How to make the law interesting to lay people

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When you write or speak about the law to a lay audience, you have several objectives:

  • You want them to understand their problem, their risks, and their options
  • You want them to know why they should talk to a lawyer
  • You want them to see why the lawyer they should talk to (hire) should be you
  • You want to inspire them to take the next step

Before you can do any of that, you have to get them to read or listen. You have to get their attention with your headline or title, and make your article or presentation interesting enough to compel them to take that next step.

Here are some guidelines for creating more interesting articles and presentations:

  • Talk about people more than concepts
  • Talk about cure more than prevention
  • Talk about benefits more than features
  • Talk less about the law and more about “what this means to you”
  • Don’t warm up; get to the point and stay there
  • Assume they don’t know much; don’t assume they know nothing
  • Talk to them, don’t lecture them; ask questions to bring them into the “conversation”
  • More show, less tell; use examples and analogies that are familiar to your audience
  • Get them to feel something; use dramatic stories
  • Minimize and/or explain jargon
  • Don’t write about history or precedent unless necessary
  • Don’t tell them everything; be thorough but not dispositive

How do you know you’ve done it right?

Your audience will ask questions or make an appointment or go to your blog and read more.

Watch your email, your phone, your stats, and your bank account. If your content is interesting, your numbers are growing.

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Selling legal services, et. al.

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Let’s clear this up once and for all: Lawyers sell legal services.

There, I said it.

It doesn’t make you a salesperson, but you can’t deny the fact that when someone hires you, a sale takes place.

The more of your services you sell, the more you earn. Pure and simple.

But that’s not all you sell.

Clients pay for your legal services, but what they want and expect you to deliver, what they really pay for, are solutions to their problems.

They hire you to get the benefits you deliver.

Get better at selling those solutions and benefits and you will sell more of your services.

Hold on. We’re not done.

You also sell clients the “experience” of working with you. How your clients feel having you in their corner, how you treat them and make them feel appreciated, and everything else under the ‘client relations’ banner.

Do a good job of this and your clients will stick around, return, and tell others. Mess up and they won’t.

It’s all selling.

But before clients can see any of this, before they hire you, there’s something else they buy (and you sell).

Your reputation.

You’re judged by your record of accomplishments and the things people say about you.

Even when your reputation is stellar, you still need to sell it because many clients can’t discern this. To most clients, we all look alike.

It’s called “reputation management” but it’s really just more selling.

I’ve got one more for you. Something else you sell.

You sell information.

About the law, problems and solutions, the how-to’s,—via your articles and posts, reports and books, presentations and other content.

Clients don’t pay for this information but you need to sell them on reading or listening, because this information shows them you know what you’re doing and can deliver the solutions they want.

Get better at selling this information and you get more leads and prospective clients contacting you, pre-sold on hiring you.

In fact, if your information is good enough, it will do most of the selling for you.

Which is why I repeatedly tell you to create a blog and newsletter.

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If Ernest Hemingway wrote your blog

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Hemingway was a master of lean writing. If he was in charge of your newsletter or blog, he would probably tell you that ‘less is more’—that you will often be more effective in your “story telling” and persuasion by writing fewer words.

As long as you choose the right words.

To prove his point, it was rumored that Hemingway wrote the following short story, consisting of only six words:

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

A powerful and poignant story that captures the readers’ imagination and makes them want to know more.

In just six words.

My posts and articles aren’t that brief, or that good, and I’m not suggesting you should use this as the standard for yours. My point is that your blog posts and articles can convey big ideas in small spaces.

A few hundred words are plenty. A few paragraphs might be all that you need.

Make most of your posts short enough that they can be read in a minute or two. If you use the right words, your readers will gobble them up and hunger for more.

How to write newsletters that bring in repeat business and referrals

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How well do you know your clients?

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Some lawyers do their best to get to know their clients on a personal level, not just during the pendency of the case or matter, but thereafter.

Some lawyers don’t.

The first group may be described as adopting a “relational” approach to building their practice. The latter group, those who do the work and move onto the next client, are said to take a “transactional” approach.

The advantage of a relational approach is that it tends to lead to long-term relationships, which are more likely to result in repeat business and referrals. The lawyer also may get to know the client’s personal and/or business contacts, leading to additional clients and opportunities.

The disadvantages are that it takes time to build relationships, as well as interpersonal skills and being comfortable with a higher degree of transparency.

The transactional approach avoids those disadvantages, but tends to miss out on some of the advantages.

Bottom line, the transactional approach looks at the short-term—the size of the case or the number of billable hours, while the relational approach focuses on the long-term and the lifetime value of the client.

Is one approach better for you than the other? Or should you consider a hybrid approach, as many lawyers do? Many lawyers adopt a transactional approach with most clients and build relationships with their best ones.

Because there are only so many hours in a day.

I recommend a slightly different approach.

I recommend building relationships with all of your clients, just not all in the same way.

Because there are only so many hours in a day, I recommend staying in touch with all of your clients via email, and investing personal time with your best clients.

You absolutely can build relationships with your clients (and others) via email.

You can and you should.

To learn how, get my course on email marketing for attorneys

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New clients need TLC

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They may be sharp. Sophisticated. Tough as nails. But new clients don’t yet know your wicked ways and could benefit from a little hand holding.

That goes double for clients who aren’t all of the above.

So, you give new clients lots of information, about you and how you work,and about their case and what to expect.

You tell them what’s going to happen, explain what happened, and spell out what will happen next.

And you encourage them to ask lots of questions. But you don’t wait for that, you contact them often and keep them informed.

You show them you’ve done this before and will take good care of them.

But while you want them to know everything they need to know, you don’t want to overwhelm them.

Don’t send them everything all at once.

No firehoses allowed.

One way to slow your roll is to space out your onboarding email sequence so they don’t get everything on day one.

You might send them an introductory email that thanks and welcomes them, gives them some basic information, and makes them feel good about their decision to hire you.

A follow-up email sent in a day or two can provide them with more information, a checklist or timeline, and links to articles on your website they might want to see.

Subsequent emails, over the ensuing days or weeks, can supply more details and resources, and lots of encouragement.

You might want to number the first few emails. If you plan to send them four emails in the first few days or the first week, for example, number them “1 of 4,” “2 of 4, “and so on, so they know what to expect.

Make sure the final email in your initial onboarding sequence explains when they will hear from you again about (a) their case, and (b) other information—about the law, other legal matters they need to know about, how to’s, recommended resources, and more.

You know, your newsletter.

How to use an email newsletter to build a more successful law practice

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3 reasons to study other lawyers

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This might be hard to believe, but some lawyers know things you don’t know. They may do things you’re not doing, or doing them better, and you can learn a lot by studying them.

You can get ideas for blog posts and other content by consuming theirs, for example. See what topics they’re talking about, especially if those topics are getting a lot of comments and shares, and write about those topics yourself.

Dissect their website. Sign up for their newsletter. Review their advertising, presentations, and offers. See what they’re doing to market or manage their practice.

They don’t have to be super successful lawyers with lots of experience. Just lawyers doing something right. In fact, you’ll probably learn more from someone at your “level” of experience, or a step or two ahead, than someone who is “killing it” in your field.

As C.S. Lewis said, “The fellow pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago he has forgotten.”

So, information and ideas is the first reason to study other lawyers. The second reason is to find lawyers who might be open to a marketing alliance with you. Someone who will interview you for their newsletter or podcast, for example, while you interview them for yours.

You can share strategies and resources, critique each other’s content, and promote each other’s practice. Help them get what they want and they’ll help you do the same.

Which leads to the third reason to study other lawyers—to find out what NOT to do.

Some lawyers are great at marketing. Most aren’t.

You almost can’t go wrong studying what “most” lawyers are doing and doing the opposite.

How to set up marketing alliances with other lawyers

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Make this your next project

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Before you do anything to bring in new clients, your next marketing project should be to win back former clients and engage or re-engage prospective clients with whom you’ve lost touch.

Former clients know, like, and trust you. Prospective clients may not trust you yet, but they know who you are and have given you permission to contact them.

Send them one or more emails. Reintroduce yourself and your services to people who can hire you or refer you, immediately or down the road.

It’s one of the most effective marketing strategies you can use.

What do you say to them?

Some clients left because they were unhappy about something. They should probably be called and you should be prepared to apologize and make amends. A surprising number will come back and forget all about their differences.

Most clients don’t have an issue, they simply drifted away. So, hearing from you again, even if you don’t say anything special, may be enough to get them re-engaged.

And, you can write about almost anything. Here are some ideas to grease your wheels:

  • Just checking in/How are you?/Thinking about you (It’s amazing how well this works)
  • It’s time. . . (to update something)
  • Have you moved? (Verify their contact info)
  • Check out this (article, video, post)
  • Happy birthday (or holiday)
  • It’s our anniversary (of working with you)
  • I’d like your opinion about (something)
  • I have a question for you
  • A client success story
  • A client who didn’t (do something and got hurt) story
  • A gift to you (free ebook, training, form, checklist)
  • Let’s connect (your social media channels)
  • I’m sorry (for not staying in touch)
  • News (about you, your services, a legal issue) that can affect them
  • An invitation to an event
  • Yeah, just about anything

A few guidelines:

  • Write from “you,” not “the firm”
  • Be yourself; speak plainly
  • Build on what they already know and value
  • Consider including a special offer
  • Tell them what to do (call to action)
  • Invite them to join or re-join your newsletter (so you can continue to stay in touch)

You invested time and money to bring in these clients and connect with these prospects. What might happen when you connect with them again?

You might find one or two former clients who hire you again or send you a referral.

You might find a handful of prospective clients who decide they’re ready to get started.

And you might find yourself smiling all the way to the bank because you’re bringing in an additional ten or twenty or fifty thousand per month that would have otherwise passed you by.

Why not write a few emails and find out?

Email marketing for attorneys

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More ways to get traffic to your blog

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Yesterday, I said there are other ways to get traffic to your blog besides search. Paid advertising should be considered, but there are others that are free (other than the time it takes to use them, but you can have an assistant do most of this for you) and, arguably, better.

For starters, you should routinely ask your clients, professional contacts, and newsletter subscribers to share your content with their friends, clients, customers, and others who might need help or be interested in your (great) content.

Your blog should also prominently display share icons so visitors can easily share your content on social.

Simple. And smart. When someone who knows you or follows you shares your content, they are referring people to your digital door and implying that you’re good at what you do.

That’s a referral, isn’t it?

What else. . .

Mention your blog and link to it everywhere:

  • In your email “signature” and the signature at the bottom of articles you publish elsewhere
  • In your bio, when you are introduced at a speaking event
  • In interviews, when the host asks you how people can learn more about you
  • Print copies of some of your content for the table in your waiting room and the table at the back of the room at speaking events
  • Put print and/or digital copies in your “new client welcome kit” to share with friends and family

You have access to an army of people who know, like, and trust you. Use them.

What about the rest of the universe?

Social media (if that’s your thing) can be a good source of traffic. Flakebook, Quora, Reddit, Linkedin, and many others have groups you can join or discussions about subjects within your area of expertise you can take part in.

Answer questions or comment on the answers provided by others, and link to your blog.

You can do the same thing in consumer or business forums.

You can share your content on sites like Medium and direct readers to your blog for more of your wisdom about the subject.

You can find small blogs in your niche, even those written by other attorneys (or perhaps especially those), and comment on their posts, with a link to your blog. You can also offer to write guest posts for those blogs.

And, when you have enough content, you can gather up your posts and create an ebook, which you can sell on Amazon, and/or offer to visitors to your site, as an incentive to sign up for your newsletter.

There, that should keep you busy for a while. Busy with new clients, that is.

Email (and blog) marketing for attorneys

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2 ways a blog brings you business

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There are two ways a blog can bring you new clients. The first way is to attract prospective clients via search. Your posts get indexed, people search for the information your posts deliver, and/or for lawyers who do what you do, they come and read and contact you to get started or to get more information.

Frankly, it’s a lot of work.

You have to choose the right keywords and use other strategies to help your posts rank higher than the competition. And you have to continue to do it to stay ahead of that competition.

Do it if you have the time or hire someone to do it for you.

But you don’t have to do that. There are other ways to get traffic that don’t take a lot of time or money or expertise.

Which is why I suggest you concentrate on the other way your blog can bring you business: writing posts that visitors want to read.

Posts that help them get answers to questions they’re asking about the law and how a lawyer can help them and persuade them to choose you.

You may get fewer visitors than blogs that focus on keywords, but the visitors you get will be much more likely to see that you deliver value, and much more likely to take the next step.

Which means you don’t need to be a blog post factory. You don’t have to write 10 posts a day as I saw one “expert” recently recommend.

Write a total of 10 or 15 quality posts that answer prospective clients’ frequently asked questions and demonstrate your ability to help them, and your blog can become a client-getting factory.

Once you have this in place, you can write additional posts if you want to, or you can do other things to get more people to read your posts.

In the end, quality trumps quantity. And takes a lot less effort.

How to create a blog that makes the phone ring

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When good habits go bad

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You’ve got a morning routine to start your day and another for shutting down in the evening. A routine for opening new files and a routine for closing them. A routine for interviewing new clients, writing articles, and posting on social. 

You do them the same way every day, and those routines serve you well. They save you time because you don’t have to think about what to do or how to do it.  

You just do it. 

And because you do it over and over again, you get better at it. 

But the strength of your routines and habits is also their weakness. 

When we do things repeatedly, without thinking, we typically don’t look for ways to improve what we’re doing. If what we’re doing is working, why should we? 

We should because the world changes. There are new tools and processes that can help us do things faster or better. 

And because we change—we’re not the same person we were when we started the routine or acquired the habit. 

Which is why we should periodically review our habits and routines and look for ways to improve them. 

I did that recently when I started my day re-writing my digital task list on paper, in order to be more mindful about what I was doing. I only did it for a few days before realizing I didn’t like it or need it, but I learned something about what I was putting on my list and changed it. 

I realized I was trying to fill my day with too many tasks and was often left scrambling to finish them or disappointed that I hadn’t. I put fewer tasks on my list now and have more time and energy to do important things. 

I may not have realized what I was doing had I not experimented with re-writing my list. 

I regularly try different apps, tools, and websites. I get lots of ideas that way. Sometimes, I find a better tool than the one I’ve been using and replace it.

Trying new things can also be fun. We are curious creatures and enjoy novelty. It makes the world a more interesting place. 

Yes, trying new things can also be a distraction from doing our work. But who says all distractions are bad?

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