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Can a Law Firm Be Too Visible on the Internet?

Since the Internet has become the most readily accessible source of the widest range of information in a relatively short period of time, businesses of all sorts have sought to capitalize on its popularity.

Perhaps slower to take advantage of the Internet's reach have been hundreds, if not thousands of law firms in the United States. Even presently, many law firms are not aware of the benefits that they would realize by stepping up their web presence. But while some firms have been slow to take advantage of the Internet's reach, numerous others have been reaping its benefits for quite a while. Their websites are designed to attract new clients while servicing the needs of their existing client base. Many of their sites are also designed with search engine optimization in mind. Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of conforming a website's content properties (text, code etc.) to the specifications required by search engines so that the specifications provide the greatest likelihood for the website to achieve relevancy status on search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN when certain search queries are performed. When a website is well optimized, it should appear as a selection on search engines closer to the top of the list of results.

But many firms are not only being "found" on search engines. Attorneys are writing articles that are being showcased by websites other than their firm's; high-profile mergers and white collar criminal trials, which often feature high-power attorneys from distinguished law firms, are described over and over on the numerous news and information websites and in several different languages. And law firm directories, which are a major information source for persons and businesses seeking legal representation, are proliferating.

So the question must be begged: Can a law firm be too visible on the Internet? To answer that question, it's necessary to look at two factors: (1) delivery of the firm's message; and (2) its web presence.

Critical Factors

Problems can arise when the delivery of the firm's message does not fit the firm's image. An obvious example would be a law firm, which has a corporate-centric practice, promoting itself on a website with blinking ads that say, "click here for a good lawyer." By web presence, I mean those websites on which the firm's audience is finding its information. To prevent overexposure, the firm's presence on the web should be limited to those websites where people would expect to find it or can discern a logical reason for its presence. For example, a book on trade secrets written by an attorney from the firm of IPIS GREAT & WONDERFUL that shows up on with the firm name mentioned in the blurb could be a big benefit to the firm. The same firm should not be found on The Onion.

Since its inception, the Internet has been hailed by business for two major reasons: information and branding. By providing information to prospective clients in the form of articles, areas of practice descriptions and detailed examples of their expertise, law firms stay on their current and prospective clients' proverbial radar screens. At the same time, even if their audiences do not wholly digest the information that they provide, often times their names are remembered. That is, the more ubiquitous a firm is on the Internet (again, on the proper websites) and the more its name is associated with particular subject matter or particular areas of law, the more its intended audience will likely remember it for those things.

So, the answer to the question, "Can a law firm be too visible on the Internet?" should ultimately be answered with a resounding "NO!" . . . provided the firm's message is delivered appropriately and provided those places on the Internet where a firm's brand, message, etc. are seen are places where people could reasonably expect to find that information.

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