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February 20, 2004

Realism About Weblawgs from a Born Optimist

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 8:31 pm

A lot of webfolk have pointed to Carolyn Elefant’s excellent Legal Times articleIt’s a Blog World After All: If you’re seeking greater visibility, a Web log may be for you” (02-19-04).  I want to point out her frank assessment of weblogging as a marketing tool for lawyers:


While I’d like to say that starting a blog will magically bring hordes of clients to one’s doorstep overnight, I’d be grossly exaggerating. Moreover, I’d be guilty of purveying the same kind of myth sold to solos (and many other lawyers) back in the late 1990s to connive them into registering for pricey, but ultimately useless, Internet referral services or into investing in expensive flashy Web sites with little substance that prospective clients could not find anyway amidst the heaps of information online.

 

lawyer cellphone small flip . . buzzzz 



At the same time, blogs — unlike conventional Web sites — have much to offer solos seeking to build and market their practice. Blogs can serve as a “quick and dirty” Web site, help solos keep abreast of new developments, gain visibility on the Internet and notoriety in their respective fields, and make new contacts — all of which can help generate referrals from other attorneys and attract new clients. . . .  [T]hough blogs probably will not start the phone ringing in the way that advertising on TV or in the Yellow Pages might (at least depending on practice area), the initial time and cost investments are so minimal, that there’s really no risk in giving blogging a try.  

In getting to know Carolyn since I started this weblog, one thing is clear: she is a born optimist — especially when dealing with people or causes that mean the most to her.  That’s why Carolyn’s refusual to be a blind mouthpiece for the growing “buzz” on weblogs as client magnets is especially important. 

 

echo . .  lawyer cellphone small  Most “buzz” starts with people with a financial or emotional stake in the “next new thing,” and is then amplified in their own echo chambers.   Those who believe the buzz very often get stung.   As I’ve been opining here, no amount of cyber-smoke or number-mumbo-jumbo can cover up the fact that the jury is just starting to deliberate (and has almost no evidence to consider) on whether lawyers can effectively use weblogs to increase clientele and profits.  There are a lot of other good reasons to start weblogs, but income generation is not a realistic near-term goal for the vast majority of webloggers.  Thankyou, Carolyn, for your cautious approach.


  • Postscript of Note (02-21-04): Weblawg Vendor (and good guy) Kevin O’Keefe and I continue the debate on the marketing value of weblogs for lawyers in this thread, which also got its own post.
  • Also, things are heating up at Jerry Lawson’s place, with a set of cascading comments.

8 Comments

  1. There are going to be blogs that do nothing to bring in clients while there are going to be blogs done well that will bring in clients. In the late 1990’s when law firms threw up sites, like Carolyn mentions, that did not work a lick to bring in clients, I had a law firm site that worked wonders in bringing in new clients and fees.

    My site worked because it was focused on the niche area in which I specialized and was totally focused on profiding people practical legal information. My site came up in the search engines because it was chock full of helpful content. People comingto the site told us they liked the fact that we did not speak like lawyers they had come across and we demonstrated a sense of care for ordinary people.

    If lawyers want to have a blog and get up on a soap box and write a lot on a little bit of everything without publishing focused content that will help people that’s fine but that’s only evidence that they do not know how to use the Internet to attract clients. It is not evidence that blogs do not work as marketing tools.

    Blogs are just Web sites built on blog software that make them easier & more effective to use than a Web site. There are thousands of lawyers in this country getting lots of good work from Web sites and related Internet marketing, which Carolyn says does not work.

    Blogs, just a Web site, will generate good work for good lawyers who learn to use them or hire someone to do the work effectively.

    I’ll not change your opinion but I think you are a bit short sited and off in your limited analysis.

    Comment by Kevin O'Keefe — February 21, 2004 @ 12:41 am

  2. There are going to be blogs that do nothing to bring in clients while there are going to be blogs done well that will bring in clients. In the late 1990’s when law firms threw up sites, like Carolyn mentions, that did not work a lick to bring in clients, I had a law firm site that worked wonders in bringing in new clients and fees.

    My site worked because it was focused on the niche area in which I specialized and was totally focused on profiding people practical legal information. My site came up in the search engines because it was chock full of helpful content. People comingto the site told us they liked the fact that we did not speak like lawyers they had come across and we demonstrated a sense of care for ordinary people.

    If lawyers want to have a blog and get up on a soap box and write a lot on a little bit of everything without publishing focused content that will help people that’s fine but that’s only evidence that they do not know how to use the Internet to attract clients. It is not evidence that blogs do not work as marketing tools.

    Blogs are just Web sites built on blog software that make them easier & more effective to use than a Web site. There are thousands of lawyers in this country getting lots of good work from Web sites and related Internet marketing, which Carolyn says does not work.

    Blogs, just a Web site, will generate good work for good lawyers who learn to use them or hire someone to do the work effectively.

    I’ll not change your opinion but I think you are a bit short sited and off in your limited analysis.

    Comment by Kevin O'Keefe — February 21, 2004 @ 12:41 am

  3. You make some good points, Kevin, that we can agree upon, and they really make my point:  (1) weblogs are merely websites with an easy-to-use format and reverse-chronological posting; (2) if a lot of factors are well-aligned (and with a lot of luck), a weblog may be able to attract clients.
    I’ve never said they can’t possibly work to bring in clients — I’ve said that merely spouting the buzz about all the added “traffic” is inherently misleading without a lot of caveats, not only because no one knows what the traffic number signify, but because no one can even point to anecdotal evidence of a significant number of weblawg success stories for bringing in clients (as opposed to ambiguous page-hits). Carolyn has apparently not heard of any, nor have I.
    My problem with the weblog boosters is that they fail to inform potential buyers of their product just how little data there is about weblog success as an actual money-maker.  I think Carolyn is far closer to the truth by pointing to the over-hype of websites for law firms a few years ago — similar to the overhype of dot.com stocks that led to the bubble bursting — than are current weblawg vendors who point to every bit of information about them being traffic-generating and the next killer-application, without all the caveats.
    When you start having prominently-placed caveats on your vendor website, I’d be very happy to use you as an example of a Model Weblawg Vendor.  Until then, I’ll plan to use my good Google-placement as a soapbox and a Caution Sign for lawyers thinking to make the considerable investment in time it takes to start and maintain a quality weblog.  [By the way: no one has ever approached me looking to hire my services, despite all the very nice things said about this weblog; that may be because I’m retired and not looking for business, but not many visitors are reading my About page to find that out.]

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 21, 2004 @ 10:11 am

  4. You make some good points, Kevin, that we can agree upon, and they really make my point:  (1) weblogs are merely websites with an easy-to-use format and reverse-chronological posting; (2) if a lot of factors are well-aligned (and with a lot of luck), a weblog may be able to attract clients.
    I’ve never said they can’t possibly work to bring in clients — I’ve said that merely spouting the buzz about all the added “traffic” is inherently misleading without a lot of caveats, not only because no one knows what the traffic number signify, but because no one can even point to anecdotal evidence of a significant number of weblawg success stories for bringing in clients (as opposed to ambiguous page-hits). Carolyn has apparently not heard of any, nor have I.
    My problem with the weblog boosters is that they fail to inform potential buyers of their product just how little data there is about weblog success as an actual money-maker.  I think Carolyn is far closer to the truth by pointing to the over-hype of websites for law firms a few years ago — similar to the overhype of dot.com stocks that led to the bubble bursting — than are current weblawg vendors who point to every bit of information about them being traffic-generating and the next killer-application, without all the caveats.
    When you start having prominently-placed caveats on your vendor website, I’d be very happy to use you as an example of a Model Weblawg Vendor.  Until then, I’ll plan to use my good Google-placement as a soapbox and a Caution Sign for lawyers thinking to make the considerable investment in time it takes to start and maintain a quality weblog.  [By the way: no one has ever approached me looking to hire my services, despite all the very nice things said about this weblog; that may be because I’m retired and not looking for business, but not many visitors are reading my About page to find that out.]

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 21, 2004 @ 10:11 am

  5. David:

    Looks like I have been hanging around ethicalesq too long – your skepticism is rubbing off!

    Having said that, I have not lost my optimism about the potential for websites and web logs to generate business for lawyers. But I just don’t think it is something that is happening right now and to represent otherwise is inaccurate. The sole Internet “success” stories that I’m familiar with is Greg Siskind who built a national immigration law practice through his visalaw.com website – and thereafter, a few other immigration attorneys also had decent results. But immigration law is unique in that many of the prospective clients are either in another country or are high-tech workers and thus, rely on the Internet for information. I also know of another attorney who practices debtor-credit law who uses Google ad words and has generated enough business to at least cover the cost of the ads. Other than that, even other attorneys I know who use Google ads report that while they do get traffic to their site, little of it converts to business. I have also discussed marketing techniques with the solos whom I know from various listservs and the primary source of revenue for them comes from bar referrals followed by yellow pages and community advertising. So, if there are, as Kevin suggests “thousands of lawyers” generating business from the Internet, I’d like to know who they are (and would like to learn more without having to pay a $500 registration fee)
    The other problem I see with overselling the Internet is that it eventually turns people off to the point where they decide not to use it as a source of marketing at all. At a recent talk I gave on web logs, an attorney had contracted with a company and paid a good amount of money to set up a website that got few visitors and generated $0.00. He sat politely through the web log talk but I could tell that he was never going to venture out on the web again. Isn’t it better to sell the internet as another marketing option – rather than to portray it as something greater than it is and turn people off the idea completely? That is what I see happening with concepts like online referrals and forms and legal marketing which is a shame (good for Jerry Lawson to keep reminding people of the virtues of those practices!)

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — February 21, 2004 @ 1:24 pm

  6. David:

    Looks like I have been hanging around ethicalesq too long – your skepticism is rubbing off!

    Having said that, I have not lost my optimism about the potential for websites and web logs to generate business for lawyers. But I just don’t think it is something that is happening right now and to represent otherwise is inaccurate. The sole Internet “success” stories that I’m familiar with is Greg Siskind who built a national immigration law practice through his visalaw.com website – and thereafter, a few other immigration attorneys also had decent results. But immigration law is unique in that many of the prospective clients are either in another country or are high-tech workers and thus, rely on the Internet for information. I also know of another attorney who practices debtor-credit law who uses Google ad words and has generated enough business to at least cover the cost of the ads. Other than that, even other attorneys I know who use Google ads report that while they do get traffic to their site, little of it converts to business. I have also discussed marketing techniques with the solos whom I know from various listservs and the primary source of revenue for them comes from bar referrals followed by yellow pages and community advertising. So, if there are, as Kevin suggests “thousands of lawyers” generating business from the Internet, I’d like to know who they are (and would like to learn more without having to pay a $500 registration fee)
    The other problem I see with overselling the Internet is that it eventually turns people off to the point where they decide not to use it as a source of marketing at all. At a recent talk I gave on web logs, an attorney had contracted with a company and paid a good amount of money to set up a website that got few visitors and generated $0.00. He sat politely through the web log talk but I could tell that he was never going to venture out on the web again. Isn’t it better to sell the internet as another marketing option – rather than to portray it as something greater than it is and turn people off the idea completely? That is what I see happening with concepts like online referrals and forms and legal marketing which is a shame (good for Jerry Lawson to keep reminding people of the virtues of those practices!)

    Comment by Carolyn Elefant — February 21, 2004 @ 1:24 pm

  7. Ditto!

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 21, 2004 @ 1:38 pm

  8. Ditto!

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 21, 2004 @ 1:38 pm

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