Darl and Ron

The following is a transcript of Episode 12 of Championing Justice. You can listen to the full episode here, or watch it on YouTube.

Darl: Thank you for tuning in to the latest episode of Championing Justice. My name is Darl Champion, and today we are going to be talking about marketing practices for personal injury law firms and what are some of the best practices, what are some mistakes that personal injury attorneys make?

And joining us today is Ron Latz. Ron is the founder of LegalFenix. He’s done some marketing consulting work with us, is currently working with us on some marketing ideas. He’s somebody that I met probably about a year ago, I think through LinkedIn. We connected and got to know him when he was working at a different agency, and I think a lot of the things in a lot of the approaches that I take to legal marketing are in line with Ron’s viewpoints and philosophies as well.

So I’m really excited about this discussion. Thanks for joining us, Ron.

Ron: Same here. Thanks so much, Darl. I really appreciate the invite and looking forward to diving in as deep as you’d like to go.

Darl: So tell us a little bit before we get started in talking about what you do now, tell us how you got into this area and how you became a legal marketing consultant.

Ron: Just like everyone, I always wanted to work with attorneys every single day of my life. But kidding aside, I joined Reuters about a decade and a half ago almost. That’s how I really got into the legal space. I had always been in sales and marketing to a certain degree, and Reuters was the organization that got me specifically into the legal sector. And then as I moved on from that organization, I just continued to stay in touch and started working with a lot of the firms that were my best clients.

Darl: What were you doing for Reuters?

Ron: I was a sales consultant. I was a client development consultant. I sold marketing and advertising to lawyers, and now I buy it on behalf of most of my clients. And listen, I understand sometimes fine law will get a bad rap and there’s certain things that maybe they could certainly improve upon, but it was an incredible opportunity that I would never take for granted. They did help me set up, and I think that where a lot of firms kind of go astray is it’s not just the big organization.

Your success really does lie in that individual that’s managing your day-to-day point of contact. If you don’t trust that person, they’re just going to sell you whatever it is so that they can hit their quota. And that’s unfortunate, but there’s a reason why there’s so many individuals that leave that company and go out on their own is because they had great relationships, the firms trusted them and they were able to launch their own outfit because of it.

Darl: Now in your current role, what are you doing now and what type of work do you do?

Ron: So at LegalFenix, I’m a strategic marketing consultant. So I offer strategic advisory and consulting services where I meet with firms, whether it’s once a month, twice, three, four times a month. And we literally go through our strategy, what are the goals, the objectives, and I try to make sure that they have the information that they need in order to safeguard their investment. There’s so many different channels out there and there’s so many different agencies that sell many different products that it can sometimes be hard to make sense of all of it. What am I buying? How much should it cost? How long does it take to work? What are some other things that I could do to improve?

So a lot of my conversations with my clients on the consulting side are surrounded about their current initiatives and what they’re trying to do in the future. And then the other half of the business is all fractional CMO engagements. So I become part of their team. I provide vendor management resource oversight. I essentially become the leadership representative for marketing on behalf of the firm.

Darl: Got it. Now, how long has LegalFenix been in existence and when did you launch it?

Ron: So as of this recording, LegalFenix hasn’t even been publicly announced yet. I’ve kind of been operating somewhat in stealth mode, if you will. But I mentioned earlier when I started continuing to work with firms after I had left Reuters because they continued to come back to me and say, Hey Ron, should I renew? Do I buy this? What do you think about this? Is this the right price? So this iteration or at least the transformation into LegalFenix, it was originally incorporated seven years ago.

Darl: I think in any legal marketing discussion, we’re going to be talking about SEO to some extent. Now, we did have a much more in-depth discussion in episode three about digital marketing for lawyers, where I talked with Jim Christie from Postali about SEO in particular, and that was kind of the scope of the whole episode. But for this one, this will come up. And so we want to talk about that because something that I think lawyers ask me about all the time is what am I doing from an SEO standpoint and what my thoughts are on it?

But let’s talk before we get into some of the details of marketing tips and advice, some of the criticisms you have of marketing agencies for law firms, because that was kind of, I think what drew my attention to you was seeing your post on LinkedIn where I’m like, Hey, this guy’s working for an agency and is calling them out. I kind of like that because I’m a personal injury lawyer and I like calling out bad practices and that sort of thing. So tell me just generally what is your big or biggest criticism or criticisms of the legal marketing industry?

Ron: I laugh because it is, I will call some of them out even when I was with one of the biggest in the country and then a smaller boutique type of offering. I think that in any industry you’re going to have some bad actors that really spoil the reputation for everyone. But I think there’s a handful of things that legal marketing agencies in particular do to themselves that basically their reputation is then deserved. So I would start what works for one firm isn’t always going to work for another and vice versa. So a lot of the legal marketing agencies that might be single-threaded in the services that they offer, maybe they only sell ads. Well, it’s likely that all of the recommendations and proposals are going to be for you to spend more money on ads. Or if you only sell SEO, you’re kind of pigeonholed.

You’re also not looking necessarily at the holistic picture. So I think that that alignment where what you might need isn’t something that they offer, well then they should point you to someone that offers what it is that you need. And I don’t see that often enough. I think that the industry itself has preyed on lawyers for the past decade plus because a lot of attorneys, you’re not a marketing specialist, you’re not an SEO.

And some of it can be pretty complicated or technical if you will, but you don’t know what it is exactly that you’re buying, how much it should cost, how long is it going to take to work. Those are expectations that should be set properly, and I think that’s missed a lot either during the sales process. You talk to someone that promises of the world and then you speak with the delivery team and they say, well, we don’t do that, or we can’t do that, or we have to do it a different way. So I think that expectation setting is just less than desirable with what it is.

Darl: I think that I would say too, I’m sure there’s a problem on the broader legal community as a whole in all practice areas, but I think it’s particularly prevalent in the personal injury industry because the stakes are so high, the potential upside is so high, there’s so much competition. It’s highly competitive that I see lawyers just throwing money at things.

And you mentioned the lack of knowledge, the lack of understanding of it. I’m just always amazed when I talk to lawyers about just how some of them don’t understand some of the basics of this. And I don’t consider myself an expert in it. I mean, I have people here at my firm that have that expertise, but I remember a few years ago I was talking to a guy about, I forget what it was, he was in another state. He was calling about a case and we were talking about SEO and I think he was with FindLaw or Justia or one of the big ones.

And he, he’s like, yeah, every so often they call me up and ask me to give more money, I give more money, and they give me more juice. They juice my website up, that’s what he called it. They juice my website up and I get some hits from it, and then it kind of goes down and then I throw him some more money and they juice it back up again. I’m like, I don’t think that’s how it works. So funny you mentioned that, but talking about the agencies, I think it’s like they say if you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail. And if you are providing those particular services and you have a client that reaches out to you, a lot of what I see are cookie-cutter approaches. So that’s kind of number one. The other thing that I think I’ve seen, and I’ve seen this across not only the marketing industry but across personal injury firms as well, is this whole idea of scaling.

We got to scale our personal injury firm. I think a lot of agencies have that mindset too. Well, we’ve got to scale. Well, when you’re scaling, it’s like if you were scaling a restaurant, you’ve got the chef back there making the gourmet meal, he is got his hands in everything. Well, all of a sudden when you start adding more customers and having other people doing work for you, the quality may suffer. And so what may have worked for this super expert SEO guru guy or lady who is demonstrated expertise in this, all of a sudden they start scaling and there’s really nothing unique about what they’re doing because the owner can’t have their hands in every single thing and every single customer. So they create this protocol of this is what we’re going to do in every single case. And it works for some people and for some people it doesn’t. And I mean I’ve seen that for sure, being a client of different SEO agencies over the last 10 years that we’ve had. Our firm is, there’s not all of them, but I would say the vast majority of them I think take a cookie-cutter approach.

Ron: And I think the vast majority are still running a 2010, 2015 playbook because they say, Hey, this is what works. This is what happened. There’s no innovation, there’s no evolvement. And when you talk about the agencies and the chefs and everything, when you are scaling that, you need depth and breadth because if you continue to add on all those clients, your service model eventually is just going to start to bust. Set the seams, right? I would, oh, go ahead.

Darl: Well, I was just going to say, I mean what also worked for those firms in 2010 and 2015 and the strategy of the work, they also then had a lot of lead time with those firms that had been then now investing for 14 years or longer. And then they come to this new firm and say, Hey, we’re going to do this for your law firm, and it doesn’t really seem to have a fit. And I see it whether it’s social media management, PPC, management, whatever, I don’t see a lot of ability of agencies to really tailor things specific to you and what works for you.

For example, if you’re with an agency and they’re managing your PPC, your SEO and your social media, what works for the client in a midsize or major metro that advertises a lot on TV, billboards and radio may not work for a firm that doesn’t. And I think that’s sort of the other thing. One of the things we talked about too, a big criticism you had at agencies was the use of case study. So this idea that they’ll show like, oh, we had this client that we did this for. Talk a little bit about that and why personal injury law firm owners should be concerned about that and kind of be suspicious when agencies are using case studies.

Ron: So you alluded to it just earlier, the expectation setting or the firm that might’ve been investing in SEO for a dozen years and then they say, okay, I’m going to go and invest in SEO. You’re on mile marker 20 of the marathon. They haven’t even started the race yet, but they think, well, if I just spend $10,000 a month like Darl and his firm, I’m going to get there.

It’s not that I have anything against an actual case study, it’s just that I don’t think they provide enough context. And what I mean is that there are so many other complimentary and supplemental marketing channels and investments that are likely going on behind the scenes that helped support and improve the performance of said campaign that they have out there plastered in their ads on social, on their case studies to say, Champion Firm got 150 cases in three days on a $2,500 investment. It’s like, wait a minute.

Darl: For the record, I’ve never gotten 150 cases just to dispel any myths out there with the listeners.

Ron: Your agency’s going to come and say, I told you I was doing a good job.

But yes, that is really what’s missing. I think that if they provided a little bit more context and said, here’s what the firms are investing. These are the other channels, this is their team, this is how long it took to achieve results. The other thing is that across legal, there isn’t a standard definition of what constitutes a qualified lead. And if I generate 50 qualified leads for personal injury firm A, and then I try to give those same leads to personal injury, firm B, firm B might tell me, Ron, half of those are garbage. I would never sign up any of those cases.

So just working with the firm and giving a little bit more insight into all the bells and whistles, all the marketing channels, how long they’ve been doing it, maybe they dominate with brand in that local market, but just to let somebody believe that all they did was spend $2,000 bucks with said agency and they produced 300% ROI, I think it’s misleading. And I think that’s where the legal marketing industry does the disservice to the clients that they serve because then you just get everybody in the mud talking ally about everyone.

Darl: Yeah, I think too, I mean there’s the whole idea of qualified leads and I think that comes up in two contexts. One is this even within a practice area or sub-practice area that we want to handle. I mean that’s number one. Number two is the quality of the case.

So number one, you might be a personal injury firm, but you might be focusing on medical malpractice cases or something and you’re not going to want a soft tissue car wreck case showing a law firm owner stuff that worked for a mid-size or mediums size firm that does soft tissue car cases may not translate well. But then even within that you have quality of cases and what is their criteria? We handle medical malpractice cases. I know for a fact I handle some medical malpractice cases that other lawyers who only do medical malpractice cases wouldn’t touch and we get good results on ’em and we’re able to turn ’em.

And I’ve gotten great results on cases that other lawyers have actually turned down. But I think kind of gets back to the whole cookie-cutter approach. I think the more you grow as an agency, the harder it is to give individual attention to your clients. And again, look at the personal injury industry. Bigger the firm is, the harder it is to give that individual attention. So I think from my point of view, I think it’s very important for law firm owners to find an agency that is going to understand their business and learn their business and what they actually want. Because if you don’t have that purpose behind your marketing campaign, you’re just going to be throwing your money away.

Ron: The past results aren’t going to guarantee your future performance. You can’t just go and expect that what they said happened for one firm is going to immediately happen for you. There’s so many factors. I’d agree. Do your due diligence, speak with colleagues, speak with agencies, just try to get as much context as you can so you can make as educated decision as you can and whatever you do, especially in digital getting. Another thing that agencies will do to lock in revenue and hopefully profit is those long 24, 36 month plus contracts. Don’t do that. Digital’s changing constantly. You don’t want to lock yourself into that with anyone as good as they are.

Darl: So I like lists. So I want you to give us a list. What are your top five mistakes that you’ve seen personal injury law firms make when it comes to marketing? And I’m sure you could probably have like 25 points on this list, but let’s talk about the top five. What do you think the top five are that you’ve seen top five mistakes?

Ron: Alright, these can find themselves definitely in a top 10 list. I’ll say they’re certainly most common. So the first thing, and this is how a lot of my initial consulting sessions go, not with your firm, but there was no strategy and it’s not cohesive people. There’s no quantifiable goals, there’s no specific objectives. They just think, oh, I’m going to spend $5,000 bucks a month and I’m going to just get more business without those marching orders, without something that really showcases exactly how you’re going to attack the market. Almost a go-to market strategy. What are the channels? What are our investments? How are we allocating that spend across each of these channels? You should know that going into it so that you can look back, evaluate, and if you have to reallocate, you know what you need to do.

I think another really common one is personal injury firms that are under-invested in just some of the most highly competitive and saturated markets. You talk about Chicago, Vegas, New York, la, it can be a bloodbath out there and if you are not investing what you need to invest, you’re going to lose a lot of money and be very disappointed and frustrated. S

o understanding the competitive landscape where your opportunities are, having the strategy, knowing your ideal client, knowing that persona and who you are going after is a way to avoid some of that frustration. Because in some markets, if you are a personal injury firm and you’re in any of those markets, including one like Atlanta, you can’t dip your toe into the SEO game because you’re going to get crushed. There are other more appropriate channels that you can leverage depending upon where you are in this stage of your career.

So that that’s another one. And it dovetails into another thing that a lot of firms kind of get stuck in is there’s no portfolio diversification. All their eggs are in one basket, and while it might be able to be sustainable for a little while, you really are neglecting a significant portion of the market where your audience is likely spending time.

So if you only, for example, only invest in ads and you are not investing in your own brand or organic positioning, you’re always going to be paying the piper. And if you are only investing in organic, you take a look at a Google page these days, it takes you a little while to start scrolling and see some organic listings. It’s just dominated by paid opportunities. It’ll be interesting to see how Google incorporates paid into the search generative experience and the AI results, but they’re going to figure out a way to incorporate those types of ad units some way, shape, or how they don’t want to take the revenue hit.

When they rolled out SGE Google Ads, it took about four to six weeks before they finally put them back up above the generative AI results. And again, I know it rolled out in beta, but I’m sure Google still felt that little bit that wow, that ad revenue there, we have to figure out, we have to get those back up online. So I think that’s another thing, putting all your eggs in one basket just like with your financial portfolio, not always in your best interests. So that’s three. That’s three.

Darl: Yeah. We’ve first is having no strategy, second under investing, and three: eggs in one basket.

Ron: Adopting the mindset of just if you build it, they’re going to come. I think that just like you constantly need to stay top of mind, whether that’s with referral partners, previous clients, sending them newsletters, being actively involved in the community, all of these types of things helps put you and your firm in front of your audience.

I talk with a lot of firms that just say, listen, all my business just comes from referrals. That’s okay. But when those referral sources dry up or if they just forget, right? They’re meeting new people constantly every single day and maybe there’s a new PI firm that really helped them out and now that’s their best friend and they start funneling cases their way or

Darl: They may start keeping cases, they may say, Hey, we’re going to build our own litigation department. If you’re the outsourced litigation firm for a law firm, and all of a sudden they say, Hey, we’re keeping this stuff getting back to eggs in one basket. If all your eggs were in one basket, you’re in trouble.

Ron: You have to balance all these channels effectively, whether it’s digital, offline referrals, current clients, previous clients, these are all opportunities to help individuals, educate them, inform them. And I think that that’s a miss sometimes when you think, well, I have this one steady stream of business.

The thing is that when that dries up and it’s no longer feeding you anymore, you’re going to be in a much more difficult position figuring out what you need to do. So I think that this isn’t the field of dreams and you have to stay up on it. And then another one that I see on social a lot is when you, and it could be in your advertising and on your website, but when you try to cater to or speak to, when you try to speak to everyone, you speak to, not one, right? You really need to have the ideal client profile.

You can call it your avatar, whatever it is, knowing intimately who your audience is, demographics, firmographic, whatever data you can extract to understand, hey, this is where our audience is spending time. These are the individuals, age, sex, gender, all that stuff that helps you fine tune and hone your strategies and improve them over time. So you see personal injury firms out there all the time, people just going after maybe just trucks or just birth injuries. Not saying that a general approach can’t work, but you have to speak to that individual, not just try to class the broadest net possible.

Darl: Right? That’s a good top five list. And I have one because I was trying to think, okay, what is one?

Ron: Let’s hear it. Let’s hear it.

Darl: Yeah. So mine is a mindset mistake, and I think it is kind of a foundational mistake that leads to a lot of other mistakes. And that’s viewing your marketing plan and your marketing strategies as individual pieces instead of as this entire ecosystem. So I’ll give you an example. I have people all the time asking, because I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. They’ll say, does LinkedIn work? Do you get any cases from LinkedIn?

Well, LinkedIn isn’t a lead generation tool, but I have developed some relationships with people through there. I’ve met other attorneys through there who like my posts and asked to go to lunch and we go to lunch, and then you take ’em to a Braves game and then you do this and the next thing you know you’re growing that relationship. I’ve had media opportunities from, it was on local NPR radio station because of a post I had on LinkedIn, which then led to a story that was on the website and then a back link.

And then people that I knew that were clients and some vendors that we had used said, Hey, I heard you on NPR. You’re building your brand, right? People that say, does your website work? Do you get cases from your website? Well, part of your website goal is SEO, but it’s also like your home base in my mind because that’s where anybody’s going to go to check you out.

So I think when people take a different approach to their marketing and start thinking of it as this entire ecosystem that’s all intertwined and how are all these things going to work together? They’re much more likely to find success when everything’s working together. Instead of like, oh, well, I’m over here doing this. This isn’t working. I’m over here doing this. This isn’t working. And I think that we talked a little bit before we went on about this idea that if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

And I actually had somebody give me that advice when I started my firm, and that’s the stupidest advice ever. If anybody is a law firm owner and they’re listening to this, don’t follow that advice because there’s so many things you can’t measure, particularly when it comes to branding. And I joined a networking group when I was starting my firm and their kind of mantra was, people refer business to people they know, like, and trust. And you have to work on all three of those things.

You got to get people to know you, to like you and to trust you. And how do you measure something when somebody referred you to somebody else because of all the things you’ve done over our firm’s 10 years old, over 10 years of building your brand and marketing to them and showing them who you are and showcasing your culture.

You can’t really measure that. But I see so many law firm owners that take that kind of, it’s almost like a transactional approach with each individual marketing tactic. Hey, this doesn’t work over here. This hasn’t been producing leads. This does maybe PPC. Yeah, measure that. That’s something that you can boil down to a cost per click and cost per acquisition, all that, but most of your strategies in legal are not going to be that measurable. And the other thing that I would add that’s very, very unique to the personal injury industry is the outlier cases.

If you’re a firm that handles big cases, there are one or two or three cases that you may get over the course of your career that could have a very, very outsized impact on everything else that may come from some of these strategies. So to me, it makes it even harder to measure than if you were running, let’s say a family law firm where maybe you’re charging a flat fee or you have kind of a general cost or your value per client that you can really hone in on makes it really difficult if you’re working on big cases in a personal injury firm.

So that to me, if I was starting out as a law firm owner, I would say getting your mindset right and understanding how all this is going to play together is important for your foundation.

Ron: These channels are, or they’re intended to compliment and supplement each other. They’re supposed to work in unison, not against each other. Where I get questions like, should I do SEO or ads or this? I know that there’s no tree out there where we’re all plucking bills off of to just spend as much money as we can or want, but let’s take it back SEO or at, well, what is the goal? What is the objective? Let’s look at the competitive landscape, what are we trying to achieve? And then determine whether or not either channel is the right fit for you.

The other thing that I’ll comment on going back when you talk about basically the customer’s journey and 100% absolute perfect attribution, the journey, I’m not saying it wasn’t, but it is not linear. It’s not just saw the ad clicked it, called it consult, retain maybe in criminal that might happen where they had to find a lawyer and they need to get bailed out.

There are certain instances where that might happen, but there’s so much going on as the internet continues to mature. There’s a guy that I follow, Chris Walker used to be the CEO of Refine Labs. I’m not going to fanboy over him too much, but I love his philosophy and his outlook and how he tracks all of this. And one of the ways that you can really get better information is to not only collect your tech sourced attribution, but also collecting self-reported attribution.

So all that means is you’re throwing a field on your form that says, how’d you hear about us? Because here’s what you can do with that information. If someone’s listening to this podcast and eventually comes to me, maybe they submit a form on my website and they did a Google search for it or forget it. Let’s say they just went to LegalFenix dot com in my technology, it’s going to tell me that it was a direct, right?

This came from Google, but then in my hat, did you hear about US field? They’re going to say, oh, doll’s Podcast or Championing Justice, or I heard you on a YouTube channel. My tech is never going to pick that up. They’re never going to know. Or if someone was in a Slack channel, they’re just pinging people, Hey, check out this episode. And then that person listens to the episode trying to get this one-to-one, 100% perfect attribution. You can get really close, but don’t obsess over and let that blind you because there’s plenty of things that work out there that you cannot track. And if you pull them out, you’ll see how effective they really were.

Darl: And I would add this too: The best marketing is to be an excellent lawyer and provide great service because one that’s going to build your referrals and get your name out there, but two, if you’re not providing great service and you’re letting things slip through the cracks, it’s going to have a negative impact on your marketing because the people that you’re trying to get out in front of are going to be saying bad things about you.

Maybe you’ll have bad Google reviews, maybe the attorneys won’t, Hey, yeah, I did refer a case to them, but they really didn’t work it up and they settled it for pennies on the dollar or whatever. I think a lot of law firms that I see are really too focused on the business side of things and not enough focused on the service delivery. And again, this dovetails with what you said about agencies, the ones that are too focused on the sell side and it doesn’t really match up with the service delivery side, you’re going to have problems.

Same thing with a law firm. You have to have that infrastructure in place so that you can actually work on those cases. But I did want to mention, because this is going to be part of our discussion, I love the idea and everybody talks to me about it as SEO, and we can talk about PPC in the context of that as well, but you mentioned about having a budget and not under investing in that channel. And so what I see a lot of law firm owners do for a small firm and what they’re contributing, it is significant to them.

So maybe they’re spending 10, $15,000 a month that is significant to them, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the big players in their market are spending, and it might be PPC or whatever. So I think one of the questions I wanted to ask you is what’s your recommendation to law firms that are asking you Maybe they haven’t really been in the SEO game, maybe their law firm been around for a while. They got a basic website. How much do they really need to invest in a major metro to get their campaign kickstarted and how long is it going to take to start to see some results?

Ron: If you’re fresh out of law school and you’re in a market like Atlanta or New York or Chicago and you want to get online, I’m not recommending SEO to you because it is cost prohibitive and you’re going to be very disappointed with the results.

Now, I’m not saying there can’t be quick wins or if you are hyper-niched and you’re only working on one particular type of case, will still have to make a pretty significant investment in each of those markets, but at least you’re not trying to boil the ocean and go after everything just general PI, auto accidents, premise product, medow. You really would have to narrow it down if you want to see some success like I talked about earlier, you’re trying to figure out how much you’re going to go into. Again, what is the goal and the objective there? Do you have enough capital to sustain what that investment requires?

Right? You might have 10,000 bucks, but you can only do it for two months, three months. You’re not going to get the results that you want on SEO. It is a much longer-term channel, and that’s got to be balanced with short-term goals too. I talk about these different markets depending upon the same thing in Vegas, someone that’s just starting, even if you are branching off from a well-established firm and you’ve got 15, 20 years of experience, my first recommendation on generating you business is not going to be to jump into SEO.

It’s probably not even going to be to jump into ads. I know we’re looking for a number here. So in most of these markets, I do believe, and again, major metro markets, if you’re not investing 10 to $20,000 a month, let’s figure out how we can leverage those funds elsewhere. I just think, and I know it’s a blanketed statement and there’s so many different factors and variables, but you then look at the ads, market costs continue to rise.

Google just they talked about, I forget where it was, but they are responsible to a board and they have to generate X amount of increase in add revenue dollars. Although it has been on the decline recently, the average cost per clicks and cost per action and some of the acquisition costs out there to get up and running, you need to be able to invest in an ads.

Even if you were just doing motor vehicle accidents, I probably wouldn’t be going in unless you were doing at least 20 to 30,000 a month and that’s not going. It depends. If your expectation is to, like I talked about earlier, those 150 cases, you’re obviously not getting that on 20 to 30 grand. Everyone would be doing it. I think it would be much more realistic if we were looking at maybe 10 to 20 cases. But it really all depends, right?

With somebody else running your ads, you have a poor quality score. What is the quality of your landing pages? What about your ad copy? There’s so many different things that we would look at, but looking at the competitive landscape of each of those markets, can you afford the long-term investment? Balance it with short term, and if you can’t jump into SEO or ads, there are plenty of other ways that you can generate business, but you hit the nail on the head before this.

You’ve got to lock down services, first service intake sales, because if not, what I call that is law firms investing at poor first impressions at scale. Because if you don’t have that tied down and you’re throwing 50,000 a month into marketing, all those people that are coming there that aren’t getting returned phone calls, emails aren’t being responded to, Johnny at the front desk is annoyed and takes out his bad day on his intakes, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Darl: Absolutely. I mean, you’re having a negative return on investment because you’re building bad brand awareness. You’re potentially leading to bad Google reviews. I mean, that’s a common source of bad Google reviews is people that have a bad experience on intake.

And I think too, I mean when we talk about SEO and whether it makes sense for firms, I think a lot of this gets back to not having a strategy and what I see a lot of personal injury lawyers love copying people and copying what some other law firm owner is doing. Well, so-and-so’s doing this, I’m going to do it. And even if it doesn’t make sense for their business, so you may have, let’s say a catastrophic injury firm when an agency approaches you about doing 15 to 20,000 a month, that may not make sense if all your business is coming from client referrals.

Maybe you don’t even have the infrastructure to accommodate any leads that would come in if it did work. But then also, you’re probably not going to want to take most of the cases that are coming in, and I’ll be completely transparent with you. I mean, at our firm we have a variety of cases. So we have everything from big wrongful death cases, complex medical malpractice cases, down to soft tissue cardiac cases.

I think it makes sense for our law firm to invest in SEO. We’re also in Marietta just right outside of Atlanta, so a little less competitive, but even when we had an Atlanta address, we were still putting money into it. And here I am 2024, I’ve been putting 10 to $15,000 a month, sometimes more into organic SEO for five plus years, and are there months where we don’t get a lot? Yeah, I mean sometimes that happens, but there’s some months we get some, but it isn’t like a gold rush where all of a sudden, oh, well you’ve been doing it.

It can be steady and it can provide a steady source of cases, but it’s also rocky and it isn’t like this, Hey, I’m going to put this money in. I’m going to flip a switch and all of a sudden the people are going to be coming to me. It’s not that at all.

So I think law firm got to ask themselves, besides the huge hurdle of is this even going to work in terms of generating the leads, is this even the game you want to be playing? Do you want to put the resources in something else? Think about all the, if you’re a firm advertising or marketing to other lawyers for lawyer referrals, maybe take that 200 grand a year and get a suite at the Braves or someplace else and have a bunch of attorney events and take attorneys and build relationships and use that as an investment. It doesn’t have to all be online. So anyway, that’s my view of it is I think that’s a major problem that I see in just a major money pit for law firms.

Ron: There are many, many channels. It’s all not just about ads and SEO, and I think if you have a clear path and a vision as to who you want to target and that audience and what matters most to them, you bring them to the game, you’re active in the community, you’re sharing resources, that’s going to be a way that you can at least it’s pure, it’s pure business development right’s, nurturing and developing these relationships so that over the long course, maybe they will come back to you.

Darl: So you mentioned that Google is not the only game in town. There’s other channels. Talk about some of the channels and strategies that are out there that you see law firm owners under utilizing that could be effective for them.

Ron: Oh, marketing to their past clients, referral marketing. It’s not just the other attorney referrals or service professionals. Those are great for sure, but if you’ve got, whether it’s digital or Charlie Mann talks, he has a physical print newsletter, so does Ben Glass, doing things that are different to separate you from the rest keeps you top of mind and people do remember that, and I think that just, I use referral marketing in a newsletter as an example. You have all that data, you own that data, it’s in your system and you’re not relying on somebody else as well. And then when you have updates, you’re able to have access to that list whenever you want.

This isn’t a channel, but I don’t think that, and I hate using this term, but it is the only term that I think that really fits it. But there’s a lot of authenticity that lacks on social channels, whether it’s just delegated to the intern and it’s a second thought after the fact. There’s no genuine engagement. That’s just a channel that when building a personal brand, when sharing thought leadership, you talked about it earlier, how your goal isn’t lead gen from LinkedIn, you get speaking opportunities, you’re able to highlight and showcase the culture of the firm. Those aren’t cases in clients, but those relationships that you develop with those other people can eventually result in business.

So I think that that’s something that could be improved upon because I mean, I firmly believe in the power of platforms like LinkedIn. I think there is also a place to ensure that you are, if your clients are there, Facebook, Instagram, it might get mocked, but there are plenty of attorneys that aren’t dancing on TikTok and they are crushing it. So experiment, try it out. Don’t throw in the towel after two or three posts and maybe see what social channel might work because that’s a layer that you can throw on top of your SEO, your ads, your newsletter, to round it out and create that ecosystem.

This isn’t a channel, but this is more of a technology. It blows my mind still when I get on calls and law firms aren’t intimately familiar with what a CRM is. Customer relationship management software leveraging a CRM, I don’t know how people run businesses without them. Granted, I have a sales background. I’ve been in the industry for a decade and a half. I’ve always used A CRM, but everywhere I go, even when I went out on my own and I was just one person, I still use the CRM because that’s how I manage and track and organize all information. And there’s still firms out there.

I know firms out there that are north of $5 million in annual revenue and everything is done on a free text field and an Excel or Google Doc, a Sheet. Listen, if you’re getting by and that’s what you got to do, no problem. I think data hygiene that would scare the hell out of me with someone having access to that workbook and changing things and depending upon the day, does it get filled out and is it actually accurate or is someone just updating it on a Friday and they’re like, oh, I shoot. I forgot I got to go and do all this. I tie that into every single thing that I can do, and if there’s any lawyer that I speak with that gets me going on this or wants to talk about CRM, I will just, I’ll

Darl: Keep going. What CRM tools do you recommend for lawyers that they use?

Ron: I mean, you’re not going to leverage a CRM for your matter management or case management. So there are systems like solidify out there that have it all underneath one umbrella.

Darl: It’s built on a Salesforce platform. 

Ron: It is. It’s Salesforce. Another platform that is consolidating and is somewhat making some moves as well as Nexel, but you have the usual suspects of your Cleo Grow and Manage, your LeadDocket, FileVine… I tend to look at the front end of intake a little bit differently and I’m okay having a separate system. So I like to tether all CallRail data and source attribution information into, and these are just my preferences.

I’m huge on HubSpot and Lawmatics. I just think that they’re incredible platforms. You can create a lot of custom fields and it just because I’m a CRM nerd, I love those platforms. I don’t use HubSpot, but those are the… LeadDocket is another one that really does get used a lot as well. As long as you have something that you can then if you’re tracking the information and then you can report on it or if you’re building a newsletter out of it or if you have tickets running through it, whatever it may be, I do think that it’s a missing piece that a lot of firms could take advantage of and really improve efficiency and productivity.

Darl: So before we finish out our conversation here, I want to ask you a question that I know is going to be difficult to answer. There’s going to probably be a lot of it depends, but

You’ve got a stereotypical attorney, three to five years they’ve been practicing, they want to start their own personal injury firm and we’ll talk about a metro area. Anything from New York down to let’s say Orlando, Charlotte, that sort of size city, what’s your advice to them about what they need to be thinking about? I know it’s not necessarily the strategy, but even just starting out by telling ’em, Hey, you need to identify these things and then build from there. And then here’s the things to think about to develop your marketing strategy. What advice would you have for them

Ron: Three to five years, kind of a major metro? So you’re somewhat established already. You have a war chest in the back or

Darl: Yeah, a little bit. Car’s paid off, got credit line

Ron: First thing. What I would say is we’ll bring it back to the top of the conversation. You need a strategy and whatever you do, don’t confuse strategy with tactics, right? That’s where a lot of firms also your strategy balances, both long-term and short-term goals, how you’re going to achieve them. Tactics are going to be the specific actions, those tasks that are needed to take you there.

Darl: And in terms of coming up with a strategy, they really need to focus on, is it like a long range plan? Hey, what do I want my firm to look at? What are the types of cases I want being more intentional?

Ron: What’s the goal? Is it a revenue goal? Is it decreasing acquisition cost goal? Is it awareness goal? Is it I just got my own office and I got to figure out how I’m going to show up on Google Maps depending upon what or I want to scale and hire a new attorney or a new location. Whatever it is you’re trying to achieve, just don’t confuse the two. The strategy is going to help keep you on path, and the tactics are the individual steps that need to be taken to get you there.

You offered this up earlier in the conversation. If you’re going to go out on your own, just get the systems and the services locked down. If you’re known for providing great service, awesome. Now, all those clients that came along with you, they really like you. Get ’em to Google Business Profile and have ’em leave reviews, right? I’m not going to say that’s the first step they should take because again, if you’re in some of these markets, right, that these firms have hundreds, some thousands of reviews, even if you pick up 50 reviews, you’re probably not going to crack into the top three on your local map.

Darl: But here’s where it helps. If you get referred by one of those clients because you gave great service and they see you have zero reviews and zero presence, they may think, ah, is this really an established attorney that’s really going to represent me? Well, they see some reviews on there. Again, it may not necessarily be rocketing you up to the top of Google Maps, but it’s going to give that validation to the person who’s going to look there.

Ron: Yes, protecting branded search there is perfect the services again, with just lead management, lead nurture, billing, all that nailed down. We just talked about Google Business Profile and reviews, and you also said you got a little bit of money.

So if you’ve generated a bunch of decent reviews, you’ve got your website up, you’ve claimed your Google Business Profile, those good reviews, now you might be able to look at some of the channels and if you’ve got great reviews, I’d probably recommend trying LSAs out. They can be volatile and inconsistent, but if you have your services on, one of the biggest things with LSAs is if you missed those calls, you’re in the doghouse. It takes forever to get back in Google’s good graces and for them to even show your tile at the top of the page.

So if every great call is being answered, that would be one of the channels that I’d also check out. Finally, I’m big on building my own personal brand. I do think that your brand and your reputation is what people say about you behind closed doors. It’s what you tell your colleagues, your friends, your family.

I believe in the strength of building that personal brand specifically on a platform like LinkedIn, like you, I don’t look at it from a lead gen perspective, but there are so many opportunities for lawyers. You look at a couple of years ago, pre-pandemic, it was a ghost town. There weren’t many attorneys out there. You had the Frank Ramos, the Jonathan Pilars and others that were really dominating some of those conversations. But you’ve seen over the previous 4, 3-4 years an influx.

And I love it because the community is out there sharing mostly good information so that it can provide some insight or direction to someone out that might just be starting. I love posts by you and Brian Glass that kind of talked to yourself 10 years ago. This is the information I would want to know. So if you’ve, again, you’ve got your site down, you’ve got your service down. Now your GP is claimed, you’re starting to get reviews, like go talk to people, it’s biz dev, go talk to people, get on LinkedIn, shake hands, go to networking events, be involved in your community. And then if you got the 10 to 20 grand, let’s talk about SEO and ads.

Darl: I love this talk and this advice, and here’s why. It’s not just throwing money at things. And I think there’s a lot of personal injury lawyers that when they start out, they don’t put the sweat equity into their brand and building their firm. They just say, let me just throw some money at this. We got a big case that settled. Lemme throw some money at this and see if it works.

But there’s so many tools out there that with social media, putting videos up on YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn articles, Facebook, so many tools you can use to build your brand and get your name out there, yes, it’s going to take some time, but there’s so many things you can use that aren’t writing a check to an agency every month. And if you get to the point where, Hey, yeah, I want to spend 10, 15, 20, 20 $5,000 a month to do it, I do think the one thing that people have to do when they’re going to do that though is I tell ’em, commit for two years.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be with that agency because if they’re providing terrible service and not being responsive to you, obviously you got to cut the cord sooner than that. But in terms of the investment amount and sticking with that to see the results, I think you’ve got to spend two years. To me, it’s not even a year, it’s got to be two years. So you got to have that money there. Then one of the things I did when I started my firm, I’m a big Ben Glass fan. I don’t want to fanboy over him too much, and maybe one day I’ll get to be on his podcast, but I’ve read his books since I was still clerking for a judge. I knew, Hey, this guy gets it. I like his approach to things. I’m going to start my own firm one day. I’m going to follow this advice.

So we started with a monthly mail newsletter almost instantly and have done that consistently to market to our clients, and we market a ton to our former clients, and it is a great way to get referrals other than the mailed newsletter, any other advice you have for the lawyers to market to their past and current clients.

Ron: If you’re doing digital only, look at the SNA mail, the hard copy. I like to also, whether it’s potential clients or current clients I use or talk to firms about leveraging their LinkedIn company pages as ways to highlight that information so people can get a little bit of a feel around what it’s like to work with them or the things that they do in the community or how they treat their clients. Those are other ways. The other thing, and it’s going to sound so silly and not stupid, but pick up the phone. You can call people, you can check in on people, right? I’m not saying you got to call 50 people every single week, but staying in touch offering additional resources just so that they know that you’re still there if and when they might need you again, I think is another great way.

Darl: This has been a great discussion, Ron. I could probably talk to you for two hours on this stuff, and I know when we even had our consulting calls, I feel like sometimes it just essentially results of being a podcast discussion. We see things so similarly, if anybody’s listening to this and they want to connect with you and talk to you about how you may be able to assist them in their marketing plans and their growth, what’s the best way for them to find you?

Ron: I’m out on LinkedIn almost every single day producing content. Come reach out, say hi, follow, connect, whatever works best for you. Or you can check out LegalFenix.com.

Darl: Awesome. And we will have a link to your website in the comments. Thank you for joining us, Ron. This has been a great discussion, and if anybody listening to this episode would like to reach out to Ron, feel free to do so.

If you’d like to reach out to me and talk to me about what works and what I don’t have the marketing expertise, I have the expertise of somebody who has wasted a ton of money on certain things, and I feel like I have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work, and happy to talk to you certainly for free. I don’t charge for any of this. I like just talking to other law firm owners and giving them my advice. So feel free to hit me up as well, and I’d be happy to talk to you.

Thanks for joining us, Ron. I really appreciate it.

Ron: Thanks so much, Darl. It’s been great.


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