Marketing legal services: never settle for good when you can get great


Your client is in the office and tells you he’s pleased with what you have done for him. You give him a handful of your business cards or brochures and ask him to pass them out. He says he will.

That’s good, isn’t it?

Yes. Very good. But why settle for good when you can have great?

Great would be if your client not only agrees to refer people who need your help, he actually goes out of his way to look for them.

He calls people he knows, tells them about his experience with you, and asks them if they know anyone who might need what you offer. He posts a similar message on Facebook or Twitter. He calls and introduces you to his uncle the insurance broker who has many clients who could benefit from what you do. He posts a link to your web site on his web site. He mails a letter to all of his customers recommending you. He invites all of his friends and neighbors to your seminar.

How do you get this kind of help from your clients? How do you go from good to great?

First, you have to deliver an experience to your clients that wildly exceeds their expectations. They can’t be merely satisfied, they have to be thrilled.

As you might suspect, this usually has very little to do with the core services you provide and everything to do with the way the client is treated. It’s the little things you do for them, the extras and surprises, the courtesies and comforts.

It’s not the documents you draft or the depositions you take. It’s writing a letter of recommendation for your client’s son so he can get accepted into your alma matter. It’s mentioning your client’s charity in your blog or newsletter or Facebook group and encouraging your friends and followers to contribute their time and money. It’s referring customers to your client, introducing him to a lower priced supplier, or sending him and his wife to a nice dinner on your dime.

If you are doing these things, you can ask for your client’s help.

Give him suggestions, based on what you know about his personal and professional life–what they do and who they know. Or give him a list of things they could do based on what other clients have done and let them choose the ones they prefer.

You can give your clients a good experience or a great one. They can do the same for you.

Never settle for good when you can get great.


Want to bring in some new clients? What are you DOING about it?


I got an email this morning from a junior associate at a law firm in southeast Asia, thanking me for my blog and newsletter. He said that as a result of reading my posts over the last two months, he brought in one big client and three small clients.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

He said he “loved” yesterday’s post and I can see why. He’s been regularly attending networking events and I could tell from his letter that he is very enthusiastic about what he does and the value he (his firm) is able to deliver. I suspect that the new clients he talked about were attracted to his passion more than anything.

I wrote back and told him that while I gave him some ideas and encouragement, all the credit goes to him. He’s the one who took those ideas and did something with them.

Many lawyers know a lot of information and could wax endlessly about what they know. Unfortunately, they often don’t benefit from what they know because they never apply it.

General George S. Patton once said, “A good plan vigorously executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ve received many ideas for bringing in new clients. Have you used any of them or are you waiting for a “perfect plan”? Two months from now, you will have read many more ideas. I challenge you use them to bring in one big client and three small clients.


How to get a lot more clients without doing ANY additional marketing


Most people who visit your web site, hear you speak, or read your article, don’t call you. And if they don’t call, they aren’t going to hire you.

What’s worse, they’ll never return to your web site or re-read your article. At least you have to assume that because that’s almost always the way it is.

Unless you have a lead capture mechanism in place (and you should), this is a squandered opportunity, a loss for both you and the prospective client.

The good news is that for everyone who does call, there may be three or five or ten people who almost called. They liked what they saw but for one reason or another, they didn’t take the plunge. If they aren’t ready or they don’t have any money, there’s not much you can do. There is one reason prospective clients come close to calling but don’t you can do something about. And if you do, it could bring in a boatload of new clients.

Many people don’t call lawyers simply because they’re intimidated. Let’s face it, attorneys are usually not known for being warm and fuzzy. But while a tough exterior may be a useful quality in an advocate, it can damage our ability to connect with prospective clients.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution.

Your web site or other marketing communication needs to reach out to the reader or visitor, invite them to connect, and make them feel comfortable about doing so.

One way to do that is to feature testimonials from your clients, who speak about how great it was to work with you, how you were kind and helpful and took a personal interest in their case. They can say how they felt scared before they called and thought they were going to get a sales pitch or be told they had to come into the office before they could get any information. Instead, you talked to them on the phone and answered a lot of their questions and there was no pressure at all.

Another way to make people feel comfortable about contacting you is to describe the process. Tell them what happens first, who they will speak to when they call, what will be discussed, what happens next, and so on, so that people can get a picture in their mind’s eye of what it will be like when they call.

Yet another way to reach out to people is to simply tell them directly that you will be happy to speak to them via phone or via email, that you will answer any questions they may have, with no cost or obligation.

No pressure. No intimidation. Call or email, the door is open.

There are other things you can do to make people feel comfortable about contacting you. Reduce or eliminate the “disclaimer” language so prevalent on lawyers’ web sites and emails. Photos of you and your staff are good. Use head shots and also some informal shots of you with clients or you outside the office. Personal information helps. Talk about your kids, sports you enjoy, or your volunteer work. On your web site, consider adding a video of you speaking and welcoming visitors, telling them what they will find on the site, and inviting them to contact you by phone or email.

Show people you are a regular person and you want to speak with them and more people will call.

Want more great marketing ideas? Check out The Quantum Leap Marketing System for Attorneys


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


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.


This is WHY the ABA wants new rules to regulate online lawyer marketing


world's tackiest lawyer ad everLast week, I joined the chorus of attorneys who strongly object to the ABA’s proposal to promulgate new rules regulating what attorneys can do on the Internet to market their services.

This weekend, I saw a video of a TV commercial by Florida divorce attorney, Steven D. Miller and thought I might have been hasty. The video, which someone put on YouTube with the caption, “Tackiest Lawyer Ad. . .Ever,” is a prime example of why the ABA is considering new rules. Watch and you’ll see why.

[mc src=”” type=”youtube”]Tackiest Lawyer Ad Ever[/mc]

Wait. It gets better.

The web site for Mr. Miller’s practice is. . . (are you sitting down?). . . ““. Yep, you can look at their menu, call or click, and order your divorce. “Would you like pickles with your restraining order?”

I’m pretty open minded but let’s face it, this commercial and the entire “deli” concept is in very bad taste. It reflects poorly on all lawyers. One subscriber to this blog wrote to say he was against lawyer advertising of any kind because of the negative impression lawyers’ TV commercials have on juries and this has to be “Exhibit A”. But as ugly as this is, I still don’t want (or think we need) more rules.

I don’t want to legislate taste. I don’t want to outlaw embarrassing behavior. I don’t want to be told what I can and cannot do. And, unless it is the only way to prevent serious, irreparable harm, I don’t want to tell anyone else what to do.

Mr. Miller obviously does what he does because it’s working for him. God bless him. He’s serving a segment of society that might otherwise be denied access to the legal system because of their lack of funds (or good taste). I disagree with his approach but I must defend his right to do what he does without interference from the ABA or anyone else.

So, whether you laughed at this video and web site or recoiled in disgust, I hope you’re with me. If you agree that despite examples like these, we don’t need or want additional regulations, please tell the ABA.

Comments should be sent to: Natalia Vera, Senior Research Paralegal, Commission on Ethics 20/20 ABA Center for Professional Responsibility, 321 North Clark Street, 15th Floor, Chicago, IL 60654-7598. Phone: 312/988-5328, fax: 312/988-5280 and email: The comment period ends on December 15.


Lawyers required to protect personal information under new federal rule


Oh what fun, lawyers (and their clients) have new regs to comply with and new exposure if they don’t. Civil damages, administrative penalties, and even criminal charges are possible under these new rules. But this emerging field also provides new marketing opportunities. You can advise (and bill), you can represent damaged parties, and you can defend parties charged with failure to comply. And, if you practice in any related field, you can attract new business by speaking and writing about these new regulations. You can also earn profits beyond your legal fees by offering non-legal identity theft protection to your clients and their employees. I work with many attorneys who do this and the income is not only substantial, it is residual. If you’re interested in learning more, send me a personal message. dw

By Susan D. Oja and Alex De Grand

April 1, 2009 — Lawyers who bill their clients after services have been rendered are expected to implement a written program guarding against the theft of their employees’ and clients’ personal information under a new federal law.

The Federal Trade Commission will begin enforcement of the “red flags rule” on May 1. The rule is part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), a congressional response to spikes in reported identity theft. Identity thieves assume a person’s entire identity or synthesize one from parts of various victims. Because more than half of identity thefts occur in the workplace, businesses are required to implement safeguards.

Those subject to the rule are “creditors” and financial institutions who maintain consumer-type accounts or other accounts at reasonable risk of identity theft. The FTC noted that identity thieves look for opportunities to obtain products or services that do not require payment up-front.

As interpreted by the FTC, “creditors” has a broad definition, encompassing professionals such as lawyers and doctors who defer payment of a client’s bill. The American Medical Association protested that other federal laws and professional ethical duties to maintain patient confidentiality precluded the new rule. But the FTC held in a letter that the statute borrows the sweeping definition of “creditor” from the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). Agency interpretation of the ECOA specifically includes doctors and lawyers within the meaning of “creditor.”

What is expected

Under the new rule, lawyers must implement a written policy specifying how they will watch for the warning signs — the “red flags” — that indicate an identity theft may be occurring and how they will respond to prevent or mitigate the crime if uncovered.

Policies are supposed to be tailored to the amount of risk. The FTC acknowledges there is no bright-line rule to distinguish between high and low-risk. But the rule suggests a lawyer consider such factors as how easily an account is opened or accessed and previous experience with identity theft.

If a lawyer finds there is little risk, an appropriate program might comprise no more than checking photo id at the time services are sought and a policy against collecting from an identity theft victim or reporting it on the victim’s credit report.

In its letter to the AMA, the FTC stated that it does not foresee the new rule imposing a great burden. “For example, a small medical practice with a well-known, limited patient base might have a lower risk of identity theft, and thus might adopt a more limited Program than a clinic in a large metropolitan setting that sees a high volume of patients,” the letter read.

What to watch for

The Appendix of the “red flags rule” provides examples of incidents putting a creditor lawyer on notice of potential identity theft. In addition to fraud alerts from consumer credit agencies or the client’s complaint, this list includes suspicious documents, perhaps altered or forged. A creditor lawyer may receive fishy personal information such as an unexpected change of address. Creditor lawyers are also directed to look for unusual use of an account.

A creditor lawyer’s policy should address the detection of “red flags” at the time an account is opened by obtaining identifying information about the new client and verifying it, the rule instructs.

What to do

Responses to “red flags” should be in proportion to the risk posed and a creditor lawyer is advised to consider any “aggravating factors” such as a data security breach that may exacerbate the threat. The rule Appendix suggests appropriate responses could be alerting law enforcement, monitoring the account for evidence of identity theft, changing passwords or other security devices controlling account access, reopening an account with a new account number, or closing an account. Under certain circumstances, the rule states that a creditor lawyer may determine no response is necessary.

These written policies should be updated periodically to account for changes in risks to clients’ information or innovations in detection of identity theft. A subsequent merger, acquisition, joint venture, or service provider arrangement may also prompt the need for an updated written policy.

The rule also requires appointing a senior management person to implement the program; appropriately educating employees; and overseeing any service provider arrangements. Liability follows a creditor lawyer’s data, so due diligence is necessary to confirm vendor compliance before outsourcing payroll or hiring an office cleaning company.

More information from the FTC: The Red Flags Rules: Are you complying with new requirements for fighting identity theft?

Susan D. Oja, a solo practitioner in Middleton, is a certified identity theft risk management specialist through the Institute of Fraud Risk Management. Alex De Grand is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin.