Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog
Feb 13, 2020
I am a family law practitioner in the western suburbs of Chicago. I have been in practice for thirty years. I have two associate attorneys and two staff members. In the past I had other partners but that was many years ago. Over the last few years our business has been declining. Our financial performance last year was terrible and I made less than my associates. If this continues I may have to lay off an associate or two. Recently we have made some improvements to our website but I am not sure we have not done enough. I have noticed that more business seems to be coming from the website and less through referrals. I would appreciate any thoughts your may have.
We are finding that law firms that serve retail consumer clients in practice areas such as personal injury, family law, elder law, and estate planning are becoming more and more dependent on the internet for their business. Family law firms especially are becoming more dependent on the internet for business and a sound internet strategy and investment is crucial for success. This is especially true in the larger cities and metropolitan areas. Less business is coming from traditional referral sources and more from the internet. I have family law clients in your area that tell me they are receiving ninety percent or more of their business from the internet.
A few suggestions that you might want to consider:
- Ensure that you are working with a top notch website designer and provider that is focused on law firms.
- Avoid firms that are too small and too large. A solo website designer may be in between jobs and be out of business tomorrow. There will be no backup. A very large firm can be a problem as well. Look for a small firm that has been in business for awhile, has fifteen or twenty people, and has a proven track record in working with law firms. Make sure that they offer search engine optimization services and the law firm websites they have done perform well in key search engines.
- Avoid the cheapest provider. This may be the only and most strategic marketing investment you firm will or needs to make.
- Make sure your website has adequate social proof in the form of client testimonials, published articles, blogs, etc.
- The more content you have on the website in the form of articles, etc. the better your website will perform in search engines such as Google.
- Have a blog on the website and post at least weekly.
- Have a firm business page on Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
- Post to Google business page, LinkeIn, and Facebook at least weekly.
- Consider videos of your attorneys and client testimonials.
- Invest in ongoing search engine optimization. (SEO)
- Have a firm procedure for asking for Google, Yelp, and other reviews at the conclusion of every matter. Ensure there is accountability and that this gets done.
- Ensure that you are included in key online directories – some maybe free and some charge a fee.
I hope this helps and good luck!
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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
Oct 31, 2018
I am the managing partner of a twelve attorney family law firm in Kansas City, Missouri. We have been in practice going on thirty years. Over the last ten years we have shifted more of our advertising from print directories and advertising to the internet. Today virtually all of our work comes from the internet. While to some extent this has been a blessing it has also been a curse as we must continue to make investments in search engine optimization, update the website, pay to be included in online directories, etc. It is a vicious circle and we are losing business to new attorneys just starting out that are putting up first class websites and making online investments. I would appreciate your thoughts.
The internet as well as advances in information technology has and will continue to be the key driver forcing change in the legal marketplace as well as other segments and our daily lives as well. Shopping malls are disappearing from our communities and department stores are struggling for survival. Being the king of the hill or the biggest is not the strategic advantage that it once was. The internet is leveling the playing field in many industries as well as law firms. There are new opportunities and new competitors. Consider the following:
- Everything is being commoditized. More practice areas are moving down the value curve and prices are becoming more price sensitive.
- Disintermediation of traditional delivery channels. The internet provides new access to information and is eliminating the middleman. It is impacting how we shop, bank, conduct business, and pay our credit cards and taxes. It is also impacting how clients locate and select lawyers and how legal services are delivered.
- Our society is becoming – more and more – a DIY (Do it Yourself) nation.
- Lawyers competitors are just a click away whether they be legal process outsourcing providers (LPO) in India, other lawyers in your state – but further away and servicing clients remotely, legal publishers, or online form providers.
- New client opportunities for your may also be just a click away.
Challenges and Questions to Think About
- How do you deal with commoditized transactions?
- How do you tie yourself to your client in an online world?
- How do you compete with new models and approaches to the delivery of legal services?
- How do you compete with virtual law firms?
- Would you consider adding a online delivery component to your traditional brick and mortar practice?
- Should you consider other practice areas?
- Should you consider expanding your geographical reach in areas where you are licensed and other areas by forming relationships with licensed attorneys in those areas.
Here are a few suggestions:
- For your practice area you should continue what you are doing and maximize your online and electronic marketing investments.
- Online reviews are becoming more and more important. Have a protocol in place that asks clients for reviews upon completion of their matter. Make it easy for them by providing them with appropriate online links.
- Your website does not do enough to demonstrate expertise. I do not see any evidence of attorneys publishing any articles, serving on law related committees, or chairing such committees pertaining to family law. There are no testimonials from past clients or others on the website. Get your attorneys writing articles, get them published where you can, and get them posted to your website. Get testimonials from past clients and referral sources and post them to your website. Also get your attorneys involved in bar and other law related associations. Do more to build the brand of the firm and the individual attorneys. Many of my family law firm clients still receive a bulk of their business from past client referrals and referrals from other attorneys.
- Consider satellite offices in some of the suburban communities in Missouri and Kansas. I have family law firm clients that have been quite successful with multiple offices – staffed and not staffed.
Even in the age of the internet expertise, professionalism, and reputation is important. Do all you can to convey this through your website and your initial communications with clients.
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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC