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Attorney Micah U. Buchdahl never thought he would know as much as he does about the Internet. But while representing sports clubs like the Philadelphia Flyers as an associate attorney, he marveled at the public presence that the Internet was rapidly bringing to the world of sports. A little more than three years ago, he began to look at how lawyers used the Web to present themselves to the public. Buchdahl said he was shocked at how rudimentary and ineffectual many law firm Web sites were back then. Some of the worst Web offenders came from the most influential law firms in the country, he said. Buchdahl saw an opportunity to improve how lawyers present themselves via the World Wide Web. He is now Internet marketing attorney for the West Group, and he offers cyber-marketing lectures and seminars to law firms, large and small alike. One such seminar, developed by Buchdahl, was recently offered at the Delaware County Bar Association to a full house. The Internet marketing seminar for lawyers, called “Building Your Practice on the WWW,” concentrates on developing a creative and unique law firm Web site with appropriate software, an effective navigation system and interactive features such as pop-up menus and scrolling marquees. Buchdahl said law firm Web sites seem to fall into two categories, “conservative and very conservative.” He said he hopes to see firms become more creative and take more chances with their sites in the future. “The first rule of business development on the Internet is that there are no rules,” Buchdahl said in an interview. “Firms shouldn’t be afraid to be the first to create that original site and succeed with a new idea on the Web.” Buchdahl said there are currently about 800 million Web sites on the Internet, and that lawyers need to understand how to create a vivid and easily accessible site that offers target information to the target audience. “The Internet is such a powerful marketing tool, and it has the potential to disseminate a lot of great information to a lot of different audiences. The sheer potential and magnitude of the Internet as a tool for marketing is just phenomenal,” he said. THE AUDIENCE Buchdahl explains in his seminar that determining an audience is absolutely essential to a Web site, so that it can be used to its best advantage on behalf of the firm. “Law firms need to ask themselves, ‘Am I creating this primarily for current clients, prospective clients, lawyer-to-lawyer referrals, job recruiting or all of it?’ Once those questions are answered, the firm must set the site up so that it can target that specific group easily.” And a successful site is a “sticky” site, in Web parlance, according to Buchdahl. That means that once you have successfully driven traffic to your site, usually accomplished by registering your site with major search engines, you need to keep your target audience coming back for more. Buchdahl said he uses “proactive Web measures” that will accomplish this “stickiness.” He said firms must use recognizable site names, as close to the firm name as possible, for easy client access. A firm should also create exposure by purchasing links from other sources, such as legal Web directories or information sites. When a user goes to the link site, the firm name will also be accessible in some form to the user through the link. Buchdahl also said there are sophisticated programs that firms can implement to “capture” user data and identify the Web site visitor for the firm, which can be useful if a user ultimately contacts the firm for business. Gone are the days, Buchdahl said, of “throwing up the firm’s written material on the screen.” He said that the reverse is happening now; that is, a good Web site, updated frequently, provides the best material for creating brochures and client newsletters. But in order for a site to be effective, he said, a law firm must carefully consider the site’s mission, and, once it is defined, update the site regularly with fresh information. For client development, Buchdahl suggests citing firm information such as lectures offered by firm members, new associate names and bios, firm histories and information about new laws passed in the firm’s area of expertise. EXTRANET Law firms can also use an Extranet as a tool for attorneys to get to know each others’ work ethics, essential for getting new lawyer referrals, Buchdahl said. Extranets are increasingly used in providing firms with direct communication with intended audiences, while at the same time maintaining an expected level of privacy, Buchdahl said. He said that an Extranet is accessed via the Web, but that it is intended for specific users and is secure and private. Small firms can set up an Extranet to be accessed by only those attorneys with a certain area of expertise, such as construction law, Buchdahl said. It can be set up as a kind of chat room where attorneys can talk to each other to get the latest information about a specific area of the law. Extranets also can be client-specific. Buchdahl said that firms that represent insurance companies often only have one or two major clients. An Extranet can be designed for communication between the insurance company and the defense firm it uses. Extranets are also valuable in major cases or transactions, when numerous parties and attorneys need to access each other to talk about the development in a case. For instance, merger attorneys can set up an Extranet for communicating over the Web until a merger is completed, Buchdahl said. GRADUAL PROGRESS Buchdahl said that although the Internet continues to prove itself as “the wave of the future” when it comes to marketing in general, he still hears a lot of skepticism from lawyers unfamiliar with or threatened by the new technology. But things are changing. He said that many attorneys are learning about the Internet through their children, who use the Internet in school for projects. “When I first started lecturing, the interest was slimmer, and I was often talking to an echo,” he said, “And people were mostly concerned about the design of the site, how the graphics looked, and whether the logo was right that they desired for the site,” he said. “These were often static sites. They often weren’t updated, and many of those sites served very little purpose, other than for firms to be able to say that they participated on a basic level on the Web. Now, the seminars are packed with attorneys asking intelligent questions about marketing applications for the technology,” he said. Buchdahl said his approach has changed as lawyers become more familiar with the Web. “When I first began to lecture on this topic, I used to need to spend about half of my lecture time doing computer basics, describing the Internet, defining what a browser was, what a server did. Now I spend about two minutes on that stuff,” Buchdahl said. “Lawyers are becoming more Web-savvy and they want to know how to use the Internet to offer cutting-edge material to their audience.” As for Buchdahl, he said he dedicates at least two hours of his day to reading up on Web information such as the technology section of the Wall Street Journal and publications like Fast Company and the Industry Standard. But no matter how much he reads, Buchdahl said, the technology is changing so rapidly that his lectures now have a shelf life of less than four months. “If you want to keep up with technology and marketing, you need to be current every single day or you’re history,” Buchdahl said.

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