The annual Legal Marketing Association Technology Conference/West is the equivalent of the State of the Union for law firm marketers. It’s a hands-on, application-oriented meeting with presentations from those at the top of their fields. Many presentations are data-driven, with speakers sharing surveys that show the current state of the legal marketing industry, with lessons for firms and marketers drawn from Google Analytics. And it’s not just about BigLaw. Often, the most interesting sessions are presentations from small firms and those working with very limited budgets.
Now that's some strapped cash.
Marketing Doesn’t Have to Cost Top Dollar to Do the Job
Here are takeaways from this year’s conference, held October 14-16 in San Francisco, and a few sleeper ideas. They take time but don’t cost money, unless you hire an outside consultant or contractor to help.
1. The importance of the biography. Numerous speakers, including Nancy Slome of One to One Interactive, confirmed that attorney bio pages are the most important pages on a firm’s website. Surveys and web click data show that 78 percent of in-house counsel start their research there. Ideally, bios should be updated quarterly and lead with the most compelling data. Show your most recent accomplishments and give as much hard data as possible. For example, instead of saying “she’s a patent prosecution attorney,” say that “Mary Green has filed and received 1,000 patents on behalf of clients in the following industries.” Never lead with where and when you went to law school. While many lawyers take pride in a prestigious alma mater, it’s not that important to clients and potential clients. You are writing to engage and inform clients, so use information they will find valuable.
2. More in-house counsel are using social media to learn about lawyers. While in-house counsel may not post updates or publish much on LinkedIn (although there are notable exceptions, including Olga Mack, head of legal at ClearSlide, who recently posted this on how attorneys can be useful to in-house counsel), they do look at LinkedIn, Twitter and other social platforms in their business life. This means your LinkedIn profile needs to be just as current as your website biography. The LinkedIn profile template, with categories for publications, projects and accolades, is a great tool, and much easier for a busy in-house counsel to scan than the typical law firm web page bio. Make the most of this incredibly valuable and free web real estate.
3. People want to hire people. It’s an old marketing saw, but infallibly true. Don’t be afraid to show some personality in your website bio or LinkedIn page. Oakland-based Wendel Rosen has each attorney pick a quote from an influential person to add to their bio page, next to their photo. It conveys both personality and gravitas. They also have an “alter ego” button next to photos of individual attorneys. The first is a high-quality “environmental” portrait (meaning a shot that’s taken in front of a solid background in a studio) of the attorney in a suit, but the alter ego link features a photo showing that attorney in “real life.” The best example is William C. Acevedo, an off-hours surfer who is shown dropping into the perfect wave. What’s perfect is that he practices in the “green business” and natural and organic products sectors. It’s a feel-good home run. On your bio and LinkedIn pages, list volunteer work and selected organizations you support, financially or otherwise. Don’t be afraid of offending a potential client. If you’ve done pro bono work for the local Planned Parenthood office, a pro-life group isn’t going to want to hire you anyway.
4. “Earned media” and client alerts are the most trusted sources for in-house counsel. Earned media refers to press stories about you or your law firm. It remains the most trusted third-party validation of skills, experience and influence. Even if you have a very small public relations budget or you’re a solo practitioner, make some time to reach out to local media so they know you are available as an expert on specific topics. Even better, ask the local legal reporter to lunch. (But don’t be surprised if they turn down your offer to pay for their meal; many publications have strict guidelines about accepting gifts of any kind.) Find out what kinds of stories they are interested in, and learn how you can help them. Cold calls are fine; the worst outcome is they say no. And it’s free.
Client alerts, both those received in real-time and those archived on the web, immediately show an attorney’s expertise and knowledge within an industry or field of law. ClearSlide in-house counsel Olga Mack said she goes first to client alerts to see how well an attorney knows his field or her business sector. You don’t have to get something out the day or even the week a decision comes down. (Plenty of firms do this.) A monthly roundup of new regulations, policies and case law is arguably more valuable since in-house counsel won’t have time to read each individual alert. And “evergreen posts” work, too. An example is: “The Top 5 Things Your HR Department Needs to Do When Considering Probation After a Negative Performance Review.”
5. Don’t forget Wikipedia. Wikipedia has become a very trusted source since it debuted in 2001, and panels at the conference confirmed that in-house counsel go here to get a feel for law firms. There are ample online tutorials, such as this one showing how to create a page for your law firm. (Here are Wikipedia’s guidelines for creating a firm or company page and a post on the pros and cons of having a page.)
The terrific thing about Wikipedia is the ability to footnote and link to sources that back up what you state. For example, if you recently won a case, you can link to both the decision and a brief that was the linchpin of the case. If you won summary judgment, you can link to that. If you just handled the real estate corporate deal for the new shopping mall in town, link to the local business newspaper’s story on the deal. It’s an ideal one-stop-shop for anyone looking to hire you, and you can add information you may not have on your firm website. For example, go beyond listing the number of lawyers and give your current diversity stats.
Yes, marketing can be expensive. But there are many no- and low-cost options that you can’t afford not to capitalize on. Who knows, we may see you as a success-story presenter at next year’s Legal Marketing Association Tech Conference. Good luck!