Do any of you know of any law firms using opt-0ut email newsletters? Do any of you use opt-out newsletters?

By opt-out I am referring to sending out emails for marketing purposes, without permission of the recipients, which include a “opt-out link” notifying the sender the recipient wants no more e-mails from the sender.

Such email is basically spam, to me. It’s an annoyance to receive email you don’t want from someone you don’t know and have to go through the effort of asking the sender to stop sending you things you never wanted in the first place.

I receive opt-out emails from law firms and other organizations every day. I didn’t sign up to receive the emails and it’s frankly a pain to unsubscribe.

Many of the unsubscribe features require a couple steps on my part. Some ask, “Are you sure you want to unscubcribe?” Am I sure? I already dislike you for sending me things I don’t want, but maybe I should rethink what I’m doing?

It’s easy to share information of value through the net — and to do so without forcing the information upon folks. Blogs, social media and email sign ups for white papers, survey results and studies are just a few of the ways to do so — and all ways to building a subscriber list.

When you have to resort to forcing things on people as if you’re passing out handbills on the sidewalk, maybe it’s a good sign what you’re sending out isn’t of much value — or that you don’t know how to effectively use the net.

I get the value of email newsletters and understand the requirment for the opt-out link on each. But why not send emails to subscribers? People who have voluntarily subscribed.

Ask the best lawyers. It’s all about relationships and a word of mouth reputation when it comes to building a book of business. Equally so on the Internet.

Sending opt-out email does nothing for relationships or building your reputation.

I have friends who have email newsletters going to 30,000 plus subscribers, all of whom opted in. We have clients who use their blogs like email newsletters who have over 10,000 subscribers — all who subscribed (opted in).

MailChimp, one of the leading email marketing services, sending over 10 billion emails per month on behalf of its users, will dump your account if they see you are sending emails to people who did first subscribe. We use MailChimp to send blog posts to subscribers of the LexBlog Network blogs, in part because of their strict policy.

Maybe I am old school, but I don’t see why professionals would ever want to send out spam-like email. Am I missing something?

  • Vickie Gray

    Hi Kevin, I’m not sure I understand. Are you referring to the literal “opt out” or “unsubscribe” link? If so, I believe federal law requires that we include that option for all our email communications. Even if that weren’t the case, I would include the option in all my firm’s communications. Our current database started twenty years ago as a mailing list with postal addresses. Over the years we migrated to a sophisticated CRM platform, and spent years culling out inactive records, researching client email addresses, and performing periodic housecleaning to remove names of people who haven’t opened our communications in XX years. However, since we use the same addresses for seminar/webinar invitations and similar announcements, we always want to give folks a chance to unsubscribe if they feel they’re getting too much email from us. Keep in mind, too, that many business development consultants advise lawyers to bring back a list of names and email addresses from a speaking engagement and dump all of them into their database so they can send them newsletters. I’ve been successful in educating my lawyers against that type of marketing, but others believe it’s effective (or at least easy). And even though we put a lot of work into keeping our lists current, sometimes clients for various reasons just don’t want to hear from us. I believe it’s more annoying NOT to have a quick opt-out option than to assume that your audience will always, forever, want to hear what you have to say just because they signed up at some point for your communications.

    • Absolutely agree, Vickie, on the need for the opt-out or unsubscribe link. Spam laws require the inclusion of that link and like you say, it’s the right thing to do. I laud you for what you have done in honing the firm’s list over the years and doing the periodic housekeeping.

      I am aware, like you say, many business development consultants advise lawyers to collect email addresses and dump them into email newsletter database. You’re closing on on spam there.

  • Eric G. Dewey

    Hi Kevin,

    Let me try to present a slightly contrarian view on this subject. While I don’t disagree that an opt in list is preferable, it is incredibly difficult to build a list of people that want to hear from you. It can take years of marketing (often by trial and error- aka A/B testing) to master the teaser language and develop compelling offers that lure readers in to sign up for your newsletter. In addition, you must master numerous tech tools (like landing pages, pop up sign up windows, etc.) and do a series of offers to get someone to sign up for your newsletters. This is hard work that requires a long term commitment to make happen on a scale that is large enough to generate client leads. Many law firms simply don’t have that kind of time or expertise.

    On the other hand, if you deliver relevant, timely and valuable content, opt out/in becomes less of an issue. For example, if I send you a litigation budget checklist or excel worksheet template, that you can use but didn’t ask for, are you really likely to be that ticked off that I sent it without your advanced approval?

    I am a proponent of using opt out emails when they are built from lists of people you actually know (such as people that have connected with you on Linked in and those that are in your address book). Mailing campaigns feature information which is truly valuable and instructive to the recipients are not spam. Spam is when you get something that is not relevant to your business, not timely, is sent too frequently and is not well written or engaging. A simple one click opt out that deletes the address simply by clicking on the unsubscribe link in Mail Chimp is not too big of a bother, in my opinion. In fact, it is easier and less time consuming to opt out than to opt in. Personally I prefer to opt out than the sometimes cumbersome process of opting in. Who has THAT kind of time?

    Secondly, opt out is a proven marketing tactic that works well in just about every other industry. If i recall correctly, opt out was allowed because opt in virtually closed out email marketing as a practical option. Because of the caution (resistance) that lawyers have for anything that smacks of self promotion, as consultants to the industry, I think we should be teaching lawyers how to use all of the tools available to them correctly and most efficiently and encourage experimentation within the boundaries of the ethics rules. Based on my own experience, only a small minority of people will opt out from getting relevant, valuable, infrequent and thoughtfully presented information.

    To Vicki’s point, it takes enough time to create and maintain a good list. To then only send to those who agree to receive your materials makes that effort even less productive. In my opinion, opt out (when done correctly) is no more risky than opt in. I’d prefer to see more lawyers using it than fewer. Connections built on the delivery of real value are built faster and are longer lasting. You can do that more quickly with opt out emails.

    • Thanks for your comment and the detail you provided, Eric. I guess my post was “why would lawyers use opt-out” and you have made a case for why they would. I just differ and acknowledge I go back to a time where such emailing (mailing then) would feel like advertising which most lawyers just did not do. The only lawyers who mailed in an unsolicited way were personal injury lawyers who got copies of accident reports. Heck, I can even remember us going slow on mailing 20 city council people on behalf of clients.
      I may be coming at this from a different angle too. We’re a publisher and so are our customer bloggers. The publisher of a publication is not likely to send out their publication to other than subscribers.

      • Eric G. Dewey

        Good points. We have come along way as an industry- thanks in part to your good work encouraging blogging.