Make Your Practice Descriptions Special, Even If You Aren’t Technically a Specialist
In an age where consumers expect easy access to more information, not less, the New York State Bar Association recently triggered a flurry of comments and criticism. According to a recent opinion of theirs, attorneys and firms "may not state that the lawyer or law firm ... specializes in a particular field of law" unless certified by a private organization approved for that purpose by the ABA or a jurisdictional authority.
The opinion hinges on the use of the terms "specialty" or "specialize" in marketing outreach such as LinkedIn profiles. So simply listing your practice areas remains acceptable, as long as you stay away those particular words.
For many firms, the bigger question is how to communicate expertise in ways that will attract potential clients who are not particularly sophisticated about the law. You can be the best qui tam or Chapter 11 attorney in your town, but whistleblowers or those seeking bankruptcy might not be keying those terms into search engines.
That's a major reason why attorney directories like Lawyers.com are so important. But for clients who don't search through directories, lawyers need to remember to augment legal-specific terms and avoid industry jargon.
The key to strong marketing is making things as simple as possible for the prospect. It's generally better to be too general — you can certainly say you handle qui tam cases if you do, but be sure to use the phrase "whistleblower" as well.
Often, attorneys grow frustrated by prospects who contact the firm even though they don't mesh exactly with its practice areas. While firms rightly value every minute of their attorney and staff time, it's crucial to weigh the minor annoyance of someone you need to refer elsewhere against the potentially major loss of business from a prospect improperly excluded.
A prospect who might not fit your firm today will remember a good intake and referral experience, even if some other firm ends up representing him or her. Widening your field of prospects also has residual benefits, including the ability to refer meritorious cases to other firms, who, in turn, can reciprocate when they land a prospect in your field of expertise.
A firm can still use good business practices and abide by the New York decision while transmitting its general areas of expertise. However, firms must remember to keep the language simple, remain open to people who might not know yet that their problem fits within a specific area of law, and remember the big picture during the intake/referral process.
To find out whether your marketing efforts are too exclusive or technical, contact a LexisNexis Law Firm Marketing Specialist.
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