Monthly Archives: June 2010

Marketing Round Up Post

It’s been a while since I’ve done a marketing round-up post — either updating older posts or throwing out a couple of links.  So let’s get started, and see what’s new in the world of legal marketing.

Generating Business From Conferences

A while back, I posted about how you can market your practice throughspeaking engagements.  Of course, speaking engagements at a conference can be hard to come by.  If that’s the case, you can also extract value just from attending a conference – particularly if you read this piece, How to Use Conferences to Generate Business Opportunities by Lee Rosen which appears in the May 2010 issue of TechnoLawyer.  Rosen sets out a three-phased approach for conferences which includes: (1) pre-conference reconnaissance where you identify prospects you want to meet, as well as rehearsal on what you’ll say; (2) working the conference, which involves getting around during the conference to meet attendees and (3) post-conference follow up.  (Incidentally, as the video at the end of this post shows, a whopping 80 percent of conference attendees fail to follow up on leads).

The Importance of Being Mobile

Over the past year, I’ve twice posted — here and here about the increased importance of being mobile when it comes to marketing.  Well, mobility still matters more than ever.  As law firm marketing gury Larry Bodine reports at his Law Marketing Blog, smart phone ownership is up 38 percent, and lawyers need to start thinking about ways to deliver marketing and education-based contents through mobile media.  Along these same lines, a recent post at Marketing Profs notes that frequent users of social media (those who use social networking sites several times a day) have more than doubled to 39 million in 2010, up from 18 million a year earlier.  These frequent users are likely to be using mobile technologies, both to engage in social media and for other purposes.  In short, it’s not premature to think about ways to make your web content and other marketing messages accessible for mobile platforms.

Marketing Tips from MyShingle

For those of you who don’t read my blog at MyShingle, I occasionally post marketing ideas over there.  In the past month or so, I’ve posted on ways to market your practice on the government’s dime and also created the short video below on Marketing by the Numbers for lawyers.

Marketing by the Numbers: A Thirteen Minute Why To on Marketing A Law Practice from Carolyn Elefant on Vimeo.


Make Your Website More Inviting By Inviting Interaction

We may be living in a Web 2.0 world characterized by interactivity and user-generated content, but you’d never know it, looking at many lawyer websites and blogs.  Most lawyer sites are decidedly first generation, serving either as glorified online brochures or a skeleton for SEO- keywords rather than offering a robust and multi-dimensional user experience.  Though admittedly, adding interactive features as recently as four or five years ago required special programming skills and cost a pretty penny, today, free and low cost tools abound.  And most of these tools are simple enough so that lawyers with average tech skills can install them on their own, or delegate the work for minimal cost to a virtual assistant or college student.


So let’s get started.  In the first part of this post, I’ll describe some of the reasons that lawyers should consider adding interactive features to their websites.  In the second part of the post, I’ll catalog the different types of features available, and offer a couple of examples.  Finally – because we’re all lawyers here – I’ll briefly identify some of the ethics issues to address when making a website or blog more interactive.

I.  The Case For Increasing Interactivity

Interactive websites benefit both lawyers, prospective clients and the public. Some interactive tools help educate users. For example, autoresponders support education-based marketing initiatives by making it easy for prospects to sign up to receive a newsletter or an information-packed e-book. Online quizzes and assessment tests enable users diagnose, at least preliminarily, whether they have a legal problem that warrants retaining counsel.

Interactive tools don’t just educate clients, though. An action as simple as enabling comments on blog posts can help lawyers understand if they’re getting their point across or help identify other concerns. Forms allow lawyers to gather preliminary information about clients even before they call for an appointment. And surveys can provide lawyers with feedback from clients that lawyers can then use to further improve their practices and quality of service provided.

Interactive tools also facilitate immediate responses. On-site chats, “call us” buttons and self-scheduling calendars let clients get in touch right away, while their matter is still urgent, to set up an appointment or get a quick answer.

Finally, if nothing else, there’s a certain “gee-whiz” quality to interactive tools. They’re just plain neat – and convey an air of sophistication to many clients, even though they’re cheap and easy to implement. As a result, these tools will set you apart from the competition and  impress clients and colleagues.

II.  Types of Tools To Incorporate

There are literally, dozens of interactive tools and widgets that lawyers can deploy on their websites, with new ones frequently emerging. In this section, I’ll identify some of the types of interactive tools that you might incorporate along with some of the examples that I’ve personally used or seen employed at other sites.

1.  Comment Features

On the interactivity scale, comments rank fairly low. A comment section is most appropriate on blogs; it allows users to participate in an online conversation about a post or ask additional questions. Most standard blogging platforms include comments as a default feature; however, you can also install a third party platform like Disqus to support comments. Third party comment platforms can make a comments section more dynamic, by enabling participants to receive notice when new comments are posted, and to reply directly to a specific comment. (I recently installed Disqus over at my home blog,

2. Forms

Emails are somewhat interactive – and indeed, most lawyers include an email address on their websites so that clients can get in touch. But often, emails invite lengthy rantings or omit important details that you may need to decide whether to pursue a client further. In contrast to email, forms provide a more effective means to gather preliminary information from a client because you can identify the information that you want the client to provide. Sometimes, that information may be as basic as their city and state so that you can figure out whether their matter occurred in a jurisdiction where you’re licensed to practice. A form is also conducive to providing more explicit instructions; for example, you can include disclaimers next to certain questions reminding clients not to provide too many details to avoid compromising confidentiality.

Some blog platforms, such as Word Press, support contact form plug-ins. Though my law firm website, came with a Word Press plug-in form, my personal favorite is Google’s free form generator, which you can embed in any website.

3.  Autoresponders

Auto-responders do exactly what the name implies: they provide an automatic response to emails generated through a collection form that appears on the website.  If you’ve ever been asked to complete an online form to register for a newsletter or to download an e-book, you’ve probably seen an auto-responder in action.  At left, you can see an example of an auto-responder that visitors to my home site, use forregistration.

Because auto-responders send an automatic reply to users, they are more dynamic than forms, which simply capture information but require a manual response.  For that reason, auto-responders are useful for distribution of educational content, like newsletters or e-books, because once a user supplies the information requested on the form, the auto-responder will automatically send out the ebook or newsletter without need for human intervention.  In that way, an auto-responder can help lawyers control distribution of valuable materials – for example, you can, as lawyer Jay Fleischman describes at LegalPracticePro, use an auto-responder to efficiently dispense information over a set period of time to keep your name in a client’s mind.  Auto-responders may also deter competitors from downloading your work since they’ll have to use their name to retrieve it (true, they can create an alias name and email, but that involves an additional step).

One of the most popular and widely used auto-responders is Aweber, which costs around $200 annually.  Aweber supports multiple releases and also includes templates that you can use to set up e-newsletters.  Constant Contact is another inexpensive service for newsletter or event registration, with different pricing options starting at as little as $15 per month.  If you’re not ready to commit financially, MailChimp offers a limited free auto-responder and newsletter service for up to 500 subscribers.

4.  Assessment Generators and Quizzes

Assessment tests and quizzes serve as a fun way to engage clients at your site by teaching them about the law.  For example, you might create a quiz on the structure of the Supreme Court or the Bill of Rights as a public service to educate clients about the law. There aren’t many online quiz creators, but one that is free and works for this purpose is

Somewhat different from a quiz about facts, an assessment test can also help clients determine whether they need to hire a lawyer.   For example, a bankruptcy lawyer might create a test that asks clients about their ability to pay their bills or whether they are subject to pursuit by debt collectors, and assign points for each answer.  Depending upon the number of points, the answer key might suggest that a client consider the bankruptcy option (as discussed in Part III, you’d want to include extensive disclaimers and caveats as part of the test, to avoid having a client believe that it constitutes legal advice).

The best out-of-the-box online tool that I’ve found for assessments is theAssessment Generator. Robust and easy to use, the Assessment Generator lets users create five different types of assessment tests (the example above is one that I created here at MyShingle, that lawyers can use to evaluate their need for a contract lawyer).  There’s a free version of the Assessment Generator available; the more full-featured version costs around $10 a month.

5.  Surveys and Polls

Like quizzes, polls can entertain site visitors – for example, soliciting their opinion on anything from political issues (Do you agree with the President’s Supreme Court nomination?) to personal preferences (How many  hours a week do you spend on Facebook?).  Several blog platforms offer poll plug-ins, but you can also create and install your own with services With polls, users can vote and then see the results of the poll after voting.

Surveys are a little different from polls because users won’t automatically see results. You might include a survey at your website for clients to provide you with feedback on your firm. In addition to using Google Forms (mentioned previously) as a basis for a survey, you can also try Wufoo or Survey Monkey, both of which offer a limited free option.

6.  Online Scheduling

Are you losing clients because you don’t have the staff to answer your phones and schedule appointments promptly? One interactive tool that can remedy lack of staffing is a do-it-yourself scheduling system installed at your site.  Scheduling systems are basically an online calendar where prospective clients view your available openings and set up their own appointments.  The calendars are set up so that only the site owner can view the names and information associated with the appointments; site visitors don’t have access to this private information.

There are plenty of options for online scheduling, and many are free, including (displayed above), and Scheduly.

7.  Call Me Buttons and Live Chat

Ideally, your website should provide multiple ways for clients to contact you. Most sites include phone numbers and emails – but if you’re not available, the client will still have to wait for a response.  That’s why you might consider getting a free Google Voice number to use as a “call me contact” at your site.

Previously in beta and available via invitation only, GoogleVoice is now open to all.  Google Voice allows users to create a “Call Me” button which can be embedded in your website.  When users click the button, they’ll be connected to your Google number, which in turn, you can set up to re-direct to another phone number – thus, increasing the chance that you’ll be available to take the call when it comes in.

Equally interactive is live chat, another feature that can be installed at a website – and a concept that I discussed about a year ago here at MyShingle.  With chat-ware, users can  type in a question at your site and you or your staff can supply an immediate response.  Live chat  options include ZohoChatand BoldChat, which costs around $300/year.

III.  Ethical Caveats

Any blog post on interactive websites for lawyers – even one as lengthy as this one – is not complete without a discussion of ethics issues.  Below are some of the ethics red flags that interactive technologies may raise, and suggestions on best practices for addressing them:

1.  Creation of Attorney-Client Relationship/Legal Advice:  One potential ethics risk of interactivity is that the immediacy of the communication may create the perception of an attorney-client relationship.  Or, a client may believe that the attorney is providing legal advice.  For example, consider a situation where a client asks a specific question in the comments section of a blog or through live chat.  If an attorney replies and provides suggestions, a client could rely on that advice – and the attorney could face malpractice exposure if the advice turned out to be incorrect.  To avoid any perception that a communication at the website constitutes legal advice or gives rise to an attorney-client relationship. lawyers should include appropriate disclaimers.

Likewise, if you include an assessment generator at your site on a topic like whether a prospect qualifies for bankruptcy, include caveats to clarify that the test provides guidelines – it is not a definitive diagnosis of a legal problem (nor is it legal advice) and that all cases are different.

2.  Confidentiality & Conflicts Issues:  Clients may assume that information collected in forms will be treated as confidential.  If you are using a free form generator, the information that you gather may not be fully confidential – and the client should be advised of that risk.  At the same time, you should limit the type of information that you collect to begin with – never ask potential clients to provide social security numbers or extensive details about their claims through a form that is not secure.

3.  Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL)

Some of the communications that you receive at your site may involve individuals in jurisdictions where you’re not licensed to practice – and potentially trigger UPL claims.  Make sure that your site is clear on where you are licensed to practice, and avoid substantive responses on matters that are outside of your jurisdiction.

IV.  Conclusion

As I’ve posted repeatedly, many lawyers focus myopically on SEO, without any thought to how to convert transient visitors into paying clients.  By inviting interaction, lawyers can make their websites more inviting and impressive to visitors, and in doing so, improve their chances that short term visitors will eventually become long time clients.

Marketing by the Checklist

If you’ve come to this post expecting a checklist of criteria by which to evaluate your current marketing efforts or implement a new marketing initiative, then you’ve come to the wrong place.  Those kinds of checklists (especially a task list) are useful to be sure, because they make it easier to delegate marketing to a subordinate or assistant so that it doesn’t go by the wayside when your schedule picks up.  But today, I’m addressing another category of checklist:  the kind that lawyers use, or at least should use, that outline the steps or procedures involved in handling the substance of a case.

If the “checklist” concept sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s the focal point of Anul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, which has been the subject of many-a-recent blog post.  I recently finished the book myself and was convinced by Gawande’s thesis:  that the “humble” checklist can minimize error in carrying out complex tasks by helping with memory recall and setting out the minimum necessary steps in a process.  Moreover, by committing routine procedures to a hard and fast list, a checklist frees up professionals to devote more time to the kinds of judgment calls that they always have to make, whether there’s a list in place or not.

Gawande draws on examples from medicine, engineering and aviation to demonstrate how checklists can minimize error.  In the medical profession for example, a study showed that by using a checklist for placing a central line (comprised of seemingly mundane tasks like wearing a mask or body-draping a patient), the  the ten-day infection rate was reduced from 11% to zero.  But you can probably imagine situations in your own practice where a checklist – such as the essential elements of a personal injury complaint to a list of documents required to file a bankruptcy petition – could also help avoid error and eliminate the risk of dismissal of a case.

OK.  So you’re convinced of the importance of checklists.  But what’s that got to do with marketing?  Plenty.  Consider these potential ways to use checklists to market your practice educate your clients and keep your firm at the forefront of their mind.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Create a task-oriented checklist of all of the steps involved in a particular type of proceeding — for example, a typical divorce dispute.  Post the checklist on your website or blog, or publish it online as a mini-ebook.  The checklist will help clients understand all of the steps involved in even a so-called simple divorce.  As a result, the list can help weed out prospects who aren’t really serious about divorce, but nevertheless, eat up your time at a free consultation.  And where a client does hire you, a task-oriented checklist helps clients know what to expect, and also familiarizes them with the amount of work that their case may potentially entail – which can help reduce complaints about excessive fees down the line.

2.   Create a client “to do checklist” – for example, a list of documents that clients should bring to the first meeting or gather together for a bankruptcy filing or preparation of an estate plan.  A client to do checklist will help you to market your practice because it makes clients’ lives easier.  Going through a bankruptcy or preparing an estate plan is stressful enough for busy clients; it’s even more stressful if they need to keep providing additional information because they forgot to write down a particular item that is required.  Clients will appreciate a checklist that they can work from and they’ll appreciate it even more if you offer it on your website and in both paper and computerized format, so that they don’t have to keep calling for another copy if they lose the list.  Satisfied clients will provide positive testimonials, which if accurate and sincere, are one of the most effective ways to attract new clients.

3.  Create a post-engagement checklist for clients to use after you’ve finished the matter for which you were retained. Even after you’ve finished a case for a client, there are still matters for which they are responsible, or that may trigger further legal action.  For example, even after an incorporation is complete, the client retains responsibility for filing annual reports and other documents to keep the corporation in good standing.  Creating a checklist of these post-representation matters will help the client avoid problems down the line.  And if you put the checklist on your law firm letterhead (or if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, create a branded mobile app for a client to download a checklist on his or her phone), clients can always get in touch with you for follow up questions or problems.

For other matters – like a bankruptcy discharge or a divorce and child custody agreement – you’ll want to create a checklist to help clients determine whether they need further assistance.  For example, after a bankruptcy, clients shouldn’t be getting calls from creditors whose debts were already discharged – and if they do, they should call you.  Likewise, for divorce matters, a lawyer might identify a list of events – such as loss of a job or an ex-spouse’s remarriage or relocation – that may trigger the filing of modification petitions.

Checklists are an ideal marketing tool:  they educate clients and enable lawyers to serve them more effectively.  Checklists aren’t as flashy as a T.V. commercial or even a fancy website, but they’re inexpensive and most of all, something that lawyers should be creating for their practices anyway.  So when you get around to making a list of the tools that you want to use to market your practice, be sure to include the humble checklist.