21 Apr 3 Things You Missed at Lawyernomics 2016
Didn’t Make It To Lawyernomics 2016? Here’s 3 Things We Learned.
Lawyernomics is an annual conference put on by Avvo, a well-known attorney directory website (that has lately been morphing into “LegalZoom Lite”, with its introduction of legal forms and fee-for-service offerings). The conference attracts lawyers interested in how to market and grow their practices, focusing heavily on legal internet marketing, while also providing some law firm practice management guidance. Having left the practice of law a few months ago to lead OneDemand’s expansion into an end-to-end technology service provider to law firms, I figured Lawyernomics was a good fit for our mission: Helping small and mid-sized law firms disrupt their industries through technology, the same way I was able to do in mine.
I’ll start with a quick review: The Avvo team did a fantastic job executing this conference on all levels. The speakers were fantastic, and not only were engaging but provided very valuable content to the attendees. The networking events were well-organized and well-attended, and the conference simply had an uplifting, can-do, and empowering feel to it – something that is essential in today’s start-up culture, and something that I absolutely believe needs to cross over into service-based companies (such as law firms). Although this was my first conference in my new role, I’ve attended (and spoke at) countless conferences in my prior career; and, Lawyernomics 2016 ranks up there as one of the most fun and useful conferences I’ve ever attended.
So, what did you miss? Here’s 3 things I learned over the course of 2+ rainy days in the Wynn resort in Las Vegas.
1 – Today’s Legal Internet Marketers Love Online Reviews.
If there was one single message from this conference, it was that legal internet marketers love online reviews the way I love bacon, swimming, or the beach. There was significant discussion on how online reviews can build trust with your website audience (read: potential clients), how negative reviews present a unique branding opportunity (via response tactics), and how reviews can provide an SEO boost as a search signal.
Out of all the talk on online reviews, there are two takeaways that stuck with me. First, don’t over-curate your reviews. If a law firm has all 5-star reviews, it is just as likely to build suspicion as it is trust; trust is earned by being authentic (which I’d argue is heavily correlated to being honest). Second, technology is allowing smaller companies, including law firms, to now harness the review process – so they can encourage, identify, and address negative feedback before it becomes a public problem. Larger companies have long had similar processes in place, but SaaS services like GetFiveStars are opening the door for smaller companies to cost-effectively use the same approach. Since our goal at OneDemand is to help smaller law firms use technology to out-compete, that last takeaway really resonated with me.
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All that said, I still think the legal internet marketers were painting with too broad a brush, and completely missed the nuances that come with different practice areas. In the business-to-consumer (or “B2C”) world, I would wholeheartedly agree that online reviews are critical for law firms. It’s indisputable that consumers are increasingly using the internet to source attorneys. I’d especially say online reviews are critical in a practice area like family law, where the web is usually the first resource for potential clients. I’m not sold, however, on the approach for law firms in the business-to-business (or “B2B”) world, which is where my legal background comes from. Online reviews were nowhere near the decision funnel for corporate counsel or department heads who hired me. While obviously reputation is extremely important for B2B law firms, legal internet marketing efforts for these type of law firms needs to instead focus on highly visible and highly targeted thought leadership, so that there is name and brand recognition – both by corporate counsel, and by the board of directors that the corporate counsel must answer to.
2 – Organic Search Is Still King.
This one really surprised me, largely because the big players in legal internet marketing tilt their service offerings so heavily towards pay-per-click (“PPC”). For example, the general business model of the FindLaws and Scorpions of the world is to charge a monthly recurring fee to provide a website and content, and to drive eyeballs to the website through digital marketing efforts that slant more towards PPC than SEO efforts. While there are valid criticisms of that business model and its effectiveness, the point here is more observational than critical: I assumed the reason the big players were slanted to PPC was because the conversion volume and click-through-rate (“CTR”) was much better on PPC than organic search.
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Turns out my assumption was wrong: Today, organic search is still king, and drives more traffic than PPC and local search combined – and with a better CTR, too. When you factor in that local search is growing, and that local search and organic search influence each other, this means that SEO work – particularly strong content marketing efforts – remains the best way to drive eyeballs to a law firm’s website. While it may not return results as quickly as PPC (we heard that it can take 6 months for a content marketing campaign to grow legs), the organic impact is larger, quantitatively better, and arguably more cost-effective.
3 – Accelerated Mobile Pages and PageFrog for WordPress.
I love tools. I use tools to build websites. I use tools to code in SQL Server. And, when it comes to the web design needs of today’s law firms, WordPress is pretty much the perfect tool, for all kind of reasons that I won’t detail here – except for one. Technology is moving forward rapidly, and WordPress by design allows law firms to have a web presence that effortlessly keeps up.
I’ve heard of many “big box” legal web design agencies that still haven’t converted their clients to responsive design, either sticking their customers with websites that Google will penalize in search rankings simply because they don’t render properly on mobile devices, or sticking them with old-school “m-dot” mobile websites (e.g. if the normal website is “www.lawfirm.com”, there’d be an entirely separate website for mobile devices at “m.lawfirm.com”, destroying the site’s SEO). Shameless plug here, but in all seriousness: If you’re one of these firms, we can help.
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And, this is where PageFrog comes in. It’s a WordPress plug-in that allows any content on a WordPress site to be automatically converted and available in AMP-compliant format (and in Facebook Instant Article format, for those publishing on Facebook). Again, WordPress for the win here. Hand-coding AMP pages can certainly be done (it is an open-source standard, after all), but you’d have to literally write two versions of each content piece – one in regular HTML, and one in AMP-compliant HTML. For attorneys with WordPress-based websites, however, it’s a fairly simple and seamless process – and they don’t have to wait years for their “big box” legal web design firm to get around to it.
The best part of Lawyernomics 2016, however, was the fellow attorneys and friends I made. It’s heartening to see so many attorneys innovating both the marketing and operational sides of the business of law. Even if they aren’t our customers, that attitude is something that aligns with what we are doing here at OneDemand. We believe the practice of law isn’t going to die, but it is changing, with technology largely selecting who wins and who loses. If your law firm needs help navigating this new technology-driven playing field – from web development to practice management – we’re right here with a new CTO-driven alternative to the usual patchwork-vendor approach, and invite you to get in touch. Well done, Avvo, and here’s to Lawyernomics 2017!
Scott J. Jackson, Esq.
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