Mike Blackburn represents I-COM

The fundamentals never change – only the way in which they are delivered

There was a time when getting business for your law firm was all about pressing the flesh – the old adage of “It’s not what you know, It’s who you know” being very true; the market was a much more local place.

Traditionally, the main thing a firm might do to ensure a continuing supply of business would be to acquire an office on the right road in town and erect a nice brass plaque declaring they were there.

Beyond that, a firm might consider taking an advert in the Yellow Pages, although providing their reputation was good enough, the business would probably come through the door anyway.

It all started to change though when the market began to be less “local”; building societies and estate agents started to organise and recommend firms centrally and the age of panel management began. This forced many firms to think more strategically about how they operated and marketing and business development became words regularly heard in law firms.

The legal sector is now facing its biggest shake up in decades with the advent of the Legal Services Act and the proposed changes in referral fees and legal aid.

Many people are forecasting that these changes will be the death knell for many small law firms who will not be able to compete effectively.

We believe that the changes in the market when combined with other technical developments will actually have an interesting impact on the market, allowing smaller firms to compete much more locally, albeit in a virtual context.

The “new” local market

In the new world success will not only be achievable through scale and money available for marketing. Firms that can apply the traditional business development skills they have honed over the years to the new market, using the internet as their route to market, will be successful; they simply need to develop a different way of thinking.

The law firm will need a good-looking office front on the new virtual high street – by this we mean an attractive website that will convey effectively what the firm does, give potential clients the confidence to get in touch and importantly, but often forgotten, encourage and enable the start of their communication with the firm.

The law firm should certainly advertise – in the new world this can be on lots of different platforms perhaps the most valuable to the law firm is the search engine. Advertising can take the form of paid search where the firm pays every time a searcher clicks on the link to the firm’s site, or through the natural search listings provided your site has been optimised appropriately for search engines. The key here for many firms is again to think back to the days of the Yellow Pages; a small, local firm may not have the budget to buy an advert for clinical negligence claims across the country, but in all likelihood could afford a listing for “clinical negligence solicitors in Dorking.” This type of search result will deliver fewer visitors but the visitors who do arrive are more likely to make an enquiry.

Finally, the firm will need to manage and build a reputation online for the work it does; this is the best way to generate referrals. There are two ways a firm can do this – the first and perhaps most effective is to get your satisfied clients to leave reviews for your business on one of the many review sites. The second takes more effort and involves establishing an effective social media presence (the equivalent of pressing the flesh). Engaging with others online is unlikely to directly win the firm new business, but the next time one of your contacts is asked if they know a good lawyer for ”¦ they may well drop in your name.

How I-COM can help

I-COM are Experts in Online Marketing for Law Firms. We can help your law firm build an online strategy for success.

I-COM’s designers, developers and online marketing specialists are experts at helping law firms build an effective online presence through search and social media.

Working with around 60 legal organisations, our approach differs from most traditional web development companies because as well as making websites that look great we focus on ensuring our websites become a real business development tool for our clients.

If you are looking for a new website or to get more enquiries from your existing site, get in touch with the legal specialists on 0161 402 3170. We work with law firms across the UK.

Mike Blackburn is Operations Director of I-COM.

Email mike.blackburn@i-com.net.

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