In the good old days, online was the place where David could beat Goliath. It was the forum where success was decided not just by market cap or the size of your advertising budget, but by nimble strategies and just plain chutzpah. It was the place where the little guy could triumph and slam one in the face of the corporate behemoths. But those days are over, right?

Not quite, at least not in the legal field.

As part of a client project, I was using Hitwise to determine who the category leader was in law firms. Who was grabbing the biggest slice of the potential 100 million visitor per month pie? After sorting through record search sites like Intelius, people finders like US Search and directory sites like, I started looking for those huge firms that you would expect to find on top.

Here are the usual suspects:

Baker & McKenzie - 3246 attorneys, 69 offices around the world

Jones Day Ė 1822 Attorneys, 29 offices around the world

Skadden Ė 1822 Attorneys, 22 offices around the world

Latham & Watkins Ė 1627 Attorneys, 22 offices around the world

(the information on the firms comes from the Internet Legal Research Group and the firmís own sites)

And the winner was... The Law Office of Sheela Murthy.

Who? is the official online home for a small immigration law firm based in Owings Mill, Maryland. Just 9 attorneys, in an office thatís probably smaller than the executive washroom at Baker and McKenzie. Yet, Ms. Murthy is kicking the big guys butts around the online block. And weíre not talking a slight edge in traffic. According to Hitwiseís market share report, captures 10 times the market share of these 4 huge firms combined.

I must admit, I was a little skeptical at first. So I tried some quick checks on Alexa. Sure enough, the small firm from Owings Mill was decimating the big guys when it came to generating internet traffic.

Frankly, Iím at a bit of a loss to explain this. The only explanation must be that the big guys donít really care. This is surprising, considering that well over a million people searched for some kind of lawyer on the Yahoo! network in May. And even more people searched for an attorney. Thatís just on Yahoo! Googleís numbers would easily double this. Thatís a minimum of 5 million potential clients up for grab every month, and the 4 largest firms in the U.S. havenít even optimized their title tags. You guessed it. Just the name of the firm shows in every case!

As search marketers, we often assume that the whole world knows about the power of search. Sometimes, it takes a blatant example like this to make us realize that a large part of the world is still waking up to the new reality of online marketing. And as long as the giants are sleeping, thereís still the opportunity for the Sheela Murthyís of the world to eat their lunch.

Come on, admit it. Arenít you going to be just a little bit sorry when those days are gone?

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

August 22, 2005

Gord Hotchkiss is President and CEO of Enquiro, Canada's leading search engine marketing firm and one of the top firms in North America. His articles are regularly published in both on and off line newsletters, including Marketing Monitor, SEOToday, Marketing and many other trade journals. Enquiro's own information portal is

With an extensive 20 year background in the marketing and advertising business, Gord has been working to increase client's search engine visibility since 1996 and has specialized in search engine marketing since 1999.

Search Engine Guide > Gord Hotchkiss > Murthy vs the Goliaths: The Power of Search at Work