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Using Social Networking as a Legal Tool


by Nathan Koppell / Published June 15,2010

Soon after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank in April, Parker Waichman LLP turned to the Web in pursuit of law clients.

The New York-based plaintiffs' firm set up websites with names like bigspills.com, oilspillclaims.com and oil-rig-explosions.com, and it filled them with news related to the disaster and invitations for visitors to provide their names and contact information.

More than 1,000 people have now completed the forms on the websites, and Parker Waichman, which has 23 lawyers, has filed about a dozen suits related to the oil disaster.

Law firms, particularly those that represent plaintiffs, are increasingly devoting resources to developing a presence online, where consumers—and potential clients—congregate. And some of those firms are also creating news sites, such as newsinferno.com andconsumerwarningnetwork.com, with content created by employees.

The plaintiffs' sites disclose that they are affiliated with law firms, but many have the look and feel of community forums or news boards. And they have recently begun to supplant some more traditional marketing methods, such as yellow-page ads and radio and television spots.

Like many plaintiffs firms, Parker Waichman also buys search ads and uses Facebook to publicize its sites. It also has 20 technology specialists who handle such tasks as writing copy for its roughly 300 websites. "We are on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, all the social-networking sites," said Jerrold Parker, a partner, noting that the firm now spends more than $1 million a year on digital marketing, about a third of its average annual marketing budget.

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