Online marketing

Keith Lee

N.I.N.J.A – No Income, No Job, or Assets

Often used in connection with loans, it also applies to so-called social media “experts.”

There has been a ridiculous rise of people claiming to be some sort of expert or professional or guru in social media in the past few years. How many? Try this on for size.

So in the three years, the number of social media experts multiplied by 11 times. Either there has been legitimate, explosive growth in the need for social media marketers, or perhaps (just maybe) people are promoting BS and blabber. These people are hoping, desperately, that someone will buy into their BS for long enough to pay them for it.

Unfortunately, lawyers are often some of the people who buy into it. You would think lawyers would know better — logical reasoning, analytical thinking, problem solving, etc. Nope. Lawyers seem to fall prey to these people as often, if not more so, as every other business….

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A few months back at my home blog, MyShingle, I wrote about a small Michigan law firm that sued a legal marketing company for fraud and RICO violations, alleging that the company created a “bogus Internet marketing program, supposedly designed for small law firms and sole practitioners” and duped firms into participating in the program through a series of misrepresentations about the company’s ability to boost law firms’ Google rankings. The lawsuit is still pending in federal district court in Arizona (Docket No. 2:13-cv-01502).

Though few expressed sympathy for the firm, suggesting that it was greedy or foolish to fall for the marketing company’s “infomercial-like” sales pitch, in my view the lawsuit raised a valid question: Should law firm marketers, practice management advisers, and other vendors pitching services to improve law firm performance remain accountable, at least to some degree, for the results?

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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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Time and time again, we’ve warned prospective law students about the dangers of applying to law school without first arming themselves with the knowledge that a career in law might not be the golden ticket that it once was. And yet time and time again, those prospective law students have ignored all of the evidence that was presented to them on a silver platter, and continued on their merry way to law school.

These 0Ls don’t care about whether they’ll be employed; hell, they don’t even care how many law schools are sued for their allegedly fraudulent employment statistics. All these “sophisticated consumers” really care about are the U.S. News law school rankings.

But what would happen if a law school were to inform applicants that they may never be employed at all? Perhaps a message like that would stem the tide of willfully ignorant prospective law students….

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An in-house lawyer receives an email from a law firm with the subject line, “Litigation Highlights!” Does she pop it open?

Probably not; it sounds like an advertisement.

Is there a subject line that stands a better chance of success?

Yes: Something that specifically identifies a subject that might matter to the recipient. Maybe: “The Constitutionality of ‘ObamaCare’: A Preview of the Arguments.”

The recipient might or might not care about that subject, but, if she does care, at least she knows to open the email.

My not-so-hypothetical “subject” line — “Litigation Highlights!” — is off-putting enough, but, if you made the mistake of opening that email, the substance could be even worse….

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[T]his might be a helpful alert to lawyers who are hiring someone to try to promote their sites: It’s possible that the promotion might consist of behavior that is par for the course for purported penis enlargement products, but not really in keeping with the sort of reputation that lawyers generally seek to cultivate.

– Professor Eugene Volokh, issuing a warning to lawyers that hire outside companies to promote their law firm websites using spam blog comments.

Like any well-adjusted adult, I blame my parents for all of my problems. You should too, at least when it comes to your name. For instance, if your parents named you Candy, then they ensured that you would become a stripper. Similarly, if your parents named you Stanley, then you were destined to become a tool.

There are a few exceptions where the name chosen by your parents guarantees that you will be a success. For example, if your parents named you “Valerie,” you were destined to become a star.

The luckiest of all, for our purposes at least, are those chosen few with the last name Small….

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I recently talked about law firm names. But it’s not enough just to come up with a good law firm name. You also need to come up with a good law firm domain name. Otherwise, people will have trouble finding you. If you have your own firm, or think you might possibly someday, you need to become master of your domain, and you need to do it now.

When I started practicing in 1994, the Martindale-Hubbell directory was how people found out about your law firm. If you weren’t in there, you weren’t legit. That’s all changed now. If people want to learn about your firm, they either enter in your domain name (or your likely domain name if they don’t already know it), or they use the Google to find your website.

Nowadays, this is often how prospective clients (as well as opposing counsel) get their first impression of you and your firm. If your website looks like it would have been at the cutting edge in 1998 or 2002, you’re already sunk. Firm website design is a topic for a different day. Today we’re just talking about your domain name, because without a good one, you may never get found in the first place.

If you have your own small firm, or think you possibly may someday, read on for eight tips on choosing the right domain name.…

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On a nice, lazy, summer Friday, it’s good to know that rudeness still exists this world.

Today’s example of questionable behavior comes from a midsized Midwestern law firm. Yeah, apparently Midwestern manners don’t extend to how you treat people while you are rejecting them. This firm decided to use its rejection letters as an opportunity to market its new iPhone/iPad application.

It’s an app for people looking for work, of course…

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Law firm advertising is expensive and certain methods may be cost-prohibitive for small firms. For instance, a small firm may not be able to afford a television or print campaign. Enter online marketing including, among other things, Google AdWords and sponsored links. In 2009, a law firm filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin state court challenging certain marketing strategies as an invasion of privacy, as defined in the Wisconsin privacy statute. Luckily for consumers and small firms, the court disagreed.

The case involved the two most prominent personal injury firms in Wisconsin. One of them, Cannon & Dunphy, used a Google AdWords PPC (price-per-click) strategy (and other search engines) to bid on the name of the state’s largest personal injury firm, Habush, Habush & Rottier. In other words, when a user would search the terms Habush or Rottier, a Cannon & Dunphy link would show up in the shaded section as a Sponsored Link.

Habush sued Cannon, alleging that Cannon’s online marketing campaign violated Wis. Stat. §995.50. That statute prohibits “the use, for advertising purposes or for purposes of trade, of the name . . . of any living person, without having first obtained the written consent of the person,” and provides a cause of action where such an invasion of privacy was unreasonable.

The result of the litigation, after the jump….

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