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LAWREX
LEGAL MARKETING
AND NETWORKING BLOG


innovative law firm marketing for solo and small firm lawyers.
legal techology, internet marketing and legal news.
 

LawRex Update

I have been amazed at the growth in LawRex's membership and the level of interest about LawRex in the legal community. It is nice to hear so much positive and insightful feedback. As LawRex's membership continues to grow, it will become an even greater resource for the legal community. I thought I would share with you a few of the recent comments about LawRex by other legal bloggers:

If you have any other feedback or questions about LawRex, please send it to us. We are always looking for ways to improve.
 

Are Your Internet Legal Advertising Dollars Competing Against Your Advertising Dollars?

Lawyers spend a lot of money on advertising. The Internet has been drawing a lot of those legal advertising dollars. For the most part these dollars are going to companies that design and/or promote law firm websites and to companies that develop and/or maintain their own websites. Unfortunately most lawyers do not choose one option over the other and their legal advertising dollars do compete directly against the lawyers online and offline marketing efforts.

Let’s look at this a bit further. Most certainly Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s pay per click services draw a lot of legal advertising dollars. Lawyers and law firms use these services to promote the lawyers or firm’s individual websites. This has increased the demand for and legal advertising dollars that flow to companies that design law firm websites. So far so good. A decent website and pay per click ad campaign can be a viable internet advertising plan.

But most lawyers and law firms do not stop there. Instead they also advertise on legal portals (such as FindLaw, law.com, or lawyers.com) and legal matching websites (such as Case Post). The problem with this is that these portals and legal matching websites conduct their own internet advertising. In essence these portals and legal matching websites are trying to draw the same visitors that would have otherwise visited the lawyer or law firm’s website directly.

Let me give you a real life example. Say a criminal law attorney sets up a $100 per month Google pay-per-click advertising campaign and the attorney pays $300 per month to a portal like or to a legal matching web service. What will happen is the legal portal or legal matching website will turn around and allocate most of the $300 per month to set up a pay per click advertising campaign to target the kind of traffic the criminal lawyer would like.

This $300 outlay will enable the portal or legal matching service to place its pay-per-click advertisements above the criminal law attorney’s individual $100 outlay for pay-per-click advertisements.

You would think that this double exposure would be great. And it would, if the portal or legal matching website where only advertising the individual criminal lawyer’s services. Portals and legal matching websites do not operate like this. They advertise for hundreds and even thousands of other criminal lawyers. Thus, the criminal lawyer has paid a third party to put someone else’s ads in front of his ads and to expose would-be-clients to other criminal lawyers and not the criminal lawyer's own website.

If that is not bad enough, the legal portal or legal matching website will use part of the lawyers $300 outlay to produce content and to optimize their own website. This content will then increase the portal’s and legal matching websites rankings in the search engines in relation to the law firm’s own website. This has the potential to seriously diminish the number of visitors that would have naturally been directed to the criminal lawyers own website via the search engines.

Part of the criminal lawyer's funds will also be directed towards promoting the legal portal or legal matching website offline. This helps legal portals and legal matching services to put out legal advertising that competes directly with the lawyer or law firms offline legal advertising efforts. This further increases the false perception in the legal profession and in the public that the legal portal or matching services actually provide a service that is worth paying for, and it helps to justify the legal portal or legal matching service charging the lawyers more to participate.

Due to the number of attorneys that fund these legal portals and legal matching websites, this increased publicity for the portals and legal matching websites can counteract the criminal lawyer's other offline marketing efforts.

At the end of the day, the criminal lawyer has contributed to a system that makes lawyers dependent on expensive third party middlemen advertising portals and legal matching services. A better approach would be for the legal community to unchain itself from these middlemen services that are only out to profit from lawyers and consumers of legal services.
 

Why Websites that Match Clients to Lawyers Are A Bad Idea

I came across this posting by the FCC today. The post isn’t really clear, but it appears that a few FCC folks have concluded that legal websites that match clients to lawyers should be permitted. I am not exactly sure why the FCC would weigh in on a state matter that is out of their jurisdiction, especially since they apparently do not know what they are talking about.

According to the FCC letter, the FCC concluded that legal matching websites would help reduce the cost of legal services for legal consumers. Apparently the thought is that by using these websites lawyers will bid down their hourly rates in an effort to get legal clients. This is a very simplistic and unrealistic conclusion.

The reality is that by allowing middlemen websites to impose themselves between legal consumers and lawyers, they are creating a scenario where the middlemen websites can charge lawyers exorbitant costs to use their services. Since law firms must pass on their expenses to legal consumers by way of their hourly billing rates, the exorbitant costs will be passed on to consumers of legal services. Thus, the only thing that websites that match clients to lawyers will have accomplished is to make the middlemen websites rich.

But the analysis shouldn’t end there. By sanctioning such third party websites that match clients to lawyers, states would be creating a situation where there is an unregulated middleman between the legal consumer and legal counsel. The result will be a whole host of unregulated middlemen who are able to solicit legal consumers in ways that attorneys cannot do themselves. This would only serve to encourage middlemen websites to step up their aggressive and often unethical marketing practices. We have already seen evidence of this in the aggressive and sometimes illegal online marketing by many of the largest legal matching type of websites.

If that is not bad enough, these non-lawyer middlemen will most likely compromise the attorney-client privilege. Without the attorney client privilege, clients who submit their legal concerns to a legal matching website may find that the information that they submitted to the website could be used against them in court. I can envision this information becoming standard fare in litigation discovery requests.

The bottom line is that attorney regulation is a state matter. For the most part, states have opted not to permit middlemen internet marketing websites to drive up the costs of legal services or to compromise the attorney client priviledge.
 

More Legal Marketing Misinformation

Those of you who know me, know that I am not a professional marketer. I really do not know how to be a good marketer. I was able to build a successful law practice. I did so by reading everything that I could about how to build and market a legal practice. Some marketing efforts were more successful than others. As I think back on these efforts, I can’t help but think about the misinformation that is published about marketing a legal practice.

I recently came across this “report” published by the American Lawyer Media – which is a company whose business it is selling advertising in its legal publications. As stated below, the conclusion of this “report” is that law firms that spend money on marketing earn more money as a result of their “marketing.”

Here are some of the problems that are inherent with this “report” and its “concrete” conclusions.

First, the sample population for the report is the American Lawyer Media’s AmLaw 200 survey. Ignoring the inherent bias of using a survey conducted by an organization that has a direct interest in the research’s outcome and then using that survey data to draw conclusions, the report incorporates the flaws of that underlying survey.

With just a cursory review, here are two big flaws of using this survey that come to my mind:

First, the survey only includes data for the 200 law firms that have the largest gross revenues. Even someone with a basic understanding of financial accounting understands that “gross revenues” really do not mean much for large firms, as these figures can be easily manipulated for financial reporting purposes.

Even then, basing the report’s “concrete conclusion” on the firms with the largest “gross revenues,” assumes that a law firm’s only reason for being is to generate revenue. I personally know of several large firms who have reached a point where earning money is important, but not everything. Those firms spend a lot more of their energies (and profits) on creating friendlier work environments and more sustainable revenues. Unfortunately those law firms would most likely not be the most profitable and they wouldn’t make the AmLaw 200 and they were not part of this "report" (but then again, they probably would not need to use advertising to generate good will as they probably did so in other ways, which I suppose an advertising organization would not want to discuss).

Second, another problem with using the AmLaw 200 survey is that the 200 largest “gross profits” firms do not represent the vast majority of law firms that are out there today. We all know that the vast majority of law firms have fewer than ten or twenty attorneys. The reality is that these large law firms probably do need to spend more on advertising, as they simply do not generate the good will or develop the relationships that smaller firms are able to develop with clients. Even then, the report pared these 200 firms down to 87 firms.

It doesn’t make much sense to use a survey of the largest 200 firms, reduce that down to a mere 87 law firms, and then draw “concrete conclusions” based on those 87 large profitable firms that apply to law firms in general. In research terms, the conclusions are simply “unreliable.”

Even when you look past the flaws of using the AmLaw 200 survey data, there are still other problems with the “report.” For example, the “report” divides law firms into two groups, those that advertise and those that do not advertise.

Advertise is defined as spending “at least $10,000 in any three years in the last five years.” I don’t know if these folks know what they are talking about, because you cannot even buy a few small basic ads in the American Lawyer Media’s own legal publications for $10,000!

Moreover, the “report” doesn’t even delineate what “advertising” these funds were spent on.

As a result, the “report’s” distinction between advertising law firms and non-advertising law firms is really a meaningless farce.

In addition there is a causality problem with the research in that, it assumes that increased profits in any of the three years results from the advertising. There is simply no support for that conclusion.

With these 87 firms the increased gross revenues could have resulted from any number of factors, such as the economies that these firms operate in improving, the firms developing new practice areas or ridding themselves of unprofitable practice areas, or even the firm cutting employee benefits. It could have been anything.

Maybe it was advertising. But realistically, because a firm with more than a couple of hundred lawyers spent over $50,000 – hell over $500,000 for that matter – on some undefined forms of “advertising” in a three year period probably had absolutely zero impact on the firm’s gross revenues.

Here is the "report’s" final "concrete" conclusion:

Financially successful law firms are proven marketers, and the common trait that we see in the most successful is a commitment to advertising. Firms that advertise make more money than those that don’t.

I suppose I can live with the "report" as is, because I understand that the American Lawyer Media has a vested interest in the report reaching the conclusion that it did. What I really take issue with is professionals who purport to help law firms market their services use "reports" like this to sell their services, instead of just providing good quality services.

Successfully marketing a law firm is difficult enough without this type of misinformation.


Hat tip: Larry Bodine’s Professional Services Marketing Blog
 

Did New York Legislate Legal Blogs or Blawgs out of Existence?

Sometimes the legal ethics rules can be a bit draconian. This post talks about the legal ethics rules that were recently put forth by New York. A reading of the new New York rules, leads me to beleive that legal blogs will become a thing of the past -- even for non-New York licensed lawyers.

The new New York rules expressly apply to non-New York licensed attorneys if their legal blog may be accessed by a New York resident or who provides legal services to New York residents. Thus, this New York rule essentially prohibits any lawyer anywhere from maintaining a legal blog.

A legal blog seems to fit the definition of a “computer-accessed communication” under the new New York rules. If this “communication” is about a lawyer or law firm or it indicates that the lawyer or firm is available for professional employment, the legal blog will no doubt be an “advertisement” or a “solicitation.”

This is probably a correct interpretation as one of the purposes of maintaining a legal blog is to alert the public about ones practice and availability (you don’t have to take my word for it, you just have to view some of the legal marketing blogs and articles by the legal marketing guru’s out there. I suppose there are exceptions, such as anonymous blogs like The Greatest American Lawyer, but not if the anonymous lawyer's identity were to become known).

The new New York rules expressly prohibit “advertisements” or “solicitations” that are “interactive computer-accessed communications,” unless the communication is only accessed by the lawyers or firms “close friend, relative, former client or current client.”

A legal blog will probably be a prohibited communication under the new rules if it is “interactive” in any way. Thus, legal blogs apparently can no longer allow users to post comments, legal bloggers cannot read or reply to correspondence from blog readers, and legal blogs cannot carry on dialogues or article topics with other blogs. In short, legal blogs cannot be blogs. If the blog is interactive, then it can only be disseminated to a “close friend, relative, former client or current client.” Legal bloggers will now need to be wary of allowing anyone other than “close friend[s], relative[s], former client[s] or current client[s]” from accessing their blogs.

I suppose that the larger firms could set up some sort of private intr“A”net to disseminate their legal blog, to ensure that it is only accessible by these persons. The firm could then expend resources to monitor the intranet to ensure that there are no intrusions by non-close friends, relatives, former clients or current clients. It may be particularly difficult for firms to police the intranet to prohibit access by mere friends who are not quite “close friends” or distant “relatives” that New York may deem to be too remote to qualify as “relatives.”

This leaves me wondering how “close” is “close,” if we all aren’t “relatives” of each other in some capacity (surely there is some common ancestor way back, right?), and how New York is going to make these judgments. I can already envision someone arguing that we are all descendants of Abraham and the New York Bar taking the opposite position. I also wonder what will happen when an associate leaves the firm, but the associate’s close friends or relatives continue to access the legal blog…

Perhaps some attorneys and firms will modify their blogs to ensure that they are not “advertisements” or “solicitations.” In that case, the lawyers and firms will have to remove any offending language indicating that the lawyer or firm is willing to provide legal services. This would probably require lawyers and firms to remove any “contact us” link or request and possibly even email addresses. This may even mean that the blog should be hosted on a website separate from the lawyers or law firm’s main website using a different domain name. (I know what you are thinking, unfortunately, the way the new rules are worded it appears that the lawyer or firm simply cannot simply state that they are not accepting or are unwilling to provide legal services.)

And just in case the legal blog is found to be an “advertisement” or “solicitation,” as a precaution the lawyer or firm will want to entitle the page "Attorney Advertising,” as required by the new New York laws. Unfortunately such a statement, which may be required, implies that they lawyer is willing to provide legal services – which violates the previously mentioned rule. This tautological fallacy probably means that lawyers or firms probably cannot include the required precautionary language.

Another possible solution would be for the legal blog to have an access or start page that asks if the reader is a “close friend (not a mere friend, a “close” friend), a relative (of sufficient relation), or a present or former client.” If the reader checks “yes” and enters the correct password, they can then go on to view the blog. If the reader checks “no,” the blog could direct the reader to either a non-interactive blog page or a blog page entitled:
Attorney Advertising, PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO INTERACT WITH US THROUGH THIS BLOG AS WE DO NOT INTERACT ON OUR LEGAL BLOG WITH THOSE WHO ARE NOT OUR CLOSE FRIENDS, RELATIVES, OR PAST OR PRESENT CLIENTS.
This would help ensure that the legal blog is in compliance with the new rules.

In addition, the lawyer or firm will also want to include the lawyer’s and firm’s name and full contact information, which is now required if the blog is an "advertisement" or a "solicitation," as a precaution just in case the legal blog is found to be an “advertisement” or “solicitation.” But the lawyer or firm will want to be careful in this regard, as listing their contact information may imply that they offer or are willing to provide legal services.

So the lawyer or firm will want to preface their contact information with something that tells readers not to contact the lawyer or firm unless the person is a close friend, relative, or present or past client. (This disclosure requirement will have the added benefit of ensuring that the lawyer and firm get an adequate amount of junk mail and telemarketing calls.)

Regardless of whether the legal blog is an “advertisement” or “solicitation,” the lawyer or firm will have to keep printed copies of each page of the legal blog for at least three years. This may not be that big of an issue for the blogger who writes very infrequently; however, it may be difficult for the more prodigious bloggers. It may also be a problem for law firms whose associates leave the firm, especially if the lawyer maintained their own legal blog.

Reading the rules, it appears that blogs that use “post pages,” which multiple blog entries to appear on one page and provide each individual blog entry to be posted on separate pages, will have to keep printed copies of each individual page and copies of the blog main page. If the blog is syndicated (such as being picked up by Blawg.org), then under the new rules the lawyer or firm may have to keep a copy of each of those syndicated pages as well. Given that there are now several hundred blog syndication services, this could be quite a task.

With a bit of sarcasm, perhaps it is good that New York is shutting down legal blogs. Legal blogs have proven very detrimental in providing free and accessible legal commentary and opinions to the public. Perhaps worst of all, legal blogs have let consumers get a feel for what lawyers think about, what they think is important, and that lawyers are real people. This has gone on for much too long. What where those unethical attorneys thinking?
 

LawRex Eliminates Big Firm's Competitive Advantage

Over eighty percent of all private practice lawyers work as solo practitioners or for small law firms. This eighty percent are able to run successful operations by providing high quality legal work. For the most part, these lawyers and firms are able to provide this type of high quality legal work because they offer niche or more narrowly specialized legal services.

Internet and technology have made this possible. Most consumers today research lawyers online before they decide to contact them. A simple website can go a long way. However, study after study and testimonial after testimonial shows that the vast majority of legal consumers will contact a friend, acquaintance or family member who is a lawyer to ask for a referral before they do anything else.

This type of lawyer-to-lawyer referral is the solo and small firm attorney’s bread and butter. The question for lawyers who are trying to market their legal services is then, “how do I effectively and efficiently let other lawyers that I am here, that I specialize in this type of law, and that I would like to receive referrals?”

Many solo and small firm attorneys have answered this question by focusing their energies on legal networking. Legal networking can bring in business, but it also takes a lot of time and expense and it takes away from generating billable hours. Most lawyers do not have time to eat lunch every day, yet alone to “do” lunch every day. Thus, this solution is simply not practical. This is where a new lawyer networking service called LawRex.com comes in.

Using LawRex, attorneys can help clients find other lawyers who have the interest, ability and time to handle particular legal matters. In exchange for submitting those cases to other LawRex attorneys, the lawyer receives LawRex points. Those LawRex points can then be used to express an interest in cases submitted to LawRex by other members. This creates a legal referral market.

This lawyer network can help equalize the competitive advantage that large law firms now possess. Specifically, large law firms are able to earn significant profits because they are big, not necessarily because they provide good legal service. The reason for this is that they are more visible and when they have one client, they can convince that client to use the firm for its other legal needs.

By way of example, a lawyer at a large law firm who is preparing an estate plan for a client might suggest that the client have the firm’s tax or real estate department look over the client’s business holdings, investments, or employee benefits. These inter-firm lawyer-to-lawyer referrals and cross selling can significantly add to the larger firm’s bottom line and it ensures that these legal cases do not end up going to solo or small firm lawyers. This is exactly what LawRex hopes to provide to the solo and small firm lawyers – a legal network that puts the members in an equal footing with the larger law firms.

You can find out more about LawRex by visiting our How it Works page.
 

Introduction to this Legal Marketing & Networking Blog

Practicing law is challenging. Developing and cultivating a legal practice is even more challenging. Keeping up with legal technology and legal marketing trends and news can be impossible.

This blog will cover all of these topics -- and more. The emphasis will be on innovation, efficiencies, and other good legal and law firm marketing ideas and opportunities. For the most part, the blog will summarize and provide links to other great legal marketing articles. The blog will also provide a "younger" perspective on those articles and, occasionally, it will provide some original food for thought.

We hope you find that our blog is useful and insightful. Please take a moment to subscribe to our blog updates by entering your email address into the box at the top of this page.



Best regards,



Kreig Mitchell, CEO
http://www.LawRex.com
1942 Broadway, Suite 314
Boulder, Colorado 80302



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