Inside of Your Law Firm Now Inside Google: Business Photo Pilot Program

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Free: 10 Things the Best Law-Firm Website Designs Have in Common

For seven years, Lawyerist has published an annual list of the best law firm websites. Now, you can find out what they have in common.

Have an impressive office? Now you can share it in Google Places. No, I’m not talking about merely claiming your profile here. I’m talking about literally providing a 360 degree tour of your office. That’s the ambitious goal of Google’s new Business Photos pilot program:

Bring your business to life with a 360-degree, interactive tour. Showcase all the details that your customers love. Perfect for restaurants, retail shops, gyms, salons, and more!

Your customers can walk around, explore, and interact with your business like never before. Customers will be able to truly experience your business – just like being there!

Not only will these images appear on Google searches, Google Maps, and Google Places, but you can easily embed these images on your own website, social media pages, and more!

Clearly, the program is designed for businesses where how the “insides” look matters. And I’m sure there will be many who think this is a terrible idea for law firms. And for many law firms, it might just be a terrible idea. For better or for worse, what people see when they look for you online might just matter to them. Even those people that heard about you via word-of-mouth.

Here’s a recent example I came across (h/t: Dan Goldstein) for a Dentist’s office in Denver:

And when you click “see inside” you’re taken to an interactive 360-degree tour of the office:

These images don’t really do justice to the technology. Obviously, these listings really stand out on Google search results.

To get started, you need to contact one of Google’s trusted photographers in your area.

However, before you rush off to sign-up, you should spend some time thinking about the psychological impact of having your office on display for all the different people who might see it. Sure, you might think that being more transparent about your practice can only be a good thing.

But take a harder look. Are you organized? What are all the possible perceptions people might have about it? And don’t limit your consideration solely to prospective clients. How might seeing the inside of your office impact a judge? Or a juror?

You’ll also want to be careful to protect client confidences. Don’t leave anything identifiable client “stuff” out in the open to get plastered onto the first page of Google.

As more and more of our offline world goes online, we need to be conscientious of the potential consequences. This is not to instill fear, nor to convince you to hide the facts of your practice. I imagine that for many law firms, this will be seen as a competitive advantage over less experienced, or less established firms.

Whether how your office appears should have any bearing on your ability to serve your clients is a matter for another discussion. Like it or not, it will matter, at least to some people who see it. But then again, they’re likely to have to see it at some point, so perhaps you’re better off displaying it from the get go.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/glenpooh/708598479/)

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  • Wow. That sounds scary for solo attorneys with tiny offices.

    • I suppose it is more scary for them to see one’s tiny office before they actually arrive at the tiny office.

      I put this one in the same category as whether or not young lawyers should use pictures of themselves, etc.

      Do you try to insulate yourself from potential negative perception?

      Or do you take the “this is who I am take me or leave me” approach.

      Or somewhere in between.

      My two cents, they’re going to see you (and perhaps your office) eventually. Perhaps it makes more sense to get that issue out of the way in advance than waste both your times with a face-to-face.

      Of course, the counter-point might be that you have a better chance of persuading them to hire you face-to-face. And that’s definitely possible.

      But then again, are you factoring in the additional “costs” of taking on clients that you had to “hard-sell” to hire you?

      • It’s never a bad thing to show potential clients who you are. If you don’t think your office will help you get clients, then get a better office. If you don’t think it matters, don’t worry about it.

  • I think this idea has a few “cons”:

    If you are part of BigLaw – you are dealing with corporations mostly and whether or not you have the 500 gallon aquarium in reception or the conference room really will not matter to Pfizer, Halliburton, or the NYSE ;

    However, if you are a small-to-medium sized firm – competing for local businesses is more about the relationship between the attorney handling the matter and the client – I am not sure how many local business “Google” for an attorney – it is usually word-of-mouth ;

    For solos, I cannot see this as being anything other than a trap – if you have an amazing office you might scare away clients that think they could “never afford you” whereas if you practice out of a broom closet to save overhead but your work speaks for itself, potential clients might shy away thinking that, due to the size of your office, you are not”successful”.

    I welcome return comments on this.

    • If you are part of BigLaw – you are dealing with corporations mostly and whether or not you have the 500 gallon aquarium in reception or the conference room really will not matter to Pfizer, Halliburton, or the NYSE ;

      And Pfizer, Halliburton, and the NYSE probably aren’t spending a lot of time looking at law firms in Google Places…

      However, if you are a small-to-medium sized firm – competing for local businesses is more about the relationship between the attorney handling the matter and the client – I am not sure how many local business “Google” for an attorney – it is usually word-of-mouth ;

      Yep, and when they get that word of mouth referral, they’re probably going to “google you.” And what they see might matter. Whether or it should matter is a different story. That’s not a wholesale recommendation to sign-up for this program, just another thing to consider.

      For solos, I cannot see this as being anything other than a trap – if you have an amazing office you might scare away clients that think they could “never afford you” whereas if you practice out of a broom closet to save overhead but your work speaks for itself, potential clients might shy away thinking that, due to the size of your office, you are not”successful”.

      This sounds like Goldilocks marketing. Don’t use pictures of yourself because you’re too young or too old, or too ugly. Don’t show your office because it’s too big or too small. Don’t show examples of your work, because they might just think you’re not that good. In fact, don’t communicate anything because of the chance that it might leave a perception that you didn’t want to convey.

      Again, I’m not suggesting that this program is right for everyone, but I think too many lawyers get into this “marketing analysis paralysis” mode.

      I think you’re better off just being yourself and attracting clients that want you for you.

      • I think clients wanting “you for you” is a bit Pollyanna-ish in this world of image before substance. I agree that your work, not your office or the suit you wear, should speak for your abilities as an attorney. However, in the world we live in, many potential clients favor form or substance – something that attorneys should not lose sight of. Many people would rather have an attorney that shows up in an Armani suit, Rolex and Ferragamo shoes who is not silver-tongued, than a razor-sharp attorney who can barely match his shoes to his belt. It is a sad state of affairs.

  • Yes definitely bad news for the mom and pops

  • Drew McGuinness

    I have a very large litigation client in an image-conscious industry (in fact, image is their business, to some extent) who has given me a lot of work in the past year or so. They have had that time to appreciate my experience and skill, and could now care less that I work out of group office to keep my overhead low (a business model a major auto OEM also appreciates) and thus the hourly fees they pay at a discount compared with other litigators with my credentials and experience.

    But I would not have wanted to thrust my economy office scenario in their faces at the outset–no way!

    The bottom line (to me, anyway) is that a sophisticated buyer of legal services would virtually NEVER factor in office aesthetics in making a selection decision. So the attorneys that choose to market themselves this way (i) have really nice offices, and (ii) seemingly trying to encourage prospective clients to give that (non)factor weight in hiring them!

  • I really like Gyi’s use of the phrase “Goldilocks advertising.” Very descriptive.
    I think many of you are missing the point here. Your goal, when marketing is to be transparent. Be different. Showing your inner sanctum, where you spend all your working hours is a great way to get viewers interested in you.

    Many people (notice I said many, not all) have never been in an attorney’s office. They don’t know what to expect. They don’t know how intimidating your place it. Best way to remove any trepidation is to SHOW them.

    Here, Gyi points out using photos on Google to show them. Very innovative. I advocate using video to show them. For those of you who believe that this opportunity is bad for solos and small law firms and those who have small disheveled offices, I’ll tell you right now that thinking is backwards and here’s why.

    When your new prospective client comes into your small or tiny office to meet with you, they’re going to see you; see your office and see where you work. If you argue that showing your tiny office will scare people away, how will they feel when they walk in your door? It’s circular reasoning.

    Show them where you work. Take them on a tour, behind-the-scenes, so they get to see what you see. It’s a much better approach than sticking your head in the sand and hoping your new client doesn’t care.