Giving Your Small Law Practice a Big Presence

Every area has that one law firm that seems to eat up all of the clients in a certain area. You know the one- they have commercials that seem to run constantly during afternoon TV shows, the lead partner smiles from local billboards, and they have a slick legal website that seems to snap up clients long before you can even reach them.

Marketing your law practice in the face of this kind of competition can be a frustrating proposition, but thanks to the internet, there are ways to reach out to customers long before the giant firm even knows that they exist.

If your firm is facing this kind of competition, the following are a few tips that may just help you take on the big guy- and win.

The first thing you need to do is become an expert in whatever field you work in. Your website, specifically, your blog, will provide the tool for doing this. Focus on creating relevant, keyword rich legal content that focuses specifically and narrowly on your field of law and your geographic area.

Before they ever pick up the phone, your clients are searching online for information about their case, and providing that information is the best way to build your reputation as an expert in their field. Spend lots of blog space focusing on the common problems that your clients face, and give them realistic advice on how to solve those problems.

You may even want to hint at the fact that big firms simply want to sell them on an expensive one-size-fits-all solution that won’t help them get what they really need. Show them that you are not only an expert, but also someone who is willing to help people who are in a tricky situation.

The next step is to go to where your customers are. There are many forums that focus on legal issues, and there are many active members on these sites that post legal questions and conundrums that they need help solving. Your goal should be to spend time in these forums reaching out to people who have the problem that you want to help them solve.

For example, try searching for a specific legal area and the word forum (divorce forum, bankruptcy forum, estate law forum, etc). Sign up to become a member of the site, but be careful about how you post. Don’t promote yourself (although you can and should mention that you are an attorney), don’t talk badly about other firms, and keep posts professional.

Before your first post, be sure to fill out your profile on the site fully- including a link to your website and/or your email, to make it easy for potential clients to find you.

Then, post advice in areas where you will be useful, and use the questions asked by users as a way to come up with blog posts.

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of creating reading material for your potential clients, but be smart in where you place information. While writing for legal journals is great for your reputation, customers aren’t reading legal journals. Write articles for local magazines, offer helpful advice that can be placed in newsletters or on sites that aren’t necessarily legal in nature but which will be read by your clients.

The bottom line is that when you are a smaller firm, you need to be creative to bring in clients, but it is possible to take on the giant firms and win if you are willing to find your customers before they know they need you.

Law Firm Logos – Making the Right Impression

For a long time, law firms generally went completely without a logo. Most firms simply created some nice looking letterhead featuring the names of partners, or even created some sort of simple design using office software.

While that may have worked before the invention of the internet, today’s firms are spending more and more time and resources in an effort to brand themselves. If you have a law firm logo- or even if you don’t- what does your logo say about your firm? If you haven’t designed a logo or you haven’t revised the design of your logo in a long time, now is the time to ask yourself what your logo says about you.

When you think about popular logos, they all say something about the company they represent. Think of the Starbucks logo, with the stylized bohemian woman who represents the company. Or the Nike “swoosh” that embodies the sleek, fast performance that the company promotes. Or even the Wendy’s girl, with the big smile and burger that brings to mind an old-fashioned burger joint.

Your logo shouldn’t be the most important representation of your company- that honor belongs to the reputation you build- but your logo should create a visual representation of who you are and what you do that you customers will instantly associate with your firm.

Law Firm Logos

A logo, whether for a law firm or any other business, is a visual representation of your brand and where you belong in the larger marketplace. It should give anyone who sees it an idea about who you are and what your firm is about. Some symbols of the legal profession are perennial, and can be incorporated into any design to help convey the idea that you are a legal firm- the scales of justice, lady justice, or a gavel are all simple parts that can be included in your logo. But you shouldn’t rely on these old standbys, because they won’t distinguish you from your competition.

To start designing a vision for your law firm logo, try this:

Grab a piece of paper, and write down things that represent what your practice does. If you represent people in traffic and driving cases, anything from cars and keys to road signs and streets could be appropriate. If you are an environmental firm, consider symbols such as leaves, trees, or anything else that represents a cleaner world. The options are endless, just grab at the obvious and less obvious concepts that represent your firm.

Next, you will want to leave the true design work to a professional. There are a number of ways to do this, including sites that allow you to hire a graphic designer to create samples for you and sites that make designing law firm logos into a contest of sorts to provide you with multiple options. You can also hire a local graphic designer or firm to complete the work for you. In either case, the results will likely vary based on how clearly you are able to communicate your vision for the finished product. No matter who you choose to do the work, remember that your logo will become associated with your practice, so perfection is a must. You should find a balance between professionalism and simplicity that your customers can identify with.

Once your logo is created, you will want to begin looking at it as an advertising tool. Include it on business cards, add it to your lawyer website, and even include it on the letterhead of your law firm stationary. If the old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words is true, a logo says more about your company than virtually any other advertising tool ever will.

Local Law Firms in an Online World

You already know that marketing your law firm online is a vital part of surviving in the technologically advanced world that we live in, and you probably already have an online presence of some sort. The traditional ways of optimizing your site for search engines are still important- you need to build a keyword rich site that includes lots of content and you need to reach out to customers using social media. But are you taking advantage of the search tools for local law firms that will help you reach out to clients right in your own backyard?

For most firms, the vast majority of their business comes from people nearby. In most cases, the geographic area served by a particular practice is no more than just one or two cities or a handful of small towns. So while marketing your firm to the greater online world is important, marketing to the customers right in your own area is even more important. The most important innovation for law firms and other businesses with a small geographic reach is local search. If you haven’t spent some time making yourself known to local search providers, you need to start now.

Think about the last time you or a loved one searched for a restaurant or shop. Chances are, rather than turning to the yellow pages, you used the internet to find out what was in your area, where it was located, and what was provided. The same is true of people looking for local law firms or a local attorney in their area.

Local search tools are highly effective because they are a combination of social media and search engines, and they often include mobile applications that can be accessed from a smart phone or other mobile device. And most customers who are looking for a lawyer in a certain area will perform a search that includes who they are looking for and where they are looking- for example, “divorce lawyer Colorado springs”. Local search tools help your firm reach out to those customers and bring them into your firm.

When it comes to local search tools, there are a few that you need to know about:

Google Places is one of the most important, since a large number of mobile apps and customers everywhere use Google to find out nearly anything they need. Using the site is free, and there is a good chance you are already listed on the site, but to get the most out of Google Places, you will need to optimize your listing to ensure that it turns up first when customers are looking for someone like you.

Yelp is another tool that is becoming increasingly popular in big cities. You can register for free, and create a profile for your business. Many attorneys find that a Yelp profile is particularly effective because you can include a large amount of information that is also beneficial for boosting the rankings of your regular site.

You may have heard of Angie’s List before, but many lawyers don’t know that it is used to list attorneys as well as contractors and other companies that provide a service of some type. The site is rapidly gaining popularity, as people see it as a highly reputable provider of reviews and listings.

A final tool that you should consider is local classifieds providers (craigslist.com being the best known). You will need to be careful to ensure that you are creating well-written ads that attract customers, nothing that sounds spammy or unprofessional.

Most local search tools are free, easy to use, and take only a little time to work with. But for law firms who are actively seeking new clients, these tools can be invaluable, reaching customers that you may not have reached with any other form of advertising. More importantly, you will improve your reputation within the community by having a professional presence on the sites that your customers are viewing.

With all the benefits of local search engine marketing for law firms, why haven’t you started yet?