Thursday, January 31, 2013

SEO For Law Firm Marketing

SEO for law firm marketing is an increasingly essential part of the overall strategy of a marketing and client generation plan. Understanding the meaning of SEO and other forms of internet marketing is the foundation of setting up your law firm marketing and SEO strategy.

What is SEO?

There is a lot of talk these days about SEO and other internet marketing terms. The basic definition is that SEO or Search Engine optimization is a way of optimizing your web content so that it may be found by search engines and appear higher on results pages when someone performs a search.

So where does a legal firm begin their SEO law firm marketing strategy. The first step is building a search engine friendly web site. This has a number of elements that need to be examined and implemented.

Designing an SEO friendly site

You first need to determine what particular keywords your market is using to find you. You need to think like the customer - what would they be searching in order to find you?

Once you have determined the main keywords, the next step is to test how difficult it would be to rank for those keywords. You do not want to waste your time trying to rank for something like "lawyer" - there is far too much competition and it will be very difficult to get your site on the first page of the search engine results. Instead, you need to get creative and specific by targeting long tail keywords. So for example you could try something like "asbestos attorney New York". Again, think like the client and the more targeted your keywords are the more success you will have.

If you are targeting a particular local market, make sure you incorporate local search terms in your keyword selection. Many potential clients will be typing in local search modifiers - like City, Zip Code or Street name when trying to find a particular service. Be sure to use search localization when optimizing your site.

The final step in creating your site is content creation. It is important that the content for your law firm is creative, unique, easy to navigate and informative. Spend time experimenting with video, images and creating unique content that your clients will actually benefit from.

There are numerous benefits of SEO for your law firm marketing strategy. Find out more information on how to get started with Law Firm Marketing

Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Interview at a Law Firm

Interviewing has changed significantly during the past 10 years. The process has become less formal, and interviews are frequently shorter and less structured than they used to be. Your performance during job interviews will be a major factor in how many offers you receive, as most law firms make hiring decisions based in large part on how a candidate presents themselves during an interview. In the old days, law firms would accept resumes, screen them for qualified applicants, and invite those applicants to meet with several of the firm's partners for interviews. The partners would ask each candidate the same list of questions, and then make a decision. Today, interviewing is much faster paced and not as formal. I have met lawyers for job interviews at Starbucks or a restaurant rather than an office. Interviews are frequently rushed and last less than 10 minutes. Sometimes it is not even clear whether or not a meeting is actually an interview!

This new environment requires attorneys who are looking for a job to develop new skills. Rather than waiting for the person conducting the interview to ask you a question, have a few concise talking points that explain your background, why you want to work for the organization, and how you can help it succeed. A candidate should be able to make a convincing case for why they should be hired in about 5 minutes. Probably the most important thing to remember about the interviewing process is this: people make hiring decisions based on emotional reasons and justify their decisions with logical reasons. Focus on connecting with the person who is conducting the interview. Present yourself as a confident, trustworthy, intelligent, and outgoing individual. If the person conducting the interview is impressed and wants to hire you, then they will look for logical reasons to present to other members of their organization. Be ready with a solid list of reasons why you should be hired. For example, "I graduated from a good law school, wrote articles for a law journal, and interned for a judge." These reasons all present a strong logical case why you should be hired.

Dressing appropriately for an interview is important. Check on the dress code at the law firm or organization where you are interviewing. If the attorneys wear business casual or business attire, then be sure to wear a suit. I recommend wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and a dark red or blue tie for men. If there is any doubt about what clothing is appropriate, then dress conservatively and wear a dark suit. If the attorneys at the organization where you are interviewing dress casually, then you may not want to wear a suit. If the office is very casual and everyone usually wears jeans and T-shirts, then you may want to wear business casual cloths. Khakis and a nice shirt will suffice. I once interviewed at an internet company and wore a dark suit, white shirt, and red tie. I looked overdressed and awkward as I sat on a bean-bag chair and talked about my qualifications. The person who was interviewing me was wearing blue jeans, and I did not look like someone who would fit in at their company. Remember that although it is usually best to wear a suit to an interview, there are exceptions. After the interview is over, be sure to follow up with the person and thank them for meeting with you. I usually send a quick e-mail the next day. Let the person know that you are still interested in the job, and mention something that you discussed during the interview. For example, "it was interesting to learn how your firm has been expanding its real estate practice." Interviewing requires patience and practice. If you work on it, you will get better as you go along. Best of luck!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Accounting for Law Firms - Get Your Trust Funds in Order!

One of the most difficult bookkeeping tasks for law firms is the correct processing of client trust accounts. The client trust account is a bank account where law firms hold money for a client to cover the cost of expenses. The trust account, also known as an IOLTA account (Interest on Lawyers Trust Account), must be separate from the law firms operating account and the funds must be clearly identified. Each state has guidelines governing the handling and reporting of attorney trust funds. Attorneys can neither borrow from or utilize trust funds to operate their business.

One of the easiest ways to properly account for and reconcile the trust funds account is by purchasing proper accounting software, although there are several on the market, I prefer utilizing QuickBooks software. The software is reasonably inexpensive and will provide attorneys with the tools they need to not only properly manage their trust account, but also to run the daily operations of their business, including billing. Please note that some larger firms will have different requirements and may utilize a QuickBooks add-on for their billing purposes.

Within QuickBooks, the user will set up a bank account named "Client Trust Account." If more then one trust account is required, the user can set up subaccounts, one for each client. The subaccount is part of the main account, but all of its transactions will be kept separate.

The next step would require the user to set up a Trust Liability account, which represents the money owed to the client. subaccounts should be assigned for each client as noted above for the Client Trust bank account.

By utilizing the subaccounts all activity of each client will be easy to reconcile, and the user will be able to access reports for each trust fund under their control making compliance a snap. A feature in QuickBooks will enable the user to generate a custom report, a "Trust Liability Proof" to illustrate that the trust fund accounts are in balance.

The above represent a simplistic scenario. There are other issues and work arounds that can be incorporated depending on the complexity of the situation. Examples of this are whether setting up a separate Trust Accounts Payable account is necessary or if the user will use a firm credit card to pay for client costs (some states may prohibit this practice), or whether expenses are paid for by the firm and then reimbursed from the trust fund etc., or there can be several matters the firm is working on for the client and the funds for these other matters must be segregated, or lastly, if the volume of trust fund activity is large, I would recommend maintaining a separate company file in the software.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Driving Marketing Change At Law Firms - A Test of Leadership

Although it is never easy to challenge the status quo or achieve fundamental change within an organization - especially at a law firm. Yet change is a fundamental component to success. How does a firm steeped in culture and tradition address these questions? Very carefully. Especially if it is driven by a law firm marketing partner.

Driving change can bring about profound personal and professional rewards. It requires developing a strong vision of the firms identity. I call the process firm sculpting - creating your firms ideal image.

The goal of course is to find that new image and make it powerful - one that will greatly increase client satisfaction and propel the firm's success. This of course takes true leadership - and that's the rub.

True leaders have the capacity to articulate a vision and inspire others to pursue it with them. True leaders come from a place of honesty--with willingness to see what actually is and discover what could be through community effort. They bring with them a confidence that gives others the courage to strive for even the loftiest goals.

Your firm's potential for change lies in the hands of such a true leader. Without a strong individual with the skill to push for change by enlisting rather than alienating others, your firm may make important improvements, but it is unlikely to reach its full potential.

The all-important first step in initiating change is to find such a leader within your ranks. Once you are committed to seeing things change, look around and ask yourself who will lead. (The answer may be as close as your own reflection in a mirror.)

Once the leader is chosen, whether he's the partner with the most power and seniority in the firm or a more junior partner who is eager and willing to support the process, his or her first step is to identify and enlist the other key players in your firm.

Forming Your Inner Team (the Key Partners)

The next step is to identify the principal members of the team--the inner circle. Most of the time, the inner circle will be composed of key partners and, in some firms, top-level administrators. Without them on board, the probability of creating profound change at the root level is seriously diminished. Bring them on board as soon as possible.
But before the firm does this, it must address a very serious issue. It must know whether the core power base--the inner circle--includes what is referred to as a "Toxic Partner." Like a drop of poison in a carafe, a single "Toxic" can be fatal to even the most brilliant and ambitious of plans.

Finding Your Firm's Vision - The Heart of Legal Marketing

Once the leader and the inner circle have been identified and any Toxics have been dealt with, the next step is for your leader to set up a series of meetings to determine what the firm's values and challenges are and then begin to articulate a vision for the firm's future. Ideally, a facilitator will be brought in at this point to help keep things on track.
Uncovering your firm's values is no easier than confronting its challenges. Your firm's values must inspire the partners if there is any hope of inspiring the firm itself and its clients. When the members of the inner circle envision the firm, they should identify which values move and inspire them. These inspired values must appeal to them at a visceral level, not just sound good. Left to their own devices, many partners (and professional marketers) come up with meaningless phrases like "We live to serve." Your firm's inspired values must be held to a higher standard than this.
The values must be concrete and measurable; the first measure is whether they elicit a positive emotional reaction that motivates action. You'll know when the values defined by the inner circle are powerful enough--endorphins will kick in, enthusiasm will rise and it will inspire people to take action.

Drafting Your Firm's Master Charter (and Creating Derivative Charters)

The inspiration and commitment achieved during the first seminal meetings will soon be evidenced in the creation of your firm's master charter. As will be discussed in much more detail in later chapters, it is the inspired values and principles found in the master charter that will guide what we call -derivative charters--charters that belong to your key departments, practice groups and committees.

The master charter must be anchored in the leadership's inspired values. It is the first evidence of what has been a dynamic, proactive process. The master charter must be real, not contrived. It must be rooted in the leadership's intentions for the firm and the principles on which the firm will be governed from now on.

The master charter will become the focal point of the firm's identity. It is the document that articulates the inspired values and priorities of the firm. It will not be drafted in a day--creating it takes introspection, analysis, debate and thoughtful examination. But when it is finished, it is the equivalent of a constitution for your firm. If it is done with excellence, it will both guide and inspire every member of your firm to actions that are congruent with the firm's identity.

Once a powerful firm culture is in place, the master charter's norms and values will keep the firm on the path to following its inspired values and will discourage individual or group conduct that is inconsistent with those values.

Once the master charter is completed, many law firms falter. The leadership becomes excited about the new charter and circulates it among the other members of the firm. A few memos go out touting the power of vision and describing the bright future that lies ahead. A few of the more ambitious partners try to rally the troops around the cause, but soon the inspiration begins to pale and the charter fades into the background, with no more appeal than the firm's letterhead and logo.

Resculpting is for naught unless the people below the leadership level believe that the vision is relevant to their lives. I can't emphasize this enough: The relevance cannot be illusory; it must be as real to them as their weekly paycheck. So your next step must be to give them both the responsibility and the authority to put changes into action.
In order to do this, I recommend that the firm's charter be a jumping-off point from which each major department creates its own charter and plan of action within the vision that the leadership has delineated. These derivative charters and the strategic action plans will give the members of the firm a personal stake in their future.

The facilitator, with the support of top leadership, must ensure that each of the firm's major departments, practice groups and committees is given time and support in crafting these all-important documents. Otherwise the subordinates will perpetually feel that this is the leadership's vision, not theirs. Giving them the opportunity to participate is the only way to make the vision relevant, and it will also make them accountable for the results.

The challenge lies in getting the inspiration and enthusiasm evoked by the creation of the new vision to truly motivate everyone--all the way down to the people on the lowest rungs of the firm's ladder. The solution is to empower everyone. Skipping this step will undermine all of the firm's efforts.

In the end, every member of the firm should be enrolled in the change process. Every member of the firm who comes into contact with clients, vendors, other firms' attorneys, or anyone else should reflect the firm's inspired values and identity. Every form of marketing, advertising and promotion should be inseparably integrated with the people who make up the firm.

Bringing the Rest on Board (and Creating Strategic Action Plans)

This last step in reinventing the firm happens once the master charter and derivative chapters are written. To allow everyone in the firm to take part--to take ownership--in the changes the firm is making, the leaders of each of the firm's major departments, committees and practice groups, in conjunction with each of their respective team members, will construct detailed action plans that identify specific goals, specify time lines and names of people accountable for bringing the goals to fruition. These strategic action plans should be developed for each of the major departments in the firm.
Strategic action plans are developed only after the firm's charter and the derivative charters have been carved out by the leadership. These charters are the basis for the strategic action plans, which are tangible instructions for making decisions and taking action.

Strategic action plans can be thought of as logical extensions of the firm's values and beliefs. They are, by nature, imbued with the firm's culture. They can take on enormous momentum, capable of pushing the firm forward to new heights and performance levels.

Strategic action plans bridge the gap between the firm's words and its deeds. They provide specific task-driven objectives against which the firm's leadership, including the managers, can test assumptions and gauge the firm's departmental performance.

The single most important characteristic of strategic action plans is that they are task-specific--they describe purposes, time lines and responsibilities for the tasks the firm performs. These plans, as well as the specific goals they are intended to achieve, must in the end be measured against both the derivative and master charters.

Although it is never easy to challenge the status quo or achieve fundamental change within an organization, the personal and professional rewards are boundless. Moving away from a firm's preconceived notions frees it from existing limitations. The vision that emerges from the process of sculpting your firm allows your firm to create a new identity that will greatly increase client satisfaction and propel the firm's success.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Law Firm Business Card Design That Gets New Clients

I am asked from time to time what an attorney should do about their law firm business cards since they are about to get some new cards. Actually I would recommend you not wait until you run out of cards currently to think through your business card strategy. You may or may not have to throw out your current cards. That is not important. What is important is what results can you expect from your business cards. Let me list for you some guidelines for your business card strategy that will improve your results. Business cards need to be created to get you business are they not?

1. You probably need more than one type of law firm business card. One card that is conservative and is used in situations or with people you think will respond best to a more conservative card like other attorneys, court personnel, bankers, and the like. You need a more "sales oriented" card for other environments to be used in situations where you are dealing with some referral sources or with your prospective client. Particularly if your practice areas are family law, criminal law, personal injury, elder law, immigration law, residential real estate, etc. In fact if you market to an ethnic market like Hispanics then you need a third card that works for them and preferably has been done by a vendor who specializes in Hispanic work.

2. Please don't use the templates available at your local printer or print them off your computer. Go to and hire a graphic artist to design your law firm business card. Do be sure it is readable for your market (older people need larger and easy reading fonts). Have them design a logo if you don't have one as well. It will be inexpensive ($8 per hour and up) to hire a graphic artist type since this website is a worldwide marketplace. You can hire vendors from places like India, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the USA and be safe since they do understand our market. The United Kingdom is expensive with respect to the US dollar currently and they tend to be overly conservative for our market. Some USA vendors are young, eager and/or want to create a portfolio so their fees are low but their skills are fine for this purpose.

3. It is probably better if your law firm business card is at least a two-color card (maybe even a four color card for some practice areas like criminal law or personal injury for instance). What I mean here is either different color inks or a difference between the color of the card and the ink. You need something to make the card more visually interesting. Always use a quality paper for the card.

4. Be sure your website address is on the card and it is a domain name you own that reflects your practice area if possible. Naturally name, address and phone number as well on the card.

5. Consider putting your email address on your law firm business card or maybe instead of putting the website address. One caution here is be sure you have an email address on your card that is your own domain name and not AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, or a vendor at your home like Comcast, Road Runner, Bell South or the like. Why? You don't look like someone who is a solid business unless your domain name is one you own and is business/keyword related.

6. Consider putting your "slogan" on your law firm business card. One of mine is "Guiding your practice to increased revenues while reducing your work hours as you serve your clients better than ever." Now, clearly a bit long for a business card and you get the idea. If you don't put a slogan at least put something that indicates your major practice area focus on the card. Also you may need different cards for different practice areas thus more than 3 different cards (conservative, sales oriented, ethnic type for each major practice area) for some.

7. A bit more daring yet effective is putting an offer for a "free report" or "white paper" offer on your law firm business card. The article title needs to be very appealing to your market. Usually the article needs to be a "how to" or "7 ways to" or "secrets of" type of title. Maybe saying on the card "call or email me for the my complimentary report on XXX" on the card or even "download at" which also doubles as putting your website address on the card.

8. Up to this point you probably have been thinking only about the front of your law firm business card. Let's get a bit outside the box and think about the back of the card. How about that long slogan, the quote or the complimentary report offer on the back?

9. OK, lets get even more outside the box and say put your picture on the front of the card. Research on business cards shows those cards with a picture on the fronts are noticed, kept and remembered better than other cards without a photo.

10. Having said all of the above do be careful not to have the card cluttered so you don't have to put everything I wrote about on your card.

Now you have it. Some ideas to consider with law firm business cards. I am sure some would say this is too much and maybe so. There is much to consider in law firm business cards that really makes a difference in getting you new clients or not.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Want to Get Your Law Firm Website to Number One on Google? Don't Comment Spam

I own my own criminal defense law firm. I opened it up less than six months ago. So far I have gone from no web presence on Google for terms like Seattle DUI lawyer, Seattle criminal attorney, and other related keywords to being on the first page for some (and within the top three at all). How did I do it? You guessed it - SEO, or search engine optimization.

The good thing about creating a web presence for your law firm is that there isn't yet a tremendous amount of competition out there for it. Sure there are SEO companies selling spots on the first page of Google (allegedly), but they are a fly by night organization. Over time they will get pushed out by those that do it the right way, setting up a web presence that gets stronger over time, not weaker. What this means is there are ways for you to build an online presence and get the phone ringing more and more over time.

If you go out searching on the internet for ways to improve your search engine rankings, you will find there are a lot of conflicting stories out there. For some it is a lot of content and a lot of regular readers of your site or blog. For others it is backlinks, the links on other sites that link to your site. Some things work, some don't. As you might have guessed, in the end it is a little bit of everything that will maximize your online presence.

When you finally figure out what backlinks are and start trying to get them, you'll quickly learn one thing - it is not easy. Everybody knows how important backlinks are to increasing your law firm search engine ranking, and because of that they aren't very quick to hand them out like candy. You have to find out how to make some good quality backlinks to your site to get Google to love you. And at some point someone is going to tell you comments are the key.

Once you hear this you are likely to go out and start commenting everywhere you can, throwing out as many links as possible back to your site. It won't matter if you have anything to say or if it is even relevant to the post you are commenting on. The backlink will be key. And in the end, you won't see your search engine ranking increase one bit. Why is this? Because comments, even if they allow you to place a link of yours in the comment, don't count as backlinks, for the most part.

Google has created code that you can insert into links that will actually make Google just skip over the link like it doesn't exist. It's called a nofollow tag, and like the name suggests, when Google encounters one, it will not follow the link to its destination, like it doesn't even exist. Nearly all comments are nofollow links, for that exact reason. They want comments to be related to the article, not people hopping around looking for links.

If you want to build up your website presence, you need to do more than just leaving comments on blogs. You need to dedicate yourself to working hard to building your online legal web presence. This means you are going to have to do a bunch of stuff that isn't necessarily fun or exciting. But when you start climbing in the search engines, you are going to see some serious dividends being paid.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Online Marketing for a Law Firm - Techniques That Will Drive in the Clients

Online marketing for a law firm is a great way for your practice to find new clients. With so many people spending an increasing amount of time online, they would also likely use the Internet to look for a lawyer if they need one, rather than using traditional techniques such as opening the yellow pages. And a search engine optimized website allows visitors to get an idea of what your firm can offer them as well as giving them an easy way to contact you once they realize how you can help them resolve their legal problems.

The first step in effective online marketing for a law firm is to decide what identity your firm has, and what law firm clients it wants to attract, since this will dictate your website design. For example, if you mostly deal with corporations, you might want a website that offers a more conservative design with photos of the lawyers in formal dress, which is intended to communicate to potential clients that you are trustworthy. If your firm wants to reach out to the man on the street that might be defending himself against a DUI charge, then you might opt for a more casual design intended to assure clients that hiring lawyers need not be a daunting process, with photos of smiling people on the home page.

The next step is to fill your website with useful content based on what particular area of the law your firm specializes in. For example, if you focus on corporate law, you should include articles that stress how knowledgeable your firm is about this legal field and what you have to offer. If you are offering your services to ordinary people with legal problems, then you might want to offer short posts or even videos on areas of the law that these people might frequently run into, such as drunk driving or traffic violations. You can then end the articles or videos with a call to action asking readers to call your office so you that can discuss how to help them resolve their problems.

Once you are satisfied with your website design, you can start using SEO online marketing for a law firm techniques to help it rank high on search engine results pages. Remember, if you rank within the top three or top five, you are more likely to see people click on your links, since most of them will not bother to go to the bottom of the results pages. You can do this by focusing on keywords that leads will likely be searching for, which will be your firm's area of specialization, plus the area where your firm is located. So for example, if your firm specializes in defending those charged with driving under the influence and you are based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, you might target this keyword, DUI lawyer Cedar Rapids Iowa. Make sure you use this keyword in the header of your homepage and target a keyword density of about 3% of total word count. You can then use secondary keywords such as Cedar Rapids DUI attorney in the secondary web pages.