Managing your Law Firm During COVID-19

Apr 10, 2020

Patrick Carver

Hi, I’m Patrick Carver / CEO, Constellation Marketing

I hope you enjoy reading this.
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It ain’t easy, but it could help separate your firm from the pack when we return to normal.

I won’t waste your time discussing the scope of the COVID-19 crisis. Obviously, it has had a large and immediate impact on law firms throughout the country.

Instead, I’d like to discuss the solution and focus on what we can do in spite of the circumstances. As David Rhodes and Daniel Stelter of the Harvard Business Review put it, “inaction is the riskiest response to the uncertainties of an economic crisis.” Their description of a rapid, but measured approach — both offensive and defensive — resonates.

From our vantage point, our clients deserve a great deal of admiration for their collective attitude during this crisis. Their willingness to take it head-on, adapt, and maintain forward momentum has been inspiring. In our most recent post, we shared some examples of law firms who are leading the way.

However, even though many know they need to do something, I think we’re all struggling with the ‘what’ right now. It’s certainly hard to see what’s on the other side of the tunnel if we’re square in the middle. Even if we don’t know where this will go, there are still things we can do, and we wanted to share some of them.

General Marketing Guidance for Law Firms

Before we jump into our more novel marketing ideas, let’s discuss the marketing tools you’ve likely already leveraging, and how you can use them to maintain your momentum during the COVID-19 crisis.

Let’s Start with Communication

One of the most simple and effective ways to keep generating revenue during this period is to clearly communicate with your audience. A large number of businesses have completely halted during this period, and without effective communication, the assumption from consumers may be that you have, too.

While it’s true that we’re seeing a sharp decline in search traffic and advertising clicks, there are still people out there who are trying to get things done. In fact, internally we’ve seen an uptick in consumer activity. There may be a dichotomy emerging between people who respond to these situations differently. Some will avoid taking on legal matters when there is uncertainty, while others may run toward it given the free time.

What we recommend:

Make sure your current and prospective clients are aware of the status of your business during this time. Share weekly or situational updates on both your business and personal social media channels and add a clear and concise note on the homepage of your website clearly explaining how to get in touch with you.

If you’re offering special accommodations such as video or special safety practices, add that as well. We are now offering all clients a solution for this, so please contact us if you would like a message deployed on your website.

For SEO, Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough

We’re an SEO company, so if you ask our honest opinion, there is never a good time to take your foot off the gas. The thing about search is that it’s a dynamic environment. The algorithm now changes daily — there is a limited supply of first page positions and all of your competitors are constantly working to occupy them at your expense.

We completely understand that for businesses whose revenue has been decimated, paying for this just may not be feasible. We have some recommendations a little further down that are free, which you can take advantage of without the help of a company like us. Do what you can, even if it’s small.

We’ve fielded some questions about targeting COVID-19 specific terms, but the reality is that it’s just too soon to make any data-based recommendations. We’re in the thick of it and even though searches involving ‘COVID’ or ‘Coronavirus’ + variations have exploded, it’s difficult to measure that.

A simple, free way to get a better understanding of the evolving search landscape is to use Google Trends. This is real-time data from Google, and they even have a Coronavirus section.

Search volume for the traditional legal industry keywords of value is certainly down, but this won’t last forever. The keywords we target have been years in the making. The underlying trends of someone needing a ‘divorce lawyer in Nacogdoches’ have been disrupted, but they ultimately won’t change in the long-run.

With so many new laws, regulations, and situations happening by the minute, there will certainly be new keywords worth targeting related to COVID-19. We’ll keep our finger on the pulse as it develops.

What we recommend:

Our advice is to keep pushing as best you can. As I mentioned before, the search engine realm is a dynamic environment. The positive additions you make now will be rewarded while others play it safe and wait it out.

What About Advertising?

While it’s true that search volume and advertising clicks are down substantially, they’re not gone completely.

Like we mentioned, there seems to be a split in mentality during this crisis. Some are motivated to get things done because they have more time and others are avoiding action until it settles down.

Why not continue to capture the people who are motivated to act?

What we recommend:

Keep your ads running. Even with a depleted search volume, you’re still giving yourself the opportunity to generate revenue during the downturn. The ads we run are pay-per-click, so the worst that can happen is you won’t spend the maximum of your budget.

We are making some smaller bets on ads via Facebook, but historically it’s been a poor performer for attorneys. If you have to choose one, it’s Google Ads all day.

A Running List of Creative Ways to Market your Firm During the COVID-19 Crisis

Even if the market in your practice area has temporarily shifted, you can make the most of this time to boost your business and stay ahead of the competition. It’s all about keeping your marketing efforts moving forward and staying creative to keep customers and prospects digitally engaged. We highlight a few methods you can use to leverage your firm below.

Create Facebook Live Events

Facebook gives every business owner the opportunity to create a live video stream. At this point, you might be asking yourself, “what would I talk about?” Good question.

For criminal lawyers, this might be updates and questions about how ongoing cases are being handled in the courts. Personal injury lawyers might cover what to do if insurance claims are being ignored right now. There are lots of options.

What we recommend:

It depends on your practice, but an easy way to get started here is to create a premade list of common questions involving your practice area and their intersection with COVID-19.

If you want to make it feel more official, create a Facebook event to ‘host’ it and duplicate the event on Eventbrite, newspaper event directories, or anywhere else you can get attention.

If you’re gun-shy about getting your face out there, you might try recording audio instead. We’re more than happy to help our clients navigate the technology side of this.

Answer the Internet

Structured data, also known as rich snippets or schema, will continue to be more important than ever in 2020.

If I’m speaking Greek, schema is basically additional code that can go into a webpage which includes a piece of information about the page. The value of this is that it is requested by Google — from their point of view, it’s like a cheat sheet for what’s on your page. Otherwise, they are left to make their own assessment with their crawlers. These bots are getting really, really good at understanding the content of a page, but they aren’t perfect. Adding schema to your pages can give you an additional advantage over your competitors.

We use schema with every client and most recently, we’ve made a concerted effort to add more of a particular schema type called Q&A. This allows you to add special question and answer data within the code. Beyond better positions, this can give you extra real estate inside a search result by showing the questions and allowing users to interact with them directly.

What we recommend:

Find opportunities to add this to your pages. First, look at the main keyword or topic of a page on your site (like the homepage). It will be something like ‘criminal lawyer in…’ Now, take the first part of that string (or substitute it with something like ‘crime’ in this example) and search for it.

Inside the search result, you’ll start to see questions. Jot those down and answer them in the context of your practice and location. Save them and add them as schema. We’re more than happy to do this for any of our clients.

Adding this content will improve the topical depth of your page and add value to your presence.

Create Videos

This is an extension of the last suggestion. Anyone can use Google to find a list of topically relevant questions about their practice.

From there, it’s up to you to create short videos providing high-quality answers to those questions. The videos DO NOT have to include high-end production. In fact, you can create some pretty awesome content with a cheap microphone and a China ball — it’s what we use for our videos.

There are multiple applications for these. You can add them to specific pages on your website, share on social, include as responses to common questions, and more.

What we recommend:

Start small and have some fun with it. Your first iteration will be cringe-worthy — our 1-10 certainly were. But, we’ve started getting better at it and now feel comfortable sharing it with clients and prospects.

Update your Website Language

Has your practice evolved over time? If so, it may make sense to give some of the language on your website a facelift.

A common scenario we see is that a law firm starts with a wide selection of practices, but then streamlines down to a select few over time. If this is the case, do yourself a favor and bring attention to your specialization in those areas.

What we recommend:

If your website copy is not communicating an accurate portrayal of your practice and your value to customers within that realm, use this time to give it an update.

Prepare a Post-COVID Email Drip Sequence

If this sounds scary, it’s not. All we’re talking about is a series of 2-3 prewritten emails that you are going to create in advance.

China is starting to get back to normal, and other countries will follow, including the U.S. When it happens, you should be ready for a large influx of consumers resuming their activities.

A simple way to place yourself front and center is to let people know that you’re back and available to handle any needs. A simple, short email sharing this information and a friendly request to share it with others could help you have a great month once the country begins getting back on track.

What we recommend:

Start writing a few emails with this theme and stash them away for now. At the same time, start organizing an email list of friends, past clients, and colleagues. Once things start returning to normal, it’s time to send and reinforce on social media.

The current landscape is clearly a challenge, but not all hope is lost for generating new revenue. We’d like to share a couple of ways to capitalize on existing activity and an opportunity for a new revenue stream.

Offer Video Consultations

As we’ve mentioned, search traffic is down, but not gone. A great way to capitalize on those who are still searching for services is a video consultation. There are a few well-known video services like Zoom or Google Meet, but we recommend MeetFox.

The Law Ladies in Atlanta, Georgia have been the pioneers of this within the Atlanta market and we expect others to follow their lead.

This crisis has forced many people to work from home and interact via video conferencing. Our take is that this forced marriage may cement video conferencing as the preferred method of communication between consumer and many service providers. It’s the way of the future.

We live in Atlanta and it’s a PAIN to get across town just for a 15-minute appointment. We think many people will come to prefer this option, and you should be prepared for that.

MeetFox is unique in that it incorporates a calendar scheduling tool, video conferencing, and payment all under one roof. Unlike other video conferencing tools, you can require payment before you give up your time.

Generate New Revenue on Freelance Platforms

We’ve floated this idea with a few firms and the feedback has been mixed. We can only speak for ourselves: it’s been a great addition to our marketing. Using freelance platforms, we’ve been able to add new clients, and as a result came to learn that there are a lot of people using them to search for legal services.

We have a quick video to showcase how you can take advantage of it.

Don’t Turn the Ship Around, But Maybe Shift Course

Bringing it back to the Harvard Business Review article, we advise a strategy that includes offense and defense. We have not seen anything to shift our core belief in the importance of search optimization, but we all must adapt with the times.

We’ve seen law firms roughly organize into two buckets during this time: those who have seen a relatively stable flow of leads such as estate planners and those where it’s slow, such as criminal law, family law, and personal injury.

Depending on how the market is impacting your practice, you’ll want to direct your work toward the parts of this article that make sense for you.

We’re hopeful that as this progresses, the stage will be set for a wonderful comeback story. If we are to take insight from what is happening in the areas that were hit first, it’s clear that it will be a busy time sooner than later.

Hang in there and if you have ideas to contribute, we would love to hear from you.

Patrick Carver

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