March 24, 2019

Coach’s Corner: Be a Lawyer and a Teacher

Rebecca Mieliwocki of Burbank, Calif., was recently named 2012 Teacher of the Year and honored by President Obama at a White House ceremony.

Among other impressive achievements in her career, she went to law school. This transition is not peculiar. Lawyers are, after all, teachers. They tell stories to instruct jurors and judges for the benefit of their clients.

But lawyers may not realize that they can use teaching techniques in many other ways to make the business of law more successful.

Consider just a few examples and ask yourself how good a teacher you are.

Justify your fees

Value is ultimately determined by the client, not the attorney. But it’s the attorney who must educate the client about the value of his services.

Most clients recognize the importance of and are willing to pay a fair fee for value. What they do not want is to pay for inefficiencies, duplications or unnecessary services.

To avoid fee disputes, lawyers must regularly demonstrate that their skills and the way in which services are delivered to the client coincide with what the client wants and needs.

Blog to inform

Lawyers often know a great deal about industry and economic issues that are important to clients, and can educate their clients about trends and developments using blog posts.

A blog combines the lawyer’s observations on breaking legal or regulatory issues with specialized content and research and can offer the option to comment and ask specific questions. This defines a teaching relationship — and also often serves as the beginning of a client relationship.

Educate your staff

In the current law firm world, lawyers and staff are affected by the ongoing transformation of client expectations and legal service delivery. Lawyers must take the lead in helping all staff members understand this change.

More than the continuing sluggish economy alone, firms are contending with upheaval in the way law is practiced. Secretarial assistants, technology specialists, project managers, any staff — they all need a better understanding of the forces reshaping law firms, and the lawyers who employ them should provide that understanding.

Emphasize the value of beyond-the-case effort

Young lawyers too often view themselves as being at the mercy of the firm’s partners when undergoing annual reviews. They can enhance their situations by educating the partners on what the lawyer has actually done in a key area, such as business development.

Attending lunch or bar association functions, posting blogs and client updates, writing articles in trade or legal publications are all valid marketing activities. The young lawyer who engages in them can make a convincing argument at review time: “This is what I’ve done to promote myself and promote the firm.”

Don’t assume these efforts are well-known tactics. Teach those who matter about the value of the effort.

Education is all about communication. It is essential that those with whom a lawyer interacts knows what the lawyer is doing and understands why it is being done. As lawyers, our job is to help others. Constantly conveying how and why you are doing this is an excellent way to derive greater personal satisfaction from your practice.

Ed Poll is a nationally recognized coach, law firm management consultant, and author who has coached and consulted with lawyers and law firms in strategic planning, profitability analysis, and practice development for over twenty years. Ed has practiced law on all sides of the table and he now helps attorneys and law firms increase their profitability and peace of mind. He writes a syndicated legal column, Coach’s Corner, where this post originally appeared on June 20, 2012.

Solo in Colo Meet-Up, Round 2, on September 28

As we promised after our last meet-up, Solo in Colo is hosting another chance to kick back during happy hour and meet your fellow solo and small firm bloggers.

This time, we’re bringing in some expertise: Mark Beese, president of Leadership for Lawyers. Before starting his own company, Mark was an in-house marketer for professional services firms. He is also a blogger and will be at the meet-up to give guests some insight into using your blog as part of your marketing plan.

So when is this fabulous happy hour? We’ll get started at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, September 28, at the Blake Street Tavern in the Board Room. Please RSVP to me at scrocker@cobar.org.

Also, if you’re interested in contributing to the Solo in Colo blog, this is a great opportunity for you to meet with the people who write for the blog now. We have some basic criteria here.

Hope to see you there!

Tom Matte: How to Launch a Blog for Your Law Firm – Fast!

Law firm’s don’t have a lot of time to use social media, so it’s important to get your blog up fast, otherwise you’ll never find the time.

A law firm’s blog serves as the central component for your firm’s social media strategy.  I’ve compiled my suggested best practices to help you to get your firm’s blog up, focused and running quickly to rapidly start building your firm’s credibility within this space.

A law firm’s blog is like fishing. You want to fish for a particular fish, with a particular bait, and you want to get the bait away from the boat so you don’t scare off the fish.

To get your legal blog up and running quickly, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Have a clear objective. Create content important to your clients and readers.
  2. Identify your target audience.
  3. Compose a descriptor statement, or subtitle, that states emphatically what your blog is about (i.e. A Guide for all of your Legal Needs, A Source of Legal News, etc.).
  4. Create a unique title for the blog. It’s helpful if you can also tie in the title with the blog’s URL.
  5. Be sure that you own your URL instead of having a WordPress.com, Typepad.com or Blogspot.com site. That way you can change blogging platforms without losing your online traffic. If possible, use your law firm’s name or a partner’s name in the URL.
  6. Know the key words that you want to dominate in Google search. For example: legal, law news, attorneys, etc. Be consistent to include your key words into your post titles.
  7. Come up with 10 to 12 categories that you will write to. These will help guide your writing and will facilitate navigation of your blog’s content for your readers.
  8. Start with a simple blogging platform that you can easily switch from in the future. My suggestion would be WordPress.com.
  9. Keep IT and creativity out of the picture in the beginning stages. Keep the process as simple as possible and focus on the blog’s content. Don’t spend your time worrying about how it looks.
  10. Set a goal for writing 50 posts within 30 days, I know this is a lot, so if you can’t do this just make sure you are consistently writing posts. This will help you to develop your research, resourcing, writing and publishing processes. You will quickly know what obstacles will inhibit you and allow you to figure out workarounds to keep the process moving.
  11. Navigation is critical. Make your blog easy to navigate with top posts, categories, etc. Install a search widget that is included in your blog’s sidebar and located above the fold.
  12. Create a “welcome for your blog” and include your photo to make it more personable. The “welcome” copy should be an expansion of your blog’s descriptor statement.
  13. Add these pages: About, Services, Legal Events, Contact.
  14. Add social media buttons for your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
  15. Be sure to add an RSS subscription button and create a Feedburner account through Google to get your link.
  16. Add a subscription button for an email newsletter that is directly linked to your email provider account, such as Vertical Response, Emma, Constant Contact, etc.
  17. Jump start traffic by sending out an email newsletter at least monthly, preferably every other week. Use content from your blog in the email newsletter. Don’t assume that just because you’ve written it, everyone has read it.
  18. Generate initial traffic through Twitter, using tools like SocialOomph and TweetAdder.

Create a format that you can use for every post:

  • Incorporate your key words into every blog post title.
  • Create a benefit/takeaway statement that begins each post. It should answer the question, “What is my benefit if I commit to read this post?”. This is the inverted pyramid style of writing, like a newspaper report would use. It leads with the conclusion.
  • Write easy-to-read copy, breaking up long paragraphs and editing to make the post concise – on average 350 to 450 words.
  • For the best return on your time investment, write posts that are “evergreen.” Try not to “date” your content. This is also a hard thing to do when writing about certain legal topics or current law changes – so keep most posts basic when you can.
  • Consistently create valued content that is “reader-centric.”
  • Hyperlink to resources and attribution to primary sources, such as the American Bar Association.
  • Select one or more categories that are reflective of the blog’s content.
  • Add tags for people, places and entities that are referenced in your post.
  • Include “additional articles that may be of interest” at the bottom of the post with titles and links to four to five other posts that you’ve written.
  • Include a photo or graphic in every post to make it visually pleasing.

Follow these steps, and you’ll have your blog up and running in no time.

Editor’s Note: Law firms aren’t the only legal entities that should consider using blogs to reach clients and colleagues and share legal expertise: solo and small firm practitioners would benefit greatly from the kind of online exposure that a blog can provide. Solo/small firm blogging is the subject of a CLE program on Monday, October 10, entitled Blogging: What It Can Do for Your Solo/Small Firm Practice. The event is being presented by Barbara Cashman Hahn, Esq., a solo practitioner in estate planning and elder law. Click here to register for the program or the live webcast.

Tom Matte is CEO of Max Advertising, and focuses his endless enthusiasm on crafting creative and lasting marketing and advertising for law firms, helping them to ultimately grow their practices. Whether a 10-person firm or one of the Am Law 100, he works with firms of all sizes. Tom blogs at the The Matte Pad, where this post originally appeared on August 20, 2010.

Donna Seyle: Law Bloggers – Are Your Readers Bored Yet?

Your blog is worthless if it doesn’t engage your reader. That’s true whether you’re blogging to market, to educate or as a foray into public journaling. If you leave your reader cold after the first two sentences, you’re off their screen. (Are you still with me here?)

Unfortunately, law does not have a reputation among the general public as an engaging subject. Honestly, it’s frequently tedious and often difficult to explain to your clients—almost like trying to communicate in a different language. But writing a law blog gives you the opportunity to bridge the gap. If your target audience is sophisticated financiers, you’re in luck: They’re used to tedium. But if not, you need to find and speak the language of your target audience.

This can be a particularly tough task for lawyers. Law21 and Law Firm Web Strategy blogger Jordan Furlong, a former journalist, has identified several reasons why lawyers struggle with content: “Lawyers tend to be painstakingly utilitarian writers—probably because we also tend to be painstakingly utilitarian people … and many lawyers don’t really believe content has much worth beyond its factual value. Lawyers don’t try to write enjoyably or memorably because they don’t see how it matters. Who cares if it’s engaging or not? I’m not paid to be engaging. I’m paid to be right.”

Well, that may be true, but you’re not getting paid to blog. You’re blogging to increase the chances of getting paid and, in the best of worlds, to help the general public gain a greater understanding of law and legal processes along the way. So while you may be “right,” how are potential clients going to know it if you don’t get their attention?

How to Write to Keep Readers Interested

Here are a few tips that will help you combine substance with style and encourage readers to stay on your website, subscribe to your blog, refer you to friends and hire you when the need arises.

  • Write as if you are having a conversation with a friend. You are not interacting with your monitor, or even the masses of people that will, you hope, read your post. You’re talking to a non-lawyer friend, chatting about an interesting situation and how it would be viewed from a legal perspective. It’s a conversation at the end of a golf game over a good, cold beer on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Enjoy yourself.
  • Assume your friend knows you and trusts you. You’ve been friends for 15 years. There’s a reason for that. You’re likable, reasonable and you know your stuff.
  • Use a “how-to” approach. Most online searches start with the phrase “how to .” Formulate your topic from a practical point of view. What can or should one do in a situation to resolve a dilemma, or what steps should be taken to achieve a desired result?
  • Embellish the topic with an example. Giving examples of similar situations and their outcomes shows that you really relate to the topic and feel strongly about it, so much so that you remember once, about 10 years ago, when …. Just remember, your examplemust be fictional. An amalgamation, perhaps, of several different scenarios.
  • Speak from a “preventative” point of view. No one wants to get entangled in a lawsuit these days—it’s just no fun, costs too much money and you hardly ever get what you want, anyway. Give your friend some wisdom about how to protect themselves and prevent litigation.

As marketing blogger Jim Connolly says, blogging is not something you do after “all your important work is done.” It is important work. Yes, good blogging takes practice, but it can be enjoyable. And if it is enjoyable to you, it will be the same to your readers. Readers like enjoyable.

Donna Seyle is a blogger, writer and founder of Law Practice Strategy, a resource center for lawyers seeking to establish a solo or small firm or wanting to take their existing practices into the 21st Century. She is a graduate of Southwestern University School of Law and has 22 years of professional experience in the law in California, Hawaii and New Mexico. Donna regularly blogs at the Law Practice Strategy Blog. She also contributes to the Attorney at Work blog, where this post originally appeared on August 11, 2011.

Blogs and Beers: SOLO in COLO Meet Up, July 28

Join SOLO in COLO, the CBA blog for solo and small firm attorneys, for a blogger meet up on Thursday, July 28, at Jonesy’s EatBar. It will be the first of what may become a monthly chance to eat, drink, and interact in-person with contributors and readers alike. And, hopefully we’ll find out what you think about SOLO in COLO and all those other blogs on the wide and wonderful web.

We’ll meet up at 5:30 pm for the happy hour. Please RSVP to Sara Crocker.

Also, if you’re interested in contributing to the blog, this is a great opportunity for you to meet with the people who write for the blog now. Some basic criteria can be found here.

Hope to see you there!