Answering Online Questions: What Attorneys Should Know
Law is a knowledge profession. Your knowledge is why people hire you. And you can use your legal wisdom as a marketing tool — over the Internet.
More and more the Web is spawning a number of platforms to connect questioners with answerers. This month it was Jelly, which answers a user’s question by searching social networks. Then there’s Quora, Yahoo! Answers, Answers.com, as well as specialized legal advice sites such as FindLaw Answers and Ask Super Lawyers. And last year, Google introduced its Hummingbird update, which emphasized the importance of natural language search requests, many of which are in the form of questions. There are a lot of inquiring minds out there that want to know.
You’re the Expert
Those minds are looking for knowledgeable answers. Clear, informative answers aren’t always easy to find on the Internet, of course. And engaging with people looking for answers to legal questions relevant to your practice can help enhance your reputation and influence potential clients to contact your law firm. You just need to make sure you’re doing it properly.
Three Things to Keep in Mind
- Answer concisely, without legal jargon. Remember, you’ll be replying to people who aren’t lawyers. While you may have the urge to flex your lawyerly muscles and focus on the situation’s complexities, the question-asker is simply looking for what he or she should do. Write as you would speak to a client sitting in your office.
- Put in the time. You’ll reap the full benefit of visibility, reputation and authority only if you create complete profiles on the site or sites of your choice. That includes your profile, bio, links to your firm’s website and a professional headshot. Take it a step further and keep participating on those profiles through frequent answers, following and commenting.
- Don’t worry that you’re giving it away. Answering a question doesn’t mean you’re giving out free legal advice. That said, it’s best that you handle answering a question the way you would in a face-to-face conversation that doesn’t breach professional ethics.
Here’s the takeaway: There are potential clients out there right now asking questions that can best be answered by an attorney familiar with their particular issue. You have that knowledge. So log in and start answering.