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Find the Riches in the Niches: Generating New Personal Injury Clients

Posted by Larry Bodine | Sep 05, 2017 | 1 Comment

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By Larry Bodine

Believe it or not, developing your skills in negotiation and trial practice is the easy part of growing a personal injury practice. The hard part is finding enough clients to support it. Research estimates that only 7 percent of lawyers are in a personal injury practice, but for lawyers themselves, it feels as if there are competitors everywhere.

But by pursuing the following five techniques, lawyers can build a flourishing personal injury practice:

  • Optimize the number one place that clients look for you.

  • Find the riches in the niches.

  • Decide between lead-generation companies or a referral network.

  • Become a well-recognized thought leader.

  • Avoid five things on which PI lawyers should not waste money.

Expenditures to Avoid

Let me start by saving you money. There are five things that personal injury lawyers should not waste money on, starting with 1) the yellow pages. People don't look up phone numbers in paper directories anymore – they search on their cell phones. This is why there are dumpsters devoted to “phone books only.”

Similarly, 2) radio and 3) billboards also lead to squandered money. Both of them target consumers driving in cars, who will not pull over and stop to write down your phone number. 4) Print advertising is another technique outmoded by the internet. I still read two newspapers a day, but I never see ads by lawyers.

Finally, 5) avoid any marketing that can't be measured – in terms of dollars spent versus dollars earned. This includes buying tables at charity events and advertising in sports programs.

Broadcasting versus Narrowcasting

Clearly, lawyers should be where clients look for them, but where is this exactly?

Is it on TV? It might seem so because in 2016, more than $1 billion was spent on legal advertising and marketing in the United States. Much of it was paid out by law firms with a budget of $100,000 or more per month, creating an arena where a small-firm lawyer shouldn't bother to compete.

The reality is lawyers are spending more on TV, but consumers are responding less. “TV ads are losing effectiveness due to audience distraction. TIVOs, cell phones, channel flipping, and computers all distract from the viewers' ability to watch a TV ad,” says attorney Ken Hardison, president of the Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing and Management Association.

The flaw in TV is that it is broadcasting, meaning that commercials are wasted on a wide array of consumers who are not potential clients. Other means of broadcasting areradio, billboards, park benches, and bus advertisements.

A better approach is narrowcasting, which means marketing to a small audience of potential clients defined by their location, demographics, and past buying patterns.

A better approach is narrowcasting, which means marketing to a small audience of potential clients defined by their location, demographics, and past buying patterns.

In a nutshell, narrowcasting = your website. When consumers were asked by Hinge Marketing how they “check out” potential professional services providers, 80.8 percent said they look at providers' websites, and 63.2 percent said they search online or Google them. This makes sense, because people would rather open their laptop to search privately about a legal problem, as opposed to asking dad or a coworker to recommend a personal injury lawyer.

How do you optimize the number one place that clients look for you? With online articles and blog posts that answer the questions of your potential clients.

Frequent blog posts are the best technique to acquire new clients. It's true that the more you blog, the more clients you will get. See bit.ly/LawBlogGuru. The ideal frequency is two or three times per week. Fully 69 percent of businesses that acquired a customer from their blog posted this much, according to Hubspot. And 90 percent of businesses that blogged daily acquired a customer from their blog.

Don't waste money on pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. It's advertising. The three most expensive legal terms are “car accident lawyer,” “malpractice lawyer,” and “injury lawyer,” averaging $54.84 per click. And don't be fooled into buying search engine optimization (SEO) services that claim to do “on-site” and “off-site” optimization. It's a scam. True website SEO is posting new and relevant content to your website. See How to Grow Your Law Firm with SEO that Attracts Qualified Potential Clients and Referral Sources on Google.

Go long when you are writing content. Research finds that the ideal post length is 2,500-3,000 words, to capture the most visitors and get the most shares on social media.

Find the Riches in the Niches

Lawyers who are overly eager to get new business display numerous practice areas on their websites. They say they handle dog bites, aviation accidents, medical malpractice, railroad injuries, toxic mold, and more. This is a mistake. A personal injury lawyer for all torts is viewed as a master of none. “By choosing a niche practice area, and by limiting the cases you accept to one or a few practice areas, you create the impression that you're a specialty,” Hardison says.

Having a niche practice makes it easy for lawyers to spell out their unique selling proposition, an essential element in successful marketing.

Here are two examples of why a niche practice is a path to new clients.

Motorcycle Accident Cases. There are many clients to be found in representing motorcycle accident victims. Riding a motorcycle is dangerous and produces many personal injury cases. Nationwide, the number of deaths on motorcycles was more than 27 times the number in cars. Motorcycle accident victims are 35 times more likely to die in an accident than those in passenger vehicles and nine times more likely to get hurt.

The average attorney fee for a motorcycle accident was $17,000-$31,000 according to Law Tigers, an association of motorcycle lawyers, versus $3,000-$5,000 for automobile cases. Motorcycle cases settle in 9-12 months in most cases, versus 12-24 months for other PI cases. Investing in a Law Tigers membership is like buying a McDonald's franchise – the brand does all the marketing for you. For more information, visit http://membership.lawtigers.com/.

Mass Torts. A growing number of PI lawyers are starting a mass torts practice, taking advantage of the federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) system that efficiently consolidates product liability cases against corporate defendants. There are 233 MDLs in which a total of 125,298 cases have been filed. Multidistrict litigation now makes up 36 percent of the entire federal civil caseload.

Ordinarily, a personal injury practice consists of one-off, single-event matters. In contrast, a mass tort practice offers economies of scale because a lawyer can represent numerous plaintiffs who have been injured or killed by the same drug or medical device. Based on conservative estimates, two to four million people per year are injured in mass tort cases. There are not enough lawyers to represent all the potential clients.

For more, see How to Market a Mass Torts Practice Area.

Become a Well-recognized Thought Leader

There's no doubt that lawyers who are viewed as experts in their field get more than their share of good cases. There are several ways to achieve this, depending on a lawyer's skillset:

  • If you like to write, the shortest path to expert status is a consumer-oriented, frequently updated blog. There are many examples of new lawyers who vaulted ahead of their web-averse elders by establishing their expertise online.

  • If you like to talk, speaking to a group of potential clients is an automatic way to convey expertise. Anyone who is leading a discussion at the head of a room is viewed as an authority in his or her field.

  • If you like to be in charge, becoming a leader in an organization of potential clients or referral sources works well to generate new business. The goal of a PI lawyer should be to get on the board of directors; these individuals are well known to all the organization's members. Other influential positions of leadership are newsletter editor, program director, or presenter in a panel discussion.

  • If you like to help out, writing articles for other blogs and client publications has always been an effective way to present yourself as a virtuoso.

Buying Leads versus Building a Referral Network

Approximately 103 million new legal actions are started every year, according to the National Center for State Courts. The question is how to capture more of these cases.

Many lawyers building personal injury practices are tempted to buy leads from lead-generation companies. They run TV commercials that direct consumers to call a toll-free number, and the calls are then distributed to a rotation of law firms. A modest budget for a lead-gen campaign is $25,000 for a two-week rotation.

Internet-driven lead-gen companies such as The Sentinel Group, Total Attorneys, Nolo, and Lead Rival sell PI leads starting at $20 and costing upwards of $100 for serious injuries. For more detail, see How Lead Generation Companies Connect Consumers to Lawyers.

How do you optimize the number one place that clients look for you? With online articles and blog posts that answer the questions of your potential clients.

Alternatively, lawyers can build their own referral networks. This classic approach generates better-quality cases and costs virtually nothing.

A PI lawyer should build a mutually beneficial relationship with referring business and transactional lawyers, whom you will ask to recommend you. In turn, the PI lawyer agrees to refer business cases to the other lawyer. Often the best way to get a referral is to start by giving one.

Smart plaintiff's lawyers have a link on their websites for referring lawyers, spelling out why they are a good choice and how referral fees are paid. And many personal injury lawyers have built thriving practices by getting to know lawyers at defense mega firms, who are happy to refer out individual plaintiffs and injury claims.

For more ideas, see The Keys To Getting More Attorney Referrals.

Next Steps

There's no time better than now to start building your personal injury law practice. Successful lawyers optimize the number one place where clients look for them, which is their website and blog. PI lawyers will find success by focusing on niches such as motorcycle accidents or mass torts, as opposed to scattering their efforts in many disciplines.

Writing, speaking, and activity in client organizations will also turn a PI lawyer into a well-recognized thought leader, who has lots of quality files. Common sense will dictate whether a lawyer buys leads from a lead-generation company or builds his or her own personal referral network. And lawyers who value their own money will avoid spending on yellow pages, radio, and billboards.

Although this article focuses on building a PI practice, these marketing tips easily can be tailored for other practice areas. To get more marketing tips, visit www.LarryBodine.com/blog and subscribe to my announcement list.

About the Author

Larry Bodine

Attorney and journalist Larry Bodine is a member of the Attorney Advisory Board at LawLytics law firm marketing.

Comments

Darcy Aleck Reply

Posted Jan 21, 2019 at 10:33:40

Larry, you bring up many good points in your article. Most of which I do agree with.

However, there is more to optimizing your website than just posting articles every week or every day. For example, you can have “guest writers” place articles on your site. Providing that the writer is seen as an authority on the topic and niche he/she is writing on, then that can help. So Google mainly looks for high quality, authoritative content that is relevant to your site.

I agree that you must be able to determine the cost of acquiring a lead no matter which method you use to generate leads. The one element you didn’t account for is the cost of the time related to writing all those articles. As an example, if a lawyer were to spend on average 1.5 hours to write a detailed article of 2500 to 3000 words, and if that was done 3 times per week, then that would be 4.5 hours of work during which the lawyer isn’t working on legal cases.

The average hourly rate for most types of lawyers in the united states varies anywhere from $100 to $400. Obviously these rates will depend on the geographical area as well as the nature of the case. So even on the low end, 3 articles cost the lawyer $450.

If that lawyer were to hire a good lead gen company, they could likely get them several leads, and a billable case for that amount of money. Since the typical case would be worth more than $450 to the lawyer, he or she would be further ahead doing this.

Having said that, it is important to work with a marketing company that can track your cost per lead and your cost per client acquisition. If it costs you $450 on average to acquire a new client, and your average client is worth $1500. Then I think it makes sense to at least consider this option over posting multiple articles on your website every week. By the way, you can also hire out the creation of those articles as well and then just edit them to your liking. That’s what I recommend to lawyers who want to add content to their sites.

As you stated in your article, when needed, most people will search for a lawyer online or from their mobile phone. So having a site that is optimized for both desktop and mobile are essential these days. Google has really been cracking down on this recently. In July of 2018 they started to implement their most recent algorithm changes. There are 2 key elements that need to be addressed if you hope to have your site come up in the search engines and in particular Google.

First your site has to have SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) technology. In a nutshell, this technology keeps an internet connection secure and safeguarding any sensitive data that is being sent between two systems, preventing criminals from reading and modifying any information transferred, including potential personal details.

Second your site has to load fast, especially on mobile. When a prospect searches for a lawyer and a link to your site comes up that they click, if the site doesn’t load within a couple of seconds, that person will hit the back button and go to the next site. So that’s bad because you can lose potential clients, but it is also bad because Google thinks that your site doesn’t provide the info the searcher thought it would. So Google lowers the ranking of your site relative to other sites. That could mean that you may not even come up on the first couple of pages of search results the next time a similar search term is entered. This can, and does, costs businesses money in lost revenue.

According to Google as the webpage loading time increases from 1 second to 5 seconds, the probability of the searcher hitting the back button before the page loads increase by 90%!

So yes writing articles can help to position a lawyer as an authority and help them to get business. However, getting consistent, ongoing clients does take a little more than just throwing up content.

Darcy Aleck
CEO of MarketingRocketFuel.com

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Larry with LawLytics CEO Dan Jaffe at LawLytics Headquarters.

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As a member of the Attorney Advisory Board at LawLytics, Larry helps influence the evolution of the platform and strategies that turn law firm websites into extraordinary assets while demystifying law firm SEO.

Ken Hardison Presents the PILMMA Hall of Fame Award

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At the Annual Summit of the Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing and Management Association, President Ken Hardison honored me with this award.

Nationally Recognized Legal Marketing Expert Larry Bodine

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Larry Bodine is considered by many to be the foremost expert on business generation.