Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to Market the Personal Injury Practice… Without Spending a Gazillion Dollars in Advertising

If you are a personal injury attorney and the leader when it comes to advertising spending in your market, this article is not for you.

If however, you are a personal injury attorney who cannot afford to “outshout” the competition on television radio, or in print, fear not. There are a number of tactics the smaller PI firm or attorney can do to ensure their voice is heard. And they involve four very different though interrelated activities.

Before implementing those activities however, the smaller PI firm must take a hard look at what distinguishes it from its competitors. To the layperson, all PI firms appear pretty much the same from the outside -- they all make the same claims and all promise to get paid only if “you do.” Hence, it is imperative that the smaller firm find that little niche it can leverage to its advantage. This can take the form of a particular target group that the firm services, knows well and for which it can provide a sense of comfort. It can also seek to leverage experience in a specific area of personal injury -- be it brain injuries, mesothelioma, motorcycle accidents, birth injuries, etc. Finally, one can also seek to leverage the limited marketing dollars available across a very tightly targeted geographic area. If you can’t be the big player in the major market, be the biggest player in one section of that market.

Once those decisions have been made (and by the way, there’s no rule that says that you can’t elect to proceed with some permutation of them), it’s time to leverage those points of difference.

As stated, there are four ways in which to do this. The first of these involves the firm web site. If you peruse competitive web sites, you will notice that there’s a sameness to the vast majority of them. They all purport to do the same thing and cover the same practice areas. But an individual with a brain injury or mesothelioma or any specific type of injury or illness isn’t looking for a personal injury attorney -- they’re looking for a brain injury or mesothelioma lawyer. If your site can highlight a certain level of experience or accomplishment in this area, not only will visitors pick up on this “expertise,” but so will the search engines. Don’t want to de-emphasize other PI areas by focusing on any one? No problem. Consider creating a microsite on the specific area of interest and having it link off of the firm’s main site. And, just like the firm’s main site, this microsite can also be optimized for high search engine placement. Of course, if you’ve decided not to leverage a particular sub-practice area, you can apply a similar approach in reaching out to members of a specific target group.

The same logic applies to the second of the marketing activities at your disposal -- public relations. Through press releases, articles, broadcast interview placements, and presentations, the smart PI attorney can position himself as a premier authority on a particular subject. This generates not just exposure – but free exposure. Further, all of the articles and videos and presentations can then be used as fodder for that web site or microsite, thereby further enhancing optimization efforts (i.e., the search engines just love new content).

The third highly effective means for getting one’s name out there is through sponsorships with causes and organizations that relate to your particular area of focus. If you are going to emphasize brain injuries in your practice (and on your web site and through PR), then hook up with the hospitals, clinics, and non-profit groups that serve those who suffer from such maladies. Better still, organize an event or campaign that draws attention to a particular concern and to your firm at the same time. Think of public service campaigns that law firms have implemented warning of the hazards of drinking and driving. A little creativity can align your practice with a worthy cause, creating goodwill between yourself and your target prospects -- not a bad thing at a time when perceptions of PI attorneys are not as positive as one might hope.

Finally, if you take the geographic approach and seek to be the dominant player, albeit in a smaller area, the opportunity exists to leverage what marketing dollars you do have towards all kinds of marketing mix permutations. It is important to understand that oftentimes it is more important to reach a smaller number of people several times than it is to reach a large number of individuals only a few times. That is because research has shown that it usually takes quite a number of exposures to prompt an individual to action. And because you can’t really prompt an individual to seek a PI attorney until that time that they’ve been injured, being “out there” on a regular basis in a smaller pond often is a wiser bet than casting your lot by being drowned out in the ocean.

In summary, while no one can argue the advantages of having a large marketing budget with which to market a personal injury practice, a willingness to carve out a specific niche, and little ingenuity can go a long way in offsetting those advantages.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Unethical Advertising or Just Poor Taste

It is rare when issues involving legal marketing make the print or web pages of major metropolitan newspapers. But that is exactly the situation today in regard to coverage of one law firm’s attempt to obtain additional 9-11 lawsuits via advertising that some are suggesting is, at the very least, in poor taste.

The story revolves around an ad in which a New York City fireman appears alongside the headline, “I Was There."

The problem is that this particular fireman was neither there nor a member of the New York fire department on that day ten years ago. To make matters worse, the firefighter who was then working as a model, thought he was posing for a fire prevention ad. He was shot gripping a helmet -- not a picture of the 9-11 catastrophe that was later photo-shopped into his hands. A very small disclaimer at the bottom of the flyer reads, “This is an actor portrayal of a potential Zagroda claimant.”

Although Bar association rules regarding attorney advertising vary state by state, it can be argued that under most state guidelines, the ad does not violate bar rules. After all, many personal injury ads use actors or models to depict accident victims. In this particular case, a small disclaimer does exist, and no individual is falsely portraying one of the attorneys at the firm. Similarly, the ad does not claim past or future results that it cannot substantiate.

Through its visual depiction as well as its copy, it seems rather apparent that the general intent of the ad is to convey the fireman's actual presence at the WTC scene, and by association, the firm’s support of those who were heroes that day. As stated, this is not an uncommon practice. Hence, the concern stems not from how the firm and its advertising agency depicted this particular firefighter, but that it elected to do so in an ad about such a still sensitive topic. The problem is further exacerbated by the very small size of the disclaimer which only serves to encourage a perception that the firm is somehow being misleading. That the approach taken ran the risk of potentially turning off the very group of people for which it was intended suggests not so much that this is a case of unethical advertising, as it does that this is simply bad advertising.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

FREE WEBINAR: “Building the Elder Law, Trusts & Estates Practice: 5 Things You Can Do Right Now"

A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group will sponsor a free online webinar entitled “Building the Family Law Practice: 5 Things You Can Do Right Now” on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 12:00 Noon (EDT).

This fast-moving 1-hour program will highlight no-cost and low-cost tactics that elder law/trusts & estates practices can implement immediately to generate new client revenue.

Content to be covered includes:

• Understanding the Money vs. Time Conundrum
• Integrating Marketing Efforts for Maximum Efficiency
• Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization and Pay-Per-Click
• Cost-Efficient Public Relations
• Effective Newspaper Advertising
• Implementing the Elder Law/Trusts & Estates Seminar
• Utilizing Direct Marketing Towards a Captive Audience

The free webinar will be presented by Les Altenberg, President of A.L.T. Legal Professionals Marketing Group and author of numerous articles on legal marketing that have appeared in such publications as The National Law Journal, Law Practice Management, Texas Bar Journal, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and the Legal Intelligencer. He has over 20 years experience in helping law firms build their business.

Individuals interested in attending this webinar should register at

Monday, February 28, 2011


Over the years, we have seen, that the most successful marketing tool for generating new family law clients over the short-term, has without question, been the seminar.

And it’s not even close.

That is not to say that seminars are the be-all and end-all when it comes to marketing the family law practice. Far from it. When it comes to legal marketing, there are a lot of things that seminars cannot accomplish, most of which fall under the headings of “long-term” or branding. But if I needed to pick up a handful of new clients, in just a few weeks, and had limited financial resources, implementation of a seminar would be the basket in which I would put my eggs.

There are a number of reasons for this, the most important of which is the fact that seminars offer the opportunity to connect with potential clients before, during and after the actual event.

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn:

Promoting the Seminar
Family law firms and attorneys should understand that the benefits of a seminar for the public are not limited to the interaction such events allow. Promotion of the seminar itself has value - - even on those occasions when it does not attract a large number of attendees. That is because publicizing the event still generates awareness of the firm. That a potential client elects not to attend can be a function of anything from apathy or fear, to simple logistical conflicts. But regardless, even in not attending, there’ll be viewers, readers, site visitors and listeners who will be exposed to the firm name nonetheless.

That’s just one reason. There are a number of others. Unlike image-oriented marketing, promoting a seminar is time-sensitive. This means that you will probably only have to be “out there” for a relatively short period of time (translation: less financial outlay). Our experience has been that such events can be successfully publicized from 2-3 weeks prior to the actual date. Seminars also lend themselves to a myriad of ways in which to reach the individual contemplating or involved in a divorce. These include advertising, press releases, email blasts, announcements via social media, pay-per-click and an announcement on the firm web site itself. Finally, depending on the content of the seminar, the event may be a good way to publicize the firm’s special knowledge or interest in a particular segment of family law (e.g., Gay and Lesbian domestic partnerships).

The Seminar Itself
Seminars provide a combination of benefits that most other marketing tools cannot. They offer the opportunity for a potential client to actually begin a relationship with the attorney. The “immediacy” of the moment is second only to a one-on-one consult. The information the attorney provides is invaluable to the individual most often hungry for anything that will help him or her get through the process more painlessly. Seminars create a non-threatening environment. (Remember, all of this is ‘old hat’ for you, but usually quite intimidating for the potential client). And finally, seminars offer the attorney and the firm a forum for touting their “expertise” in particular areas of the law.

Clearly, the single most important variable in determining whether your seminar is successful in attracting new clients will be the actual event itself. In planning this, aside from preparing the actual content, there are three questions one must invariably ask:

What kind of a client do you wish to attract?
There are many family law practices that seek out any and all kinds of clients. There are others however, that focus on attracting specific segments of the overall population. For example, a firm may emphasize serving mostly those with a high net worth. Or it may have particular success in attracting clients of one gender or another - - or of one sexual orientation or another. Whatever the target market may be, the determination of the target audience will have significant impact on the content of the seminar itself.

Where should you hold the seminar?
Keeping with the example noted above, a determination to seek out high net worth individuals may suggest charging for the seminar, thereby screening out those whom the firm may not wish to represent. Similarly, one should have a good understanding as to the types of clients the firm is most likely to attract and to the geographical locations to which such prospects will be most comfortable traveling.

When should the seminar be held?
Finally, your choice as to the date and time of the seminar will have some bearing as to who does and does not show up. The middle of the day probably will not be an attractive time for most working professionals. It may be however be exactly that, for non-working mothers of school aged children. Be aware of holidays – not just national holidays that impact everyone, but also those holidays that have special significance to religious or ethnic segments of the population.

After the Seminar
Opportunities for promoting the firm both before and during the seminar are a plenty. But there are also opportunities to do likewise after the event as well.

“Keepsakes,” in the form of brochures, Case Information Statements, summaries of relevant state statutes, articles, (even the proverbial refrigerator door magnet), etc., all lend themselves to being maintained by the prospect or passed along to others also seeking family law counsel.

Seminars can be publicized following the event as well, especially if you’ve provided a little “twist.” For example, if you had decided to charge for the event, you might have also elected to allocate all or a certain percentage of the proceeds to a relevant cause – perhaps a women’s shelter, or a special program for children of divorce. Handing over that check to the non-profit becomes an event unto itself, replete with press releases and photo opportunities. If you’ve thought ahead, you can have your seminar video recorded and archive it on your web site, thereby extending the presentation’s life still further and potentially reaching other prospects who had been unable to attend. Finally, depending on the nature of your event and the situation of each attendee, seminars can be a way to build on the firm’s database of prospects.

Obviously, the importance of creating a seminar that’s informative, captivating and that sheds the attorney/firm in the best light possible cannot be overstated. That being said, the greatest opportunity for maximum success comes in a careful planning of not just the event itself, but of all pre and post-event activities as well. Done right, seminars can often be a great way to jump-start the family law practice.