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Friday Tech Tips

Lawyer Tech Tips: Online Business Development Ideas to Try Today

By Joan Feldman and Joy White

Get ready to refresh your online business development toolkit. Our experts have recommendations.

During the pandemic, lawyers have experienced changes in how they connect with people — including those who might need their services. So what are some of the best online business development options lawyers have been using, and that you could be using too? Our practice management and technology experts have some tips.

Check out these tools and tactics from Sheila Blackford, Brett Burney, Tom Lambotte, Sharon Nelson and John Simek, Juda Strawczynski and Reid Trautz.

Sheila Blackford: Keep Connected to Your Community and Colleagues

Over the past months, some lawyers have seen business upticks and others … not so much. If you find yourself in the latter category, take heart from your unmet colleagues in my state, Oregon.

Think about what you have been doing to stay connected with the world outside your door. Here are a few no-cost ideas.

Does your local community have a newspaper online? First, take the time to read it. Then reach out to its editor with an article idea. Something useful to the readers, like this:

  1. Five things to know if your landlord is trying to (fill in the blank).
  2. Have the Medicare rules made it too confusing for grandma?
  3. Does my child’s school have to provide extra support to struggling special needs students?
  4. How do I know when it’s time to update my will?
  5. 10 things to know before you go looking for an attorney.

When’s the last time you looked at your LinkedIn profile? I thought so. Time to take a fresh look and do some updating. You should also be reaching out to other attorneys and closely aligned referral sources for connections. Stymied? Search for the profiles of attorneys you admire for inspiration. I had my doubts but an attorney who’d recently returned from living out of the country updated his LinkedIn profile and reconnected with lawyer friends who referred some new clients.

How about other discussions? Speaking of networking with fellow attorneys, are you a member of any bar sections with a listserv? Don’t just hit the delete button. Respond to a discussion thread. Also, who is one of the busiest lawyers you know? Reach out to offer your help as a contract attorney or to take on cases that they have no time to accept.

Remember, in business development, nothing takes the place of imagination, enthusiasm and building connections.

Sheila M. Blackford (@SheilaBlackford) has been a Practice Management Attorney for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund since 2005. She is the author of the ABA book “Trust Accounting in One Hour for Lawyers,” co-author of “Paperless in One Hour for Lawyers,” and a contributing author to “Flying Solo: A Survival Guide” and the Oregon State Bar “Fee Agreement Compendium.” 

Related: “Lawyers, You Write for a Living; Now, Write to Build Your Brand

Reid Trautz: Use Facebook Live to Give Your Content the Personal Dimension

Reid Trautz online business developmentEvery lawyer I know who has experimented with Facebook Live as a marketing tool has gone on to make it an important component of their new marketing efforts. Educational-based marketing is already a winning strategy for many lawyers, but the ability to produce regular low-cost informational content using Facebook Live has added an important personal dimension during the pandemic. Instead of potential clients being told to download a brochure or booklet to gain information, they get to watch and learn from their potential lawyer via video. It is a far more powerful marketing tool than a passive PDF document.

The biggest concerns of lawyers are content and production quality, so let’s focus on those.

For content, think Q&As.

The lawyers using Facebook Live are scheduling 30-minute programs at the same time each week to share insights into their area of the law. They prepare several questions to answer live during that half-hour. They may take common questions they hear from clients, develop questions in a new facet of their practice area where they are interested in gaining clients, and provide updates on local, state or federal law impacting their practice area. One lawyer I know is even crowdsourcing her questions from AnswerThePublic.com. It’s best to make your questions and answers consumer-focused — with little or no legalese. Further, some lawyers are taking questions live during the program but are careful to generalize their response and not specifically answer the personal question to avoid ethical issues. The audience is encouraged to contact the law office for further information or assistance.

Plan your set, sound and lighting.

Audiences appreciate programs that have better production quality, but they also are not expecting perfection. It’s OK if it doesn’t quite look like a newscast or other TV show. It can be informal while still being professional. The location (set) needs to reflect you but does not need to be in an office with a cliché bookshelf full of law books in the background. The video quality must be good, but it is just as important to have good sound quality. Consider using an iPhone 12, iPad Pro, or a 4K quality digital camera. Also use a lavaliere microphone such as the Solid Lavalier Lapel Microphone so you improve the sound quality rather than use headphones or the ambient microphone in your computer.

Pay attention to background lighting and invest in an inexpensive LED light ring and desktop stand. For a bit more, you can consider one of the studio products at Padcaster.com.

Promote it via social media.

When the live session is over, the recorded program is available on Facebook to promote further. Many lawyers also add it to their YouTube channel. You’ll want to use your social media presence to continue to regularly market each recorded program provided the content retains value — which could be several years. Don’t forget to market each upcoming live session as well, so you can build a live audience too. It’s not so important to have a big live audience, but to have informative content that potential clients can find when searching for answers to their legal issues.

Reid Trautz (@RTrautz) is founding Director of the Practice & Professionalism Center at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, where he provides practice advisory services to members. A past chair of ABA TECHSHOW, he is co-chair of the ABA Law Practice Division Futures Initiative and co-authors Future Proofing, a column about the future of law practice in the ABA’s Law Practice magazine.

Related: “YouTube Videos: A Marketing Dream for Lawyers” 

Also read: “How to Create a Private Facebook Group for Networking and Referrals

Brett Burney: Level Up Your LinkedIn Profile

brett burney online business developmentPerhaps you don’t use LinkedIn much and you don’t consider it a critical online business development tool. But it is literally your online resume and typically one of the first links that come up when people Google you or your firm. (My LinkedIn profile is the second result.)

It just takes a few minutes to make your LinkedIn profile relevant:

Use a professional headshot. LinkedIn isn’t the place to feature your ponies or poodles (unless that’s what you do professionally). And don’t use dusty law books as your background. Also change your background image to show your city, office, firm logo or the like. LinkedIn provides step-by-step instructions.

Make your “Headline” short and powerful. Explain how people benefit from your services — be more creative than just “Attorney at Law.” There’s no need to include your firm name or position in the headline. (You can put that in the field below Headline.) Be concise, descriptive and differentiating.

Complete your contact info. This information is only visible to your 1st-degree connections so they can click through and find your office phone number when they need it.

Edit your “About” summary. Use the following template to describe what you do: “I help [Target Audience] achieve [Their Goal] by providing [Service/Product].”

Populate your law firm/company page. Be sure to add your firm logo so that it appears correctly on your individual profile.

There are dozens of resources for improving your LinkedIn profile, but if you prefer some targeted advice for legal professionals, try “Make LinkedIn Work for You: A Practical Guide for Lawyers and Other Legal Professionals” from Dennis Kennedy and Allison Shields.

Brett Burney (@BBurney) is Principal of Burney Consultants LLC, an independent legal technology consulting practice. He is also a sought-after trainer and presenter for lawyers who seek to integrate Macs and iPads into their practice. Brett is a past ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board Chair and a popular speaker on legal technology. 

Also read: “Instagram Benefits and Quick Tips for Lawyers”

Juda Strawczynski: Try Online Intake Tools to Convert Passive Visitors 

Juda Strawczynski online business developmentOver the last several months we’ve seen a shift toward increased use of online intake tools to more easily convert leads into clients, and to help lawyers provide better service at the first virtual or in-person meeting.

Practice management software providers have been spending a lot of energy developing intake tools. For example, Clio Grow has been developed as a separate product to focus on intake and sales. Standalone platforms like Lawmatics integrate with various practice management platforms. Settify has expanded from Australia and the U.K. to Canada to specifically help convert internet browsers into right-fit clients for lawyers in family law, and has been used by both small boutique firms and family law groups within larger full-service national firms.

Are you more of a do-it-yourselfer? For those who are more DIY, there are lots of ways to create easy-to-complete electronic client intake forms. How to put those forms to good use? Some legal clinics have simple intake forms to be completed online before scheduling a virtual meeting with an attorney. This helps the clinic gather key client information before the meeting, and assists with client screening and intake. It also ensures that as much of the pro bono attorney’s time as possible is best spent helping the client rather than on due diligence that, while necessary and important, can be accomplished through the online intake process. For firms on a shoestring budget, a good starting point is to look at how legal clinics have adopted new online client intake practices.

Whether it’s from a computer or the privacy of a cellphone, clients are out there surfing around, looking for the right fit for the services they need — expect to see continued reliance on intake tools to convert passive browsers into clients.

Juda Strawczynski (@JStrawczynski) is Director of practicePRO, Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Co.’s innovative claims and risk management initiative. Prior to joining LAWPRO, he was a policy lawyer at the Law Society of Ontario and practiced litigation with a focus on professional liability, public law and civil disputes.

Also read: “3 Keys to Crafting an Effective Professional Website Bio

Tom Lambotte: Give Your Full Attention in Video Meetings, Thanks to an App 

Tom Lambotte online business developmentThe pandemic has limited the ways you can practice and forced tech adjustments without choice … but it’s also driven innovation that’s produced lemonade in lemony times. One such refreshing product is Otter.ai — a tool that may change your mind about Zoom while adding value by perfectly preserving your meetings with prospects, clients, potential referral sources, whoever.

The universal shift to videoconferencing not only launched 1 million complaints and 300 million Zoom sessions daily but altered meeting dynamics, demanding more focus on those who are speaking, which limits our chance to take notes.

Attorneys have told me this is particularly problematic during new client intakes, where both dedication and details are crucial. How do you give full attention and capture every word?

There’s an app for that. Otter lets you pay complete attention and fully participate during online meetings (and in-person meetings) without missing a thing by generating a full transcript of your call in real-time. Yes, really.

No more brainstorms lost to the ether, or indecipherable scribbles jotted off-camera: Otter integrates AI voice recognition with Zoom to transcribe every word — like having a court reporter sit in on any call. It works well with zero training (minimal editing/corrections needed), and you can even watch the readout roll in real-time.

Tip: In the interest of privacy and courtesy (as well as legality in certain states), I ask all parties for permission with a brief pre-meeting email:

I’m planning to record and transcribe our conversation in real-time – that way, we don’t have to take detailed notes or worry about remembering all the details of any breakthroughs. Let me know if that works for you, and I’ll be happy to send a copy after the call.”

Invariably, everyone agrees, is thankful for the transcript and ends up asking me about the app so they can install it themselves.

LIVE Zoom transcription requires the Business subscription at $20 a month. At $5 per week, this added superpower is a no-brainer for my productivity.

Tom Lambotte is the founder and CEO of Security+, a turnkey security suite for solo and small firm lawyers, and CEO of GlobalMac IT, a nationwide managed service provider for small to medium-sized law firms. He is the author of the ABA book “Macs in Law.” A prolific writer, he also authored “Hassle Free Mac IT Support for Law Firms” and “Legal Boost: Big Profits Through an IT Transformation.”  

Also read: “How to Protect Your Referrals: Claim and Optimize Your Directory Listings”

Sharon Nelson and John Simek: Prepare Your Website for the New Frontier 

Sharon NelsonJohn SimekAs we all navigate through new marketing initiatives to meet today’s challenges, make sure you are paying attention to the current requirements for a successful website. Unless your website was designed within the last year or two, it is time to learn about Google’s new website ranking rules.

Mind you, our information is very current because we’ve spent the last two months learning about the new rules as we worked with a wonderful website designer (at Coretechs) on developing our new website (though these tips will certainly post before it is live). Here are key takeaways.

1. Speed is crucial. Nothing matters more to Google than speed. Do you even have a clue about how fast your website loads? Most lawyers do not. Google came to the rescue with a way for you to test the load speed for free, here.

Most site visitors will leave if your site doesn’t load in two to three seconds. That’s why you are seeing more and more sites designed differently, with longer pages that you have to scroll through (but the top loads quickly), and a lot of white space, images, calls to action and more concisely worded descriptions of what you do and how.

2. Mobile design isn’t optional anymore. We knew that our website had some problems with how it rendered on mobile devices. And we knew that was unacceptable because most of our site visitors now come to our website via their phones. That’s probably true for most law firms, so we’ll include a corollary tip here: Make sure you have Google Analytics enabled!

Don’t look at Google Analytics every day because you’ll become a raving lunatic. Review the monthly reports and see where your visitors are coming from (phones vs. computers), which sites are referring visitors to your site (Google, other websites, etc.), and how long visitors stay on your site before they leave (it isn’t long, trust us).

When you see the numbers, they’ll convince you that you need a site that is optimized for mobile devices.

So, time for a website redesign? For many law firms, the answer is probably yes.

Sharon D. Nelson (@SharonNelsonEsq) and John W. Simek (@SenseiEnt) are President and Vice President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a digital forensics, legal technology and cybersecurity firm based in Fairfax, Va. They have written 16 books published by the ABA, including The Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guides and “Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers.” They are past-chairs of ABA TECHSHOW.

Also read: “How to Use Conversion-Focused Website Design to Get More Clients”

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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