Category Archives: Ultimate Guides

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 🙂

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.

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.

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.