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In 2001, Web sites are as integral to law firm marketing as brochures and business cards. Seventy-seven percent of law firms are now online. But too few of them understand what is truly valuable about their site. To find out how buyers of legal services view Web sites, my firm, Greenfield/Belser, went back to the source — corporate America. Sixty percent of our respondents were in-house counsel, while the balance were high-level business executives. Here’s what we learned: � Does anybody even look? Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed have gone online to locate outside legal counsel. More than one-third surf the Web for legal services weekly or more often. And while more than four-fifths of them go directly to a Web site, a surprising number also rely on search engines (89 percent) and portals (71 percent) to screen law firms fast. Although keyword searches are more often based on practice areas, two-thirds of searches target specific industry expertise — information that few sites provide. Martindale-Hubbell is still strong (77 percent use Martindale.com), but it faces a challenge from a younger entrant, law.com, with 56 percent. (American Lawyer Media publications, including Legal Times, which originally published this story, are affiliated with law.com.) � How do they find you? Law firm sites depend on print media to drive traffic. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed have visited a firm site because of a promotional mailing. And 45 percent went to a site after seeing a firm’s print ad. (Because few admit to being influenced by promotions, the real percentage is probably higher.) Banner ads move almost nobody (4 percent). Online promotions also fall flat. Only a small number of buyers have downloaded press releases (two out of five) and lawyer announcements (one out of 20). More have received them via e-mail, but aren’t happy about it (three out of four). To toot your horn, the best bet may be a pop-up window on your home page. The Web remains no substitute for a rich marketing mix. When we asked buyers what works, a surprising number � unprompted — mentioned newsletters (19 percent), brochures (16 percent), seminars (12 percent), and even cold calls as effective sales techniques. � What do they want to see? Seventy-one percent ranked experience with specific matters as one of the most important pieces of information on a firm site, with industry expertise a close second at 69 percent. Fifty-seven percent identified in-depth industry knowledge as an important feature of practice area descriptions. For individuals, the ideal biography is current, brief, and focused. Again, 54 percent say specific industry experience is very useful. Law school alma maters and bar membership activities also count for a lot. But bear in mind that two-thirds search for lawyers by practice area, not by name — something to consider in developing your site’s internal links. Corporate lawyers have spent enough time in the stacks. They want to access your articles and white papers by topic (77 percent), practice area (57 percent), and keyword (50 percent). They don’t want to find articles by title (30 percent) or the author’s name (10 percent). Share but don’t necessarily share for free. Surprisingly large numbers say they would be willing to pay to receive e-mails with or to download legal forms and agreements, case summaries, and (to a lesser degree) legislative and regulatory updates and white papers. (Fair warning: Many spoke hypothetically; they haven’t actually paid for these things online.) Finally, don’t fear that putting time and thought into your Web site could be a waste. Sixty-six percent of respondents say that in deciding whether to try a new firm, they’re likely to be swayed by how the firm uses all aspects of the Internet. Greenfield/Belser is a Washington, D.C.-based marketing and design firm specializing in law firm communications. Belser is president and creative director of the firm.

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