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YouLaw: Chinese Drywall Lawyer Hits YouTube Home Run

By Gerry Oginski | Monday, April 20, 2009

Watch the Video

TechnoScore: 5.0
1 = Lowest Possible Score; 5 = Highest Possible Score

I had never heard of a toxic Chinese drywall lawyer before finding this video. I was somewhat hesitant to watch the video, especially after seeing the Web site name I thought it might be a spoof at first, but I remember reading something in the newspaper about Chinese drywall. I thought the title implied that the lawyer was Chinese and somehow toxic. I was wrong. I took the plunge and pressed play.

The video opens with neatly dressed attorney Richard Serpe of the Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, P.C. sitting in front of a pleasing background. A nice logo appears in the top left corner of his video, and contact information remains throughout the video in the lower left corner. The attorney does exactly what I always advocate in every video: Introduce yourself. "My name is Richard Serpe, and I'm a toxic tort lawyer helping people for the last 20 years." He then goes on to educate his viewer.

This attorney describes what type of problems defective Chinese drywall causes. Even more interesting is that the attorney has created a free report detailing the five steps you need to know about Chinese drywall claims. Attorney Serpe has taken the extra step of not only creating a free report for viewers to download, but he has created a Web site devoted entirely to Chinese drywall claims.

I give this attorney top marks for jumping on a newsworthy matter not only with a free report, but creating a timely Web site to attract visitors limited solely to Chinese drywall health problems. The piece de resistance was creating a video that incorporates each of these elements and doing it in an educational manner to inform his viewer about how devastating these claims can be and what they need to know.

From a technical standpoint, this attorney garners a top score of 5.0 — a score never before awarded in YouLaw.

Tip #1: Light it Up

Keep your background well lit. Nobody likes a dark, moody video. You're not making an indie film for the Sundance Film festival. You can tell from Serpe's video that his background is well lit, and appears to be his office and not a chroma-keyed background inserted from a green screen. Let me define that. Have you ever wondered how TV newscasts and some videos have amazing backgrounds? They do it by using a 'green screen'. A green background is used and video editing software inserts your special background where the green one is located. Not here. It's natural.

Tip #2: Display Your Contact Information Prominently

Your logo and contact information combined comprise your "firm identity." You do not need anything fancy. In fact, you don't even need a logo. It's just something different to set you apart from everyone else. Importantly, your contact information is crucial. This attorney chose to have his contact information visible throughout the entire video. I also do this in my own videos. This way, a viewer never has to search for your phone number during the video.

I'm going to nitpick for a moment since the contact information and the name of the Web site on the bottom left-hand corner of the video appears at times difficult to read, and could be improved. However, I felt this trivial finding was not prejudicial. Looking at the sidebar, I was hoping to find the phone number, but could not. Your phone number and Web site should be prominently displayed in the sidebar.

To see the vast number of choices you have to put your contact information on your video, just watch the evening news for a few minutes. You'll see many examples as each person is introduced with a different description. Remember to use a colored background to provide contrast to your text.

Tip #3: Music and Editing Matter

Remember, you are responsible for your choice of music. Make sure it matches the tone of your video. In the last YouLaw column I discussed how an ominous soundtrack created a gloom and doom feeling of hopelessness. In contrast, this video opens with a pleasing music intro that fades as the attorney begins to talk. It closes with another snippet from the same song.

But there's a problem of a different sort. The music used in this video was taken from a song by The Who (my thanks to editor Neil Squillante for pointing this out). When choosing the music, make sure you do not infringe on any copyright. This could be significant, especially for a lawyer. Many low- and no-cost royalty free music options exist. Also, if a viewer recognizes the music, it might distract from the message. Remember, it's not a music video, it's background music to set the tone for your educational message. Keep it light and simple. The message controls. The music is incidental.

Regarding editing, I noticed two or three points in the video where the transition between edited scenes could have been smoother and a cough or turn of the head could also have been edited out. These are insignificant points and I mention them only because after watching hundreds and hundreds of attorney videos I can now readily pick up these small points. However, most viewers will disregard these things.

Tip #4: Educate Your Viewer, and You Become the Expert to Call

The attorney refreshingly says that he could make this a 20 minute video by explaining in detail the five steps that any homeowner needs to know to determine if they have a toxic Chinese drywall problem. Thankfully, he directs viewers to his Web site where they can instantly download this free report. Instead of ending his video here, he then goes on to summarize the five different elements you need to know to determine if you might have a valid claim. By doing this, he establishes himself as a someone knowledgeable in his field of toxic Chinese drywall claims. He provides useful and beneficial information to a potential viewer with this problem. He gives them this information before they ever pick up the phone to call. This is a wonderfully executed marketing effort by Serpe.

Who do you think a potential victim is going to call? An attorney who provides useful information in an educational video, or a lawyer who simply says I've been in practice for 20 years and I handle the following 10 different types of cases? Call me because I'm giving you information you need to know and I have plenty more where that came from or call me because I'm great?

Attorney Serpe's take home message is very strong. He continually refers to his free informative report. This simply reinforces the fact that he's providing useful information about the dangerous chemicals contained within Chinese drywall. A viewer whose home has been destroyed by this toxic drywall would certainly appreciate learning this information and being directed to his report.


To summarize, this attorney has taken a timely subject in the news, created a free informational report that helps people understand the dangers of toxic Chinese drywall and what to do if they think they suffer from this problem. He then created a Web site devoted solely to these claims. This alone clearly differentiates him from most other attorneys who commonly advertise being able to handle at least 5 or 10 other types of law. After completing his informative report and his Web site, he then created a useful video designed to teach people about these claims, and explain to them how his free report will help them learn even more.

A well executed marketing plan that culminates with a video that takes top honors in this week's review. Congratulations.

The Back Bench

Certified Family Law Specialist and online video producer Kelly Chang Rickert says: "1. Too long; 2. Too long; 3. Too long! The video was "dry," and made me want to hit a "wall." Drywall litigation is boring, and he does nothing to excite us. Mr. Serpe should just direct his customers to his Web site, where they may download these five steps. He lost me at "Hello.""

TechnoLawyer publisher and online video producer Neil Squillante says: "Richard Serpe clearly understands direct marketing. His free PDF report on contaminated Chinese drywall is a classic lead generation offer. Unfortunately, he needs help creating videos (sound from the right channel would be nice for starters). Also, did Pete Townshend give him permission to use the classic song, Eminence Front?"

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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