This is an advanced topic. Most content on our site pertains to branding with 1-800-DIVORCE. We allude elsewhere to positioning one’s law firm in relation to the 1-800-DIVORCE brand. These are connected but different issues.
Branding means ALLOWING your target clients to believe in you by feeding them controlled assets, knowledge and perceptions about you and allowing them incrementally to arrive at a conclusion that it’s you. People rarely believe what you tell them but they never doubt a conclusion they have reached themselves.
That’s branding. Your brand exists only in the minds of your target clients. Nowhere else. You can cause and adjust that brand by your positioning, but your target clients create it.
Positioning is broader. Positioning may use branding, but it may also use other techniques.
All business that can go online, will. That includes divorce.
Since approximately 2000, but much more so recently, unqualified online divorce providers have been eating divorce lawyers’ breakfast and lunch. While you’re competing with other local divorce lawyers for scraps, nationwide online divorce mills are now eyeing your dinner.
Unqualified online divorce form peddlers are harming the legal and economic interests of what should be your online divorce clients.
Many online outfits are dangerously incompetent. Most charge a surprisingly high fee for very little product. A few are downright fraudulent. Yet they beat you to the punch in your hometown every day of the week because they’ve created a far better product-market fit than you have!
Note: You do not need to be 100% online yourself to capture what would otherwise have been online divorce. In fact, not being completely online is how you are able to capture that missing business.
Your professionalism, your local availability, your local legal knowledge, the cost-effectiveness of your services, the built-in memorability/impressiveness of 1-800-DIVORCE, the greater ROI provided by 1-800-DIVORCE, the economies of greater use of available technologies in law practice and a menu-based set of unbundled services, as selected by well-informed clients in uncontested cases, among other factors, will enable you to fight back, recover this missing business, get more law clients and protect their interests as their online divorce lawyer.
BUT GUESS WHAT! You actually have to position yourself for this brand new category of law business.
You must actually tell your potential clients about these factors! They must be interwoven seamlessly into every pitch you make for a client, particularly online. Read on…
Nationwide online divorce providers have created a much better product-market fit for the uncontested divorce market than local divorce lawyers have. As a result, their uncontested divorce market share is skyrocketing.
This deprives you not only of your base uncontested business but also of the great opportunities for ethical up-selling and cross-selling to your existing and prior clients, respectively.
To enable them to dominate the uncontested market ahead of local divorce lawyers, online non-lawyer providers utilize advanced data-driven digital advertising techniques, the best UX (User Experience), website design practices, wicked-cool divorce software, borderline fraudulent advertising and sales practices, cut-throat unethical up-selling and your Bar Association’s wise policy of not pursuing them unless the fraud or UPL is blatant and severe, which the fraudsters make sure it never is.
See here for an excellent overview of the current UPL situation and why you should not care one darn about it.
Among many other unsavory techniques, online providers have understood and perfected the use of price anchoring. They tell your local potential clients, visiting their superbly designed landing pages, that lawyers charge $5000 or $7500 (or pick any amount) for divorce. Of course, they fail to mention that such fees these days are for contested, complex or high asset cases. It’s apples and oranges, but it doesn’t matter. The $7500 “lawyer” price is firmly anchored in the mind of your local potential client. They are then told that the online provider’s $300 fee will save the client $7200 (or whatever).
Cost and efficiency are the fraudsters’ strongest sales points, but those arguments can be decimated if properly addressed.
We have seen very few (though the number is increasing) non-1-800-DIVORCE lawyer websites that address these issues directly with the divorce consumer. There are many issues that can be addressed to the divorce consumer by you, positioning yourself as a local online divorce lawyer.
These are all issues on which you win. See the Solution section below.
Another cause of the conmens’ success is the downright fraud used by some online divorce mills – using self-owned online divorce “review” sites and bogus self-owned “certified testimonials” sites.
We filed one slam-dunk fraud complaint with the FBI’s Internet fraud division just to see what would happen. Nothing happened. While online divorce is an interstate commerce issue, there is no Federal governmental interest in protecting divorce consumers. That was in 2015. The online divorce mill in question has gone on to much greater frauds. Every one of them can be the subject of a blog post that will rank high if it contains the optimized keywords, “online divorce fraud.”
Online providers such as hellodivorce.com, separate.us, legalzoom.com and completecase.com are now branching out into boiler room ops wherein they perform divorce triage and route callers and clickers either to their own online divorce form apps or to mediators or trial lawyers each of whom will be one of the 10 or 20 lawyers who will have over-subscribed the client’s zip code. Perhaps you are already one such lawyer.
Perhaps you didn’t believe us when we told you that online providers are now looking to eat your dinner as well as your breakfast and lunch.
Yet regardless of all of these issues that favor you, we must face the reality that online divorce mills understand the divorce-buying market far better than you do. They sit in Seattle or India or Ukraine and they beat you to your core business every single day in your own hometown. Just sayin’.
1. Address the Problem: Design and position all of your marketing outreach, but particularly online, to emphasize to your target market the numerous substantive advantages you have as a local divorce lawyer over remote unqualified online divorce mills who provide an extremely limited up-selling solution that is not particularly cheap.
Bear in mind that this shouldn’t be your entire primary message to your potential clients. The core of your primary sales message should always be the benefits your potential clients will derive from hiring you.
However, this comparative issue does contribute to those benefits. It should be a significant portion of your sales pitch. The point is that your advantages over unqualified online providers must be addressed. This issue is certainly being considered by your potential clients as they move through the research and comparison phases of the sales funnel.
The comparative issues to address include:
2. Sign up for 1-800-DIVORCE, which online providers will never be able to get. More positioning. It will demonstrate your business acumen in the local divorce-buying market to your potential clients. It will also demonstrate to your potential clients that just like the online providers, you are also commercially incisive, bold, creative and competitive.
You can and will fight for their business and will work to get more online divorce and to satisfy them as clients.
All 1-800-DIVORCE micro-sites and landing pages come with built-in content that stresses these advantages over online providers.
If you are a California lawyer, Legal Marketing Systems has launched an add-on sister service to 1–800-DIVORCE at Online Divorce Lawyer.
Online Divorce Lawyer is a suite of California-specific online divorce lawyer tools that includes a secure online client interview and the best California wicked-cool divorce form preparation software we’ve been using on our own online divorce mill, NetDivorce, since the early 2000s.
We’ll be rolling out this service to other selected states (under the Online Divorce Lawyer brand at https://onlinedivorce.lawyer).
We are looking for lawyer partners in other states. Please contact LMS at 1-800-738-3764 if you have interest in this project.
3. Leverage efficiency-enhancing cost-reducing technology in your law practice and let your potential clients know it: Your potential clients want the best of both worlds, and it’s your job to give it to them.
They want the convenience, cost-effectiveness and self-empowerment of online divorce but they also want the safety, security and prestige of having a local lawyer on their team.
This is where you have to position and compete a little bit like your online competitors.
If you do not already do so, seriously consider how you can expand your use of available technologies in the delivery of your Family Law services, particularly in uncontested cases.
You don’t need to be a Virtual Law Practice – unless that model particularly appeals to you as a matter of convenience.
But what you do need to do is to take advantage of new technologies that make sense to you in your business model, and then to let your potential clients know that you are up to speed with the more efficient cost-cutting technologies they will expect and some they do not expect.
An online intake questionnaire/interview, divorce software, web-based client interaction and perhaps some case management software and a portal to which the client has access (Clio, MyCase and Rocket Matter) are technologies that should be considered.
Once again, an excellent overview/introduction to the use of technology in your family law practice can be found here.
Don’t lead with technology, but do let your potential clients know subtly that it’s in play. More positioning of your brand.
4. Reverse the price-anchoring technique employed by online providers: Point out in your content that $300 isn’t cheap for typing up a few state divorce forms without knowing what they mean and for providing absolutely no legal advice or guidance, which will be needed in every single case at some point.
Show your potential clients (on your 1-800-DIVORCE micro-site) that your fees will never be anything like $5000 or $15000 unless the case becomes contested. No client ever thinks her case will become contested.
But you know that if the case does blow up, such fees are fair and will be earned. At the very least, the client will not have wasted $300 on the online provider.
Here is a guy who is reversing the online providers’ price-anchoring technique very efficiently, and he’s doing it right in the backyard of 2 of the major online divorce mills.
There are others, and more of them all the time, as the Bar slowly, slowly wises up to this blatantly obvious problem.
5. Offer unbundled services (limited scope representation) in uncontested cases: The only way you can come close to the $300 fee charged by online providers for their minimal service is to use this tactic – in line with all of your Bar’s rules and regulations about limited scope representation, of course.
Generally, you’ve got to make sure that your retainer contract is precise and lets the client know what is included for the stated fee and what is not included.
Will your services include document preparation and review alone? Will you provide review and advice only? Will you be the attorney of record or will the client proceed pro se? Will you review the paperwork and provide a “strategy session?” Phone calls and email responses should be numerically limited per month.
Make sure it is abundantly clear to the client what extra services will cost and what will trigger those extra services. The client must make an informed consent to limited scope representation.
You don’t have to charge $300 for a complete uncontested case! Your unqualified online divorce mill competitors don’t.
You will already have pointed out (on your 1-800-DIVORCE micro-site) what gaps there are in online providers’ service. Now, add in your extra value and try to come in at around the $700-1500 mark for an unbundled uncontested.
These are fee levels that can be entirely justified on the basis of the extra value you will bring to the table as a local online divorce lawyer.
BTW, our Online Divorce Lawyer software and systems enables you to complete an average uncontested case in 1 to 1.5 hours. This is profitable work.
As we write this, we have many successful up-selling and cross-selling 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer members who are charging fees in the range of $695, $995, and $1295. These are not loss-leader prices, though occasionally they may be break-even prices.
These lawyers have understood the value of ethical up-selling within a case and/or intensive cross-selling under ABA Rule 7.3 later on.
Get them in the door with a low flat-fee unbundled package for uncontested and allow your precisely constructed packages to be driven by events to the proper level of representation in the case.