Chromebook In The Law Firm – An Update [PODCAST]

LEGAL PRACTICE PROLots of people called me crazy when I announced that I was ditching my MacBook Pro and going all in on Chrome OS. That was about two months ago, and I wanted to share my thoughts about how things are going with the new system.

In this audio segment I discuss Chrome OS, speed and reliability, connecting with my office, using BestCase, and saving a ton of money.

If you’re looking at a new computer and worried about spending thousands of dollars on a Windows or Mac machine, this could be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Some useful links for you to consider:

Avvo Advisor – Are You Worth $156 An Hour?

Avvo Advisor

Bankruptcy lawyers, take note – Avvo, the company so many of you love to hate, is now looking to bring you paying clients.

In an expansion of their offerings, last week the Martindale-Hubbell Killer unveiled Avvo Advisor, a new service that allows consumers to connect with a lawyer for as little as $39 for a 15-minute phone session to discuss their problems.

Though I have yet to actually participate in the program (I’ve signed up for the waiting list – so can you by clicking here) I can say that I’m pretty excited to dig in and give you a full hands-on review.

Consumer with legal questions can go online to Avvo or use the free iOS app. After entering a zip code, selecting the type of legal problem and entering a credit card for billing, the service sends out a text message to all attorneys in the consumer’s location and practice area. First one to accept the session gets 15 minutes to initiate the call.

When the call is finished, the full fee is deposited into the lawyer’s account (that’s right, there’s no fee splitting to worry about).

This is a great idea for a few reasons. First, it’s another potential means of attracting clients to your office. With bankruptcy filings low, that’s a plus for many lawyers.

Second, consider the fact that most bankruptcy lawyers don’t charge for an initial consultation. If Avvo Advisor gains traction, you’re potentially seeing revenue where there was previously none – at the consultation phase. All that uncompensated time is gone, replaced by paid consultations with no credit card processing fees.

Of course, if you charge more than $156 an hour for your consultations then Avvo Advisor may not be your best option.

For consumers, this is just another way to get answers to questions. Avvo has been hosting an active Q & A section of their site for quite some time as a way for consumers to get more information about their particular problem. The answers can be a bit spotty (for example, there’s a lawyer who answers student loan questions and gets it wrong EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.) , and the lawyers who answer aren’t always licensed in the same jurisdiction as the consumer. For $39, that same consumer can get an answer from a lawyer who is, at the very least, licensed to practice law in that state.

What does Avvo get out of it? More users to the app, more visitors to the website, more opportunities to get lawyers to try their paid advertising service, and more revenue. Avvo takes one more step towards being seen as THE authority for consumers looking for legal help, all the while culling what is likely a massive amount of user data.

I’m going on record as betting that Avvo eventually moves into self-help legal forms a la LegalZoom. It’s a natural next step towards winning the war of consumer-facing legal services.

Say what you will about the wisdom of getting a full consultation for $39 in just 15 minutes (sounds like a GEICO ad), but the rise of self-help legal document sites and unbundled legal services means that more consumers than ever are looking for more help at a lower cost. Legal advice is swiftly becoming a commodity in many fields, and it’s up to the savvy attorney to get on the train to risk getting left behind.

How To Battle Blogger’s Malaise

Stressed man and laptop

It happens to everyone sooner or later: you lose your blogging mojo. Here’s how you can get back on the horse.

When you start blogging, you probably did so because you wanted to drum up some business. Like a kid with a new toy, you spent countless hours overseeing the design of your new blog. Then you set to work learning all you could about the mechanics of writing for the web, and crafting thoughtful pieces of content that you hoped would spread far and wide.

Eventually, your practice started to grow. Your available time got smaller and smaller, with more of the day being taken up with billable work.

By the time you got home at night, all you wanted to do was sit in front of the television or curl up in bed with a good book.

Blogger’s malaise set in.

Maybe you’ve forgotten the lean times before your marketing kicked in, or you think you’ll have a steady stream of referrals from happy clients that will prevent another dip in your bank account balance.

Perhaps you ran out of ideas, and got bored with writing yet another post about the perils of the meeting of creditors. After all, how many of those posts can you possibly write?

Luckily, there are ways of getting back into the swing of things.

Permission To Be Silent

Many bloggers, lawyers and nonlawyers alike, feel guilty when they take a break from publishing new work. As time goes by, the anxiety of having not published for awhile gets strong enough to keep them from returning to the blank page.

If you give yourself license to take a break – and give yourself a date for your blogging vacation to end – you’ll banish the anxiety and stand a better chance of getting back to writing when vacation is over.

Set Reasonable Goals

The self-appointed marketing gurus say you should blog every day, banging out hundreds of words of powerful and evocative prose for your adoring readers.

The reality is that nobody wants to hear from you every day unless you’re a news site or tech blog – and you’re likely neither.

That’s good news because writing every day is nearly impossible for most lawyers, unless they’ve got either a huge staff or no business to speak of. After all, there are only so many hours in a day.

Make a commitment to write something once a week, or even once every two weeks. If you’ve got more time, write something and schedule it out for a later date. So long as you’re committed and consistent, that’s what matters most.

Horde Ideas

Whether you scan the NACBA listserv, Avvo, Reddit, or just the mainstream news, there are tons of ideas out there that are of interest to your potential clients. Not only bankruptcy, but subjects like student loans, personal finance, credit and debt in general, and even politics.

When you run across an idea, jot it down in a notebook or save the article using a tool such as Evernote. This way you can come back to your notes when it’s time to sit down and write rather than having to think up a new idea on the fly.

With a treasure trove of ideas, it becomes easier to write something interesting without spending hours stressing over the subject matter.

Write Enough – But No More Than That

It’s said that brevity is the soul of wit, and that’s true.

When you write, don’t pay attention to the word count. Take a small enough topic, write a blog post that covers the topic, and be done with it. It doesn’t matter if you can cover a subject in 100 words or 1,000 – there’s no need to stretch your article to fill a particular number of words.

For example, check out this article I wrote on filing for bankruptcy without your spouse. It’s short, and easy read, and took me about 10 minutes to write. In spite of that, it does the trick nicely and my clients appreciate it.

Work The Muscle

Take these tips and use them to get yourself back in blogging action. At the beginning it may feel a little odd, but that’s alright – the ability to write well for the web is a muscle, and you need to work it out for awhile before you get stronger.

Don’t overdo it, though – you don’t want to hurt your chances for success by straining too hard right away.

Why Reddit Is My Content Creation Ace In The Hole

Reddit home page

I’ve been creating content on various platforms since 1997 my first website launched.

Back then, all I did was write a few paragraphs to describe each portion of my law practice – not tricky at all. But things kicked into high gear in 2004 when I started blogging and podcasting.

In 2005, creating content was easy because there were massive changes in the bankruptcy laws that everyone was trying to understand. The news was spouting a constant stream of headlines, and my colleagues and I were poring over the new bankruptcy laws in an effort to get a handle on how we were going to keep helping people once things changed.

In the years following, various news cycles have provided fodder for my blogging and podcasting efforts. And though student loan issues now consume so much of our time, there’s always a need to create content that matters to the real world.

Enter Reddit.

Reddit, in case you’ve never visited, is an odd little world. Founded some years ago, it’s the most rudimentary of social networks in some ways yet fascinatingly complex on other levels.

Users submit stories, ask questions, or make a statement – just like other social networks. The difference, however, is that other users not only comment on the status update but also vote the submission up or down, giving it more or less prominence on the home page of Reddit.

Then there’s the home page it. Reddit, unlike other social networks, doesn’t have a single home page. Instead, there are hundreds of subreddits; these are separate areas of Reddit that focus on particular topics of interest.

The User Is The Key

Before looking at the Subreddits, it’s important to let you know about the users of Reddit.

Most of them are anonymous. That’s what sets Reddit apart from other social networks or even Q&A sites like Avvo (which you know I love).

When you’re anonymous, your true thoughts come out more freely. You’re not afraid of recrimination, and can speak your mind without worrying that someone else will find out your dirty little secrets (this, by the way, is one of the reasons why sites such as Whisper and apps like Secret are so popular).

In the context of content creation for your law firm, this is gold.

People are using the words they use in real life to describe their problems, and seeking honest advice from other people. Nobody has to reveal their name, age or background.  They share information and commiserate with one another, all without social constraints.

Create Content Based On Questions

As I write this, the following questions and discussions are on a student loan Subreddit:

  • My parents are trying to convince me that 100k-200k of debt is ok for an architecture major. I want to transfer abroad to a cheaper school.
  • Do only payments made to FedLoan count towards PSLF?
  • Student loan cosigner filed bankruptcy. Now my credit is trashed.

One of the reasons why people put these sorts of questions on Reddit is that they’re looking for unfiltered answers and haven’t had much success elsewhere.

And if one person has the question, like so do thousands of others.

If you go out and create a blog post, podcast, or video clip dealing with these questions you’ll be the one who answers the question, and the one who gets the traffic to your site.

A Note Of Caution Before Responding On Reddit

Reddit users are notoriously “no bullshit” sorts of folks. That means your legal answers may not be well received if your decide to respond on the site.

No promotion, no backpedalling, no “lawyer talk”, and no disclaimers are going to be taken lightly. The Reddit community is historically made of tech-aware 20-something males, which is a population that takes no prisoners and suffers no fools.

Feel like dropping a link to your website on Reddit as a way to get new visitors? Unless you’re a trusted member of the community with a long track record of being helpful and useful, don’t bother- you’ll get mocked, downvoted, possibly even thrown out of the community.

Handle With Care

Reddit can be a powerful platform as well as a fountain of blog and podcast fodder for your content creation efforts.

Used wisely, it’s an incredible tool. But if you misuse Reddit, you’ll find yourself facing the pointy end of a very sharp virtual stick.

Be careful, but don’t ignore it.

Here’s The Best Time To Publish New Content On Your Blog

Generally speaking, new content is best published when visitors are most likely to visit.

New information is seen as more reliable than something days or even months old. Blogs that lay dormant for more than a few days at a time are discounted as being less useful than those with regularly updated articles.

If all of your visitors were showing up to your site in the morning, it wouldn’t make sense for you to publish your new blog posts in the afternoon. Rather, you’d want the fresh content ready to go in time for your visitors to arrive.

And if the site is active only during weekdays, why bother taking the time to publish on the weekend?

Web marketing experts will give you their opinions of the best time and day to publish, but why take their word for it when you can look to your website’s existing traffic?

So long as you’ve got Google Analytics installed on your website, the information is a click away.

Courtesy of the folks at Terrapin Marketing comes two invaluable custom reports.

Busiest Day of the Week (click here)

Busiest Time Of Day (click here)

All you need to do is click on the link you want to use, which will take you to this screen (in the picture, I’ve clicked onto the Busiest Time of Day link):

Screenshot 2014-10-15 at 10.29.45 PM

You’ll then be taken to a page with the information on your visitors broken down by time of day.

Busiest Time Of Day

Once you have the data you’ll know which days and times are the hottest on your website or blog. From there, you can set your publication schedule to suit your visitors’ needs.