If you ask most lawyers about their best source of new clients, the overwhelming majority will answer “word of mouth referrals.” Which makes sense. A lawyer develops a relationship with her client, provides great service, and when that client’s friends or family needs a lawyer, the client is motivated to refer people they know to the lawyer.

And before the internet, the person who was referred was likely to call or visit the lawyer to inquire about retaining the lawyer’s services.

And as part of that inquiry, that prospective client would be likely to ask the lawyer about her experience, maybe her background, and probably a bunch of specific questions about their specific legal matter.

And based on this interview, the prospective client would make a decision about whether or not to hire the lawyer.

And this, or something relatively similar to this, was pretty much how word of mouth legal referrals went.

That was, until the internet.

In the internet age, when someone is referred to a professional service provider, like a lawyer, they might not call or visit the lawyer directly.

Instead, legal services consumers are more and more likely to research the lawyer online.

They might search for the lawyer in Google. If they have the address, they might visit the lawyer’s website or blog directly. Or they might visit a variety of third-party legal websites, directories, informational portals, or directories.

And so the questions become, what will they find and how will what they find influence their hiring decision?

Will they find anything about you at all?

Will they find an obviously outdated website?

Will they find your clients writing positively about you?

Will they find other lawyers writing positively about you?

Will they find that you are regularly quoted and interviewed in the media?

Will they come away with the feeling that you are the right person to help them?

These are just some of the ways that the internet can influence word of mouth referrals.

And while not every person who is referred to you will necessarily search for you online, more and more people are.

So ask yourself, what do people who are referred to you find when they go online?

If this isn’t a good enough reason to start learning how to develop your professional profile online, I don’t know what is.