How to Compete With Sites Like Findlaw

How Do You Compete Nationally?Many solo attorneys and small firms have come on board with a focus on online marketing. They’ve designed an accessible and content-rich website and they blog regularly. But when they look up their geographic region on Google, they are no where to be seen! How can they compete with websites like Findlaw and Lawyers.com?

Of course there is no simple one-step solution. By their very nature, these large sites that gather lists of lawyers have a competitive advantage: they are filled with links to other websites which in turn link back to them. So how do small firms compete with that?

Think Local

National websites compete on volume, but you have something unique – your location. There may be over a million lawyers across the nation, but how many of them are in your county? And how many of those focus on your area of law? By using localizing websites like Google+ Local, you can increase visibility in your back yard, instead of competing with lawyers coast-to-coast.

Think Social

Until very recently, almost all customers turned to their friends and families when they needed a lawyer. While one study now says the Internet is winning that race, social media is playing a big role in that shift. By targeting your referral sources through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can keep valuable referrals while competing for Internet recognition.

Think Targeted

Sure, some Internet browsers type something as broad as “Michigan Divorce Lawyer.” And those people will probably see the big websites first. But others will search for their particular problem, like “enforcing support in Michigan.” You can catch those potential clients by including content on the top aspects of your practice and by using laser-targeted sponsored link campaigns to bring in the best kinds of clients, rather than someone “just looking” for a lawyer.

It can be intimidating to maximize your search results when the big players seem to dominate the landscape. But by thinking local, social, and targeted, you can get to page 1 and bring in quality clients on a limited financial budget. If you need help getting your website ready to fight for clients, contact ghost writer Lisa Schmidt today.

What Bloggers Should Know About Heartbleed

Heartbleed bug explained

Created by and for xkcd.com. Image Source: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/heartbleed_explanation.png

News of the “Heartbleed bug” has been sweeping the Internet recently, and some reports make it seem as big and scary as Y-2k (remember that one?). While no one is stock-piling water this time the bug has prompted a big push for tightened Internet security. Even the ABA has gotten involved. But rather than give in to the hype, let’s take a look at what Heartbleed really is. Then you can take some easy, if tedious, steps to protect yourself, your Internet identity, and your blog.

What is Heartbleed?

The Heartbleed bug is a computer programming error in the OpenSSL software used to encrypt many mid-security sites (where you have to enter a username and password to access content).  The web-comic xkcd.com explains the technical side of the bug in a great image reposted here.

What Does It Mean for You?

The good news is the developers of OpenSSL found the bug before anyone reported hackers taking advantage of it. The bad news is that major Internet services and legal industry services use OpenSSL. While most of the biggies were quick to fix the bug, there was a period of time when your information was vulnerable.

What Should You Do Now?

In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!” The Internet is not going to explode and your data is probably safe and secure. But now might be a really good time to take a couple extra steps to protect it. In fact, the ABA opines it may be your ethical duty if you keep client data in the cloud (like on Box or Dropbox).

Step 1: Change your passwords.

Yes I know it’s annoying to try to remember everywhere you sign in, but at the very least change your password on your email account, cloud backup account, and social media accounts.

Step 2: Use a Password Manager

If you’re concerned about security or just don’t want to have to think up a lot of strong passwords, consider installing and using a Password Manager like LastPass, 1Password, PasswordBox, and KeePass.

Step 3: Encrypt Your Hard Drive

This extra level of protection will ensure data security whether your computer is connected to the Internet or not. Lawyerst.com provides more information and instructions on how to do it.

Step 4: Use 2-Factor Authentication

WordPress, Google, and other key Internet sites now offer a process to verify your identity. When you try to log in to the sites they will send you a text with an authentication code. That way the site knows it is you and you know when someone tries to access your site.

It is easy to get intimidated by the fast-paced changes in Internet security. But by taking a few simple precautions, you can protect your content, data, and client information against the Heartbleed bug. If you need help protecting your blog, contact blogging coach Lisa Schmidt.

Top 10 Grammar Slip-ups to Watch For

What Grammar Mistake Do You Always Make?

Image Source: http://agbeat.com/editorials/the-case-oxford-comma/

We’ve all done it, published a post and then realized, “Oops! I misspelled something! Quick, fix it!” It doesn’t matter how many times you read over your work, though, if you don’t know the rules your posts will be littered with errors. And grammar counts when you’re trying to impress your readers with your expertise. So here are the top 10 grammar rules to watch for in your posts:

10. Apostrophes’ Importance

Make sure you are putting your apostrophes in the right place. “Attorney’s” means 1 lawyer owns the thing. “Attorneys'” applies to more than one.

9. Names’ Difficutly

While we’re on the topic of apostrophes, remember that Jesus’ name may not need another “s”, but the Jones’s name does. It’s a matter of historical significance.

8. It’s Not Difficult

Yes, we know, sometimes everyone makes a typo, but the difference between “it’s” (it is) and “its” (belonging to it) can drive some readers nuts!

7. Avoiding the Improper “They”

Even though you’re trying to be politically correct and watch your word count, you still can’t call a person “they.” He or she is correct, or the wordy phrase “he or she,” but “they” means more than one. Try alternating genders instead. When talking about a business or organization, use “it”.

6. They’re Sometimes a Problem

While you’re looking at “they,” make sure you’re using the right one: “they’re” means “they are,” “their” means belonging to them, and “there” means the place.

5. Make Sure You are Effective

On the topic of wrong words, many people confuse “affect” (a verb) with “effect” (a noun). Unless you’re talking about psychology, “affect” should never be tied to “an” or “the.”

4. Then Make it Accurate

Another common word-choice error is using “then” (indicating time or order) instead of “than” (a comparison).

3. Avoid Being Redundant Again

In this age of acronyms it can be easy to forget what we are actually saying, but take another look to avoid accidentally saying things like “PIN number” (“personal identification number number”) or “ATM machine” (“automated teller machine machine”).

2. Make Fewer Errors

It can be easy to confuse “fewer” (used on something countable) and “less” (used for quantities that cannot not counted). If there’s a unit of measure involved use “less” but if it’s something discrete like “employees” use “fewer”.

1. Put Enough Commas in Your List

When listing more than two items or ideas, put a comma after each one including the one right before the “and”. While modern grammar allows you to skip this last comma, the result can be strange and confusing, like in the picture above.

Using proper grammar will help you look like an authority to your readers. Grammatical errors can be distracting and confusing. Keep these tips in mind while proofreading your blog posts and keep your readers happy. If you need help writing content for your blog, contact ghost writer Lisa Schmidt.

Don’t Waste Your Introduction Paragraph

Take time to write a good introductionIt can be tough to make enough time to write your motions and briefs in the midst of a busy trial schedule. But that is no excuse for ignoring your introductory paragraph. Instead, busyness should be reason number 1 to carefully craft the introduction – the busyness of your judge.

Far too many lawyers throw away an important opportunity to get judges on their side while writing motions and briefs. Uniformly, the opening of motions are something like:

NOW COMES the Defendant, John Doe, and in support of his motion states:

But far too few take advantage of their introduction to tell the judge what it is they want. Consider this alternative:

NOW COMES the Defendant, John Doe, and asks this court to stay the income withholding order until an accounting on the satisfaction of the judgment can be provided. In support of his motion, Defendant states:

With one quick, carefully crafted sentence, you can tell your judge what you are asking for and why. This will give the judge a starting point from which to consider all the facts and circumstances you include in your motion. Rather than making your judge gradually deduce what you need him or her to do, you put the request out there and then back it up with why.

The same principle applies to your legal briefs too. Rather than skipping straight to the Statement of Facts, create a separate Introduction section. By putting a summary of your legal arguments right up front it will help your busy judge understand what to expect. It also allows you to frame the question and lead the judge to the conclusions you want him or her to make.

The introduction to your motion or brief is very important, especially once the pleading makes its way into the hands of a busy judge. Take the time to craft a careful introduction – whether a sentence or a summary paragraph – so the judge can clearly understand what you’re asking for and will be more likely to agree with you.

If you need help crafting well-written motions and briefs, contact ghost-writer Lisa Schmidt.

Blogging For Your Niche Practice

How can you make ripples in your pond?There are countless niche specialties out there. And because they are so specialized, you can quickly become an expert in that small subset of your field. Whether your passion is for medical marijuana defense or equine law, you can quickly become the go-to person in your niche by blogging.

There are 33,692 attorneys in Michigan. Most of them fall into certain highly competitive categories like family law (3,080 on Avvo.com). So how do you make waves in such a big pond?

The key is to distinguish yourself from the competition. By carving out a niche from your large practice area, you cut down the number of attorneys vying for your cases. Of the over 3000 Michigan family lawyers only 62 are listed as Collaborative Divorce professionals. By taking the time to focus on that niche you decrease your competition by 98%!

But once you’ve got the expertise you have to let people know about it. Blogging is a great way to do that. Even while you are still learning you can explain the unique quirks of your niche market and begin to make a name for yourself in the field.

Keep up with changes in your niche market. Read every opinion (or article) you can find, and share your knowledge. Whenever you can, get ahead of the curve by writing about upcoming changes or challenges to the law.

By taking these proactive steps, you’ll cultivate an appearance of expertise. Your blog will become a source of news for potential clients, referral sources, and even other attorneys in your broader field. Then when your would-be competitor runs into a case that falls within your niche, you will be the one that pops to mind.

Marketing as an attorney is about creating an image of expertise. Rather than fighting upstream against the thousands of other lawyers who do what you do, target your practice and your marketing on a niche market and turn competitors into referral sources.

If you need help launching your niche blog, contact blogging coach Lisa J. Schmidt for one-on-one assistance.