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Personal Injury Marketing Minute
25 minutes | Jul 10, 2021
What Should Lawyers Wear? Trends & Style Advice - Personal Injury Marketing Minute #12
The Personal Injury Marketing Minute episode #12 features Master Style Coach and Personal Brand Strategist Mary Michele Nidiffer. Mary covers what attorneys should wear when meeting prospective clients, in the courtroom, when going to trial, men’s and women’s style, and much more. You may visit Mary’s website or connect with her here: Website: https://stylebymarymichele.com/ Store: https://shopstylefinder.com/ Insta: https://www.instagram.com/shopstylefinder/ Email: Michele @ shopstylefinder.com Listen to all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/. Transcription Lindsey: Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute, where we quickly covered the hot topics in the legal marketing world. I’m your host, Lindsey Busfield. And today we will be rummaging through your closet and helping you to figure out what to wear. Whether we like it or not, what we wear is generally how people gather their first impression, which leads to split second subconscious decisions about how we are perceived. If you are like most attorneys and think, “Well, I wear a suit every day, I’ve got this covered.” I can assure you that you have something to learn from our guest, master style coach, and founder of Style Finder boutique, Mary Michele Nidiffer. Thank you so much for joining us, Michele. Mary: Well, I’m so excited to be here. I’ve got a lot of great things to share. Lindsey: Excellent. Well, tell us a little bit about you and your background. Mary: Well, I’m a master style coach, and I own Style Finder boutique located in North Hills, but I have been in the fashion realm for many years. Well, I went to UNC Greensboro, I have a degree in apparel arts and started my career as a designer. I became a style coach in 2008 and my career has just blossomed from there. But my passion and I love what you said about what we wear is generally how people gather their first impression. What I like to say is what you wear tells the world who you are. Lindsey: I like that. Mary: Yes, it makes a difference. So, my passion really is helping my clients uncover their true personal style and cultivate an image that I like to say matches their message, or matches who they are, how they want to show up, and what they do, bringing it all together. Lindsey: Well, and that is highly relevant to our listeners today because how they show up, and what they wear and what their office looks like, and that you know from both style and interior design, that makes a big first impression and can really lead to the decision of whether or not somebody is going to work with an attorney, all the way up to whether or not an attorney wins their case based on how they’re perceived. And again, our clients and listeners are primarily personal injury attorneys, and they live all around the country. And while COVID has moved many meetings to virtual meetings and phone calls, and otherwise not in-person meetings, we are all starting to meet face to face again. So it’s essential to look the part, take a look into our closets and get ideas of what to wear for those initial client consultations, the regular client meetings, arbitration, courtroom appearances, and anywhere that you have to physically show up and command a presence. And so is it going to be enough to wear the same suit for every type of meeting? Mary: No. No. I think, certainly tailoring what you wear to the type of event, is it a client meeting? Is it a high-powered court case? What are you doing? Tailoring your dress can make all the difference, because as you mentioned, there’s the psychology behind clothing and wearing different colors, patterns, textures, putting things together in different ways can influence how you’re perceived. Lindsey: For example, when a lawyer has a meeting with a first client and they want to appear approachable or kind, or caring or trustworthy or strong, what is it that they should be wearing? Mary: Sure. Well, I think this is a great opportunity to think about color, and blue is the color of trust. Blue symbolizes trust. And so if you think about, maybe you bring in a blue shirt or a navy suit, as opposed to black, which is more formal, more authoritative. You want something that’s going to help you to appear more approachable. Now, one tip that I encourage my clients to do is to wear your eye color or a color similar to your eye color. But let’s talk about that for a second, because let’s say you have blue eyes. If you wear blue, it’s going to make your eyes pop. And what happens when your eyes pop, eye contact becomes easier, you are perceived as being more approachable. Lindsey: Oh, interesting. Mary: And actually the same is true for green eyes. However, if you have brown eyes, then I would still encourage you to wear some type of blue, maybe a brighter blue, because that will become what I call your eye intensifier. And so it will also make your eyes stand out. Lindsey: And so it’ll also help facilitate with the eye contact? Mary: Yes. So I would say stick with blue because it does symbolize trust, but also because it will make you, whether you have blue eyes, if you have green eyes, it can work as well because green eyes typically have a lot of blue in them- Lindsey: Exactly. And pretty much goes with everything it sounds like. Mary: It goes with everything. Yes. And with brown eyes, it will intensify your eyes, which will create a similar effect. Lindsey: Excellent. So, let’s look at that in contrast with a lawyer who is going to court and wants to look more authoritative or knowledgeable, what can a lawyer wear to make more of a commanding presence there? Mary: Well, I would definitely say go for black. A black suit, I would definitely stick with a white shirt. Very classic, you want to go a little bit more formal, more polished, more professional. And for men with neck ties, you want to keep it really simple. This is not about your neck tie, this is not a place to make a fashion statement. This is where, your client’s livelihood is on the line. And this is where you want to, if you do wear a print and a neck tie you want to go for a more subtle pattern. You don’t want people looking at your neck tie, you want them listening to what you’re saying? So keep it understated, keep it formal, keep it dark. If you choose not to wear black, I would definitely suggest a deep charcoal or a Navy. Lindsey: Okay. That’s definitely interesting to know, because what you’re wearing should not be the most interesting thing going on in that courtroom. Mary: For sure. Lindsey: Absolutely. And then what factors should a lawyer consider if they’re going to be appearing in front of several jurors as opposed to a single judge, where when you have a jury audience, you have multiple people that you’re in front of, you might be moving around a little bit more and you’re working with people and presenting to people who have some background knowledge of the laws that apply to the particular case, but they are regular people. They’re a jury of the defendant’s peers. So what about that type of situation should factor into what you’re wearing? Mary: Sure. Well, I think this ties into what we just talked about with the first meeting of a client, and wearing the blue and wearing things that express trust. White is also a great color to wear because white is really the symbol of innocence, [inaudible 00:07:20] white suit, wearing a white shirt with maybe a navy suit, and then a blueprint tie, that could work well also. Now this is also the place where, not that I want you to get too creative in your expression, but doing something that expresses your sense of style, maybe it’s a pocket square, maybe it’s the print on your neck tie, maybe it’s the color and the color combination of your shirt and how it plays against your suit, something to show the jury, your personal style. Mary: You want them to see you as a person and be able to connect with you, not just somebody who is fake. You do not want to come across as fake, you want to come across as being authentic. That is very key. And when you wear something that you’re not just putting it on for the sake of putting it on, you’re wearing it because it’s truly who you are, you shine, you stand a little taller. You’re more yourself. And that everything that I teach is, that helps you to connect so much deeper with your clients, with the jury, with the judge, with whoever you’re speaking to. It can make such a difference. Lindsey: That’s an excellent point. The lawyers that would definitely want to come across not only as knowledgeable and experienced and professional, but to be able to appeal to somebody on a human level. And even when somebody has a bit of their personality reflected in their personal style, I would think that it would be able to give them a sense of confidence and anything that you can do to help boost your confidence in the courtroom, make you feel a little bit more natural, I would think would be a great asset. And so speaking of style, it’s important to take the colors into consideration and kind of the smaller accessories, but what is going on with the suit trends now, should all suits be fitted? Are there any patterns that are in, are there any modern accessories? What is hip right now? Mary: This is my favorite question. Well, all right. So let’s break that down for a minute. Let’s talk about men’s suits. A couple of years ago, the skinny pants were all the rage, which they worked really well for some men and some men just not. My husband included, they’re not right for him, but what we’re seeing now is more of a looser fit trouser. So men, you can relax. You don’t have to suck it all in anymore. So a looser fit trouser, but here’s my take on fitted. Instead of thinking about fitted, I want you to think about well-fitting is it well fitting for your body? Because one thing I talk about a lot with women are different body types. Well, men have different body types as well. And so there’s not a one size fits all. But when you can select a suit, whether it’s custom made or it’s tailored, rarely do you find one off the rack that fits you perfectly, but when you can have it tailored so that it fits you like a glove, not too tight, but it’s definitely not baggy. That is the secret sauce. Lindsey: That’s fantastic. And so, wait, you’re talking about not being able to pull it off the rack and having to have it tailored, what should someone expect to pay for a very well fitting suit? Mary: All right. Well, there are two ways I look at it, typically, there’s the off the rack. And I would say for a really nice suit off the rack, I would say roughly, four to $600. Now you can find suits out there for less than that, if you’re on a budget, but I would say to invest in a nice suit, you’re going to want to start at the four to $600 range. If you do want to go the customer out, which if you have something that… as long as you maintain your weight and nothing shifts too much, you’re going to have that for years. So it’s a wonderful investment. Maybe it’s your suit that you pull out when you know you need to nail this case, and it’s your power suit. But that can be an investment of more around anywhere between $800 and $1,800. Lindsey: That’s definitely helpful to know because they are investments, they’re your first skin, they’re your first impression. But we’re starting to see more attorneys with sleeve tattoos or beards. And if an attorney is a bit creative, what are some ways that they can live on the edge and still be classy? Mary: Sure. That’s a great question. Well, I think, for one, your sleeve tattoos are huge. In fact, I’m seeing more women with those as well, but if you think about what you wear into the courtroom, typically you’re not wearing short sleeves, typically your arms would be covered. And so when you think about getting a sleeve tattoo, maybe it’s one that stops at your wrist, or if you do extend beyond that, you’re just going to have to be with that. But I think the thing with that is you need to own it. And that needs to be authentically who you are and your expertise will rise above whatever you present. But we are seeing a lot of beards, a lot of different facial hair, and my best advice for that is just for the beards, mustaches, whatever you choose, keep it well-groomed, keep it very well groomed. Mary: And then, for the rest of you put yourself together a 100% in a well tailored suit, well-fitting suit, great colors. And it’s not about the beard, it’s about the beard being a part of your entire look. And so when you walk into the courtroom, nobody’s staring at you because of your beard or your tattoos or something, they’re looking at you and thinking, “Wow, he looks amazing.” Or, “She looks amazing.” Now, one other way, and kind of to touch on the question you asked me a few minutes ago about trends, is expressing yourself through trends. Now I know when you’re wearing a suit, there can be a little leeway, but a few trends that I’ll share that this can help you to feel like, “Hey, I’m wearing something that’s more personal.” And to express your personal style, we’re seeing a lot of hounds too, herringbone, glen plaid. Actually one thing I’ve really seen a lot of is window pane plaid. It’s really nice. I mean, all of these are very classic, but they give you a modern spin. We’re seeing cross hatch and pinstripes. Pinstripes never go out of style. Lindsey: I was like, those never go out. Mary: But they’re seeing a resurgence right now. And the other thing is with the jackets, double-breasted seeing a lot of double breasted jackets. So, and then the fuller leg pant as opposed to the skinny, but tailoring is key. So when you go to find a suit, whether you’re male or female, chances are, you’re going to have to have a tailor, find a great tailor, and that will be your secret weapon. Lindsey: That is very helpful. And I don’t know, we’ve talked a lot about men’s clothing and beards and the different patterns for suits, but let’s talk exclusively about women’s fashion for a few minutes, because we do have a large audience of attorneys that are women in the courtroom, and they obviously have different styles. And I’ve noticed that there has been a [inaudible 00:15:04] perhaps due to political reasons for the women’s pants suits. Are those a staple of women’s fashion that’s here to stay? Mary: Yes, they are not going anywhere anytime soon. You don’t know how many clients I have that come into my boutique and tell me, “I don’t want to wear a skirt or dress.” And we have a lot of lawyers shop with us and they want pants. They want pants. And yeah. So fortunately, I feel like it’s, in a lot of ways, it’s very liberating for women because pants are so much easier than wearing a skirt sometimes. Lindsey: They are. Mary: Yes, but certainly where we’re going to continue to see the skirted suits, the pencil skirts. And when you wear those, pantyhose are a must in the courtroom. A must. Lindsey: That is really good to know as somebody who doesn’t wear a whole lot of skirts, I never even think about pantyhose. So that is an important key to consider. And then with women’s jackets that go along with the pantsuit, I know that there’s not one style of jacket that goes with every type of pantsuit. I feel like there’s a lot more differentiation in the types of jackets that go with them than there are necessarily even in men’s jackets. What are some of the trends right now that you’re seeing with women’s jackets? Mary: Right. Well, I think, one thing that we’re seeing not necessarily in more professional wear, but more mainstream are over-sized boyfriend blazers. And I think in some ways that’s translated a little bit into more professional, but I will say, take that with a grain of salt, because I think when you’re talking about more professional dress, fit will always trump what’s on trend. For something that’s trendy, but if it’s not right for you, or if it’s wearing you, basically, it’s not going to work. And so, this is where I would really say, don’t focus so much on what’s on trend, focus on what’s right for your body type, what’s right for your stature. Mary: Because if you’re petite and you wear a longer jacket, it may or may not be the right proportion for you. And you want it to work for your body type, you want it to jelly skin the body. You want it to fit you like a glove and really show off your asset. One thing I will add, this is more for women to think about, for men, they don’t have nearly as many choices, but for women when it comes to your jacket, one thing I want you to think about as your jacket lapels. Do you have a notch lapel, or do you have a shell collar? Now the shell collar is the rounded, unnotched collar basically. And really the notched lapel, that is a much more masculine look, and that is better for women have a more angular face shape, and a shell collar is better for someone who has the more rounded face shape. Lindsey: Interesting. Very good to know. And I would think that that would also translate to where you’re going to be wearing that jacket, because if you want a jacket that… I would think that the more angular jacket or the notched one would have more of a commanding presence, if you’re going to be going into a courtroom, whereas the rounded lapel would be a little bit more gentle. And so if you’re going to a meeting one-on-one with a client, I would think that that would be a more appropriate place to where that. Is that about right? Mary: Yeah Lindsey. That’s a great interpretation. Absolutely. I think the notch collar absolutely is, as I mentioned, it’s more masculine, has got a more commanding presence and that’s what you want to wear when you’re in the courtroom. But meeting one-on-one with clients, shell collar, I think is perfect because then you want your look to be a little softer. Lindsey: Excellent. And so we’ve got the jacket, we have the pants, let’s talk about blouses. One of the most googled questions for female lawyers in fashion is how low or too tight is appropriate for professional wear. And I know that this one is probably subject to a lot of interpretation and there are a lot of pc isms revolving around this question, but it is something that women want to know. And they’re looking to Google to find the answer for that. So, in your professional opinion, what is the cutoff? Mary: Sure. Well, that is a hot button issue, depending on who you talk to, but anyway, in my professional opinion, is no cleavage. No cleavage. You don’t want your blouse bursting at the seams and no cleavage. In fact, I had a lawyer, a client years ago who brought me into his office to help his staff get dressed, because there were several ladies who were offenders of this. And I think they just didn’t know. Some people just don’t think about it, but no cleavage. If when in doubt, leave it out. Meaning, if you’re not sure, the answer is no. Always go for more conservative. And one thing I will say, I have a lot of clients who are busty, and that can make it tricky when you have a button up blouse. But one thing I want you to think about is when you are shopping for your blouses, find something that has a little bit of stretch. Mary: There are so many great options out there now, there are a lot of lines out there that are targeted towards fuller busted women, and things that do have stretch because the stretch will allow you more freedom of movement. It’ll allow you to have a little bit more give, and it’s going to help you feel more comfortable too. But the worst thing in the world would be, you’re in a courtroom with a high-powered court case and you look down and you see your button is like about to burst. And then you have to think about that, you want the least distracting clothing for yourself, as well as for other people, you can get it. Lindsey: That’s an excellent point. You do not want to be defending somebody’s case while simultaneously thinking about a wardrobe malfunction, that divided attention would be absolutely awful. So, comfort and professionalism is key there. And so what about high heels? I know that those used to be a 100% must, but are they any more? I know they impact posture and to an extent, appearance and perception. So are those still as critical as they used to be? Mary: In my opinion, no. Lindsey, I think high heels, they’re nice to wear if that’s your style, but yeah, I think in a lot of ways they can have almost like a more sexy connotation and lead people to be distracted for the wrong reasons. But sometimes you can wear flats. Flats can be really tricky. It’s hard to just swap out high heels for flats, and have a similar effect. But my recommendation is go for a lower heel, kitten heels actually are very hot right now and they’re so much more comfortable. I am not a heels girl, but kitten heels I can do. But I would say, opt for a kitten heel or a wedge. Lindsey: Okay. That’s a great idea. Mary: Well, sometimes wedges can get a little bit too casual, but for the right setting, a wedge can be appropriate, but I would say for the courtroom, or when you’re going for a more formal look, a kitten heel can be a perfect solution. Lindsey: And in terms of fabrics for shoes, does it matter what type of fabric your shoes are made out of? Mary: I would say opt for a leather, as opposed to a suede or something… there’s so many different options now, you can get raffia or cork, or I was looking at something the other day that was a woven canvas. I mean, there’s just a jillion different options, a leather closed toe kitten heeled, or high heel pump, mid heel, let’s say mid heel would be better. Close toe pump is going to be your best bet. It’s plastic, you can invest in it and it will last you for a while. It is timeless and will transcend the trends. Lindsey: Excellent. Well, thank you so much today. And is there any last final tip that any of our attorneys can keep in mind if they are in a rush to get into the closet and get out and get on to their law firm? What should somebody look for immediately as they run into their closet and try to create an ensemble? Mary: Sure. I think about the three Cs. You want to create consistency, because it’s not just a one and done. It’s not just about how you show up one day, it’s about how you show up consistently. And so if you want to get into your closet and plan out your outfits for the week or the next few days, think about consistency. This is not polar opposite day. This is not go from one extreme to the other. This is about creating consistency because that in and of itself, builds your credibility and build your trust. And it will also build your own confidence as well as confidence that others have in you. Showing up in a consistent way, whatever that is. And so, if you’re trying something new, if you’re experimenting with certain colors, weave it in, weave it into your style and let it be a part of your style rather than just a flash in the pan. Lindsey: It’s a great point. Mary: Yeah. Lindsey: Excellent. Well, thank you so much again for joining us today. If anybody wants to get in touch with you or learn more about your offerings, how can they do that? Mary: Sure. Well, my website is stylebymarymichele.com or you can email me at Michelle, M-I-C-H-E-L-E @shopstylefinder.com. Lindsey: Great. Well, thank you so much. We appreciate your time today and hope that you enjoy the rest of it. Mary: Oh, thank you so much Lindsey.
14 minutes | Jul 2, 2021
How The Google July 2021 Core Algorithm Update Impacts Law Firms - Personal Injury Marketing Minute #11
This episode covers Google’s latest Broad Core Algorithm Update which began rolling out July 1, 2021. We will cover what a broad core algorithm update is, how often are there algorithm updates, when did July’s algorithm update began, what is unique about it, overlapping updates (such as the Google Page Experience update and Core Web Vitals). Finally… Should law firms worry about algorithm updates? See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/. Transcription: Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute. Lindsey: Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute, where we quickly cover the hot topics in the legal marketing world. I’m your host, Lindsey Busfield, and today, we will be discussing the new core update that Google just rolled out. Well, Google rolls out periodic algorithm updates. This one seems to impact law firms more than some other updates that Google has issued in the past. Len, the owner of Optimize My Firm is here to give us all of the details that you need to know for your firm. Welcome, Len. Len: Thank you. Thank you for hosting this. What is a Google Broad Core Algorithm Update? Lindsey: Absolutely. So Len, tell us what is a broad core update? Len: So Google does lots and lots of updates, especially last month, but they do hundreds every year. A broad core update is something they introduced in 2018, or they started calling it a broad core update. And a broad core update, it’s when they make several broad changes to their ranking algorithm all at once. So it’s different than a normal Google update that they do hundreds of times each year, because it encompasses several different ranking factors. How Often Dies Google Roll Out Broad Core Algorithm Updates? Lindsey: How often are broad core updates issued as opposed to just regular algorithm updates? Len: They have been running these about three or four times each year. They started, I think it was August 1st, 2018. I’d have to look. And the first one, a lot of people called Medic because it really impacted a lot of medical websites. It didn’t really affect many of our attorneys, but we do have a couple of attorneys with very large sections on their website about medical things. Should Law Firms Track Algorithm Updates? Lindsey: And why is it important for law firms to stay abreast of these algorithm changes? Len: So usually, it’s not, if you have a good SEO company. Usually, it’s something that you can totally forget about. As for our one particular client who has a lot of medical related content, they do like to know about them. Even they tend to go up a little bit one algorithm update and then down a little bit the next, but they do impact other things in Google, such as review stars or featured snippets and traffic in general. It’s funny with their website, they can have a huge surge in traffic and it’s really because they’ll be ranking for one particular featured snippet, which drives a thousand hits a day. So even when their traffic changes, it’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing. Lindsey: So it definitely doesn’t just impact where their website is ranking on the organic search results. It can have an impact on where that website shows up on any of Google’s tools. So whether it’s on the featured snippets or organic listings or their reviews, so this can be something that impacts a lawyer’s marketing presence in a wide range, it sounds like. Len: Yes, correct. I wanted to add real quick that before we rebranded, we went by Telepost and we had documented some of these and we ended up getting the analytics data for hundreds of companies out there and were able to really dive in and look at some of the correlations on why some sites gained or lost traffic, and it really came down to site quality. There was a lot of websites ranking for things that really shouldn’t have been, and the algorithm did fix that. Lindsey: Wow. Yeah. These algorithms can definitely be a great tool for law firms who are using good SEO practices with solid backlinks and good bridge content that’s optimized for the web. When was the July Google Broad Core Algorithm Update? So talking about this broad core update specifically, when did July’s algorithm updates start? Len: So it came in two parts. They started one… They didn’t have already. So they rolled out the first part of it in the beginning of June, and it actually took people a few days to see impact. This particular half of the algorithm update, they started July 1st and I started seeing changes in attorneys’ presences last night. So the night of July 1st and July 2nd, there’s definitely been a major change in Google search results. Lindsey: Interesting. How did you find out about this algorithm update? I mean, obviously today is… We’re just now starting into July. How do people find out when algorithm updates are going to happen or what the impact of them is? Len: So most people find out about an algorithm change about two months after it happens when they see a drop in their traffic. Unless you’re one of those people that monitors their traffic every day or every week, then they may notice it quicker. Google does have a Twitter account they use. It’s the Google SearchLiaison and they tweet out their core algorithm updates. I do have a few friends in the industry who very closely monitor what Google is doing. They usually know within about 20 minutes of them happening, which is… I don’t think anybody… It’s very unhealthy to monitor search results that fast, but that’s how you can find out about them. The July 2021 Core Update, previously announced, is now rolling out:https://t.co/6Xs77WDsur These typically take 1-2 weeks to finish. Our guidance about such updates is here:https://t.co/e5ZQUA3RC6 Here’s more on how we improve search through updates:https://t.co/IBmInwGOiX — Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) July 1, 2021 Diagnosing Traffic Loss and Increases: Lindsey: For most people, when they are looking at the increase in their traffic or the drop in their traffic, how do they diagnose that? Len: It gets tricky. They usually have somebody like us diagnose it for them. Otherwise, I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of people who’ve drawn the wrong conclusion. Even this month, there’s been many different updates and a lot of people see something and they point the finger at that. They’re like, “Oh, we did this and we shouldn’t have,” or, “It’s because our site’s not secure.” Or, “Maybe it’s because of these backlinks. We got four months ago.” It’s usually much, much, much more involved in that and there’s usually multiple items that can cause an increase or decrease in traffic. Or as we mentioned earlier, it might just be one page on your website that’s suddenly getting or not getting a featured snippet, which is driving a lot of traffic. Should You Worry About Algorithm Updates? Lindsey: Absolutely. With these hundreds of algorithm updates that go on throughout the year, some that you might be able to identify pretty quickly, some that Google announces, and then some that you identify just through traffic changes, how worried should law firms be about these algorithm updates? Len: Our clients shouldn’t worry about them much at all. Usually, you shouldn’t worry about them. Of course, in the world of personal injury, there is a certain level of backlink building that you have to do. Especially if you’re in a city like Los Angeles, there’s a couple of big firms that they represented Michael Jackson’s doctor and they’ve got press from all over the world. If you’re going to compete there, you have to build links. There is a certain amount of risk involved. There are some gray areas you’ll have to go into, but if you have somebody who’s very experienced in building your backlinks, you shouldn’t ever have… It’s very unlikely you’ll have a problem. We’ve never personally ever had any problems here with that. But if you do hire, for every good SEO agency, there’s 200 bad ones. Len: And a lot of them do build backlinks which can result in a manual action from Google, or even with this update, we’re seeing a very positive impact on a lot of our clients, which is rare. I’ve never even done a podcast here about the algorithm updates because it just never affects our attorneys. It’s usually these medical websites, news websites, big, big websites, but this one is definitely impacting attorneys. So if our clients are doing good, other law firms are doing bad. So they’re just not getting the quality of the links that they should be getting. Website, Backlink & Content Advice: Lindsey: Sure. It sounds like links play a really big, important role when it comes to the deciding factor of how Google ranks one website versus another. Other than backlinks, what goes into how Google decides how to rank certain websites? Len: So as far as attorneys go, they really just need an easy to use website. If you just forget that there are search engines, just make a good website that’s easy to use for people, that’s usually the first step. It should be fast, ease of use on a telephone, secure. It needs to be all those things. It’s 99% of it. Lindsey: And then once that website is in place and it’s user-friendly, how important is the content on the website? Len: So content quality is a big issue that we could read a book about, but it should definitely explain people’s legal issues to them at least enough to make them call, but the structure of it, where it’s placed on the website, how easy it is to read, those are all factors. Even something we’ve been guilty of in the past is building big walls of texts and [inaudible 00:10:07]. It’s good and comprehensive content. It should be broken up and easy to digest, maybe with some pictures or YouTube videos. Lindsey: Right. So it definitely sounds like no matter what the update to the algorithm is, so long as you have quality backlinks, a user-friendly website that’s mobile friendly, and content that is optimized for the website and easy to navigate and get useful information from, it sounds like you’ll be pretty safe from any algorithm update that Google rolls out. Do you agree? Len: Yes. Yeah. In general, yeah. Yeah. There are a couple more algorithm updates coming. One’s rolling out right now, called the Core Web Vitals, and there’s also a Google page experience update that is coming out. It’s not going to be a huge impact, but again, it’s just making sure you have a nice, clean website that loads quickly, is secure. It’s all common sense stuff. In the world of personal injury lawyers, a lot of them had that seven years ago. It’s a pretty competitive niche. So everybody is trying to make a really nice, high converting website in the first place. Core Web Vitals and the Page Experience Update: Lindsey: Absolutely. So are just doing more of the right things. Well, will keep you moving in the right direction. Well, and then Len, do we expect the July algorithm update to be completed all in one go, or is this something that is going to be lingering on for a while? Len: That’s a great question. It does vary. Some of this bounce around for about two weeks. So sometimes people will see a drop in traffic today and then in 10 days from now, it’ll come back. So it will be rolling out. They did say it’s going to take up to two weeks, but I did see a major impact today. So usually when that happens, there’ll be some tremors for a day or two, and then they’re done, but we will see. One thing I forgot to mention earlier about diagnosing updates is overlapping updates. So in June, for example, there was a spam update, and that rolled out on the 23rd and the 28th. But that probably won’t affect any lawyers. That was mostly spam websites, and when I say spam website, I’m referring to people ranking with hacked websites or hijacked websites where they’re just doing something really, really, really bad. We’re not talking about link building here. This is spam. Lindsey: All right. So that’s a great example of how the Google algorithm updates can definitely… They keep the bad websites in check and can help benefit the websites that are doing things the right way. So these algorithm updates are not necessarily something to be scared of if you’re doing things right. Len: Overall, we love the direction Google has been going. They’ve been making it a better place, a better search engine, which is good. That’s what they want to do to please their shareholders and usually, we’re looking forward to the algorithm updates and looking for any positive impact and we’re usually regionally very excited and happy when they roll up. Contact OptimizeMyFirm with Algorithm Questions: Lindsey: That’s great. And Len, if anybody has questions about how this or any other upcoming algorithm update is going to impact their site, how can they get in touch with you? Len: Yeah. Just by the contact form on optimizemyfirm.com. They can contact us right there. I’m certain there’s going to be questions from people who lost traffic, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions people have there. Lindsey: All right. Well, thank you so much, Len. We appreciate your time. Len: Thank you very much.
18 minutes | Apr 1, 2021
How Ngage Simplifies Live Chat for Lawyers – Mark Shepherd – Personal Injury Marketing Minute #10
When a prospective client walks through your door for the first time, it is common sense to have your receptionist greet them. But what happens when they walk through your law firm’s digital door? When a visitor arrives at your website, they should also be greeted by someone who can answer their questions and connect them with the right lawyer. Ngage offers a unique live chat service specifically geared towards helping law firms convert website visitors into new clients. Mark Shepherd explains how their platform integrates state-of-the-art features to connect with your future clients and improve your conversion rate. Learn more about Ngage’s service platform at https://www.ngagelive.com/
27 minutes | Mar 31, 2021
How To Make Videos for Lawyers – Martin Schlesinger – Personal Injury Marketing Minute #9
With the surging popularity of video platforms like TikTok and YouTube, some super successful lawyers have launched viral video marketing campaigns. How did they do it? First, they had to master the simple basics of videography. Video campaigns for lawyers do not require a full camera crew or expensive equipment. Legal marketing videographer, Martin Schlesinger, discusses how you can leverage the great camera that you already own – the one on your phone. These tips and tricks can help any lawyer create interesting videos that prospective clients will actually watch. Want to learn more? Connect with Martin Schlesinger via Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/martyschlesinger/ Transcript: Lindsey Busfield: Welcome to The Personal Injury Marketing Minute, where we quickly cover the hot topics in the legal marketing world. I’m your host, Lindsey Busfield. And today we will be talking about all things video. Very few law firms use video effectively yet it can be one of the most powerful mediums to get clients in the door. Legal videographer and digital marketing expert Marty Schlesinger is here to talk to us about the best ways to use video in your marketing plan. After 10 years of experience in the legal marketing world, Marty has spearheaded video projects for every facet of web marketing. Welcome Marty. We’re so glad to have you with us. Marty Schlesinger: Yeah, thanks for having me, Lindsey. I’m excited to be here on the podcast. Advantages of Using Video Lindsey Busfield: Well, video is one of the most underused tools in marketing plans today. What are some of the advantages of using video? Marty Schlesinger: Sure. That’s a good question Lindsey. Video is for sure a powerful tool. In the fast paced content consuming world that we live in, it really should be leveraged as a mainstay and a legal toolkit in a marketer’s toolkit or even a lawyer’s toolkit. And for some, I know it can be a little bit overwhelming, but I promise you, it’s not. I’m hoping that throughout the podcast here, that I can help address some of the most common questions that folks may have, but also take some of the pressure of some of those that have been wanting to create the video content for yourself, your business, or your law firm. Lindsey Busfield: That’s great. What are some of the advantages of using video as opposed to just plain text? Marty Schlesinger: Sure. So video still images and the written word they’re all effective means for promoting yourself or your business. When we’re talking about promoting yourself on social, as well as on other digital platforms. I think it’s important to ask yourself what you’re looking to achieve with a post and overall with your brand. And in my mind, I sort of do a breakdown in terms of the benefits of each. So I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the written word is really effective, especially for lawyers when used properly. And you take, for instance, your client alerts, your lawyer written articles, which are mainstays for a lot of law firms and something that clients expect now. But what the written board may lack in graphics and visual simulation really makes up for with the ability to describe a topic, however, complex. Marty Schlesinger: Now, in terms of still images and photography, these are really effective at quickly capturing someone’s attention, especially on social. Highlighting an article that you wrote with a relevant graphic is now not only expected these days, but it’s also a proven tactic to increase views and engagements. And for as quickly as your average personal scroll through a newsfeed these days, it’s a really great idea to post an attractive image. It will make the difference. Lastly, when it comes to video, which I know is a topic here in the podcast is it can be really effective if used correctly on your social platforms. Some of the reasons I like it so much is that video is really good at effectively summarizing complex ideas and boiling them down into bite sized chunks so that they’re digestible. That’s really the power when it comes to video. Marty Schlesinger: This is in contrast to written word, my first point about written copy. My second point, why it can be so effective is that video is really a humanizing tool, especially for lawyers, the viewers that see you and can hear you, they can now put a face and a voice to who you are, what you do and what you know, and that’s really important. This not only enhances your personal brand, but as long as you know what you’re talking about, it can instantly make you more credible and help to position you as a thought leader in your industry, which really at the end of the day, that’s really what we’re all trying to achieve here. And then lastly, I think video provides the opportunity for both the lawyer and the viewer to be a little more authentic. By that I mean, it promotes engagement, whether you’re trying to get clicks or likes or simply just promote engagement through emotion. Video really offers an effective means to strike an authentic cord with someone. Lindsey Busfield: That’s great. When the client is looking for an attorney to work with, they are wanting to work with the best in the industry. They’re looking for those thought leaders and they’re looking for somebody that they can connect with. And they’re looking for that authenticity. Marty Schlesinger: Exactly. Lindsey Busfield: And video is a really great way to deliver all of those in a very condensed way without having to work too hard of reading through all of them. Marty Schlesinger: You’re absolutely right. And I have multiple stories of just someone recording themselves. They weren’t really comfortable with it, but then they got a call from a prospect or from a client. And oftentimes it makes all the difference with your business. Ways Attorneys May Use Video to Market Themselves: Lindsey Busfield: Absolutely. So when lawyers think about videos, in my experience, they are just picturing videos embedded in their websites. You talked about social, what are all the ways that lawyers can use video to market themselves? Marty Schlesinger: Sure. That’s a good question, Lindsey. When it comes to the video [inaudible 00:05:19] website, when you use those strategically, it can be an effective means to encourage a call to action from your audience, increase your conversions, a phone call asking for an email, some sort of a download, but I think it’s important for folks to keep in mind that your website is really only one aspect of your online presence, your digital presence. I think video content when posted across multiple channels can be a really effective means of driving engagement and your brand awareness. More often than not the same piece of content, the video that you make and create that can be shared across all your accounts. And as we go, I can talk a little bit more about the tactics for social and dissemination for content, but for sure it shows you the power and flexibility of creating video content for yourself or for your firm. Lindsey Busfield: Sure. And when I think about website and when I think about social, using video across all these platforms is really important because again, it’s that first touch, that’s first humanization and the first connect. Many people are making with the attorneys. And so when you are creating a video, how do you actually get people to watch it? And you can have the best video in the world, but until you can get somebody to actually click on it and watch the video, how do you get them to make that first touch? Marty Schlesinger: Sure, sure. I feel like that’s the age old question is what you should record and when you record it, how will you know that your audience will like it, that they’ll want to engage with you? That it’ll be attractive, all of these things and especially for a law firm, that’s a big question. And just with my experience, it’s not always easy and it’s not always obvious. And again, that’s a good question. I want to try and address that here is that this should be top of mind when you’re looking to generate content. If you say you want to write an article or you want to record yourself, first off you should think about, do I have a tangible product or an intangible product? Marty Schlesinger: And just being able to break that down is helpful. So let’s say you have a tangible product creating content around how tos, product walkthroughs or features. These are some tried and true ways that you can really engage your audience. And that’s an obvious thing. You have a product and you can show it in front of the camera. It’s great. Shiny. Now, if you’re in the professional services’ industry and you have an intangible product, for instance, a law firm, it becomes critical to focus your efforts on specific topics and themes. So I actually have a list here. I’m going to list off a couple from my experience, especially for a law firm, some of the most popular topics and formats that I think a law firm can employ when generating video content. So I’ll list those off here. So I have three. Marty Schlesinger: So the first one is talking about industry updates or hot button issues. This is really a great way to engage your audience and also make yourself more credible at the same time. It goes back to my previous point, but just recording yourself in your office or you’re at home and talking about these topics that are important to clients or your prospects, addressing the issues that are keeping them up at night, that they’re really worried about. This is a really quick and effective way to generate targeted quality content. And I hear that time and time again, just really talking about these issues that are extremely important that are happening here now that you can really provide a little bit of analysis for a prospect for a client really makes a powerful impact. The next theme that I recommend is the question and answer format where you would interview another expert. Marty Schlesinger: These are the interviews that are common on news channels, where you tune in and you see an expert where they’re interviewing them and they’re answering questions, whether they’re in the newsroom there, or they’re at home coming in via, I guess, a virtual feed. With that said, I think inviting someone, a person can be a little bit tricky because now you need to think about more than one camera, the audio, Coronavirus restrictions, all of that. So I think to avoid the hassle, I recommend for professionals that are listening to this it’s easy enough just to tap into your professional network find a friend, a colleague, another expert, and just ask them to join you for a Skype call or a Zoom call. And just recording that content because obviously you’ll want their approval, but recording that content could become just a rich quality content. And as a case in point Lindsey, what you’re doing here with the podcast is just a fantastic example of that, just two professional colleagues, talking, recording, great content, it’s pretty easy, fairly painless. Marty Schlesinger: And the last format that I found to be really popular, especially on social is capturing an attendee soundbite using a man on the streets, sort of style recording. And I understand that’s a little bit harder to do since events aren’t really quite as popular these days, but just for instance, as an example, if you’re attending an event, what I mean by the man on the street style is that, you’re in between the event itself during the breaks, you’ve got people walking around the floor, they’re going to the vendors, et cetera, just finding someone, grabbing someone, especially if you’re hosting or sponsoring this event. It’s all the easier just to grab someone in between the break, ask them what they think about the event. What are things that are trending in the industry, some analysis and future trends that they can share with you. I found time and time again, that gets a lot of engagement posting that to your account, your social channels, that always folks want to see that stuff. Topics for Personal Injury Attorneys: Lindsey Busfield: So all of those are really great formats for different video types. But when looking at the content of the videos, what types of topics should personal injury lawyers be covering? Marty Schlesinger: Sure. That’s a good question. I know a lot of listeners are in this area. So more specifically, I know those themes that I listed off just a minute ago, those are more general, if you want to create engagement, but for more specifically for personal injury law firms and lawyers, I think it’s really important to emphasize and focus on topics that can answer a lot of these questions that would be keeping your clients up at night for these prospects, such as, when do personal injury courts reopen, how much is my case actually worth? That’s a common question that someone might have. That’s a common question that I would have. Does it matter if I’m in this accident, if I’m personally responsible, what do I do? How do I deal with insurance companies? Marty Schlesinger: Each of these questions can be a topic and individual topic for your content. So I really wouldn’t address more than one at a time because they’re important enough that you can make the video a standalone and folks will be interested enough to click on that. Watch what your quick analysis is. You want to tease them just to a little bit don’t let them have everything upfront, but you’ll want to tease them just to let them know that what you’re talking about, you’ve created successful outcomes for other clients and that you lead the industry in terms of your knowledge in those areas. Lindsey Busfield: Absolutely. It’s a great way to showcase that you can add value and that you really are the industry expert on all of the questions. It also shows that you’re very much tuned into the questions that they would be having. So I think those are great insights for videos that you could start with. I’m sure that many personal injury lawyers could come up with a list of a hundred questions answered really regularly. And each of those, as you said, could be a little video segment. And so in thinking about these small individual questions, how long should these videos be? About how long is somebody’s attention span when it comes to asking and wanting to get an answer for this question? Marty Schlesinger: Sure. It depends what it is, but especially for personal injury lawyer, if we’re just answering a question, I’m thinking that it should be maybe 60 seconds, maybe 90 seconds. I think to answer a question like this, especially if you’re not trying to tell them everything there is to know about this topic and about this question, really try to keep this short and sweet. Tell the viewer the most important things, highlighting the things that they should be thinking about here and now. If they’ve been involved in an accident, if they’re going to be going to court, things that are top of mind for them. So if you extend past that you’re going to lose their interest, you’re going to drone on about things that may not be important. So if we’re shifting away a little bit from the personal injury focus and highlighting that, and if we’re just talking about general stuff, such as you’re promoting a webinar or an event that’s about 30 to 60 seconds, I think. Marty Schlesinger: And then if we’re talking about things that are more complex, such as perhaps there was a change in the personal injury law, and you need to try and analyze that and you want to share that I think we’re talking about a minute and a half, two minutes, maybe even longer depends how complex it is. And lastly, if we’re talking about training or anything educational nature, I think at least a couple of minutes, five or more, but it depends on what you’re doing, what the goal is here, but that’s just sort of a rule of thumb for me. DIY vs Videographer: Lindsey Busfield: So as you’re thinking about the ideas for creating different videos and you are getting excited about them, is it something that you need to hire an external agency to film? Or is it something that you can do in-house? Marty Schlesinger: Yeah, that’s a really great question. And a question that I actually hear quite a lot of. There’s pros and cons to having someone in-house, pros and cons of doing it yourself and pros and cons to hiring an agency. In my opinion, you don’t need an agency nine times out of 10. The only time you would need to hire an agency is you want to do a multi-camera setup. For instance, you’re interviewing one or more experts and you want it to look really good, or you need to create a professional grade, or you’re making a TV commercial, essentially you would need to hire an agency for that. But taking a step back with the popularity of smartphones, maybe worthwhile, especially if you don’t know anything about it and you want to start creating your own content and you have a smartphone, it may be worthwhile to learn the basics for just cleaning up the recording and then making the post on your own social channel. Marty Schlesinger: So just the basics of learning how to trim, just to start the video, the fluff where you’re trying to warm yourself up, clear your throat and at the end where you’re turning off the video and it’s a slow shaky. So just learning how to trim the start and the at the end is really valuable. And these days I can’t speak to Android, but I have an iPhone. iPhone makes it really easy where you can just record yourself. And immediately after the recording, you see the option to trim it right there, trim the front, trim the end, and then you have the option to upload to your LinkedIn or your Twitter. Marty Schlesinger: It literally takes 20 seconds. So that’s really convenient. And it’s not that hard. The last thing I’ll say on this point is if you are looking to get something a little more complicated, like if you want an animated logo or some sort of a bumper, just something more complicated than there are options such as freelance sites, such as Fiverr and Upwork.com. These are great resources for finding an expert in the editor just to help you with a project. And they won’t usually cost an arm or leg. Equipment Needed to Shoot Videos: Lindsey Busfield: That’s really good to know. I know that there are a lot of advanced video features meanwhile the iPhone is great and great for production quality, and it’s just very simple to use. There are some other things that you can add to a video that makes them a little bit more professional. So absolutely. And so you have your iPhone, what other equipment do you need to shoot a good quality video? Marty Schlesinger: So I wish I could say it’s just a matter of holding your iPhone in front of you hitting record, and you’ve got the best looking thing you can ever have. And unfortunately it’s a little more complicated than that, but it’s not that bad. As long as you know just a few things, you can really enhance the quality of how you look and how you sound. So I’d say there were really three important things that someone can do to enhance the quality of the video. And this comes from over 10 to 15 years of experience, generally in the video and audio area. And those three things are proper lighting, proper audio, and just having a tripod. So if you’re able to achieve all three of these, your set. Lighting, I feel like is one of those things that we take for granted and it’s everywhere, but except on our face, when we do a recording, we have these harsh shadows from the fluorescent lights on the ceiling or we find ourselves in a dark corner of a room. And then afterwards, we’re like, why does that look bad? Marty Schlesinger: So an easy fix is really to always just be mindful to place yourself facing a window with natural sunlight. You’ve got that natural sunlight in your face, or you can purchase an external light. Maybe if you don’t have a window in that room, just having a light on top of your laptop or a computer just to aluminate the shadows on your face makes a big difference. So for audio again, there’s two options here. Most people prefer just to use the built-in microphone on their phone or camera and that’s fine. In some cases it’s not the best microphone in the world, but oftentimes it’s good. It’s above average. And as long as you’re close enough to your phone or your camera, when you’re speaking, you should be fine. Marty Schlesinger: I’d say no more than two feet away. I think we’ve all watched the video or hear podcasts where it sounds like someone’s talking from across the room and they’re in a hallway. And so it’s just a matter of having your mouth close enough to the microphone. That’s really all it is. The other option for audio is to purchase an external microphone. I’ll talk about that in a second here, but lastly, just a tripod and I can’t stress this enough, in school, this is something professors beat into us as always use a tripod. And these days smartphone tripods are pretty cheap and they make all the difference to not have that shaky shot. Marty Schlesinger: But even if it’s just using your encyclopedias, you use your books, your old [inaudible 00:19:56] books that you may not be looking at anymore, just to prompt your phone up, to avoid that shaky shot, that’ll be a big deal. And again, it makes all the difference. So I have a couple of the recommendations for the lights, audio, even a tripod, whether you’re trying to do a setup at home or in the office. And just to save everyone a little bit of time here. I’ve created a checklist and a small how-to guide for the folks that are listening to the podcast here, and I’ve provided it to Lindsey. And Lindsey has graciously agreed to share the guide with you all. It’s a free guide. So I’m sure she’ll let you know where to find it. Do’s, Dont’s and What To Wear: Lindsey Busfield: Yep. We’ll have a link for you to sign up, to join the list, to get access to that really fantastic resource list with all of the equipment that Marty recommends, as well as the tips and tricks to how to create a very professional high grade video for use in your firm to get more clients engaged. What are some of the tricks like, what are you going to wear or natural? What are some of the things that people should and shouldn’t do before they get in front of the camera? Marty Schlesinger: Sure. Yeah. These are the things, especially when it comes to lighting audio and they seem obvious, but then when you record yourself, you’re like, “Oh, that doesn’t look good. Why didn’t I think of that?” But it’s not something to feel bad about. It is somewhat of an art form, but again, once you know, what you should do and shouldn’t do, it becomes really easy. So in terms of what you should wear or perhaps not wear, there’s a few simple rules that I follow. And this is even working with the lawyers that I’ve worked quite a bit with in front of the camera. So in terms of the colors that you should be wearing, this usually refers to just your upper half since that’s what folks will see nine times out of 10, is that where the colors such as your deep reds, your dark teals, rich greens, your purples, your grays, those are all colors that work well. Marty Schlesinger: The pastels, rich jewel tones, it depends on your skin type, but you watch something that will have a good contrast with your skin, as well as the backdrop, as well as something that will just look pleasing to the eye for the viewer. The colors tool [inaudible 00:22:09] though, I would say, would be pure white, pure black, true green and true red. It’s just something about camera sensors. They don’t like these colors and they don’t usually look good on camera or just in general. So I would avoid those. I would also tell people to avoid complicated patterns or stripes on their clothing. Again, this is just a camera sensor thing, just in general, where solid colors for your top. And you’ll be good and you’ll look great. In terms of jewelry and accessories, something that’s often overlooked is that your jewelry, your watch any kind of a bracelet you might be wearing will almost always make a distracting noise. Marty Schlesinger: So just try to take that stuff off even if it’s an earring that’s hanging low that may make noise. You should know that the microphone will pick that up. And also if you wear glasses and have the option of contacts, that’s always the way to go, to avoid the glare from the lights. And then in terms of just making yourself look good, one last check before you hit the record button just check your face for shine. Chapstick is also an industry secret that a lot of news anchor will use right before they’re on air, shiny lips apparently are attractive. Be Yourself: Lindsey Busfield: Don’t want to have the chapped lip showing up. So now that everybody is beautiful, getting ready to get on camera. How do you make it so that you look a little bit more natural and not robotic as you’re trying to talk about these? Marty Schlesinger: Yeah. When we talk to someone in person it’s natural to act natural because that’s what we do and that’s what we know. And we’re all human, it’s wired in us to do that. But then when we look at a cold camera lens, it becomes, we shut down, we turn off, we turn into a robot and there’s a few things that have worked for me over the years and a few things that I’ve actually worked with lots of lawyers that have worked for them. And just trying to keep some of these things in the back of your mind and preparing right before you record can be really helpful. So I have three small things here in terms of advice that I think will help folks that are listening. Marty Schlesinger: The first one is just to relax and speak naturally. And as I said earlier the tendency is to sometimes be cold and calculated. But what you want to do is just view the lens, view the camera as a neighbor of yours. Now this is just if you’re recording yourself and you’re not Skyping someone because then it becomes a lot easier. But if you’re just recording yourself and you want to do an industry update just treat them as a neighbor, treat the lens like a neighbor where you’re having a conversation and just let things flow naturally. The second point I’ll make in terms of acting naturally is something that’s often underestimated and overlooked is the body language and facial expressions. Expressions and even overexpression, it almost always translates well in front of the camera. Marty Schlesinger: So don’t be afraid to use your eyebrows, your hands, your face, be expressive. A lot of folks, I find just sort of freeze their face and they just have monotone voice. So don’t be afraid to use all that stuff, again translates well. And the last thing I’ll say here in terms of acting naturally is just trying to smile. It sounds cheesy, but smiling is really a great way to not only enhance your on-camera presence, but also it improves the likelihood that someone will trust you. And it should never feel forced. Just even thinking about smiling as you speak is enough to organically radiate your tone and expression, and is with the equipment checklist and what to wear checklist that I’ve added in the document that Lindsey will share with you. I’ve added in some points, some advice for acting and speaking naturally here. Lindsey Busfield: That’s great. Those will all make a big, big difference. The last thing that you want to do is you plan a really great video is to ruin it by A wearing the wrong thing or completely robotic in front of the camera. And both of those things with a little bit of practice and a little more thought can take an okay video to a really fantastic video. Well, thank you so much, Marty, for having us today. If people have more questions or want to talk to you further about videography opportunities, where can people get in touch with you? How To Get in Touch with Marty: Marty Schlesinger: My LinkedIn profile is the best place to get in touch with me. I also have an email address and Lindsey, I think you said you’ll help provide that information for folks, but LinkedIn, or send me an email. Happy to answer any questions. If anyone has any questions or concerns or even working on recording the video for themselves with a law firm, feel free to reach out, happy to do pointers for you or even work with you. So feel free to reach out. Lindsey Busfield: Well, thank you so much, Marty. We really appreciate your time.
27 minutes | Feb 13, 2021
Intake Specialists with Chris Mullins – Personal Injury Marketing Minute #8
In this episode, Chris Mullins, aka “The Phone Sales Doctor”, provides absolutely wonderful tips on intake specialists. Intake specialists are very important for personal injury law firms and all types of attorneys. Chris Mullins discusses the difference between a receptionist and an intake specialist, screening question, training, empathy, salesmanship and general intake problems and solutions. Chris is the author of Law Firm Conversions and Intake Specialists: The Unsung Heroes of Law Firms Worldwide. Chris Mullins may be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 603-249-5878. See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/. Transcript Lindsey: Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute, where we quickly cover the most important topics in the legal marketing world. No matter how much money you spend on making your phone ring, if your intake specialist or receptionist isn’t converting a lead into a client, you’re losing money. There are a few important tips you can use to help convert your leads into clients. With us today as the author of Law Firm Conversions, Chris Mullins, who is “The Phone Sales Doctor” for intake specialists and attorneys. Thank you so much for joining us, Chris. Chris Mullins: Oh my pleasure. Thank you for having me. Difference between Receptionists and Intake Specialists: Lindsey: Intake specialists are important for any type of lawyer and law practice, but especially for personal injury attorneys. But there’s a fine line between an intake specialist and a receptionist. Do you mind walking us through what the differences are? Chris Mullins: Yeah. I mean, I guess I would say in the old days, because I’ve been doing this for 25 years now, and a long, long time ago, you would find law firms of all sizes, small law firms and even large law firms, just using a receptionist to be what a receptionist is supposed to be, which is just greeting people, transferring the calls to the right person, getting them safely and in a timely way to the right person, passing the baton, but they also had them do an intake too. And I mean, just logically, it doesn’t work. I mean, intake, you can have an average phone call be 30 minutes for a personal injury intake, and how can that receptionist focus on people coming in when we did go into the office, and we still go into the office right now with protection, but how could they do that plus be a sales person because that’s what intake is? What I do notice now is we’re focusing more on having reception and then having an intake team. The difference is a receptionist is simply there to be the first impressions person on the phone initially before they get to intake and also to be the first impressions director when people walk in and to just guide people to get to the right place. And sometimes they do miscellaneous clerical tasks if the phone’s not ringing, but their priority is that phone and getting clients where they need to go and prospects where they need to go, not sales. Intake should be doing sales. What Kind of Information Should Intake Specialists Generate? Lindsey: That’s a great distinction. You talked about how the intake specialist call can be up to half an hour even, what types of information should an intake specialist be generating on that call? Chris Mullins: Honestly, that question is a perfect question for the attorney or the attorneys at the law firm to decide, because they studied the law. They know what questions to be asked in order for the intake specialist to determine, does this person qualify based on these questions and answers that we can help them at our law firm. The intake specialist is not going to know the law, and they’re not going to know that. The lawyers need to get together and decide what those questions are. But in personal injury, the questions… Each law firm is different. They run it differently. I mean, they can be questions like, how did the accident happen? It can be, did you go to the hospital? Was there a citation? Did you have your cell phone on? Did you give them your insurance information? Did you talk to the other driver? There’s all kinds of questions, but it really needs to be… They’re called screening questions, and they need to be designed by the lawyer and they should be at a minimum. Sometimes I notice law firms have long, long list of questions for intake specialists to ask and a lot of the questions aren’t necessary. Just determine what’s the minimum amount of questions we legally need to have answered to know if we can help this person or not, and then have the intake specialist ask those screening questions. Lindsey: That’s absolutely important because every call is going to be a little bit different, every case is going to be a little bit different, so things do need to be personalized. When somebody is asked a series of questions that clearly isn’t relevant to the type of case they have, they can tell that they’re being treated like just a number as opposed to a person and a prospective client. And as a prospective client, they can be really turned off by that lack of empathy to their particular case, even from the first call. The Importance of Empathy: I know that you have written quite a bit on empathy and that’s something that you find is a very important quality. How can you help people, intake specialists in particular, be more empathic to the people who are calling in? Chris Mullins: Yeah, it really is… On one hand, empathy comes from the heart. So I believe that everybody, all humans, have love, care, and concern for other people, and they want the best for other people. But not all people, humans, know how to show that. They don’t know how to deliver that, even in their personal life, let alone their professional life talking to a stranger over the phone. And a lot of people are uncomfortable with empathy. I work with CEOs and managing partners, as well as intake specialists, and they’re just uncomfortable. They feel like they’re crossing a line, a personal intimate line that they shouldn’t do. They also feel like, well, if I’m empathetic, then this person is going to want me to tell them an empathetic story of my own. So it is very difficult. It’s probably one of the most difficult things I have to coach people on, but I teach them to listen to the story. There is a story in the conversation. So as they’re asking screening questions, which is an internally focused task. Internally focused means we the law firms need these questions answered so we know what to do. Those are internal questions. Do more of external questioning and focus, which means you’re focusing on love, care, and concern for that person and the relationship, and the best way to do that is to put your listening ears on. And when you hear Mr. Or Mrs. Smith tell you about their tragedy, their incident, whatever it is, with the accident, drop everything. Just stop. Stop talking. Stop asking questions and just give them some empathy. And I usually will give students like a list of empathetic phrases that they can start with, but it’s good if you create your own, because I think people are more comfortable when they can say their own. But you can just say things like, “I am so sorry to hear that.” It can be that simple, or, “That’s a terrible situation, or I couldn’t imagine being in your shoes. Are you okay? You’ve been going through so much. I couldn’t even imagine it.” Teaching empathy takes time. You have to provide examples and coaching and guidance, and you also have to give intake specialists permission to be empathetic, permission to wear their heart on their sleeves, permission to be vulnerable. And you have to coach them and guide them that yes, the people you talk to might start crying, and that’s uncomfortable for people. Even face-to-face down the street when you go for a walk and you bump into somebody, it’s very uncomfortable. You have to coach all of these things and teach them. But without empathy, you can’t convert. Lindsey: Absolutely. And I think that those are all great points and great examples. And when people are going to a personal injury lawyer in particular, it’s always because something bad has happened and their lives had been turned upside down, and they need to turn to someone who is empathetic and who they can trust, not only on a legal aspect and on a professional aspect, but they can trust to help navigate through this process that clearly has their life in turmoil. Chris Mullins: Let me just say one other thing about that real quick. What’s important with the empathy is it starts at the top. If you, the CEO, the managing partner, the COO, the attorney that owns the firm, depending on the size, you’re called something different, if you are empathetic to your team, then that will teach them empathy also. And then you also need to them permission to be empathetic, because mostly what we do as the leaders is we just give them the screening questions and we say, “Go for it.” We give them the impression that we want them to get on the phone and off. We forget because we don’t do it, empathy. That’s what we’ve got to do. Other Important Characteristics of Intake Specialists: Lindsey: That’s great. That’s absolutely true. What other characteristics should you be encouraging and coaching your intake specialists to have? What other traits should you be looking for when you’re hiring intake specialists? What other personality tidbits? Chris Mullins: When you’re hiring, what you really want to do… They don’t have to have experience in a law firm, and actually it would be better if they didn’t, because they’re just going to bring baggage of what they knew from the previous law firm. And during the interview process, it’s a sales process for them too, and they’re going to sell you on the fact that, “Oh no, I can learn new things. I can wipe the slate clean and start over.” But what’s going to happen is when they’re in that role, if they’ve already been in that role before, it’s going to come out, and they’re going to end up taking a stand that they know better. They know the answers. Their past and their experience is the correct way and I’m going to teach you how to do it. That’s what’s going to come out. Even if they don’t mean it to come out that way, it’s just natural because that’s their habit and behavior. It’s better to hire folks that have not been in the legal world, have not been an intake specialist. It’s best to hire people first for integrity. Integrity is critical. Next is character. Do they have the right character? Ask them questions that relate to integrity and character. Ask them to tell you stories about their past. Not just the jobs, but in life in general. Do they have that love, care, and concern, spirit? Do they have strong work ethics? People that used to work at restaurants or in retail or on a farm, those kinds of folks are perfect because they are hardworking. They get dirty. They’re on their feet all day. They work all kinds of crazy hours, and they work really, really hard. Those are the kinds of people that you want. You also could hire people that work in customer service or in call centers. Because, again, at a real call center or a real customer service department, they are run efficiently, and they focus on metrics, and they focus on sales. That’s the S word that most people don’t like to hear. They also focus on the other S word, scripts. Most people don’t like to hear that, but you need to use them. They’re used to sitting at their phone all day long, taking calls, all kinds of calls, selling, cross-selling, upselling, handling disgruntled people. So they’re already used to sitting there and doing that. These are the kinds of people that you want. But I would say first and foremost is integrity and character and some history on them giving examples of where they came from, examples on work ethics, that sort of thing. Lindsey: That’s fantastic to build up a great team of people that have a great diverse background, who have experienced working with people and customers in all walks of life and helping them to navigate towards the next step, whether it is a conversion into a client or conversion into a sale. Those are all incredibly important aspects. Once you get the right people in place and you get them talking to the leads, I know that from our experience listening to LSAs and helping to manage LSA accounts, we’ve heard some really great intake specialists who are very empathetic. Note: We read Intake Specialists: The Unsung Heroes of Law Firms Worldwide ourselves and it is a must read. How To Kill a Good Lead: Lindsey: They can ask the right questions, and they can really help convert this lead into a client and bring it to the next step. There are some other calls that we have helped navigate and listened to and provided feedback on that are not so exceptional, either the intake specialist forgot to get the person’s name or phone number, or just basic information. But in your experience, what are some of the things that can kill a call? Chris Mullins: Having no empathy will definitely kill it. Just forget about it. It’s over. The statistics show that prospective clients will call three to five of your competitors before they make their final decision. They might make a decision to work with you during the process, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to hang up and do their due diligence and call the other law firms. We’ve got to keep that in mind. You also got to keep in mind that there are… Write this down. There are no do overs. That’s it. You already spent the time, money, energy, and effort in marketing dollars with the right folks, like you guys, to get these leads to come through, and you only have one shot, one call, from the start to the finish. You got to take that ball over the goal line. You can’t redo it. Just one shot. That’s all you have. Those things are really important for people to keep that in mind, to keep in mind of this competition, to keep in mind this is about providing help and healing and building relationships to this person. But at the same time, we’re in business and it is sales. We do want to focus on converting. Making sure that you get the name of the person at the beginning of the call, the very beginning of the call, and use it throughout the call. And if somebody is calling on somebody else’s behalf, get the person’s name that’s calling and the person they’re calling for, and then use both names throughout the conversation and build the story. The other thing that’s really important is to ask permission to ask questions. After you’ve welcomed them… We have like a five step relationship sales conversion script that we teach people to use. The first step is to welcome them to your firm. The next thing is to go ahead and get their name and use their name in the conversation. And then another step is ask permission to ask questions before you ask the questions. Before you dive in and ask those screening questions, ask them. Say, “I’d like to ask you some questions to see how we can help you. Would that be okay?” And wait for the answer. Now this person knows… First off, you’ve controlled the call. You’re in control, and they see, “Oh, they’re the driver. They’re in control,” and they’re feeling a little bit better because you’re warm and you’re smiling, and you’re telling them what’s going to happen next. And they’re realizing, “Oh, this is the process,” because they don’t know the process. “Oh, they’re going to ask me some questions, and I just gave them permission.” They didn’t just dive in and sound like what we call license and registration. Asking those intake screening questions like your license and registration or it’s like a survey. You don’t want to do that. And also, doing these little steps helps the intake specialist, because they have a very difficult job. They have chosen a very difficult career. They can easily take on the trauma of the people calling. It’s a whole nother issue to discuss someday. But after they get permission, then they go into this screening questions. But when you ask screening questions, what I want you to do is I want you to sing and I want you to check in. Singing means as you ask the questions, annunciate and change the inflection and tone of your voice as you ask the questions, just like I just did, and soften your voice. Don’t just drill down to the questions. “And my next question is. And now the next series of questions I might ask you might be a little bit difficult, but we do need to ask them. If you need a break, let me know. That’s hugely powerful.” So soften your voice in saying, and then the check in is periodically. As you’re asking the questions, simply check in with them. “So Mrs. Smith, is everything okay so far? Did you have any questions about what I’ve mentioned so far? Okay, great. Now, Mrs. Smith, I want to double-check something and then type it into my computer. I think you just said XXX. Did I get that right?” “Yes, you did.” “Fantastic. Great. Just a few more questions. You’re doing a great job.” Compliment them. That’s part of the check in. “You’re doing a great job answering these questions, and I want to tell you that you made the right decision calling XYZ law firm today. This is all we do. We get questions in cases like this all the time. You’re in good hands.” And that can be part of your screening question process. Those are the things that you need to do. That’s empathetic. It’s salesmanship. It’s love, care, and concern. They have a higher likelihood of telling you the truth. Don’t think just because you’re asking intake screening questions they’re going to tell you the truth, right? You want them to tell you the truth. And then the next thing that you want to do, and notice how I laid this out, the next thing I want you to do is get all the contact information. First, your relationship and your conversation is top heavy. Relationships first, business second. Most law firms immediately say, “Can I be first and last name? Can I have the phone number you’re calling from in case we get disconnected? Can I have your address? Can I have your email? Can I have your cell number?” They just go into all of that. Now, if you want to say at the beginning, “Can I have your phone number just in case we get disconnected,” that’s okay, but do it in a singing kind of way and always repeat it. But me, I just laid out how to ask the screening questions, the style to do it, the way to do it with salesmanship. And then the next step is now you get their contact information. Now you say, “Okay. Now that we’ve gotten all this information that we need to see how we can help you the best, let me just get down your contact information.” Tell them what you’re going to do, and then ask for what you need. Get everything. Spell it all back. And then say to them, and this is like the call to action, then say to them, “Okay. Well, Mrs. Smith, based on what you said.” Now really important to say that, because you’re about to tell them the decision, the call to action, which is salesmanship to whatever they said to you. “So Mrs. Smith, based on what you said, this is a case we can help you with and here’s how we can help you.” Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. It’s different for every firm. Or, “Mrs. Smith, based on what you said, this is not a case that we can help you with at this time, but here’s how we can help you.” Change your voice, change your tone, be positive, say the word help, and have some resources available for them, and give them some empathy and encourage them to not give up, to still call those resources, to still seek out help. And then the end of the call is really what I call the big red bow, and that’s where you kind of wrap everything up and you thank them for calling, and you tell them you look forward to whatever the next step was in the call to action. Maybe it was an appointment. Maybe it’s a DocuSign retainer. Whatever it is, we look forward to you doing XXX. You remind them of the date and time if that was part of the call to action. You go ahead and you say to them what I call a verbal contract, and you say, “Now Mrs. Smith, you’re going to talk to attorney Jones today at two o’clock. If for any reason you can’t make it, would you just promise to give me a call at,” and repeat the phone number, “that way we won’t worry about you. We can get you rescheduled, and we can give that time to someone else’s who’s waiting.” Question mark. Pause. Wait for the answer. And that’s how you do the call. Lindsey: That’s great. Wow. What a great step-by-step approach to that. I know that that is so backwards and yet very profoundly helpful from what many attorneys out there are doing, where they do have the script, but it’s the wrong script, and it’s a very robotic and not very person-centric script. That’s so helpful and I think that that could be a very, very powerful tool. Should Attorneys Answer the Phone Themselves? Lindsey: One of the other things that I have noticed, and I would love to get your insight on this, is attorneys who answered the phone themselves, or the attorneys who take the call on the initial pass-through. What are your thoughts on that? Chris Mullins: A couple of things. And again, I work with all kinds of law firms, all different size personal injury firms. They might have one intake specialist or one attorney or more, or they might have a really big firm, and everybody has the same challenges. Believe it or not. It doesn’t matter what the size is. The first thing is for the attorney to be the intake specialist and the receptionist answering the phone is really not the best way to run your business, because it’s not positioning you as a professional busy law firm that everybody wants. It’s not the way to do it. If there’s a situation where a law firm has to do it that way, they have no choice for whatever the reason is, then you’ve got to do the skills that we’re talking about. You got to nail it. Just because you happen to be the attorney, doesn’t mean that you can just rush right through it. If for some reason you really have to, you got to nail it. Do it the right way. But I would recommend that you find a way to get at least one other person to help you. How could you spend all this money on marketing to get leads, to get business, but yet you’re not protecting yourself to convert. So having an intake specialist that knows what they’re doing is what I call a marketing insurance policy. It will protect your leads. Now, the other question, which happens much, much more often these days, of having like say intake, then pass the call off to the attorney, that’s okay. It depends on the law firm. If the law firm is organized and they have a process and they’re structured, it’s okay to have the attorney either double qualified if it’s the right person, then it goes back to intake again. It’s okay that it’s like intake first, attorney, back to intake. That’s not a worry. My worry is how was the call handled when it went from intake to attorney, back to intake? Was it the way we’re talking about? If so, awesome. No problem. It wasn’t like fumbling and everybody was on hold for like a really long period of time because of the transfer. That’s not okay. Was the attorney, which I run into a lot, which is why we work with attorneys too, was the attorney terrible on the phone with no empathy and didn’t know anything about it? Then that’s not going to work. It really depends on how it’s being handled. And if it’s going to go intake specialist, attorney buttons everything up and it’s done and it doesn’t go back to intake, if it works for their numbers, it’s okay as long as everybody is doing what we just talked about. Lindsey: Absolutely. Yeah. An attorney needs to be able to have these skills. Anybody needs to be able to have these skills as they’re talking to a prospective client and they are treating them as a human and trying to convert them into a long-term client to trust them with their business. Closing: Lindsey: Thank you so much for joining us today. This has been highly informative, and I know that there are some great takeaways that attorneys will be able to implement right after doing these. And hopefully they will see some very impactful changes, and they’ll be able to coach their intake team. Thank you so much, Chris, and we look forward to talking to you again soon. Chris Mullins: Thank you. How To Contact Chris Mullins: Contact Chris today and get your intake specialists and brand ambassadors the training they need. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 603-249-5878 Book: Law Firm Conversions Book: Intake Specialists: The Unsung Heroes of Law Firms Worldwide
21 minutes | Feb 9, 2021
How TrustBooks Eliminates the Trust Accounting Headache - Personal Injury Marketing Minute #7
In this podcast, Tom Boyle, Co-Founder of TrustBooks, discusses how TrustBooks helps not just Personal Injury Attorneys, but many other attorney types manage their trust accounts and meet State Bar compliance. TrustBooks also now offers full legal accounting. After years of positive feedback and requests, TrustBooks has now expanded to offer an accounting software with a 100% focus on law firms. See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/. Learn more about TrustBooks on their website here: https://trustbooks.com/. Transcript: Lindsey: Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute, where we quickly cover the hot topics in the legal marketing world. It’s remarkably easy for personal injury lawyers to be penalized or disbarred for mishandling settlement trusts. Fortunately, TrustBooks expanded their software with tools that are specifically designed to help attorneys streamline their trust management process. Joining us today is Tom Boyle, the co-founder of TrustBooks. Thank you so much for joining us today. Tom: Thanks, Lindsey. Happy to be here. How did TrustBooks Get Started? Lindsey: Well, you have recently received several accolades for developing the trust management and accounting software that’s specifically designed for the legal industry. Tell me a little bit about the software. What does it do? How is it different from other accounting softwares that are out there? Tom: Yeah, perfect. We started TrustBooks about six years ago, and we started it to basically solve a pain point that a lot of small law firms experience where the existing tools of QuickBooks and Excel and spreadsheets, they’re just not designed to help a lawyer with their trust bank account. And that’s what we started off to solve. Six years ago, we built TrustBooks to make it just super easy for a law firm to manage their trust account, meet state bar compliance. TrustBooks Now Offers Full Legal Accounting: And then as we’ve been working with our users over the past six years, the feedback we’ve been getting kind of overwhelmingly is, “Hey, we love TrustBooks. You all made this process super easy. The anxiety and fear around the trust account is relieved. We wish that you all existed for our operating bank accounts.” We’ve been hearing that enough, enough, enough that finally we said, “Okay, I think it’s time for us to expand and evolve to not just handle the trust bank account, but also handle the operating bank account.” For the past year and a half, it’s taken a while to build this out. But for the past year and a half, we’ve been working on making TrustBooks full legal accounting. We are now an accounting software with 100% focused on law firms, and it’s really that mentality to just make it easy. We kind of come at this approach of accounting doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to go use a real complex tool like QuickBooks. It’s built for all industries, all people, and can get lost in the weeds of trying to do it. If you’ve got the right tool, then this accounting process should be very, very simple and easy. And that’s what we launched. We launched full legal accounting about three or four weeks ago. We’re early into 2021, and knock on wood, everything’s been going really, really well so far. Trust Accounts and State Bar Compliance: Lindsey: Well, that’s fantastic. Congratulations on that new launch. I’m so glad that we were able to dive into that a little bit with you here. Tell me what makes legal accounting and trust management different from other industries? What specific pain points are you trying to solve? Tom: Yeah, good question. Within legal accounting, if you’re managing your firm operating account, which feeds into your firm financials like a balance sheet and a P&L statement, that’s pretty straightforward. Most law firms are cash based, especially the small law firms. Cash in is typically revenue, cash out is typically an expense, and that’s pretty straightforward. What gets a little tricky when it comes to law firms is around the trust account. With the trust bank account, there are specific rules and regulations that you’ve got to follow to meet state bar compliance. And this is one of those kind of domino areas that can get lawyers in trouble up to a potential disbarment. In North Carolina, for example, we’ve got stats that we can pull out and look at the bar journals, and it’s always the number one way attorneys get disbarred is this mismanagement of the trust account. As you kind of look at what does that entail, what does that mean to manage a trust bank account, what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to say, “All right, I’ve got a bank account. I’m holding money in this kind of fiduciary role, this fiduciary capacity on behalf of my clients or third parties. And within that role, I’ve got to make sure that all the money in, all the money out gets allocated on a client by client basis.” That’s what’s key is that this money in, money out, all gets assigned to clients. That at any given time, you need to know how much money you’ve got in your trust bank account on a client by client basis. And then at the month end, when you go to do a reconciliation, you can real quickly see, here’s all my client lists, here’s my balances. How does that reconcile back to my bank statement? And that’s an area where a lot of attorneys get in trouble. We call it a three-way trust reconciliation or a three-way reconciliation, where you reconcile your bank statement to your trust ledger, to the individual client and their balances, and you make sure that all three of those numbers match, so your bank statement, your trust ledger, and then the sum of your client balances. And within legal accounting, if you’re just trying to use kind of traditional accounting software, it’s that third piece that really fails attorneys. That getting to the client ledgers, making sure that you can show all your client balances, how that reconciles back to the bank statement, this kind of inability to deficit spend on a specific client balance, that’s where attorneys get into a lot of trouble if they’re using traditional accounting software, QuickBooks, Excel, doing it by hand. And that’s what we kind of tackle. That’s what we wanted to solve is, how do you build something from the ground up? It’s focused on this one pain point, so we can be laser focused. And since we are laser focused, we can make it really simple. We don’t have to do all these bells and whistles out of the gate. We went out six years ago to say, “We’re going to solve the trust accounting piece.” And by doing that, we were able to build it very, very easily, very simply, intuitive workflow built for attorneys. And ultimately, it gets them that client ledgers, those three-way reconciliations, all the things that they need to do to check off that compliance box with their state bar. Lindsey: I’m sure that when they see that all the numbers are aligning, it’s a huge anxiety off their shoulder. Tom: It’s a good feeling. Yeah, for sure. Lindsey: And especially managing all of the different moving pieces with different clients that I would imagine to be very, very helpful and not a tool that most software would incorporate. Tom: Well, I can tell you from doing this for six years, from talking to thousands and thousands of attorneys, accounting is like one of the least favorite things that they want to do. Trust accounting is even further on that list. The fact that they know that it’s kind of scary and overwhelming and anxiety that they could get disbarred if they mismanagement, that’s real prevalent. And then it’s dealing with accounting, which is… I don’t know. I’ve yet to find that attorney that went to law school because they wanted to do accounting. Usually those two don’t go hand in hand. Lindsey: Not so much. Lawyers went to law school because they want to be lawyers. Tom: That’s right. Lindsey: The accountants, they would have, I guess, gone to accounting school. Tom: Yeah, yeah, that’s me. Yep. Yep. We’re the nerds in the group. Is TrustBooks Just for Personal Injury Attorneys? Lindsey: That’s all right. Were there particular attorneys that you had in mind that this would benefit more than others? Tom: When we set out to build TrustBooks, our focus, and it tends to be our focus, is really the small law firm. It’s the firm that doesn’t have a lot of the extra resources to go hire or have in-house an accounting team. Maybe they’re trying to do it themselves. They’re trying to get some of their legal staff to do it. And again, it kind of gets into that mindset of, they don’t want to do accounting. They hate accounting. But yet, they’re running a small law firm, so they’ve got to do it. Within that kind of frame, we are really good with personal injury attorneys, with criminal defense attorneys, family law attorneys, immigration attorneys. It’s kind of all those law practices that skew typically towards the smaller practice. And we fit really well. Personal injury attorneys are a great fit for us. They’re even in a different class of… They don’t even like to do billable time, right? So they get away from trying to do any sort of billable time. The admin side, the accounting side is really outside of their wheelhouse typically, but yet they use their trust account. They use their trust account pretty often. Anytime a settlement comes in the door, that settlement is going to go right into the trust account. They’ve got to account for it. They’ve got to disperse against it. It’s definitely a need area. From my experience, the personal injury attorneys are the ones that probably hate accounting the most. Lindsey: Yes. From what I have heard, I would definitely agree. One of the other pain points that I’ve heard from some of the attorneys that we’ve worked with is just the complexity and needless pieces and functionality of other types of accounting software that doesn’t necessarily apply to them. And it just makes the user experience while they’re trying to navigate the accounting process all that much more challenging. Talk to me a little bit about your user interface, your user experience. How is that built to simplify the process if somebody going to be immediately intimidated when they open up the platform? Tom: Yeah. That’s one of the advantages we’ve got by focusing a product that’s built 100% for legal, and we make no qualms about it. We are built for legal. If somebody in another industry wants to use us, that’s fine. That’s great. But our focus is all on the legal, the law firm, the small law firm. By doing that, it allows us to build the same workflow that an attorney is used to seeing in their practice. It allows us to use the same terminology that they’re used to seeing in their practice. Other accounting software will talk in terms of let’s just say customers and employees. It’s all this stuff that’s not focused on accounting or trust accounting. For us, we want to say, “All right, you’re used to a client come in the door. We’re going to talk in terms of clients and matters. That’s how you set it up.” Money goes into a bank account. It’s a deposit. Money leaves a bank account. It’s a payment. It’s not trying to get into accounting terminology like debits and credits and journal entries and chart of accounts. It’s like, nope, we take all that out of the equation. You don’t need it. We’re going to talk in terms of clients and matters. We’re going to talk in terms of deposits, and we’re going to talk in terms of payments. And everybody can kind of get their arms around that. That’s one of the things that just out of the gate we do and it really builds this intuitive workflow. The support tickets we get typically are, how do I get from QuickBooks to a TrustBooks? It’s this onboarding. And it’s a challenge because this other product is not built to handle a trust account. But after that, it’s smooth sailing. They’re in the product. They just know how to navigate. It’s like pulling out an iPhone. You just know what to do. You don’t need a big instructional manual to tell you how to do it. And that’s been key for us. One of the reasons why is within the trust rules… And again, we’re in almost every state in the United States, in America. We’ve got international users. The neat thing is that each state has their own bar. They’ve got their own specific trust rules and regulations, but the rules are about the same from state to state to state. We’re able to build TrustBooks to help you accomplish meeting those state bar rules from state to state to state. And with that, you don’t have to go in and… I’ll give North Carolina as an example. There’s over a hundred page trust handbook on the rules around trust accounting. I mean, overwhelming out of the gate, right? I mean, where do you even start? There’s this hundred page guide on what to do around your trust account. If you’re trying to use something that’s not built for the trust account, you have to first go understand and learn that a hundred page trust handbook. Then you’ve got to go in depth on the software and figure out, all right, I’m using this software. How do I manipulate it to get it to work for trust account that is going to meet this a hundred page trust handbook? And that’s one of the things that we’ve helped to overcome is just to say, “Look, you don’t have to go learn the hundred page handbook. You do need some fundamentals, but you don’t need to go a hundred page handbook. Leave that up to the experts. And you don’t have to go learn the software and how to manipulate it, how to run reports that it’s not really designed to do to meet certain trust rules. It’s just boom. It’s automatic for you in TrustBooks.” That’s one of the advantages of us kind of being 100% focused on legal, on the trust account. Reconciliation and Reporting: That makes it sound so simple and helpful. You talked a little bit about reporting. What kind of reporting capability does TrustBooks have? Yeah. It’s all going to be kind of legal focused. I’ll give you a couple of examples. Big one is the three-way reconciliation. I talked about it earlier. But I think almost every state… Maybe Georgia doesn’t have this as a specific requirement, but every other state has this three-way reconciliation requirement. And to get this in a different product, again, it’s manipulating. It’s trying to pull it in a bunch of different areas. With us, you go through and do a reconciliation, which is straightforward. You hit reconcile, and boom, you’ll automatically get a three-way reconciliation. There’s literally no extra steps. That’s one of the really neat things that our users love is that with just doing reconciliation, which is a normal kind of month end process, I hit save and I’m going to get the right reports that I need. A couple of others is we’ve got a month end report section. And within that month end report section, we’ve got a handful of predefined reports that get generated at the end of each month. The mindset there is we wanted this to be that easy button for attorneys to look at. It’s accounting. Again, it goes back to this attorneys hate accounting. If you’re going to force them into trying to figure out what the heck to review at month end, you’ve lost them. This is their place that they can go into the product. At the end of each month, they can kind of go down the list. There’s four reports, plus the reconciliations. And if I’m an attorney and I’m responsible for my trust account, I can literally just go to this PDF, go to that PDF, go to that PDF. And about 10 minutes, I feel really, really good on what’s going on in my trust account. I’ve got that confidence that, yep, I looked at all I needed to. I’ve got the reconciliations. Boom. Easy peasy. The last set of reports goes into kind of the full legal accounting side. I think we built this a lot with the personal injury attorney in mind, where you can go… We’ve got what’s called a view matter list. You can go on this view matter list page. You can see all of your clients. You can click on a client. And what’s neat about that view is you can run a trust ledger. You can see right there on the screen a trust ledger, so all activity in and out of the trust bank account for that one client. You can also click over on another tab and see everything that’s gone in and out of your operating account. For example, like a personal injury attorney that will often do a lot of kind of client cost advances out of their operating account, and they might be paying expert witnesses, they might be paying for medical records requests, all that stuff, you can just go right to this client view. You can look at the trust ledger. You can look at what’s gone in and out of your operating account. And it’s all right there in one really simple and easy to see screen. Integrating with Clio and LawPay: Lindsey: What is next on the TrustBooks horizon? You mentioned the operating system that just came out within the past few weeks. What is that looking like? What do you guys have planned for the rest of 2021? Tom: We’ve been putting… We’ve been really gearing up to launch this full legal accounting. That was the kind of starting point for us to do a lot of other neat and fun things within the product. We’ve got that launched. That was a huge win. That was kind of the next step. So now, as we look forward to the rest of the 2021, we’re trying to go and just beefing up some of our integrations. We integrate right now with Clio. We integrate with LawPay. We’re going into this next phase of 2021 with improving a lot of the things that we can do around LawPay. We’re also going to add in some other practice management software integrations. So we want to be that accounting software, that legal accounting software, that can kind of play nicely with a lot of practice management and be that alternative to QuickBooks. That’s really the focus is, how do we add more integrations over this next year? We also want to improve… Right now we do an online bank feed. We already have the ability to connect to your bank, pull in all your bank activity. Again, how do you spend as little time as possible around your accounting. Everything we do, it’s like, all right, will this save our users more time? We already allow our users to integrate with their bank, pull in their bank information. We want to improve that so that we can build in some memorized transactions, some automatic bank feeds and automatic reconciliations, all with the mindset of how do we let our users spend as little time as possible on accounting, because that’s a win for us. That’s kind of on the horizon and we’re excited. We’ve got a lot of big plans of just kind of keep improving the product, add more integrations, and make it as seamless and as smooth as possible on the accounting side. Lindsey: That sounds absolutely fantastic, the product that is designed to be used as little as possible. Tom: Counterintuitive, right? That’s all right. Lindsey: But you know what? If it works, it works. That’s great. It sounds like a great 2021 ahead of you. Where can attorneys go to learn more about TrustBooks? Tom: Yeah. Our website is a great first step resource. It’s trustbooks.com. Anybody that wants to get ahold of us, just go to trustbooks.com. Our process, we love talking with attorneys and with law firms. We encourage that kind of out of the gate. We do free one-on-one onboardings. So if anybody wants to, go to schedule.trustbooks.com. You can also go to the website and pull up our scheduling link and just schedule whatever time works best for you. But that’s a great way to spend 20, 30 minutes with us. See if we’re a good fit, have some Q and A with us. Again, the product is simple, so our demo calls don’t need to last an hour. An onboarding process doesn’t take weeks. We can get everybody up and running pretty quickly. We’re happy and would love to spend a little bit of time on the front end having those conversations, especially around the trust account. There is so much anxiety and fear, that having that one-on-one rapport and conversation helps just let you know, hey, this is an easy process. I don’t need to be scared about it. Lindsey: Well, thank you so much, Tom. It has been a pleasure chatting with you today. And I know that I have learned a lot about a product that I’m sure will help so many of our clients, as well as many, many legal professionals listening in. Thank you so much for your time, and I hope you have a great day. Tom: This was great. Thank you so much for the invitation. I enjoyed it.
24 minutes | Dec 29, 2020
Setting Your Law Firm Marketing Budget in 2021 and Takeaways from the ABA TechReport - Personal Injury Marketing Minute #6
In this podcast, Allison C. Shields Johs, Esq, discusses her recent article 2020 Websites & Marketing. The article covers the websites and lawyer marketing portion of the ABA 2020 Legal Technology Survey Report, and some basic things solos and small firm lawyers can do to improve their marketing in 2021 as things become more virtual. The podcast also covers: – the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Division, Legal Technology Resource Center and the TechReport 2020 – how to set a marketing budget for your law firm by allocating resources and setting goals – how can law firms reach clients by investing in their website, creating short videos, using social media and by obtaining referrals – Allison’s new course and a book she coauthored with Dennis Kennedy: Make LinkedIn Work for You: A Practical Guide for Lawyers and Other Legal Professionals. See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/. Links: LinkedIn Essentials online course: https://kennedy-idea-propulsion-laboratory.mn.co/landing/plans/106740 Make LinkedIn Work for You paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Make-LinkedIn-Work-for-You-Profesionals-paperback/dp/1734076321 Make LinkedIn Work for You Kindle edition: https://www.amazon.com/Make-LinkedIn-Work-You-Professionals-ebook/dp/B081VLGY8Q/ Allison’s website: www.LawyerMeltdown.com Allison’s blog: www.LegalEaseConsulting.com 2020 Websites & Marketing: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_practice/publications/techreport/2020/webmarketing/ ABA TechReport 2020: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_practice/publications/techreport/2020/
18 minutes | Dec 16, 2020
Takeaways from Advertising in the Yellow Pages - Personal Injury Marketing Minute #5
Michael Morris is an Entrepreneur with an extensive background in sales and print advertising. In this podcast episode, Mike tells us how personal injury law firms used to advertise in Yellow Page style directories. See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/. Strategies included: Some verticals still use Yellow Page advertising Targeting specific areas, localization Full page ads, the front page and magnets Renaming a law firm or business to appear first alphabetically Understanding your target audience Call tracking Subdirectories and books sent to specific geographic locations How puppies and clean shirts helped advertisers Mike notes that personal injury attorneys could focus on their target audience and could focus on that audience’s key buying factors. For example, a law firm could focus on a cultural connection such as catering to Spanish speaking clients with a multilingual staff and advertising that both online and offline. Additionally, Mike points out that some potential clients are going to prefer an attorney who is local to them as not all clients will want to travel to meet them.
34 minutes | Nov 16, 2020
Selling Your Law Firm - Personal Injury Marketing Minute #4
Tom Lenfestey is an attorney, CPA and owner of The Law Firm Exchange. In this episode Tom explains how law firms are prepared for sale and sold. See all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/. In this podcast Tom covers why attorneys sell their law firms, what is unique about personal injury law firms, ABA rules, increasing a firm’s value, how firms are priced, good will, how firms are marketed and what he does at The Law Firm Exchange. Tom also discusses what buyers are looking for when purchasing a law firm, such as taking over a practice or expanding their geographic coverage area. Be sure to visit The Law Firm Exchange here if you have additional questions about buying or selling a law firm: https://thelawpracticeexchange.com/. You may also find them on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/lawpracticeexchange/ and Tom may be reached at 919-789-1931. Transcription: Introduction Lindsey: Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute, where we quickly cover the hot topics in the legal marketing world. I’m your host, Lindsey Busfield. And today we’ll be discussing buying and selling law firms. Whether you are actively looking to expand your firm or considering selling your practice, or you are putting a contingency plan in place, it’s essential to understand the process and requirements to facilitate a smooth transition. Joining us today is Tom Lenfestey, the founder of the Law Practice Exchange. So thank you so much for joining us today, Tom. Tom: Yeah, thank you for having me. About The Law Practice Exchange: Lindsey: So Tom, many lawyers aren’t actively thinking about selling their practice or buying one for that matter. So tell me a little bit about why you founded The Law Practice Exchange. Tom: Sure. I tell everybody that I think I get jealous of the other professions. So as a practicing attorney and CPA 10, 12 years ago, I was helping a lot of other professions. CPAs, dentists, doctors, on their succession planning. As a transactional attorney to sell their practices, to build in their succession plan, to sell to an associate doc within their practice. And as I was an attorney building my practice, had my associates and the revenues kept going up, which is a good thing. But really stopped to think about what is my plan as an owner of my law practice? And why was it that dentist, CPAs, doctors and others seemed to have figured out how to build value and then transfer it to the next generation as part of retirement, as part of just whatever their exit strategy was, but to really be able to do that successfully. Tom: So I did probably what any good lawyer would do or any good entrepreneur was. I looked around to see who was doing this, right? Who was helping lawyers with succession strategies, exit strategies, or brokerage because I really thought the nicest thing about dental and CPA was they were creating marketplaces to find buyers. To find successors. And I figured well, if I can find somebody that’s doing it, I’ll just look to see what they’re doing. Copy it, make it my own, all right. Lindsey: And do it better. Tom: Yeah, that’s right. But largely what I found was nobody was really doing it. And so close to 10 years ago now was when really the Law Practice Exchange started to take shape. First and foremost looking at how it can be done ethically and otherwise to sell a law firm, to build out continuation strategies for lawyers and law practices. And then really we started slowly and intentionally to test that model, educate attorneys. And really today we’re there, we have a proven model, we have proven success. And our goal is really to let every attorney out there know if you own a law practice, a law firm, that this may be an option you want to consider. It doesn’t have to be your option, but it’s an option that can be successful for you if you want to look at how it works and everything else. Lindsey: Interesting. So let’s rewind a little bit, and tell me what it means to actually sell a law firm. What lawyers should know about selling a law firm: Tom: Sure. Yeah, a common question because I think a lot of people, especially if you look at some of the ethics opinions like ABA’s rule 1.17 or as each states adopted those. Selling a law firm to a lot of people is taking the keys, throwing them to the buyer and walking out the door, right? And to some extent, that’s how a lot of dental practices are sold, some other businesses are. It’s a very quick type of deal. But when we talk about selling, we’re really talking about a transition based ownership exchange. And what I mean by that is typically you’re going to stay on afterwards when the ownership maybe has shifted over to somebody else, and you’re going to work with them to make sure you can transfer the personal value, you have other things. But selling may mean actually selling ownership. Tom: It may mean that you’re going to join a firm as of counsel, and bring your practice over there. And you’re going to be able to monetize the value that you built through a compensation structure with them. You may end up taking your firm and merging it with another firm. And that all falls under that sell type of structure, but in the legal world, it’s really how to transfer the value that you’ve built to another for them to take over for the next generation benefit, and for the continuation of the clients and the work that you’ve been doing. Reasons attorneys sell law firms: Lindsey: That’s interesting. So yeah, it’s definitely a different model than the other types of business sales, because of that continued involvement. So what are some reasons that attorneys would want to sell their firm or buy a firm to expand? Tom: Yeah, usually per sell, the number one reason that we actually get is retirement, right? Looking at retirement. And most of our attorneys, attorneys work longer. Retirement is not in every attorney’s vocabulary. And so that whole joke about attorneys, they die at their desk, right? So when we talk to our clients that are looking to sell their law firms, the number one reason they give us is usually not to spend more time with their kids. It’s to spend time with grandkids. They’ve built their firm. They’ve been financially, hopefully successful. Their kids are grown. They want to spend time with their grandkids or spend time with their spouse. A lot of times it’s that spouse that’s really encouraging retirement. The attorney would be happy working five, six days a week, but the spouse is saying no, I want a retirement together. Tom: And so that encouragement comes in, but most typical is retirement for selling. Others, definitely health issues come into play. And then we get some that just are looking for strategic sale merger, other structural options because they just see the landscape changing or they don’t enjoy the management aspects of it anymore. They really want to just practice law versus some other things. But definitely, retirement is probably the key element for the sell side for buying really proven revenues. Most of the time we’re dealing with lawyers and law firms that are looking at revenues and growth. And if they can see it and as it’s established in a history with a law firm, there’s a certain amount of clients, there’s maybe a certain marketing platform that’s been proven successful. Those different things, they’re willing to acquire and buy that. Tom: So there’s that element of acquisition of proven book of business or proven revenues. Another reason is adding different practice areas. So a lot of times is if their firm or them currently they kind of practice in these, it may make sense to look at a firm that has a practice area that they really see as a growth opportunity, but they need a mentor in that area. So that selling attorney can stay on and be that mentor, really helped transition, teach. Make sure the clients are taken care of, but also add a new practice area. So we saw a big bump, we’ll call it our COVID bump back in May. We had a bankruptcy listing in California, and we saw a tremendous amount of interest from certain firms. But did bankruptcy that were looking at another reason, geographical expansion, but also firms that were saying if we’re heading into a recession, I may want to add bankruptcy as a service to our potential clients, or as a diversified revenue. Tom: So diversified revenue, practice areas, geographic expansion. And then we deal with a lot of attorneys who may be within firms, maybe in-house counsel and they want to own a law practice. The opportunity may not be there for them in their current one, and they don’t want to start from scratch. And so for them to come over and be able to acquire a firm that’s producing good owners cash flows, good benefits, salary, everything else to them immediately works. And they’ve got some maturity, some financial stability and other things that really bring it all together where they can become an immediate owner of a good profitable revenue strong practice. Lindsey: Absolutely. And so they’re able to have additional value to purchasing a firm and in the long run, it’s a lot less expensive to buy that value as it already stands as opposed to starting from scratch and building it up without guarantee of getting to that point of success. Tom: Absolutely, and a lot of them from a buyer strategy, it’s to take a traditional firm and maybe take some of the things that you’re doing really well as a buyer. Maybe it’s your marketing platform that this other firm really hasn’t locked on to. And if you can take a undervalue or underperforming asset, a traditional practice and really supercharge it, you can essentially hopefully buy low and then really increase the overall value for you in net income and benefits, and future potential value as it comes to you. Where do attorneys start who want to sell their firm? Lindsey: Absolutely. So talk to me a little bit about the process of buying and selling a firm. I’m sure that there are definitely some complexities to it, but for anybody who might be in a position where they are either thinking about acquiring another firm and leveraging that potential, or they are creating a contingency plan, or if they’re really at the point where they’re looking to sell their practice, where do you start? Tom: Yeah. Regardless of whether you’re a buyer or seller, I would tell anybody to start with what’s your goal, right? Or goals or expectations, anything else. So that’s really a soul searching for a buyer. Is it to add that practice area? Is it geographic expansion? We’ve got the hub, we need the spokes. We need to go to where our clients and our consumers are. So really looking at those goals. From the seller’s side, once you know hey, my goal is to retire. I’d love to continue to practice once I transfer ownership for another year, 18 months. What type of buyer is financials very important to you or is the buyer more important to you as a successor for your client care and everything else? Really going through those goals. Tom: And then from our seller’s side, we’re going to go through evaluation as part of our discovery and onboarding. How much is your firm worth? And then the other part is how much do you need? If your goal is to retire, our goal is to say, “Here’s what we think we can get in value in price for your firm. And upon these terms, does that give you enough to retire?” And I would tell you for most attorneys, most of our clients the answer is yes. A lot of them haven’t seen their firm as the value, but some of them do. They need to work a couple more years to do that, and so that may change the timing of their exit or overall their expectations because we really want to match well with what seller needs to what the market can produce. Tom: Whether that’s an internal associate that’s going to buy you out, or whether it’s another firm or another marketplace buyer, if they can’t offer enough for you to retire, no deal will ever get done. And so we go through evaluation and then we really, with our sellers, we’ll go through market strategy. So very similar to any attorney, if you’re looking at who could be your great next successor, what are you looking for in characteristics of a buyer that’s a firm or individual attorney? What will the client receive well, what kind of characteristics? Where should we look to marketing? Those different things. So we’ll go through a market prep before we really take them live to market, or take it into negotiations with any internal buyer, associate junior partner, those types of things. Where attorneys start who want to buy a firm: Tom: On the buy side, once you know what your goals are, I tell everybody the next step is look at your own firm. Before you go and jump to say let’s go acquire this million dollar practice in a new market, it’s going to be great. I really try to encourage firms that if you find that your house is not in order, stop and get it in order. Sellers need to do the same thing before they go to market. But from the buy side, taking on a million dollars in revenue from a proven book of business sounds great until you realize you’ve got problems within your own system. If you’re marketing data, if you’re marketing plans and everything else are not in order and you haven’t supercharged that, then you’re going to not just have problems with what you have, but also with this newly acquired base. Tom: If you have issues with personnel or with different compensation models, so it’s really like make your firm strong before you go and acquire something else. I try to coach buyers that you want to feel that you’re better than the firm you’re acquiring, right? And that sounds weird and may sound conceited, but overall you want to feel that you have value to bring to this platform. Whether it’s you individually as an attorney, like you can come in and do great legal service, but also provide really good management for the firm. You’ve got plans to like I said, take it from a traditional to more of a modern law practice. Or for the clients, you can bring them more care, more service, more touch from your team approach, those different things. So if your house is falling apart, get that in order first, get your marketing, get your system, your personnel in order before you really jump to acquire a firm. Tom: But once you have that, then it’s really going through looking at why you want to do it, and going through the financial. I’m a big believer of getting pre-qualified with a lender, you don’t have to use lender financing, but just knowing what you can afford and how those payment may work for you. So then if you see that opportunity out there, you see that perfect firm that’s the geographic location you want, it’s the size you want. It’s everything else. Then you at least know with confidence that you can move forward under a financial framework and make it work. Make an offer. How do you value a law firm? Lindsey: Those are some great points and some great advice. And it sounds like one of the big pieces to the start of it and throughout the process is evaluation of the firm. And so what makes up the value of a firm? How do you value a practice? Tom: Yeah, we take a multiple prong approach when we look at valuation. We look at revenues, we look at EBITDA or owner’s earnings. And then we look at market comparisons, if there’s a personal injury firm over here that does a million dollars in revenue, has this type of setup. Would that carry over to a similar firm? Is there a market comparison? And then we also look at what we call asset approach. So those four different methods. Revenues is pretty easy and quick to explain. If you’re doing a million dollars in revenue, the question is what would the value be? Is there a multiple, a factor? And usually that’s somewhere between 0.5 to 1.2 of your gross revenues of what the potential value of your firm would be. So if it’s a million and your valuation factor is 0.8 for revenues, then you’ve got a firm that’s maybe 800,000, right? The determination is really what is that valuation factor? Tom: Is it 0.8, is it 0.5, is at 1.2, which is really what we go through in discovery in evaluation side. But it gives you a range. On the earning side, we’re really looking at not the revenues that you have to transfer to somebody else, but what is the true benefit? Some people call this EBITDA, Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. But what is the true benefit to being an owner of this firm? So if you own a firm that does a million dollars in revenue and you make 400,000, which includes your salary that you pay yourself, your owner benefit, right? Meaning health insurance, maybe you’ve got a vehicle that’s paid for by the firm. Maybe the spouse is on payroll. We’re going to take all those and add those back, and essentially get you to that 400,000. Then it’s a question of okay, I can make $400,000 a year being the owner of this practice. And typically then we also look at a multiple to determine our valuation, and those multiples vary anywhere from 1.5 usually to 3.5. Tom: So again, if it’s 400,000, you’re looking at let’s just say a two, two and a half multiple. You’re looking at 800,000 to a million dollars for the total value of the firm. Asset approach, especially with personal injury. Personal injury, workers’ comp are key areas that we really look to asset approach, because we would say this is your case inventory. Depending on if you’re mass tort, don’t have that many cases, just have big cases or whether you are a personal injury practice with 1,000 personal injury that some of them may be $10,000 settlement cases. Some of them may be a few hundred thousand dollar litigation fee cases, but overall if we can determine an estimate of value of those cases, that’s collateral. It’s inventory on a shelf, it’s future revenues to be earned. It gives us a lot of security when we look at growth expansion, because if you’re a buyer that owns a personal injury firm, let’s say in South Carolina. Tom: And you want to expand in North Carolina, and you can go acquire a brand and everything else and a case inventory that already has … it does a million dollars in revenue a year, but it’s got a half a million dollars in case inventory. It gives you a good feeling that if I pay a million dollars for this firm, at least I know I got 500,000 in revenue already sitting- Lindsey: In the bank, yeah. Tom: Yeah, it’s sitting there, right? It’s just, I could liquidate, shut everything down and still earn 500. But the goal is of course, to nurture it, do the right things so that really, you see more of your value out of that. But that’s really our asset approach is to look at the assets that a firm has in cases, in reoccurring revenue. Most law firms if they don’t have case inventory, they don’t have that kind of billing structure their asset value is pretty low. It should be the floor for it, but overall in certain practice areas like personal injury, workers’ comp, sometimes immigration, some of these areas, they have a lot of inventory on the shelves so to speak, that we need to value. And already hit it on market approach. And we really look at those and depending on the practice type, the structure, everything else, we’ll weigh in one of those methods higher than the others. Typically, revenues and that earnings are the biggest weighted factors to determine what a firm may be worth. How has COVID-19 affected sales of law firms? Lindsey: And I’m sure COVID has thrown a wrench into those valuation methods, especially when you have cases that aren’t necessarily closing because the courts are not necessarily taking those cases, or things are getting dragged out longer. So your 2020 revenues are not going to be looking quite like they did in 2019, and won’t be a reflection of their true value in 2021. Can you speak a little bit to how you’ve worked with that? Tom: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s been really interesting to see even firms of similar practice areas be hit differently based on COVID, based on delay and everything else. So there’s definitely for some, there’s been an impact, a COVID impact to revenues. And the question that really our buyers are asking and that we’re asking right now as we go through and look at those firms, as they’re starting to go to market in 2021 and we get them ready is, is it just the timing of revenues or is it actually there was an impact? Meaning there’s a lot of firms that traditional marketing was networking, coffees, associations, conferences, everything else and those aren’t happening. Right? So when will those happen is a question mark, but we had one deal that actually fell apart. It was a great estate planning firm and everything else, they were under contract moving forward. And really the buyer’s hesitation was due to COVID. Tom: They needed to go out and meet these clients in person. They needed to meet the referral sources. It was a lot of personal, what we’d call personal goodwill versus firm goodwill. And as part of that, they were just concerned when would that be able to happen? And so that really was August, September that it was, I don’t know when COVID is going to end, but it could be a substantial loss of value or it could just be time. And so really, we’ve tried to work with our sellers to be reasonable, to be understandable. It’s changed probably our payment structure on some deals as well to have a balancing sharing of risks. And it’s definitely impacted our due diligence timelines. Meaning our timeline in between an offer being accepted and closed, to make sure that the buyer feels very comfortable that the revenues are there or the value that they’re paying for is there, it hasn’t disappeared during COVID. How to increase the value of a law firm: Lindsey: So as a law firm preparing to sell, what are some things that I can do that will increase the value of my firm? Tom: So first I would say, let’s talk about overall how we believe the law firm value comes about. One is your firm or what I just mentioned is your business goodwill, right? That would be your website. That would be your phone number. That would be your marketing platform and things that essentially drive the value of your firm. They drive clients to your firm, not to you necessarily individually. They’re not calling to speak with Tom because their buddy, Joe referred them to Tom. It’s not your personal network, it’s the value that you’ve built and you’ve directed to be part of your business assets. So what I would say is that really has a huge impact on overall value because as you can imagine, if you have a, for instance for you guys. If you have a solid marketing plan that produces 10 good leads a week. And of those 10, let’s say four convert to clients for a small firm. And you can show a buyer that look, this is what we do. Tom: We have a great website, we have this great marketing platform, everything else. We get 10 leads, here’s all the history, all the analytics. And we convert four of those, whatever else. To a buyer looking at that they say, “Well, I can take over the website. I can take over this.” That’s proven. If you tell them, “Well, I get referrals from the rotary club, and I get referrals from having coffee with these type of other professionals and they know me.” There’s a big question on will that personal value, what we call personal goodwill, will that transfer to a buyer, right? Because if you sit down and you’ve got some other attorney that refers cases to you and has been for 20 years, there’s no guarantee to the buyer that they’re going to accept the buyer. You can give the buyer the blessing, everything else, but there’s still that in the buyer’s mind, there’s that fear that that is not transferable value. Tom: So even if we can alter payment structures or anything else, that’s definitely a risk. So when we talk about value and we talk about maximizing value, anything you can do to maximize from goodwill or from value, meaning marketing for the firm. Those different platforms, systems, checklist, process, other elements are huge because those can transfer very easy to the next owner, the next manager versus the personal value investment. The investment into just you and your network or other things, which is the traditional way that most attorneys had built their practices. But there’s a lot of course, over in the last probably 15, 20 years that have invested in firm marketing. And that has a great impact on value and finding more buyers in the marketplace. Digital marketing, SEO and leads affect price: Lindsey: I’m speaking to the website and digital presence for your digital marketing reputation. That is obviously an important factor that you hit on there, and it’s something that is transferable as opposed to the networking opportunities that have become a little more sparse in the COVID era. So that’s definitely an interesting point to having the different types of relationships being transferable, and not as transferable as you are looking at valuing the reputation of the company itself. Tom: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve really talked of it’s not that you can’t transfer the other value, your personal network and everything else. We do a lot of those deals. We’re just a little bit more time involved. There’s a little bit more risk question mark to the buyer so the payment terms have to transfer. So when you’re talking maximizing value, it’s really building those firm systems, building the marketing that is attached to the business value versus you individual. But we as attorneys, we like to make ourselves big and that brand, and those can look to that aspect. The other thing I would tell everybody is I’m a big believer. If you want to look tomorrow at how to start building value within your practice and maximizing it is to start delegating. Even if you’re a small shop or anything else is if you’re trying to do everything, you’re trying to do all your marketing. Tom: You’re trying to do this much of the legal work but you have paralegals, if that’s that pyramid type of thing and you’re at top, see if you can level a little bit. Start delegating out, build a team of outsourced good providers, internal team. Make your employees truthfully assets versus just they report to you and everything else, because that’s a lot easier to transition and transfer as well. And it’s going to help you build those systems, right? So if you start delegating out certain work, you’re going to need checklists for people to follow. Or you’re going to have to customize certain software workflows or other things. So I’m a big believer if you want to help on value, delegate it out to those who can do it better and probably more efficient and usually at a lower cost than you can. Mistakes attorneys make when preparing to sell a law firm: Lindsey: Well, and that hearkens back to your earlier point of making sure that your firm that you’re starting with is in order first, and making sure that you have those processes and workflows, and the right people working with you whether they’re procurement relationships or internal on your team. What we have always found is that the attorneys that we work with are great attorneys. They are not necessarily so great when it comes to their website or to pay-per-click advertising, or all of the other things that go into our sphere but they’re great attorneys. And that is what to start with. And from that, you can build out the rest of the pieces that go into creating a great offer on a stable law firm that’s ready to be a foundation for that growth. So what mistakes do you see that lawyers are making as they are either trying to buy or sell their practices? Tom: Yeah. I think one is understanding the financials, and that goes for both ways the sellers and the buyers is it is largely … it is a financial transaction. You can talk terms, you can say this is a great fit, everything else. But for our sellers, we go through I’ll call it an education process. That if you’re that owner of that law firm that does a million dollars in revenue, and you’re the only attorney. So you’re doing all of the attorney legal work and you’re looking to sell it to somebody else. And you say, “Well, they can make $400,000 a year on this.” Maybe. That other firm has to pay somebody to do the legal work that you were doing. So I’ve given you the good or bad example analogy in the past that when you look at law firms, it’s similar to factories in a machine … excuse me, machines in a factory in the fact that you’re producing. You’re just deliverable is you’re not printing something. You’re not making widgets. Tom: You’re producing legal deliverables. And if you remove that machine, if you remove you from that, you’re going to have a drop in production. And so anybody that takes over your practice either has to be that next machine to replace you, or they have to hire and they have to put somebody in place. So we try to educate sellers really on the side of projected cash flows for a buyer to make a deal work. So it brings the valuations down a little bit, but you have to understand there is a cost to you doing the legal work. That’s why you pay yourself, hopefully a reasonable salary from that approach. But you are one of those machines. Now we definitely have some firms, some big personal injury firms that we’ve worked with and otherwise that the ownership doesn’t provide any legal work. And so they don’t have a replacement cost like maybe at another smaller firm or otherwise. And then to the buy side, it would be the same thing. Understand your financials. Tom: If you’re going to take on a million dollars in revenue and you’ve got some deal term costs to that, the next question is what are your costs that are going to be applied to that million dollars, and does the deal still make sense? So what does your IT cost? What does your marketing costs for that million dollars, right? It’s really go through a comparative analysis to make sure that the deal still works for you. And there is still excess cashflow to make it a benefit, right? So financials are definitely one. The other is if you can bring in other advisors, the best of it is just like we were talking about with marketing and everything else, like attorneys like to do it all. But if you can bring in an accountant, a CPA or somebody that’s gone through this before to help you, you will get much farther along on a much better platform than trying to do everything yourself and run your own law firm, and take care of your clients. Tom: And so that whole delegation factor really comes into play in this spot as well, because a lot of times as we are an intermediary or broker, some of the things we do is just an accountability check. It’s accountability to the seller’s side. Hey, you need to make a decision here. You need to produce these financials. So the buyer’s side you need to go through the financials. You need to decide what kind of offer you’d want to do. So really don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is not something, because we know it’s a young marketplace. It’s not something that everybody goes through every day. So if you can find good outside resource or if you have it within your firm, tag them in, you will get much farther along. How to contact The Law Practice Exchange: Lindsey: Speaking of asking for help and finding great outside resources, Tom, where can people get in touch with you if they want to learn more? Tom: Sure, thelawpracticeexchange.com. You can find us on the web, you can find us of course, on LinkedIn or find me on LinkedIn Tom Lenfestey. Also, we’ve started a Facebook group buying and selling law firms on Facebook. Be happy to have you there where we’ve tried to really take the education first attitude. A lot of these things are new to attorneys, right? Buying, selling, successions, structures. So we’ve tried to figure out a way to get the most resource out there. And in today’s day and time, social media, short video, everything else seems to be a good spot to do that. You can also email me email@example.com or give us a call (919) 789-1931. Lindsey: Great. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Tom. That was very helpful, and we look forward to speaking with you again soon. And I encourage anybody to reach out to Tom if they have further questions. So thank you all. Have a great day.
18 minutes | Oct 27, 2020
TikTok's "The Lawyer" Anthony Barbuto Interview - Personal Injury Marketing Minute Podcast #3
In this episode of the Personal Injury Marketing Minute Podcast, we interview “The Lawyer” from TikTok, Anthony Barbuto, and learn about his journey to 2 million followers. Anthony Barbuto’s brand on TikTok is “The Lawyer”. He was one of (if not the first) American lawyers making videos on the platform. You can see his videos on TikTok here @TheLawyer. We’ve been dying to talk to him ever since writing about The Lawyers of TikTok. TikTok is not just for kids. While TikTok is primarily used by teenagers lip-syncing and/or dancing, there are many niches and content creators using the platform. Some of those users create videos on cooking tips, how to apply makeup, skateboard tricks and even politics. As @TheLawyer, Anthony primarily produces comedic and family videos, generally 8 – 15 seconds long. In this podcast, Anthony explains that he did not start using TikTok to market himself. He started producing videos to share at a personal level and to have some fun with the social media platform. Anthony finds creating videos on TikTok to be a big stress reliever, especially after a long day of litigation. The Lawyer has Inspired others to become lawyers! @TheLawyer has reached millions of people all over the world. Many of the viewers are teenagers who have been inspired by the videos to pursue a legal career. Indeed, stereotypes exist and some people think all attorneys are workaholics with no social life. That’s definitely not the case. Anthony has received thousands of messages from people all over the world who now aspire to be attorneys. What led to The Lawyer’s success? Anthony had no intention of becoming a social media sensation. What initially made him stand out is that he was an adult, in a suit, and an attorney. Many of his videos incorporate a legal theme. Anthony also understands that TikTok is different and should be treated like TikTok. You join TikTok to have fun, not serve advertisements for services. Anthony has experience with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other social media outlets as well. Can attorneys get business from TikTok? In the podcast, Anthony mentions that practicing law is his full time job. He did not join TikTok with the intention of getting business from the app. TikTok videos are usually something he produces a few times a week, and spends an hour on here and there. The vast majority of his business comes from local clients in Palm Beach County, Florida at the law firm Barbuto & Johansson. However, yes, he has gained business by representing other TikTok content creators with their legal needs. Clients do see his videos when they look him up and also often discover that he’s been in the news. The videos have not scared away clients and they’re refreshed to see who he is as a person aside from his legal credentials. Just be yourself! Anthony recommends people venturing into TikTok to be themselves, express their interests and individuality. He also explains that his biggest asset is his personality and that he gets along very well with people. Anthony says “I have never had any client hire me who didn’t like me as a person.” What’s next for The Barbuto Family? YouTube! “The Barbuto Family” is a new YouTube channel featuring Anthony (a/k/a “The Lawyer”), along with his wife and children, Rovena, Leonardo and Sofia. Anthony is committed to creating more videos showing his great family on this new channel and all of their fun adventures both in Florida and in Italy. Be Sure view and subscribe to this channel here: https://www.youtube.com/c/thebarbutofamily. The Barbuto Family may also be found here on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thebarbutofamily/ The family is traveling to Italy soon and you can find those adventures here on Facebook or on his blog, Italian Enthusiast or Italian Enthusiast on Instagram.
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