Legal directories: Are they worthwhile?

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Published On Oct 28, 2014

Your state bar association probably publishes one, and your county bar association might. There could even be a private business near you that has one as well. They’re legal directories, those doorstop-hefty books that have more recently been replaced by online directories or sleek magazine-style editions.

directoryOdds are you’re occasionally offered the opportunity to be listed in one of these directories, with the implicit (or explicit) suggestion that you also advertise. But is it worth doing either?

Not everyone thinks so. There’s a school of thought that while being listed in a printed legal directory is a nice luxury, most of the people who buy them don’t refer to them regularly. That’s true in some cases and not true in others. As with many things, it can depend on the needs of the audience.

To be sure, the printed legal directory is seen by some as a dinosaur, like lots of printed products. But there are directories that can be helpful sources of exposure. If your practice is local in scope and you rely at least in part on referrals, a place in your local or state bar association’s directory can be helpful in keeping your name at the fingertips of colleagues who might pass along work. And another thing: While young lawyers might not use printed directories, you can bet lots of senior attorneys still do.

Online access
Then there are online directories. They’re plentiful, and all have different things to offer. Being included in directories with national reach can be a valuable resource if you’re looking to spread your practice’s reputation beyond the city limits.

To name one, the FindLaw Lawyer Directory gets more than six million visitors every month, and it’s aimed more at the consumer (i.e., prospective client) than standard legal directories. It’s searchable by location, practice area and other categories, and can be tailored to highlight your practice’s expertise.

As the Free Advice blog points out, getting listed or advertising in a legal directory is generally not expensive. You might have to do some thinking about what you’re hoping for in terms of new business or professional contacts. Also, you probably get approached regularly by directory publishers who make lots of promises. Do your homework before you sign up.

The main advantage of online legal directories might be that the data in them is accessed constantly. Especially if you don’t have an especially robust website or social media presence, a legal director can be an easy way to get your name out there.

Dan Heilman+ is a veteran writer and editor with more than 30 years' experience covering a wide range of topics. He's written about law and legal practice issues for numerous publications over the past decade. He has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and lives in St. Paul, Minn.

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Dan Heilman

About Dan Heilman

Dan Heilman+ is a veteran writer and editor with more than 30 years' experience covering a wide range of topics. He's written about law and legal practice issues for numerous publications over the past decade. He has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and lives in St. Paul, Minn.