My pals at Avvo must be feeling really silly right about now. Their big internet marketing conference, Avvocating, just concluded, and they’re probably wondering how to explain my absence as the keynote speaker. Talk about a screw up. If you see some red-faced guy cowering in the corner, that’s Mark Britton, Avvo’s CEO, trying to come up with an excuse for this huge mistake.
I’ve been dutifully checking the mailbox for days, awaiting my first class plane ticket to Seattle so I could take the stage at Avvocating. As the mailman stuffed inconsequential things into the box, you know checks and legal papers, I would immediately rifle through the pile in search of my ticket. The disappointment on my face when there was no ticket to be found was palpable.
But I like Mark, and Josh and the rest of the Avvo gang so much that I feel their pain about this horrendous screw-up. While it’s hardly the same as being there, at least I can provide the insight here that I would have if I stood boldly in overcast Seattle. I’m here for you, brothers.
What is Avvocating?
Two days jam packed with advanced online marketing training for lawyers and legal marketers. We’ll have technology leaders discussing a range of topics including social media, pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization, reputation management, website analytics and much more. We’ll also invite other web-savvy lawyers to share what strategies and tactics have worked for them.
And why would you need to walk away from your clients to attend?
The digital marketplace is changing rapidly and more competitive than ever before – hear the latest trends that are impacting the legal industry and learn the skills to enhance your online presence, stay one step ahead and ultimately drive more business to your firm.
So this is what I would have told an audience of lawyers who thought it important enough to take time from their very busy days to go to Avvocating, to learn the inside secrets of internet legal marketing, to find success and wealth online and to beat your online competition to a pulp.
My dear, sad, pathetic brothers and sisters in the new world of law on the internet. I feel your pain. Your practices are dead and your children are hungry. How do I know this? Because you’re here rather than in your office working hard for paying clients. Busy lawyers don’t attend conferences on internet marketing because they’re busy. You, my friends, are the misfits, the losers, the desperate.Now my dear pal Mark Britton won’t have to be embarrassed by throwing Avvocating without me. Or maybe that’s why my first class ticket never arrived.
I have a blawg called Simple Justice. It’s pretty well-known and a lot of people read it. I tell you this not to make you feel even more pathetic about your lives, but so that you will understand that I have a clue what I’m talking about. I’m “real” on the internet, for better or worse. I “engage authentically.” I do what all the other speakers here are busy telling you to do, except for the fact that I’m not busy kissing every baby-bottom that follows me on twitter or posts some brilliantly absurd comment on my blawg. But the give back for being a curmudgeon is that people know I’m honest. After all, nobody would be dishonest by screaming at kids to get off my lawn.
So here’s what I’ve learned after a bit more than five years and many thousands of posts on the internet. I never gave search engine optimization a chance, yet I have Google pagerank of 6. What that means is I can get stuff on the first page of Google pretty much any time I please. You would have to hire half of Bangalore to get ahead of me, and that half of Bangalore would spend all night trying to leave spam comments on my blawg to get the benefit of my Google juice.
To get Google juice like me, you have to write a lot of stuff and get a lot of people to read it. Can you do that? Maybe, but not likely. Anybody can be a blawger, but everybody can’t. Few of you will have the interest or the patience. Fewer still have the chops. Fewer still have the balls. And fewer still have the tenacity. I’ve been at this blawging thing for more than five years, and I’m still waiting to see that ROI start flowing. How long will you do it before walking around in a sandwich sign instead?
And what does all my effort get me? Here’s my rule of thumb: For every thousand people who contact me because of my fabulous social media presence, there is one case, one case, that has potential. You will hear from those who are trying to sell you something, whether it’s their services, products or agenda, about the anecdote of the guy from Iowa who got a seven-figure case from twitter. Maybe it really happened. Who knows. And it could very well be true, because there is always the one in a thousand good case that somehow finds its way into a lawyers hands through social media.
But it’s like winning the lottery. We don’t all win. The vast majority lose. The story about the one guy who does win fills your hearts with hope. If that’s what appeals to you, then keep playing the lottery. You never know, and you gotta be in it to win it.
In the process, however, you still have the 999 phone calls that have to be answered. About half are from people who “just have a question.” Their question will take a half hour to ask, and if you try to interrupt them, they’ll get really angry with you, maybe even cursing and screaming at you. The reason is that you’re a lawyer, and all lawyers love to answer questions for free. And it’s their right to ask and your duty to answer. They know because Avvo Answers tells them so.
Another thirty percent are seriously looking for a lawyer. They have a whole list of conditions, as they want only the best lawyer possible and have the most important case ever. At the very bottom of their list, the final criterion you must satisfy, is that they don’t have a pot to piss in and need you to represent them for free. Some will call it pro bono, while others will promise huge recoveries due to the vast injustices done them. Whatever it’s called, the point is clear: they can’t pay you a dime because they’re dead broke.
What’s interesting about this group is that they’ve already spoken with every lawyer in town, and have been unceremoniously tossed out the door. They’re a bit sensitive about the whole inability to pay thing, and have reached the conclusion that lawyers are scum who only care about money rather than them. Don’t you care about them? When you apologize about not being able to take their case, they’re not going to like you or appreciate the hour you just spent on the phone with them.
And the final fifth are the ones who should have called a lawyer before they closed their eyes and dove in. And now, they’ve completely and irreversibly screwed up their lives and they need someone to save them. These are the most painful callers. They have no money, but unlike the ones who just want a free lawyer, their lives are so terribly sad. And there is nothing you can do. These are the calls that make you wish you did something more fun and societally useful, like selling used cars, for a living.
Still want to be on the first page of Google, keeping a step ahead of the competition for these fabulous phone calls? Well, your competition isn’t taking it lying down. The kid who just got his ticket three weeks ago says he’s tried 247 cases and regularly receives calls from the media. I think he’s referring to the newspaper calling to find out when he’s going to pay the past due balance for home delivery.
Sure, the kid doesn’t say that he graduated law school last month, but he claims to have won the National America Greatest Lawyer of All-Time Award. And he may have, considering that he gives it out. What are you willing to do to beat this kid in the race to the bottom? Put on some lipstick and hot pants? Call yourself America’s leading trial lawyer? Claim to be the only lawyer besides Gerry Spence who never lost a case? I don’t know where the bottom is, but eventually someone will find it. Will it be you?
So you want to compete via social media, which is why you’ve scraped together your last few pennies to come to Seattle. You will hear enthusiastic voices telling you that this is the future. You can hear how to achieve vast fame and success by the guys selling their internet guru services. You can hear how to carefully navigate your way to the first page of Google, slipping and sliding around your competition with only a few little tricks that others, ignorant jealous haters, may call outrageous lies.
But what you won’t hear is me, telling you to work hard, put clients first, be honest and if you’re any good at being a lawyer, earning your reputation in the real world.