Do All Lawyers Need a Web Site? No. All Lawyers Need a GOOD Web Site, or Better Yet a Good Web Presence.

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A good web site will succeed and generate business.However, your web presence should be more than just your web site.It should include your blog, social networking, search marketing, directories, links, and any killer application that increases traffic and reputation of your firm.

If you have enough time and money, do it all (see here for all types of examples).However, most firms lack the time and or money to do it all, so you need to be selective with your marketing time and budget.

Web sites work and generate business.We have clients who generate millions of dollars per year in revenue from their web site (see below for real world examples).Do you have to have a web site?No, but it sure helps.

A well produced blog, social marketing, and in-person marketing can all work too. Any type of marketing or networking that interacts with people and presents a positive image of your firm, whether that is in-person or online; will succeed.

So why do you need a web site?

Yes, good web sites enhance reputation; that is the purpose of them. This is just like a good marketing or ad campaign enhances the reputation of any business.

Sure if you are putting up the same cheesy looking yellow-page ad on the web, it’s going to fail and look poorly on your firm. Of course, if you smell at a meeting, have a weak handshake, write a poor brief, mishandle a case, then that will also leave a bad impression and give you a poor reputation. Your online reputation should be maintained just like your real world reputation. Craft a site that impresses and your reputation will improve.

If you launch something innovative and brand yourself on a niche market; then it will succeed. Just like if you write the winning brief and draft an impressive proposal with innovative ideas. Good web sites are used in a variety of industries to improve reputation of those companies; the same should be for lawyers.

So how does the web site help the firm’s reputation?

You craft the message.You have control.You set the time, place and discussion topics.Putting relevant information online such as your experience, biographies, practice information, resources, and knowledge online assists your reputation by crafting it to what you want it to say and what you want to impress upon visitors.The more you put online, the more impressive your web site becomes.Having a positive impression increases your reputation in the field.

For example: imagine that one firm has cornered the market with the best, most informative web site on “Widget Law”. If all lawyers turn to that web site as a source of information, then their web site is trusted and has a positive reputation about that firm. Of course, the key here is you need the BEST web site on a specific area. Not many law firms take the time and effort to become the best resource in one area.

Also, having a web site is really a requirement for any business. It is almost a requirement to have one these days for a lawyer, similar to how having a Martindale listing was needed 20 years ago. It puts you on the list; a very good list. It’s like an online business card, brochure, and communication method; all wrapped into one place.

Side Example #1

As a side example, my wife was looking for an AC repairman yesterday; she went to Google and typed in “Fort Lauderdale AC repairman”. Up popped 10 sites and she visited each one. The one she chose was based on their web site (they had the best one) and a short phone call. The web site increased their reputation; and this was for an AC repairman, let alone a lawyer. If an AC repairman (no offense) can have a great site, so can a lawyer. It’s not that hard.

However, if you put up crap online, expect crap results. If you put up something impressive, expect impressive results. Yes, you can accomplish this through having a web site, blog, and online activities. The point being is that you need something online, or you are missing out on a big, big world of potential clients.

But how does a web site drive reputation?

Your reputation is driven through search and word-of-mouth about the new web site.From search marketing, you can broaden your reputation to people who would have never known about your firm.If they hit a web site that is professionally crafted and has a wealth of resources, then you are on the way to making a connection.

Moreover, even in the traditional world, when a new site launches, if that site is good, it gets noticed. It gets positive attention and can change the reputation of the firm quickly and easily. This happens time and time again in other industries. Nike, Ford, Gillette launch innovative web sites, get noticed, get traffic and set their reputation online. The same should be done for law firms.

Is your web site the end all?

Your web site should grow with your firm. If you put everything on the web site and keep it updated, it can easily act as your online reputation. If you focus the web site on a particular area that has not been covered, or cover a particular area better, you will get attention. Again, it has to be a good web presence though to get noticed in today’s crowded market.

Is social networking better at generating clients than web sites?

I do not think social networking has surpassed a good web site, yet. We have lots of clients who regularly get good work simply from their web site and search rankings. This is quality work; work that they want. Sorry for the shameless plugs, but these are real world examples that are needed to frame this discussion.

Quick Example #1

Christine Humphrey launched her FDA practice in 2004. Her FDA practice is almost 80% web based and generated about 2 million dollars per year since inception; and 3 to 3.5 million once the merger with her new partners and the subsequent web site FuerstLaw.com.

Quick Example #2

Searcylaw.com launched a new web presence in 2008 with our firm. Before that time, they were receiving one inquiry per day. Post launch, they are receiving four or five new inquiries per day. Their web sites work and generate new business.

Wow, Pretty Impressive, but those are just a few samples?

These types of results are not aberrations.They can happen, so long as you invest in your online reputation and your web site.We have countless more examples of how web sites, blogs, search marketing can work for firms.In fact, out of our 300+ clients, almost each client has had a profitable experience from their web site.

I am not certain the extent of social networking generating client success. I would love to get actual statistics on that subject. For instance, how much business is generated from Facebook? How much from Twitter? How much from LinkedIn? I am open to the idea that they do bring in business, in fact I know they do from our own business. However, it pales in comparison from work we generate from search marketing. Until I see stats though, to boldly state that social networking is more effective at getting the best legal work is just wrong.

Sure, social networking, your web site (and blog) should all be part of your internet presence.However, so should in-person networking, conferences, writing articles, attending events and getting your name out in the real-world.The question comes down to time.If you have time to do it all, do it.

Conclusion

Almost all businesses need web sites. Web sites can enhance your reputation and can generate clients. However, you must have a good web site, not just anything put online.

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