The Sound of a Tree Falling in the Blawging Woods
This survey was intended to figure out how people find the lawyers they hire. And the survey said:
People with personal legal matters are far more likely to turn to trusted sources instead of impersonal sources to find a lawyer, yet impersonal sources have a substantial and stable place in providing access to legal services.
Use of print directories, such as the Yellow Pages, as the primary way to find a lawyer for a personal legal matter appears to be eroding and is now about the same as online searches.
Younger adults are more likely to rely on online searches as the primary way to find a lawyer for a personal legal matter, but the extent to which online searches will expand as this population ages is unclear.
People are not showing a great enthusiasm for the use of online models to assist in finding a lawyer for personal legal matters.
Innovative online models, such as those that enable an exchange of questions and answers with lawyers and those that provide consumer feedback about lawyers are most likely to be used to assist in finding a lawyer for personal legal matters.
People would not use social media avenues to a substantial degree to assist in finding a lawyer for a personal legal matter, but relatively few lawyers market their services through these avenues at this time.
And that's just part of the summary. This caused war to break out between Kevin O'Keefe, who sells blogs to lawyers for a living, and Will Hornsby, staff counsel for the ABA, who was constrained to explain why the ABA survey was done via landline telephones (answer: because telegraph is no longer a viable method).
Kevin spun this to mean that blogs are where it's at, since people find lawyers through "trusted sources" and
How do you, as a lawyer, get referrals through other people's 'trusted sources?' Through relationships with others and having a strong word of mouth reputation.
Where's does that leave blogs and other social media when it comes to how people find a lawyer? Near the top of the list.
A long and winding road, that Will Hornsby refused to travel. As there was a caveat in the survey report, suggesting that a potential reason why people don't turn to blogs is that "a higher percentage of people are interested in turning to blogs to help find a lawyer than the percentage of solo and small firm lawyers who have blogs," Kevin and Will called a truce.
Because the shift in blame turned to "solo and small firm lawyers," Carolyn Elefant jumped in to cut through the empty rhetoric.
There are other reasons why only seven percent (according to the ABA Survey) of solo and small firm lawyers blog. Some are busy and can’t find the time. Some simply don’t like to write. Some take the position (erroneously in my view) that by blogging, they’re giving away the cow, so to speak. Others prefer to engage in other marketing activities such as speaking engagements and seminars or bar events (not my cup of tea, but different strokes).
But at the end of the day, most solos don’t blog because they simply do not see it benefiting their bottom line – and the ABA survey results, at least the actual numbers, tend to corroborate that instinct. Indeed, it may be that consumers are hungry for information, but most solos and small firms aren’t willing to provide it without some assurance that those consumers will convert into clients. Saying that consumers want more information from blogs doesn’t tell me that they want to hire a lawyer. Rather, it suggests that they just want more free information.
Icy cold water splashed on the faces of the faithful. No matter how many well-turned phrases are used to explain away the inability to calculate ROI, or how trusted sources can somehow be traced back to a blog.
A commenter here once questioned whether lawyers were supposed to be capable of sorting through the nonsense, the meaningless rhetoric, the meritless contentions. Well, yes, they are. Do they? Not so much. It's a problem.
There's a theory among the social media marketers that people hire lawyers they like. The point is the create a likeable online persona and people will like you for it, thus causing them to hire you. Having read a lot of lawyer blogs, it seems that this theory has been embraced by lawyers who market, along with the shameless self-promotional belief that the internet is a truth-free zone where ascribing non-existent awards, honors and miscellaneous kudos to oneself is par for the course.
This theory is also at play at various other social media venues, where lawyers collect twitter followers, LinkedIn associates and Facebook friends to show others how much they're loved and admired. I read as much as I can take without going into insulin shock. They are all very likeable. Some even approach lovable.
But there's a hitch that remains troubling. Most of what I read doesn't make me think they're "thought leaders" or "trusted sources." The better ones are just obvious marketers. The worse ones are people who didn't heed the maxim, it's better to let people think you're a blithering idiot than prove it beyond any doubt. The internet has a lot of really bad writing about the law.
Carolyn has offered some sound theories about why this is. Other theories are not as kind. But the empirical evidence is that too many lawyers aren't using the critical thinking skills the public expects us to possess, and it's just plain embarrassing.
Blog all you want, and Kevin O'Keefe's Lexblog platform is an excellent choice. I would use it if he would give it to me for free. But if you think that 10,000 personal injuries lawyers posting on their blogs about how each is the greatest thing since slice bread, won the biggest award ever, or cares more deeply about the welfare of a brain-damaged baby than the lawyer down the hall, then you're just fooling yourself.
There's no magic bullet here. If you want to get more business, spend your free time watching a great lawyer do a cross and become the lawyer you want to pretend to be on the internet. Clients will like you for it. Trust me, because I have a blawg.