When you look around and you think of lawyers and law firms, you think of the big ones. Truth be told, the majority of the law firms in Colorado and beyond are small law firms. Most of the time, they’re solo practitioners. Meranda Vieyra of Denver Legal Marketing says her goal is to make market space for solo practitioners and small law firms. Meranda’s goal is to have more people start choosing to spend the money that they allocate for legal services by supporting small law firms, keeping their lights on, keeping the Colorado economy booming, and supporting this level of small business in that industry. Meranda explains why the service she provides is unique and why the business community has taken notice.
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Meranda Vieyra on Servicing Solo Practitioners And Small Law Firms With Legal Marketing
I’m the owner of Denver Legal Marketing. I work with solo practitioners and small law firms in Colorado and beyond. My ultimate goal is to make some market space in the Colorado business community and beyond for the small law firms of the world, which are essentially small business.
We are incredibly fortunate. I am in the world headquarters of Denver Legal Marketing with Meranda Vieyra. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us a little bit about your business and who you serve.
Thanks for having me, Bob. I’m excited to talk to you. I founded Denver Legal Marketing. My business turns three on my daughter’s birthday in February. I’ve been very lucky to be successful. I have great clients. My sweet spot is solo practitioners and small law firms. I started out with a Colorado-focus, a Denver-focus and I’m looking to support my own community but word of my marketing firm has spread. At times, I’m working with lawyers in New York, Nevada, and California.
You’re widely covered and known in Denver. There’s a lot of press about you. Why do you think that is?
I’m a little bit unique when it comes to what a marketing professional or somebody in Colorado legal marketing looks like. I’m 5’1” and I am a working mom. I’ve been in Colorado law for twenty years. The way that I serve my clients and the types of clients that I serve is unique. Nobody else is doing this and so the business community especially has taken notice.
You decided in a niche, for the potential client of yours and they reach out to you. How do they find you? Where do they find you on social media?
LinkedIn is my only place for social media. That is the easiest ROI when it comes to reaching other lawyers. I’m trying to reach lawyers and lawyers are playing on LinkedIn. About 90% of the lawyers in our country have LinkedIn profiles. The majority of my clients come through word of mouth. I’ve been in law for two decades. I’ve worked hard to protect my reputation. When I say what I’m going to do, then I do it. That travels. They come through word of mouth. They go to my website for confirmation of reputation and then they call.
Everyone assumes once your business doors are open unless you get sued or unless something happens, you're good.
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The website is DenverLegalMarketing.com. You’ve niched down in your market. We were talking about why you do what you do and there are some misconceptions about the attorneys and there’s a difference you’re trying to make in that community. Let’s dig into the differences that you’re making in that community.
It’s a big goal. It’s a lofty goal. When you look around and you think of lawyers and you think of law firms, you just think of the big ones. Truth be told, the majority of the law firms in Colorado and beyond are small law firms. Most of the time they’re solo practitioners and my goal is to make market space for them. I want more people to start choosing to spend their money that they allocate for legal services by supporting small law firms, keeping their lights on, keeping our Colorado economy booming and supporting this level of small business in that industry.
For a lot of folks, they don’t necessarily understand the value of having a relationship with an attorney to reach out and use them. Can you talk a little bit about the attorneys and how you see them developing relationships with their clients?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that you can like your attorney. There are 41,000 lawyers in Colorado and 29,000 in Wyoming so you have lots of choices. If you are not receiving a good customer service, if somebody is not answering your email, they can’t guarantee results of things but they can guarantee that they have a nice business relationship with you, a respectful one. You can take your business elsewhere. When it comes to legal services, there are lots of options. You can choose someone that you like to work with, that you have similar hobbies or your kids go to the same school that you like.
You’ve been in some of the larger law firms. How did you get your expertise and perspective on marketing for attorneys?
I was at one of the premier Colorado law firms for about ten years. In a small law firm, you wear lots of hats. It’s the way it goes. It was an amazing training ground for learning high-end legal marketing and then also recruiting, diversity, inclusiveness, business development and relationship management. I spent about a decade cutting my teeth on that in real time just thrown into the deep end. What I noticed because I wore so many hats and we had a unique law clerk program, I met a lot of young attorneys, probably twenty a year. When they left our law firm, not all of them went to huge law firms after law school. A lot of them went to smaller shops and they would circle back to me and ask me, “Meranda, how do I get on Super Lawyers? How do I do things?” I was someone they trusted and someone they knew that would always answer their phone call or their email. They were looking for a little bit of guidance. I saw this gap, an opportunity in the market. I watched it and I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t another marketing firm out there that focused on small law firms and I didn’t see it happening. I decided to take a leap and I had clients before I had business cards because there’s a real need for this.
People want to know what other people are saying.
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You mentioned Super Lawyers. I’m not familiar with the term. What does that mean and why is it important for a solo practitioner?
In 2018 and 2019, third-party validations matter more than ever. Imagine how many times you look at TripAdvisor when you go out of state or when you’re looking for a restaurant. Where are you going to spend $30 on lunch? You check TripAdvisor. What do other people say? What are the number of stars that they give? What’s their recommendation? Legal services are no different. People are checking third-party validations like Super Lawyers and 5280 has one. It’s called Denver’s Top Lawyers. Martindale-Hubbell is our oldest. It’s over 100 years old. People want to know what other people are saying. At this point, it isn’t enough just to have a recommendation from somebody. People are going to go online and they’re going to google that recommendation. You want to make sure if you’re a solo practitioner that they google you, they find you and that you like what they see. That’s the value of Super Lawyers and these awards and third-party validation websites.
Do you help them to get qualified to be on the Super Lawyers side?
I do my best. A lot of people assume that it’s a pay to play type of thing and it isn’t. A lot of these are peer review. I wish I could pay to get my clients on them, but I can’t. At the end of the day, it’s going to take a blend of being well-known in the legal community, of doing good work in the legal community, of being active. Also, you have to be involved in their specific platform. Each of these has their own website and all of that jazz.
I think about the absence of information. I would imagine that attorneys, when they come out of law school, aren’t taught to be recognized, how to network and so on. They know the law, but they don’t know how to market is my presumption.
That’s correct. There’s a little bit of a gap in that regard. A lot of lawyers could use some help when it comes to business development, marketing, and relationship building. At the end of the day, learning how consumers, whether that’s a business or an individual consumes legal services, like what do they need? One of the big things I try and help with is understanding that legal services should not be reactive. They should be proactive. This is a basic example. Hopefully, you have a will before you die. It is as simple as that. I’m the mother of two little kids and I worry. I have to have all of this stuff in line so if something happens to me, my little girls don’t have to worry and my family doesn’t have to worry. That’s one aspect of consuming legal services as an individual. I’m also a business owner. My husband and I own four businesses total. We have lots of business attorneys for lots of different reasons. It’s not because we’re knee deep in lawsuits, it’s because we don’t want to be.
For many people, they think, “I’ll just save some money,” and the challenge is it’s much easier to do the preventative care than it is to fix it after it has gone south.
It is like any other aspect of your life. You shouldn’t cheap out though when it comes to legal services. It is something that your contracts as a business owner should be reviewed at least once a year. You need to look at the insurance aspects of your contract and make sure that not only are you covered. How about your vendors and how about all the people who are dealing with you through subcontractor relationships? More than anything, it is about protecting your investment, your time, your employees, whatever it’s going to be.
I think about how that mindset or information is transmitted. Are many attorneys comfortable and adept at setting that up where they do reviews with clients and set up annual meetings and so on?
That’s a hard question to answer because there’s a little bit of a trouble on both sides of that coin. Some attorneys aren’t realizing that there is a proactive business to be had with their clients. Clients are late in the game in understanding what they should be doing right out of the gate when you decide to open a business. It’s a messaging problem. It’s how I would summarize it. Everyone assumes once your doors are open unless you get sued or unless something happens, you’re good. My point in all of this is that there’s a way to be proactive and protective of your business and it’s through legal services. In my ideal world, it’s through the small businesses in law. The solos and the smalls.
If I’m a solo practitioner and I go, “I need to reach out to Meranda,” what should that person or that attorney expect when they reach out to you via LinkedIn?
Usually, everyone comes in electronically. I get text messages. I get messaged through LinkedIn and then we set up a call. I want to figure out, “Can I help you?” I don’t want to take on a client engagement where I can’t be helpful. I want to figure out how serious you are about marketing your business, business development, and relationship building. That’s about an hour and it’s by phone. Oftentimes when I have lawyers call from different areas of the country, then it’s a follow-up in person but it’s just a call. It’s how my door opens with new lawyers.
Legal services should not be reactive. They should be proactive.
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What’s the typical catalyst or the reason why that attorney reaches out to you?
It can be that the phone stops ringing. It can be scary stuff like that where I haven’t needed to market myself for two years and then all of a sudden, the well is dry and they’re wondering why. Then I have other people who are now at a financial level where they can delegate some of this out where they’re interested in growth or expansion or to have somebody else handle it. There’s a third one where they want somebody to ask questions about certain things. Just pinch it or consulting of, “What should I do with this? Does this award matter?” Attorneys are barraged via emails when it comes to awards and a lot of them are not legitimate. A lot of them won’t matter. A lot of them cost a lot of money and end up being junk. They want to sift through that and pick a brain of, “Does this matter? Should I put money or time into this?”
I’m that attorney and I’ve reached out to you and we’ve agreed that I need help. What should I expect then within the engagement?
What’s unique and interesting about what I do is that I am a marketing firm without a lot of marketing materials. That’s intentional. I don’t want to sell the same thing over and over to all the attorneys of Colorado. I do a little bit for some lawyers and I do everything for other lawyers. I will meet with some law firms once a quarter and help them with what they need and deal with bigger strategy and they handle the day-to-day. It is a range. I’m pretty much a full-service marketing firm. The only thing I don’t do is pay-per-click campaigns. I don’t think that you need legal industry experience to do that.
In social media, what platform do you typically find the attorneys most preponderance of use is at?
I get a lot of questions about Facebook. Everyone comes out of the gate feeling like they should have a Facebook page and are surprised when I say not all social media platforms are created equally. What type of client do you want to connect with? Let’s work there and then backward. We’ll figure out how to get there if you want to include social media. Pretty much all lawyers can benefit from a LinkedIn campaign because 90% of lawyers have LinkedIn profiles. To attorney referrals that are the warmest ones, regardless of the level that you practice at, that’s where the biggest return is going to be is through LinkedIn.
With the marketing approach, it would focus both on a potential direct client and also on the referral network.
Yes, I get a lot of solid good question on that especially with lawyers who have a consumer-based practice. For instance, maybe a criminal defense practice, DUIs or that type of stuff. That’s different and they’re feeling like that’s not going to be the place where they get a ton of new clients or ton of business. The way I disagree with that is I say that when you’re on LinkedIn, you’re networking with other professionals and other lawyers. I want on LinkedIn for other lawyers to know that you do criminal defense and you do DUI work because they are a first responder in their network for these types of issues that you may not be able to handle. When their uncle calls and he needs someone to draft his will, they know that you handle trust and estates and they trust you. They’ve been seeing you post on LinkedIn, so they know that you’re still active in that area. That’s how a consumer-based practice can use LinkedIn.
We were talking a little bit about an event that you have and I thought it was fascinating what you’re trying to do. Do you want to chat about that?
I am looking at doing a salon takeover. As we discussed, historically men have gone at business development in certain ways. We’re talking golf memberships, golf games. We’re talking about hunting and fishing and all of that jazz. It’s over 50% of the people who are going into law school and coming out are women now and the paradigm needs to change. Women are able to do business development, events and marketing, and relationship building in their own way. What my salon takeover is to pair up fifteen women lawyers all in different practice areas. Everyone comes together, we all get a blow dry hair treatment, but everyone comes out of there with fourteen people to refer business to them. My hope is that I continue to do these with similar groups of women throughout the year to nurture the relationship building and the referrals, because the attorney to attorney referrals are the warmest, and see if we can change the game.
It’s a unique approach and the mastermind linkup networking groups are certainly important to do. We’ve chatted about what you’re up to and what you’re doing. Now it’s the part of the episode where I get to ask you a series of questions. What is an influential book or something that’s been meaningful for you and your business?
This is a fun one because I have been a voracious reader my entire life. Now, I don’t read for fun anymore. One of the neatest books I’ve read is The Checklist Manifesto. It’s written by Gawande who’s a high-level surgeon. What he’s telling the world is even if you’re the best and even if you know what you’re doing and you swear you can’t fail, you can. Write it down. Break it down into small steps so you can double check yourself at every single level because surgeons can cut off the wrong arms and they can leave tools in the body. There are lots of reasons to have a safety net. This book is smart and saying we’re all super confident, but we’re probably not as confident as our confidence thinks we are. We’re human and we make mistakes and these simple checklists are ways to prevent mistakes.
There are a lot of studies that support that. In the business arena, if you have a process written down, when your business comes up for sale and they go, “We want to build your business on,” or they could say, “Your processes are so solid, we’re willing to pay a premium for your business because the process matters. It’s part of your intangible value.” If you could put an ad on page one of the local paper or the local publication for attorneys sharing your message or advice, what would it say and why?
Being super direct it would be to the business owners of the world especially small to medium size businesses. If you do not consider yourself a stuffy corporation, I would ask you why is your law firm? I would ask you to take a good look at who’s providing your legal services and ask, “Does their culture match yours? Do they have women and people of ethnic minorities working for their law firm? What’s their footprint in our community? Are they giving back? What do they do? Do they sponsor events? Are they involved in pro bono?” What I’ve found is that the small law firms that I work with give back to our community. They’re doing things that matter. They keep the money here. That’s what my ad would say.
What’s the best allocation of time or initiative that’s helped you the most?
It’s writing things down. I know that sounds simple, but that has been one of the key initiatives in my life now and in the past. I remember things and I retain things so much more when I write things down than when I type it. I can type as fast as anybody, but if I want to retain it then I write it down.
When you write it down, what do you do with it?
I write it down and then I will translate it into a typed format for storage. For some reason that act of writing down for me, it is a game changer. When I’m looking at remembering and recalling everything about my client’s law firms, I essentially have to put on my marketing hat for them when I’m talking to them. It’s easier for me if I have been writing down these things during our meetings and I recall it better. I know it’s a weird thing in this day and age.
We're human and we make mistakes; simple checklists are ways to prevent mistakes.
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Most unusual habit is what others may consider out of the ordinary that’s helped you the most.
What is out of the ordinary, and maybe other people do this, but I do believe that you should hire or work with people that know what you don’t. I don’t think it’s possible to know everything and we try. I know a lot about legal marketing, but do I know everything? Probably not especially when it comes to business ownership. I try to hire people that know what I don’t, so I don’t step in it later. I’m talking accountants and business lawyers, even just people to pick the brains of that are more seasoned business owners. There’s a lot to be learned.
In the past few years, what belief or protocol have you established that’s most impacted your success?
I do think that you can do well and do good. I have a for-profit business and I have to keep my lights on and all of that jazz. I also spend a tremendous amount of time in the legal community and I do a lot of pro bono work. I took on a role with the Hispanic Bar Association and I’ve had a similar less-structured role with the Women’s Bar, but I will do pro bono nominations for people of color and also women attorneys and attorneys of color to try and get more visibility to their practices. If I know that they don’t have marketing help or support and they could use it, I’ll do the stuff for free and get them on these lists that will make a difference in their practice.
What advice would you offer to a new attorney that’s starting out with their solo or small practice?
The biggest thing would be your networking starts in law school. I would roll it back before they decide to open their own business. Law school and the legal environment, in general, is inherently competitive. It just is and we can’t control that. What you can control is the way you behave, the way that you treat the people around you, staff, the court system, opposing counsel, the people in your office because your relationship matters and it carries. You can be amazing a million times over, but that one time that you take out a bad ruling or a bad day on somebody, that’s what’s going to overshadow. It would be that your networking and your relationship protection starts pretty much from day one.
What’s the most common misconception about what you do for law practices if there is one?
There’s a funny one because when I first opened my marketing firm it’s Denver Legal Marketing so I would give people joking about what’s illegal marketing? The other one is that I focus on plaintiff personal injury. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions with regard to what I do, that I am responsible for commercials and billboards and that more aggressive marketing that you see because those were the lawyers that you see out there. That’s the one that I’m constantly saying that’s not what I do.
Over the past few years, what would or should you have said no to and why?
It is trusting your gut. You can tell when you’re on the right path or when you are not a good fit for a client regardless if it’s your fault or their fault or whatever, but it’s not working out. I’ve had a couple of those where it wasn’t a good fit. I wasn’t the right marketing firm for them and they weren’t the right client for me. I wish I had listened to that advice from my gut came early and I ignored it.
In the day-to-day operations of your company as the business owner and founder, what is the personal habit or self-talk that keeps you and the company focused?
It truly is the saying that “This Too Shall Pass.” I have come back to that same pretty much my entire adult life through good times or bad times of knowing that whatever it is, whether it’s happier, it’s hard, that moment is fleeting. Enjoy it or write it out because tomorrow’s going to be different.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking time to welcome me into the world headquarters. I appreciate it so much. Thank you.
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- The Checklist Manifesto
About Meranda Vieyra
Meranda Vieyra is an award winning legal professional and one of the most visible marketing administrators in the Denver legal field.
She has nearly twenty years of experience in Denver law. Her hybrid skill set includes the administration of diversity and inclusiveness, legal marketing strategy, and recruiting initiatives.
Meranda is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC which was founded to bring the value of her eight years of experience in high level, high impact legal marketing to solo practitioners and law firms.
Meranda enjoys the challenge of helping smaller law firms become more visible to their clients and in the legal community, which grows their reputation and grows their practice. She views law firm marketing holistically, as many big businesses and general counsel do, including diversity and inclusiveness, recruitment and retention programs into marketing strategy.
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