While people go online for a variety reasons, at one time or another, most people will probably use the Internet to solve a problem. In fact, aside from consuming news & stalking your friends on facebook, I would venture to guess that some form of problem-solving is probably contributes to a great deal of Internet usage and search behavior. That is why, as the owner of a law firm, everything that you do online to grow your professional reputation should be designed around solving problems.
This really should come as no surprise. As it has been since ancient times, people call upon advocates to help them solve their problems. Whether it be answering questions, counseling through difficult decisions, or litigating their matters at court, lawyers have always been called upon to solve our problems. And so, the first step to any online professional reputation development should be brainstorming your potential clients' problems.
Unfortunately, many legal professionals conclude that the problem their prospective clients are facing is that they don't know enough about them. That is why they spend so much time and effort adding biographical information about themselves. They write about how hard they work and how much experience they have. They include images about professional awards that they have won and the number of years it has been since they first got their license. But is this truly the problem that prospective clients have? Are they out looking for this information? Perhaps eventually, but not at first.
The first problems they are trying to solve have to do with them. How can I get out of this financial mess? How will I pay my bills now that I can't work because of an injury? What amount of jail time may I be facing for my drunk driving arrest? These are the problems that Internet using prospective clients are trying to solve. And these are the problems that legal professionals should be helping to solve online.
And so, your online professional reputation building should be invested in techniques that solve problem. Here are some excellent ways to help solve-problems online:
So the next time you find yourself tweaking your "about us" or "attorney profile" pages, spend some time thinking "about them". What are their problems? How do you help them solve those problems? How can you effectively communicate your ability to help them solve those problems.
Once you have addressed their problem and how you may be able to help them solve it, only then is it time to communicate your adeptness for solving those problems. Interestingly, it has a lot less to do with where you went to law school and how long you have practiced than it does about how you are able to communicate your ability to solve their specific problem.
I agree with this post entirely, and I think there are good reasons why lawyers find it difficult to heed this message. It's very different from what we've been hearing all our professional lives.
Before I went to law school, I was pretty impressed by the amount of study and work that becoming a lawyer apparently involved. From what I could tell, admission to the bar equated to joining an exclusive club. Once in law school, it seemed to me that my fellow students and the faculty were of one mind: Becoming a lawyer was exceedingly difficult, and eventual admission to the "club" was for the intellectual elite who survived the process. Once I graduated and started trying cases, I quickly learned that my fellow practitioners and the bench felt strongly that we were indeed a gifted bunch, and we deserved a certain amount of deference from society at large. Among my clients, though, I found that this attitude, if it existed at all, bubbled along at a level that was undetectable. My clients cared about a couple of very important things, pretty much to the exclusion of everything else: Did I understand their problem? Could I solve their problem?
My point here is not that lawyers are self-important jerks. Some are (the profession draws from the same gene pool that serves the other professions), but most are not. Almost all of us, however, have been receiving for years the same debilitating message from every quarter--that we are special; and the bigger our firm, the more prestigious our law school, the more exclusive our office address, the more special we are. After years of indoctrination, it's hard to overcome this message, look past these trappings, and focus on the clients and their problems. Hard, maybe; but we need to find a way to do it. Clients these days have more choices than ever, and they will make those choices based on their perception of their interests, not ours. Those lawyers who don't adapt to client-focused marketing might still be "special" ten years from now; but they'll be "special" and poor.
Agreed, with a question for you mavens.
When I'm presenting attorneys to their potential or actual clients with video on the web, I recommend giving useful information-how long a lawsuit takes, what it costs, what steps to expect in the process.
But the attorneys are also presenting themselves on video. The client can tell if they seem credible, intelligible, likable?
Does seeing the attorney on video help close the deal, assuming it's flattering video? I'm going to a lot of trouble to make good-looking video of these lawyers and I wonder if I should just be making great instructional videos, with professional actors, not bothering to turn these lawyers into good onscreen talent.
My intuition is to show the attorneys.
What do you think and why do you think that? Use extra bluebooks if you need to.
Gyi's point is right on target. The mindset of a web visitor has totally changed from the days of the yellow pages where a lawyer would have to use a shotgun approach to advertising every type of law, to one that addresses a potential client's problems.
Lawyers fail to understand that clients have legal dilemmas.
We have the solutions.
Clients have questions.
We have the answers.
We know the law. Most laymen do not.
When someone is searching for an attorney online, they don't care about YOU. They don't care where you went to school, what your class rank was, whether you were on moot court or law review or whether you clerked for a federal judge. The only thing they care about is THEIR LEGAL PROBLEM and whether you can solve it for them. That's it. Gyi hit the nail right on the head with this post.
Thanks for the post, Gyi.
Founder, Lawyers Video Studio
(and actively practicing NY Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyer)
Thanks for the comment. As you mention, there is a huge difference in effectiveness between lawyer websites and blogs that take the shotgun approach. Unfortunately, many legal professionals have been "raised" on the yellow pages model and it's a tough habit to break them of.
The best thing any legal professional can do to help increase the effectiveness of their online content is to listen to what their clients are saying. What words do they use? How do they describe their issues?
Listen and respond.
Great questions. And I believe that the answer is that both are effective and can serve a role. First, if you are working with an attorney who is "good on film" by all means you should use them. As you commented, informational videos about the legal process are effective. Informational videos that discuss answers to questions that a prospective client might have are even better.
If you're working with a law firm that simply doesn't "work on camera", using actors, images, graphics, etc, can be effective. Let's face it, not everyone is effective on camera.
I agree with your intuition. Use the attorney where you can. It makes the experience much more personal and authentic.
Thanks again for the comment. So many legal websites and blogs could be so much more effective with a shift in messaging.
Less about their education and how hard they work. More information about the problems facing their prospective clients and how they can help solve them.