As the year draws to a close, it’s tempting to succumb to holiday festivities and put work on the back burner. But spending even a little time in the next few weeks planning for business development in 2017 can pay big dividends.
In fact, something as simple as paying attention to the calendar and keeping an eye on local news can be an effective way to promote your legal practice in 2017.
“Best” lawyer lists: Many of the “best” lawyer lists and guides that some lawyers and firms adore are equally despised by others who view them as nothing more than popularity contests.
But those attorneys who devalue being included in such listings are missing a valuable opportunity to show their clients how highly others think of their work. While you may not think much of the list that just named you as one of the best in your profession based on geography or practice area, the people who hire you are always looking for evidence that they hired the right lawyer. This is what the marketing world calls “low-hanging” fruit.
The key is making sure that clients know about your professional recognition, and the first step is knowing how to be considered for these honors. Thankfully, most “best” lists, including Super Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America and others, provide online calendars that list their nomination periods and publication dates. By updating your personal calendar with this information, you can plan for how to throw your hat in the ring and, hopefully, announce your selection.
Getting the word out: Once you’ve been selected, the next step is to acknowledge that simply being named to a “best” list is not enough to spread the word among those who are most important to you and your practice.
While your recognition likely will result in your name being printed in a listing or guide and perhaps an online directory (sometimes for a fee), the only way to make sure your target audience is aware that you have named among the best is to tell them yourself. There are several ways to accomplish this, from a simple email to your clients, a press release posted on a wire service, a hyperlinked advertisement on a legal website, or a printed congratulations ad in the local newspaper. The possibilities are many, which is why it is important to consider your options and the associated costs before deciding.
Remember Ad Rules: Of course, you should always adhere to any applicable rules for lawyer advertising, such as the various provisions included in the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Straying outside the rules can subject lawyers and firms to a variety of disciplinary procedures.
Make Yourself a Media Expert
In today’s media environment, many of the talking heads you see on TV and those quoted in print are paid for their opinions or are themselves paying for the opportunity to be featured as “experts.” However, most of them are featured in news stories because they know what they are talking about and they were available when the media needed them. And they don’t pay a dime for the positive coverage.
So how does a lawyer become a media expert? One easy way is to stay in tune with the news of the day and find popular storylines that dovetail with your practice. The idea is to eventually make yourself available for media interviews the next time a reporter needs an expert source.
Top Daily News: For example, the recent election of Donald Trump has created almost daily news coverage of the potential impact on illegal immigrants. Nearly every news outlet will continue to report this story and they will need experts (e.g. immigration lawyers) who can sort out the details. Even if your immigration practice focuses solely on securing visas for technology workers, the recognition you gain from being featured as an expert in nearly any story on immigration will be worth your time.
High-Interest Trials: Another upcoming example is happening early next year in Dallas when County Commissioner John Wiley Price will face a federal corruption trial. There is no doubt that every local TV station and most of the area newspapers will cover every day of the trial, and they, too, will need experts (e.g. criminal defense lawyers). Imagine the benefit that some lucky attorney is about to enjoy as the featured expert for one or more media outlets during the Price trial.
Establishing Media Contacts: Of course, knowing your stuff is only half the equation. Getting a TV station or a newspaper reporter to call you is the eventual goal. There are several ways to make that happen. One option is contacting the assignment desks at the stations or print outlets where you’d like to appear and talk with the editors or reporters who typically cover the areas that involve your expertise. Introducing yourself won’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be called, but there’s no chance your phone will ring if these media decision-makers don’t know about you or your professional background.
Another way to get on the media’s radar is to write and publish insightful blog posts or commentaries that demonstrate your legal knowledge. Countless experts were “discovered” by an editor scrambling for a source and finding their blog through an online search. Finally, also consider engaging a media professional who likely already has existing relationships with the reporters and editors who can help strengthen your position with clients and potential clients by making you an expert source.
Recognize News Trends
The holidays produce more predictable media coverage than any other time the year, but the opportunities to seize on “no-brainer” stories are always present.
Porch Burglars: Remember the story you saw last year about protecting home deliveries from “porch burglars,” whose thieving ways peak during the holidays? That same story will run again this year, and you can bet that the coverage will have room for a lawyer who can talk about the criminal penalties for those caught stealing others’ mail.
Faux Charities: We also will see holiday coverage of some group that claims to be a charity but is accused of financial wrongdoing. When that happens, and it will, the media will be looking for an attorney who can explain how reputable charities operate.
Spring Floods: Another annual example will be here next spring when flood season begins. After the initial stories about the force of the storm and the resulting flood damage, we will see news coverage of how insurance companies are handling claims. That’s when the press will be looking for insurance coverage lawyers who can help explain what flood victims can expect next.
As you settle in for the holiday break, take a little time to find out the nomination schedule for the next reputable “best” list and put it on your calendar. And think about introducing yourself to at least one news reporter or editor who might want to include you in a future story. The positive results may well surprise you.
Of course, we here at Muse Communications are also here to help with any and all of these profile-heightening tasks. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.