Breaks 500!

Since our last update we’ve now hit a pretty major milestone — there are now slightly over 500 blogs listed in the Canadian Law Blogs Directory! Some of these blogs are relatively new, while others are just new to us. Two of them won Clawbies this past December and others came onto our radar by being nominated or nominating others for the awards. And so in no particular order, here are some of the latest additions to

We also have a site update to mention: we have added a category for podcasts, which applies to both exclusive podcasts and blogs with occasional podcasts. At present there are three listed in that category, but we suspect there’ll be more to come. If you’re aware of a legal podcaster or blogger we’ve missed, please let us know!


Stem Client Roundup for February 2015

February is short, yet somehow our clients manage to pack as much into it as any other month! Here’s a look at what Stem clients were up to this past month:

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

7 Quick Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn has long been the preferred choice for lawyers as a social business tool. There’s lots of studies to support that, and it likely doesn’t come as a surprise to many.

Given this importance that many lawyers claim to have regarding LinkedIn, though, I remain a bit surprised that some of the most basic profile elements are often MIA.

Take a look at the pieces below. If you’ve been on LinkedIn for a while — or a decade — you probably have taken advantage of these. That said, a simple comb through of your profile (or a colleagues) is probably worth your time. Chances are there are a few areas that could be improved upon with relative ease.

1. Snag a custom URL

It’s easy to clean up the look of your profile’s web address.  Change this: into something like this:

(Learn how here)

2. Add websites to the Links area

Take a minute and add links to your firm website, your blog, any other relevant sites you contribute to or are involved with in some way. Don’t forget to include your lawyer profile page on the firm website.

(Learn how here – and be sure to choose “other” and label your websites with their actual names rather than “my website” or “my blog”)

3. Clarify your professional headline

Include a description of what you do, not just your position. For example, change your headline from “Senior Partner at ABC LLP” to “Corporate Finance & Securities Lawyer, Senior Partner at ABC LLP”.

(Learn how here)

4. Prioritize your past positions

If you’ve held a lot of positions throughout your career, consider trimming the descriptions of any that are more than 10 years old. Eliminating older jobs might not be doable, as it’s a big part of who you are; but reducing the descriptions will help make sure the jobs section doesn’t completely dominate the profile page.

5. Add contacts strategically

Consider the contacts that send you work directly or by referral, and their common characteristics. What position/title do they hold, for example. Use that title or characteristic and do a search on LinkedIn for other people from your past, or potential future contacts. If you’re not mining for potential new business via contact demographics, you’re missing one of LinkedIn’s most powerful tools.

The LinkedIn search feature can be helpful in this regard — triggering memories of your past experiences, or getting ‘the right people’ on your radar who are within x degrees of separation.

6. Add a recent presentation or publication

Have you recently written an article (think CLE, firm newsletter, etc.) or given a presentation? Get more mileage from it by posting it on LinkedIn. As a bonus, adding text or new sections makes your profile eligible to be included in LinkedIn’s email alerts to other members. When your colleagues receive their roundup of profile news, your profile is included in that message. Just make sure the change is somewhat substantive.

(Learn how here)

7. Ask for some recommendations

This isn’t a volume exercise, but acquiring a couple of impressive testimonials from very close contacts rarely hurts. Not everyone uses the “Recommendations” area, but it can be a nice touch. This also isn’t an exercise in strict reciprocity, but while you’re at it, don’t be afraid to write a few recommendations for some of your key contacts.

Any other ‘basics’ for lawyers to improve their LinkedIn profiles? Chime in with a comment.

Stem Client Roundup for January 2015

Hello, 2015! The new year is off to a terrific start, with lots of projects keeping Stem’s clients busy. Here’s a look at what they’ve been up to in January:

We’ll be back again next month with more news and accomplishments.

Legal Web Marketing: Search vs. Social

A client recently emailed me for my thoughts on Kevin O’Keefe’s post “Good law blogs losing traffic from Google?“, specifically wondering about the value of social media vs. search traffic.

Here’s what I told him.

Once you get past the (semi-sensational) headline and into the post, Kevin makes a good observation about not taking Google Analytics data at face value. The fact that many Google referrals now come from an “https” domain do make those visitors appear as “direct visits”, where they were once counted (correctly) as search traffic. This is useful context to the discussion, as direct traffic numbers are showing much higher across all the legal websites we represent. The fact is, Google miscounts a lot of referrals as direct traffic; and it’s been noted by a number of analysts.

But getting into the meat of Kevin’s argument — that optimizing for social media is becoming more important than optimizing for search engines — I think we need to look a little closer.

In support of his assertion, Kevin mentions that “the percentage of viewers coming to my blog from Google has dropped 28% in the last year”.  Giving a single example using his own blog, of course, does not make a trend. Just a personal observance. Kevin invests a lot of his time in social media; I’d wager 30+ hours per week. (Not a critique, mind you. This makes sense; his business is based on selling blogs — but it is more time than most practicing lawyers I know have to give).

With two pieces of the pie: (1) direct visits currently counting high in Google Analytics, and (2) social media referrals growing in size; search traffic has gotten smaller. Why? Well, first of all every blog is different. I’ve observed some websites that have experienced number shifts like Kevin’s experienced; but I’ve also observed mass increases in search traffic over social traffic.

In the case of Kevin’s statistics, there could be other factors at play. It’s possible his personal brand has gotten bigger, and he has more of a following. It could be his SEO game is getting worse, because he pays little attention to it. Or, it could be simply that, as a percentage, the methods he’s investing the majority of his time in are paying off for him.

Or it could be all of the above.

The point he and I would agree on is that it is healthy to have more dedicated readers and relationships. The social vs. search part? In my view, both are means of getting to that destination. Social supports existing relationships better, no doubt. But social also offers little in terms of helping people find your business when they have no prior relationship with you.

Tactics wise, I would always recommend doing both, and to consider how they fit together. Search isn’t going away, and neither is social.

I would never suggest forsaking ‘search for social’ though.  I don’t believe search is dying. The internet is 20 years old. We’ve always searched for things and I have a tough time believing that will end any time soon. Searching for information (or services) is as much human nature as connecting.

2014 Clawbies: The Acceptance Speeches

Another edition of the Clawbies has wrapped up – have you checked out the latest Canadian Law Blog Award winners yet? Here’s what some of the winners and finalists had to say about their wins:

You can also see a couple more reactions in the comments on the announcement post.

Don’t forget to grab your badge if you were among the finalists or winners for 2014; they’re available within the right-hand sidebar at

2015 will mark the awards’ 10th anniversary and we’ve already got some ideas in the works for how the Clawbies will evolve. We’d love to hear your ideas too – anything new or different you think we should do with the awards?

Stem Client Roundup for December 2014

Well folks, this is it: our last client roundup of the year. A big thank-you to our clients who gave us such interesting projects and challenges, and made 2014 a great year for Stem. Here’s a look at what they’ve been up to as the year draws to an end.

That’s a wrap! See you next year!

People Don’t Follow Law Firms, They Follow Lawyers

Can law firm-generated content can be effectively distributed simply by putting it on the firm’s website or pushing it out over the firm’s social media channels?

“No way”, says Kevin O’Keefe in his recent post, It takes an entire law firm using social media to distribute content. He uses the example of journalists and reporters, for whom personal social media participation in the workplace is no longer optional:

“The New York Times has found that those news publishers whose reporters and editors personally share news stories on social media generate significantly more traffic to their news stories than publishers relying on the brand and isolated staff using social media to distribute stories (New York Times Innovation 2014 Report).”

Kevin goes on to  say:

“On Twitter, individuals with unique interests who establish trust, person to person, are more effective in the distribution of news and info than companies and law firms. People who get to know a person are more apt to read items the person shares, it’s only natural. … To assure that your law firm’s thought leadership, news and information gets seen in the days ahead, you’ll need to get your lawyers and law firm leaders using social media. Not just the lawyers who are publishing content, but everyone.”

This topic caught my eye; I wrote about the topic a couple years ago in a Slaw post on how law firms fail at social media.  I want to re-post a large chunk of it here because I think it bears repeating:

Think about it for a moment: unless a law firm has a very narrow, niche practice, it’s virtually impossible for a firm Twitter feed to be engaging and relevant to all clients, who potentially have hundreds of areas of interest and concern. But who knows, on a much more accurate level, what clients would be interested in? Who is perfectly positioned to generate a stream of relevant, useful tweets? Individual lawyers, of course. As the old saying goes, people don’t hire law firms, they hire lawyers.

I see the firm Twitter feed as a pool of abundant, high-quality, yet controlled, vetted messages about the firm, from which individual lawyers may cherry pick, passing along only the best to their readers, interspersed with their own tweets.

Add to this, the fact that an essential aspect of social media is reciprocity and interaction, something that corporate Twitter accounts often neglect entirely. But individual lawyers are more apt to develop the types of social networking relationships that aren’t just one way, replying, retweeting, and passing along information and links from outside sources.

In summary, clearly, it’s not healthy for any firm to be unidirectional in their approach to social media; we do, however, need to see the bigger picture – firm accounts and lawyer accounts must be considered collectively, not as separate entities.

Two years later, social media is embedded more deeply than ever within firm marketing activities. Considering all the hard work lawyers and firms invest creating content, wouldn’t it be wise to make sure the distribution channels you employ are as well thought out as the content itself? Here are a few thoughts on the matter:

  • One of the most critical jobs of your firm branded social accounts is to act as “a beacon of news and content” for your lawyers. Pipe as much relevant information about your firm through this stream as possible, then let your lawyers decide what’s relevant to their online presence. The firm account is a fire-hose, and your lawyers are the filter.
  • Your firm branded Twitter account should have a ‘twitter list’ aggregating ALL of your member accounts and content streams. Every firm lawyer should subscribe to that list and review it as part of their online activities.
  • Lawyers can automate the announcement of new articles to social tools, but that should be a tiny portion of their overall engagement.
  • Relationships drive healthy content distribution. Simply put: Engage with your peers, or don’t bother with social as a potential channel for your practice.
  • Lawyer to lawyer discussions between firm members are healthy. So are exchanges with industry colleagues. If you don’t know what you’re going to talk about, it’s time to give your firm’s narrative some off-line consideration.
  • You can have intelligent conversations about the law without giving legal advice. Add a disclaimer on your profile, or say it outright mid-conversation; but don’t stop your lawyers from having opinions about their chosen industry or area of expertise.

As we look over the Clawbies nominations coming in this year, there seems to be a real interest in the micro-blogging aspect of Twitter. Some lawyers do it well, while others fail miserably. The takeaway is that a carefully crafted stream of tweets can become an incredibly valuable component (or pairing) to a lawyer’s blogging and publishing activity. But the trick is two-fold: feed the machine with quality resources, while never taking one’s eye off the relationships behind the audience reading.

Latest Additions to

Clawbies season is well underway (get your nominations in before December 23rd!) and before too long we’ll be annotating with this year’s winners. In the meantime, take a look at the latest crop of blogs to be added to the Canadian Law Blogs Directory:

Know of a blog we’re missing? Check out our submission guidelines and drop us a line.



Stem Client Roundup for November 2014

Hard to believe, but the year is drawing to an end. Here at Stem, we’re only a couple days away from the 2014 Clawbies kickoff, and our clients have been doing some exciting things themslves over the last few weeks. Read on for more details…

That’s it for this month; we’ll be back again with December’s news to wrap up 2014!


Words of Wisdom from a Law Firm Website Pioneer

I was thrilled to see Greg Siskind’s article in the September/October issue of Law Practice Magazine. Siskind tells the story of how he set up one of the very first law firm websites 20 years ago (two large firms were ahead of him, but he was the first small firm).

Some people credit me as being one of the early web coders in the legal industry, but here’s the reality: I didn’t get my start on legal websites until almost a full year after Greg had launched I’ll also proudly admit that there was a period during the mid-9o’s when I think I read everything Greg wrote about the internet. His words and vision were gold to me.

I had a chance to meet Greg a few years ago at the COLPM conference. It was great to trade stories, but listening to him speak in person was a moment I’ll remember for a long time.

Greg’s article is like a walk down memory lane, describing the first time he learned about the world wide web and realized it was the ticket he needed to hang his own shingle. A few simple but smart moves later (registering a domain, starting an email newsletter and eventually a blog) and Greg’s immigration firm is one of the best-known in the country.

The whole article is a fascinating read, but I especially love the five takeaways Greg shares:

  1. Content is still king
  2. Websites still matter
  3. Evolve with the hardware
  4. Stay up on the tools
  5. Online is still a great place to invent yourself

At the end of the article, Greg concludes, “The Internet has given every lawyer the ability to be his or her own publisher and reach the whole world at almost no cost. The opportunities are still amazing.”

I couldn’t agree more.

See Law Firm Websites: The 20th Anniversary.


Stem Client Roundup for October 2014

Happy Halloween! Hope you are taking time today to have some fun, indulge in a few treats, and enjoy a little break from the busyness of the fall. Between launching new websites, speaking engagements, and blogging, our clients certainly have been busy this past month. Read on for more details.

That’s it for this month; we’ll be back again in another few weeks with more news to share.


The Role of Publishing In The Marketing-Sales Continuum

In most parts of the business world not owned and operated by lawyers, “Marketing” and “Sales” are inextricably linked. Companies carry out marketing solely for the purpose of increasing their sales, either for specific transactions (e.g., advertising campaigns or temporary price discounts) or for general branding (e.g., market awareness or consumer profile). It’s a natural continuum with a built-in feedback loop: sales metrics are analyzed by marketers to assess how well or how poorly various marketing initiatives proved to be, and campaigns are intensified, adjusted, or ended accordingly.

In law firms, the relationship between Marketing and Sales is usually more tenuous and sometimes has been severed altogether. Marketing is carried out by one group of people (generally “non-lawyer” professionals) and sales by another (lawyers, usually partners or “rainmakers”). The two sides don’t always consider that they’re involved in the same function, and often don’t have much understanding of or respect for what the other does.

Firms that lack a proper understanding of the marketing-sales relationship fail to view these elements as two ends of the same continuum. They don’t track sales results against marketing efforts, for example, or fully align marketing to the business development strategy (if there even is one). In many law firms, the only time the salespeople talk to the marketers is to complain about slow business, to demand a one-off personalized promotion, or to answer yet another RFP from a large corporate client. It doesn’t help that the salespeople don’t even like the word “sales” and use it as little as possible, making it harder to accurately describe the relationship internally.

Eventually, as part of the overall transformation of law firms into sophisticated professional businesses, Marketing and Sales will be unified and the continuum/feedback loop will operate correctly as a matter of course (this is already underway in the sharpest firms). The publishing function within law firms can, I believe, play a part in hastening this unification.

Traditionally, law firm publishing has fallen squarely into the Marketing function. From the very first newsletter to the most recently launched blog, law firms have published content in order to increase market awareness, principally by informing clients about legal developments and promoting the expertise of lawyers through their written work. Law firms publish content as widely as possible, necessitating that the content be general and broadly applicable to diverse audiences. Even the name most law firms give to publishing — “content marketing” — expresses its underlying purpose: increasing the profile of the firm and its lawyers in specific practice or industry areas.

What would law firm publishing look like if it were instead designed to support Sales? The biggest difference between Marketing and Sales, of course, is that the latter is targeted and action-oriented: the firm is speaking with one specific customer and offering a very specific range of services in a retainer relationship. There’s no sense bringing articles or blog posts to a sales meeting: that’s like bringing your profile along on your first date. These items of content marketing have served their purpose: they’ve helped get you the meeting. But because they’re general and widely applicable, they don’t help you get the sale (and they may actually hurt the effort, if the customer perceives from the provision of marketing bumpf that the firm does not appreciate its specific needs).

What you need at this meeting is Sales Content. You need a package of materials geared to this specific client for the specific type of work or case or matter for which the lawyer is pitching her services. This kind of content is more like a research document or white paper created solely for this meeting, to establish the firm’s interest and expertise in the client and the matter at hand. It might be an overview of industry trends and the client’s prospects therein, prior to seeking a role on a major amalgamation or expansion. It might be an analysis of results of the last ten class actions against companies in the client’s industry, or the outcomes of the last five similar class actions the firm defended, to accompany a request to defend the client’s current litigation.

This kind of content is not meant to show off how experienced or clever the lawyers are in general, but to show how the firm understands and is on top of matters directly related to the client and the specific matter at hand. Content like this is not intended to close the deal by itself — invariably, it’s the sales skills of the lead partner and the relationship she’s fostering with the client that plays that role. But the content does supplement and reinforce those skills and relationships by demonstrating the firm’s intense interest and assertion of confidence in this client and this matter.

Creating Sales content requires a different mindset and approach than creating Marketing content, because it will be deployed only for one client and only on one designated occasion. That might seem daunting to a firm that thinks of content marketing as a broad-based, low-risk effort: if the sales pitch fails, then all the content created to support the pitch is wasted. But that kind of effort and risk assumption is the sort of thing grown-up firms do: they understand that Sales requires going many extra miles and that the potential payoff is worth it. And they understand that the content will not really be wasted even if the sales effort fails: it can be fed back and used to analyze what went wrong and what could be done better next time.

Law firm publishing can and should help bridge the gap between Marketing and Sales, but only if the firm makes the conscious choice and commitment of resources to do so. Start thinking today about what Sales Content, as opposed to Content Marketing, would look like in your firm and how it could be used best. There’s no better place to start those inquiries than by asking the salespeople themselves.

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  in the near future!