Today, there are more hungry young attorneys than ever competing for just about the same number of clients as there have always been. What's more, cut-rate legal service offerings have made it so that many firms that used to be able to skate by are now hurting badly. You need to mix it up and offer something different from your competition in order to make people come to your firm instead of someone else's. In this guide, we'll explore 6 ways to make sure that people see your firm as the best of the bunch when they do their online research.
#1: Start Posting Prices
One of the things that makes people anxious and afraid to contact an attorney is the idea that lawyers charge so much that only rich people can afford their services. Some potential clients—who might very well be able to pay your fee, especially with a payment plan—may avoid calling because they don't want to be embarrassed by hearing a quoted price in person that far exceeds their ability to pay. Many people are hesitant to “waste your time” by going in for a consultation unless they're sure that they will be able to afford legal services from your law firm.
That's why one easy way to make sure that you're staying competitive is to get real with your clients before they even call—by using your website to post flat fees. If your firm does flat fee structures, you can post how much typical flat fees are for different types of cases. If you charge by the hour, you can give a range of hourly charges and a range of usual billable hours for different types of cases. By posting prices, you ensure that people aren't coming in who have no ability to pay your fees, while also making other people realize that competent legal help is more affordable and in reach than they may have anticipated.
#2: Go After Ratings and Rankings
The majority of potential legal clients who use online searches to find an attorney check out rating and review websites before they decide on a lawyer to call for a consultation. That means that ratings and rankings can make or break law firms, especially newer firms or struggling ones. Great ratings and rankings can give you a significant edge on your competitors, while lackluster rankings and poor reviews will mean a precipitous decline in the amount of new business you see walking in your door.
Getting the best rankings and reviews means taking charge of your own publicity to some extent. You should ask clients to assess you on these websites when their cases are complete, and keep an eye on whether those reviews are coming in. If you see a review come in that is obviously not from a client of yours, or is a negative review that you suspect was actually posted by a rival pretending to be a legal client, you can present the evidence for this to the website and, with a bit of luck, get the offending review taken down.
#3: Respond to Leads Sooner, Not Later
When clients start contacting attorneys and trying to set up consultations, it doesn't really matter very much who the best attorney is of the contacted group: very often, the first person to get back in touch with the client will be the lawyer they choose. This is why it's absolutely critical to respond to leads with all due haste. It should never take you more than a single business day to get back in touch with a potential client, and calling back within hours will put you ahead of most of your competition easily.
The reason that clients tend to choose the first lawyer to respond is simple. It's not just that the lawyer gets to give them their first big dose of legal information about their case. It's also because clients make the assumption that an attorney who takes a long time to respond to their initial call will also be slow in contacting them once they take the case. Once you have a client, take care not to disappoint them—return their calls quickly, so that they can let their friends know about your dedication to customer service.
#4: Optimize for Local Searches
Many firms are slow to adapt to the newer types of search engine optimization. For the vast majority of law firms, most of your clients will actually come from people doing searches for locally based search terms. For example, if you're a family lawyer in Peoria, trying to optimize a web page to show up in the first results for “family lawyer” will be incredibly hard—but trying to optimize both for the “family lawyer” keywords and “Peoria” will be significantly easier. Keep your search engine optimization local, and you'll be well equipped to get onto Google's first page of search results.
#5: Rethink Your Print and Traditional Ads
While many law firms are still using print media, radio, television, and outdoor (billboard) advertising to market their services, you may want to rethink whether your print and traditional advertising is actually working for you. The internet is a great way to find attorneys, and studies have shown that the majority of legal clients know this and do their lawyer finding online. If you're not seeing any clients come in because of your other types of advertising, you may want to consider making the vast majority of your marketing efforts happen in the online rather than the offline world.
#6: Understand the Mobile Web
This is the year that will see, for the first time, more web pages accessed through smartphones and other mobile devices than laptop or desktop PCs. That means your old website—which looks like garbage when displayed on a smartphone—is no longer going to cut it. To stay competitive, you need a redesign that incorporates a site either designed expressly for mobile or a site that is responsive to the device it is being viewed on.