Part 2: Is Your Law Firm Website a Ship without a Sail, a Shirt without a Tail?

Posted by Paul Hajek on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 @ 02:17 AM
law firm website with a sailIf you had a chance to read the first part of our post this week you will know that we promised that help was at hand for those Sole Practitioners or small law firms who has yet to start their very own law firm website.



We also mentioned that help is at hand for those law firms who have a website already but that is lacking a dynamic edge to attract more potential clients to their law firm.



As we mentioned in my post earlier this week, small law firms cannot simply stand by and be subsumed by the inevitable tsunami of new entrants into the legal services world.



To survive and thrive in the new legal paradigm your Law Firm needs a dynamic website to keep these ABS vultures at bay.



I also mentioned earlier this week how we would have an exciting announcement...

Get a FREE web site designed for your law firm



Ed and I are about to relaunch our Solicitors Web Site Design service and in advance of that we are offering to create two FREE websites.



To qualify you must be a U.K. based sole practitioner or small law firm - and you will need to be one of the first few people to fill in the form below. Do it now if you want to take advantage of this special opportunity.



(Fill in the form and we will send you more information about this special opportunity - which almost definitely won't ever be repeated again)



(NB: If you're wondering why we are doing this - it's to get some decent case studies before we officially launch the new service. No hidden catches - this is a genuine offer to get a professional website designed completely free of charge!)

Topics: small law firm survival, law firm websites, Web Design, sole practitioners

Sole Practitioners and Small Law Firms in the Internet Age

Posted by Paul Hajek on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 @ 04:14 AM
The best way to help law firms recognise how the internet can impact on their law firms is not just to "talk the talk, but walk the walk"

a photo of solicitor tessa shepperson
Tessa Shepperson
My aim has been to show by example how sole practitioners and small law firms can use internet marketing to rocket their law firms in this new digital age.


So I am delighted this week, that Tessa Shepperson a sole practitioner and owner of
www.landlordlaw.co.uk and one of my internet heroines has shared her experiences of how the internet has helped her develop her law practice



 Q: How Did You Start Using the Internet for your Law Firm?



A: I have been fascinated by the Internet ever since I discovered, on buying my first computer when setting up as a sole practitioner in 1994, that there was this thing called the internet, where computers could talk to each other through telephone lines. Because I was interested I studied it and tried to learn as much as I could, even though at that time many people dismissed it as an irrelevance.



However I truly believe that over the next 100 years the internet will bring in changes of the same magnitude as those brought in by the development of the printing press and the telegraph. Already we are able to collaborate with colleagues in real time wherever they are in the world; blogging allows us all to be journalists and the growing popularity of eBooks allows us all to become publishers.



Q: Do You Think Sole Practitioners and Small Law Firms are at a Disadvantage on the Internet?



 A: No, on the contrary, I believe in this new digital world, small firms and sole practitioners in particular have a big advantage over their colleagues in larger firms. He (or in my case she) can develop new ideas and services without having to get them past hostile partners. My partnership meetings (of one) are invariably harmonious and generally productive!



It should be easy enough for small law firms to allow their most web savvy partner time and support to use the internet making their law firm more accessible for potential clients.



If you have a good idea, it is possible, if you have the right skills or a good web designer, to get it online within days or in some cases, hours.



 Q: How can a sole practitioner (or small firm lawyer) take advantage of the opportunities presented by the internet?



A: I have embraced social media, such as blogging and twitter and have also used audio and video in promoting my membership site, Landlord Law logo for landlord law(www.landlordlaw.co.uk). They have certainly raised my profile and I know that I have obtained quite a lot of work and subscriptions to my membership site from people who have found me via the internet.



I set up my membership site, Landlord Law (www.landlordlaw.co.uk) ten years ago. At that time, I had to get bespoke software specially written, but nowadays membership sites can be built fairly easily from open source software such as Wordpress and Drupal (the software Landlord Law uses).



 Q: What does your Landlord Law Membership site do for your clients?



A: My site, Landlord Law, is aimed at landlords, tenants, letting agents and housing advisors. The services I provide fall into the following categories:



• Information - e.g. FAQ, articles and the like



• Documents - tenancy agreements, notices, standard letters etc



• One to one help - principally provided via the members discussion forum but I also ‘sell’ fixed fee telephone and written advice



• Casework. I offer standard repossession work, for fixed fees.



When Landlord Law was launched in 2001 case work was the biggest part of my income. Now it is the membership subscriptions which are more important.



Q: Would other sole practitioners and small law firms be able to use the membership model?



A: I expect so. I have been lucky in having a small discrete area of law which lends itself to this subscription service model. However it is not the only one.



If you are interested in the membership model, have a think about your law firm. Is there any specific area where clients would appreciate (and pay for) an online service to keep them up to date or provide precedent documents and some quick advice in a forum?



My experience from LandLord Law is that most clients don’t want a great long written opinion, they just want a quick pointer, or perhaps a bit of reassurance that they are on the right path. You can do this really easily in a forum - and your answers will also help the other members and enrich the site generally.



Q: At Clutton Cox clients can instruct us on line, I know your site also allows this, what are the benefits?



A: It can’t be used for all sorts of work, but I believe that where it is possible, an online instruction facility for basic case work can be very beneficial. For example, in my repossession work, for standard cases it is not necessary for clients to come in and talk to me about it. All they need to do is give details and send over the documents so I can get on with it.



My service also requires payment in advance. This means no bad debts which is a considerable saving in time and irritation. It is probably worth doing for that alone.



Some case work will not be suitable as it will require more client contact, but I expect you do at least some work which would fit this model.



 Q. How has Blogging helped you in developing your law firm and membership site?



blog logo A: There is really no sense in just putting up a membership site and expecting hundreds of members to join immediately. You have to market it and one of the best ways to do this is with a blog.



When people are considering paying for a service, they like to know a bit about the person or law firm providing it. A blog lets you show that you ‘know your stuff’ and are a suitable person to help them.



Blogging will also help raise your profile and your firm's profile generally, in particular in the search engines, such as Google and Bing.



Inevitably your articles will have ‘keywords’ relevant to your service, making you easy to find for someone searching for information on line in your niche area of the law.



There is a lot of writing involved in keeping a blog though. You also need to write in an ‘easy’ style which ordinary people will understand. You don’t want to come across as a pompous fusty lawyer type, as this will put people off.



Q: What other methods have you used on your law firm website?



A: Writing is not the only option, and audio and video have been very helpful. You can record and publish audio ‘podcasts’. This is surprisingly easy to do, and the podcasts can be promoted via your blog and registered on itunes. People can then subscribe and download your podcasts regularly.



Lots of people enjoy listening to podcasts, for example in the car, while walking the dog, at the gym etc. Through listening to your voice regularly they will come to feel they know you, making you an obvious choice if they need legal help.



If you have a camcorder you can set this up on a tripod and speak to the nation regularly, updating them with news and comment on your niche. This can easily be published on your blog. You can also set up your own Your Tube channel and publish it there. I have a Landlord Law You Tube Channel and I know some people have found me there.



Q: Twitter is gaining in popularity; are you an advocate?



A: People often think twitter must be silly, because of its name, and how can you say anything sensible in 140 characters? Actually you would be surprised but that’s not the point. If you have a blog, you need a twitter account because it is an important way to promote your blog posts.



A vast amount of twitter traffic consists of people either publishing a ‘tweet’ about their new blog post, or recommending (or ‘re-tweeting’) someone else’s blog post. You need to become a part of this. It needn’t take a lot of time (although it can do if you are not careful).



As a sole practitioner you have an advantage in that you can tweet for your business under your own name. In small law firms it would still be better to use your own name rather than the firm name People like to follow a real person with a real photo in their twitter profile.



It is important though that you don’t just use it to publicise your own stuff as that will put people off. I ‘tweet’ also links to any online articles or newspaper reports which I think will interest people in my ‘niche’, and I think that is popular. I now have well over 2,000 twitter followers (mostly property professionals) which is very gratifying.



Q: I know you are great fan of newsletters for your clients: Explain why



A: Yes, as well as writing your blog, and giving out useful nuggets of information to your followers on twitter, a regular newsletter is very important.



This performs a number of functions. It keeps you in the forefront of your clients mind, making you (hopefully) the obvious choice for legal work if they need it. You can also use it to sell your services and any products you may decide to produce (see later).



However, a useful tip is to remember that it is all too easy for people to consign your newsletter to their spam folder. Once this is done, all future newsletters will go there automatically, so they simply won’t see them. Try not to do anything which would make them want to do this.



If you decide to set up a newsletter it is a good idea to use one of the specialist companies such as Constant Contact, Aweber or Mailchimp. If you are worried about producing content there are firms out there who will do this for you, such as www.words4business.com.



Q: What about eBooks, should all law firms produce them?



an ebook by tessa sheppersonA: Certainly! If you write a book nowadays, you do not need to worry about publishers. You can do it yourself! With the growing popularity of kindle, iPad and other eBook readers, people are increasingly buying eBooks rather than paper books, and they are not hard to create.



The ebook can either be given away for free, maybe as an incentive to get people to sign up to your mailing list, or be sold via your website to form an extra income stream.



I have set up a whole new ecommerce business recently with my web designer specifically to sell my ebooks and kits, which we produce ourselves – see www.yourlawstore.co.uk. This has already started to make a modest profit



Q: Finally, What advice would you give other lawyers thinking of dipping their toes into internet marketing for their law firms?



A: With the ever increasing complexity of our world, existing and potential clients are crying out for easy ways to understand information about the regulations which affect their daily lives.



We, as Lawyers are the best people to provide this.



The internet is the perfect medium for providing it, promoting it, and selling it.



Thank you Tessa, I am sure many lawyers reading this will be inspired to follow your lead



Tessa has several other websites including her main blog http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/and also her e-commerce site www.yourlawstore.co.uk



Solicitors Marketing Success provides advice to sole practitioners and small law firms on how to use the internet to market their law firms effectively from consultancy, creation of websites, web products, email marketing, blogging and social media.



If you have not done so already sign up on the right hand side of this page to receive our regular free blogs on how you law firm can get found online and convert potential clients into actual clients.



 



 

Topics: blogging for solicitors, high street law firms, internet marketing for law firms, blog, sole practitioners, Law firm, tessa shepperson

Skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been

Posted by Paul Hajek on Wed, Oct 12, 2011 @ 03:26 AM




[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky, Chicago, Illinois[/caption]





Steve Jobs, at the Macworld Conference and Expo back in 2007, used the above quote from ice hockey superstar Wayne Gretsky to characterise the Apple philosophy.



Now that ABSs are here, it struck me that the quote was as equally applicable and germane for law firms.



Apple succeeded by creating products which it thought the public would want, not necessarily improving what the public already had.



Apple had the courage to create products with its own imagination: as in most endeavours not all were successful.



So will law firms be brave enough to second guess their clients needs and wants in providing products and services which as yet do not properly exist or are incompletely realised?



Although undoubtedly there will be other reasons, some law firms are at least having a go, judging by the rounds of merger activity. There is also a rush to the new umbrella legal brands such as Quality Solicitors and High Street Lawyer.



It may be that some law firms may have finally realised that cooperation and a willingness to “think outside the box” is a valid strategy.



“If I was going there I wouldn’t start from here”



But, I have a sneaking suspicion that the new entrants in the legal services market might have started shaping their service and client care propositions from a different perspective.



Jordan Furlong, in his blog “Rise of the Machines” in the new blogging section of The Lawyer magazine website this week puts succinctly, what he feels the new entrants in to the legal market will promote:



These companies manage processes. They leverage knowledge. They automate to increase timeliness. They systematize to improve quality. They streamline to improve affordability. And they relentlessly prioritize service and the client experience. Law firms don’t do any of these things because we don’t compete on speed, price, simplicity or service. To the extent we compete at all, we do it on “quality.”



The Internet and Opportunity for Law Firms



An obvious place where law firms can dare to be different and differentiate their law firm is on the internet.



Marketing and winning business on the internet simply was not an option for law firms until relatively recently.



What the internet can do is attract potential clients to your firm so as to allow a relationship to begin. Internet marketing and social media in general are scalable and capable of returning great ROI.



The internet will be the main battleground for finding and winning over existing new and potential clients.



For smaller firms the costs associated with joining an umbrella brand may be prohibitive. As an alternative your law firm will need to work out how to function and promote itself in cyberspace.



Local strength on Google and other search engines combined with enhanced services and packaging of legal services has huge merit for law firms looking for a likely solution to where the puck may go.



Proof of the Pudding



Who would have thought someone with whom we had not had any interaction thus far, could land on our website, like what they see and actually instruct us to act there and then.



It amazed me when it first happened on my Clutton Cox law firm website.



I still get very excited and it is happening every week.



The Final Mixed Metaphor



Where will you position your law firm puck in the near future?; will you be myopically content to leave it where it is now – right in front of your eyes!



Law firms are beginning to think differently and more smartly about how their legal services will be accessed and dispensed in the future



The worry for some law firms reluctant to change may be not so much a case of deciding where the puck will be but not even realising that  the ice upon which they are already on is dangerously thin.



Solicitors Marketing Success provides advice to sole practitioners and small law firms on how to use the internet to market their law firms effectively from creation of websites, email marketing, blogging and social media.

 

If you have not done so already sign up on the right hand side of this page to receive our regular free blogs on how you law firm can get found online and convert potential clients into actual clients



 

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Topics: solicitors marketing, Alternative Business structures, blog, tesco law, sole practitioners, Law firm, small law firms, Lawyer

Small Law Firm Survival: Take a Butcher's

Posted by Paul Hajek on Fri, Jun 17, 2011 @ 08:38 AM
butcher's hookThe legal landscape is set to change with the introduction of Alternative Business Structures in October 2011. Those solicitors who have recently attended seminars or read the legal press and legal blogs (I refuse to use the phrase blawgs) will have no doubt have had imbued upon them that “survival is optional”.

No one quite knows what will happen, but as Richard Susskind said recently, the new legal competition is unlikely to look anything we see now.

What simple lessons can sole practitioners and small law firms adopt and adapt to what has already occurred “on the high street”?

Butcher’s Hook:

The butcher’s in the title refers to the cockney rhyming slang butcher’s hook - “look”.

A butcher offers many different product lines, different cuts of meat, prepared meals, cold meats and many other examples.

Other butchers offer the same or similar. Some butchers have closed and some are surviving and thriving.

Here in Chipping Sodbury, a charming Cotswold market town just north of Bristol and Bath, we have two butchers.

But, not just any butchers, both are specialist high class butchers and they are surviving in spite of a Tesco and a Morrisons less than a mile away in Yate.


The supermarkets in Yate are also not new and have been there for many years.

Butchers who have bitten their own sawdust:

Dewhursts springs to mind.

What Dewhursts did was concentrate on the cheaper cuts of meat and discounts for bigger purchases.

From a marketing standpoint, they were unexceptional, run of the mill, unremarkable, inchoate and with no real USP: In the end no match and easy prey for the big supermarkets.

You may by now, be getting my drift: it would be easy to insert the phrase “small law firm” for butcher and Tesco for Tesco Law.

In order for law firms to survive, they must look beyond the ordinary, become exceptional and offer a service which would be difficult for the Tesco Laws to replicate.

Now is the time to nasal gaze and find the remarkable within your firm.

ABSs are coming: success as a law firm is entirely optional

Topics: small law firm survival, Alternative Business structures, blog, tesco law, sole practitioners