I coach many lawyers who are blogging and I read blogs posted by many other lawyers. I can usually get a sense whether the lawyer blogger is achieving any success from blogging. If you are blogging and it hasn’t led to business, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Blogging Questions.jpgWho is your ideal reader? The first giveaway for me that a blog is not likely attracting business is when I can’t figure out who the blogger is targeting.  If I was still practicing construction law, my ideal reader would begin with the executives of the many state and national construction associations. My second ideal reader would be contractors and in-house lawyers of the large contractors who have them.
  2. What do you want your ideal reader to do? Even though it occasionally happens, I think it is very unrealistic to think you will get a new client just because of your blog. If I was still practicing construction law, I would want my ideal reader to recommend me to others and include with his recommendation the link to my blog. I also would use my blog as the primary tool to get asked to speak at contractor association meetings.
  3. How can you attract your ideal reader? If your ideal reader is not reading your blog, you won’t achieve your goals. The first step to attract your ideal reader is to create valuable content that addresses a need.
  4. How do you find valuable content? You have to be insatiable to look for and find information that impacts your potential clients. You should be reading a variety of industry publications and other business publications. If I was practicing construction law I would be using the ENR feed, Feedly and Netvibes to find ideas.
  5. How do you know when you have found valuable content? Each article you read you have to look for the legal implications or even the business implications of the facts in the article. You have to see what others are missing.

In my Thursday post, I will share with you the questions to ask after you have answered these.

I was coaching a group of lawyers for the last time recently. At the end of our group meeting, the group’s leader asked for a good summary of what we had covered. I shared this blog post with the group and thought you might find it valuable.

I read a recent survey report of large (big law) firms. There was one survey question that really got my attention:

How important is business development to success in a law firm?

Here was the answer:

 A lawyer’s ability to generate business is the single most determinative factor in whether a lawyer will become an equity partner.

That certainly was no surprise. In fact, I thought that was kind of a Duh question and it certainly does not just apply to lawyers in large law firms.

I know how to develop business. I did it and many lawyers I have coached or who worked for me are doing it. If you want to learn, I want to help you. I urge you to learn how to:

  1. Motivate yourself to learn and attract clients
  2. Figure out and adopt attributes of successful lawyers/people that will work best for you
  3. Define what success means to you by figuring out what you want to achieve in your career and life
  4. Set stretch goals
  5. Prepare a detailed action plan to achieve goals
  6. Determine what learning will provide you with the greatest return on your time
  7. Determine what kind of client development efforts will best work for you
  8. Make time for client development when you are busy with billable work and have a family
  9. Get organized for a more productive day
  10. Hold yourself accountable for client development activities
  11. Best get outside your comfort zone to take your practice up a notch
  12. Be patient and persist when you are not seeing results
  13. Raise your visibility and credibility-Building Profile
  14. What organizations will be best for you
  15. Write an article, or blog post: picking the topic, how long, title, opening, closing
  16. Give a presentation: picking the topic, getting the opportunity, homework before the presentation, PowerPoint, opening, format, speaking skills, handout
  17. Use social media: blogging for business, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter,
  18. Build relationships with referral sources so they recommend you
  19. Network at events
  20. Determine what are your best sources of business
  21. Focus on Contacts (Client relationship management)
  22. Make pitches to clients who consider hiring you
  23. Make great first Impressions
  24. Clients Select: importance of website bio, relationships, recommendations, strength of weak ties, building trust and rapport, developing questions, listening skills and how to ask for business
  25. Provide extraordinary client service and cross-sell: what clients want, how to deliver it, ways to add value, cross-selling planning
  26. Develop your the team: leadership, team building, motivating younger lawyers, supervision and feedback

What else can I do to help you?

 

It’s 2017. More baby boomer lawyers will retire this year.

Is your firm working to create your next generation of rainmakers? As you might imagine, I strongly believe a coaching program helps.

I like to tell people that if client development coaching had been available when I was a young lawyer I would have saved so much time just by getting feedback. I would have been far more focused and accountable.

As you may know, when I coach a group of lawyers in a firm, we meet in person for one-on-one coaching and group coaching sessions several times a year.

Recently a firm marketing director asked me what we cover in those group meetings. I invite you and your firm to “steal my stuff.” That is why I put an active link to my presentation materials. Here is the list of most requested topics:

I strongly believe your lawyers will be better able to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients, if you make these topics part of your client development coaching program.

Years ago, I coached a lawyer who was writing an ERISA Law Blog. In one of our coaching sessions he explained.

I enjoy writing the blog, but my target clients are not finding it. The only calls I have received are from employees.

I looked at the blog. At the time he was essentially reporting the ERISA news. I couldn’t tell from his posts that he represented employers. He had not targeted his readers and picked topics he hoped would bring them to him.

As some of you know, I began writing a column in Roads and Bridges magazine in the early 80s. I purposely named the column: Law: The Contractor’s Side. Here is a column I wrote in 2000: The ‘ripple effect’ of change orders.

My target readers were contractors and in the linked column I wanted to demonstrate my understanding and expertise of the ripple effect of change orders in the hope I would be top of mind if a contractor faced that issue.

Writing strategically to reach and intended target reader is one topic I will address in a webinar I am presenting on August 25 for MyCase. The title is Build Your Practice Through Blogging. Click on the title and you can sign up for it.

If you are a blogger and don’t feel your posts are attracting clients or referral sources, I urge you to take the hour on the 25th and learn how to start blogging more strategically and take a look at my Social Media Blogging eBook.

Blogging Tips

I tell lawyers I coach that with each blog, they should:

  1. Identify the intended reader-potential clients, shares, SEO.
  2. Figure out why that reader cares about the topic
  3. Decide what they want the reader to take away from the blog post
  4. Decide what they want the reader to think about them or their firm

Ok, once you have figured out those things, you are ready to draft. Start with a great, “google searchable” headline. You want to choose one that potential clients will find if they did a search of the legal topic.

Second, write a great first line. Think like a journalist. Don’t bury the lead.

Third, write short paragraphs. You want to have a lot of white space to make your blog easy to read on line.

Fourth, include a visual. There are many places where you can find free photographs that do not require attribution. One source I use is Pexels.

When you finish your first draft, look and see if you can shorten the post. Take out any fluff or unnecessary words.

After you post your blog, use Buffer  or Hootsuite to deliver it to your social media sites at the time you think would be most likely read. (I say around 1-2 in the afternoon Central Time is not bad.)

If you want to learn more about getting readers to your blog, I found: 39 Top Bloggers Reveal How They Get More Blog Traffic. Which one do you think would get you potential clients and referral sources readers?

I have coached 100s of lawyer bloggers. Some are doing it really well. Others have found it challenging. They aren’t attracting the readers they desire.

Over the years several law firms have asked me to come in and do what I call a Bloggers Bootcamp for their lawyers. If your firm has bloggers, please either consider having me to a bootcamp for them, or at the least have them check out the slides from one bootcamp here.

Blogging Tips

When I coach bloggers, I suggest that the first key is to make their blog easy to read on a computer, tablet and even a smart phone. If you are a regular reader, you might recall last August I posted: Blog: Is Yours SEO and Reader Friendly?

Unfortunately, in spite of my suggestions in that post, most lawyer blogs I see are not easy to read because:

  • The blog is too long
  • The font is too small and not easy to read
  • The paragraphs are too long
  • There’s not enough whitespace
  • They don’t use visuals

I can go on, but you get the idea.

Just to show I’m not the only one harping on readability, I want you to check out: 8 Reasons Why Your Blog Posts Are Hard to Read (And How to Fix ‘Em).

If you are a lawyer blogging, I encourage you to take a couple of minutes to see what are the 8 reasons. I think you will see the suggestions are remarkably similar to some I made in my Practical Lawyer Column: Practical Tips To Make Your Blog More Valuable what I have been pushing you to do for many years.

I’m curious: Look at your last blog post. How many of the 8 reasons your blog is hard to read would apply to your blog post?

 

I have coached 25 lawyers over the last two weeks, and the most frequent questions I received, especially from the younger lawyers, was how can I more effectively use social media.

I posted this blog last year, but given the questions I thought it was worth posting again,

On Tuesday this week Shawn Tuma and I did a webinar for the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) titled: Simple Ways to Effectively Use Social Media to Help Build Your Law Practice.

I focused on blogging and Shawn showed participants how to use the social media tools to share blog posts, engage and build relationships.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.33.37 AM

Here is a link to our Prezi slides.

In 2010, a national law firm marketing department asked me to go cross country and spend a day in four of their offices giving a presentation on blogging and social media and then meeting with practice groups in those offices.  I knew I had been asked to do this task because of the color of my hair (white) and my experience practicing law (35 plus years).

At the time, the firm was not blogging and only a handful of lawyers were using any of the social media tools. Now, the firm has 11 blogs and several lawyers in leadership positions are using social media very effectively. So, I must have made an impression on a few lawyers over 50.

In one of the offices, during a meeting with a practice group, the youngest partner asked:

Cordell, suppose we tell you we do not want to blog or use social media. In five years will we be behind our competitors?

I replied:

Suppose in the 90s your practice group told firm leaders. We do not want to have our group on the firm webpage and we do not want to use email. Do you think in five years you would have been behind your competitors?

The LMA members use social media effectively. I have met several of their members on Twitter.  I thought I might  share with you some of the tweets that members generated during my part of the presentation.

Gail Lamarche @gaillamarche
blogging is different than any other legal writing — @cordellparvin sharing tips/best practices #LMAMKT 3 potential audiences

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Who are your blogging audiences? Your clients, social media sharers, Google search engines — @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Think before you post: Who is your intended reader? Why should they care? What is the takeaway for reader? #lmamkt @cordellparvin

Lindsay Griffiths @LindsayGriffith
A blog is a conversation with your reader whereby you are trying to build a trust-based relationship (YES!!) per @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Gail Lamarche @gaillamarche
your blog is a conversation with your reader and trying to build a trust based relationship #LMAMKT via @cordellparvin build a connection

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Lawyers, your blog readers skim your posts. They read down, not across. High % never finish. Do’t bury the lead. — @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Lawyers, you need a great headline for your blog posts. Will it be found if someone searches for that legal topic? @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
Lawyers tend to write linearly. Your clients don’t need the entire history. — @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Lindsay Griffiths @LindsayGriffith
“Clients don’t care about the history of Swiss watch making; they just want to know what time it is” – GREAT metaphor @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Nancy Myrland @NancyMyrland
“Use persuasive words when blogging. The words ‘you’ and ‘because’ are incredibly important.” — @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Laura Toledo @lalaland999
Start w/ your lead: the inverted pyramid – alluded to by @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Lance Godard @lancegodard
RT @lalaland999: Start w/ your lead: the inverted pyramid – alluded to by @cordellparvin #LMAMKT

Thanks to each of the LMA members listed above for sharing their thoughts during the presentation. As a quick aside, I have never met any of them in person, but have gotten to know them on social media.

If you are interested, you can find the slides Shawn and I used here. Look carefully at Shawn’s slides and you will learn how his strategic use of social media generated new clients and writing opportunities.

Are your struggling to connect with your clients and dream clients with your blog? I may have some help for you today.

If you are a regular reader, you know I have been working on a novel since January 2014. I’ve taken courses at Collin County Community College. I’ve taken on-line courses offered  by University of North Texas. I’ve attended a DFW Writers Conference and I’ve read many books on writing.

Just for an update, I want you to know that I’ve actually completed one version of my novel and thought it could be much better. I’m working on versions 7 and 8 now.

Gina has gone from being Italian (last name Caruso, granddaughter of a mobster from Galveston) to being Hispanic (last name Sanchez, daughter of the lawyer who represents crooked politicians from the Rio Grande Valley). I made that change to be able to highlight how few partners in major US law firms in the US are Hispanic women.

Gina Caruso is married to Tony. Gina Sanchez is single. Gina Caruso was the female version of some powerful man you have read about (think a President, a golfer, a general). I read many articles. One was titled:  Powerful people are the most likely to have an affair… be they men OR women. The point in the article was:

But scientists now believe that it is a person’s power, rather than gender, that plays the greatest role in infidelity.

I wanted to convey in my novel that if that is true, powerful women are judged and treated differently. But, one of my favorite women readers read my draft and told me she hated Gina for being married and cheating on Tony.

Since women make up the majority of readers, at least for my current version, Gina is single.

So, what is the power of 3 in writing and why should you consider it while blogging?

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 10.47.29 AM

Novels, plays, movies tell a story in three acts. That’s the universal structure. Maybe a blog should have three parts.

Recently I read a blog post Trinities by Shawn Coyne,  a writing guru. In it he describes advising a friend who had sent him a problematic manuscript. Shawn’s advice:

Break your thing into THREE PARTS…a Beginning that introduces the dilemma that your reader is facing…a Middle that explains to them how he can combat and defeat the problem practically…and an Ending that shows him how the practical tasks are repeatable and reliable, capable of being integrated into his daily life.

Read that quote again and think about your potential client reader and a blog you are writing. I will say it for you.

Break your blog into THREE PARTS…a Beginning that introduces the potential problem, opportunity or change your client or potential client reader is facing…a Middle that explains to them how they can deal with the problem or change or take advantage of the opportunity…and an Ending that shows the client or potential client that your solution will work for them.

There’s more to this Blogging in THREE PARTS. Check out: How to Use the ‘Rule of Three’ to Create Engaging Content. Brian Clark suggests:

It all comes down to the way we humans process information. We have become proficient at pattern recognition by necessity, and three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern.

This combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content, and that’s why the Rule of Three will make you a more engaging writer.

Back to my writing, I would like to hear from you. If you have a moment share with me:

  • Your favorite novel written in the last five years. Make this the book you could not put down even when you wanted to go to sleep
  • Your favorite legal novel. What captured your attention?
  • Your most memorable character
  • Your most memorable female character
  • The ending to a novel that most surprised you.

 

Is your blog search engine and reader friendly?

I ask because I was looking at a well known firm’s blog posts. I thought the headlines were extraordinarily too long for search engines and social media, the font was too small and the paragraphs too long.

blog

Headline

How long should your headline be? For an idea, read: What Really Is The Best Headline Length?

  • Twitter: 71–100 characters
  • Facebook: 40 characters
  • Google+: 60 characters
  • LinkedIn: 80–120 characters

Check also: The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post. There you will see:

In terms of SEO, the headline (or title tag) will need to be around 55 characters or fewer in order to fit the entire title on a search results page and avoided being abbreviated with an ellipse.

Font

What size should your font be? Some say:

  • 16, or even 18 is the new 12.

My blog font size has been 14 for many years. Recently I changed it to Helvetica 15. What do you think?

White Space

That post also discusses white space. The blog posts I read on the well known firm’s blog, included lengthly, dense paragraphs that gave me a headache when I tried to read them.

It’s not just about font size – though it’s important. But white space is just as important. Your content is like a fine wine – it needs room to breathe.

Width

How about line width? Check out: 5 Simple Font Changes to Boost Readers, Comments, and Shares on Your Blog:

Here’s another little-known rule that a lot of blogs break. In order for your eye to easily follow one line to the next, you want no more than 75 characters in each line. This is called the line measure. Beyond a measure of 75 characters, it’s hard to track the end of one line to the beginning of the next without getting lost.

So, go back and look at your blog.

  1. Is your headline SEO friendly?
  2. Is your font easy to read on line for old guys like me?
  3. Are your paragraphs short?
  4. Do you include a visual to break up text?
  5. Is the line measure short enough to be easy to follow?

I have long ago lost count of how many lawyer blogs I have read.

Many firms where I have coached had no blogs before I started coaching there and now they have well over 10 blogs. You might be a lawyer in one of those firms.

Recently I was asked why lawyers who are blogging regularly are not doing better on client development. I believe there are many potential reasons.

blog

  • They aren’t picking topics their potential readers care about. Remember, potential client readers only care about their problems, opportunities and changes.
  • They just report on the latest case in their subject area without letting readers know what the case means. If the case is a big one, the reader likely saw the article about it in the New York Times, or  your hometown newspaper. Potential clients don’t care a lot about your journalism skills. They care about your judgment.
  • They aren’t making it easy for potential readers to find their blog. If someone did a search of the legal topic of your blog, would they find it?
  • They write as if the reader is a federal circuit court judge. Business clients don’t want to read a legal brief.
  • The blog posts are too long. People who read blogs want the USA Today version, not the Atlantic Monthly version.
  • They aren’t building a trust based personal relationship with their readers. When I read the best lawyer blogs, I feel like I know the writer even if I have never met her. Don’t be afraid to show some personality.
  • Their blog is hard to read on a computer, more difficult on a tablet and impossible on a smart phone. Check your font size, the length of your paragraphs, and the amount of white space.
  • They aren’t using the social media tools available to bring targeted readers to their blog. It takes very little time to use these tools.
  • They don’t consistently post. They might post two in a week and not post again for a month.

I contend that a blog is an on-line conversation with readers designed to build trust and rapport. The lawyer blogs I like the most make me feel like I am learning about the subject of the blog AND THE BLOGGER over coffee at a coffee shop.

How well are you explaining the subject of the blog? How well are you letting the reader get to know what kind of lawyer and person you are?

Are you blogging strategically? If not, other than having fun writing, why are you blogging?

Take a look at this blog written by Roanoke, Virginia lawyer Jay O’KeeffeThe Hardest Part of Arguing in the Fourth Circuit–And Three Ways to Handle It.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 11.44.41 AMIn addition to having some fun writing it. He has answered the four questions I suggest to bloggers:

  • Who is the intended reader-an in-house lawyer or trial counsel who has a potential appeal
  • Why should the reader care-If the appeal is to the 4th circuit they want to know how to navigate and potentially win there.
  • What is the takeaway-Arguing before the 4th Circuit is tricky because of the diversity of the judges
  • What does Jay want the reader to think about him and/or his law firm? That he  has argued many times before the 4th Circuit and has figured out some important strategy.

Jay and two of his colleagues just recently started their own firm in Roanoke, Johnson, Rosen & O’Keeffe. I coached Josh, Brooke and Jay and I am confident they will develop a great practice together.