What happens when Lawyers.com, the leading online destination that provides accurate and reliable profiles of one million lawyers and law firms nationwide, and the Nolo Network, one of the Web’s largest libraries of free consumer-friendly legal information, join forces? We’re about to find out.

LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell®, which owns Lawyers.com, and Internet Brands®, which acquired Nolo in 2011, recently announced that they were forming a joint venture to bring together the strengths of the LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® internet marketing solutions business and Internet Brands’ online marketing services for lawyers. The goal is to offer customers a broad suite of marketing solutions, including website hosting, lead generation and online listings – all of which will be managed by Internet Brands. But is it possible that the two companies have a conflict of interest that could make the endeavor disadvantageous to the lawyers and law firms that depend on Lawyers.com as a major resource for lead generation, client acquisition and relationship building?

At first glance, it would seem so. However, it’s important to understand the backgrounds of both players and how they ultimately can benefit each other, as well as lawyers everywhere…including you!

The Lowdown on the DIY Law Movement

For 40 years, Nolo led the charge of the self-help law movement, publishing do-it-yourself legal books and software for people who needed information about simple personal and business legal matters, such as making wills or writing business contracts. The founders, California attorneys Ralph Warner and Ed Sherman, wanted to help individuals and families who could not afford professional legal services. Over the years, in addition to publishing numerous DIY books, the pair actually championed major reform in the U.S. justice system that encouraged courts to offer self-help automated legal forms, legal aid agencies to publish statewide legal information websites and more.

List It and They Will Come

Lawyers.com, on the other hand, was launched in 1998 to help individuals and businesses find the right attorneys for their needs. The free service is used more often than any other legal website, with more than two million searches for lawyers being done each month. In addition to offering consumers a wide array of resources, including lawyer ratings and tips for selecting and working with a lawyer, Lawyers.com boasts practice development services that help grow law firms’ businesses through powerful online marketing support that is designed to increase visibility and lead generation.

Not As Different As They Seem

On the surface, these two entities appear to have diverging philosophies – one wants to help lawyers attract clients while the other encourages people to forgo professional legal counsel and try the DIY route. But upon further inspection, you’ll see that both have evolved over the years and actually embraced what the other has been doing all along. For instance, through a partnership with LegalZoom, Lawyers.com now offers DIY legal forms online, providing an easy way for individuals and business to complete basic documents, from creating a living will to setting up non-disclosure forms. And in 2010, Internet Brands acquired ExpertHub, which was founded in 2008 with the goal of helping solo practitioners and small law firms build their practices through the Internet. The Nolo Network (which includes Nolo.com, Divorcenet.com and AllLaw.com) began using ExpertHub’s technology platform in 2011; today, Nolo features an online lawyer directory. So, in essence, LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell and Internet Brands have been moving Lawyers.com and Nolo towards a middle ground for some time.

What effect will the venture between these two major brands in the legal space have on your practice? It remains to be seen. However, the increased range of online marketing offerings created by the companies coming together should “improve the speed, efficiency and effectiveness with which lawyers can reach potential clients,” according to Mike Walsh, CEO LexisNexis Legal & Professional. It’s been said that two heads are better than one. Now we’ll find out if the same can be said about two brands.

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