Reviewed by Alan LeVar
Originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of ATLA Docket, a quarterly publication from the Arkansas Trial Lawyer Association.
I did not take a marketing class in law school. I do not believe they offered a law school class on marketing. I suspect they still do not offer marketing classes in most law schools, although many of them now offer law practice management classes. Presumably such a class would include some instruction on marketing. Regardless, I think it is fair to say that most street lawyers do not get an adequate business education and certainly are not given sufficient training on law firm marketing.
Law firm marketing has also changed significantly in the last decade. Lawyer pay per click ads are among the most competitive and most expensive in the pay per click industry. Lawyers need to market themselves digitally to be competitive in today’s market. There are hundreds of books that seek to educate lawyers on the best ways to market their law firm and there are a number that focus on digital marketing as well. Chip Lafleur’s book is a strong addition to that collection and provides useful and timely information on his subject.
Chip Lafleur’s book, Digital Marketing for Law Firms is a comprehensive look at law firm digital marketing and is a valuable read for all law firm business managers. He explains basic and universal marketing principles in the early parts of the book, like branding and identifying your audience. He understands the questions many of us face when we are trying to determine and define our brand. He provides specifics on obtaining a good logo and then in identifying the audience you want your brand to reach.
Depending on the area of law you practice, identifying your audience may be one of the most important first steps to this process. Some areas of law service clients in easily identifiable demographic groups, like elder law to persons over 50, criminal law to those under age 35 or immigration law to non-English speaking individuals. In the area of law that I practice I have always thought that my demographic was too broad to bother identifying, but since reading that section I have gotten new ideas to identify certain target groups that are more likely to retain my services.
The bulk of this book is dedicated to building and optimizing your firm’s website. One chapter is dedicated to building the site, and he gives good advice for those wishing to build it themselves or looking to hire it done. For those wanting to build a website on their own, he provides information on obtaining a domain, adding the essential content, and then adding additional content to increase your sites visibility. The author owns and operates a web marketing firm, but he does a good job of providing do it yourself information for those who do not wish to hire a marketing consultant. Almost anyone with a more than basic set of computer skills could follow the instructions within those chapters and design an operable website for their firm.
Additionally, he provides breakdowns of the time one might expect to devote to various website building tasks. I found this particularly helpful as someone who hires this work out and does not attempt to do myself as it gives me a better understanding of what I have been billed for and what is or is not a reasonable amount of time for future work. He also provided another option for those on a budget that I had not before considered. He suggests that you could build a basic website and then consult with a marketing firm or person to help you update and optimize the content.
SEO, or search engine optimization should be a primary focus when optimizing your website. Most marketers focus on the Google search engine, as it is the most widely used by a large margin. When you build the website, you should already have identified your audience so you can build the site to reach that audience. But the content on your website alone us usually insufficient to bring your audience to you. SEO is the process of convincing Google to direct people to your website when they search for specific things.
I appreciate the authors take on search engine optimization and Google in particular. Google maintains the most used search engine because people are satisfied with the experience. They succeed if people can find what they are looking for with their search engine. In other words, Google wants to direct people to your website who will be happy they were directed to your website. Understanding this basic principle is a key foundation for SEO and needs to be incorporated into the entire campaign. The most basic way Google accomplishes this is to direct people to your website who are searching for things that your website provides. If a person in Ozark, Arkansas searches Google for a divorce attorney, Google wants to direct them to websites of attorneys that provide divorce services in Ozark, Arkansas. Thus, if you are a divorce attorney in Clarksville, AR and wanted this person to contact you, you would want Google to know that your website is for an attorney in Clarksville who handles divorces, and that Clarksville is close enough to Ozark to be convenient for the potential client. The content on your website should indicate your practice area and there should be an address that Google can interpret to determine how close you are to Ozark. It can obviously get more complicated, but it is important to be reminded of the basic level on which Google operates.
The author explains in detail various methods for optimizing your search engine rankings, including putting appropriate content into your design and adding regular content to your website. The regular content can be in the form of blogs and other articles that are simply posted to your website. He also suggests adding meta data or tags to your content to give it more structure and make it easier for a search engine to sort. The author believes good website content that is updated regularly is the key to search engine optimization and ultimately ranking high for a google search related to your practice.
Once you begin regularly preparing content for SEO, you then must decide how to publish the new content. In addition to a blog post or article placed on your website, the content can be shared on social media. The author gives several suggestions for the type of content to publish on social media, but he also starts with a breakdown of legal and ethical rules to consider before posting and a good set of considerations of things not to post. This section was one I was particularly interested in reading, and I would have appreciated more content in this discussion. His next section was on building an email newsletter which I found myself skimming past, along with his section on email nurturing of potential clients.
The section on visual content focuses almost exclusively on video content and he does present solid information on the types of video content that works best for attorneys. Video content can be done relatively cheaply, if done yourself and he provides good information on how to do so and what to create. A small amount of time is spent on other visual content, like infographics, e-books, etc.
The latter third of the book dives a little deeper into specific marketing strategies, including paid advertising strategies, monitoring systems and analytics. If you are considering paid advertising, like pay per click, his overview will be helpful when talking with marketing consultants who would manage a pay per click campaign on your behalf. Most readers would not feel comfortable starting and managing their own pay per click campaign armed solely with the information in this section. This information seems designed to help you understand if you need to initiate a paid campaign and how to evaluate proposals from marketing consultants. In fact, the heading on the last page is entitled, ‘When in Doubt, Consult a Trusted Marketing Agency. This leads to the concluding chapter of the book, which is about hiring a marketing agency, with his advice on red flags and best practices.
As I indicated earlier, there are hundreds of books on law firm marketing and many which focus on digital marketing for law firms. Lafleur’s book covers a lot of topics with reasonable depth. It is a particularly good introduction to digital marketing and is a good stepping off point to more detailed analysis of the various topics. If you are new to digital marketing for lawyers, this is a must read. Even those with some background in the subjects, there is a lot of information over a broad set of topics that will likely add to your understanding digital marketing and help you improve your efforts in this area.
Digital Marketing for Law Firms by Chip LaFleur