While the online world whizzes by legal websites often appear stuck in first gear. Even after all this time many attorney aggregators and portals are little more than flat online brochures. Are such Law 1.0 features a good thing; a bad thing, or anything at all? The answer: yes, no, and definitely.
Beyond the Directory
Recently, sites like Avvo have come along to challenge the status quo established a decade ago by the relatively featureless alphabetical directories fielded by Lexis (lawyers.com) and Westlaw (findlaw.com). But with only 2 choices, many don’t see the Internet as a viable place to find a good lawyer.
Starting The Conversation
Years before we learned to participate on Flickr, Digg, and the rest of the Web 2.0 all-stars, Ask.com and About.com were catering to thousands of Internet users who wanted answers to real-life questions. Today of course everyone from Yahoo! Answers to LinkedIn has incorporated interactive Q+A features and lawyer aggregators have been no exception.
Lawguru is typical of early lawyer-aggregation sites: for all intents and purposes it’s just a forum for questions and answers, but its success encouraged real world publisher Nolo Press to get into the act and soon it became clear that giving people answers was a great way for lawyers to market economically online. There was just one more development needed to shift the focus of online attorney marketing entirely to prospects, and it was supplied by pay-to-play sites such as Legal Match. These sites hat made no bones about the fact that they watned to bring lawyers and clients together – a position that was controversial because, among other things, that role had traditionally been filled by local bar associations (and it was a money-making venture at that).
Just when it seemed like interactive were slowing down and maturing, the idea of bringing lawyers and clients together got a shot in the arm from Lawfiles.net – a lawyer-run site that aggregates and connects lawyers and prospects for free. Lawfiles.net has also avoided the urge to promote hobnobbing a la FaceBook or My Space, It is a direct link straight to the legal community, and possibly the best way we’ve seen yet to put the Internet to work.
The site’s interface is intuitive and friendly: essentially, prospects submit questions and lawyers provide short answers. The value proposition for attorneys is obvious – Lawfiles is their virtual shingle. As long as they can receive e-mail lawyers can respond to anyone, anytime. And the site provides other advantages to lawyers; for instance
- it creates a direct route to people with needs
- it quickly augments your online body of work
- it can build credentials faster than a website
- it is much more interactive than a blog
- it provides free listings – others charge to do this
- it’s always free for lawyers and prospects to use
Overall Lawfiles offers a simple but sophisticated way for lawyers to use the Internet as a client-generation tool – like all interactive websites it puts lawyers in touch with prospects, but like a blog it also allows particpants to create a body of work that gets indexed by search engines – making their answers an invaluable part of their online marketing strategy. And did I mention it’s free?