For an attorney to have a successful marketing plan, it is essential that he or she join the Internet revolution. From my extensive research, I discovered that the most effective and cost efficient way to generate clients through the Internet, by far, is by utilizing the services of Legal Match, a client acquisition provider. Yes, I have tried other competitors.
After practicing for 30 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, it has become abundantly clear that the old historical marketing tools of 20 years ago will not deliver the clientele to your office. The old, touch the flesh, one-on-one marketing, going to lunch with business leaders, politicians, presidents of fraternal organizations, and any prospective client, are simply ineffective now.
There is too much competition to pursue this sort of marketing plan. With 150,000 active practicing attorneys in California, this is an antiquated strategy.
Despite contrary claims of Yellow Pages companies, your placement ads in the phone book will probably result in marginal results, if not a negative income flow after the cost of the ad. Is this true? I have kept accurate statistics.
In past decades, in terms of personal interactions, i.e., lunches, I would attempt to interact with individuals who might influence at least 100 other individuals. By today's standards, this method is clumsy at best, especially compared to an Internet presence where thousands can review your experience and qualifications.
An interesting aspect of Internet marketing transactions is that you are not limited to any specific geographical region because there are people throughout America who will have legal problems in your local jurisdiction and could retain your services.
Outside of the Internet, how are individuals in the other 49 states and venues outside of your county going to know of your existence? They won't. Once in awhile you may get a referral from your local county bar association, but you are one on a panel of several members and the quality of the referrals may be low.
These old marketing tools are simply not effective in the present day. I have taught courses exposing me to 30 or 40 individuals at a time. I have been elected to public office making my name familiar to possible clients. I've written articles for trade organizations giving me exposure to their 2,000 to 3,000 members. These were all the right things to do in the past; but unfortunately, in our brave new world, Internet exposure dwarfs the perspective gains made by and through the utilization of the old marketing tools.
THE LOST RELEVANCE OF YELLOW PAGES
Roughly six years ago, I noticed a serious decline in the quality of my Yellow Pages clientele. Because phone book advertising in the San Francisco Bay Area was costly, I had a limited marketing budget for allocating funds in other directions.
After realizing that the Yellow Pages only brought in enough money to pay for themselves, I decided it was time to progressively move forward and do something else—anything else. I decided it was time to end my relationship as an indentured servant to the phone book and stop laboring in the fields hoping my efforts might result in a 5 percent share of the crop produced.
Not being an entirely Internet savvy guy, I really trusted no one in the business. Neither can you, even if you are Internet savvy. All the talk sounds good, but the walks are very different amongst the different vendors. While we haven't made a total disengagement with the Yellow Pages (we still maintain specialty column ads) we developed a Web site in-house with minimal outside assistance. This move was not particularly effective.
We later discovered that one of our former associates (the alleged computer guru) failed to connect half of our materials of our Web site. It was impossible for anyone to access it during that time. The bottom line is that you have to fully commit with professional experts if deciding to go the Internet route.
INTERNET MARKETING FOR THE FAMILY LAW PRACTICE
After our office decided to focus more on Internet marketing, we surveyed available Internet marketing client providers. Quite frankly, after listening to various and numerous presentations, many sounded similar.
Whether it was my lack of Internet sophistication or this being an entirely new concept, I remained confused on the best way to expand our marketing horizons. The only issue I was certain of was that the Yellow Pages advertisements were not cost effective and my termination of a contract for a one-page ad was an absolute win-win situation.
During this time, my new Internet guru continuously upgraded the firm's Web site content. But unless you are in a jurisdiction with limited online competition, this is a constant row of the oars exercise. The real deal is that you must constantly change your Web site content and jockey for first-page position on most Internet search engines. This is a real and difficult task in a metropolitan environment. While I decided I would attempt to continually upgrade my Web site, I felt there had to be an easier way for us to attract those prospective clients who use the Internet.
Because I lacked trust in the sales people I dealt with, I analyzed the materials from the most promising Internet client providers (to the best of my ability) and decided that I would sign up with the major providers for a year and then determine the companies which performed best in regard to client referrals.
This was an expensive way to go on one hand, but on the other hand, I would be able to absolutely clear away all misrepresentations, puffing, smoke, mirrors and doubletalk—anything that was not dialed directly into the reality of how many possible and real clients would be produced. This was an expensive exercise, but how else would we ever know who was really telling the truth?
Just as in previous times when I kept accurate records on where my clients came from, I am on a regular ongoing daily program keeping records of my client inquiries and the number of those clients we are actually able to retain. Keep in mind that we have retained the services of a number of Internet client providers and my opinions are formulated by and through statistical statistical data. The data provides a clear revelation. LegalMatch is the way to go.
By and through our transition from the Yellow Pages to Internet client service providers, we now have substantially more client inquiries, clients retained, and a higher level of clients by and through our Internet-based referrals as opposed to the Yellow Pages, while spending less for marketing.
It has not only been cost effective, but it has reproduced a more interesting level of clients, with more sophisticated level of issues, who are financially able to sustain the cost of litigation. The referrals from LegalMatch are far superior to those from the Yellow Pages, the local county bar association, or any other Internet competitors.
Amongst the many competitors, LegalMatch is overwhelmingly the most successful referral source, without question. I don't want to make this sound like a paid advertisement - it's not. But I do want to share the reality of my experiences because I have spent a lot of money to ascertain who the real players are in regard to this Internet client referral business.
INTERNET CLIENT SERVICE
The Internet client service providers maintain the Web sites and constantly update and manipulate their language content to maintain top listings from all the Internet providers. This is simply something you and I really cannot do. But the benefit of a relationship with these kinds of organizations is far more significant than just the referral factor.
By and through your participation with an attorney-client matching service, you can remain a lawyer and farm out the marketing activity to an Internet expert, which opens the world up to your perspective practice.
Each listing service operates on a different program with regards to their referral of clients to your office. Some of the providers simply list your name amongst tens if not hundreds of other attorneys and hope that for some reason the prospective client may call you. Other providers, such as LegalMatch, limit the number of attorneys in each geographical area to some reasonable relationship to clients that are attained by and through their marketing efforts. Potential clients come to the site encouraged by the screening process that each LegalMatch attorney must endure to become a member. This appeases the client in knowing that the responses will be from attorneys who are in good standing with the bar and well-versed in their particular matter. Before I started with LegalMatch, one of their representatives interviewed me extensively regarding my background, staffing, and firm, in general. This was quite refreshing and helped support the validity of their business model.
The prospective client answers a number of screening questions about their case and the type of lawyer they are looking for, area of expertise, and experience level. This information is sent to member attorneys in the region. If the case looks interesting, an attorney (who otherwise would remain anonymous) responds via email, with their fee structure, biography, and an individual response to the prospective client. The person can now review the resumes submitted by member attorneys and decide which one to hire.
Once again, the LegalMatch system was preferable to all others in that it carefully limited the number of attorneys into each geographical area so that you would not be paying for a service that failed to provide a reasonable number of referrals. From my experiences during the last year, this model has been advantageous in that I no longer have to take time to pre-screen my clients and endure interviews that I wish never occurred. After the clients submit their Legal- Match inquiries to your office, you can then elect to respond or not respond at your option. I found this format to be most time effective for a legal service provider.
The Internet is not the wave of the future. It is presently mainstream, in place, and rapidly expanding. Without question, my decision to cut back in Yellow Pages revenue expense, considering my new Internet-based attorneyclient matching services, I spend less on advertising and generate significantly more revenue. In addition, once I eliminate the expense of the ineffective Internet-based services which I was evaluating, my revenues will remain significantly higher, and my marketing expenses will be even further reduced. I seriously encourage all of you Family Law practitioners to consider an attorney-client matching service to assist and promote your firm's marketing efforts. As a 30-year practitioner, I did not anticipate this change, but the future has arrived, and this is reality. If you wish to engage in effective marketing and you are not a computer genius, I strongly recommend you take a serious look at LegalMatch. They can be reached at 415.946.0835 or www.legalmatch.com.
LegalMatch sponsored a joint reception for the Family Law Section and Criminal Law Section at the 2005 Annual Convention in Toronto. John N. Kitta is the Family Law Section's California delegate.