Top Ten BeethovenMost lawyers and legal marketing professionals responded with just two words: Social Media.

That from a Legal Marketing Survey Report (pdf) by Avvo and LexBlog I shared with you yesterday. In my post yesterday I shared that the survey found law firms are curtailing investment in marketing traditional and embrace digital marketing.

In a continuing series of blog posts to help lawyers and legal marketing professionals support the case for social media in their firms, today I want to share from the same survey what lawyers and legal marketing professionals believe to be the ‘Top 10 Ways Legal Marketing Has Changed in the Past Five Years.’

  1. Legal marketing has moved to social media online. In fact most people responded with just two words: Social Media. It’s very clear search engines (Google) and social media (LinkedIn, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook,  etc.) have dramatically changed the way lawyers market their services and the tools they use.
  2. Need for online presence. The widespread belief that a lawyer must have an online presence to be recognized among peers and clients.
  3. Legal marketing is more competitive and aggressive. Because the cost to market legal services is far less (or even free) than what it used to be when advertising was primarily offline, it has effectively leveled the playing field for all lawyers across firm size, years of experience and practice area.
  4. Yellow pages are irrelevant. The Yellow Pages are no longer relevant and print media has declined dramatically to where it no longer makes business sense for lawyers to spend money on those channels.
  5. Bar rules confusion. The adoption of new marketing channels has created chaos among bar associations who struggle with adapting new rules and regulations. This has led to confusion and uncertainty among lawyers.
  6. Clients are smarter. People no longer rely on word of mouth – they do their own research when looking to hire an attorney, most often online, and come to appointments better educated and prepared with questions and requirements for establishing a client relationship.
  7. Older lawyers and more traditional law firms are adapting to the online world. Where at one time digital media was dismissed or its use even banned, there’s now an understanding of how important these tools are for the practice.
  8. Difficult to keep up. With so many different marketing tools, it is difficult to keep up. Lawyers feel overwhelmed.
  9. Relationships and reputation still matter, but increasing the use of online channels to market services makes it harder to develop personal connections.
  10. Rise in the smart phone and mobile. Along with the social media explosion, the rise in smart phone usage is also changing how potential clients find and contact, attorneys. Marketing plans now need to factor in mobile as a platform.

Two findings that require comment are number six, that people no longer rely on word of mouth – they do their online research, and number nine, that though relationships and word of mouth still matter, online channels make it more difficult to develop personal connections.

Word of mouth and asking a person you trust is the number one way Americans find a lawyer. Per a study last year by American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services:

People with personal legal matters are far more likely to turn to trusted sources instead of impersonal sources to find a lawyer… Trusted sources’ include friends, co-employees, business associates, relatives, and so on.

It’s after relying on relationships and a lawyer’s reputation, perhaps both accelerated by developing a strong online identity, that consumers of legal services go online to investigate the lawyer whose name they have received or heard of.

A website or LinkedIn profile is not then enough for a lawyer. People are looking to see that the lawyer is a real leader in their field. Are they thought highly of by their peers and the public? Does their blog show their intellect, passion, and care. Is what they are saying and writing being shared by others on social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Are they being quoted by leading bloggers and the media. All of these things are established by developing an online identity.

On number nine, as to relationships and reputation, I and thousands of lawyers on the LXBN network have found their relationships and reputation accelerated by developing a powerful online identity. We have not found online activity to make it harder to make connections, we have found it easier. I can only guess that many of the lawyers who responded to the survey did not understand how to use the Internet to develop relationships and connections.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jerry Bakewell.