In many ways, we actually admire FindLaw.
They have developed a huge business serving law firms which has stood the test of time, something we’re actively trying to emulate. Some attorneys even swear by them.
So, what’s with all the negativity surrounding the company’s marketing services?
We’re going to do our best to provide a fair and honest assessment of their value to today’s law firm.
The Pros and Cons of Using FindLaw Legal Marketing
Website & SEO Services that Fall Short
You know it’s important, but you don’t have time to become a web marketing guru. FindLaw banks on this need/knowledge gap. The problem is their website and SEO services are the least valuable part of their marketing services offering.
Mixed Lead Quality and Frequency
“It’s definitely working, sometimes.” The leads you’re getting from FindLaw come from their website, not your own. Your lead volume (and success) is tied to how they choose to showcase your firm against their other clients.
They Sell Competitors the Exact Same Service
FindLaw sells the exact same services to your competitors, which makes it impossible to get ahead. Our client wanted to take charge of their destiny and not simply hope each month that the FindLaw yield was revenue positive.
Confessions of a FindLaw Addict
The identity of the reformed attorney has been hidden for their protection.
I guess you could say I’ve had a lifelong connection with West Publishing Company, the forerunner of Findlaw. My father was a lawyer and later a judge and my earliest memories of his office were rooms full of books published by West Publishing Company. In those days there were no computers and certainly no way to perform legal research electronically. If you had to do legal research, it meant pulling books off shelves and hunting down the printed cases from books, all published by West Publishing Company. I remember my father commenting at the time that most lawyers owed their souls to the West Publishing Company. For all practical purposes, it was the only game in town.
Later in the 1990’s, the transition to CD’s and then to online research took place and as an outgrowth of that Findlaw began promoting ways to pay for all that research. No one ever accused West Publishing Company of being in the publishing business because they enjoyed the smell of ink on paper and so it was no surprise that Findlaw was created as a for profit entity.
With the demise of the yellow pages and other print advertising vehicles, even old lawyers like myself soon came to recognize that in the future potential clients would be searching the internet to find lawyers to represent them.
Enter the Findlaw sales representative.
Our fellow, like all of them, was a very chatty guy who could quickly overwhelm you with all the clients you were bound to never have because you did not have a presence on the internet. But not just any old presence, but with the required whiz bang website produced by the son of West Publishing, Findlaw. Of course, I, like most internet virgins, was dazzled by all the stories about how lawyer X has so much business he didn’t know what to do with it and how you needed specialized pages to make sure that at the very mention of “criminal lawyer,’ or “divorce lawyer,” or “plaintiff’s lawyer,” Findlaw would make me and my partner the beneficiary of immeasurable financial gain. Findlaw would build a customized website for us along with many individualized pages for whatever I wanted to talk about.
It all sounded great.
And, Findlaw did build us our very own website, although it looked suspiciously like other “unique” websites and produced pages touting our expertise in various areas of the law and, truth be told, my firm did get clients as a result of Findlaw’s efforts. The new business paid for Findlaw and to say otherwise would be incorrect.
The problem was our firm got to pay for the website over and over and over. Once the initial work on the website was completed, you never heard from them again except when it was time to renew the Findlaw subscription. Sure, they designated some guy to be your assigned webmaster/coach but lawyers, like myself, not knowing much about internet marketing, just never pursued advice from the coach and the coach certainly wasn’t calling up to see how things were going. Instead, we paid our money and hoped for the best and most of the time it did pay for itself.
Not to sound too greedy, but it just wasn’t paying enough. No one told us that Google was constantly changing and we weren’t made aware of the dynamic nature of how the internet functioned. I guess it was our job to learn that stuff on our own but for busy lawyers it wasn’t a priority and so it became one of those things that you thought about but never did anything about.
Pretty soon, the FindLaw website that you had paid for many times became stale and your colleagues seemed to be closing in on whatever advantage you might have had. Any adjustments to your electronic presence were hard to come by and even if your Findlaw guy changed things, it was always with additional costs.
FindLaw is now in the rearview mirror and we’ve replaced our beginner’s set of electronic golf clubs for a new and improved set of clubs.
Lawyers who do electronic advertising, which is virtually everyone, need help to contend with ever more sophisticated digital advertising. To keep up, you need something or someone that knows the practice of law and knows how to effectively operate within the boundaries of digital marketing. It has been my experience that it is difficult to find a digital marketer who knows about digital marketing but also knows about the subject matter of a typical law practice. The website might look really good but there’s little or no meaningful content.
Entities like Findlaw are susceptible to resting or their laurels and slow to change. Constellation has taken over our digital marketing and we couldn’t be happier. For about the same amount of money, maybe less, we get tons more personal attention than we ever got with Findlaw. Constellation is constantly updating our website and giving us feedback about referrals and the competition. We know Constellation gets results; we see it in our bottom line every month.
Reviews from Real FindLaw Customers
Expect a Bad Customer Experience
A couple of Harold’s points are worth of discussion.
First, he is 100% accurate regarding the difficulty of cancellation if you are unsatisfied. We routinely speak with potential clients who want to make a switch to us, but are being held hostage with a multi-year marketing services agreement.
We’ve actually had the opportunity to work with members of the FindLaw team on multiple occasions, coordinating efforts for our clients. They are nice people! We don’t want to demonize everyone there.
The point we want to highlight is that they aren’t set up for success. The company is structured in a way that once you sign up, you’re passed along from a sales rep to an account manager. The account manager is looking after hundreds and hundreds of accounts.
Simply put, there are too many clients being managed a one time to be effective for everyone.
Tough on Customers During COVID-19
We are in a unique time and most businesses have found ways to provide more flexibility to struggling business owners.
Based on our client reporting, we’ve seen the volume of search traffic around hiring a lawyer almost be cut in half. Since March, there has simply been fewer people getting into accidents, processing criminal cases, and anything else for that matter. It’s been super tough on many law firms who have had to find creative ways to cut costs in order to keep the lights on.
It’s tough to speak on this specific situation, because we understand FindLaw is trying to run a business as well. It’s been bad timing for everyone and I’m sure they’re feeling it as well. However, we do know their terms are typically very strict. It’s a bit surprising, but not totally out there to hear they have been tough on contracts during this period.
As a smaller firm, we have forged strong connections with our clients and are committed to finding creative solutions when tough times hit.
Very Useful for Legal Research
Lee is 100% correct on this point.
We said it right at the beginning, we actually admire FindLaw. One of the reasons we do think highly of them is their content marketing game. If you search for anything related to law, you’re more than likely going to see a FindLaw page in the first page of results.
Any state, any law…it’s impressive.
We can attest to the fact that FindLaw works hard to generate quality content that has been sourced, proofed, and is generally very helpful to the average person.
Crippling Contracts for Small Law Firms
Sadly, this is very common scenario.
A law firm is ready to make moves because they know they need to do something. A smooth-talking representative from FindLaw slides in and shares their amazing suite of solutions. It’s a match made in heaven.
They’ve got thousands of law firms as clients, surely they can’t all be wrong. Then, the deal is made and before you know it, you’re in a 1-3 year marriage. This fella actually made out pretty well with a one year term.
The problem comes when you’re not seeing results, which is common, and you start noticing that your competitor across town is getting the premium positions that you thought you were entitled to. Turns out, your friend/sales representative has been courting your competition this whole time! The competitor was paying more and now you aren’t generating enough revenue to increase your investment to reclaim the position!
Then, you’re looking at how you cancel and pursue a different solution. The trouble comes when you realize you’re still under a contract with more than a year to go. And they will absolutely hold you to it. You don’t have to look very far to find examples of when FindLaw has sued their previous clients.
We contend that there is value you can obtain from FindLaw, but it’s a very specific part of their overall offering. If you’re going to hop into an arrangement with them, just make sure you’re going in with eyes wide open.
No ROI, Money is Better Spent Anywhere Else
Again, this is a common situation we have seen with clients who come to us after their term is expired.
Compared to us, FindLaw is more like a factory. We’re the hand-crafted, small batch alternative.
Virtually No New Cases + No Exclusivity
Larry is clearly salty from his interaction with FindLaw. To be clear, we were not part of this situation and are making no claims that the company is dishonest. We’ve just gathered what we feel is an accurate summary of public reviews.
We can affirm that FindLaw routinely puts attorneys in competition with their neighbors, it’s baked in to their financial model. See, the most lucrative asset that FindLaw holds is their website. Along with other companies like Avvo and Lawyers.com, they have seized a big portion of the search engine real estate for legal search results. If you search for any type of attorney in your area, more than likely you are going to be confronted with one of their directory pages. This is their money maker.
By having all of the search positions available when someone is searching for an attorney, they receive the inquiries and can distribute them as they see fit. Guess who gets the most? If you guessed the highest-bidder, you are correct.
This is the main problem with directory-based companies, they are not built to have exclusive relationships. They want to monetize their asset as much as possible, which means selling every inch of space on that directory. This also means that you are only going to get a solid level of lead activity if you are willing to pay a premium for it.
We’re on the opposite end of the spectrum, providing practice-area and geographic exclusivity.
Why do we do this? First, we’re just too competitive to be playing both sides. We can’t try to elevate our client when we know it’s going to come at the expense of our other client. We want our clients to win and we’re going to put in the overtime to make that happen. The idea of then going across town to court their rival just makes us feel a little slimy.
Next, the pie is so big, there’s no need to generate competition between firms. Thousands of new attorneys enter the marketplace every year, there will always be competition and the need for digital marketing services. Our business plan does not include having a presence everywhere, all the time. Our only goal is to provide a premium service to a limited group of committed and friendly law firms.
Reliable Site for Legal Information
Agreed! We’re on-board 100% with this sentiment. Starting with West Law, the group of companies under the Thomson Reuters umbrella has consistently provided great resources for the legal company. They have done an impressive job spreading out across the country on every possible legal topic in existence.
We know from first-hand experience that their legal material which is on the Internet for free consumption is quite good. They use actual lawyers, apply editorial standards and it’s generally very helpful. We’ve used it ourselves!
We’re just not in love with their marketing business.
Great Resource When Deciding Practice Areas
We agree. If you are a young attorney who is looking at developing a new practice, FindLaw is a great place to kick your ideas around.
As a directory company, they have pretty much everything covered. Maritime law? Sure! Every possible niche within a niche can be found within their directory listings.
They also organize all of their listings by city, which can be useful for a new attorney to gauge the relative competition in the area they will be practicing. By reviewing the number of attorneys advertising with premium listings in your desired practice area, you can get a rough idea of how many competitors are in the area. If they are spending money to outshine other attorneys in the area, it’s a good bet that this is a competitive area and practice niche.
The flip side of that is this good be a good sign there is enough business to sustain multiple law firms. This can be good, otherwise we’d just have Coke and no Pepsi. Don’t be discouraged if there are multiple attorneys in the geographic location with your desired practice. You’ll just need to develop a smart strategy to stand out amongst the competition.
Case Studies from Former FindLaw Clients
Our client’s organic search traffic improved almost immediately
It all started with a fresh, new website. After we wrote brand new content, performed updated keyword research, overhauled the site organization, and cleaned up technical issues, organic search traffic from Google increased almost immediately and continued to grow.
The days of setting up a website, leaving it, and expecting results are over. We work hard each and every month to add new content, continue optimizing, and stay ahead of the curve.
Lead frequency and quality continues to improve
Prior to working with us, our client Manji Law had relied on the FindLaw’s marketing services to provide leads for his law firm, but these were unpredictable and generally low-quality. Over the past year, his monthly lead volume has skyrocketed to the tune of a 568% increase, and this number just keeps climbing.
The best part is that these leads are not the ‘tire-kickers’ often coming from directory websites like FindLaw, Avvo, and Lawyers.com. We outlined the most profitable and sought-after cases for the firm and proceeded to build a successful plan to capture that market.
We’ve made huge gains against the competition
With FindLaw’s marketing services, the firm’s competitors dominated Google for their key search terms. The only terms their FindLaw website ranked for was their name. This is no longer the case, and the firm now ranks on the first page for over 250 highly-coveted keywords.
In a mid-size market like where our client is located, there are only so many good leads to go around. As more prospects do their homework online, it’s imperative that your firm has a plan of action if you want to stay competitive.
How To Get The Most Out Of FindLaw
If you’re not happy with FindLaw, there are still some ways to recoup value out of your investment.
Promote Yourself on ALL Attorney Directories
If you search for a key term that is applicable to your practice such as ‘bankruptcy lawyer Atlanta GA,’ you will find the results littered with all the big marketing companies for law firms.
That is because they spend millions of dollars to improve their own websites in order to compete for market share, get visitors, and sell you leads. Although they try to seem like they have your best interest at heart, they are actually your competition for the same spots they’re supposed to be helping you attain.
We’ve received thousands of search results and found that which big legal marketing company is winning will vary depending on the type of case and city. We strongly advise signing up for free accounts on all of the major and minor law firm directory sites to leverage your marketing opportunities.
Search for legal marketing terms that are most relevant to your practice and make a note of the companies that dominate the listings. Fill out profiles on those sites completely. In our experience, you’ll occasionally get a free lead, but more importantly, you’ll earn links from high-authority, relevant sites. We have a list of over 50 free law firm directories – email us for a copy.
Keep Them Honest
FindLaw will give you a shiny report to review each month, but they’re pretty quiet about what it is they are actually doing to optimize the websites of law firms. As a marketing client, you deserve to know exactly what types of services and strategies are being implemented to expand your online presence.
Generally, this would include tasks like acquiring links for your website, adding content or optimizing existing legal information material, fixing technical issues like broken links and redirects, and discussing trends in your organic search traffic.
Hold them accountable
Your account salesperson will almost certainly deflect this to the account manager, who is in charge of managing many websites of law firms. If FindLaw comes back with something like “we run checks to every month to make sure it’s optimized,” that’s simply not good enough. That’s not optimizing your site – that is running a tool once a month. Hold them accountable by asking for a 15-minute task report each month.
We also strongly recommend that you take some time to learn about the mechanics of SEO, search engines, and the FindLaw/Thomson Reuters business model in general, as well as read up on review. We are happy to point you to some excellent articles that help demystify SEO and will give you a stronger position when working with marketers in the future.
If you have a tech-savvy friend, see if they would be willing to give you a lesson on the various marketing strategies and terms you hear being kicked around. It never hurts to ask.
Make Your Content Epic
A study of 1 million Google search results found that longer content tends to rank higher. The average first-page result now contains 1,890 words.
The pages FindLaw created for our clients were in the 300-500 word range. This is simply not good enough to compete. Ranking your website generally comes down to two things: quality of content and recognition of that quality, which comes from links from other websites. Although acquiring links is hard and requires lots of work, writing content on legal information is something every law firm can control.
Send us an email and we will provide examples of perfectly optimized pages that you can create on your own.
A common misconception that has been perpetuated by FindLaw is that having the ‘right keywords’ is the holy grail of a successful site. There are only so many keywords that lead to clients, however, and with multiple lawyers trying to get a piece of the pie, not everyone can be on the first page. Additionally you can check out Marketing Ideas for Law Firms to to improve your strategies.
Success online for law firms is more about creating long, authoritative content that includes the terms you target. Simply adding them alone will not suffice if you wish to be competitive. Send us an email and we’ll show you a working example.
Ask for Detailed Analysis of your Reports
When we were first asked to review the monthly FindLaw marketing reports as a favor, what stuck out most was that there was a lot of smoke but not much fire.
There is a HUGE difference between ‘views’ and ‘leads’ or ‘contacts.’ Page/profile views give the illusion of real activity (or firm interest) when in actuality, you have no idea how they got there.
We estimate that FindLaw spends around $500,000 per month on Google Ads to generate leads. To make the cost per click tenable, they have to be broad and generic, which often leads to poor quality prospects or ‘tire kickers.’ We’re sure you can relate and have had quality issues with the leads you’ve received via FindLaw’s directory service.
After considerable back and forth from FindLaw, who likes to keep all the real data to themselves, we were finally able to get Google Analytics installed for our client.
The results were quite shocking. The only leads being generated from the FindLaw website came as a result of someone searching the attorney’s name directly. Over the course of a year, not one lead could be attributed to an organic search traffic lead from a non-brand keyword.
FAQs about FindLaw Legal Marketing
Here, we answer many of the common questions around FindLaw. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, email us and we’d be happy to chat.
Can you offer any insights into FindLaw services and results?
Yes. It’s a mixed bag, to be honest. The single-best service they offer is preferred directory listings. Depending on your firm’s practice and the relative cost to acquire new customers, this may be a good option.
This might surprise you, but we actually encourage some attorneys to use paid directory listings – with certain caveats. The conditions are that the listings must bring in more real cases in revenue than they cost and not detract from their own website strategy. We are strong proponents of owning your own real estate and investing in your own website with great content, outreach, and technical SEO. Not only is this more cost-effective than paying for leads from FindLaw, but it actually works better.
Does FindLaw actually sell websites or do they just “rent” them?
They kind of do both. This article goes into great detail about FindLaw’s one-sided contracts and the fact that your site is essentially their property. Not good! That technically includes anything you write as well, which is quite sneaky. We advise using your existing domain, but building a brand new website.
There are also examples of Thomson Reuters ‘renting’ existing websites that rank for popular search terms to the highest bidder like seen here.
Either way, from personal experience, we have seen that their month-to-month management of websites is basically nonexistent, even while spending over $1k per month on SEO services! Your law firm is much better off owning your own online real estate and developing it over time. If you rely on FindLaw as your website provider and choose to leave at some point without proper planning, you’re at risk for losing a substantial amount (or all) of your content.
Isn’t FindLaw’s content optimized and extra special?
Honestly, it’s not good. You are better off doing a little bit of homework and writing it yourself. The days of stuffing a bunch of the same keyword into a page and ranking for the term are over.
From a technical standpoint, they don’t practice many industry-standard guidelines. The reason for this is that they are not a custom shop. They have a packaged service offering with little time for deviation and personal attention.
Our tip? Write long, detailed content that completely covers the topic of your page. Don’t write it like an article on legal information for fellow lawyers – put it in terms that anyone coming off the street can understand. More and more, Google’s search algorithm demands good quality if it is to reward it with a high position in the rankings. With such a high volume of content being added to the web every day, all around the world, you have to do something to stand out.
If you want to get ahead, doing the same ‘stuff’ that FindLaw is doing for your direct competitors is not the answer.
We’ve included a couple of resources below that you will likely find useful for review. If you have any questions about them, email us.
If I quit FindLaw, won’t my site rank poorly?
Not really. In fact, we’ve seen quite the opposite – they’ve dramatically improved.
Additionally, we’ve started to rank for lots more keywords than before as a byproduct of developing longer, better content. You see, people search for the same thing in a variety of ways with different words and subsequently receive different search results. By creating well-developed content, you win more ‘long-tail keywords’, traffic, and ultimately leads for your firm.
The biggest thing you want to be aware of when thinking about leaving FindLaw is the value of the directory listing. The most important assets for you as a lawyer are the links that get pointed back to your website. Since FindLaw is a highly-trafficked site with lots of visitors and thousands of inbound links, it possesses a high domain authority score.
Receiving links from sites with high domain authority boosts yours. If you cease to have a directory listing, they will quickly take down these links, which will temporarily reduce your ability to rank. That being said, there are thousands of websites with high domain authority where you can work to earn links.
How much money will it cost to have FindLaw build me a custom website?
It depends. The first thing to understand is that you’re likely unable to simply purchase a website and be on your way. Typically, FindLaw wraps these sites into service packages that include directory listings, preferential treatment within the directory, and other items.
Our personal experience was with a firm that paid around $1,300 every month and the website was included, with an update available after a couple of years.
We also have seen accounts of subscriptions costing anywhere from $250 per month to nearly $10,000. Without better visibility into their pricing, we can’t say definitively what an engagement would cost.
How can I stop paying for bad performance without eliminating the leads they do provide?
If you can afford it, we recommend continuing a directory relationship with FindLaw/Thomson Reuters but leaving to have someone else manage your website. It’s true that their website can be a source of leads, so it never hurts to take advantage of it.
Where they fail is being able to simultaneously build your site with the purpose of attracting organic search traffic. When anticipating a move to a new website, start creating the content in Word or Google Docs over time so you’re prepared in advance.
If you’ve had it with FindLaw altogether and want to jump camps, do some homework first. The most important thing to look at is the type of searches your ideal client would make. Who is dominating the results for those queries? Lawyers.com? Justia? Avvo?
We suggest developing a relationship with the group that has the best position for your specific niche.