Matching Online Authority with Law Firm Capabilities

Matching Online Authority - Lawyer.comLaw firms use a number of different techniques to differentiate themselves from others. Some attorneys boast case victories or superior law school credentials, while others use testimonials or awards as external validation. Understanding attorney competition is rather complex – firms compete across many different geographies, demographics, and practice areas.

The most concrete venue in which law firms compete is practice area. A firm that focuses on a specific practice area will devote attention towards mastering the law, the business, and the courts – just to handle matters in that area. Once the capabilities are established, the attorney or firm then must compete for clients with those particular matters. Using online marketing is a great first step in ensuring that the firm’s online authority matches the law firm’s capabilities.


When meeting a dentist at a networking event, it would be relatively easy to figure out what she does – she works on teeth.  A lawyer’s introduction, however, is not so straightforward. The common person cannot easily extrapolate what a lawyer does, beyond “practices law”. What does that mean, exactly? Practice areas and specialty designations help identify the kinds of law a lawyer practices. However, these broad categories may do more harm than good.

A blanket practice area could generate misappropriated assumptions about clientele. For example, accused criminals may try contacting a “criminal defense” attorney – despite the fact the attorney exclusively practices appellate work. Practice areas can also confuse people to the scope of legal services performed by a firm. A “bankruptcy” lawyer – who represents creditors – receives numerous calls from bankruptcy petitioners.

Consumers do not really understand the activities that a lawyer performs. Instead, consumers know the circumstances in which they are involved or implicated.

Take a home foreclosure as an example: who should handle the matter? A consumer may think they need a real estate attorney. A different consumer may contact a bankruptcy attorney, since they defaulted on their mortgage. A more sophisticated consumer might contact a foreclosure attorney. Depending on the lawyer, any one of these consumers could be right – or wrong.


The technological revolution has precipitated new ways that consumers find information. The rise of internet use – and the invention of new devices for accessing the internet – has transformed how consumers find answers to their questions. As a result, lawyers can more easily communicate to the public about what they do. New technology allows a lawyer to be listed exactly in the segments in which he or she practices. Perhaps more importantly, attorneys can also avoid being listed in areas they don’t practice.

Legal directories, such as, offer the ability to specifically define the services that a lawyer provides to a consumer. Lawyer Joe practices real estate law, but does not take on landlord-tenant matters. Lawyer Jessica handles federal, white-collar criminal cases. Lawyer Irene takes on clients wanting to get a divorce, but will not get involved in child custody disputes.

Lawyers that use technology to limit assumptions will attract the right kind of clients for their practice.


Defining a target market is an important first step in crafting a law firm marketing plan. The next step is marketing to that segment for the specific services that a firm can provide – and the services the firm does not provide. Listing the firm in a directory offers numerous benefits:


Consumers facing legal trouble know that they need help. Beyond that, they usually don’t know how to resolve their issue. Attorneys waste a lot of time speaking to potential clients that they can’t help. Correct positioning online increases the visibility for the firm to potential clients whose needs are most closely aligned with the firm’s capabilities.


Positioning the firm in the right segments online helps more than just consumers. When an attorney is searching for another attorney for a referral, they might also search the web. Having an online presence that matches the attorney’s expertise provides a point of validation for receiving referrals from other attorneys and professional service providers.


Online directories usually have many different categories in which an attorney may be listed. Starting out, it is important for solo and small firms to focus on a few areas. But as the firm grows, the directories offer a framework for expansion: adding new categories to match the firm’s new capabilities.


Law firm online marketing involves many different channels and strategies. One constant across all marketing activities is the use of keywords. Browsing and listing in directories can help with brainstorming keyword ideas – especially long-tail keywords.


A critical component of any online marketing strategy is measuring return-on-investment. Understanding the relationship between channel investment and profit can be made easier when evaluating segments. For example, $500 spent monthly on bankruptcy marketing must generate at least 1 filing to break even. Having a clean method of measuring ROI makes it easier to understand the economics of the firm. As a result, the firm can make data-driven decisions about where marketing dollars should be invested.

Law firms create their dedicated practice areas based on the capabilities of the attorneys. Those important frameworks should manifest in the online presence for the firm. Doing so positions the firm to be in front of the right audiences. Listing on an online directory begins the effort of establishing online authority in the precise categories that the firm wants to be.

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