The practice of law is changing rapidly and drastically following one of the worst economic recessions in US history. As cited in a recent Forbes article about how entrepreneurship is reshaping the legal industry, three of the major trends affecting legal practitioners today include the rise of online do-it-yourself legal service providers, the disruption of the law firm model and consolidation of large law firms, and the rise of entrepreneurship.
Times are tough for attorneys everywhere, and as law firms downsize and consolidate, more and more attorneys are forced to become entrepreneurs themselves and start their own law practices. Meanwhile, millions of people search the internet for legal information, lawyers, and legal services every month, which means for the nearly 500,000 solo practitioners in the US, figuring out how to build a law practice online is becoming more of a concern.
The following information should provide some insight into the current trends and services available that lawyers are utilizing to acquire clients and grow thriving law practices online.
Social media seems to be all the rage these days. Hundreds of millions of people use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn everyday. But how can you utilize these services to build a law practice online? Here is a broad overview of how you can best use social media and some of the benefits of doing so.
Establish Your Presence
You should be using social media sites to establish an online presence and interact with potential clients and others in the legal community. When people search for your name, there is a good chance your social profiles will come up first on the list, even before your law firm website, so make sure to create profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter and create a Facebook page for your law practice. You should also invite all of your family, friends, colleagues, and clients to “like” your page and follow you to stay up to date.
Make it Look Good
Creating social media profiles is only the first step in the process. You also want to make sure that your profiles look good, meaning all the information is filled out and you have a nice headshot as a profile picture. Your social media profiles are like a virtual “storefront” where new potential clients will get insight into you and your law practice. Nothing comes off more unprofessional to a prospect than seeing a blank, lifeless social media profile. So keep it up to date, and make it look good!
Post Updates Frequently
Posting updates regularly on all of these major social media sites is a great way to keep people informed and up to date with the happenings in your law practice. You can start discussions about current events and answer questions to make it more interactive and entertaining. This point also goes back to making it look good – people will take the recent activity on your pages as a sign of good communication, attentiveness, and reliability.
Right next to social media in terms of Internet marketing trends these days is content, content, and content. The more content, the better. Content is key for SEO, driving traffic, building up a good Google page rank, and ultimately convincing your readers (aka your future clients) that you are credible and worthy of their business.
The easiest way to build content is to start a blog and write a post at least once a week. You can start a blog for free using wordpress, blogger, or tumblr. You don’t have to be a great writer, but your posts should be easy to read and relevant to your law practice (e.g. informational posts or legal analysis of current events). You should make each post about 500 words, and make sure to share them all across each of your social media channels. Blogging is probably the best way to drive traffic back to your website and to build your social media following. Do it regularly and you will be sure to be on the right path to build a law practice online.
Question and Answer Sites
The web is a phenomenally powerful source of information, so it should come as no surprise that people use it to search for answers to their legal questions. There are a number of websites used for this purpose, or even devoted solely to it, including Avvo, LawPivot (acquired by Rocket Lawyer), and Quora.
Joining these types of websites can be a good way to build your online presence and develop credibility. By answering people’s basic questions, it shows them that you are knowledgeable and trustworthy, two key characteristics that people will demand from any attorney.
Lawyer Listing and Review Services
These days, people have come to enjoy the luxury of reading reviews for just about anything before they try it out. And when it comes to hiring an attorney, people are particularly cautious due to the important, confidential nature of legal services.
Sites like Lawyers.com, Yelp, and Avvo are among the more common lawyer listing services that offer users the opportunity to review attorneys they have worked with. We all know the rule that people who have a negative experience are 10 times as likely to share it with others, so do yourself a favor, and make sure that you are aware of these review sites and get involved so you can take control of your reviews to give yourself a greater chance of receiving more positive marks.
Lawyer Lead Gen Networks
Another type of online service that can be effective for acquiring new clients is a lawyer lead gen network. Lead gen services are a much more expensive option, but they can be especially effective for personal injury, DUI, and bankruptcy cases due to their more lucrative nature.
Lawyer lead gen networks allow you to purchase leads on new, pre-screened clients that have submitted their information somewhere on the web in search of legal help. Leads can be up to a few hundred dollars each, depending on the type of case and the location. But typically, these clients are in a position where they desperately need an attorney, so if you buy the lead and contact the client, there is a pretty decent chance of converting and getting a return on your investment. Some popular websites that offer lead gen for lawyers are Total Attorneys, AttorneyFee, and AttorneyBoost. If you practice in one of those more lucrative areas of law, in terms of revenue per case, look into these lead gen options to help build a law practice online.
Much like acquiring clients in the offline world, it all comes down to credibility, connections, and trust. You should be using all, or some combination of all the above-mentioned websites and services in your online marketing arsenal. Each one offers slightly different benefits: Facebook and Twitter are great for building a following and interacting with people, Quora and LawPivot are good for building trust and showing your knowledge, Yelp and Avvo are good for establishing credibility, and lead gen networks are great for creating connections with new prospects.
The more active you are in your online efforts, the greater your online presence becomes, and the more credibility you will create for yourself which will go a long way in attracting new potential clients. It can sometimes take a significant amount of time before any of your efforts pay off, but if you stick with it and persevere, you are sure to be on your way to building a successful law practice online.