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

(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?

My law firm website say I'm the best.

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
(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/)