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Online Presence Poses Ethical Questions 10/16/18  10/29/18 12:14:01 PM


Chris Homer takes the audience on a spin around the internet. (Photo by Lorraine Boyd)
Nebraska State Bar Association Annual Meeting
Online Presence Poses Ethical Questions

Chris Homer takes the audience on a spin around the internet. (Photo by Lorraine Boyd)
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

Just when you think you’ve got the ethics rules down for your legal practice, up pops a new challenge. How do you know when what you are doing online complies with ethics parameters? How do you know what to put online, what not to put online – let alone what to allow on your website or social media accounts?
Looks like it’s back to school.
Enter Chris Homer, legal marketing expert at Get Noticed Get Found (GNGF), a legal marketing firm.
Homer, a contributing author on the bestselling book, Online Law Practice Strategies, helps his team at GNGF create robust, unique legal marketing strategies for attorneys.
He helps law firms achieve their marketing goals and grow their firm.
Homer presented a two-hour CLE entitled “The Ethics of Marketing and Social Media for Lawyers” to a packed room at the Nebraska State Bar Association Annual Meeting. It was standing room only as the audience hung on every word.
And he had to work for it. Stubborn equipment plagued his presentation for the first hour. He didn’t let that stop him, handling the extra challenges with humor.
Homer managed to impart a boatload of information, even when the technology in the room was malfunctioning. When the problem was resolved, his job got a little easier as he showed effective, and ineffective, websites.
“You are responsible for the information on the net, even reviews,” he said.
That means not only checking the content you post, but also what others may post on your online and social media, he said. You need to weed out reviews that make certain statements that are considered unethical. Things like, “She’s the best lawyer ever and will win your case, guaranteed.” Likewise, you can’t make claims of being the best. You can present your credentials, awards and recognitions, but stop short of declaring yourself the best.
“Your website doesn’t have to be fancy,” he said. “It can be simple. Tell them what you do, how you can help them solve their problem. Communicate!
“Your website is as important as your reviews. It is your voice. Be consistent – on the web, Google, Twitter, etc.”
And most important, he said, is to give information that tells who you are, what you do and how to contact you.
His firm’s website notes that “protecting your referrals” (“The most important first step.”) is all about making sure that someone who is referred to your firm or yourself personally is able to search online and find the right phone number or email to contact you. It is creating a branded web presence so that a search on your name or your firm name shows the referred person that their friend was right in recommending you as the perfect attorney for their problem.
Homer spoke of the design of the website, whether it is that of a sole practitioner or a larger firm.
“The layout is important, people need to be able to navigate it,” he said. “Think about it like a book.”
Information should be organized on logical pages. He said to make the phone number prominent – “make it easy.” Put it at the top right of every page.
Your website needs to contain your name, your brand, where you are, your contact information and maybe even a live chat option. It should have a menu bar at the top. He emphasized that it should be logical and easy to navigate.
“Your logo is not a brand,” he said. “It is part of a brand.”
A brand is integrated throughout one’s communication. He gave an example of how one particular lawyer
signs everything with a large “B” as a way of branding.
Another important element of the website is what he called “proof.” That means “badges” of memberships
(social proof) and “seals” that denote recognition for what you’ve done. Switching to a newspaper analogy, he said they should be “above the fold.”
A statement is also good, one that hits on an emotional level. Make it personal for the client. How can you help them?
On another page, pictures of the attorneys are good, with the ability to click on them for their bios. Do frequent back-ups – daily, weekly or monthly.
“Remember, this is advertising,” he said. “Keep records of what you post. And secure your site, for things like a client portal.
“Blogging doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter. Instead, invest in content. People are Googling their questions. They are looking for answers.”
Another important aspect of your online presence is the fact that more than half of all visits to law firm websites are conducted on mobile devices now. His firm recommends building your website with a “mobile-first” design.
It should look the same as the website, but with provisions made for the difference in size and layout.
He spent some time talking about Google, the number one search engine.
“Google has two indexes… sites and fast sites,” he said. “Your goal is to provide an easy, quick mobile experience.”
You want your website to jump to the top of the sites. He suggests Googling “mobile friendly test” to see how yours does. He also stressed that you need to update your information on all your platforms whenever necessary.
“Google wants to trust the information,” he said.
The more your information is supported, the more Google will trust it and it will move up on their ladder of recommended sites.
Millennials around age 30 spend 3.2 hours a day on their mobile devices.
If that’s your audience, you have to communicate there.
“And when you are on a mobile device, remember it is still a website,” he said. “You should have your disclaimers both place."
 
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