Lawyer Advertising

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Slick marketeers, snake-oil salesmen, racketeers, office assistants… Some lawyers believe marketing is not a valid profession or discipline. That’s B.S.

Legal marketers are misunderstood at best and completely maligned at worst.

As a legal industry outsider, I’m confounded by how law firms de-value marketing and their hard-working marketers. I understand how we got here, but ladies and gentlemen, lawyers and marketers, it’s time to get caught up with the rest of the world…

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“Tear gas?”
“Wait, was that a flash grenade?”
“Oh, now there’s a picture!”
“They arrested journalists… just for being in a McDonald’s?”
“Now the arrested reporters are back online!”

Last night, many of us fixated on our Twitter feeds to follow, in real time, every breaking development in Ferguson, Missouri. The hashtag acted as a latter day, crowdsourced ticker tape keeping those miles away from the town — clear to Gaza — abreast as the peaceful protests brought on a symbolically striking military-style occupation, complete with the use of gas and rubber bullets and the arrest of journalists for performing their constitutionally protected jobs.

That’s what Twitter did that was awesome. Unfortunately, last night also put on display everything awful about Twitter. Everything that people mistake it to be when they set up a handle and broadcast their message to the world in 140 character segments. Others have tackled what Ferguson means in the grand scheme of criminal law and what lawyers should do in response to Ferguson. But there are also lessons to be learned from “#Ferguson” — the cyber place that conveyed the events of Ferguson — and the opinions of casual observers — to the world.

Lessons that all technologically connected lawyers, and frankly everyone, can use….

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Making people think you are not horrible is a full-time job for lawyers. Gallup did a poll on the most trustworthy professions in the United States and, you guessed it, lawyers are near the bottom. You know who’s the most trusted profession? Doctors and nurses, and they are the number 3 cause of death in the United States. Even historically, two hundred years ago, lawyers were drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence and doctors were using leeches to heal people. I’m pretty sure that, on top of killing fewer people, the average person will be overcharged in their life more by doctors and nurses than by lawyers, but whatever. So, again, making people think we are not horrible is an uphill battle for us.

The Internet is helping some of us tip the scales in one way or the other. Each one of these topics could be their own article, but for now, I wanted to give you a short primer on how to shrug off the shroud of horribleness we have as lawyers.

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It’s not every day that a lawyer ad features a caber toss by the attorney. But then again, it’s not everyday you find this kind of lawyer. A Scottish gent who worked for an Australian law firm and practiced in New York before pulling up stakes and moving to Austin, Texas, to start his own firm.

And he has fun with the expectations of firm advertising. For a split second, the ad opens with the dreaded “guy in suit in front of books” before pulling the rug out from under us and taking the audience on a madcap journey of every bit of awesomeness that happens to him while he tries to get through Ronald Dworkin’s Law’s Empire (affiliate link).

Caber toss? Check. Rubik’s Cubes? Check. Bicycle kick goals? Damn right….

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So I’m just sitting around with Elie when my phone informs me that I’ve been denounced by the Boston Bar Association. Apparently, they took offense to my post from a couple weeks ago about the new ad campaign by Suffolk Law. The headline was: This Law School Is Looking For The Dumbest Possible Students. Catchy right?

And I thought accurate because the ad tries to sell Suffolk Law on the grounds that it produced more Massachusetts state judges than Yale, Harvard, and Columbia. Which is such a no-brainer that anyone falling for it would have to be equally lacking.

Now the Boston Bar is cross with me. But their critique rests on such a profound misunderstanding of my point that I have to wonder if there’s just something in the dirty water up there…

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Soon after I started my solo practice, I realized that I needed to develop and execute a plan for getting new clients. At first, I did it the old-fashioned way: networking, joining organizations, giving elevator speeches, passing out business cards, and doing contract work for other attorneys. This method took time and cost money and it didn’t work to the extent I had hoped. So I asked a few colleagues whether I should hire someone to help me improve my business.

I received the names of consultants, SEO experts, and coaches. Someone even suggested I talk to Tony Robbins. Some people swore by them while others said that the “advice” they provided was a bunch of hooey and can be found on the internet or at the library for free.

Over the last few years, I have become very skeptical of business development professionals (sometimes known as “marketeers”) who claim that they know the “secret technique” for improving my solo practice. A number of them are lawyers or ex-lawyers who — for one reason or another — decided to go into consulting and coaching. Also, some of these “experts” have questionable backgrounds and may not understand the professional rules that we lawyers have to follow.

I should point out that the purpose of this post is not to badmouth any particular person or the legal business development industry. This guy covered that already. But click onwards to find out the reasons for my skepticism and my thoughts on when it might make sense to retain a business development professional….

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When law schools face double-digit declines in admissions, it’s time for a slick ad campaign to bring in more students. When traditionally lower-ranked law schools face double-digit declines in admissions, it’s time for a slick ad campaign to bring in low-hanging mouthbreathers to subsidize the rest of the school.

Such is the case for one school that plastered a new series of posters around town hoping to draw in new students to fill their ranks.

A new ad that requires the prospective student to suffer a severe lack of reading comprehension and critical thinking….

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Remember when that law professor declared herself a sociopath? She went off on how the law generally, and trial law specifically, was a sociopath’s dream. Elie was quick to question whether or not pitch warfare was really a sociopath’s dream and trial law a mere waste of talents.

And then in The Wisdom of Psychopaths (affiliate link), we learned there are more psychopaths among lawyers than any job description other than CEO.

So it was only a matter of time before a lawyer started trading on that reputation….

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No, this isn’t another Reema Bajaj story, though she might have benefitted from this law firm’s marketing strategy. There’s a fine line between selecting a catchy firm image and becoming fodder for this site’s mockery. This firm is dancing on that line.

On the other hand, you’ll never forget this lawyer’s web address…

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The New York Times lost 80 million home page visitors—half the traffic to the nytimes.com page—in the last two years.

Likewise, traffic to law firm website home pages is down almost 20 percent in the last year. Only 39 percent of law firm traffic now enters through the home page per a study conducted by law firm website developers Great Jakes.

Law firms list their websites in online and offline directories. The home page URL is included on emails, business cards and social media profiles. Search engine optimization tactics are used to draw traffic to the firm’s home page. Website navigation schemas are developed to get users to browse from the home page to industries, areas of the law, about the firm, the people, office locations and articles.

The problem is that people no longer browse pages on a website by going through home pages. They’re coming from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Google+ and Google searches to visit specific content within the site….

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