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The Problem With URLs In Legal Marketing

Photo by Chris Dlugosz (Flickr/ Creative Commons)
By Lee Feldman, Independent Communications Professional

Lawyers love footnotes.  Big Law content marketers hate them.  They make potentially useful client content feel academic and dated, and too much like the robotic law school writing that many lawyers seem to feel impresses today’s clients as much as the professors they sought to dazzle decades ago.

Law firm marketers have pressed partners (and the associates who actually do most of the writing) to replace footnotes with URLs.  All well and good, but there’s one slight problem.  Web pages get overwritten with changed content.  URLs disappear. This happens a lot.

A random trip around five Big Law websites revealed numerous dead links.  In her excellent piece in The New Yorker, “The Cobweb,” technology writer Jill Lepore details the broader challenges of the constantly disappearing and rewritten Web and specifically calls out the implications of link rot and content drift for lawyers and legal marketers. (Click here to see how these issues affect e-Discovery)

Says Lepore, “According to a 2014 study conducted at Harvard Law School, ‘more than 70% of the URLs within the Harvard Law Review and other journals, and 50% of the URLs within United States Supreme Court opinions, do not link to the originally cited information.’” And “a 2013 survey of law- and policy-related publications found that, at the end of six years, nearly 50% of the URLs cited in those publications no longer worked.”

It’s not a great leap to assume the same is true for the libraries of client and prospect content generated by law firms.

A relatively simple solution exists to create permanent links to static archived versions of web pages.  Not surprisingly, it was invented by a consortium supported by numerous leading law school libraries.  It’s called Perma.cc.  If your law firm isn’t already using it, you probably should plan to.

And, you can read Lepore’s complete article here (subscription required).  At least, for now.

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