In the pre-Internet age, it was difficult for law firms to publicize their services. State laws imposed strict limits on the way law firms were permitted to advertise, and even now, law firm websites have to publish disclaimers that they are providing marketing information only and not giving legal advice.
This gave law firms only a few options to market themselves. They could place their law firm’s name in the yellow pages or pay to be listed in the Martindale Hubbell, the famous encyclopedia of lawyers worldwide.
Law firms used to rely almost exclusively on their firm’s good reputation to draw in new business. Word of mouth recommendations by satisfied clients were key to a law firm’s survival. Famous litigators never lacked for clients because they would have newspaper or television coverage of their trials, but an average law firm with a clientele of low-profile companies would be off the radar.
Before law firms began developing their own websites, unless a potential client already knew about a particular law firm’s or a particular attorney’s expertise, they would have to consult with their friends and acquaintances, explaining the nature of their legal problem, and hope that the referral they received would be a good one. The bad news is that if a law firm neglects to create a quality website or does not bother to monitor the way its name comes up on the internet, there is a good chance that potential customers doing a web search on the law firm’s name could come up with information which may be detrimental to the client’s assessment of whether to engage the firm. If only for this reason, it’s crucial that a law firm pay attention to how they use the internet to market their services. Many law firms have links on their websites to articles about the particular legal issues that they specialize in, such as estate planning or immigration law. These articles can be the determining factor for potential clients in deciding to contact the firm.
A law firm website should list where each attorney holds their bar membership or other certifications.
Many larger law firms publish lists of representative corporate clients. In addition to demonstrating the breadth and quality of their law practice, this kind of listing also helps a potential client find out whether there might be a conflict of interest in their seeking to engage the law firm. Depending upon the kind of dispute and the size of the law firm, these conflicts often can be worked out by creating filewalls between the attorneys representing conflicting parties, but only if there is not a direct conflict.
It’s important to include information on the locations of any of the firm’s satellite offices. Potential clients who need a particular kind of legal representation will be more inclined towards a firm that has nearby offices even if the firm’s flagship office is in another state.
Law firms creating or updating their websites should highlight information that potential clients want to know, such as office locations and contact numbers, succinct information about their practice area expertise, and links to attorney biographies and informational articles about the practice.