Most addiction doesn’t start as addiction. It starts with doing something to feel better. Then to feel better again, you do something again. Then, doing something doesn’t make you feel better so you have to do more something. Before long, your whole day is full of doing something. The next thing you know, everything that used to make you feel better, doesn’t. All that is left is doing something. You wake up one morning feeling bad, broke, and alone. You want to quit, but you can’t – you are addicted.
What is Attorney PPC Advertising?
It is easy to have a similar experience with pay-per-click (“PPC”) advertising. PPC advertising is an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to a website for a fee that is paid “per click.” Most commonly, attorneys utilize search term PPC advertising. For example, an attorney can bid on keyword phrases (such as “car wreck attorney”), which will ultimately drive traffic to the attorney’s website. Display ads can also use PPC advertising. Done correctly, PPC advertising can drive a steady stream of clients to your law firm.
PPC Advertising Is Enticing for Attorneys
For the attorney who wants to feel better about new client development, PPC Advertising, done correctly, outperforms most every other advertising model. For the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of attorneys who want to hang a shingle but just cannot get a good feeling about it – PPC Advertising is enticing. If nothing else, PPC Advertising brings in a steady stream of new clients so that attorneys can do what they enjoy doing – practice law.
So When is Attorney PPC Advertising a Problem
PPC advertising is a problem for attorneys when it is used to develop single representation clients, rather than building a client community. Basically, you are buying clients. As long as you pay for clients, you have clients. When you stop paying, the clients stop. If you want to double your clients, you have to pay double. The problem is that you are not creating value in a sustainable marketing method. You are not doing anything to create future clients and you are not doing anything to make client development more effective. You will work as hard and spend as much next month as you did this month to develop the same number of clients.
Leveraging Client Community
Rather than Attorney PPC Advertising, what if you invested in your client community? What if, for example, each month you sent your client community the answer to the question that you have been asked the most during the month and posted the answer on your website? Look at what happens:
You begin to create value in a client community.
You create leverage with the money you invest in marketing. Where the money you spend on Attorney PPC Advertising is a one-off investment, an investment in your client community is multiplied by the size of your community.
Your marketing efforts become sustainable. Everything you do this month helps you develop clients next month – and the next. At the end of the first year, you will have 12 answers on your website that drive clients to you organically (basically free). Think of this as 12 referral sources that send you clients every day.
Attorney PPC Advertising is consumer driven marketing. You pay for it and it delivers a client that loses his or her value with each passing day. Building client community is value-centric marketing. As you build your community, you build on top of what you have already done. As your community grows, it draws friends and followers and leverages your efforts into an even larger community.
Avoiding or Breaking Attorney PPC Advertising Addiction
Like other things that may result in an addiction, PPC Advertising can help1 you overcome a situation that cannot easily be organically overcome. Even so, the healthier approach to client development is value-centric, sustainable marketing.
Remarkable attorneys have no need to advertise. Clients are drawn to remarkable. Like Matlock for murder, there is a name for a remarkable attorney that comes to mind for every area of law. If you don’t know the name, you can discover it in a few calls. Some attorneys are geographically remarkable. If you need a lawyer in Tuskegee, Alabama, you probably want Fred Gray – he is remarkable.1
To further illustrate remarkable, I have profiled a few non-lawyers who have moved into the legal services industry. Jon Colgan, for example, built a company that effectively represents consumers when cell phone companies breach their contracts and demand an early termination fee when cell phone customers want to leave. Colgan’s company effectively charges a one-third contingency fee of avoided early termination fees. He built his company to a $13 million annual run rate.
Remarkable Attorneys Don’t Advertise
These lawyers and legal service providers are remarkable because they are doing something exceptional – something worth talking about – not because they advertise. In fact, as advertising is defined here, remarkable attorneys don’t do it. Now in the sense that a business card is advertising, most all lawyers advertise in some way. But in the sense of commercial advertising, not all lawyers do it. Here, I am focusing on commercial advertising (television, billboards, and radio) that was originally used to convince or convert consumers into customers. Commercial advertising, by definition, reaches large, mostly untargeted, groups of people. A super-majority of attorneys “polled stated that they think legal advertising has harmed the public image of attorneys.”2
Look Inside a Law Firm That Advertised
Normally, it would be difficult to get an inside look into a highly profitable law firm that used, as its primary source of new customers, commercial advertising. In the case of Davis v. Alabama State Bar3, however, the Alabama Supreme Court pulled the curtain back on just such a practice and there is a lot to learn from it.
The law firm in this case spent in the high six figures4 primarily on television advertising. The advertising drove a high volume of prospective clients to call the law firm.
Triage and Turn-Down Expensive
Commercial advertising causes the phone to ring with hundreds, maybe thousands of potential clients. Each prospective client that calls can either be a million-dollar case or a malpractice claim. The person answering the phone must be able to triage (decide on the urgency of) the prospective clients and decide on at least a preliminary course of action. Six figure claim? High priority. Statute runs tomorrow? High priority. Everyone else? Less than high priority.
Also, the Davis firm had to clearly communicate to each caller who was turned down that any attorney-client relationship that was established during the call was terminated. This hazard would be heightened due to the lack of sophistication of most callers.
Enormous firm resources were invested in this triage phase. And, the resources that were allocated to triaging prospective new clients were taken away from working with actual clients. The process encouraged treating every client as routine.
Expenses Required Quick Turnover
In Davis, the cost of commercial advertising plus the cost of managing the high volume of calls pushed the firm to “minimize expenses and maximize profits.”5 For example, inexperienced associates carried an average of 600 active cases with little support staff. If you consider that the average number of billable hours is 2,081, that comes to roughly three and one-half hours per case. Written policies, however, encouraged the development of new clients over working with existing clients. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded that “[t]he amount of time that could be spent on each case was limited to make it impossible to adequately represent clients.”6
Rather than a culture that encouraged remarkable representation, the Davis case describes a culture where there were not enough file cabinets so client “files were simply stacked in various parts of the office, including the employees’ break room and the hallway near the bathrooms. … Policy requir[ed] associates not to return phone calls of existing clients so that the attorneys could free more time to sign new clients.”7 And clients’ lost any chance of recovery to missed deadlines.
A Call to Remarkable
In Quoting Justice O’Connor, the Court encouraged advertising firms to continue (or perhaps return) to a professional life:
There are sound reasons to continue pursuing the goal that is implicit in the traditional view of professional life. Both the special privileges incident to membership in the profession and the advantages those privileges give in the necessary task of earning a living are means to a goal that transcends the accumulation of wealth. That goal is public service, which in the legal profession can take a variety of familiar forms.
Being remarkable is a public service. In Davis, a motivation for high volume and quotas encouraged others to be motivated by high volume and quotas. Contrastingly, a commitment to being remarkable encourages others to be remarkable.
Another non-lawyer, Derek Bluford, demonstrates how to find remarkable. He observed that getting to talk to a lawyer was a delayed, anxiety-filled process. Even if a prospective client could get an appointment the next day (and that was fast), they still had a sleepless night ahead while they wrestled with a gnawing unanswered legal question.
The problem, it takes too long to talk to an attorney. Derek Bluford’s remarkable answer – Quick Legal – a company that connects prospective clients to attorneys within minutes 24/7 via Facetime or Skype. Where attorneys are constantly complaining about a shrinking or flat legal services market, Quick Legal built an annual run rate of $780,000 in its first year of operation. Quick Legal became remarkable by identifying a pain point for clients and providing a solution.
Incidentally, Quick Legal drives numerous clients to attorneys that might otherwise be concerned about a shrinking legal market.
The Road to Unremarkable
As soon as legal service you provide is unremarkable, there are plenty of competitor attorneys who are willing to provide unremarkable service and charge a smaller fee. As shrinking fees ratchet downward, clients are inevitably commoditized. Lawyers that rely on commercial advertising for client development and then provide legal services a commodity are doomed to the fate of the unremarkable.
I’ve always felt pretty good about my ability to detect the liar. After all, it’s part of the process of how I made a living for many years. If I could prove that a witness was lying, it was a game-changer. If I sensed my opponent or her client was lying, it influenced my litigation strategy. If I sensed my client was lying, it influenced my client’s relationship (or lack of relationship). I’ve never had either admit they were lying, but I knew the liar. Or did I?1
One of the reasons that I felt so confident in identifying liars was simply life experience. I’ve been lied to a few times in the past. I remember what that experience was like and I work not to repeat it. Another reason I felt so confident was that I have studied it. As the science of lie detection has developed over the years, I took the continuing education classes and read the books. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a trusted friend and employee had consistently lied to me for over five years a bunch of money, including my money. How could that be?
Previous Lie Detection Methods Less Than .25% Accurate
There are so many methods of detection: body language, eye movements, micro-facial expression, voice tone changes, and on and on. “According to one study, just 50 out of 20,000 people [using these methods] managed to make a correct judgment with more than 80% accuracy.”2 That is less than .25% accurate.
Diverse Human Behavior is the Challenge
The challenge is that human behavior varies widely and as populations become more diverse, behavior becomes more varied. Within a single family, reactions vary greatly. One child’s cheeks may blush when they are happy while another child’s cheeks may blush when lying. Body language and eye movements are strongly influenced by culture. For example, one culture may conclude that someone tells the truth because they “look you in the eye.” Contrastingly, another culture may never look others in the eye because it is considered impolite.
One Way to Spot A Hidden Enemy
One way to spot a liar is open-ended questions followed by listening. Research conducted to increase air travel security evidenced that asking open-ended (not yes/no) questions gave the interrogator an opportunity to listen to the answer and consider the credibility of the story itself. This method takes advantage of basic conversation skills to test credibility. For example, interrupting the story to ask for more details taxes the liar’s ability to create additional – credible facts. When appropriate, interrogators asked for the story to be repeated in reverse order – a request that liars struggle to complete.
The key is not to point out inconsistencies and contradictions but to let the liar continue to build his or her story on lie upon lie. Eventually, the liar becomes overwhelmed with the number of false facts he or she has to remember.
As the liar becomes overwhelmed look for three signs:
-The liar begins to contradict their own story.
-Where the liar was verbose they clam up.
-The liar becomes evasive or erratic. Or answers questions with questions.
Isn’t This Just Talking?
Although this may seem like talking, it isn’t just talking. Interrogators trained in these techniques were “20 times more likely to detect [lying]”3 Interestingly, novices using this technique were almost as accurate as trained interrogators.
A Final Consideration In Detecting the Liar
One important element in all of the research, whether staged or real, is being open to the possibility that what you are being told may not be true. As long as you believe that there is no possibility that someone is lying to you, only the liar who makes the grossest mistakes will be detected. And hidden enemies don’t make gross mistakes.
Quicklegal, Inc. provides attorneys on demand via Facetime, video chat, voice call, and instant messaging.1
For the consumer-client, Quicklegal eliminates the wait. Using a smartphone, iPad, or computer, the consumer-client visits Quicklegal and gets instant access to a wide variety of lawyers. The consumer-client avoids the hassle of setting an appointment and waiting for the appointment date and time. Questions that can be answered in under 15 minutes are answered free. When fees are required, the consumer-client pays an affordable rate.
For the attorney, Quicklegal is a law firm in a box. In addition to ready-made clients, Quicklegal provides case management, document management, calendar, and task management, legal research, malpractice insurance, and continuing legal education. For the new lawyer or the established lawyer looking to hang a shingle, Quicklegal makes the transition as easy as a fixed monthly payment.
Derek Bluford has a history of entrepreneurial success in the legal service markets and has won business awards such as California TechWeek, Entrepreneur Magazine Growth Conference, Legal Innovator, and more. Mr. Bluford has a degree in legal studies and graduated Cum Laude. Mr.Bluford’s companies have been seen in publications such as Business Journal, California Lawyer, Landlord, Daily Journal, and Porsche’s “The Drifter”.
Shifting Legal Services Industry
In its first year of operation, Quicklegal annual run rate grew to $780,000. At the time of this writing, Quicklegal was entertaining a letter of intent for $14 million.2 For the attorneys that bemoan a shrinking legal services industry, Derek Bluford has created a platform that introduces them to a steady stream of clients. For the consumer-client, Derek Bluford has created a platform that has eliminated the awkwardness of meeting in a law office and waiting for the privilege to do so.
The legal services industry is not shrinking, it is shifting.