A few friends and colleagues have expressed interest in having me talk about legal marketing - a subject that I both enjoy and regularly participate in. We should start with a little history. I became a lawyer in December 1976. At that time lawyers were generally prohibited from publicizing themselves or their law firms in newspapers, magazines, radio or television. It was expected that a lawyers reputation could only grow with experience and community involvement - an obvious advantage to those who had been in the legal profession for many years. Advertising rules began to change in June 1977 with the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision of Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. I've followed the effects of Bates since my very first year of law practice.
Now, some 41 years later, I'll share my thoughts on legal marketing. Bates aside, this for the most part is not a video about the law - it is rather on my general approach to the subject of legal marketing.
So, I'll start with some basic principles - the first of them being Dr. Frank Luntz's admonition that "It's not what you say, it's what people hear." We want to get our message across. It's difficult at times to know whether what we think we're conveying is what people are hearing. It helps that I take several calls every week from potential clients who express in their own words what they've taken from our blogs, videos or book.
Our message, whatever it is, must be truthful. Even if truthful, if it is self-serving, it can be easily discarded. This can be a challenge - we want people to know our legal focus, but we don't want to falsely convey that we're the greatest lawyers since Abe Lincoln left the law for the presidency. Part of truth is the recognition that we have both strengths and weaknesses. Hiring us is not magic - an assured path to success. We don't win them all. We do work daily to keep our commitment to legal excellence and ethics.
Ultimately our actions are even more important than our message. We work to make our actions a good part of our strength - strength in serving the courts, our profession, our clients and our communities. The greatest lawyers that I've known have been great servants of the law and their clients. They go together. Their works are examples - not boasts of victories or enemies defeated.
So, now stepping back a bit, how should legal marketing work? Let's first note that legal marketing is far different today than even five years ago. My general approach is that blogs are important to both show the face and demeanor of the lawyer as well as provide a platform for sharing knowledge. Knowledge sharing also means listening. It is in listening that I learn what people are concerned about, what issues they are facing, and the guidance that is sought.
My view is that I'm sharing with real people who are taking the same journey I'm on - a life with many joys and, at times, troubles. A life where sometimes things just don't go right, seem fair or an injustice is experienced. I often tell potential clients that I am more like an emergency room physician than a general practitioner. People usually don't come in for a check-up, they come in because they face a challenge that needs intervention or, at the very least, timely good counsel.
There are many ways to reach potential clients. Of course, reputation and client and attorney referrals are some of these ways. In 2018 there are a number of studies that show that people looking for a lawyer use the Internet first. The Internet is critical. Going along with this reputation management is critical. Our website includes a number of reputation badges as well as client reviews. These badges and reviews should certainly not be the only factor in decision making, but they do help to convey some aspects of our background.
Potential clients often prefer video in learning about lawyers or subject matters. With this in mind, we have an inhouse studio producing content for the video platforms that we utilize. We're getting pretty close to having 400 videos up - that's a lot - and it's a lot of effort to keep current. It's both challenging and fun. We can have an idea in the morning and a video up in the afternoon. We don't like to restrict ourselves to law - we sometimes cover matters of community importance - matters that we feel strongly about.
I wrote a book that was published in 2017 - The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse. The book was a learning experience and ultimately a way that I could share my own background and our law firm's approach to protecting elders against financial abuse. The book is available on Amazon and ranks high in the subject matter of elder abuse. I've also given the book away. I've shared the book in many ways and over the last year or, so I think that we've given away more than 2000 books.
In the end, marketing is most fun and probably the most productive when you share what you know and look for ways to improve the public good. This is not to say that we are a non-profit group. We are in both a professional practice and a business. The number of cases that we can actually take are limited by both economics and our time. Over the last year, I often note that we take significant cases where we think that we can make a substantial difference and there is a defendant or respondent who can be made financially accountable for their wrongdoing. We get far more inquiries than people who become actual clients. We do our best to direct whoever calls us to others who might be able to help them - often to local bar associations.
So, this is how I approach marketing. No approach is ever flawless, but it produces positive results I am happy to share with others.