Category Archives: Lawyer Marketing

Does Your Social Media Serve You?

Larry Bodine recently observed that lawyers who expend a lot of energy on social media must ensure that their efforts yield a reasonable return.

That is sage advice. You’ve probably noticed that social media can be extremely demanding and distracting. Sometimes it can also be inconsequential. A bunch of (say) Twitter followers might look nice and feel good, but the reality is that if they don’t help grow your business, you’re playing games.

However, this is not to say (as Bodine does) that you should necessarily spend most of your time on LinkedIn or on any other channel. The optimal platform for your practice will be determined by the clients you serve.

Consider John Strouss, a local personal injury attorney who specializes in representing bike accident victims. He has a great market. The SF Bay Area is home to a very lively bicycle culture; the streets teem with commuting cyclists during rush hour, and accidents are an unfortunate but regular part of life. Do you think that most bike accident victims focus upon LinkedIn when they decide to seek counsel? Probably not.

If you take a look at how Strouss uses social media, you’ll quickly see how he has positioned himself. He maintains a LinkedIn profile, but his bike issues blog and Yelp profile do most of the work to fix his name among bicyclists. Local cyclists read the blog when they don’t have a problem because they share Strouss’ enthusiasm, but when they do run into a problem, his name comes to mind.

Of course, a blog and Yelp may not serve your business. That’s just it; there’s no magic bullet. But we can offer one useful proposition: identify your client base, discover its place on the Internet and break into the conversation.

Introduction to Nolo’s Lawyer Directory via YouTube video

We wanted to let you know that we’ve created a YouTube video that describes Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.

The two and a half minute video explains our company’s mission, takes you on a quick tour of our website (and how visitors come to, and describes the various member benefits for lawyers who join the Directory.

After watching the Lawyer Directory video, we hope you’ll be inspired to contact us and become a member.  See what Nolo can do for you!

Marketing: A Journey, Not a Destination

Marketing a law practice is an ongoing iterative process. Starting out, many lawyers make rookie mistakes – such as spending thousands of dollars on Yellow Pages ads because an older colleague told you this is how it’s done. Or spending money to join the Chamber of Commerce only to discover that as a new lawyer, you’re on the low end of the totem pole when it comes to consideration for referrals. These types of errors are easy to recognize and correct. If you’ve paid $5000 for a Yellow Pages ad and it’s only yielded a $1000 client, then it’s a waste of money. Ditto the Chamber of Commerce, which may not be as expensive but produced no results whatsoever.

It’s more difficult to recognize a need for, and to change course in marketing when you’ve been practicing for a while. For starters, your revenue may be stable for several years and you won’t realize that with some changes, you could earn more. You may have also fallen into a comfortable marketing routine comprised of a few favored activities, and so you figure that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Trouble is, if you don’t constantly monitor your marketing results and keep track of your competitors and future trends, those old standby’s that once performed so well now fall flat. For example:

1. You were an early adopter of Twitter, using it well before anyone else in your geographic or practice area. As a result, your initial returns from Twitter weren’t very promising and so you stopped using it. But now, your competitors and target clients are coming on board. Thus, you may lose out on opportunities if you don’t return.

2. As a new lawyer running a solo practice, you had plenty of time of your hands but little money for advertising. So you joined several bar associations and professional clubs, enthusiastically volunteering for whatever work was available. Two years later, your work has paid off and you’re receiving several referrals a month from others in these organizations. Trouble is, now that your practice is so busy that you simply don’t have thirty hours a month to devote to all of these organizations. In this situation, even though your bar association work doesn’t cost money, it now represents an opportunity cost that may force you to turn down paying work. For now, you’ll either need to drop the bar work, or perhaps use the revenue from your new work to hire an intern or associate who can help out.

3. You’ve been handling family law cases forever, and your business is generally steady. But you’ve noticed that a couple of new lawyers’ practices are going like gangbusters. The reason? They’ve been tracking that new law in your state that legalizes gay marriage – and they’ve developed a niche that highlights that particular area. Now, they’re swamped with gay and lesbian clients who want to get married seeking advice on prenuptial arrangements, adoption and other issues. Although this particular niche may already be saturated, you may want to start tracking trends to identify whether another niche could serve as an easy add on to your practice.

4. In a fit of enthusiasm, you signed up for a dozen different social media sites. You thought that this broad presence would generate SEO, but that hasn’t worked and your left with a bunch of barren profiles scattered across the Internet. Here, identify the platforms that have been working best and remove your other profiles.

5. You’ve always written a monthly column for your local bar newsletter – and your colleagues have complimented it. But you’d like to get more “bang for the buck” out of the time you put in. Maybe it’s time to turn those articles into an ebook – or to start a blog.

Roscoe Pound, a legal scholar once said “The law must be stable, but it cannot stand still.” The same holds true for your marketing efforts: invest time regularly and strive for a consistent brand and message. But always reevaluate your results and what lies ahead, and make changes as necessary to stay at the head of the curve. In Roscoe Pound’s words, don’t ever let your marketing stand still.

How to Avoid Having Your Law Firm Contest Contested When It’s Run Through Social Media

Though I’m not sure about their long-term effectiveness for attracting clients, most law firm contests are undeniably fun as well as a way for a firm to give back to the community. A recent sampling of contests that I culled from the news included a contest for high school students to create videos about the importance of bike safety, a contest celebrating March Madness with give-away of two free Jazz basketball tickets and a contest for best business pitch. Of course, some contests seems a bit tacky, such as the Valentine’s Day divorce contest run by a West Virginia firm (it’s not the divorce that’s tacky, in my view – just the contest’s timing).

As more firms adopt social media, expect contests to proliferate, for a couple of reasons. First, there’s nothing like social media — either a Facebook Fan Page or a Twitter stream to build buzz and enthusiasm about a law firm contest. Second, many law firms may view contests as a way to generate more friends and followers by making prize eligibility contingent on “liking” the firm’s Facebook page or following it on Twitter.

Regardless of their reasons for sponsoring a contest, when law firms use social media as a platform to conduct or publicize their contest, they must comply with three categories of rules: (1) Bar advertising rules (which I won’t discuss here; suffice it to say, read your jurisdiction’s rules in advance or contact bar counsel with questions), (2) laws governing sweepstakes and games of chance and and (3) platform-specific regulations regarding contests.

Laws on Online Contests Because online contests have been around for more than a decade, the basic legal principles are fairly well established. An excellent summary is available in this excellent online compliance guide for online contests and sweepstakes by Antone Johnson of Bottom Line Law.

As described in the guide, companies must avoid operating an illegal lottery which generally involves payment of an entry fee, a winner chosen by random chance and prize awarded. However, companies can run sweepstakes, which is a drawing for a prize by chance alone or contests which requires some kind of skill and judging and an entry fee is permissible. Contests must have official rules that specify eligibility requirements and disclose restrictions on receiving the prize.

Platform-Specific Rules But contests conducted on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter include an added twist. Not only must companies holding contests comply with the general rules just discussed, they must also adhere to the social media platform’s contest policies. Failure to comply with these policies can result in removal of promotion materials or disabling of an account.

Twitter’s contest guidelines are fairly simple and straightforward:Contest sponsors should encourage entrants to use Twitter conventions (@ sign to signify a reply and a hashtag(#) showing a subject) to communicate with each other, and discourage them from tweeting multiple entries. Finally, both the contest sponsor and participants are expected to abide by Twitter’s use guidelines.

Facebook’s contest rules are subject to frequent revision (the last revision was December 1, 2010) and are far more complicated. Facebook users are prohibited from using their wall or other pages to create a contest; instead, they must set it up through an application on the Facebook platform. Users can enter the promotion only via the application or a tab created on the Facebook page. The promotion must include certain disclosures.

Facebook also sets rules on what contest sponsors can ask of entrants. A sponsor can ask an entrant to like a page as a condition of entry, but cannot require any other action such as uploading a photo or writing a post or comment. (As an aside, seems that this contest, which required a wall post may have run afoul of Facebook’s rules).

Many firms may be tempted to hand off administration of contests on social media to PR reps or marketing gurus. Don’t. It’s you or your firm that will wind up with the suspended account on Twitter or Facebook if the contest isn’t run properly – and further, many face the embarrassment of e-shaming if competitors learn of your missteps.

Law firm contests can be a fun, as well as a way for a firm to show its appreciation for clients and the surrounding community. But having someone contest your firm’s contest because you didn’t follow the rules will take the fun right out of it.

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

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).

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

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!


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.