How to grow your law practice by laughing at stupid people

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NYC Mayor Bloomberg has done it. He convinced the board of health to pass a ban on sodas and other sugary drinks being sold in public venues in cups bigger than 16 ounces. The vote was 8-0, with one abstention, the latter a doctor who said the ban doesn’t go far enough.

Can you believe the arrogance of these people? “We don’t care what people want, we know better. It’s for their own good.”

Can you believe the stupidity of these people? Like nobody is going to figure out that they can order two 16 ounce Cokes and call it a day.

As a lawyer, you can write about how this won’t pass constitutional muster, you can file lawsuits, or you can get angry and join protests, and many lawyers will.

Me? I’d have some fun with it.

Yes, it makes me angry to watch the erosion of freedom and common sense in our country. But I’d rather laugh than cry.

So, if I practiced in NYC, I might hand out 17 ounce cups with my firm’s name and phone number on it, and offer free re-fills at my office. I might sponsor a soft-drink drinking contest, like Nathan’s does with hot dogs. I might make a Youtube video where I offer to sue the city on your behalf if you get injured on your way for yet another refill.

Have some fun and get some clients. And thank Mayor Bloomberg for making NYC a healthier place to live and work. After all, laughter is good for your health.

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Protests, calls for discipline as lawyer exploits 911 in marketing ploy

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Today is a day when Americans pause to remember the terrorist attacks that took more than 3,000 lives on September 11, 2001. My wife and I took a moment to remember where we were when we first heard the news and saw those terrible images.

I’ve received emails and Facebook posts with photos and sentiments marking the occasion. Everyone has been respectful. No one has said anything inappropriate or controversial.

Nobody wants to be accused of being unpatriotic or unsympathetic to the families of the fallen. Nobody wants to be seen as exploiting a tragedy for commercial gain. If a lawyer were to have a headline written about him like the one atop this post it would destroy his career.

Or would it?

Don’t they say all publicity is good, “as long as they spell your name right”?

Look, just because 911 is a solemn occasion doesn’t mean it is off limits for marketing purposes. There are many things you could do to leverage the memory of that day that are respectful and appropriate. For example, you could:

  • Sponsor a golf tournament, 10K run, or bake sale, with all proceeds going to one of the many 911 memorial foundations
  • Offer free disaster preparedness supplies or information to anyone who comes by your office
  • Use your newsletter or blog to promote a blood drive or CPR training

These are tame and unlikely to get any complaints or disagreements, unlike the following:

  • Write, lobby, in support of closing our borders
  • Campaign for candidates with a Second Amendment agenda
  • Write an editorial for your local paper denouncing the ongoing practice of allowing foreign nationals to enroll in flight school without verifying their immigration status

Most people who hear about your efforts will applaud them. You may get some positive press. Your clients and professional contacts will help you spread the word and more people will learn your name and what you do.

There may be cynics and malcontents who accuse you of exploitation or political incorrectness. Don’t listen to them. Do what you believe is right and say what you believe needs to be said. You may prosper as a result of your efforts, but you are also making the world a better (and safer) place.

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Free PR for attorneys and their clients

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Tim Ferriss has a great guest post by PR expert Ryan Holiday, author of the new book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.

At first glance, you may wonder if Holiday has anything to say that applies to attorneys. The slightly outrageous photos from his clothing company campaigns had me wondering the same thing, even though one of the stories features a (fully clothed) attorney.

The process of getting PR is the same in any field, however, and Holiday’s tips are solid.

First, he recommends starting small by becoming a resource for reporters who are researching stories. Help them do their job and get your foot in the door. (Great resource: HelpAReporter.com — a service that matches reporters researching stories with sources).

Next, Holiday says to “always appeal to self-interest”. Give the writer what they want (an exclusive on a good story) rather than what you want (exposure for your firm). Make their job easy by providing the background evidence to support the story.

The final tip is to “feed the monster,” meaning give the media what it wants. It wants what readers want: controversial, sexy, topical. These are what people want to read, and what they will share.

I’ll add my tip: the story you pitch doesn’t have to be about you. Use your clients, their businesses, or their causes. Surely there will be a legal angle and your client’s lawyer will need to be quoted. Just make sure you have something to say that people want to hear.

Holiday knows what makes a story go viral and he knows how to get the attention of reporters and bloggers. He got Tim Ferriss’ attention, and he got mine.

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New law practice: How do I get the word out?

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I got an email last week: “Do you have suggestions for getting the word out on new (solo) law firms”

Q: Press releases to big city newspapers?

Unless your announcement qualifies as news, these are unlikely to get printed. If you are semi-famous or you’re planning to do something very unusual in your law practice, a press release might get picked up. Otherwise, probably not.

If you want to go this route, your best bet is to send them to niche publications: small town newspapers (where you grew up or your dad was well known), blogs or magazines in a market where you have a connection, that sort of thing.

Q: Mailing announcements to the Bar list (of business attorneys) and/or business owners?

Announcements mailed to other lawyers or business owners are a waste of time. They don’t know you and they don’t care that you’re opening your own office.

You could mail something they would care about: a free report that helps them protect themselves or their clients or earn more in their business or practice. A postcard that offers a report like that, and sends them to your web site to get it, would cost a lot less than actually mailing the report. It could bring lots of traffic, opt-ins, and eventually, some business. However, even post cards are expensive and you need to know what you’re doing.

This can be a viable way get clients, but for a new practice with limited funds, it’s not the best place to start.

Q: Hiring a service to send email announcements to the Bar list and to our own contact list?

Emailing to people you don’t know (i.e., Bar list) could get you into trouble for spamming. There are legitimate “opt in” lists available where people have given permission to receive email, and there are services that will provide these lists and do the emailing for you, but you would be wasting your time and your money.

Again, they don’t know you and they don’t care about your announcement.

However, emailing or sending announcements via regular mail to your own contact list is a great idea.

You should definitely send an announcement to the people you know. Friends, family, people you know from college and law school, and former employers. If you have a connection of any kind, put them on your list.

They do care about you and what you are doing. They will read your announcement. They may respond and wish you the best of luck. At some point, they may also send some business.

Here are my three “rules” for announcing a new law practice:

  1. Send your announcement to everyone you know; don’t bother with strangers, unless you have a very good reason to do so and the budget to pay for it.
  2. An announcement is okay; a letter is much better. Write a semi-personal letter that gives the who, what, where, when, and why of your announcement. Why are opening your own office? What do you want to accomplish? Who are you looking to help? What will you do for them? People will look at an engraved announcement for three seconds and then throw it out. Those same people will take their time reading a heart-felt letter on plain paper or in an email. They will remember your story and may even share it with others.
  3. Don’t rely on a one-time mailing. Follow up your announcement with additional communication–a newsletter, calls, invitations to your grand opening, personal visits. Stay in touch with them, remind them again and again about what you do and for whom you do it, and ask for their help.

Even if there are only 100 people on your initial list, these are the people to whom you should announce your new practice. They do know you and they are willing to help.

They may not be able to send you any business (right now), but they can help promote your web site, like your page, or distribute your new report. They can help you get the word out.

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The Attorney Marketing Center: Official Blog of Successful Attorneys Everywhere

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My wife saw a coupon this morning for a dry cleaner (seems to be a theme with me lately) that had just changed its name from “Luck Cleaners” to “Joy Cleaners”. Or something something like that.

What caught my attention was the statement, “Official Cleaner of [a well known clothing company]”.

I wondered how they had achieved that. “How does one become the official anything for a well known company?”

Were they doing the cleaning for the company and simply asked if they could advertise that they were the official cleaner? Or did they approach the company and offer to do their cleaning for free or at a big discount, in return for being able to say they were the official cleaner?

It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that a law firm could do the same thing.

If you have a business client who is well known in your niche market, ask them if you could mention the fact that yours is the official law firm for their company. Then, mention your official-ness everywhere. You will be providing social proof of the worthiness of your firm.

You could approach any well known company and offer them free legal services in return for an official designation. But what do you do if the better known companies already have lawyers they are happy with and they aren’t willing to switch, even to get free services from you?

Find a charity and see if they would like some free legal services.

It doesn’t matter how well known the charity’s name is. When your marketing messages say that your firm is the official law firm for the “Save the Platypus Foundation,” or whatever, people will notice. Your name will be associated with doing good work for a good cause.

The press will notice, because you will send out a media release and announce it.

Similar charities will notice because, well, they are similar.

And every company your charity does business with will notice, especially if your offer requires the charity to mention your firm in all of their mailings and advertising collateral.

You should also be able to get yourself invited to the charity’s dinners and fund raisers, hang a banner at the charity’s booth at their industry’s conventions, and network with their board of directors, major donors and supporters.

And because you are the “official law firm. . .,” you’ll be able to reach out to other professionals, business owners, politicians, and other influentials, to invite them as your guest to one of the charity’s events.

I don’t know how this will all play out for you, but I can tell you that this could bring you a lot of business. Even if you never mention that you are the “official law firm,” the contacts you will make and the paying clients that result, will more than pay for the services you donate.

Choose a charity you believe in, of course, something you would support regardless of personal gain. Get excited about their cause. And tell everyone to join you in supporting them.

You will have great Joy and great Luck. I’m not sure if your clothes will be any cleaner, however.

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The economy sucks. What are you doing about it?

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Okay, I’m not going to go all save-the-world on you but yes, if you can do something to make things better, you should. Get involved in local politics, volunteer at a charity, help someone in need.

The best thing you can do is to grow your practice. A bigger income would mean you could do more to help others. And you know what they say about the best way to help the poor: don’t become one of them.

I saw this photo on Facebook yesterday and it touched me. In case you can’t see it, it’s the window of a dry cleaner’s with a sign that says, “If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for an interview, we will clean it for FREE”.

Nice.

Do you think the owner will get some business from this, beyond what he does for free? Publicity? Positive word of mouth? Do you think anyone who takes him up on his offer will continue to patronize his store in the future? Do you think he will tell everyone he knows about the business owner who helped him when he really needed a break?

No question about it. Doing good is good for business.

Could you do something similar for your clients and prospects? For your community?

A discount, a free service, even some non-legal advice. Offer a free financial literacy seminar to help people get a handle on their debts. Get someone a job interview at one of your client’s companies. Offer struggling entrepreneurs two hours of free advice.

Lots of people need help right now. Unemployed, struggling military families, people losing their homes.

What can you do?

Don’t do it solely because it might bring you some business. Do it because it makes you feel good to help a fellow human being.

If we all do that, even a little, everyone will be better off. Including us.

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The secret to creating blog and newsletter content your prospects actually want to read

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Many lawyers say they want to start a blog or newsletter but are afraid they won’t have enough to write about.

If you think your prospects don’t want to read all about case law and procedure, you’re right. There will always be exceptions, but most clients have their own lives and businesses to run. If they were that interested in the law, they would go to law school.

Here’s a heads up: PI lawyers, nobody wants to read for the umpteeth time what to do in an accident or how to maximize the value of their case. I’m not saying this isn’t important information–it is. You should write about it. Once. And link to so those who want and need this information can go read it.

So, what do you write about if not about your field of expertise?

Actually, the answer to this question is incredibly simple. And yet, not one in 10,000 lawyers does it, at least not consistently. When you hear what it is, you may just slap your forehead and have one of those “of course!” moments.

Now, I should also point out that when you do this, you will have a never-ending supply of fresh content and a huge surge in reader involvement and viral traffic. You’ll have people talking about your blog and about you. Other blogs will mention your posts and link to them. Reporters may call to interview you.

Have I got your attention?

Here’s the secret: don’t write about the law, your services, or your cases, other than occasionally. When something interesting happens. Instead, most of the time, write about the niche market or markets you are targeting.

Did I just lose you? Well, if you don’t have a target market, maybe so. If you think “anyone who gets injured as a result of someone else’s negligence” is a target market, you’re wrong. It’s way too big. And every other PI lawyer says the same thing.

You want to target smaller sub-sets of the entire market. In a niche market, the people know each other on social media and in real life, they attend the same meetings, and read the same blogs. There is strong word of mouth in niche markets. And it’s easier to identify the key people in them.

A niche market would be something like “health care professionals in Los Angeles County”. Not too big, not too small. As a matter of fact, this happens to be a good target market. When a physician is seriously injured, there’s usually some serious damages. But I digress.

So, you write about health care in Los Angeles. You write about who’s doing what–promotions, speaking gigs, published articles. You write about trends and issues that affect this market. You champion their causes and support their charities.

You interview people who work in this niche. You read the popular blogs and comment on their posts.

So, you might write about some changes in policy at XYZ hospital. Not legal issues, necessarily. It could be anything that people want to know about.

Here’s more good news: you don’t have to do all the writing yourself. Other professionals who target this market will be happy to supply content. Consultants, sales people, other lawyers, accountants, hospital administrators, insurance brokers, medical supply reps–dozens of informed people with big networks of their own and they would love to provide a guest post or supply some tips or let you interview them. All you have to do is ask.

Guess what will happen? The people in your posts and those affected by this information will talk about them and share them with their colleagues and co-workers. They’ll post them on Facebook and link to them on their blogs. Your blog will get noticed and so will you.

Writing a blog about your target market is one of the smartest things you could do. You’re learning about this market, aren’t you? Take what you learn and turn it into content.

Use your blog as a platform to stay in front of your market. You will become the attorney in this niche, the one that everyone thinks about when they think about personal injuries and the one they call when they need your services or know someone who does.

This is not rocket science. Choose a niche market and dedicate yourself to it. Learn everything you can about the market and the people in it. Subscribe to their blogs and newsletters. Attend their meetings. Become an expert in that market and then write about it.

And if something law-related occurs in that market, go ahead and write about that, too.

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How to get more clients from cases you don’t handle

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shield laws for bloggersI’m sure you read the story about the blogger in a defamation case who got hit with a $2.5 million judgment because, the judge said, she is not a journalist and was not protected by the state’s shield laws.

Interesting story. Important subject.

You read the story but did you make any money with it?

Attorneys can easily leverage a story like this to get more media attention, more traffic to their web site, more prospects, more referral sources, and more clients. And I’m not talking about the attorneys who handled the case itself, I’m talking about you.

Interested? Here’s all you have to do.

First, write a two or three page report summarizing defamation laws in your jurisdiction. You don’t have to practice in this area to do this, Uncle Google will help you, or you can ask an attorney friend who does (and tell him about this idea so he can do it, too).

In your report, mention the case about the blogger. Offer your opinion. Include a few citations, maybe a few resources.

Now, go back to Uncle Google and ask him to give you a list of bloggers in your target market(s) who are in your state or province.

Next, contact these bloggers (a personal email will do) and tell them you wrote a report for bloggers about how they can protect themselves against lawsuits like the one in the news. Offer to send it to them, free of charge. Tell them they are welcome to send it other bloggers they know and care about. (If you know the blogger, you could just send them the report in your first email).

In one day, you can get your report into the hands of dozens of people who every day write and influence the people you are targeting for your services. You have provided value to the blogger on a personal level, and asked nothing in return.

Where can this lead? Interviews, hosted webinars for their readers, guest posts, referrals, introductions, you name it.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t practice tort law. If you do, that’s an added benefit, but the point of this effort isn’t to show these bloggers you can help them in this particular area of the law, it’s to meet them.

Now, what else could you do with your report? Here are a few ideas:

  • Send it to local media with a cover letter letting them know you are available for interviews.
  • Call or email your clients and contacts: Who do you know in (your area) who writes a blog? Tell them you have a report that can help them.
  • Offer it through social media; post a video on youtube, opining on the story and linking to your report; offer it via forums, chat groups, listserves, and other areas where bloggers and people who know bloggers congregate.
  • Contact local blogger groups, business groups (anyone who has a blog), and offer a lunch talk.
  • Write about it on your blog or in your newsletter.
  • Take out ads and offer the report, as a “public service”.
  • Send it to lawyers in your practice area in states or provinces where you don’t practice. Tell them what you’re doing with the report in your area, invite them to do the same in theirs. (If you have to ask how this could help you, forget about this idea.)
  • Do a presentation at your bar group’s next function on how you used a news story to market your services.

You get the idea.

Oh, and you don’t need a news story to do this, you can write about anything that affects people in your target market or they people who influence them.

It’s about providing value in a leveraged way. It’s simple and it works. And if your report goes viral, it could help you take a quantum leap in the growth of your practice.

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Five ways lawyers can leverage a win or other successful outcome to get more clients

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Most lawyers go from case to case, client to client, never stopping to use the successful outcomes they create as marketing leverage for bringing in more clients. That’s because they’re thinking like a lawyer, not a rainmaker.

Instead of rushing from one case to the next, take a few minutes to think about how you can use the successful outcome (verdict, settlement, closing the deal, estate plan, etc.) to get the story told to the people who can bring you more business.

Here are five ways you could do that.

  1. Your client. The best time to talk to clients about referrals is right after a successful outcome. When you hand them a check, sign papers, or otherwise bring things to a climax, it’s prime time to ask for referrals, for a testimonial, or for other help.

    Ask consumer clients to refer you to their friends and family or to other professionals they know. Ask your business clients to introduce you to their vendors or distributors, to write about the case in their newsletter or blog, or submit an article to their local paper. (You can write the article for them).

    The favor you ask your client doesn’t have to be related to their case. They’re happy and willing to help, so ask them to distribute your new report, “like” your new blog post, or invite their friends to your upcoming seminar. And ask them to ask their friends to do the same.

  2. Your other clients and prospects. Write about your successful outcome in your blog and newsletter. Post it on your web site. Do a little bragging on social media channels. Take advantage of the win to let others see you doing what you do, helping others “just like them” achieve the same benefits they seek.
  3. Other parties/witnesses. Send a quick note to the other parties and/or their counsel, thanking them for their professionalism. Send a thank you note to experts and other witnesses, for a job well done. It’s not uncommon to see the losing side hiring the winning attorney or sending referrals or opposing counsel referring clients when they have a conflict. By the way, do the same thing when you lose a case or settle for less than hoped.
  4. Your colleagues. Tell other lawyers you know about your case. Send a letter, speak about it at Bar functions, write an article, point them to your blog post. Tell the story and share the legal nuances, give them tips about the judge or arbitrator or experts. Help them do better on their next case and they will appreciate you, reciprocate with good information on their next case, and send business your way when they have a conflict.
  5. The media. Find something newsworthy or otherwise interesting about the case, your clients or their company and issue a press release or write an article for publication in their trade journal or home town paper. The media are starved for good stories; don’t assume there’s no news value to preparing a living trust for your blue collar client. In the hands of a good writer, there’s always a story to be told.

Leverage means getting more results from the same effort. From now on, leverage your successful outcomes to get more publicity, more speaking engagements, more traffic to your web site, and more new clients.

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Lawyer marketing 101: the basics of getting articles published

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Getting exposure via published articles has long been a marketing mainstay for lawyers. In the age of the Internet, there are even more opportunities than ever as the need for quality content has multiplied.

Many books have been written on writing and publishing articles. If you are serious about promoting your practice this way, I recommend reading a few books and learning to do it right.

The basics of getting published never change. The first step is to identify those publications that are a suitable outlet for your articles. Offline, the venerable “Writers Market” (from Writer’s Digest) lists thousands of magazines and newspapers that accept outside submissions.

Online, numerous directories list electronic newsletters and web sites that accept articles. Go to any search engine and type in and you’ll find thousands of ezines and the directories that list them.

Once you have determined which publications you are interested in, the next step is to obtain their “writers’ guidelines”. This is a description of the kinds of articles they want, how many words, the rights they purchase (i.e., “first publication”), and the procedure for submitting the article for consideration.

You’ll probably find writers’ guidelines on the publication’s web site. If not, contact the editor and ask if they accept articles and if so, what they are looking for.

Once you know the guidelines, the next step is the “query”. Some publications want you to submit your article idea in outline form, along with a sample of your other writing, some publications want to see the whole article first. Whatever the guidelines, your query needs to sell the editor on three things:

  1. Why their readers would want to read your article
  2. Your credentials for writing it
  3. Your ability to write it

Your query letter should be well written and to the point. It should demonstrate that the article you propose will be relevant to their readership and interesting to read. Editors read hundreds of queries and sort through them quickly; if you want to be considered, you need to get their attention and immediately make them see the value in your article.

Getting the first article accepted is the hardest. Once you have built up a list of publications that have accepted your work, you should find yourself getting published more frequently. Until then, don’t assume that being a lawyer is enough of a pedigree to be accepted for publication. Actually, being a lawyer could work against you. If an editor assumes you “write like a lawyer,” you’ll have to work harder to show them that you can write something real people would want to read.

Don’t hesitate to start with small publications. It will give you experience in writing and submitting articles. You’ll also get a list of publishing credits and that will make it easier to get other editors to give you the go ahead.

Don’t be concerned about payment for your articles; most publications pay little or nothing anyway. But do negotiate a listing of your web site or other contact information at the end of the article. You want readers to be able to reach you.

Be patient; it will be worth the effort. Even if they don’t allow you to list your contact information in the article, just being able to say you have been published carries weight. Reprints of your articles make excellent marketing hand outs that can be used for years. And you can re-cycle your material (make sure you retained the right to do so) in other articles, speaking engagements, web/ezine articles, blog posts, reports, and so forth. Also, having been published can lead to interviews and speaking engagements and could also provide material for press releases. For example, your published article might be referenced in a press release where you offer a free report that amplifies the subject matter of the article.

Writing for publication will give you exposure and credibility as an expert in your field. It can also lead to even more exposure in the form of inquiries from other publications, joint venture partners, meeting holders, teleseminar promoters, and the like. Getting published will help you grow your mailing list, develop new referral sources, and create more clients.  It will also make your mother proud.

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