What I find most exciting about Web 2.0 is the effect it has had on how we approach marketing and business development, especially for lawyers and law firms.

I like to quip that Google killed the Martindale-Hubbell Rankings as we knew them (I said “quip,” it’s more complicated than that).

Because of Google, a general counsel no longer needs to pull a book down from his shelf to find the lawyer he is looking for; he just needs to Google the attorney or firm, or search on a key term. Coupled with law firm Web sites, a GC is, in many cases, able to find that specialist that they need, without depending on referrals.

But I digress.

I have found that Web 2.0, specifically blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, has changed the way we get to know, like and trust people in business.

Back in the day, I would coach an attorney to always try and meet with his or her client in their office rather than in a conference room. This would allow the client (or the attorney if they are at the client’s office) to take a look around. Look at the pictures, the knick-knacks, the awards. What magazines are sitting out? This personal setting would allow the client (or the attorney) to get a feel for who the attorney was as a person.

I encouraged attorneys to have personal items of interest in their office: A wine magazine; a photo of the attorney on the NCAA Championship basketball team; pictures of the family on vacation. (I also had them remove anything questionable or offensive.)

The overall goal was to to coach the attorney to look for common interests, things that they can touch on and start to build a personal relationship with the client, because we know, with all things being equal, clients hire attorneys they know, like and trust.

At a recent conference, in the midst of a Tweetup (a gathering of Twitter users), we started talking about how back in “the day,” you would meet someone AND THEN you would get to know, like and possibly trust them.

Web 2.0 has changed this.

In today’s world of social media and social networking, we get to know, like and trust someone BEFORE we ever get to meet them face-to-face, have a telephone conversation, or even exchange e-mail.

Think about your personal experiences getting to know me.

  • Many of you have seen personal pictures of me (who can forget 80s Hair Weekend on Twitter) and my family.
  • You know my personal opinions on many topics, both professional and personal.
  • We have uncovered personal connections (Vivian Hood is married to Darl, my grandmother’s name is Vivyenne Darl – go figure), and hidden commonalities (Girl Scouts, anyone??).

You have, in many cases, already determined whether or not you know, like and trust me. And while most of us will never meet face-to-face, you have already formed an opinion of who I am.

In fact, it can be months, even years, before you FINALLY meet the person you are networking with online, yet those bonds have already been established and built upon, (Jamie Mulholland, I’m talking about you!)

The same is true for the attorney/client/referral source relationships.

Through social networking tools, attorneys are identifying hidden relationships via LinkedIn; they are showcasing their knowledge through blogging; they are allowing the personal side of their personality to come through on Facebook; and, yes, they are building relationships that are turning into referrals and new business on Twitter.