3. Sam Glover, Lawyerist.com Turning A Blog Into A Business & Radical SEO Tips

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Sam Glover had started a law firm but was running into frustration after frustration. After spending $2,000 on a botched software installation that left him out of pocket and with a computer system to fix, he needed to vent. Thankfully for us, Sam focused that energy on the Lawyerist.com. And what started out as a cathartic act soon turned into a library of information on how to run a small firm.

In today’s episode, Sam talks to us about how The Lawyerist evolved from a blog into a vast online community and how he condensed thousands of posts into his book The Small Firm Road Map. We’ll also talk about some radical SEO tactics he’s employed and why his Twitter bio describes him as an “aging skate punk”.

Whats in This Episode:
Who is Sam Glover?
Why did Sam create Lawyerist.com?
How to target your desired demographics through SEO.
How Lawyerist.com went from a blog, to a book, to an online community.
What The Small Firm Roadmap can do for you.
What rituals Sam has for ensuring a productive day.
And can Sam Glover do a kickflip?

Transcript

Chris Dreyer

At the end of a hard day’s work, it’s not uncommon to want to let off a little steam and decompress from the day’s challenges. For some of you that might mean going for a drink with coworkers or throwing yourself into your favorite hobby. My guest today chose a different outlet that ended up transforming his frustrations into something profitable for him and helpful to countless attorneys.

Sam Glover

The sites started as just a place for me to talk about my complaints and my gripes about legal software as I was starting my own law firms. So I started it in about 2007 and at the time I called it Solosmalltech.com. And a couple of years later, my wife helped me come up with the name Lawyerist and we really wanted to focus it on law practice, rather than just solo and small firm business or small business. And then a couple of years later I was having – or not even a couple months later, couple weeks later, maybe even – I had lunch with Aaron Street and he was looking for something to turn into a business for his next thing. And we said, okay. And decided to turn Lawyerist into a business and launched it from there as, still, a blog at the time, mostly written by me. And over time it’s morphed. When you go visit the site. Now, when you engage with Lawyerist now it’s mostly around the podcast, around the community, around the lab coaching community. We’ve got the book, obviously. There is no blog left to really, it’s just a collection of resources and community is the focus of it.

Chris Dreyer

On today’s show. I’ll be talking with Sam Glover, founder of Lawyerist.com and co-author of The Small Firm Roadmap. Join us as we discuss how he turned his blog into a career that’s helped attorneys everywhere. Why he slashed his web content by 80% to help SEO and what advice he has for solo lawyers and those running small firms. That’s coming up on The Rankings Podcast, the show where founders, entrepreneurs, and elite personal injury attorneys share their inspiring stories about what they did to get to the top and what keeps them there. I’m Chris Dreyer, stay with us. Sam’s original blog posts started out as a way to manage his frustrations with the CRM software available at the time. His biggest concern was that the tools that were supposed to help lawyers were actually counterintuitive and taking a valuable time. And lots of money to get up and running.

Sam Glover

I think my earliest posts on Lawyerist were about some of the earliest cloud-based software. There really wasn’t much when I started my firm at the end of 2005. And so everything there was still on-premise installed on your computer. Most of it was built to be connected to a server and meant to be customized with the help of expensive consultants. And it was just a frustrating experience. Everything was too complicated, too clunky, and too buggy, honestly. And I remember paying a consultant like $2,000 to customize my installation of Time Matters and they broke everything and I had to fix it all. And it was like, it was so frustrating. So I, I hated a lot and I had a lot to gripe about, so I needed a place to vent. And so that’s why I started writing.

Chris Dreyer

You need a good outlet. And that was a beneficial, it’s funny. The word I keep hearing more and more nowadays is attribution. If I’m a small law firm, if I’m a solo practitioner, should I be considering or thinking about attribution and CRMs and legal intake software, right from the beginning? Or is this something that an attorney should be thinking about as they grow?

Sam Glover

That’s a really good question. I think that what you should be thinking about is how you want to do things, right? Developing a systems mindset where you’re not thinking about what tasks I need to perform next, but how I want to perform these kinds of tasks. Like how do I want intake to work at my firm? How do I want clients to be treated when they come to my office or when they come to my website? So think about systems and what are the stages of those workflows. And then once you know how you want to do things, you can start looking for tools that will help you do those things more efficiently because efficiency really is the key to growth. And a lot of times there’s going to be a software product that you need to fit into that process at some point. But, I don’t think thinking about technology first is the way to do it. I think thinking about systems and then trying to plug technology and where it can make you more effective and more efficient is the way to do it. Most solo and small firms, as soon as they have a defined system and a process for doing things, should start figuring out where they can plug in technology because it’s going to make them more efficient. And so it’s definitely something to work on, especially at the beginning where you have more time than clients. And so making those investments may be a little intimidating, but it’s a good time to do it now.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, absolutely. So it just makes you more efficient. It’s all about the client experience too. So let’s dig back then into The Lawyerist. At the beginning, you’re blogging, this is your outlet to express your thoughts and opinions on things. So how did you turn it into a business? What was that big turning point where, “Hey, I’m going to pursue this full-time this is my livelihood”?

Sam Glover

There were a few things that came together to make that happen, but Lawyerist was growing enough and I was ready to do something different than law practice for a while. And my wife and I sat down and decided we were willing to give this a try. And so I closed my practice. I sold it off and decided to commit to Lawyerist. And after a while, it became apparent that was a good decision. There was enough money there once it had my full attention, um, that it could support me and eventually Aaron and, now like seven people. So we have a ton of traffic, I think by the time this podcast airs we’ll have something like 13,000 registered members. Yeah.

Chris Dreyer

That’s amazing. Hey, I want to dig in, I was reading your bio and it said, I think this was actually on Twitter. So it said “aging skate punk”. I want to bring a little personality in here. So can you explain that?

Sam Glover

Yeah. I, I probably talk about this more than is healthy for a man in his early forties, but I love skateboarding. I got, I grew up with skateboarding in my teens and decided, but right before I turned 40, I was like, you know what? I never learned how to kickflip. I’m going to, I’m going to learn it. And so I bought a new skateboard and started doing it. And just putting my feet back on that thing, I was like, oh man, I forgot how much I love the feeling of being on a skateboard. And so I’ve been obsessed since then we have seven skateboards on the deck right now, and I can’t wait for the weather to get nicer in Minneapolis so I can just start going out the front door every day.

Chris Dreyer

That’s amazing. So a lot of people, they consider like exercise, especially like even having to balance their form of meditation – it clears the mind. It seems like that’s yours.

Sam Glover

It was mine for sure.

Chris Dreyer

Awesome. Well, making The Lawyerist successful, do you have any daily rituals, any routines that really make it successful?

Sam Glover

I don’t have a lot, but there is one thing that I’ve been doing every day, unless for some reason I get pulled away and forget it. I always like to take a few minutes in the morning and reflect on what I need to be doing for the day. That is my priority. I got deep into getting things done at one point. I love agile. I love Kanban. I love all of the productivity. I love my notebooks. I love pens, pencils. I love all this stuff. But the reality is, and I, and I bet most everyone experiences this, that all of the stuff they have to do is in a lot of different places. So I finally got to the point where I was just like, that’s okay. Like I can’t control that. We have our project management software. I have my personal task lists. I’ve got my email inbox. I’ve got all these places where things are. And so every morning I like to take just, I don’t know, five, 10 minutes and survey everything and decide what I’m going to be focusing on for the day. I’ve talked about my most important tasks, practices, what I call it. And I just write down the two, three, four things that are going to have my, my focus throughout the day. I’ve been doing that just about every day for many years. At this point, I even, I even built myself a little app to do that. I’ve got to got it on my phone.

Chris Dreyer

Sam had done some incredible things with Lawyerist.com. It had grown to the point where he was able to take it on as a full-time gig. And he was helping tens of thousands of lawyers with his content. But now we had a problem. He had a ton of information and advice to give lawyers, but it was unorganized. And more importantly, unoptimized. He needed to tidy up his archives and create something that’s solo attorneys or those running small firms could use as a reference tool. And that’s where his book came in.

Sam Glover

We probably were years late writing that book. We probably should have written it a long time ago. But we just, we needed to right. One of the problems with writing a blog is it’s a really bad way to organize information. It’s a great way to say something every day or every week or every month, but it’s a terrible way to organize information. And we had gotten to the point where we had thousands and thousands of posts on Lawyerist and people would say, go to Lawyerist if you want to learn how to start a law practice, but like where? If we hadn’t written about it that day, like, how would you find that information? And so there was definitely an approach that we have and a philosophy about doing that we have, but we had never really tried to organize it and lay it out. We’ve actually deleted like 80% of our website over the last year, as part of focusing on both for SEO reasons, but also just for trying to get the essential stuff there. There’s more information than there used to be but it’s all focused and better organized. But the book was a really important piece of that was like, we needed to tell a coherent story and about what we’re doing, what lawyers need to be focused on, what the practice of law is going to be and help people get a path from where their law practice probably is to where we know it needs to get in the near future. If you have spent any time wondering, huh? I wonder if I can continue running a billable hour practice where I get up every day and just do things for the first time. Again, open up a blank page and start writing a brief from scratch again. If that’s your idea of law practice, then I think this is a great book. Or if you’re just like, I know that I need to change. I know that that things are changing. I’m just not really sure how and what it, what it will take for me to take advantage of that – this will show you the way. It is literally a roadmap to how to build a future-oriented client-centered law practice.

Chris Dreyer

That’s amazing. And I also want to ask, you piqued my SEO interest here when you said that you nuked about 80% of the content. Did you see like the dramatic impact that had by concentrating and improving those main pieces? Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that process.

Sam Glover

Yeah. Aaron and I have we talk about SEO, a fair amount. Aaron has a very sophisticated SEO philosophy. We’ve sometimes find it hard to talk to more traditional SEO folks because we’ve just been really radical about it. So we’ve had a couple of posts and pages on our website that have drawn an enormous amount of traffic over the years. And like the, one of the most popular pages on our site was about professional bags for women lawyers. And for whatever reason, that was always in like the top five. And, but the traffic to that site was not well focused, right. Like it was drawing in a lot of professional women in particular from all walks of life, but we don’t care about them. They’re not our core demographic. And so when we find things like that are popular, but poorly focused, we’ve been jettisoning those things. So we definitely have less traffic, but our traffic is much higher quality than it was. And so, because our goal is only to get solo and small firm leaders to our site. That’s who we want it. That’s who we can help. That’s who we want to help. And that provides a lot higher signal to noise in our intake process. In our marketing efforts, it’s better value for our advertising partners. So we try not to tell stories about traffic unless we are sure that it’s also really high quality and it’s paid off. We were able to say that we think 94 – 95% of our visitors are decision-makers when it comes to their firms. We know that a huge percentage of the people who spend time on our site are the exact people we are trying to reach. And I think law firms, it’s easy to get distracted by, oh, this such law landing page is getting so much traffic, but if it’s the wrong traffic, it doesn’t matter. And that’s what we’ve done. And there’s absolutely been like. Our traffic has totally dropped overall, but the quality has gone up. And it’s been interesting because we deleted something like 2000 pages. But what we’re seeing now is a recovery. As I think we’re giving Google a much clearer picture of what the site is about. The algorithm is really understanding with more clarity, who to send to our site.

Chris Dreyer

So let’s talk about challenges. When you’re growing The Lawyerist, is there a particular pitfall or mistake that you learned from it that really stands out?

Sam Glover

One is change. I think a lot of companies probably deal with this, but, I think we may be more extreme than most. Aaron and I really are trying to anticipate where things are going and then get there, but anticipate it and be the first there. We’ve stopped running display ads on our site, for example, because we know that those don’t have much time left anyway. When it comes to law firms, we’re trying to build a system for law firms for where they need to get to. We’re trying to anticipate where law firms and lawyers need to be and get there. And what that means is: what do our systems need to look like? What does our podcast workflow need to look like? And so one of the challenges that our company has is the job that you’re doing on Monday might not be the job you’re doing on Friday. And that’s probably more extreme, but it’s definitely true over the course of a month or a quarter. Um, you know, I’ve had. Everyone at our company has had an array of different job titles over the last year because we move responsibilities around as it makes sense. Our org chart changes every quarter and that’s, we’ve asked ourselves is that wrong, but it doesn’t seem like it. And so one of the constants at our company is change. And that’s really hard when it comes to hiring, because if you just want to come in and be told what the expectations are and what your job is going to be – we are a terrible place to work. And because the, what you can expect is that it will change and we’re gonna, we expect everyone to help us change it because we’re trying to constantly improve. Not change for the sake of change, but change because we’re experimenting. We’re trying to see if we can improve things. We’re AB testing our company constantly. And so that’s been a real challenge with hiring too, is getting the right people in the door. 2019 was a hard year where we hired a lot and lost a lot and learned a ton. And as a result, like the people who are working for our company right now are fricking awesome. And I think we’ve ironed it out and we are, we’re moving ahead with a much healthier approach to hiring and setting expectations better. And with people who are coming in with the right mindset. But that was really, it was really hard. And there’s been lots of other things over the years, but that one is really top of mind for me right now because it has really, it’s still defining where we are in the first quarter of 2020.

Chris Dreyer

Do you have any previews for kind of what’s next? What you guys are thinking about?

Sam Glover

Lots. I think our focus going forward is, we feel like we’ve, we’ve tested a bunch of things and proven the concepts for a lot of the things we’re doing. And the way forward is just doubling down on that. Trying to help lawyers find the tools that they need to practice better. So like our product pages are a huge focus area right now where we’re trying to we’re, we’re building software at this point because we’re trying to help lawyers make decisions about their products and also about their firms. We‘re trying to give lawyers better information about the health of their firms, financially, structurally, whatever. So like our small firms, scorecard is a big thing that we’ve developed and that we’re continuing to try and help lawyers use that as a KPI or a metric for their own firms. The same for our resource pages, which are all the free pages about how to start and build a law practice, how to manage it, all that kind of stuff. Getting those things built out and updated. And then in the lab, our, our private community, is an amazing group and just finding more ways to innovate with that. Cause we, we just want it to be better and we just want to make them great.

Chris Dreyer

It’s amazing. So you’re just concentrated on providing the most value. That’s ultimately what it’s all about and that’s why people keep coming back to your site. It’s a great site. You’re getting rid of the thin content or the content that’s maybe outdated and updating. I’m sure you have some challenges because software is always changing so you have to update those product pages all the time.

Sam Glover

Oh man. Keep that. And even just keeping the site running

Chris Dreyer

Clearly, there’s a huge amount of advice available from Lawyerist.com and The Small Firm Roadmap. But I wanted to know what steps he thought we should take now based on all the advice he gave.

Sam Glover

If anything I have said resonates, or if you’re just like, what the hell is Lawyerist is about? The small firm’s scorecard is the most precise, fastest way I can think of to give anybody like, here’s what this is all about. And you can just find that on the front page of our site. It’s 50 questions, 40 something, 43, I think for solos that have to do with how your firm is organized and structured, your, your philosophies, your mindset for approaching law practice. These are the success metrics that we think you should be focused on. It’s a self-evaluation and at the end you’ll get a grade. And just, if it’s your first time, you’re probably not going to get a great grade. And it’s not because you are bad at law practice. It’s because nobody has told you what you need to be good at yet. So the small firms scorecard is probably the first thing I would focus on or alternatively read the first chapter of our book, which is free. You can get it on our site. The first chapter of our book pulls everything together. And if that resonates with you, then you’re probably one of our people. And if you read it and you’re like, these guys are full of shit, then you’re probably not. And you should feel free to ignore everything we have to say until you go out of business because you’re totally wrong about where things are going.

Chris Dreyer

I can tell you’re definitely not full of shit. And the value you guys provide is tremendous.

Sam Glover

Some people think we are. Stephanie and I were doing a presentation and there are a whole bunch of older lawyers grumbling in the back. And at one point I was finally just “raise your hand if you think we’re full of shit”. And then all the hands in the back went up like eight, eight old lawyers in the back were like, you guys suck. And so they got their CLE credit. So whatever

Chris Dreyer

Sam covered so much there: the challenges, his business faced, SEO tips, writing a book productivity, and even his passion for skateboarding. You might not get any skateboarding advice from Lawyerist.com or The Small Firm Roadmap. But if you want to know how to run your practice, then you should definitely check them out. You’ve been listening to the rankings podcast. I’m Chris Dreyer. A huge thanks to today’s guest Sam Glover for joining us. You can find all of the links from today’s conversation in the show notes. And we want to hear from you. Would you slash your web content like Sam to cater for a targeted group of customers? Or do you prefer to cast your net wide? Drop us a review and share your thoughts. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time.

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