If you read the title of this post and thought – “that’s crazy” – well, you were right. Word of mouth referrals are one of the best ways to develop business as a lawyer – always have been, always will be. They are certainly not dead. Many attorneys I know rely on it as their sole (and lucrative) source of new clients. But I wasn’t trying to mislead you. I do believe that traditional word of mouth referrals are dying. And by traditional I mean the following scenario:
Client A asks Client B for the name of a good lawyer. Client A receives the referral and contact information from Client B – perhaps with a summary of the prior work done. Client A then calls up that lawyer, meets with the lawyer, and if satisfied, engages that lawyer.
Enter the Internet. This is no longer how the referral scenario plays out. What happens now is what I will call “word of mouth+” (I didn’t steal that from Google, I swear). What I mean by word of mouth+ is the following scenario:
Client A asks Client B for the name of a good lawyer. Client A receives the referral and contact information from Client B – perhaps with a summary of the prior work done. Client A then pulls out the nearest laptop, iPad or phone and fires up Google, Bing, or if a rebel, Duck Duck Go. Client A enters the name and browses the results. Likely a firm page or bio. But more likely a LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, or blog – social media and online networks generally perform better in search. They review all of this information and then make the decision. In fact, the referral may be sent as a v-card or a link, which has an even greater chance of further digital review.
Google is simply too readily accessible to put blind trust in a referral. We search for everything – and with it built right into every smart phone, tablet, etc. – we search immediately. There is a certain degree of trust placed in search engines. If you are referred, you will be Googled or Binged (is this a word yet??).
So the question in the word of mouth+ era is what do clients find when they search for you online. Ideally they will find articles, case studies, blog posts, and other substantive content that showcases your expertise. If someone says you are the greatest trusts and estates lawyer in the world, but you are a ghost online, that referral might end before a phone call is ever placed. The referral has already been made, and clients want to call – don’t give them a reason not to by not having a presence online. Don’t have a robust web presence? Our legal network can help.
Founder of RFPattorney.com and author of the RFPattorney Blog. Over 8 years of experience practicing law, including past experience at an international law firm, a national law firm, and a small firm. Currently GC and VP Operations for large mechanical construction company. Midwesterner, home renovator, golden retriever wrangler, new dad, Wolverine, & avid hockey fan.
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