Founder of Great Legal Marketing and a practicing personal injury trial attorney in Fairfax, VA
VIDEO MARKETING FOR LAWYERS
Great Neck, NY
If you thought that internet video was for the MTV crowd, you’d be wrong. If you thought that video for your website was only for geeky, techno-lawyers, you’d be wrong too. If you thought that putting a video of yourself online was useless, you’d definitely be wrong. In fact, Google thinks you’re so wrong that they recently paid one billion dollars to buy a video sharing site called YouTube. To give you an idea about the reach that internet video has, consider a ten minute video clip by comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham; his video has been viewed over 60 million times. Most attorney videos are viewed in the hundreds of time, but it shows the potential that video has. Plus, if done correctly, does not cost you anything if it is watched 100 times or 100,000 times.
In the pre-internet age, lawyer advertising was limited to television, radio, yellow pages, billboards, newspapers and magazines. Since the 1970′s when the Supreme Court of the United States decided that lawyers could advertise (Bates v. State Bar of Arizona), the general public has been bombarded with lawyer ads. Every jurisdiction in every state has their own peculiar set of ethical rules regarding what lawyers can and cannot say in their advertisements. Cheesy lawyer advertisements have been the bane of late-night talk shows and comedy shows for decades. Spoofs of lawyer ads make for great comedy, but do nothing to improve the image of the helpful and scholarly lawyer.
Lawyers trying to get a foothold into their particular market often looked upon lawyer advertising as a necessary evil. Many felt it was beneath them to advertise. Not many lawyers wanted to be in the same category as a salesman looking to pitch his latest slicer and dicer.
The new millennia- The Internet
With the dawn of the internet, attorneys began to develop web sites as an ancillary method to “get their name” into the public eye. Many New York lawyers felt, and still do, that they’d rather busy themselves practicing law, rather than marketing their services. The common thinking was “Hire a marketing person to do all that advertising for us.” The problem was that most marketing people had no experience with developing web sites for lawyers. Many did not know what a website could be used for and how it could be advantageous to a law firm. The early lawyer web sites consisted of only a few pages and held little information besides your law firm name, and the type of law that you practiced. It gave no real information and did nothing to distinguish you from your competitor down the street.
Skip ahead five years to the present day, where you can see how the internet has exploded with creative and useful ways to educate and inform millions of viewers. A “Google search” has made it common place to search for anything and anybody with a click of a button. Google has cornered the market on creating the easiest and arguably most powerful search tool on the internet today.
Why is this important for lawyers looking to market their services and their law firm? It’s not only important, it’s vital for a lawyer to understand how Google searches work. Only by understanding the concepts of how a search engine works, can a law firm take advantage of it with video marketing.
The Video Revolution
Millions of viewers go online every day to watch video clips about every topic imaginable. From ‘how-to’ videos where you can learn to build a house, to bizarre videos of no-talent singers pretending to be Tom Cruise in their dining room. From sports to politics to technology, there’s a video online to steal a few moments of your time.
Lawyers who initially started advertising with television ads would often spend enormous amounts of money to create and produce short television commercials lasting no more than 30 seconds. The more extravagant commercials lasted 45 to 60 seconds. It required hiring television production crews and then hiring a company to market that commercial in different time slots focused on your demographic choice. At the end of the day, it was not uncommon for a law firm to spend $25,000 to create a commercial and put it on the air. That’s just for one commercial! Of course the frequency and timing of the ad affected the cost of running the ad. Then the law firm had to either have a generic call center to handle incoming calls after their ad ran, or staff their office after normal business hours, and pay everyone overtime. For a small firm or solo practitioner, the costs were and are prohibitive.
The problem with lawyer commercials is that they offer no real information about why a potential client should go to that particular law firm. In reality, you could simply swap the name and phone number at the bottom of the ad for any law firm in the State, and a potential client would have no idea whether one law firm was any better than the other.
The Non-stop Lawyer Ad Everyone Is Sick Of Hearing
Many of the large personal injury firms in New York and throughout the country routinely used television commercials to attract injured victims. Late night commercials became routine. Why? The thinking was that since injured victims are always in pain, they cannot sleep at night. Therefore, they would be up at 3:00 a.m. watching TV. Daytime commercials for lawyers saturated the daytime soap opera market. Impressively, every ad had an official-looking lawyer standing in front of a legal bookcase who could always be heard spouting the mantra “Have You Been Injured In An Accident? We Can Help Get You A Cash Award!”
Again, each of these commercials said exactly the same thing, yet not one distinguished themselves or even explained to the viewer why they were the right lawyer for their problem.
Video For Lawyers
With the advent of interesting and focused lawyer websites, it is simply not enough anymore to have static websites with fancy graphics and photos. Why not? To answer that question, we first need to ask this question: Why have you spent money to hire a web design company to create a web site for you? The answer is simple: To advertise your services. It’s another device that allows you to tell the world what you do and how you do it.
OK, but how does that distinguish you from all of your colleagues who have also learned how to get a fancy website with nice pictures of tall buildings and cityscapes and serious looking lawyers with their arms folded across their chests like the Knights of King Arthur’s Court preparing for battle? The reality is that your website is probably not very different from your main competitors. Maybe your website uses different colors; maybe you have a different template and design; maybe your font is different. Put aside the design and focus on the substance. What is it that you are trying to tell a prospective client who is searching for an attorney online? What information do you offer that your competitor does not? How can a prospective client make an intelligent choice about whether to pick up the phone and call you, instead of the biggest law firm on the block? Does your website distinguish you and your firm from every other law firm practicing in your specialty? If it does, you have a distinct advantage. If it doesn’t you need to look critically at what you are doing in order to improve your online presence.
The Dangers of Distinguishing Yourself Online
Keep in mind that when trying to distinguish your law firm from others, there are significant ethical problems with comparing yourself to another lawyer or firm. You must never, ever, disparage another lawyer or law firm in an attempt to bolster your image or standing. Doing so will most certainly result in a grievance being filed as well as a possible lawsuit for libel or slander. Remember, when you put something online, the entire world can see it. Even if you take it off your site a day or two later, it is a permanent entry in the online world that can be searched, indexed and found.
If you cannot honestly compare yourself and your firm to those most likely to compete with you, how can you ethically distinguish yourself and stand out from the crowd? The answer is video. A number of savvy lawyers have created and posted their law firm videos online which can be viewed on their website and on video sharing sites like Google, YouTube, and Blip.tv, among others.
How does video distinguish you from everyone else? By creating a personal bond with your viewer. Admittedly, it’s a one-way conversation, but it allows the viewer to see you, hear you, and judge for themselves whether you sound confident and intelligent enough to want to call you. More than a handful of lawyers have said “I’m not going to create a video, who’d watch me talking? My kids wouldn’t even watch a video of me.” Another commented “There’s a reason why there are professional newscasters and broadcasters…a potential client does not want to see me with my bald head and stumbling voice explain why they should come to me.” One self-conscious attorney stated “Nobody wants to watch a video of me; I’m just not attractive to a viewer.”
In my opinion, these comments, are shortsighted. Why? If a client is enticed into an attorney’s office for a consultation, the potential client is going to judge the attorney in their office the same way they would by watching a video online. If the lawyer’s appearance is so offensive as to not create a video, what makes them think that a client sitting in their office would think any differently?
Importantly, most potential clients searching for a lawyer online are more interested in the substance of what the lawyer has to say rather than whether the video is 100% perfect, or the lawyer’s clothes or mannerisms are akin to a television celebrity. In fact, most marketers would probably agree that what the lawyer has to say is significantly more important than the attorney’s appearance.
So far, the biggest users of online video for law firms have been personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers. These attorneys have gotten in on the ground floor and are just now starting to “get it.” The ‘get it’ implies that these lawyers have learned how to optimize their videos so that the major search engines identify the videos and, here’s the key, improve their search engine ranking for their website. That’s the golden key that every attorney who advertises online appears to strive for. The bragging rights to be able to say, “Out of 4 million websites, Google thinks my site is #1 in their organic search rankings.” That is, indeed, a feat to strive for and emulate. However, beware the many internet companies and web design companies who claim to guarantee you top placement on any search engine. The fact remains that Google refuses to make public their unique algorithm on how they rank search results.
It bears mention that when someone does a Google search there are two types of results that show up. The most important for lawyers and their advertising budget is the “organic search results.” The other is pay-per-click ads, which is found in the lightly shaded yellow portion of the page at the very top, and the entire column on the right side of the page. If you click on those sites, those lawyers get charged “X” dollars for every time someone clicks through to their site. It’s called pay per click advertising. The bottom line is that if you have an unlimited budget and don’t mind your competitors and others who are ‘just looking’ to use up your money by clicking on your ad, then pay per click is for you. If, on the other hand, you want your website and your attorney videos to show up naturally then you need to work at getting the search engines to recognize your videos.
Without your video being indexed in the search engines, it will never be found if someone does a search for your particular area of expertise.
To Video or Not- Why A Potential Client Would Pick You
If a potential client is searching for a lawyer online, what would make them choose one lawyer over another with the same credentials? You each have a website. You each have similar experience. You each charge basically the same for similar services. So, how are you different, and how can you communicate that to a nameless, faceless visitor to your website?
The answer to that question would take a few days to answer during a detailed and lively discussion of what to put into your online videos. Much goes into deciding the topic and length of video. If you are in a large firm, do you need to get permission from the managing attorney to do a video? Can you post your own videos and link them to your firms’ web site? A lot of discussion goes into deciding whether to do video on your own or hire a production company to do it for you. One thing you should never do is create a video using a cheap web cam attached to your computer. Those web cams, although convenient and maybe good for instant messaging with your kids, are never good enough to establish yourself as a serious and professional attorney. The quality of those web cams look as if your five-year-old created the video. Potential clients will not be impressed, and you will guarantee that your competitor gets the call.
A video that tells a visitor who you are and welcomes them, has already gained brownie points. It’s similar to the candidates running for President. We know what the issues are. The question is “Can the candidates go for any length of time without screwing up?” The same holds true for lawyer video. How long can you expect to hold a viewer’s attention? If you talk about how great you are and how amazing your credentials are, does the viewer really care? Or is the viewer more interested in how you can solve their pressing legal problem? If you can answer their unasked question through a video, not only will you have scored all the points, you can bet that person will be calling you and not your colleague down the street.
Gerry Oginski is an experienced medical malpractice & personal injury trial lawyer practicing law in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, New York, Staten Island, Nassau, Suffolk & Long Island and has been in practice for twenty years. He has created, produced and put over 100 educational videos online about New York medical malpractice, wrongful death and personal injury law. Gerry’s website (http://www.oginski-law.com) consistently comes up #1 in the organic search results when you do a Google search for “New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer.”
Gerry is a graduate of Touro College, Jacob Fuchsberg College of Law in Huntington, NY and is admitted to practice law in New York and Connecticut. He started his legal career working for a defense firm on Wall Street representing doctors, hospitals and businesses who were sued. Four years later he felt the gravitational pull to represent injured victims of medical negligence and accidents. After doing defense work, he joined a personal injury law firm in Brooklyn, NY representing injured victims, and then four years later, joined forces with a large law firm in Queens, NY. While there, he was in charge of the medical malpractice department, and in 2002 opened his own office for the practice of law. His main office is located in Great Neck, Long Island, and he has affiliate offices in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Gerry prides himself on knowing all the details of each case he handles. Cases are not handed off to associates. When a client calls, he doesn’t need to check a file to determine what happened last on the client’s case. He knows what happened, since he was the one who handled the matter.
Gerry has become a prolific writer and publishes a monthly newsletter full of legal news, fun trivia games, and a never-ending fictional story that has won him accolades with all who read his newsletter. In addition to his newsletter, he has produced and created an entire video library of instructional videos that help consumers learn about medical malpractice and accident law in New York.
Gerry welcomes all calls about any accident or injury from a doctor or hospital in the State of New York. 516-487-8207. He promises to give you a straightforward and honest answer about every question you ask. Take a look at his website, http://www.oginski-law.com, where he has over 200 FAQ’s, free reports about medical malpractice, wrongful death and accident cases, actual testimony of doctors in cases he’s handled, and an entire video library you really should see.
If that’s not enough, take a look at his blog where he offers free information about New York medical malpractice and accident law and when you’ve finished reading his blog at http://nymedicalmalpractice.blogspot.com, jump over to his video blog where he has most of his videos posted at http://medicalmalpracticetutorial.blogspot.com – you’ll be glad you did.