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The last fortnight has probably seen the biggest shift in our working lives. For some it brought their entire working lives into doubt, for others it meant a full doubling down as a surge in demand appeared.

Most went from working in the office as part of team to working on our own, at home, with members of our family, including those of school age, doing the same. Our priorities, focus and internet usage changed. We all did our best to work as normally as we could manage.

At Lift Legal, we work with law firms all over Australia and find ourselves in a unique position to observe what the smart firms are doing and what marketing initiatives we have implemented with firms that have been successful. Note we have used the word implemented rather than considered or worse, listed on some agenda for the next Partner’s Meeting.

Below are 6 things that smart law firm principals are doing now.

Reconsider the work you are targeting

In the short term there will likely be a spike in some legal services, with others seeing a fall. Property lawyers know there is no new work coming down the funnel and it’s the same for building & construction.

It’s important that you align your marketing strategy to fully leverage your expertise in those services that are more resilient to the current environment, in order to offset the impact felt by the potential reduction in other types of instruction.

Firms offering employment law advice have already experienced an upsurge in enquiries from both employees and employers.

Commercial contracts have also seen increased activity as businesses wonder how they can avoid a contractual obligation which looked like a good deal a couple of weeks ago. Plus, there is nothing like a credit squeeze to make a business person seek advice about sloppy terms and conditions.

In times like this, with business people worrying about trading whilst insolvent or the effect of government safety nets, there will likely be an increase in insolvency work.

In our opinion, family law will probably be an area that remains relatively consistent for the present time and post social distancing we will see a significant upsurge as the strain for many of spending numerous weeks together becomes too much. Interestingly, there have been reports from China that, following their lockdown, some districts are experiencing record numbers of divorce requests.

People are at home and thinking about their personal circumstances which means wills, powers of attorney and general estate planning is on their mind. Many firms have already seen enquiry increase.

Therefore, if you do work in an area where the work is currently weak, then focus and build on the areas that are stronger, worthwhile and likely to maintain a demand for legal services.

Implement changes to online marketing materials

Now your online presence is the only lens people can see you through.

If your website is old and out of date or simply doesn’t reflect well on you then do something about it – now. Clients don’t ring and tell you how embarrassing it is, they just don’t refer anyone to you as it’s a reflection on them too, or if they do, the referred person checks out your website and just doesn’t call you.

Some lawyers have said to us that they just don’t think it’s worthwhile investing in a new website as their old crappy one currently doesn’t bring them any work. How short sighted is that!

Your website is a communication tool – use it. Make sure that your website refers to COVID-19 and what your firm is doing internally about it. Your messaging should indicate that the safety and health of your staff and your client’s is vital and sets out what measures you have put in place. Make your clients feel comfortable to come to your firm if they need to.

Let your clients know that you are here, ready to help in whatever form that might take. If this is ignored, your online materials will look out of date. There is just no way that the events of the past couple of weeks shouldn’t be front and centre.

If you need help we have created content dealing with these issues already which can easily be included in your own material, either as email content or on your website via a notification bar on the homepage with a brief message and link to a dedicated COVID-19 page.

Make it clear that you can be contacted in several different ways, will use different types of technology for consultations and indicate quick response times. Make contacting you and discussing legal needs simple.

Invest in your own law firm

Having spoken with many marketing professionals in recent years, law firm marketing is now viewed by the smart lawyers as an investment, not an expense.

Not every firm has the budget to create a team of in-house marketers and many marketing people who work in law firms find it to be very niche. Therefore, many firms find it economical to outsource some of their marketing needs.

In the last few weeks smart lawyers have become far more engaged and focussed on getting their marketing right.

The two major marketing investments you should now be focussing on is your website and a communication strategy – email updates or newsletters.

If today your website is not good enough you will miss the chance to get new work and paying for SEO and Google Ads won’t help. A poor website is a poor website and is not fixed by throwing SEO money at it. All you will be doing is increasing numbers of people who land on your site only to leave because it doesn’t provide what they need. If you want someone to run their eye over your website, give us a call.

If you have never had a website and are now thinking about it, don’t think for too long. Give us a call. We have some entry level websites that will give you the edge you need. In fact, we are about to launch a website for a lawyer who has never had one and who, this month, celebrates 50 years as a lawyer.

For firms who have never sent a newsletter before and now need to start, if you are struggling with a contact list and who want to know how to put a list together, call us and we can assist you too.

For firms that need someone to write their articles send a newsletter and then tell them which of their clients opened and clicked on their articles call us – this is what we do.

This is how you stimulate demand.

Maximise and nurture enquiries

Most enquiries that don’t go direct to the principal will come by phone to reception or through an online form on your website usually to a junior staffer. Ensure that your website enquiry form is working properly and check on your firm’s internal processes to see where the enquiry goes, what happens to it, when it is actioned and who manages or oversees the process.

Effective enquiry intake processes, regardless of how an enquiry happens, are more critical now than ever. Naturally enough you need to respond quickly and get the right message, to the right person as soon as you can. Ideally you will maintain a database of new enquiries with associated statuses and follow ups.

Don’t ignore an enquiry because it is the weekend or late on a Friday afternoon, thinking I’ll get to that on Monday. Appointment setting for a quick 30 minute video call could be critical.

Enquiries are still going to come through, maybe more so in particular areas, so make sure you are well placed to handle them. We find that this is a large point of leakage for many of our law firm clients.

Communicate with existing clients

This is a big marketing move that the smart firms are doing.

In the last fortnight some of our clients have sent multiple publications to their database. We see all the results so we can tell you that their database contacts are reading everything they put out. Why? Because they appreciate being included with valuable information from a trusted adviser. If it was a message from some party balloon hire business then they may not care less, but from your lawyer…and sent now and in this climate – absolutely!

Firms who are getting new work are the firms who are working for it. Firms who are doing nothing or holding meetings are suffering.

We have dedicated staff who are writing legal articles, so they are ready for publication, hours after a major COVID-19 announcement. These are easily readable and practical articles that clients will appreciate.

In today’s world, to maintain your trusted adviser status, you need to deliver quick and easily digestible guidance on the Government’s measures to your clients, referrers and everyone else on your database. Do this and your clients and referrers will keep you in the front of their mind.

Setting up appointments & communication

You need to make it as easy as possible to deal with you, particularly with people who do not know you well.

Traditional appointment setting may not work at all, be flexible and use the technology available. Use a video conferencing solution, like Zoom or Google’s Hangouts Meet which automatically integrates with google calendars, outlook and exchange allowing you to send meeting invites, with links and joining instructions.

We have created a guide on how to use Zoom. So, if you think this would help, let us know if you would like us to send it to you. We recommend you embrace this as this will help you now, and in the future.

Get in touch if you need help

Our priority currently is to help you communicate with your clients as effectively as possible in order to get more than your fair share of work.

It doesn’t matter if you are a principal of a law firm, a worried senior solicitor, or a trusted employee. If you are uncertain as to what to do, or if you want to have a no obligation discussion with someone who had over 25 years as a lawyer and now helps firms with marketing, email me [email protected] or call me 0407 018 109.

About the author
Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood

Peter Heazlewood is a management and marketing consultant, he specialises in helping law firms develop their practices using business planning marketing and performance reporting techniques refined in his own successful law firm. Peter lives in Sydney with his wife and is the father of five adult children.
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