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148 - Gyi Tsakalakis - How to Promote Your Law Firm With Digital Legal Marketing Expert Gyi Tsakalakis
Episode 14815th February 2024 • Trial Lawyer Nation • Michael Cowen
00:00:00 00:53:46

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Michael Cowen (:

This is Michael Cowen and welcome to Trial Lawyer Nation.

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You are the leader in the courtroom and you want the jury to be looking to you for the answers.

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When you figure out your theory never deviate.

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You want the facts to be consistent, complete, incredible.

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The defense has no problem running out the clock. Delay is the friend of the defense.

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It's tough to grow a firm by trying to hold on and micromanage.

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You've got to front load a simple structure for jurors to be able to hold onto.

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What types of creative things can we do as lawyers even though we don't have a trial setting?

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Whatever you've got to do to make it real, you've got to do to make it real. But the person who needs convincing is you.

Voiceover (:

Welcome to the award-winning podcast, Trial Lawyer Nation, your source to win bigger verdicts, get more cases and manage your law firm. And now here's your host, noteworthy author, sought after speaker and renowned trial lawyer Michael Cowen.

Michael Cowen (:

Welcome to today's Trial Lawyer Nation. I am joined today by Gyi Tsakalakis. He is president of AttorneySync, a legal marketing company. He also hosts one of the few podcasts I actually listen to in the legal space, Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. How are you doing today, Gyi?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

I'm great. I'm so grateful to be here, Michael, and really a big fan of a lot of the episodes you've done at Trial Lawyer Nation, so really great to be here today.

Michael Cowen (:

Well, thank you for joining us. Before we dive in, I just want to thank our producer, LawPods. LawPods produces this podcast. They make all the little video clips for us. They get the word out, they make life so easy because all I have to do is talk to you and they do all the rest of the work. So if anyone's thinking about doing their own podcast out there, I highly recommend LawPods. So before we, let's just dive right in. I want to make sure that any of our listeners that are interested in marketing their practice, especially in the digital space, that we provide some valuable content. So first of all, let's just talk about who you are. What is it that you do?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

So a long time ago I was actually a trial lawyer at a small firm in Southeast Michigan, and as a new lawyer, folks were asking, "Hey, what should we be doing online?" And I started looking around and talking to lawyers and at that time, this is like mid 2005 ish, and a lot of lawyers said, "Hey, our clients aren't going to use the internet to hire lawyers like us." And that didn't sound right to me. And so in 2008 we founded a digital marketing agency that specifically just helps specialize in helping law firms and that's AttorneySync. And I've been doing that ever since.

Michael Cowen (:

How do you think marketing for legal services online is different than marketing for other types of businesses?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

That's a great question. The boring parts that people don't like to hear about are, one, there are unique ethical considerations of marketing a law practice versus diet pills. The second one is that, especially in the personal injury context, I think this is something maybe we'll go deeper on, but a lot of people, maybe they don't know a lawyer or if they do know a lawyer, there's the referral aspect to it. And so when you're selling shoes, you've got some brand names in shoes and people search on shoes. But when you're hiring professional services like a lawyer, it's a totally different mindset. And so while there's some overlaps, like things like reviews matter, I think lawyers tend to get too caught up in their own way that they think about how people would hire lawyers when in fact it's much different from a lot of the other services and products that folks might buy.

Michael Cowen (:

What do you mean people get in their own way about we put what we think matters rather than what the consumer thinks matters?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah, I think one of the classic ones, if you go to a lawyer's website, most lawyer law firm websites, it's all about them. It's focusing on, some of them will put, folks will put where they went to law school and how they were like, finished high in their class and a bunch of stuff that like, they'll put the best lawyer badges out there. And I understand why they're doing that and that has a place. But I think that lawyers that have really started thinking about how can I appeal to my client in a way when they're dealing with often the worst thing that's ever happened to them, the loss of a family member, they're seriously injured, showing more empathy and making their marketing materials more about their potential clients and their audience I think is much more effective. And that really carries through with everything. I mentioned websites, but it's true of ad creative, it's true of TV creative.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And that's just what we would consider more in the marketing world, like the direct response consumer, that's someone who's actually needs the lawyer now, right, they've been hurt, but there's a whole other segment of folks that you want to appeal to. And this is another place I think lawyers overlook, is that they don't need a lawyer right now, but you want to be top of mind in their consideration set when they do because it's a lot less expensive to rank for your name, so when someone searches for your name on Google, than it is to rank for something like personal injury lawyer. And so the more people that you can attract that will circumvent search altogether, they're not even going to Google. They're just calling you. I think that's the other thing that I think a lot of lawyers should focus more on. The marketing people would call that demand generation or branding, that kind of stuff.

Michael Cowen (:

Yeah, the branding is so interesting because one, I think challenge in legal, not just personal injury but other types of law is that most of the time most people don't need us. And most of the time we don't want them calling us. If you're a restaurant, people are going to eat every week and probably any given week someone's going to, if they're your ideal customer, they have enough money to go out to eat and they like going out to eat, they're going to go out to eat at least once a week, maybe more. Whereas personal injury, some people may go a lifetime without needing us. Some people may only need us once in a life. You really don't want those repeat customers that have nine, 10, 12 PI claims. They get suspicious and less valuable as they go.

Michael Cowen (:

So what are some things that we could affordably do? Now I know some things you can do for branding. I mean, I'm partner in a firm in New Mexico that I invested in and we're just spending millions of dollars to be on TV, on the billboards, to be everywhere. But if you don't have that budget, what are some things that lawyers can do to become that top of mind branded person in the community? And then what kind of communities should they aim for?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Well, I think you just answered your own question. I would go deep into local, right? I would build relationships with local business leaders, relationships with, you mentioned restaurants. I think that I've seen lawyers that will do interviews of local business owners, local restaurateurs, let them tell their story, get that out into the community. There's local organizations. I think if you find overlap between, and again, there are ethical considerations, but if you find overlap with other businesses that might serve your clients. So if you're helping people that are dealing with circumstances around injuries, they're going to be, a lot of them are going to use rehab. And so finding ways to cross promote and work with those local community.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And that doesn't have to be expensive, right? Sponsoring local events, working with local charities, working with local organizations, being a leader in your local community, getting involved with education programs with the local schools, building relationships with local journalists. I think that to me is the real foundation. And again, that stuff is, it takes a lot of legwork for time, but it's not ad budget. And so your investment is much more time-based than it is monetary.

Michael Cowen (:

And especially when you're starting out, when you have more time than money. And there is a point in your career where that flips when you're starting and you've got a lot of time, you don't have a lot of money. So you have to find ways to get cases that don't cost a lot of money. And then at some point, your demands on your time are greater than the cost of just throwing money at a problem. So a lot of that sounds like the non-digital world as far as going out there, meeting people, sponsoring things. Is there anything in the digital world that people can do to build their brand in the community?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

I'm big on this idea that the lines are really blurred between traditional and digital. Right. So all of those things that I just talked about, you can take them online. Right. You're speaking at your local high school, publish that online, do interviews with attendees. From a review standpoint, Google's guidelines are very broad in terms of experience with the business. So motivating people who attend educational seminars that you conduct in your community to go leave a review about the seminar. It's a way to increase your reviews. If you're doing sponsorships, take pictures, take videos, get that on social networks, publish that good work on your Google Business Profile. And so a lot of that stuff, that traditional stuff that you do in the real world, just take it online. The internet's just a conduit to really accelerate the spread and distribute all that good work that you're doing in your local community.

Michael Cowen (:

We just talk about digitally. Okay. Let's say you're doing interviews with local leaders. How do you get that out there? Where on the internet would you put that?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah, I think there's a lot of different ways to do it. I like this idea of you record once and then you clip it up and distribute it multiple times. And so maybe you have a YouTube channel, if you're active on Facebook. TikTok, I was a late adopter of TikTok, to be honest, even though I'm in this business. And I'll tell you that the impressions, I'll take the same video, same caption, same tags, put it on Instagram, put it on Facebook and put it on TikTok. And I'll get hundreds of videos on Instagram and Facebook and I'll get thousands on TikTok. And so I'm also very much like just don't get obsessed about where you're publishing. It's okay to publish in multiple places and if you could record something, record an interview, you can take different clips. And each of the platforms have their own little nuances.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so I know a lot of folks like to use Buffer and some of these cross-platform posting things, but it's really important that you get the tagging right. So if you're tagging a local restaurant, a local business owner, make sure that you're actually tagging them appropriately on the native platform so that they get notified that you highlighted them because that's going to make them more apt to also share that. And so I mentioned YouTube. I think if you have your own site, if you have your own blog, I think that's fine to publish that stuff there. And I would get that in. That's a great opportunity to do for email marketing as well, is highlighting instead of here are the most recent legislative updates relating to tort law in our state, here's us interviewing local restaurant that people in our community are familiar with. People want to consume that content a lot more than they do about your legal updates or your firm news.

Michael Cowen (:

Now how do you do the line of, okay, you want something interesting that people will actually listen to so you're talking to a restaurant owner, you're talking to a local coach from a football team that did well or something. How do you convert that from, okay, people hear you and then they still think of you as a lawyer when they need a lawyer because I mean, what I've see some people do is they have their stuff out there and it's interesting and you watch it, but you would never think to hire them as a lawyer because there's not that connection being made.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Thank you for making that point. I think it's so important to remember that it's not just about what the marketers would call awareness, right? So brand awareness, just getting the impressions, getting the reach. Affinity matters a lot. So that's out of the old-fashioned, old like and trust, but ultimately it's trust. And that's why I always tell lawyers, you got to mix in your expertise content too. I think to a large extent people, if they're following you, if they're consuming your content on a regular basis and you're reminding them with a gentle nudge about what you do, I think that's great and they'll figure it out. Right. And it's more about top of mind for that segment of the audience. But to your point, for a lot of the audience, talk about top of funnel, people that don't know you, it's so important that you're still demonstrating that expertise. And so a lot of the lawyers that have especially we'll say it, I'm 45, so I don't know what that puts me in the overall scheme of things, but a lot of the newer, younger lawyers, they've,-

Michael Cowen (:

Young to me, but yeah, and maybe not to all of our listeners.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And the folks I'm talking about are, they're younger than me. And so the point is, they're digital natives, right? They're very savvy with the social technology. They're generating a lot of interest in brand building. And I'm not saying that they're all doing this, many of them are balancing this, but it's so important that you're also demonstrating your expertise because you can get millions of likes and followers. And by the way, that's another issue which goes into the ethics stuff. A lot of these folks are buying followers, they're buying comments, they're buying these fake reviews, which it's really, really a nasty business out there. And so I've cautioned lawyers to be careful about who they're emulating. But the point is that at the end of the day when someone's dealing with one of these situations, especially you're talking about a catastrophic death case, they want to know that they've got the expert on this particular subject.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so if you're not mixing in the subject matter expertise content, maybe you're talking about, you're sharing some experiences from cases you've handled, you're talking about, maybe you publish something that's a book on the subject matter, but if you're not building that in and then on top of it you've got the validation from other top of class trial lawyers, whether they're endorsing you on LinkedIn or recommending you on LinkedIn or you've got testimonials, video testimonials on Google Business Profiles, that kind of stuff really validates that hey, one, you're the expert. And I think the other part that lawyers miss a lot is that a lot of times lawyers hate this, but consumers will shop around, they'll talk to five, 10 different trial lawyers because they want to educate themselves. And a lot of times it comes down to was the lawyer empathetic, did they listen, did they hear them while they're telling their story? Are they responsive to their questions and concerns?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And that can be a huge competitive advantage. I mean, I've seen situations where lawyers, there's a potential client considering five lawyers and three of the law firms, how they answered the phone disqualified them right off the bat. And I think you talked about this with Gursten on your episode, but that client experience and that potential client experience is so important to get people from, you spent all this money to get their attention. How are you investing in that and taking them from okay, they've contacted you to they actually decide that you're the right lawyer for them? I think that's such an important part.

Michael Cowen (:

I want to stick to this brand building part. So let's say you're recording interesting content. So I think this conversation you and I are having is great for this audience, which is personal injury lawyers. Probably the average consumer looking to hire a personal injury lawyer doesn't really care about digital marketing. You never know, but I would think most of my client base would not be interested in this particular conversation. But let's say you find something that's going to be interesting to your local community, it would engage people, you're throwing in enough of your expertise, kind of sliding it in there so that you're building yourself up as you're providing this interesting content and then you put on the internet. How do you get anyone to actually find it and look at it?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah, it's a great question. There are some basic kind of blocking and tackling things technically that you have to do if you're talking about search. But without getting too technical about it, I would lean in on YouTube. I think what we've seen from Google this last year in particular in terms of surfacing video content and it's what they would call hidden gems and expertise content and localized content. I think YouTube would be a priority for publishing. And again, it's a matter of titling and captioning your videos, making sure you've got the appropriate markup and tagging and that kind of stuff. That's on the search side of things. On the social side of things, it's going to spread based on people's engagement with it. That's another thing I always tell people is remember these platforms, most of them are publicly traded companies. They've got shareholders and the way that they drive revenue for the most part is through ads.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so one of their priorities is to keep people on their platforms. And so when your content gets liked, gets shared, gets commented on, there's comment threads, those signals tell those platforms to show that content to more people. And so in this particular context, if you're talking about you're doing something interesting in your local community, making sure that you name the restaurant, if you're interviewing a restaurateur and tag the restaurant, tag the restaurateur, put something in the post that would generate engagement. So I'm here outside of Detroit and so Detroit style pizza is a thing. So if I'm going to do something on Detroit style pizza, I'm going to make sure that I'm doing things like tagging the pizza place that I'm talking about. And then I would prompt with questions. What's your favorite Detroit style pizza? Tell me why I'm wrong about this pizza, that kind of stuff. And that's how it spreads. Right. That's how you get the network effect because those engagement signals tell the platform's algorithms, this is a popular thing. Let's share this more widely with a bigger audience.

Michael Cowen (:

You mentioned the term Google Business Platform. What is that?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah, so Google Business Profile, I would say if you do nothing else, you should go check out Google Business Profile and the reason is because one, it's free, but the biggest reason is someone does a search on your name or your firm name or your name plus attorney, and they do that on Google, your Google Business Profile is going to command a lot of real estate. It's likely going to be what they call a one box. It's going to show images of your firm, it can show, you can have video testimonials there. It's going to show your address, your phone number, and it's also going to show client review, really anybody that leaves a valid review. And so no matter how somebody hears about you, they get your name from one of the referral source, former client, another lawyer. They're going to want to go look for information about you online.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And the place they're most likely to do that is still Google. And this Google Business Profile is your opportunity, it's your tool to showcase and marshal all the evidence of your great reputation and your reputation for client service. And they have posts on Google Business Profile, so you can post regularly there. You can tag the service offerings. There's other things you can do to your profile to let people know whether you offer in-person or online consultations. And so you can qualify somebody before they even get to your website with a lot of the frequently asked questions, the Q&A section on Google Business Profile. There's a lot you can do to demonstrate your expertise and nurture them to motivate them to call you before they even land on your website.

Michael Cowen (:

So we finally get someone to come to your website. You talked earlier about its important that the website have content that's actually meaningful to the consumer who's making a choice and not just trying to blow up our own egos and talk about what bad asses we are. What are some of the things we can do to make our websites, make them give content that makes someone want to hire us?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah, that's a great question. And I think it starts with really understanding what the client really wants when they come to your website. They want to know that you have expertise in handling cases like yours. They want to know that you've done this before. They want to know that other clients are happy with your services. They want to know what it's going to be like to work with you. Right. They want to know what your response is going to be like. They want to know are they working with you or are they working with other attorneys at your firm? I think those are the big things from a validation standpoint. And I think it's so important too that lawyers remember that you're setting expectations with your potential clients even before they get your website, but by the time they get to your website, you're setting a lot of expectations.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so lawyers love to put verdicts and settlement numbers on their websites and it's effective because again, it goes to that, I've done this before, I've had success with former clients, so it makes sense, but you've got to be careful that you're balancing that because that's what the expectation is. Right. So now then they come to your website and you're showing them $10 million verdicts. They're like, where's my $10 million verdict? And a lot of this is a lot of nuance to all of this. I'm not saying not to use verdicts, but in addition to verdicts, make sure that you're putting in things about how you help, what it's like working with you, examples from prior cases where you can, I think. Video client testimonials when done effectively are some of the most powerful because hearing from your clients is much more effective in convincing somebody than hearing from you. You know what I mean?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Trial lawyers should know this. Right. We do this when we try cases. It's the same thing. Right. It's putting the evidence of your reputation in front of your audience, your potential audience is your jury in this context and marshal that evidence. And it's much more effective when it's coming from objective witnesses, being other clients, being other attorneys, being you've published on this, you've got testimonials on this, versus I fight hard and I've been doing this forever and I went to an awesome law school.

Michael Cowen (:

What makes a good client testimonial video?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

The emotion, right? It comes from do you have a relationship with that client? The ones where it's like it's obvious that the client, because a lot of the clients when you're working with them, some of these cases they can take years. And so if you have a client that you've been working with, that you've developed a deep relationship with and they're willing to say, look, this lawyer was there for me in the worst thing of my life and he answered my questions, he kept me updated throughout the process. It was a hard process and I always felt like I was in the best hands I could be in throughout this process.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Those are the things that people want to hear that versus you see a lot of people, they'll do their testimonials and is like, so-and-so got me 10 million. And I get it. I understand why they're doing that. I'm not saying that that's not effective. It does work. But the thing that works even better is when you have that client sharing their story and how much they value the choice they made in hiring you and that you built a relationship with them throughout the process, I think that that's the most effective.

Michael Cowen (:

Another, I guess social proof is with the reviews, Google reviews, Facebook reviews, I found even I've got a mostly referral based practice on my main firm, but even then when another firm refers a client to us, they check out our reviews. It's like, Hey, I saw you on some five star reviews. I guess I'm in good hands. What's some things lawyers can do to get good reviews?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

That's a great question. The first thing that I always tell people, and this even goes back to what we were talking about in the marketing context, but you've got to fix the experience, the client experience first. Because people will say things like, oh, you can set up an automated system to ask for reviews more. And don't get me wrong, you do have to ask. And the timing aspect of when to ask matters a lot. But the starting point for a lot of people is deliver a better experience. Right. What are you doing to keep people informed and to make them have a better experience because that's what's going to motivate them to leave a review. And the other thing that I always tell lawyers is reviews don't just have to be when you're handing somebody a settlement check. I think, of course that's the time when someone's like, thank you so much.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

If there's anything I can do for you. And that's when you say, Hey, look, I have a referral based practice. Online reviews matter to our firm. If you're willing, we'd love to, here's how to leave the review, make that really easy for them. That matters, but more importantly is to make that remarkable experience. Go out of your way to do something that someone would actually write about. And the point I want to make is don't just limit it to clients that you get a big settlement for. Think about all these other people that might be willing to leave you a review. You mentioned this one other, if you're a referral referral-based practice, the social proof of seeing other lawyers that you know endorsing you or giving you a recommendation on LinkedIn, that's extremely powerful because you know what they're going to do. They're going to say, Hey, I saw that you recommended so-and-so. What can you tell me about him? Oh, he is the person that does this. You have to hire them. I think that's extremely powerful.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

We talked about this in the local marketing context, but if you do educational seminars, or webinars, or focus groups, or you take a leadership position at a trial lawyer organization, people can review you for the work that you do there too. So it doesn't just have to be clients in your practice, anybody that's had experience with your business. So think about all the other people that engage with your business from other contexts and find ways to motivate them to leave reviews. But at the end of the day, I find you've got to ask.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so how you ask matters, when you ask matters, but if you don't ask and if you don't at least put it in your byline in your email signature to here's how to leave us reviews, you're going to find that it's going to be a lot harder. The people who leave reviews on their own without any kind of nurturing are people that want to leave bad reviews. The good reviews are the ones that you actually have to say, Hey, look, I'd really appreciate it. Or give them that nudge or nurture them and make it easy for them to do.

Michael Cowen (:

Let's talk about bad reviews because no matter how hard you try, you're going to get somebody leaving you a bad review. What is it you can do or what should you do when you get a bad review?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah. So the first kind of analysis here, is it a legitimate review or not? Because it's so easy for people to leave reviews. Sometimes it's opposing counsel, sometimes it's someone that's not been a client, sometimes it's a competitor who's paid somebody to leave a negative review. Very, very nasty stuff. In those instances, you can take steps to try to either get the review removed, which I know listeners who have tried to do this will say, oh, eye roll. That's really hard. And it is. But there are ways if you, especially on Google, if you go to, there's a help forum that you can submit to make your case why the review should be taken down. If it's a real review and you don't agree with it, the first step is, is don't do anything until you cool off because people want to go online. And you've got to remember that in specific jurisdictions, even responding to the review could potentially be an ethics issue in terms of confidentiality.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

After you've navigated all that stuff and you're ready to leave a review, you might would consider responding to the review, but your response is not intended to convince the person to change their mind about you. Your response is intended to communicate to the next person who looks for information about you that you're there and that you care. And so a response to review that's like, we're really sorry you had this experience. If there's anything we can do, we encourage you to contact our firm to resolve it. That kind of response can be really effective to show like, Hey, you're there. You're engaged. You actually care about your reputation. Otherwise, the game is to try to get more positive reviews. And a lot of lawyers I challenge because they'll say, this is an unfair review. And a lot of the reviews, you know what they are, never responded to my calls, right, didn't keep me updated throughout the case. And those things are fixable things. They don't have anything to do with your ability in the courtroom. They have to do with your client experience stuff.

Michael Cowen (:

And I do want to turn to the client experience. I think one of the things that is challenging for us is that our clients have no basis for comparison to know whether or not we were good, competent providers of legal services. They really don't know whether they got a good settlement or not. They can compare it to outliers that they see advertised. But as far as for this particular case in this venue, was this a good settlement? They definitely don't know whether we pled things well or did good motions or how we did a deposition. All they know is what they experienced. So what are some things you've seen that clients care about in their experience that will either make them feel good about you or if you don't do right will make them feel bad about you?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Well, such a great point. Nobody knows whether they got a good outcome or not. Maybe some other lawyers that practice the same in the same place, they might know, Hey, good job after they've reviewed everything. Right. But clients don't know unless you set those expectations. But everybody knows what it's like to feel treated with respect. Everybody knows what it's like to feel like you're being dismissed or to feel like you're being ignored. That's the stuff people don't like, right? And we all know that. So it's like it goes back to human decency and kindness and making sure that that filters through. And look, a lot of lawyers, it's not like they're ignoring their clients. Right. I've seen some of these stories about lawyers creating systems to be able to 500 cases at the same same time, which it's a topic for another day. But the reason that some of those lawyers are able to scale like that is because they have systems in place that keep clients informed, that aren't sending clients to voicemail, that aren't leaving client text messages and emails unanswered.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

They've got automated systems that will overview stages of the litigation. And it can be a really effective one in my opinion, because it's this balance of, look, there's only so much time in the day. I got to figure out where my time is best spent. A lot of that time is going to be on actually a working lawyer who's actually working on cases. And so back to this idea of you can educate through recordings. Right. So here's where we're at with your case. Here's an overview of the discovery process. Here's what you can expect from a deposition.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And if you're trickling those out regularly, your clients are going to feel like, wow, this is amazing. I'm getting an update on my case every single week or whatever frequency or cadence is appropriate for the situation. Those little things go a long way to make a client feel like, you know what? This lawyer really cares about me. They're focused on keeping me updated. They're interested in the outcome of my case. Those are the things that are difference makers. Again, it's not talking to them about how great the interrogatories went or how great the deposition went. It goes to those human elements because that's the only part that they really understand.

Michael Cowen (:

Yeah, I found that once we really put the effort into proactively reaching out to our clients and keeping them informed, we just get so few calls asking what's going on in the case?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Exactly. That's the thing. That's a great example. Yeah.

Michael Cowen (:

But you have to track it and you have to enforce it. I mean, we have a cadence and anyone that falls even a day behind on the cadence is called out at a weekly meeting like, Hey, you didn't call this client. It's been more than 30 days. What's your plan? How are you going to get this done? And then if you can't get ahold of a client.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

It's such a great point because people have all these ideas. They go to the seminars, they listen to the experts, and it's the discipline and the culture of accountability to actually make sure that you're prioritizing it and incentivizing it. Right. I know a lot of firms, they make compensation, whether it's bonuses or part of the compensation is tied to delivering remarkable client service. And so if you institutionalize that at your firm, it makes all the difference in the world then, it is easy to say it, but it takes a lot more discipline to actually implement it.

Michael Cowen (:

And I used to think we were too busy to do it. And then what I found is once we started doing it, one, I can delegate most of it. I'm not personally making client phone calls unless it is a really, really big case and a really big issue. And usually it's a non-lawyer. We have review meetings where the paralegal is educated as to what's going on in the case by the lawyer, and then the paralegals does the monthly call and we talk to our clients more than once a month, but there is a monthly check-in call where we're going over certain things for the client.

Michael Cowen (:

Although I think some people would rather move it to text, and that's something we're going to look at. Not all of our clients want to be on the phone with us all the time, but what I found is when I instituted discipline and found people more disciplined in meeting to do it and enforce it, I'm no longer having to spend hours with pissed off clients and calming them down, getting them back on board, and I can spend more of my time actually working on their cases.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

100%. I think you made some really good points there that I wanted to highlight. One is meet your clients where they are, right? If your client wants to communicate with you in a different way, give them that option. So many lawyers are like, client will call me, they'll leave me a voicemail if they want to get ahold of me. Look, people are busy. They want to interact in different ways. And so reduce that friction for them to communicate with you. And if you implement these systems and you build the process and you have the support people and the delegation upfront, there's actually less time that's needed to actually provide the client service if you do it proactively. I think that's such an important point.

Michael Cowen (:

As long as you keep them happy, it's a lot easier. Calming down and reselling someone that's already upset with you and then they always have that doubt. And that doubt comes in not just how the cases going, how you're dealing with them, but also whether they're going to take your advice because at some point there's going to be a final settlement offer on a personal injury case. And from the lawyer business aspect, you either want them to take it or you want them to let you try the case. And ideally, you and the client are aligned enough where 99% of the time they will take your advice.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

It's all about trust. I mean, it's all about trust.

Michael Cowen (:

And if you haven't built that trust, they're listening to the brother-in-Law who's not even a lawyer who talked to somebody who knew somebody instead of listening to you.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah, we all know that brother-in-Law.

Voiceover (:

Each year, the law firm of Cowen Rodriguez Peacock pays millions of dollars in co-counsel fees to attorneys nationwide on trucking and commercial vehicle cases. If you have an injury case involving death or catastrophic injuries and would like to partner with our firm, please contact us by calling (210) 941-1301 to discuss the case in detail and see where we can add value in a partnership. And now back to the show.

Michael Cowen (:

So we've talked a lot about the brown building, about keep clients happy, but let's say I want cases today, like I'm doing this in addition to my brand building or I just don't have time. I need to get some cases in. What are some direct response things that actually work to actually get the phone to ring?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah, unfortunately, the faster you need cases, the more expensive your cost per acquisition tends to be as a general guideline. I mean, right now, and again, it's difficult to get them to spend, but if you can get these local services ads, these LSA ads to actually spend, it's Google pay per lead service, that to me is one of the fastest and most affordable way because you're paying per lead versus paying per click. The firms that we've been able to get to actually spend on it, it's a little different than folks that are a little more experienced with this, we'll know that on Google Ads you can actually bid on keywords and all that kind of jazz. In local services ads, you can't. You can set a budget, but you don't have really control as much. You have some geographic control, but you don't have as much control as you do in Google Ads.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

But as soon as you get your certification and you're up and running on Google Ads, that tends to be one of the most effective ways in the short term. The beauty of search is that it has intent. So for direct response, it's people that are actively looking for what it is that you do to fulfill their need. If you're getting away from search, I know a lot of people are having success with lower costs for acquisition costs on Facebook. Again, it's the direct response thing. It really comes down to the creative. There's some targeting things you can do on Facebook, but Facebook is more like TV in that it's interruption. Right. You can do things to tweak the audience that you're targeting better than you can on TV. But at the end of the day, if you're trying to do direct response, it's got to be something that stands out to them that motivates them, and that's very, very difficult to do.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

But in terms of speed ads go fast. Right. You can get ads set up in a day, whereas all these other things, referral relationships and email marketing and direct mail and TV and all that kind of stuff, they take a lot longer. And so digital ads to me is the fastest way to get up and running. But again, there's a cost to it. You pay for that speed.

Michael Cowen (:

Yeah, I learned a lot about marketing from my partner, Alex Begum in my New Mexico firm, and what he tells me is, if you look at our actual signups, I mean the vast majority are from digital, but what he says is our SEO people get us on page one, but the reason they click us over someone else is all the branding. So I mean, I think there is a combination of that.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah. So I think one of the things that's really important that you mentioned is understanding where and how people are finding you. And for years, the marketing people have been talking about attribution. Right. So way back in the day, the John Wanamaker riddle of unspending all this money on it, I don't know which half is working. And then the digital marketing people came along and they said, hey, look, we can show you exactly how much you spend on your Google ad, search, click, call, hire. You can do return on ad spend analysis, return on investment analysis. But the issue became, and I think a lot of lawyers are starting to figure this out, is that not everybody follows that direct response linear path.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so one of the things that we've been talking a lot about recently is qualitative attribution. And so it's how you hear about us, whether you do that as part of your intake process or you make it a field on your intake forms, it's so important because when you're doing what they would call dual attribution, you're looking at your quantitative attribution systems like your Google Analytics and your CRM data versus what people say, you'll see that they don't always match up. And we know this because to the point about the brother-in-law, right? So someone gets in an accident, somebody else is probably managing, trying to find the lawyer. The person that's in the accident, maybe they're in the hospital or unfortunately maybe they've passed away.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so when someone does research, they might be clicking on ads, it might be an email that they got because they're subscribed to something and then they make that referral to somebody else in the family, and that person's going to get your direct phone number. Well, when you talk to that person, they're going to say, how'd you hear about us? They're going to say, oh, my brother-in-law gave me your name. Right. But that's not going to be picked up in any of your ads data. It's not going to be picked up in your analytics data from people visiting your website.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so again, I just think it's so important that we dig a little deeper into these qualitative attribution systems and not just rely solely on the quantitative, because what ends up happening is lawyers will optimize themselves into a box. And what I mean by that is they'll say, look, this, whatever it is isn't working because we can't attribute any cases to it. And they're missing that it's actually a multichannel, multitouch, multi people, and they're involved in that client journey. So I think that's a really important thing for lawyers to remember.

Michael Cowen (:

Yeah, I think it is so hard because people, they tell you the last thing they saw possibly. Although we had people tell us back when we did more direct to consumer. We hadn't had a yellow page ad in 10 years, and someone would say, how'd you find us? Oh, the yellow pages. Well, because they heard our name somewhere and they looked us up in the phone book. It's not that they found a yellow page ad. An otherwise great marketing director who used to work with us, and she would come and be all excited, "Hey, we got this new firm. Our marketing's working great." And then found out the reason we got the new firm is a paralegal had left one firm and went to another, and the paralegal told the lawyer he worked for what a great job we did at the other firm.

Michael Cowen (:

So it nearly had zero to do with our marketing efforts and 100% to do with how we treated our prior referral firm. And then we figured it out well, this paralegal has been at three different firms. Every time that firm starts preferring us cases, why don't we start treating this paralegal as well as we treat some of the referring lawyers. And we can't pay him money, but find out what he likes, pay for some trips, do whatever we can to make this paralegal happy.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah. Actually get them on the regular email list, right?

Michael Cowen (:

Well, more than that with the kind of cases, I mean, someone's telling their boss to send you wrongful death cases, you can be really, really nice to them. So let's talk about, let's say you're a younger lawyer just starting out. You don't have a giant marketing budget. What would you recommend someone do to start off? Because a hyper competitive space.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Hyper competitive. And again, I think this probably isn't helpful to the person who's just started, but maybe there's someone listening and they are really, really at the beginning of getting started. And I think you've got to ask yourself, and I think this is true for more generally entrepreneurs in general, but particularly if you're going to do plaintiff side trial work, is what's your risk tolerance because it's a risky endeavor and how much money do you have? What's your runway to be able to keep this thing going? Because if you're living day to day, month to month and you're trying to make rent, starting a plaintiff side, personal injury practice is probably not going to pay those bills today. That being said, you're already there and you're like, I don't have any clients. I'm just getting started. The first thing I would do is try to find a mentor in your community. A mentor one, you're going to run into stuff where you're like, you're going to need somebody's help, whether it's practicing law or running a business.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so I think finding that mentor. In a perfect world, that mentor might also refer you business. There's lots of lawyers that are very selective about their cases, but they have name recognition and they're getting a bunch of potential client inquiries that they're not taking. So that can be a good source. Getting a referral, you'll pay a fee obviously, but getting a referral from another lawyer is a great way to start. The next step to me is to make friends with other people in the community. Right. Think about your audience. People go to professional service providers in other contexts, so maybe they have a relationship with their tax preparer, maybe it's a therapist or maybe it's services that they use. And so getting active in the business community and the professional service community in your area I think is a really valuable thing.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

But again, unless you have, somehow you are funded and you've got millions of dollars to go build brand and you've got millions of dollars to go buy search media, billboards or all these other things that you can do, I'd stay away from that stuff. I would focus on the research that you have that you mentioned, which is time. Spend your time, create short form videos, connect with people online, interview people in your local community. Go find and try to build relationships with local journalists, so they'll be interviewing you when they're covering topics that are related to what you do. Those are the things, and really the real competitive advantage you have as a new attorney because you don't have a lot of clients, focus on that client experience because when you're starting out, you can be your client's right hand, you can be talking to them.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so motivating those clients to sing your praises, to leave reviews, to be willing to do video testimonials. That's where I would lean into because that evidence of the service that you're delivering, that's going to be your competitive advantage over the bigger firms who might be delegating or outsourcing or automating some of that stuff. You can really lean into that and say, hey, look, you're my only client right now. And so make sure that they have a remarkable experience.

Michael Cowen (:

How about when you get big? I mean, you finally get to the point you can get, let's say a multiple six figure, even a seven figure budget. You can go all in. What's the best bang for the buck right now on if you've got a really big budget?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

My view of when you have big budgets, it's much more about that saturation marketing, right? You want to be the name that people think about when they're dealing with that issue. And so whether it's the branded phone number, you're doing billboards, people laugh, but that brand awareness for a lot of people, if you're trying to scale, you're trying to get that incremental client, like you've got a lot of money. Radio, again, you're in people's minds in their consideration set. And the advertising people, the old Mad Men have proved this a long time ago, but even in the context of personal injury, if you're an unsophisticated legal services consumer, you don't know any lawyers. People get in a car accident. The first thing they think about is the lawyer that's, it's the advertising lawyer because they're like, I know that phone number. They can call it right away.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And again, that's a certain segment of the market. It's not how everybody's going to hire a lawyer, but if you have the budget, that's the thing you want to do because all these lawyers are spending so much rent money to rank and Google for a personal injury lawyer or car accident lawyer. And don't get me wrong, that's our business too. But if you compare dollars for dollars, there's a lot of people that are never going to go to the search engine.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

They're going to call the lawyer in their community directly that they know does car accidents because they've been on TV, they've been on radio, they've been on the billboards, they're active in the local community. Maybe another one that's a little bit less expensive than those traditional media buys is the social. You can buy social ads and be in people's consideration set with great ads that aren't necessarily the same thing you might do on TV or on radio, but if you get those ads up and they're running every day, that's the kind of thing where now you're inside their head. That's the best channel, is inside someone's brain. Beats search, beats social, beats email, beats TV. When you're the lawyer they think of, that's the most valuable place to be.

Michael Cowen (:

I want to talk about email marketing a little bit. Is email dead? Is there still ways to market with email?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

I think email is going to have a resurgence. I've always been a big fan of email. I think a couple of points. One, people have been talking for a long time that the internet in order to have more privacy for users, is going to get rid of third party cookies. And for people that don't know what I'm talking about, it basically means that a lot of the tracking stuff that we talked about in the attribution context is going to be limited. So you're not going to be able to track people across all these different sites and say, Hey, look, this multitouch journey that Gyi was just talking about, we're not actually going to be able to even track that anymore. Google's talked about that happening at the end of this year. And so what that means is first party data, which includes opted in email, so people that have opted in to receive email messages from you, is going to be the gold standard for being able to target because you've got opt-in permission.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so the trick is how do you not lose the two tricks? Trick one is how do you get people to opt in to get emails from you in the first place? And trick two is, is how do you not cause them to unsubscribe? And so the lawyers that are doing things like you've had Ken Levinson on, he does a nice thing where he leaves these book reviews, but you can segment your audience and say, "Hey, look, you want to get my book reviews? You can sign up for it." It's got to be high interest. But the other thing people always ask me about is, what are good open rates and click-through rates and all this kind of stuff? I'll tell you an email that goes out that just says, "Hey, happy new year. I wanted to check in and hope everything's good with your family." The open rate on that email, not surprisingly, is much higher than the open rate on your weekly firm newsletter. Right.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

And so a couple of things to remember when you're doing email marketing. One is that you've got to deliver something of value for someone to want to opt in to receive messages from you. That's kind of the email 101 if it's not like former clients, but I would certainly be emailing former clients. I'd have separate lists for professional contacts. Every time you go to a trial lawyer organization event and you have a list of people that you know are members of that event, sending them an email out in advance and saying, "Hey, I'm going to the conference. Is anybody going to go, let's grab a meal." Or let's say, "Hey," that's really, really effective. But I think the point here is that the more personalized the email is, the more relevant it is to the person who's subscribed.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

The more that it's valuable for them and less about what's going on at your firm. Those kind of email campaigns are much more effective. And the other thing that you get that I alluded to at the outset of this part of the conversation is when you have opt-in permission, you can build custom audiences on social platforms, meaning you can say, "Hey, look, I want to just show ads to people on this list." And so the platform will try to cross reference their user information to say, show ads when this person's logged into the platform. That's much more efficient and a much more powerful and is likely going to be the future of advertising because again, a lot of these platforms are getting away from the third party cookie stuff. And so those first party cookies are going to be the new tracking mechanism.

Michael Cowen (:

Now you have something in common with me, that you also have a great podcast, Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. Are podcasts a good way to get business for lawyers?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

The answer is maybe. I think to me, and you'll be able to answer this question better but, so take your podcast for example. I think it's really, really effective. You're highlighting other lawyers, you're having other lawyers talk about what they do in their practice. And so think about what that does. It helps you stay top of mind. It helps you stay in the consideration set for referrals. It helps you nurture those relationships. So in that context, I think a podcast like that's extremely effective. If you're trying to do direct to consumer for personal injury, and so say you're doing like a, I don't know, you're just doing a trucking litigation podcast. Well, guess what? Not a lot of people are probably interested in that, except for other lawyers who might practice it. Maybe someone who's in dealing with a truck injury thing. But guess what? They're probably not subscribing to a podcast to learn more about truck litigation.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

The other thing outside of the expertise and the referral stuff that we've seen work well is when you're doing a podcast, that's back to this local community idea. So if you have a podcast that covers your town, right, or it covers your city, or it covers something that you're passionate about, some of these brand affinity things, so maybe you're a foodie person and you have a podcast about local restaurants. You have the local restaurant owners on, you talk about your favorite dish there and you're making it local. Those are the types of things that I think can be effective. And again, it's not direct response like a search ad, but it is, hey, I know this lawyer, he's in the community. He's building that reputation up for being a local person. I think those can be really effective for generating business.

Michael Cowen (:

Yeah, I will say that doing one focus on legal, I do not get calls from consumers based on this podcast that I know of. I mean, we don't get many calls direct from consumers. We mostly get attorney referrals and even on the attorney referral, I mean, don't expect your phone to ring a bunch just because you do a podcast. I think it helps. I did this more because I like it. I mean, I had a wild whim one day and it kind of took off from there, but I think it helps. If someone listens to the podcast and maybe they come to one of my seminars, they see me speak somewhere, maybe they read my book. It's part of an overall funnel, but I don't think the podcast itself is going to, it's definitely takes years to get going and get an audience.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Yeah, and you said a really important thing there too that I tell people all the time, is you have to like it. If you're doing stuff that's going to be a chore for you, like you're just uncomfortable on video or you're uncomfortable recording, you're uncomfortable having these conversations or you don't like to do it, you're going to be less inclined to do it and it's like going to the gym or anything else. It's the discipline of doing it and showing up to do it day after day. The other thing too is like, this is a great example of why we have to get out of this attribution myopia because even if it doesn't show up in your analytics that someone listen to the podcast, I promise you that other lawyers that are sharing these episodes around, especially when they're guests and they want other people to know that they're a guest. That's the kind of stuff that spreads and your attribution system's not going to catch it, but it is playing a role in motivating these people to refer to you. So it's a good point.

Michael Cowen (:

It also helps, and once you've met somebody and you've made a good impression on them, six months later when they need the lawyer, either, whether it's a consumer lawyer, or even like for me, I have a referral based practice. Most of my referral base does not have a big trucking case to refer on any given day, and so six months from now, are they going to remember who I was, that they liked me? Well, if they're listening to the podcast, they're more likely to remember. As you start scaling, I used to be, when I had 10 referring lawyers, I make sure I took each one of them lunch at least once a month. It was easy. When you get a bigger tribe that you're working with, it's harder to have that personal context. So I think sometimes the podcast is a way to keep top of the mind with people.

Michael Cowen (:

So how do you make sure that you keep recording it, that you don't miss an episode? Because one of the reasons I saw an opening in podcasts is when I found out what a podcast was as I had someone I was friends with appeared on the Stone Cold Steve Austin podcast, and as a kid that spent the first couple of years of his life in a trailer, professional wrestling was part of my childhood. So I was excited to hear that my friend was going to talk to Stone Cold and I didn't even know what a podcast was. And so I thought, well, maybe I could listen to legal podcasts. And they were either really self-promotional or somebody would do great for three or four episodes and then they would do one every two months and then six months would go by and they would just kind of peter out. What do you do to make sure, I think this is both podcasting and also social media content creation, to make sure that it keeps happening?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

That's a great question. I think the first part for me is, is that it goes back to that point about like I enjoy doing it. Our podcast, I actually, I'm a co-host who is someone who's a friendly competitor. Conrad Saam, he runs a digital agency. We've known each other. We're both probably unhealthily in love with Michigan football. And so it's fun to do and so I think that is part of it. The second part that I'll tell people though, and it's not necessary but it sure helps a lot, is our podcast is on the Legal Talk Network. So we have production people that actually, they're doing the scheduling, they're doing a lot. We spend an hour in prep for the show. They do all the post-production work. I know you have a production team that you love in LawPods, and so I think that that's a good thing to think about, is getting that support because if you just have to show up and have the conversation and you don't have to do the heavy lifting, you're going to enjoy doing it a lot more.

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

But at the end of the day, it's like anything else. It's got to get on your calendar. There's got to be someone that's got to handle the logistics of it and you've got to be committed to doing it. And we get a lot of positive feedback about it. And so when people are telling you, Hey, really appreciate the episode. They're leaving you reviews on Apple, people are talking about it when you go to conferences and stuff, it feels good. And so I think that that positive feedback also helps keep you motivated on days that maybe you've got other things you want to do.

Michael Cowen (:

Well, thanks. So Gyi, I could talk to you forever, but we're kind of hitting the kind of natural length maximum for a podcast. Maybe we'll get you on again if you don't mind to follow up on some more stuff. But if someone's listening to us said, man, he really sounds like he knows what he's doing. Maybe I want to work with him. I want to learn more from him. I know there's your podcast, Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, just go to any podcast app and search for it. But if someone actually wants to find out more about your services or maybe even hire you, how do they find you?

Gyi Tsakalakis (:

Sure. You can go to attorneysync.com, attorneyS-Y-N-C.com. That's our agency's website, but again, you can reach out directly to me. I've been particularly active on LinkedIn recently, so if you just type my name in, start typing G-Y-I-T-S-A-K, usually I pop up. I'm happy to connect with anybody. I love talking about this stuff and as a non-practicing lawyer, like lawyers are my people. So if you've got questions or issues about being a lawyer, especially as it pertains to marketing, I'd love to hear from you.

Michael Cowen (:

Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming on. I've really enjoyed talking to you and I'm looking forward to talking to you more in real life. Selfishly, just want to remind everybody we have our big rig bootcamp coming up, that's our annual seminar I put on every year on July 12th here in San Antonio, Texas. Registration is open, it's cheap. It's going to be a great program. I'm actually spending the rest of the day on our initial planning to make sure that it is something that's going to provide not only great content, but a great experience for everyone that shows up. So if you are interested, check out bigrigbootcamp.com and also, again selfishly, if you get something out of the podcast and you've read my book, Big Rig Justice, if you can go to trialguides.com and leave a five star review. I'm trying to get some more reviews for the book just so that what I want to do in my next book Trial Guides, I want to publish it. So thank you all so much for joining us today on Trial Lawyer Nation. I hope you join us again next time.

Michael Cowen (:

Thank you for joining us on Trial Lawyer Nation. I hope you enjoyed our show. If you'd like to receive updates, insider information, and more from Trial Lawyer Nation, sign up for our remaining list at triallawyernation.com. You can also visit our episodes page on the website for show notes and direct links to any resources in this or any past episode. To help more attorneys find our podcast, please like, share and subscribe to our podcast on any of our social media outlets. If you'd like access to exclusive plaintiff lawyer only content and live monthly discussions with me, send a request to join the Trial Lawyer Nation Insider Circle Facebook group. Thanks again for tuning in. I look forward to having you with us next time on Trial Lawyer Nation.

Voiceover (:

Each year, the law firm of Cowen Rodriguez Peacock pays millions of dollars in co-counsel fees to attorneys nationwide on trucking and commercial vehicle cases. If you have an injury case involving death or catastrophic injuries and would like to partner with our firm, please contact us by calling (210) 941-1301 to discuss the case in detail and see where we can add value in a partnership. This podcast has been hosted by Michael Cowen and is not intended to, nor does it create the attorney-client privilege between our host, guest and any listener for any reason. Content from the podcast is not to be interpreted as legal advice. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are only those from which they came.