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Attorney blogging pays off for small law firms and sole practitioners

I saw an interesting post on Larry Bodine’s Law Marketing Blog reporting on the ABA’s 2012 Legal Technology Survey about attorney blogging. It said that 50 percent of responding small law firms (2-9 attorneys) and 53.3 percent of responding solo practitioners who blog say they have gotten clients directly or through a referral as a result of their blogging.Attorney blogging

So those of you in solo or small firm practice who aren’t already blogging may want to consider taking up the habit (and it had better become a habit or you won’t have many people reading your blog).

There are lots of free and cheap ways to begin a blog, and once you’re over the learning curve, it’s really very easy. (Is anyone old enough to remember converting from Wordperfect to Microsoft Word?). WordPress happens to be my software of choice, but Google offers blogger and there are other platforms as well. [Read more…]

Search engine optimization using WordPress and the Thesis theme

Much has been written about the best blogging/content management systems for search engine optimization (SEO). For over a year I have been using WordPress and the Thesis theme for various websites, and I’ve found it to be very easy to use for SEO. And you don’t have to sacrifice in terms of style. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog and WSJ Magazine, plus a lot of other top-flight sites, use WordPress. The fact that my sites aren’t any prettier is a reflection of my desire to control my own work, and my lack of skill as a designer. But even for a design-challenged lawyer, I can publish a decent-looking website in a matter of hours. And the Thesis theme is designed from the start for SEO. [Read more…]

Chinese drywall a problem? We’re from the government, and we’re here to help. (Rriiiight).

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’m involved in an Internet campaign to spread information and make legal services available to people who have had the misfortune to find Chinese drywall installed in their homes or businesses.  As we’ve done many times over the past decade, my partner and I have organized an alliance of law firms in multiple states, with lawyers licensed to practice law in most of states with significant numbers of cases, including Louisiana, Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama and many others.  I’ll state at the outset that I believe that the only way a homeowner with a Chinese drywall problem is going to get the problem fixed is to file a lawsuit, either by joining in the MDL in New Orleans, or by filing an individual lawsuit against the builder and suppliers.  I do not recommend that anyone wait around for the Consumer Product Safety Commission or some other governmental agency to fix their homes.  And I believe that any delay by a homeowner before filing suit is simply time he or she loses in getting the money to replace the drywall.

When I began this project, I believed it would follow the same course as previous mass tort projects on which I have worked since 2000; cases such as those involving the deadly liver drug Rezulin, the cholestoral drug Baycol, artificial Sulzer Hip and Knee Joints, Diet Drug Litigation (diet drugs caused heart damage and primary pulmonary hypertension (a potentially life-threatening lung condition) among many people who had no history of heart problems), Yamaha Rhino rollovers (caused by design defects in the Rhinos), etc.  I expected to create one or more websites that was full of information, optimize the website so it could be easily found by searchers who were looking for the information and services we offered, and make it as easy as possible for those people become informed and retain us if they wanted to do so.

This project has been somewhat different.  Although we are getting substantial traffic to our website, and are talking to a number of people on the telephone and are reviewing a number of case review forms, I am getting the sense that, compared with our previous mass tort cases, a higher percentage of CDW victims don’t seem to know what to do.

I have my own hypothesis.  I can’t remember being involved in a mass tort in which so many politicians and governement agencies are involved.  Every politician seems to want to express his/her outrage, particularly if his/her constituents are affected by the problem.  And the relevant governmental agencies feel obligated to release reports, even if the reports don’t really reach any conclusions.  Then the politicians go back and complain about the slow manner in which the government is dealing with the problem, and several dozen news articles are written or put on television everytime one of these things happens.  A Google News search today for “Chinese drywall” returns 922 articles.  And none of them provide real, comprehensive advice about how the homeowner can get the problem resolved.  If a person runs a Google search for the commonly-searched term “Chinese sheetrock,” a post I wrote on our Chinese Drywall Attorney Alliance site is the top-ranked lawyer-provided page.  But it still doesn’t appear in the top ten results on Google.

For example, on Nov. 23, 2009, the lawyers for the Consumer Product Safety Commission wrote a letter to Senators Bill Newlson and Mark Warner, and representatives Jim Webb and Glenn Nye.  A great deal of waffling is found in the letter, which concedes that investigators eyes were irritated when they inspected homes with Chinese drywall (CDW), but the letter didn’t make a single recommendation telling people what they should do.

I admit I have bemoaned the ugly Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) sometimes created by Google when someone searches for a mass-tort related term.  Somehow, it appears slightly hucksterish to see all those page titles saying “[name your tort or defective product] Lawsuit, lawyer, attorney, law firm….”  But if you run a Google search for “Chinese drywall” the top ten results are news results (as of Thanksgiving day 2009).  None of the news articles offers help getting the money to remove and replace your drywall.  I’m as big a news junkie as anyone (hey, Google News is my homepage), but the integration of News results into Google web search seems to be going a bit too far.  I still believe many people search Google News for news articles, but search Google web for more in-depth information and the type information they need to solve problems.

Am I forgetting the ability of lawyers to appear at the time of Google by purchasing pay-per-click ads? No, but the most recent data I saw on the issue still indicates that people are about twice as likely to click on an organic (natural) listing rather than a pay-per-click listing.  Even though I sometimes use pay-per-click ads, I still believe at least a few good legal marketers should be able to find their way to put genuinely helpful information onto the first page of Google’s results with the necessity of resorting to pay-per-click advertising.

There may be other instances in which the heavy integration of traditional news into the top of Google’s web search results are beneficial, but I don’t think it’s helping CDW victims who are trying to decide what they need to do to solve their CDW problem.  Call me a skeptic, but I don’t believe anyone is going to get his or her Chinese drywall problem solved by a person who walks up with a CPSC card and says “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”  I think the challenge for those of us with information and services that can actually help Chinese drywall victims is to break through the noise that has been created by politicians, political agencies, and the news media, and continue putting out a message of clarity that is easily found by those who are searching for help with their Chinese drywall problems.

I expect to lauch ConsumerNews.com within weeks (after having fired and replaced a developer). Pro-consumer lawyers and others who want to communicate directly to consumers will have an avenue via that site, especially if they are communicating on a topic that is news-driven, such as Chinese drywall.  If you or your organization is interested in being a sponsor or advertiser on ConsumerNews.com, which will cover stories of interest to consumers from a distinctively pro-consumer point-of-view, please contact me.

10 Internet marketing tips for new lawyers and small firms

The Wisconsin Bar recently published an interesting article with 10 Internet marketing tips for new, small law firms.  While the article is sometimes short on specifics about implementing its suggestions, it is a very good beginning point for lawyers without experience in online legal marketing.  I’m just going to list the 10 headings here without the full text of the article; you can read the full article here.  I’m going to add some explanations/suggestions based on my own experience.

  1. Advertise Online.
  2. Invest in a professionally designed and developed web site.
  3. “Consumerize” your web site.
  4. Incorporate video on your site.  [The articles suggests that you “Develop an introductory video of the managing partner that showcases personality as well as expertise. Post the video on the web (and YouTube) and even consider a TV spot down the road.”  My caveat, if the managing partner doesn’t come across well on video, do not use the managing partner.  Use the lawyer who looks best and comes across as most genuine on video.  If you have to, and your bar regs permit it, hire a professional before you put up a video with a white-faced, stuttering managing partner.  Also, if you can afford it, spend the money to shoot a professional video.  You don’t have to spend a fortune to hire a pro, and the results will be worth the money.   For ideas about using video that aren’t limited to interviews with your managing partner, see my post “Use online video to do things you can’t do on TV.”]
  5. [Read more…]

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