In September 1995, I explained the Internet ("It was developed for national defense and used to be called the Arpanet"), email and web sites to a couple of hundred lawyers at a seminar at St. Simons Island. Since this was before anyone had Power Point or LED projectors, I used transparencies on an overhead projector to show folks what I was talking about. None of them had ever been online.
I explained that at that time there were about 40 law firms in the United States that had web sites, and most of those were clustered around Silicon Valley in California. Surely no one would ever pick a lawyer on the basis of a web site, but just for laughs I might give it a shot. Everyone laughed.
The following spring, in 1996, I set up a crude web site, knowing nothing about search engines or how to optimize them. After a while I bought some software in a box at CompUSA and began designing my web sites myself in order to have flexibility and control. For about four years I had the field of personal injury law web marketing in Georgia pretty much to myself.
Of course, I began to get invitations to speak to bar groups and tell how to do it. Flattered to be invited, I complied.
Unfortunately for me, there were often young lawyers who had never tried a case sitting in the back of the room, taking careful notes. A few weeks later I would see new web sites popping up in which those kids sometimes practically cloned my web site.
A few years ago I decided to outsource the technical work of maintaining a web site so I could focus on content. At that point I launched what I think was the first lawyer blog in Georgia.
Sure enough, within a year other lawyers and law firms in Georgia started their own blogs. Now it seems almost every lawyer with a checkbook has a slick looking web site and blog.
I am constantly amused at how much some of the web site development companies charge lawyers who know nothing about this stuff. It’s highway robbery. I should have started a web site development company back in ’96.
What’s next? I’m not talking.
My daughter is passionate about running. While she may never make the Olympics, she is fully committed in college cross country. She runs marathons and half marathons every chance she gets, just for fun. Last year she incorporated this into a piece of art that we are having framed to hang either at home or in my office:
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter if you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.
Ken Shigley is a Georgia trial lawyer focused on interstate trucking litigation. He is Secretary of the State Bar of Georgia, a member of the Georgia Courts Automation Commission, and chair fo the State Bar Electronic Court Filing Committee.