Sometimes, I like to pull the curtain back a bit on the whole Law business and give the reader a peak at some of the things that really go on behind the scenes. Depending on how you read this, I'm either giving an inside look at how Lawyers work, or I'm just putting my own spin on things to make myself look good. This article, focusing on Detroit-area DUI cases, might turn out to be a little of both...
It's no secret that the internet has "taken over" many aspects of our day-to-day lives. Newspapers are dropping like flies while online reading has soared. Video stores are disappearing faster than friends of Kwame Kilpatrick as streaming video displaces DVD rentals. The legal profession is migrating to the net as part of this rather seismic shift. Five years ago, websites for Lawyers were an afterthought. While not amongst the very first, I was certainly an early adopter. Now, everyone has a website, and a whole cottage industry to push those sites onto your browser has grown beyond belief.
This can be a very deep topic, but the bottom line is that, as a Lawyer, you want a highly ranked site that gets Clients. To accomplish this goal, one must navigate the "rules" established by the search engines, with Google being the biggest player of them all. Thus, when designing or redesigning or optimizing a website, the real goal is to come up high on relevant Google searches. Google refines its rules from time to time, and when it does, every one follows suit. Where it used to be that having a basic but simple "Lawyer website" made you stand out from the crowd, now that everyone has a site, having good content is more important than ever. While that should always be the case, and given that about 60% of all internet searches are conducted through Google, this means that as a Lawyer, you want to make sure your site is "liked" by Google. Now that Google is screening for good, relevant and plentiful content, there are specialized companies offering services for Lawyers to have such content professionally written. Just Google "legal content writing" and see for yourself.
That kind of scares me.
I write all of my own content on both this blog and my website. That's not a boast, because I'm sure there are plenty of better writers than me out there, but the more important point is that I write for my particular Clientele. I know every word of my site and blog, because I've written every word of it. I certainly cannot compete with the "experts" who know how to lace such content with specialized "keywords" that make a site more highly ranked by Google, but I don't' think any one of them can compete with me when it comes to talking in real terms about DUI charges, and how they play out. There's no guy in LA who can write about the Court in Rochester Hills, or Troy, or Shelby Township, or New Baltimore or Detroit, first because as much as he might be a legal writer, he's not a Lawyer, and second, because he's not from Michigan, anyway.
One of the biggest things internet marketing specialists push to Lawyers is to load up your site with testimonials, or success stories. I have some real, honest to goodness testimonials on my site culled from the emails of grateful Clients, but I feel funny about asking people to write them. I have a few more "in the bank," so to speak, ready to use when the current batch gets old, but I'll only take them if they are spontaneous. When I see a boatload of testimonials on any site, I cannot believe that they're all spontaneous, or so well written, either.
Interestingly enough, as I was writing this very article, the following email came in:
5:32 PM (3 minutes ago)Success stories are a whole different matter. I literally cringe when I see a Lawyer tout, as a "success story," that he or she was able to take a person's High BAC or "superdrunk" charge and have it reduced all the way to an "Impaired Driving" (OWVI) charge. I do that all the time. That's the bread and butter of what I do. To me, that's like seeing this on a Dentist's website:
Just want to thank you again for getting my last case kicked out. You're the BEST! Hope your family and yourself are doing well. I'm doing well, almost off this probation. I know I'm going to need you again when I try to get my license back...
The case of Joe Doe: We were able, after x-rays, to find a cavity in one of Joe's teeth and we thereafter fixed it with a filling. Now, Joe doesn't have to worry about the cavity getting any worse and his tooth falling out.Big deal. That's your job. You're not much of a Dentist if that isn't part of your everyday work. While we're at it, what if Dr. X had asked for and got a testimonial like this from Joe:
I had a cavity and if I wouldn't have had it fixed, I could have eventually lost the tooth and maybe even more teeth, but Dr. X gave me a filling, instead, and saved my whole mouth.Dentists save and repair teeth. Firefighters put out fires. Teachers teach, and a DUI Lawyer, like me, takes serious charges and make things better. It's not that doing those things isn't a "success" of a sort, but rather that failing to do those things is a failure to properly do your job. It is not heroic to do what you're paid to do, and do it well; it's expected.
I drop High BAC cases to Impaired Driving charges all the time. I do the same thing with 3rd Offense Felony DUI cases, having them dropped to 2nd Offense Misdemeanors. This is what DUI Lawyers are supposed to do. Of course, in writing these day to day things up, or, as one might say, "dressing" them up as "successes," things can be portrayed in a way that makes them sound a bit more dramatic. Let's use Dr. X and Joe again to illustrate this point. Instead of touting Joe as some kind of incredible accomplishment, how about Doctor X putting it this way:
Last week, I put in more than 20 fillings just like Joe's, and my patients were in and out in less than an hour and able to eat as soon as they left the Office.How about Joe? Try this take on things:
Dr. X is great. It didn't hurt a bit, and I was able to eat dinner like it never happened.I struggle with this. I don't want to be left behind the pack, but it goes against my natural inclinations to "spin" what I do in such a blatant and exaggerated way. I can honestly say, for example, that of the roughly 30 or so new DUI cases I've handled thus far 2013, none of my Clients has gone to Jail, and none likely will. It would seem I should find some way to dress this up as some huge "success," but to me, it's just what I'm supposed to do, and what my Clients pay me to do.
It never hurts to get a reality check, either. As I look around the net, and I browse the various "success" stories other Lawyers have put up, I have to balance the image they try and convey with this very stark fact:
In the year 2011, there were 54,291 drunk and drug driving arrests in Michigan. Out of all of those, only 95 were found "not guilty." That means 99.83% of those people arrested did not win at trial.As with everything else, perception matters. We live in an age of "branding." That started before the internet was ever around, and while it's certainly done differently now than when Lawyers only had the Yellow Pages to get their message out, the underlying goal is the same. It's up to the consumer to dig a little deeper than shallow slogans and testimonials and impressive sounding "successes." The only way to do that, as I've said time and time before, is to do your homework, ask questions and then choose wisely.