Referrals still more important than law blogs?

When an important article comes out in the social media industry, I usually see it come across my Twitter stream.  When the article relates to social media and the legal industry, I will often see it repeated over a dozen times.  Sometimes, when an article is about social media, the legal industry and controversy is involved the article gets emailed to me by lawyers all over the world and is forwarded to me by my aunt who generally only forwards locats.  Just such an article hit last week, and if you aren’t living underground (without internet access) than chances are you probably saw  it.

This article asked 1,000 people (that use landline phones) how they find lawyers.  As expected, the poll found that people use referrals to find lawyers, “Forty-six percent of the respondents say they would ask a friend, family member or colleague for a lawyer referral, while 34 percent say they would contact a lawyer they know or whom they have used before.” This is not sensational or even novel.  We have known for decades that clients hire people they know, like and trust.  What was unique?  The data with regards to websites, blogs and social media.

“[N]early half—49 percent—were very or somewhat likely to consult websites where consumers can post legal questions for lawyers to answer. Forty-seven percent were very or somewhat likely to look at lawyer ratings websites and 44 percent to check a lawyer’s own website. . . fewer than 20 percent were very or somewhat likely to consult Facebook, compared to 15 percent who would consult blogs, and 9 percent who would look at Twitter.”

Now I don’t know about you, but for an organization like the ABA that has largely ignored social media and blogging until recently, this data is pretty impressive.  Not impressive that the numbers are so low, but that they are so high.  The legal industry is currently estimated to have somewhere around 5-10,000 law blogs.  So out of approximately 1 million lawyers in the United States, only 10,000 have blogs. So 1% of lawyers have blogs.  15% of people (that are still using landlines) are using blogs to find lawyers.  The important piece of data here is that a significant percentage of of your average landline-owning clients are using Facebook, Twitter and blogs to find their lawyer.  Not to mention that fact that referrals are often requested and passed via these very same social networks.

The debate over this issue has raged on over the last week with great posts on the topic:

ABA shows blogs a leading form of client development (See comments for lively discussion between Will Hornsby and Kevin O’Keefe)

ABA and O’keefe in agreement: Not enough law blogs to meet public demand by Kevin O’Keefe

Blame it on solo by Carolyn Elefant

Relationships will always be the key to business development, so why do we have to keep returning to this silly debate over which is better relationships or social media?  Social media is just a tool for communicating.  It also helps build relationships.  The sooner the old guard realizes it, the sooner they will recognize that blogs and social media are an important part of the business development mix and they aren’t going anywhere.


13 Responses to “Referrals still more important than law blogs?”

  1. Damian says:

    For me this debate always sounds like this:

    What is more important, Phones or referrals
    What is more important emails or referrals

    We get it relationships are important, the MOST important. This points out WHERE everybody is interacting and HAVING there relationships.

  2. Great article Adrian! As an attorney who works for a firm that has recently added social media and a blog to our advertising efforts, this is refreshing news. I was pleasantly shocked to learn 15% of landline folks are using the blogs to find attorneys.

    Now, if only state advertising rules would catch up to today’s technology. The biggest problem I have come across is not the time/effort involved in social media/blogging, but making sure what I post and who I “follow” or “like” are allowed.

    The Florida Bar is quite strict on atty advertising, and current rules don’t have much to say on social media guidelines. Sure, a firm is allowed to have a Facebook or Twitter page. But a firm is limited on sending out “requests” for people to Follow/Like them. So I can Twitter away and post Facebook status updates until the cows come home, I just can’t ask anyone to follow me. Really hard to get followers that way.

    It kinda takes the “social” out of social media…

    • Good questions. First off, you don’t need to ask anybody to follow you- the best way to build your following is just by following others. A percentage of them will follow you back. Another great way to gain followers is by posting content that is of interest to your ideal client. Remember, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have, the important thing is to have the “right” types of followers that are engaged and interested in what you have to say. Hope that helps.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Jay Pinkert says:

    Flaps like this underscore the general lack of serious and nuanced analysis in legal marketing. You’re absolutely right; the survey surfaced interesting data and prompted questions that deserve serious discussion. But instead of a holistic, data-based discourse on how individuals collect the information upon which they base their decisions, right out of the gate it was a religious argument about blogging.

  4. Sorry I didn’t didn’t discuss your post but thx for the link. You probably didn’t want to be in the Kevin-Will crossfire anyway.

  5. Rickyman says:

    Another good way to market yourself is to make a YouTube video and hope it goes viral. That’s always a good way to attract positive attention for you…:

    except if you’re an over-privileged racist white girl spreading hate, i guess. Then that doesn’t work out too well usually.

  6. Amy Knapp says:

    Excellent post and analysis — I particularly liked the perspective you bring to the debate with stats like 1% of lawyers have blogs. I suppose the net effect of a survey like this will be to arm social media detractors with what they consider ammunition and do the same for those who appreciate social media.
    (The land-line references also made me smile. Is it time for me to get rid of mine? It does come in handy when I’m on my third coaching call of the day, the iphone runs out of juice, and I don’t want to be tethered to a charging cord! )
    Best regards,


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