Adventures In Legal Marketing Blasphemy

Law Practice

My firm doesn't have a website.

Seriously.

Oh, we have a "under construction" placeholder site with our contact info. But it's been almost five and a half years since two of us opened the doors, and we're up to more than a dozen lawyers, and we don't have a web site.

We'll have one soon. The truth is, we've been busy. When we've suffered, it hasn't been because we don't have enough business. It's been because the business we have isn't paying bills on time (a common problem with the service sector of the economy).

No doubt we've lost a few potential clients this way. But we continue to get clients the old-fashioned way — through referrals from satisfied clients, former colleagues and opponents, friends, and the mafia-like former federal prosecutor network.

A couple of clients and potential clients have joked about it. But they're not angry. There's only one group that's angry.

A certain segment of "professional marketers" — some web designers, "SEO professionals," "marketing consultants", and the like — are absolutely enraged and appalled that we're a going concern without a web site. They feel that we're simply immolating huge stacks of money that we could be making. We're skeptical. When we spend money on marketing — like dropping a few grand on the various Thompson-West and Martindale-Hubbell monopolistic listings — we generally feel that it yields not quality clients, but deadbeats looking for free legal advice and sad people who need us to sue the government for implanting chips in their heads. We only do it out of a residual — and quite possibly foolish — concern that we won't be credible if we're not listed on martindale and lawyers.com and all that shit. We really don't feel we're missing much because we're not catching the people Googling WHITE COLLOR LAYER LOS ANGELES HELP NOT GUILTY.

Occasionally the marketing OUTRAGE reaches comical levels. Late in the day yesterday the managing partner and I received a breathless email from a rep of one of the big three pay-through-the-ass-to-market-with-our-famous-name companies. It is, quite possibly, the most insufferable email I have ever received. Here it is, redacted to protect the guilty parties:

Gentlemen –

Let me be right to the point…

I have reviewed your current website at: www.desultoryplaceholderpageforourfirm.com

I SEE THAT THE SITE IS CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION AND ENCOURAGE YOU TO ENGAGE MY SERVICES BEFORE MOVING FORWARD WITH ANY OPTIONS!

I am the Legal Internet Consultant for [Gigantic Overpriced Corp That Everyone Pays Out of Fear] in Downtown Los Angeles. [GOCTEPOF] is a [Even Bigger Overpriced Law Business] Business Unit and we are sister companies with [legal search engine] and [embarrassing vanity press masquerading as legitimate lawyer ranking system]. My client list reads like a who’s who of local attorneys. (See below) I tell you this only because I know there are a lot of sales people that are constantly looking for your time. You can read more about me and what I do by visiting my company’s website at www.annoyingdouchebag.com

Here is my proposal to you. From looking at your current website I see you focus on varies aspects of Criminal Defense and Business Litigation. I can show you exactly what you will need to do online to get more and better qualified business. Here are just a few of the clients that I work with in your area:

[suckers redacted]

This is not some sales pitch; in fact I have no desire to sell you anything that won’t deliver you a measurable, sustainable result.

I have no desire to waste your time or mine. I live right here in the Los Angeles, I grew up here, went to school and work here. I know I can help you and would love the opportunity to discuss some options with you.

I will be in your building meeting with clients tomorrow and will plan on stopping by to schedule an appointment on your calendar. If tomorrow is not a good time for me to stop in, please feel free to email me back or have your assistant call me to schedule 30 minutes for us to meet.

Sincerely,

Mr. Annoying Twat

Do you think Mr. Annoying Twat could not get more annoying than that?

Today — less than 24 hours after he sent that email — Mr. Annoying Twat showed up at our building, tried to come up to our floor, and asked security to call us and ask us to let him up so he could deliver some materials.

I debated telling building security that he was had a restraining order against him and that he was a deranged maniac known for hiding destructive devices in his bodily cavities.

As with spam, people do this sort of thing because somewhere, somehow, a sucker responds to it, making it profitable.

Who the hell responds to marketing tactics like this?

We'll have our site up, designed by low-key and competent professionals, in due course. Until then, we'll rely on word-of-mouth and the results of working hard and treating clients well. We won't cave to the OMG YOU MUST MARKET HARD ON THE INTERNET hype. These people make late-night-infomercials seem dignified.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

14 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Mark  •  Nov 19, 2010 @3:41 pm

    I agree with you on the marketing; however, I must confess that I myself am appalled (though not enraged) by the placeholder website. Maybe it's a generation gap, but it seems like a Thanksgiving without turkey. Why….why don't you have a turkey? You're supposed to have turkey! It doesn't matter if you don't like turkey!

    But that's just my neurosis.

  2. Ken  •  Nov 19, 2010 @3:57 pm

    Well, Mark, there might be just a tinge of "fuck you, we're so awesome that it's 2010 and we don't need a website," like those tiresome hipster clubs without a sign.

  3. Mark  •  Nov 19, 2010 @5:16 pm

    Ah. Understood. The PBR Gambit.

  4. SPQR  •  Nov 19, 2010 @5:58 pm

    SEO is just a shakedown.

  5. Scott Jacobs  •  Nov 19, 2010 @8:08 pm

    Ken, you don't have an unmarried sister, do you?

  6. Turk  •  Nov 20, 2010 @2:41 pm

    I once had a client dump his current lawyer for me shortly after hiring lawyer #1. Why? Because when the client tried to get info on lawyer #1 there was nothing to be found on the web.

    So yeah, you really do need a website, because those that are looking to hire you (and perhaps considering another firm or two) want some info.

    There are about a billion or so web developers that would love to build you a nice site, at a modest $30 – 80/hr. Hire one of them and get something up.

    And get that restraining order against Mr. Annoying Twat.

  7. Erich Martell  •  Nov 22, 2010 @9:11 am

    AWESOME post. All snark directed at legitimate targets – and wonderfully done!

  8. Bryan C  •  Nov 23, 2010 @10:41 am

    Forget the SEO scammers and tell the hard-sell marketers where to go. I hate those guys.

    It's not something I get "outraged" about, but I'd personally think twice about doing business with any professional service provider that doesn't have a web presence of some kind. Sadly, most placeholder sites are the online equivalent of a sign that consists of a torn piece of paper with your name written in Sharpie. An accurate Google Places page, for example, is much more appealing to me than a half-assed placeholder.

  9. Steve Cook  •  Nov 23, 2010 @1:58 pm

    My personal favorite are the seemingly reputable social media/blog "evangelists." In particular, those who charge outrageous sums of money to teach law firms "how to blog" and who advocate an inefficient course of action solely because it fits their business models.

  10. Valerie  •  Nov 23, 2010 @3:17 pm

    As a legal television producer and very low key creative services person, I bump into GOCTEPOF on occasion. As a competitor, I too find them obnoxious and condescending, while I get clients that wouldn't dream of speaking to them.

    There's a lot to be said for building genuine, no pressure relationships in the appropriate, non-invasive manner. Besides, most of my clients come from referrals.

  11. Bruce Colwin  •  Nov 23, 2010 @3:46 pm

    I'm sure you've inspired many other firms to now take their websites offline.

  12. Ken  •  Nov 23, 2010 @3:48 pm

    If I can get them to cancel their malpractice insurance, it will be time to implement MY MASTER PLAN.

  13. Joni Mueller  •  Nov 27, 2010 @12:46 pm

    I am a legal secretary and a web designer and I know lawyers don't respond well to those tactics. They know what they want and when they want it, and then they go get it. All of my lawfirm related web design business has been strictly word of mouth, and in this industry, that's what matters. That email was basically a cold call and it will be a cold day in (you know where) before I ever do something like that. It depends on the kind of law you practice whether you really need a web site and whether that web site will garner a substantial amount of business. But it is nice to have. It helps when clients or corporate counsel are checking you out. Because like it or not, most people when choosing lawyers these days (who aren't fortunate enough to have a referral) will open their browser rather than the yellow pages. Just my two.

1 Trackback