Monday, February 16, 2009

Web 2.0 for lawyers, law firms, and attorneys - Q & A

As Web 2.0 (the next generation of web experience and sites) continues to grow and accelerate, visitors want interaction in everything they do. As the younger generation gets older and the older generation becomes more acclimated with web interaction, the typical Law Firm Website model will become a little less relevant. Web surfers want to ask for information via the web. They do not want to "call for a free consultation" or fill out an intake form where someone from the firm will contact them.
This is why you see a lot of Law Q & A sites out there. Law firm potential clients are asking legal questions on these sites and on general Q & A sites such as Yahoo Answers!
I have had discussions with many attorneys about the viability of the information of these sites. Some attorneys believe it is ok to give informational answers that cannot be described as any legal advice. Other attorneys believe that the whole legal question and answer model is fatally flawed. One lawyer told me "would you get advice on how to do open heart surgery on an answer from a website? So why would you be able to get solid legal information without consulting with an attorney on the phone?".
I'm not a lawyer and don't know which perspective is correct. I do know that less and less people like to use the phone. People want answers online just like they want to purchase products online. A general manager of a local Pizza Hut franchise told me his sales increased 25% when customers could order pizza online.
How law firms will deal with this quandary will be very important. Blawgs can be a little interactive, but do not answer the fundamental question, how should lawyers communicate with prospective clients in the age of Web 2.0?


gyi tsakalakis said...

This is raises a great question. The short answer is, very carefully. There are ethical concerns at play when lawyers communicated with potential clients through web 2.0 media.

The best way lawyers can use these media to communicate to potential client, is the same as it has always been...Write well.

By positioning one's self as an expert on a particular subject, potential clients will seek you out.

For lawyers, it is especially important to disclaim their online writings as "for informational purposes only". I would encourage all lawyers to refrain from giving "legal advice" over the internet.

By casting writings in an informational style, lawyers can share their knowledge and expertise without being accused of giving advice.

Legal Marketer said...

Write carefully and write well, very appropriately stated Gyi.
I completely understand where you are coming from for attorneys to establish their authority on a a certain subject through Web 2.0. However, I see the two worlds of the new age consumer wanting to interact instantly and the old school lawyer ethics wanting to set up an appointment. Both sides are going to have to bend and meet in the middle.