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Law firm websites are not the foundation of online business development

law firm websitesIn response to my post that law firms are focusing too much on websites, my friend and legal marketing professional, Steve Matthews, responded that he couldn’t disagree more and that websites are the foundation of business development online for law firms.

I’m very confident in my position that the law firm website continues to be the foundation piece for executing business development online — and that includes relationship, referral, and word-of-mouth marketing. Not having a website, or a poorly executed website, can be one of the most serious detriments to the online sales chain. Bad firm websites are a roadblock that stops every other law firm online activity in its tracks.

Let’s face it: lawyers can have outstanding online reputations or be well regarded online commentators. But if their firm website doesn’t back that reputation up, contact conversions (emails, phone calls and contact forms) die at the doorstep; traffic simply won’t convert to contacts. Most legal marketers have seen this happen at least to one of their clients’ websites over the years.

Online commentary and reputation are excellent ways to bring people to your door. But very few will pass over the threshold if you can’t even explain what business you’re in.

The fact is law firms have websites. The question is not whether to have a website or not. The question is whether law firms should throw more money and time at their website when the firm’s lawyers and business development professionals don’t know how to use the Internet to network.

Relationships and a strong word a word of mouth reputation are how lawyers get their work. Always has been. Always will be.

Lawyers and law firms got plenty of work before we had websites. They did it through networking.

The Internet doesn’t change that. The Internet just presents lawyers a golden opportunity to network so as to build relationships and enhance one’s reputation at an accelerated rate.

When it comes to networking through the Internet, a website doesn’t make the list of the most important items to master.

  • LinkedIn. Not just as your profile of record that’s more important than the bio on your websites, but as a consumate networking arena.
  • RSS reader. How can you network with others online if you cannot hear what others are talking about?
  • Blog. There is simply no better way for a lawyer to grow professionally and from a business development standpoint than to blog in an engaging fashion.
  • Twitter. In addition to Twitter possibly being the single biggest personal branding tool since the television, Twitter provides lawyers a powerful information network and relationship building tool.
  • Facebook. Too many lawyers divide the online world into personal and professional. Networkers know you can’t do it. Facebook enables lawyers to enhance their relationships with close business associates. 
  • Google+. No one has a firm grip on where Google+ is headed, but there is no question it’s here to stay and is going to influence search and discovery of information and people. Lawyers would be well served to experiment with Google+.

Those six tools are all about networking through the Internet. Networking that empowers a lawyer to build relationships and enhance their reputation.

Networking online certainly does not replace face to face networking and meetings. Networking online accelerates the opportunities for face to face networking and meeting with prospective clients.

I meet a hundred times the people I want to meet for business development reasons as other business people do. The reason is that I network through the Internet. The same is the case for lawyers who do so.

I have never heard of one person who has developed a relationship with me or another lawyer through LinkedIn, Blogging, Twitter, and other online networking turn the other way because of a deficiency in our websites.

LexBlog’s website has always been a sense of frustration for our team. We’re not convinced our website conveys well what we do or how we’re different.

We have plans to upgrade our website, but our networking to build relationships and build our word of mouth reputation has enabled LexBlog to grow at a pretty fast clip year over year.

Websites simply don’t get law firms and lawyers new legal work from the types of clients most law firms and lawyers want. Rainmaking through networking does.

I am not suggesting that law firms do away with websites. I am not suggesting that law firms not have a website. 

What I am suggesting is that once you have a website, put your money where you get your best clients – into learning how to network online.

Ask the best lawyers in your firm. Ask the lawyers in your community who have the best business. Ask the managing partners leading successful law firms. Ask the chief marketing officers of major firms. 

All of them will tell you their best work comes from relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation. All of them will tell you that relationships and a strong word of mouth reputation come from lawyers getting out networking.

Now that the Internet has arrived, don’t change course. Don’t leave your common sense at the doorway. Go with what brung you. Networking to build relationships and a strong reputation.

Unfortunately, networking online is not something which many lawyers and law firm business development people understand. Nor does networking online come naturally.

That’s why law firms out to forgo emphasis on existing websites, and put their money into educating their lawyers, business development professionals and their marketing/communications professionals what networking online is all about.

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