Social Surpassing Search for Driving Traffic to Your Website and Blog

So here’s something interesting:  social media is beginning to surpass online search as the top referrer to other websites:

This news was enough to make the New York Times take notice in a recent piece about BuzzFeed, which just scored a new $50 million investment (its valuation is now at $850 million).

Don’t know BuzzFeed?  It’s a news aggregation site for everything, everywhere.  You’ve probably seen it pop up on your Facebook feed since so many people share its sillier stuff, like quizzes that will tell you how good you are at spelling or which European city you are.  There’s also hard news written by BuzzFeed staff journalists.

BuzzFeed attracts 150 million viewers every month, on average.  Its content is what is driving its growth, and it plans to plow a lot more investment money into creating more content.  And not just content...viral content.  That’s stuff that’s likely to get shared.

And BuzzFeed works very hard to get its content shared on social media, to good effect.  The Shareholic data on the chart above is from its latest quarterly report on traffic referrals to the 350,000 websites in its network. 

Facebook is now responsible for 23.4% of social media traffic referrals to those sites.  Just one year ago, 40% of traffic came from search engines and 14% came from social media sites.  Today, search and social account for 29% of traffic each. 

So what does this mean for you?  A great opportunity to take a page from BuzzFeed’s strategy book and spread your content liberally on social media to drive traffic to your blog or website. 

Hat tip to Kevin O’Keefe.

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FREE REPORT: How Law Firms Use Blogging to Get More Leads, Increase Website Traffic & Become an Industry Thought Leader

One of the secret tools of Internet marketing for attorneys is the power of having a targeted blog. In 2013, inbound marketing firm Hubspot released a report based on a marketing benchmark study of 7,000 companies and found that when it comes to blogging:

Companies that blog 15+ times per month get five times more traffic than firms with no blog.

B2B companies that blog at least twice a month get 70% more leads from their websites than firms with no blog.

Companies that increase their blogging from 3-5 times per month to 5-8 times per month almost double their leads.

Here’s what you’ll discover when you read this report:

  • 7 ways that blogging can help your law practice
  • How to create your blog strategy
  • 10 ways to build an audience for your blog
  • 4 sources of information for writing blog posts
  • And much more!

Click now for your FREE REPORT: How Law Firms Use Blogging to Get More Leads, Increase Website Traffic & Become an Industry Thought Leader.

Top 5 Behaviors Likely to Generate a Bar Complaint

Douglas Chandler is an Atlanta attorney whose firm specializes in legal malpractice.  He has a most informative blog where he recently posted the five behaviors most likely to result in a bar complaint, based on his 15 years of experience defending attorneys against these complaints.

Here is his list with a few of my own comments woven in:

1.  Neglecting to return a client’s file.  If a client asks for their file, this can mean they have either decided to change counsel, not to pursue the matter or may want it because they believe they could have a claim against you.  You don’t want to delay returning their file, but you do want to review it before you return it and remove any personal notes.  You should also keep a copy for your own records.  When you send the file, include a letter noting that you are returning per their request and send it via a method that requires recipient signature.  End the relationship on a positive note if at all possible.

2.  Failure to communicate.  This is the #1 reason nationally for bar complaints.  Clients deserve and expect a prompt response to their questions, so you must have a process in place to respond appropriately.  Your being in court on another matter is not an excuse for poor communication!  Clients don’t care about anyone but themselves.  Be fully transparent, copying your client on all matters pertaining to their cases and, as Chandler advises, communicate early and often.

3.  Letting unqualified staff give legal advice.  Be sure your non-legal staff is fully trained on what they can and cannot do on your behalf and don’t allow anyone to sign your name to communication or documents that you have not seen. 

4.  Failing to observe conflicts of interest.  Before you discuss a new matter, be sure you do a conflict check within your firm before engaging in continuing representation.  If there is a slight conflict, be sure it is disclosed to all parties and have those parties sign the appropriate disclosures if applicable.

5.  Failing to communicate pricing policies.  Just like any other business, attorneys are allowed to raise their rates, but doing so without communicating that clearly to existing clients can be a big mistake.  Be sure each new client understands your pricing and billing procedures, including out-of-pocket costs that can add up quickly. 

Chandler urges all lawyers to use engagement letters with every client as well as disengagement letters when the relationship is terminated.   The nature of the work and the working relationship needs to be spelled out in order to avoid confusion over a potential implied relationship.

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On-Demand Seminar: How to Make Flat Fee Billing Work for Your Law Firm

Lee Rosen is one of America’s top divorce attorneys and practice management specialists who transformed his practice from relying on hourly billing to charging flat fee prices.

In Stephen Fairley’s one-hour interview with Lee, he explains in detail how he set out to fix his cash flow several years ago and in doing so he fundamentally changed his practice – for the better!

As a direct result of his “radical” decision to switch to flat fee billing (which many of his colleagues told him couldn’t be done), his revenues have never been higher, his profit margins are larger, and he’s building a lifestyle law firm!

Listen in as Lee and Stephen focus on hot topics like:

  • Why your clients will love flat fee billing
  • How to use flat fee pricing as a major differentiating factor
  • The inherent conflict of charging by the hour
  • Specific steps on how to position it with clients
  • Which practice areas can benefit from flat fee billing
  • Real world case study for consumer law attorneys
  • Practical considerations for litigation-based practices
  • How to improve your cash flow using flat fees
  • Best practices when implementing flat fee billing
  • 3 quick and easy ways to get started
  • Potential pitfalls to avoid when setting up your system

To access this exciting one-hour interview with Lee Rosen, click on this link:  How to Make Flat Fee Billing Work for Your Law Firm

7 Strategies for a 7-Figure Law Firm

If you’re like many of the attorneys I speak with every week, you’ve been practicing over 10 years, you own a small firm with a handful of staff, you work hard month after month, but you never seem to get ahead.

You’ve probably tried all the traditional methods of marketing your law firm, but so far nothing seems to work very well.

You have goals, dreams and ambitions, but after all these years, you’re still struggling to break or consistently break the million dollar mark…and every once in a while you wonder if it’s even possible.

From one business owner to another, I need to tell you that the skills that helped you build a good 6-figure practice are not the same skills you will need to build a great 7-figure business.

So if you’re tired of beating your head against the wall and you’re ready to take a fresh look at how to break out of the negative cycle you’re stuck in, then you really owe it to yourself to invest an hour of your time viewing our new on-demand webinar: 7 Strategies for a 7-Figure Law Firm.

Here are some of the things you will learn as you watch:

  • What it really takes to build a 7-figure law firm -- no hype and no B.S.
  • Insider tips from managing partners running multi-million dollar firms
  • How to position yourself as a recognized expert and attract higher quality clients
  • 3 biggest reasons why you’re not getting more referrals and how to overcome these hurdles
  • The 2 things every Million Dollar Law Firm has in place (you will never achieve 7-figure revenues without both of these)
  • 2 key metrics you must measure every month if you want to grow your law firm

If you think there’s no way you can ever break that 7-figure mark -- and break it every year -- I can cite you many examples of those who have gone before you who have done just that.  The only thing standing in your way is guidance and gumption.

Click on this link now to access the online webinar, 7 Strategies for a 7-Figure Law Firm.

7 Habits of Highly Successful Law Firms

I have been counseling attorneys on marketing matters for almost 15 years.  In that time, we’ve reached more than 10,000 attorneys through our monthly Rainmaker Retreats, speeches before at least 35 bar associations and many more presentations to groups like the National Trial Lawyers Association.

That doesn’t count all the individual clients I’ve counseled over the years. 

There are certain similarities that successful firms have that unsuccessful ones don’t.  I call them habits, since they must be deeply ingrained in an organization to bear full fruit.  A couple of years ago, Forrester Research -- a global business research and advisory firm -- studied the successful habits of small businesses, and it is uncanny how those habits match up with the ones I’ve observed (and, in some instances, help put in place I'm proud to say) at highly successful law firms.

Here they are:

1. An emphasis on online over offline marketing strategies.

2. A focus on new business leads and client lifetime value over client acquisition cost savings.

3. The execution of highly-optimized, multi-channel campaigns leveraging email, web and social media.

4. Nurturing leads carefully until the time is right rather than trying to sell from the get-go.

5. Collecting the metrics that matter and measuring results in order to repeat and improve.

6. A willingness to change business models that are no longer working for the firm because of changes in the marketplace due to technology or consumer preferences.

7. Maintaining -- or even increasing -- marketing budgets during a difficult economy in order to increase business momentum, seize new opportunities, and gain a competitive advantage.

We have used these 7 habits to form the basis for our curriculum at our two-day legal marketing seminar, the Rainmaker Retreat. 

If you’re still struggling to find success for your law practice, consider attending one of our upcoming sessions:

September 19-20, 2014 -- Miami, FL

November 14-15, 2014 -- New York, NY

If you feel it’s time to stop making excuses for your lack of success and do something about it, register online now for a Rainmaker Retreat or call 888-588-5891 for more information.

SlideShare: Best Times to Post on Social Media

Bad timing can kill a business, a relationship and, sometimes, a social media post.

Digital marketing intelligence firm TrackMaven has broken down the research on the best times to post on the major social networks as well as the best times to post to your blog and send that marketing email and distributed it via SlideShare.

You can download this slide show and keep it on your desktop or laptop to refer to when you’re scheduling your posts.  Picking the right times is no guarantee that your posts will go viral, but posting at the right times to get maximum potential viewership for what you have to say is just smart marketing.

Federal Appeals Court Rules Attorneys Have Right to Publish Praise from Judges

A federal appeals court issued a ruling yesterday that attorneys have a First Amendment right to publish ads that quote judges praising them, a decision that reverses a lower court ruling.

The case involves a New Jersey employment attorney, Andrew Dwyer, who initially published praise from two jurists on his website.  The published quotes were excerpts from unpublished (but publicly available) judicial opinions.   One of the judges sent Dwyer a letter requesting that his quote be removed from the website.  Dwyer refused because he did not believe the quote was misleading or false.

The matter was forwarded to a committee of the New Jersey Bar, resulting in a proposed guideline that barred attorneys from using a quotation from a judge or court opinion regarding the attorney’s abilities or legal services.  Dwyer argued that the new guideline was an unconstitutional ban on free speech.

Fast-forward to 2012, when the NJ Supreme Court approved an amended guideline saying that attorneys could use quotes from judges or opinions, but that the full text of the opinion must be used instead of excerpts.

Dwyer filed suit against the NJ Bar committee that developed the guideline before it went into effect and moved for a TRO and preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement of the guideline.  A NJ District Court denied the request.  Both parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which the District Court granted to the committee.

Dwyer then appealed and yesterday, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, calling the guideline “onerous” and saying that it imposed an unconstitutional burden on Dwyer:

“Guideline 3 as applied to Dwyer’s accurate quotes from judicial opinions thus violates his First Amendment right to advertise his commercial services. Requiring Dwyer to reprint in full on his firm’s website the opinions noted above is not reasonably related to preventing consumer deception.”

This decision could have farther-reaching effects in terms of how attorneys use testimonials in their advertising.  Will certainly be interesting to watch!

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On-Demand Seminar:  How to Leverage Your Firm’s Website to Win Clients

According to recent research…

58 million adults looked for an attorney in the past year

76% of them referred to the internet at some point in their search

While most law firms already have a website, the majority of them don’t produce new cases on a regular basis. Why?

Because they are doing it all wrong!

This seminar will teach you how to do it right.

Larry Bodine, The Law Blog Guru, and Stephen Fairley join forces to deliver a compelling on-demand seminar on How to Leverage Your Firm’s Website to Win Clients; access this seminar now to learn:

  • 3 specific strategies that can immediately improve your website conversions
  • What elements you should and should not include on your website
  • How to effectively reach the 65% of consumers who like to gather information about their legal issue long before ever contacting an attorney
  • Ways to leverage top online attorney directories to control your online presence
  • Case studies on how top attorneys are using social media to attract more paying clients
  • Best practices for blogging and why Google loves them so much
  • The fastest ways to get to the top of Google

Click on this link now to receive the How to Leverage Your Firm’s Website to Win Clients seminar.

ABA Announces Partnership with Rocket Lawyer

At their annual meeting last week in Boston, the American Bar Association announced a new partnership with online legal services provider Rocket Lawyer “to explore expanded opportunities for lawyers online.”

In the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the ABA said it is collaborating with Rocket Lawyer on a pilot program to offer affordable legal services to small businesses and the self-employed, connecting ABA member attorneys with prospects using the Rocket Lawyer platform.

ABA president James R. Silkenat said, “The American Bar Association welcomes the opportunity to explore ways to expand legal services to those who need a lawyer’s counsel but are not currently being served for reasons ranging from affordability to ease of access.”

Rocket Lawyer founder and CEO Charley Moore heralded the partnership as a “pioneering effort to democratize access to legal counsel using technology,” applauding the ABA for “working with us to find new ways to expand legal representation from qualified attorneys through video and mobile technologies.”

Currently, Rocket Lawyer offers consumers and small business owners access to their own network of vetted attorneys by signing up for a $39.95/month membership plan.  For that monthly fee, you have access to a number of legal documents you customize for your own purposes online as well as legal advice from Rocket Lawyer’s stable of “On Call Attorneys.”  You type in your legal question on the website and get an answer via email or phone (your choice).

The ABA told the WSJ Law Blog it was interested in partnering with Rocket Lawyer because it uses attorneys to provide legal advice to its clients in a market the ABA feels is horribly underserved -- i.e., people who wouldn’t otherwise use an attorney. 

The ABA says it will be monitoring the program to see what kind of services its attorneys will actually be providing via Rocket Lawyer and to “make sure it really is the underserved communities they are responding to.”

The benefit to Rocket Lawyer, which says it will not be making a profit from the pilot program, is the cachet it will receive from being associated with the ABA. 

The program will involve a few hundred attorneys from each state and will start in about a month.

I’m curious what practicing attorneys are thinking about this partnership and would love to hear your comments.  Discuss! 

5 Steps That Will Help You Convert Prospects Into Clients

Sometimes I feel like a voice in the wilderness when I talk about the importance of lead conversion.  Just about every lawyer I come into contact with wants to know how to get more leads.  Very, very few (counting on one hand here) inquire about how they can do a better job of converting their leads into paying clients.

The fact of the matter is that you can get a million leads and if your conversion rate stinks, you are not paying the bills.

Here are 5 steps you can take right away that will help you convert leads into clients:

1.  Tell your prospect what’s in it for them.  If you remember just one thing, let it be this:  clients only want to know what you can do for them.  You can’t leave it to the prospect to guess; you have to tell them right out what you can do for them personally when it comes to their legal matter.

2.  Tell your prospect why they should hire you.  Consumers today have lots of choices for legal services -- not just other lawyers, but online solutions as well.  So you have to be very specific about what makes you different and why they should hire you.

3.  Don’t be afraid of emotion.  I can’t tell you how many times we have secret-shopped law firms (at their request, of course) and found their intake person totally lacking in empathy.  You need to listen to the person’s problem and truly empathize instead of treating them like just another number.  While they may be the 14th person you’ve talked to this week about a car accident, to them, their problem is totally unique.  Be sympathetic to their pain.

4.  Focus on benefits, not features.  Features are what your service does. Benefits are why your client needs your service. For every feature you have, you must tell your client what the benefit is.

5.  Make it easy to hire you.  We work primarily with solos and small firms who struggle daily with competing with larger, more established firms.  But solos and small firms can offer benefits that the bigger firms can’t, including a more personalized approach and flexibility.  Use your size to your advantage and tell them exactly why smaller is better.

If you are struggling with common objections like pricing and how to effectively turn a “No” into a “Yes,” you’ll want to listen to our 60-minute webinar on How to Overcome the 5 Biggest Objections Attorneys Hear.  Just click on the link to access it.

Martindale Hubbell Relaunches as MartindaleNolo.com

In February I posted a piece asking Are Martindale-Hubbell and Lawyers.com Dead?that garnered quite a few comments.

It looks like Martindale Hubbell has sprung back to life in the form I predicted a few months ago, as a lead generation and directory site for attorneys at martindalenolo.com

Actually, the new site offers three services for attorneys:  lead generation, directory listings (another lead generation tool) and web hosting.  All are core competencies for Internet Brands, which bought Martindale Hubbell and Lawyers.com last fall. 

Internet Brands, which started as CarsDirect.com, creates lead generation websites in nine vertical markets: Automotive, Careers, Health, Home, Legal, Lending, Licensing, Shopping and Travel.  Internet Brands was sold in June to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a private equity firm, for a reported $1.1 billion, according to Reuters.

KKR also owns GoDaddy.com, so the web hosting component of martindalenolo.com makes total sense.

The site offers directory listings on three of its Nolo-owned websites, including Nolo.com, Martindale.com and Lawyers.com (which features the “latest” legal news on its home page that is from October 2013!).

Their lead generation hat is being hung on a number of specialty websites like personalinjurylawyer.com, criminaldefenselawyer.com, etc.  The site says that the leads are targeted by area of practice and location -- it doesn’t say anything about exclusivity, so I can’t say whether or not they offer that.  But I’d sure want that if I were you.

(If you venture down the paid lead path, then be sure to read my May 5 post on Paid Leads for Attorneys: What It Takes to Get a Good ROI.)

There is no doubt that Internet Brands knows its business, so this may be a good thing for law firms who want a turnkey process in place.  Just be sure you’re willing to make a commitment to the steps I outlined in that May 5 post or you won’t be happy with your ROI.

Should Virtual Assistants Become a Reality at Your Law Firm?

Last week I interviewed renowned business guru Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited, on best business practices for law firms.  Before our chat, I invited attorneys to submit questions they’d like me to ask Michael.

I was somewhat surprised by how many questions dealt with personnel issues.  One attorney practiced in a rural area and couldn’t find qualified people.  Another practiced in a big city but had the same problem -- too many flakes.  The basic questions everyone was asking was, “How can I find good people?”

The answer may be, online. 

You have no doubt heard of virtual assistants.  I started my business with the help of a virtual assistant and although most of my folks work in our Phoenix office, I also have lots of good people on the payroll who work virtually. 

You see, I’ve found that sometimes the best people for the job are not where you live and work.  And I want the best.  Apparently, many of you do, too.  Don’t let distance be a deterrent to getting the right person for the job.

Virtual assistants are readily available these days and their virtues are many:

  • You only pay for what you need.
  • You don’t pay for downtime, sick leave, vacation days or medical benefits.
  • You don’t pay for extra office space or equipment.
  • Having a VA frees you up to focus on building your business.
  • The right VA can add a lot to your business if they have skills you lack, like marketing or finance.

Virtual assistants are accustomed to protecting private information with SSL-encrypted files that ensure your client data is not inadvertently shared inappropriately.  They are also willing to sign nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements.

Solo practitioners are usually the biggest beneficiaries of using VAs, since they have a tendency to do everything themselves.  You can get a VA to handle your email, your schedule, draft marketing content, post to your social media accounts, schedule speaking engagements, follow up with leads -- just about everything you would pay a person to do in your office if you could find the right one.

You can also find paralegals who freelance at very affordable rates.

So how do you find a VA?  There are online job sites like Elance, Odesk and Staff.com that have employer reviews so you’re not flying blind, or you can even post an ad on Craigslist (it’s free). 

If you’re ready to focus on what you do best and make a more productive law practice a reality, try going virtual.