Takeaways from the Suffolk Law School Legal Marketing Conference 2014

Boston Marketing ConferenceHow marketing for law firms has increased in complexity and opportunity

The following were some of the panelists and speakers that I’ve quoted for reference.

Conrad Saam, Founder of Mockingbird Marketing
Gyi Tsakalakis, Founder of AttorneySync
Damian Turco, Founder of Mass Injury Firm, P.C.
Jim Schonrock, VP of Performance at FindLaw
Leigh McMillan, VP of marketing at Avvo, Inc.
Adam Camras, CEO and founder of Lawgical
Jack Newton, CEO and founder of Clio

My Initial Impressions

The conference was very similar to the recent Legal Marketing Conference in Orlando in the sense that the focus was on content marketing and how to succeed online. Some recurring topics this year:

  • SEO and blogging were the primary focus
  • Not a lot of people are talking about social media community management yet (but they should be)
  • Paid search came up a few times – good to see a balance there

It’s interesting to look at the most heavily searched keywords, according to Google, to determine where the legal marketing world is focused in general:

Law Firm SEO

Google Trends data shows more focus on SEO than social media, although interest in both has picked up in recent years, as Google got more stringent and blackhat/shady techniques stopped working.

Law Firm SEO interest over time

The speakers also talked about the radical changes in the world of law firms. Here are a few of the key takeaways:

  • 2010 saw the highest law firm enrollment rates in history. In 2013, enrollment was the lowest since 1975!
  • Certain legal work is now a commodity to be outsourced or brokered on sites like LegalZoom.
  • Recommended books: The End of Lawyers by Richard Susskind, which spurred a second book called Tomorrow’s Lawyers that has a bit more positive spin and advice.

Keynote Address: Delivering a Cloud Experience


Law firms will move to the cloud or else! Photo

The Suffolk Legal Marketing Conference organizers tabbed Jack Newton of Clio to deliver the keynote. He made a persuasive argument that cloud computing has been critical in allowing solo and small law firms to keep their costs down.

Small firms make up 80% of the legal market, and cloud-based companies with lots of venture capital are now targeting them. Considering hardware and practice management solutions used to cost $10,000 or more, it’s a good thing that all software will likely be cloud based in 3 to 5 years. Google Chromebook is an example of where things may be headed, because it doesn’t have any ability to store files other than in the cloud. Newton joked that we are on the verge of things that resemble the Terminator movies and Skynet.

Just this morning in the news, I saw segment about how a computer can now convince people 33% of the time that it’s not a robot (in a text conversation). Not exactly Skynet, but we are in a brave new world of legal marketing.

Law Firm Branding and Customer Service

Jack also had some great information on law firm branding. He shared some information about a leaked Apple store manual, which outlines how they strive to inspire and create empathy with their customers. They tell their team not to sell, but to make happy customers. Why? Because happy customers spend money.

He also mentioned how Zappos does whatever it takes to solve the customer’s problems. He mentioned they once ordered a pizza for a customer during a particularly long support call

Are you getting your clients frequent updates and keeping them informed rather than anxious? Now that the legal world is so competitive, tomorrow’s lawyers have to “think like a brand” and improve their social media presence. The leaders in the legal marketing world are well aware of this, and have already mobilized to social media to take full advantage of the new opportunities.

Social Media and Search Engine Optimization to Nurture Relationships and Improve Online Visibility

In the presentation about nurturing relationships online, Gyi Tsakalakis (AttorneySync founder) did an excellent job of illustrating some examples of attorneys going above and beyond with genuine blogging and content creation (as opposed to just farming out crappy blog content for SEO purposes).

First he gave the example of Scotus, who started covering the Supreme Court as though he was a journalist. His in-depth coverage eventually earned him placement in critical Google News results, which is fantastic for SEO. Google highlights his results prominently in its special slots for news articles and in-depth content. Much more powerful than his old mundane blog.

Law firm blogs doing it right:

Gyi also said that true social media is not just broadcasting, but listening and engaging. In order to engage, you can’t completely farm out your social media to contractors. A certain amount of it has to be actually replying and commenting in a way that only you can do.

He gave a simple and practical example: When you tweet a link to your blog post, mention the Twitter handles of people you reference in your post. Many times, these people are delighted to learn you mentioned them and will reward you with a reply and/or a retweet.

He said he likes to create a Twitter list of solo people that focus on a certain subject rather than relying on mostly a general broadcast on Twitter. The fire hose is just too large to be noticed by everyone. He said that while Facebook is a good place to start, if you want to just share some general information, journalists and industry people are much more likely to be on LinkedIn and Twitter.

He also said that it’s important to get people to comment on your blog that have online verified profiles, or in other words, are real people that Google would recognize as thought leaders. I would take this a step further and extend these “verified interactions” to social media, especially on Google+. Measuring your interactions, such as blog comments and retweets and various forms of engagement, is much deeper than just pushing out thought leadership content. Both are beneficial, but you get more mileage out of your content when people actually engage with it. He said that when he was an attorney, he used to work on his social media between motions and on commutes.

Gyi’s parting advice? Listen more than you post.

How to Use Google Analytics, with Conrad Saam and Leigh McMillan

Conrad explained that Google has a literal zoo of algorithm updates, with names for their methods of addressing who should rank first in the search engines – such as Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird. I was amazed at how in-depth Conrad went into discussing and diagnosing Google Panda and Penguin issues using Google Analytics. The audience kept asking him to step back and start more basic, and there was a lot of good fun interplay with the speakers and the audience in this regard.

He discussed how common it is lately for people to have been penalized for their SEO company’s bad behavior with regard to link building. If you see a significant drop in your organic search traffic that aligns with Penguin release dates – starting in April 2012 and happening roughly every six months thereafter – you know you have issues.


Google Penguin – drop in traffic

A sudden traffic drop like this means you’ve been penalized by Google, and won’t recover your rankings until you use the Google disavow tool to show Google what links you agree should not be pointing to you, or correct a more serious manual penalty (which you can see as a notification Google Webmaster tools).

Because of these new complexities with search engine optimization, Sam said that he is seeing a mind-boggling amount of money being spent on legal SEO.

Conrad said that he was very concerned for solo attorneys and small law firms, since Internet marketing is now so expensive, and that reviews, links, and content development all favor larger firms.

He also said that Avvo, Yelp, and Google reviews are critical for local listings, and that Google reviews are the most important. It is also critical to have a page for each of your locations with good local keywords on them, to match the local reviews and citations with a consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP).


Legal marketing and Internet marketing in general are more complex than ever, yet some of the audience was struggling with even some of the basic concepts. Like Conrad, I’m also concerned for small firms and solo practitioners, given even a 19-year web marketing veteran like myself has my hands full keeping up with marketing trends. Social media is important, but SEO and content are critical for law firms. In order to do those right these days, you really have to have all of your ducks in a row.

You either need to get a team of people working for you, or devote a more significant portion of time to your marketing efforts. Plenty of opportunity, but more required moving parts than ever.

Legal marketers, how do you create high ROI campaigns without getting overwhelmed? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter.

Also, stay tuned for part two!


0 replies

Leave a Comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *