Lawyers to Avoid

I’ve been thinking about why a law firm decides to spend money on public relations. If it’s not to further promote their reputation and trusted attorneys, then that money is wasted.
If you do a Google search for “lawyer” and “reputation” one of the top paid links is for Lawyerratingz,which has the headline: Lawyers to Avoid. It appears to mostly cater to consumers looking for lawyers. For fun, I put in the name of a personal injury attorney I know and he was not listed. I then searched for one of the top intellectual property attorneys I work for and he was listed, but had no reviews for him. It’s not clear to me how this particular site has value for someone searching for a lawyer be it a PI or IP practice.

While I am an advocate of lawyers having blogs to exhibit their expertise (assuming it is very specific), I also encourage them to consider how “not” to become a lawyer that people want to avoid.
Certainly, building the reputation of a personal injury lawyer is much different than a patent attorney’s. I believe there are common image building traits for many practice areas:

1. Lawyers need to overcome an inherent mistrust about their character. I’m not talking about the “ambulance chaser” image of PI attorneys when I was growing up. I’m talking about 21st century “overbilling image” that is calling for the death of the billable hour. Attorneys who address this issue in regards to the integrity of their billing practices will go a long way in enhancing their reputations. For example, check out the website for Valorem Law Group. Their first flash animation states “The Billable Hour is Dead.” Talk about tackling the issue head on.

2. When it comes to marketing, lawyers are still learning to crawl: I wonder how many 2010 law school graduates understand the 1950s legal term “rainmaker?” Firm growth is no longer about a few super stars at the top that bring in all the revenue. New associates are now being trained early on in business development. They are also being told in firm policy manuals to mind their manners with their online profiles at social networks.Face time client development has morphed into Facebook policing at some law firms.

3. Lawyers Fear Asking the Hard Questions for Marketing Services: I had a blog post titled Social Media Snakes for Lawyers. My point was that there are hundreds of marketing, public relations and social media services making near impossible promises such as simply pay a fee, get consultations with a marketing/public relations expert, and like magic the firm’s reputation will be enhanced and clients will come begging for your services. This type of magic is reserved for something more realistic, like unicorns. I’ve seen too many law firms think they can throw money at something that can enhance their reputation, without their involvement. Attorneys need to ask the questions to know exactly how their reputation will be enhanced with these services and understand the “costs” that has nothing to do with what they are charged (e.g. their personal time, giving the consultants direction and benchmarks to measure progress against).

For attorneys to become trust advisors to their clients, it starts with a reputation management strategy, not a repulsive brand of lawyering.