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Volume 162, 2017 $6.95

What’s on Tap for 2017 in Digital Law Firm Marketing?

Guy Loranger

Client Satisfaction Surveys: Five Quick Questions to Ask

Ray Gross

Creative Price Negotiation

Mike O’Horo

McIntyre’s Civil Alert Organized Succinct Summaries

Monty A. McIntyre Shake Your Moneymaker: Get Paid in 2017

Jared Correia

PROFESSIONAL PROFILE OF THE MONTH

Norman M. Finkelstein

Attorney of the Month

Jeff Bennion

Law Office of Jeff Bennion, San Diego Creativity in the Courtoom

Law Offices of Norman M. Finkelstein, San Diego


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2017 EDITION—NO.162

TABLE OF CONTENTS 6 What’s on Tap for 2017 in Digital Law Firm Marketing? by Guy Loranger

8 Creative Price Negotiation by Mike O’Horo

PROFESSIONAL PROFILE OF THE MONTH

10 Norman M. Finkelstein Law Offices of Norman M. Finkelstein, San Diego EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER Brian Topor EDITOR Wendy Price

by Karen Gorden

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12 COMMUNITYnews

CREATIVE SERVICES Skidmutro Creative Partners CIRCULATION Angela Watson

PHOTOGRAPHY Chris Griffiths STAFF WRITERS Jennifer Hadley Patricia Klier Karen Gorden

by Jennifer Hadley

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CONTRIBUTING EDITORIALISTS Guy Loranger Jared Correia Mike O’Horo Monty McIntyre Ray Gross

by Monty A. McIntyre

26 Shake Your Moneymaker: Get Paid in 2017

ADVERTISING INQUIRIES info@AttorneyJournal.us

SUBMIT AN ARTICLE Editorial@AttorneyJournal.us

ADDRESS CHANGES Address corrections can be made via fax, email or postal mail.

24 McIntyre’s Civil Alert Organized Succinct Summaries

WEBMASTER Mariusz Opalka

OFFICE 30211 Avenida De Las Banderas Suite 200 Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 www.AttorneyJournal.us

ATTORNEY OF THE MONTH

16 Jeff Bennion Law Office of Jeff Bennion, San Diego Creativity in the Courtroom

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by Jared Correia

28 Client Satisfaction Surveys: Five Quick Questions to Ask

by Ray Gross

Editorial material appears in Attorney Journal as an informational service for readers. Article contents are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of Attorney Journal. Attorney Journal makes every effort to publish credible, responsible advertisements. Inclusion of product advertisements or announcements does not imply endorsement. Attorney Journal is a trademark of Sticky Media, LLC. Not affiliated with any other trade publication or association. Copyright 2017 by Sticky Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without written permission from Sticky Media, LLC. Printed in the USA


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What’s on Tap for 2017 In Digital Law Firm Marketing? by Guy Loranger

It’s the start of a new year—and the time for some reflection. During the coming days and weeks, your law firm should look back on your digital marketing efforts from 2016. What worked? What didn’t work? Of course, you should also look ahead to 2017. You need to ask, “What can we do to stay ahead of our competition?” In the constantly changing world of digital marketing, you will need to keep pace with emerging trends. In this article, we discuss the latter. As a company that concentrates on digital marketing for law firms, we want to share our thoughts on seven areas (in no particular order) that we believe your law firm should focus on as you embark on 2017. For additional information and resources beyond this post, please register for our free upcoming Webinar, “7 Resolutions for 2017 to Grow My Caseload From the Web.”

1. THINK MOBILE Don’t look back: The future of digital marketing will focus on mobile device users. During the coming year, you should expect to see a growing number of people use their smartphones and tablets to search for lawyers to help them with their legal needs, whether it involves a car accident claim, criminal charge, divorce or other matter. A Google announcement in November 2016 drove this point home. In the announcement, Google Product Manager Doantam Phan wrote that the search engine “will eventually use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.” In December 2016, our own Marketing Consultant, Amanda Wiebke, described how law firms can stay on top of this trend by: • Using responsive site design 6

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

• Focusing on PageSpeed • Ensuring content is mobile-friendly • Increasing local search visibility In short: If you fail to make “mobile-first” a central focus of your digital marketing efforts in 2017, you could quickly fall behind the rest of the pack. This article by our Lead Senior Consultant, Grant Brott, explains the mobile-first changes you need to be aware of.

2. INCREASE YOUR SPEED One of the offshoots of the shift to mobile-focused marketing is the need to cut down on the time it takes for your website’s pages to load for users. In March 2016, our Director of Strategy, JR Oakes, discussed how slow loading times can hurt your law firm’s digital marketing campaign in two major ways: • It can reduce your conversions. • It can lower your search rankings. As JR pointed out, even a 1-second delay in response time can cause a 7 percent drop in conversions, according to Kissmetrics. Additionally, our own analysis across nearly 130,000 service industry-ranking URLs revealed a “strong correlation between your website’s load speed and rank in Google.” Google uses PageSpeed Insights to measure how fast a website’s pages load for users. You can read more about the program here, including PageSpeed scores. As Google notes, “A higher score is better and a score of 85 or above indicates that the page is performing well.” (We are proud to say that, due to the hard work of our team, all active Consultwebs client sites average 90-plus in Google PageSpeed Insights for both mobile and desktop sites, with a two-second average load time.) As you head into 2017, we hope you give ample attention to your website’s PageSpeed.


3. GAIN POSITIVE ONLINE REVIEWS The signs indicate that more people will use online reviews to make their decisions as consumers in 2017, including the decision of which lawyer to hire. For example, 91 percent of the consumers who participated in a 2016 BrightLocal survey reported that they “now actively read online business reviews,” with 10.5 percent reading online reviews of attorneys. Additionally, the BrightLocal survey revealed that: • 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. • 74 percent trust a local business more based on positive reviews. • 73 percent believe that reviews which are three months or older lack relevance. • 59 percent look at two or three review sites before they make a decision about a business. • 54 percent will visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews. • 32 percent believe that reputation matters when choosing an attorney. It will be crucial in 2017 for your law firm to actively generate positive online reviews across multiple platforms. In addition to social proof, online reviews will also factor into your search rankings. To learn more about what your firm can do to obtain these reviews, check out this recent article by our Director of Marketing, Mike Zellmer. You should also feel free to download our client reviews bundle.

4. GRAB USERS’ ATTENTION THROUGH VIDEO You can expect the importance of video in your law firm’s digital marketing campaign to continue to grow in 2017 and in the years that follow. As Cisco projects, the world’s “IP video traffic will be 82 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2020, up from 70 percent in 2015.” Make sure to read this excellent overview of how to make full use of video content in law firm marketing by our Social Media Strategist, Travis Haney. In addition to posting recorded videos on your firm’s website and across other platforms, you should use live video to grab prospective clients’ attention and to promote your firm. Get started by reading about Facebook Live here.

5. REACH OUT TO YOUR COMMUNITY In recent years, we have found that our clients’ digital marketing campaigns benefit greatly from reaching out to their communities. Community outreach can lead to acquiring high-quality backlinks that boost your website’s search rankings. They also

effectively promote your law firm’s brand. Reaching out to your community can involve sponsoring a scholarship essay or video contest. It can also involve a social responsibility campaign such as the highly successful Fraternities4Family initiative that we organized for the family law firm of Charles R. Ullman & Associates in Raleigh, North Carolina. Corrie Benfield, a member of our Content Team, provides a list of ideas that can get your law firm started on reaching out to your community in 2017.

6. PROVIDE IN-DEPTH, RELEVANT AND VISUALLY APPEALING CONTENT Earlier this year, Kissmetrics reported on a study by serpIQ which revealed a strong connection between the length of a page’s content (in terms of word count) and its position in search rankings. In fact, the highest-ranked pages featured 2,000 words or more of content, according to the study. In 2017, your law firm should move toward publishing long-form static content and blog articles on your website. The challenge will be to ensure that the content is well-written, informative and relevant. It should also be easy on a reader’s eyes. You should strive to feature content that answers the questions that prospective clients commonly pose about their legal issues and your law firm’s services. (Pay attention to the fact that many searches today are conducted by people talking into their mobile devices.) You can make the content visually appealing by blending in graphics, trust badges, testimonials and case results. You should also display the content in a conversion-oriented design that features eye-catching banners and prominent calls to action.

7. REFINE YOUR CLIENT INTAKE SYSTEM The success of your law firm’s digital marketing campaign in 2017 may very well depend on what your law firm does after the campaign generates leads. Katie Johnson, a member of our Marketing Consultants team, pointed out in a recent article that the intake process at a law firm can make or break a firm’s ability to sign a case and maximize its return on investment. “Often, problems with intake aren’t for lack of caring—it’s more a matter of unrefined processes,” Johnson wrote. During the coming year, evaluate what your firm is doing with its intake process and explore ways you can improve your ability to convert clicks to cases. n Guy Loranger is the Web Content Editor for Consultwebs.com. His role allows him to interact regularly with clients on developing website pages, press releases, blogs and other Web content that promotes their firm’s practice areas and enhances their search engine rankings. He is also Google Analytics IQ certified. Consultwebs.com Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

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Creative Price Negotiation by Mike O’Horo For 20 years, Mike O’Horo has been known by lawyers everywhere as The Coach. He trained more than 7000 of them, generating $1.5 billion in new business. Mike can be reached at mikeohoro@rainmakervt.com.

M

ost lawyers struggle with negotiating pricing with prospects and clients. Part of this is the product of lawyers’ personalities, which are generally conflict-averse. Part of this is based on the fear that inartful price discussions could cause them to overplay their hand and lose the business. However, a large part comes from having a singular focus on money. Money is a factor, but it’s rarely the defining one. It isn’t the number one consideration in taking or remaining at a job, and it’s not the number one consideration in most “considered” purchases. Whether we’re talking about salary or purchase price, as long as the money is in the right vicinity, other, non-financial, considerations make a big difference. Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer’s passing in late September brought to mind his late, longtime agent, Mark McCormack, who founded International Management Group and made it the world’s most powerful sports marketing agency. One quote from him is instructive for lawyers. “I find it helpful to try to figure out in advance where the other person would like to end up—at what point he will do the deal and still feel like he’s coming away with something. This is different from ‘how far will he go?’ A lot of times you can push someone to the wall, and you still reach an agreement, but his resentment will come back to haunt you in a million ways.” (My late father, a career salesman, favored a simpler version: “Don’t try to take the last nickel off the table.”) Against this backdrop, I read an interesting approach from Amy Lieberman, a Phoenix, AZ mediator. Her article, “Peace of Mind: The Resolution Ratio,” in the August issue of Attorney at Law magazine, offers a very useful framework for approaching negotiation. Ms. Lieberman introduced the idea of “conflict currencies” that—in addition to money—include acknowledgement, appreciation, respect, trust, communication, fear, and process. She adds “The Resolution Ratio,” which argues that for each negative, or debit, introduced into a negotiation, you’ll need to offer three positives, or credits, to “even the score, restore balance, and bring peace of mind” necessary to reach a reliable agreement without resentment. Her key point is that “a harm cannot be remedied by simply one act.” She shares six concrete examples of the 3:1 ratio being applied. The point that lawyers can apply to their business development efforts is to expand your concept of tradable value beyond money. This is particularly important when your client is trying to negotiate more favorable pricing. Besides a price reduction, 8

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

what else can you offer that your client might accept in lieu of money? Let’s say your client is explicitly directed by senior management to reduce overall legal spending. The easiest way is to insist on a price concession. When that happens, any strategy you try that would result in the client having to go home empty-handed cannot work. The entire savings target ends up coming from you. Focus on the overall cost-reduction goal, which includes many more factors than topline price. What can you offer that helps achieve the cost-reduction goal and doesn’t cost you? Which of the client’s processes or protocols results in redundancy or rework that costs you both money? How much unnecessary and expensive back-and-forth can you eliminate at their end or yours? Maybe this is an opportunity to get the client to embrace a technological solution that would reduce both your costs. If the power relationship with the client means you must accept a painful price concession, what can you get in exchange that would result in comparable profitability? (After all, it’s not what you charge that matters, but what you keep.) In exchange for price concessions on the labor-intensive work, would they be willing to let you do additional work that you can automate or scale to a greater degree, reducing your overall cost for the account and raising the overall profitability? Legal service has matured to where few lawyers enjoy much pricing power for traditional services. The thing to do in response is to get very creative in defining what other “currencies” you can trade that cost you little or nothing. Understand, though, that even if you negotiate well, it’s a Band-Aid. The price for mature services always declines. Plan for another round of price negotiation in a year or two, and periodically thereafter. Before you can draw a line in the pricing sand, you must have a replacement source of revenue. Start investigating ways to transition your practice away from price-sensitive areas and toward emerging problems and issues that your expertise can make a difference with. Begin shifting your proactive BD investments to those areas so that at some point you can afford to fire a client whose price-reduction needs would put you out of business. Price negotiations are a reliable sign that it’s time to start thinking about exiting that part of your practice in favor of something that offers greater value to both clients and you. n


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

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JOURNAL

FEATURED PROFESTSHIOENMAOLNPTROFILE

2017

H

© Bauman Photographers

OF

Attorney Spotlight:

Norman M. Finkelstein

by Karen Gorden

B

efore Norman M. Finkelstein, founder of the Law Offices of Norman M. Finkelstein, APC, spent his days vigorously fighting for justice for victims and families of elder abuse and medical malpractice, he was on a very different side of the law. “I was a police lieutenant in New York City, and tried many narcotics cases. I found that I enjoyed the back and forth during cross examination, and decided to go to law school,” he recalls. After graduating from New York Law School in 1983, the AV-Preeminent-rated attorney made his way to America’s Finest City, and soon after opened his firm. A pioneer in the field of medical malpractice, Finkelstein initially chose to focus his efforts in the practice area, as the result of demand and a sincere desire to help. “People who were victims of medical malpractice needed a competent attorney to represent them, since there were only a few firms in the county who were helping these types of victims,” he says. Not long after, he also expanded his focus to include elder abuse, and has delivered outstanding results for clients for more than 20 years. Not surprisingly, with such vast experience, Finkelstein has earned a reputation as a straight shooter, who is more than happy to go to trial to obtain justice for victims of medical malpractice, elder abuse or elder neglect in California nursing homes. “I treat every case as if it was going to be tried. Working a case up for trial is the way to learn the nuances of each case, which is extremely helpful in obtaining good settlements,” he says. However, as the defense bar and insurance companies

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know all too well, Finkelstein will absolutely take cases to trial if a valuable settlement cannot be reached. “I am very compassionate towards my clients and have empathy for their situations. My experience in law enforcement certainly gave me tools that are incredibly useful in seeking evidence necessary to prosecute a claim,” he adds. Moreover, as a longtime, highly regarded San Diego attorney, suffice it to say, Finkelstein has the financial resources to try costly and challenging cases. In fact, at this juncture of his esteemed career, Finkelstein finds himself in a bit of a sweet-spot. Though he helmed a larger firm for years, these days, he has no desire to grow his firm. Admitting that he is selective about the cases he takes, Finkelstein, who counts numerous published decisions amongst his successes, limits his caseload to 10-15 cases each year. The reason is simple: it allows him to devote his full attention to each and every client he represents. He’s also found the smaller caseload to be instrumental in achieving a greater work-life balance, allowing for more time spent with family and far less stress than in years past. As for the future, Finkelstein intends to stay the course, as a solo practitioner, all the while enjoying the fruits of his labor over the past 34 year, which he credits to those who have trusted him to represent them in their darkest hour. “l believe that an attorney’s success really is dependent upon the clients he or she represents, and his or her support staff. My success would not have been possible without wonderful clients and a great support staff over the years.” n

I believe that an attorney’s success really is dependent on the clients he or she represents, and his or her support staff.

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017


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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

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COMMUNITY news n Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck has promoted attorney Aaron Olsen, who earlier this year served as co-lead class counsel in litigation against Donald Trump and Trump University, to partner. The promotion took effect January 1, 2017. A graduate of California Western School of Law, Olsen has spent the last seven years of his practice as an associate in ZHE’s AARON OLSEN employment law and consumer litigation departments. He focuses his practice on representing employees in all aspects of labor and employment litigation in federal and state courts and is experienced in prosecuting complex class action suits, including consumer fraud actions, product defect cases, wage and hour actions, and unfair competition and false advertising claims, among others. Late last year, Olsen was part of a multi-lawyer team that negotiated a $25 million settlement on behalf of students who attended Donald Trump’s Trump University. He was the first lawyer to field the phone call from and investigate the claims of Tarla Makaeff, who would eventually become the class representative in the case, and was instrumental in prosecuting the nearly seven-year litigation against Trump and his company. n Klinedinst is pleased to announce that shareholder and CFO Heather L. Rosing has been elected President of the California Bar Foundation (CBF). CBF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a better justice system for all Californians. As the center of philanthropy for California’s legal community, CBF focuses on increasing the presence and HEATHER L. ROSING viability of underrepresented communities in the legal profession. CBF is the only statewide foundation with deep ties in both the philanthropic and legal communities. Ms. Rosing has served CBF as a member of the Scholarship Committee, as well as Secretary of the Board of Directors. Having served as Vice President of the State Bar of California, she provides a unique perspective in the makeup of the state’s legal community, and will continue to champion the CBF Diversity Scholarship Program. CBF is California’s largest scholarship resource for diverse law students, investing more than $300,000 per year in tomorrow’s lawyers. In 2014, the organization distributed nearly $1 million in grants and scholarships supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in the California justice system.

Have a Press Release you would like to submit for our Community News? Email it to PR@AttorneyJournal.us

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

n Dinsmore & Shohl LLP is pleased to announce San Diego attorney Matthew J. Wiles has been named partner. Wiles was elected to partnership effective January 1, 2017. A member of the Litigation Department, Matt has extensive experience advocating on behalf of clients MATTHEW J. WILES in federal and state courts and before administrative bodies. He also serves as outside general counsel to clients, partnering with them to establish business and strategic direction and assisting them with employment, contractual, and day-to-day corporate matters. In addition, Robert G. ROBERT G. MARASCO Marasco joined the firm’s San Diego office. He will practice out of the Litigation Department and handle internal and government investigations with expertise in the healthcare and data privacy areas, and litigate white collar criminal matters. Having served as a federal prosecutor, Marasco brings a high level of insider’s knowledge to help advise his clients in a wide variety of legal matters. Marasco was an Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the District of New Jersey and the Southern District of California. In this role, Marasco acted as lead prosecutor on hundreds of investigations of both individuals and corporations n Gomez Trial Attorneys is proud to announce the launch of its dedicated Brain Injury Practice Group. Chaired by Senior Trial Attorney Benjamin Coughlan, the sitting Vice President of the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation and coauthor/editor of the Journey BENJAMIN COUGHLAN Toward Recovery: A Brain Injury Guide for Survivors, the Gomez Trial Attorney Brain Injury Practice will focus its efforts on representing victims and families of victims who have suffered injuries including: concussions, post concussive syndrome, brain trauma of all kinds stemming from athletic/sports injuries, falls, auto accidents, workplace incidents, assaults and more.


COMMUNITY news n Judicate West, one of California’s leading providers of private dispute resolution services, welcomes retired San Diego County Judge Ronald S. Prager to its roster of exclusive neutrals. Judge Prager has nearly three decades of experience on the bench JUDGE RONALD S. where he presided over complex PRAGER civil lawsuits ranging from personal injury matters to environmental and construction defect cases. He was elected to the El Cajon Municipal Court in 1988, before being appointed to the San Diego Superior Court by then-Governor George Deukmejian in 1989. While on the Superior Court bench, Judge Prager spent 22 years as an independent calendar judge, adjudicating a broad spectrum of civil matters and managing more than 1,000 cases. He also served as a settlement judge, resolving hundreds of cases, and was an Advisor Judge to the State Bar of California’s Litigation Section. While on the Superior Court bench, Judge Prager presided over many notable cases, including serving as a trial coordination judge for dozens of tobacco-related class actions; approving a $26 billion settlement between big tobacco companies and the State of California and other governmental entities; and overseeing and directing to settlement several class actions alleging violations of California’s antitrust laws by manipulating California natural gas prices. n Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek announces that Matthew C. Douglas has joined the firm as an associate. Douglas joins the firm’s business department, and his practice will focus on corporate finance, mergers & acquisitions, corporate governance, compliance with securities laws and general MATTHEW C. DOUGLAS business matters. Prior to joining SCMV, Douglas was an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in Los Angeles. Early in his career, Douglas also practiced business law in Sacramento. Douglas received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and holds an LL.M. in business and international law from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. He earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University. Douglas was admitted to the State Bar of California in 2007.

n Higgs Fletcher & Mack has announced that Kathryn Martin and Michael Campbell have been promoted to partner. Martin joined Higgs Fletcher & Mack in 2005, and specializes in the defense of businesses and individuals in all phases of litigation, including general civil, business, class action, KATHRYN MARTIN healthcare, public entity and transportation law in all California state and federal courts. Recently, she successfully defended one of the State’s largest school districts in a three-week jury trial. Martin also represents clients in arbitrations and administrative proceedings. She graduated from the University of San Diego magna cum laude, with MICHAEL CAMPBELL a dual major in political science and communications. Martin was awarded a full academic scholarship to attend California Western School of Law, graduating with honors in 2005. Campbell’s practice focuses on defending individuals and entities in all forms of litigation. He has successfully represented clients in the state and federal courts, including the California Court of Appeal. Prior to joining Higgs Fletcher & Mack, Campbell practiced in the employment law group at a national firm in San Diego and at a nationally recognized professional liability defense firm in Sacramento, where he represented doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical groups and skilled nursing facilities in both malpractice and employment law matters. He also served as a solicitor in the United Kingdom, where he still holds an active license to practice with one of the country’s most respected trade union defense firms. n Perkins Coie has announced that Babak Tehranchi, Ph.D., has been promoted to partner. Based in the firm’s San Diego office, Dr. Tehranchi is a member of the firm’s Intellectual Property Law practice. His practice focuses on patent prosecution, patent portfolio evaluation, due diligence and patent BABAK TEHRANCHI litigation support in technology areas including wireless technologies, optics, digital rights management, software, electronics, medical devices and mechanical systems. He prepares and conducts post-grant proceedings before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office including inter partes review, postgrant review, covered business method review and patent reexamination. He is also the inventor of more than 30 U.S. and international patents. Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017


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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

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Creativity in The Courtoom Jeff Bennion Uses His Talents to Teach, Help Other Attorneys to Tell Compelling Stories, and to Win Trials by Jennifer Hadley

“As

the Education Chair of the State Bar of California’s Technology Section, I’m always on the forefront of neat things,” says Jeff Bennion, Founder of the Law Office of Jeff Bennion. However, Bennion’s interest in bringing creativity to the practice of law through the use of technology was piqued years before he held that position, or served as the Vice Chair of the Law Practice Management and Technology Section—which is responsible for educating the 245,000 lawyers in California on running an efficient law practice, with the help of technology. Indeed, Bennion was also fascinated by the invaluable role that technology can play in terms of helping injured victims, and fellow attorneys long before he sat on the Board of Directors of Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.

Tapping into Tech From the early days of his career in law, which began as a paralegal with Luce Forward, Bennion seized upon any and all opportunities to further his own technological education, which was no small feat considering he was simultaneously attending the evening program at University of San Diego School of Law. He was simultaneously working fulltime, married with two young sons, and about to become a father of three. “It was a challenge to juggle all of that,” he admits. “My third son was born the day after the Bar exam. So, I took the Bar Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then we had a baby on Friday,” he recalls with a chuckle. All the same, during that time Bennion still managed to find time to indulge in his love of all things technology related. “I’ve always liked graphic design. I used to do graphic design work on the side in law school, when I was writing for the comedy website Cracked.com. That’s where I saw that graphic design has great application in the legal field, and started incorporating it into my cases,” Bennion says 16

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

The extraordinary effort was all worth it, though. “By the time I got out of law school, I had assisted and sat through 20+ jury trials. I thought I knew what hard work was. After all, on the defense you get paid by the hour and there was always work to be done when trial came around,” he says. Yet, he was soon to find out that no amount of work he’d done previously prepared him for just how hard he would work as a plaintiff’s attorney. Fortunately, he was equally surprised to discover just how enjoyable the practice of law became, once he began “bringing creativity to the [sometimes] stuffy world of law.”

A True Passion for Teaching Soon after launching his own firm, focusing primarily on personal injury cases, Bennion accepted a position teaching at Cuyamaca College, all the while maintaining his solo practice, beginning to teach MCLE courses, and continuing to sharpen his own technological skills. In fact, as the result of teaching a MCLE class, in 2014 Bennion was invited to teach for his alma mater. “The Program Director at UCSD happened to be at one of the MCLE classes, and invited me to teach Business Law,” he says. Continuing he says, “I love teaching. It is personally so rewarding. Every week, I battle my schedule because it takes a lot of time, but I will teach forever. Education in some form is in everything I do. I can’t help it. I like helping people.” More recently, his role as a professor of Business Law at UCSD led to a position on the Advisory Committee for UCSD Extension’s brand new litigation technology certificate. “I teach a good number of the online classes. We just finished an 18-hour class last fall on the science behind creating great trial graphics and presentations. It was a really fun class to teach.” All told,


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Bennion says, “I’ve been teaching for about 7 years now, and explaining complicated legal principles to bored people who don’t want to be there turns out to be great practice for jury trials,” he jokes. Likewise, his role as a weekly Legal Technology columnist for AboveTheLaw.com—the nation’s largest legal website— provides him the opportunity to teach others about the pros (and occasionally cons) of making technology a keystone in a case. “I have a lot of fun with my column. I keep it informal, and occasionally push the envelope. The column I wrote on why Word Perfect is not the best program out there got me some hate mail, though,” he laughs. “And my column about Microsoft Excel was one of my most well-read columns, which is also pretty funny.” Finally, Bennion is looking forward to yet another venue for teaching others, through a unique collaboration with preeminent Trial Consultant, Finlay Boag. “We’re launching LegalStorytellers.com, where we’ll be presenting seminars, and offering boot camps for attorneys to attend so that they can tell their clients’ stories in a way that will captivate their audience,” he says. This collaboration came about as the result of both Bennion’s and Boag’s respective experiences, and ensuing insights. “If you ask most lawyers to give an opening statement of whatever case they have in their office right now, they might start with a chronological history of the world,” Bennion jokes. “And that’s a pretty good way to spew out information. Reciting facts is what we were taught in law school. But, there’s a reason why movie makers don’t do that. Too many lawyers think that trial is about getting your facts out there. That’s a small part of it. Trial is about getting the jury to not say, ‘So what?’ after you get your facts out there. It’s about getting the jury not just interested in your story, but motivated to fill out the verdict form.”

Helping Other Attorneys Tell Compelling Stories Through Technology Of course, none of these opportunities to teach others would be possible were it not for the painstaking work Bennion has put into mastering his craft of using technology to help secure incredible wins for his clients, and for the attorneys who hire him as a trial consultant. By way of example, he recently became one of a handful of Adobe Certified Experts in Photoshop, which is overwhelmingly used to make graphics for trial and mediations. “The test was really difficult,” he says honestly. “I think there are only two other Certified Experts in San Diego, and only 85 in the entire state of California.” Despite being challenging, Bennion says that learning to use the program with acute precision can make all the difference

in the world to a client. In fact, although his trial consultancy work is most often utilized in personal injury cases and medical malpractice cases, he has also used these skills to help defendants in criminal cases. “When it comes to personal injury or medical malpractice cases, I only work on the side of the plaintiff. But in business cases or criminal cases, I will work with whatever party is being bullied. I don’t like seeing people bullied.” For example, in one criminal case, Bennion’s expertise helped a defendant to avoid life in prison. “The D.A. had cell phone photos that were taken at night, which appeared to show the defendant holding a gun. But through analyzing it, it became clear that a reflection in a window was responsible for the supposed gun. He had no gun in his hand.” In civil cases, he uses this expertise to create medical illustrations, scene overlays, timelines, and a variety of charts and graphs. The final products that Bennion delivers to attorneys who bring him in to help develop trial themes, or to serve as Trial Tech Support are so exceptional, that he’s now Of Counsel to one of San Diego’s most awarded Personal Injury Firms, Estey & Bomberger. “I was brought in to help manage e-discovery on their Skechers case, a complex litigation case with millions of records and thousands of clients across California. I thought it would be a 3-6 month case, but I’m still working with them, and my role has evolved a bit. I do some briefs, but I’m mostly behind the scenes helping to develop and/or illustrate trial themes,” he says. Another example of just how influential the products Bennion creates can be to a case can be seen through a brain injury case he was brought in to assist with last year. “A woman who had just gone out on retirement was hit in the head, causing injuries that gave her the mental capacity of a 5-year-old. Her claim was pretty straight forward. We knew her medical expenses and what her life would be like for the remaining 18 years she was expected to live. We represented her husband as well. At the settlement conference, the judge suggested that we not focus on the husband’s claims because there was no way to do it without taking away from her claim, or worse, making him look like a complainer for having to take care of her. I knew she had a powerful claim, but I thought her husband did, too. He took care of her from morning to night. Because of her injury, she got anxious around others and he was the only one that could take care of her without causing her serious distress and anxiety. She was afraid of riding in the car too, so he was homebound with her for the rest of his life,” Bennion explains. “I put together a short video that started out as a page out of a day planner and it had everything he did for his wife every day, starting at 7:00 am, and going until 8:00 pm. Then, as the camera zoomed out, you could see a week of identical days planned on the calendar. Then a month. Then a year. Then you could see about 8,000 pages of the calendar with every waking hour of his life planned, taking care of his injured wife, instead of travelling the world with her as they had previously planned.

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Winning Trials Through Innovation Bennion’s technological works of art are certainly incredible tools to use in the courtroom, but before a case makes it to a jury, he often uses his tech savvy to assist attorneys with focus groups. “A lot of attorneys do a lot of focus group. Focus groups are great ways to uncover hidden landmines in your case and to polish your case to make it better,” he says. All the same, Bennion is not content to hold status quo focus groups, thus he explains he looked for a way to improve upon the process. “The last time I did a focus group on one of my own cases, instead of just doing a mock opening in front of the participants, I decided I would put a code on their nametags. The participants scan the code with their phones and it opens up a survey that tracks how they are feeling and which way they are leaning during the focus group. I output that data to an Excel file and created a scatter graph that I then superimposed and synced up to the video file to get their realtime reactions,” Bennion says. “By doing this, I can look at the recording and see that at 42 minutes and 12 seconds, for example, I said something that prompted 6 of the 10 participants to change their minds on something. Scrolling to that point in the video shows me what I said and what people were reacting to. I can see which potential jurors I turn, I lose, or those who stay the same,” he adds. Not surprisingly, Bennion is now routinely called upon to provide this service for fellow attorneys throughout San Diego. Between juggling his own caseload, serving as Of Counsel to Estey & Bomberger, teaching, serving as a trial tech consultant, writing, and parenting his 3 sons with his wife, suffice it to say there is never a dull moment in Bennion’s life. Fortuitously, he wouldn’t have it any other way. In short, his unconventional legal practice is frankly everything he had ever hoped to build. “I love what I have developed. I wake up excited about everything I do—my caseload, working with other attorneys, teaching, writing. I get to do all of the stuff that I truly enjoy. I get to be creative with law, and I get to help people.” n Contact Jeff Bennion jbennionlaw.com trialtechsupport.com jeff@jbennionlaw.com (619) 609-7198 20

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

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EXPERIENCE

The animation was only about 30 seconds long, and I ended it with a few excerpts from the day in the life video showing him taking care of his wife,” Bennion says. “We were able to get a confidential 8-figure settlement in that case.”

» EDUCATION • University of San Diego School of Law – 2009 • University of California, San Diego – Undergrad (Dual Major in Political Science: International Relations and Russian and Soviet Studies) – 2004

» AWARDS • Top Young Attorney – San Diego Daily Transcript, 2012 • Rising Star – San Diego Attorney Journal, 2013 • Best of the Bar – San Diego Business Journal, 2015-2016 • Rising Star – Super Lawyers, 2016-2017

» ASSOCIATIONS • American Bar Association – 2011 • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego – 2012 • Louis M. Welsh American Inn of Court – 2013 • Board of Directors of CASD – 2017 • Vice Chair of the State Bar of California’s Law Practice Management and Technology Section – 2017 • Education Chair of the State Bar of California’s Law Practice Management and Technology Section – 2017

» RECENT SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS • LegalTech NY 2014, Emerging Local Technologies – 2014 • State Bar of California Annual Meeting, Advanced E-Discovery Techniques – 2015 • NALA Annual Conference, Legal Technology – 2015 • Legal Tech Talks, E-Discovery Concepts – 2015 • State Bar of California Solo and Small Firm Summit, Tools for Preparing for Trial – 2015 • Academy for Private Practice, E-Discovery for Small Firms – 2015 • State Bar of California Annual Meeting, Cybersecurity for Law Firms – 2016


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McIntyre’s Civil Alert Organized Succinct Summaries by Monty A. McIntyre, Esq.

Monty A. McIntyre has over 30 years of experience as a mediator and arbitrator. More than 35 years of experience as a civil trial lawyer representing both plaintiffs and defendants in business and commercial, bad faith, brain injury, construction, land use/CEQA, medical malpractice, personal injury, real property and wrongful death cases. To schedule a meeting with Monty A. McIntyre contact Kelsey Hannah at ADR Services, Inc. at 619-233-1323 or kelsey@adrservices.org

 CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT Attorneys (Anti-SLAPP) Barry v. State Bar of California (2017) _ Cal.5th _, 2017 WL 56342: The California Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal holding that, in the absence of subject matter jurisdiction, the trial court had no power to hear or decide an anti-SLAPP motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. The California Supreme Court ruled that a court that lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a claim may grant an anti-SLAPP motion to strike and may award attorney fees and costs to the defendant. Because the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, plaintiff could not show a probability of prevailing on the merits. Here is the procedural summary of the case: After the State Bar commenced disciplinary proceedings, plaintiff stipulated to violations of the rules of professional conduct and agreed to the recommended discipline. Plaintiff then filed a writ petition with the California Supreme Court, the court with jurisdiction over disciplinary proceedings, seeking to set aside the stipulation. The Supreme Court denied the petition and imposed the discipline. Plaintiff then filed this complaint against defendant in the Superior Court. (January 5, 2017.)

 CALIFORNIA COURTS OF APPEAL Arbitration Hernandez v. Ross Stores (2017) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2016 WL 7131651: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying a motion to compel arbitration in a case where plaintiff filed a single-count representative action under the California Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), Labor Code section 2698 et. seq., alleging defendant had violated numerous Labor Code laws and seeking to recover PAGA civil penalties. The trial court properly denied the motion based upon Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, 387. The PAGA claim was a representative action brought on behalf of 24

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

the state that did not include individual claims. There were no individual claims or disputes that could be separately arbitrated. (C.A. 4th, filed December 17, 2016, published January 3, 2017.)

Civil Procedure (Anti-SLAPP) Healthsmart Pacific v. Kabateck (2017) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2016 WL 7340044: In an action by plaintiffs against certain lawyers and their law firms for defamation and other causes of action arising from statements two of the lawyers made on television and radio programs about a pending lawsuit, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying an anti-SLAPP motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. Standard of review: de novo. The Court of Appeal ruled that the action arose out of activity protected under the anti-SLAPP statute, and because the challenged statements were protected under the fair report privilege, plaintiffs did not establish a probability of success on the merits. (C.A. 2nd, filed December 19, 2016, published January 10, 2017.) Silva v. See’s Candy Shops (2017) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2016 WL 7176684: The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court’s orders granting summary judgment for defendant in an employment action alleging wage and hour violations brought in plaintiff’s individual capacity, on behalf of a class of See’s Candy employees, and on behalf of aggrieved workers under the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA). Standard of review: de novo. The Court of Appeal ruled that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment with respect to individual claims alleged in the first and second causes of action because defendant did not move for summary judgment on those claims. The trial court properly entered summary judgment for defendant on all remaining claims including the PAGA cause of action and the class-certified claims (failure to properly pay wages based on defendant’s rounding and grace-period policies). (C.A. 4th, filed December 9, 2016, published January 5, 2017.)

Government Cape Concord Homeowners Association v. City of Escondido (2017) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2017 WL 56336: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying a writ petition seeking a refund of


sewer service fees under Government Code section 53082(b). The Court of Appeal ruled that section 53802 did not apply because the property was connected to the sewer system. Section 53082(c) imposes liability only where the premises is not connected to the sewer system. (C.A. 4th, January 5, 2016.)

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Taxes Swart Enterprises v. Franchise Tax Board (2017) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2017 WL 118040: In a case where plaintiff sought a refund of $1,106.71 (the minimum franchise tax of $800 plus interest and penalties) the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for plaintiff. Standard of review: de novo. The California franchise tax does not apply to an out-of-state corporation whose sole connection with California is a 0.2 percent ownership interest in a manager-managed California limited liability company (LLC) investment fund. Passively holding a 0.2 percent ownership interest, with no right of control over the business affairs of the LLC, does not constitute “doing business” in California within the meaning of Revenue and Taxation Code section 23101. (C.A. 5th, January 12, 2017.)

Torts Bigler-Engler v. Breg, Inc. (2017) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2017 WL 65411: In an action alleging medical malpractice and intentional torts arising from the use of a cold therapy device after orthopedic surgery, the Court of Appeal granted a rehearing, depublished its earlier opinion dated October 28, 2016, and issued a new opinion. In this new opinion, the Court of Appeal came to the same conclusions as the original decision on most issues. However, it concluded that its original discussion of the interplay between MICRA and Proposition 51 was incorrect and ruled that a Proposition 51 apportionment should be applied first before determining whether the $250,000 MICRA cap needs to be applied. Defendant Oasis MSO, Inc. (Oasis) was liable for $130,000 after the Proposition 51 apportionment. Because this was below the MICRA $250,000 cap, that cap did not apply. Plaintiff’s 998 offer was ineffective because it failed to include an acceptance provision. The jury awarded $68,270.38 in economic compensatory damages and $5,127,950 in noneconomic compensatory damages to plaintiff, apportioned liability among the three defendants, and awarded punitive damages of $500,000 against defendant Dr. Chao (Chao) and $7 million against defendant Breg, Inc. (Breg). However, the jury’s verdict findings of intentional concealment against Breg and strict products liability against defendant Oasis were not supported by the evidence. This required reversal of the punitive damage award against Breg. The Court of Appeal also ruled that the noneconomic damages and punitive damages as to Chao (whose stipulated net worth was $3,411,577) were excessive, and those awards were reversed and remanded for a new trial unless plaintiff accepts reductions in those awards to $1,300,000 and $150,000. The decision discusses a plethora of attorney conduct, damages, malpractice, tort and trial issues (C.A. 4th, January 6, 2017.) n

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7/12/13 5:04 PM


Shake Your Moneymaker: Get Paid in 2017 by Jared Correia

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awyers and money do not go together like peas and carrots. Actually, let me rephrase that: Lawyers and talking about money do not go together like peas and carrots. Lawyers and managing money do not go together like peas and carrots. And lawyers and setting competitive market rates do not go together like peas and carrots. Lawyers and making money, however? Yeah, that goes together like peas and carrots. Lawyers, like every group of business professionals, want to make money. It is the antecedents for doing so, however, that get in the way. Peas, meet … Brussels sprouts.

It’s 2017 and It’s Time You Got Paid Here are some solutions for making more money this year that don’t require an accounting degree.

Discuss Money Upfront Even elephants in the room were once wee baby elephants. But, allowed to grow and flourish, and to literally eat all of your hay, they become problematic. The fee question is one you don’t want to let linger. In talking with potential clients, address your fee as soon as you can, without appearing callous. You’re not running a pro bono or low bono practice (at least not intentionally), so the foundation of any attorney-client relationship is an agreed-upon rate between the parties. If your potential client is not willing to pony up a retainer, or starts to squirm when you relay your fee structure, it’s time to think about pulling the plug. Don’t waste any more time exploring the engagement because that’s even more of your money down the drain. • For initial pricing discussions with clients, it helps to have a settled fee schedule. Know your own rates and communicate them clearly to potential clients. And if you discount, do so intentionally.

Rehab Your Rates You should examine whether your rates continue to work for you on an established schedule anyway. Consider this your official kick in the pants. Most lawyers I talk to don’t charge enough. How do I know? Because their competitors tell me the rates they won’t release to them, and I get to compare fee structures

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across firms. Of course, I can’t share confidential information. So, what is a thoroughgoing attorney left to do? Start with the Clio Legal Trends Report, which relays average billing rates for the contiguous United States. Check your jurisdiction, and if your rates are not above the average (remember, it’s an average, and you’re certainly not average, right?), round up. Of course, understanding that you’re not charging enough is one thing. It could also be that you’re not charging in the right way. It’s unfortunate that many attorneys see the adoption of alternative fee structures as a major concession to cost pressure, wrought by modern clients, when those alternative fee arrangements actually represent a great compromise between lawyers and clients. Fixed fees, for example, may be an effective value proposition for the client (there’s a fee cap) and the law firm (the acquisition of expertise means an attorney can perform work more quickly while charging more for it). • One of the most dramatic things you can do is to adjust your law firm billing rates. Increasing your rates is one clear method for vetting clients with an ability to pay, while adopting alternative fee structures can help balance out the responsibilities of lawyers and clients.

Adopt Electronic Payment Methods At this point, very few law offices are not at least partially paperless. Most lawyers own a smartphone. Yet these same people take payment by check and money order. If you’ve realized the efficiencies wrought by technology, why are you still managing your law firm payments in the same old way? Especially if you’re attempting to represent modest-means clients, it’s infinitely easier for your clients to make payment via credit or debit card, and pay the balance off over time. It’s a de facto payment plan—which, see above, you probably don’t offer anyway. Since the process of paying via plastic is much simpler than acquiring cash or a money order, you’ll also be paid faster. If the theory is true that you should endeavor with your whole soul to get an initial retainer, because it may be the only money you see from your client—well, allowing those retainers to be paid via credit card means that you’re more likely to get that money in the first place. There are several methods for processing payments online, including those built for lawyers, like LawPay. If you’re worried about the ethics issues associated


with credit and debit card processing, those are relatively easy to overcome. • Invest in online payment processing—if you don’t, your competition will—and so will your potential clients.

Understand the Relationship Between Your Overhead and Your Revenue This seems like something a greenhorn would say about business management, but there are thought processes and discussions relating back to overhead that lawyers just do not consider. First, many small firms do not effectively monitor their overhead. They can’t tell you what their businesses costs are; or, they pull a figure from thin air. They don’t know what their monthly expenses are. They can’t see trends in expenses. If you’re not keeping track of all that, you will never know how much you have to make to cover your overhead. And, if you don’t know much you need to make to cover your overhead, you won’t know how much you need to make to have a subsistence wage. Oh, and if you don’t know how much you need to make for a subsistence wage, you’ll never understand how much you’ll need to make beyond that to have the lifestyle you actually want. Coming around to understanding the complete financial picture of your life as an attorney is sort of like building a pyramid, even if most lawyers attempt to establish that pyramid on a foundation of sand. • Establish a budget to get a handle on your overhead and it will more effectively inform every financial decision you make about your law firm.

those accounts. • Check up on your accounts receivable in a consistent manner and you'll find some money there. Collecting on lingering accounts receivable is kind of like finding change in your couch cushions or a $20 bill in your jeans pocket—and it feels just as good.

A Little Tenacity Pays Off Making money requires a pinch of tenacity, not necessarily an in-depth understanding of finance. Adopting one or all of these suggestions for your law firm will allow you to add cash this new year. n Jared Correia is CEO at Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal-facing corporations to develop programming and content. A former practicing attorney, Jared is a popular presenter and regular contributor to legal publications (including his “Managing” column for Attorney at Work). He is the author of the ABA book “Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers,” hosts the Legal Toolkit podcast, and teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School and Solo Practice University. Previously published in Attorney at Work.

Make Efforts to Collect on Your Accounts Receivable Who has two thumbs and has money out there just waiting to be collected? Um, you do. (Please point at yourself now. No, with your thumbs. C’mon, man.) Many solo and small firm lawyers are so dedicated to acquiring new business that they neglect the work they’ve already done. Even highly transactional law firms do not immediately get paid for all of the work they do. And when payments linger, it’s easy to forget about them. Unless you have a specific method for regularly reviewing the status of accounts receivable, you’re far less likely to collect on them. A lot of attorneys give those accounts receivable up for dead and are too quick to judge their clients as malefactors when they’re not paid immediately. However, there are any number of reasons clients don’t pay. If all it took to get paid was a small push, doesn’t it pay (see what I did there) to make it? Lawyers are trained to think up the worst imaginable scenario, and to plan for it. But giving your clients the benefit of the doubt, at least at first blush, is a more prudent course of action than assuming they will never pay anyway. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever before to quickly review the status of accounts receivable via modern software tools, many of which feature upfront graphical representations of the present value of Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

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Client Satisfaction Surveys: Five Quick Questions to Ask

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awyers often resist the idea of conducting client satisfaction surveys: They don’t believe people will be honest unless they have complete anonymity, and they don’t believe clients will take the time to complete the survey. It’s true, many will not complete the survey, but some will. And right now, you probably aren’t collecting any valuable information from your clients. Even worse, the feedback you’re getting is probably in the form of a negative online review.

Here’s What Client Satisfaction Surveys Can Do If you’re not conducting a satisfaction survey upon closing each client’s case, you should be. Surveys are an excellent tool for improving customer service and increasing positive online reviews. They can bring to light your firm’s weaknesses and strengths and help identify problem employees. They also give you the opportunity to: • Remind clients to share their positive experience by posting positive reviews on online reputation platforms like Avvo, Google, Yelp, Judy’s Book and Facebook. • Prevent an upset client from leaving a negative review by allowing them to air their grievances in person or in a survey, reducing the chance that they’ll tarnish your reputation online. • Solidify your relationships with happy clients—any additional positive communication will inspire them to feel confident referring you. • Mend relationships with clients who were not happy with you, or with the outcome of their case. Surveys don’t have to take a lot of time. Typically, clients must sign paperwork to close the file. Simply add five minutes to this appointment to hand them the survey and explain why their feedback is so valuable. If anonymity is a concern, send them home with the survey and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

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by Ray Gross

The Five Questions You Must Include in a Client Satisfaction Survey These five questions get to the root of issues quickly—and the client can finish the survey in less than 10 minutes. 1. Overall, how satisfied were you with our firm’s communication with you? 2. How satisfied were you with the outcome of your case? 3. Are you likely to refer us to a friend? 4. Based on your experience with us, what would you say are the strengths of our firm? 5. Based on your experience with us, what would you say are the weaknesses of our firm? Make it easy to answer the questions by providing a scale (i.e., “Circle one: 1 2 3 4 5”) or “Yes/No” options. Also, be sure to leave room for feedback below each question, so that clients can elaborate on their level of satisfaction—space for approximately 200 words should suffice. You can add more questions, but I’ve found that the more questions you ask, the less likely people are to complete the survey.

Paper, Email or Automated Survey Platform? There are many ways to administer client surveys: face-to-face, by personal email message or via an email marketing platform like MailChimp, or with a reputation management platform like Grade.us, which funnels people to online review sites. An email marketing app allows you to create satisfaction surveys directly in the email message and then send them to your clients en masse, in segmented groups or individually. With a reputation management platform, you can add a survey landing page or widget to your firm website, as well as send survey reminder emails. The survey will ask your clients to


rate their overall satisfaction by clicking on a 1 to 5 satisfaction scale, a thumbs up or down icon, or a smiley or frowning face. To be routed to a review page, your client will have to click a 4 or 5, the thumbs up, or one of the two happiestlooking faces. If they click 1 to 3, or select thumbs down or one of the three least happy faces, a screen will pop up to offer them a feedback box and divert them away from the review sites. The feedback box is intended to prevent them from posting a negative review and to help you find out what their issue is so you can satisfy their concern. Obviously, the goal here is to prevent people from leaving negative reviews and to push the satisfied people directly to your Google+ or Avvo page to leave positive reviews. Unfortunately, this does not always work. I do not recommend using automated systems for your initial client satisfaction survey for the following reasons: • Face-to-face communication is much more effective. Talking face-toface first is your best opportunity to uncover negative issues and put out the fire immediately. Your goal is to make sure unhappy clients do not leave your office until their concerns are dealt with and you have restored their confidence. If doing this in person isn’t feasible, make a phone call when a client matter closes. • Sending an unhappy client an email asking them to share their experience is asking for a negative review. Most will get past their negative experience with time. Others will have the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and won’t look back. However, if you start blasting them with Grade.us emails, you are putting people who may have let things go just one or two clicks away from posting negative reviews. This is my biggest issue with Grade.us and similar platforms. They can be useful, but only with happy clients, and at a later point in the process.

How to Encourage More Positive Online Reviews With a little research, you will learn there are many ways to conduct client satisfaction surveys and encourage positive online reviews. This hybrid model takes advantage of the strengths of each method while mitigating potential negative effects: 1. Start with a face-to-face conversation as soon as a matter closes. 2. Identify upset clients and address issues. Set an appointment with the lawyer or the person in your office who can fix their issues. 3. Identify happy clients and ask them to fill out a written survey. If they say no to the written survey, ask if it is OK to send them an online survey (i.e., via MailChimp or a similar system). Some will prefer the written survey, but offer both options. 4. Ask happy clients if you can email them a link to Grade.us (or a similar platform) so they can leave a positive review. Explain how easy it is. (“It only takes one to two clicks and takes you right to our Google+ page.”)

You Can’t Fix Something Unless You Know It’s Broken Follow this protocol and you will increase your positive online reviews and decrease the likelihood of negative ones. n Ray Gross is founder and CEO of Attorney Internet Marketing LLC. For more than five years, he has successfully helped increase the revenue of his clients by organizing joint marketing programs and coaching in the art of proper lead intake. Previously published in Attorney at Work.

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 162, 2017

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 154, 2016


Chihak & Martel MEDICAL MALPRACTICE | MAJOR PERSONAL INJURY | PRODUCTS LIABILITY | INSURANCE BAD FAITH

CYNTHIA CHIHAK AND AMY ROSE MARTEL

TRIAL LAWYERS, NOT SETTLEMENT LAWYERS Many personal injury lawyers who call themselves trial lawyers only settle their cases. At Chihak & Martel, our job is to obtain the best possible recovery, and nothing less. We are not afraid to try your case in court. Your recovery comes first.

Chihak & Martel celebrates its firm members being named to the San Diego Super Lawyers list, and to its principal Cynthia Chihak for being selected to the Top 25 Women Lawyers in San Diego for eleven consecutive years.

12555 High Bluff Drive, Suite 150 l San Diego, CA 92130 l (858) 481-7252 l www.chihaklaw.com


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Attorney Journal, San Diego, Volume 162