Sam Glover is Not Always the Best Role Model

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Isn’t that the truth? —Ed.

Sam Glover may have his finger on the pulse of technology, run a successful law practice blog, and write PHP code in his sleep, but lets be realistic. We have all learned many lessons the hard way, such as the “time is money” lesson, and the “stick to what you know” lesson. As a result, we are all painfully sympathetic to newer shows like Renovation Realities , Rescue Renovation, and Disaster DIY that often feature homeowners getting in over their heads.

Likewise, I have had a few too many experiences recently with clients who attempt to tackle website design only to have it explode like a homeowner hitting a sewer main. In the same way you do not want DIY legal clients, I prefer not to have DIY marketing clients.

PHP is Not Taught in Law School

You spent a lot of time and money in law school. Those of us non-lawyers who do this website stuff for a living have also spent a lot of time and money figuring it out. How about we shake hands and agree that you do your lawyer stuff, and we’ll stick to the PHP coding? First ask yourself why you are spending this time on learning about websites. Is coding something that you will be able to replicate and monetize? If not, it is a waste of time, and something you should be hiring someone to do for a few bucks an hour while you spend time starting your firm, fine tuning your business plan, and supporting your real expertise. You know, the one you went to law school for.

Sam is the Exception, Not The Rule

Sam Glover is one of the rare exceptions that can understand code, can also make things look good, and enjoys both aspects. Within the world of people who create websites there are generally two groups, those from a design background and those from a programming background. Generally speaking, the websites done by each are usually lacking in the opposite area. So designer’s sites are usually great to look at but weaker on the technical and programming and vice versa. While this might seem like a simple ability, it is like an albino panda born in the wild. Do not expect to be able to do this on your own, and why should you? You are a lawyer.

The Value of Your Time

There are close to a million articles (give or take) on this site discussing the importance of time management, being organized, and valuing your time. Read those, determine what your time is worth, then realize how much you are spending when you waste a few hours here and there on your website. If you don’t value your time, why should your clients?

Focus on what you’re known for and the advice your friends seek from you. I’m guessing it is not creating websites. You only have so much time and while a programmer is putting together your website you should be finding new ways to establish yourself within your chosen niche.

The First Step: Asking for Help

Asking for help is not a weakness. Putting together a website seems like something you should be able to do on your own, but should you? My clients often start by apologizing for not being extremely tech-saavy and my response is always the same: “Don’t worry about it I’m not a good lawyer, either. You are a lawyer, you are not supposed to be good at making websites.” If you have no background in websites or comfort level with coding it is probably better to recognize your limitations.

As my former CEO used to say, “I am no genius. I just surround myself with the smartest people I know and they make me look good.” I know my limits and realize there are times when there are much more informed technical guys that I could just reference rather than trying to figure something out myself. Often times, half (or more) of the battle is knowing where to find the answers and sometimes it’s with someone else.

Your Blog Will Not Be Lawyerist or Caveat Emptor

The Lawyerist website has taken years to achieve their level of traffic, in addition to a pursuit of advertisers, multiple promotion methods, and a seemingly tireless Sam Glover. Even CaveatEmptor.com, the blog that more directly feeds his practice, does better than average. Over at the LAB, a few members have shared the details on the traffic to their blogs and websites most of which average around 200-300 hits per month (as compared to the 7500 hits Sam had for the same month). Don’t get me wrong, having a blog is a great idea. However, my philosophy is that it should be approached as a long-term branding activity, not a quick road to fame and fortune. Your blog should support your expertise and offer value, improving your overall reputation. So stop trying to make it look or function like Sam’s blog and do something that reflects your own style and practice area.

The Parts Versus the Whole

Relying on expert assistance means that you are capitalizing on their institutional knowledge. You are not just receiving the bundle of code that they are writing, but the knowledge that that bundle is more effective than a bundle they created last year that did not work. You are getting all of their learned mistakes, all of the awareness they have of the entire industry (the internet industry, not the legal industry) and all the lessons they have ever learned.

I have requests for assistance from DIY attorneys all the time asking for help in the code of their site. I do not mind pointing people in the right direction (within reason). Not every bit of your technology, website or blog needs to be setup by an expert, however you will not succeed in attempting to emulate an expert’s practices by piecing together a chunk or two of their code. Grabbing some source code is not the same as getting the source of their success.

(photo: Shutterstock)

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  • shg

    Funny you should write this. My blog is an off-the-shelf cheapo that hasn’t been tweaked since the day I started it, just over 5 years ago. It wasn’t much to look at in the beginning, and it’s just gotten older-looking over the years. I lack both the time and interest to learn the code to improve it, so I don’t bother.

    People have pointed out over the years that the appearance of my blog sucks, and that I should do a major overhaul, improve its functionality and make it look good. I can’t be bothered.

    Instead, I just write stuff.

  • Guest

    Karin:

    I couldn’t disagree more. I spend more time, thought and effort on internet marketing than on the practice of law. The SEO game is fascinating. Except for a few high value practice areas, the practice of law is boring and non-lucrative.

    I do the exact opposite of what you suggest. I outsource the practice of law and focus on the coding. I hire unemployed young lawyers to go to court to handle DUIs and criminal cases for a $100 a court appearance. I refer a lot of other things out, and I keep high value tort cases for myself.

    My day is spent at the office advertising/coding, answering the phone for new business, and doing client intakes. Court is a distraction from advertising.

    • shg

      It would be really helpful if you could post your real name or website so I can learn more about you. Your business model is fascinating to me.

    • I sincerely hope you’re just trolling for curmudgeons, because outsourcing a law practice to focus on marketing is the stupidest idea I’ve ever come across.

      • Noah Clements

        It’s what James Sokolove does in the personal injury field. see http://www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/he_s_attorney_james_sokolove/page1. But there is a big difference between referring things out and hiring young inexperienced lawyers to handle cases for you (your associates for that case). Does your malpractice carrier know you have multiple inexperienced lawyers working on your cases for you? Their missteps become yours.

  • Guest

    “I hire unemployed young lawyers to go to court to handle DUIs and criminal cases for a $100 a court appearance.”

    I meant to say that I pay the young lawyers $100 a court appearance. I charge the client $2-6k per case.

  • I am curious about guest’s business model. What if a case goes to trial? Who handles it – presumably not a lawyer making $100 a pop.

  • Sorry – one more comment on the post. My law firm blogs get only a few hundred hits a month but they have resulted in clients nonethess. First, in my industry, few people read blogs anyway. Second those who visit my blogs spend an average of 3 -6 minutes which is pretty sticky. Finally, new lawyers starting out cant always afford a reputable marketing person which can run several thousand dollars a month or $100+ per “lead” While many lawyers have mixed views on the value of marketers, if you are going to use one, you can’t risk going with a fly by night shop that can do far more harm than good. If a lawyer is scraping by or lacks skill, those $s are better spent elsewhere. I get too many sad calls from lawyers on the verge of bankruptcy because they are locked into usurious contracts with web/marketing shops that don’t deliver

    • I agree that blogs can be great for establishing reputation and expertise and that there are many overpriced services out there, but they are not the only answer. If you lack in technical knowledge, getting someone reputable to help you set up a blog does not have to be that expensive and could save lots of time that could otherwise be better spent.

      • Yeah, hiring you to create a law firm website or blog costs less than a single month of most of the “big name” services, and in my opinion, gets better results. The big names are more interested in marketing themselves than in helping small law firms do well. And they charge a lot for that mediocrity.

        • shg

          I’m deeply hurt that Karin didn’t respond to my comment. She is a mean and hurtful person who has diminished my self-esteem. I come here for the balloons and love, not to be ignored and have my dreams crushed. Why does Karin hate me so? Why is she so cruel?

  • This is encouraging! I decided to start my blog as a way to expand my writing skills. it is good to know that it is a journey not an overnight sensation.

  • Great post, Karin.

    While Sam Glover may balance too many roles to be a one-size-fits-all role model for too many lawyers, his career path tells us a lot about the critical components of many models of success.

    1. Patience and willingness to invest. When he started out, Sam’s Enterprises didn’t look like they do today. Sam was willing to put in the time and effort to create a path for himself.

    2. Try out new ideas. Test. Re-test. Dump what doesn’t work. Sam’s Enterprises have benefited by his willingness to stop doing things that didn’t work out. Altogether too many lawyers and other professionals hang on to things that seemed like a good idea at the time they were originally implemented or to ideas in which they are personally invested and enthralled. Moving on from things that don’t work takes skill, bravery, clear vision, and sometimes a tiny bit of finely-targeted ruthlessness.

    Thanks for setting a good example!

  • Bruce Godfrey

    Interesting experience three days ago. An attorney whom I respect greatly 40 miles from my office seemed like a good referral candidate for a case in her practice area and region. So I searched her name online and confirmed her number from her site. But upon review of her site it appeared that she claimed to be “specializing” in several practice areas – a big no-no per se in Maryland under our Rule 7.4. In addition, I caught several goofy typos that a casual review should have caught. Almost made me regret the referral, but I had known her for almost 20 years’ acquaintance.

    I sent her a fax basically saying “Hi [Brunhilda], referred you a case. BTW not to get in your business, but your site had _________ ….” She called me two hours later embarrassed and apologetic, thanking me and getting ready to chew out her SEO/marketing/website people. In the end the mistake is hers, of course, but failing to tell these marketing SEO hacks who never took a professional responsibility exam never to call her office again was a component of her mistake.

    Had she done it DIY, as I did through WordPress, she would not have risked ethical exposure from those feckless bandits. Learning a little PHP, like learning Excel or PowerPoint, won’t kill you; it’s not classified information.

    • I’m with you on having a WordPress site which allows you to have control of, and responsibility for your content. I’m just saying you don’t have to build the whole thing from scratch by yourself, especially if PHP isn’t a talent you claim.