According to a recent law firm commissioned survey of people who hired an attorney within the last year, the leading way they found that attorney was through relationships. And it wasn’t even close.

Relationships were how 37% of people located their attorney. The next most popular source for finding an attorney was the Web at 17%.

A surprise? Hardly.

From legal marketing and SEO consultant, Gyi Tsakalakis, who synthesized the results of the survey in a post over at Avvo’s Lawyernomics:

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that legal services consumers continue to hire lawyers by asking people who they know and trust. There have been several surveys that have borne out similar results. But most experienced lawyers don’t need surveys to tell them that, they’ve lived it.

Tsakalakis is right that the Web really hasn’t change a thing as far as how most people choose an attorney.

You see, the web helps us create, nurture and solidify relationships. You have probably heard somewhere that you need to market your practice on the internet. But you misunderstood how the internet works in the context of building relationships. This is part of the reason why there are so many lame law firm Facebook pages.

Instead of bombarding people with more law firm advertisements that they hate, try a different approach to communicating the value of your services. Highlight your most important reputation evidence. Think of yourself as a publisher, not a commercial.

Lawyers tend to spend so much time and money obsessing about things like links, rankings and followers. These tend to be the same lawyers who don’t regularly contact current and former clients. These are the people who are most likely to send you your next clients. Spend more time doing real law firm stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, the Web makes for a richer experience when selecting an attorney. There are countless ways people can use the Web to become more informed.

Directory listings, articles, reviews, and websites are all commonly used by people in the selection of an attorney and other professionals. Many folks will turn to these resources after getting the name of an attorney via a relationship they have.

But the leading way people first look for their attorney is via relationships. Friend, relative, co-worker, industry peer, fellow board member, industry leader or what have you.

I have to believe that in 1915 the leading way people found a lawyer was through relationships. Those lawyers who got out and networked to build relationships and a strong word-of-mouth reputation got more work.

It’s the same today with the Web. Those lawyers who use the Internet to build relationships and a strong word-of-mouth reputation will get more work.

The Web, working at its finest, expands everyone’s network of relationships. Blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook build trust, relationships and word of mouth.

100 years later people still choose lawyers via relationships. Unlike 1915, the Web helps lawyers and non-lawyers build those relationships.