Crappy Law Firm Internet Marketing: Who’s to Blame?

manure-garbage

About a year ago, Sam wrote about the lameness of law firm Facebook pages. I generally agreed. Last week, I suggested that it is the lawyers (and their consultants) who are lame, not Facebook. Which prompted Sam to note the rarity of non-lame law firm Facebook pages and, even rarer, non-sucky law blogs (unsolicited plug for Sam, he’ll be talking about sucky blogs in April in Vegas).

Which got me thinking, why is there so much lawyer lameness and suckyness online? Who’s to blame?

Is it the marketers?

The obvious answer is that it’s the marketers. You know, the gurus, the ninjas and the wizards. The people telling lawyers that they need to get online or perish. My colleagues. The people selling this stuff:

Real Law Firm Stuff Crappy Law Firm Internet Marketing: Whos to Blame?

(a tip of the hat to @wilreynolds for his Real Company Stuff)

And let there be no doubt that many, many, many people in the internet marketing community have earned much of the blame.

Let’s face it, the social web is still fairly young. There’s still a pretty vast knowledge gap for many lawyers which creates the opportunity for almost everyone to be an expert. Couple that with a bad legal job market and, voila, otherwise intelligent lawyers become desperate to make it rain online.

But the marketers can’t be all to blame. After all, lawyers have to sign the checks for this stuff, sign-off on it, and of course, bear the ultimate responsibility for their professional reputations and compliance with legal ethics rules.

And when caught in a legal internet marketing trap, ignorance becomes a lawyer’s most relied upon defense: My marketer made me do it.

Right…

I know plenty of lawyers on the quest to unlock the secrets of search engines and social media. And they’re doing a fine job of being sucky all on their own.

Is it the lawyers?

best lawyer website 640x514 Crappy Law Firm Internet Marketing: Whos to Blame?

I know, how dare I! Certainly it’s not the lawyers to blame for crappy internet marketing.

Whether it be true ignorance (rare), willful ignorance (less rare) or intentional gamesmanship (common), lawyers must bear the lion’s share of blame for their lame social media pages and sucky law blogs.

In the best case, they’re the ones blindly funding them. In the worst case, they’re the ones leaving spammy comments, spinning crappy articles and social spamming streams.

Best Attorney In LA bestattorneynla on Twitter Crappy Law Firm Internet Marketing: Whos to Blame?
(which appears to no longer exist)

They’re also usually the ones who insist on using stock legal imagery on their websites and find it so important to talk about how hard they fight, how passionate they are, yada, yada, yada.

But why?

For the truly ignorant, it’s usually a matter of having neither the time nor desire to deal with this stuff. Yet, because everyone’s talking about social media and there are over a billion people on Facebook, they figure they had better be there too.

In my experience, there are more that are willfully ignorant than truly ignorant. They really want there to be a magic marketing bullet. They’re hoping it’s the internet. But deep-down, they know that’s not how it works. Like chasers of fad diets, they jump at the latest shiny tool and trick. And while some might be able to get some type of “results” for awhile (more on this below), in the long-run, they often end up doing more harm than good, to both their web presence and their real-life reputation.

But I can already hear the chuckling. “What a self-righteous idiot”, they will say. “This stuff works! I have the traffic, rankings and leads to prove it!”

And unfortunately, at least some of them are right.

Is it Google?

The truth is that if this stuff didn’t “work” at least some of the time (or at least if there wasn’t a perception that it did), there would be no market for it. Which would mean that spammers would be out of business and the do-it-yourself internet marketing lawyers wouldn’t spend their precious time and money filling the web with digital manure.

The problem is that it does work, for some of the people, at least for a little while. Organizing the world’s information is a big job. Google isn’t perfect. I’ve seen with my own eyes the most spammy, black hat internet tricks work. And by work, I mean generate real-life business for lawyers. No, I’m serious.

And as much as the legal internet marketing police might find it incredulous, some lawyers just don’t care about adding a bit of tarnish to their names. As I have been told, “a dog’s gotta eat.”

So perhaps it’s Google’s fault. After all, isn’t it Google that inadvertently created the entire SEO industry? But Google isn’t stupid. And as you may have heard, it is getting a whole-lot smarter.

I’ve talked to some of the lawyers who have been left twisting in the wind of a significant algorithm update. Some are baffled, more have the rosy cheeks of child with hand in jar of cookies. All bear some degree fault. And their next move is to “mend” the errors of their ways with the next trick, creating a whole new oily market. Which is largely an effort in futility.

Friends, you can blame Google all you want. Sergey knows, a lot of people are trying… But don’t shed a tear for them, Google’s doing just fine.

We can continue to blame Google for not being perfect (at least not perfect yet). But this is largely a waste of time. It’s not Google, it’s not Facebook, it’s you.

Is it the legal services consumers?

If we can’t blame the marketers, the lawyers or Google, perhaps we can blame the consumers of legal services. After all, if the entire internet didn’t generate a single new client, lawyers would likely eventually catch-on. I said eventually…

But the truth is that some of the most spammy, outrageous and clearly unethical marketing generates some clients for some lawyers. And this is nothing new. It’s just a new form of the same things that have been embarrassing the profession and lowering-the-bar for time out of mind. But now they’re out in the open for us all to see.

So let’s blame the people that hire lawyers from spammy solicitations on Facebook, Twitter and Google. They’re clearly the ones fueling the marketing for crappy legal internet marketing. Oh wait, aren’t lawyers supposed to protect the public from this stuff? Never mind.

(Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlwelsh/8479891259/)

  • http://scotduke.com Scot Duke

    How true is this! Great post. I have found the attorneys who come to me are overly concerned with what they want and or need to do online will comply to to the legal ethics rules. Seems that rule sees internet marketing as a less desirable media for lawyers to market practice. This presents a challenge for what I can consult them on doing. Unfortunately, most of them come to me after spending a lot of time and money with one of the media boxes who attempt to keyword the law practice to death. So, offering them solutions to how they go about marketing online what they do becomes even more difficult due to their lack of trust in anything on the internet will work for them. You offer some good solutions..thanks again for the post.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      attorneys who come to me are overly concerned with what they want and or need to do online will comply to to the legal ethics rules

      I think you missed Gyi’s point by a mile.

  • Steve lodge

    Lots of comment in this article; not much substance. What’s the point, if you’re not going to distinguish crap from effective social media marketing or how to change the former into the latter?

    • http://www.royginsburg.com Roy Ginsburg

      “lawyer lameness and suckyness online?” I’ve got news for you; it’s not limited to online marketing; it’s hold true for most legal marketing.

      Quite frankly, I’m tired of all of the bashing done to legal marketers. I don’t they are any better or any worse than the lawyers they serve when it comes to competence, ethics, business acumen, etc. There are certainly some bad apples, just as some of the people they serve are bad apples.

      Most legal marketing sucks because few lawyers think like business people, from solos to Big Law. Simply put, attorneys have little to no marketing sense. It is not in their DNA. For every story you hear about a lawyer paying for some legal marketing with questionable value, there is another story you don’t hear about lawyers refusing to listen to a great marketing idea.

      • brint crockett

        Trying to find the social good in it, Gyi?

        For an industry that’s evolved from angry fist-waving commercials on television to legal guides and blog posts that actually educate users and get them reading about the law, I think we’re doing okay.

        Hope that helps.

  • http://www.recoverreputation.com/ Steven W. Giovinco

    Thanks for the GREAT article post. I tend to agree with the one of the comments above: while there is plenty of blame to go around, marketing and lawyers do not mix well. One lawyer I spoke to did not see the need of having a website (!); social media was completely out of the question. While of course each practice is different, and I respect that, its important for small business owners or small companies–including lawyers–to be open to marketing tactics that include social media and not to think about just the bottom line all the time.

  • http://www.smartmarketingnow.com Mark Merenda

    Here is where the blame rests: with the Internet. The Internet has put the means of publishing in the hands of everyman (or, in this case, everylawyer ) and truth is that they have nothing to say. That’s why there are so many sucky blogs and lame Facebook pages. Let’s be honest here. These people shouldn’t have blogs. Think about how the book publishing industry has worked for so many years. In order to get published you had to convince layers (not lawyers) of professionals — agents, editors, publishers — that what you wrote was worth the financial investment they were about to make in printing and distributing. A lot of crap got published, but a lot more didn’t see the light of day, because it was TERRIBLE. The number one — and only — obligation of a blog is to be interesting. That could mean educational, valuable, entertaining, funny, sad, whatever. But not boring. Most lawyers (and most marketers!) can’t write and have nothing interesting to say, just as most people don’t. There is an old saying: you can keep your mouth shut and have everyone think you’re an idiot, or you can open it and remove all doubt. Sorry if this sounds harsh but not everyone should be writing, just as not everyone should be singing (me, for instance). But just take a look at YouTube. So let’s blame the Internet for giving every idiot a platform.