1 = Lowest Possible Score; 5 = Highest Possible Score
For this week's column, I searched for a law firm video to review to point out what you should never do. It didn't take long to find one.
Don't watch this video for the quality; it's a well-made video clip.
Don't watch this video for the lighting technique; it's good.
Don't watch this video because the sound is poor; it isn't.
Watch this video because it violates the cardinal sin of criticizing another lawyer by name!
What do I mean? Maine trial lawyer Michael Welch of Hardy Wolf & Downing describes himself and his firm as trial lawyers who mean business. He then does the unthinkable. He criticizes another law firm in an effort to make his law firm look better. Thirty-eight seconds into his video he says:
"The insurance companies know that we will go to trial if we have to. [However] If they're dealing with a lawyer like the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein, who do not go to court, they know that at some point they're [the insurance company] going to offer a number and the lawyer is not going to have any ammunition to combat or counter that offer."
I can only assume that Joe Bornstein is a competitor of the firm Hardy Wolf. I even Googled him to see if he was a real attorney or just made up for the Welch video clip. Lo and behold, he is a real attorney. "More than 34 years of protecting Maine's victims of personal injury" proclaims his Web site.
I actually watched the video three times to make sure I heard the senior partner of the Hardy Wolf trial law firm correctly. I did. He compares his firm to another. He tells the world that his firm takes cases to trial, unlike the Joe Bornstein firm. That's unbelievable. In New York, this comparison could get you sanctioned.
Tip #1: Don't Criticize Another Law Firm or Lawyer
Save your criticism for private, internal discussions, not your marketing videos. Why not? Among the many ethical violations that you might subject yourself to, your video will have an impact on that lawyer's potential clients, the insurance companies, and his colleagues. You might have also subjected yourself to libel and slander claims. Even if the statement that the lawyer doesn't go to court is true (which is probably subjective), how does that help your potential viewer make a decision to come to you, instead of any other lawyer in your town? In my opinion it makes you look petty.
Why do you have to put down another lawyer in an effort to make yourself look good? Can't you distinguish yourself without criticizing someone else? Didn't your mother ever tell you that if you can't say something nice about someone then don't say anything at all?
This video serves as the poster child for what you should never ever do. A really bad move by this experienced trial lawyer.
Tip #2: Generalize the Competition If You Must Mention Them
Attorney Welch ruins a perfectly good informational video clip by introducing an unnecessary comment. What he should have done if he really wanted to distinguish himself from all other lawyers who take cases only to settle them without ever going to trial is to say:
"We're different from lots of other law firms that handle these injury cases. We go to trial and the insurance companies know this. There are some law firms who simply don't go to trial. Before deciding on which attorney you should hire, make sure you ask about their trial experience."
Then go on and explain how many trials you've handled in the last year. Explain to your viewer how going to trial helped solve your client's legal problems and got them compensation.
Tip #3: Don't Advertise. Provide Information.
Don't use your video as a 30 second commercial. Viewers don't like commercials. Don't use it to criticize another lawyer or anyone for that matter. A viewer who finds you online wants information. Commercials do nothing but yell and scream at you. Put-downs do nothing to help inform a potential client why you are the lawyer to solve their legal problems. So what then do you put in your video?
Information. Explain how cases like the ones you handle work. Don't make the client come into your office to get that information. Remember, you are not giving legal advice. You are explaining how the legal system and process works. By demystifying the process, prospective clients will view you as the expert without you ever having to say "Come to me because I'm the legal expert in this field."
I've seen plenty of pompous lawyers say in their videos "Come to me because I know the law, and I know the insurance adjusters personally." I've seen other videos in which lawyers literally talk down to viewers because "I've attended the best law school in the country," implying that nobody else could possibly be as smart as they are.
The best tip I can give you is to be yourself when talking in a video. Be conversational and do not use a script. Many marketing consultants will disagree with my advice about a script, but when you talk to a client, do you use a script? When a potential client calls you to ask a legal question, do you use a script?
There's nothing wrong with using an outline and preparing what you're going to say, but stay away from the stilted scripted format. It doesn't look good.
This video lost all credibility and 4 TechnoScore points when Michael Welch criticized the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein in an effort to differentiate his firm. This lawyer might have subjected himself to ethical sanctions as well as libel and slander claims by including one sentence in an otherwise excellent and well-made video.
Till next time, see you on video!
The Back Bench
Certified Family Law Specialist and online video producer Kelly Chang Rickert says: "Welch does a great job convincing us that he is excellent and he will go to trial! Wonderful! However, he broke a major rule — he puts down another firm to make himself look better. That's a universal faux pas — something you should learn by age 2. The video quality was mediocre. It takes place inside a firm with brick walls — not much visual stimulation. In addition, the video was not edited as he trips over a few words. Overall, I'd probably still hire him, if not for trial, to badmouth people."
Lawyer, journalist, and legal media consultant Robert Ambrogi says: "File this one under: "Low Blow Legal Videos." I was shocked when he dissed a competitor by name. Is that even ethical? Beyond that, something about his demeanor was off-putting — his slouching back away from the camera, his fidgety appearance. I found myself wanting to call Dr. Cal Lightman. "
TechnoLawyer publisher and online video producer Neil Squillante says: "Did the WWE create this video for Hardy Wolf & Downing? That's some serious trash talk. I can only hope Joe Bornstein counter punches, er, I mean posts a video response."
YouTube offers law firms a free advertising platform with tens of millions of potential clients. But a poor video can hurt more than help. In this column, lawyer and online video expert Gerry Oginski reviews and rates the latest law firm videos. A panel of fellow experts (The Back Bench) add to Gerry's reviews with pithy remarks. We link to each new YouLaw column and all other noteworthy law firm marketing articles in our weekly BlawgWorld newsletter, which is free. Please subscribe now.
About Gerry Oginski
New York trial lawyer Gerry Oginski has created more than 150 informational online videos for his medical malpractice and personal injury practice. Realizing that most video producers don't have a deep understanding of the practice of law and what potential clients look for, Gerry launched The Lawyers' Video Studio, which provides free tutorials and video production services. If you need help producing a video, please contact Gerry now.
T: (516) 487-8207