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YouLaw: Attorney Nostrils and Ceiling Lights a No-No

By Gerry Oginski | Monday, March 23, 2009

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TechnoScore: 1.0
1 = Lowest Possible Score; 5 = Highest Possible Score

Three things you never want to see in a law firm video:

  1. The lawyer's nostrils.
  2. The ceiling lights.
  3. The lawyer reading from a computer screen.

Kenneth A. Vercammen of the New Jersey law firm, Kenneth A. Vercammen & Associates, creates a video that unfortunately has all three of these items.

Vercammen positioned his camera on his desk which has the effect that he is looking down at the camera and the viewer as well. It makes you feel, well, little. It's a good thing this lawyer's video is so poorly lit, otherwise you'd be able to see right into his nostrils.

The main reason the lighting is so poor is that the camera is focused on the ceiling light. The camera thinks the ceiling light is the main light source, which causes the camera to make everything else dark, including the attorney's face. The placement of the camera is a significant problem, and it's obvious that the attorney never looked to see whether he was properly positioned within the viewfinder frame.

There are so many issues with this do-it-yourself video that it just defies correction. My advice: Take the video offline and pay a professional to create a good video.

Tip #1: Calibrate the White Balance

Always calibrate the white balance before shooting your video. This takes all of 10 seconds to do. You need a white posterboard from Staples or Costco. Cost: $1.49. Place it on your chair and zoom in on it. Press the white balance button and lock it. This tells the camera that this object is really white. The camera adjusts all other colors accordingly.

If you fail to do this step, your entire video will be darkly lit and you will have wasted your entire afternoon producing an unwatchable video.

Tip #2: Place the Camera at Eye Level

If you're using a camera and do not have a tripod, get a stack of books and pile it high on your desk so the lens is at your eye level. Do not point it up toward the ceiling. Remember, nobody wants to see inside your nostrils.

Also, how do you feel when someone "talks down" to you? By putting the camera lens at eye level you create a bond that you certainly cannot obtain by looking down.

Tip #3: Don't Read From a Script

Do not read from a script or from text. I've said it repeatedly. When a client comes into your office, before you answer their question do you say "Wait! Hold on one second. I have to go grab my script before I can give you an answer."

It sounds so obvious, right? Reading from a script or text is stilted and boring. Create an outline and tell your viewer what you want them to know. Don't give them a legal citation thinking they'll go to the law library to look it up. Instead, pretend you're sitting at your kitchen table talking to your best friend. If their eyes glaze over, you can bet every viewer will feel the same way with a dry and emotionless set of legal facts that nobody wants to hear.


I couldn't even get through more than one minute of this 3:41 minute video. I couldn't pay attention to what this eager attorney was trying to say — something about the need for having a power of attorney for gay and lesbian partners. I learned about this topic only from his title. On his sidebar he posted what looks like a monotonous script, word for word, after which he provides a verbose resume of his career accomplishments.

The video could be so much better. Change the camera angle, set your white balance, ditch the script and be yourself. The topic is an important one. However, when you lose a viewer's attention within seconds, they will not stick around long enough to hear what you have to say.

The Back Bench

Certified Family Law Specialist and online video producer Kelly Chang Rickert says: "This is hands-down, the worst video I have ever seen for marketing purposes. First, he is pointing the camera at himself. Second, he is reading from a screen. Thirdly, he is a horrible reader! Bottom line: This is a cheap home-made video that depicts him and his firm in the worst light ever. Putting this video out in the public domain is announcing to the world that he is a slacker! If Mr. Vercammen puts in the same effort practicing law as he does marketing, his clients are in trouble."

Lawyer, journalist, and legal media consultant Robert Ambrogi says: "There is so much wrong with this video that it is difficult to know where to start. First is the framing and perspective. It feels like he is looking down into a hole and the viewer is at the bottom looking up. Second is the lighting and focus. He is backlit and blurry. Worst of all is his presentation. He is clearly and clumsily reading a script in a monotone that makes him sound bored with his own topic. Even at just over three minutes, this video is painful to sit through."

TechnoLawyer publisher and online video producer Neil Squillante says: "I'd prefer watching a blank screen than this painfully bad video. Kenneth Vercammen seems earnest about his subject matter, but his video proves beyond a reasonable doubt that production values matter."

About YouLaw
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.

Contact Gerry:
T: (516) 487-8207

Topics: Law Firm Marketing/Publications/Web Sites | Videos | YouLaw
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