Extras – Internet Roundtable #12: A Continuing Discussion of Law Firm Marketing on the Internet – Q: Do I Really Want to Give Away Information?

Jerry Lawson is a lawyer and author of The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers (ABA LPMS 1999). Mr. Lawson operates the Internet Tools for Lawyers Web site.

Brenda Howard is the owner of CreativeWriting.com, LLC, a Web design firm in the Metro DC area. Ms. Howard is also a Corporate Software Trainer specializing in the Internet.

Dennis Kennedy is a lawyer in the Intellectual Property and Information Technology Department of Thompson Coburn, LLP in St. Louis. Many of his articles on Internet and technology topics may be found at his web site.

Sandy Ramlet assists lawyers with marketing and web design from her Denver, Colorado office.

Link to LLRX.com Marketing Resource Center

Part 1: Information really wants to be free

Brenda Howard (BH) : First of all, let’s welcome our guest panelist this month. Sandy Ramlet is a nationally acclaimed web site designer with special expertise in law firm web sites. Glad to have you with us, Sandy.

Sandy Ramlett (SR) : Glad to be here. This question gets asked quite often and the answer is not as simple as many people expect. So, do I really want to give away information on my web site?

Dennis Kennedy (DK) : Content issues on the Web really come down to precisely that question. Everyone who puts information onto a web site has to come to terms with this issue. I agree that there is no simple answer. Most people will have information that they are comfortable “giving” away and other information that they are not. I’ve always found that on the Web what you give away returns in value to you many times over.

Jerry Lawson ( JL): This issue goes to the heart of understanding the “New Economy” vs. not understanding it. My favorite real life example of someone who definitely did not “get it” was the senior partner in a law firm who objected to his marketing director’s plan for the firm’s web site: “But if we put information there, anyone will be able to read it.” That’s what you call “not being clear on the concept.”

SR : It’s obvious once you “see it” but until lawyers catch the vision, this is a very new way for them to think. I am struck by the stark contrast “giving it away” presents to the bill-by-the-hour mindset that lawyers have had for the past few decades. It’s an obstacle that most lawyers and firms must work hard to overcome.

DK: This is the biggest myth there is on the Internet. We’ve been giving away information for the past 20 years in the bricks and mortar world and the Internet is not any different. How many law firms have pamphlets of information that sit some where in their offices? Short checklists for real estate closing, blurbs about what you can and cannot get out of bankruptcy, and blurbs of information about personal injury law. Newspaper and magazine articles have been written for free. They are rampant. Why are these given away? It’s simple. That information empowers the client to come into your office and seek what it is they want to accomplish. The number one reason that people use the Internet is to research a product and/or decision – before acting on purchasing or making that decision. That information was free, long before the Internet even existed, and is still free today, on the Internet.

JL : That’s an excellent insight, and I agree, but at the same time, I think the Internet does change the rules of the give-information-away game. It takes it to a higher level.

DK: The very idea that you can charge for information is increasingly becoming a myth. I believe it was Stewart Brand who first said, “Information wants to be free.” I believe that. The short history of the Internet is the history of people routing around “pay” information to find equivalent “free” information.

JL : Many people hear the phrase “information wants to be free” and they react negatively because they think it is some kind of hippie political manifesto. Some people probably use the phrase with that type of intention, but it’s much more useful to understand it as a simple description of economic principle. It describes the way money flows–or doesn’t flow–on the Internet.

Computers can reproduce information, and networks can distribute it, at basically no marginal cost. There is no cost for paper, or typesetters, or distribution. Therefore, we are flooded with information, and the cost tends to drop, sometimes drastically. “Information wants to be free.” Understanding this is critical to success in the New Economy.

BH : I’m on the front lines of the trends you are talking about. One of my clients used to pay $27,000 per year to produce a print version of an industry guide. We have that entire guide up in a database on the Internet and it cost less than $5,000 to create. Not only that, but the information can be updated, using a web based application, by a data entry clerk and it will stay current for years to come. It costs less than a fourth of what he used to pay to have this same information published.

JL : That’s a great example, and here’s what makes it even more interesting: scalability. If the readership of the web site that you designed increases by ten times, or a hundred times, or a hundred thousand times, the expense of serving all those additional users is negligible. You might have to pay a little more to move to a server with better bandwidth, but the additional costs are not anywhere near proportional to the increase in the number of users. There are already plenty of other examples out there, right, Dennis?

DK : Sure. How many sites that used to charge for proprietary information are now free sites? In the past few months, look at the challenge Napster has posed to the recording industry. WestLaw and LEXIS have been losing ground in their battle to keep premium pricing for information that increasingly is becoming available for free.

JL: Lexis has responded to the pressure in part by establishing their lexisOne site, http://www.lexisone.com . It makes up to five years of case law available at no charge. Sabrina Pacifici’s review of the service is available at //www.llrx.com/extras/lexisone.htm . I think this should be viewed as an attempt by Lexis to patch some cracks in the dike. There are going to be a lot more cracks.

DK : I took a class a few years ago where the teacher made a big point about giving away “process” information and not giving away “substance” information. I’m not sure that this distinction works in every case, but I’ve found it to be a useful approach when thinking about content. A checklist is the classic example. If you give someone a checklist of what to do and what to look for, they still don’t know how to do the steps on the checklist. As a result, they still have to hire you for what you know, your experience and your judgment on what is being acted on. For example, a stock analyst may tell you what factors might be important and even how to do some calculations. That’s process. What they won’t tell you for free is what stocks they pick. That’s an important distinction to keep in mind when thinking about the content on your site. Your point of comfort will vary. You may like to give people more substance, suggesting that you are a “teacher” more so than a “content provider.”

JL: I’m not sure this process/substance distinction would always apply. It would apply best when you are confident your audience won’t be able to reproduce your “process” easily, or use it against you in some other way. One law firm boasted that it had gotten valuable insights into its competitors’ litigation strategies by studying a summary of the firm’s approach to litigation at its web site. Personally, I was skeptical as to the value of the information in that particular case, but I guess this could be a danger.

On the other hand, in some situations, giving away the “process” could be beneficial as a way of building credibility. It would give people a reason to trust your results.

BH: I agree that law firms and others should be cautious about giving away their process. They don’t have to. The Internet is a “results driven” medium. I prefer to show “results” on a web site. Microsoft does the same thing. They never tell you how they accomplished the results. They will tell you the products used and provide you with a “case study” that explains the client’s situation BEFORE the solution and then provides the client’s situation AFTER the solution. Law firms could do this as well. They could even protect the client’s identity by simply referring to a “success story” in each area of law. There’s nothing that sells a service better than showing that positive results were achieved for a client. This is free information, it sells itself to the potential consumer and yet it does not give away the processes used to achieve the results.

JL : Lawyers need to check the advertising rules in their state(s) before putting information on their web sites about specific case outcomes, or using client testimonials, because these techniques have been held to be inherently misleading in some states. Still, your basic point about trying to find a way to focus on “results” is good.

DK : And the results people want will vary. That can make a big difference in your approach to free content. I find myself telling people that I’m after “eyeballs.” I really want people to read what I’ve written and to visit my web site. When I read that over 50,000,000 people are on the Internet every day, I find myself thinking that I want them all to come to my web site. (Laughs.) If I keep the information free, I have a better shot at that.

SR: I think that’s just about the only shot we have at it! I think we need to keep in mind that traffic to a law firm’s web site stems back to the good relationships and reputation they have built for ourselves. Regardless of what approach a firm takes, they must keep this relationship mind-set.

BH: We really do have to keep that in mind. The free content is the beginning of a relationship with any visitor that happens by our web sites. When that free content is of value to the visitor, we’ve begun a relationship of respect.

Part 2: The Difficulties in Charging for Information

JL: As strongly as I believe in the validity of the “information wants to be free” principle, I also believe that people will pay for information delivered via the Internet, if the information is of high quality, “exclusive” in some way (even if only because it is more convenient to find and use than the “free” equivalent), and the payment mechanism is reliable and simple enough.

DK: The Wall Street Journal’s pay-for-content subscription model remains about the only example of a successful subscription service, but a recent article suggests that the model is in trouble. And it should be. If I can, and do, get daily e-mail newsletters with headlines from the NY Times, the San Jose Mercury, and headlines through MyExcite or MyYahoo pages, all for free, why would I want to pay for the Wall Street Journal? Because there is so much high quality free information on the Internet, it becomes difficult to accept that Wall Street Journal information is unique and should be paid for. Think about your own Internet habits. If you find that have to pay for information, don’t you look for it elsewhere, rather than paying for it? The exceptions, to echo what Jerry has said, might be where prices are very low (the idea of micropayments), the convenience factor is very high, or where clearly there is only one source of the information.

BH: The Wall Street Journal still has to pay its writers, editors and staff, but their publishing costs are now greatly reduced. How can they justify charging the exact same amount for print that they charge for the Internet versions? Sure, they still have costs and they do have to charge something, but they will have to restructure their subscription model based upon its actual value to the consumer.

JL: You can charge for information on the Internet, but only in limited circumstances, like the ones Dennis mentioned. The common element is that there must be some element of exclusivity or convenience.

To sell information over the Internet, providers have to add value. The legal research market provides a good analogy: While raw case reports are likely to become a commodity, universally available at little or no cost, Westlaw and Lexis are likely to remain in business for a long time, through their value added features like the West Key Numbering and Digest System, and the human judgments built into the Lexis Shepards service. These things can’t easily be duplicated except at great labor expense. The Big Two online legal research services may find themselves catering to a smaller market in the future, however.

DK: Let me return to the myth that people will pay for information. Ironically, some of the people who chastise me for not taking advantage of the opportunity to charge people to read my articles are people who wouldn’t pay to read them if I did. Nobody has really come up with a good way to assess the market and charge for content. With the exception of high-priced, high-end newsletters, usually on financial matters, there’s not a good pricing model. What do you charge? $5? $10?? $100??? Here’s a good exercise for the reader: how much would you pay to read this article? How about the rest of this article?

JL: Surely anyone with any sense would be glad to pay a reasonable fee for the unparalleled wisdom contained every month in The Internet Roundtable. (Smiles).

But, present company excepted, you make a good point about the difficulty of pricing Internet information, and getting people to pay that price. I am not nearly as pessimistic about this as you are, however. Take a look at http://www.breakyournoncompete.com , a site operated by a Virginia law firm. They sell a packet of material to help employees avoid non-compete clauses. Are they making money? I haven’t seen their books, but we can probably draw a conclusion from the fact that PayMyOvertime.com, a Fair Labor Standards Act site, is up next for them.

What would motivate someone to pay for some information they might well be able to find elsewhere for free? Convenience would be one reason. A sensible person would be glad to pay when the price is low enough, and the payment mechanism simple enough to make paying it preferable to doing a search. Law firms might charge someone to subscribe to a high quality e-mail newsletter, or to receive information “pushed” to their browser.

SR: This idea of paying for information that is “pushed” to you — and that you know is high quality, holds great value, I think. In this day and age, the old axiom “time is money” is truer than ever. For many corporate clients out there, it is worth something to have a well-edited newsletter sent to their e-mail box. That’s like paying someone to go out and sift through the over-abundance of information on the Internet for you.

JL: Brand name is another payment motivator. All four of us have developed some reputation for expertise individually and the collective name “The Internet Roundtable” is acquiring a reputation. People who are familiar with our work trust us. We’ve established brand names, both collectively and individually. Brand names have value to consumers. Information may be free, but finding the type you want and evaluating its reliability can be difficult. Brands help in this process. There is a lot of hype today around the concept of “branding,” and I believe it is grossly oversold to law firms, but underneath all the hype, an important idea is lurking.

BH: Stephen King is a little more on the “famous” side than any of us and he’s embarking on his first “micropayment” novel. He is skipping the publishing house and you can buy his new book, chapter-by-chapter, online. He’s charging $1.00 for each chapter. Other authors that aren’t as well known are giving away the first chapter and then charging for subsequent chapters. It would seem that you have to get the reader “hooked” on the free information before you have any hopes of them paying for subsequent information – unless you have the “branding” of Stephen King.

JL: King’s model—asking readers to mail him $1.00 for each section they read—is inconvenient and there is too much overhead. Other forms of Internet sales may be on the horizon. Dennis mentioned “micropayment” technology earlier. This would use transparent encryption to provide a painless, low overhead way for Internet users to pay small sums to Internet vendors. Suppose someone knows Sandy, Dennis, Brenda, or me, or the title of one of our articles was relevant to something important they were working on. Is it so unreasonable to expect that they would be willing to simply click a button on screen that would cause us to be paid 5 cents, 50 cents, a dollar, or more, to read the article? With enough payments, even at that low level, we could all do quite well, and I think for some types of information, higher price levels would be feasible.

JL: King’s model—asking readers to mail him $1.00 for each section they read—is inconvenient and there is too much overhead. Other forms of Internet sales may be on the horizon. Dennis mentioned “micropayment” technology earlier. This would use transparent encryption to provide a painless, low overhead way for Internet users to pay small sums to Internet vendors. Suppose someone knows Sandy, Dennis, Brenda, or me, or the title of one of our articles was relevant to something important they were working on. Is it so unreasonable to expect that they would be willing to simply click a button on screen that would cause us to be paid 5 cents, 50 cents, a dollar, or more, to read the article? With enough payments, even at that low level, we could all do quite well, and I think for some types of information, higher price levels would be feasible.

The key point is that the Internet has the potential to make many transactions “frictionless,” i.e., to drastically lower overhead through reducing transaction costs. We have only begun to see the ways that this will happen. Micropayment technology was widely hyped a few years ago. One of the micropayment companies that is still around is Cybercash, http://www.cybercash.com . People today aren’t thinking about or talking about micropayments as much today as they were a few years ago, but the idea is still very sound. Micropayments will be a major payment mechanism in the future. The digital signatures statute enacted recently is a key step toward making this come about. I don’t know if it will take five years, ten years, or longer, but micropayments will happen. What has this got to do for law firms? It is not too early for law firms to start positioning themselves for how micropayments will change the Internet marketing landscape. If you think you might ever want to play that game, the time to start building your law firm’s brand on the Internet is now.

DK: There’s also a new service called Fatbrain that allows you to post your content and charge for it at a central location. I’m inclined to experiment with that, but I’d want to make it so that if you came to my site, you could get the same article for free. In fact, I have an article in mind that might do well on a pay basis, but it was also recently reprinted in the Hong Kong Lawyer in both English and Chinese. How cool is that? I don’t know that the editor would have read the piece if I had charged on a per-view basis. I do know that it was much more fun to see the article in Chinese than to get a few bucks for someone reading it.

JL: The sense of personal satisfaction and the reputation-building that Dennis experienced are perfectly legitimate objectives, but they are not the only possible payoffs. Some lawyers will prefer to “monetize” – I love that word; jargon is so much fun–their knowledge more directly. Fatbrain is a pretty good alternative for those interested in cashing in directly.

The Fatbrain web site is http://www.fatbrain.com and the service Dennis is talking about is called eMatter. There are many attractive features to their business model: the service provides a substitute for the easy payment mechanism that we won’t have until micropayment systems become widespread, and to some extent Fatbrain and eMatter are brands that are more likely to be trusted by consumers than many law firm sites. Lawyers using eMatter don’t have to worry about setting up e-commerce systems, or turning off the segment of the consuming public that thinks lawyers should be lawyers, and not merchants.

Seth Grodin’s book Permission Marketing–which I recommend highly, by the way–is discounted to $16.80 at online booksellers. Is it so unreasonable to assume that many consumers would be willing to pay $3.00 to purchase an eleven page PDF document from Fatbrain that contains many of the book’s best ideas? How many of the people who liked the eleven-page excerpt would go on to buy the whole book?

SR: There are people out there who would gladly pay, but of course we’re back to the problem of finding buyers and then marketing the product correctly.

BH: Exactly. We’re right back to providing the free content first. It is the “hook” that is necessary to get to the “payment” portion of any service provided.

JL: A classic approach to selling things on the Internet is to provide a free version, but charge for an enhanced version that is superior in some way. For example, the version of the product that is sold at eMatter could be more complete, or could contain a spreadsheet to compute the tax effects of various legal actions. If it can be digitized, you can sell it at eMatter; it’s not limited to books.

Amazon’s zShops is another alternative. Amazon.com is probably better known than Fatbrain, but I suspect that to the extent zShops has developed a brand image, it’s probably for amateur-type sellers. This is too new to be sure, but I suspect Fatbrain may be the more effective brand for lawyers who want to sell things.

BH: But the results of this kind of a pay-per-view approach, I believe, will ultimately be pretty limited. Free content can actually lead you to a bigger prize and let’s move on to talk about some of the real secrets of success in giving away content. The question for the reader is: now how much would you pay to read part 3 of this article?

DK: Exactly. We’re right back to providing the free content first. It is the “hook” that is necessary to get to the “payment” portion of any service provided.

Part 3: The Secret – Capitalizing Off Of Free Content

DK: What do you want to accomplish with your “free” information? In the standard web site, content is something that helps drive traffic and gets visitors to return. I believe that the “payment,” if you will, for providing information comes from the value of the traffic stream that it brings to you. That traffic stream can provide value in the form of new clients, new business from existing clients, speaking or writing opportunities, advertising revenues or other ways. There are also intangible benefits that will have a payoff much further down the line. I don’t think is news to anyone, but when you put information on the Web you are forced to think about how this all works.

BH: In other words, someone reads a free article on bankruptcy, finds the part where they realize that this is what they need to get them out of their current situation and contacts the law firm that provided those “magic words” that moved them into action.

In the near future, we will see lawyers then using a web based application to set up a client file/account, using one of the “payment wallet or credit card systems” to collect fees, guiding the client to a password protected form where the client will complete their own interview checklist, following up the interview process via e-mail and/or telephone conversations, billing for the time, filing the paper work – hopefully online – and the attorney client relationship has begun and can be completed online. There will be face-to-face contact during the court appearance, but someday that will be a videoconference.

JL: Greg Siskind, with Visalaw.com, has already been offering clients optional videoconferencing for years. A few law firms here and there are doing other bits and pieces of what you are talking about, but few are moving aggressively in this area.

BH: They should be. This is an example of a more efficient way to market the law firm’s primary “products” – time and experience. Even with the opportunity to expand services on the Internet, law firms are slow to automate their current processes and move into the way the new medium accomplishes new client contact. Dennis, don’t you agree that garnering new clients is the primary reason that law firms should post free information to their web sites?

DK: One reason. What I really think is that there are many reasons, garnering new clients being just one. In fact, I feel that it is probably more important to put free content on your site to make your existing clients aware of your expertise and your generosity than it is to use it to attract new clients. It’s easier to sell more services to existing clients than it is to find new ones, especially when you help educate them to what their needs might be with great articles and other content. You want to leverage the relationship you already have. Free content helps open the door to sell the services.

JL: Yep, and here’s an example of using free content as a door to sell services. Mass market legal sites like MyLawyer.com, http://www.mylawyer.com , illustrate one way of using the “Information wants to be free” principle. They give away large amounts of free information, and then make money though selling the service of custom-produced legal documents, and other revenue streams. The same “bait the hook” with free information approach has also been successfully applied to more upscale marketing by many other law firms. Any other good examples come to mind?

SR: Many ISPs and other companies offer free e-mail and free web sites. Some of these don’t even require users to carry advertising in return (though most do, I admit). Take a closer look and you’ll see that these same ISPs offer paid services — web design, more sophisticated hosting services, and other add-ons for which they charge.

JL: I spoke on a panel with a Fatbrain executive last year and, in the spirit of giving away information, I recommended that they better position themselves in the marketplace by expanding their product line by selling ancillary services like proofreading, page layout, etc., or making such services available through affiliates. She was excited by the idea, but it doesn’t look like they have followed through. I understand the desire to concentrate on “core competencies,” but I think they are missing an opportunity to boost their business.

I mention this episode because I think most law firms tend to overlook possibilities for auxiliary revenue streams. Greg Siskind is a leader in capitalizing on ancillary businesses, as he is in so many other things. He spun off VisaHomes.com and VisaJobs.com from his highly successful Visalaw.com immigration law operation, http://www.visalaw.com . With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that real estate sales and a job placement service are natural complements for a successful immigration law practice, but too many lawyers overlook similar opportunities.

DK: Greg’s “spin-offs” are one of the great “ahas” of web marketing for law firms. They force you to see the potential of free content. Consider this. Choice 1: Greg’s immigration newsletter with a nice subscription fee and a much smaller audience than he now has. Choice 2: A free newsletter and the potential of the other businesses as well as the law practice. The decision is yours.

DK: Greg’s “spin-offs” are one of the great “ahas” of web marketing for law firms. They force you to see the potential of free content. Consider this. Choice 1: Greg’s immigration newsletter with a nice subscription fee and a much smaller audience than he now has. Choice 2: A free newsletter and the potential of the other businesses as well as the law practice. The decision is yours.

JL: Good point. Getting back to the diversification issue, one of the more influential Internet books, Unleashing the Killer App, suggested because of the “new economy” factors we discussed earlier, West and Lexis would be well advised to broaden their product lines, to become providers of legal services (not just information) themselves, and I think this suggestion is well advised. They have already begun moving into the web site design and Application Service Provider (ASP) markets, for example.

BH: Should law firms be diversifying as well?

JL: It would be a smart move for many of them. Ask what new “product lines” you can develop. For example, at least one law firm now sells educational seminars, over the Internet or in person. For a fee, they will train corporate employees on antitrust law, EEO, and many other areas. They decided that due to their expertise and efficiencies, they could deliver such services more effectively than most corporate HR departments, and at a competitive price.

SR: That’s right, Jerry. Another law firm I know is spinning of extranet services. They are profit-minded, and the business emerged from their own sophisticated web site. Their extranet services are a “killer ap” that clients and other law firms need.

JL: That would be Holland & Hart, out of Denver, with John Tredennick. A Richmond law firm started a company that has been doing the same thing successfully, under the name Trialnet.com, for four or five years. We’ll see many more law firms venturing into ancillary businesses in the future.

SR: The secret is in adding value. I suspect that you have a few more ideas on that subject, Jerry.

JL: A few. Other ways of adding value are through filtering, personalization and judgment. According to Esther Dyson, author of Release 2.0, the major thing in short supply in a modern economy is human attention. There are only so many hours in a day. We don’t have time to read all the high quality information that our computers can reproduce and our networks can distribute. Some people even talk about “the attention economy.” There is a large market space for those who can exercise expert judgment to provide filtered and personalized information, thus saving the time of consumers. It will be much more difficult to compete in this market than most law firms realize, but it is a possibility for those who are savvy enough, and willing to invest the resources. What do you think, Brenda?

BH : There’s no doubt about this. In July, 2000, we surpassed 2 billion web pages on the Internet and this is growing by a number of 7 million web pages PER DAY! According to Cyveillance, http://www.cyveillance.com/newsroom/pressr/000710.asp , the content on the Internet will double by early 2001. Personalization is the key to information overload. Even with all this free information available, the consumer still needs a “flesh and blood” human being with the necessary skills and experience to take that information and make it a reality.

JL : Thank goodness for that! Humans are hanging in there.

DK : Don’t count out the intelligent software agents yet! But, to return to the main point, it’s really about what you really mean by “giving way information.” What you don’t want to give away is the value of the traffic stream and the goodwill your content generates. If you do not charge for information, and as I suggested earlier, I don’t believe that ultimately you can without limiting your audience, then you have to pay attention to ways to capture that value. Few of us are as creative as Greg Siskind, but there plenty of opportunities that you can start to take advantage of and nurture. It may be advertising. It may be affiliate marketing, such as putting an Amazon.com bookstore on your site – both Jerry and I use that approach. It may mean treating content as a marketing expense or recouping time and expenses by charging for speaking as a result of invitations you get because people see you as an expert. Or it may be charging people for delivering web content in a printed form or on audiotapes or videotapes. Here’s a free idea for you: videotape a presentation relating to your practice area. Excerpt a portion of it and deliver it as streaming video on your web site. Also record the entire video onto a CD-ROM and also include articles and other materials, possibly even forms, on that CD-ROM Then sell the CD-ROM from your web site. You might even offer it for free to someone in your locale and for a reasonable price to people outside your locale. Here’s my question: are you “giving away information” or are you having people requesting that you market to them and paying you to do so?

JL : That’s a good way of summarizing the issue.

BH : Jerry, it’s not only a good summary, it’s perfect. Law firms have never had to give away a sample of soap, like Dove has had to do, to get the consumer interested in their product. Some attorneys are probably cringing at the thought right now. However, it’s a competitive marketplace and referral by word of mouth is a slow process compared to referrals by word of e-mail. One person may tell 6 friends about their wonderful experience with your law firm, but one person on the Internet may tell 6,000 friends about your beneficial CD, via e-mail. It’s a different world and we have to adjust or fall behind.

DK : The Web has been and probably will always be about giving away information. That’s what I’ve always liked. I appreciate the enormous generosity of people who’ve helped me with useful Web content over the years and I’ve always tried to carry on that tradition. I hope we’ve shown you that the issues are not so simple as people sometimes think. The idea of giving away information is a complex dynamic and focusing on a pay-per-view notion may cause you to miss out on a much greater value.

SR : You’re so right, Dennis. The very nature of the Web is “free content.” How law firms adapt to that mentality, and then integrate it with other marketing strategies both on and off the Internet, will dictate their success online and beyond.

JL : Only a few law firms will have the expertise and be willing to make the investment of time and resources to make the pay-per-view model on the Internet pay off. Free information will be the bread and butter of law firm marketing on the Internet for the foreseeable future. It goes back to the distinction between “brochure sites” and “magnet sites.” While brochure sites have their place, only magnet sites have the potential to attract new clients in significant numbers. Free, high quality information is the best lure for would-be magnet sites.

BH : Looks like we’re all in agreement on this one. Specifically targeted free content is worth the return in creating and maintaining client relationships in this new medium.

Posted in: Internet Roundtable, Law Firm Marketing