Adapting to the post referral fee world by going online
It’s now been six months since the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force, which for those unfamiliar few, brought with it a ban on solicitors paying referral fees to obtain work.
LASPO predictably lead to a sharp decline in the number of claims management companies who were the primary recipient of referral fees. So with firms no longer able to obtain work in this way they’ve had to find new approaches to attract perspective clients.
This is where some firms have started to look towards the Internet, and the online space is packed full of opportunities for legal professionals if you know where to find and how to use them.
While most law firms have a website, you should firstly review the content to ensure it’s detailing all your services and sets out why clients should instruct you over the thousands of other law firms out there.
Once your site is in good shape you’ll then need to go out and attract some visitors.
#2 Blog and Content Generation
When building a legal case lawyers know they’ll need to collect a substantial amount of evidence to reinforce its validity. That foundation work is the key – and it’s no different when building an online presence.
The foundation work here comes from sharing your unique experiences and opinions on subjects you are passionate and knowledgeable about. This can be done in a variety of formats but the most popular is by creating a blog.
A blog can reside on your firm’s website or on a completely independent site. Those wanting to keep things separate can use free platforms us as WordPress and Blogger, or for those desiring a more media rich platform could even try Tumblr.
But the key to this isn’t the technology that you use; it’s creating an outlet to produce regular content. Just by posting your opinion on a new piece of legislation, or general guidance on a legal matter can allow your insights to be read by peers and potential clients alike.
#3 Social Media
The number of social networks is ever increasing and trying to maintain a presence on all of them would be a full time job. That’s why it’s important to find a social network you are comfortable with and which has an audience interested in what you have to say.
Use of social media can range from publishing your blogs, taking part in discussions or simply sharing items that are of interest.
Everyone has (hopefully) heard of facebook and twitter, so I’m not going to focus on them. Instead I’m going to touch on a growing network that shouldn’t be overlooked, Google+.
Just like facebook and twitter, Google+ is a place for you to share content, discuss topics and stay up to date with contacts. On Google+ you can have an individual profile as well as a page for your firm, allowing you to interact on behalf of both. And it’s this interaction which is the key on any social network; as just broadcasting news to the public isn’t being particularly social!
I’ve found myself using Google+ more and more recently as it has most of the features of twitter/facebook whilst also interfacing with other great Google products (maps, reviews, email etc.) For anyone wanting to give Google+ a try, I recommend this Google+ guide for an understanding of almost every feature.
But the most important factor in using any social network is that you enjoy interacting with the people that are there. So try as many networks as possible until you find the right fit for you.
#4 Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
This is where it can get a bit technical but with a little knowledge you can get your content, services and firm out to a much wider audience.
The whole idea behind SEO is to better inform search engines (Google, Bing etc.) that your site is the most relevant in its niche. So if someone types in ‘solicitors in Sheffield’ there’s a better chance of your website being in the first couple of pages as opposed to buried on page 36!
There are many, many ways of doing this and depending on your business priorities some techniques may be better done with the help of an experienced SEO agency. However there are a few basic tips to keep in mind which will help you get noticed:
Don’t bury the lead – If you’ve created a great blog explaining what happens at a court hearing, don’t give it a vague title like ‘County Court Procedure’. Call it what someone might search for, such as ‘What happens when I go to court?’ or ‘What’s involved in a court hearing?’
Don’t make sharing difficult – Make it as easy as possible for people to share your content. Most social networks provide code snippets you can add to a webpage or blog allowing visitors to quickly share, tweet or like.
Help people find your website – Links to your website from other sites not only send visitors your way but are also an indicator to search engines that your site is popular and relevant. So check that all of your online listings have links to your site. Does your Law Society entry contain your web address? Do all your office locations appear on Google Maps?
#5 Pay per Click Advertising (PPC)
PPC is simply bidding for ad space search engines, so when someone types in a certain phrase your ad will appear if you’ve bid enough. However you only pay a fee when the person actually clicks on your ad and is taken to your site.
As with SEO, and depending on your budget, it may be better to instruct an online agency to build your PPC campaign. As researching search terms, creating adverts and managing performance can be a time consuming exercise and take a while to get right. But if you just want to try PPC with a small budget Google Adwords does provide free help with setup to get you started.
Whatever your budget, there are a few things I’ve learnt that can help almost any campaign:
Be Specific – When selecting the search terms you want to target, be as specific as possible. If you only deal with industrial disease claims ensure your terms focus just on these services. Whilst targeting general terms like ‘solicitors’ may get you a lot of traffic you’ll be paying for people looking for conveyancing solicitors etc.
Use Ad Extensions – Ad extensions can provide additional content to your ads like an office address, a phone number and social network links. All of which can make your ad standout above the competition.
Don’t neglect your landing page – When focussing on the cost per click, number of visitors, adverts etc. it’s easy to forget the actual webpage you’re sending visitors to. Don’t send everyone to your homepage when they’re searching for a specific legal service, and be sure the page clearly tells them about what you offer and how to get in touch.
In conclusion …
There is no silver bullet to attract direct clients post-LASPO, but a little time and effort along with a combination of the above techniques can certainly help generate work online.
What’s worked for you? Do you have any other tips? Put your thoughts in the comments below
About the Author
Martyn Gilbert is Chief Information Officer at Spencers Solicitors having worked in the legal industry for over 16 years. Martyn oversees all digital marketing at the firm including online ad campaigns and social media activities.