Category Archives: Business

How Much Do Lawyers Make A Month?

Law tends to attract a lot of people seeking high salaries, competitive jobs, and rewarding work. However, the amount of money a lawyer makes vary greatly and depends on the type of work you do, the organization you work for, you educational experience, and where you are located in the country.

Starting your own law firm has the potential to bring in much more money than a entry level position at a firm. There are a number of obstacles to overcome but if you have the right plan in place and a strategy to succeed, your salary can be whatever you make it.

Like any career, doing your own research will help guide you on the decisions you make for your legal career. Since the monthly salary for a lawyer has such a large discrepancy, make sure your expectations match reality.

Remember that law is constantly changing and  that some areas may become less needed than others. From a financial point of view, this can be significantly less profitable and result in lower monthly wages.

Now that you have an overview of the financial situation in the legal career path, let’s take a look at the finer details.

Average Monthly Salary For Lawyers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average annual salary for a lawyer in 2016 to be $139,880. This works out to be around $11,656 per month on average.

Some of the lowest paying salaries started around $55,870 per year. This is around $4,655 per month. When you look at the private, corporate sector, some lawyers are making up to $214,630 per year. This is around $17,885 per month.

Best Paying Industries for Lawyers

In the corporate sector, there are a few industries that provide lawyers with a generous wage. Those in scheduled air transportation were the ones who received an average of $17,885 per month. Lawyers working in Beer, Wine and Distilled Alcohol, were making around $17,125. Another nice paying industry is the Cable and Other Subscription Programming which had an average monthly wage of $16,272.

Here’s a look at the wages based on occupational industries:

Finance & Insurance $12,166
Federal Government $11,621
Legal Services $9,888
Local Government $7,661
State Government $7,335

Wages for Public Lawyers

In this stream of law, lawyers represent clients on cases ranging from traffic violations

to criminal felonies. In these situations, people may prove to the court that they cannot afford to pay the lawyer’s fees. Typically, these kinds of lawyers are paid by the government as a regular employee or case by case, as needed by the state.

Even though trial cases and patent laws tend to provide the biggest payouts, not all lawyers pursue a corporate career. Public lawyers can make a respectable wage with the starting wage typically around $4,166 to well over $8,333 per month.

Wages Based On Location

Lawyers practicing law along the coasts tend to receive a significantly high wage than those practicing law in the mainland. When you’re working in the big cities like New York and Washington, wage are competitively higher than places like Alabama and Kentucky.

Here’s a breakdown of monthly salaries for lawyers throughout various U.S. cities:

Coastal Cities

San Jose $17,000
San Francisco $14,000
Los Angeles $14,425
New York City $13,438

Nonmetropolitan Cities

Southwest Montana $6,244
Northeast Mississippi $9,600
Central Kentucky $5,146
Northern Vermont $9,385

 

Wages from: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes231011.htm

Wages for Solo-Practitioners

If you’re fresh out of law school or even a veteran in the field, you might have considered starting your own law firm. Doing so allows you to create a wage based on as many hours as you want to work. Of course, the demand for your legal services should also be factors in addition to your marketing plan and marketing success.

Nonetheless, starting your own legal service can see monthly wages ranging from $2,978 to $26,099 per month.

This incredible range may be due to the following factors:

  • Caseload / work demands
  • Location within a city
  • Location within the country
  • Marketing plan/strategy
  • Referral network
  • Online access (i.e. lawyers with a blog)
  • Legal Experience
  • Area of practice

The Wage And Workload

 While the upper paying salaries are are to get excited for, the amount of work required to receive it may not be as appealing. Many law firms hiring new lawyers can expect between 80 or 90 hours per week to show their dedication to their profession.

If you are unable to handle this kind of workload, seeking a lower-paying job within the legal industry may be more suitable.

The kind of work that will be required of you includes:

  • Advising clients (i.e. business transactions, claim liability, prosecutions or defense of lawsuits, legal rights and obligations)
  • Represent clients in court during summary cases to judges or juries
  • Collect and research evidence for defensive or offensive legal actions
  • Evaluate research and develop strategies and sound arguments to present in court
  • Analyze and interpret laws, rulings, regulations and other legal actions for individuals and business

Lawyers deal with situations where they must advise their clients on a specific course of action. They are responsible for the legal rights and responsibilities their client’s must take. In the business world, lawyers may provide counsel to corporate clients when making business transactions. As well, there are lawyers who work in the legal system and represent their clients in court actions.

There is a wide range of work required from lawyers, from contract litigations, criminal cases to patent contracts. The amount of hours required from a lawyer will vary month to month. Working at a firm will provide you with a stable monthly income, as detailed above. However, if you’re a self-employed lawyer, your monthly wage is likely to change depending on the number of clients coming in.

Overall, working in the legal system is a time-sensitive environment with extreme working demands. There will be long hours and extensive research to prepare for court cases and client situations. All these factors lead to the wide differences in how much a lawyer makes per month.

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.

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.

What’s Better, In-Person Or Phone Consultations?

In today’s tech driven world, there is significant comfort and convenience using instant messaging. Since legal advice is not likely to be delivered in this way, what’s better, in-person or phone consultations?

There’s no denying that in-person consultations lead to stronger rapport, deeper connections, and easier conflict resolution. However, some people are just too busy to put aside a few hours to receive a consultation on the far end of town.

Which method will you use?

Ease of hiring an attorney

Almost everyone is looking for the quickest and safest route that answers their problems. Having access to your services can likely be best achieved by providing a place to find you online.

Your website may be the key place where you find new clients. Knowing precisely what you can offer (in-person or phone consultations) will make the ease of hiring an attorney that much simpler.

Also, if you have started a blog, you have likely already built a relationship with your prospective client and their phone call or message to schedule a consultation is the next step forward.

Overview Of Phone Consultations

There is a clear convenience for both you and your client when it comes to phone consultations. Whether you have a website scheduling appointments or a staff member taking your calls, providing this style of consultation may free up more of your time which you can devote to more prospective clients.

Consider the following:

  1. Will providing phone consultations affect the number of clients you receive compared to meeting in-person?
  2. Will providing phone consultations allow you to help more people?
  3. Will providing phone consultations led to more successful outcomes?

Phone consultations have the ability to start a relationship. There is some commitment to both your service and their legal needs that will be discussed over the phone.

Whether in-person consultations build stronger rapport or not, people seeking a phone consultations are looking for a solution to their problems and are likely unwilling to wait any longer to get that.

Features & Benefits:

  • Flexibility in scheduling for both you and your client
  • Provide urgent solutions for some clients
  • Attract more clients who don’t want to/can’t meet in-person
  • Convenient for clients with busy schedules
  • Expand your reach for legal services

Overview Of In-Person Consultations

There are somethings that can never be replaced by technology and that’s the level of intimacy that comes from face-to-face human connections.

Regardless of whether you decide to offer phone consultations or not, there will always be some people seeking to speak with you in person.

Perhaps this is your selling feature. You have established yourself as a respectable and impressive performing firm and clients are eager to walk in to sit in your offices to get your advice.

It could be the handshake, the assurance of your character, or simply the process of entering into your office that makes things “feel official.”

In-person consultations are irreplaceable.

In person consultations can give your clients the opportunity to engage in high stakes conversations. If you are addressing sensitive topics, providing this style of consultation is advised.

In general, there are simply some topics that should not be addressed over the phone. Any cases involved emotional situations like divorces, children, and death requires that human element to be handled well.

Features & Benefits:

  • Comfort in disclosing sensitive information (i.e. emotional cases involving children)
  • Access to traditional styles of consultations
  • Generally, more practical for elders (may have problems hearing over the phone)
  • More security and privacy for corporate clients

Consider Whether An In-Person Or Phone Consultation Is Right For You

If you are marketing your legal services well, you may be getting 20 to 50 requests for consultations per month. Perhaps you’re getting more and screening hundreds of calls and concerns.

Depending on the size of your law firm (i.e. individual practice vs. group of associates) you may or may not be able to handle the amount of consultations requests.

If you’re a small law firm, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do you have the extra hours (100+) to provide all these consultations this month?
  2. Does your staff have the additional hours to handle the logistics (i.e. scheduling consultations, following up with those who don’t show up, etc.)?
  3. If needed, are you willing to put in the extra hours — working into the evening and weekends?
  4. How successful are you in these consultations? How often do they lead to your legal support?

If you have a high number of requests for in-person consultation, this can take up a significant amount of your time. If you have a website set up and it is capable of making bookings, you can save yourself a lot of personal struggles.

Investing in a lawyer website may be an ideal choice as it can alleviate the weight of calls coming in to request in-person consultations and direct prospective clients to book a phone consultation at their convenience.

Contrasting Consultation Styles

What if phone consultations led to a lower no-show rate? Convenience is key when people are seeking answers to their problems. Being able to get an answer over the phone rather than wait for an uncertain amount of time is what many people are looking for. People don’t want to wait.

This demand for immediacy can eliminate the need to “build rapport” for a relationship to build between client and attorney. The urgency some people are facing leads to people making faster decisions based on other sources (i.e. your website, reviews, etc.).

Imagine this, your legal office is empty. Can you be trusted to take on their case if you don’t have any clients that keep you busy? Your perspectives may not commit to you because you don’t appear to be very busy. And, if you aren’t busy, perhaps they may think that you are not very good.

However, if you are offering more phone consultations than in-person, it would be easy to believe that previous presumption.

So how should you value your time?

Phone consultations should be limited to lower-stake cases. These are great for clients who don’t want or need an in person conversation and they are much more flexible with their time.

What Does Research Say About Using In-Person Or Phone Consultations

Research by Heather Hewitt, Joseph Gafaranga, and Brian McKinstry examined the differences in consulting methods used by doctors: in-person or phone consultations.

They interviewed 18 professional medical practitioners and 65 of their patients.

Their results showed that phone consultations are capable of dealing with smaller, single issues and concerns. Whereas in-person consultations led to many more problems to deal with and discuss.

The phone consultations tended to be shorter while in-person consultations led to periods of silence. This research article suggests that it is during those moments of silence that new topics and problems are introduced.

One final point that was discovered, in-person consultations tend to elicit more concerns and questions from the doctor and phone consultations were more direct and focused at solving the problem at hand.

Their conclusion: Phone consultations take less time and focus on a single problem. In-person consultations involved more problem disclosure.

Knowing Your Consultation Style

So what’s going to be your style: in-person or phone consultations? There’s no right answer to this question and your decision should be based on the kinds of legal services you provide.

There are certainly some situations, such as bankruptcy and criminal defense, where providing phone consultations is the quick and easy solution for your clients.

Providing phone consultation can even give you the freedom and flexibility to work remotely.

However, the traditional in-person style is a standard in the legal world, especially for emotionally charged situations.

Whatever you decide, defining your consultation style allows you to provide legal services in a way that suits your client’s need, scheduling, and personal preference.

Should Lawyers Buy .law Domains?

If you are considering a website or a blog to showcase your legal services and expertise, there are many different Top Level Domains (TLD) to choose from:

  • .com
  • .gov
  • .org
  • .law

This article will examine whether lawyers should buy .law domain and briefly review a few methods to succeed online.

What are Top Level Domains (TLD)?

Without going too in depth about the concept of domain names, here’s a simplified version of what domain names are.

Domain names are the important piece of information that provides a readable internet address of your website. The ending of the domain name is what is known as a Top Level Domain with the most common being .com, .org, and .net.

Overall, there are more than 1000 TLDs available.

Is There Any Significance In Having A .law Domain Name?

Having a TLD can be useful in marketing, search engines, and website optimization. When you consider the most common TLDs like .com, .edu, and .gov, these are recognizable, popular, and rank well courtesy of their authority.

They is some speculation that having these TLDs do not provide measurable proof that you will get ranked higher (such as with .edu and .gov domains).

Also, according to Matt Cutts, new TLDs, like .law, might not receive a boost in the search rankings. Your .law domain will not be treated much differently than other domain names already available.

“Sorry, but that’s just not true, and as an engineer in the search quality team at Google, I feel the need to debunk this misconception. Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”

While Google may not rank a .law domain higher, from a personal point of view, there is significant value to be considered.

What Are The Benefits Of A .law Domain Name?

From a branding point of view, having a .law domain allows you to position yourself as a professional and a figure of authority.

Anyone who registers a new .law domain, must provide a phone number from the licensing of your agency or firm.

Having to go through this additional step during the registration process creates a trust factor for those searching for you.

Buying a .law domain name will provide an additional layer of credibility courtesy of the verification process required.

This is a summary of some the benefits you’ll receive when you buy a .law domain:

  • Brandable & Authority. Using this TLD allows you to create a strong and memorable brand. A .law domain can be descriptive and capture the core of your practice. When deciding on your domain name, consider using your own name, area of practice, or your target market.
    • Examples:law, NewYorkCity.law, StultzandBrinks.law, jones.law
  • Verified & Trusted. When you register your .law domain, you become verified and trusted by those seeking your services online. Only qualified lawyers can apply for this domain. Once approved, you will have a branded and trustworthy domain surrounding your legal profession.
  • Competitive & Professional. Your new .law domain will stand out amongst others. The .law is exclusive to lawyers and provides a distinct and official finish to your online presence.

If You Already Have Another Domain Name, Should You Transfer To A .law Domain?

As mentioned before, there may not be any considerable boost to your rankings in the search engines. If you already using a domain and it is working well, you may not want to transfer your website to the .law domain.

Consider .law as an investment in your practice but only if you don’t have a domain name already. When you transfer a website over to a new domain, you may lose traffic and potential clients.

Getting a new .law domain is an ideal choice for those starting a new website.

Aside From A .law Domain, How Can Lawyers Succeed Online?

A domain name is only one of many factors to consider when putting your law practice online.

One of the most critical areas of getting noticed and finding new clients comes from the content you provide.

Here’s a few things you may want to keep in mind:

  • Offer meaningful, relevant and original content. Most search engines approve of original content. However, they should be written in a way that’s natural and connects with your target audience.
  • Create backlinks on authority sites. When you have published quality content, try to get your site linked with .edu or .gov sites as these have authority. Read law firm SEO Tips hereNote: Never buy backlinks — you could be penalized.

As an authority on the web and a professional of law, you have a responsibility to provide quality content that is relevant and informative to your visitors.

This update from John Mueller on Google’s Webmaster Central makes it clear that content is crucial and the domain name is not given “artificial advantage in search.”

So, Should Lawyers Buy A .law Domain?

Getting a .law domain could be the strategic edge you need to have a competitive advantage online.

However, while a TLD like .law adds a professional touch your online service, providing good content that follows Google’s recommended practices will be much more powerful.

If you are preparing to settle on a .law domain name, remember to incorporate this into your website development:

  1. Publish high quality, original content on your site
  2. Provide relevant content to your potential clients and targeted audience
  3. Avoid SEO practices that could penalize your website (i.e. keyword stuffing, purchasing links, or other Google violations)

Achieving this will lead you to an authority site on the internet especially if you’re considering starting a blog.

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

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.

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.