Welcome

Thank you for visiting the Family Law Lawyer Tech & Practice blog. My name is John Harding. I am a family law lawyer practicing in Northern California. Long ago I realized that I could practice law more effectively and more efficiently (i.e., better and easier) by availing myself of the technological tools that are out there. I also learned that a successful law practice requires successful marketing. Hardware and software working together make me a better lawyer, and make my life easier. Marketing helps to bring in the business necessary for professional survival. By this blog I hope to share the tips, tricks, and technology that I have learned about so that others may benefit!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Word of Mouth is a Much Stronger Influencer Than Social Networking

Thanks to Larry Bodine at the Law Marketing Blog for sharing this article.

Stephanie Molnar, CEO of WorkPlace Media, says "When it comes to influencing brand perception and purchase decisions... social networking... has a long way to go."

A recent Harris poll also supported this assertion, says the report, showing that word of mouth is a much stronger influencer than social networking. When a group of adults were asked about their information-gathering process for the most recent purchase they made,
  • 21% of Harris poll respondents cited "face-to-face with a person not associated with the company, such as a family member, business colleague or friend."
  • 12% cited a phone call with someone similar
  • 4% mentioned using "public online social-networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace"
  • 4% mentioned "private social networking sites, such as customer communities"
According to additional findings from the WorkPlace Media survey, Facebook was the clear winner in terms of users:
  • 89% of respondents reported having a Facebook account
  • 40% MySpace
  • 31% LinkedIn
  • 18% Twitter
A study, recently released by WorkPlace Media, outlines some of the hurdles facing major brands as they attempt to harness the worlds of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, to create an impact with consumers.The study, which polled office Internet users, found that 55% maintained at least one social networking account. However, of those respondents, only 43% reported accessing their social networking accounts at work, and even for those with access, 78% reported spending less than 30 minutes per day on their site(s).

The overall impact of a brand's presence on social networking sites was shown to be minimal in terms of impact and perception. 96% of respondents said their opinion of a product brand did not change if that brand had no presence on a social networking site, and only 11% of social networking users reported following any major brand through a social networking site, and just 12% of respondents said their opinion of a brand changes if that brand maintains a social networking presence.

Please click here for the original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Using My Blackberry As A Laptop Modem

I am a family law trial lawyer. I spend a lot of time out of the office attending court proceedings, depositions, client meetings, etc. To facilitate a seamless connection with my office I have a Sprint data card for my laptop. The data card allows access to the internet, so that I can then log into the office. I don't use it often, but there are times when it is essential, such as when I am in trial and need to log into the office to read a pdf copy of a critical document that I cannot find in the file. The problem is the data card costs me $60 per month ($70 once you get done adding in taxes, regulatory fees, ect.), yet I doubt I spend no more than 30 minutes a month on line. At least until the courts start providing free wi-fi, I can't live with the data card, and I can't live without it.

Thanks to the folks at T-Mobile, there is a fix. While I was making a simple tech support call to T-Mobile, out of the blue the rep asked me if I was aware that I could use my Blackberry as a modem? "Why no," I responded. Then it was explained that the additional service would not increase my bill because my Blackberry subscription included unlimited data service. Responding favorably to the idea, I was transferred to a Blackberry modem specialist. Within five minutes the programming was created on my laptop, and I was surfing the web via my Blackberry modem!

I will admit that the data transfer rate is not as fast as the dedicated USB modem data card from Sprint. Then again, it is not as slow as a dial-up connection. I would give an un-expert analysis that the Blackberry connection runs at 60% to 70% of the data card speed. Still, for the rare emergency circumstances that require a connection, it is adequate. At least I am comfortable enough with it that I cancelled my Sprint data card subscription. I am sure I can put the $60-$70 per month to better use elsewhere.

I don't know if the other carriers provide a similar service, but if you are a T-Mobile Blackberry user you may want to check it out.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Firms Re-Focusing Business Development Strategies

From the Law Marketing Portal we learn that an interesting trend in legal marketing has sprung up recently. From conversations on the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) listservs to articles referenced on Twitter, commentary on blogs and invites for presentations and webinars, legal marketers are talking about spending less money on traditional brand awareness marketing and investing more time and money into business development and attorney coaching.

In May 2009, The Wall Street Journal cited research by BTI Consulting Group that said, “business development is one of the few marketing areas where law firm executives are most willing to increase spending. Nearly 70 percent said they planned to provide more marketing coaching to lawyers.”

Of course, it’s not at all surprising that law firms would ramp up their business development efforts. After more than a decade of consistent growth, profits plunged in 2008 and layoffs and pay cuts followed close behind. Once the work stopped falling into their laps, a realization set in: attorneys don’t know how to market. They need to be taught business development skills – and fast – in order to hold on to existing clients and meet prospects. But something more is going on beyond the commitment to generating new business. What we’re seeing is not simply a change of focus from traditional brand awareness marketing to business development, but a rise in an entirely new kind of branding for law firms.

In the past, law firms and the companies they represent marketed their brand through print, radio and television advertising, direct mail and email campaigns. Now, Tivo, iPods, RSS feeds, spam filters and recycling bins are making it even easier for people to ignore these intrusions. Web 2.0 and social networking have ushered in a new kind of branding, one that is participatory, conversational and reciprocal.

Brand ambassadors

Far from cutting back, there is a renewed commitment to branding 2.0 at law firms. Instead of using print advertising or other throwaway media forms, attorneys are being trained as brand ambassadors to share stories about the value that their firms deliver and ultimately raise brand awareness. Firms are telling attorneys to meet with their clients more regularly and become more involved in professional and industry organizations. Some attorneys have begun to connect with clients and prospects on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, among other sites.

As branding becomes personal in the legal industry, some firms are taking their first steps towards this new approach. Cummins & White, LLP, a 16-attorney firm with two offices in California, has devoted itself to client outreach activities. It has increased spending allowances for meetings with clients and referral sources and opened those up to any attorney who is interested in business development. Bingham McHale, a 140-attorney firm based in Indianapolis, doubled its coaching budget. Green & Seifter Attorneys, PLLC, a 30-lawyer firm in Syracuse, New York, has shifted dollars away from print advertising and reallocated those funds to a business development consultant who works with a handful of attorneys one-on-one and with another ten in monthly group meetings. Not only is the program a success, having already paid for itself in new business, but it’s paying dividends. Kathleen Ryan, director of marketing and public relations at the firm, has seen “an increase in confidence and in traditional business development techniques like articles, referral development, [and] speaking engagements.” Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are the online extension of in-person socializing, but Ms. Ryan is struggling to get her attorneys to participate in these social networks.

Other marketing professionals find that they’re having an easier time convincing attorneys to take conversations online. Stern Elkind Curray & Alterman, a boutique, immigration law firm in Denver, is cutting back significantly on traditional outreach like direct mail and print advertising to focus on getting attorneys in front of clients and prospects. Mary Dilworth, the firm’s marketing manager, works with each attorney on their individual marketing plan. She encourages attorneys to join local chambers of commerce, associations and other professional groups. To support these efforts, the firm is investing in business development consultants to coach attorneys. She supports attorneys who continue the conversation through blogging, webinars and social networking.

Social networks are the impetus

Ms. Dilworth identifies social networks as an impetus for law firm branding 2.0: “the drive is that we want more face-to-face time with prospects and clients…the whole new social media is helping to drive that. It's more hands-on and direct, and sometimes can be easier to measure.” Because these online efforts aren’t constrained by time, place, or even number of people, they offer attorneys a more efficient way to share their expertise, build relationships and become an active member of their community.

During the boom years, high performing attorneys had their own books of business that would go with them if they decided to jump to another firm. In contrast, these new attorney brand ambassadors are building relationships with clients, identifying needs outside of their area of expertise and cross-selling the services of other practice areas within the firm. We’ll have to wait and see if clients become clients of the firm and not the guarded gems of individual attorneys. Building that kind of solid client base ultimately may depend upon whether or not firms remain committed to the relationship building inherent in branding 2.0. But cultivating an environment focused on discovering new ways for brand ambassadors to better serve their clients is a great place for law firms to start.

Click here for the original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Big Firms Are Looking To Family Law

The legal profession is taking a hit. Pink slips are flying, revenues are down, and practice areas such as banking and mergers and acquisitions have shriveled. In these tough times the "bigger firms" are looking for new income streams. Guess which practice area they are taking a look at? That's right, family law.

Once the bastion of solos and small firms, family law lawyers are now finding themselves competing for clients with the big boys. Instead of cross-referrals, old allies are now fighting for the same clients. This week I received an e-mail blast from one of these firms proclaiming the incredible success of its new family law department (having grown from two lawyers to five in the last three months). I also got my first call from a law firm recruiter offering a partnership track in the new family law department of a mid-size firm. Painfully in both instances I used to look to those firms for referrals....

Is it a passing trend? Perhaps. In my twenty years of practice I have seen several business downturns, and it has been common for other solos to temporarily foray into family law (only to take their lumps and get out once the economy improved). This new cycle is different, with established family law lawyers moving into the large firm environment. That suggests greater staying power. Now more than ever it is important for the traditional family law firms to focus on the delivery of quality legal services, and to focus on marketing.

Send me your thoughts and comments. Let me know if you are seeing the same trends in your practice area? Let me know if you think it will change our practices?

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lawyers Can Learn From The Late Billy Mays

Inspired by the recent passing of pitchman Billy Mays, Jeff Berman has written a great article entitled 6 Things We Can Learn From Billy Mays About Lawyer Marketing. Key observations in the wow demo; enjoy what you do; deal with products and services you believe in; make sure your presentation is professional, unique, and polished; know your audience; and networking. Click here to view the entire article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.