Anatomy of a Law Firm Positioning Statement

Five years ago I wrote a post on this blog about the emptiness of law firm positioning statements, taglines and value propositions. Clearly my critique has not had the desired corrective effect over the intervening years.

How many buzz words are crammed into your firm's positioning statement?

How many buzz words are crammed into your firm’s positioning statement?

Law firm websites are now a bit less visually clunky — just a bit — but the dull, empty prose meant to animate them remains standard.

For example, law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. — Taft, to its friends —  anchors its homepage with the grand-sounding but hollow “Innovation and Leadership Since 1885.” I say hollow because no evidence is provided to back up the brag. Wait, that’s not entirely true. While it feels empty, it’s actually filled with zero-calorie buzz words strung together in insubstantial assertions:

We work as one team, driven and committed to helping you succeed. Our attorneys understand that innovative, value-creating solutions help our clients reach their goals. Our collaborative approach, advanced technological resources and depth of services can transform what you expect from your legal team.

The mind reels.

A Law Firm Positioning Statement That Works

By contrast, my friends over at Klein Moynihan Turco LLP have crafted a positioning statement that connects its business practices and priorities with those of its clients.

Internet Lawyers Working on Internet Time

Our clients work in the Internet, mobile and new media worlds, where time is always of the essence. Whether our clients are working on mobile, telemarketing or e-mail marketing campaigns, hosting fantasy sports websites or conducting promotional sweepstakes, we ensure that they are compliant with all applicable laws, rules and regulations and are first to market.

Nailed it.

Three Rules of Thumb

If you’re considering updating your law firm’s positioning statement or crafting a new one, these simple guidelines will help you add depth and context.

Identify and articulate:

  • How your firm differs from/is better than your competitors.
  • Why current and potential clients should care about those differences.
  • What unique expertise your firm possesses.

Give it a shot. Let me know what you come up with.

TCPA Update: Great News for Plaintiff Attorneys (Not So Much for Telemarketers)

These days it REALLY sucks to be an autodialer telephone system vendor or a telemarketer that depends on one.

On July 10, the Federal Communications Commission released the long-awaited Declaratory Ruling and Order intended to clarify its controversial interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s autodialer definition. TCPA compliance is a significant issue for telemarketers because the TCPA allows individuals to file lawsuits and collect damages for receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls, faxes, pre-recorded calls or autodialed calls.

TCPA Compliance Nightmares

Sorry, Wrong Number

While the TCPA’s autodialer definitions were under the FCC’s review, some marketers thought they were in compliance if they manually dialed mobile numbers on autodialer systems. The Declarative Ruling and Order removes that fig leaf.

Internet marketing law expert David Klein of Klein Moynihan Turco has this assessment and caution about the FCC’s latest move:

“The ruling solidifies the FCC’s expansive stance that dialing equipment generally meets the TCPA’s autodialer definition, even if it is not presently used for that purpose. The expansive regime labels practically every telemarketing device on the market as an autodialer, subject to regulation under the TCPA.

“The Commission’s latest interpretation of the TCPA autodialer definition is broader than ever before. Accordingly, we advise that companies involved in telemarketing should take precautions whenever using automated technology to place calls or send texts to consumers, or face potential liability under the TCPA.”

Red Meat for Plaintiff Attorneys?

Without proof of consumers’ prior express written consent to be contacted, the TCPA provides for either actual damages or statutory damages ranging from $500.00 to $1,500.00 per unsolicited call/message. To put that in perspective, a Manhattan federal judge recently ordered Time Warner Cable Inc to pay a Texas woman $229,500 for placing 153 automated calls meant for someone else to her cellphone in less than a year, even after she told it to stop.

Now, with all telemarketing calls essentially in play, plaintiff attorneys might be further emboldened to pursue actions against deep-pocket companies. Lawsuits have been filed across many industries, including against social networking companies (Twitter Inc., GroupMe), sports franchises (Los Angeles Clippers, Buffalo Bills), pharmacies (CVS Pharmacy Inc., Rite Aid Corp.), travel and entertainment companies (Cirque du Soleil Co.), retailers (Best Buy Co., J.C. Penney Co.) and online service providers (29 Prime Inc.).

Given the proliferation of TCPA class actions and uncapped statutory damages, it’s not surprising that TCPA settlement amounts are hitting record highs. For example, in February a federal court in Chicago granted final approval for a class action settlement with Capital One Financial Corp. and affiliates totaling approximately $75.5 million.

What Corporate Counsels Can Do: TCPA Compliance Oversight

In TCPA cases, the burden of proof is on the marketer to show it obtained the necessary prior express written consent before making marketing call(s). It’s up to corporate counsels to ensure that their marketing colleagues 1) design web registration forms to ensure that they clearly and conspicuously include proper disclosure of what respondents are agreeing to and 2) have a systematic way to capture and retain that consent for telemarketing purposes.

But your oversight role doesn’t stop there because consent under TCPA is fluid and ephemeral.

  • A called party may revoke consent at any time and through any reasonable means;
  • Called parties can provide and revoke consent multiple times serially, and it’s the marketer’s responsibility to keep track whether the most recent consent is valid;
  • Marketers cannot restrict how potential called parties opt-out; and
  • If the phone number has been reassigned, consent must be obtained from the current subscriber.

How Marketing Automation Technology Can Help in TCPA Compliance

Online marketing software solutions like LeadiD capture “lead generation events,” creating virtual certificates of authenticity for consumer telemarketing consent.

To be on the safe side, lead certification records should be stored for at least four years — the TCPA’s statute of limitations for filing suit.

Proof of internet-provided written consent includes, but is not limited to:

  • Website pages that contain consumer consent language and fields;
  • An associated screenshot of the consent webpage as seen by the consumer where the phone number was input;
  • A complete data record submitted by the consumer (with time and date stamp), together with the applicable consumer IP address.

Services like LeadiD also offer visual capture/playback of the consumer’s interaction with the registration form in question.

More TCPA Tips to Come

As a marketer myself, I’m personally invested in TCPA compliance, so watch this blog for future posts on news, best practices and resources.

Is It an Ethics Violation for a Law Firm to Exaggerate Its Size?

Zoologists call it “agonistic” behavior — when animals try to look bigger than they are in order to compete. While exaggerated displays are perfectly normal for frill-necked lizards and gray catbirds, does misleading content about a law firm’s size on its website constitute an ethics violation for false advertising?

law firm false advertising

One lawyer or several?

I recently came across the website of the Law Office of Janet McCullar, P.C., an Austin divorce and family law firm. Although only one lawyer is mentioned by name, the site’s copy and images try to tell a different story.

The dissonance starts on the homepage. The first image in the carousel at the top of the page features a group shot of five unidentified women. Beneath the image area is a static copy block with the heading “Austin Divorce Attorneys.” The body copy reads, in part:

“When you meet with one of our attorneys, we will review your situation and make recommendations about strategies we believe will serve you best and will guide your expectations about results.  We will assess your case and let you know whether you need immediate action or a plan for the future.  We will give you guidance on how to best manage your situation, and we will let you know whether we think the time is right to take action, or wait.  We will break down a complex process and let you know whether you have any red flags that need immediate attention.

Janet McCullar is a Board Certified Family Law attorney who is respected nationwide for her skill and experience in representing clients in complex divorce and custody matters for over 20 years.”

Likewise, the “Attorneys” — plural — tab in the homepage navigation bar links to a single attorney bio, McCullar’s.

Is it all right to refer to “one of our attorneys” when there is only one?

I get it. The other women pictured on the site could be administrative staff and/or paraprofessionals. The clearer — and arguably the more ethical — approach would have been to write the copy in the first person, making it clear that “we” refers to McCullar and her team. As it is, the juxtaposition of group photos and copy written in the first person plural might mislead.

Don’t risk it

Even if it passes your state bar’s advertising review, remember that even a whiff of exaggeration can alienate prospective clients and sully your reputation with peers. Tell it like it is. Whether there used to be more attorneys or you expect to be adding more soon, your website copy should accurately reflect your firm’s current composition. And if you’re going to promote your firm using your colleagues’/employees’ images, show them — and prospective clients — the courtesy of identifying them by name and role.






Is Alternative Small Business Lending Ripe For Regulation (and Lawsuits)?

A blogger with alternative small business lending company Kabbage recently pitched me to write a post featuring her company. I’d heard of Kabbage before and had it in my “future topics” list, so I figured this was the nudge I needed to start poking around.

Alternative Small Business LendingAs it turns out, Kabbage doesn’t need my help to build top of mind awareness or attract traffic to its website. It’s already gotten a big write-up in Forbes, which reported that Kabbage is an established leader in the emerging space and well on its way to a record year. Bank lending to small businesses froze during the Great Recession and hasn’t recovered, especially for amounts in the $25,000 to $55,000 range — the sweet spot for this new breed of alternative lenders. Also, alternative small business lenders decide on applications within minutes, not weeks (like traditional banks). Not surprisingly, the field is quickly crowding with competitors like OnDeck, Prosper, CAN Capital and spinoffs from companies like Amazon, PayPal and Square.

As Competition Grows, Will Scrutiny Also ?

A few things in the Forbes article struck me as potential problems/opportunities for law firms — depending on whether you’re a plaintiff’s or civil defense attorney. Although alternative small business loans are easier to obtain than small business loans from banks, they come at a steep price. On an annualized basis, the interest rate on alternative small business loans ranges from 40% to 60%.

“Some of these guys make used-car salesmen look good,” says [Jay Goltz, an entrepreneur and small-business advocate in Chicago], who calculated that one lender was charging as much as 150%. “I don’t know how any business could grow fast enough to pay off that kind of loan.”

As the Forbes article points out, “with all of that credit available, many businesses have gotten in over their heads because they didn’t realize the full price they were agreeing to pay. The fact that the loans are for short terms can disguise how expensive they are.

As competition grows in the alternative small business lending industry, it will be interesting to see what tactics competitors use to build and hold market share — like high-pressure sales, looser lending standards, derivative markets — and whether state and federal regulators decide to intervene to prevent another credit bubble from forming.

Is TCPA a Potential Time Bomb? Ask These Lawyers

In the fall of 1983, the telemarketing world was roiled by the impending arrival of new Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulations. Beginning Oct.16, 2013, prior express written consent is required for all autodialed and/or pre-recorded calls/texts sent/made to cell phones and pre-recorded calls made to residential land lines for marketing purposes. TCPA Terror

That means mortgage lenders, insurance and home security companies and other businesses that generate a lot of telemarketing leads through online forms should capture and store authoritative proof of opt in from every prospect. With penalties for either actual damages or statutory damages ranging from $500 to $1,500 per unsolicited call, violations of those most recent TCPA rules are juicy bait for plaintiff firms.

Nearly two years later, the dreaded tsunami of class action suits hasn’t materialized — yet — and today TCPA is little more than a long tail search term. However, the financial risks of having to defend a TCPA suit are still quite real.

If you haven’t reviewed your company’s TCPA compliance practices yet, there are several lawyers/firms that specialize in the TCPA niche:

Klein Moynihan Turco  — If there’s a dean of TCPA law, David Klein is probably it. His thoughtful curation of the topic on his firm’s blog makes a strong argument in his favor. His post on how to defend your company against a TCPA suit should be a standard starting place for compliance-minded telemarketers.

Ifrah Law — In the past the firm’s Rachel Hirsch has been a visible TCPA subject matter expert at marketing events and in webinars, but the firm seems to be betting more heavily on the iGaming niche.

Drinker Biddle — Kudos to Drinker Biddle for having the good SEO sense to secure the URL. As of this writing, the site boasts 27 contributors from the ranks of the firm’s lawyers.

Kelley Drye — Although it only shows up on the inauspicious second page of results in a “TCPA” Google search, the firm’s TCPA FCC Petitions Tracker is nicely laid out (if difficult to read without magnification).

If you haven’t guessed by now, I have a budding interest in how firms large and small are investing in the advertising and marketing of their advertising and marketing practices. Very “meta,” right?




How to Break Through the Clutter of Personal Injury Law Firm Commercials

One of my guilty pleasures is periodically recording/watching courtroom series like The People’s Court and Judy Judge to check out the current state of personal injury law firm commercials. For the most part this ad genre is formulaic — Standard intros/outros of an attorney looking and sounding tough, combined with scripted, woodenly delivered client testimonials.

Law firm client service

Returning calls from potential clients is no laughing matter

But recently I came across two ads from Funk & Associates in Austin that broke through the clutter. The first caught my attention because it breaks the mold of standard  value propositions of personal injury law firm commercials. Most firms cite large settlements/awards or the attorneys’ tenacity. What got my attention in the Funk ad was a simple promise  — they return your calls.


No matter the type of case, every client — I mean EVERY client — places a premium on responsiveness. Why not lead with that? It’s such a great spot; I wish I could find a link to an online version. I’ll keep looking and will post an update if/when I find one.

Another Funk ad commands attention for another reason: There’s no talking. It’s comprised of a series of strong still images with text, set to dramatic instrumental music. The messages themselves are standard personal injury law firm commercial fare, but the ad’s form factor demands your attention. The typical viewer listens to ads on commercial TV but doesn’t pay close attention — everything blends together. But because we’ve been conditioned to expect narration during commercials, the lack of a voiceover actually draws attention and focus, and you can’t help but read along to the end.

Check it out. The video is on their website home page, entitled “The Tough Lawyer.”



Why Solo and Small Law Firms Are Ripe for Marketing Automation

Small law firm success has always been a matter of making the most out of limited time and resources — a complex mix of too many tasks, competing priorities and unrelenting deadlines. But with the advent of cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS), small and solo law firms have the ability to conquer the chaos through marketing automation.

Sophisticated marketing, CRM, e-commerce and all-in-one solutions are now available on a subscription basis, so firms don’t need to purchase or maintain computer hardware. And subscription fees are a fraction of the cost of purchasing powerful software suites outright.

In other words, the practical and technological barriers to marketing automation for law firms have been eliminated, and it’s time to start thinking big.

12 Big Reasons to Start Automating Your Marketing Now

  • Confidently manage higher volumes of leads, prospects and clients as they move through your qualification pipeline
  • Build lists more rapidly
  • Target and customize offers and communications more precisely
  • Eliminate manual errors
  • Reduce e-mail bounce rates
  • Create follow-up sequences that run automatically
  • Improve the quality and number of touches with prospective clients (remember, seven times is a charm)
  • Adapt and switch out campaigns faster and with greater agility
  • Generate and manage healthy complexity in your marketing campaigns
  • Increase your analytical capabilities
  • Reclaim and redeploy your time
  • Enjoy peace of mind that your business can speed along without your constant involvement and vigilance

Don’t Get Left Behind

Marketing automation for solo and small firms is a fast-developing segment. The first tools to emerge were point solutions for specific activities, like e-mail marketing. As the success of automated campaigns and communications rolled on, the need for integrated end-to-end sales funnel management capabilities like CRM and e-commerce became more obvious and acute.

Today, marketing automation is experiencing a new surge of innovation in areas like all-in-one solutions, and integration with adjacent activities like practice management and logistics. So the question isn’t whether you should be investing in marketing automation for your law firm, but instead, how much and how quickly.

Are you contemplating a marketing automation solution? What questions or concerns do you have?

It’s Time for Legal Marketers to Put Facebook Away

Facebook has had more than enough time and opportunity to make a difference in legal marketing. So where are the compelling case studies of Facebook for law firms? Where are the clear, replicable methods for acquiring new clients and deepening relationships with current ones?

As with any toy, there's a time to put Facebook awayFacebook is a hobby, a time=money-wasting diversion. It’s long past time for legal marketers to take a pragmatic, unsentimental and non-magical thinking look at their Facebook activities and make a tough decision on whether to continue the quixotic pursuit of the unicorn called Facebook marketing success.

And if you haven’t started trying to build your brand on Facebook, don’t. While there’s a lot of money to be made in Facebook for law firms, nearly all of it is by social media strategy consultants and content creators who are more than happy to enable the fantasy.

Reality check

  1. It’s a walled garden – Only people actively looking for you can find you. There is no “long tail” for your delightfully engaging content, no serendipity where prospective clients searching the interwebs happen upon your latest “wow” moment.
  2. For solos, your firm’s fans are already your personal friends – Facebook is great for nurturing real-world social relationships. Your followers already know you’re a lawyer; no need to beat them over the head with it.
  3. The best traffic-building strategy for Facebook is giving things away – Law firms typically don’t offer coupons or traffic in daily deals — and they shouldn’t. Granted, running a contest or a fundraising promotion can lead to “likes” — but who’s found the secret to turning those likes into leads?
  4. You can’t easily personalize communications or follow up with individuals – Asking Facebook fans to “Share Your Email Address” is tantamount to requesting “Let Us Pull a Hair Out of Your Nose.”
I know, I know. Lead generation is not the only marketing objective in Facebook for law firms. The long, elaborate dance can help cultivate goodwill over time. But how many small and solo firms can afford to invest that amount of time for the possibility of slightly elevated good feelings? Playing in the Facebook sandbox is a luxury, not a necessity.

If you have an example of sustained success in Facebook marketing for solo and small law firms, I would highly value learning about it. In fact, I’d welcome the opportunity to share it here.


Content Marketing for Law Firms: Quality Content Means Stronger SEO

Something interesting and easy to read for the holiday weekend…

An infographic from content marketing firm Brafton News illustrates how high-quality, search-friendly content achieves SEO by organically populating sites with keywords and valuable information — both of which are important to search success.

Brafton's Infographic: Why Content for SEO?

Law Firm Website Redesign: Move Your Standalone Blog to Your Website

Judging from lunch and happy hour conversations at the LMA 2012 annual conference, we’re in for a wave of law firm website refreshes and redesigns. There was a lot of discussion about incorporating features to increase website traffic and visitor engagement, but no one was talking about the single most effective way to do that: moving their standalone blog to their website.

Maintaining a blog separately from your website just doesn’t make business or practical sense.

  • Websites that incorporate a blog component typically perform better and require less time and expense than maintaining two or more content management systems.
  • Your blog allows you to easily publish new content your site on a regular basis, it is built to be search engine friendly, and it is simply easier (and cheaper) to manage one site instead of two!buy
  • It is much easier and less confusing for your prospects and leads to find and engage with you when you are directing them to just one site.
  • You typically don’t change most content on your main website pages, like your attorney bio and practice description pages. By keeping your blog as part of your main website, the static pages of your site benefit from the optimization and fresh content published on your blog.

Don’t Believe Your Website Developer. It Absolutely Can Be Done.

On the Inkling Media blog, Ken Mueller noted:

” Businesses get a website, and then they get a blog….Usually this is done because they don’t know how to add a blog to their site, or their web CMS isn’t blog friendly. If that’s the case, you might want to think about a complete redesign of your site to something that includes a blog, and again, I’ll put in a big plug for self-hosted WordPress sites.

“So why is it a problem if your blog doesn’t reside on your domain? Because you’re sending all the traffic to another domain: your blog. A blog will get heavier traffic than your site, and it’s more likely to have regularly changing content and important keywords, as well as attract inbound links. If that happens on your blog, your website is getting none of the credit.

“And don’t think that URL masking, redirecting, or even pulling the blog in via frames will help. The SEO credit will still go to the blog domain, not your website domain. The goal is to drive traffic to your site and get the SEO credit for it. This is a bit harder to remedy than the first three, but a quick chat with your web designer will let you know what your blogging options are for your site. And don’t take “No” for an answer. I’ve spoken to several businesses whose web team told them it couldn’t be done. If that’s the case, and SEO is important to you, it might be time for a new site (and a new web designer).”

Get Off on the Right Foot

Don’t forget, you don’t even need a “website.” A blog IS a website — a dynamic website. You can have pages on a blog and, with some of the great WordPress themes on the StudioPress Genesis Framework, you can create an attractive, high-impact website with full blog integration.