August 24, 2007

How Blogging About What You Love (Personally) Can Get You Clients

Michael Keenan is a very successful trusts and estates and elder care lawyer in Glastonbury, Connecticut who recently started blogging.  He started blogging several months after he created a more expensive static web presence.  He didn't think he had the time to blog which is why he went to a static site first.

Michael has fallen in love with blogging.  So he did the natural thing, started blogging about another interest he has, running.  He created the Glastonbury Running blog.  Little did he realize in doing so his running blog would get more hits then his professional blog.  Because they are linked he gets a tremendous amount of business from people who, first, find him and then relate to him as a runner.  And because he talks about running in his home town, he is attracting the very clients he wants...plus making a tremendous amount of friends.

Susan:

Just writing to share a quick story from my tiny corner of the blogosphere that I thought you’d get a kick out of. 

As you know, I launched my CT Elder Law Blog on 5/1 and I have been posting at least once a day.  Well, I was enjoying it so much that I launched my “recreational “ blog a week later called Glastonbury Running with the intention of posting maybe 2 or 3 times a week.  Just a laid-back blog with training tips, thoughts on running, local news of interest to runners, etc.  I felt that after 20 years of competitive running I could speak with authority on the subject.

Well, the recreational blog has become a bit less recreational.  Right now the running blog is well ahead of the legal blog in regards to total views even though the legal blog got a 1-week head-start.  And the running blog is generating comments and e-mails from readers while I am yet to receive a single comment or e-mail from my legal blog.  Best of all, the running blog has actually generated 3 new clients so far (the legal bog has generated 5).  These are runners who have enjoyed reading the blog and then decided to take a peak at my legal website and blog (links for both are near the top of the left-hand column) and found that I specialize in a legal service that they currently need.  And they were happy to meet with me because we share a passion for running.

Now I’m posting on both blogs daily.  This is about a 30 to 40-minute investment of time each day, but in light of the amount of new business it has generated so far, I think it’s been well worth it.  And since I’m an English major, the concept of drafting something, clicking a button and having my writing published for the world to see on a daily basis is very appealing!

So, thanks for turning me onto blogging!  I hope all is well.

Michael J. Keenan, Esq.
Keenan Law, LLC
Estate Planning, Elder Law, Special Needs Trusts and Probate
2389 Main Street
Glastonbury, CT 06033
Phone: (860) 659-5585
Cell: (860) 597-3232
Fax: (860) 760-6350
E-Mail: michael@keenan-law.com
Please visit the
Keenan Law, LLC Website and The Connecticut Elder Law Blog

This is an excellent example of intertwining your professional and personal life when designing your solo practice.  Michael is doing nothing different but living his life as he always has.  He just capitalizes on what he loves, running marathons.  He is not creating some grandiose marketing plan that is outside of his comfort zone and which he would be unable to maintain personally or financially.  It's a marketing plan whereby he stays true to himself and his short and long term professional and personal goals.

Granted, his practice area lends itself to more homegrown community business which, say, trademark law or environmental disaster law would not.  But you should consider taking blogging to the next level if you enjoy the experience of relationship building on the internet as it can bring unexpected financial and psychological benefits your way.

Have you done something similar you would like to share?  Would love to hear.

August 09, 2007

Solos Who Blog Will Continue to Lead the Way

Robert Ambrogi, in his newest Inside Opinions blog post, tells us the ABA's 2007 Legal Technology Survey Report finds:

"....that blogging, as Ikens puts it, "is not catching fire just yet." Only 5 percent of lawyers say their firm has a blog, and only 5 percent say they maintain a personal legal-topic blog. More than half say they never use blogs for current awareness, and only 12 percent use them once or more a week for current awareness. A mere 5 percent of lawyers use RSS feeds weekly, and 83 percent say they never use them. Even smaller is the audience for podcasts, with just 3 percent listening to them once or more a week.

Amy Campbell says she is not surprised by these findings, but in them she sees opportunity:

"The fact that others are slow to adopt these technologies, means that there are still very valid ways for motivated individuals, departments or firms to differentiate themselves, promote expertise, self-brand, and provide value to their clients and industry segments."

Historically, solos are technology forward and are able to go at warp speed.  Given these numbers, the universe is there for the taking.  Go forth and conquer.  Start blogging!

A Divergence: The W-List - Introducing You to Outstanding Women Bloggers

I was pleasantly surprised and flattered to find I was included in a grouping called the W-List - Outstanding Women Bloggers.  Read the original post highlighted previously so you can better understand the origins and motivations. And the read the comments after as well as the post after which further explains the motivations, concerns and triumphs.

"Are there truly 5+ to 1 men bloggers to women bloggers? Why should we care?

We should care because women are great at conversation, strategy, and writing. We should care for the same reason that no one should be overlooked."

So with that the W-list was born.  I am posting it not to say 'look at me.'  I'm posting it because we talk about the power of blogging as a marketing tool for our solo practices but fail to show examples of their power.  While these bloggers are not discussing law (yes, there is a HUGE blogging universe outside the legal profession) it introduces you to the tremendous power of blogging and the value of relationship-building to increase visibility and profits.  Lawyers need to learn from all sources. (If everyone is swimming in the same pool of information the water can get pretty murky!) And I wanted to bring this list of oustanding blogs to you so you can incorporate ideas, strategies and philosphies to enrich your professional blogging experience and/or validate what you already know and are successfully doing.

And, we are free to add other Outstanding Women Bloggers. Therefore, no list of this nature could ever be complete if it didn't include Carolyn Elefant of MyShngle who was blogging years before anyone on this list even knew what a blog was.  Here's to you, Carolyn.  So, check out these great links.

The W-List: Gathering a List of Outstanding Women Bloggers

July 28, 2007

"Tip of the Week" - Make Sure You Know Who Owns Your Website - Domain Name, Design, Content, and Coding!

There was an excellent post recently regarding who owns your website/blog?   It is an important discussion as more and more services are cropping up willing to design, code and host your site.  But when you hire their services are they also going to own your domain name, content, design and coding making you captive to their services or you lose all the 'link love' and SEO you created should you switch services?

This is an important discussion and it is well discussed by Brett Trout, a copyright attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. 

Because these clients paid money for their website, they think they own things like:

  • The design of their website;
  • The software code behind their website;
  • Their domain name;
  • The graphics on their website;
  • The other content on their website;
  • The terms of use and privacy policies on their websites.

Most clients think they are obtaining an “assignment” of these things when they write a check. They are shocked to learn that the people they paid to create these things actually still own them. Intellectual property laws are designed to protect the creator, to encourage the creator to create. If you hire someone to design a website for you, what you are actually purchasing is a “license” to use the design for the use intended by you and the designer.

One of the easiest steps you can take is to go to any number of domain registration sites and register your domain name on your own.  It's fast, easy and I would recommend you register any variation on the theme with not just .com but .net, .org, etc.  Grab what you can.  It's a tiny, tiny investment you can make now to protect a marketing vehicle which will prove your most valuable in the future.

July 09, 2007

If You Are A New (or Not So New) Solo, Here Are Examples of Blogs That Bring In Business

Blogs work for your business.  Your business does not work for your blog.  If you are choosing to blog for any other reason then to bring in business, then do not read further.

I have scoured the internet and there are universal messages which cannot be ignored when constructing a blog to generate business. So let's get started:

1.  Define the Mission.  What is the singular primary purpose of your blog?  I would hope it is to demonstrate your knowledge in a particular area of law and educate your potential clients.  Define your mission and stick to it with every post.  No meandering off the deep end, no switching purpose midstream because several things will happen.  Credibility you sought to obtain will be diminished and you will lose readership.  There are too many blogs competing for your potential clients' waking hours and if your message isn't constant, your content on point, your reader will leave.  They are not interested in your metamorophosis or off-topic rants or hearing about your dog or vacation unless it serves the overarching purpose of your blog's mission.  They need to continuously receive a benefit for having spent time reading your posts. And reader's are fickle.  They will leave you in a heartbeat if you can't maintain the momentum and deliver consistently because there are plenty of other attorneys ready to take your place.  And with this consistency you will start to convert your readers into clients and/or, just as important, referrers of clients.

2.  Name Your Blog So It Complements the Blog's Business Purpose.  Sometimes we try too hard to be 'cute' or 'clever' and we miss the mark in a big way.  There is no denying my blog, Build A Solo Practice, states it's business purpose, teaching you how to create and grow your legal practice.  If you are an employment lawyer in Michigan, name your blog "Michigan Employment Law."  (I don't know if that is taken.) You want your title to incorporate the words most frequently searched by the client you want to represent.  It's just common sense.  If you have several practice areas, have several blogs.  Do not blend topics because, unfortunately, we live in an age where clients think they need a lawyer who just does one practice area predominantly, if not exclusively.  If you are doing multiple areas of law, have several blogs and name them based upon the key word search inputted.  Then link your blogs together and maintain visual continuity through design and branding.   

2.  Understand Who You are Writing For.  In order for the client to find you, the search engines have to find you first.  Therefore, when you write for your client you are ultimately writing for the search engines.   So, it follows you have to use the words your clients will put into the search engines to locate an attorney like yourself. Write in the language they speak and can relate to.  How?  Come down to earth, lose the legalese unless it's pertinent to key search words or you've determined your average client will use those legal terms.  Use their language, words you have heard your ideal client use during the initial consultation (when you've canvassed them on how they found you!).  This will resonate with them and create relatability, help them to take action and contact you.

3. Make the commitment to a regular posting schedule.  Whatever the time frame is, be consistent.  Frequency tickles the spiders and pushes your blog higher in the search rankings when those all important key words are used to find a lawyer with your particular skill set and/or demographic.

4. Select a blogging platform that works for your technological skills, is within your price range, and gives you the applications and comforts you require. There are many blogging platforms out there and new ones entering the field every day.  Typepad, Wordpress, Terrapad, Squarespace and more.  But remember, regardless the bells and whistles, content is king.  It is what you have to say that will create readership, authority, respectability and ultimately profits.

5. Make your blog easy on the eye and user-friendly.  Use a larger font so what you write is easily readable.  Provide contact information on every page.  If you are looking to accumulate e-mail addresses for newsletters, white papers or an e-book get the necessary applications and have it on every page so the reader doesn't have to navigate your blog to find it.  He won't.

6. Place Your Blog at a Busy Intersection  Learn all the techniques to build readership.  Understand readership is created by cultivating relationships with other bloggers, colleagues, vendors and more.

And since a 'link' speaks a thousand words, here are solo/small firms blogs from around the net which enjoy tremendous readership and great return on investment (ROI).  They are in no particular order. Check out the various elements you like, don't like and go from there.  They represent all different blogging platforms and skill levels of the blogger.  However, they all understand the fundamentals of blogging, and that content is critical as is frequency of postings. Some of these excellent blogs listed below have siblings, too.

  Missouri Family & Dirvorce Lawyer Blog

  Managed Care Contracting

  Athlete Agent

  Environmental Crimes Blog

  Georgia Family Law Blog

  Preventative Family Law

  Corporate and Securities Law Blog

  Boston Immigration and Nationality Law

  Internet Lawyer

  P.I.S.S.D. - Personal Injury, Social Security, Disability

  Massachussetts Estate Planning and Elder Law

  Kansas Family and Divorce Lawyer

  Offshore Renewable Energy Law Blog

  New York Bankruptcy Litigation

  Biker Law Blog

  Texas Appellate Law Blog

  Surrogacy Lawyer

  California Estate Planning Blog

  We Probate Florida.com

  Boston Auto Accident

  Employment Law Blog (Washington State)

  Alabama Family Law Blog

  Surrogacy and Egg Donation Blog

  Charite Artificial Disc Injury Lawyer

If you area  solo or small firm practitioner and would like to share your blog, please comment below and I will incorporate a link to your blog in the body of this post shortly thereafter.  If you have comments on what you like and don't like in the blogs posted, please share also.

July 08, 2007

I've Jumped the Pond and Am In Blawg Review #116

I did a semester abroad in London back before the world of Princess Diana, Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, Tony Blair and the Euro.  I love London and the UK.  So, I am quite honored to be part of the Corporate Law Blawg - UK this week in Blawg Review #116...a saucy irreverent piece, stereotypically British dry:

The English Blawg is quite a peculiar fish Img_1893
Each day is served a slightly different dish
Some Blawgs are steady and others more ready
To flow where they please in wake of an eddy.
You see, an English blawg will never bring clients
Even to the best Blawgosphere's blogging giants.
So why be anonymous for there's no fortune or fame
Is it an obsession with a linguistic game,
Or simply to be heard as a voice in the ether
A whip on society a crack of the leather?
This is where the English Blawg is its own,
A little subversive, and cynical prone.
Please sit back and enjoy the best of the bunch
Some are more sober but most out to lunch...

Check out Blawg Review #116 for an amusing adventure.

July 07, 2007

Is Your Blog Rated For a General Audience?

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen at Idealawg we can now rate our sites for public consumption. 

I got a PG because I've used the words 'kill' 5 times and 'pain' 2 times.  But I have to laugh at Carolyn Elefant's MyShingle.   Her site is rated PG for using the word 'crack' once.  Are you suitable for children under 17?

June 23, 2007

"LA's Dopest Attorney" - She is definitely "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" material

(See an amusing UPDATE below.)

Thanks to Blawg Review for updating us on Allison Margolin, the Harvard Graduate who went solo upon graduation (something not mentioned anymore!) and who is taking the criminal bar by storm in LA.  She is well-credentialed to do so following in her father's footsteps, Bruce MargolinI featured her here when she made a great YouTube video. And here is her wickedly irreverent (but great) blog.

But what I would like to point out is this, 1) a brilliant branding campaign, and 2) a very 'Zen' lesson we should all learn from, especially new solos who think they are not ready to play in the big leagues.  Image isn't just about sending out a message.  It is projecting the message of what your capabilities are in everything you do, even if they are as yet untested.  It is also about being who you are!  Allison Margolin, if you read articles written on her, projects nothing less than who she is, irreverent quirky, passionate and committed, well-educated, gutsy, and weaned on criminal law.  And her 'brand' shows all of that.

Remember, even if you haven't done it yet but you know this is what you want to do and the image you want to have and you know you are capable of producing, then ACT AS IF IT ALREADY IS A FACT.  Do not lie if you haven't taken on a murder case but if you feel you can do it (even if other counsel is needed the first time), project it!  Maybe that is another turn on 'fake it till you make it.'  But it actually is more than that.  People respond better to confidence.

Sometimes we look to others to convince us of what we want to believe.  "I can do it, can't I?"

Ironically, others base their true judgments, not just on what they think we can do, but on what they think we think we can do." In other words, the people around you will most likely mirror your feelings - showing fear when you show fear and confidence when you demonstrate confidence.

You can't rely on others to convince you because they will rely on you to convince them! (David Niven, Ph.D.)

Allison Margolin has not been out long, maybe a tad longer than you.  Yet she has convinced us she is the attorney to hire for a criminal matter if we are in the LA area.   She's saying she can do it all and is convincing us (well at least, me) that she can do it all.  Isn't that what you should be projecting?  And isn't it something you should be feeling, as well?  Law school does a great job in convincing us otherwise. 

People were five times more likely to be optimistic about another person's goals if they thought the person was optimistic themselves.   (Werneck De Almeida E.S. 1999, Social Integration and Academic Confidence." Ph.D dissertation, University of Hartford).

But the truth is, like the 'Little Engine That Could', say to yourself, "I think I can, I think I can."  And you will. I guarantee it.

(UPDATE:  I have to laugh out loud...real belly laughs at this follow-up blog post from Blawg Review after Allison Margolin contacted him upset that he posted his very flattering blog post....because his site was knocking her down in her Google rankings!  Hello?  Ever heard of publicity????  Her poor computer guy can't seem to work the SEO system!  I'm sorry. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees!  Doesn't take away from anything I've stated above...but, this was just too funny.)

June 20, 2007

Should Every Lawyer "Blawg for Profit?"

One of my favorite bloggers and all around great guy is Grant Griffiths of Home Office Lawyer.  And, as any solo who blogs knows, Grant is all about blogging.  He is so much about blogging that he has taken it to the next level of creating a new blogging program to help solos and small firms from blogging conception to execution to profit.  And, while he has superhuman powers, he opted not to do this alone.  He has joined forces with another veteran family law blogger, Michael Sherman.  While I don't know attorney Sherman, if he's working with Grant, well, that's all I need to know.

That being said, let me say a few things about blogging.  While I have had many clients prior to blogging (I've only been blogging for six months) it has been in the past six months that my business has really exploded because of the connections I have made throughout the blogosphere.  And it is because of blogging that I have been able to consult on a national basis. You create presence, reputation, voice and authority if it is done correctly. Yet, at times, when I emerge from my computer-induced fog, I realize, that the rest of the professional world is not blogging.  And Grant, I apologize for this in advance, blogging is not for everyone regardless of its marketing and return on investment (ROI) potential.

A web presence is absolutely critical.  The blogging format is a marketing choice that is not necessarily compatible with every lawyer. There is a commitment to the endeavor.  And you cannot do it lightly.  It takes time, energy, and discipline because it is not static.  It builds momentum. While some may argue you can post once a month and still get your ROI, it's not that common.  If you are Carolyn Elefant of MyShingle fame who has been blogging relentlessly for four and a half years, maybe so.  But you have to love researching the ideas, creating the message and spreading the word.

When I decided to blog, I felt if I didn't I was going to fall behind.  I chose to figure it out all by myself and used Typepad because I wanted to relate to the experience of my typical client, curious but hesitant and judicious with his start-up money. If you don't know what blogging really is you feel like Alice in Wonderland. You know you are late (to the blogosphere) and you are rushing to get there chasing the elusive white rabbit (blogging) and then you fall down the rabbit hole (internet marketing). It's a whole new exciting world with a language all its own (RSS, SEO, PPC, feeds, adwords,etc.). But once you get started it is different from anything you've known and you're hooked.

I wanted easy, inexpensive and powerful.  I got great advice from those I became friends with in cyberspace, Grant being one of them, as well as Chuck Newton.  Had I had a book or an inexpensive tutorial, that would have been terrific.  I'm not techie.  I'm definitely average in the tech world. But I knew I was not going to spend $1500 for someone else to design my site and $200 a month till I turned to dust for someone to host and give tech support and search engine optimization.  I chose to learn about those things as I went along.  And because I can still upgrade, customize and change my presentation on Typepad and now create web pages as well, Typepad will remain my home at $8.95 a month.

What I did learn with 100% certainty is content is King.  Flashy design is nice, but she's a mistress and will never replace the Queen (frequent posts), or the monarchy's legitimate heirs, paying clients.  Without content and consistent delivery of your message you will not develop your regular readership base, will not have others link to your site, will not have enough activity to bring up your ranking in the search engines regardless of the placement of your key search words.  I did do something else, however.  I manually inputted my URL to dozens of search engines.....for free.... to see just how easy it was.  Did it take time?  Not much.   I inputted a few a day.

And the bonus, the connections with other people across the country and the world that, while originating in some business context, have developed into opportunities beyond the original purpose of this blog.  Blogging will be what you make it.  But it is a committment of time and energy, a worthwhile committment, but a committment, nonetheless.  And you have to decide if it is the right vehicle for your personality, regardless the hype.  If it is, there is no better teacher than Grant Griffiths.

June 18, 2007

Blawg Review #113 - Special Education Law and the Parents Who Need Guidance and Support

Blawg Review #113 , written by solo Charles Fox, is a primer as well as emotional support for those parents of children with autism, cerebral palsy and other special needs.  The wealth of knowledge presented will benefit any parent who must advocate for their child on a daily basis. I had personal (professional) experience with how mandatory providers will manipulate parents, label them to distract from their obligations to the parent and child in a way which can devastate a devoted family unit.

When I first was practicing, I had the good fortune of meeting a Russian immigrant who was a parent to a nine year old boy with autism.  She was absolutely brilliant in her research and devotion to determining how best to serve his needs including macrobiotics diets, exercise and more which increased the the quality of joy in her son's life.  However, she also knew she was entitled to qualified teachers from the public school system and that was the catalyst for her nightmare over the next year. The Board of Education saw her as a nuisance, one heavily-accented woman from Russia.  They could dispatch with her quickly as this was an affluent community and they had other things to do besides listenening to this woman demanding her rights for her son at every Board of Education meeting.

The school provided untrained teachers to come to her home who were critical of the way she tried to explain her son's behaviors, how she fed him and the BOE refused to hire someone qualified.  So, they hired a well-known professional to review the mother/parent relationship and to assess the child. (The child had several picas including eating wood.  Also, like any normal boy if he was outside and had to urinate he would do so on a tree.)

Finally, the BOE, tired of this mother did what any respectable BOE with mandatory reporting powers would do, they fed her to the DCF system to get rid of her.  That's when she called me to represent her interests with DCF.  BOE claimed she was a terrible mother, abusing her child, feeding him a strange diet, he ate wood, etc.  This got to the point of ridiculousness when DCF started getting involved in the child's diet claiming she was abusing him because it was gluten and whey-free and he took certain vitamins.  Fortunately the well-seasoned judge slapped DCF stating, "I don't care if he eats nothing but lettuce leaves and peanut butter if he's healthy. (This was judge Brenneman...mother of Amy Brenneman, star of Judging Amy and role model for the Judge she played on the show.)

Upon getting involved in the case, and this is the most important part, the school sent to DCF, as support for their referral, the report given to them by the paid professional.  DCF never examined it thoroughly.  There were numerous heavily blacked out sentences and words.  When I questioned DCF why they never asked for the unredacted report they said it wasn't their policy, privacy issues.

I suspected the professional would not be happy that a report he submitted was being used redacted so I contacted him and got a copy of the original report.  Well, surprise.  The sentences blacked out were those talking about what a wonderful mother my client was, her devotion to her son, said the picas were normal and the specialized diet was highly recommended and progressive.  The professional was not happy his report was being misused.

This did not end up in a lawsuit.  The professional came with my client and I to the next BOE meeting to request her son be sent to the school qualified to educate him ($50,000 per year). When it was my client's turn the BOE was ready to dismiss her, again.  We asked they shut off the recording as we thought it was in their best interest.  The professional asked why the school sent a redacted report to DCF in order to position my client as a negligent mother when the report stated the opposite?  The BOE turned on the recording and immediately approved the school's obligation to pay for my client's private school.  (The client did not want to sue the BOE.  She got what she wanted and had to deal with them in the future for her son's education.)

This was ten years ago.  I never took on another case like this and I applaud those who concentrate in this area.  Parent as advocate is extraordinarily hard and when you are faced with political, financial agendas like the one described above, horrific.  The field of special education law is rightly expanding and taking center stage in the legal arena.  This is a great area for solos, too.

Read Charles Fox's Blawg Review.  It is a treasure trove of valuable information.