In what proved to be our most popular webinar yet, the Legal Marketing Association’s Social Media Special Interest Group held a session yesterday on using video to market legal services. We were fortunate to have three stellar presenters – Adam Stock of Allen Matkins, Adam Severson of Baker Donelson, and Mark Beese of Leadership for Lawyers

Their presentation was very interactive, and answered the questions I think we’ve all had on our minds about video, starting with the most important…

Why Use Video? 

As Stock said, "Video can deliver emotion in a way that other media don’t." He showed us a clip of a video they produced when they won a 2012 LMA Your Honor Award for their video work, giving us the perfect reason for using video – people look at the law firm, but at the end of the day, they hire the attorney, and video allowed them to capture the essence of the attorney. 

Capturing this essence, or the "editorial," shows the insight and experience of the attorneys in a way that inspires clients. Allen Matkins started with eight videos, and when they got a phenomenal response, they began to put them on their website. Their web traffic went up 30%. 

Stock mentioned that a site is 40-50 times more likely to be on the front page of Google if it uses video.  At this point, Allen Matkins has produced over 150 videos. 

Where & When to Use Video

Adam Severson took the next question, that of where and when to use video. He said that it is important to manage the attorneys’ expectations as to what the final product will be when using video. It’s important that the lawyers be themselves when on camera, because clients hire individuals. 

Severson’s firm, Baker Donelson, has had great success with their "Entrepreneur Minute," which features attorneys, entrepreneurs and business leaders sharing advice on starting, growing, and running your business." From this experience, he has learned that hosting your video on YouTube is essential – no matter how you eventually package it – because it makes the video easier to consume and share, in addition to helping with SEO. 

Mark Beese added that lawyers are two standard deviations more skeptical than the general public, so video helps people to "try before they buy." It also plays really well on mobile devices, which more and more people are using these days. Stock agreed, saying that they’re seeing about 10% of their monthly traffic on mobile, which will only continue to grow. Because of the this, the panelists also advise making sure that when you put together your firm’s mobile site, that it’s video-friendly. 

Stock said that before they started to use video, he looked at what other law firms had done, and he wasn’t impressed. So he worked instead to find out what would be compelling for their audience. As a result, one of the things that they’ve done is to create videos with the community organizations that they’re involved with. These have been very effective, and they’ve gotten great feedback, and bringing the focus to the community instead of the law firm is a very subtle sell. 

Beese added that Allan Matkins’ videos have great production value – the video is high quality, they do voiceovers well, etc. Stock said that to get that, they hired someone who was trained as a news reporter.  He said that even if firms produce video themselves, they should use B-roll to add to the production value.

Severson commented that their use of a question and answer format has been very successful, and better received than a stilted approach using a teleprompter. It’s more spontaneous, with a more conversational tone, so there’s something to be said for having an interviewer ask the questions – the questions are then edited out of the final product. Beese suggests that coaching lawyers to keep their answers within 30 seconds will also add to the production value. 

How Do You Get Started with Video? 

So now that we were all sold on using video, the next question on our minds was how to get started. Stock said that you can start by working with an outside production company, noting that in the current economy, their pricing will often be very competitive. A high video production value is important – it doesn’t have to be the best, but it has to be able to make a strong impression. 

Beese offered his own experience as an example, speaking about his role at Holland & Hart as marketing director, when they produced business content videos for Frontier Airlines, and their in-seat video screens.  He shared this video as an example of one of their successes, and said that creating these business videos was a way to spotlight clients and subtly promote the firm. 

Once they had the key messages, they let the production company work and edit to come up with a video draft, and when the video was final, the clients wanted to use it for their own promotional purposes too. The firm additionally repurposed it on their blog, on their website, and during tradeshows. 

The panelists agreed that there are some things you can do in-house, so you should get a video camera and some lavolier microphones. Even if you use an outside production company, you can often get better B roll yourself. You can also source some B roll or music, and have a production company produce just the beginning or the end – Severson commented that their Entrepreneur Minutes are done in house, but that they had an intro professionally created, which they use over and over. However, the presenters qualified that it will depend on what your goal is, and what you’re trying to articulate with your video project, as to what tactics you use. 

At this point, there was an audience question – how do you convince leadership that video is a good idea? The answer – point to what they’re familiar with: precedent. Use some of the examples from the webinar to show firm leaders what other firms are doing with video. There are also some important statistics out there, such as that YouTube is the most trafficked site behind Google, so people are obviously viewing videos. Ask your firm leaders how they want to be portrayed – if they want to be considered staid and old, then video may not be for them. 

As we heard during the LMA Annual Conference, sometimes doing a "pilot program" can be helpful in easing leadership into something. So do a lightly produced video to start, and then draw up a plan to continue. 

Whether you’re trying to convince leadership or not, you need to make sure that the small details are taken care of – check for ambient noise, think about lighting and distracting backgrounds, identify the best angle to shoot at, etc. 

Another audience question came in – how do you pick the right lawyers for video? The panelists agreed that you want to look for articulate, effective communicators. It’s also wise to begin with a few minutes of video in the beginning that you don’t plan to use, just to get them comfortable with it. Stock suggested that you don’t have the attorneys look at the camera, and use the question and answer style they spoke about earlier. To make the attorneys look good on video, you want to grab the 10% of the recording that’s going to be a soundbyte – use this to create your "editorial." 

Audience question – what would the panelists recommend for the first video? An introduction to the firm or a practice area? Stock said "none of the above." If you do a video about something you wouldn’t normally talk about, you’ll get in trouble. It’s better to create a video around a change in the law, and the more focused your videos are, the more they have purpose. 

Severson agreed, saying that generic videos aren’t as successful. He suggested giving yourself a gut check to make sure it’s newsworthy. 

Audience question – are there state bar issues related to video on law firm websites? Beese said that he doesn’t know that there are any restrictions on video that are different to those for other mediums, though he suggested checking with Will Hornsby of the ABA about specific rules for individual jurisdictions. For example, he said when producing the videos for Holland & Hart, they knew that client testimonials weren’t allowed for one of the states that they were involved with, and since the videos were national, they made sure that there were no endorsements. 

Audience question – if you shoot employees for B-roll in the background, should you have them sign a waiver? Severson answered that many firms non-disclosure agreements include language for this already, but if it doesn’t cover it, you may want to secure a waiver. It will depend on the extent of the use. Stock said that he doesn’t worry as much about employees, but when they cover events, they have a standard release for people to sign if they appear on camera. 

Audience question – If you have ex-employees in a video, should you still use it or take it down? The panelists agreed that you should take it down – they likened it to continuing to keep a partner’s bio on the website after they have left the firm. It no longer serves the firm anymore, so it should come down. 

Lessons Learned

Moderator Gail LaMarche asked the panelists to comment on the lessons that they’ve learned, as well as any successes or challenges. Severson considers their internal launch at Baker Daniels to showcase their merger to be a success. They had a lead time of six weeks to put the video together, which went out to the entire firm the morning that the merged firm was launched. Beese added that this is another type of video – there are no attorneys speaking, but they used graphics to communicate ideas. He suggested that while it won’t work for everything, it’s something to consider for other videos, and if it’s timely, it can go viral. 

Stock said that they haven’t had a bad experience yet, but there have been more than enough great stories within the firm. One unexpected moment was when he asked one of his attorneys to summarize a key issue as if he were being pressured by a client emergency and only had a few minutes, and the attorney did it beautifully. Another moment was having a video that they’d produced sent on to the governor. 

Final Thoughts

The panelists finished up with a few final thoughts. Beese commented that a lot of traditional and non-traditional PR channels are becoming more adept at handling video, such as JD Supra, so firms should think about how to use video in their PR strategies. An audience member wondered what the recommended length for a video is, and he said that 3-5 minutes seems to work best. Severson added that they don’t let their Entrepreneur Minutes go for longer than 90 seconds, and Stock said that for the web, videos should be under four minutes. 

He said that his takeaway was that the very creative people sitting in on the webinar should unleash their inner "Scorsese." Severson added that videos should have a story to tell – they can be a compelling way to share your experience, and it can have more impact on clients and others. But his final, final word? "Do not use teleprompters!"

Thanks to our fabulous panelists for their time and insight!