Soft terms turned to solid tips at Avvo's Lawyernomics 2014

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Peter Shankman. Photo by Jacob Kepler.

Talk of image, storytelling, passion and romance translated to the hard-edged business of branding, marketing, commitment and client service at Lawyernomics 2014.

The event, sponsored by legal service provider Avvo, brought about 300 lawyers to Las Vegas in April to learn about ways to create a base of loyal clients that will help bring in additional clients and work. The ABA Journal was a media sponsor.

Keynote speaker Peter Shankman, using humorous anecdotes from his career, explained how to create a strong brand. “All you have is your brand,” Shankman said. “Make sure you brand everything you do. There’s nothing worse than creating amazing content and then finding it on another website because you didn’t bother to brand it.”


Shankman advised lawyers to be transparent, telling them that mistakes are inevitable. But, he said, instead of lying about or ignoring those mistakes, lawyers should own them and learn from them.

“You will create loyalists, and those loyalists will do your public relations work for you,” said Shankman. “If you aren’t transparent, you will get caught.”

Jay Shepherd, a former lawyer/owner of Shepherd Law Group in Boston, talked about the value of narrative devices in connecting with potential clients. “Most lawyer marketing looks the same,” said Shepherd, who is now writing legal thriller novels. “Storytelling allows lawyers to differentiate themselves and connect with clients and make them want to work with you.”

Indeed, Shepherd maintained that lawyers should take advantage of their natural storytelling skills and create a powerful narrative that resonates with clients. Avoid using jargon and legalese, he advised, and write the way you talk, as if writing for a magazine or newspaper.

And nothing resonates with people like a love story. “Don’t kiss your clients, but market like you want to,” said Avvo CEO Mark Britton.

The lawyer-client relationship is a lot like a romantic one, Britton said, and like singles looking for love, lawyers are looking for a long- lasting, loyal partnership with their clients.

“There are only three questions a lawyer needs to ask a prospective client,” Britton said: “Can I satisfy your needs? Can you satisfy mine? How do I contact you?”

Maximizing search engine optimization requires lawyers to stay on top of the constant changes from Google. Gyi Tsakalakis, founder of AttorneySync, and Mike Ramsey, president of Nifty Marketing, noted that its integration of Knowledge Graphs into individual search results and its implementation of the fast, precise Hummingbird algorithm mean SEO is more important than ever for lawyers.

Tsakalakis and Ramsey emphasized that reviews matter for SEO, and they told attendees not to be afraid of responding constructively to negative reviews. They also pointed out that Google Plus was a key factor in SEO.

The best SEO practices, however, are no substitute for good lawyering. “Providing great service,” Tsakalakis said, “is the foundation of legal marketing.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Love Practice: Soft terms turned to solid tips at Avvo event.”

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