Volume 179, 2018 $6.95
Unlocking the Talents of the Millennial Lawyer
Be the Missing Piece: Marketing Your Niche Law Practice
20 Traits of the 100%-Capable Rainmaker
Law Firm of the Month
How Meditation Helped My Law Practice and Why I Think It Could Help Yours
Claire E. Parsons Digital Marketing Trends in 2018 and Beyond
11 “MORE” SEO Specialists Share Their Best Tips for Lawyers
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W W W. J I L I O R YA N . C O M
TABLE OF CONTENTS 6 Be the Missing Piece: Marketing Your Niche Law Practice by Sherrie Boutwell
8 Twenty Traits of the 100%-Capable Rainmaker by Mike O’Horo
EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER Brian Topor
10 How Meditation Helped My Law Practice And Why I Think It Could Help Yours by Claire E. Parsons
EDITOR Wendy Price
12 Community News
CREATIVE SERVICES Skidmutro Creative Partners
LAW FIRM OF THE MONTH
16 Batta Fulkerson Law Group, Inc., Serving San Diego Vision for Change
CIRCULATION Angela Watson PHOTOGRAPHY Chris Griffiths
by Dan Baldwin
22 Unlocking the Talents of the Millennial Lawyer
STAFF WRITERS Dan Baldwin Jennifer Hadley CONTRIBUTING EDITORIALISTS Sherrie Boutwell JP Box Chris Dreyer Mike O’Horo Trey Ryder Bill Tilley WEBMASTER Mariusz Opalka ADVERTISING INQUIRIES Info@AttorneyJournal.us SUBMIT AN ARTICLE Editorial@AttorneyJournal.us OFFICE 30211 Avenida De Las Banderas Suite 200 Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 www.AttorneyJournal.us ADDRESS CHANGES Address corrections can be made via fax, email or postal mail.
by JP Box
26 Digital Marketing Trends in 2018 and Beyond by Bill Tilley
28 11 “More” SEO Specialists Share Their Best Tips for Lawyers by Chris Dreyer
22 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 2018 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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Be the Missing Piece: Marketing Your Niche Law Practice by Sherrie Boutwell
arketing a niche practice (especially in a small firm) has its challenges. Although a niche practice area often is surrounded by a big “moat” of needed expertise, the more specialized you are, the narrower your market focus should be. This article focuses on tips for marketing a small firm niche practice, but the concepts are the same if you are a big firm lawyer with a niche practice—your best “customers” are also likely the other lawyers in your firm, and it’s just as important to market to them as to external clients. Step One: Look at the actual picture on the puzzle box. Get a “picture” of where your niche fits into the larger scheme of things. Our firm practices in the narrow niche of ERISA and employee benefits. To market our niche, we need to understand where we fit in the big picture of our clients’ needs and where we don’t. We have made a conscious decision to limit our already narrow practice area. To maintain efficiencies and avoid ethical conflicts, we almost exclusively represent employers (rather than employees, plan participants, divorcees or plan service providers), which further narrows our list of potential clients. One successful family law attorney we know limits her clients to only fathers seeking custody of minor children. The narrower your specialty, the more likely you can become the “go to” expert in that arena. Step Two: Separate pieces into groups of similar looking pieces. Work with your “warm” market. When working a jigsaw puzzle, it helps to group similar pieces together—for example, put all the straight-edged end pieces in one pile, all the “blue sky” pieces in another. This narrows down the number of pieces that one must work with. In a small firm, marketing resources are likewise limited—they need to be used judiciously and efficiently. There are only so many hours in a day, and that is true for everyone, not just in small firms. For example, although our firm has a federal practice and can and does practice nationwide, we focus our marketing efforts on Southern California and the Northeast, where we have physical offices and “boots on the ground.” We have found (and studies confirm) that no website or SEO technique can replace the value of face-to-face interaction to build trust in both potential clients and referral sources. For example, an actual handshake creates positive associations in the brain that cannot easily be replicated. See “The Power of a Handshake: Neural Correlates of Evaluative 6
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 179, 2018
Judgments in Observed Social Interactions” concluding that a “handshake preceding social interactions positively influenced the way individuals evaluated the social interaction partners and their interest in further interactions, while reversing the impact of negative impressions.” It is important to get out there and meet people face to face, shake hands and then continue to nurture those relationships. Step Three: Look for those pieces that appear to fit together most closely. Once the pieces have been sorted into groups, each piece can then be evaluated for potential fit with the other pieces in the group. When marketing a niche practice, start with the other practice areas/businesses that are the closest possible fit to yours, and work out from there. In our case, that means focusing our marketing on other attorneys in the areas of employment and corporate law, as well as complementary businesses such as third-party plan administration firms, certified public accountants, investment advisors and other employee benefit plan service providers. Yes, we also fit in with general income tax practices, estate planning and family law to some extent. And we will market to those areas as well— but much fewer resources will be devoted to more removed substantive areas. For an intellectual property firm, this could result in an emphasis on start-up incubators, corporate attorneys or business litigators. In each case, look for contacts and potential referral sources that fit closely with your services, your firm’s price points and most importantly, your values. Just as puzzle pieces only fit in with the right partner piece, your practice is not a good fit for every client or referral source. Make sure your website, marketing materials and marketing activities reflect you. My headshot on our website is not a typical attorney headshot—I am not wearing a suit and my hair is long and down. But I chose that headshot because when I saw it, my reaction was that it looks like “me.” And, I have recently had two new contacts mention they called me after a Google search specifically because of that picture. Potential clients who want a serious-looking attorney in a dark suit in front of a row of law books (who even uses those anymore?) are not likely to be a good fit for me—I like to laugh and have fun, even though I practice in an area that one supreme court justice called “sloughly” and another “tedious.” As personal branding expert Katy Goshtasbi says in her book “Personal Branding in One Hour for Lawyers”:
“[t]he first step of developing your personal brand is about selfdiscovery and stopping long enough to figure out who you are and what makes you special.” Step Four: Find the pieces that “stand out.” It is important to find ways to both be the expert in your niche and be known for being the expert in your niche. Some pieces of the jigsaw puzzle will be unique and will stand out. Those are often the first chosen, because you can look at the picture on the box and see that “the top of the church steeple has a horse on it” or the “tiger is only in a small section in the bottom right corner.” It won’t matter if you are the absolute best at what you do if no one can find you when they need you or if they forget you exist. Our firm committed to a monthly e-newsletter two years ago. It is no small task to get it published each month, because it is virtually all original content. Although we have had very few instances of being able to directly connect a new piece of business to the newsletter, our practice has grown much faster since we started publishing it. It is one method to stand out and stay top of mind. And it has additional benefits in that it gives our younger attorneys experience in writing articles, and it results in new content for our website as well as content we can use to more efficiently serve our clients. For example, each month we publish a one-page FAQ that we call the “Building Blocks of ERISA.” We use our newsletter articles and FAQs both when helping a potential new client or referral source get
to know us, and as a library of plainly explained legal concepts that our clients may need to understand. Step Five: Use the other puzzle pieces. One of the disadvantages in marketing a niche practice can also be a big advantage— stick to your narrow area and refer everything else to another lawyer. Giving referrals is a proven way to get referrals. Be sure to keep a list of all the potential outgoing referral sources you meet along the way and nurture those relationships as well. For example, although we will assist with deferred compensation issues in bonus plans, severance arrangements and employment agreements, we are not employment lawyers and we don’t write employment agreements. If a client asks us for that, we refer it to someone on our list of trusted advisors. Conclusion: everything in life is a trade-off of some sort and marketing a niche law practice is no different. Play to your strengths to complete the puzzle. n Sherrie Boutwell is a founding partner of Boutwell Fay LLP and is a former member of the Law Practice Today Editorial Board. To learn more about her services, visit: www.boutwellfay.com. ©2018. Published in Law Practice Today, November 2017, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.
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Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 179, 2018
20 Traits of the 100%Capable Rainmaker by Mike O’Horo
hat does it take to be a great rainmaker, able to generate millions of dollars in business each year, reliably? As with every great accomplishment, there’s much more than you can see. The Winter Olympic broadcasts featured background stories about how athletes became among the best in the world at their sport. Before those stories, those of us who don’t ski, skate, slide, or curl knew little about the details of being able to, for example, slide a polished stone to a precise destination more than 100 icy feet away. Many lawyers, observing their rainmaker peers, likewise see only the most visible things they do versus the many skills they must master and deploy consistently.
The traits of a 100%-capable rainmaker: 1. Avoids “pitching” behaviors in favor of helping buyers make informed, considered, self-interested decisions about problems of significance. 2. Possesses significant business acumen and awareness of the current business environment and influences. 3. Avoids “product-centrism,” i.e., an orientation to the merits of the firm’s service products, and the resulting inclination to pursue demand solely for one’s own technical specialty. 4. Bases conversations on demand-triggering business issues, i.e., problems for which there is objective, 3rd-party evidence suggesting strategic, operational or economic consequences of sufficient impact to require decision-making, action and solution investment. 5. Cross-sells others’ services by learning from colleagues the door-opening business problems that drive demand for each service and asks clients if they face that problem. 6. Recognizes the existence of multiple stakeholders in this problem at different levels. Is adept at evincing their full complement of self-interest relative to the demand-triggering problem and facilitating a decision. 7. Conducts a disciplined investigation of the practical and economic consequences of inaction against the demandtriggering problem (Cost of Doing Nothing) 8. Elicits each stakeholder’s perception of the imputed or perceived ROI obtainable from successful solution. Uses declared ROI to motivate a decision, and to earn and maintain premium prices and margins. 9. Has mastered the process of Stakeholder Alignment leading to a reliable group decision. 10. Develops professional intimacy. 11. Earns the right to manage the matter. Develops business in a way that does not induce the client to default requiring the selling
Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
lawyer’s personal technical participation beyond the degree that the seller deems strategically appropriate. 12. Anticipates success and plans for the future resource requirements of the larger practice that will result from successful business development. 13. Doesn’t wait for service-product obsolescence but anticipates product/price maturity and looks beyond today’s demand to prepare for the future. Initiates discussions that cannibalize today’s declining-margin services in favor of initiating demand for future premium-priced services. 14. Initiates operating changes demanded by clients, recognizing the value in being out front on trends. 15. Establishes a defensible, differentiated position in an organized market sub-sector containing growing companies with healthy profit margins. Aligns with decision-makers who recognize that only two out of the three elements of the “Value Holy Trinity” (Speed, Impact, Price) usually are available at any one time, and who value speed and impact over the other permutations. 16. Establishes valuable contributory roles that facilitate subordinate team members’ growth and institutionalize the client, thus avoiding the bottleneck of inordinate client contact having to flow through her. 17. Shares credit—and client responsibility—freely, to enable her to diversify her portfolio, and attract and retain key talent. 18. Maintains robust awareness by reading about key business trends, industries, and sectors, to the point that she is prepared to offer an informed, current, cogent opinion—extemporaneously, without notice or preparation. 19. Consistently seeks candid feedback from clients, team members and contacts regarding service satisfaction, demand trends, and macroeconomic social and political factors that influence and shape current and future demand. 20. Seeks continuous skill improvement through ongoing training and coaching. How many of these were you unaware of? Are you surprised that there are this many? If you’re a successful rainmaker who aspires to greatness, use this as an improvement checklist. Assess yourself against each and commit to improving each area of weakness. Mike O’Horo is a serial innovator in the law business. His current venture, RainmakerVT, is the world’s first interactive online rainmaking training for lawyers, by which lawyers learn how to attract the right kind of clients without leaving their desks. For 20 years, Mike 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 email@example.com.
How Meditation Helped My Law Practice And Why I Think It Could Help Yours
By Claire E. Parsons
ast year, I made equity partner at my Firm. In this blog, I have promised to tell some of the tips that I picked up along the way to share with other women lawyers who may have the same goal. I have been meditating consistently for a few years now but my plan for this year was to log at least 50 hours of meditation for 2018. That may sound like a lot, but it is only .005% of the 8,700 hours in a year. Yet, even though I only spend a small fraction of my day meditating, I believe it is one of the practices in my life that helped me progress from associate to partner level. I’m not a meditation teacher so this isn’t a tutorial, although I will happily share resources I use and love with anyone who requests them. In addition, I’m not a scientist so I won’t recount the various studies demonstrating the positive effects meditation can have. Just do a quick Google search and you will find them. Rather, as a trial lawyer, I consider myself a storyteller in many ways, so I will just tell you my story and let you decide for yourself. I am not now and never have been a champion meditator. Though convinced of its benefits, there are many days I fail to meditate. I am not naturally suited to meditation since I am more intense than calm and more of a thinker than a feeler. My 10
Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
own route to meditation was accidental and indirect. I learned about meditation from a book on Buddhism that I bought out of sheer curiosity. Persuaded by the concepts and even more curious after reading it, I bought a meditation cushion online and tried it out a few times but never did it consistently. Then, a few years into my practice as a litigation associate, I finally tried meditating daily. At the time, I was about to go to trial on a big case, I had a young daughter who seemed to always be getting sick, and I was so busy that I would finish a project and struggle to decide what to do next. It felt like things were swirling around me and I couldn’t keep up. Amid all of this, I needed something to anchor me and somehow it occurred to me to try meditation. Initially, I started with periods of two minutes, but over the course of weeks, worked up to sessions in the 15- to 30-minute range. I did not immediately become calmer and better, but I did make it through the trial and a lot of other things. Almost immediately, however, I noticed that meditation had beneficial effects. I struggle with neck pain and headaches and found that they would usually abate or go away altogether after sitting for as little as ten minutes. Until then, I had not realized that my
headaches were so tied to stress. As time went on, I started to see that my temper was not quite as quick and that I more frequently reacted to setbacks with strategy instead of outrage or anger. After a lot more time, I found myself doing a better job of noticing and properly respecting the feelings of my coworkers, friends and family. All these things combined to help me take the risks and responsibility necessary to move from being an associate to a partner. There are many reasons why meditation worked for me and why I think it could help a lot of other attorneys. Stress, by far, is one of the most challenging parts of being a lawyer. As a litigator, I experience this nearly every day from the adversarial nature of litigation, tight deadlines, and ever-increasing client demands. Sitting quietly for a few minutes a day obviously didn’t make those situations any easier, but it helped me deal with them. For one thing, meditation is a calming practice. Practice makes perfect, right? So, if you want to be calm, or calmer at least, practice sure helps. Beyond that, the practice of mindfulness meditation is to focus on one’s breath and to keep returning to your breath when your mind (inevitably) wanders. This practice trains you to pay attention to your body, rather than just your thoughts. I’ve seen why this matters in two different ways. First, you start to notice symptoms of stress that manifest in your body. After I began meditation, I noticed I rushed quite a lot even when I wasn’t late. I tried to be intentional about not rushing and eventually felt less rushed and, hence, much more at ease. I also noticed in stressful meetings that I would clench my jaw when things got tense. I tried instead to focus on my breath for a moment and relax my facial muscles and things suddenly didn’t seem so heavy. Now, imagine being in a tense mediation or at a critical court hearing and you start to notice your face feeling flushed and your heart beating heavily. It is situations just like those when the skills practiced in meditation can kick in to help keep you on a track of peak performance. The other reason I think meditation helps so much is that it gets you out of the cycle of constant thinking. As they should, law schools tend to praise and demand rational thinking. But rational thinking is not the only skill a lawyer needs to succeed in law practice. It must also be bolstered by intuition, compassion, courage and a host of other attributes. Meditation allows these other essential attributes to flourish because the practice involves paying attention to feelings as they manifest to see how powerful—even if temporary—they can be. Sometimes, understanding and recognizing feelings can be the difference between a good result for your client and a bad one. I saw this play out in a settlement discussion that was salvaged, in part, because I saw that emotions were affecting the discussion and took action to acknowledge it. Both sides were emailing back and forth to no avail and it was apparent neither really understood the other. I recognized that any further emails would forever end the prospects of a resolution and instead called the opposing attorney, apologized for any misunderstanding, listened to their side, and explained our own
frustration. If I had not been meditating at that time, I think it is more likely that I would have told myself that opposing counsel was being unreasonable and let the settlement talks die. But by reaching out and acknowledging how we all felt, I was able to help move the discussion forward to get a much better result for my client. If this sounds far-fetched, consider meditation functionally and it isn’t so hard to understand. Meditation is a form of rest and a way to relax. In fact, I often use meditation in short bursts during my day to take a quick rest while transitioning between projects. I have found that a 0.1 or 0.2-hour meditation can help me re-focus, so I can stay productive and bill more time than I otherwise would have. For example, brief meditation sessions in my car between meetings got me through a 12-hour day filled with 7 hours of trial preparation, 2 hours at a bar function, and a 3-hour board meeting with surprisingly little crankiness. Sure, a restful lunch or a walk in the park could have achieved similar results. But that day, I didn’t have time for a walk in the park or anything other than a hurried lunch, but I did have time to meditate and it saved the day. That’s the thing about meditation: you can do it anywhere, so it allows you to rest when you can, so you can focus when you must. Much like any other skill, however, meditation only works on demand if you keep it sharp. As such, daily practice, even if in small increments, is essential. Let’s be real. I’m not telling you that you must meditate to make partner or to advance your career. But I am saying that at some point any sustainable law practice will include some method to efficiently rest and recharge. Mindfulness meditation is a great option for lawyers because it is cheap, simple (I won’t say easy), always with you, infinitely scalable, and, in my experience, provides ample returns on the time invested. In addition, now is a great time to try it because there are so many resources, many of which are free, to teach, assist, and even remind you if you choose to give meditation a try. Whether you want to jump on the meditation train or not, I hope you will accept the most fundamental lesson I learned from it. With meditation, the object is to focus on the breath. Without fail, though, your mind will wander. Your job as the meditator is to—without judgment or beating yourself up— just go back to focusing on the breath. Whether you choose to start 2018 by meditating or not, I hope that you remember this about your goals for the year. You will try, and you may fail but you will eventually succeed if every time you fail you return your attention back to your goal. n Claire E. Parsons practices in the firm’s Government Practice and Commercial Litigation practice groups. She focuses her practice on Civil Rights Litigation, Employment Law, School Law, Special Education and Domestic Relations. This article was first published on Ms. JD with the Writers in Residence program. To learn more about Claire E. Parsons, please visit: www.aswdlaw.com.
Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
COMMUNITY news Seltzer Caplan McMahon
Vitek is pleased to announce that Arezoo Jamshidi has been certified as a specialist in appellate law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Jamshidi is an associate in the firm’s Litigation and Appellate departments. Her AREZOO JAMSHIDI practice focuses on representing individual clients and diverse businesses on a wide range of civil litigation and appellate matters before both state and federal courts. She received her J.D., with honors, from the University of Baltimore School of Law and her B.A. in International Relations and Spanish from Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia. Jamshidi is conversationally fluent in Farsi and Spanish. She is licensed to practice law in California, Georgia and Maryland.
San Diego business law
firm Allen Barron, Inc. is now offering its clients dispute resolution and litigation services. Allen Barron, Inc., an integrated tax, legal, accounting and business advisory service provider, recently implemented dispute resolution and litigation JANATHAN L. ALLEN services. “These new services expand the opportunity for a business client to leverage economies of scale while gaining the benefit of a broader perspective to any business problem or challenge,” said attorney Janathan L. Allen, of Allen Barron, Inc. Allen Barron’s dispute resolution and business litigation team assists with any business dispute or lawsuit. This includes many common issues such as breach of contract, shareholder disputes, partnership disputes, LLC member disputes, breach of fiduciary duty, and contract disputes. “The addition of dispute resolution and business litigation services to our robust integrated business services ensures any business owner, executive or client can bring a problem, dispute, opportunity or business question to the table and receive advice based upon the broad perspective of our integrated professionals,” concluded Allen. “We help our clients to answer questions, leverage opportunities and now resolve the challenges which arise along the way.”
Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
Klinedinst PC has welcomed Catherine
M. Asuncion and Irean Zhang to the firm. Asuncion focuses her practice on representing attorneys in professional liability matters. Asuncion is currently serving her second term as President of the Filipino American Lawyers of San Diego (FALSD). She is also a member of Lawyers Club of San Diego where she is active in the Diverse Women’s Committee and the CATHERINE ASUNCION Human Trafficking Collaborative. As a member of the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA), Ms. Asuncion is involved in the Appellate Practice Section and the newly formed Technology Committee. Irean Zhang joins the firm’s Professional Liability team, where she will work in defending clients in malpractice claims brought against attorneys, accountants, and other professionals. She is a member of the State IREAN ZHANG Bar of California, San Diego County Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association – San Diego Chapter, the Lawyer’s Club of San Diego, and the American Inns of Court, Louis M. Welsh Chapter.
Turner Kosmo attorneys have been included in the San Diego 2018 Super Lawyers list. Three firm partners, Michael S. Kalt, Frederick W. Kosmo, Jr. and Claudette G. Wilson, were recognized among WILSON TURNER KOSMO ATTORNEYS the Top 50 San Diego Super Lawyers, with Wilson also included on the Top 25 Women San Diego Super Lawyers list. Partners Lois M. Kosch, Vickie E. Turner, Robin A. Wofford and Leonid M. Zilberman were named to the Super Lawyers list for their distinguished business and employment litigation practices. Several Wilson Turner Kosmos attorneys were also recognized as Rising Star honorees. They include: partners Carolina Bravo-Karimi, Robert K. Dixon, Emily J. Fox, Daniel C. Gunning and Marissa L. Lyftogt, along with senior associate Hail M. Anderson and associate Mark A. Rein. The Rising Star list honors attorneys under 40 and those who have been in practice for 10 years or less. “We are honored and humbled that our team’s longstanding commitment to providing excellent legal services and delivering positive results to our clients has garnered the recognition of our peers,” Wilson said.
Wendy M. Behan, a partner with San Diego-based CaseyGerry, was recently honored with a San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA) Service Award during the organization’s Annual Awards Luncheon and Celebration of Community Service. A CaseyGerry partner since 2010, Behan is a legal industry leader and has held numerous high-profile leadership roles promoting the work of female attorneys. She has served as president of the California Women Lawyers (CWL), the CWL Foundation WENDY BEHAN and Lawyers Club of San Diego. In addition, she has been named multiple times to lists of the top lawyers in San Diego and the U.S. A key member of CaseyGerry’s complex litigation team, her practice focuses on class actions, serious personal injury and medical device/pharmaceutical products liability. She has worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the national class action case targeting Volkswagen over its diesel emissions scandal. She earned her bachelor’s degree at UC Santa Barbara and her J.D. from California Western School of Law. Fish & Richardson principal
Chad Shear has been named to San Diego Metro Magazine’s annual “Best Attorneys” list, which recognizes attorneys throughout San Diego for their exceptional professional accomplishments as well as their positive impact on the community. Shear is a JUANITA BROOKS CHAD SHEAR leader in Fish’s life sciences and pharmaceutical litigation section and co-chair of the firm’s international post grant group. In addition, Juanita Brooks, a litigator and principal at Fish & Richardson, was named to the Daily Journal’s 2018 list of “Top Women Lawyers” in California. The publication highlighted recent high-profile cases that saw Brooks deliver extraordinary outcomes for clients in both the technology and pharmaceutical fields, including Microsoft and Gilead Sciences.
The San Diego County Bar
Foundation announced its 2018 Distinguished Lawyer Memorial inductees, recognizing recently deceased lawyers and judges of the San Diego County Bar who have demonstrated significant commitment to their communities as well as superior legal skills and high ethical standards throughout their careers. Each inductee was recognized with a permanent plaque in the Hall of Justice at the San Diego County Courthouse. The 2018 Distinguished Lawyer Memorial inductees are: Hon. Norbert Ehrenfreund, Robert W. Bell, Jr., Hon. Elizabeth A. Riggs, James Hennenhoefer, and Donald “Pat” Newell.
Have a Press Release you would like to submit for our Community News? Email it to PR@AttorneyJournal.us Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
VISION for Change Batta Fulkerson is Giving People a Reason to View Personal Injury Law Firms Under a New Light By Dan Baldwin
Breaking Away Dan Fulkerson and Paul Batta, Co-Founders of Batta Fulkerson Law Group, Inc., have always had the mutual goal to eventually start their own law firm. However, leaving the security of working for a busy law firm to start your own is not always easy. It often requires a big leap-of-faith and a deep desire to want to do things your way. “Dan and I opened Batta Fulkerson because we want to do things differently. We wanted to concentrate more on the quality of the representation we wanted to bring to our clients over quantity of how many we can represent, which is more the norm,” Batta says. Fulkerson adds, “We also wanted to change the way people look at personal injury attorneys. We were confident that our firm would be successful if our main objective was to always be client-focused. We had plenty of experience in the highvolume personal injury world, but we knew there was a better way to service clients. We felt that if we built a firm with the intent of always going beyond what is expected by our clients, new clients would soon follow.” As a first-hand survivor of a serious car accident while in law school, Paul Batta is able to best understand what accident victims require in representation due to his own personal experience as a victim. He incurred substantial injuries which required him to need back surgery and aftercare for injuries he suffered. This experience has given Paul (and the rest of the firm) the unique ability to relate to and have empathy for their clients’ injuries and hardships in a way most other personal injury firms cannot.
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 179, 2018
Being client focused is obviously working very well for this relatively new law firm. In just two short years since the firm opened, they’ve grown to seven attorneys and a total staff of sixteen. The firm works predominantly in personal injury with a strong focus toward car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and dog bite injuries. They also handle premise liability claims and product defect claims. “We do not select cases based on ‘revenue expectation,’ as we take smaller, ‘soft tissue’ cases as well as horrific catastrophic injury claims. We select our cases mostly on who our potential new client is. We love to help genuinely good, nice people. We can usually determine if the attorneyclient relationship is a good fit based on personality during client intake,” Batta says.
Staying True to the Vision The firm recently settled a case for a five-year-old girl who suffered a fractured leg while at a “trampoline gym.” At the time, she was three years old. Gym personnel were supposed to separate small kids from big kids, but failed to do so. A large 15-year-old boy was allowed in the same area and after one of his jumps he landed on the girl and caused the fracture. The gym denied the claim due to the waiver that was signed. The girl’s mother called several other personal injury attorneys who told her there was no case due to the signed waiver. The mother is a single mom and active military. She was deployed overseas right after retaining Batta Fulkerson. Her daughter was left in the care of the child’s grandmother.
OF THE MONTH
Dan Fulkerson, Dave Cain, Ed Meara, Paul Batta and Taylor Gaines
The firm helped transport and set up all doctor appointments for the daughter, set up Skype calls with the mother and daughter, and provided other important services. The case was unique in that the mother had to fully trust a legal firm not only regarding her child’s case but also to make sure she was able to get all the care she needed to recover—all this while being separated by an ocean. Batta Fulkerson was ultimately able to settle the case for $250,000 for the little girl. Throughout the course of this case, they became very close with the family. “At our office, we always put the relationship in front of everything else, which always sets the tone for how hard we work for our clients. We fight hard for our clients, because we care about each of them individually,” Fulkerson says.
Success through People, Process and Transparency P E O P L E : A large part of the firm’s success comes from the talented team Batta and Fulkerson have assembled. “Our strategy is to always surround ourselves with attorneys that have talents that complement our own strengths,” explains Fulkerson. Batta Fulkerson has made it a policy to remain focused on only hiring highly experienced and self-motivated attorneys who have the experience and proven ability to go into court and litigate issues without requiring any micro-managed oversight. “We’re not some personal injury mill that’s trying to settle out as many cases as we can. I think that’s been one Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 179, 2018
throughout the representation process and eliminates any communication breakdown. It also makes the client feel reassured that they are in good hands and will always be able to reach their attorney if needed. M A R K E T I N G : The firm is also known for taking a unique approach to their marketing strategy. They have bulldogs all over the place: shirts, coffee mugs, hats, sweatshirts, etc. Their bulldog brand can be found on forty cars and Ubers around San Diego and posted in dog parks. Their unique way of marketing the firm has gone against traditional law firm marketing approaches. “The bulldogs are more than just part of our marketing campaign. They are part of the organization. Stella and Dolly, two of our bulldogs, come to the office daily and interact with the staff and clients,” Fulkerson says, “You can actually see the difference in our clients who initially are uncomfortable walking into the firm after they are greeted by the dogs. When one of our dogs walks into a meeting and sits down next to a client, it’s great to see the client just melt with any insecurity disappearing as they reach down to pet the dog. They’re more comfortable and able to have a conversation because of it.”
Showing Appreciation and Respect for Referrals
Ed Meara – Senior Trial Attorney
of our big strategies for success—going out and finding these experienced litigators to bring onto our team has added so much to us and added a powerful dynamic compared to how most personal injury law firms start,” Batta says. P R O C E S S : Batta Fulkerson also has a policy that requires every new client to meet with one of the head attorneys in our office, never an investigator or paralegal. Their approach is to be extremely open (from the beginning) with new clients with regards to what they can expect from the attorneys and staff communication standards. It’s also the reason why every client has the direct cell phone for both Fulkerson and Batta. This approach with new clients ultimately helps manage their expectations 18
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 179, 2018
“When we receive a referral, our goal is for that client to come back and thank the person that gave them the referral. A referral is a direct extension of your own reputation and that is something we take very seriously. Due to our success and wordof-mouth reputation, we receive a lot of case referrals from other attorneys, doctors, and even insurance companies,” says Fulkerson. In addition, the firm often has attorneys that want to remain involved in the case after referring it. This additional involvement is always available at Batta Fulkerson, as they are always happy to let referring attorneys stay involved in the case and attend all meetings and litigation events. Their willingness to collaborate with referring attorneys is much appreciated by new attorneys because it allows them to further their direct experience in the personal injury process and maintain their personal contact with the client,” explains Batta. Batta Fulkerson also pays generous referral fees of 2540% to any licensed CA attorneys in compliance
with all State Bar Rules. Attorneys will also enjoy the benefit of receiving regular updates pertaining to the referrals they provide as the case moves through different stages and their referral check is always sent out without solicitation, immediately upon resolution of the case.
Giving Back to the Community Batta Fulkerson has partnered with several charitable organizations and causes. Those partnerships go well beyond just donating money. “We love to be actively involved with organizations so that we can develop close relationships with the people and causes we fight for and truly believe in. We are particularly involved in helping children, animals, and our veterans. We love to attend and host events. We even have a ‘sponsor dog,’ which is a very large blow-up bulldog we bring to certain events. For every photo tagged with the sponsor dog from that event we donate money to the event. It’s important to all of us at our firm to be fully engaged within our community and to be an active part of the growth and evolution of this great community that we are lucky enough to call home. Some of the organizations Batta Fulkerson supports are: Urban Angels Soup Kitchen, Active Valor, Second Chance Dog Rescue, Friends of Scott, Animal Pad, San Diego Center for Children, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Sonshine Haven, Brunch Club, and Save the Children.”
Paul Batta – Co-Founder and Managing Partner
Paul Batta – Co-Founder Batta, a life-long resident of Los Angeles, earned his Juris Doctor degree at California Western School of Law. He has handled thousands of personal injury cases giving him a wide variety of exposure to various personal injury type cases in San Diego and surrounding Southern California counties. Out of the office, he loves spending time with his wife Natalie, and his family and friends. He enjoys traveling, the outdoors, and giving back to the community. Batta is fluent in Arabic and caters to the Arabic community across the state of California. He is currently learning Spanish as his third language. He has a unique insight into the challenges many of the firm’s clients face. While interning at a personal injury law firm in downtown San Diego, he was involved in a serious car accident, which resulted in substantial injuries and required back surgery and extensive treatment. He speaks not only as an attorney in personal injury cases, but also as someone who has walked in the victim’s shoes.
Dan Fulkerson – Co-Founder and Managing Partner
The Batta Fulkerson Team – Connor Er, Carolyn Luchetti, Dave Cain, Dan Fulkerson & Dolly, Paul Batta, Ed Meara and Taylor Gaines
Dan Fulkerson – Co-Founder Originally from Idaho, Fulkerson completed his Juris Doctor degree at California Western School of Law in San Diego in conjunction with his Master of Business Degree at University of California simultaneously. He has successfully handled more than 7,500 car accident cases and personally helped recover tens of millions of dollars for victims. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with friends, family, and his three English Bulldogs: Winston, Stella and Dolly. Fulkerson has a reputation as “Mr. Positive” at the firm. “I’m the guy who is always happy and always smiling. It’s not fake. I’m in a line of work where I deal with people who are broken, so I know how many people are fighting silent battles, which is why it is important to stay positive and be a beacon of hope in their eyes as we help them rebuild their lives.” Batta and Fulkerson met in 2008 in law school, where they were assigned to the same section their first year. They interned together at a Personal Injury Law Office in 2009 and their 20
Attorney Journal Orange County | Volume 179, 2018
friendship developed. After graduation they worked together at a very high-volume personal injury firm. After five years they decided it was time they went in a different direction and Batta Fulkerson Law Group was formed. “We love helping people. Personal injury is one of the areas of law that allows us to really help clients recover their lives. From our initial meeting, to getting them the best medical help, so they can heal properly, and ultimately, getting our clients their rightful compensation. At the end of the day, we sleep well at night, knowing we are fortunate enough to be able to provide for our families, in careers we love, by helping our clients and their families get through a difficult chapter in their lives. Personal injury was definitely the right practice area of us,” Batta says. n Contact Batta Fulkerson Law Group, Inc. 401 B Street, Suite 1400 San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 333-5555 BattaFulkerson.com
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At Stephen Danz & Associates, our whistleblower attorneys and co-counsel, some with former government-false-claims positions, are experienced federal and California False Claims Act attorneys. We have obtained substantial recoveries for our clients because we understand the laws, the underlying types of fraud, and how to properly present a fraud disclosure claim to the government. We’ve been litigating FCA cases for 30 years, are active participants in the major qui tam attorney organizations, and regularly share expertise with other practitioners. Our co-counsel have extensive experience as former governmentfalse-claims prosecutors, so we know what aspects of the case to focus on to encourage the government to intervene.
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Newest Co-Counsel: Hirst Law Group, P.C. For many years, Mr. Hirst supervised FCA cases for a U.S. Attorney’s Office in California, for which he received a DOJ Director’s Award from Attorney General Janet Reno. Later described by Attorney General John Ashcroft as an “exceptional litigator” and recognized by the Chief of the Forest Service for his “brilliant performance at trial,” Mr. Hirst’s FCA cases have been reported in numerous publications throughout the country and the subject of three books, one of which detailed his handling of a case that resulted in the largest fraud recovery against a single hospital in US history.
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Unlocking the Talents of the Millennial Lawyer by JP Box
“What can I do to convince you to stay?” So asked a senior partner during a long lunch in which he employed every trick of the Socratic method to try to make me reconsider leaving his firm. You see, a few hours earlier, I had just delivered notice of my imminent move to a new firm. Like many partners in law firms across the county, he was exasperated by the revolving door of talented young associates coming in and out of the firm. At the time, I did not have great answers to his questions. I was simply following an instinct that pushed me on my journey. All told, I practiced law for six years at a large international firm in Washington, DC; a large regional firm in Denver, Colorado; and a small regional firm in Denver. At each stop, I quickly earned the trust of partners, the confidence of clients and a generous paycheck, along with yearly bonuses. But I pulled the plug on each firm after roughly two years of employment. I broke the news to partners who had made me integral parts of their teams, and I struggled to articulate why I had not found a lasting niche at their firms. Eventually, I walked into an entirely new career path, co-founding a merino wool kid’s apparel company called Chasing Windmills. Nonetheless, I remained haunted by those questions from disappointed partners who wanted to understand how to hold onto promising young associates. After investing so much time and energy into becoming a lawyer, I needed to answer those questions, at least for myself. Pondering those questions led me to a surprising revelation: my story as the successful-but-unfulfilled young associate was not especially unique. Rather, my experiences as a job-hopping young lawyer shared numerous commonalities with the growing millennial population (those born as early as 1981). As I dove into the social sciences and consulting studies analyzing the millennial generation, I quickly realized that the tensions mounting in law firms across the country could be traced, in large part, to generational misunderstandings. This awareness led me to a second career rebirth as a millennial authority, with a knack for explaining how law firms can 22
Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
connect with, motivate and retain top young attorneys. Consistent with my experiences, the average tenure of a millennial in a new job is less than three years. A millennial employee will leave a law firm, not just when he or she is unhappy, but when he or she is not happy enough. While Boomer and Gen X lawyers patiently “paid their dues,” millennial lawyers are not hesitant to vote with their feet and try a new firm—or even a new career. According to a 2016 study, four of 10 lawyers plan to walk away from their current firms within the year. This turnover drains significant resources and money from law firms across the country. According to Thomson West, firms spend $1 billion every year to recruit and train attorneys. Due to escalating associate turnover, the average big law firm loses an estimated $25 million each year. The good news, however, is that this story can be rewritten. Law firms can inspire and retain their young attorneys while remaining highly productive. Boomer and Gen X partners can work harmoniously with their younger millennial colleagues to the benefit of clients. Inspiring the next generation of attorneys does not require every firm to spend big money re-making their offices into Google-like utopias with company bikes, on-site cafes, volleyball courts and other amenities. Rather, if your firm is serious about unlocking the talents and work ethic of its millennial attorneys, then your firm must first understand the millennial mindset.
Who Are Millennials? Millennials are young adults born as early as 1981 and as late as 1997. As a group, they are socially conscious, confident, collaborative and diverse. They seek to blend work and life together; show an eagerness to contribute immediately; value mentorship and transparency; opt for great experiences over high pay and believe in doing well by doing good. In 2015, millennials became the largest working group in the United States. By 2020, millennials are expected to make
up 46% of the US workforce, and by 2025, millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce. Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1980) and Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) have experienced varying levels of stress and difficulty in integrating the rapidly growing millennial generation into their professions. It is not uncommon to hear laments such as, “Associates today just don’t want to work hard,” or “millennials don’t commit. Millennials don’t focus.” And on and on and on. These complaints reveal the frustration felt by many Gen X and Boomer colleagues whose attempts to motivate their younger employees seem to backfire. However, the underlying disconnect is reparable. Gen Xers and Boomers can unlock the talents and work ethic of their millennial colleagues by simply understanding the millennial mindset—that is, by understanding the generational trends indicating what motivates and inspires a young person’s best and most committed work.
What Are the Key Pillars of the Millennial Mindset? First, forget work-life balance and embrace work-life blend. Law firm marketing materials abound with promises of “worklife balance.” This corporate buzzword denotes serious hardworking professionals who also have a life outside of work. However, by promoting work-life balance, law firms risk alienating their millennial associates. Today’s young employees are seeking work-life blend, in which work is an inspiring and enhancing aspect of life—not a weight to be balanced against life. As Michelle Silverthorn, diversity and education director at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, said: “For millennial lawyers, work and life are intertwined. It’s not about balancing two heavy loads on a see-saw, work on one side, life on the other. Rather, it’s about putting two complex puzzle pieces together and making sure they fit together permanently.” Instead of merely seeking “balance,” today’s young associates expect their profession to be an important component of their lives. Work-life blend includes a willingness to rethink when and where work occurs. The vast majority of millennials desire more autonomy in setting the location and hours of their work— whether that is in their individual offices early in the morning, a communal work area at your law firm (such as the law library), at a coffee shop, or even at home from time to time. Importantly, work-life blend does not mean short-changing work or cutting back on overall hours. Rather, this system allows attorneys to access their most productive selves at their peak performance time and location. Of course, law firms must adhere to some boundaries in a blended work-life environment, especially to ensure the
necessary collaboration between partners, associates, and staff. However, if firms are to benefit from a motivated and productive workforce, it is imperative to loosen the rigidity of the standard 9-5 workday. By blending work and life together, firms empower their employees to meet their professional and personal obligations on a continuous flexible spectrum.
Empower your associates to contribute immediately. Millennials are arguably the most confident generation in history. Over three-quarters of millennials believe that “At this time of my life, it still seems like anything is possible.” On the flip-side, only one-quarter of millennials believe their employer makes full use of their skills. Often, employers interpret this confidence as the classic case of the “entitled millennial” (or worse). By recasting “entitlement” as “confidence,” however, law firms can position themselves to take advantage of an eager stable of young attorneys who are excited to make real contributions early in their careers. Of course, this eagerness places more pressure on law firms to train and accelerate their young attorney’s career development. But isn’t that why you hired those smart young attorneys in the first place? In the words of a partner who clearly saw this confident desire to contribute: “JP, I like my job, but I like it even better when you can do it for me.”
Mentor, mentor, mentor! Millennials can be a paradox. The most confident generation also wants unprecedented levels of mentorship to help train and chart the course of their careers. Millennials seek autonomy but not necessarily independence. Simply put, millennials want to learn from their more senior colleagues. As a generation, millennials grew up receiving ongoing feedback from parents, teachers, and coaches. They have literally been trained to process mentorship and adjust their performance accordingly. Not surprisingly then, 90% of millennials would like to have regular check-ins with their superiors. If your firm’s partners embrace their roles as mentors, they just may be surprised at the receptiveness and coach-ability of today’s young attorneys.
Focus on improving the law firm experience, not just the financial rewards. In study after study, millennials report that they want a meaningful and fulfilling career that makes a difference in the world. For example, three-quarters of millennials say that “it is more important to enjoy their work than to make a lot of money.” Of course, law firms must pay their young associates competitive salaries; however, a big salary alone is no longer Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
IS YOUR LAW FIRM MAKING THE BEST IMPRESSION?
an effective carrot to ensure years of loyal service from a millennial associate. Consequently, law firms’ historic motivators—for example, billable hour bonuses and the prospect of partnership years down the road—often fail as consistent motivators for this generation. Instead, law firms must focus on the experience of practicing law. For starters, firms can promote collegiality and collaboration at their law firms. As The Washington Lawyer pointed out, “Thanks to millennials, the notion that an office can be both a workplace and a social center is becoming de rigueur even in law firms.” Furthermore, instead of seeking to inspire hard work through the business of law (such as trying to motivate hard work with billable hour bonuses), law firms can inspire consistent and committed effort by refocusing on the noble practice of law. At its best, our profession is a model of selfless service to others. Nearly nine out of 10 millennials desire “a career that does some good in the world.” As lawyers who represent others’ interests daily, we have an incredible opportunity to focus on our profession’s contributions to society. And, if we do so, the youngest generation of lawyers will be ready to throw themselves into their work.
The Millennial Opportunity
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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
The future of the legal profession is bright, especially for those firms willing to pivot in the direction of the country’s largest working generation. Increasingly, millennials will be your colleagues and clients. Cracking the millennial code is not a luxury, but a necessity, for those firms that will excel in the newly emerging legal marketplace. n JP Box is a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur and author. After graduating from Georgetown, he practiced law for six years in Washington, DC, and Denver, Colorado. He left the practice of law to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, including a consulting practice focused on helping law firms understand the millennial mindset to unlock the talents of a new generation of attorneys. He is the author of the book, “The Millennial Lawyer: How Your Firm Can Motivate and Retain Young Associates,” (ABA 2018). For more information, please visit www.jpboxjr.com. ©2018. Published in Law Practice Today, April 2018, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.
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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
Digital Marketing Trends in 2018 and Beyond by Bill Tilley
If you have seen a slump in your recent marketing efforts, you need to evaluate what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right.
s the first quarter of 2018 ends, you should have a good idea of how your marketing efforts are playing out and readjust as needed. While the number of leads you are getting each month is significant, the quality of leads and rate of conversion is crucial to your bottom line. If you do not know your conversion rates and the breakdown of leads coming in each day, week and month, you may be wasting money. Working with a marketing team with a transparent accounting of how each campaign is working will help you keep track of your efforts, but you need to have a firm understanding of the basics of digital marketing.
Focus on Intake The number of leads you get each month will matter even less if you do not have a comprehensive intake system. If you cannot close the deal, you will not be successful. If you are not personally doing the intake, call into your office as a prospective caller or listen to recordings from previous calls to ensure that the person doing the intake is competent, friendly and handling the calls appropriately. If you have a call center handling after-hours intake, do an audit of how they are handling each call. It is highly recommended that every size law firm have an after-hours call center to handle any calls with leads that can be directly transferred to an attorney or intake paralegal. The more calls you take directly, the more likely you will retain that client. The likelihood of retaining a prospective client that must leave a message is considerably less. They will move on to your competitor faster than you can redial their number.
Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
If you have a system for leads to email inquiries, consider having an automatic reply text to send to them or an automated reply email and then make sure the prospect is contacted as soon as possible. The quicker you are at contacting leads, the higher your conversion rate will be.
Follow up, Follow Up, Follow Up Follow up not only applies to leads, as discussed above, but also to anyone interested in the content you are supplying on your website, blog or social media. Consider reply emails that go out to people that download your E-book or that visit your blog. Follow up with additional information that may be of interest. Consider sending video in the email that answers frequently asked questions. Video can often establish a connection with prospective clients that a regular text email may not.
Diversify You need to diversify when it comes to digital marketing. Relying solely on a robust SEO strategy will likely not produce the results you are looking for. You need to have all your cylinders working when it comes to social media, blogging, or any other aspect of a complete marketing campaign. The more platforms you are on, the bigger your market becomes. Utilize the different technology available for getting your message on different platforms. Make sure that anything that is being published is consistent with your overall brand. Keep detailed analytics on every aspect of your digital marketing campaign so that you can tweak things that are not producing.
Focus on Your Ideal Client Think about your ideal customer. As an attorney, you are naturally client-focused. You have to be, to be successful. You are representing their interests and getting them the best results possible in their case. This should apply to prospective clients as well as current ones. Think about how your ideal client interacts with digital content. Make sure that your target audience has access to your information immediately. All content produced should be accessible on all devices. Clients will move on to a competitor within seconds if your website is not responsive to a mobile device. Do not make that basic mistake. If you don’t have video, you should. Video is one of the most compelling ways for customers to view your content. It is a mainstay on social media and is favored by numerous search engine algorithms. Give your potential customers information in the format that they want.
Engage, Interact and Inform Focus on engagement. A successful social media campaign will have high engagement with viewers. You want people to stay on your website and come back for more. You should be a valued source of information for not only your current clients but also those that are searching the internet. Consider the problems that your clients face and produce informative content that
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speaks to those issues. Respond to inquiries from blog posts and social media accounts; even if they aren’t leads, they should be considered potential referral sources. Be wary of posting content just to display content. Always focus on quality and make sure that you review anything that is posted on your behalf. Digital marketing in 2018 and beyond presents new obstacles. Search engines continue to change how they rank sites with new algorithms being continuously generated. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is an unchartered frontier that will undoubtedly be integrated with marketing campaigns in the future. As we gear up for the future, we need to focus on the basics. Making sure you have a reliable intake system, all-inclusive follow-up and diversified digital marketing campaign will help you stay at the top of your game. n Bill Tilley is the Founder & CEO of Amicus Media Group (AMG). AMG brings to the table an unparalleled network of media relationships and services to drive quality cases to law firm partners at the most cost-effective economics possible. Utilizing the power of television, radio, and the web, AMG combines our extensive experience in legal marketing focusing on areas such as Mass Tort, Personal Injury, and Family Law. Amicus Media Group’s range of services span from media buying, media management, performance marketing, campaign financing, and creative production. Learn more by visiting amicusmediagroup.com.
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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
“MORE” SEO SPECIALISTS Share Their Best Tips for Lawyers by Chris Dreyer
“IF YOU WERE WORKING WITH AN ATTORNEY TO IMPROVE A LAW FIRM’S SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR #1 TIP TO GET RESULTS?”
his is the question we posed to more than 50 SEO specialists who have done SEO for lawyers. Their answers will provide you with good direction whether you’re formulating your own law firm SEO strategies or just looking for general advice. If you want to improve your own website rankings or your clients’ website listings in the search engines, then this expert Q&A roundup is what you’re looking for. Enjoy and share it with others. Thank you!
I’ve implemented SEO on law sites both nationwide and worldwide since 1995. You might think that my #1 SEO tip might have changed in these past 20+ years. But unfortunately, my tip is the same now as it was in 1995. Attorneys are notorious for writing and speaking in “legalese” (legal jargon). I understand that if they are marketing their law-firm website to other law-firm websites, it’s okay to write and speak in legal jargon. However, if a law firm is targeting users who don’t understand legal jargon, then guess what? Lose the legal jargon…or use it in combination with the users’ keyword phrases. As we often say in the usability/UX industry, “Use the users’ language.” Lawyers have to be careful when conducting keyword research. If they encounter “legalese” in the keyword research tools, they should understand that those specific queries are likely ones that other attorneys are doing. Use that data for legal-specific pages. One example might be a family attorney. His or her target audience is unlikely to use the keyword phrase “spousal support” when conducting a search in the US. “Alimony” (without the quotes) is a more likely search term. Therefore, a family-attorney website should use BOTH terms on specific pages. Use the users’ language … but also inform 28
them of what the legal term means. Another example might be a corporate attorney. His or her target audience is likely to use some business jargon. This website should include business jargon in the right context on the website. I’m certainly not saying that attorneys should never use legal keyword phrases on their websites. Use the RIGHT words in the RIGHT context. Use the users’ language on your websites. The result? More search engine traffic, more trust, and more conversions.
Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
I’d say the most important gap in most law firms’ SEO strategy that I see is content. Law firms either try to fit all of their practice areas onto a single page instead of breaking the practice areas out into their own landing pages, or they have a single practice area with only one page of content dedicated to it. Instead, they should consistently create new content with the help of their attorney experts.
My #1 tip is to lean heavy into content. The deeper and richer your content is, the more change you have to rank for short-tail and long-tail keywords alike. Law is one of the most competitive spaces out there for SEO, so doing bare minimum optimizations only keeps you treading water. As a lawyer, you have an opportunity to write in-depth, expert content about your areas of practice. While we generally advise 400 words minimum for most
businesses, a lawyer should be looking at 1000+ words per page if possible, with a user-friendly layout and enticing CTAs throughout.
The trick to getting great results from SEO in 2018 is to think outside of the standard “content” box. Most people look and fight for easy to think of topics and keywords because they can’t imagine how wide their net can be for catching potential customers. Instead of just using content ideas that are tightly associated with your main topic, you must “go wide” with your research. People who might be interested in your products or services have lots of different problems and interests. And it is up to you to explore them and see which ones are relevant to your business. Then you can write SEO optimized content to bring them to your website and slowly nurture them into customers.
First, I do a lot of legal marketing, especially with our own law firm located at www.milner-markee.com. My wife and motherin-law are both immigration attorneys and so I’ve “seen it all” in respect to most legal marketing methods. By far the most effective strategy that has worked for the firm has been using Avvo.com. Avvo, especially in select verticals like immigration, personal injury, and bankruptcy, dominate Google local search results. These high local placements lead to a large amount of traffic to specialty referral pages on Avvo that local attorneys can leverage by buying “blocks” of impressions on those pages. These blocks cover both specialties and geographical areas. The secret for attorneys utilizing this service, especially those paying for placement, is to fully fill out and optimize their profiles. For example, this profile for Attorney Tifany Markee (www.avvo.com/attorneys/92127-ca-tifany-markee-298534. html) does very well competitively for three main reasons; she has fully filled out her profile and garnered a coveted 10/10 Avvo Rating, she has 30+ personal and professional referrals (www.avvo.com/attorneys/92127-ca-tifany-markee-298534. html#client_reviews), and she has invested time on the Avvo site, contributing 160+ legal answers to the community (www.avvo. com/attorneys/92127-ca-tifany-markee-298534/answers.html).
These optimizations have allowed her, and in turn the firm, to leverage Avvo extremely well and increase both referrals and bottom-line traffic to their site at the same time.
Zero-in on “Near Me” Google Visibility As a legal professional barred to practice law in a single state, there are very real boundaries to consider in SEO and marketing: they are called laws. One way to achieve results in SEO without encroaching on legalities is to geo-target your keywords. If you are a lawyer in Wynwood, Miami (where my SEO agency is located), you serve clients in South Florida, and the focus is on immigration, try employing geographic parameters, such as Immigration Delray Beach Lawyer or Immigration Palm Beach Lawyers or Immigration Key West Lawyer. Make no mistake, I’m not advocating creating hundreds of “keyword stuffed” webpages for immigration lawyer plus every possible city and town in South Florida…unless you want to trigger Panda filters. Rather, a smart marketer who understands how Google’s RankBrain works, can include these keywords in a long-term content strategy focused on geo-focused content and related topics. A webpage with a case study about how the lawyer helped an immigration client in “Delray Beach” or an article covering the specifics of a newsworthy immigration case in Key West—the closest point in US territory to Cuba, actually—might be a good place to start. Through an expanded geographic target, you will have more referrals without a headache of unwanted contact.
Great question. For the past 7-8 years I’ve been doing SEO on one attorney or another, so I suppose I have a lot of experience on this. Before I did SEO, I did a lot of IT work and web design for lawyers. On the other hand, I think my client would be pretty angry with me (maybe even sue) if I gave out the #1 tactic that I’m using on him right now. I will say this: before he hired us, he spent quite a bit of coin on having some videos produced. Having quality content on hand (a knowledge base, steady blog posts, videos, podcasts … even tweets and Instagram posts) can really help propel you into the SERPs. Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
I’ll also say this about attorneys and SEO in general: they all have big budgets and a lot of them are kind of shady, more-so than other industries. Depending on the industry, some of them throw ungodly amounts of money at SEO and local PPC, so if you really want to compete, it helps to work with some of these clients with the bigger budgets.
I think the biggest tip I could give would be to make sure Google My Business has been set up correctly. It’s difficult to get any success without this unless you’re in a very weak SERP.
VENCHITO TAMPON sharprocket.com.ph twitter.com/venchito14
Build in-content links to your legal domain’s target pages. One way to do that is to create a scholarship program and publish a
page targeted to legal colleges and universities. This would allow you to get links from .edu sites that are still relevant to your brand and can tremendously improve the site’s domain authority. Here are a few ways to get started: • Identify your working budget for the scholarship program (in my experience, the optimal scholarship price that can earn/ build the maximum number of links is $1000). • Spend time prospecting for available scholarship listing sites using Google search operators (edu “scholarship” “legal”). • Expand your list by adding listing pages from other verticals that are still relevant to your industry. • Reach out to them and ask to be included in their pages.
My number one tip would be to build case studies around a firm’s clients. Not only would these case studies be great reading, but they would also connect with the target audience, help to build the site’s topical authority, and help the firm’s consumers. Imagine that the person just charged with an assault charge goes online looking for advice and finds a case study on the very subject/charge they have been given. This is superb for building client trust, and the loved ones of those charged will also be searching for help/case studies. The key is for these case studies to be in-depth. When it comes to talking about the law, we are often looking at potential custodial sentences. People want to read in-depth information when they could end up in prison.
The #1 Tip would be to claim and optimize your Google Business listing for your firm’s key office location(s). We have seen strong local visibility continue to drive consistent cases for law firms, but a firm must also have a strategy for earning new (positive) reviews. Local visibility with a strong reviews rating (4+ Star) is one of the most powerful marketing tools on the web today. n Chris Dreyer is the Founder & CEO of Rankings.io, which provides SEO (search engine optimization) services to lawyers, to help them obtain more clients, cases and revenue. To learn more, visit rankings.io or email Chris at email@example.com.
Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 179, 2018
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