In my book, How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline of New Clients for Your Law Firm in Just 10 Days, I discuss all the factors Google looks at to determine which search results will appear on page one.
I came across this very good video that discusses the issues as well, and provides a basic summary of how Google works. The video covers only the basics, but I really like the example used to explain incoming links, which also covers the importance of proper anchor text. I also appreciate that the author never tries to sell anything.
As set forth in How to Create a Big, Fat Pipeline, backlinks are important, and they are something you should strive for, but as I show, you can land on page one with no backlinks.