Marketing Amid COVID-19 – Part 1

How do you market your law firm during a crisis?

Instinctually you may recoil at the very thought. Burying your head in the sand probably sounds more appealing.

When state-at-home orders were first issued, priority one was deploying technology to work remotely. Law firms put their heads down and focused on getting work done. New client intake dropped precipitously. Prospects assumed firms were closed and lawyers were preoccupied coping with the new normal.

Four months later we are feeling the effects of stalled marketing efforts. It’s time to make adjustments and pick back up where we left off.

Advice from the Best

Fortunately good suggestions abound and we will explore them during the month of July. First up, thoughts from two members of the LMA (Legal Marketing Association) on how to elevate existing client relationships.

Clients Today Mean Business Tomorrow

Referrals are the backbone of any business. Clients won’t forget if you are there for them during a time of upheaval.

Call

Pick up the phone and talk to existing clients. Support them personally and professionally. Offer hope. Focus on client priorities. Ask: “What do you need from us to get through this?”

Distill

Give succinct advice. Clients are overwhelmed, under pressure, and want quick, understandable answers. Avoid long-winded responses or text-heavy content on blogs and web pages. Decipher and distill. For frequently asked questions, create brief email alerts or a five minute podcast to which clients can subscribe.

Become

The best advice? Be accessible. Clients should see you as a trusted advisor they can reach any time – within reason.

Read the full LMA article here.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

How COVID-19 Will Change Solo and Mid-Size Law Firms

Quote

A recent report by Clio assessing the impacts of the coronavirus on the legal industry and consumers found that the virus has created a 40 percent drop in the number of new legal matters opened per week. Almost half of the polled consumers said that if they had a legal issue, they would delay seeking legal help until after the virus subsided. Further, 22 percent of consumers indicated they were under the impression that attorneys stopped working altogether because of COVID-19.

From our friends at NW Sidebar.

This post focuses on how COVID-19 is likely to affect small to mid-size law firms. I encourage you to read the full post. Here are some key points of interest:

Life is different and also the same. Clients expect you to cater to their needs. Put yourself in their shoes and you will do well.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

 

Confidentiality Still Applies When Rebutting Online Reviews

We’ve chatted before about online reputations and how to respond (if at all) to negative online reviews. Defending yourself is a natural reaction, but usually the wrong call as an Oregon lawyer recently discovered.

In a case now on appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, an Oregon lawyer was suspended for 30 days for revealing a client’s identity and the details of his criminal conviction in response to negative online reviews.

Isn’t it Self Defense?

We don’t really know.

The trial panel did not consider the “self-defense” exception to Oregon RPC 1.6, finding the lawyer did not show that the details contained in his rebuttal were “reasonably necessary” to reveal.

The bar argued the “self-defense” exception applies only to formal proceedings, such as responding to a legal malpractice claim or bar complaint.

Read the full post on NW Sidebar.

What We Do Know

  • The identity of your client is confidential.
  • Revealing details about a case can be equivalent to revealing the client’s name in a universe where people can follow the dots.
  • If you engage online, the fuel you add to the fire will likely push the negative post upward in search results.

What You Should Do

Going back to my post from 2017, here are some suggestions:

  • A reasonable and measured response is key. Blasting people who give you a negative review is not a good business model.
  • You can try contacting the review site and asking for the review’s removal if you can prove the review is false, defamatory or written by a competitor. In the case described above, the lawyer contacted Google, Yelp, and Avvo to have the negative reviews removed. All three sites refused, telling the lawyer they considered the reviews the former client’s personal opinions. In another instance, the Washington Court of Appeals refused to force disclosure of an anonymous online reviewer’s identity. See Thomson v. Jane Doe, 189 Wn. App. 45, 356 P.3d 727 (2015).
  • You can respond directly to the review on the site. Be courteous and explain that due to your duty of confidentiality, you can’t address the facts of the complaint, but that you do not believe it presents a fair and accurate portrayal of the events. Make clear that you are always available to meet with former clients and address any concerns they may have.
  • If possible, try to contact the reviewer directly and seek to ameliorate the situation or explain to them further why the representation unfolded as it did. If this is successful, don’t hesitate to ask for an updated review.
  • Try to avoid further negative reviews by soliciting client feedback directly as the representation continues and in exit interviews. Try to give your clients every opportunity to air their grievances with you and your firm directly so they don’t have the need to vent in public.
  • Lastly, the best antidote to a negative review is positive reviews. Keep your profile updated and facilitate the opportunity for your other clients to post their own satisfied reviews.

We’ve all heard the old saw, grow a tough skin. If you’re a lawyer, it better be twice as thick as everyone else’s.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Think Like a Client

In 2019 the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System and AVVO partnered up to better understand what clients value in their lawyers. The result?
A 32-page report reflecting client preferences, needs, and expectations. Here are some of the key findings:

Communications

It’s no surprise that what matters most to clients is promptness. When you can’t respond promptly, ask staff to reach out. Use outgoing messages or auto-replies that provide information about your availability then follow-up as promised.

Keep clients informed. Don’t make the client ask you for a status update. This is another area where staff can help. Let them make calls or draft emails and memos. If the client has a legal question, you can follow-up. Always copy the client on documents and case activity as the matter proceeds.

Fully answer client questions, give an honest evaluation of the case, discuss options, and review case strategies. Clients want to be in the know.

Demeanor

Professionalism, tolerance, sensitivity, compassion, sociability, courtesy, and respect are all part of demeanor in the client’s eyes. Clients want their lawyer to take a personal interest in their case and demonstrate qualities associated with integrity and trustworthiness.

Fees

Clients who reported positive experiences felt the lawyer’s fee was fair, reasonable, affordable, or competitive. Flexibility, including willingness to set up an alternative fee arrangement, was appreciated. Many clients emphasized the need for billing transparency and avoiding surprises.

More to Learn

As you might imagine, there is more to learn on the subject of thinking like a client. View the full report here.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Resolve to Improve Your Practice in the New Year

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

 

You don’t really have to choose, because in 2020 you’ll see posts on all these topics and more!

STREAMLINE YOUR PRACTICE IN THE NEW YEAR

We begin the year with a Fresh Start.  If you’ve ever felt disorganized or overwhelmed, this post is for you.  No habit or office system is written in stone.  You can make adjustments, update your practices, or create new procedures. For a kickstart, visit this blog next Monday.

BETTER CLIENT MANAGEMENT

Recommitting to marketing and client retention begins with understanding how to control and relate to clients.  Download my free eBook, Tips for Improving Client Relationships.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

Collecting fees is a battle every lawyer fights. We’ll start the new year with a deeper understanding of fee agreements, billing, and collections.

BETTER TECH FOR EVERYONE

Every year brings new tech tips, gadgets, and websites worth your time and investment. If you just can’t wait, check out 2019’s Technology Tips for Busy Legal Professionalsfeaturing workflow automation, the importance of practice management integration, better email management and document drafting with apps, ink-to-digital notebooks, specialty legal keypads, smart conference room cameras, how to create a free online business profile, ethically-compliant business texting, online contract lawyering resources, AI-powered legal research, and more.

Happy New Year!

Tumalo River

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis 2020