Finding a lawyer might seem far easier today than it used to be, thanks to a host of online legal directories that connect potential clients with area attorneys. For a solo practitioner, a directory listin seems like easy (and seemingly free) marketing avenues for a law practice. In truth, though, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
I’ve done the online directory circuit and there are some important lessons that can be drawn from my experience. Long story short: it might not be as effective an option as you initially think. Read on for my experience with these services and what I might recommend for solo practitioners looking to expand their online reach (and also a buyer-beware warning for potential consumers of legal services).
Navigating the Directory Scene
Every day, it seems like there’s a new attorney directory hitting the internet. Here is a quick rundown of the major players and what they offer attorneys who join their ranks.
Nolo – Nolo has been around for some time and at this stage in its life, it’s no longer just an attorney directory. There are tons of consumer-facing resources, and while these are largely intended for self-represented litigants, users do have an option of using the directory function to search for an attorney by location and practice area. Attorney members can also author some of these self-help resources, increasing name and law firm visibility. There is a higher-end membership option with premium advertising and lead generation options.
Martindale-Hubbell – Another industry giant and definitely one of the more established players in the game, Martindale-Hubbell’s attorney directory also provides rating services. The ratings feature allows both clients and peers to contribute feedback to an attorney profile. The advanced membership purportedly allows for profile customizations that enhance an attorney’s existing online presence across social media sites.
Avvo – Nearly everyone knows Avvo, although the services offered have changed recently following Avvo’s acquisition by now-parent company Internet Brands. Your Avvo directory profile already exists and is waiting for you to claim it, which most attorneys I know find to be super creepy. But that seems to be a key piece of the company’s customer acquisition model, so there you are. Avvo is also known for its client ratings feature, which draws some strong opinions depending on who you ask. Don’t ask me, there’s not enough time for the answer …
LegalZoom – LegalZoom’s directory is free to join, also, and it serves to connect potential clients with area attorneys. The company’s business model is one of limited scope representation plans in certain core practice areas, and presumably the attorney directory is for potential clients looking for help beyond the routinely provided plans. I can’t say, though, how often potential clients actually locate and contact attorneys through that search feature.
Super Lawyers – Operated by Thomson Reuters, SuperLawyers.com is yet another lawyer rating and directory service. The scope of the directory reaches over 70 practice areas and attorney search criteria seems to include peer nominations, peer evaluations, and other attorney data points. Inclusion in this directory is limited to those attorneys who have been nominated by peers (with preference given to those not in the same firm), but most of us know it’s not as exclusive as it may seem from the outside. Plus, anything beyond a simple listing is going to cost you. Of course.
Understanding the Limitations
Not all directories are created equal, and the bottom line is that you’re most definitely only going to get what you pay for – and maybe not even that. The number of attorneys listed on some of these sites is astonishing, and who knows what drives the search algorithms that stand between a potential client and your contact information. And even if you get leads through these directories, it’s never a guaranteed client. In fact, based on the experience I’ve had with these services, it’s like a cattle call, a race to the bottom, to see which attorney can get to the client first with an offer for services that beats everyone else.
No thank you.
Taking the High Road: Organic Lead Generation and Word of Mouth Referrals
I am a small town girl at heart, growing up in northeastern Colorado, and I prefer a more organic approach to generating leads for my law practice. For me, lead generation starts with my existing clients and providing them with superlative service. I get a lot of referrals from former clients, and I think it’s because I focus so heavily on those clients I have in the door already. I also get a lot of referrals from other attorneys who recognize the quality legal services that I can provide to mutual clients or those just needing criminal defense help.
I also get leads through my firm’s website and my online presence. I like these kinds of leads because more often than not, when a potential client contacts me they know a thing or two about me already. I know they’ve seen my picture, some have read my bio, and often they’ve read my blog or reviewed my practice areas. This is helpful for obvious reasons, but it also helps me connect with potential clients early on – and this, of course, helps turn the potential client into the actual client.
Do your research!
With all that being said, I’m just one criminal defense attorney with a very established and preferred way of doing things. If you think directories could help your practice, try one! But as with anything, and you’ve heard me say this before, do your research first.
Have you used online legal directories to support your law practice? Do you have additional tips or resources that would be of interest to the modern legal practitioner? Please comment here!