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Law firm websites : Debate continues

blockbuster Law firm wesbitesI blogged a week ago that law firms would better advised to spend their time and money on networking through the Internet than websites. I have nothing against websites, they’re great. It’s just once you’ve got a website, focus on building relationships and enhancing your reputation through the Internet. Nothing I’ve blogged about in the last year as brought as much opposition. I responded to Steve Matthews, someone I have great respect for, that websites are not the foundation of online business development. Today’s comes from law firm SEO and inbound marketing strategist, Jack Falconberg, who sets up the straw man argument against me of what’s better for attorneys, blogs or websites? Falconberg’s of the impression that networking through the Internet on a blog and the like to enhance one’s reputation and build relationships may be for some types of lawyers, but not for others.

The truth is that word of mouth and reputation are not as important for some practice areas as they are for others. If you want to build an employment law practice, for example, most of your work will come from relationships you build with HR departments and businesses in your state. This type of client doesn’t usually do a Google search and call the firm that shows up at the top of the search results. For this type of practice, attorneys should focus their energies on all of the things that Kevin advocates (networking, relationship building, thought leadership, etc.). But not all practices are like this. The person who is looking for a DUI, bankruptcy, or divorce lawyer may not be interested in a long-term relationship and probably doesn’t care whether their local attorney is a thought leader.

The leading lawyers in my town who handled DUI, bankruptcy, and divorce matters got their work not from advertising, but by relationships and a a word of mouth reputation they built by networking and doing a great job for people. One of my partners had the best divorce practice in Western Wisconsin. Why? Because she networked like there was no tomorrow.

  • She wrote chapters in the state bar’s family law guide.
  • She was president of the chamber.
  • She sat on boards supporting the rights of victims of domestic abuse.
  • She sat on boards of foster care centers.
  • She sat on the most influential boards in town, including the board of one of the state’s leading healthcare providers.
  • She spoke at leading family law conferences at a state and national level.
  • She had great cocktail parties with community, business, and political leaders.
She built tremendous relationships with the movers and shakers in our community. Bankers knew her. Accountants knew her. Business executives knew her. Lawyers from around the state knew her.
Never once did she go out and try to build relationships with or try to demonstrate her thought leadership to the ‘soon to be divorced.’ But networking to establish thought leadership, relationships, and to enhance her reputation with the folks who influenced her client flow, made her one of the more successful lawyers in our state.
And there was nothing special about her, a kid going to a state school in La Crosse who grew up in a middle class Polish family in Milwaukee. Heck, I think it was goat’s blood her mom used to bring on the train for cooking.
As I commented to Jack, no question websites have value, that’s not the question. It’s never been a blog verus website thing either
  1. When it comes to the net, focus on the foundation of business development, which in the case of lawyers is networking to build relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation;
  2. When it comes to the net, focus on the future not the status quo.

The future of the net is not websites and traditional SEO. It’s networking through the various mediums now at a lawyers disposal. Mediums uniquely suited for business development because they focus on networking to build relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation. Historically, Barnes & Noble bookstores solds lots of books and Blockbuster stores rented lots of videos. Spending money on building more stores and advertising buys to get people in was what those companies wanted and received only a few years ago. In the case of Yellow Page companies, salespeople sold to me as a trial lawyer for two decades. No question they had compelling case studies from the success of some lawyers. When I came to Seattle in 1999, Howard Schultz’s lawyer laughed at me when I told him that yellow pages and directories like Martindale-Hubbell were going to become increasing irrelevant. Companies and people who play to history, or even the status quo to meet people’s perceived needs, can find over time that’s in no one’s interest.