Feeling linked-out on practice marketing

Issue February 2014

Q: I have been practicing law (solo practice, mostly estates and related matters) since 1983, but lately less of it than I would like. So I decided to take a seminar on marketing a legal practice, which I've not had to do in a significant way before. I was prepared to set up whatever kind of website is reasonably affordable (and I am fairly computer literate), but by the time I heard about the necessity to use Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, blogging, search engine optimization and more, my head was spinning. Since then, I've done nothing to market my practice, since it seems too overwhelming at this point to "learn new tricks." How do people find time to actually serve their clients, and when did professional life acquire the necessity to be a tech wiz?

A: We agree that the kinds of input you would get from a seminar, conference, article, etc. about modern marketing can feel as alien and incomprehensible as some of the current crop of musical performers, and one's impulse is to switch to another channel. Whether one's life is actually enriched by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and whether these activities are worth one's time as a person, is certainly debatable (assuming you can get someone to look up from their smartphone to debate).

But lawyers, unless someone else is generating business for them, can no longer ignore the need for marketing. Think back, too, to the early/mid-1990s, when even email seemed new-fangled and confusing, and you felt helpless when your PC kept crashing with "fatal errors." Gradually, you probably adapted and became familiar with at least some aspects of new technology that previously seemed unnecessary. So, here are some suggestions, for those of us who are old enough to have mastered cursive writing:

  • The older marketing strategies still work - you can call or send letters to people who have been referred to you in the past, or who might be interested if they knew of your services (as long as you make sure whatever you do is consistent with the Mass. Rules of Professional Conduct on Advertising and Solicitation.) This includes your peers whose practices do not specialize in the population you address. (In this regard, defining your niche is helpful, and that requires no technological proficiency.) Another non-technological approach is in-person networking and placing ads, e.g., in a local newspaper.
  • When it comes to marketing your practice technologically, starting small and going slowly is better than burying your head in the sand. Although a simple, inexpensive website cannot compete with a sophisticated one that has synergistic connections to blogs, Facebook, etc., it is much better than having no internet presence at all, and it is a way for you to "get your feet wet." And, if you like to write, blogging, may be relatively painless - it is basically a way to write a short column (fact or opinion, but with an emphasis on exhibiting your particular expertise), or something like a letter to the editor, on a recurrent basis. The initial set-up of either of these, if you are not sufficiently tech-ish, can be done by most people under 30 pretty much in their sleep. For examples of content, look at what other lawyers with similar practices have done.
  • Instead, you could start with a personal Facebook page or simple LinkedIn profile, to develop a feel for those worlds, or you could start reading other people's tweets on Twitter, before you think about contributing your own. There are many more media and ways to coordinate media, but you can postpone all that until you master some basics, one at a time.
  • Of course, another approach that would get you up and running much more quickly is to hire a professional firm to develop a website and blog and assist with social media strategy and implementation. This will cost real money, but perhaps less than one good case per year.

The main point is to go at your own pace. For help with marketing/technology, our associated service the Law Office Management Assistance Program can be helpful (providing not only group offerings and extensive information via their website, MassLOMAP.org, but individualized consultations as well). For help with the anxiety and avoidance triggered by all of this, contact us at LCL.

Questions quoted are either actual letters/emails or paraphrased and disguised concerns expressed by individuals seeking assistance from Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. Questions for LCL may be mailed to LCL, 31 Milk St., Suite 810, Boston, MA 02109 or called in to (617) 482- 9600. LCL's licensed clinicians will respond in confidence. Visit LCL online at www.lclma.org.