In this episode of The Legal Toolkit, FindLaw Senior Director of Strategic Development and Thought Leadership Mark Jacobsen talks with Jared Correia about the 2015 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey.
The study asks a consistent set of questions to a randomly selected group of consumers, ages 18 and over, who have had (or have family members who have had) legal concerns that they consider important or very important. Mark reveals that they typically receive around 2,000 responses and ensure a clean survey pool by disqualifying anyone who works for a law firm or marketing services group that does business with law firms. The purpose of the survey is to understand the mindset, preferences, and motivations of the consumer as they realize their legal problem and take steps toward rectifying it. The results of the 2015 survey reveal that 58% of consumers choose to contact a legal professional upon recognizing that they have a legal issue, and Mark analyzes the most influential of the eight core motivators, like aversion to risk and desire for competent representation, on consumer decision making when purchasing legal services. Mark continues with this investigation and provides examples of how law firms can use these buyer impulses to better market to potential clients. He also discusses the importance of social media and the mobile sphere in finding new clients and provides tips attorneys can use to show expertise and build trust in these respective spaces. The interview closes with advice to help lawyers and law firms optimally balance their marketing efforts between online and offline resources.
Mark Jacobsen leads a team focused on the early stage development of products, services, and capabilities to help law firms generate new business opportunities and grow the quality and quantity of their clients. Before joining FindLaw, Mark was a pioneer in the software and Web development sectors. He is a regular speaker at industry conferences on such topics as digital marketing strategy, search, web development, project management, online learning, and interactive multimedia applications.
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FindLaw 2015 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs
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In this episode we are going to talk about consumer behavior in the legal field. Our guest today is Mark Jacobsen, the Senior Director of Strategic Development and Thought Leadership at FindLaw, where he leads a team focused on the early stage development of products, services and capabilities to help law firms generate new business opportunities and grow the quality and quantity of their clients.
Before joining FindLaw, Mark was a pioneer in the software and web development sectors. He is a regular speaker at industry conferences on such topics as digital marketing strategy, search, web development, project management, online learning and interactive multimedia applications, and he is an all round good guy.
Mark, welcome to the show.
Mark Jacobsen: Thanks Jared. It’s great to be here.
Jared Correia: It’s a pleasure to have you. So let’s dive in. What we are going to talk about today is a survey that FindLaw conducted in 2015, which it called a Consumer Legal Needs Study.
Now, do you want to talk before we get started a little bit about what the study was all about, including its genesis and how it was conducted?
Mark Jacobsen: Sure, I can give you a little bit of information at a high level on that. So the Consumer Legal Needs Survey is something we do every year. We have a consitent set of questions that we ask a randomly selected group of consumers who have had a legal matter within the last 12 months.
And typically, it’s a legal matter that they have had or someone in their family has had that they consider either important or very important. And typically, there are around 2,000 respondents. They are 18 years and older. And we screen out anyone who works for a law firm or a marketing services group that does business with the law firm, so we get a pretty clean sample.
And the purpose of the survey really is to understand the mindset, the preferences, the motivations of the legal consumer as they realize they have a legal need and then what they do to solve that legal need.
Jared Correia: It sounds pretty good. So if this is an annual thing we may need to do this every year.
Mark Jacobsen: Well, we would love to, because it’s really — one of the really interesting things with the survey is just looking at the trending and seeing how certain things change over time, and particularly in the business that we are in at FindLaw, where we do so much work in the digital domain, just watching what happens is more and more of these activities that consumers undertake to find attorneys take place online.
Jared Correia: Yeah, that’s an interesting discussion, and I will leave that one for another day, but for now let’s talk about the latest survey results.
Mark Jacobsen: Sure.
Jared Correia: I think there’s an assumption that most consumers are online looking for free legal services, because I have lawyers at least tell me this all the time. Now, is that really the case based on the survey results?
Mark Jacobsen: Well, no, actually not most. I can give you the results for that particular question you just asked, and essentially the question we ask consumers is, okay, once you realize you have a legal event that has occurred, you have a legal need of some sort, what action do you take? What is the first action you take in order to address that problem?
58% actually choose to contact a legal professional, so almost 6 in 10 immediately conclude, yeah, I need a lawyer, that’s the best way to solve this problem.
21% decide that they are going to handle the situation on their own, and that could be because of costs, that could be because maybe they feel like it’s a reasonably simple matter, or it could be making a terrible mistake, but 21% take that route.
20% seek help from family and friends for probably similar reasons. And then 19% kind of do what you mentioned, Jared, they research free information and resources, so it’s only about 20%.
Now, the interesting thing about that group is they are not necessarily not going to go to an attorney; they just need to do a certain amount of research and evaluate their options before they come to an attorney in a later stage of the process.
Jared Correia: Yeah. I mean, I think those are encouraging results really for lawyers if only 20% of people are determined to work on their own. That’s great.
Mark Jacobsen: Absolutely. Absolutely. So most people do realize they need professional help.
Jared Correia: So that’s a positive, that’s a positive spin. So let’s move on and talk about the motivations more — a little bit more about motivations that consumers have when they want to talk to a lawyer.
Your study I think indicates that consumers are less rational than probably most attorneys want to believe they are. So can you talk a little bit about some of the visceral motivations people have that cause them to make a decision to hire a lawyer?
Mark Jacobsen: Yes, absolutely, and I will try not to talk about it for too long, because this is really interesting. Because we have done an entire white paper on this topic, I have a whole hour-long presentation on just this one question you just asked.
But as you say Jared, most attorneys do appear, based on the marketing they do, typically to believe that consumers are fairly rational or undertake a fairly rational process in deciding to hire an attorney. And if you look at their websites or you look at their brochures or you look at the messaging on their ads, they clearly think that I am going to provide a lot of evidence or a lot of credentials or a lot of facts to convince you that I am the right attorney for you.
But in fact what many, many studies have shown, and this is in all kinds of different fields; psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, studies show that actually humans make these buying decisions or these important decisions more generally much more from an emotional place, driven by kind of subconscious impulses that are hard to articulate and often are very primitive in origin. They go back to thousands of years ago.
To the extent that rationality really enters into the process, it’s really almost always more after the fact where we are attempting to justify or rationalize a primarily emotional decision, so really sophisticated marketers have known this forever.
If you think of any of the great marketing that you can think of, it tends to be trying to push one of these deep subconscious emotional buttons. And an example that I had given in the conference was one that we are all very familiar with, Allstate Insurance, where they do not leave their commercials or their advertisements with facts and figures about just how impressive or compelling their insurance policies are, but rather it’s, you are in good hands, and what they are really appealing to is a basic human need that all human beings have for safety and security, sort of pushing that deep emotional buttons. And then they sort of follow that up or reinforce that with the facts and figures.
And the point I had made in talking to attorneys is even attorneys know this in different settings. When they are really trying to sell an argument to a jury, often they more than anyone realize the power of a really strong emotional appeal.
To me, that kind of came home to me in the 8 million shows we now have out there about O.J. Simpson, where — I mean, that was a clear case where Johnnie Cochran and team tapped into deep emotional reservoir, anger and resentment and suspicion that the jury, many members of the jury had over the LAPD, and despite a mountain of facts managed to sway the jury to their side. So it’s very, very powerful, and often the same kinds of impulses are motivating consumers when they make a decision about legal services.
So we have studied this at FindLaw. We did a whole white paper on it called “Why Your Website is Designed to Fail?” And in that paper we identified eight core motivators. Now, I am not going to talk about all eight today, but the one that we like to focus on, because we think it’s very much present in sort of the feedback we got from consumers, is a basic tendency of humans to really be averse to risk or loss. Humans don’t like to take risk; they can lose a lot. They actual fear losing what they have more than they desire to gain more, and when they are faced with a loss, seeking legal help in effect is a way to protect themselves, the kind of flight to safety.
So we have always known that from kind of the marketing research standpoint, but what we really wanted to see is does the research, what consumers actually tell us, support that. It actually does very powerfully.
If we look at some of reason why consumers hire attorneys, some of the things they tell us, I want to avoid future legal difficulties. In other words, I want to avoid the losses associated with this matter, the potential losses. Or I am entitled to compensation. In other words, I have some monetary loss and I want to be made whole. I don’t want to go to jail; I don’t want to lose my freedom. So you sort of see this loss thing again and again.
And another of the primary reasons consumers say they hire attorneys is because they need competent representation, that’s the second most common reason, which is really sort of that flight to safety, and what is motivating them.
So the key point for attorneys to understand is it’s not like consumers are doing this rigorous analytical process to decide who to hire; it’s much more coming from kind of their gut and understanding those impulses and marketing to them can be a very powerful strategy.
Jared Correia: I appreciate your keeping that to under an hour.
Mark Jacobsen: My pleasure.
Jared Correia: And mentioning O.J. too. I mean, I have to tell you, I probably watched every hour of O.J. Simpson programming. I am borderline addicted. People should check that out.
Mark Jacobsen: It’s kind of amazing when you really kind of watch it again, like, wow, all that really did happen, and that is just bizarre.
Jared Correia: Oh man, it’s fascinating. I think you have answered this question a little bit, but I want to dive into it maybe at a little bit more depth, so knowing all this, that consumers, including consumers of legal goods and legal services, who make their choices from a very visceral place, what are some specific things that lawyers do or that you see lawyers doing to sort of promote themselves in line with that consumer response?
Mark Jacobsen: I think it’s sort of following — I mean, if you think of that fear of loss or aversion to loss and the risk of loss, if you think about, how would I target that, you can target that in very distinct ways, and actually the example that I had shown at your conference was a DUI landing page.
Now, a lot of DUI attorneys might sell themselves based on their experience, or the number of DUIs they have done, or results or whatever, which are all perfectly good things to have on your site, but the example I showed really focused on that fear of loss and said, look, if you are arrested for a DUI, you can lose all kinds of things. You can lose a lot of money. It’s very expensive to get a DUI and you need to really manage that to keep cost to a minimum.
You can lose your license, your ability to get around. You can lose your pride, your social status. You can lose your job, and your ability to generate income. So that is really effective marketing for a law firm to kind of target that motivator, just kind of push that button, again and again, and then following up on that, again in your content, in your imagery, position the firm as a solution to the problem, the way to help the consumer avoid that loss.
You are kind of now really kind of interacting with the consumer on a very deep and visceral level, to use the word that you had used before, and it’s extremely powerful. And that doesn’t mean you don’t include your expertise, your credentials, but what we do see is those tend to be very powerful appeals that should be part of how the firms market themselves.
Jared Correia: I think most lawyers try to make it a battle of credentials, but you are saying that it’s more about human emotions than anything else, so that’s a good thing for lawyers to know.
Mark Jacobsen: Absolutely.
Jared Correia: Now, if we can totally flip the script here and go to another subject entirely. I thought this was an interesting piece that came out of your study, the affect of in-app search on modern law firm marketing. I think most lawyers out there are just now mastering like website design and online search. So what do they need to know about consumers’ use of apps for finding lawyers?
Mark Jacobsen: Yes, that’s a really interesting area, and I agree, I think most lawyers at law firms are just not aware of kind of some of the dynamics and trends at play.
So I think we all know that mobile usage is going up dramatically; 60% of our respondents to the survey said they are using a mobile device to search for attorneys. So mobile is a clear part of the whole dynamic of how the modern consumer looks for an attorney.
But the key thing to understand is you can’t just take the paradigm that everybody is familiar, which is, I go to Google, I enter a search phrase, I get a list of results, I click on it, I go to a law firm website. That is a desktop paradigm and that is a paradigm that is slowly fading away as Google takes more and more the kind of shelf space in their search results for their own purposes, as brand names tend to dominate more and more, it’s harder and harder for firms to play that game on the desktop.
But then on mobile it’s even harder to play, because you have far less shelf space to work with, and Google is nowhere near the dominant player in mobile that it is on the desktop.
65% of search activity actually takes place outside of Google when it comes to mobile. So it’s not the same world where you have this clear domination by Google; in mobile it’s a very different story. And if you ask where is that other 65% of activity flowing through, well, it’s the other search engines, and one of the really interesting data points that we shared is that Yahoo! actually is the leading search engine on mobile, which surprises a lot of people, but I mean it’s all because they have done carrier contracts and kind of locked themselves in as the default search engine on the device. So most people don’t even realize the search engine they are using.
But the other thing that’s happening is the rise of in-app search. So some interesting numbers are, in 2015, the last numbers I have are, 3 hours and 40 minutes a day are spent on mobile by a typical user. 90% of that time is spent in an app, 10% in a browser. So for all intents and purposes your online time in mobile is almost entirely spent in apps.
So then what you really need to say is, okay, well, how do people use apps, do we all have a certain number of apps on our phone or tablet and use those equally or is there some distribution? Well, as it turns out, we all tend to have a small number of go-to apps. You might have one app you use all the time. Data shows that people’s favorite app they tend to use about half the time. Their second favorite app they use about 20% of the time. Their third favorite app about 10% of the time, and then after that it’s a lot of apps, not very much. So most of us have a small number of go-to apps.
So a really important question then is, okay, in the end you get one of those go-to apps, because that’s where people are all the time in mobile, and if they are there as a law firm, I should be there.
Well, not surprisingly, those apps are all in the social arena; Facebook is the most popular mobile app; Facebook Messenger is the second most popular; and YouTube, online video is the third most popular. So you have three dominant social services or platforms that are the most used mobile apps. And the key question then for a law firm is, are you there, how are you positioned in Facebook, how are you positioned in YouTube? Because in particular millennials, this is more and more where they are experiencing the web, it’s through mobile and through apps, and these specific apps or these particular apps, and have you presented yourself effectively there, or are you still thinking, I have a good desktop website, I have kind of done everything, I don’t need to go online, and that’s just missing out on where the whole world is going.
Jared Correia: So yes, how are law firms positioned on Facebook, I would say that the answer in most cases is not at all. So this is good info for people to think about. I however have a motivation now as well. I am motivated to take a break, but stick around everybody, we are going to be back in two shakes for more with Mark Jacobsen of FindLaw.
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Jared Correia: Thanks for coming back. We are continuing our look into consumer behavior and legal with Mark Jacobsen from FindLaw.
All right, Mark, let’s get back to your study. Now within your study you pinpointed four main things that potential clients are looking for when they search for lawyers and we have talked a little bit about those, but would you relay those four major ones on the punch list one more time and then we will dive into it?
Mark Jacobsen: Absolutely. So the most important factor to consumers is expertise. 46% of consumers; that was the primary factor they looked at. 37% said recommendations from others, typically that we would all think of those as being recommendations from people we know and that we trust our friends or family or coworkers, but another really interesting number we have seen as we’ve looked into this is that 79% of consumers trust reviews and recommendations they see on our review site. In other words, reviews from strangers as much as they trust reviews from people that they know.
So it just points to the really significant importance, growing importance of these ratings and review sites like El Pavo, lawyers.com, YP.com and et cetera, et cetera. The third most important factor was trust establishing a sense that the consumer can trust the law firm and that the firm understands it and emphasizes with the problem that the consumer has, and then the fourth most important is location. How close you are to where the consumer is located in our research roughly that’s a 20-mile radius, they want their law firm to within 20 miles of where they live.
Jared Correia: Now, all those lawyers who were logging into Facebook previously now they are working on their Google review profile.
Mark Jacobsen: Yes, they should do that too, they are both important to do.
Jared Correia: For leaving that aside for a second, I want to take two of those pieces and sort of play off of each other, trust and expertise. So we are going to talk about off-line communications a little bit, but let’s talk about online, how should lawyers best build trust and expertise online since those are two very important factors in consumers choosing their attorneys?
Mark Jacobsen: Yes, I will present a few ideas on that. So first of all in expertise, as I said that is the most important area for most consumers, so it’s critically important. The challenge really arises because almost every law firm that is sort of their go-to sort of domain to market themselves, all of their credentials, their law school, the courts and practice in front of their verdicts et cetera, so you don’t get a lot of differentiation from that unless your expertise and credentials are so far superior to everyone else in the marketplace.
So our advice all is to look to other ways to connect with consumers that can establish your expertise in ways that the consumer can relate to better. And we think a good approach to that is answering the common questions that consumers, that perspective clients that clients ask all of the time and present those questions in the language of the consumer and present the answer ideally in the language of the consumer, at least consumer-friendly language, so that consumers can really understand and relate to the answers and a great platform for doing that is a blog or online video; both ways that can help your SEO, can get your presence in important social channel, I mentioned earlier, YouTube, and that’s a great way to kind of get impact from your expertise at the consumer level versus just presenting credentials that consumers don’t always understand.
Jared Correia: Yeah.
Mark Jacobsen: Yeah, as for trust, I’d say the primary thing I would see there is to re-orient how you present your content. We see a common phenomenon on law firm websites and other businesses as well that we call we we content and it’s —
Jared Correia: Do we need to start censoring this podcast or —
Mark Jacobsen: I am going to try not to get much force in that, but I will say law firm should stop we weing over their prospective clients so much and essentially what we we content is, we have done this, we have accomplished that, we believe this, it’s borderline self-aggrandizing and it’s all about the firm.
And a much better approach to establish that connection and start building that trust with the consumer to that initial experience that they have with the firm on their website is sell the same things but talk about how they are in the service of helping the consumer solve their problem. All of our credentials help you get your problem solved. So it’s just sort of a reorientation of how you present that information with a consumer that’s the key sort of and focal point versus the law firm.
Jared Correia: Well that’s good because I thought you were may be going to take that in another direction for a second there. I am feeling good now.
Mark Jacobsen: I was trying to make it a little nervous there, a little — yeah, that’s as edgy as it gets, so I prompt.
Jared Correia: But I think the idea of video production and blogging are things that attorneys can do that kind of content marketing, stuff they can put together, so that’s encouraging.
Now let’s talk about another interesting aspect of this survey which was the speed at which consumers make decisions in 2016, especially about hiring lawyers and what does that mean in terms of lawyers with respect to their own responsiveness to consumer queries.
Mark Jacobsen: Yes, that is probably at least for me was the most interesting finding in the whole survey.
Jared Correia: To me too actually.
Mark Jacobsen: Yeah, I mean, it’s just so powerful when you really consider the implications. So what we found is that 58% of consumers take action within one week and a-third of those people take action within one day. So consumers are in a great hurry to get their matter resolved or at least get on the pathway to getting that matter resolved. You can sort of tie it back to these strong emotional urges that are kind of driving them toward wanting to solve their problem; it’s not a kind of a rational sort of exercise going on. It’s a very emotional urge of kind of need to get the problem solved.
So when they contact the firm, they also overwhelmingly choose the fastest method at their disposal, the telephone, 72% of consumers use the phone, so that is the primary way the consumers tell us they wanted to contact attorneys. Email and in-person is about 10% each and everything else is very small. Probably the most interesting thing is that 64% of the consumers we talked to said they only contact one attorney.
So if you sort of put all the pieces together, they are moving very quickly, they immediately want to find an attorney, they are driven by strong urges, they choose the fastest way of communicating with a firm they can on telephone, they also want to be close to them so they don’t have to drive a long way to get to them and they look for the first attorney that looks like a good fit with their particular need, and if everything goes right, that’s the only attorney they are going to call because 87% of that group said they hired that one attorney that they called.
So to me what that says is as long as the law firm does everything right, markets effectively, gets in front of these consumers when they have that need, attracts the interest, picks up the phone, answers the phone, has a good quality interaction with the consumer, builds trust, establishes empathy, you are almost guaranteed to get that business, because the consumer wants to hire that first attorney and does hire that first attorney they call 90% of the time. So it just shows the importance of sort of being very pervasive in your marketing and being very effective an intake with these prospective clients.
Jared Correia: Yeah, I mean, that’s a fantastic takeaway. Despite what attorneys understand or don’t understand about marketing in general, one thing they can do is be responsive or more responsive.
We have time for one more question here, and I thought this was particularly interesting as well. This was another part of the study that I thought was useful to know. Your study indicates that off-line referral sources remain the primary way to consumer-selected lawyers, so that means I think that the modern lawyers got to be present online and off-line. So I think the challenge becomes, how do you balance online marketing versus off-line marketing? Do you have any ideas or thoughts about an effective way to do that for a lawyer who is tugged in a million different directions about how to advertise their firm?
Mark Jacobsen: Yes. Well, absolutely, I understand and appreciate the challenge that lawyers have. We still see that 76% of consumers prefer to find their attorney through off-line sources as you just said, Jared; so that continues to be really important. Now importantly, that drop from 85% the year before, so there is a clear trend from off-line to online, even off-line is still predominant. The point being that just to reiterate the point you just made, both remain very important. One, because it’s always been important and still the lion’s share of how people want to find an attorney; the other because it is growing very rapidly.
Now off-line I think all the things that firms have traditionally done, remain incredibly important. They are building a local brand, being involved in your community, speaking, connecting with the right organizations, sponsoring the right types of activities, building a robust referral network. Those activities will always be fundamental to how you generate business for a law firm. The important point though is with the increase in online activity, a lot of that is being driven by a lot of this referral activity moving from off-line to online, and more of this referral activity is now happening in social.
So the bridge really from off-line to online is to make sure that as a law firm and as an attorney you are moving with sort of the aggregate consumer population into being able to present yourself within social, engage within social, and be present as this activity starts to move from off-line, one-on-one physical interactions to online one-to-many social interactions, and that when say, a friend-to-friend recommendations happens in Facebook and say, I am the person that gets their recommendation I immediately want to check out that law firm, first thing I am going to do is because I am in Facebook is looking Facebook, are you there? How do you present yourself? Do I feel good about proceeding with you at that point? And I think a lot of firms kind of miss out at that point because they are not there, and now it’s an extra step and more work to do my due diligence on that law firm.
Jared Correia: Yes, you heard it hear, follow the trends. I think that’s a good place to add it here. Now, Mark, with lot of stats here today, so I think you have either freighted or inspired a lot of people today one or the other.
Mark Jacobsen: Yes, hopefully, I have not frightened too much, because I think there is a lot of opportunity here for firms that are progressive to really gain edge over a lot of the marketplace.
Jared Correia: Absolutely and having the data points to determine where to move is very important, which is why it’s great that you guys continue to do this study.
Sadly we have reached the end of another episode of The Legal Toolkit, but don’t worry, we will be back next month.
If you are feeling nostalgic you can check out our entire show archive anytime you want at HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com” legaltalknetwork.com.
So thanks again to Mark Jacobson of FindLaw for taking the time to drop by the virtual studio to talk to us about consumer behavior.
So Mark, now comes the time where you can tell folks how to find out more about you or about Findlaw. So how about it?
Mark Jacobsen: Yes, so if you would like to learn more about anything I talked about today or a whole wealth of additional information, you can go to HYPERLINK “http://www.lawyermarketing.com/learn” lawyermarketing.com/learn. We have many whitepapers, we have a very actively updated blog with all kinds of great legal marketing information, playbooks on all kinds of topics, brand, managing reviews and ratings et cetera. Go out there, there is all kinds of great stuff that I think you will find interesting and very helpful.
Jared Correia: Awesome! Thanks again Mark. So everybody, get out there and check that website out. And thanks to all of you out there for listening, except for you Mookie Wilson, I still hate you, the North remembers.
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