By Dan Jaffe, CEO
LawLytics - Legal Marketing System
Which case would you highlight on your website to drive more business to your law firm -- a $47,000 car crash verdict or a $55 million medical malpractice verdict? For plaintiff law firm Gilman & Bedigian, the answer is both.
To generate new files from potential clients as well as referring attorneys, the firm’s website used 6 powerful writing techniques to create compelling case histories. Both verdicts telegraph that the firm will take a case to trial when the defendant is evading responsibility for their actions.
Most attorneys would intuitively say that the large verdict is a better result to display. In many respects, they would be correct. However, If a case result is not well-written, or lacks substance it loses much of its impact. This is especially true for more common, or less impressive results.
If the results are merely listed side by side with the monetary value, of course, the $55 million verdict looks more impressive. But simply listing results will diminish your law firm and your accomplishments.
By presenting a well-crafted story, the small verdict can be equally powerful. Your law firm’s case results should tell stories that potential clients can relate to. Good case results pages are not short. That is why LawLytics has a built-in case results module that lets attorneys display each case result on its own search engine-optimized page, while creating a client-friendly index that attorneys can easily reorder.
#1: The case result has a story arc so that it’s easy to read.
While there are numerous ways to create an effective case study structurally and stylistically, it’s important to note that the goal is to create something that your potential clients can relate to.
With offices in Maryland and Pennsylvania, LawLytics client Gilman & Bedigian begins the case report about the $55 million verdict against Johns Hopkins begins dramatically:
“This is the story of Enso Martinez and Rebecca Fielding, who were expectant parents in the Waverly area of Baltimore in March 2010. The couple had planned for a home birth with the help of a midwife. But after several hours in labor, it became clear that Rebecca needed medical assistance.”
“There were obvious signs of fetal distress. These signs required an emergency cesarean delivery. But the medical professionals ignored the signs.”
“The baby was in distress, and the clock was ticking.”
Although the firm has several seven and eight-figure verdicts listed, the potential client will most likely see and read the largest one first.
What happens when an auto-accident client views the $55 million case result? Although it’s an impressive number, the dollar figure is irrelevant. The potential client in an auto-accident case with damages in the five or six-figure range will look a this verdict like somebody looks at a story of somebody winning the lottery or getting a $50 million dollar NBA contract.
That’s nice, she may think, but it’s not me.
Then, when the lower-range auto accident client considers the verdict and the firm’s role in it more closely, she may decide that her case is too “small potatoes” for the firm. If she makes that conclusion, she may then erroneously decide that because their case is small, the firm is less likely to give it their full attention.
The way to mitigate this is to tell the plaintiff’s story and to make sure that other relevant case results are also accessible.
On the other hand, the large verdict is important to every potential medical malpractice client because it shows what the law firm is capable of achieving. The story arc of the malpractice case describes how the parents had to wait two hours for an emergency c-section, how the hospital wouldn't explain why the baby was having seizures, how common birth injuries are, and how the hospital refused to take responsibility.
The detail in the story brings it to life and makes it relatable to anyone fighting an insurance company or well-known institution for compensation.
It is also convincing to referring attorneys because the verdict shows that the firm is well-funded and able to handle the most complex and highest-stakes cases. This should assure any referral source that the firm is experienced and capitalized sufficiently to handle their case.
#2. The case result shows what the firm did to earn the result.
The malpractice case summary describes how the hospital alternately stonewalled the parents and blamed them for their child’s injuries.
“Despite the prevalence and catastrophic nature of each of these cases, hospitals, their insurance companies and lawyers often play the odds that devastated parents, and their lawyers, will not have the stamina and the financial ability to pursue litigation and prevail. And they're right because it's a very expensive and time-consuming process.”
“We understand this, and take our responsibility to secure justice and the maximum compensation for our clients very seriously. This often times means investing years of our time and significant amounts of money into our cases.”
The firm had to overcome defense arguments that the baby’s oxygen deprivation occurred during the stage of labor while the couple was still at home. The attorneys knew that 24 cases of significant birth injury were reported by Maryland hospitals in 2011. They knew that the hospital’s motivation was to avoid compensating the family to save money and avoid attracting similar lawsuits.
“Winning for our clients sometimes involves taking a case all the way through trial and asking a jury to decide,” the firm says. “This was such a case.”
Referral sources want to know that they are sending the client they are referring to an attorney who will handle their case competently and who will treat the client well. The treatment of the potential client reflects back on the referral source. Therefore, they want to make referrals that will make them look good.
A well-written story of a large jury verdict accomplishes two important things for referral sources.
First, the amount itself establishes competence. Second, because the story of the result is something that people can relate to, it’s something that’s easy to share with the potential client as part of the referral process. This prevents the referring professional from having to explain much to justify the referral. It also gives them an insurance policy against the potential client thinking the referral is being made based on something other than merit.
#3. The case result has a protagonist that is not the law firm or attorney (typically it is the client).
Many law firms make the mistake of casting themselves as the hero. In fact, a review of lawyer press releases on PRNewswire and Businesswire.com shows self-aggrandizing headlines like “The ABC Law Group Obtains $2.6 Million Jury Verdict for Bus Driver,” without even bothering to identify the client. Others have headlines that read “ABC Firm Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against DEF Corporation.”
These are examples of law firms talking about how great they are. This erroneous approach conveys that the firm is primarily interested in its own interests, and is simply using the client.
In the auto-accident verdict, Gilman & Bedigian appropriately put the client in the spotlight:
“This is the story about a mother and her two young children who were rear-ended by a negligent driver in Baltimore. It's about their injuries and the injustice offered by State Farm Insurance. It's about a big insurance company that wrongfully accused this mother of causing the accident. And this story is ultimately about taking the insurance giant to court in Baltimore, making them admit that their driver caused the accident, and making State Farm pay.”
#4. The case result shows the odds that the client and firm were up against and the struggle that was overcome.
“For years, State Farm stuck to its story that our clients weren't entitled to a recovery, even though they suffered significant injuries when they were rear-ended by a negligent driver insured by State Farm. State Farm stuck to its position all the way up to trial by blaming our client, the victim.”
State Farm refused to offer a single dollar to settle the claims of the clients, even after the insured driver admitted that he was responsible for causing the collision.
The case study describes the intransigence of the big insurance company, which was “very good at this bluff and stall game.” A reader feels the frustration and exasperation of the injured mother and children, who were offered nothing even though they were struck from behind.
Potential clients will be impressed by the firm’s moxie when they read, “Insurance companies often play this game because they know that many personal injury attorneys are afraid to go to trial, or are simply not good in court.”
When a referral source sees the auto-accident case result, he will feel better making the referral to the firm. He will understand that the firm will take care of his referral, regardless of how big or small the case is (assuming the firm accepts the case). He will be reassured that the firm is not one that churns-and-burns low dollar cases to make quick and profitable settlements that don’t serve the clients’ best interests.
Although case results like this may attract referrals for cases that a law firm doesn’t want to accept because there are low damages or unclear liability, they do increase the number of impressions (interactions with referral sources) that a law firm will have. And the more referrals a law firm entertains, the more likely they are to get even more referrals that result in viable and profitable cases.
#5. The case result shows that justice was done.
The auto accident story concludes with:
“We pressed forward with a jury trial, which lasted two days. In the end, the jury awarded our client and her two children more than $47,000.00. After hearing the evidence and our arguments on behalf of the mother, the jury saw right through the smoke and mirrors of the Defendant and his lawyer.”
The medical malpractice story concludes with:
“We took this case to trial. The trial lasted two weeks. In the end, a Baltimore City jury returned a record-setting verdict in Rebecca and Enzo's favor, and awarded them $55 million. This was the highest jury verdict in a case like this.”
The case histories show that the firm got solid results because it was the right outcome. A reader sees that the attorneys had the power of truth on their side. The defendants were rightly held liable, they were not victims of a runaway legal system. They proved their case legitimately to an impartial jury and recovered a just reward.
#6. The case result personifies the client and shows that the law firm cares.
Despite the high-stakes involved in serious birth injury cases, effective marketing for such cases recognizes that potential medical malpractice clients are not making a calculated economic decision.
They are looking for a law firm that sympathizes with them, and that is willing to listen to them, understand them and fight for them. The case result needs to convey this.
The med-mal story states:
“We took the case to help Rebecca and Enzo receive compensation that would allow them to provide a lifetime of care for their severely and permanently physically and mentally disabled child. Their financial needs were significant, including covering medical expenses not covered by insurance, and building a home that could accommodate the child's needs.”
When a potential client with a catastrophic birth injury sees the low dollar personal injury case result, she will not be deterred by it because it tells a story that she can relate to. She wants to understand that she is choosing a firm that cares about its clients and fights hard, regardless of the stakes. This result will also help relieve any anxiety she is feeling about whether her case is important enough for the firm.
Not all case results are created equal. Sometimes the results differ by orders of magnitude. However, every positive case result is a story worth telling, and telling well.
As you think about how to best present your law firm’s accomplishments, take some time and think through the multiple audiences that you may have for each case result, and take the time to craft each case result into a compelling story that moves your firm’s marketing forward.
For a more in-depth look at the topic, I recommend watching our on-demand webinar on the topic.
Attorney Dan Jaffe built thriving law practices in Seattle and Phoenix in the 1990s and 2000s. After getting burned by a law firm marketing company, Dan learned how the internet and search engines really work. He founded LawLytics in 2011 as a response to his frustrations and created the dream legal marketing service and system he wished had been available to him.
Today, LawLytics powers hundreds of the web’s most successful attorney websites and blogs, and our business is doubling each year. Attorneys interested in exploring LawLytics can schedule a call online, or call them at 800-713-0161.
Gilman & Bedigian is a LawLytics Member and Content Client, and the case results used as examples in this blog post were written by LawLytics on behalf of the firm with the firm’s guidance and input.