I recently had the opportunity to discuss shy lawyers—yes, there are shy lawyers!—with ABA Journal podcast moderator Stephanie Francis Ward and Dalhi Myers, who practices law with Gaffney Lewis & Edwards. Previously, we considered ways to overcome the stigma of business development, finding the right people, targeting fertile markets, noninvasive ways to meet targets, ethical incentives for referrals, and marketing to other lawyers. Here we continue our conversation:
ABA Journal: What do you think about some of the online referral services where either you pay for referrals or you pay to be listed? Do you think one can generate a fair amount of business from that, or is it, maybe, a waste of money?
Dalhi Myers: I’m gonna let Larry speak more broadly to that, but I will say I have not had the greatest success with online referrals, and it may be because it’s still in its nascent stages and there needs to be more sort of organic growth and development for it before it becomes a real source of business. I am probably an old shoe-leather kind of person, anyway. I do believe that you have to put in the effort and the time meeting people and providing services that they really need, and that’s how you’re gonna generate business.
But that having been said, I do think that there are some online things that you can do that generate business—not to include the fee-based services, just because I don’t know enough about those to speak intelligently and I haven’t had the greatest success. But I can say that you will see results from, for example, blogging on areas of blogs that have expertise because when people go to a blog, it’s because they are seeking you out, rather than your sending a client broadside or some sort of client memo that people may or may not read or that may or may not speak to any particular business interest that they have or business need.
But if you have an area of specialty and you, for example, blog in that area, and people come to your blog and from that, you begin to develop followers and folks who view you as an expert in that area, that, obviously, will generate business and you can reach more people with that blog than you ever could walking the street or pounding the pavement. So in that context, I think there are some things that you could do online to create an online presence that is helpful to building your brand and establishing you as an expert in a particular area of law that may be different than you paying for a service to so-called send you client referrals.
ABA Journal: Let me rephrase the question, then, Larry, for you, and it’s still about the online referrals. If you’re someone who is this reluctant type that doesn’t want to go out and be social, could you do enough business development, do you think, online and with the referral services, or is it just not going to be enough as it would be with face-to-face time?
Larry Kohn: Well, it depends upon your practice and it depends upon your targets. If your targets are inclined to go onto the Internet and do research, they might stumble on an online directory and they may call you. I have clients who generally tell me that their expenses in online referral services at least get returned with some business. I have not heard of great success stories. One of the ways we can tell if these online services are working in your community is to see how long lawyers stay on them. If they stay on them for a long time, they’re not fools—they’re paying for them because they work. If they disappear quickly, then you know they don’t.
Also, you can ask the online referral companies who their satisfied clients are, and you can call them up and ask them and they’ll tell you whether or not [online referrals work]. I have seen some success. However, as clients get more sophisticated, as your targets get more sophisticated, they are less likely to use that kind of research as a way to find a lawyer and more likely to ask their friends, ask their colleagues, and not use the online referral databases.
For more tips, check out ABA Journal’s “Shy Lawyer’s Guide to Becoming a Rainmaker” podcast.