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Why Appellate Attorneys Are Now Embracing Digital Marketing
For years, appellate attorneys were happy to attract clients the old-fashioned ways – networking and referrals, mostly from other attorneys and business owners.
Times are changing, though.
The old ways of signing up new cases are not working as well as they used, and the competition for clients is as fierce as it’s ever been.
The reason is not just the internet.
I mean, the internet has been around for more than two decades.
What has changed is the digital marketing being done by more aggressive first-movers such as personal injury and bankruptcy lawyers has now caught up with appellate attorneys.
It should not be a surprise if you know anything about how the manufacturing industry operates. Things related to marketing and sales happen at a much slower pace in the manufacturing space than in other industries.
Marketing an appellate law practice in many ways has paralleled the trajectory of manufacturing businesses who have come later to the marketing game.
You now have to compete in ways you never had to before if you want to find those ever-elusive clients who need a lawyer to guide them through the appeals process for the cases they lost in the lower courts.
In this article, we will walk you through how you can embrace digital marketing:
- How Appellate Lawyers Differ from Other Lawyers
- Your Competitors Have Been Late to the Marketing Game
- What Is the Biggest Challenge in Promoting an Appellate Law Practice?
- What Types of People Go Online to Find an Appellate Attorney?
- A Big Mistake People Make When They Try to Handle Their Own Appeal
- How Do People Trust They Have Found the Best Appellate Attorney?
- What Can You Do to Get Your Message Across Correctly?
- Where Is the Best Place to Promote My Law Practice Online?
- Will Digital Marketing Help Your Firm?
- Here Are Some Marketing Channels …
- About Get Visible
How an Appellate Lawyer Differs from Other Lawyers
Unlike other areas of law, where many lawyers run “marketing mills” to get the cases and process them through a sort of formula, the world of appellate law is much more customized and nuanced.
Being an appeals lawyer is very different from being a medical malpractice or civil rights attorney because any law practitioner can take on an appeals case.
All a lawyer needs to go into appellate law is a clear understanding of the particular area of law in question and excellent communication and writing skills.
It would not be a fantasy to suggest that appellate lawyers are in many ways “lawyers plus plus.”
The American Bar Association points out that “clients and other lawyers are coming to recognize that appellate lawyers have unique skill sets and training which can add significant value at many stages of litigation starting as early as case development.”
This means more doors are opening for more business opportunities, as it is becoming less uncommon for appellate lawyers to get involved in the trial court (or negotiation) stage and throughout many stages of litigation.
Trial lawyers are coming to realize that an appellate lawyer can provide invaluable experience and a fresh perspective.
Your Competitors Have Been Late to the Marketing Game
Your competitors are now waking up to the fact that “their” competitors have also not invested in marketing their law practices.
Surf the web and look at competitor law firm websites. You will notice that many of the websites are outdated, the content is boring, and the messaging is bland.
What is clear is that there is “greenfield” (that means easier opportunities to grab) territory online for the even slightly aggressive lawyer/marketer who is primed to invest in a carefully crafted client attraction program.
The cases are out there waiting for you to do something to catch their attention.
According to the University of Denver, there are more than 100 million annual court cases filed in state trial courts and an additional 400,000 cases filed in federal trial courts.
According to a report published by the United States Courts, 50,000 cases at the federal level made it to the federal courts of appeals.
One can only imagine how many more appeals cases are being filed at the State level.
In plain terms, this means there is more business than ever before because there are many potential clients and other lawyers who see the need for the expertise of an appellate lawyer – sort of like you, right?
So, how can you get these cases to show up on your doorstep?
The math is simple. The more you promote your firm, the more clients you will sign.
What Is The Biggest Challenge in Promoting an Appellate Law Practice
One of the problems you face is that what you do when you represent a client in an appeal can be totally different from case to case.
So how can you promote one area of law when your next appeals case might be in an entirely different area?
Plus, if you go online and look for a marketing agency or consultant specializing in promoting appellate attorneys, you will also be sincerely disappointed.
Marketing agencies don’t hyper-specialize in specific areas of law except for the typical ones like car accidents and defense attorneys.
Your practice of law puts you in a weird place that requires a unique marketing approach that most marketing agencies don’t entirely understand.
If you go to your internal Rolodex to find an appellate marketing specialist, you are going to have a hard time finding someone highly qualified to help you grow your practice online.
And if you think it’s tough to find someone to help you promote your unique practice, imagine how much more difficult it is for a non-lawyer to find an attorney like you to hire.
Most people who lose a case don’t know where to turn to for a better attorney for the second go-around.
Even attorneys don’t have an easy time finding other attorneys to handle cases they lost at the trial level.
Short of asking friends (or posting on Facebook) for another attorney, who do people turn to when they need another lawyer to handle their case in a higher court?
Where do they go for advice or a recommendation?
One popular choice is Google.
According to a recent Moz’s study, 77% of people use Google three or more times a day.
There are 3.5 billion searches on Google every day, and every month there are tens of thousands of searches related to “appellate law” or lawyers and attorneys.
Clearly, people are looking to the Internet to find a professional attorney for their appeal.
What Types of People Go Online to Find an Appellate Attorney?
There are typically three types of people that type related searches into Google.
- A lawyer looking to make a referral (or bring in co-counsel)
- A person (or business) that lost at the trial level and wants to hire a different attorney.
- People who may be representing themselves after losing the first case and want advice or co-counsel for their 2nd go at the brass ring of victory.
When you are putting your website content together, the first guideline is to understand that you need to speak to each of these audiences.
That means you need content for lawyers (who can make referrals) and for people or business owners that lost the case at the trial level.
Generic marketing agencies who also promote law firms often miss the point that they should be guiding you to develop blogs and articles that address other trial lawyers, which is a BIG part of an appellate lawyer’s audience.
A BIG Mistake People Make When They Try to Handle Their Own Appeal
Although it might be comforting for a client to retain the same lawyer used in the original case, it may not be in the client’s client’s best interest for the trial lawyer to attempt to overturn the case alone.
When a trial lawyer attempts an appeal on their own, they run the risk of tunnel vision.
The trial lawyer is already familiar with the case and has already bought into the storyline. This can make it difficult to see the case from other perspectives.
A trial lawyer may be good at being passionate and arguing a case in front of a jury. Still, this type of case at the higher court is conducted much differently through strong writing, organization, and research.
While it is not unheard of for clients to represent themselves, even if they have access to a lawyer, things become a bit more blurry when it comes to the appellate court.
Let’s look at a recent example from Phoenix, Arizona. In this case, a woman chose to represent herself in an appellate case. While citizens have the right to self-representation during the original trial, this right becomes a bit more unclear at the higher court level. In this case, at first, it was not known whether the woman would even be able to represent herself.
During this case, the court concluded that while the woman was not prohibited from self-representation, she also had “no constitutional right of self-representation on appeal.”
To acquire self-representation often requires additional steps and stipulations that must be met first, and it is rarely recommended that someone represents themselves in an appellate case.
Appeals also require different skill levels and knowledge that not every trial lawyer has experience in – such as being more familiar with what an appellate judge expects in your legal brief.
How Do People Trust They Have Found the Best Appellate Attorney?
Clearly, there are going to be multiple choices of attorneys.
How can you distinguish yourself from other attorneys and set yourself up as the best choice?
The first step is to look at your communication strategy and compare it to what you see on other lawyers’ websites.
Today, especially since Covid-19, business cards are not even used anymore to introduce yourself.
Your best business card is now your website.
Your website is the best vehicle that will make your pitch when you finally get in front of potential clients and/or lawyers looking to hire or make a referral to an attorney like you.
Your website content, imagery and messaging should be viewed as a three-dimensional calling card that can engage, educate and compel the viewer to call you, email you or fill out a lead-generation form to keep the client engagement conversation going.
The blogs you write, the articles you share, the videos you display, and the infographics you design are all tools in your armory that allow you to demonstrate your outstanding ability and reputation to deliver the winning result they need.
What Can You Do to Get Your Message Across Loud and Clear?
The first step to promoting your firm is to work with someone that has experience promoting appellate law practices.
Here’s one of the hidden secrets we marketing agencies don’t like to reveal.
We are often for our clients, not subject matter experts – because most of the time, we don’t need to be.
We can usually apply the same strategies from one industry to another.
But not with promoting an appellate law practice – because it’s too specialized.
We’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating now.
Most marketing agencies – especially digital agencies, even those geared towards lawyers – don’t have the experience to understand the unique nature of an appellate law practice.
These agencies or marketing consultants don’t even understand the firm’s unique audiences should be trying to target.
Between creating content that speaks to very different audiences (of non-lawyer clients and trial lawyers looking to make a referral) and finding the right keywords to include in that content, it’s just not easy to adapt generic strategies to your situation.
Where Is the Best Place to Promote My Law Practice Online?
Whichever channel you choose, any efforts with digital marketing require a lot of energy – especially if you start promoting your firm on Google.
When someone is searching for a lawyer, Google (as we explained earlier) is now one of the first places they turn to start the process.
Using a search engine, they will try to find lawyers in their city or the local area, visit the highest-ranking websites, and likely read reviews on sites like Yelp (and Google) before deciding to reach out to one.
As an aside, when you do Local SEO, this is how you get your site to beat other sites in the organic and local MAP rankings.
However, it will often be the case that it won’t just be the client looking for an appellate lawyer.
Because of the nature of appellate cases, likely, any potential client will already have a trial lawyer representing them.
Although the trial lawyer will already be familiar with the case, a good lawyer will know that reaching out to an appellate lawyer to assist in the appeal is a sensible thing to do.
As Jahan C. Sagafi and Richard B. Rosenthal described in Plaintiff Magazine, a“specialist familiar with appellate practice but new to the case is likely the ideal person to give you a fresh perspective on your facts and arguments, to assess your chances, and to help you prevail.”
As an appellate lawyer, your goal is to gain referrals from local trial lawyers and defend their clients in overturning unfavorable outcomes.
Everyone can win in these types of scenarios.
Potential clients are not the only ones that will use search engines to find local appellate lawyers. Most lawyers are active online and use Google as a resource when searching for help with their cases.
Will Digital Marketing Help Your Firm Grow?
If you want more clients, you need to increase your marketing efforts to get your name in front of people before they see your competitors.
If you are new to online marketing, don’t be nervous. As the picture shows, every lawyer has to start somewhere.
There are countless marketing firms focused on helping lawyers get more clients, but very few understand that you are not just another lawyer.
For a successful marketing campaign, your team needs to understand your target audience options and learn about how you effectively get new clients – and then adapt your methods and communication strategies to the Web.
You need help from someone (or an agency) that understands your local community.
You need to articulate the nuances of how potential clients and other local lawyers typically hire you.
If you go the agency route, they will help you craft content that conveys clearly and compellingly how vital your presence can be and that your experience and skills could be the turning point in their case – whichever court it may be in (whether lower or higher court, or state or federal court, too)
Here Are Some Marketing Channels We Will Be Covering in an Upcoming Series of Articles
Search Engine Optimization
If you want future clients and other local lawyers to find you, you need to make it easy.
Today, many lawyers are found online through a simple Google search.
Because people rarely go to the 2nd page of search results, your chances of being found are almost non-existent if your website is not on that first page.
Getting rankings requires three elements.
- The right search phrases in your content
- Optimized website coding
- Links to your website from other relevant and authoritative websites
In an upcoming article, we are going to dissect these three rankings elements.
Briefly, you need to understand what phrases people type into Google as they look to find a lawyer with your capabilities.
Whether those people are future clients or other lawyers, you need to display content on your site that includes those phrases if you want to have a chance to rank on the first page of Google.
We will teach you how to create content that speaks to both types of parties and then get your website to appear organically and in the local search and MAP rankings – where the leads matter most.
You’ve achieved holy grail status when you can merge valuable content intertwined with best SEO practices to create web pages, articles, videos and blogs that speak to your distinctive audiences and build on your website’s authority.
With the right kind of originally written and produced content and a strong backlinking SEO strategy, you should get high search engine rankings, which will lead to more traffic and cases.
As pointed out in the article “The How and Why of Law Blogs,” published in the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal, Nicole Black states:
…publishing a legal blog is one of the best ways to create a memorable and search-engine-friendly online presence [and] … are a great way for lawyers to showcase legal expertise while increasing their firms’ search engine optimization—all while helping them to stay on top of changes in their areas of practice by writing about them on their firm’s blog.
Creating content is crucial to your marketing strategy, but often this can be a long and tedious process to stay consistent with over the long-term.
And it’s only successful when done right.
Most lawyers just don’t have the time and expertise to get the most out of creating content.
Plus, if you think about your hourly billing rate, it doesn’t make financial sense to write articles and blogs when you can hire a former attorney or an excellent writer at a fraction of the cost.
This is why lawyers often turn to an agency that can take care of the whole content process (ideation, topic creation, writing, editing and publishing online) or work with in tandem.
Additionally, by incorporating SEO into every piece of content created, you will make it easier for future clients to find you when they type search phrases online.
Another aspect of content marketing is syndicating the content through other blogs and influencers.
We use the analogy of an iceberg.
What you see above the waterline is the article itself. Below the water, where 90% of the iceberg exists, is all the other things that have to be done besides the actual article. It is often said that you should then spend at least 5x the amount of time promoting the piece as it took to write it.
When you learn how to become a content marketing maven, you will be able to connect directly to prospective clients and local trial lawyers by using carefully crafted content to engage with them before they ever reach out to you.
Website Design, Development and Hosting
Most law firm websites in your field are outdated.
This can give the wrong impression that your law firm may also be outdated or just sloppy and uncaring about the details – which would be anathema to an appeals lawyer.
Your website needs to reflect who you are and the extraordinary value you can bring to an appellate case. It needs to convey your expertise and experience as an appellate lawyer.
You also need to make sure your website is user friendly, up to date, secure and beautifully designed.
When someone lands on your website, you want them to see your professionalism and feel confident that you are the right appellate lawyer who can reliably deliver a successful outcome.
Over the years, the number of lawyers on social media has risen.
Today, 80% of lawyers use social media as part of their marketing strategy, according to a 2019 tech report by the American Bar Association.
Unfortunately, social media marketing is not as simple as it may seem, and most lawyers miss the mark.
If you are not utilizing social media effectively, it could be a missed opportunity to attract potential clients and even trial lawyers.
Your social media team should know how to build brand awareness, engage with the right audience, and grow your followers to up the chances of gaining more clients.
Keep in mind that social media includes three areas:
- Posting updates on your social channels like LinkedIn, YouTube (this is big and mostly ignored), Facebook and Instagram.
- Boosting your posts so more people (not just your friends) see them.
- Targeted ads to custom audiences to extend your reach.
One of the sales channels that commonly gets ignored is online advertising.
Lawyers are often petrified when they see pay-per-click rates that average $25.00 per click on Google or Bing. A trucking accident lawyer can pay as much as $400 for a click to a website.
If you don’t invest wisely in PPC strategies, you can get badly hurt.
However, if you do bid smart and monitor click-through rates and landing page conversions, PPC ads can be a wonderful way to supplement SEO and social media efforts.
You want someone who knows how to make your ad dollar stretch by going after the right audience using the right keywords.
Don’t spend money on ads that are ineffective and leave you broke.
Agencies could be quick to fail at creating successful PPC campaigns for you if they don’t understand that appellate lawyers are different from other lawyers.
We would also suggest that you avoid a PPC company that charges a percentage of your ad spend. These are rarely good deals.
About Get Visible
We have years of experience working with appellate lawyers across the country to get them ranking on Google, grow their online presence, and, most importantly, gain more clients.
Simply put, our agency grows law practices with all the different types of online marketing tactics you have seen in this article.
At Get Visible, we are taking a new approach to digital marketing by diving deep into a single niched industry to better serve our clients.
This article is the first in a series to help you take your law practice to the next level and get more clients.
Over the past 15 years, I have worked closely with appellate lawyers to learn exactly how best to grow their business using digital marketing techniques that have been proven time and time again to work.
Written in collaboration with Lauren Epler and Ashli Digiambattista, this series of articles is aimed to teach appellate attorneys exactly how they can uniquely market their law firm online and grow their practice.
So… are you ready to get more clients?
Be sure to check out part two of our series where we walk you through how you can easily optimize your website to attract more local traffic.