Do Clients search for a Lawyer?

By | May 14, 2011

Searching for a Lawyer

Searching for a Lawyer

This afternoon I had an interesting exchange on Twitter with Jon Busby of Legal 2.0 regarding how important blogs and websites are to lawyers.

Jon considers that they may not be that important in finding new clients. Jon recently blogged about the possibility of his butcher, Charlie, writing a blog:-

As a consumer I might just read ‘The Butcher’s Blog.’ There is a connect.

But as for electricians, plumbers, dentists, lawyers and all the other distress purchase suppliers that I may only use once every 10 years, I am less interested in reading their blogs. No matter how much they think I might be.

In our Twitter exchange Jon pointed out that most lawyers get clients through word of mouth recommendation. I would not disagree with this. That reflects my own experience.

However, if you don’t want to ask for or don’t have someone who can give you that recommendation what are your options? In the past you might have reached for the Yellow Pages and picked from the advert that you were most drawn to. In the internet age you surely would Google your problem to find a lawyer that can help you solve it.

Like Jon you might be less interested in reading the Lawyer’s Blog on a regular basis than you would the Butcher’s Blog. But the fact that the Lawyer’s Blog exists at all means that you might just find it when you do need that lawyer and use Google to find them in your moment of distress.

Thus, I would take the view that having a website, and perhaps a blog as well, is better than not having it.

It has certainly worked for my law firm, Inksters, where we get 20% of new business through our online activities. Jon did point out that this was for our ‘uber niche‘ areas of Crofting Law and Servitudes. These are the areas we have concentrated our content production on to date and seen good results from. However, we do get work via internet searches from other service areas where there is much less content but still an online presence.

The Google Keyword Tool tells us that there are 5 million global searches per month for the word “Lawyer”. Locally there are 3.35 million such searches. For “Attorney” those figures become 9.14 million and 7.48 million respectively. For “Solicitor” it is 673,000 and 60,500 respectively. That is a lot of people searching for a lawyer.

Looking at Google Analytics for inksters.com I see people finding my law firm over the past month (for matters other than Crofting Law and Servitudes) when they have been searching for:-

  • Appointing a guardian for your child
  • Are pre nuptial agreements binding in Scots Law
  • Breakdown of co-habiting relationships
  • Buying repossesed property
  • Caveats Court of Session
  • Child residence problems
  • Cohabitation 2011
  • Debt recovery solicitors Scotland
  • Executries
  • Family law legal aid
  • Free will scheme
  • Glasgow family law solicitors
  • How to contest an executor of an intestate estate
  • Prenups family law Scotland
  • Property lawyers in Glasgow
  • RBS v Wilson
  • Solicitors who tweet
  • Stamp duty Scotland first time buyers
  • Supreme Court judgement on repossession
  • Winding up intestate estate

My favourite was “is Muttley Dastardly a real firm” which took the searcher to the Muttley Dastardly LLP page on inksters.com. Not sure whether or not we were subsequently instructed by them 😉

I know that, in addition to the ‘uber niche’ areas, we have received instructions for Conveyancing, Debt Recovery, Executry matters and Family Law via the internet.

I also know that Paul Hajek at Clutton Cox has seen great results in new clients (Conveyancing, Wills & Probate) from his online activities. So much so that he has created the Solicitors Marketing System.

Potential clients are indeed searching, finding and instructing lawyers online. It may well be secondary to word of mouth referrals but it should not be ignored as a potential source of business. One that is likely to grow.

Jon Busby has been told by lawyers that they get little new work via the web. As Jon says lawyers present badly via websites. On the whole this is probably true. But it does not have to be this way. Like Jon’s butcher, Charlie, those lawyers are no doubt too busy being lawyers (as opposed to butchers) to have time to blog. If they and Charlie made the time to do it they might be even busier lawyers and butchers. But if they don’t want to grow their businesses then fair enough.

What do you think?

Do you think blogging for law firm business development is less or as important than many say/think it is? Does your law firm website and/or blog bring in new clients to your firm? What could lawyers be doing on the web that they are not, on the whole, doing at the moment?


84 Comments

legaleaglemhm on 15/05/2011 at 12:30 am.

Brian

A great post as always.

Over the course of the last two years – as Business development manager for http://www.roadtrafficlaw.com I have watched internet traffic grow by over 200% and we had over 15000 views of our videos giving legal advice on road traffic prosecutions by specialist Graham Walker on you tube. With over 200 million blogs and growing by the day the way clients search for everything has already changed. The way people communicate has changed FACT.

Yes of course referrals are very important too, but by having a strong internet presence and keeping ahead of the curve – law firms widen their nets – search terms often direct a new client to a firm who will not deal with a specific type of work (ie cases outside of Scotland) and this can lead to referrals within the profession.

Are websites important ? Not as important as they used to be in my opinion as they can become out of date fast, but if a website is combined with a regularly updated blog, video and SM then the content stays fresh and in many cases relevant when a potential client IS searching for a lawyer. Last year at the Law Society event I spoke about the hashtag #I need a lawyer and whilst I do have a look from time to time SM is still developing. The internet is a growing tool and one would only need to ask the next generation of clients – ie our kids – how they would find something they were looking for – chances are they will say facebook and google. The simple fact is the internet brings in new clients from all over Scotland and beyond. One more point is that whilst browsers on your website may have a look for general legal advise they may not NEED your services at this point – people often search for help, advice and general guidance. In a years time though when they DO need to instruct a solicitors, they will come back.

Would I want to read what ‘the consumer’ says about a law firm – of course I would and that’s why having client testimonials on a site and blog is good, but I would not instruct a solicitor purely on the testimony of one persons view of a firm. I would look at the whole package, how helpful they were, what was on their web site, how often they blog and do they actually ‘engage’?

Hope this is helpful.

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Brian Inkster on 23/05/2011 at 10:52 pm.

Thanks Michelle

This reflects my experiences at Inksters.

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Alistair on 15/05/2011 at 12:48 am.

I would have to say that I agree with you Brian. The internet is a very powerful marketing tool and in this digital age more and more people are turning to the internet. The first place I turn to when looking for a service that I don’t often use (or indeed have never had to use before) is the internet, and more specifically Google.

In terms of Law there are certainly people searching for answers to legal problems on a daily basis. I notice that on my blog as I regularly receive hits through search engines for people seeking answers to their legal problems and even had people attempt to instruct me (obviously, instructions I cannot accept and I instead point them in the direction of the LSS website and the “Find a Solicitor” page). Certainly looks good for the future.

The return on an online presence may not be that significant currently, but if you don’t have a presence online then you cannot expect to gain any new business that way. Having an online presence is certainly a lot better than not having one at all.

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Brian Inkster on 23/05/2011 at 10:53 pm.

Thanks Alistair

Good to see you already being contacted for advice as a result of your blog. Having started your online law presence early this can only be good for your future career as a lawyer.

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Leicester Mediation on 15/05/2011 at 10:32 am.

I have to agree; if you want an online presence you have to have a blog. Simply the wide range of search terms show what people, your customers, actually want.

The bigger issue is how to capitallise on that. As soon as someone arrives at your site after searching for “debt collection Scotland”, instead of reading that particular article, wouldn’t it be better if on online agent screen popped up for some instant “how can I help” advice? We need call to actions not just blogs, if you want to convert browsers looking for free info to paying customers.

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Brian Inkster on 23/05/2011 at 10:54 pm.

Thanks Stephen

Good idea. Are there any websites (possibly not law firm ones) actually doing this now? Is the technology available to catch the search term that brought the visitor to the site and prompt the right question as soon as they hit the site?

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Laurie A on 15/05/2011 at 11:08 am.

Thanks for the post Brian.

The answer to all of this depends on how specialised the work is.

If all I am looking for is a generic “butcher” or “lawyer”, then word-of-mouth, or even just High Street visibility are what counts.

If I am looking for a butcher who sells a more specialist product, or a lawyer who is an expert in crofting law, then there is a fair chance that word-of-mouth isn’t going to help me. My contacts won’t know anyone, and I won’t have passed by a lawyer with “experts in crofting law” on the window.

It is at this point that I will search online. The blog then serves two purposes. First, if it is a good blog in a specialist area it will no doubt help with any SEO work that the butcher or firm does, and get them higher in the search rankings. Second, it will help to convince me that they really are experts in their field, and should convince me that they are people I would like to do business with.

The key to making a legal blog work for business development is being specialist – even down to being specialist in one particular statute (for instance http://thebriberyact.com/). Then you stand a chance of winning work where word-of-mouth doesn’t reach – in very specialist areas.

Laurie

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Brian Inkster on 23/05/2011 at 10:56 pm.

Thanks Laurie

Good point Laurie. This is certainly my experience based simply on the content (not blogging as such) at inksters.com on Crofting Law and Servitudes (Easements).

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Gavin Ward on 15/05/2011 at 1:09 pm.

Useful post as always Brian. Particularly interesting to see what people have been searching for in order to click through to http://www.inksters.com.

To expand on Laurie’s points regarding specialism, it’s not just about specialism in an area of law, but also specialism in that area of law in a certain location that can drive some valuable enquiries and, at times, client wins. But this should be caveated by two statements:-

1. SEO is a tool to increase a client base but should always be part of a larger marketing strategy. As you note, above, around 20% of your firm’s new business may come from online sources with a large chunk still coming from word-of-mouth or direct referrals themselves; and

2. SEO development for certain types of law can work much better than others. Generally, one must consider who the potential client is. If they’re to be a multi-national corporate client looking for a bespoke piece of corporate work, chances are they will consider the main legal directories ahead of a web search or ask around their contacts, perhaps through linkedin or twitter. If they’re to be a individual looking for some conveyancing, executry or other family law advice, they may tend to favour a Google (or Bing or Twitter) search.

To tell a story from personal experience, which I’ll expand upon at the SYLA conference later this year (alongside two distinguished Scottish lawyers 😉 ), last year I posted a short article I had written on an international private law subject, namely issues of jurisdiction and sists of proceedings. A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a business owner in my home town, who had an action for damages in a Scottish court which had been sisted in favour of a foreign court. He was already a client of a large law firm and was in regular touch with litigation partners. Nevertheless, he had, via Google, read one of my articles posted on my website, which had held me out to be knowledgeable in that area and had phoned me via the phone number I had left at the end of that article. After around forty minutes on the phone and chatting through his legal problem generally, I could have developed a potential business lead, although in that case, in line with professional and indeed general ethics, I suggested he should speak with his current lawyers regarding his concerns and get in touch should he require an expert opinion from someone else I could put him in touch with.

To sum it up, as you say Brian, “It may well be secondary to word of mouth referrals but it should not be ignored as a potential source of business. One that is likely to grow.”

Looking forward to hearing of other law firm successes with their web presence and social media efforts.

Best wishes,
Gavin

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Brian Inkster on 23/05/2011 at 10:57 pm.

Thanks Gavin

Your personal experience is similar to that of Alistair. If it is happening to the two of you then it should certainly be happening to law firms with content rich websites.

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Jon Busby on 15/05/2011 at 5:18 pm.

Brian

Thank you for the discussion on Saturday…I thought it was a one to one exchange. I wasn’t aware you planned to launch it 😉

Seems I have started something!!

To be clear, I am not anti blog. I am a strong advocate for them, when they deliver value.

Can I start with your title, I may be being picky here but I don’t think anyone would question the statement, “Do clients search for lawyers?” They do because they have problems and lawyers solve problems. I also believe that searching is done online. But searching is not enough as I will now explain.

The central thrust of my argument was/is that everyone has gone a bit “I lawyer therefore I blog.” Or “gotta have a blog, gotta have a blog, I don’t know why but I gotta have a blog.” Wouldn’t be online marketeers telling lawyers to create blogs etc perchance? Funny that.

Put simply, content is not enough. You have to be validated and authenticated.

Blogs are one tool and to get a captive audience have to be a bit special. To be special you have to be validated and authenticated.

To pick up Laurie’s point, you could argue that dealing in a very specialist area is even more cause for starting a conversation rather than Googling. Surely by definition it being specialist means “get me to the specialist quick, do not click Blog, do not collect £200.” This specialism, niche argument fascinates me. Lawyer sees ‘restrictive covenant employment specialist lawyer.” Client just sees “lawyer.”

Arguably the more complex a situation, the more expensive it becomes, the more the need to have a human to human conversation. As complexity increases the need for validation and authentication increases. Yet even today we may go and ask our network for an opinion of a £0.59 iPhone app. Why? Because we can (very efficiently) and because we value the opinion.

Our networks may be online (Twitter, Facebook etc) or offline (pub, school playground).

So just to re-emphasise. Searching and validating are not the same thing.

So your Crofters may search for you on the web a bit but I would lay money on it that they are a fairly close knit community so,

Crofter 1: “Could you recommend a lawyer?”
Crofter 2: “Sure Brian Inkster, he’s a top bloke. You can call him, say you know me, or go to inksters.com” You are then validated.

Crofter 2 may then go to your site, may go to your blog but the validation happened when he spoke to Crofter 1. Of course, (which I never denied in our exchanges), he could go directly to the site independently and on his own. But don’t forget validation can be won…and it can be lost.

Technology tools are far far more powerful after authentication/validation.

You make reference to clients who don’t know anyone, perhaps searching on Google. I don’t agree entirely. If you are Googling the chances are very high that you know other people online…your network. We all know someone or we know someone who knows someone who knows someone…that is where the power of (social) networking really is.

Do not mix up searching and validating. They are not the same thing.

That is why Google is scared of Twitter because Twitter et al are taking control of the authentication and validation process that Google’s PPC clients so desperately need, this is one of the reasons for +1.

Sure you can SEO and PPC yourself up the rankings but most of us are quite cynical about this now. You can deny this all you like but word of mouth was, is and will be the most compelling form of authentication bar none. All Twitter etc have done is accelerate authentication. See what Amanda Bancroft wrote regarding this http://legal-two.com/twitter-for-lawyers-what-is-it-good-for/

Nor do I necessarily agree with

>>> “if you want an online presence you have to have a blog”

Plenty of good businesses, big, small, online offline operate without a blog. When a consumer comes to a site they want to see their solution presented in a meaningful clear way. They arrive at a site to solve not read. That may be via a blog…it may not be.

Also

>>> “The first place I turn to when looking for a service that I don’t often use (or indeed have never had to use before) is the internet, and more specifically Google.”

Me too.

But I validate ‘it’ usually by asking my trusted (offline or online) network what they think, if they would recommend it etc. So Google may be the searching/finding tool, my personal network (Twitter) is the searching/finding/authenticating/validating tool, the provider (lawyer) is the solving tool. Note the overlaps.

Couple of other thoughts. Most hits on a law firms website are on the ‘Contact Us’ page. Clue in the name. They want to make contact, bypass the detail that is less relevant to them and talk to a real person about their real problem.

Just to close, for now as I suspect this will go on a bit, I am not denying blogs but they must have a purpose, be that fun, be that business development, and whatever you write if it is in a language the client does not understand (ask a client not a lawyer), it could become counterproductive.

These are my views, right or wrong. I certainly do not want to prescribe what you should or shouldn’t do.

ps there is an argument, ‘why do you write a blog then Jon?” Well I have always said my blog is a bit like reading one by an employee of Apple writing about say their operating system, giving me insight. Because he works for Apple his writing is authenticated and valuable. Plus I am explaining a fixed product into a fixed market…much easier to do with a blog.

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Brian Inkster on 23/05/2011 at 11:16 pm.

Thanks Jon

I didn’t plan at the time to launch it but an evening of the Eurovision Song Contest drove me to blogging. Our discussion was fresh in my mind and I thought was a good topic to do a post on. I looked up Inksters’ Google Analytics (which is not something I do very often) and saw an interesting angle for the post which looks at real life search data from a law firm.

I suppose my title could have been different. Perhaps “Do lawyers need blogs?” However, it becomes circular as we come back to how those blogs are being found and whether they are being read. This I think is where online search plays its part and I decided to make that the starting point.

I fully appreciate that you accept that people do use online search and didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. There are, however, a great many people relying on what they see on the web to provide the authentication/validation to which you refer without necessarily seeking that out from another individual.

Of course the personal recommendation will often happen and yes, following on from that, may be a visit to the law firm’s website or blog before the call is made to instruct.

Your example of Crofter 1 speaking to Crofter 2 will occur, but, not always. Crofter 1 may be an absentee tenant living in London who has never been to their croft for many years. They receive a letter from the Crofters Commission requesting them to address their absenteeism. They don’t know any crofters in London to ask how to deal with this. They are quite likely to turn to the internet and search for the advice they require.

I know from personal experience that clients do come to me through this route alone without personal authentication/validation. They are happy with what they see on the web and that is sufficient authentication/validation.

Historically, most of my crofting clients were from Shetland (where I come from). This is a close knit community of the type you refer to. Word of mouth referral is how I built up my business in Shetland all be it serviced from Glasgow.

Inksters had a website from our inception in 1999. It was a basic brochure site with a (cool at the time) flash introduction page. Google couldn’t see it and we never got any new work directly through it. In 2008 we launched a new (our current) website. This is fairly content rich and updated on a regular basis. There is a good amount of crofting law content. Google likes it. New items posted on the site will appear on Google within hours. Since 2008 we have seen our crofting law practice grow with clients from throughout the Highlands & Islands and not just Shetland. These clients come to Inksters through the web. They did not have other crofters in their locality to authenticate/validate us. Now of course we get further work in these new locations we are operating in via word of mouth referrals from those initial crofters that came to us via the internet only. We have just opened an office in Inverness with a new Associate, Eilidh Ross, who specialises in crofting law, having joined us to service and build upon this new client base. To an extent (but, not on its own) the internet has played a part in getting us there.

In other areas of the law clients may not wish to discuss their legal problems in the first instance with friends or family. Perhaps they are having matrimonial problems and wish to ascertain their legal position before revealing the situation to family and friends. The first port of call may be the internet leading them to a solicitor for the advice required. They almost certainly will not be tweeting, at this stage , about their need for a lawyer.

In a small knit community someone planning to buy a new house in the neighbourhood may not want the local community finding out before they make their offer. Again rather than discuss this with friends and family they might search for a lawyer first using Google.

I hope this helps to demonstrate that authentication/validation can and does take place at the level of the law firm website, blog or other web sites that the lawyer is referenced on. I do agree that a blog may not be essential to this. Good web content may be sufficient. But a properly directed and well written blog can I would suggest only add to this.

I agree that it should not be a case of “I lawyer therefore I blog.” Or “gotta have a blog, gotta have a blog, I don’t know why but I gotta have a blog.” There will indeed be online marketers telling lawyers to create blogs etc. Some will even offer to write the blog posts for those lawyers. Such blogs stand out a mile, add no value and possibly do the lawyers more harm than good.

Having said that, some niche law blogs may appear to be ‘the tree falling in the forest that no one hears’ as discussed at #LawBlogs last Thursday. However, for those law blogs that is where search is important. They might not have a huge active regular readership but on occasion someone will be interested in reading the content on the blog and will only be able to find it easily via a search engine.

You mention most hits on law firm websites being the Contact Us page. That is no doubt true of many law firm websites, especially those with little real content. At inksters.com our Contact Us page is the nineteenth most visited page in the last month and the eighth most visited page in the last year. Certain content pages feature more prominently than the Contact Us page. On many of our content pages we have contact details so there will not always be the need to move from them to the Contact Us page for those who do want to contact Inksters after reading our content. Some websites will direct the reader from the content to the Contact Us page. The Contact Us page on law firm websites will of course be used by existing clients and other solicitors who simply want to make contact with the law firm in question and not necessarily read the content on their website. This in itself will boost the Contact Us page up the rankings but has no real relation to the content on the website that others do wish to read.

An interesting statistic from inksters.com is that the Contact Us page ranks 258 in the average time spent on any page on the site. So 257 pages have visitors spending much more time on them on average than the Contact Us page does.

People are therefore reading Inksters’ content perhaps for that authentication/validation before contacting us.

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Jay Pinkert on 15/05/2011 at 11:06 pm.

As the architect Louis Sullivan famously phrased it, “Form ever follows function.”

At the root of this discussion is a single question: How do potential clients for your niche(s) typically search for a lawyer in your practice area. Once you’ve answered that question, the best platforms for making your content findable online will suggest themselves. And while it runs counter to legal marketing zeitgeist, lawyers don’t have to blog to be successful online.

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 8:57 pm.

Thanks Jay

I agree that blogging is not essential to be successful online. At Inksters we have been successful online simply through putting up content on the areas of law we cover without actually blogging as such. However, we intend to extend this activity by starting specific law blogs. There is, I believe, the potential for the combination of web content and the blogs to be even more powerful. I will let you know at The Time Blawg when we see the outcome of this strategy.

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Mark Smith on 16/05/2011 at 7:57 am.

I suspect the answer may be different in the B2B world.

When I was an inhouse counsel the web would be one of the sources I would incorporate when searching for advice. The question I guess is “when did I search for advice?”. If my need was an extension of existing activity which was outsourced, then my existing relationship firms would be the obvious port of call. If it was a new requirement for external advice, or perhaps a very large piece of work that I needed to tender, then I’d need to do some homework. My own market knowledge would play a part, as would that of my colleagues in the legal team and perhaps some internal clients. Recommendations from trusted advisors would be added to the mix, and then perhaps some validation or further due diligence with the web and (maybe, depending on work type and jurisdiction, directories). It would be part of this final stage that a blog could prove helpful – if someone posted something useful on the topic and in a style which connected with me, then that would undoubtedly work in the blogger’s favour.

However, just as a final point, another distinction with my example is that this process isn’t one I’d follow if it was a “distress purchase”. If I needed urgent advice – say relating to an injunction or a competition law issue, then my selection process (if I didn’t have anyone lined up) would be much more direct.

@intchallenge

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 9:05 pm.

Thanks Mark

I think this would reflect the approach I would take.

For lawyers there will always be more chance of knowing someone who can authenticate/validate well another lawyer. For the non-lawyer needing a lawyer there will be less opportunity for this and a greater likelihood of turning to Google in the first instance.

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Victoria Moffatt on 16/05/2011 at 11:59 am.

An interesting piece. My view is that blogs (well done) are generally beneficial.
I suspect that the root to success for blogging lawyers and indeed law firms will be:-

1) deciding on the purpose of the blog and sticking to that purpose
2) giving dedication to the blog.

If neither of the above can be adhered to then the blog may be more damaging that it is worth. By success I mean with reference to point 1. This may not be client/work generation in itself, but the blogger should have already considered this point….

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 9:08 pm.

Thanks Victoria

I agree with you. This is also true of law firms who set up Twitter streams without purpose or dedication. It gives a very bad impression of the firm when you visit such streams.

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Paul Hajek on 16/05/2011 at 3:19 pm.

More and more people are looking on line as can be evidenced by the yearly shrinkage in the yellow pages book.

It is also borne out by various surveys including the Law Society’s own research.

Each survey shows a rise in the percentage of people who would look to the internet to pre qualify a solicitor or solicitor firm. This will increase year on year.

People may not just search by geographic or legal area, but also by specific questions to either begin a short list or help solve a particular legal problem.

The search engines do not discriminate against small law firms, but judge them as worthy of inclusion in search results by the relevance and quality of their content.

The power of pre selection cannot be understated: firms may find they are chosen to carry out a legal transaction or help with a legal problem with no further input than the quality of information and content obtained from their website.

This is happening to us at Clutton Cox more and more.

A blog is the simplest way to show expertise and it can be done in all manner of innovative ways.

A series of blogs built up over time will provide a bank of interesting and informative content which can educate potential clients and demonstrate your firm as the “go to” law firm.

I am approaching nearly 300 blogs through Clutton Cox and other companies. Blogs which I wrote well over 2 years ago are showing up as having been read recently.

The more pages you have indexed by Google the greater your potential reach and the ability to get found for the right keywords.

Jon Busby may only need to move house or have a tooth pulled every ten years or so, but there are thousands of others for whom that moment is right here, right now.

I am also in no doubt that personal recommendation is still the best referral route, but here’s the thing; the internet as an enabling tool makes it easy to validate a recommendation- by checking online and perusing the law firm website to make up your own mind.

Internet marketing represents the best strategy for small law firms to grow their business, win clients and achieve a significant ROI

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 9:36 pm.

Thanks Paul

Your reference to the decline of the Yellow Pages is an interesting one to consider further.

Are online search engines in effect replacing the Yellow Pages? I am sure they are. I can’t think when I last picked up a phone book rather than using Google.

Some solicitors still place adverts in the Yellow Pages (perhaps those with no real web presence) but a few years ago there would have been many many more doing so. Some placing large full page adverts costing thousands of pounds. The fact such adverts were placed were not just for existing clients/contacts to locate the law firm’s phone number but also to attract new clients looking for a lawyer. Such advertising I assume worked at the time (before the internet took over) and demonstrates that clients were using the Yellow Pages to find lawyers if they did not want to or could not easily obtain a personal recommendation.

The internet gives law firms a greater ability to differentiate themselves from their competitors than they could do in an advert of similar ones within the Yellow Pages.

As you quite rightly point out small law firms can stand out as well or better than their larger competitors online. In the days of Yellow Pages advertising they might not have been able to afford as large an advert as bigger law firms could. Today there is a clear ability to create a good online presence at minimal expense. This is particularly true of blogging.

It then does indeed follow that, as you say, “internet marketing represents the best strategy for small law firms to grow their business, win clients and achieve a significant ROI”.

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Ted Brooks on 16/05/2011 at 3:50 pm.

Great article and comments. I’ll add very briefly that both a website and a blog presence are important. The firm site establishes a business presence and provides information about the firm. A blog is generally less marketing, and more information.

My blog http://trial-technology.blogspot.com gets nearly ten times as much traffic as my website http://litigationtech.com

If your blog offers relevant and valuable information that others (potential new clients) are interested in, while it may not lead to instant clients, it can help establish you as a knowledgeable resource.

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 9:46 pm.

Thanks Ted

I am sure the level of traffic will be linked to the quantity of relevant content produced. This is perhaps the real benefit of having a blog as you are perhaps more likely to produce more frequent content on a blog than you would on a website. This is demonstrated by you having much more traffic to your blog than to your website. I will be interested to compare statistics at Inksters when we launch our dedicated law blogs distinct from our website.

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Jon Busby on 16/05/2011 at 3:53 pm.

With respect Paul, I think you are missing my point.

Content, SEO, PPC etc does not validate a firm necessarily (it does help). You get a top ranking. So? That tells me you are there sure but what I want to know is “are you any good?” My networks (online and offline) will confirm that.

Searching gives you options, sure, but it will increasingly be our networks that will help us determine whether that firm is good, bad or indifferent. Even if a few people, who I don’t know, say nice things about a firm on their site, I mistrust that. I trust who I know. I trust the network I have created myself.

Take my own site Legal 2.0. I keep my SEO deliberately low (I have better things to do). Why? Because I want others to validate what I say. That is far more compelling.

Online or offline, networks have the potential to decimate the search engine model.

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Paul Hajek on 16/05/2011 at 4:32 pm.

I am not talking about SEO, PPc et al.

Validation comes from quality content- that is the only defining attribute a potential client has to go on, where no personal recommendation is given.

How do you know your apocryphal butcher is any good either, other than by his displaying or educating you of his worth and benefits. you must still make an informed judgment or at worse an educated guess.

Testimonials also will help to give the online browser an idea of how good a particular firm is.

It is an imprecise science but the internet at least gives you a chance to demonstrate expertise in the face of much competition.

Networks however big or small can be widened by a significant online presence.

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Jon Busby on 16/05/2011 at 4:43 pm.

I know my butcher is good (or not) because I asked my neighbour next door (offline) and/or I exchanged a Tweet (online) one night with a friend who lives nearby who uses him.

I am validating the butcher and I am in control. I can ask as many or as few people as I choose to get the opinion that makes me want to buy or not.

In other words my network, in this scenario, leap frogs the whole search process.

All the butcher can do is offer quality and service that his customers like and ‘network’ him.

Of course I can say he is not good if he drops his quality…and tell everyone in my network.

Jon
ps it is as in many purchases in life, we all seek a personal recommendation. Very few things we can’t find a recommendation for.

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Paul Hajek on 16/05/2011 at 5:14 pm.

I have always received recommedations via the “butcher network” route, always have, always will.

What I am increasingly getting via the internet are new clients who do not have the benefit of an immediate “network” or recommendation and must define their own perception of quality when compared with other law firm websites

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 10:20 pm.

Thanks again Jon and Paul

Jon – perhaps you are assuming everyone is like you and will always seek a personal recommendation before making a purchase. Most probably will but there remains a sizable proportion who will not. This is born out by the actual experiences of myself, Paul and others. I would bet that the solicitors who are telling you otherwise do not have a strong online presence (most solicitors, as you pointed out in our exchange of tweets, do not).

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Mark Horrell on 16/05/2011 at 7:42 pm.

I suspect there may be a divide between those who are B2C and those who are B2B which mirrors the adoption of web content and social media generally. But there needn’t be, because good web content, including blogging, can be extremely useful to both.

In the case of the former, we already know consumers purchase everything from groceries to holidays online with very little validation, often just a few positive comments on a product review, and sometimes not even that. There are probably legal services, such as writing a will, where a similar thing is being done if consumers don’t know anyone who can make a recommendation. In these instances the importance of good quality search engine friendly web content is obvious, as Brian’s keyword list above demonstrates.

In the case of big commercial law firms none of us imagines for a minute much business gets done on the basis of a Google search. In this case clients might have a small number of firms in mind already, and what they will be doing is going to their websites and searching through lawyers’ CVs until they find someone suitable. And this is where blogging as thought leadership comes in. If the lawyer CV page contains a few links to their blog posts then it may well influence a potential client. We know already they’re influenced by a lawyer’s published work. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see that much of this content is moving online, including law firm websites, where a great many objective articles about topical legal issues get published.

Finally I’d like to make a couple of points about SEO and the growing importance of social media. The importance of links to Google’s search algorithm originated with the principle in academic circles that the more citations a work had in other published works, the more important the article was. Recently this has been abused by spammers because of the ease by which they have been able to create large quantities of poor quality automated content which links back to itself (‘content farms’). The principle of citations still holds true, however, it’s just that Google and other search providers have started looking for it in social media channels. Criteria such as no. of times content gets shared, no. of comments, and ratings by registered users (eg. the new Google +1 button) are becoming increasingly important. When we talk about blogging we have to remember that it’s ‘social’ media and that it’s not just about broadcasting yourself, but how you engage and respond to other people’s posts. And there is good evidence that users are more likely to share content by people they have already engaged with online.

Secondly, now user monitoring is becoming more sophisticated, there is growing evidence to support the theory of nth click, as opposed to last click, advertising. The theory here is that users are not in buying mode when they see adverts on Facebook, or read articles on other channels such as blogs, but this doesn’t mean they’re not reacting to it. By the time they’re in buying mode they go to a search engine to look for something they may well have seen elsewhere, exaggerating the importance of Google to the sale. It’s easy to see how this behaviour translates to purchasing legal services. The buyer is looking for a very technical product they may not know much about initially, so they decide to do some research. They may not even know that ‘crofting law’ is what they want (forgive my ignorance). By the time they get into buying mode they may well have read one of Brian’s excellent blog posts about crofting law in the research process (I haven’t read any of them, but if he writes as intelligently about crofting as he does about digi comms then I’m sure they’re top drawer). By this stage they will have a good idea of what they’re looking for, and when they type their search into Google they are probably looking for a name they have heard about elsewhere.

It may sound cruel to say this, but anyone who doesn’t think more of their client engagement will be moving online, of which blogging and search are key tools, should perhaps start thinking about early retirement.

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 10:38 pm.

Thanks Mark

Some very insightful points.

The route a searcher takes to find you is an interesting one. I am often asked about ROI of social media. I take the view that you should not get too hung up over that and treat it all as ‘the internet’. Ultimately it could be a combination of Twitter and your website/blog (perhaps even a personal recommendation thrown in) that leads a new client to you. They all work together but the web/blog will be more important (at the moment at least) than the Twitter stream.

As you say social media is, however, growing in importance and how law firms use social media channels in conjunction with their websites/blogs will be an ever important part of an online marketing strategy. Early retirement will, indeed, be a better thought for many.

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Nick Holmes on 16/05/2011 at 7:55 pm.

I’m not sure that considering how we choose our butcher helps us very much. Surely how important blogs (and websites in general) are to lawyers depends primarily on the type of law practice. Seems to me they are critical to a general PI practice, important for other volume B2C businesses like residential conveyancing and are effective if used properly in most other areas – to establish reputation, interact with peers and clients etc. These are going to be different sorts of blogs for different purposes.

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 10:45 pm.

Thanks Nick

Very true. The important point you make is “effective if used properly”. Having a blog will not help in itself unless that blog is used in an effective manner. The same is true of law firm websites and use of social media.

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Jon Busby on 16/05/2011 at 9:17 pm.

How about we leave the butcher for a moment.

How about we think of say an Apple Macbook. Cool marketing, amazing blogs, shoals of options but complex product.

Then you will reach info overload…too many choices.

I would wager money on it that any of you reading this who are thinking of buying a Macbook will then ask someone you know, someone you trust, “Mate, thinking about buying a Macbook, what’s it like?”

You will spend an eternity reading static content, working out infinite combinations in the Apple Store, all valuable. But your mate who said yes or no or whatever will most likely be the clincher.

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 11:19 pm.

Thanks again Jon

I don’t own any Apple products (my wife does though).

When I was deciding late late last year on which new mobile phone to upgrade to I asked friends and sought recommendations via Twitter, LinkedIn and other online networks.

Had I listened to those recommendations I would probably now have an iPhone. As you know instead I now have a Windows 7 phone. It was new and there were not many people who had one to recommend it. I read what I could about it online and came to a decision based on my own needs/thoughts rather than being particularly influenced by others.

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Nick Holmes on 17/05/2011 at 11:25 am.

Jon – Your point about validation is well made, but why don’t we look at some specific legal services instead of drawing analogies with other types of products and services. Take conveyancing. Many homebuyers/sellers/remortgagers will ask for recommendations from their friends and neighbours or their estate agent or their virtual friends, connections and followers, but many will also be directly persuaded by a good web presence found via Google – as Paul points out from his own experience. On the other hand, BigCo looking for a commercial property lawyer will take a way different route … and so on. It would be useful if others chimed in as regards their particular practice types.

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 11:37 pm.

Thanks again Nick

On the question of BigCo looking for a commercial property lawyer there is an interesting post on how SEO works for corporate law firms at The Great Jakes Blog:-

http://www.greatjakes.com/blog/is-seo-snake-oil-heres-the-truth-about-search-engine-optimization-for-law-firm-websites/

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Nick Holmes on 31/05/2011 at 9:09 am.

Good find.

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Boyd Butler on 17/05/2011 at 11:40 am.

Law firm has website.
People that want service find it via search.
They read/watch/listen.
They pick up the phone.
They give money to law firm.

It’s the best feeling in the world.

Happens all the time. I know because I set up a website to do this
and track all calls.

I know Paul Hajek gets lots of business from his blog too.

More people will use self-authentication online because that’s what younger people will do. They take reviews, testimonials, citations as social proof. That;s why Amazon is so good with the “60% of people that visit this page buy this item.”

Sure people get word of mouth recommendations etc but this is not an either/or scenario. You just do everything that works right?

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Brian Inkster on 28/05/2011 at 11:49 pm.

Thanks Boyd

I am increasingly finding that they do not necessarily pick up the phone in the first instance but often complete an online contact form detailing their problem and requesting the law firm to contact them. Had two of those in one day last week.

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Jon Busby on 17/05/2011 at 12:08 pm.

Nick please can I just clarify something here.

My argument is not about whether searching is good or bad, black or white. My argument is that whilst static content exists we all value the opinion of our trusted network than the ‘push’ network. It is increasingly our networks that drive us to search, or point us to where we should search.Yet all the counter arguments to what I am saying keep coming back to the value of static content.

My suggest would be that if someone is Googling the chances are pretty high that they will be part of some kind of online network. Many may do it all on your own, (finding out stuff) but I don’t think that will be as many as those who use their network, be that offline or online, (deciding which stuff is best).

Plus putting all this content in the public domain, available for free does not necessarily equal client buying an generating income for a firm. If it isn’t generating income it is creating a cost. 75% of firms work comes from word of mouth. This is high, this is high in the ‘always on’ world.

The next argument will be along the lines of “I get 60,000 referrals a month” no doubt. That’s great. But how many of those convert to income? That’s the critical bit. Because everyone that doesn’t, everyone that you are processing and turns to dust is costing you money.

Boyd. Interesting points but I think, (seemingly wrongly) that the leap from “They read/watch/listen” to “They pick up the phone” is not necessarily a natural progression. I remain unconvinced that it is. If it does, I suspect the validation (offline or online) happened prior to arriving at the site in the first place.

Perhaps the individual service of conveyancing, (necessary to buy a house, highly commoditised process etc), lends itself well to this methodology. I doubt it is the same for wills/estates, divorce work etc. Do clients ring up and say “I need a petition document” or do they ring up and say “help, my mate Julie used you for her divorce, she says you are the biz.”

To be honest though, I feel like I am going round in circles here. Not sure what more I can add, which I am sure you will all be grateful for 😉

Jon

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Brian Inkster on 29/05/2011 at 12:13 am.

Thanks again Jon

I find that almost all potential clients who come to Inksters via our websites convert to clients. On the whole they have already decided that they wish to instruct us based on the content that led them to us.

There is no time wasted and no money lost. Quite the contrary.

It is very clear where a recommendation is involved and where none is. We ask all new clients and record the source of business on our CRM system.

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Stephen Moore on 17/05/2011 at 5:23 pm.

Hi Brian,

As you know, we work with a range of law firms & professional services companies helping them to make the most out of their online activity. In addition we provide an outsourced service whereby law firms lease online shops fronts from us and we ensure that they deliver enquiries. My comments below are based on experience, are factual and can be backed up by reports and statistics.

Bizarrely enough lawyers are uniquely placed to make the most out of internet & search engine marketing because the general public, in general, trust them. Where they rank well in search and have a well designed site with clear calls to action they will generate new business and potentially lots of it. Jon will no doubt be cynical about my reasons for posting this here, but if he spoke to any of our customers he would find out why almost all of them end up spending more on internet marketing once they begin seeing the results.

Last month http://www.familylawliverpool.co.uk generated 100 enquiries for our partner firm and the equivalent employment law site generated about the same. Our partner firms are happy to pay our fee and have asked for proposals on what else we can do for them. Simply put, effective internet marketing is a game changer for law firms willing to embrace it.

As far as blogging is concerned our view is that a firm should work on creating as good a site as possible on a well optimised search engine friendly platform. A routinely updated, social media friendly and integrated blog will drive the longer tail traffic which will help to grow visits on an ongoing basis. If this blog is integrated into the site as well as social media channels, as opposed to being on a standalone platform, then the benefits will be even greater as a result of existing page rank and domain history.

In addition a search engine friendly indexed blog will help increase rankings for keyphrases as well as for longer tail keyphrases. An example would be if you type in the phrase ‘Family Lawyers Edinburgh’ into Google. Our site takes up the top three organic (free) spots and we attribute this to the integrated blog.

I would be happy to chat through this further with Jon, or anybody else, but we simply do not persuade law firms to do more online anymore. If they can’t see how important the internet is becoming as a potential source of business we are not going to waste time trying to persuade them.

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Brian Inkster on 29/05/2011 at 12:21 am.

Thanks Stephen

There are different schools of thought about a blog being integrated into a law firm website. Kevin O’Keefe takes the view that you should not do this and gives 10 reasons why not to:-

http://kevin.lexblog.com/2009/01/articles/blog-basics/10-reasons-why-a-law-blog-does-not-belong-inside-your-law-firm-website/

Any views on this?

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Colmmu on 23/05/2011 at 11:56 pm.

Social proof ie the validation and recommendation of your trusted network, be it online or offline is where SEO is ultimately going, those ahead of the curve are already looking at how to capitalise on this in marketing terms, this is where the likes of Klout et al come into play, if you can incentivise those with strong networks in niches to advocate services and products, then you can tap into social proof. The query will then be whether you trust this endorsement from friends and connections any more than you do a celeb endorsement. It will be astroturfing taken to it’s logical conclusion. @legaltwo followed a recommendation of mine for a lawyer recently, what if unknown to him I was being financially incentivised to make this recommendation, would it decrease in value?

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Brian Inkster on 29/05/2011 at 12:41 am.

Thanks Jon (Colmmu)

I do wonder about the value of Klout etc. at the moment. I believe these can be manipulated and as we saw with Twitter Grader (in Law Firm Twitteratigate – The Whole Story) can produce results that are clearly erroneous.

However, no doubt through time these will be refined and may become more reliable.

Worrying though to think that we may have people with high Klout scores being incentivised to endorse products/services. It then perhaps becomes no more than advertising rather than true endorsement.

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Boyd Butler on 24/05/2011 at 10:06 am.

People do ring up and say, “I want a Lasting Power of Attorney, is Paul S. there please?” directly after finding and reading or watching website content. I would suggest all firms listen to their callers because it’s the best research you can do.

Blogs help to qualify the type of person that calls i.e. a serious buyer.

The blog gives personality to the law firm and the individual which is a major reason that people feel confident enough to pick up the phone. This phone call is an emotional one. “I feel comfortable enough with this solicitor because of what I have seen so I am going to find out if they can help me with my problem.”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s called a blog, or updated content or whatever.

The act of writing/recording regularly (every day) will help solicitors become better communicators and thinkers. And this helps make sales online and offline. It increases the number of enquiries and conversions. It provides offline content for marketing in a variety of ways.

To blog or not to blog is not the question. The question is “how many ways can I communicate to my current and future clients in a way that enables them to build up a loyal relationship with me and their network…profitably”

Communication is the key to interaction. The more you do the better you become.

Switch off the TV and blog. You’ll never make money watching the TV. But you could change someone’s life by blogging. And that’s what all solicitors do. Change lives.

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Brian Inkster on 29/05/2011 at 11:07 am.

Thanks again Boyd

I would agree, from my experience, with the statement in your first paragraph. Although as I commented earlier I am seeing such contact happen as, or more, frequently by e-mail as a result of an online form being completed rather than by phone.

I managed to create this particular blog post with the TV on. It was, however, the Eurovision Song Contest so no great distraction 😉

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Kirsten Hodgson on 24/05/2011 at 10:08 am.

Great post Brian.

I agree that most people will find a lawyer through personal recommendation. However, you may have been recommended along with two or three others. You all come with glowing recommendations so how can you tip the level playing field in your favour? This is where I think blogs etc really come into play because the next step a person is likely to take (assuming they’re not ready to call everyone who’s been recommended to them yet) is to do an online search – if you have complete social media profiles (particularly on LinkedIn) and regularly share valuable content then you can set yourself apart before the person has even met you.

I think one of the biggest mistakes many lawyers currently make is to set up Twitter or LinkedIn accounts (or indeed blogs) and then do nothing with them. At the very least people need to ensure their profiles are complete and compelling. Social media profiles rank highly in search engine results. If you google me, for example, one of the first things you’ll find is my LinkedIn profile. Imagine someone who has been given your name as a potential lawyer does this and clicks on your social media profiles only to find they are incomplete – it doesn’t bode well. I think some lawyers assume prospective clients will look at their website first – I just don’t think that’s a smart assumption any more.

Would love to hear others views.

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Brian Inkster on 29/05/2011 at 11:14 am.

Thanks Kirsten

I recently had a new client who said they were looking at two alternative solicitors but it was my firm’s website that tipped the balance between the two and brought them to us.

I agree with the need to keep all online profiles up to date. It can, however, at times be a challenge. I have in recent times seen some larger law firms embrace Twitter with a multitude of Twitter streams. However, many of these are hardly, if at all, updated. They would be better placed with one account that was regularly maintained. I will not go on about this further here as I have a blog post on the topic sitting on the shelf.

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Boyd Butler on 25/05/2011 at 1:28 pm.

Your online personal brand is very important. If you don’t have one, create one. If you do have one check it and improve it. Blogs can help with this. But anyone not in control of their own brand is going to struggle going forward. To our clients and prospects we are what others think of us.

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Brian Inkster on 29/05/2011 at 11:17 am.

Thanks Boyd

You may be interested in the presentation I did on the importance of personal branding for young lawyers to the students on the Diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow:-

http://www.inksters.com/itandmarketinginthelegalprofession.aspx

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Boyd Butler on 29/05/2011 at 10:14 pm.

Teaching always means you get to know a subject well!

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Miriam Said on 29/05/2011 at 3:12 am.

I can offer a different perspective in this debate.

I am not a lawyer….yet.

I can come from the angle of a prospective client on this one.

Recently I had cause to Google search for a lawyer

I searched for a local lawyer

I always follow the rule as I do with plumbers, other trades, I seek out the three that look to offer the best service and then I telephone those three to see how they interact with me.

If I am not satisfied with that telephone call, from all three firms, then Istart my searching again.

I have no cause to ask my “in real life” network as I do not want them to know my private business or legal dealings.

I would look at the websites of those legal firms and make a judgement. Are they up to date with their content, because if they are not, then I would feel that they were very poor at communicating with me if I did instruct them.

Does the website seem easy to navigate and is it overloading me with too much information. Some legal websites are dire, with just brochure broadcasting and no meaningful content other than the contacts page. I wouldn’t instruct such a firm.

If I like the website and the content is strong, clear, relevant and up to date, then I will add that firm to my top three list to contact. If not, they go in the bin.

Next, does the website point to a blog? If it does, then I will go and have a read of that blog.

Does the blog give me more information about who is in the law firm? Does the blog have strong, engaging and readable content that isn’t in legalese?

If so then this law firm will get a star next to it’s top three selection.

I’ll then telephone those firms…and the firm, or firms that I feel listened to me on the telephone and then quickly arranged a mutually convenient meeting at the law firms officesm would get a visit from me.

It is only after I have visited those preferred firms, that I will choose to instruct one.

If that firm concludes my legal business on a wave of brilliant customer care and attention as well as contacting me with timely updates, then I may also blog about that firm on my own blog.

This will have all been done without an “in real life” contact ever being involved, that is until my online network reads my blog and asks me if the law firm were really that good, to which I shall give an honest answer.

The current law firm I am dealing with at this moment in time were sourced this way and they are a niche firm. I have also sourced another law firm for a different legal matter I am currently dealing with, in the same way and I can honestly say that I am greatly impressed with their client care.

I won’t name any names, however…well not yet anyway.

But as a fan of Inksters and @The TimeBlawg, I know where to point any enquiries in my interactive networks, be that online or “in real life”, if anyone requires any advice on Crofting Law or Scottish Legal matters.

I would also point out to them that Inksters, as a law firm, often engage in charitable acts and would also point my networks to Inksters website or to @TheTimeBlawg for them to research for themselves and I would advise them not to take my word for it.

I like to think that people should be given the opportunity to find things out for themselves, which also creates a very strong loyalty link to the law firm that they do finally select.

But then again, not every one who needs legal advice thinks with a clear head as they may be emotionally charged, as many clients seeking help with divorce or family law matters, are in a high state of emotional distress and often just go for the first lawyer they contact, which can be a bad thing, sometimes.

So if you are practising family law or deal mainly with divorce in your legal practise, make sure you are consistently at the top of the Google rankings.

Be there for your clients and be the best, get to the top and get there on Google.

Get a current and up to date website and get a blog. It may also be a good idea to guest blog in other service areas such as, guest blog on an estate agent’s blog or website, offering some general legal advice and make sure that within that guest blog, that you give all of your firm’s contact streams and that includes any blogs.

It depends on your law firms practising areas of law, but guest blog on any thing that remotley looks like a blog or a website. It makes it a lot more easy to find you online if you do.

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Brian Inkster on 29/05/2011 at 11:22 am.

Thanks Miriam

Great to hear from a non lawyer.

Sometimes we lawyers think we know best what our clients want and do. We don’t always get this right.

The point you make about confidentiality is a very important one. I think many clients do not want to discuss the fact that they need to see a lawyer with friends or family (at least not at the outset) and thus will often turn to the internet in the first instance. They may not do it in the well thought out and logical way that you do, but great if they do.

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Tx semi truck accident lawyer on 14/06/2011 at 12:08 am.

A law firm web site is important for some firms and not so much for others. If nothing else, having one that looks good and is current shows a legal consumer that you care about your image and should have enough information about the firm for them to make a decision to contact you or not.

Many web sites look good but are misleading about the firm status or the type of law practice. As an expert in everything. The best approach is to look professional and give accurate information about the firm.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 9:49 pm.

Thanks Tx … lawyer

Good advice.

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Steve Simpson on 04/08/2011 at 9:31 am.

Really good post, and comments.

I was website manager at Irwin Mitchell and IM invested heavily in Link Building, SEO and PPC and the ROI at that time was fantastic, we started in 2006 and were perhaps pushing open doors at that time. I was instrumental in IM developing a Microsite strategy that today I would probably advise against, as I think we can probably achieve the same results for less, such as your Blog Brian on wordpress.

Social is such a fast moving picture, with having to understand what monitoring software you should consider, Radion / meltwater etc. How to respond to posts, particularly bad ones. Rolling out a twitter / blogging activity.

At Pannone Solicitors we have over 2200 followers on Twitter (TheSolicitor) and we are looking at using this more in the coming months, and developing other twitter accounts, along with our own Blogs on http://www.pannone.com, we are in fact rolling out a social activity, initially for the family department, but eventually all the departments will have some form of social activity within their online strategy. It could just be making the best use of LinkedIn for the corporate side of the firm, but I doubt. The hard part of Social is time, trying to make sure that it fits in with your everyday life, not having to think… I have to do my blog, it has to just become second nature.

As for business form Google, I know from experience B2C clients use search as a research tool, looking at approximately three companies before making a choice of which firm to use. The impact in visitor numbers form moving from page 2 to page 1 is stunning.
I am probably telling people here how to suck eggs, but every tool in Marketing is more important than ever.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 8:44 pm.

Thanks Steve

All good points. Always good to hear from someone who has seen the benefits first hand. Many law firm’s out there still need to suck their first egg!

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colmmu on 04/08/2011 at 11:22 am.

oneforty.com has some great tools for managing and monitoring social (particularly like socialbase), additionally I quite like geckoboards.com for easy access dashboards for monitoring work.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 8:47 pm.

Thanks Jon

Good to be reminded about http://oneforty.com/ – It is a while since I last visited it. I should go there more often.

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Kathy Long on 05/08/2011 at 7:06 am.

My law firm client’s analytics show about 90% of the searches include their personal names proving that referral brings them the bulk of their business. And it’s not that they don’t have plenty of other optimized copy for the search engines to eat up either. They place right up at the top for local keyword queries, but it’s searches on their names that bring the hits.

And what’s interesting is that those hits don’t just bounce. Oh many do probably after they get the phone number, but many more hang around and make their way to the blog and the about and bio pages.

Sure, referrals are key, but without a supporting website to back them up, those referrals might just land on deaf ears.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 9:22 pm.

Thanks Kathy

The website and pages for each lawyer is therefore important to make sure they are found. I agree that if referrals are made and the law firm does not have a website or pages for their lawyers then that could well deter/prevent an ultimate client/lawyer relationship.

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Michael on 16/08/2011 at 4:37 pm.

Great article. I’ve my reservations about social media. It seems some law firms do it very well but a lot just set up accounts and then forget about it…

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 9:24 pm.

Thanks Michael

As long as they use it they will reap the benefits.

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Sucheet Amin on 27/09/2011 at 3:49 pm.

I think Miriam raised some excellent points in her post, and backs up those of Steve Simpson too. Internet marketing, or being found on the first page, is of course important, but breaking down the barriers and preconceptions many people have about legal firms is a challenge for your overall marketing strategy.

It’s evident that people use google search for research and cherry pick what they perceive to be the best of the bunch. Our marketing should not entirely rest on being as high up on the search results as possible, but to ensure that consumers looking at a distance medium like a web page are engaged and feel at ease.

People buy from people, so we (http://www.aequitaslegal.co.uk) try to ensure our staff are presented with photographs and biogs so that we become a much more personable firm to deal with. Of course our lead response and follow ups have to be spot on to ensure we get the highest conversion rate which is why we would all benefit from focusing on a well rounded approach to our marketing and PR.

In response to Michael – Social Media is a critical platform for Legal Companies and represents the best possible opportunity for referrals and recommendations. The whole theory of search engine optimisation is based on votes of confidence and recommendations (with link acquisition so key) – that’s why Facebook and Twitter are essential for any company.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 9:26 pm.

Thanks Sucheet

I agree with all that you say.

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David on 24/10/2011 at 12:03 pm.

Great Post,

More and more people are now searching online for all types of traditional services, which used to be very personal and person based but are now widely found online.

I think any Law firm which wants to keep up to date on the latest news and to keep their reputation as an authority need to share information online. whether this be via a website, Blog, Twitter account or many othe Social media platforms.

Website referrals are really big business in other sectors, as the growth of comparison sites has shown.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 9:29 pm.

Thanks David

I agree and think that sharing needs to be via a combination of the platforms you refer to.

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im3 on 27/10/2011 at 2:58 pm.

I run several SEO campaigns for solicitors and barristers in the UK. One of the chambers websites receives around 900 clicks per day. Around 70% are people researching the barrister profiles or certain aspects of law (the site is extremely content rich). The rest are people searching for direct access services from barristers in criminal / corporate defence related fields.

So I would say that if this chambers had no website they would be much worse off for it. They can directly attribute several lucrative cases to website based leads.

I would suggest that Twitter and Facebook are based on afterthoughts of how to connect with your existing clients, not how to directly drum up new business.

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Brian Inkster on 29/10/2011 at 9:35 pm.

Thanks im3

That does not surprise me and I think that on the whole Barristers could be doing much more to promote themselves online. Some do this very well but they are very much in the minority.

Twitter (I can’t vouch for Facebook) if used properly is a networking tool that can certainly drum up new business via referrals.

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CK Claims Ltd on 30/03/2012 at 7:26 pm.

Both Twitter and Facebook when used properly can lead to quality referals, especially by using paid ads triggered by relevant keywords. This said, if you’re a local solicitor your best bet would be to setup a Google Places listing to target the local results, we’ve had a lot of leads from this!

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Tylers Solicitors on 20/03/2014 at 2:48 pm.

Isn’t it great to see so many Solicitors and legal followers engage? I don’t think I have even come across this amount of power even on the Law ezine not to mention any names. I want to reference to “Colmmu” that you don’t need any fancy marketing tools, just simple analytics and a tracked phone number can help you manage and compare your leads. I don’t have a sales force or solicitors who work remotely so I can’t vouch for how these marketing tools work on the grand scale of things, but my campaigns run fine and if you know your data back to front then that is all you need to know. If you get bogged down with too much social media you can easily loose focus of what’s really important and that is giving your users fresh relevant content and great customer service when they pick up the phone, so when they are choosing which solicitor is best of the 3, you are going to be remembered for how you were to them on the phone.

If you are in tune with your customer profile and what they want from a solicitor, then you are half way there. You don’t need any magic tools to look at that, but digging deeper into your competitors and your data will teach you a thing or two.

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John Jones on 01/05/2014 at 10:19 am.

With the rate of technological development being so fast, I believe people do search for lawyers online using a variety of devices. You only have to go to the google keyword planner to see the results. It is the searchers intent behind the search that makes all the difference when it comes to new business.

Branding and giving something back to charity and the community is also a must in my opinion as it raises your profile. For example, we have just released a press release about our new sponsorship to charity in memory of Ayrton Senna.

Great post by the way.

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James Scott on 20/04/2015 at 11:09 am.

Technology is moving fast and for Solicitors to maximize their marketing efforts they still need to stick to basic timeless direct response mechanisms. After all technology is just a medium where by the right message reaches the right people at the right time. I see so many big firms throwing away mountains of money on TV ads with no call to action or fancy websites with no form on the first page?

Some things never change and good solid marketing needs to be in play which is often not in place with many online and social media campaigns, A lot of firms spend money on social media because they think they should not because they understand why. This can lead to a lot of money being spent with the wrong companies.

Fresh relevant content is good but most people when they reply to an ad or website are in a distressed state of mind and the ability to create a connection and assure confidence will go a long way to getting the maximum response to marketing efforts.

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