(UPDATE: Many of you responded passionately to our 2014 blog post about the bankruptcy of behemoth disability law firm Binder & Binder. We find the issues raised in that article still resonate today, but for evolving reasons. Binder cited tough conditions in the government. Now that takes the form of threatened budget cuts under the Trump administration. But the 6 points of advice below still hold true. In fact, they’re more important than ever.)
If you’re a Social Security disability attorney, you don’t need anyone to tell you 2014 has been challenging.
On the other hand, if you think you had a bad year, at least you don’t owe $40 million.
According to news reports at the end of last week, national disability advocacy firm Binder and Binder “is preparing for a possible Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing…as it faces roughly $40 million of debt and shrinking demand for its services amid tightening government scrutiny of claims.”
Gee, it wasn’t so long ago The Wall Street Journal reported, “The $88 million the Binder firm collected in 2010 was more than triple the $26 million it got in 2006, according to data obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.”
We can trust that H.I.G. Private Equity, which bought a stake in Binder & Binder in 2010, knows some good lawyers and accountants. So, I don’t want to write today about the Goliaths. What’s it all mean for the Davids of the Social Security Disability profession?
What We Heard in 2014…
I like to joke that at our specialized marketing agency for disability attorneys, we talk to more disability lawyers than anyone in America other than Barbara Silverstone. So what did we hear in 2014? Well, a lot of pain and concern – starting with repercussions from the October 2013 federal government shutdown. That resulted in claimant files that didn’t get processed, hearings that didn’t get scheduled, benefits that didn’t get awarded and, yes, legal fees that didn’t get paid.
And then there were the horror stories of ALJs being coached and even punished when they awarded benefits too often. We all cried, “Where is the similar coaching for the judges who deny too many?”
I know of some Social Security attorneys who went into early retirement in 2014. Others laid off staff. The Davids were getting hit by some pretty large slingshot rocks.
Yet, not every conversation with a disability attorney in 2014 was one of pain. While some attorneys may have gotten out, others called us to get in: Yes, there are still attorneys wanting to enter the disability arena, or if already there, to ramp up their practices.
Most significantly, I remember one particular conversation with a disability attorney that was a message of hope. I repeated it often to others. While commiserating about the problems of this era, this attorney said to me: “The attorneys who are having the hardest times are the ones who have been doing the same thing the same way for so long, they are unable or unwilling to change. Those are the ones most in trouble.”
Resolve to Evolve in 2015…
“…Unable or unwilling to change.” Those words linger in the air as we cross over into a new year.
At the Las Vegas NOSSCR Conference this year, we presented a clients-only Internet-themed presentation entitled, “Evolve or Die.” (Watch for it as a webinar early next year.)
Here are some ways that your disability law firm can consider changing:
- Diversification. We think you should consider diversifying your client base. In 2014, we created new television and/or Internet marketing campaigns for LTD cases, Veterans Disability, Workers’ Compensation, Special Education, Employment Law and even Personal Injury for attorneys who also represent Social Security claimants.
- Improve your Website Conversion. Much is written how SEO can help a Social Security Disability lawyer rank higher in search engine results for increased traffic. We recommend equal study, testing and improvements to help your law firm’s website convert a greater percentage of the traffic into actual leads.
- Paid Search. When handled by pros and reinforced with branding efforts, a Paid Search campaign can be more cost efficient via better conversion than buying leads that have no branding element to them.
- Better branding. If you agree that not all attorneys are alike, shouldn’t they not look alike? In 2014, Firmidable handled more logo and brand refreshes than any other year in our history.
- Initial Applications. It’s more important than ever that your marketing messages urge claimants to call when they need to apply, not just after being denied. Then, resolve to get efficient in handling those applications.
- Believe in yourself. American history shows that in periods of economic panic and market contractions, there are always some who use the retreat by others as an opportunity to grow their brand while competition is less active. Fortunately, at Firmidable, we’ve had those conversations in 2014 as well.
For 2015, Firmidable’s clients have booked a greater amount of marketing exposure than the year we leave behind. We see that as a positive sign for all – one of hope, optimism and confidence.
Here’s hoping YOU have a prosperous new year. Of course, let us know if you’d like some help with that.