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, September 30, 2009

How Often Should a Lawyer Communicate with Clients or Prospects?

One common thread I have absorbed from successful marketers is that there is no such thing as communicating excessively with your clients.

David Lorenzo runs the Rainmaker Lawyer Blog. He has a great article on the importance of communicating with your clients.
One of the questions I am asked most often is: “How often should I communicate with my clients and prospective clients?”

Many people are afraid they will annoy their clients and prospective clients if they communicate with them too often. Lawyers (in my client group) are particularly concerned about the frequency of delivery of email and print information. They ask: “Is a weekly email newsletter too much?” And “Is a monthly print newsletter too frequent?”

The answers are: “NO” and “NO”.

If you provide your clients and prospects with the right kind of content they will happily read it no matter how often you send it to them.

This is not some academic theory (although it is supported by substantial academic evidence). It is something I have learned through experience.

My email tip – The Rainmaker Minute —is distributed weekly to my clients, my referral partners, people who may be clients some day and my friends and relatives. These are all people who I have met or have otherwise given me permission to correspond with them. Less than one percent of people I have sent this email to have ever opted out.

My monthly newsletter – The Rainmaker Letter – goes to Clients and VIPs (people who request it). Every 30 days these folks receive a 4 page newsletter from me. And every month I get several requests to send copies to friends of the recipients.

The bulk of my new clients, by far, come from people who have been reading my newsletters, books and blog articles regularly. They know me. They like me and they trust me.

This works for attorneys too.

The secret to keeping your clients and prospects engaged is contained within four key qualities of the content you create. Here are the four qualities of effective communication:

Interesting Content

This is, by far, the most important component of any communication system. Your content must be interesting and relevant to your audience. People change the channel on boring television programs. People unsubscribe from boring newsletters.

A shot of spice also never hurt the content of a newsletter or email. You’ll notice I occasionally pick fights with my competitors or tweak a lousy vendor or talk about sex just to make sure you are still with me.

Make sure your material is interesting and informative.

Frequency

People want to hear from you more often than you think. If you are providing value in your newsletter or email, there is no reason to worry about sending something to people too often. A good rule of thumb is to think about how often you call your best friend. You call when you have something interesting to say and your call is welcomed.

The standard for my clients is a weekly email and a monthly newsletter. I have clients who send an email out daily – like an inspirational quote of the day or a stock market update (recapping yesterday’s results). Although these things are not relevant to their law practice, they are important to the person receiving them.

Consistency

The Rainmaker Minute is sent out each Wednesday at 12 noon (Eastern). Every week, same time. People know when to expect it. The Rainmaker Letter is sent out each month on the 15th (unless it is a Sunday – then we send it out a day early).

People like things that are consistent because they are reliable. They trust people who are consistent.

If you send out a newsletter one month and then you skip a few months, people will think you are unreliable.

Personality

Your writing should fit your personality. Many people say they can actually hear me speaking when they read my email and my newsletter. You are not writing an academic work when you sit down to compose your newsletter. You are having a conversation with a friend. You are helping them get to know you. Inject your personality into the writing.

Monthly newsletters and weekly email may seem like a lot of work – and it can be. But remember, doing this consistently, over time, will provide you with a handsome reward in new clients down the road.

Someone is finishing reading this article right now and they are going to implement a weekly and monthly communication system. Will it be you or will it be that competitor you are most concerned about?
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, September 22, 2009

Channeling Your Social Networking Energy

Social networking continues to be the latest "it" in legal marketing. But where to turn? Networking sites are popping up like daisies in spring time. Larry Bodine offers his thoughts on law.com. In a nutshell: LinkedIn is in, twitter is out.
You could hear the collective groan when Twitter made the cover of Time magazine and marketers realized that they had to become familiar with yet another online medium. There's Facebook, MySpace, Naymz, Spoke, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Martindale Connected, Legal OnRamp, JD Supra and listservs, to name a few online social networks. It seems overwhelming.

The good news is that marketers and lawyers can ignore most of them, concentrate on a single online network, experiment with one or two others, and turn their efforts into new clients, new files and new billable work. Another big plus is that all the online networks are free.

WHY BOTHER?

There is a huge conversation taking place online that works for business development purposes. In fact, more people are conversing on online "member communities" than via e-mail (according to Nielsen Online, Global Index, 2008)! Fifty-nine percent of lawyers have joined an online social network -- and here's the good part -- so have 48 percent of in-house counsel, according to Leader Networks, 2008.

This is the result of a sea change in the U.S. population. The techno-reluctant Baby Boomers are no longer the largest generation in history -- they account for only 23 percent of the population. The biggest generation today is variously called the "Net Generation, Millennials or Gen X," and they account for 27 percent of the population. They grew up with the Web, cell phones, texting and online social networks. These people are making corporate purchasing decisions and are junior partners at law firms. Therefore, law firms need to be online to reach these people.

Caveat: Online networking is no substitute for face-to-face business development meetings. An online presence will make it easy to contact you, showcase your knowledge, help meet potential clients and generate leads. But the goal of online networking is to meet with a contact in person.

SO WHERE DO I START?

• Begin by eliminating the time-wasters -- and in my opinion, the primary example is Twitter. Consider this. A new study by Pear Analytics found that: 40 percent of the tweets on Twitter were "total pointless babble."

• 10 percent of Twitter users account for over 90 percent of tweets, according to Harvard Business School.

• Among people with a Twitter account, 60 percent drop out after one month and never come back, according to Neilsen Wire.

• 55 percent have never posted a tweet, according to HubSpot.com.

Twitter is useful as a supplemental marketing tool -- if you issue a press release or update your Web site or blog, you can use the 140-character limit to send out the headline and URL. It's also useful to monitor your own name and firm name. Tweetbeep.com will do this for you for free. You never can tell what someone will say about your firm or yourself online.

You can also forget about MySpace, which has been losing users for some time now. As for Naymz, Spoke and Plaxo, none of them get enough traffic to be worth your time.

Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla with 200 million users. For law firms, it is useful as a recruiting source. Firms like Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle have create firm profiles for young lawyers, because many of them have Facebook accounts. Caveat: If you have a personal Facebook account, don't put anything online that you don't want clients to see. Also be aware that anyone can write anything on your wall, or post a picture on their own account showing you in an embarrassing way.

LINKEDIN: THE PLACE TO DEVOTE YOUR EFFORTS

Some 840,000 lawyers have profiles on LinkedIn, according to Stemlegal.com. LinkedIn is business-oriented, and has become the de facto online directory for looking up more than 40 million professionals of all kinds. Homework: your assignment after you finish this article is to create a full-fledged profile with a picture on LinkedIn.

Why LinkedIn? In comparison, Facebook is for staying in touch with people you used to know. LinkedIn is for connecting with clients and referral sources, and getting in touch with new people you'd like to meet. Having a profile is the starting point. Thereafter your must use LinkedIn to generate new business:

• Seek recommendations. When your client is delighted with the outcome of a case or completion of a deal, at that moment, ask him or her to visit your profile and make a recommendation. This is a testimonial, which is very powerful marketing. Join a Group. This is where the action happens on LinkedIn. You can find a group for your practice area, an association you belong to, or an industry where you would like more clients.

• Start a Discussion. Every group has online discussions, giving you a chance to demonstrate your expertise. Pick a hot topic of the day and ask for opinions. By starting a discussion, you are positioning yourself as a leader.

• Make a Comment. LinkedIn will e-mail you a current list of discussions underway. This is your chance to chime in an offer a comment. Caveat: Don't give a legal opinion, or you'll attract unintended client relationships, and do not express a legal opinion, which may conflict with a position your firm is taking in a brief for a client. Also avoid personal attacks that could be viewed as defamatory falsehoods. Simply stick to facts -- news, new opinions, new regulations and new accomplishments -- and you'll be ethically OK.

• Ask a Question. Go to the "Answers" section and you'll see a box where you can ask a question or make a statement. You can select who among your contacts you want the message to go to.

• Build up your Connections. Whenever you speak to a client, referral source, prospect or news person, get their e-mail address and invite them to connect to you.

FOUR OTHERS

Once you have a fully complete LinkedIn profile, are actually using the account in groups and comments, and have a full schedule of in-person business development meetings scheduled, there are some other networks to consider.

JDSupra was launched in 2007 and it lets you market the old-fashioned way: with your work-product. You can upload briefs, court opinions, forms and articles, which will allow you to create a profile. In-house lawyers and potential clients can search JDSupra for free; when they find your document, they will click to see your profile and potentially call you. You can tag a brand new ruling or alert as a "hot doc," designed for the media to notice it.

LawMarketing Listserv was founded in 1996 and is the original e-mail discussion group devoted to law firm marketing. There is an annual fee, and as a result it attracts an elite membership of marketers and attorneys. The members discuss strategy, tactics, quick questions, and product opinions, as displayed by the TV set on the site. Members get invitations from editors to write articles, offers to review books which they get to keep, and the first notice of job openings. (Full disclosure: I operate it.)

Martindale-Hubbell Connected launched on April 1 and gained more than 12,000 members in four months. What's nice is that all the members are lawyers (and some in-house marketers) and that every member is authenticated. (On Twitter and Facebook anyone can pick a name, including yours, and open an account.) Any lawyer can join Connected, regardless of whether you have a Martindale-Hubbell listing.

Legal OnRamp is an online social network for GCs and in-house lawyers. Lawyers in private practice can visit the site and request an invitation to join. It's a site of potential clients, where GCs can ask questions, search lawyer profiles and share best practices. There are groups, discussion boards, search function, and access to Lex Mundi and Eversheds surveys. Interestingly, corporations are inviting lawyers to seek work from them by using Legal OnRamp. For example, FMC Technologies, an oilfield equipment company based in Houston, put a two-page questionnaire on the site, inviting tech-savvy firms that were open to alternative billing to apply. More than 30 law firms, some as small as seven lawyers, are being considered. None of these firms had done a stitch of work with FMC before.

CONCLUSION

Always remember that online networking is fruitless unless it results in a face-to-face meeting. Online social networking will vastly extend your reach for new-business opportunities. You may have a bunch of online buddies, but you are merely an e-mail address to them until you meet in person.
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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Exhibit Stamps For Adobe Acrobat

Rick Borstein continues to create great little lawyer add-ons for Adobe Acrobat Pro. His earlier exhibit stamp has been an invaluable addition. Now he makes it even better by allow for text in addition to numbers. Please click here to get it.

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, September 9, 2009

Chuck Newton on Marketing With Permission

Chuck Newton Rides The Third Wave is a great blog. I read it every day. He recently posted an article with his thoughts on marketing that really made a lot of sense to me. Here's a taste.
Not long after I started practicing law I discovered the magic, I thought, of TV advertising. Yes, it was incredibly expensive, but it produced large results -- fast. But, there was a problem with the potential clients it brought in. Although they were intrigued enough to venture into the office, they came with a great deal of skepticism and with many misconceptions. After all, it is difficult to transmit any kind of real information in the 28 to 29 actual seconds you are on the air. The potential client was there because of the unmitigated repetition (the shear number of spots) broadcast into their homes by my law firm. The other problem was that in order to properly inform them and advise them, you have to conduct a massive number of individual initial interviews, one on one, often without success. By this I mean you as a lawyer have to give away probably half of your available time visiting with people, for lengthy periods, and a good percentage of them are never going to employ you. The result is you bring in other expensive (in terms of overhead) lawyers and non-lawyer financial advisers to conduct all of the give-away work to try and educate the base and motivate them to retain your law firm as opposed to someone else.

The reason for this is that TV commercials, as most mediums, constitute push advertising. This is, essentially, advertising (or marketing) that comes to find us. It is what bombards us daily. It is prevalent. It is what makes duck and run for cover. It is why we all sing the praises of TiVO.

Now certainly every form of marketing enjoys a little bit of push. After all, a market has to be made for the services provided by your practice. The question is how much push works and at what costs. As I explained, above, push advertising or marketing is expensive both because it forces the spots in the face of your potential clients, it has to do so with enough frequency that they let their guard down, and then the cost of the individual attention to detail is very expensive.

The opposite of this is pull marketing. Pull marketing or advertising is the opposite of mass marketing. This is where the consumer wants to come to you for information and understanding and help. Certainly you have to make yourself available and visible to those that want to find you and seek the understanding your provide, but they are their of their own volition. They have not been motivated by what is the mass media equivalent of a cattle prod.

Please click here for the original article in its entirety.

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