Many of us used to rely solely on the recommendations of family, friends or colleagues when we were on the hunt for something – whether it was a new restaurant, a dentist, or a preferred camera brand.
That was also true for finding an attorney – but, like so many other fields, that’s no longer the case. It’s all thanks to that global game-changer, the Internet.
A whopping 58 million people have needed an attorney in the past year. But now 76 percent of clients-to-be are turning to the web to source one – for the first time, surpassing the number of people who primarily look to the recommendations of friends and family.
What does that mean for attorneys everywhere?
It’s straightforward: the Internet is both a threat and an opportunity. Ignoring what’s out there about us imperils our livelihoods and reputations. Not only do we miss out on the chance to tell prospective clients about our professional qualifications, experience, specialties and successes, but we also make ourselves more vulnerable to any negative issues that might arise.
Here are 5 tips to enhancing your online reputation:
Step into the shoes of a potential client. Search your name – as well as key combinations (e.g. your name + your firm’s name, your name + lawyer) on Google, Bing and Yahoo to see what comes up. What do you see? Is it biographical information? Your work address and phone number? Neutral information is good – though it’s even better if a person can find out precisely what you want them to in the first few results on the first page. Is it an old, embarrassing picture from college on Facebook? A quote you gave to the newspaper about a contentious case? A toxic online review from a former client? Even if it’s painful to see, remember it’s important to know precisely what’s out there so you can address it.
Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook rank highly in search engines. If you have personal social media accounts, make sure your privacy settings are as strong as possible (though it’s worth noting that they’re not ever foolproof). Then start professional Facebook and Twitter accounts – these are public accounts you want prospective clients to find. Post links to interesting, relevant stories – or even articles you’ve authored. Share milestones (“Celebrating 10 years as an attorney today! Thankful for my wonderful clients.”). The odds are you’re already on LinkedIn – the legal sector is the fifth largest user group on the site. But make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Ask for recommendations from others. Fill out your profile fully. Comment on others’ updates and share industry news of your own. Join LinkedIn groups that sound interesting and relevant to you – and become an active participant.
Craft your website.
Do you have a personal website? It’s worth the minimal domain registration fee to grab the personalized version of www.yourname.com. You can use tools like WordPress to design your site for free or at reasonable cost. This is your opportunity to tell clients exactly who you are: where you went to school, areas of legal specialty, professional experience and associations, honors and accolades, even why you became an attorney and what you love about it. This is worth doing – even if you’re an associate or partner at a sizable firm and are represented in that company’s site. If you’re part of a smaller firm that has no website, that’s one more to create to help your digital portfolio come to life.
Research has shown that 29 percent of consumers on the hunt for an attorney used legal blogs at the outset of their search. 21 percent read them to find a lawyer, 17 percent used them to check out a particular attorney, and 12 percent used them to actually select their attorney. Think about writing for an established legal blog. It’s not hard – just make sure you can offer something unique and timely. For example, you may have an interesting take on a fresh development in your area of specialty, be able to offer novel advice to new attorneys, or pinpoint the start of new trends in the profession.
Claim your online real estate.
Search engines offer business listings to companies and solo professionals. This is another way a new or existing client can find you more easily. Check out Google + Business pages here or Yahoo Local to start. You can fill in your address, hours of operation, website and phone number. And these services are integrated into mobile maps – Google Maps and Android are integrated while Apple and Yelp have a relationship. That means for people who use mobile as their primary search tool – 50 percent – you will not show up in the maps function unless you’re listed.
What are some of the best ways you’re sharing your professional story online?
About the Author
Chris Sundermeier is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer for Reputation.com. He comes to the company after representing various Silicon Valley Internet and technology companies for more than a decade as a litigation partner at Cooley LLP. There, Chris focused on disputes involving complex commercial contracts and technology agreements, securities, fiduciary duty, mergers and acquisitions, and intellectual property.
Mr. Sundermeier graduated magna cum laude with his law degree from Boston College, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif. Prior to attending law school, Mr. Sundermeier taught philosophy at multiple universities and colleges around New York City while working on a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Fordham University. He also holds an undergraduate degree in English and Philosophy from Creighton University.
Full disclosure, Legal Ink Magazine is an affiliate partner with Reputation.com.
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