Starting a Law Firm – What’s in a Name?

When I started my law firm I was confronted with many choices. What kind of law will I practice? Where will I practice? Who do I want for clients? What kind of fees will I charge? It wasn’t until I actually got into the planning stages of the law firm that I began to see these questions as more big picture, firm philosophy type of questions. These type of questions may never be fully answered because they are not static.

One big picture question that is static and that can have a profound effect on the success of your firm is its name. What’s in a name? A lot if you think about it. Think about your own name for starters. What if you had been named something different? What if you were a boy and had been given a girls name? What if you were born in a particular religion and were given a name not associated with that religion? Have you ever been to a place where for some reason your name was looked down upon? These same types of feelings can be encountered with your law firm name.

The great thing about starting a law firm is that you get to think about this and plan ahead. If you are starting a law firm and are reading this article, you are probably either fairly young, fairly technologically proficient, or both. If you are, then you can probably see that the face and structure of the practice of law are shifting gradually beneath everyone’s feet. Competition is fierce, and image is everything. And guess what, one of the first things people will learn about you, something they will probably use to form an opinion about you before they even meet you, is your firm name.

When naming your law firm there are some things you should think about to make sure you are maximizing that first impression. First, don’t use your name. Second, it should be easy to remember. And finally, it should make people feel and think the way you want them to feel and think about your law firm. Although this may seem easy, when you actually try to do it, I think you’ll find it is a pretty tough exercise.

Some you are probably thinking, “why not use your name? Everyone else does.” That is precisely why. Although people have different goals, if you are starting a law firm, one of those goals is probably to make money practicing law. You make money by having people sign up for your services. People sign up for your services when they know who you are. Why blend in with everyone else when you can set yourself apart? Not only does not using your name allow you to present an image in prospective client’s minds, it allows you to build the brand you want. A great example of this is Valorem Law Group. If you look at their website a central theme is discarding the billable hour to provide clients value for what they are being paid. If you don’t already know, valorem is latin for value (loosely). Do you see the jump start you can get on the competition with a good name?

Second, easy to remember. This is practical for obvious reasons. If people refer your services to friends or colleagues, what is easier to remember, Valorem Law Group or Smith, Sands, Zaremba, Charles, Flippy and Jagermeister? Make your name easy to remember and you make it easier to get business – a key when starting a law firm.

Finally, the brand. When you start your own law firm you start out as the brand. At all times you are promoting your practice, you are what your practice stands for. But before anyone knows what you are all about, you can start them down the right track with a great name that represents the firm philosophy. A strong, powerful, confident name can make the difference in someone choosing to call you. It can also mask your size. “The law firm of Joe Shmoe” implies that you are a small firm. Like it or not many people associate small firm size with poor performance or cheap services. Look bigger than you are immediately by having a firm name that connotes structure, organization, and numbers.

What Does A Law Firm Look Like?

After deciding to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, the very first visit to a law office can be a little intimidating. However, there are several common elements that most clients can expect from a law firm – regardless of size. These elements include the layout of the offices, the structure of the staff, and similar procedures. Just remember that an injury lawyer and his or her staff will always seek to make the client comfortable and to provide the best advice possible.

Layout of the Firm

While layouts for law firms will vary, there are some common elements. A smaller law firm will have a reception area where clients can relax until their appointed time. A larger law firm may a have a lobby where a receptionist might direct clients to the appropriate office. In general, an injury lawyer will have a private office as well as access to conference rooms. Styles will vary between firms, though most still prefer the more traditional, stately look.

General Staff Structure

Staffing for law offices also tends to be fairly standard. Most will use receptionist to greet and see to the comfort of clients. Legal secretaries and paralegals support the injury lawyer in conducting research and preparing documents. The lawyer is the only one who is authorized to provide legal advice, appear as counsel, sign pleadings, and determine legal fees. A partner is part owner in the law firm, while an associate is an employee.

Consultants

In some cases, a law firm will call in a consultant or an expert to assist with a personal injury lawsuit. Consultants aid the attorneys by filling in gaps in expertise or helping out when the work load is excessive. They may educate the attorney, provide background information, prepare written statements, clarify evidence, and provide expert testimony in court. Some consultants are lawyers who have developed expertise in trying specific cases.

Size of Law Firm

Keep in mind that the size of the law firm can have a huge impact on what clients’ should expect. Larger firms tend to have more support staff such as paralegals. In such a firm, the scope of the personal injury lawsuit will determine if the case is handled by an associate or a partner. Smaller firms have less support staff, but will generally still have a legal secretary and paralegals to assist with preparation of the case. Regardless of the size, clients should expect personal attention from all members of the law firm.

Upon Your Arrival

The first visit to a law firm can be a little scary, but it need not be. Upon arriving clients are asked to wait in either a reception area or are directed to the appropriate office where they will be made comfortable by a secretary. The meeting with the injury lawyer will take place in either a private office or conference room. After listening carefully to the facts of the case, he or she will either make a decision on whether to proceed or not, or may even request additional time to conduct some research.

While many clients may be nervous about a visit to an injury lawyer, it really is not necessary. A law office will do its best to make every client comfortable and to treat them with the utmost respect. Everyone in a law firm from the receptionist to the most senior partner wants clients to know that they care about their personal injury lawsuit and will make it a personal mission to help them.

Content Marketing and Web Analytics: The Yin and Yang of Any Successful Law Firm Marketing Campaign

Good content has always been one of the best ways for a lawyer to establish and maintain a professional reputation. In the hands of potential clients, good content demonstrates your understanding of the law and your ability to do what you claim to do.

Let’s say you write an excellent article on the recently signed patent reform act.

Prior to the Internet, your options for distribution of that article would be limited. You could submit it to print publishers who could decide whether or not to publish it and how to edit it. By the time it appeared on a client’s desk, it might be three months out of date.

In addition, you could snail mail a copy of your article with a cover letter directly to your list of clients, potential clients and referral sources. You could include it in the firm’s print newsletter. You could mail it to reporters covering the patent law beat and hope that they give you a call next time they are writing a story on that topic.

And that was about it. You really had no way of knowing what happened to that hard copy – if the publication was read or if the envelope or newsletter was even opened.

Today, thanks to the Internet, the options for distributing a well-written and informative article (and all kinds of content) to a wide range of interested parties are vastly expanded. So, too, are the options for finding out if the article was opened, was read and prompted further action on the part of the reader.

In the Internet age, online content marketing is the best way for lawyers and law firms to establish their reputations and attract new business. And web traffic analysis is the best way for lawyers and law firms to measure the success of a content marketing campaign and move forward based on that information. Content marketing and web analytics are inseparable parts of the same strategic process.

Online content marketing for law firms

Online content marketing involves publishing content (like the article on patent law) on your law firm’s website (including mobile website version), client extranet sites or blogs. It involves the e-mailing of your article (or newsletter) to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources.

An integrated online marketing program is an essential part of a law firm’s marketing program. Content marketing involves distribution of your content using popular social media sites (like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) as well as successful content syndication sites (like JD Supra, LegalOnRamp and Scribd).

Each time your keyword-rich patent law article is published on one of these sites, it is indexed by Google and other search engines – enhancing results for searches on terms like your name, your law firm’s name, your geographic area and the relevant subject area.

The term ‘content’ applies to almost any kind of material your firm is publishing. It applies to documents like press releases, experience descriptions, attorney biographies (profiles), client alerts, blog post, white papers, email campaigns and e-books on legal subjects.

Content also includes non-written files, like an online ad campaign, courtroom graphics, a PowerPoint deck, or photos of an open house or employee charity event. It includes online surveys along with survey results. And it definitely includes audio or video recordings of a presentation, a seminar or a webinar.

All types of reputation-demonstrating content can be posted not only on your own website, but also to a wide range of (mostly free) social media and content syndication sites. Once posted, this informative content is available 24/7 and around the world.

Web analytics for law firms

Not only does the Internet facilitate the wide distribution of content,”it also allows lawyers and law firms to closely track distribution – to know how many visitors click on the content; how much time they spend reading, listening or viewing the content; and where (your website, search or some other site) they found the content.

Web analytics is a process for collecting visitor or consumer data, analyzing those data and generating reports on the overall performance of these different channels. It extends well beyond your website into virtually every online channel your law firm might be using.

In the early days, web analytics programs focused on the simple measurement of activity on a law firm’s web site. Today, a good law firm website still contains useful information about the firm and its services, but the site functions more like an interactive hub to which all of the firm’s online content distribution efforts are tied.

In addition, most social media sites have their own built-in analytics programs that can be accessed for more details about activity on your accounts on those sites.

The popular Google Analytics program is free and yields information about site visitors, including number of visitors (unique, new and repeat), page views, repeat rate, visit length, page view length, page view per visit, bounce rate (those who leave quickly from a given page), entry pages (where visitors enter you site), exit pages (where visitors leave your site) and referral sources (direct traffic, search engines and other referral sites).

Among other things, Google Analytics can chart data over time, compare data month-by-month or year-by-year, and internally compare different sets of results.

Other commercial web analytics programs allow the site administrator to ‘dig deeper’ into the data. Most analytics programs will record detailed information at the user level, allowing administrators to track the number of times a given user came to the site, which pages he or she viewed and, in some cases, the location from which that user is connecting.

At Tenrec, we combine basic Google Analytics with a program called Urchin (essentially, Google’s commercial analytics product) to obtain different levels of results for our clients. There are many programs out there. The one you select should be determined by how you plan to use the results.

It is important to remember that no performance metric is inherently bad or good. A limited number of the right kind of people visiting your content and reaching out to your firm is a better result than hundreds of visitors who take no action.

Strategic content marketing and web analytics for law firms

Web analytics programs are capable of generating a vast amount of information. There are far too many metrics for users to process and interpret. Measurement tools are only useful when there is something specific to measure.

The challenge is not to get more data, which can needlessly complicate your decision-making, but to get better data. Be strategic. What is the purpose of this online content campaign (within the context of our business goals), and which select measurements will indicate progress towards achieving this goal?

Let’s go back to that article on patent reform. You post it on your website. You reference it in your blog. You e-mail it to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources. You post it (with links back to your site) on a variety of social media sites and content syndication sites.

On your website, analytics will let you know who visited the page and how they got there. In addition, you will discover if they stayed a while, read the article and downloaded a copy.

If no one comes or if visitors take a quick look and ‘bounce,’ you know that there is something wrong with the content. The subject is not newsworthy. The headline or keywords need work. The article is too long or too short. It is too dense and needs shorter lines and subheads, to encourage skimming. It is too casual or too filled with legal jargon. In other words, it needs work.

An e-mail analytics program will let you know who opens the e-mail and clicks on the link. Other analytics programs will indicate how your article fares in the blogosphere or is shared or re-tweeted on social media and content syndication sites.

The information generated by web analytics is a valuable tool to help lawyers and law firms plan — and continuously improve — their content and their online content distribution campaigns.