ABA website survey – many firms still missing out

Recently, the ABA reported the findings from their annual Legal Technology Survey. One survey topic was the usage of websites among law firms. The survey identified that 73% of respondent firms have websites, which is consistent with the 2006 survey findings. While it’s not surprising that the respondents from law firms with 50 or more attorneys all had websites, it was surprising that only 2/3 of small firms (between 2 and 9 attorneys) had websites, and even more surprising that less than 1 in 3 of solo practitioners have a website.

The reason that these findings are startling is that by and large, across the majority of law practice areas, the most cost effective business development mechanism is the website. Usage of Google, Yahoo (and other search engines), Google Maps and local search continues to grow. Many demographics don’t use phone books; if they want to find a business, they only use the web.

With this in mind, it is apparent that the need for a firm website will continue to grow. Also, a law firm website can be the great equalizer. What I mean by this is that while large firms usually have an edge when it comes to promoting their firm given their large marketing budgets, Google and the other search engines have absolutely no bias for the big firms. Many of the best websites (from a search engine performance, branding and content perspective) are from solo attorneys and small firms. It’s not unheard of for the small firms to get 2000 – 4000 or more website visitors every month, with many of these visitors converting to clients.

Among other interesting findings is that only 5% of respondents’ firms have blogs. While those firms that do use blogs see strong business development benefits, the implementation of law firm blogs is increasing quite slowly. Again, this is unfortunate, because in many cases, a law firm blog can be a great tool to keep top-of-mind with referral attorneys, and help build an overall web presence.

When we talk to firms, many are interested in blogs, but cite lack of time as the reason for not doing. However, when put in the context of being a business development tool, the time commitment to write blog entries are not unreasonable. Many firms that don’t have a website may argue that their practice is specialized, that they have a strong flow of business, that hey don’t need to market themselves or that they just don’t have the money.

Pragmatically speaking, every day you don’t have a website is one more day that you may be missing out on getting new business and building lucrative new relations. Who can afford this?