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  • Writer's pictureCooper Shattuck

Legal Directories, Lists & Badges: 4 Questions to Ask Before Paying

With the increase in the number of lawyers investing in marketing has come the proliferation of companies whose business model is centered on taking advantage of them. From shady SEO salespeople to mysterious mass marketing mumbo-jumbo, the means and methods for fleecing the unwary are numerous, shocking, and sad. Some which are worth discussing (because I’m asked about them frequently) are the various lists, directories, and accompanying badges that are offered to lawyers.

In the old days, there were basically two widely used directories listing attorneys: Martindale-Hubbell and AM Best’s Guide to Insurance Attorneys. Those were THE directories. And they still exist. That was pre-internet. Now, the number of online directories and “exclusive” lists are innumerable. Should you sign up? Should you buy the advertising package? What about the badge to include on your emails and website? Beware. All that glitters is not gold. The big question is whether being on that list or directory will help you gain new clients or new work.

Here are four questions to ask before paying for those legal directories, lists, and badges:

1. Are your potential clients or referral sources likely to consult this list or directory when deciding to hire or refer a lawyer?

If you’ve never heard of the list, chances are that being on it isn’t going to help you get referrals from other lawyers. If you seek referrals from lawyers with practices dissimilar from your own, ask some of your referral sources for their thoughts on that list or directory. Is this list or directory something that your potential clients will refer to in making a hiring decision? Not sure? Ask them. Ask your existing clients if they’ve heard of the list or if they would use it in hiring a lawyer.

Don’t get fooled by representations as to the traffic to that directory or list website. If the traffic isn’t potential clients or clients that you are likely to want to represent, then those numbers are meaningless.

2. Who manages this list?

Do a little research on the organization or business publishing the list. Who are they? Where are they? Where is the list published? For some reason, I frequently get invitations to join a list allegedly made up of lawyers who practice in an area that I do not. Obviously, I don’t want to spend any money there. Clearly, they have no idea what they are doing and aren’t very discriminating when it comes to adding to their “exclusive” listing. I also get lots of invitations from companies in England. Hmmm. I don’t practice there. Nothing against our friends across the pond, but really? An easy no thank you.

3. How does one go about getting on the list?

Is this list open to whoever will pay to be on it? That’s fine if they are offering something you do not have – some connection, opportunity, contacts, etc. But is investing in a listing on a different directory going to help or hurt your other marketing efforts? Paying money to be on someone else’s website which contains other attorneys isn’t really consistent with pushing yourself on the internet. The money spent to push their website and the other attorneys is better spent making your own website shine and appear higher on search engine results (design, SEO, etc.). Don’t spend money on your competition.

If the list purports to be based on your merit, skills, experience, reputation, etc. – an honor – then why would you need to pay to be included? Read the fine print. Do a little research. Don’t fall prey to their sales pitch.

4. Should I pay extra for a bigger, better listing on what I think is a legitimate directory or listing?

If you’ve been selected for a listing, done your homework, and verified that a basic listing is free but upgrades can be purchased, should you verify your contact information and complete your profile as requested?

First, realize you are setting yourself up for more sales pitches. If you are okay with that, proceed. There is usually an option that will allow you to use a simple badge for free. Check it out. You may not need to pay for anything else that isn’t worth the money. You probably don’t need the full bells-and-whistles package. It's like the school or soccer photo packages for your children. How many wallet photos do you really need? The money for the up-sale listing might be better spent elsewhere – like on digital advertising, SEO, and a high-performance website.


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