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Foundation of Successful Legal Practice Lies In Establishing Trusted Reputation Versus YellowPages, Now SEO Visibility

Walking home from Starbucks yesterday, we talked about how much the landscape for selecting a lawyer had changed by the late 1990s when I moved to Seattle to start PrairieLaw, an online community connecting people to good lawyers. The days of picking a lawyer from the yellow pages were just about dead – in my mind.

The yellow pages were simply a platform where lawyers who paid the most money got the most visibility. When people needed a lawyer for divorce, workers’ compensation, a will, or setting up a business, they turned to the largest yellow page ads.

The Internet began to change everything. Lawyers started answering questions from consumers online, whether on message boards on AOL and PrairieLaw, listservs, or usenet groups. This allowed real lawyers to provide real answers to real people in need. Consumers could see which lawyers held authority in their area of law and chose those lawyers based on informed decisions.

It seemed impossible that lawyers could screw up this one up. They did. SEO and content marketing started to overshadow genuine engagement. Lawyers replaced huge yellow page payments with huge SEO payments.

While a person may find a good lawyer through SEO and content marketing, much like they might have via a large yellow page ad, this method doesn’t necessarily establish a strong reputation and a substantial and ongoing book of business for a lawyer.

Curious and for a little fun, I asked AI, “Reputation or yellow pages n/k/a SEO?”


While SEO is important for visibility and attracting traffic, it should support rather than replace the goal of becoming an authority. Effective SEO can help ensure that high-quality, niche-specific content reaches a broader audience. However, the foundation of a successful legal practice lies in establishing yourself as a trusted expert in your field.

By focusing on building your reputation as an authority in a niche, you can create a more reliable and robust book of business, leveraging both your expertise and the power of modern digital tools to connect with clients genuinely in need of your services.”

Maybe, with engagement, there is life post yellow pages.