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Web Sites DO Bring in New Business
by Larry Bodine
Operator of the LawMarketing Portal

Dramatic new research findings released at the Legal Marketing Association conference show that in-house counsel and corporate executives do indeed use the Web to search for law firms to hire.

The research conducted by Greenfield/Belser Ltd. and FGI Market Research explodes the myth that law firm Web sites are unimportant in overall marketing efforts.
"Here's huge news: nearly two-thirds of buyers we surveyed have gone online to locate outside legal counsel. More than one-third surf the Web for legal services weekly or more often - proving that - virtually - it's a whole new marketing world out there," said Mark T. Greene, Managing Director of FGI Customer Research, who presented the results.

Finding Lawyers on the Web

The findings were reported at the LMA national conference March 21-24 in Toronto. Copies of the report, "Finding and Working with Lawyers on the Web," are available online at the Greenfield/Belser site at "Web sites are as integral to law firm marketing plans as brochures and business cards," said Burkey Belser, President of Greenfield/Belser, Ltd., who joined in presenting the results. "77% of law firms are online [that is, they have a Web site], although more than half (58%) of those just got there in the past two years. But until now, the value of a law firm site has been largely unknown."

To find out how buyers of legal services view Web sites, the research team conducted three months of telephone surveys from November 2000 to January 2001. They reached 135 respondents, of whom 60% were in-house counsel. The balance were CEOs, CFOs and vice presidents.
They discovered that 38% of corporate counsel search the Web for legal services once a week or more often. "There are only two ways that buyers can find you -- indirect experience, such as what friends and colleagues say about your firm - and direct experience, such as visiting a point of sale like your firm Web site."

Marketing a Firm Web Site

The research brought home two important points for law firms:
  • Firms must actively market their Web sites.
  • Firms must reorganize their sites along industry lines to match the way corporate counsel buy legal services.
"It's important to market your site," Belser said. "You've got to drive your clients there." This requires a mix of online and offline tactics.

When corporate counsel are online, 86% of them go directly to a law firm Web site to find it. However "a surprising number also rely on search engines and portals for targeted searches that let them screen law firms and build short lists fast," the report states.

"To really toot your online horn, your best bet may be to add a pop-up window on your home page that puts firm news front and center," the report states. "You can disable the window when there's nothing to report." is Top Search Site

Most in-house counsel seek referrals when they want a law firm. However, when they do go online, the No. 1 way to find a law firm is Fully 77% of respondents use to find outside counsel, and 56% use (the numbers add up to more than 100% because respondents use more than one method). "Pay attention to your rankings on Yahoo! and other search engines," the Greenfield/Belser/FGI report states, "but know exactly where you stand with and"

The research confirm the findings of a separate study by Altman Weil,Inc., that the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory remains "the information tool of choice, outpacing even law firm Web sites." Charles A. Maddock, a principal at Altman Weil presented the report at a plenary session at the LMA conference.

"Among the other most notable findings of the study was that legal professionals in corporate law departments are more likely to use online tools for identifying and evaluating lawyers than their counterparts in private law firms," states a summary of Altman Weil report.

Altman Weil, headquartered in Newtown Square, PA, surveyed corporate law departments and law firms of all sizes in July and August, 2000. A total of 789 corporate legal officers and 2,385 lawyers in private law firms responded to the mailed survey.

"According to the study, after personal referrals, the most important resource used to select outside counsel or co-counsel is the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, with four out of five law firms (81 percent) and two out of three corporate law departments (68 percent) citing it as one of their two most important sources of information. The study found that the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory is used in its various formats by more than 90 percent of both respondent bases," states the Altman Weil summary, which is available online at

Maddock said that corporate counsel also find firm web sites, brochures, news articles, print advertising -- in that order -- as "useful" ways to find information about law firms.

Offline Methods Work

Traditional offline methods also work to attract visitors to your web site. "Nearly half the buyers we surveyed have visited a law firm site because of a promotional mailing," the Greenfield/Belser/FGI report states. "Almost as significant, just under half went to one after seeing a law firm's print ad."

"There are several traditional non-Internet tactics you can use to bring a company to your site," Greene said, including periodicals, articles, print ads, unsolicited mailings, seminars and cold calls.

"The Web is no substitute for a rich marketing mix," the report states. "The printed page remains one of the cheapest, most time-tested promotional tools a law firm can use to promote services.

Organize by Industry

Corporate counsel visit law firm web sites even when they're not looking to hire a law firm, according to the report. "Window shopping, job-hunting, seminar-hopping or scoping out the competition -- nearly half of the buyers we surveyed visited law firm Web sites even when not seeking prospective counsel," the report states. "For many, your online presence shapes their first impression of your firm. Make it count!"

Law firm web sites need to be revised to reflect the way buyers search for information. Corporate counsel search according to industry. "They search using terms like 'automotive' or 'financial services.'' However, most law firm sites are organized by practice description, such as "regulatory practice" or "litigation group." "How many of you have organized your site to be responsive to industry searches?" Belser asked.

"Practice descriptions need industrial strength," Belser said. "Law firms need to let clients know what they do by industry." The same approach applies to attorney biographies. "Clients want specific industry experience. They are less interested in law school, bar membership and community service information," Belser said. "They want to hear about whether you can understand their industry."

The report advised linking descriptions of industry experience to white papers, articles and bios on the law firm web site. "Don't hide your light under an electronic bushel," the report states. "Make your expertise easy to see."

Of course, a law firm web site should list other topics, such as a firm's commitment to diversity, a list of press releases, description of pro bono activity and recruiting information. "But this is not what you lead with," Belser said.

Reprinted with permission from the LawMarketing Portal,
All rights reserved, copyright 2001 Larry Bodine.

About The Author

Larry Bodine
380 May Avenue
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Tel: 312.853.7759

Operator of the LawMarketing Portal
This is the Web site,, where law firms find out how to get more business. I also operate the LawMarketing Listserv, a worldwide E-mail discussion group with 1,700 members focusing on how to get new business.

Webmaster for Legal Marketing Association
Advise on design and content of national association Web site, Scheduled to relaunch in March 21, 2001.

Editor of LegalBiz Online
LegalBiz Online TM is an online magazine for legal professionals, offering how-to advice and commentary in legal marketing, law practice management, the law library, law office administration, and new technology. It also includes on-the-scene reports from major national and regional meetings and conferences for professionals in these fields. See

Chief Judge of Spherion Marketers of the Year Awards
Chief Judge for national competition for Marketing Partner of the Year, Practice Group Leader of the Year, Marketing Director of the Year and Marketing Initiative of the Year. Presented at the Marketing Partner Forum in January 2001 during the Marketing Partner Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Communications Consultant for Sidley & Austin of Chicago. (I was Director of Communications from1991-2000). Member of team that redesigned Sidley & Austin's Web site,, which was relaunched in July 2000.

Publisher, Lawyers Alert (renamed Lawyers Weekly, USA), Boston, Massachusetts, 1989-1991.

Editor and Publisher , ABA Journal, American Bar Association, Chicago, 1982-1989.

Assistant Editor and News Reporter, National Law Journal, New York, New York News Reporter, New York Daily News, New York, New York News Reporter, The Star-Ledger, Newark, New Jersey News Reporter, The Evening News, Paterson, New Jersey

Attorney; Stafford, Rosenbaum, Rieser & Hansen; Madison, Wisconsin

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