Lawyer Advertising

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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Attorney Marilyn York

No doubt divorce can be a messy game. Hurt feelings, name-calling, emotional tug-of-war on impressionable children, and a pitched battle for financial security are all par for the course. Divorce attorneys are thus often the most combative of the already combative breed of lawyers. It’s how you end up with lawyers telling the other side that they plan to anally rape them.

But usually divorce attorneys steep their public persona in platitudes about “fighting for you,” saving the nasty “anal rape” stuff for behind closed doors.

But this attorney has a different approach, putting out a TV commercial that riffs on every awful stereotype of women ever, to appeal to the jilted husbands of the world….

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Keith Lee

As has been discussed ad nauseam, it’s a tough time to be a lawyer right now. The legal industry is in a rut and the economy continues to limp along. With the flood of lawyers that have been forced to hang their shingle over the past few years, there has been increased competition for clients. This has led to some fairly cutthroat competition in the world of attorney advertising.

Many types of practice don’t advertise. Or rather, their advertising is of the tried-and-true “display expertise” variety. Write articles for your bar association magazine, speak at clients’ industry events, join boards and committees. Not so much talking about yourself, but showing that you are active and engaged in the legal industry. Let your reputation speak for itself; let others talk about you. Develop a reputation, not a brand.

But building a reputation is hard. Developing a brand is expensive. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just mooch off of someone else’s hard work or money? Such was the proposition to New York attorney (and occasional ATL writer) Eric Turkewitz  this past week…

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Hilarious. I wouldn’t put it on my business, but still, it’s quirky.

– Matt McEntee, a resident of Bangor, Maine, commenting on the “imposing” signage — a life-size cut-out advertising the legal services of Stephen C. Smith — that stands “glowering” over the downtown area. After receiving several complaints about the lawyer’s portrait, city officials decided to review whether the sign violated municipal code.

Ever wonder what that kid from the Sixth Sense would have been when he grew up? Seeing dead people could really get in the way of most careers. It turns out we have the perfect career for him: lawyer. It’s probably time for a sequel.

Because there’s a guy out there right now using his J.D. to be a psychic. I guess more technically, the subject of this story is a medium, meaning he does less predicting the future (convenient) and more communicating with the spirits of the departed. Or taking advantage of a bunch of vulnerable and bereaved people with easily understood cold reading techniques. But who am I to crash the party with science?

Billing himself as The Psychic Lawyer®, he supplements his career as “a successful attorney and certified mediator, licensed to practice law in Florida, Washington D.C., and before the United States Supreme Court” by telling people what they want to hear the spirits of their loved ones have to say.

Being a medium is one thing. But why advertise that you’re also a lawyer? Aren’t you just tanking your credibility in both fields?

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Am I wrong to be suspicious?

I knew a defense lawyer whose online bio said that he had “spent more than a year of his life in trial.” But I also knew the facts: He had tried precisely one case in his life; it lasted more than a year; at the end of the year, the jury awarded more than the plaintiff demanded in closing argument.

Despite having spent “more than a year of his life in trial,” I’m not certain he was a proven trial lawyer.

Google the words “consummate trial lawyer” or “quintessential trial lawyer” or the like. (The actual bio may use a synonym to those superlatives; I’m concealing my victim here.) One bio will pop up from a guy who has, in fact, tried a few cases. But he lost them all. He hasn’t secured a defense verdict at a jury trial since the early 1980′s. (He did manage to reverse on appeal several of his trial-level defeats, but I’m not sure that’s too comforting to someone who’s looking to retain trial counsel.)

These examples, of course, come from the guys who are being honest: The words contained in their bios are technically true. I’m not even talking about the folks who brazenly lie.

Given the skepticism that puffery breeds, how can you write an online bio that actually persuades a reader?

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