Now we’re going to look at efforts to directly contact people. The e-mail list is a nice way to make ongoing advocates of people that already like you, and the local campaigns add prominent visibility to your law firm when people are searching online to find lawyers in your area. You are also going to want to make more direct contact with people online, and as an attorney that can be problematic. Most state bar associations have regulations on how you can ethically approach people about your services. If your online communications with individuals are seen are advertising or personal solicitations, then you have to follow your Bar’s guidelines on those efforts.
Following ethics rules can be hard to do when, for example, you have to try and fit a full legal disclaimer into a tweet. A safe approach to this dilemma is usually to give good relevant information about the area you practice in, give your contact information, but don’t make calls to action. Summarizing the law or procedure is fine, but saying “I can solve that problem for you, call me now!!!” is almost never a good idea. Again, consult your state Bar’s rules, and you can use this ABA link at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/delivery_legal_services/resources/ad_rules.html as a starting point.
Getting someone in the media to talk to you is one of the best ways to be heard by lots of people. One tool you can use is HARO at http://www.helpareporter.com. At this site there is a free plan where you can get several story topics that reporters need experts on to serve as sources. E-mails are regularly sent to you with a few of these needs that reporters currently have. If your practice area involves one of these topics, you can respond and become a quoted news source. Another related tool is at http://www.pressfriendly.com. At this site you can be a little more proactive and get a few press contacts that you can try and pitch. Another angle may be to find an article on the internet that you are already an expert on, and pitching the writer of that story on a related story, as is suggested at http://www.criminallyprolific.com/do-your-own-PR/. Finally, if you can draft an article about your firm in the format of a stand-alone press release, you can use this free distribution service at http://www.prlog.org.
In addition to sending feelers out to the press, you will want to network with your peers online also. Assuming you already have some sort of account with LinkedIn, learn to make full use of their groups at http://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1164. To find new groups, once you’re logged in you can simply use the drop-down menu next to the top search box on LinkedIn to select a groups search, and then put in any keywords you like. And don’t forget, you can even use one of the slideshows you created in an earlier lesson to draw attention to your LinkedIn profile. The info is at http://blog.linkedin.com/2013/05/01/visually-enhance-your-professional-story-on-your-linkedin-profile/.
If you find yourself enjoying the LinkedIn groups, take a quick tour of http://www.lawlink.com, which is a full-fledged social network for lawyers. You can share documents, news articles, classsifieds, and forum questions. You can browse a geographic attorney directory at http://www.lawlink.com/attorneys to get the closest experience to looking through a photo yearbook.
There are many start-up companies that are tackling the problem of consumers wishing to find the right attorney through the internet and/or ask legal questions. Avvo has certainly become a leader in this category, as it is both a comprehensive attorney directory and referral portal. By quickly browsing through http://www.avvo.com you will notice that you can branch out in many directions as you look for answers or attorney representation. If you are looking for clients that are businesses instead of consumers, consider https://www.upcounsel.com, which is similar to Avvo. Because it caters to corporate clients, the site is less focused on providing legal information and subject guides, and more on directly connecting the attorneys with the clients.
For many of these sites, including established ones like http://www.findlaw.com, lawyers can make contact with potential clients by simply answering questions or forum posts, and hoping that the person asking the question will follow-up and hire the lawyer. Unfortunately, many lawyers find that this simply leads to people “kicking the tires”, in that they are just seeking free legal advice and don’t have any intention of actually hiring a lawyer. So the recent trend has been instead to create online spaces where the attorneys normally aren’t charged, but the consumer pays a fee to the site as if paying for a standard consultation.
There are many variations on this theme. With http://www.justanswer.com, the consumer pays to have questions answered by exchanging messages with one of the verified professionals, like a conversation on a comment board. It’s a bit more intimate than getting random answers from different people of unknown qualifications. The site https://lawkick.com lets the consumer receive bids from many attorneys, and then the consumer chooses which one of the lawyers he/she wants to work with. If you still like to keep the client meetings in person, you can also use a service like http://www.vcita.com to allow visitors to your web site to schedule an appointment themselves, ask questions and be billed through a widget on your site.
Now that we’ve reviewed some ways to make yourself accessible online and pull in some potential clients, we’re going to look at a few other ways you can get exposure by getting involved in other people’s content, and learning useful info in the process. Let’s get ready to research!