The Internet is Moving the Goalposts for Everyone (Including Lawyers)

The Internet is Moving the Goalpost for Everyone (Including Lawyers)

Let’s face it, change can be difficult to process, especially when it comes to your law firm. The internet represents the biggest change most industries have been through over the past two decades and it’s still making waves. Need proof? Look at one of the most popular institutions in the world: sports.

Televised sports have long been a massive, powerful market. So much so that the industry largely ignored the internet’s potential for additional revenue and exposure for longer than it should have. Why? Because change is hard and their old model still worked – until it didn’t. The relationship between sports and technology changed fairly quickly and the various leagues, broadcasters and athletes found themselves scrambling to change with it. Look at these three events from this year alone:

  1. In spring, ESPN laid off scores of employees including both behind-the-scenes and on-air personalities citing cord cutters (those cancelling cable in favor of online entertainment) as the driving force.
  2. At Recode’s Code Conference in May, sportswriter and Editor in Chief of The Ringer Bill Simmons predicted that the internet will own live sports rights in the next five years.
  3. In July 2017, Wimbledon was broadcast on Twitter for the first time.

Now, how big is your book of business? If the internet can gobble up live sports, is it so hard to believe that the legal industry is immune from the same disruption?

Let’s look at the numbers

According to the 2017 FindLaw Consumer Legal Needs survey 70 percent of consumers still find an attorney offline. Does that mean you can forego digital marketing? When you break down that number a little more it becomes pretty clear that the answer is no.

  1. More than half of the people who find an attorney offline either know the person they hire or are personally referred to them. You won’t catch me devaluing referral business, but I still think it’s a good idea to extend your client base beyond people who have a personal connection to you. If you don’t have a digital footprint, you’re simply not on anybody’s radar. Why?
  2. Offline advertisement just isn’t very popular with legal consumers. Only 19 percent of the people who found an attorney offline did so through non-digital ads like phone books, billboards or radio ads. These days, when marketing does influence legal consumer decisions, it happens online.

The popularity of online research

Even if a former client refers someone to you, it’s hard to imagine anyone hiring an attorney they haven’t met without doing their due diligence. Where do they look to learn more about you? (Hint: Not to a billboard.)

According to the same FindLaw survey, 67 percent of consumers used the internet in some way for their legal research. As technology progresses and the population demographics shift, that number will most likely increase.

Legal consumers already use the internet for a host of reasons. They read online reviews to validate their decision before hiring an attorney. They find more information on how to handle an out of town DUI or the paperwork they need to file divorce. They also do the simple things like look up your name and address. The great thing about the internet is that all this information exists with just a few clicks of the mouse and a Google search. Attorneys who position themselves well for both search and validation are already ahead of those who are still unsure about the internet.

So where do you start?

You can start as small as you want. If nothing else, consider these two basic options:

  1. A simple website. Cover the who, what, why and how of your firm. Who you are. What you do. Why you’re the right choice, and how they can contact you. It also needs to be optimized for mobile phones since they are now more popular than desktops in most age groups. That’s your start, and if it’s all you can do right now, so be it. But make no mistake, this is a bare minimum approach to online marketing.
  2. A directory listing. FindLaw’s network of legal directories present a unique opportunity for legal consumers. They allow them to conduct research on their legal issues, then find an attorney who best matches what they need all from the same website. All you need to get started is a quality photo and a brief but strong description of your law firm. The directory will include your contact information and most even support click-to-call functionality on mobile phones so a prospect can call you right from your profile listing.

The takeaway? It’s time to get in the game.

The shake-up endured by the sports industry was unfortunate, but wasn’t a big surprise to anyone who was paying attention. If you’re an attorney responsible for the health of your law firm, what are you paying attention to?

Changes are always around the corner and they don’t get much easier to see than this.


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