Better Than a Free Lunch: Lunch Hour Legal Marketing Webinars

They say the best things in life are free, but that expression doesn’t always apply to CPD. Lucky for us, Lunch Hour Legal Marketing (LHLM) is one of those rare cases where you get a whole lot more than you paid for (in a good way).

We haven’t talked too much about LHLM here before, and that’s a shame, because it really is fantastic. For the unfamiliar, LHLM is a free monthly webinar series with a huge list of past presenters (last year, Steve did one on creating and managing a law firm publishing culture). You can check them all out via the “Webinars” dropdown menu. You’re sure to recognize many of the past presenters as well-known legal marketers and bloggers (Susan Cartier Liebel, Kevin O’Keefe, Catherine Sanders Reach and Bob Ambrogi, to name just a few).

Last week, Jeff Lantz of Esquire Interactive LLC gave a talk on “Resonation to Revenue: How to Transform Your Website into a Dynamic Client-Generation Tool” and his slides and audio will be available on the LHLM site shortly. The webinar covers lots of topics that will be of interest to readers of this blog: how to create a first impression that resonates, using parallax design effectively, creating client-centered websites, common law firm website faux pas to avoid, and mobile/responsive web best practices.

There’s another webinar tomorrow: lawyer, career coach and diversity consultant Marguerite Fletcher will present “Lost Art: Developing Personal Referrals“.

Lunch Hour Legal Marketing is a joint effort of Mass LOMAP, Suffolk University Law School’s Advanced Legal Studies, the Chicago Bar Association’s Law Practice Management & Technology, and the Massachusetts Bar Association.

On a related note, LOMAP’s Heidi Alexander tells me that plans are underway for the 5th Annual Super Marketing Conference, taking place in Boston in June 2015. The theme will be social media, and if the 2014 presenters are any indication, there will be a lot to look forward next year! You can also check out slide decks and high-quality video from this year’s conference for an idea of what to expect – login instructions are at the conference homepage. There is some really great stuff there. I especially enjoyed the video of the Lies & Truths Panel with Conrad Saam, Gyi Tsakalakis, and Leigh McMillan.

Nice Niche!

I was sitting in a waiting room the other day, leafing through a magazine, when an ad caught my eye. It was for a moving company with a very specific target market. Winnipeg-based The Seniors Moving Company offers seniors and their families help with a variety of circumstances such as downsizing or relocating to a retirement or nursing home, and they also assist with selling homes and their contents through and estate services.

“What a brilliant idea!” I thought. Even though I have no such need in my life, I found myself pulling up the company’s website to find out more about them. They have a simple website that contains helpful information, like an extensive, locally-customized address change checklist, a detailed list of what sorts of things they do for their clients, and testimonials from past customers.

According to the site, The Seniors Moving Company will “honour the emotions, values and wishes of every client in coordinating the practical details of their move”. The company’s owner is certified in conflict resolution and has more than a decade of education and experience working with seniors.

Hmm… a business devoted to providing expert service to a specific group, that has in-depth local knowledge and experience with its target clients’ emotional needs, values, and wishes…. sounds an awful lot like a successful niche law practice, doesn’t it?

The topic of niches has been on my mind lately. Everywhere I turn, I’m seeing articles and blog posts touting the savvy path of developing a narrow but in-depth focus on a particular practice area or clientele.

Drew Hasselback had a good article on DMC Law, an Ontario firm that specializes in business law for dentists (Finding their niche: young lawyers bite into the dental market). What seemed like a stretch at first — only dentists? — turned out to be easier than making a name for themselves in a broader practice area. Firm co-founder David Mayzel was initially skeptical, but soon saw that “diving deep” could work:

No matter what you try to do, it’s going to be hard at the beginning, Mr. Mayzel adds. Stick with it, focus, and become the recognized expert in a particular field. “Try not to be a generalist and dabble in different areas, because you’re likely going to drown. You can’t be everything to everyone. Try to be the one person to one group.”

Bob Ambrogi shared a new legal blog, Michael McCabe’s IPethics & INsights, noting that it was indeed the first of its kind, blending “legal ethics, professional discipline and professional liability in the specific context of patent and trademark law.” A niche that was untapped, until now. According to Ambrogi,

“There is a lesson here for other lawyers who are just thinking about starting blogs. It may seem like there are no topics yet to be covered. But perhaps by focusing on a more narrow aspect of a broader topic, there is a unique niche to be found.”

When I reported on several unrepresented blog topics in Canada, Kevin O’Keefe chimed in with words of encouragement, showing that the rewards can be greater than just increased business and that there’s a need for niche reporting now more than ever:

“Chasing an uncovered niche in the law is not only valuable for you in developing business, but like uncovered state houses, it’s valuable for society.

With the decline in newspapers and traditional media, we’re not getting the coverage on a myriad of niches that we have in the past. We’ve also come to expect that when we turn to the Internet we’ll find high quality information on any subject in the world. You can fill the voids for us.”

Whether it’s your blog or your entire practice built around a very specific market, it’s clear there are  major benefits to nurturing your niche, and we’re only just seeing the tip of the iceberg now. I’m looking forward to seeing what new niche blogs will pop up on lawblogs.ca  in the near future!

What’s new at Lawblogs.ca?

It’s probably fair to say that no one is all that excited about the cold weather that’s rapidly approaching. But for us at Stem, it means that the Clawbies will be here soon (nominations open December 1st)! With new Canadian law blogs cropping up regularly, it’s anyone’s guess which blogs will be among this year’s award winners. Could they be among the blogs added to lawblogs.ca since our last update? Only time will tell!

Know of a blog that’s not yet listed on lawblogs.ca? Check our submission guidelines and let us know!

Stem Client Roundup for September 2014

The air’s a little cooler, the leaves are turning, and the kids are back in school – fall is definitely here! September was full of hustle and bustle here at Stem and for our clients. Here’s a look at what they’ve been up to over the past month:

We’ll be back again next month with more client news to share.

 

 

 

How To Talk To Lawyers About Online Content Marketing

A friend of mine recently asked for my thoughts on how to speak to lawyers about search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). Steve Matthews is Stem’s resident guru on these topics, and I make it a point to look foolish only in my areas of authority. But if the mechanics of SEO aren’t in my wheelhouse, speaking to lawyers is — and so I came up with a series of suggestions for how my friend could get through to lawyers about using the Web to publish, profile, and otherwise promote themselves online.

1. The “non-lawyer” hurdle. An initial challenge faced by many people in this position is that (un)fortunately, they’re not lawyers. Lawyers, as we know, tend not to respect even trained professionals if they lack legal credentials. Couple that with the foreign and confusing nature (from lawyers’ point of view) of SEO and SEM, and the hill steepens. For that reason, I would employ matter-of-fact straight talk, with a strong no-nonsense, businesslike approach to the subject. Lawyers respect strength and confidence (so long as they’re still unquestionably the alpha dogs in the room), and I find they respond well to a direct, fact-driven, and logical approach, coupled with:

2. The provision of actual facts. The great thing about science, as Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently observed, is that it’s true whether or not you believe it. I would establish early in the session that SEO and online search aren’t fundamentally about marketing or client outreach or other touchy-feely things that lawyers hate. They’re about science and technology. They’re grounded in the ways in which incredibly complex algorithms parse untold reams of complex data to identify real value for the user. And they’re at the core of the sales and marketing successes of billion-dollar companies worldwide. Data, science, and money — many lawyers don’t get the first two, but they sure get the third, and they’ll follow any trail that takes them there.

3. The staggering enormity of online. Simply put, everyone looks for everything on the internet today. Even if the Web played no part in how a lawyer’s stable of current clients found her (which is pretty unlikely), there’s an excellent chance her next clients will take this path. This especially figures to be the case for people who haven’t used lawyers before, and/or whose issue falls into “consumer law” areas such as family, wills, and personal injury. This is the only reason lawyers need to care about SEO and online content marketing generally — it’s what’s going to drive paying clients in their direction. Paper the lawyers with extensive data from respected sources that demonstrate how online visibility is a huge driver of potential new business.

4. The pointlessness of finishing second. If you’re on the first page of Google search results for “things you want to be known for,” you win. If you’re on page 2, you might as well be on page 200; you lose. This is a brutal competition, and you’re up against the same lawyers here as you are in your practice: same competition, different battlefield. Getting this idea across to lawyers is important, partly because it’s obviously true, and partly because it taps into both lawyers’ goal-setting fetish and their competitive obsession. It’s especially effective if you can demonstrate how a rival practitioner whom the lawyer considers clearly inferior is outperforming the lawyer in search results, thanks to more frequent and higher-quality online content.

5. The responsibility of lawyers. There’s really no more important message to deliver than this. In order to be found on the Web, you need to put stuff there that people will find. That stuff has to be relevant and useful to your clients, and it needs to be distinctive and representative about your practice. And it would be nice if it were somewhat readable. That’s content marketing. Your search rankings are not the Marketing Department’s job, any more than your legal work is Marketing’s responsibility. Ultimately, you and only you control your SEO outcomes, because only you can put the relevant, useful, and distinctive stuff there for people to find. Lawyers need to hear, understand, and accept this fact.

Help lawyers appreciate that content marketing is real and it is proven — again and again, in markets and industries worldwide. Online content marketing works, it works in the law, and it matters in business development. Is it everything? No. Is it the essence of being a great lawyer? Obviously not. But it’s a big piece of the puzzle of getting the lawyer noticed and on the road to getting her hired. And it all hinges on the lawyer’s direct, frequent, and engaged participation in the process. That’s a message that lawyers should understand — and hopefully, one they’ll go on to implement.

Stem Client Roundup for August 2014

Whether you consider the end of summer as “the most wonderful time of the year“, or are sad to see the sunny weather on the wane, the end of August is here, and soon we’ll all be back into the full swing of fall. Check out our latest installment of company news, and here’s a quick look at what our clients got up to over this past month:

We’ll be back next month with more notable client news to share.

CBA Futures Report: Roundup of Reaction

A few weeks back, I published a summary of the new CBA Futures Report over on Slaw.ca. The input and reaction to this report is something we’ve been tracking here at Stem; as we all seem to think (in time) having a more open Canadian marketplace will inspire more creative web services.  It’s difficult to say when and at what pace that type of innovation will happen, but I do believe the report outlines a path for that type of innovation.

In the aftermath of the report’s release, our internal process of ‘subject tracking’ ended up producing an aggregated list of responses and summaries from around the web.  I’d like to share that list (below)… Enjoy!

CBA Futures reaction roundup — starting with the more opinion-based pieces then moving into news/summaries

Jason Morris at Gauntlet.ca: CBA Legal Future Report

Lee Akizaki: Why can’t a lawyer be more like a share capital corporation? A reflection on the CBA Legal Futures Final Report

Jordan Furlong at Law21: Watershed: The CBA Futures Report

Law Scout at Medium.com: If the Future of Law is here, why are only the lawyers listening?

Milan Markovic at Legal Ethics Forum: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada Part I: Where is the Data?

Carolyn Elefant at MyShingle.com: If We Change Rules to Allow Non-Lawyers to Own Law Firms, How About Changing Them to let Lawyers Compete?

Alexandre Thibault at Edilex: Le financement par des non-avocats: le future de la profession?

Nick Hilborne at Legal Futures: ABSs set to cross the Atlantic

Daniel Fish at Precedent: Law grads need debt forgiveness programs, says Canadian Bar Association

Mallory Hendry at 4Students: Futures report offers some food for thought for law students, teachers

Ian Mackenzie at Mackenzie DRS: Off-loading lawyers’ training and development

Mitch Kowalski at Legal Post: Canadian Bar Association charts a bold new course

Steven Dyrkstra: CBA Makes Sweeping Recommendations to Change Canadian Legal Profession

Drew Hasselback at Legal Post: Let non-lawyers own Canadian law firms, bar association says

Jeff Gray at The Globe and Mail: Let non-lawyers own law firms: Canadian Bar Association

Pete Evans at CBC: Let law firms be sold to non-lawyers, Canadian Bar Association says

Yamri Taddese at Legal Feeds: CBA calls for total overhaul of professional regulation

Yamri Taddese at Law Times: Dramatic changes on tap as CBA report touts outside ownership

Glenn Kauth at Law Times: Editorial: Bold move by CBA

f We Change Rules to Allow Non-Lawyers to Own Law Firms, How About Changing Them to Let Lawyers Compete? – See more at: http://myshingle.com/2014/08/articles/future-fridays/change-rules-allow-non-lawyers-law-firms-changing-let-lawyers-compete/#sthash.7GKB1UsN.dpuf
If We Change Rules to Allow Non-Lawyers to Own Law Firms, How About Changing Them to Let Lawyers Compete? – See more at: http://myshingle.com/2014/08/articles/future-fridays/change-rules-allow-non-lawyers-law-firms-changing-let-lawyers-compete/#sthash.7GKB1UsN.dpuf
Off-loading lawyers’ training and development
Off-loading lawyers’ training and development

Stem Client Roundup for July 2014

American author Hal Borland once said, “Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.” A bit of a deflating thought! Here at Stem we’re all managing to take some time off to make the most of our short Canadian summer, and we hope all our clients are finding ways to balance their hard work throughout July with some R&R.  Here’s a look at what they’ve been up to over the last month:

 

We hope you do some fun and memorable things during the second half of the summer – come January, you’ll be glad you did!

This Is My Life: Stop Writing About Yourself In The Third Person

“He has a dream that one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘They hold those truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

“He considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. And he might have been given a bad break, but he’s got an awful lot to live for.”

“They shall go on to the end; they shall fight in France; they shall fight on the seas and oceans; they shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air; they shall defend their island, whatever the cost may be … they shall never surrender.”

Something not quite right about the foregoing quotations, isn’t there?

Great speeches are great not just because of their soaring rhetoric, their stirring ideals, and their inspirational calls to action. As these badly re-engineered quotations demonstrate, they’re great because they’re delivered in the first person. The speaker puts himself directly into his speech, puts his vision and commitment and personal sacrifice right there on the line. I have a dream. I am the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. We shall never surrender.

When I (or we) communicate a fact or idea in the first person singular (or plural), my presence and responsibility and dedication are clear, and they resonate with readers and listeners. When people communicate a fact or idea in the third person, however, that responsibility is sidestepped, that dedication is compromised, and that presence is removed several steps away. (Notice how the passive voice automatically shows up in the third person?) And when you talk about yourself in the third person, you not only put a damaging amount of distance between you and who you say you are, you also suggest that you’re at best a little pompous and at worst a touch delusional.

And yet lawyers constantly talk about themselves in the third person in their own biographies, on their own web pages. It’s an affectation and a distraction. “Jane is a partner in the firm’s Litigation Department who specializes in class action defence. She is often retained by Fortune 500 companies. Her hobbies include hiking and travel.” Who is supposed to be speaking here? Is this a toast given at a wedding reception? Is the reader to assume this biography has been written by an admiring third party, without the lawyer’s input but with her graceful acquiescence?

When you describe your practice, skills and experiences in the third person, you might think you’re being appropriately modest or professionally circumspect. In reality, you’re putting unnecessary distance between yourself and your own best qualities. Law is a relationship business, and the best relationships are made directly, between two people who are open and honest with each other. Third-person biographies insert an imaginary third person into that relationship, complicating things and creating a sense of detachment or distance on the lawyer’s part.

Good lawyers don’t do this when they practice their craft. The most effective advocates don’t tell the court, “It is my client’s position that…” They say to the court, “We believe that…” It’s a subtle change, but a powerful one, communicating ownership and commitment and alignment with the client. There’s every reason to apply the same approach to our website biographies.

Consider these two bios:

  • “Gary is a partner with Parable & Metaphor LLP. He focuses his practice on business law, serving clients in the manufacturing and recycling sectors in areas such as environmental compliance and new product development. An avid golfer, he enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.”
  • “I’ve been a partner with Parable & Metaphor LLP for six years. I help clients in the manufacturing and recycling sectors with a wide range of business law matters. I make sure they comply with environmental regulations and help them develop new products for their markets. I love to play golf, ideally while travelling across the country with my wife and three kids.”

The information is pretty much the same in both, but the personal touch of the second one encourages the provision of more detail and invites a level of openness and engagement with the reader (and notice that saying “I” allows you to connect more easily and effectively with the work you do for the clients you serve.) By contrast, the first one reads like a cookie-cutter description of Any Lawyer Esq., or maybe a testimonial elicited under some level of duress. There’s a stiffness and distance about third-person biographies that’s unconsciously off-putting to the reader or listener, and it’s completely unnecessary.

Own the details of your life and career with pride and enthusiasm. Show your willingness to commit to a relationship with your biography’s reader. Stop pretending that some invisible authority has independently studied and described you, like an anthropologist drily detailing a new species. Stand up, speak out, and be yourself. Clients want to know who you are and whether they’ll like working with you. Tell them the first, so that they can start to decide the second.

15 New Additions to Lawblogs.ca

The list just keeps on growing, and with these 15 new additions to lawblogs.ca, we’ve hit the 450 blog mark! Here’s a look at some of the blogs that have been added to the Canadian law blogs list since our last update in May.

If your site’s URL, feed, authorship, scope, etc., changes, we encourage you to let us know by using the “Update my blog’s listing information” option in the submission form at lawblogs.ca.

Neat Numbers from the Canadian Legal Blogosphere

Every June, we review all the blogs listed at lawblogs.ca, fixing dead or outdated links and feeds and removing defunct blogs. It’s a big project but an interesting one. This year’s review left us with a final tally of 444 blogs (up from 415 last June) and I decided to take some statistics as I went through them. I hope you’ll find these facts about the Canadian legal blogosphere as fascinating as I did!

Keeping up to date

Our general rule is that blogs that haven’t posted anything new in the past year get removed from the directory. There are all sorts of reasons why bloggers take breaks now and then, but I was curious: on the whole, how current are blogs being kept? I found that:

  • 40% had been updated within the past week
  • another 31% had been updated within the past month
  • the remaining 29% had been updated more than a month ago

Staying power

I also wondered, what makes a blog last? I wanted to determine whether bloggers who have won Clawbies are more likely to have stuck with blogging – and it turns out, they are.

  • There were 16 Canadian blogs cited as winners or runners up in the inaugural Clawbies awards of 2006. Of those, 11 are still blogging fairly regularly – that’s 68.75%
  • Compare that to the 71 blogs listed on Steve’s law blogs list around the same time, and only 27 (38.5%) of them are still blogging

I’m not suggesting that winning a Clawbie inspired these folks to keep blogging — though it’s nice to think that the Clawbies could play some small role in encouraging bloggers to stick with it! Rather, I suspect that the kind of people who were dedicated enough to produce an outstanding blog back then are still just as passionate about the things they write about, and truly get something out of the process that makes them keep doing it. And I’d also bet that bloggers who’ve been at it this long just enjoy writing, period.

Pod(cast) people

While clearly, most legal bloggers feel most comfortable with the written word, there are two Canadian legal blogs that have taken up the mic and are steadily producing podcasts too:

  • Hull & Hull LLP has been producing their Hull on Estates podcast steadily since 2006, and now has an impressive 380+ episodes in their archives.
  • In less than a year, Ideablawg blogger Lisa Silver has produced 26 podcasts on the Criminal Code of Canada.

New kids on the block

We’re seeing a rise in blogging on niche topics.  Here are three categories that didn’t exist three years ago on lawblogs.ca:

Ripe for the picking

Even with 444 blogs in our directory, there are some niche topics that haven’t been snapped up yet. Here are five topics with no dedicated Canadian blog coverage at present:

  • Education law
  • Election law
  • Animal law
  • Admiralty/marine law
  • Church/religion law

Each of these categories has significant coverage in the US – so what’s stopping Canadian law bloggers from delving into these topics?

Movin’ on up

We’ve also seen big jumps in several substantive law categories:

La belle langue

Over the past several years, we’ve also seen the number of French-language blogs grow. This time three years ago, there were only nine “blogues en français“; today there are 20.

Geographically speaking

Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of Canadian law blogs are written by lawyers in Ontario, and most new blogs are from Ontario too. BC comes in second. This lines up pretty predictably with the number of lawyers in these two provinces.

Despite the hundreds of lawyers who practice up north, our country’s three territories have zero listings on lawblogs.ca. Any would-be law bloggers from Nunavut, Northwest Territories or the Yukon out there? Here’s your chance to snag the first lawblogs.ca listing for your territory!

Stem Client Roundup for June 2014

It’s official: the year is half over! After a year away on mat leave, I’m happy to be back at Stem, and to share this roundup of June’s client news and activities with you.

That’s all for June; we’ll be back with more client highlights next month.

Stem Client Roundup for May 2014

The spring is just about over and summer is just around the corner!  May has been a busy month, particularly for our clients.  Let’s see what they have been up to:

That is all for this month!  We’ll be back next month with news and updates on our clients.

Traffic to law firm homepages dying? Not so far.

In one of his most recent posts, Lexblog’s Kevin O’Keefe made a brave prediction on the “death of law firm homepages”. Citing the recently reported traffic declines to the NYTimes homepage,  Kevin posits, “The death of homepages on law firm websites is likely to be much the same.”

The idea that social media might be directly impacting the traffic numbers to law firm homepages sounded intriguing to me. So I set out to do some comparable sleuthing.

I decided to sample four different law firm websites; reviewing Q1 traffic from 2012 to Q1 traffic in 2014. Specifically, I measured homepage ‘views’ as a percentage of each site’s total page views. Each of the four firms varied in their geographic location (2 in Canada, 2 in the USA; different sides of both countries.) They also differed in their services: two were community-based firms with multiple practice areas, one was a corporate boutique, and another was a solo litigation attorney.

Here’s what I found:

Firm 1:  12.9% (2012),  13.3% (2014)
Firm 2:  15.8% (2012),  18.67% (2014)
Firm 3:  25% (2012),  26.12% (2014)
Firm 4:  11.52% (2012),  9.68% (2014)

Now, this isn’t scientific by any means. But what it does show is that the traffic to firm homepages, as a percentage of total website traffic, has been relatively stable over the past two years.

So the question becomes… What’s fundamentally different about law firm websites compared to the NYTimes or The Atlantic in the above links? For me, it’s simple: these are business-based firm websites, not newspapers or magazines. Now, I would strongly suspect that law blogs and publishing initiatives are being impacted by social media sharing. Unless your firm’s blog has a massive brand, how your content resonates with its readers is what drives exposure. But law firm homepages? The numbers don’t support it.

In recent years, many firms have been moving content off of their firm’s website. Lawyer commentary gets routed out to firm owned blogs, industry publications, social media, and so forth. What’s left on the firm website, now, is a cleaner focus on the firm’s service offerings, lawyers, and expertise. Those pieces represent a very different marketing focus than what we need to accomplish through firm publishing.

It’s worth noting that each of the firm websites mentioned above have substantially more traffic today than they did two years ago. Hence why I used page view percentage as the comparable measure. They also have more traffic to their firm blogs and publishing. That’s important too, because each of those elements needs to work with the other in order to foster an image of professional credibility online.

The advent of social media has been an incredibly important step in how the web has evolved. But at least so far, ‘having a business online’ means ‘having a website’. Ignore explaining what you do, and what your business does, at your own peril.

Latest Additions to Lawblogs.ca