Law firm websites are the foundation

Kevin O’Keefe had a provocative post yesterday that talked about the overemphasis some lawyers place on their firm websites, in terms of their online business development programs. Here’s the money quote from Kevin:

“Law firms and their attorneys need to get over the fact that a website is not the only way to do marketing and business development on the Internet. Heck, it’s not even in the top 3 or 4 best ways to get work.

Lawyers and law firms get their work via relationships and word of mouth. Period.”

I encourage you to link over and read the above post, in case I’ve misinterpreted what Kevin’s saying; but I have to disagree. Completely disagree.

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.

Great online relationships help business development, but only when law firms can properly articulate their business proposition. What is the firm’s business offering? What differentiates this firm from its competitors? Do you have any kind of track record on which I can base my hiring decision?

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.

Look, this isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a head-to-head competition between online marketing tools; we don’t need a Twitter-versus-Website celebrity death match. The reality is: it’s about balance.¬† Social media, reputation building, relationship marketing — these are all significant tools. But they are only going to be effective if the firm puts the effort into its website — make it communicate!

And don’t forget the co-dependent relationship: law firm websites become wasted effort when lawyers retreat to their offices and abandon their reputations and online participation. Firms that strike a balance are never sorry.

Comments

  1. Kevin OKeefe said:

    My point is that law firm websites do not get firms work. It’s the relationships and their word of mouth reputation that does. Sure, a website is one component of reputation and possibly of relationships – but it’s a subset, not the beginning.

    Knowing this, firms ought to ask themselves where we spend our Internet money. On relationships and word of mouth reputation or websites.

    Bad websites don’t stop lawyers and law firms who are rainmakers for a minute. Heck, I didn’t even have a website when I was getting work on the Internet as a lawyer.

    Many a managing partner and multi-million dollar revenue generating partner I’ve met has told me they don’t know of any work that has come from their website. Many have also told me their firm did not experience any increase in business because of more money being spent on the firm’s website.

    Firms and legal marketers would be well served to talk to these managing partners and partners about how they could use the Internet to network so as to accelerate the building of relationships and enhancing their reputation. That’s a message these folks will listen to.

    @ 5:08 pm
  2. Sorry Kevin, I’m still not buying it.

    You won’t find someone who agrees with you more about the importance of online networking and relationships. That’s a key driver of new work. It’s critical as you say. But so are firm websites, and depending on the state of a firm’s site, I would definitely recommend putting money into it. If that’s the weakest link, that’s the piece that should get the marketing attention.

    My bug here is your blanket statement that websites don’t get firms work. They absolutely do generate work, and more so, the numbers prove it! Firms who track work origination — actually asking new clients how they found the firm — know the number of new clients and matters, how much work the firm received from its website, and if they tie it into their Accounting software, they also know the dollar value.

    I spent 12 years in-house tracking this stuff; most of that before social networking. It’s proven true over and over again: websites generate new work.

    I’ll say it again. This isn’t an either-or situation. In 2012, firms must do *both*. If you want to say that firms get better work or more work from online networking, then I might not argue with you. But to call websites ineffective, or say that firm’s don’t get work from websites is simply mistaken. The numbers don’t support you.

    @ 8:47 am
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