I just finished checking out the NOV/DEC 2011 edition of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine. I wanted to take a hot minute to share my take on some of the highlights.

First up, Essential Do’s and Don’ts for LinkedIn Users by Dan Pinnington. Dan writes:

With over 120 million users in more than 200 countries (including at least a million lawyers) and Web traffic that ranks it as the 13th most visited site on the planet, LinkedIn is the social networking tool of choice for professionals. It is far more than a glorified way for job hunters to put their CV online. LinkedIn profiles are optimized to perform well in search engines, specifically when someone looks for you by name. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a LinkedIn profile to rank above your firm’s website!

With the recent claim, of at least one lawyer, that LinkedIn is a waste of time, Dan’s article provides some perspective, as well as, some actionable tips about how to, and how not to, use LinkedIn.

To me, LinkedIn is probably the most useful social platform for professionals. Of course, it’s all about your purpose for being there. LinkedIn can be great for job hunting and growing your professional network. It’s not the best place for real-time communications.

Dan is also right about LinkedIn’s performance in search results. If you claim, complete, and optimized your LinkedIn profile, it’s likely to be one of the most visible profiles for searches of your name or firm name. As Dan notes, it’s even likely to outrank your firm website and blog for branded searches, depending of course on the authority of your other sites.

Next up, Law Firm Marketing: What’s the ROI? by Christopher Petrini-Poli and Paul Grabowski. I’m always shocked by how little lawyers focus, measure, and analyze returns on marketing and advertising investments. To me, this article nails the keys: Defining Goals and Calculating ROI.

It’s incredible how many law firms explore marketing and advertising campaigns without clear goals in mind. This quickly leads to “black holes”, campaigns that run wildly without any identifiable measure of performance.

Further, those that do identify goals, either limit their marketing goals to straight dollars out dollars in and fail to recognize the “one-offs” that various marketing initiatives can have. These one-offs can include network and relationship development and professional reputation enhancement.

Finally, some of the firms that actually discuss goals, fail to put into place systems for measuring, tracking, and calculating whether these goals are being met. Admittedly, whether or not certain types of goals are met can be exceptionally difficult to measure. The authors suggest a 5-step process:

  1. Track the number of pieces you are mailing or sending electronically. For advertising, use the number of impressions either in print or electronic form.
  2. Determine the overall cost for production of the piece, including costs for graphics and staff time.
  3. Divide your costs by the total number distributed or impressions. 
  4. Track your responses from recipients. Divide this number by the total number distributed to provide you with a percentage of impact.
  5. Depending on the response from the recipient, if it is a request for work to be performed (or if actual work is completed), estimate the revenue generated versus the cost to produce. This will give you an expected ROI.

Don’t continue to spend money on marketing and advertising that isn’t carrying it’s own weight. Give campaigns enough time to get a representative data set. Constantly analyze each component of your marketing and advertising to decide whether it’s “worth it.”

Next is Nicholas Gaffney’s The Lawyer Raters: In Their Own Words:

Ratings are proliferating across all the goods and services we buy, and the legal industry is no exception. Over the past several years legal rating services and lawyer ranking lists have grown tremendously. Gone are the days where one single institution determines the best lawyers or the top firms. Today, there are many different ways to evaluate legal services and it’s important that as practitioners you have a better handle on what’s happening both online and offline and understand how it impacts your reputation and your business.

Like most people, lawyers are uncomfortable being rated, reviewed, and judged. However, for better or worse, the way people judge professional service providers, like lawyers, has expanding rapidly.

In the past, when someone was referred to a lawyer, that person was likely to call the lawyer or meet with the lawyer directly. Today, that person is much more likely to perform some research about the lawyer online. So the questions become, what will they find, and what can a lawyer do to manage that experience?

When someone searches for a lawyer on Google, what will they find:

  • The lawyer’s website, that has been +1′d by someone the guy knows on Google+.
  • The lawyer’s Google Places listing with several reviews from clients and other lawyers.
  • A .pdf file of the lawyer’s resume.
  • The lawyer’s Avvo profile with reviews, answers, and license history.
  • The lawyer’s LinkedIn profile that contains testimonials and answers the lawyer has provided on LinkedIn’s answers.
  • A YouTube video of the lawyer discussing the anatomy of a car accident case.
  • The lawyer’s Super Lawyer profile.
  • A local Adwords Express Ad containing ratings, address, and phone.
  • An article in which the lawyer is quoted on a local news site.
  • The lawyer’s JD Supra profile containing guides for accident injury victims.

For those lawyers who embrace the fact that these rating and review platforms are out there, whether they like it or not, there is huge opportunity for competitive advantage.

In fact, as just one example, lawyers that have reviews on their Googl Places profile can steal clients from competitors that have higher search engine visibility.

Finally, Adam L. Stock discusses How Lawyers are Using Video:

Not only do the videos convey what services and expertise the attorneys can deliver, but they also show how they might deliver those services as well.

The web is rapidly evolving. Gone are the days of the read-only text web. Here are the days of the interactive multimedia web. Soon, your clients will begin to expect to be able to find video of you online.

Here are some of Adam’s tips:

Understanding that video is an online social medium is critical to its marketing success. We have borrowed what we’ve learned from successful blogs.

Publish frequently: Volume matters in gaining followers and viewers. We publish approximately one new video per week, making them available to clients who access our videos through a subscription.

Keep videos short: Like blog entries, shorter is better. Based on our experience, online video is best at 1½ to 3 minutes. We may go up to five minutes for a very technical topic.

Tag and share: Like blog entries, tag content and share it through social networks and use syndicators to push out content.

Account for a short shelf life. Videos have a limited shelf life, so don’t make one that will take too long to produce, otherwise the information will be outdated by the time you release it.

Integrate. Integrate online video into your other forms of marketing. For example, you may find that marketing both through email and video may yield a better result than each of these media alone.

Measure results. Like all online media, you can measure views, referrals and the number of times videos are shared. Monitor this information and learn what works for you.

You don’t have to look very hard to find lawyer videos that are done well, not so well, and just plain badly. Just like everything else you do, both online and offline, you want your videos to put your best and most professional foot forward.

All in all, I was pretty impressed with this issue of Law Practice Magazine. And that’s a pretty good endorsement considering I usually think most of the marketing/advertising information in the legal sector is either out-of-date, not very clear, or just downright poor.

Further, the articles highlighted here were certainly not the only good ones in the issue. They just happened to be the ones that I found most applicable to what I do. I recommend you check out the full issue yourself.