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Once upon a time, the yellow pages were all an attorney needed to succeed in marketing. In 2004, I got my first job at a law firm. That was before law school, so I was a clerk/runner/anything-else-the-attorney-didn’t-want-to-do person. The law firm was about four months old and was run by two fifth-year attorneys who wanted to to probate and estate planning. Needless to say, they had not yet developed a large referral network. No, instead they used print ads in the Yellow Pages and Dex. And they turned a significant profit their first year of business. Back then, print yellow pages made a world of sense because almost no one used the internet for local searches.

But times have changed. The effectiveness of print yellow pages ads continues to decrease, but their prices don’t. Now, nine years later, I asked the same firm about their yellow pages experience. My old boss answered with a sigh and said that print phone book ads just aren’t enough anymore. Now that I run my own firm, I know what he means. There are many months when I question whether print phone book ads make any sense at all. Most months I certainly don’t make much of a profit from yellow book.

No. Today, the yellow pages are not enough. Today, most people are searching on the internet. Mike Blumenthal covered this about a month ago in a wonderful post here. According to his research, the average internet user (and I think that it is safe to say that that covers most people) is three times as likely to look for a lawyer online than in the yellow pages.

That means that attorneys who have no online presence, or who have a weak online presence, are missing out on clients. I see examples of this almost every week. Most attorneys in Nevada who try to look up other attorneys tend to rely on the Nevada Legal News directory, an industry print publication that provides the definitive list of Nevada attorneys. I, on the other hand, tend to search for counsel by their name on Google. It generally is faster than looking them up in the print directory. And it gives me a feel for their firm and practice. I can’t tell you how many times I have been unable to find the law firm’s actual website and have had to rely on directory sites like Yelp or the Nevada Bar instead. If I am having a hard time finding these attorneys, and I am searching for them by name, what are the chances that a potential client looking for a “Las Vegas divorce attorney” is going to find them?

I will use myself as a counter example. I built my own website about a year ago. During the course of the year, I have worked hard to build a web presence. Most of I have done myself. Some has been done by others. It took me about six months to build a strong enough presence to be listed at the top of my target search terms. Had I spent more time at it, I probably could have ranked a little faster. But as most SEOs will tell you, ranking a six month old website for competitive terms is not too bad. And as a result, I have potential clients calling me almost every day. Almost everyone who calls my office says they found me on Google, Yelp or some other major search tool.

In the end, people are searching for attorney services online. If those people are to find us, we have to position ourselves to be found. That means building a powerful web presence. And if learning SEO and web development is not your cup of tea, you need to find the right company to help you do it. There are many great companies out there who would do a good job. I would suggest that TruCounsel Marketing is one of them.

If you want your firm to succeed, now and in the future, it is a good idea to get cracking on developing your web presence.