Who Really Cares About the Bios?

MP900385564Everybody’s got one. No, not a bellybutton, an “About” page. Maybe yours is called “Bios” or “Meet the Staff,” but pretty much every attorney’s website has a page that introduces them to their readers on a personal level.

Why? Because you are offering a service. Potential clients want to know who they will be working with and look you in the virtual eye. One expert says,

Website analytics show that over 60% of visitors to your website land on lawyer biographies, and about 90% of general counsel indicate attorney biographies are the most important pages to them on a law firm website.

So why not make the most of the space? Here are 3 tips to connect with potential clients.

1. DO Use a Professional Photo

A professional head shots is a staple of modern legal marketing. But more traditional lawyers run the risk of turning clients away with their stern gaze and crossed arms.

Instead, try to choose a photo that shows you can relate to the clients in some way. Are you smiling? Maybe you’re in the middle of a consultation. If you are really daring, try a more casual shot outdoors or even without a suit.

The photo should be consistent with your brand. But even if you are tough as nails in the courtroom, make sure your About photo is more approachable than your average porcupine.

2. DO Think Outside the Office

The easiest way to make a biography is to basically duplicate a lawyer’s résumé. But just because it’s easy, doesn’t make it right. Résumés are not written to relate. They are written to impress human resource managers within the industry.

Potential clients probably do not care that you were 2nd in your class. But the fact that you enjoy trail riding on the weekends might intrigue them, or they might find solace in your religious or volunteer activities. Use your About page to connect as a person, not just list your professional achievements.

3. DO Link to Your Social Media Pages

If you have more than 1 attorney in your firm, use the About page as a portal to the content marketing you each are doing elsewhere on the web. Does your partner have a blog dedicated to dog bite issues? Does your associate maintain the firm’s Twitter account? Are you the one who updates the Facebook page? Post links.

This makes it easy for potential clients to get a handle on your expertise without having to ferret out who covers what in your office. Remember, clients aren’t usually hiring the firm. They are hiring the one person there who is a specialist in exactly what they need.

The About page can be a glimpse into the lives of each of your attorneys and support staff. By using it intelligently, you can help potential clients think of you and your staff as people instead of just cogs in the litigation machine.

3 Benefits of a Well-Written Brief

Speaker at PodiumYou heard it in law school: it’s important to include a well-written brief with every motion. But why? Is it really worth the time and effort to write the brief when you can just argue the motion yourself at hearing? Here are 3 reasons why you should take your professors’ advice.

1. Framing the Issue

How you frame a question can help sway the decision maker’s answer. For example, in determining child support, one party may want the question to be “How much should an unemployed person be expected to earn in this economy.” The other might say “Should the father be punished because the mother voluntarily quit her job?” By taking the time to craft a brief around your version of the issue, you can control the direction of the hearing even before stepping into the courthouse.

2. Prepping the Judge

On many motions, complex facts or intricate legal circumstances can make the difference between success and failure. If there is some distinction that wins the argument for your side, you want the judge to be aware of it ahead of time. In the above example, the father wants the judge to know the circumstances of the mother’s job loss. The mother wants the judge to know all about her income and monthly budget. Use the brief to prepare the judge so that he or she knows what to listen for at the hearing.

3. Prepare for the Hearing

Even if you have a judge with a reputation for not reading briefs, it is still worth your while to prepare one. Why? Because it will better prepare you for your argument. By researching the competing legal theories and preparing your arguments in advance you will be ready to deal with the other side’s arguments on motion call. The brief will put the answers to the judge’s questions at your fingertips when you are at the podium.

A well-written brief is the strongest tool in your toolbox on motion day. It puts the judge in the right state of mind going in, and gives you everything you need to make a convincing argument. The time it takes to research and write the brief will be well-spent and will often make the difference between winning your case and placating an unhappy client.

 

Where Do Your Online Clients Come From?

MC910216983It’s happened to every lawyer with an online presence: we sit down with potential clients for an initial consultation and dutifully ask “Where did you hear about me?” “Oh,” they reply, “I found you on the Internet.”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Internet is a really big place. As your online marketing grows it’s important to find out what’s working and what’s not. Luckily there are ways to measure just how productive your web work is.

1. Initial Client Intake Form

If you have clients complete an initial intake form (with their names, address, etc.), include a “Where did you hear about us?” section. Don’t just list “Internet” as an option. Be specific: Facebook? Twitter? Company Website? Online listings? Other? Invite clients to check as many as apply so you can see just how much research they’ve done before walking into your office.

2. Facebook Page Insights

If you’ve created a Facebook Page for your business, make sure to visit your insights page often. This page contains a wealth of information on the reach, impact, and “virality” of your recent posts. (Virality is how many times viewers have shared what you posted. When a lot of people share the same link, it is called “going viral”) You can also see a breakdown of demographics (by age and gender), and a summary of how often you post. Use this information to better target your message to your Facebook followers.

3. Website Tracking

Most blog sites like WordPress.com have built-in site statistics. These statistics track your daily views, your most popular posts, and where the views are coming from (Google, Facebook, Bing, etc.). You can use this information to identify what issues are getting your blog the most attention, what days your site gets the most traffic, and how people are finding your website.

4. Google Analytics

This website tracking program hosted and operated by Google provides you even more information about your website. It can do everything the built-in site statistics services do. Plus, it tracks your mobile accessibility, your site’s connection to various social media outlets, and how much time visitors are spending on your site. This can help you weed out “bounces” – where a person lands on your page, figures out it was not what they were looking for, and immediately leaves – from quality connections with new potential clients.

All of these tools can help you build a stronger web presence by focusing your attention on what works. They can help you target your audience using the platform it uses and write content that has an appealing track record. The time you spend reviewing your work will save you that much more effort by avoiding content that does not connect with your potential clients.

Why Should You Care About Active Voice?

MC900391700I’ve mentioned it a couple of times – it’s a good idea to use active voice instead of passive when you are writing. This general rule is valid for legal briefs and blog posts. But why should you care? If both sentences say the same thing, what does it matter how you say it?

1. Active voice makes clear who is doing what to whom.

You can write much more clearly by structuring your sentences: subject, verb, object. The subject is who or what is doing the action, which is the verb. The object is the thing having the verb done to it. Passive sentences are arranged: object was verb by subject. This can be confusing because the reader sees the object first and can easily mistake it for the subject.

2. Active voice tends to be shorter

Active voice tends to use less words because you do not need as many connecting words like was and by. For example: The police arrested the defendant is shorter than The defendant was arrested by the police. Over the course of a 10 page legal brief those couple words per sentence can add up. They are even more important in a blog where word count matters and writers are racing to keep the reader’s attention.

3. Active voice is more interesting

Action verbs grab your reader’s attention better than passive verb pairings. This gets into word choice a little too. You can keep your reader engaged by writing The police chased the defendant instead of the defendant was pursued. An engaged reader reads faster and enjoys your writing more.

As a lawyer, you have been trained to wade through passive voice and other grammatical muck and mire. You spent countless hours reading dense court opinions filled with passive voice. Police reports and even statutes are loaded with it.

But just because you can get through passive voice, doesn’t mean you should subject opposing counsel, your blog readers, or even judges to this cumbersome and often confusing legalese.

Does Your Website Match Your Blog?

MP900387934You’ve been putting a lot of work into your blog: updating regularly with posts that have a conversational tone and catchy titles. But as your blog grows, your voicemail and inbox sit empty. Maybe it is because your website is a turn-off.

A lot of lawyers spend far too much money on canned websites from big name companies. They hope that by hitching their wagon to websites like Lawyers.com, they’ll maximize their SEO and draw in new clients. The problem is that these directory sites, which list your URL next to several of your direct competitors, are not much different than putting an ad in the phone book.

The internet market is a highly visual audience. If your website looks cheap, or looks like every other lawyer’s page, most visitors will “bounce” off of your page rather than clicking around or, better yet, contacting you. Instead, you should take the extra time (and possibly money) to make sure your website fits your image.

That means more than just emblazoning your logo in the header or making sure you have professional head shots on your bio page (both of which are important). It’s about giving your viewers something to feel. I’ll explain.

If you are a tough-as-nails litigator, your website might use a bold font and dark colors that show you mean business. This conveys aggression. But single mothers trying to modify parenting time probably won’t spend much time on your site. They tend to be more attracted to a site with soft colors and comforting language. Then again, your business clients may dismiss both of those sites as over the top and unprofessional. They would rather be assured of your competency with a crisp, clean site and sharp visuals. Just like with tone, it’s all about your target audience.

But don’t stop with the wrapper! While you’ve got your web designer in your office anyway, make sure you talk about web copy. That’s the actual words on your website. The tone of your web copy needs to go with the look of the page, or your visitors will feel like you’ve given them a bait and switch.

Your web copy should have a somewhat professional tone, more so than your blog, but it should still sound like it was written by the same person. It is an advertisement, but it shouldn’t sound like one. Instead make it inviting to your potential clients.

Use simple language whenever you can and make sure it is easy for visitors to find out how to reach you. Don’t forget to break up your paragraphs into digestible bits. All of the tips and tricks you’ve learned for blogging still apply!

The most important thing is to make sure your website stands out. Using color, photos, and accessible web copy, you can make your website an effective portal into your business, rather than a carbon copy of your competitors.