Attorney Justin Kelsey started college as an engineer and finished with a law degree. He next went to work for a law firm and about four years later, then hung out his own shingle.
Today he runs a small practice – Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C. – located just outside of Boston. The firm is modeled for agility, focuses on family conflict resolution, and Mr. Kelsey notes, his background in engineering may well have given him an edge in online marketing.
He’s scheduled to speak on a panel on June 4th at the Super Marketing Conference 2015 – which is co-sponsored by Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP) and the American Bar Association Law Practice Division (ABA). We caught up with Mr. Kelsey to ask him a few questions about small law and online marketing.
BOLB: What is online marketing and why is it important to law firms?
JK: It’s where consumers are now, so much business happens online. Some businesses are entirely online, and online, is how for example, consumers find people and information about services they are going to buy, including legal services.
It’s important to remember that marketing online is just one piece of a larger marketing mix. Personal networking, referrals, building strong relationships with clients, and even paper – like brochures and business cards – ought to be part of a larger plan. Online marketing isn’t a separate function, but rather it’s one piece of building an overall law firm brand.
BOLB: Broadly speaking, how would you assess the maturity or effectiveness of law firm online marketing today?
JK: Some law firms are clearly better than others at law firm marketing. As a market segment we’ve taken a huge leap forward in the last 10 years. Today, law firms understand online marketing cannot be ignored.
The first law firm I worked for didn’t have a website. As an engineer, which was my undergraduate degree, I thought it was crazy to not have a website. As a [then] 25-year-old adult – websites were how I found things – so I pushed the firm to establish a website.
However, things have changed today – there’s been a shift. Most law firms are doing some form of online marketing, even if they are not aware of it. For example, someone can leave a review on Avvo or if you had a yellow page advertisement in the phone book in the past, there’s a good chance you’re already on Google.
As a group, lawyers tend to be a traditional profession. Most are trying to do something to control their online profile with varying degrees of success.
3. For those just getting started, where would you suggest solo- or small law firms begin?
Again, it comes down to recognizing that online marketing is just one piece. I’d never recommend beginning with a tactic like “start a website.” Law firms should start with their brand and target market – and use things like online marketing to build ways for clients to find you.
I do mediation. I want mediation in the name of my firm. Our messages center around the language of “helping families resolve conflict.” That tells our prospective clients more than just the type of law we practice, but also how we approach it.
If a law firm doesn’t know its specific audience or what it wants to say to them – then online marketing will be akin to putting things out there randomly. All the messages need to be consistent – the firm name, the logo and tag line are a good starting point – but all marketing mediums should match from business card to website to a page on Google.
Once the foundation is set in place there are a few things a law firm can do online easily:
- Create a solid profile on LinkedIn;
- Claim your online profiles on sites like Google and Avvo;
- Buy related URLs – I own SkylarkLaw.com and SkylarkMedition.com for example;
- Claim social media names and URLs on Twitter and Facebook.
These are low cost ways to get started – to learn a little and grow the effort from there.
While orange is our Skylark color, seeing it in cape form feels a little too Aquaman. https://t.co/jef0aaP4D9
— Justin L. Kelsey (@skylarklaw) May 22, 2015
BOLB: Should attorneys in small law firms tackle marketing themselves, hire internal help or enlist the support of an external agency?
JK: A small law practice is a small business and small businesses want to do as much as they can for themselves. However, every small business owner has to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. I enjoy online marketing because I’m a techie but for those that find it uncomfortable or a chore, it might be worth hiring some help
The fact is the things we don’t want to do we make a low priority. If a lawyer doesn’t enjoy online marketing, they probably aren’t going to get it done.
With any vendor it’s important to keep in mind ethical considerations. Law firm marketing has to be tailored so as to not run afoul of those considerations. For example there are limitations on certain word choices, such as “specialized.” Therefore, it’s preferable to use a vendor that has worked with lawyers before and has an understanding of our ethical obligations.
BOLB: How do you measure results?
JK: It’s really tough to measure online marketing unless you invest the time to pay attention to measurement. There are some easier ways to glean insights though, such as through analytics, like Google Analytics, which is free. All a firm as to do is add a little bit of code to a website and then they can track traffic and the most popular pages. This helps determine what’s working or what’s gaining traction.
Another simple way to get an understanding is to ask clients at intake – how did you find us? However it’s important to drill down a little bit. For example if a new client says, “I found you on Google” ask them what search terms they used. It’s just a reflection of the online avenue your clients have taken and that can be used to adjust the tactic a firm is using.
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Mr. Kelsey will participate in a panel discussion about online marketing for lawyers at the 5th Annual Super Marketing Conference 2015 on June 4, 2015. Readers can also connect with Mr. Kelsey on the Skylark Blog or Your Freedoms and the Law Blog. His firm can also be found on Twitter @SkylarkLaw.
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