Standing Out in a Glutted Industry
Lawyers currently suffer from Emperor Penguin Syndrome. They're always surrounded by their peers sporting smartly-cut suits, and there are so many of them they need to find a way to both stand out and stand out for years to come. I mean, you don't really want orcas or walruses crashing the party.
Despite the fact that professional opportunities for attorneys are expected to grow by 10% before 2022, the industry is currently experiencing a significant saturation of lawyers and wannabe lawyers. In 2011, only 55% of law school graduates landed full-time legal jobs nine months after receiving their degrees. Even for more established industry professionals, this glut requires some creativity and savvy to properly maneuver and attract a steady client stream.
Your potential customers know to shop around and research the competition. Unfortunately, far too often the best lawyers are far too busy to think about their marketing. In these instances, consulting or outsourcing these services to the experts is going to be the best investment. The marketers who know exactly what they're doing possess the skills (and time) needed to alert potential clients that you know exactly what you're doing.
Everything Comes Back to the Web
Different legal fields have different needs when it comes to their online presence. Personal injury and criminal attorneys require leads, while environmental and corporate attorneys concern themselves more with reputation management and credibility building, for example.
When someone needs a lawyer these days, the internet is going to be their first stop when researching. We've already established that savvy SEO and PPC campaigns will get you in the good graces of Google's search results.
SEO and PPC will get them to your site, but what happens once they get there? Your website and social media alike must reflect your qualifications, no matter what area of law you practice. The information on your site will make or break people's confidence in you - and the same goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, too. Keep everything from hours and contact info to news and events up to date (and within the bar's requirements!) is not quite as common a practice as you might think - but it is very necessary. You never know who might be reading.
Bad Strategies v. Good
Out-of-date information, poor or straight up black hat SEO strategies, duplicated content (a common occurrence with low-cost website marketing packages), and even the impression that you're not exerting the effort to stay on top of the latest industry news - all these things can hamstring your ability to bring in clients.
Like it or not, how you come off online will determine how much business you receive offline. But building trust and a positive reputation is kind of a Mobius strip. You have to actively (enthusiastically, even) establish yourself as an industry leader online and offline, simultaneously. The two efforts not only complement one another - they propel each other. A beefier web presence is further impetus to get up, get out and do what it takes to be the penguin in the tastefully-patterned disco shirt.
Live and In Person
The CLE is the bare minimum of professional development necessary to inform your audience that you are, in fact, on top of your game and on top of your industry. Go beyond that. As far beyond that as you can.
Attend conferences. Speak at seminars. Strike up partnerships with expert witnesses and developers of technologies that could grant you an edge with a new client base. Submit papers to journals. Take and share photos. Discuss what you've learned and how you've grown your practice as a result of your continued education. This sends a signal out to potential clients that you're going out of your way to better your practice and to bring them nothing but the most well-informed support.
From the professional to the personal, committing your firm to participation in community events is also a great way to build up your public profile and, of course, do some good in the neighborhood. If you can't show up somewhere in person, at least provide donations and sponsorships to build up awareness of both you and your dedication to local charities and causes.
You have the resources to be a leader. So it's within everyone's best interest that you stand up and be that leader.
Lead by Doing
Leaders create their own opportunities sometimes. They organize their own workshops and panels and conferences. They voice their opinions and research on blogs. They take the initiative to bring people together and move the industry forward, desiring to create trends instead of following them.
It goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: Your website needs to include information about your awards and honors, as well as whatever information you can share about notable victories (without violating client confidentiality). If it'll go on your rÃ©sumÃ© or CV to impress a potential boss, it should go into your online presence.
The best lawyers - the ones who win awards, get invited to speak and enjoy long, satisfying careers - these are the lawyers who set themselves apart with professionalism, not puffery. They invest in advertising and marketing strategies that showcase their talents in detail. Rather than cutting corners by purchasing written and visual content almost identical - I mean word-for-word here, not paraphrasing industry standards - to what potential clients would find on competitors' websites, leaders know they need striking designs and informative reading customized just for them.
A leader has to be unique, and that can't be accomplished with uniformity. Only quality.