The Solicitors Online Blog has now moved to a new location. Please visit www.solicitorsonlineblog.co.uk, to see the new blog.
The Solicitors Online Blog has now moved to a new location. Please visit www.solicitorsonlineblog.co.uk, to see the new blog.
Contact Law are big players in the solicitors referral field. The company was started in 2005 by James Vintin and Dan Watkins as they felt that there was an opening for a service to help members of the public find a suitable solicitor. They were also interested in developing services to help solicitors deal with the deregulation of legal services, to be brought about by the Legal Services Act.The Contact Law service works by potential clients first contacting them. This will either be via their web-site www.contactlaw.co.uk (they are very highly placed by Google for some 150,000 law related search words) or via one of their partnerships, for example with big brand names such as the Daily Telegraph.
Note - this article was first published in the Internet Newsletter (November/December 2009 issue).
Every day he will be posting to his blog and emailing out to those who have signed up:- A discussion or teaching component
- A task/homework/assignment component
The idea being to encourage flagging bloggers by getting them to learn by doing stuff, and, to use the words of Mr Griffiths himself, to "kick your blog in the butt so it is actually working for you". It sounds fun. You can read more and sign up here.
In part 1 we looked at e-newsletters and why they were a good idea. Here we are going to take a look at what you can put in them.
The main reason you will be writing your newsletter is to get people to engage with your firm and hopefully instruct you to do work. However when writing anything for the public, you need to forget about what you want and think about what they want. If readers do not find your newsletter interesting and relevant to them, they will not read it. And it is very easy for them to consign it forever to the spam bin, with just one click of the mouse.
So what you need to do is give them a bit of what they want, and use this to show of your expertise and advertise your services. By way of example, below is an indication of what I do. My newsletter is on residential landlord and tenant law, and readers are mostly private landlords, letting agents, property investors, and a sprinkling of tenants, lawyers, academics, housing advisors, and anyone else who is interested.
I start off with a general introduction. This welcomes them to the newsletter and mentions things of particular interest, for example an important legal development which they ought to know about.
Below this I have an hyperlinked index, so readers can jump down to whatever section of the newsletter interests them most. At the end of every section in the body of the newsletter, is a ‘back to contents’ link, so they can navigate around easily.
As my newsletter is aimed at private residential landlords and tenants, I start off with a tip for landlords and a tip for tenants. The tips are actually fairly substantial pieces of advice on a specific topic (for example relating to tenancy deposits or possession notices), not just 'one liners'. I know that the tips are popular, as a property journal asked if they could reproduce them, which they regularly do (giving more more exposure!).
The tips are followed with a short section giving information on where readers can find out more about the subject on my web-site, and/or related legal services I offer. As I ran an online legal information service, I then have a section explaining one aspect of of my service (a different one each month), and how to use it.
This is followed by a list of new services added to the site in the past month, followed by a list of new topics on my members discussion forum.
There then follows a series of sections which tend to stay the same, but are put there for reference. For example a list of special offers, details about my books and some of my services, e.g. my repossession service, a list of my speaking engagements, and a few paragraphs which are actually advertising copy which I get paid for.
Quite some way down (but accessible very quickly via the contents links if readers want to jump down to it) is a news section. This includes new legal developments in the landlord and tenant area, new legal cases, new reports and surveys, and anything else I find which I think will be of interest to my readers. I gather these from rss feeds, articles from the housing section of the excellent Legal Action Magazine, and things discovered from general reading.
So, to summarise, the newsletter contains two main sections which are of value to readers - the tips and the news. It also contains some other changing sections about my services which they may or may not be interested in, and a number of other sections which tend to stay the same from month to month, which are there by way of reference. Readers can easily avoid reading things they do not want to via the naviagtiaon links, but as they are there, they will often at least glance through them.
I would suggest you do something similar. Have a certain amount of really useful information which will be the reason why people will want to read the newsletter, some news, which is also really useful and will keep them up to date which they will be grateful for, and also put in information about your services which although they may not read this in detail, will at least be there for inform them about your services, if they want to know (and after reading your newsletter they might do!).
Mind you I don't claim to have all the answers, this model has worked well for me but you may have a different way of doing things. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for doing it differently, or indeed if you just want to comment generally.
Part 3 in this series will look at ways you can implement all this in practice. Incidentally if you are interested in my newsletter, you can sign up here.
About a month or so ago I was asked by Delia Venables of The Internet Newsletter (discussed in my previous post here) to write an article about the new Quality Solicitors organisation (discussed by me previously here). The article has now been written and you will be able to read it in the Internet Newsletter September 09 issue. However as part of my research I wrote up my interview with Brian Inkster, of Scottish firm Inksters. Rather than waste it, I though it might be nice to publish it here. It is written in the first person as Brian speaking. He has approved its contents.
"Our firm, Inksters, is a small general chambers practice. I am a sole practitioner with one associate solicitor and a trainee, shortly to be two trainees. We do most things except crime, but it is mostly family / property related work. I also have a specialisation in crofting law.
In January 2009 I met the organisers of Quality Solicitors Organisation (QSO) at a marketing conference in London. It was a chance meeting. At that time they were fairly far on in their development of their new service. After talking to them we both thought that Inksters would be a good fit for their first Scottish firm.
One of the main things which attracted me to QSO was the quality aspect, as this fitted in with what we were doing ourselves. QSO is much more than a paid for referral list. The company only take on firms who they consider are suitable, and their work is subject to quality control. This is done by clients being asked to give feedback on their experience, which is done by the head office. If a firm proves to be unsatisfactory, it will be asked to leave the group. I like the fact that there is an independent third party review in this way.
The company require all of its English solicitors to have Lexcel accreditation, however this is not possible for us as there is no similar scheme in Scotland. However the procedures we have put in place satisfied QSO that we were working in the right way for them.
It is very early days for QSO. We joined on 11 May 2009 which was co-incidentally the day they launched officially (although the service had been running in a quiet way before that in England). We did a lot of marketing for them in Scotland which included articles about our membership in the local, national and legal press.
So far as we are concerned it is a bit of an unknown quantity, and we will have to see how things work out. We are all on a learning curve, both the management and the solicitor member firms. From what I have seen so far the company seems to be well run, and the directors are actively driving things forward. They are also quick to develop and learn from mistakes made, which is very good. It is also good that the MD, Craig Holt, is a barrister, so he understands the profession and how we work.
Potential clients contact QSO either via their web-site http://www.qualitysolicitors.com or by ringing their enquiry line. QSO then consider the information provided and refer on to a suitable firm as appropriate. Referrals information can be given either by email or by telephone or both. We opted for both so we could be sure that nothing got missed. The information provided consists of a summary of the case and the name and contact details of the clients. It is a condition of being a QSO solicitor that we contact the client within a couple of hours of receiving the referral information.
How things proceed after that is up to us. We do not have to take a client on if we feel the work is not appropriate for us, however in that case we should ask QSO to refer them to another firm. This would be a bit difficult for us at the moment of course being the only firm in Scotland!
We have already received referrals, indeed I was surprised at the number we received so early on. Some of them have been converted to clients, other may do in the future None of the cases we have taken on have been concluded yet so we have yet to see the feedback procedure in action.
There is of course a fee payable for being a member of QSO, the details of which are confidential. The cost is in bands depending on whether we want just local referrals or referrals from a wider area. However, the company operate a cost guarantee so if our fees do not equal the membership fee, this will be reduced accordingly the following year.
The benefits of being a QSO member do not stop at just referrals however. Several firms have reported that they have had clients going to them simply because they have seen the Quality Solicitors logo. The management are also assisting member firms by introducing a members buying group and are currently looking at CPD training.
I have been happy with the service so far, although as I said it is still early days. We will be taking a view generally at the end of the first year."
Note - to read my article and subscribe to the Internet Newsletter, visit the website here.
Contacts. Social media is an excellent way of keeping in touch with your contacts. “But” I hear you say, “I can do that via my address book. Why do I need to do this on the internet?”. Well you can of course, just rely on traditional methods. But social media goes a step further and provides a more positive way you can keep in touch.
Firstly, there is less danger that you will lose touch with people as a result of their moving away or changing firms or telephone numbers. Assuming that they keep their Facebook or Linkedin account (and most people will), you can always contact them via this. And they will be able to contact you.
Secondly, if they are active in social networking, you can also keep tabs on what they are doing. For example you might learn that they have set up a new company, or are launching a new product. If you are active in keeping your account up to date, all your contacts will know, for example, if you develop a new service, or write a book.
This may open up possibilities for business. For example if you have just written an article on business tenancies, and one of your contacts is considering renting new premises, this may prompt them to instruct you and your firm to act for them. Or you may find that the office widgets they have developed are just the thing your office manager has been looking for.
Thirdly, when you connect with a contact online via social medial, you also get to see who their contacts are. All sorts of things can develop from this. You may get back in touch with someone you knew years ago. You may learn of someone offering a service you require, or they may find out about you. The possibilities are endless.
Contacts and people and making connections are at the heart of social media. It is a new way of connecting with people and can be a very productive one. Its worth a try!
In his book ‘The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the nature of legal services’ Richard Susskind predicts that the current structure and method of working in legal firms cannot last, and that traditional legal practice is due for big changes over the next 20 years.
If you have a web-site, you need some way to capture the contact details of those who visit, so you can keep in touch with them, and stay in the forefront of their minds. Then (so the theory goes) when they need a solicitor they will think of you first.
The standard way of doing this is by offering a ‘free’ newsletter. This must offer something of value, or people will not sign up. Most contain news items, articles and tips on the newsletter subject matter, and general information about the firm (i.e. new services, staff members, etc).
I have run a newsletter for years. I have two, one for members of my Landlord-Law service (a subscription site providing information and resources for private residential landlords and tenants), and a free one which anyone can sign up to. Although in point of fact they are actually more or less the same. The chief difference is that the members version cuts out the paragraph suggesting that they join up!
The main reasons why people like my newsletters are the tips (one for landlords and one for tenants) which are always at the top, and the news section. Readers appreciate being kept up to date and made aware of significant legal changes in their area of work or interest.
There are many landlords and tenants (and letting agents and solicitors) who signed up for my free newsletter who have subsequently gone on to become a full member of my service. However often this has only been after several years, so don’t expect results immediately. It is a long term thing.
If you are planning on doing a newsletter, it is best to deal with a specific area of work or client type (as mine is mainly for landlords). You can then concentrate on information and news which are important to your readers. I find that the prospect of having to write monthly news items also makes me more aware and noticing of what is going on in my field. Which is beneficial for me as a specialist.
I think a general firm newsletter is less likely to succeed. People’s time is precious today and they will only want to read a newsletter if it is relevant to them. On the whole, people are not interested in your latest charity fundraising activities, the fact that you have three new secretaries, or your latest web-site makeover. What they are really interested in is “are there any new legal developments out there which will affect me or my business?”
If you are the person to inform them of a new legal development, and if at the same time you tell them about a new service you are offering to help them deal with it, they are more likely to come to you than another firm.
So the best way forward is to decide on which areas of law and practice your firm wishes to major in and provide a newsletter for that (although for larger firms there is no reason why you should not do two or even three specialist newsletters).
In Part 2,I will take a look at newsletter content.
Lawyers are often disdainful about social media, and don’t want to bother with it. “Whats the point” they say, “I’m not interested in knowing what people had for breakfast (twitter) or having connections with people or ‘friends’ I have never met (facebook, Linkedin, Ecademy etc).