A longtime and prolific blogger, domain name disputes lawyer Doug Isenberg successfully competes with big firms for name clients.
In his decade as a solo practitioner in Atlanta, Doug Isenberg has become a leading lawyer in the field of domain name law, with a stellar roster of global brand-name clients–quite a feat given that the niche is also occupied by many major law firms and elite intellectual-property boutiques. Writing prolifically on Internet law helped him launch his practice, called The GigaLaw Firm, and is one of the keys to his continuing success.
His main publishing platform is GigaLaw.com, a web site he started in 2000, and recently overhauled. Initially, it was an online news magazine with a board of editorial advisors and a stable of contributing writers. Isenberg relaunched it last year as a blog with a greater emphasis on analysis. It was promptly tapped by the ABA as one of the nation’s top 100 legal blogs of 2015.
Isenberg continues to publish a daily news digest reporting on the latest developments in Internet law, called GigaLaw Daily News, which he disseminates by email to the extensive list of recipients he has built up over the years. “I have been doing that five days a week effectively for 16 years without fail, except perhaps one or two days when my wife gave birth to our children,” Isenberg says. That sounds like a daunting commitment, but Isenberg doesn’t see it that way. “I was a newspaper reporter and magazine editor before I became a lawyer so I have always liked writing,” he says. “It is a great way for me to collect my thoughts and to take a break from other tasks. And it has always been tremendous marketing tool for me and for my legal practice.”
Isenberg graduated from Georgia State University Law School in 1996, and bounced from a large law firm to a company that handled marketing for the International Olympic Committee, to a solo practice and then to an IP boutique before launching the GigaLaw Firm in 2006 and zeroing in on domain-name law. His clients have included Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inn, Caterpillar, Saab, Wikipedia, Western Union, Speedo, Dow Chemical and Amazon.com, “just to name a few.” He also serves as a domain name panelist for four of the world’s leading dispute arbiters, including the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Establishing an Online Presence
His background in writing for a general audience has influenced—and benefited–his legal writing from the outset. “Early on in my career when I had been practicing for several years, I contacted a magazine called Internet World, which is no longer around, and made a pitch to write a column about Internet law explaining it in layman’s terms,” he says. “That is something I have always tried to do, even with clients, because everyone wants an explanation in plain English, not legalese.”
In writing for his blog, he is “not terribly concerned with search engine optimization or visitor statistics. This is not an ecommerce web site where I have to drive traffic to sell products. It is a piece, albeit a large piece, of the branding for me and my legal practice. Even if it does not directly lead to clients, having that online presence is certainly something that indirectly does. And it is certainly a resource I can point my prospective clients to if they happen to contact me and haven’t seen it before. But I definitely get contacted, and not infrequently, by people who locate me because of the GigaLaw web site or maybe just a single blog post,” Isenberg says.
Isenberg has extended his online presence over the years by commenting on discussion forums on other web sites. “It is amazing who is listening, and you might not know it for years,” he says. “I have certainly gotten clients who tell me they have been following my comments for years. Once they finally happen to have a legal issue that is relevant for me, I am on their mind.
“I actually had a referral earlier this week from a lawyer at a large law firm, which happens often. I had never spoken with him before, though I had worked with another lawyer at his firm years earlier. When he called, I told him if he wanted more information about me to pass on to his client before referring them to me, I could give that to him. He said, ‘Oh, I’ve been on your website and it’s a great website.’ And this was from a partner from a very large law firm.”
Tv Appearances, Book Deals
In addition to drawing clients, Isenberg’s blog and daily newsletter have opened doors for him to other media platforms including CNN, whose main studio in Atlanta was not far from his office. “For quite a while, I was pretty frequently interviewed live on air for the CNN Headline News morning show, and that really helped with my visibility,” he says. “It was usually in the studio. It made for some very early mornings, but like a lot of things in my legal practice, I always like to say yes, because you never know what it might lead to. Usually there was a fair amount of preparation time for a very quick appearance, but it was fun and I was able to reach people that I would not have been able to reach otherwise,” Isenberg says.
He had no prior experience making TV appearances but learned early on to do as politicians do under questioning: “Even if you are not directly answering the question that was asked, so long as you say something relevant to the topic at hand, you can keep the conversation going and look credible. And that’s always preferable to simply saying I don’t know when you’re supposedly the expert.”
He had amassed enough of a body of writing on the emerging field of Internet law by 2002 that Random House reached out and asked him to put it into a book for a general audience. “That was a fantastic opportunity,” said Isenberg, who brought in other lawyers to contribute chapters. That book won’t be updated, though “there may be another book in the future,” Isenberg says. “It was a lot of fun to do. And just as I am able to tell clients and prospects that I used to practice at a large law firm, I never hesitate to mention the book. It’s a great credibility enhancer,” Isenberg says.
New Push to Spur Referrals
Referrals have always been an important source of business for Isenberg. He has only recently taken steps to cultivate that. “I recently created a one-page PDF that describes my legal practice and who I am,” he says. “I did that because I realized that a lot of people, including other attorneys, don’t really know what I do. It is online brand protection with an emphasis on domain name disputes and protecting trademark owners online from cybersquatting, counterfeiters, and other bad guys.
“The one-pager I created simply describes some of the issues that I help my clients with and provides a brief bio about me. It may sound elementary to have something like that but I hadn’t done it until recently. There are some great referral sources out there, whether they are other attorneys or accountants or people in other businesses such as venture capital. I am always eager to share this one-pager with them,” Isenberg says.
Producing a Professional-Looking Webinar
Isenberg also recently tried something else for the first time: producing a webinar. He teamed up with a domain name recovery expert from MarkMonitor, a leading online brand protection service, to create the one-hour online seminar called “Domain Name Disputes: What Happened in 2015 (and How to Protect Yourself in 2016 and Beyond).” It was offered free of charge to his clients and to customers of MarkMonitor, boosting the audience to the benefit of both.
Isenberg produced it on the GotoWebinar platform provided by Citrix. “It requires some training and some tweaking, and of course one of the most, if not the most important, part is the content itself, which I had to create. Fortunately, it is content than I am very familiar with and speak about pretty frequently, but it took a lot of work to compile it into a webinar format, and to make sure that everything flowed, and could be presented virtually, and the slides made sense and the timing was right. And I had to make sure it covered material that was advanced enough to be relevant to this audience but not so advanced that those who did not have a foundation could not get something out of it as well. That was incredibly challenging,” says Isenberg.
“It is not difficult to do but it is difficult to do really well. And because image is very important to me, since I am competing for clients with the large law firms, I wanted to make sure that the invitations for the webinar were professionally designed, the registration process was professional and efficient, and the actual participation process was easy. I also wanted to make sure I had proper follow-up with those who raised substantive questions during the webinar. So it was incredibly time consuming.
“I learned a lot that certainly will make it more efficient to do the next time,” he adds. “But it was a great experience and it was very satisfying to read the survey evaluations that a lot of people completed after the webinar. That provides a great opportunity to follow up with clients and prospects. Also it was not just a one-time event since it will always live on my web site. So I plan to do more of those in the future,” says Isenberg.
To be sure, while fancy content may draw clients, it won’t keep them. “You can do all the marketing you want, but if you do not do good quality legal work, it is not going to be maintained in the long term,” says Isenberg. “You have to do high quality legal work to get and maintain clients and receive referrals.”
To achieve success, attorneys also must be responsive, Isenberg adds. “It’s amazing how many clients I have who complain to me about their lawyers and how they don’t return phone calls or respond in any way,” he says. “So I try to be incredibly responsive with my clients. All of us as human beings appreciate that, and I think it goes a very long way in building and maintaining relationships with clients.”