A well-known law firm needed to team up with another firm on behalf of their client. When it became clear that none of the lawyers personally knew anyone at the first firm on their shortlist, the business development manager went to another firm’s website, hoping to connect with the practice section leader.

But when she got to the practice page, there were no contact names – just an overview of recent experience and a hyperlink to another Web page with links to a dozen attorneys’ bios. (Talk about falling down a rabbit hole!) Trying hard not to waste any more time, the business developer took the lo-tech route. She called the firm, identified herself and her call’s purpose, and then asked the receptionist to connect her with the head of a particular practice. Regrettably, the receptionist didn’t know who that was, nor did she know how to handle the call.

And with that, the business development manager hung up the phone and moved onto the next firm on the list.

Sure, the receptionist’s error was inexcusable and hopefully, a rarity; however, the website issue is all too common. When firm management decides to be democratic (by not listing the practice section leaders’ names), it’s usually done to avoid a political firestorm.

In every other aspect, this firm’s website was one of the best out there. Sadly, the firm’s internal politics neutralized the primary goal of a professional services’ website – to help bring in new business.

Update: This post was written in 2012. Looking back at all the options, perhaps the business development manager could’ve gone to the LMA Directory to contact the BDM at the other firm. But… we should always assume the reader is in-house counsel of a large organization. It’s eight years later – and just for grins – thankfully for those would-be prospects, the firm now displays photos and contact information for each lawyer on the page.

As a lawyer or a marketing business developer, when was the last time you called your firm’s switchboard?

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