It's better to work with a Net

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Published on 2/18/08

How should small law firms and solos "entice" prospects into using their services?

From the smaller firm's perspective, the number of contacts that you make, the number of people you talk to, will have the biggest name-impact recognition. Getting "out into the public eye" can do more than advertising alone for individual and firm name recognition.

No marketing tool does this better than the Internet. Websites are now essential for law firm and lawyer visibility. The next level of electronic networking has been labeled "Web 2.0" — the Internet trend typified by the give and take between online users of blogs and social networking sites. They make the Internet a far more effective communication medium through active, participatory use rather than passive viewing.

The December 2007 ABA Journal named the Top 100 of the nearly 3,000 legal blogs. The interesting phenomenon is that, not long ago, mention by the ABA would have been authoritative enough. But the Journal typified the Web 2.0 approach by inviting readers to vote for their own favorite legal blogs — or blawgs — among the Top 100. The concept reflects the "American Idol" television show — seeking audience selection of "the best" from a pre-screened group.

Of course, legal-blog readership is generally a more informed and focused group, offering great visibility. It was reported several years ago that when attorney Howard Bashman noticed a small error in the footnote of a 5th Circuit opinion, he quickly noted it on his weblog. The next day, Judge Jerry Smith, who wrote the opinion and also happened to be a reader of Bashman's blog, fixed the error in an amended version. The judge even e-mailed Bashman, personally thanking him for bringing the mistake to his attention. That's visibility.

Blawging is hardly the only means of securing Web 2.0 visibility. Listservs — online discussion groups of lawyers — are a growing phenomenon. The ABA's "Solosez" listserv for sole practitioners has grown from a handful of participants 10 years ago to more than 2,800 today. Every time Solosez members ask questions and seek input, it's an opportunity for other lawyer members to provide an answer, demonstrating their knowledge and raising their profile.

The next level is using social networking websites to keep up with colleagues and potential clients. Facebook gets the attention here, but for professionals, LinkedIn, on which you invite other business associates to be part of your contact network, is a better option.

On LinkedIn, if you have an interest in marketing services to banks, for example, you can look at the users linked to you and to others and readily identify any number of potential contacts. This is networking without boundaries — a "one degree of separation" interaction that may save you from ever again having to make a cold call.

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