thank-you gifts for clients and referral sources. Or snap up a bunch of Groupons to a restaurant or coffee shop at the beginning of the year, and use your Groupons throughout to treat colleagues or potential referral sources to a meal. Not only will you keep your costs down, but because you need to pre-pay for Groupons, you’ll have more incentive to actually follow through on get togethers or networking meals.

So there you have it, the scoop on Groupon.

Boomer Law!

With the arrival of 2011, the oldest of the post-World War II Baby Boom generation will turn 65. In fact, every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 more will cross that threshold, notes the Philadelphia Bulletin. By 2030, a full 18 percent of the nation’s population will be 65 or older, up a full five percent from current numbers.

As the population of aging Boomers grows, so too will their unique legal needs (described later on in this post). Yet surprisingly, few lawyers, particularly younger solos or more recent graduates are targeting the Boomer population. Sure, there are plenty of law firms that market themselves to “seniors” with a focus on “elder law,” which traditionally covers estate or medicare planning, health care issues, guardianships or nursing home abuses. Trouble is, most Boomers don’t view themselves as growing old and indeed, cringe at being referred to as seniors.

Lawyers aren’t the only group overlooking Boomers as a potential market. Most companies do the same when advertising, to their detriment, according to the Nielson Blog, since Boomers are, on the whole, more affluent than younger segments of the population. Nielson suggests that marketers tend to ignore boomers because of “conventional wisdom that they spend little, resist technology and are slow to adopt new products needs to be re-assessed.” But actually, aging Boomers are enthusiastically adopting technology and showing willingness to try new brands and products.

A recent Pew Internet Research study on older adults and social media Generations 2010 report confirms Boomers’ tech savvy and propensity to try new things: as of May 2010, nearly half of the adults between the ages of 50-64 were using social media, up from just 25 percent a year earlier, with 20 percent of this group using social media sites on a daily basis. Another Pew study, Generations 2010, released in December 2010, shows that Boomers are using online resources for more substantive purposes such as reading the news, buying products and locate health care information which means that they’re likely to be equally receptive to using the web to find lawyers as well.

The Changing – and Expanding Scope – of Boomer Law
Boomer Law is a growth market, not only because of sheer numbers, i.e., more aging boomers, but also because the legal needs of boomers are far more diverse and complex than those of the generations that preceded them. In addition to traditional matters like guardianship, nursing home abuse and estate planning where older clients have also needed assistance, there’s a range of potential new practice areas that might cater to the unique needs of today’s Boomers. In no particular order:

1. Elder Care Mediator

Improved medical care means Boomers are likely to live longer, and because of that, they may need specialized caregiving or ongoing medical attention. Yet, as Smart Money reports, the financial costs of caregiving are increasing as are less measurable costs – such as added stress or interference with career advancement, as today’s dual-working families struggle to care for aging parents. As a result, adult children often bicker over fair allocation of responsibility for caring for aged parents which can drive families apart. Increasingly, families are turning to elder care mediators many of whom have legal training, to resolve these disputes reports the Washington Post. Rikk Larsen, a mediator quoted in the story says:

use [of mediators] has mushroomed for reasons both demographic and cultural. Americans age 85 and older comprise one of the fastest-growing segments of the population, according to the Census Bureau, and their children, the baby boomers, “are comfortable with the notion of therapy and [experts who provide] services.”

2. Granny Snatching – A New Form of Elder Abuse
In a down economy, aging boomers may also be vulnerable to theft – by their own children. Ron Winter of the Connecticut Watchdog warns of Granny Snatching, which “occurs when younger family members take custody of an elder relative under false pretenses, convince a judge to declare the elder person incompetent, allowing them to then force their aged relative into a nursing home or similar institution, and strip them of their assets.” Winter predicts that the growing elderly population will result in a rise of granny-snatching cases over the next few years, which may in turn trigger changes in existing elder care laws. Thus, there’ll be a need for lawyers who can handle granny-snatching cases and who stay on top of potential changes in the law.

3. Elder Entrepreneurship and Small Business
We often associate entrepreneurship with;younger people – and indeed, representing Gen Y entrepreneurs is a niche law practice in its own right. But according to Second Act, baby boomers are becoming entrepreneurs faster than anyone else, with the number of new businesses launched by 55-64 year olds growing 16 percent between 2007 and 2008, faster than any other group. That’s 10,00 new businesses a month. And the trend will only gain momentum as the workforce ages, predicts a report by the Kaufman Foundation. Lawyers can assist boomer entrepreneurs with legal issues related to starting and running a business (such as business entity formation and licensing, zoning and contract negotiation) as well as succession planning (estate and tax issues).

4. Long Term Care Issues
Many boomers attempted to act responsibly by purchasing long term care insurance policies. However, a 2008 GAO Report points out that concerns have been raised over denials of claims that may leave long term care insurance purchasers without coverage at a time when they being needing care. Thus, boomers may need legal representation to resolve disputes with long term care insurance providers.

5. Age Discrimination
Because boomers are entering old age reluctantly, many are not yet ready to retire. Others are unable to retire in today’s economy. Consequently, and as acknowledged by the EEOC, older workers may find themselves susceptible to unlawful age-based stereotypes and discrimination by companies seeking to force them out to save money on salaries or benefits.

Marketing to Boomers

If you decide that you want to target boomers in your practice, don’t assume that your only option for reaching this population is through expensive advertising on daytime television shows. As described above, like everyone else, boomers are increasingly spending more time on line, which is far more cost effective than traditional advertising. Moreover, online methods offer additional bang for the buck, because you can simultaneously market directly to boomers and to their children, who might take responsibility for hiring a lawyer for their parents. Here are a few suggestions:

Blogging: As mentioned earlier, boomers are using the Internet for substantive purposes like reading news and finding information on health care. Thus, they’re very likely to turn to the web for information on legal issues as well. Blogging is a great tool for conveying substantive information to prospective clients and in it can also help increase your SEO.

Social Media : In addition to blogs, boomers are also engaging in other forms of social media, especially Facebook. As I noted in this earlier post, Advertising on Facebook, it’s still fairly inexpensive to target an older demographic on Facebook. Not only that, but my own experience with Facebook (described in that post) showed that the age 50 and above demographic also had a higher “click through” rate than the other groups. But Facebook advertising isn’t your only option – you could also create a Facebook Fan Page for your law firm to share bits of relevant news of interest to boomers, or publicize free law firm seminars on legal issues.

Educational Seminars Educational seminars are a great way to target boomers, particularly those who are retired and more free time. Like webinars, seminars provide valuable information and educate consumers on the potential need for legal services. Used to be that educational seminars had to be promoted through costly radio ads or individually mailings. Now, social media tools – such as Facebook Fan pages or the events pages on Linked-In offer low cost avenues for promoting educational seminars. Don’t feel like organizing an educational seminar yourself? As described in this post, you can research organizations that represent boomers’ interests who might be interested in a speaker. Or, you could search for local groups on sites like Meet Up which are always in need of speakers.

Are you seeing any other trending issues in your practice that are relevant to boomers? And do you think that Boomer Law is a promising niche? We’ve enabled the comment section so please share your thoughts below.

Free Webinar – Creating a Niche Practice

Set Your Firm on a Course for Success in 2011 with a Niche Practice
January 19th, 2011 – from 10:00AM to 11:00AM (PST)

Click here to sign up now.

Are you looking for ways to revitalize your practice in 2011? It could be time for you to explore starting a niche practice. In this webinar presented by Carolyn Elefant (noted lawyer, author, and blogger), you’ll learn what a niche is, how it differs from specialization, and the steps you’ll need to quickly build your niche practice and get it off the ground.

As a special bonus, Carolyn will also highlight top trends for 2011 that may give you some ideas to target for a niche.

What: Building a Niche Practice with Carolyn Elefant
When: January 19th, at 10:00AM (Pacific Standard Time)
Where: On your computer and/or phone.

Space is limited so register today. There will be a 10 minute question and answer opportunity at the end of the call.

Register now to attend this event-it’s FREE!

Make Some Marketing Dates for 2011

For many solo and small firm lawyers, the end of the year is a slow time, with prospective clients off on vacation or too preoccupied with the holidays to think about drafting a will, filing for bankruptcy or other legal matters. And while a slow-down can be nerve-wracking, it’s also an ideal opportunity to start planning for next year. Here are a couple of ideas that you can still implement even as the clock ticks down towards the end of 2010.

 

1. What can you finish in the next four days? Before you start planning marketing activities for next year, determine whether there’s anything you can finish up before the end of the year. For example, perhaps you outlined an e-book, then set it aside when more pressing client matters came up. Can you find three or four hours to finish the e-book, convert it to a PDF file and have it ready for distribution when 2011 rolls around?If an ebook seems too time consuming, what about activities that won’t take more than an hour or two? That’s really all the time you’ll need to add a form or Google Voice number to your website to make it more interactive. Or, you could polish up your website bio. Finally, have you received any gifts or holiday cards from clients or other attorneys? Pick up the phone or even send an email to say thanks.

 

2. Make some dates for 2011 After you’ve cleaned up any obvious loose ends for 2010, it’s time to start planning for next year. Most lawyers don’t schedule time for marketing, so when they get busy, marketing falls through the cracks. Then, when the work ends, these lawyers find themselves scrambling. By planning marketing activities at the beginning of the year, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of the seeds that you planted steadily throughout the course of your practice.

So what’s the most effective way to plan for 2011? Drawing up a list of activities is helpful, but that’s only part of the process. In addition, you should calendar those activities right now to hold yourself accountable. Thus, if you’re planning to launch a newsletter or webinar series for 2011, select the dates for getting the newsletter out the door or conducting the webinar and mark them on your calendar. Then, break the tasks up into different components, and list those dates on your calendar as well. For example, if you’re planning a monthly newsletter that will go out on the first of each month, you’ll want to set a mid-month reminder to start gathering materials for the newsletter, and another reminder a week or two later that the deadline is approaching.

Select a calendar system that will send reminders by email to make it less likely that you’ll ignore the dates. Google’s free Calendar application is ideal – you can synch the calendar to your phone, receive reminders by email or even text and share the calendar with colleagues or staff.


3.Suggested Calendar Items Below are a few suggestions for items that you might calendar, along with the different components involved:

Get togethers with colleagues You can start scheduling a few lunches or coffee dates with colleagues for January right now. But it’s tough to schedule dates more than a month out – after all, your colleagues might think that they’re not high on your list, if you contact them in January to meet for lunch in May. Still, you can block out certain days each month – maybe the third Friday or first Wednesday – as dates when you’ll have lunch or coffee with a colleague. Then, block out a date a week to ten days in advance to invite someone to meet. Once you have the days set aside for meetings, you’re more likely to keep them those dates open and plan a meeting.

Conference attendance If there are trade shows or other conferences that interest you, mark those on your calendar now. Include related dates as well – such as a date pre-conference to get in touch with potential clients or colleagues who may also attend and set up meetings, as well as a date post-conference by which you’ll send out follow up emails.

Writing activities In addition to creating a written newsletter, you might calendar dates for completion of written articles. Also be sure to include the publication’s submissions deadline for particular topics.

Even the best laid plans may go astray. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you let some of your calendared dates slide due to work or events beyond your control. My guess is that even if you follow through on half of the marketing activities that you’ve calendared, you’ll be doing twice as well as you did last year. Happy New Year to all – and get busy!