Don’t Be Afraid of the Cloud

In recent years, there’s been an uptick in legal tech startups, including Legal.io, RenewData, casetext, and Axiom, all of which provide different services, such as network platforms, e-discovery, legal research and online legal services, respectively. As these technologies develop and become part of a lawyer’s day-to-day, some have wondered if technology is replacing people. The answer is no. In today’s digitized world, more and more law firms are looking for software and technologies that assist lawyers in providing efficient legal services to clients.

For example, firms are utilizing cloud-based platforms for everything from drafting contracts to messaging to billing. Cloud computing allows all lawyers within a firm to access the most up-to-date documents whenever and wherever they may be. Early adopters of cloud-based platforms in their day-to-day have reported an increase in work productivity and client service. It will be no surprise that these platforms will move further into the cloud and onto mobile devices.

Communication between law firms and their clients is becoming increasingly transparent. Clients are interested in immediate access to data, documents and billing, as well as a clear line of communication. Tools, such as Slack, provide firms with an encrypted and private website primarily for messaging and file-sharing. By opening the lines of attorney-client communication, clients have reported an overall increase in service satisfaction.

On the other hand, it’s no surprise that lawyers are not the best change agents. In fact, studies show that some firms that are stuck in their traditional ways would rather pay more money than adopt some sort of change. The best way to get your firm to embrace these new technologies is to slowly integrate them into the workflow. In no time, these firms will start to see how cloud-based technologies are here to help them provide efficient legal services to clients—not replace them.

Do You Have a High-Engagement Website?

The primary purpose of law firm websites used to be for housing anything and everything about the firm, its attorneys, and its services. Websites were once a collection of static pages containing information. Now, today’s law firm websites are moving from passive to aggressive. Since the average website visitor’s attention span is limited, this means they need to constantly be moving throughout the site. Speakers at the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Tech Conference emphasized the importance of having a high-engagement website. Below are some tips for things that law firms can do to keep their visitors coming back to their website.

Offer Free and Interactive Tools 

Visitors will come back to your site if they know that they are getting something out of it. Consider creating user-friendly tools, such as an insurance risk calculator, a contractor decision tree, or a step-by-step guide for seeing if you have a viable case. Law firms can take this one step further by promoting this tool at industry-focused seminars, or in a series of blog posts. Whichever tool you choose to promote, don’t forget to give visitors the opportunity to contact you for a more detailed discussion.

Make Sure There Are No Dead Ends 

80% of website traffic comes through pages that are not your homepage, such as links through blogs, social media, etc. For example, once a visitor is done reading your employment practice area page, tease them with links to related blog posts, articles or webinars at the bottom of the page. By doing so, you entice the reader to keep moving throughout the website.

Include Visually Compelling Content 

Break up heavy text on pages by adding visually compelling images to them. With such little attention spans, readers need to be able to digest information in bite-sized chunks. Another great tool for incorporating images into your website is the use of infographics.

If your firm’s website doesn’t meet any of the above, it doesn’t mean you need to completely scratch and rebuild. Firms can check website traffic to find out which pages are gaining the most traction and which pages are getting the most clicks.  Most importantly, this can serve as a starting point for creating a high-engagement website.

Measuring Content Marketing with Google Analytics

Content marketing is defined as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content. This content will attract and retain a clearly-defined audience, and ultimately drive profitable customer action.

For law firms, content marketing is essential in creating a successful thought leadership campaign. However, it can be difficult to convince lawyers of the effectiveness of their content marketing pieces without the metrics to prove it. Luckily, Google Analytics can tell us more than just what pages are the most popular; it shows us behavior patterns, who the audience is, and who is sharing.

  • The number of page views goes hand-in-hand with the time spent on each page. If your article gets 500 views, but the time spent on that page is less than a minute, it means that readers are not interested in the content. On the other hand, if your article gets 100 views, with an average time of 5 minutes, it means readers are engaging in the content.
  • It’s great if 100 people are taking the time to read your article, but not if it’s the wrong audience. The ISP of visitors to your site indicates the companies that are engaging in your content.
  • This shows you where your visitors originated from, such as social media platforms, search engines, or website links. Digging deeper, this feature shows which social media sites are garnering the most clicks and which keywords are generating the most interest.

This is only scratching the surface. Google Analytics collects a vast amount of data; much of which you can use to prove ROI in your content marketing campaign. Regardless of the results, it’s important to tailor your content marketing pieces in order to attract and retain your target audience.

Consumer Reviews: A Powerful Cycle of Business

Reviews can play a powerful role in converting prospective clients to actual clients. When I began wedding planning, searching for my vendors among a sea of businesses was overwhelming. As a consumer, it was difficult to differentiate between each one who claimed they were “the best” or “top rated,” so naturally, I turned to consumer reviews. I read through each review—good and bad—about each potential vendor and on every kind of review site there was (Yelp, Wedding Wire, The Knot, etc.). Ultimately, I chose the vendors whose former brides gave really detailed and personal recounts of their experience.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I am happy to say that my wedding went off without a hitch—in large part to my circle of vendors. As each vendor emailed me a post-wedding thank you, they kindly asked if I could leave a consumer review if I was satisfied with their services. Seeing as I chose them largely based on consumer reviews, I quickly jumped to it. The best kind of thank you I could give them for a service well done was a positive review in hopes that a future bride will read it and give them their business as well.

How to Write a Great LinkedIn Summary

LinkedIn is considered the social media platform extraordinaire for business professionals. Studies have shown that the summary is the second part of your profile that visitors look at—right after they see your picture. Therefore, it’s worth taking the extra time to make sure your summary doesn’t sound similar to the previous lawyer they looked at. So what makes a great LinkedIn summary? Below are a few tips I picked up in a recent TED-talk at the Legal Marketing Association’s Tech Conference.

1. Market specifically; practice generally. While it’s great to list every single practice area that you have experience in, realistically, no one is looking for a generalist. Prospective clients are looking for lawyers with a specialty. Focus on your top three areas and expand on what you have done in those areas that is spectacular.

2. Don’t copy and paste your website bio. Being a social network, it helps to portray yourself in a “social” way—similar to how you would introduce yourself in person. Additionally, refrain from talking about yourself in the third person.

3. Add some personality in your profile. Clients hire people, not firms. It’s important to show that you have a life outside of the law practice. For example, let us know if you’re part of a motorcycle club composed of a bunch of lawyers and judges—it will make you stand out in a sea of other lawyers with the same focus.

4. Utilize the media feature. LinkedIn has given users the option to add up to 10 media entries under the summary section. Media can include educational infographics you’ve created for your practice area, links to helpful resources, FAQ videos, etc. It’s visually stimulating and will engage your profile visitors.

What’s Hot and What’s Not in Legal Marketing

During the panel “What’s Now & What’s Next for the Legal Press,” hosted by the Legal Marketing Association, panelists discussed the top trends in legal media as well as tips for PR professionals trying to put their best foot forward to get coverage from reporters and editors. The expert panel included Jenna Greene, Editor-Columnist of AmLaw Litigation Daily; David Houston, Editor of the Daily Journal; and Casey Sullivan, Editor-Writer with Big Law Business of Bloomberg. Below are a few legal marketing takeaways:

  • Beat the Competition: There is an increasing request for media outlets to consistently publish “quick-take commentary” similar to blog-like articles—more news, less fluff. The demand for this steady flow of content is fueled by increased competition in the legal publication landscape. There are a lot of new players, which drive more outlets to produce quick-take commentary. However, panelists warned of the blurred lines between marketing and news, especially when it comes to blogs.
  • Streamline Press Releases: Press releases are still relevant; however, they should be streamlined and focus on setting the narrative – it’s the information that matters. Some companies have even chosen to get creative in ways they deliver press releases, including through social media. Be creative, but don’t “over-lawyer” it—meaning don’t use complex formats, include unnecessarily fluffy sentences, or spend hours crafting every phrase. Timeliness is a key factor, and in a 24-hour news cycle, a day or two old is sometimes too old for publications.
  • Get Creative on Social Media: For the most part, lawyers aren’t using Twitter. However, lawyers are using LinkedIn and seem to be utilizing it as a publishing platform. LinkedIn is also using its data to serve as a matchmaker between legal service buyers and lawyers.
  • Set the Parameters for Contributed Content: Contributed content where outside people are the authors was a hot topic among the panelists. They stressed that it cannot be self-promotional and must feature an industry-wide topic.
  • Facilitating vs. Controlling: Legal marketing professionals should play the role of facilitator rather than trying to control the story and get in the way. Also, avoid misplaced persistence regarding matters that are irrelevant to editors. Further, asking for a quote review on simple stories will earn you a reputation of wasting reporters’ time. On the flip side, panelists agreed that they really like when they have access to the top people and interviews are lined up for them.

It’s important for PR professionals to maintain a positive relationship with editors and reporters. This relationship sets the foundation for your client and gives them prime media opportunities. Respecting the reporters’ beats, time and work vastly increases the chance that they will return the favor. This creates a win-win-win situation for your client, the publication and yourself.

Sparking Your Attorneys’ Marketing Drive

When law firms take the initial step in ramping up their marketing momentum, oftentimes they come across the challenge of sparking that same marketing initiative and drive within their individual attorneys. Given the constant pressure of billable hours, devoting time to marketing can be overwhelming and time consuming for attorneys. They have a preconceived notion that writing articles, presenting webinars, and interacting with the media is just not a workable priority. So how do law firms make marketing appealing to attorneys? Learn to unleash their competitive nature.

Lawyers are inherently competitive, always striving to be better than the attorney next to them. One approach for awakening the marketing instincts of your firm’s attorneys is to make “local heroes” of them by prominently highlighting and internally sharing their marketing results. By calling attention to an attorney’s accomplishments—whether it’s a media quote, published article, or ranking—through an internal email blast or newsletter, it generates interest, excitement, and most importantly a little bit of competition within the firm.

Once attorneys see that their colleague has been featured, this sparks their competitive instinct, which is strong in this particular group of professionals! Other attorneys want to be highlighted and given a public pat on the back for taking that extra step by publishing an article, doing an interview, teaching a seminar, or talking to the media.

Introducing marketing accountability transforms a daunting chore into an effective business development tool. Not to mention, a little competition never hurt anyone!

Marketing vs. Business Development for Law Firms

We constantly hear the terms “marketing” and “business development” used interchangeably, often with respect to law firms, but how do they differ? What do each of these strategies entail and how should they be utilized within a law firm setting to grow business? Typically, since clients hire individual lawyers rather than law firms, it’s pretty much up to the attorney to do both marketing and business development.

  • Marketing is essentially everything you do to raise a decision maker’s awareness of the firm. It involves identifying your firm’s points of differentiation, developing a key message, and creating a strong positioning in your firm’s target markets. Traditional marketing tools and strategies for firms include advertising, sales collateral, website content, media relations, thought leadership materials, and other credentialing activities.
  • Business development is all about the individual lawyer creating, fostering, and leveraging partnerships and strategic relationships with existing clients and new prospects to generate business. At its core, business development is leveraging existing clients and referral sources as door-openers to prospective clients, as well as consistently creating new contacts and relationships. This is the attorney’s chance to sell themselves and their points of differentiation.

Attorneys often ask which one is more important. The answer is: it’s not about doing either marketing or business development––it’s about doing both of them. They are both components of the best practice-based approach to firm development and expansion. Marketing supports business development, and business development supports marketing.

Academically, it is clear that marketing and business development are separate disciplines; however, practically they operate on parallel tracks. Implementing both marketing and business development will result in successful firm branding, expanded individual relationships, and overall business growth.

What Law Firms Can Do Right Now to Improve Their Content Marketing

Content marketing is a great strategy for law firms, but it can easily turn into an ineffective time suck if not done well. Firms shouldn’t jump into content marketing just because it’s the latest trend—content has to be timely, relevant and useful to your audience in order to be effective, and that takes time and dedication. Above all, your content needs to be high quality.

The key to creating quality content is using an authentic voice. Legal professionals are often used to writing in a formal, technical style. That type of writing typically won’t translate to e-newsletters, blogs and online publications. A more conversational tone will capture readers and make your content relatable. Once you’ve perfected your voice, using it consistently will make readers feel as if they know you, and they’ll turn to you for information again and again.

Creating a content marketing plan that works for your firm takes trial and error, but there are some time-tested tactics that other firms have found success with. Here are three action items you can implement today.

  • Determine your expertise. Even if you focus your work on a widely practiced area of law, no other firm or attorney has the exact same experience that you do. Look to important or favorite cases you’ve handled and ask yourself what insights you can glean from them. What interesting perspective can you offer to your audience?
  • Re-purpose major court rulings and legal news items. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for every blog post. Offer your opinion, commentary or predictions on recent developments in your field to engage in the conversation. If you follow the news, half of your content marketing work is done for you.
  • Think beyond words. Try using photos, video, podcasts or infographics to share your message. Multimedia content is a great way to grab readers’ attention and humanize your content, especially on social media.
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