Online directories or referral services: which option provides biggest bang for buck?


There has been a lot of international talk in the social media about the value of online legal directories. So much so I thought it warrented discussion here in Canada.

I Googled “legal directory” in The were 920,000 results. Searches for “legal referral service” came back with only 50,300 results. Big difference. Not only in these numbers, but I also think a big difference in the results a lawyer can get from each of these services.

In the case of Directories (like by LexisNexis, Canadian Law List, or even the ever popular YellowPages) they typically offer a generic listing of the lawyer’s name, firm name, address, contact information, etc. In some case there are extra fees to have a small biography, photographs, and email and website links. But no referrals to speak of, and no real search engine optimization techniques directed specifically at the listers’ profile page.

Online referral services (like and LawyerShop) typically offer a great deal more. You often receive a “minisite” for yourself to list your practice details, contact information, etc. and you are provided referrals to individuals searching for your specific type of practice in a specific geographic area. Some referral services are specific to a certain practice area, such as the Canadian Family Law Lawyers Network, which charges not only a “registration fee”, but also a referral fee should you be retained.

Now, some of you are already aware that I work for So you may be thinking that this post is self-serving. Well it is … to a point. But it is also a post to inform you that there are differences between Directories and Referral Services, and to make you aware of this point. And to even make you aware that there are differences from one referral service to the next.

With so many online marketing/advertising options out there for you to choose from, it is important to your research first. You all work hard for your money. So my question is this: Do you want to put that money into services that mirror the “Listing Book” of old, or do you want to invest in something that puts you and your practice on the cutting edge of internet information technology? Something that gets you internet exposure, referrals to potential clients, as well as something that can lead to superior search engine positioning?

Best advice: Search online for those referral services that rank high in the results. Research. Ask questions. Look for references from happy clients. And don’t put your eggs all in one basket.

Natalie Waddell

Founder and President at Inc.
Natalie was spirited to start this company after a frustrating and poor personal experience when searching for a lawyer back in the late nineties. “I quickly realized that the tools available to assist someone in finding the right lawyer were grossly inadequate. Not only inadequate for the individual in need of a lawyer, but also inadequate for the lawyers in search of new clients. There had to be a better way to connect clients and lawyers in a more efficient manner – without wasting everybody’s time and effort”, explains Natalie.

Natalie brings a passion to the business that ensures the entire team strives to improve the service for both lawyers and the general public. To that end, she is committed to ongoing communication with our members and welcomes and relies on clients’ input to continually evolve the service to make it better for all.


  1. Natalie Waddell says:

    Great post about directories versus referral services! But I just want to point out that note all Directories are considered “bad”.

    Directories can help by creating incoming links to your own website. Creating incoming links (especially from websites related to yours, i.e., law), adds to your Page Rank, and ultimately increases your rankings in the search engine results.

    But this doesn’t mean you should rush out and get as many directory listings as you can – there are many things to consider first. There are “good” links and “bad” links (which could, ultimately decrease your search engine rankings).

    I will write a post about “What makes a good link?” In the coming weeks.

  2. Gyi Tsakalakis says:

    Some good contrast and analysis. While I don’t have any specific experience with or Canadian Law List, I will say that the effectiveness of any legal directory will depend primarily on search visibility and profile visibility within the directory.

    On the other hand, pay per lead advertising, and subscription based referral programs present their own set of issues.

    In the end, the above best advice truly is the best advice: Do the research. If your online source of new business doesn’t have high search visibility for search terms relevant to your practice, it is a lot less likely to produce results.

    Ultimately, if Google implements its experimental search results pages, both of these sources of online leads may suffer.

  3. Greg Frank says:


    As product manager at LexisNexis Canada for the, I agree with a lot of what you are saying about directories and referral services. has been classified by you as a directory and not a referral service. We disagree with that classification as there are many referral tools that we offer – simple ways to reach out to the lawyer of choice (or to reach out to multiple lawyers at once in order to select the best from several replies). is much more than a directory.

    The information contained in our network is pulled from the extensive Martindale-Hubbell database – the premier provider of lawyer information since 1868 (yes…1868) and is customized by each lawyer/law firm based on their expertise, case history, awards and recognition, education and more…there is nothing generic about this information.

    We rely on our extensive article/author database as well as client and peer reviews to help consumers find lawyers and law firms that best meet their needs and who they would feel most comfortable working with – precisely because of the control they had over the selection process.

    We do not yet have a telephone referral service because we believe that the consumer should decide who is best qualified for their legal issue, and not the referral service deciding from among their limited pool of customers.

    Thank you. I look forward to hearing your response.

  4. Mark C. Robins says:

    Mr. Frank,
    Given your own comment “we offer – simple ways to reach out to the lawyer of choice”
    I stand by my assertion that is a Directory and not a Referral service as I described in the post. Inc provides Fully Screened Referrals to our member lawyers, these referrals come from the General Public, Corporations, and Other law firms globally.
    They can complete a simple referral request form on our site or they can call us to request a referral.
    As well they can research our Members profiles by Geographic areas, or Areas of law and arrive at a multi Page Profile for each of our member lawyers.
    So you can see it seems to me we are comparing apples to oranges.
    We provide vastly different services to the legal community in Canada than yours does.
    And after 10 years we are considered to be #1 at this process.
    Mark C. Robins

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