In 2012 issue of Colorado Super Lawyers Magazine, we published an award-winning oral history focusing on the legal fallout of the tragedy in Littleton. We spoke to six attorneys, including James A. Cederberg, who represented one of the victims; and John M. Richilano, who defended a friend of the shooters. An excerpt:
Cederberg: We were trying to put together evidence that [teachers and school officials] had a lot of information in front of them and didn't put two and two together. And [U.S. District] Judge [Lewis] Babcock didn't care much for that argument. He issued a written order that pretty much addressed the arguments that we were making. The standard's very tough, which is reckless indifference. Red flags-he didn't feel that was enough to get where he needed to go to impose liability.
Frankly, we were asking in our motion to go in uncharted territory. We knew we had an uphill battle. There was no precedent for applying the kind of principles that we were trying to apply to the bizarre and outrageous facts of this particular case, where you've got kids who had this plot, and signaled the plot, who I thought were making somewhat extraordinary efforts to tell people they were not happy. ... We never got to do any discovery to find out what exactly did happen. I don't think we left any stones unturned. The legal system is the best one in the world, but it doesn't provide a remedy for every harm that occurs.
It's easy to get nostalgic about where you went to school. Those days when you were young and idealistic, working with challenging professors and forging relationships with your fellow classmates. But think about those classmates for a bit. How many of them are you that close to these days? Are any of them practicing law near you?
When compiling online bios many lawyers have a tendency to just list qualifications like the law school they attended and their professional accomplishments, treating it like a résumé. The truth is that many of your competitors went to great schools and have accomplishments that are similarly impressive. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
Prospective clients want to know the factors that differentiate your services and how your personality influences your practice. In other words, they want to know what's important to them. If they think your bio reads like someone stroking their own ego they will likely move onto the next firm. Instead put yourself in their shoes. They're in a tough situation and want to know how your particular set of skills directly relates to their scenario.
You can also take it a step further and describe what about your practice area makes you tick? When consumers are researching you online they want to know if you are passionate about their needs. On top of that they want to feel comfortable. Speak in the third person and tone down the legalese.
Keep away from clichés, every attorney says they "fight for their clients." While it's difficult, finding a creative approach to appeal to a prospective client helps you stand out from a sea of legal websites using the exact same phrases. One way of doing this is sharing the particular area of the law that really motivates you or some content you recommend for screening and selecting an attorney. You can provide links to articles or other published works, including a brief introduction about why it's compelling.
Photos can also add value to any attorney website bio page because they help the reader connect with your words. If people can assign a face to black and white text, they're more likely to cultivate trust and a connection with the attorney. Also, invest in a professional headshot. Your website should exude professionalism in every facet from the design to the copy. A professional photo will not only give your profile a personal touch with clients but also help you put forward your best attorney website bio.
Trust is difficult to establish when marketing to online consumers. For more information on securing a client's faith and business download the playbook Building Real Trust in a Virtual World: An Attorney's Guide.
Maintaining a good reputation is an important part of any attorney's ongoing activities. A positive reputation is often what causes a potential client to seek the services of a specific law firm or attorney. In fact, 88% of consumers stated that a lawyer's "reputation" was one of the top two most important pieces of information they rely when choosing an attorney.*
You may already know the importance of reputation management because you've participated in the Super Lawyers selection process, attended one of our events or promoted your selection on social media. But what happens when someone you've advised finds you online and leaves a negative review? Your website, ads and social media profiles might be well-written, but the reviews and ratings you receive have the power to impact your reputation beyond anything you write yourself.
The solution to a negative review is to become a part of the conversation in good and bad times. Web marketing is not a one-way conversation. Online reviews and ratings are the new word-of-mouth in which you can participate - tactfully. You can manage consumer perceptions of your firm by getting involved, listening to what people are saying about your firm and by responding.
The best part? Your participation contributes to your overall online footprint. The more quality and diverse reviews you have (positive and negative), the greater the likelihood you'll be found online.
So, how can you start this conversation? Our friends at FindLaw just released a new white paper explaining this process. From gaining more reviews to managing your responses, You Can't Control Your Firm's Reputation (But You Can Manage It) lays it all out there for you. Download your copy today and get started.
*FindLaw 2015 Consumer Legal Needs Survey