All posts by Bryan Mixon

Picking The Best Domain Name For Your Law Practice

In order to run a successful law practice, you’re going to need a website. Your website is the place for potential clients to discover your legal services, get to know you, and  schedule a consultation.

However, before you or hired help creates your website, you’ll want to pick the best domain name for your law firm.

A website and a domain name are not the same, although they are closely connected. The website contains all your content, information, and images. Whereas the domain name is the address that people type in their browsers that bring them to your website.

There are many types of domain names available and there’s a few important guidelines to follow when choosing the best one for your law firm:

Top Level Domain for Lawyers

 Top Level Domains (TLDs) are the little part of the domain name found after the DOT. These include, .COM, .ORG, .NET, and .GOV. There is even a specially created TLD for lawyers called .LAW.

The kind of TLD you decide will play a role in your ability to being found online. The universal TLDs are those listed above. There are also country specific TLDs such as .CA (Canada), .CN (China), .EU (European Union). Using these domains are restricted to those residing in that country and may not have as large a global reach as a .COM.

Most domains can be registered by anyone, however, the .LAW specific TLD requires proof of license before it can be issued.

Is a .LAW the best domain for you?

What Are Lawyer Keywords?

 Consider your domain name as a very important keyword that aides in your website getting found. People looking for a lawyer may search the following in Google: Florida Divorce Lawyers.

 Those words, are considered keywords and they play an important part in how your website is found online.

One thing to keep in mind is that keyword stuffing your domain name could lead to penalties by search engines and prevent your site from ever being noticed.

For example,

“childcustodydivorcelawyers.com”

While a name like this appears to be congruent with your services, there are a variety of reasons to not use this kind of name.

Best Domain Names For Lawyers

 Creating a domain name that is memorable and brandable is the best approach to take. This is important. Your domain name will serve as a banner that not only catches people’s attention but prepares people for what they’ll find on your website.

So, consider the following: what is the overall message you’re trying to say? Can people remember it easily? Can they type it into their browser without difficulty? Are there other websites with domain names similar to yours?

In addition, here are a few points to help you pick the best domain:

  1. Keep it short and simple (KISS). Shorter names are easier to remember and simpler to type into the browser. Just imagine, if your name was Bernie, you could have this: bernietheattorney.com!
  2. Be consistent. Your domain name should be a reflection of the services being offered and/or the location you provide them. Having a name like nyccourtconsultations.com (implying that you offer court consultations in NYC) would be more powerful than worldoflaw.com (potentially implying this site is about a world of flaws?).
  3. Don’t use unpopular TLDs. There are many different domain names available that may seem ideal for branding purposes but have less effect as a common TLD like .COM. Many people are familiar with .COM as a domain name.
  4. Avoid using hyphens. Search engines sometimes consider websites using hyphens as spammy and trying to stuff too many keywords. For example, best-lawyers-in-san-francisco.com may signal to search engines that this website is spam. While hyphens can be used without receiving penalties.

Lawyers Starting A Blog

 Having a website allows your to showcase your practice, services, past clients, and contact information to the entire world. As well, another useful thing to do on your website is starting a blog.

As mentioned before, keywords play an important part in getting your site noticed online. While the domain name plays a significant roles in directing people to the website, the content is the most valuable.

The best way to make your website stand out online is by providing expert advice and quality content. Blogs allow you to build your reputation online as well as discover new, potential clients.

Domain Name Overview:

Do Don’t
 

●        Do use your personal or business name(s). Remember to keep it short and simple. Use a domain name like, smithlawassociates.com, instead of smithandtullylawassociates.com
●        Do use your area of practice. If you’re a divorce lawyer, legal advisor, or criminal lawyer, feature that (i.e. smithdivorcelawyers.com)
●        Do use something memorable. Especially for blogs, having a domain like, fortheloveoflaw.com or leagueoflawyers.com could serve as a great platform to express your legal work as well as for branding purposes.
●        Do use a common TLD (such as .COM or even .LAW).
●        Do consider the ethical code. Making claims that cannot be proven, or misleading (i.e. always-win-lawyers.com) may be a violation of your local jurisdiction’s ethical rules.

 

●        Don’t use names that may change in the future (i.e. if an associate leaves your law firm)
●        Don’t use abbreviations of your legal service that could create a negative reputation (i.e. Austin, Stevens, and Smith Lawyers Group: asslawyers.com)
●        Don’t use spammy words like, best, top, greatest, etc. While you may feel that your law firm is #1 in your area, the search engines may flag your site as spam.
●        Don’t make it too personal. Whatever you are interested in and passionate about should not be used for your domain name, unless, it is relevant to your area of law.
●        Don’t use hard to remember or difficult to spell words.
●        Don’t copy another domain name. If serveandprotect.com is taken, avoid taking serveandprotect.net (or any other TLD). This can confuse your potential clients.

Choosing the best domain name for your law practice is not going to be easy. Remember that search engines like Google do provide benefits when a keyword is matched in your domain name. However, try to avoid coming off as spammy and use a name that is broad but to the point. For branding purposes, short and catchy would be the better approach.

Rise Of The Machines? Will Lawyers Become Obsolete?

Let’s consider this for a moment: lawyers being replaced by robots.

It sounds like a farfetched, sci-fi movie featuring advanced robotics bringing clients to court with analytical judges determining the fate of humanity.

However, as crazy as it may sound, will lawyers become obsolete with the growing trends in technology and communication?

Since the dawn of industrialization, there have been numerous revolutions in robotics technology that has freed up labors for the blue collar workers. From the view of human progress, this is the step in the right direction. However, as more and more people are losing jobs to robots, how will this affect the legal world?

Advancements in technology allows for information to be stored and retrieved in an easily accessible and systematized way. If artificial intelligence can be designed to extract evidence useful for litigations, to collect details for contracts, and trigger red flags whenever companies are committing fraud or other illegal activities, would this eliminate the number of lawyers needed in the world?

Automatization of Legal Work

Automatization is an ongoing development that allows for time efficiency and saving significant amounts of money. From a client’s point of view, if utilizing an online database, or “e-lawyer” to get accurate results, fast.

The early beginnings of technology designed to make a lawyer’s life easier started with chatbots. Technology from Ross and Lex Machina provide a chat lot system that makes setting up consultations simple for clients to do.

Another rising robot is called DoNotPay which was developed by Joshua Browder. This is a free parking ticket fighting chatbot that asks you a series of questions about your case. Questions like, “Were you illegally parked because of a medical emergency?” or “Were road signs clearly marked?”

At the end of the chat, the bot prepares a letter that can be used to fight parking tickets. So far, this system has been used to help hundreds of thousands of people to win parking ticket violations in Seattle, New York, and London.

What Areas of Law Could Be Most Affected

Technology is advancing at an extremely rapid pace. Each and every year a new highly developed superphone is being shoved into our pockets. If automatizing the lawyer process is the next step into the future, there may be some areas of law that will be impacted more than others.

The areas of law that once required many forms, contacts, and documents to be made may soon become obsolete. Things like business documents, contested filings, and estate planning documents, while performed by non-lawyers, are a part of the collective income of a law firm.

Currently, there are companies racing to innovate this area of law by creating efficient online services that can provide these documents in a single click.

Take for example LawGeex. They have developed an AI system that allows for the automation and approval of contracts. There focus is to eliminate paper work altogether.

Once, lawyers were required for their legal knowledge and careful selection of law like words. Now, AI machinery will be able to analyze text to review and understand the legal document.

What Are the Possibilities  of Robolawyers?

These chatbots could be the beginning of a complete legal revolution. There could be dramatic changes to the way bankruptcy, divorce disputes, and deportation can be dealt with. Instead of using a lawyer to dispute the finer points of law, AI systems can be developed to analyze every possible situation and find the exceptions, loopholes and historical cases needed to win a case.

Essentially, an AI will have access to a whole database of legal language and the history of legal cases to make decisions. From this perspective, the argument of human error leading to mistakes in law can certainly be avoided.

Here’s a couple more examples of law being replaced with technological solutions.

Judicata which is developing a database that was just mentioned above. While it may not be a go to tool for people experiencing a legal issue, it’s an AI program that provides lawyers with a chance to extract the information they need to build a case or contract.

Another AI based law solution comes from FairDoc. FairDoc focused on creating a virtualized legal team allowing for intake of clients to be made online and even tracking your client activity. It’s another cost effective solution to reduce the amount of work that is typically demanded by lawyers.

How Can You Fight The Rise of Robots?

There’s no avoiding the rapid growth that technology has in the world. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

In this case, the some of the roboticized approaches to law may work in your favor. Since you are a lawyer with the knowledge and experience in the field, many of the time saving services that are reducing the amount of paperwork can still be performed through you.

When it comes to sensitive issues and human beings, going to see a lawyer will almost always be the preferred approach to dealing with a machine.

However, to assure yourself a job in the future to come, here’s a few things to consider:

  1. Approach new technology cautiously. Technology is often being tested and does come with some setbacks. While AI lawyers may seem like a smart solution, a single hack could leak a lot of sensitive information.
  2. Question what may be “replacing” you. Be skeptical. Not all technology may be the best for you, your law firm, or your clients.
  3. Accept changes. You can stick to traditional law practice, and perhaps you’ll be just fine, however finding a few new pieces of software that makes your law practice easier and more efficient may be in your best interest.
  4. Preserve your practice. Let’s face it, some parts of technology can be good, but outsourcing significant parts of your business with 3rd parties can become a liability. Your clients trust you. Therefore you have to make decisions as to whether the products and “robots” used in your practice can be trusted for the long term.

Conclusion

Likely there won’t be a terminator situation rising anytime soon for lawyers, however being up-to-date will help you stay ahead. One of the best things to is to embrace the coming changes but doing so with a hint of skepticism. To really succeed, bringing your law practice online may be the cutting edge you need to stay alive. Imagine having your own blog, you could be the leader in the transition from human based lawyers to AI law machines.

Starting Your Own Law Firm Checklist

Think of starting your own law firm? Here is a simple checklist to guide your toward setting up your office, deciding on the area of law you will practice, your legal responsibilities, staffing demands, and much more.

Name Your Law Firm

It all starts here: naming your law firm. This is going to be the most important decisions you will have to make for your law firm. Your name will identify who you are and what you do. Using your own surname is a traditional approach to naming a law firm, however, there may be some added benefits when you include the type of law you practice (i.e. Mathers & Son Divorce Lawyers Inc.).

Choose One Area of Law

This is important. You could provide a generic practice and try to assist anyone who comes in the front door. This is a rare approach for lawyers nowadays. Pick one or possibly two areas of law to specialize your practice exclusively. You won’t get good if you practice a little of this and a bit of that. You’ll build you confidence and credibility faster when you dedicate your time and efforts on a clearly defined area of law.

Choose A Location

 Opening a law firm, much like any startup, can be done from home. While this may serve as a financially viable solution in the beginning, in the long run, you’re going to want an office. Starting with an office in a key location (i.e. convenient and comfortable for clients to enter for consultations) is key. If you’re on a tight budget, consider sharing some office space or try virtual law offices to act as your front desk.

Legal Stuff

As a lawyer, the last thing you want to do is miss the fine print for the legal obligations you are under. Permits, licenses and identification numbers are likely required to start your own law firm. Check with your local laws to see what will be required from you.

In addition, you have to consider your taxes. Your choices include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation. Each has their own pros and cons and you’ll have to decide which will be best for your personal practice.

Office Furniture

If you’ve found a great location for your office, you’re going to need it furnished. Consider how you want the appearance and aesthetic of your office to be. Also, there are a few office necessities you don’t want to forget:

  • Photocopy machine
  • Personal computer
  • Telephone System and requisite service
  • Fax machine (if necessary)
  • Desks
  • Chairs
  • Cabinets and book shelves
  • Trash cans and recycling bins
  • Magazines and magazine racks
  • Interior decorations
  • And, don’t forget the long list of office supplies (pencils, envelopes, etc.)

Get a Professional 1-800 Office Number

This is not a necessity but a great idea for branding purposes. Having a 1-800 of 1-855 number can be used to establish yourself as being professional and serious about practicing law. You can even use this number with call forwarding to your personal or direct phone line. Getting a number like this can be set up in less than a day. Try contacting your local telephone service providers for more information.

Library

Every lawyer needs a library to stay up to date as well as for fact checking and research. In your field, law is an ongoing, evolutionary process. Practice guides and case law are constantly being updated. If you choose a location near a law library, you can minimize the cost of your own. There are also a variety of online sources that can assist you with this as well.

Start A Blog To Find Your Clients

Starting a blog may be one of the best solutions for finding new clients. Sharing your knowledge and expertise online can help build your credibility and authority in your community. Also, websites allow people to search and choose lawyers and firms that best suit their needs. If your website is setup correctly, clients will be coming to you instead of you having to search for your clients.

Build a Referral Network

 Let everyone know that you are going to be starting a law firm. Meet with other practicing lawyers and ask how they found and received their cases. If they’re in a different field of law, you may be able to build some connections that pass off some clients in your direction. Or, they may be overwhelmed with work of their own and will refer clients to other lawyers they have a relationship with (i.e. you). This is a mutual exchange. If you’re a divorce lawyer and someone comes to you asking for criminal defense, you can refer them to someone in your network.

Another alternative is to set up a system where you can pay people you trust a referral fee. This can incentivise people to send work to you. There are certain laws in place that govern this so you should try to learn how it would be applied to you.

Join Local Organizations and Listservs

Aside from building a referral network, join local organizations like Southern State Criminal Law Association, to connect with fellow lawyers in a similar area of law to discuss cases. Joining this or a listserv, which is an email that gets sent to every single member on the list, is a great way to gain advice and other perspectives from lawyers in your practice. This is extremely useful for those just starting out and require a mentor who can answer questions.

Systems

Like any business, have a key outline of operating principles will help you manage and run your law firm more efficiently and effectively. Here are a few key systems you should consider:

  • Accounting: There are a variety of software programs that can easily manage your finances. Another alternative is to hire an accountant.
  • Time Tracking & Billing: Keep on top of how you track your time and the way you bill your clients will save you from a lot of headaches. Your billing system should issue invoices to clients regularly and in a timely manner for all work as it is completely.
  • Filing: There are going to be a lot of files to organize and storing away. Having easy access so you can find certain documents in the future will create a hassle free work environment.
  • Docketing and Calendar System: Every law firm should have a system in place that manages docketing and calendars. Lawyers are humans too and the chances of forgetting something can happen to them too.
  • Client Conflict: At some point in your career you are likely to experience a few clients unimpressed with your practice. Have a system in place that allows you to manage conflict and keep it in check is a must.

Get Insurance

This is the last thing you want to happen to you in your law firm. However, it is something that must be consider: getting sued for malpractice. There are malpractice insurance companies that can provide you with the protection you need for your practice. This is especially important for those starting a sole proprietorship.

Final Notes

Starting a law firm requires a lot of planning and preparation. You’ll need a budget to cover startup expenses, opening of new accounts, and much more. When the office is set up and you’re ready to work, the next thing to do is to start marketing your law firm.

Starting A Law Firm

Like any business, there’s risk involved. Starting a law firm, whether fresh out of college or years into a career, requires careful planning, some financial resources, and a marketing plan to succeed.

If you’re serious about starting a law firm, you may find it a little more difficult than passing the bar. Luckily, this is a good place to help you get started.

Before Starting A Law Firm

There are a few things you should consider before going ahead and registering a law firm. The most important place to start is by creating a plan.

Consider these:

  • Will you practice law in different places?
  • What is your area of expertise (i.e. divorce, family law, etc.)
  • How much money will you spend to start your law firm?
  • Will you start solo or form a partnership?
  • What legal requirements are needed to start a law firm in your area?
  • How will you market your law firm?

The beginning of any new business will be tough and first year startups often struggle before they succeed. Having a little patience and determination will see returns to your personal investments and the only way to get there is with a plan.

Have Enough Cash To Get Started

You need a plan to succeed but you will also need a bit of money. The amount of money you need to invest in the startup of a law firm will vary from person to person. There are many expenses you will have to cover that cannot be avoided. Here’s a list of many of the costs you can expect to pay to get your law firm started:

  • Accounting
  • Answering Service
  • Bank Fees
  • Bar fees and other organizational fees
  • Couriers
  • Insurance (for malpractice claims)
  • Employees
  • Employment Benefits
  • Entertainment Costs
  • Office Lease/Rent
  • Office Supplies
  • Office Furniture
  • Ongoing Legal Education
  • Telephone
  • Unemployment Tax
  • Website for Law Firm

The best way to tackle these necessary costs when starting a law firm is by creating a budget. Look at the bigger picture and develop a budget detailing the next few years. Break down your costs into initial start up (i.e. office supplies, marketing, furniture, etc.) and operating costs (i.e. office lease/rent, staff salaries, etc.).

Choosing a Business Structure for Your Law Firm

Now that you have considered the costs, your area of expertise, and finished all the items on the law firm checklist, it’s time to set up your business.

This part of setting up your law firm requires the legal structure of your business. Choose carefully as to which type you use for your law firm as it will affect various aspects of how you can operate as a business.

Here are the options available to your:

Types of Legal Structures

1. Sole Proprietorship

Starting a sole proprietorship is the most simple option available. In this legal structure, the business is owned and operated by one person (you) and they are liable for any of the business’ obligations.

  • You won’t have to file forms with the state, however they will be needed to obtain licenses and permits.
  • Owners are personally liable for the outcome of the business (i.e. debts)
  • Any income earned is reported on your personal income tax return.

This legal structure is ideal for it’s low cost and basic tax structures, however the unlimited liability and requirement to pay self-employment tax can become a burden. Take for example a client suing you for malpractice. You would be held accountable for any damages.

2. Partnership

A partnership requires two or more people who run and own the law firm. You can create a partnership as either general or limited and is typically governed by an agreed upon contract detailing the partners’ responsibilities

  • Each partner is personally responsible for the partnership’s obligations (for general partnerships).
  • Partners owe fiduciary duties to each other.
  • Taxes are reported and paid by each individual partner’s tax returns.

 Forming a partnership is a low cost and profitable solution for each partner. However, there as joint and several liabilities, sharing profits, and possible disputes between partners that can affect your law firm’s trajectory. If for any reason your partner is sued for malpractice or refuses to participate in some other contractual obligation, your can be held personally liable. The best way to protect yourself from this situation is to consider the next option.

3. Limited Liability Company (LLC)

 A limited liability company (llc) provides members with with protection from personal liability for debts and actions performed by the business, just like a corporation. The difference is that you can choose to be taxed as a partnership.

  • You will be required to file paperwork to your government
  • You will need an operating agreement outlining rights and responsibilities of the members and how the law firm will run
  • Taxes can be dealt with as either a partnership or a corporation

LLCs have the benefits of limited liability and the bookkeeping is less that a corporation. You may not be able to operate as an LLC and it will require research depending on where you live.

4. Corporation

A corporation is a unique, business entity that has limited liability and is owned by shareholders.

  • You will be required to file paperwork to your government
  • You must create bylaws that govern the entire operation of the corporation
  • You will be taxed when the corporation earns profit.

Corporations are taxed twice. First when the corporation earns profits and again when the dividends are distributed to the shareholders.

There are many variations in legal structure to choose from. Whether you are deciding to start your own solo law firm or joining with a partner, choose the right one that suits how you want to run your business and the local laws in your area. You could always start as a sole-proprietorship then upgrade later when your business picks up.

Marketing Your Law Firm

 At this point, you’re cash flow might be depleted but your law firm is ready to go. The next thing you will need to do to start your own law firm is: find clients.

Finding clients will come down to how effective your marketing strategy is, but also, how strong your connections and relationships are with those that know you. Getting a referral from someone who knows your potential makes for easy client acquisition. However, for those that are seeking for legal advice for the first time, they may not have a trusted friend to vouch for you.

Here’s some marketing ideas to help you turn cold connections into your new clients.

1. Announce Your Opening

At the start of your new law firm, send out high-quality announcements to everyone you know (close and distant). If you’ve chosen a niche practice, send it out to those in your local bar association. Don’t forget to send personalized letters to your friends and relatives too. This can be useful for obtaining your first few referred clients.

2. Join a Business Networking Group

There are somethings you can do, and some things you can’t. If you join a business networking group, there are all kinds of opportunities to be found. If there’s lawyers in your group from other areas of specialization, you can create a referral list for them in exchange for a referral list for your specialised legal practice.

3. Become a Public Speaker

If there’s a topic you’re passionate about or a legal issue you want to eliminate, arranging public speeches is a great way to become known in your community. Public speaking allows you to make direct connections with people from the knowledge you have. This type of community outreach lets you display your expertise and build trust in your profession.

4. Start A Blog

Similar to public speaking, consider this public writing. Starting a blog for your law firm is an ideal way to find new clients online. Web sites can receive a lot of traffic depending on how your website is set up and the quality of the content involved.

5. Provide Quality Work

It might sound strange, but you should be providing exceptional “customer” experience. You’re dealing with people and, people talk. Their experience with you, good or bad, has a good chance of being spread on social media and within personal groups. You should always provide your best work to develop a strong referral base and a list or long-term clients.

Struggling to start a law firm? Check out the Starting Your Own Law Firm Checklist.

8 Shady Tactics Vendors Use To Trap Small Firms (and How To Fight Back!)

When Katie (my wife) started her law firm a few years ago, we were excited. It was going to be an adventure! As she walked out of her big firm job that last day, it seemed like the possibilities were endless.

And then the calls started. And the emails. And the tricks. It was like someone had put an ad on Craigslist saying “Easy mark! Hock your wares with abandon!”

With each step she took to start her firm, filing corporate docs, purchasing a domain name, signing up for phone service, setting up IOLTA accounts, it got worse.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the routine (and if you’re thinking about starting your firm, just wait.)

Phone calls at all hours. Because hey, we wouldn’t want to cold call a potential prospect during their working hours like everyone else, we need to stand out! 7am it is! Putting your kids to bed? Nuh-uh, it’s time to talk document management!

A constant barrage of cold emails with generic pie in the sky offers about this and that. None of any substance, just begging you to get on a phone call so they can see how much budget they can extract from an unsuspecting new business owner.

And the junk mail! Oh the junk mail! Not just “hey you should know about this service” junkmail, but downright fraudulent junkmail. Junkmail saying you’re in violation of some law if you don’t talk to them, or that someone’s going to steal your domain name or your trademark in China. Each looking more official than the last.

It’s exhausting. And we’d had enough. There HAD to be some good actors around. But the more I searched, the more shadiness I came across.

I’d had enough. And it was time to do something about it. So when I started AmazeLaw, I vowed to be honest with my clients, to treat them fairly, to empathize with the fact that they’re not an entity to extract money from, they’re small business owners, just like me, struggling and working their tails off for a better life.

I’ll leave it to my customers and to you to determine if I’ve succeeded, but in an effort to combat the shadiness, here are * tactics vendors are using right now to try and screw over small firms under the guise of being helpful.

Red flags in abusive vendor relationships

These are the tactics that should immediately set off red flags. Now not all vendors who use these tactics are bad by default, but they should act as leading indicators for abusive relationships so proceed with caution.

Being secretive about pricing

What they’re thinking: Their goal with this tactic is to get you to call to figure out whether it’s even in your budget. They don’t trust that you’ll be able to see the value of the product on their own, so they want you to contact a script-reading junior sales rep to convince you that it’s worth shelling out your precious cash, and then pass you off to a closer (account executive.)

Also, it means they don’t have any pricing structure to adhere to. They’re free to tell you any price (often after learning how large your budget is.) So they’ll start high, and work down so you feel like you’re getting a deal, often with steep discounts that magically appear when you tell them you’re all set.

How you can take advantage: This is the first step in some aggressive sales BS. But, if you really think the product works well (maybe you’ve had a colleague recommend it), you have a bit of an advantage if you’re willing to play hardball.

Make frequent price objections, threaten to walk away. Then actually walk away. Hang up the phone and tell them you’re just not sure about the price. I promise you they’ll call back. And there’ll probably be a discount in it for you.

Requiring annual or multi-year contracts

What they’re thinking: We don’t trust that you’ll stick around long-term, so rather than giving you 12 chances per year to consider whether that line in your bank account is worth it, they’ll only give you one option, and they’ll put a customer retention specialist in touch with you to promise big things for the next year.

And of course they’ll probably have a notice clause in the contract requiring more than 30 or 60 days notice of cancellation before it automatically rolls over. So when you contact them to cancel a few weeks before it rolls over, you’re told you’re already locked up for another year and if you want to cancel, you’ll have to pay an exorbitant cancellation fee (if they even let you).

There also appears to be a trend in the marketing services space (SEO, PPC Ads, Content Generation, Lead Generators, Directories) to require a 3 or 6 month commitment (often at $1k+/mo.)

While not as costly as annual contracts, they’re inherently higher risk. As an excuse, the sales rep will tell you that it takes time to see results from a new marketing channel. And that’s true, to a point.

But any person worth working with, any person you trust, will be able to give you an honest assessment along the way and let you know whether it makes sense to keep moving forward. They’re just trying to force the decision rather than letting their service speak for itself.

If they don’t trust that you won’t leave after a month or two, it says something (everything?) about how much they trust their product.

Note – These scenarios are different from annual prepay/billing. Annual prepay (often with a discount) can make a lot of sense for you and for the vendor. It helps them with cashflow and it provides you with a) a discount and b) the ability to play with your tax burden a little bit. If you have a strong year and you’re not sure the next year will be so fruitful, paying for the next-year’s services in December will reduce your tax burden this year (assuming you’re using cash accounting.)

Obviously, I’m not an accountant, so that’s not financial advice. But I would advise setting up a standing meeting with your accountant every fall to go over your accounting and help make decisions like this while you still have time before the end of the year.

Now before you sign up for annual prepay, you should ensure that you’re not locked in. For example, we offer 2 months free for our clients that sign up for annual billing, but if they get six months in, we’ll send them a pro-rated refund.  They’re not locked in.

So be sure to ask what happens if you cancel half-way through your annual contract so you can correctly weigh your options.

How you should handle thisExcept in circumstances where the value is clear and you’ll clearly need it long term, I would run, not walk, away from these terms. Cash is king for a small business so don’t lock yourself up unless you’re absolutely sure it’s worth it. And make sure you ask if they have…

Early cancellation fees

What they’re thinking: This is usually paired with those big annual contracts. It’s nothing more than a way to make you question your decision to cancel and extract a little more cash on your way out the door. It’s extortion, pure and simple.

AmazeLaw is actually a rare business where a customer leaving actually costs us time and money. It takes a lot of time and effort to move a website. And even we don’t have cancellation fees. We’ll lose money. That’s our punishment for not meeting our clients’ needs, and our incentive to do better. Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often.

What you can do: Honestly, not much. You can try to negotiate your contract at the beginning, but that’s about all you can ask for. But before you do that, you should probably question why they need that clause in the first place and if that’s someone you want to work with or trust a part of your business to.

Owning your domain

This is specific to website providers but it’s egregious enough that I need to call it out. Some providers insist that they control the domain name for your website. Claiming that it’s easier if they register it. That they’ll make sure it’s always renewed.

What they’re thinking: If they own your domain name, you can’t go anywhere. In order to move your website, you’ll need a new domain name and you’ll give up all of the SEO you’ve built up. What’s more, you’ll need to update all of your business cards, potentially your email address, etc. It’s just another form of extortion to keep you from canceling.

What you should do: DO NOT DO IT. Register your domain under an account you (and only you) control. Make sure you sign up for auto-renewal. I usually recommend Namecheap or Dynadot (GoDaddy is ok too because they’re ubiquitous, but they have some questionable tactics of their own I recommend my clients avoid.) If they insist, run away.

Controlling your phone number

This is just like controlling your domain name. And with the rise in importance of local search and its reliance on consistent Name-Address-Phone Number (NAP) for rankings, it’s gotten even worse. Having a different phone number on your website than the one you have on your business cards, or in the phone book is a big no no.

What you should do: There should only be one phone number for your business, and it should reside with your telephone service provider.

Acting as the middleman between you and your clients

That phone number control is often used as part of a feature called call-tracking, an attempt to funnel all website leads through a proprietary system. Of course that assumes that your leads want to call you. Some vendors even go so far as to not put an email address on your website, forcing the visitor to either pick up the phone or fill out a generic form that connects to their system and their system only.

In addition to being yet another lock-in tactic so that you don’t lose your contacts, it kills conversions and virtually guarantees that your prospect moves on to the attorney that allows contact via whatever means the prospect is most comfortable with.

What you should demand: You need to own your communication with your clients. Any barrier that’s put between you and your clients is not worth whatever low-volume metrics you might be able to pull out of your marketing vendor.

Promising the moon

This is pretty straightforward. An over-eager salesperson making empty promises to hit their monthly quota. Sometimes it’s subtle, but when you start to think maybe they’re being a little too generous with their predictions here’s a tip…

How can you use this? If you’re wondering if they’re pulling the wool over your eyes, then a surefire way to tell is by using a trap question.

Take the vendor’s pitch to the extreme, ask them if that’s a typical result. For example, for a company building a website or an SEO firm, ask them if this product will get you on the first page of Google. For a lead gen product, ask if you’ll get at least 5 qualified, high-quality leads every month.

Of course, if they say yes, ask for the names of two or three clients that have had those outcomes so that you can speak to them about their experience. And then watch the excuses fly. They’ll say that they don’t disclose client information.

You can even ask for a guarantee. That you can request a refund if those results aren’t met. That’s almost always a no-go on their part, but at this point the deal’s probably over so have some fun and watch them try to justify why they can’t 🙂

If they say no, that those results might be possible but that they aren’t typical, that’s actually a positive sign. Ask them under what circumstances you could expect to see those results. Ask them what the typical results actually are. If they’re honest about the conditions where the solution works and where it doesn’t, they believe in what they’re selling and it might be worth trying as well.

But again, ask for two or three references that would be willing to back that experience up.

Not being willing to provide references

Here’s what they’re thinking: A lot of the legal marketing vendors out there are entirely based on pump’n’dump schemes, where they sell all of the attorneys in a given area on a product, then move on, like locusts. They know after their initial contract term, 90% of the clients that remember to check their billing statements will cancel, but they don’t care. Their job is to get folks signed up as quickly as possible, on the longest terms possible.

In those scenarios, it’s really hard to find a long-term customer that’s willing to speak with prospects. And if there’s only a handful of them and they’re selling at scale, they just can’t afford to send hundreds of reference requests to each attorney that offers.

Here’s the cold hard truth. If a vendor doesn’t have at least a few attorneys literally raving about their experience, then it’s probably a no-go. After all, by the law of large numbers alone, there should be outliers that are having success. Even if they can’t give you a phone number, they should be able to send you case studies of successful clients. And often from there, you can do some basic Googling to find  the subject’s contact information if you need to verify their story.

What about you?

Have you seen these tricks in the wild? How have you dealt with them? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

Tired of being played?

If you need help with your marketing, but were really hoping to avoid all of those tactics, let’s chat and we’ll help you get off to a great start!

Schedule a Demo Today

Email Marketing For Attorneys

I am not a lawyer. There. I said it. But I am married to a wonderful employment attorney who’s just recently hung her shingle. Like most solo attorneys out there, she’s found that building a client base is a constant exercise in hard work, ingenuity, consistency, and persistence.

I happen to be a really nerdy guy that has a background in building digital marketing platforms, so we sat down one night to figure out what ONE THING we could focus on that could get her the most bang for her buck in terms of getting in front of her ideal clients right now, and staying top of mind for when they actually had a need for her help.

We tossed SEO, as you’re not going to get to the first page in Google for anything but your name in the first few months of starting a firm. Anyone that tells you otherwise is peddling snake-oil. So what’s one to do when faced with the long-game that is internet marketing? Well, you have to get a little scrappy, and go places that most of your competitors won’t.

I’ll share what we came up with, and walk you through every step of putting this in place for you. And as long as you’re not an employment attorney in Southern NH, I’ve been given the green-light from the Mrs to let you in on the goods.

The Case For A Weekly Newsletter Over Say, Twitter or Facebook

The one constant over the last 20 years of the internet (besides cat photos of course) is email. Everyone has an email address. Everyone checks their email multiple times a day.  Everyone gets a nice little dopamine kick every time an email comes in and their phone beeps or vibrates in their pocket. In short, it’s the most ubiquitous way to insert yourself into a person’s weekly routine.

But you know all that. The real beauty of an email newsletter is twofold.

One, email is easily shareable. We’re used to forwarding an email, and we don’t have to leave our browsers to do it. No fancy “Share This” buttons, no URL shorteners, just a simple forward to a friend is all it needs to spread, and spreading is what you really want right now.

Two, email generates a feeling of reciprocity. Our species has a hyper-developed urge to return favors given to us. If you’re able to provide enough value to your readers on a regular basis in the form of insights, aggregated interests, etc, when it comes time to seek legal advice in your area of expertise, you’re the one they’ll have that urge to go back to.

I promised two, but I’ll give you a bonus reason. Email is not controlled by another company’s desire for you to pay them money in order to reach your audience. It’s been shown that Facebook posts are seen by less than 6% of a brand’s followers, and internally, Facebook wants to see that number drop to 1%-2%. Why you ask? Because they need money in order to satisfy their share-holders, and the only way to do that is to be the gate-keeper (read: toll-keeper) between you and the audience you’ve painstakingly built on their platform.

So if you want to actually build that audience, you’re now going to have to use their Facebook ads platform to do so.

Own your audience! An engaged newsletter subscriber is orders of magnitude more valuable than a Twitter follower or Facebook fan.

Now that begs the question, who should your audience be?

Choosing an audience

Deciding who your newsletter is for is largely dependent on how you define your ideal client. In the example of my wife’s employment law firm, her ideal clients are small business owners and HR managers in larger companies. For her, it makes sense to market directly to those folks with updates about the changing HR landscape.

But, when coming up with your newsletter audience archetype, clients aren’t the only option. In fact, in many cases, you may want to skip writing for clients at all, and instead focus on the natural referral providers that make sense for your practice area. For example, if you focus on trusts and estates, you might consider writing a weekly update for financial advisors in your state, that would keep them in the know, and ready to hand out your business card if their clients have more complicated estate matters that the financial planner can’t handle on their own.

Choosing your content

Now that you have your audience decided, it’s time to figure out what content we can provide on a regular basis that will ensure that your email is always valuable to that audience.

It’s tough starting from a blank canvas, so I’ll outline a few items that should work for most audiences. But don’t be afraid to get creative and get inside the mind of your ideal client. Remember, this is about them, not you. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments!

An Editorial Forward

I wouldn’t spend more than one paragraph on this. Give the readers an overview of what they’ll find in the update, and perhaps a light call to action. Suck them in.

Interesting Reads

You no doubt spend a lot of time reading the latest news related to your practice area. When you come across an article that you want to share on twitter, place it in your email template as well. Be sure to add a one or two sentence takeaway from each that informs your reader why it matters to them.

If you want to link to one of your own blog posts, that’s fine, but limit it to one per newsletter. You don’t want to come across as spammy. This newsletter isn’t meant to drive traffic to your blog, it’s about keeping your readers informed.

Events

Curate a list of networking events in your geographic area. Make sure to ask readers to let you know about any events they’re sponsoring or attending as well. Highlight the events going on that week, and then list out a calendar of events spanning the next month.

Reader Questions

Solicit questions from your readers. If they have a particular problem that others in the group might be interested in, ask if you can publish your response to the group. Obviously, you should be careful to disclaim that the email doesn’t constitute legal advice.

Blog Posts

If you do want to have a place for all of your posts from the week, place them in their own section, and toward the end. Follow a similar format to the “Interesting Reads” section above.

Footer

This is essentially your business card. Make sure your readers have a way to contact you, and how to find you on your various social media accounts. Also, this is a good spot for a disclaimer if you have anything in the newsletter that might be construed as legal advice. Also, a good place to let folks know that replying to you doesn’t constitute an attorney-client relationship.

Constructing your list

Normally, in the world of email marketing, there’s a hard and fast law that you never email someone that hasn’t specifically opted in to receive your newsletter.

For this one time, and this time only, I’m going to advise ignoring that rule, mostly because we’re going to be following the intent of law, if not the letter.

We are going to be creating a weekly newsletter that your readers will WANT to look through every week. If we don’t reach that level of awesomeness, then this whole endeavor won’t be worth it anyways.

So, for your initial list, we’re going to build a list of people you know in person that would genuinely be interested in your content. This is not a “dump my address book” into a list type of exercise. This is a painstaking process of going through your address book, your Linkedin contacts, your Facebook friends, etc and asking the following questions:

  1. Does this person know who I am personally?
  2. Does this person fit my audience archetype?
  3. Would this person likely look forward to this email every week? (Be brutally honest)

If the answer is “yes” to all three (and a real “yes” not “maybe” or “possibly”, a hard and fast “yes”), then you want to add them to your list in the following way:

  1. Create a spreadsheet in google docs. You can do this in excel as well, but we’re going to do this using Google Docs because everyone has access to that tool, and particularly for marketing activities like this, Google Docs can be a lifesaver.
  2. In Column A, put the email address. In Column B, put the person’s first name.
  3. Rinse and repeat step 2 for every person that fits.

When you’re done, we need to download your list so we can import it into your email provider of choice. To download the file in the correct format in Google Docs, click File> Download as…> Comma-separated values (.csv, current-sheet). Remember where you place that file, we’ll need it later.

Now that we have a list, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Tools

There are a TON of email providers out there. There’s MailChimp, Constant Contact, Emma, Campaign Monitor, and I could go on and on and on. They’ll all work and if you have one of them in place already, stick with it. Better to work with the one you know. If not though, I always recommend MailChimp for two reasons. One, it’s free for up to 2000 subscribers, which is more than enough for every firm I’ve ever worked with. Two, it has all of the features you’ll need, is easy to use, and it works on every device so if you have a few minutes of downtime, you can work on your next week’s digest without having to bust out a laptop.

We’ll be walking through how to implement this using Mailchimp.

Setup

Head on over to mailchimp.com and sign up for their free plan.

Once you create the account, you’ll receive a confirmation email. Just follow the link in that email to continue with the setup. Fill out the form related to your business size and whether you have a list (feel free to select “No” for now, we’ll build one later) and hit submit. You should now be staring at your Mailchimp dashboard.

We’ll start by creating an empty list. Click on the “Create List” button on the dashboard to get started.

MailChimp - Creating Your List

Creating Your First Email List with MailChimp

Just click “Save” and congratulations, you now have your first email list.

Importing Your List

Now that we have a list, we want to make sure all of our readers receive it. We need to import them from the list we created before. So go ahead and click on the import subscribers link, and then select “Import From a CSV or TXT File.”

MailChimp Importing Subscribers Step 1

How to import subscribers from a CSV file in MailChimp.

Now, find the file that you downloaded in the “Constructing your list” section above. Once you import that file, you should see a screen where Mailchimp is going to match up the columns in your list with the custom fields that Mailchimp uses to customize your emails to each reader.

MailChimp Importing Subscribers Step 2

Selecting which file to import your subscribers from.

If it works, it should look like this:

MailChimp Importing Subscribers Step 3

Making sure your data lines up with MailChimp’s dynamic fields.

Once you click then ‘Next’ button, you should see a confirmation screen. The defaults are fine, just click ‘Next’ to complete the import.

MailChimp Importing Subscribers Step 4

Finalize your import.

Congratulations! You now have an email list. Let me be the first to say that this immediately puts you in the top 5% of solo attorneys in terms of internet marketing expertise.

So pat yourself on the back, and now let’s talk about how we actually send to the list, and come up with a plan to make it a regular part of our marketing strategy.

Building your first campaign

Alright, now that you have a list, we need to build a campaign. Campaign is just another word for sending out an email to your list. To start the process, click on “Campaigns” in the sidebar then in the dropdown on the next page, click “Regular campaign”.

MailChimp Creating a Campaign

Starting your first campaign with MailChimp.

When you do that you’ll be placed into MailChimp’s campaign creation workflow. In the first step, just select “Send to entire list” and click “Next.” The next step is where you start to define what this particular campaign (or mailing) is.

You’ll need to create a name for the campaign. I would chose something that can be easily modified in future campaigns since this is going to be a regular thing. In this example, I chose to name it after the newsletter, and then give it an issue number. That way, in the next campaign, all I have to do is change the issue number and they’ll be easily identifiable. You could use the date you plan to send it instead of an issue number too. I’ve seen that work nicely as well.

Once you have the name, it’s time for the subject line. Now I’ve always found the subject line to be a little hard to write before you’ve written anything about the content. So for right now, put in something generic about your newsletter and move on. We can change the headline later (before we send) to make it more specific to the actual content you put in the newsletter.

And the final change I’d suggest is putting *|FNAME|* *|LNAME|* as your “To:” field. Whenever you see *|SOME_CODE|* it means Mailchimp will replace that SOME_CODE with the data in your list that matches “SOME_CODE”. In the case of FNAME and LNAME, that’s the first name and last name of each recipient that was matched up when you imported your list.

As for the tracking section, you can leave that at the default values. If you use Google Analytics, you can go ahead and check the box there so that the campaign name will appear in your Google Analytics account as well.

Here’s what your screen should look like:

MailChimp Campaign Settings

How to choose your campaign options.

Choosing a Template

Once you’ve set up your campaign, it’s time to decide how it will look. MailChimp provides a number of Basic Templates which allow you to build out your email, and they also provide pre-designed themes that have a bit of design to them.

I would stick to single column layouts to minimize complexity, but find one that works for you. It’s hard to go wrong here, so have fun! If you’re concerned about which one to pick, click “Themes” and search for “Minimal”. It’s organized into nice sections that you can customize to match the content you decided to include earlier.

While a template is one of the fun parts of setting up your marketing campaigns, be careful not to fall into analysis paralysis. There are a number to choose from, and you can always change it later. But for now, just pick one that’s simple and clear. After all, you want your readers to focus on what you’re writing, not the template that wraps it.

Writing your first email

And here we are, staring at a blank canvas. Intimidating right? I felt the same way. It gets easier, particularly once you find a format that really starts to resonate with your list, but for now, we wrote up an epic newsletter template that you can use to get yourself going on the right track.

Don’t get stuck on what to write.

We took care of the ideas for you, so you can focus on getting started. Click that green button there and you’ll have that template to use for whenever you’re ready to write your first newsletter.

Scheduling your first campaign

You’ve now created your first email and you’re ready to hit send. That’s awesome! Now, when it comes to sending email marketing campaigns, you don’t want to just hit send when you’re done with it. You’re going to want to schedule the campaign to optimize for actually getting read.

Let’s face it, while our goal is to create an email marketing newsletter that readers actually look forward to, folks are busy. Think about the day-to-day business of your clients and try to schedule the campaign to go out when your readers will be able to sit down and read it.

For example, if your clients are HR managers, mid-afternoon on a Friday might be great, as they might be killing a bit of time waiting to punch the clock for the weekend. Every list is different, so feel free to experiment.

Sending your first campaign is only the first step…

Sending your first campaign is a really really big deal. You should be proud. You put yourself out there, and that’s the first step to allowing you and your firm to be found online.

Now, let’s take advantage of that momentum and talk about how to grow your list and how to keep pumping out great content.

Getting new subscribers

That first group of readers is going to be the easiest. You already know them. Getting folks you don’t know to sign up will be a lot harder. But alas, we’ll talk about a few ways to get started. The first two require little to no technical ability. You can start doing it today and to be quite honest, you’ll likely have your best results there.

Ditch the business cards, sign them up for your list in person.

We all know the value of meeting industry folks face to face. Attorneys are some of the best networkers I’ve ever met.

All of those events, the hours of chit-chat, the passing of business cards, all with the hope that one day someone will remember your firm when they have the need.

What if they didn’t have to think back to that charity dinner 18 months ago, and instead only had to remember the person that emailed them two weeks ago?

That’s the real power of email marketing. So now that you have a newsletter, you can use it to stay in front of all of those people you’re investing time to meet with.

So rather than saying “Here’s my business card, call me if you ever need help.” you can say, “I have a newsletter that goes out every other week or so that will help you with <problem they might have>. Would you like to sign up? It’ll only take a few seconds.” And then whip out your phone, go to Lists, choose your main email list, and then in the upper-right corner click on the button to add a subscriber and just enter their name and email address. You could even hand them the phone to have them enter it themselves. Done!

Or, if you don’t want to have to pull out your phone, just keep a pen handy. When you ask about the list, if they say yes, make a quick note on their business card, then manually invite them to the list later that evening when you get home.

And don’t forget to email them personally to say thank you for signing up.

Ask for forwards…

Your loyal readers are also a great source of new subscribers. After all, they’ve already gotten to know you and the value you’re providing them. And, like most networked professionals, they probably know others just like them that might also benefit from your newsletter.

So, once a month, or once every other month, depending on how often you email your list, let everyone know that you’re on the lookout for new subscribers. Let them know the effort that you put into the list. Maybe even pull on their heart-strings a little bit by reminding your readers of all of the value they’re getting FOR FREE. And then ask if they’d take 30 seconds and consider forwarding your email to friends or colleagues that might also benefit from the information you send out.

MailChimp has a handy little merge tag for a forwarding link that will allow your readers to forward your email and have the recipients be prompted to sign up for your list as well. Just highlight your call to action (the sentence that’s asking folks to sign up) and click the link button. Select “Web Address” and set it to *|FORWARD|*.

MailChimp forward link

Creating a link that will help your readers forward your campaign to a colleague.

Mini Contests

Another way to entice folks to forward your email is to run a little contest. For example, you could raffle off say, three $20 amazon gift cards, or maybe a copy of a book that’s pertinent to your audience. Then ask them to email you with the names of folks they forwarded your email to. For each one that signs up, enter them in a chance to win.

Worst case, you have 3 folks sign up and you spent $60. Might seem expensive, but the beautiful thing about email marketing is that you have time to make that money back. If even one of those clients calls you for a 30 minute consult in the next 18 months, you’ve likely made your money back.

Get your website to drive new subscribers…

It’s fairly easy to get a signup form onto your website. If you use WordPress, just add the Mailchimp plugin. Follow the instructions to add the form as a widget in WordPress.

If you use AmazeLaw, just go to Email Marketing, and click “Connect Mailchimp” button and you’re done.

But, like sending out that first campaign, adding a form to your site is not enough. You also need to actively promote your list in order to entice new signups.

Obviously, “promote your email list” is the type of pithy advice run away from here at AmazeLaw, so here are some easy, concrete ways to promote your new list on your own website.

Landing Page

A landing page is just a dedicated page whose sole purpose is to get a visitor to perform an action. In this case, the action is to get someone to sign up for your email list.

Create a page in WordPress or AmazeLaw, and give it the same name as your list. The content is pretty simple, you don’t even need a picture:

[Headline: Big benefit they’ll see from signing up]

This is a paragraph about what your life will be like after you’ve signed up and are reaping said benefit. Imagine how easy life will be. No more worrying about missing the latest news and getting caught unaware.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Easy to digest updates about [your practice area]. No legalese! We promise!
  • Curated industry news so you don’t miss the best content out there.
  • No spam. Ever.
[Signup Form]

Pretty easy, huh?

Protip: Add a link to your landing page in your email signature with a simple call to action. Something like “Sign up for our free bi-weekly employment law update.” or “Free estate planning tips in your Inbox every week.”

Post/Page Footers

Having a signup form on your contact page, or home page is a great first step, but often times, visitors to your site won’t be coming through the front door. A good percentage of your traffic, particularly search traffic, will likely go directly to your blog posts where visitors are looking for a very specific answer to the problem they’re searching for.

They’ll likely never see your homepage, and unless you do a bunch of cross-linking (linking to other posts or pages on your site), they may not see another page before they move on with their day, armed with the answer to their query.

But what a perfect time to start a relationship. By answering their question you’ve provided value and built trust. It’s the perfect time to remind them that, hey, if you want more quality advice or analysis just like this, sign up for my newsletter!

So, long story short, at the bottom of every blog post, add a simple paragraph that explains that if they found the post useful, that they can sign up for your newsletter and add a link to your landing page where they can sign up.

Keeping it going…

Alright, time to recap. We’ve gone from nothing to:

  • Signed up for a free MailChimp account.
  • Created our first email list
  • Built and sent our first email campaign
  • Set up our website to attract new subscribers by using landing pages and blog post footers
  • Learned to leverage our existing contacts for new referrals

Staying consistent

Now that you’ve setup your email marketing essentials, we need to create a system for consistently delivering little knowledge bombs to your subscribers.

And consistency isn’t just how often you email your subscribers, but your ability to consistently deliver something that your readers value.

Steve Martin quipped in his autobiography that it wasn’t the ability to kill it on a given night that set the great comics apart. After all, most comics could kill it every once in a while with the right audience. It was the comics that could produce a great show night in and night out that were truly successful.

And just like Steve Martin, you need a system to deliver consistent value.

How do we do that?

Creating a schedule you can stick to…

We talked a bit about scheduling your campaigns so your customers are most likely to read your posts. Now let’s talk about how to schedule your campaigns so that they fit within the constraints of a busy attorney’s calendar.

You know it, I know it, so let’s not pretend that your email list is going to top your list of priorities for the week. So let’s just acknowledge it up front and figure out how to move forward anyways.

If you’re like me, you might tend to overestimate what you can accomplish, and that’s doubly true for todo items that aren’t sitting atop your priority list. So, if at this very moment, in your excitement over setting up email marketing for your firm (you’re totally psyched right? Right?!) you think that you could handle a weekly email campaign, let’s adjust that right now. Take your totally logical and reasonable estimate and cut it in half. Make it every two weeks, or make it monthly if your estimate was bi-weekly.

This will help you avoid the trap of committing to an unrealistic goal, missing it, and then bagging on the whole thing when a month has gone by and you missed your deadline.

And now that you’ve given yourself that break. Commit to it. You have no more excuses.

Set a recurring calendar reminder for 5 days prior to your campaign. Spend 30 minutes compiling your content. Don’t worry about being perfect. Just get a bunch of content in there.

Three days prior to the campaign spend another 30 minutes refining that campaign to make sure that the content is actually worth interrupting your audience for.

Forget for a moment that you’re an attorney and that you’re actually interested in the law. Forget that you want more clients. Forget every inclination you have to talk about yourself.

Just imagine your ideal client reading your email and constantly asking the question “What’s in it for me?” and “Why do I care?” If a sentence or bullet point isn’t written to answer those two questions, cut the sentence or rewrite it so that it is.

And finally, one day before your campaign is to go out, spend 30 minutes and perform the following exercise:

Read the following articles that summarize some simple techniques for coming up with headlines that inspire action

10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work
41 Classic Copywriting Headline Templates

Now, set a timer on your phone for ten minutes. Turn off your wifi, and just start listing out subject lines for your campaign. Don’t worry about how good it is, just get it out and move on to the next one. The goal here is quantity.

When the timer goes off, look over your list. From the perspective of your ideal client, which one do you think would inspire them to skip the ‘delete’ button and actually read that email?

There’s your subject line.

For example, here are 10 subject lines I came up to use in an email that would describe this exercise using those formulas. Which one resonates with you?

5 subject line secrets that will get your email read…
7-Minute brainstorms that WILL get you new clients…
Write subject lines like Don Draper, even if you’ve never written a word of copy…
Send emails that get read 50% more than ‘real marketers’ with 10 minutes of work
Write emails your clients WANT to read…
Don Draper couldn’t beat your copy if you follow this one simple exercise…
5 minutes could mean the difference between being spammy and being awesome
How to avoid writing subject lines that make your email invisible…
Are your subject lines wasting the effort you put into your newsletters?
What professional copywriters do when they can’t think of headlines

That was 10 minutes of work. Some of those headlines are clearly better than others. Some are repetitive, and that’s ok. But you’ll notice, the odds that the first subject line (the one you would’ve used had you not done the exercise) is the best one is slim.

This simple exercise will routinely get you two or three times as many opens on your campaign.

And that means two or three times as many opportunities to get in front of your clients, which means two to three times the ROI for all of this effort you’re putting in.

How to come up with (great) content

It can be hard to come up with something to say week in and week out. And it’s even harder when you only have 30 minutes between client meetings to do it.

So rather than setting yourself up for 30 minutes of staring at a blank page, let’s create a simple system for building up that hopper of great content throughout the week, so when it comes time to write, you just need to pull items off your stack.

First, we’ll need a central place to accumulate all of these notes.

Everyone’s style is different, so I’m sure you can come up with a tool that works best for you. But the whichever method you choose, the key is to optimize for being able to take a note as quickly as possible whenever the thought strikes.

I prefer to use Evernote. I just keep one note and add newsletter ideas to the top of it as I come across them. My wife uses Trello, creating a new card for every idea. I’ve seen folks use Google docs. I’ve also tried using a Word document or even writing in a notebook, but those two options make it hard to access from my phone on the go, or lack the ability to quickly copy and paste a URL for a link I want to remember to share.

So, over the course of the day, any time I think of something that might be worth sharing with the email list, I write it quickly at the top of the note. And at the end of the week, I have all sorts of items I can pull from to write the actual campaign.

What sort of things should you be on the lookout for? Here are just a few:

  • Common questions from clients that you could answer in a paragraph or two
  • Events that your clients might find valuable (even if they’re not valuable to you)
    • If you happen to be attending them, mention that and invite readers to come say hello.
  • Legislative changes (but only those that, upon learning about would cause your ideal client to say “Oh man, I’m really glad I know that, I’m going to change X…”)
  • Articles that your potential clients would want to read
  • Anecdotes that can bring a little levity to the newsletter
  • Interactions with readers that could benefit others
  • Positive news about those in your readership. Did someone just win an award? Did they get some positive press?
    • Take note and share it. And then invite others to share their good news when hey have any.

If you get into the habit of taking note of these tidbits, you should find that when you sit down to write your newsletter, you’ll spend more time figuring out what should be left out, than figuring out what to add.

That’s it!

This isn’t rocket-surgery. It just takes patience and practice. If you have any questions, please let me know. And if you take this advice and create your own newsletter, be sure to add bryan@amazelaw.com to your subscriber list. See! You already have an audience!

Now quick, go write your first campaign. I’ll be here, looking forward to reading it.

Psst! Don’t forget to grab the starter template to get your email marketing started without a hitch!

Further Reading:

The “From” Name: Perhaps Your Most Important Email Marketing Decision
The background on why you want your from name to be your law firm and not your name.

10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work

41 Classic Copywriting Headline Templates
When you’re stuck and need to come up with headlines or subject lines in your emails, these articles will get you unstuck right quick. It’s like mad-libs, except instead of laughs, you get tons of clicks 🙂

5 Costly Attorney Website Mistakes

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Chris Small of The Art of Lawyering Podcast about legal websites, and thought I’d share a few points from the podcast.  If you’d like to check out the podcast (and the deal we’re offering its listeners), you can find it at theartoflawyering.com/021.

Let me start with a few words about why I started AmazeLaw, and why I understand what lawyers are dealing with when it comes to online marketing.  When my wife left her big law job to start her own practice, we were bombarded by all sorts of scummy sales-guys cold-calling her about all of these digital marketing solutions that were overpriced at best and downright harmful at worst.  She doesn’t have a marketing background, so everything was so new and foreign to her, and I know she found the whole learning process very stressful.  Luckily, I have a background in building marketing tools from my time building the Content Management System for Hubspot.  I knew I could help her.  Then I realized that I could help a lot of people who were just like her.

So I set out to build AmazeLaw to offer a do-it-yourself marketing solution for attorneys that focused on simple, sustainable marketing tactics that busy solos can manage themselves.

While doing research for the business and in helping our clients build or re-build their sites, I’ve come across a lot of common errors that solos make in their digital marketing, so I thought it would be fun to share some of those mistakes and how to fix them.  So I present…

The 5 Most Common Attorney Website Mistakes…and How to Fix Them

Not updating frequently enough.

If you haven’t made added/updated content on your site in the last month at an absolute minimum, your site will get stale.  Your audience will not understand how busy you are.  They will think you don’t care.  So how do you keep a blog updated?  First, your blog should be on your website.  Don’t buy into the malarkey that it should be separate.  Second, here are few easy ways to come up with content for your blog.  Write down the ten questions you get most often.  Write down 10 common assumptions your clients have that are wrong.  Now, write one or two posts per week explaining those in their language.

Writing for attorneys, not people.  

I think I can say this, because my wife has admitted it to me.  Solos often have this insecurity about competing with the big guys, a subconscious need to show the big law attorneys that they’re serious attorneys.  Resist that urge. You’re not writing for lawyers, you’re writing for clients.

Clients are PEOPLE. They want to work with REAL PEOPLE not stodgy old-school law firms (and the ones that really do, you shouldn’t care about because you’re fighting an uphill battle trying to compete with firms that have many more resources than you do).

Repeat after me.  Clients don’t care about case law.  Clients don’t care about case law. Clients don’t care about case law.  Don’t write about case law.

Sure it’s the stuff you can geek out on, but clients care about a solution to their problem.  They don’t care about the particulars. They pay you to know the case law and to recommend a solution in the context of their business or their situation, not in the context of a courtroom argument.

One key exception: a new case or new legislation somehow changes or contradicts a common assumption your clients have that impacts their day-to-day decisions.  You can mention it, but when editing, err on the side of “they don’t care, just tell me what I need to do differently with this new information.”

Not having a clear “next-step.”

Once you’ve explained something in their language, how do you get them to take action?  Each piece of content should end with a call to action. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a simple request written in italics at the end of your post is just fine.  As long as it’s clear what the next step is.

After all, they’re interested enough to read your entire post. They’re feel ingratiated because you gave away your expertise. Capitalize on that using reciprocity as a motivation to (1) ask for a consult request; (2) ask them to join an email list; or (3) ask them to comment.

Finally, your homepage needs an email address and a phone number.  Place it in the footer for sure, but consider placing it in prominent places in your copy.  Finally, make sure to hyperlink your phone number for mobile devices and never embed your contact information in an image (because Google will never find it).

Speaking of mobile…

Not having a responsive website, or not having a mobile site configured properly.

This is 2015, you need to have a website that not only “works” on a mobile device, but is optimized for it.  Why? Anywhere from 40%-55% of search traffic is on a mobile device.  Google started cracking down on April 21st, meaning that if your site isn’t mobile optimized, it will be virtually impossible to find it from a mobile device.  If you want to see if your site is mobile-friendly, you can check out at https://amazelaw.wpengine.com/googletest.  If you find out that your website isn’t mobile friendly, it’s time to upgrade to a mobile responsive site.  For more information about Google’s changes, why they’re happening and what you can do, check out our Mobilegeddon overview for attorneys.

Not having up-to-date and consistent local search listings.

Your #1 priority should be getting a google local listing set up and correct for your site.  This will make sure your business shows up with a map and details when they search for your firm directly, which in turn makes your firm eligible to show up in the local listings that appear on the first page of google just below #1 search position.  Go to the AmazeLaw Google Guide for step-by-step instructions for making sure you’re taking advantage of all of Google’s tools.

Your #2 priority is making sure you have a consistent web listing (with no duplicates) for your firm across the various local search aggregators.  Rather than managing this yourself each time something changes in your business, use Moz Local.  You enter your information once and they publish it and sync it across all of the major local search aggregators. A steal at $84/yr.

Check out the free PDF: Advertising Tips for Lawyers to get some design ideas and easy-to-use tools to a powerful advertising message.

Are you making any of these mistakes?

You’re not alone. These are super common and we can help you avoid each and every one. Want to see how we can take your website from blah to blazing?

Schedule a Demo Today

Lessons In Marketing For Solo And Small Firm Attorneys From A Solo Attorney

Hi, I’m Katie.  I’m an employment attorney.  I like what I do, and I’m good at it.  Oh, you want to hire me?  Great!

If only it was that easy.  I’ve been a solo attorney for a little more than a year and a half.  I’ve learned so much about attorney marketing, especially marketing online.  I know I’ve probably only scratched the surface of everything that I should know, but I’ve made huge strides.  I get calls from other attorneys telling me how much they like my blog.  Clients find me online.  Am I always on the first page of for the search terms I want?  No.  But I’m getting there.

I was lucky that I have a husband who understands all this stuff, but I still had to learn a lot of it myself, and I had to make a ton of mistakes along the way.  If you’re reading this, you might be where I was when I first started.  Let me help you by sharing a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

  • It’s hard and it takes a lot of time.  Sorry.  I know you were looking for lessons that are going to make your life easier, but let’s start with the principle that’s going to carry you through all of your marketing endeavors.  No one teaches you how to do this in law school.  If you started your career at a firm, the firm paid someone else how to do this.  So now not only are you starting a completely new business and lifestyle, but you have to learn another skill.  But that’s okay, because you can do it and there are ways to make it easier, but let’s just all accept that as lawyers, marketing is a skill that does not come easily to most of us.
  • Take time to figure out who you need to reach.  When I first started out on my own, I felt like I needed to get in front of anyone and everyone.  What if I missed out on an opportunity?  I need blogs that reach every audience.  I want to send my email updates out to everyone and their brother (and somehow find a way to be interesting to everyone on that list).  Then I realized that I only have so many hours in the day, and that I need to be efficient, effective, and focused.  Who are your best referral sources?  For me, it’s HR professionals and other attorneys who don’t do employment law, so my marketing efforts need to be specific to those groups.
  • Figure out the best way to reach them.  The people you want to reach may not always keep you top of mind, but your online presence can help with that.  I try to write blog posts and email newsletters that attract HR professionals (day-to-day information that helps them do their job) and other attorneys (legal changes/important cases).  I also only send my email newsletters to people who have expressed interest.  And it works.  I’ve actually gotten emails back from readers thanking me for putting the email together.  How often do you get a mass email and decide that want to thank the author?
  • Find the right tools to help you.  Everytime I write a blog post (shameless plug – it is so easy to do this through AmazeLaw), I make sure to put it out on social media.  I use Hootsuite and autoschedule.  I don’t have to think about the best times to post, and I only have to post once for it to go to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook.  I also use Mailchimp to manage my email lists (more shameless plugging – AmazeLaw integrates with Mailchimp).  Yes, it took a little for me to learn how to use these early on, but now I cannot imagine marketing without them.

I know that I’m not an expert on marketing, but I’m learning and finding a way to make it work for me.  As a solo attorney, I can’t justify spending money on marketing consultants when I know I’m smart enough to figure it out for myself.  I became a solo attorney in part for the flexibility, and I’ve built my firm so that I can make time for marketing because it’s worth the effort.

If you’re looking for more information on marketing, AmazeLaw has a great email marketing bootcamp that you can sign up for at  amazelaw.wpengine.com/#newsletter.  And if you have any questions about your firm’s marketing efforts, you are always free to email me with questions at info@amazelaw.com.  Good luck!

Why Google’s Cracking Down On Non Mobile-Friendly Sites And What Attorneys Need To Do

You may have heard whisperings that Google is going to be cracking down on non-mobile-friendly websites starting April 21st.

That’s absolutely correct.

For a while now they’ve been keeping track of whether sites are optimized for small screens and slow data connections. Up until now they haven’t changed any of the rankings based on that information and instead, just show a little “Mobile-friendly” label on search results when searching from your mobile device.

But now, they’re taking the next step, and using mobile-friendly as a ranking signal when someone searches for your firm on a mobile device. We don’t know how much it will affect rankings just yet (but we’re watching closely and will report as soon as we can measure it), but we know that it will drop rankings for searches from mobile devices, and it’s expected to drop them considerably.

What does that mean for you?

Well, it depends on if your site is mobile-optimized. Here’s a link to check if your site is mobile-friendly. If it is, then you should be all set.

But if it’s not, come on back here and we’ll discuss the options you have for avoiding the Google hammer in a few weeks.

So here’s the link to Google’s mobile-friendly tester.

Go check your site and see if Google thinks it’s mobile-friendly. I’ll wait.

How’d you do? Did your site pass?

It passed!

That’s awesome. Gold star for you! You may want to read ahead though to see if one of the other options here might be a better option for you.

It didn’t pass?

Don’t worry all is not lost. Consider this a bit of a wake-up call. After all, you still have a little time to right the ship, so to speak.

First of all, these changes won’t affect your rankings when someone searches for your firm on their desktop. Which, is still somewhere around 75% of search traffic in the US depending on whose stats you use.

But, that still means you’ll start to lose out on 1/4 of your traffic.

A better way to think about this might be to consider the following scenario. Let’s say a potential client just got into a cab when they received an email from a friend referring your firm to fix their problem. The first thing they’ll do is google you or your firm.

If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your firm website might not be right there in the first spot in their search results. Instead, they might see your Avvo profile (which you may or may not have done anything with). Or maybe they’ll see a complaint a bitter client left on a review site.

All that effort crafting your brand and your message, and it’s all for naught because your site wasn’t the first one listed.

Obviously, that’s not a great place to be in. So it begs the question…

“How do I make my site mobile-friendly?”

Well, you have two options. You can redesign your site, or you can create a separate mobile site that lives at mobile.myfirm.com.

Each has their benefits and drawbacks, but I’m going to strongly recommend a site redesign over creating a separate mobile version of your website.

The main reason is maintenance. With two different web properties to maintain, you’ll need to have a way of keeping them in sync. And what’s more, you’ll need to be diligent about telling Google which version of a page is ‘canonical’. Meaning, which version is the “one true version?” Fail to stay on top of that and Google will dock you for having duplicate content.

The second reason is just common sense. For the same cost it would take to build a mobile-specific site, you could redesign your site to be mobile-friendly and avoid the mess of maintaining two properties altogether.

No need to worry about whether the mobile site matches your desktop branding. No worrying about duplicate content. And hey, you get a fancy new desktop and mobile website for the same investment.

How large is that investment? Well, it depends on what you’re starting with.

I use wordpress or another CMS.

If you already use a content management system like WordPress, it could be as simple as finding a theme you like. A decent responsive theme can be had for peanuts on sites like themeforest.net. You might get lucky and be able to just swap in the new theme and call it a day and you’re done in ~$50.

More likely, you’ll want to find a developer to customize the theme in a few places to fit your brand. That could cost you ~$50-$100/hr for a few hours of work. A far cry from building a new site from scratch.

I had a custom site coded for me.

But if your site was a custom job, as we typically see with agencies or with one-off website designs, your options get a (little) bit more expensive.

You’ll likely need to go through that process again. Which is a pain, I know. This time through though, keep an eye on an ability to upgrade in the future. If you’re working with a developer or agency, make sure they’re using a commonly-used CMS that will be around for a while. WordPress would be my recommendation (outside of using AmazeLaw of course.)

For an idea of what a site should cost these days, check out our guide to How Much a Law Firm Website Should Cost.

But regardless of your starting point. This update is a good thing for your firm. Sure it requires some investment. But that’s exactly what it is. An investment that you’ll most definitely see returns on.

Again. This is a GOOD thing. Think of it this way.

Imagine you had a 20 year old car. It’s worked well for you in the past. Sure, it’s not shiny, but it’s gotten you where you’ve needed to go.

But, a lot has changed in 20 years. Technology has gotten exponentially better. While you might say “I don’t need my car to talk to me,” it’d be hard to argue against the safety, fuel-efficiency, and reliability improvements that have come along with it.

On the road, states incentivize adoption of new technology through car inspections. On the internet, Google is taking on that role by rewarding sites that stay current with better search placement.

So rather than lamenting the fact that it’s become necessary to upgrade your website, you should also feel excited. You can now take advantage of advances in technology that make marketing your firm much easier.

Does your site need a mobile upgrade?

Our sites are all fully-mobile-optimized. If you want to see what mobile magic AmazeLaw can do for your firm…

Schedule a Demo Today

Find Stunning Free Images For Your Next Law Firm Blog Post

Just about every law firm blog post needs an image. At the very least, it’s a nice visual introduction to your post. But finding high-quality photos that are free and not likely to get you busted for copyright infringement is tough.

After all, when you pull out Google Image search, besides the dubious quality, it’s hard to tell if you have the right to use the image. And it’s likely that you don’t.

Here’s how to find a high-quality, free-to-use image for your blog post.

The long story short is that we use Flickr’s Creative Commons image search to find photos that are licensed to be used for commercial use, providing you attribute the author. Then we show you how to correctly add that attribution to your blog post.

Here’s a quick video to see how to add a great looking image to a WordPress blog post in just a few minutes, and how to add the same image to an AmazeLaw blog post in just a few seconds 🙂

Not too shabby huh? It’s fairly easy and yields great results that aren’t likely to get you sued.

See how easy AmazeLaw makes it?

That’s our whole purpose, to make marketing your firm as dead-simple as possible.

If you want to spend more time being a lawyer, and less time tinkering in HTML…

Schedule a Free Demo Today