Over at Lawyerist, I recently wrote a post about the interplay between legal web marketing and Siri. Which prompted the following tweet from my friend Kevin O’Keefe:
— Kevin OKeefe (@kevinokeefe) January 2, 2012
Should people select a lawyer by talking into an iPhone? Seems like the answer is clearly no. On the other hand, should people select a lawyer by:
- Searching in Google
- Viewing the “badges” on their website
- Reading a yellow pages listing
- Watching television commercials
- Looking at their profile on Avvo?
- Reading testimonials on Yelp!
- Reading a news article in which they are quoted
- Reading their blog
- Getting referred by a friend
While each of these may provide different relative levels of information about a lawyer, none them, not even getting referred by a friend, should be the sole reason that someone hires a lawyer.
But this really isn’t the point anyway.
The point is that people are using the internet, websites, their phones, search engines, Avvo, Yelp, online publications, blogs, and yes, word of mouth referrals, to find information about attorneys.
Is this a bad thing? There’s no doubt that opinions differ.
But for all of you that are skeptical about the role the web plays in providing information about lawyers, consider this:
How much better are other sources of information? How much better is offline advertising? Or even word of mouth referrals?
How do I know that my friend or family member has any clue about whether or not the lawyer that they are recommending is any better or worse than any other lawyer?
Unless my friend or family member is a lawyer themself, chances are that they really have no idea at all. Sure, they might like the lawyer. Heck, they might even be related to them (put a check in the unreliable column). Sure, they might perceive that the lawyer achieved a good outcome for their situation. Does that necessarily mean that they’re the right lawyer for you? Of course not.
And what about advertisements? Certainly a legitimate review, endorsement, or testimonial from a client or colleague is more helpful than this:
Or perhaps that commercial is really all you need to know about whether or not to hire that lawyer…
And yes, there’s a ton of information online that is completely unreliable. And yes, there are plenty of lawyers that “doing stuff” online that is misleading and downright misrepresents their abilities.
NEWSFLASH: THIS HAS BEEN HAPPENING WAY BEFORE THE INTERNET.
So how should people make decisions about hiring a lawyer? I would suggest that they should gather as much information about the lawyer as they can, weigh its relative reliability, and then rigorously interview their prospective lawyer in person.
Which might begin with finding information about the lawyer online. Which, for some of us, might even begin by asking Siri for the location of law firms near us.
So, of course, God forbid anyone picks a lawyer solely by talking into iPhone.
But also, God forbid that we don’t use all the information available to us to help us find the right lawyer.