My Shingle

Uber Thoughts on Premium Pricing

by Carolyn Elefant on April 24, 2014 · 1 comment

in New Marketing Ideas

Last night, I stayed late at the office. By D.C. standards anyway.  Meaning that when I departed at 1:30 in the morning, the metro trains that I use to commute to the office were no longer running so I had to find alternative transportation home. At that late hour, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to find a cab – so I pulled out my smart phone, punched the Uber app button and was informed that a black sedan would arrive within four minutes.

Once out on the street, at least four cabs drove by in the 4-5 minutes that I waited for the Uber sedan. Tired and preoccupied with returning emails, I scarcely noticed or appreciated the interior. When the car pulled up to my house, I took out my phone to pay via the app but the driver informed me that my credit card had already been charged and that I’d receive a receipt within an hour. The receipt did indeed materialize – $50 for a trip that I’ve never been charged more than $30 by cab and sometimes, even as little as $20.00.  And with that, my earlier satisfaction with Uber dimmed.

But my experience also got me thinking about my law firm’s transactions. For example, when does it make sense to pay premium price for a marketing coach or a web developer or a Coach handbag that to me, doesn’t look all that different from the ones sold at Target or transport home? And on the flip side, when does it make sense to charge clients a premium price for service that they can procure at 20-30 percent less from another lawyer. [click to continue…]

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Walmart Law’s Noble Roots

by Carolyn Elefant on April 23, 2014 · 1 comment

in New Marketing Ideas, Office Options

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Via Solo Practice University’s Susan Cartier-Liebel, I learned that $99 wills and have documents notarized  — at least at two Walmart locations in Canada. The services are offered through Axess , a bonafide law Canadian law firm, through small branch offices located at the entrance of two Walmart stores. Currently, customer-clients can access Axess for wills and notary services; other matters are referred out to other firms.  Axess plans to add uncontested divorces to its service menu in the fall.

While Axess’ Walmart-based branch offices are fairly new, the concept of a store-based firms or legal kiosks has been around for a while. As Susan notes, she blogged about store-based law firms years ago, as did I. And of course, in the UK, Tesco Law  - supermarket-owned law shops – functioned as shorthand for alternative business structures (ABS) enabled by the  2007 Legal Services Act  — though significantly, the Axess model differs because the branch offices are owned by a law firm, not Walmart.

Many lawyers today turn up their nose at the concept of “Walmart Law,” – either arguing that a downscale location isn’t sufficiently dignified for lawyers, or questioning the competence of firms that choose to practice in that manner.  But truth is, the Walmart Law concept has legal nobility in its history, as I discovered on a family vacation in the midwest this summer.  [click to continue…]

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Are Solos Priced Out of SEO?

by Carolyn Elefant on April 16, 2014 · 7 comments

in Marketing & Making Money

Last week, I shared some of the internet marketing lessons learned by online marketing companies. The bottom line: internet advertising can be pricey especially for small companies. This week, I’m publishing an article by Conrad Saam, founder of Mockingbird Marketing who asks whether solo attorneys are priced out of SEO.  What do you think?

Last week I wrote a post on Lawyerist outlining the changing economics of the legal search marketing game, expressing my concern (and frustration) that BigLaw is increasingly choking the solo practitioner out of the SEO game.

The posts genesis originated in my experience running an agency over the past year. I’m fortunate to belong to tight knit group (counted on one hand) of legal SEO professionals who run smaller agencies and deliver solid results for their clients. At geek conferences, we drink microbrews and share thoughts about the direction of search, rail against FindLaw contracts and trade tips about online project management systems.

And we share a deep dark secret:  our target market – those clients who make up the perfect client profile – does NOT include solos. [click to continue…]

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For nearly three years, I’ve been tracking solo Ekaterina Schoenefeld’s challenge to the constitutionality of New York Judicial Code 470, which imposes an in-state office requirement – but only on nonresident lawyers. Schoenefeld won round one, when a federal district court judge ruled that the statute infringes on nonresident attorneys’ right to practice law in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause by imposing significant costs on non-resident lawyers that New York residents don’t bear. The state appealed to the Second Circuit – and as a non-resident New York lawyer, I was able to participate as a party to the amicus effort.

Last week -after a year and a half – the Second Circuit finally ruled.(See opinion here. In a somewhat anti-climactic decision, the court certified the question of the meaning of the word “office” – explaining that if the term as used in the statute means a set of rooms or physical space, then the New York law is unconstitutional because it imposes undue burdens on out of state residents.

And so the wheels of justice grind on….

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Via the Legal Profession Blog, comes a recent Indiana ethics decision reprimanding a lawyer who’d practiced 41 years without incident for participating Law Tigers , a site that helps members of the public find a motorcycle attorney.  Trouble is, in pursuit of a single Tiger that may purportedly cause harm to the public, the Indiana Supreme Court now has the entire fledgling industry of legal matchmaking platforms by the tail.

Here’s the background. The American Association of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers (AAMIL) operates the Law Tigers website – one of dozens of  lead gen platforms like the Nolo Law Directory  Total Attorneys that direct website visitors and prospective clients to participating lawyers who pay to receive leads within a designated geographic area. Naturally, to encourage site visitors to seek legal services, the Law Tigers website boasts “Exceptional Results: Settlements and Verdicts” and links to glowing client testimonials.  However, the respondent lawyers website, which could be accessed through a link on the Law Tigers site, included a disclaimer that a firm could not advertise past settlements or results.

Even so, this wasn’t enough for the Indiana Supreme Court which found that:

An average viewer would not differentiate between Respondent and the statements about Law Tigers on the AAMIL website and that Respondent is therefore responsible for objectionable content on the website.

For example, the court worried that website visitors might be mislead into believing that the testimonials on the Law Tiger sites referred to the Respondent or that the Respondent would achieve exceptional results even though the Respondent’s firm website contained a disclaimer. It is difficult to imagine a client so stupid as to associate a generic testimonial with Respondent’s service or so passive as to not inquire about the “Exceptional Verdicts and Settlements” advertised. In today’s internet world, clients have never been more savvy or educated, but to the court, they’re treated like a bunch of morons.   [click to continue…]

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Don’t Depend on Your Malpractice Insurer for a First Rate Engagement Agreement

April 11, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

In the past, I’ve griped about the circa 1970s bar association retainer agreements that abound on the Internet. In fact, that’s one of the peeves that spurred me to put together my ebook, The Art, Science and Ethics of the 21st Century Retainer Agreement . Still, bar associations are perpetually underfunded, so I’m willing to […]

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Does Internet Advertising Drive Work for Online Businesses? Lessons for Virtual Law Firms, Courtesy of E-commerce

April 7, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

How do you find clients for an online business – whether it’s an e—commerce shop selling a product like shows or magazines or gift baskets, or a website that offers services like web design or job placement or even legal services, through a virtual law firm? Not surprisingly, many online business’ customers come from heavy […]

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The Best Client Gifts Are Heartfelt

April 4, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

Google the phrase lawyers and “client service,” and you’ll find hundreds of posts on the importance of great client service – not as a reminder that lawyers have an ethical obligation to serve clients well – but rather as a way to generate future referrals or avoid malpractice. Lawyers are advised to over promise and […]

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Blocked

April 1, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

This isn’t an April Fools’ joke. You may have noticed my blog posts have become more sporadic. Part of the slow down relates to my schedule – just plain busy. But I’m also having more difficulty coming up with original content relevant to solos and smalls. So if there are any topics you’d like me […]

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My Experience With Udemy

April 1, 2014 by Carolyn Elefant

After my last  failed attempt to offer a webinar, I decided to take a break.  Still, I wanted to present content on starting a practice in a different fashion than blog posts or books, and I wanted the ability to reach a larger audience than a Google Hangout would allow. So I began to explore […]

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