Great Legal Marketing Advice: Thomas Goldstein

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There’s a lot of legal marketing advice out there. So, when really great advice pops-up, it’s worth highlighting. In a recent podcast at ABA Journal, SCOTUSblog founder, Thomas C. Goldstein, shares some really excellent advice for business development and marketing.

While some of Goldstein’s advice relates specifically to developing a Supreme Court practice, most of it is applicable to practices of just about any variety. I strongly encourage you to listen to all 26m 37s of the podcast. Here are a few highlights.

SCOTUSblog

It you’re familiar with SCOTUSblog, you know it doesn’t suck. But it wasn’t always this way.

As Goldstein discusses in the podcast, back in 2002, SCOTUSblog was originally intended to serve as a marketing tool. As is true with most law firm blogs, SCOTUSblog content was geared around his practice, cases he was working, etc. But it didn’t work. As he puts it, “People weren’t moved by that.”

In fact, they decided to completely give up on the blog as a tool to promote the law firm.

He and his partners concluded that they wanted to re-focus their efforts to shape the blog as a public interest tool. And part of doing that meant that they wouldn’t publish about their own cases. Why? Because people wouldn’t trust them.

So, they worked to separate the firm from the blog.

They wrote objectively about the Court and cases that they weren’t working on. That’s when it started working. Working meaning, in part, that it was generating business.

How many dollars does he make directly from blogging? He admits that’s hard to tell. But it’s what he’s best known for. He knows he has a lot of readers.

Obviously, building a resource like this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. How many of you were regularly following SCOTUSblog back in 2002?

Further, SCOTUSblog is written and maintained by people that know a lot about the subject. Their contributors and administrators include, not only firm lawyers, but also lawyers from other practices, professors, legal scholars and even law students.

It’s also worth mentioning that SCOTUSblog is about a very specific subject. It doesn’t cover every federal case. It doesn’t cover every appellate case. It speaks to one specific topic that the lawyers at the firm know a lot about.

It has become one of the most well-respected, authoritative internet resources on its subject matter.

Would you describe your blog like this?

Recently, in the LAB, there has been some discussion about web marketing. I bring this up here because I think it provides some helpful juxtaposition.

For those of you who are hyper-focused on “ranking for keywords,” compare your approach to Goldstein’s.

For those obsessed with search engines and SEO, compare your back links to SCOTUSblog. They’re linked to from:

  • Wikipedia.org
  • TheHill.com
  • TheAtlantic.com
  • Volokh.com
  • NyTimes.com
  • Economist.com
  • PBS.org
  • NBCNews.com

How about your blog?

Community

Another critical distinction between Goldstein’s approach to legal marketing and that of many other lawyers is his understanding of the importance of participating in his community. No, not just doing community service in the traditional sense (although you should do that too), but actively participating in the community engaged in the subject.

Of course, for Goldstein that includes blogging. But it goes beyond that. It also includes participating with the press. In fact, he attributes much of his early good fortune to his relationships with people in the press core.

Now, while knowing Nina Totenberg is undoubtedly a valuable relationship asset, Goldstein makes building a rapport and trust with the press a priority. He recommends that when you find journalists who are covering something very specific that you can credibly say something about, you should offer your assistance. Be responsive. Help them do the research. That’s something that many lawyers are unwilling to do.

We’re not talking about generic press releases here. We’re talking about authentic engagement with other people who write about your specific subject matter.

If you spend some time looking and listening, it’s likely you’ll be able to identify many communities that are engaged in discussions, both online and offline, related to topics that are relevant to your practice. Providing valuable contributions to these communities can be just about as close to a magic marketing bullet as there is.

The Beauty Pageant

In addition to great advice about attracting potential clients, Goldstein also provides insight into closing clients. Yes, Goldstein acknowledges that there is a sales component to winning new business. Whether his experiences years ago selling computers assist him now or not, he understands something that many lawyers seem to reject, that they are in sales.

Obviously, “selling” legal services is much different from selling real estate or used cars. As Goldstein puts it, it’s an, “intensely personal process. The lawyer-client relationship is one of incredible trust.”

Ultimately, if you want to be hired, you must be able to communicate that you are the one that they should trust to “fix their problems.” Here are a few of Goldstein’s tips:

  • Preparation – Be able to talk at length about the potential client’s case without notes.
  • Do Not Delegate – Potential clients will expect you to do the talking. Be prepared to present your theory of their case and how you would present it.
  • Conversation – Get them involved in a conversation about their case. Be prepared to explain how you can apply your reputation and skill to their problem.

Importantly, Goldstein doesn’t put a lot of stock in traditional marketing materials. He doesn’t spend a lot of energy talking about his past experiences. He figures that by the time he’s sitting down with a potential client, that potential client already has some sense of that stuff.

To me, this is a key difference from what many other lawyers do. Goldstein’s focus is on the potential client. About their problems. The only relevant information about him is how he is the person that they should trust to help fix their problem as good as it can be fixed.

If you’re looking for some great legal marketing ideas, download the podcast. These are only a couple of highlights.

No matter what your practice looks like, I’m willing to bet that you can take something away from listening to Thomas Goldstein. This is how you do marketing.

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