in SEO, Web

FindLaw Website, SEO, & Internet Marketing Review

According to the video on their website:

FindLaw is the world’s leading provider of internet marketing solutions for law firms.

But are the world’s law firms generally benefiting from FindLaw’s SEO services? This review explores my experiences with the good, bad, and ugly of FindLaw’s SEO services.

Some Background

According to FindLaw’s company history it was founded in 1996 as a list of Internet resources for law librarians in northern California. In 2001, it became part of West Group, a business unit of Thomson Corp.

According to Justia’s website, FindLaw was started by Stacy Stern, Tim Stanley (current CEO of Justia), and Martin Roscheisen.

I first encountered FindLaw back in 2008. A lawyer, who was a FindLaw client, asked me to audit the internet marketing services being performed by FindLaw. Since that time, I have been asked by numerous lawyers about whether or not FindLaw’s internet marketing services are “worth it.”

And of course, the answer is that it depends.

We have worked (and continue to work) with many firms that have had excellent experiences with FindLaw’s internet marketing services. On the other hand, we’ve also heard some horror stories.

I hope this review is received as it is intended: a constructive review and criticism. It is certainly not intended to be a bashfest.

As you will see, there are advantages to choosing FindLaw. Likewise, there are disadvantages. I hope this helps you make a more informed choice with regard to internet marketing services. Perhaps (not holding my breath here), it will motivate FindLaw to improve in areas in which I believe that it is weak.

Here’s my take on FindLaw’s internet marketing and SEO services.

The Good

Spend a short time browsing FindLaw’s web design portfolio, and you will quickly see that many of their designs are top-notch. In fact, according to their site, many have won design awards.

Most of the websites in their design portfolio are completely custom and follow, what I would agree, are best practices in terms of design. They use custom imagery including actual images of their lawyer clients, as well as, their firms. They take an educational approach by delivering informational content in a variety forms including images, text, and video. Their custom content is actually very good.

The FindLaw informational videos are of top production quality. Their interview-style vignettes are particularly effective.

They are clearly experienced in conversion optimization as they deliver calls-to-action and a variety of ways for site visitors to interact with their websites including contact forms, informational downloads, call to call options, and live chat functionality.

Their sites, at least the handful that I reviewed, follow a logical site organization and, for the most part, follow general best practices in terms of on-page search engine optimization (i.e. optimized title tags, headers, etc).

Which shouldn’t come as any surprise. FindLaw’s advisory board has some REALLY smart and experienced SEOs on it.

When it comes to search engine visibility, many of their sites (more on this later) perform very well and enjoy high search positions for highly competitive keywords. For example, in the Chicago personal injury market, as many as 6 of the most visible injury law firms are FindLaw firmsites (most of the others using Justia).

FindLaw claims to offer:

  1. The legal marketing industry’s largest team of experts focused exclusively on effective online marketing for lawyers and law firms: Our staff already knows your business.
  2. Local consultants in every U.S. state who know the legal market and competitive landscape in your city or region, and can create a plan for you to succeed online.
  3. Account managers who stay focused on your website’s performance and answer your questions after your site launches.
  4. A dedicated focus on law firm marketing. We do not work in any other business category.
  5. Content expertise. As the owners of FindLaw.com, the industry’s largest resource of expert legal information, we can help you keep your law firm website fresh and relevant with custom or syndicated content.

Which, at face value, could all be beneficial in terms of selecting an internet marketing firm. However, as we’ll discuss below, at least some of these apparent “benefits” have a downside.

Admittedly, FindLaw has one of the oldest, most authoritative, and most trafficked legal websites in the world. There is a lot of value in that. And, for lawyers who are FindLaw internet marketing clients, they are big opportunities to be had in participating with FindLaw’s web properties (i.e. directories, publishing platforms, etc).

The Bad

So, what’s so bad?

Well, most visibly was FindLaw’s link selling scheme, for which FindLaw was penalized by having its website PageRank dropped from a 7 to a 5 (at time of posting, they’re back to a 7). While there is much debate in the SEO community about “paid links”, Google expressly warns that:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.

However, like many other aspects to SEO, exactly what constitutes a “paid link” that violates the webmaster guidelines is open to interpretation. For example, directories, like Yahoo!, that charge for editorial review of submissions, are generally deemed ok. On the other hand, explicitly link brokerages are generally viewed as extremely risky. Further, from my experience, while expensive, in some circumstances, paying for inclusion in major legal directories (including FindLaw’s) can add value in terms of search visibility.

Here are some of the other major complaints that we, as well as many others, hear about FindLaw:

  • Ownership Issues – Many lawyers have complained that they have been held hostage by FindLaw with regard to who owns their website. In other words, FindLaw refuses (or at best makes it very difficult) to transfer the ownership of domains and other site content. In fact, some consultants have made a business of fixing FindLaw problems. We too have had experience in transferring attorneys off of FindLaw. It can be a headache, but when pushes turn into shoves, you usually can get your domain and site files to which you are entitled.
  • “Hotel California” Issues – As the Sequoia Legal Marketing blog puts it: “…you can check in any time you’d like, but you can never leave…” The point here is that FindLaw will keep you linked to their high domain authority properties, so long as, you keep paying them. In fairness, FindLaw is certainly not the only internet marketing company taking the Hotel California approach. Further, I’m not per se opposed to paying for membership in relevant link “networks.” However, it’s important for lawyers to understand that their investments in this type of “quasi-seo” are only temporary. You stop paying, your links come down.
  • The Template IssueCall it template, call it commodity, call it one-size-fits-all. No matter what you call it, you need to recognize that if your internet marketing service is doing the same “stuff” for you as they are for your competition, you’re never going to get ahead. On the other hand, using FindLaw in conjunction with custom SEO, can have value. As we discussed above, several Chicago PI firms are using FindLaw for SEO. The result, they have had very similar work done, leading to very similar results. However, there are only 10 organic search spots on the first page of Google. Which of their clients do they prefer over the others? That’s a question I leave to them to answer.
  • Stock Content – While FindLaw’s custom imagery, videos, and content are quite good, their stock content is not. What’s worse, they use very similar content versions across multiple sites. This can have a disastrous impact on your online visibility, as well as, just make you look crappy.
  • Brutal Contracts – Probably one of the most ominous issues with FindLaw’s internet marketing services are their contracts. They have long terms. They lack transparency. They’re confusing. It’s not clear that their high costs are always justified. Make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for, what you’re getting, and when what you’re paying for will be delivered.
  • Inefficient Site Administration – One other glaring issue that we’ve come across is that FindLaw sites are very difficult to admin and update. In some cases, we have had to submit site change requests to FindLaw. Turn around time for these requests is lethargic at best (I suppose it depends on who’s on your admin team). Further, sites that we’ve had admin access to, were very difficult to admin.

Final Analysis

Let me start out by saying that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all internet marketing solution. Lawyers and marketing managers should consider the advantages and disadvantages of any program before locking-into a long-term contract. Like most other purchases, there’s simply no substitute for having some knowledge about the internet products and services you are purchasing.

We’ve worked with firms that have had great experiences with FindLaw’s internet marketing services. Most of the firms having a good experience, were either the only, or one of a very few, firms using FindLaw in their area. In more competitive environments, we have seen more dissatisfaction.

Certainly FindLaw’s custom websites and content are very good. However, you need to get an idea of how much you’re paying for each component. Which, considering their confusing contracts, can be difficult to figure out. I would suggest that a basic custom website design should not cost over $10,000. However, with video and a variety of other web bells and whistles, it might.

If your competitors are paying for inclusion in FindLaw’s directory (and receiving links back) you might consider paying for that service to level the playing field. However, you should not count on inclusion in their directory to boost you to the top of search engine results pages. Especially, if that’s all you’re doing.

My best advice is to ask a lot of questions, learn as much as you can about how effective internet marketing works, and research a variety of options. That’s the best way to decide whether FindLaw is the right internet marketing service for you.

UPDATED: Based on the number of complaints I have heard from lawyers about their FindLaw contracts, I have posted FindLaw Website SEO Agreement Reviewed.


FindLaw Website / SEO Services
Reviewed by Gyi Tsakalakis on .
Website design and search engine optimization for law firms.
FindLaw provides some very professional websites, but be cautious in choosing them as your primary search engine optimization provider.
Rating: 1

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  • steve

    what SEO and website design company would you suggest then for a law office?

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, this is not a question that can be easily answered via blog post comment. If put to task, I would say that your law firm’s SEO and/or website design company should develop a marketing campaign that’s focused on helping you grow your professional network and is measured by their ability to generate a positive return on investment.

  • steve

    I really need a referral in San diego for an seo company, do you have any?

    • I didn’t live in SD four years ago, but I do now! I only take six new clients max per year. Hit me up if you’re a good client. I’m great w/ SEO. (For what it’s worth, your SEO practitioner’s location doesn’t matter; hire somebody who’s good, not somebody close.)

  • steve

    What are your top 5 SEO companies that you would trust for a law firm.

    • Hmm… I know this will come across as a dodge, but the answer is that it really depends on what you’re trying to do, what your budget is, etc.

      I’d spend some time searching for keywords relevant to your practice and see who has visibility both in organic search results and paid search results.

      From there, figure out who they are using. Unfortunately, this will only get you part of the way. The reason is that you probably don’t want to use the company that your competition is using.

      However, perhaps try for a different practice area. For example, if you’re a criminal defense lawyer, perhaps search on personal injury terms. Talk to other lawyers that are using search consultants and ask them about their experiences.

      If you’d like, feel free to contact me and I can give you some additional insight as to how to vet a search consultant. Good luck.

  • I have nothing to do with law, I do marketing for a scrub & uniform company, but here is what I do know about FindLaw websites/lawyer listings:

    1) Two years in a row, two different lawyers have called my company because FindLaw has listed their secondary phone numbers on their FindLaw websites. (Might want to check to see if YOUR listing is accurate, because really, why would FindLaw NOT list your PRIMARY phone number?)
    2) Those secondary phone numbers for lawyers are causing inaccurate listings in OUR published yellow page listings with Dex.

    In our time-consuming investigations of this issue, apparently Dex collects their phone listing information “from several sources”, and it appears that FindLaw is one of them. Then, Dex does not audit their information before publishing.

    How Dex connected my company to a law office is beyond me, but the common denominator is FindLaw.

    • Yikes! That’s brutal for local results. Thanks for the feedback.

  • This is a well-written article. I worked for FindLaw for about 5 years as an Account Manager and then later a Sales Consultant.

    I feel like a law firm owning their own website is critical. At a minimum, you have to own your domain name so that should your relationship with a service provider get bumpy, you have the means to control your site and email. As you referred to it, The ownership issue, sort of combined with the Hotel California issue. Meaning, if you put together a decent site and keep it in the same place, you can end up having as good or better of results, and they’re basically permanent. So if you’re going to spend the time / energy to get a site solid exposure, why let anyone control it other than the firm? How can you know what your site would have done if you owned it? How many people that would have already hired you is your expensive marketing plan taking credit for?

    Taking a slow and affordable approach is the only way to ensure you don’t end up working only to pay for your marketing plan for the next ten years.

    A great majority of law firms can’t actually tell you exactly where their best ROI is coming from. And truth be told, even the best SEO or the most experienced legal marketing expert can’t make a definitive statement about whether a lawyer’s best potential client will type in “Minneapolis Personal Injury Lawyer” or “Twin Cities Auto Accident Claim”. At the end of the day, this is a thin market. There is not an endless pool of potential clients in any combination of geographical area and area of law. To be specific, I live in Burnsville. If you show up for “Burnsville Pharmaceutical Liability Lawyer” for 10 years in a row you may never get a solid inquiry. It could also lead to a million dollar case.

    This is clearly an extreme example but in certain areas of the country / areas of law, the amount of people selling or inquiring any legal related service probably run more searches that actual potential clients do. What I’m saying is, any keyword analysis that is done in conjunction with a location is skewed by the hundreds of reps running around town trying to show that their potential clients doesn’t show up for this and this search, and trying to display how their clients’ websites do.

    And look, I’m not saying just keep your website cheap and hope to get what you get, but don’t let your website kill the rest of your marketing plan. No matter how much money you spend on your site, there is nothing that will guarantee a return. Owning your own site allows you to keep the main piece in tact and grow over time while you experiment with the rest of your marketing budget to try to see what really works.

  • James,

    Thanks for your comment and your candor. Your point about “Burnsville Pharmaceutical Liability Lawyer” is especially well-taken.

    In fact, these types of head terms are the most competitive (making them the most expensive organically and in paid search) and don’t really have all that much volume.

  • Asher Weinberg

    I generally avoid ever signing one year contracts for marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, I did in this case with Findlaw. it has been about 6 months, and I have received one referral because of it. And that person was not actually interested in PAYING for an attorney. Just some legal advice please. I have tried other online referrals, and none fared quite as badly as Findlaw. Avvo is almost as useless, but not as expensive. I have found that for Criminal Defense, my potential clients are not looking online to find an attorney. Most of the other services I have used though, have allowed me to cancel after four months if they did not produce any potential clients. I would recommend that attorney’s stay AWAY from Findlaw. Not worth the money or commitment.

  • Kirk Stange

    I have a premium webpage through findlaw: http://www.stangelawfirm.com. This is the top of the line webpage they sell. My experience has been mostly good. The site ranks well. It is well designed. The links do help. I do have some complaints. Namely, they sub people in and off my team at times. I’ve worked with some great people and some not so great. I have caught them making some mistakes along the way on technical issues. At the end of the day, I think it’s a positive. The site ranks and looks well. Most of the people are great over there. But like anything, you have to be involved with your site. If you get a bad person working on your account, demand somebody different. And learn seo yourself so you are informed. My view is there aren’t better alternatives. And most people don’t have the savvy to make sites as nice as Findlaw in the legal industry.

    • Hi Kirk – Thanks for the comment and the transparency.

  • Michelle Roller

    FindLaw has been horrid. Poor results, high prices and a huge contract. Avoid FindLaw and Thompson Reuters are beyond awful. Avoid, avoid, avoid. The people are nice but they will stick you with a log contract and do nothing for you. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

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  • Michael Romano

    I realize that this article/post is quite old, but just to provide an updated review, I worked with FindLaw in 2013 and 2014, and it was an absolutely horrible experience. They over-promise, under-perform, and their customer service is absolutely non-existent.

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  • Tango

    I used Findlaw for four years. I do NOT recommend them at all. The ROI was negativre by any measurement. You will find that they are serviceing your competitors for the same clients and space. Since I fired them and went with a local service and with no SEO, I have fared much better. I could go on about their lousy service, high turn over, etc. I have not met one single attorney who has used them and thought they were worth it. I felt like a sucker.