Linda Pepe Part 1: Website Content and its Influence on Law Firm Hiring Decisions

John McDougall interview photoburns & levison logoJohn McDougall:  Hi, I’m John McDougall and welcome to Legal Marketing Review. Today, my guest is Linda Pepe, Director of Marketing and Communications at Burns & Levinson.

Welcome, Linda.

Linda Pepe Burns & LevinsonLinda Pepe:  Hi, John. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Authority in Main Practice Area vs. General Knowledge

John McDougall interview photoJohn:  Yeah, absolutely. Linda, how important is it that an attorney is an authority in their main practice area versus trying to be good at too many areas of law?

Linda Pepe Burns & LevinsonLinda:  That’s a really good question, John. I think that so many attorneys these days practice in a variety of practice groups that it can be really tempting to try and be all things to all people by writing about all of them.

I caution against that, though. It’s much better to pick up an area that’s really a specialty and focus on it. Then you can show the world, and potential clients of course, your expertise in that area and why they should be hiring you rather than your competitor.

When potential clients are looking for an attorney, it’s usually because they’ve got a specific issue. That’s why focusing on specific issues and specific practices is a smarter way to go.

Law Firm’s Brand Vs. Individual Attorneys in Hiring Decisions

John McDougall interview photoJohn:  Do people generally hire based on a law firm’s brand, or individual attorneys, and how much influence do attorneys of substance in their website bio pages have on hiring decisions?

Linda Pepe Burns & LevinsonLinda:  That’s the key question, really. I actually have participated both ways but I believe that, while a law firm’s brand and reputation is very, very important, that the most critical thing is an individual attorney’s personal brand.

Clients work with attorneys and they want to know that they’re hiring the best person ‑‑ emphasis on “person” — for their work. I’ve also heard clients say that they want to make sure that they like the person; that they can enjoy, at least as much as possible, working with them.

As far as the influence of bio pages, beyond a doubt, attorney bio pages are the most visited pages of a website. I’ve worked at a few firms — both international, national and regional firms. I’ve also worked as a consultant and had the opportunity to go behind the scenes, and review the website’s Google Analytics on a number of websites.

Each and every time, consistently, the attorney bio pages are the most visited. Now, you need to be realistic. No one is going to hire an attorney solely based on their bio page. But it really does serve to help credential and validate a choice of attorney.

John McDougall interview photoJohn:  Yeah, and we’ve heard that in a lot of our interviews; it’s amazing just how consistent that is. We’ve seen it in analytics as well, that the bio pages are highly visited. It’s amazing how some attorneys really do a thorough job of it and they have their connections to LinkedIn and Twitter, and blog posts that they’ve written, and verdicts and settlements, and things like that, as well as some personal information ‑‑ all kinds of stuff — and others are pretty lifeless.

There’s a pretty good discrepancy. Would you say that that’s true across bio pages?

Linda Pepe Burns & LevinsonLinda:  Absolutely, and if there’s one page that’s going to be kept up‑to‑date besides the home page, that’s really the most important page because it’s the most visited. I would recommend that for any attorney and any marketing person working with the attorney, make sure you keep it up‑to‑date.

The attorneys are usually out there. They’re meeting clients. They’re doing speaking engagements. They’re writing. They’re doing various things. Make sure you put that up on your website. You need to keep that up‑to‑date. You need to keep it fresh. It’s critical.

Judging Credibility of Attorney Websites

John McDougall interview photoJohn:  When you first look at an attorney website, how do you know if their firm is credible and if they can be trusted?

Linda Pepe Burns & LevinsonLinda:  For me, first I like to look and see if the website has any depth or if it just looks like brochure-ware. Hopefully there aren’t too many sites like that around anymore.

The next thing I do is I look for content because content is very important to me. I like to see — are the attorneys writing? Are they showing that they’re thought leaders? How recently was the website content updated? Also, are they using social media? Are they blogging? Are they tweeting?

Additionally, then I’ll take a look and see what kind of recognition that they’ve gotten. Are they ranked in Chambers, or Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, etc.? I think all of that’s important.

Thought Leadership Activities for Attorneys

John McDougall interview photoJohn:  What are some of the most important thought leadership activities for attorneys, the blogging, public relations, being an author, bio pages, client alerts and newsletters, social media. Out of all that stuff, is it kind of one or the other is most important?

Linda Pepe Burns & LevinsonLinda:  In my mind it’s a key. You want to use as many tools and as many methods as you can. But really when I think about the marketing strategy, there are three basic areas to consider. The first is, it’s what’s called “owned media.” It’s the content that the law firms produce on their own, such as the blogs, the client updates, their newsletters, and their videos.

The second area is “earned media.” This is the independent editorial content, like mentions in The New York Times or  The Wall Street Journal, and all the various PR activities.

The third is “paid media,” and that refers to various pay‑to‑play mediums such as — I know there are some speaking engagements and roundtables which are kind of pay‑to‑play. It also refers to the distribution partners that you could work with to help push that content out.

As to thought leadership specifically, writing is really key to raising an attorney’s personal brand. It shows their expertise. It increases their visibility and it also raises their results in Google searches. Importantly, it can get them exposure to journalists, which can earn you the earned media.

I would say that writing and blogging is key. The figure was about 55 percent of in‑house counsel say that a legal blog can actually influence their hiring decisions.

As I mentioned, additionally, blogging helps show that you’re an expert to journalists. Those editorial mentions that you get when a journalist contacts you and you get a quote in a publication, those are considered some of the most credible sources of information for in‑house counsel.

As far as social networks as well, if an attorney’s only in one place, it needs to be LinkedIn. LinkedIn profiles will rise to the top of Google searches and more in‑house counsel are on LinkedIn than any other social network.

Typically, that’s one of the places they go as well to see what an attorney’s LinkedIn profile looks like and to see if they know anyone that is connected to someone they’re considering, so they can get a personal recommendation.

John McDougall interview photoJohn:  Those are some great tips. Thanks for speaking to us today, Linda. Any other thoughts, or I should say, how can people get ahold of you? What’s your website address?

Linda Pepe Burns & LevinsonLinda:  You can either reach me via email at or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and mention this podcast.

John McDougall interview photoJohn:  Absolutely, and check out — we’ll have part two coming up soon with Linda, and for more information on legal marketing. I’m John McDougall. See you next time on Legal Marketing Review.

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