Lawyers have a lot of common sense. It’s probably the single most important trait of a lawyer, but when it comes to issues outside the scope of a client matter, some lawyers get lazy and put away their common sense.
I was at a seminar on May 20, 2008 about attorney advertising on the Web, where FindLaw was the featured speaker/presenter. FindLaw was presenting some useful information about websites and website advertising, but they also were promoting FindLaw websites for attorneys.
A FindLaw employee stated that “4 million people per month are coming to FindLaw to look for an attorney”. That’s quite an impressive figure. That’s not 4 million people per month coming to FindLaw. That’s 4 million people who are coming to FindLaw specifically to look for a lawyer! Surely, if even a very tiny fraction of that traffic should come to my website, it would be worthwhile. A lot of the lawyers at the seminar seemed very impressed and not one lawyer questioned this amazing statement.
The thought of 4 million people per month looking for a lawyer on one website struck me in the head, literally. I started wondering, are 4 million people in the US even looking for a lawyer each month?
The US population estimate for July 2008 is 303,824,646. That means approximately 1.3% of the US population, including children, are looking for a lawyer every month.
Another way of looking at it is that 4 million people per month equals 48 million people per year looking for a lawyer on FindLaw. 48 million! If you subtract out all of the children, there should be approximately 182,294,788 adults in the US. If you want, subtract out all of the lawyers and their families too! Subtracting out only the children means approximately 26% of the adult US population is looking for a lawyer on FindLaw at least once per year.
Consider the fact that only 64% of US households had Internet access in 2006 and that there are only 111,348,110 households with a TV in the US (Nielsen Media Research estimate as of January 1, 2007).
My common sense tells me that FindLaw is over exaggerating the amount of potential traffic they can send me. This doesn’t mean that it is all hype and that they don’t get a lot of people every month looking for a lawyer. It just means that you need to use some common sense to determine whether or not the price they or anyone else charges you is worth it.
The next time someone tells you how much business you will get from an online directory or any other method of advertising, use some common sense. Advertising is a tool and a necessary cost of doing business. It is not equivalent to winning a lottery.
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