Lawyer Advertising

Many lawyers keep blogs on the side. Most talk about amusing happenings in the legal community. But a few like to use the blog as a forum to describe their own legal careers.

But blogs like this raise numerous questions, such as, “Does the blog constitute an advertisement?,” and, “Does the blog violate client confidentiality?” and, “Why doesn’t the blog have more LOLcats?”

Now the Virginia Supreme Court has issued a ruling that settles some of these questions and opens the door for more lawyers to join the blogging community, at least in Virginia. And there’s a decent chance the U.S. Supreme Court will look at this case too….

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* Legal advertising meets Godwin’s Law. [Lowering the Bar]

* Carla Spivack of Oklahoma City University’s law school suggests rethinking the logic of statutes that prevent a killer from inheriting from their victims. Spivak argues that most of such killings involve escaping abusive situations and not a “child who kills a grandparent to hasten an inheritance.” Um, Spivak hasn’t watched enough Murder, She Wrote. [The Faculty Lounge]

* “Would It Be Okay To Perform Surgery On Crack?” I’m not sure, but I’m a sporting fellow! Fetch me a scalpel and your finest rock! [Legal Juice]

* Dunkin’ Donut’s employee used hot coffee to spoil a robbery while yelling “go run on Dunkin.’” Moral of the story: Next time rob Winchell’s. [NBC New York]

* Bear Lawyer grapples with sequestration. I’m fairly certain the chalkboard behind him is a direct reproduction of a notepad Paul Ryan used. [Bear Lawyer, LLC]

* Subway founder says regulations would prevent him from building his business today. “I had an easy time of it in the ’60s when I started.” Yes, it’s harder to cut costs with horse meat today, but you can still dare to dream. [Overlawyered]

* Mila Kunis is the greatest interview ever, turning the whole thing around on a nervous interviewer. There are a couple important lessons here for litigators: (1) don’t get too stuck to your script; and, (2) if you’re going to let the witness take over the examination, just hope they’re trying to help you. Video after the jump. [YouTube via BBC Radio 1]

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If you have a mediocre law firm, here’s a new trick — just buy the ad-search rights to the names of better law firms. Every time someone searches for the better firm, a nice big ad for your firm will pop up.

Does that sound dirty? It kind of seems like cashing in on the good will of another firm. Not to mention the personal identities of the lawyers at the better firm.

So, yeah, it sounds dirty and not possibly legal.

Well, a state appeals court decided it was totally legal….

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Yesterday, Brian Tannebaum wrote about many of the law firm web site marketeers that write dreck for their clients.

The marketeers put this stuff online for the lawyers and call it content. Those with even minimal composition skills use far less charitable words to describe it.

As an example, he writes about the self-linking that takes place in pseudo-blogs and the embarrassing effect it actually has on the lawyer being promoted. He uses the example below — a monstrous keyword smorgasbord you may have stumbled across in the past, and were dumber for having done so….

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This is a post about the internet, and yes, it’s about small law firms.

You’re still in the race to page one of Google. Nothing is more important. It’s tiring. Your marketeer tells you that blogging is king. You don’t have time to blog, you need clients now — you aren’t interested in waiting for some client to think you had something interesting to say in your blog, and in turn, call your office, or some lawyer to read what you wrote and refer you a case.

Not a problem, says the marketeer. It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as your website is linked throughout the posts, like this:

Recently, this Craptown family lawyer read about a father being held in contempt for failing to pay child support. This case was not in Craptown and did not involve a Craptown family lawyer. As a Craptown family lawyer, it is important that anyone in Craptown who has a problem with Craptown family law call a Craptown family lawyer. It is unclear whether the father sought the services of a Craptown family lawyer, but contempt is a bad thing and is a reason to seek out a Craptown family lawyer. So for those of you fathers that are broke, it may be time to call a Craptown family lawyer.

These blogs all suck, say nothing, and exist only based on the marketeer’s promise of clients finding you via Google and dropping off a pile of cash at your office. The authors are very very very proud of their prose, as the marketeers cheer on their attempts to game Google. “Hey man, that last post was great, you had 27 links to your website.”

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to the vast amounts of Biglaw associates who read every single word of this column under duress every single week while waiting for their next assignment, but for those small firm and solo practitioners, I have a question: Does it work?

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There’s no lack of advice these days about what lawyers should be doing to get clients or run their practices. And you take it. You take the advice of the former lawyers with no clients or practices, or the perennial failures who understand that lawyers are gullible when it comes to advice about making money. But still, you take it, or God forbid, pay for it.

So you create a Facebook Fan Page for your law firm and ask everyone to “like” your page. You go on LinkedIn and join groups. You go on Avvo.com and ask lawyers to endorse you. Your website is “awesome” and you’ve got an e-mail newsletter campaign going. Offline, you do the Bar association networking circuit. You’ve met some people for lunch, and you even had an article published. By the way, you’re also a good lawyer and have some happy clients.

But the phone isn’t ringing, or isn’t ringing enough. You get to the point of frustration, and start thinking of discontinuing part of your marketing, or worse, closing your practice.

Let’s be honest, some of you won’t make it. You’re decent lawyers but have no business sense. Some lawyers need to work for someone else. That’s why we have Biglaw, so really smart people with no ability to make a buck on their own can pretend they are superior.

Let’s say though that quitting is not an option, but neither is continuing on this path. You’re just trying to figure out which of the half-dozen things you’re doing is worth continuing, and what else you need to do.

So I’ll take a stab at it. My apologies for being a lawyer with clients and a practice, as I know I’m not the typical guru selling you on the dream….

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I went to vote Saturday at 7:20 a.m. I left with my “I voted” sticker at 12:39 p.m. When you stand in line for five hours, even a person like me has to pass the time by speaking to someone. After skimming through the morning paper and making a futile attempt to find something interesting on Twitter or Facebook, Jeff asked me a simple question: “What do you do?”

In the backdrop was typical polling place activity. There were signs everywhere. Many candidates had a half-dozen signs in a row at the entrance to the polling place. Apparently one sign isn’t enough anymore. The candidates were in all smiles, “asking” for votes, while the candidates’ shills designees were begging for votes by lying to everyone about everything saying they were a “mom,” or “not a politician.” People who didn’t even know the candidate were wearing their t-shirts and shoving palm cards in voters hands, and a long line of voters — some knowledgeable about the issues, and others not having a clue — were just waiting make their decision official.

It was like the internet, live.

On one side, there were people looking to make a decision, on the other, a bunch of people wanting to be “hired.” The one common thread was that the candidates wanted to make sure each person in line knew they, and their campaign, were there. The difference was how they did it….

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In the crazy world of cyberspace, personal injury lawyers are a dime a dozen. By now, we’ve gotten used to their crazy antics and low-budget commercials.

But not all personal injury firms are created equal. For the Law Firm of Gary, Williams, Lewis, and Watson, P.I., “low-budget” is a concept that just doesn’t exist. To the contrary, the firm wants to make it clear just how baller the life of a private injury attorney can be.

Dubbing himself “The Giant Killer,” the firm’s larger-than-life head partner, Willie E. Gary, never misses an opportunity to make his wealth and success known. Touting hundred-million-dollar verdicts and rubbing elbows with celebrities, Gary is on a one-man mission to prove that chasing ambulances is much easier when you’re driving a Bentley….

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For years, personal injury law advertising and violent imagery have gone hand in hand. Only in this field would we get a video of an unhinged attorney smashing a pickup truck into a parked car and call it an advertisement. The more they can yell or blow things up, it seems, the better.

Keeping with the tradition of aggression, we have not one, not two, but three different personal injury lawyers who have branded themselves “The Hammer.” But in the dog-eat-dog world of personal injury law, there can only be room for one Hammer. So who should win the rights to the title?

Should it be Lowell “The Hammer” Stanley from Virginia, who compares personal injury law to making sausage? Or Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro, the personal injury attorney possibly from New York (or Canada or Florida), who claims he loves to play rough? Or our entry from down South, Jim “The Texas Hammer” Adler, who is supposedly meaner than a junkyard dog?

Which Hammer should reign supreme? Let’s review the evidence….

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Tom Wallerstein

When lawyers form a new firm, one of their first, most important projects is usually designing their website. This makes sense because the website is often the first thing that a prospective client or referral source will see. Its importance cannot be overstated.

The process of designing a website (or printed marketing material) is considerably different for a new enterprise than it is for an established one. For an established firm, the process involves trying to portray to the outside world the essence of what the firm is and emphasize what distinguishes it from its competition.

For a new firm, however, the process is very different because you must first conceptualize what you want to be before you decide how you want to present yourself to the outside world. In this way, the website of a new firm is more aspirational than it is descriptive. For example, when a new firm proclaims that it handles practice areas A, B, and C, it often means that it intends to handle those practice areas.

This dynamic plays itself out in virtually everything a new business does. When it chooses a logo, or color scheme, or even its name, it engages in a process of self-conceptualization, imagining what it wants to be. I think that’s one reason why new businesses spend so much time, and so enjoy, focusing on relatively simple things like deciding on a logo. It’s fun to imagine your potential….

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