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Marketing your Law Firm in post-pandemic period

An Interview with Idan Nishlis

Welcome to E-Coffee with Experts, an interview series where we discuss online marketing with the best minds in the business.

In this episode, Dawood is in conversation with Idan Nishlis, CEO at Nishlis Legal Marketing & Founder of Tier One Rankings

Idan shares his journey from being a college student to starting his own Legal Marketing firm in Israel, which was one of the few companies who initially came up with this concept in Israel.

Idan expresses his thoughts on the emerging need of social media, how legal marketing has changed due to pandemic, lead generation and much more. He also shares his valuable tips of using social media and email marketing to capture the attention of the right audience.

Lastly, he also speaks about the legal branding and the social media channels which can work effectively for law firms.

Tune into this insightful conversation and stay tuned for the next cup of E -coffee with Experts!

Firms were very heavy on PR like traditional press, billboards or different ways of advertising. But as time progressed, firms first started using social media, now even more obviously. Social media gave firms tools that they didn’t have before.

Idan Nishlis
CEO at Nishlis Legal Marketing &
Founder of Tier One Rankings
Hello, everyone, how are you doing? Today we have with us Idan Nishlis, founder of Tier One Rankings and CEO at Nishlis Legal Marketing. Hi Idan, how are you?

Very well. Thank you for having me.

Well, thank you for taking out time. We have not spoken about legal marketing till now in this season of our E-Coffee with Experts. I really want to know more about what you do. Before that, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and your business to our viewers.

My name is Idan. I grew up in Canada. My undergraduate and graduate studies were in Boston, Massachusetts, which makes me a Boston Red Sox fan. I worked in New York for a while and then moved back to Israel, where I happen to be the first legal marketer in the country. It means that I had to literally go door to door to all the law firms and say, “you need to go marketing,” and they would say, “What is that?”

I found one brave firm that said, “That’s interesting, let’s give it a try.” 10 years later, the top 20 law firms now have legal marketing. It has really developed. We’re still in the early stages, but the profession is fast developing here in Israel.

You have been working in legal before moving back to Israel. Tell us a little bit more about how that happened.

I stumbled into legal marketing, like many of my colleagues, not intentionally. I studied marketing and global marketing at Emerson College. One of my professors, Dr. Sylvia Hodges, was one of the prominent people in the industry. It was her first year at Emerson, and I was assigned to be her teaching assistant. One day, she said, “Why don’t you do legal marketing in Israel?” I told her because there’s no such thing. She said, “Okay, so be the first one.” I’ll teach you what you need to know. So, that’s how I got started. I have been doing it since and loved every day of doing it.

Idan, you were the first legal marketer in Israel. You have been doing it for more than a decade now. How have you seen legal marketing change in pre-pandemic, pandemic, and post-pandemic?

That’s a great question. The pandemic has changed the legal industry dramatically. A study recently published in the US showed that 71% of respondents, among legal marketers, lawyers, and in-house counsel, said that the pandemic would reinvent the legal industry. This is one of those lifetime events where you can really see a shift in a whole marketplace.

Legal marketing has been going through several changes in the past years. If it’s legal tech, which is a dozen of a billion-dollar industry. That was growing fast. What happened during the pandemic showed the legal industry a couple of things. One is that everything is online.

Law firms did have LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, but these guys use marketing tools. For the first time, they had to rely online for everything. As a service, lawyers are trusted advisors. They’re supposed to sit in the room with someone. Figuratively speaking, hold their hands, give some confidence, look in their eyes and show trust. It’s very difficult to do that through a computer screen. A client hires a lawyer because they trust him. He has confidence. The client gets the energy from him. They want him in the corner if something bad happens.

Other changes include social distancing. You can’t see your clients. You can’t see your lawyer. You can’t hire a client physically, but only through Zoom. That’s a huge change. I just tried to adapt and change to working and collaborating online. Law firms work in silos. Each department works on its own. There is not much collaboration or information sharing among the law firms. The bigger the firm, the more silos there are. When you work from home, it’s even harder to share that data. There’s multiple challenges here that the legal industry has to overcome. So that’s part of systemic change.

The biggest thing that comes out of this pandemic is the need for quality service. Lawyers are professionals, especially where you work with the top 20 law firms. The best law firms are always the best. The difference between a, b, and c, maybe they have a department which stands out or a partner that has more reputation, but more or less, all of them are very good.

What clients are actually looking for now, and it has increased during the pandemic, is quality of service, not of professionalism. That means someone who is more attentive to our needs, who has added value, who’s more receptive and is more flexible, and gets back to us faster. These are things that sound very common in industries, maybe like high tech, but in law firms, the clients, they really come first. Law firm saw that it’s time to focus, but it was very law firm-centric. The first time the clients are demanding service. This will have a huge ripple effect. Law firms are changing their whole strategy to make themselves more client-focused. So that’s the biggest thing.

Further, it is about using tools, such as zoom, for webinars, which they have never used before. Using more tools that allow them to be online, but also, at the same time, gives them more data. It’s the first time they had to analyze that data. So there are lots of things that have changed. It’s a very interesting time to be in legal marketing.

In the US, traditionally, law firms are more about promoting on billboards. But, the pandemic made people stay at home. I think that also saw a shift of law firms using social not only for just being online but also for lead generation. What are your thoughts on it?

It’s interesting. Even before the pandemic, firms were very heavy on PR. If it’s like the traditional press, billboards, or different ways of advertising. But as time progressed, firms first started using social media more, now even more obviously. Social media gave firms tools that they didn’t have before. For example, they can control the content. In the billboard, you have this much room to put in your number and the call to action. It’s a one-time thing. People see once, and it doesn’t change. In social you can create campaigns. You can make it more versatile and engaging. You can see who’s looking at you. You have a like, a share, or comments. You can inject to that person and say back thank you and engage. In social media, you can see what’s effective and what’s not.

A billboard you can take down because no one’s looking at them because there’s no more traffic. It’s going to be stuck there for two more weeks, and you’re going to pay for those two weeks. With social media, I can change my campaign to different target audiences and change my budget. There are different things that are much more effective with social.

I am a firm believer of the fact that you should not target every channel out there because it's just not possible. From your experience, what are the main channels that legal firms should not miss?

Law firms are very traditional in nature, which means they will rely on tools that others support because there are competitors. They usually look at others for what they’re doing or because that’s what’s called an industry. The first tool is their website. That’s what they showcase. That’s their window. They’re very static in nature, meaning 90% of the traffic of a law firm website will go to the buyers. At the end of the day, someone wants to see what the lawyer’s number is and to call them. We as marketers try to cram into that other stuff like about the firm, different departments, success stories, etc.

The second tool, which is the most effective, is email marketing. Email marketing is based on the premise that you have recipients and email addresses. That’s your clients, and your clients always come first. You want to add value. You want to share updates with your clients. During the pandemic, that was key because legislation changed all the time. Wear a mask. Who can go to work? Can you use public transportation? If someone has COVID, is that a sick day or is that a workday? So you have to get your clients. That’s the most effective marketing tool for law firms as their social.

If there is marketing, the whole discussion is away. How much is too much? How many times a day a week a month should you email to them? How long should that be? That’s a different discussion.

Then you have social media, which serves as an amplifier. You want to tell your second circle, those who don’t know about the content you created. You want to recycle it, and you want to reach potential clients. That’s where you use social media. You have a Facebook page or LinkedIn page, and then you have tools to boost that to get to potential clients further along. Twitter is also pretty strong with law firms. I would say LinkedIn is the biggest insurance of social, followed by Facebook in different countries depending on the jurisdiction. For example, in Israel, Facebook is huge. In the US or UK, it’s more for hiring interns or summer interns. We do now see a shift of law firms using more and more Instagram in order to attract interns or future lawyers because that’s where they are now. Facebook is already trying to be on the decline, as people say. I didn’t see that yet because I’m still on it.

Email marketing has also evolved. Now you have amp emails where even in the video, you can have proper CTAs and everything there. Any tips in legal marketing on what type of emails work the best?

Let’s put that into two. One is more informative professional emails, where you want to make client updates. You want to inform them about what happened now, like new legislation news, guidance of something that will affect people pertaining to the legal industry. The best way here is short content. People are overloaded with content. You want to make it short and to the point. Lead off with the bottom line. Lawyers like to write, period. So as they do content writing, they write very lawyer-y. You want to write in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. We call it the grammar test. If the grammar can understand, good. If she can’t, rewrite it.

Make it approachable because your clients are not always lawyers. Give the bottom line. What is the new legislation and then explain to me. Don’t give me all this info where I have to try to understand and call my lawyer. He is going to charge me for that.

There’s even a shift now. In the US, during the pandemic, some of the larger firms did very personal emails. They wrote a personal email, “Dear John, I know that you’ve been heavily affected in your industry. My firm just issued a client update about incentives. I thought you might find this useful. Open this link, and you can also chat about it. So, you’re making it very personal and giving the client a choice if he wants to read. You’re making the connection to talk to me, and I will help you understand it if you need.

Absolutely. What are the best practices for the perfect legal branding?

Branding also had a big shift during the pandemic. Clients interact with lawyers and brands because everything is online. They see the website, and they see the LinkedIn page. There is less meeting face to face. Our client interacts with a brand as a brand.

I like to address that in two ways. One is a brand as a firm, and also a brand as the lawyers. At the end of the day, it’s a service. People come because they are lawyers. Lawyers should build their brand reputation, and online is one of the best ways. Start with LinkedIn, build your profile. If we say that 90% of people go to a lawyer’s bio, 90% of the people will go to their LinkedIn page and only then to the website. Your LinkedIn page shows who you really are and not the front lines, etc. If you are a high-tech lawyer, on the website, you will see that you’re the best high-tech lawyer. You’re an expert in the field of expertise A, B, or C, maybe. But LinkedIn really says who your network is and which groups you’re affiliated with. Your contacts, are they venture capitalists? Are they tech companies? Are you global? Are you domestic? It really shows who you are and really shows the person.

Invest in your brand and yourself. Invest in your referral network and the right content. People won’t stumble upon you. They will find you because you’re out there, create exposure. The easiest thing to do if you’re a busy lawyer, is share your firm’s content for further issuing content on a daily basis. Share a post and put in your two cents about it. Write client updates. I completely identify with you, be different, make a video. Everyone is writing, making a 20 seconds short video about current real estate trends. Build your network and engage with like-minded lawyers outside of your jurisdiction.

You don’t have to travel the world now. We saw that everyone’s connected. If you can travel, then find the same time you would invest in traveling and meeting people, engaging and building your network.

The last thing I would do in terms of personal branding is find your niche. Lawyers are lawyers. With due respect, they’re great people. They’re very professional, but they’re seen as, more or less, they do the same. Find one thing that makes you stand out. If you’re a litigator, find the sector and the sub-sector that you managed to deal with the best. For example, claims in agriculture or investing in tech companies that are in FinTech. The more narrow you are, the easier it is for people to find correct content that’s pinpointed to people. You make yourself an asset because you know something that your peers won’t know. They know everything but you know one thing that is the best. Today the world is going from generalist to specialist. That’s my understanding about personal branding, which is key these days.

Thank you so much. It was fun having you, and you shared some really great insights. I would love to catch up again with you sometime soon. Thank you so much!

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