Social Media for Law Firms: Free HubSpot Report Offers Trove of Valuable Marketing Data

The best things in social media research are (frequently) free.

That’s certainly the case with HubSpot’s new report ” The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing.” Highlights include:

  • Survey results of 970+ professionals reporting on their company’s marketing strategy and results
  • How to drive more leads at a lower cost for your business
  • Why social media and blogs are the most rapidly expanding marketing channels
  • What to expect from the future of inbound marketing
As an added bonus, on March 1 HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe will be headlining a live webinar to go over the report’s key findings — also FREE.

Or you can shell out $500 for the new report from ALM Legal Intelligence that quizzed 180 law firms, providing anecdotal support for what we already know about social media marketing at law firms.

Straight Talk from General Counsels on How to Win Their Business

Far too much of corporate law practice marketing is predicated on what the firm wants potential clients to know, rather than what general counsels are actually looking for and how they conduct their searches. I came across a gem of a video on the Corporate Counsel section of that provides a glimpse of what general counsels actually care about when identifying and vetting outside firms.

  • Strong word-of-mouth is a great equalizer; gets you on the short list.

“Be good at what you do. We tend to interview the people we’ve heard about a lot, and we’ve heard about them a lot because they’ve had success in the past. And it doesn’t mean that we’re the kind of company that defers to the absolutely “blue chip” [or] “name brand” in a certain area because that’s an attorney the board will be comfortable with…If you are good at what you’re doing, whether you’re small, new emerging, well-known, we tend to be able to find you.”

Eric Whitaker, General Counsel, Tesla Motors


  • It doesn’t matter how good you are if you’re also an ass.

“Can I get along with this person, will they get along with my [internal] clients? Getting along with me is important, but it’s much more important to get along with the clients, because the clients are going to see you in the long term, every day basis. If the people who have to work with you on a daily basis in that transaction can’t stand you, that’s not going to reflect well on me nor is it going to get you repeat business.”

Robert Shives, Senior Director & Associate General Counsel, Fujitsu


  • Forget quirky videos and personal narratives; make website attorney bios more search-friendly.

“I absolutely check out bios, because we are frequently vetting new counsel. I look at representative clients, I look at representative matters. One of the things that makes me crazy is when the sites aren’t easy to maneuver. So how you’ve coded your website to be able to sort. Try and do it yourself, as if you’re an outside counsel trying to get to a person with this expertise in this location.”

Renee Lawson, Associate General Counsel, Zynga


  • Think rifle, not shotgun.

“One of the things that’s sort of interesting is that a lot of firms describe [themselves] as the everything to everyone. I’m usually looking for something very specific, so if you are an IP/anti-trust/transactional/product liability/labor and employment/estates and trust lawyer – which I have seen – you’re probably not the attorney I’m going to hire. So think about how you’re portraying yourself to the outside world.”

Renee Lawson, Associate General Counsel, Zynga


“It’s a credibility issue as well. When one sees that long list of “you’re an expert in every field,” you just pass. You take a pass on that person.”

Megan Pierson, Senior University Counsel, Stanford University


  • You’re competing against in-sourcing.

“I hire a lawyer and expect that they’re going to give me 2,000 hours a year for a $200,000 salary — I’m paying them $100 an hour. In reality, if you’re working with me at a high growth company you’re working 3,000 hours a year, so it’s even less [per hour]. My blended rate from law firms for the most part — big law firms — is still $400-$500 an hour.

“It’s simply a situation where, for the most part, law firms have priced themselves out of a whole bunch of work I used to have them do. It’s that simple. When I started in ’99 I would send contracts to law firms, I’d send license agreements to law firms, I’d send some employment issues to law firms. I just don’t do it anymore.”

“If work is going to repeat at all, I’ll bring the expertise  in-house. My in-house teams have simply gotten much bigger, and my outside counsel use has gone down, and it’s a direct result of the economics of it.”

Eric Whitaker, General Counsel, Tesla Motors

  • Billing reviews can be moments of truth.

“I don’t bring everything up with my outside counsel, but I do bring certain things up because we are early in a relationship and I want to set expectations. If I ask you to look at something on a bill, I expect you to look at it, and I expect you to get back to me promptly. And frankly if it even has the slightest appearance of being inflated, wrong, I expect you to say, “I’ve taken care of it,” and I expect you to do it right away.

“If I have to battle for a write-off with you, after I’ve given you the courtesy to bring it to your attention and reviewed your bills that you should have reviewed, you’re not on my list anymore.”

Renee Lawson, Associate General Counsel, Zynga


Social Media ROI for Law Firms, Part 2: 3 Tips for Measuring Return on Relationships

I recently read a blog post on social media ROI for law firms that concluded, “Measure the ROI of social media in a real and meaningful way. Base it on developing relationships and trust.”

That’s certainly an admirable sentiment, and it might be good enough if you’re engaged in social media for personal fulfillment and growth, but it’s not a useful business development metric. If you’re engaged in social media to build your practice in a systematic and rigorous way, you can’t be content with collecting potential referral sources and building your e-mail and “let’s have lunch” lists.

You cannot control what you do not measure. In other words, trust, but verify.

Unless you track how productive current and potential referral sources are and adjust your engagement strategy accordingly, you’re wasting time and money that could be spent on acquiring and cultivating active promoters for your practice.

Here’s how family law blogger Lee Rosen recently described his epiphany about long-term nurturing of potential referral relationships:

“I’ve been having lunch with this guy, on and off, for four years. We’ve probably been to lunch eight times, met for coffee twice, talked on the phone a dozen times, and e-mailed back and forth every few months. He is, theoretically at least, a referral source. He’s an accountant with a pretty good practice.

“I say he’s “theoretically” a referral source because, a few weeks ago, I realized he’s never referred a case to us. He’s a good guy, and I like him. He acts like he’s going to refer, but still—no referrals.

“Sadly, I’ve learned a hard lesson here. Unfortunately, not every referral source refers.”

3 Tips for Measuring Return on Relationships

Conversion rate – The total number of referrals from a source is not as significant as how many of them convert into billable matters. Divide the number of billable matters from a specific source by the total number of referrals from that source, and you get the conversion rate. A source that sends you a lot of leads that go nowhere is far less valuable than a source that sends very few, but most of them convert into business.

Net referrals – Referrals are a two-way street. You can’t expect a referral source to become/stay motivated if you don’t reciprocate. Ideally you’d be at parity — you’re referring as many opportunities to each contact has he/she is to you. Lunches, bar tabs and event tickets are nice pump primers and expressions of gratitude, but nothing nourishes your incoming referral ecosystem like your  outgoing referral stream. Conversely, if you’re giving more referrals than you get, don’t be bashful about dialing back significantly. They’ll get the message.

Opportunity aging – Create a timeline and assign milestones for converting potential referral sources into actual ones. Decrease the frequency of contacts and “rewards” as time goes on. If you’ve not received at least one inquiry directly attributable to the source within three of four months, your probability of future referrals is quite low. A clear litmus test of where you stand with a contact is how they handle a request from you for an introduction to someone in their network (online or offline).

What’s your process for nurturing your referral pipeline?





Endeavor to Be Useful: Legal Marketing Tips 12.14.11

A digest of social media advice and tips for legal marketing.

Can’t Afford Market Research? Take a Fundraiser to Lunch

Listen to any public radio fundraiser and you’re going to hear a steady drumbeat of law firm business partner names. Listen to their news programs, and you’ll frequently hear plugs for law firm underwriters. My local NPR station, KUT, currently lists 60 legal services firms in it online business supporter directory, and eight firms as corporate underwriters.

Let’s be clear. It’s not the good-natured on-air wheedling and cajoling that got these firms to pony up — it’s the result of a sophisticated development organization (nonprofit-speak for marketing) that works year-round to identify prospects, solicit introductions and cultivate relationships. Sound familiar? It’s just like law firm marketing.

So if you are active in a nonprofit organization — particularly a large one — it’s worthwhile to see whether/how much the development director is willing to share with you on the art and science of targeting and segmentation for local businesses.

Companies that help nonprofits with their fundraising and marketing can be great free resources, too.

Convio is a software as a service (SaaS) company focused on online marketing and fundraising for nonprofits. Check out their Nonprofit Sector Research library. Their just-published 2010 online nonprofit benchmark study is a trove of information on e-campaign results and trends. Also worth perusal for useful nuggets is their 2008 study “The Wired Wealthy: Using the Internet to Connect with Your Middle and Major Donors.” Given the rapid growth in social networking adoption and social media usage rates over the past two years, the data is probably out of date, but it still has some interesting insights that could inform your strategic planning.