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My husband and I recently needed to hire an attorney for a minor matter. Since all of my clients are lawyers, I had no shortage of possibilities and referral sources. However, I don’t always know every aspect of their practices. So, before proceeding to call any of them, I performed a number of Internet searches in order to find their specialties. It should have been simple, right? I started with the obvious sites: the Martindale-Hubbell directory and Lawoffice.com from West Legal Directory (www.lawoffice.com). None of my local clients were listed. This surprised me since these companies target their sites toward consumers looking to hire a lawyer. In fact, the Martindale-Hubbell site is divided into a lawyer-resource site (www.martindale.com) and a consumer-oriented site (www.lawyers.com). After failing to find my local clients in these directories, I checked legal-portal sites such as FindLaw (www.findlaw.com) and Law.com (www.law.com). To be thorough, I also searched several directory sites that focus specifically on New Jersey attorneys, but to no avail. This episode taught me some very interesting lessons about lawyers and missed opportunities. In managing your law firm, you should take note of who your clients are and how they found you. You may have already added a field to your case-management program to track referral sources. This important undertaking, however, solves only half the problem, the missing component being the prospective clients who would like to retain you but cannot find you on the Internet. Even if you believe that as a local practitioner you do not need a Web site, you may be missing numerous free or inexpensive opportunities to promote yourself and your firm. Approximately 50 percent of American homes now have Internet access — that’s a lot of potential clients. By following the steps outlined below, you can promote your firm on the Internet without having to maintain your own Web site. 1. Consider Online Telephone Directories and Chamber of Commerce web site. If you have a local, general practice, you probably advertise in the yellow pages and may also participate in civic activities to bring positive attention to your firm. You should engage in similar activities on the Internet. Many online white and yellow pages exist — make sure your firm is listed and listed correctly. Sites like InfoSpace (www.infospace.com), Switchboard.com (www.switchboard.com) and Yahoo! (people.yahoo.com) let you search by name, business and other criteria. Many of these sites have links to maps, directions and other information. If you can’t find yourself on these sites or if the information is wrong, you can easily add or change information for free. If you belong to your town’s chamber of commerce, make sure your firm is listed on its Web site with as much background information as possible. Many newspapers also have Web sites promoting local businesses. Again, at little or no charge, you may be able to procure an online listing for extra exposure. 2. Explore legal directories on the Internet. Martindale-Hubbell and West Group represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to legal directories on the Web. Participation in one or more of these directories can promote your firm without the expense and hassle of maintaining your own Web site. A basic listing on West’s site costs nothing. If you already have one, make sure it remains current so that prospective clients and lawyers who want to make out-of-state referrals can find you. For a fee, you can have a more in-depth listing, or a Web site using one of West’s law-firm templates. An investment of $1,000 or more entitles you to a listing on both of Martindale’s Web sites, its CD-ROM and in its books. The Martindale products still stand among the main tools lawyers use to find other lawyers when they need to refer a case or client, so the cost may be worthwhile. The Internet also has several newer national listings of lawyers and law firms to consider. According to Janet Greenberg of Professional Net Imaging of West Orange, NJ, which designs and hosts law firm Web pages, lawyers should list themselves nationally on such sites as AttorneyFind (www.attorneyfind.com) and LawGuru.com (www.lawguru.com). If you’re curious to see what a Web site might do for your firm’s client-development efforts, establish one at no charge through FindLaw or LawInfo.com (www.lawinfo.com). Closer to home, virtually every state provides local guides and Web directories to help consumers find lawyers. Some of these may require fees for inclusion on their site, so before paying for any listings, do your homework. Contact listed attorneys to see whether the service has generated sufficient business to justify the expense. Conduct searches using search engines such as AltaVista (www.altavista.com) and Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) to see whether and how high the site appears on the search-results list. If it doesn’t appear at all, then prospective clients conducting the same search won’t find it either. 3. Use specialty sites and mailing lists. If you possess expertise in certain areas, seek out sites that might list you as an expert. For example, as a technology trainer, I have been tested and certified by legal-technology vendors and am listed as a certified consultant on their Web sites. On a regular basis, I receive inquiries from prospective clients either using or thinking of using those products. You can also promote your firm by becoming active in practice-oriented e-mail lists, which number in the hundreds. Some of these focus on lawyers practicing in specific areas, while others cater to users of certain products or in need of certain services. The advantage of mailing lists is that your messages go directly into the in-box of each member. As a technology consultant, I monitor and contribute to several legal technology mailing lists. These include The TechnoLawyer Community (www.technolawyer.com), which is the largest by far, and Network2d (www.abanet.org/ scriptsistcommands.asp? parmsubscribeetwork2d). Because of its size and scope, The TechnoLawyer Community has a few simple rules for submitting messages. The professionalism and quality of the information exchanged by TechnoLawyer Community members is quite valuable. Network2d is a traditional listserver sponsored by the computer and technology division of the law practice managment section of the American Bar Association. The ABA also hosts lists for its substantive sections, such as intellectual property. One of the best resources for locating legal e-mail lists is Law Lists (www.lib.uchicago.edulouawlists/ info.html), maintained by Lyonette Louis-Jacques of the University of Chicago. But do not limit yourself to lists aimed at lawyers — depending on your practice area, find lists on which potential clients gather. 4. Think outside of the box. When considering practice-related sites, think outside of the box. For example, suppose your firm does a large volume of real-estate closings in the area. Undoubtedly, you have developed referral relationships with many real-estate brokers in the vicinity. See if you can persuade them to include information about your firm on their Web sites for those who might be looking for an attorney to handle their closing. In a similar vein, title companies or local banks that handle your clients’ loans might be willing to include your firm information as an extra service to their customers. With creative brainstorming, you can engage in guerrilla marketing with regard to almost any practice area can be a source of potential business. If you handle adoptions, check out sites that give prospective parents information about how to complete a successful adoption. Again, some of these sites might already have a list of lawyers or might be willing to establish one. You might also participate in discussion lists with prospective adoptive parents — though you must take care not to have your contributions misconstrued as legal advice on such lists. Marketing possibilities exist everywhere — look for them and you will find them. Some of you might believe your clients don’t use computers and won’t find you electronically. That kind of thinking is myopic. While your prospective clients might not use a computer, their friends and relatives probably do. Many Internet haves conduct Internet searches for many Internet have-nots. Additionally, other lawyers might refer cases to you if they know your specialty and how to find you. The importance of marketing your firm on the Internet cannot be overstated. As shown above, you can easily get the word out about your practice even without your own Web site. Carol L. Schlein is president of Law Office Systems, a Montclair, NJ-based training and consulting firm assisting law firms with technology. She formerly chaired the computer and technology division of the ABA’s law practice management section and is an author of “The Lawyer’s Guide to Timeslips,” published by the ABA. This article originated in The TechnoLawyer Community, a free online community in which legal professionals share information about business and technology issues, products, and services. To join The TechnoLawyer Community, all you need is an e-mail address. Simply point your Web browser to www.technolawyer.com and fill in the form.

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