Jun 03, 2009

Can A Wikipedia Entry Help Your Law Firm?

If you're like most lawyers, you probably use Wikipedia for a variety of purposes, from finding a layperson's explanation of a legal concept to getting the back story on current events.  Some of you may be avid enough users that you may have even registered for a Wikipedia account and contributed to some of the entries.  But chances are, you never considered creating a Wikipedia page for yourself or your law firm.

Truth is, up until a few weeks ago, I didn't either.  But as I described in this post at Legal Blogwatch, most major law firms already maintain pages on Wikipedia.  What's more, the
UK Law Society points out, Wikipedia has enormous reach:

Wikipedia is one of the largest reference websites -- 684 million visitors yearly. For a sniff of its power, whether you like it or not, cogitate on this snippet from the New York Times 'Bits' technology blog on 30 March, entitled 'Microsoft Encarta Dies After Long Battle With Wikipedia': 'Microsoft delivered the coup de grâce Monday to its dying Encarta encyclopedia, acknowledging what everyone else realised long ago: it just couldn't compete with Wikipedia... In January, Wikipedia got 97% of the visits that web surfers in the United States made to online encyclopedias, according to the internet ratings service Hitwise. Encarta was second, with 1.27%.' That's how powerful Wikipedia is.
With that kind of traffic, a listing on Wikipedia could theoretically bolster a firm's search engine visibility.  So I decided to test my theory and ran a couple of searches on some of the law firms listed in Wikipedia.  Sure enough, the firms' Wikipedia listings came up within the top five to ten front page search results on Google.

Still, is a Wikipedia entry worthwhile for solo and small firm lawyers?  For starters, what kinds of information would you include in the listings?  Many large firms with long histories describe the firm's origins and provide bios of firm founders and well-known alumni.  But solo and small firm lawyers might not have enough background material to include.  A smaller firm might also link to reported cases or cross-reference practice areas described on Wikipedia.  For example, a bankruptcy lawyer could cross-link to the entry on Bankruptcy in Wikipedia, thus providing a good resource for clients with basic questions.  Likewise, lawyers could cross-reference the city where they practice or hobbies they enjoy.

Ultimately, I don't think that Wikipedia is an indispensable component of a lawyer marketing portfolio in the same way as a website or blog or business card.  But for lawyers looking for something different or who can devise a unique use for Wikipedia, it might be a marketing tool worthy of further consideration.