Findlaw is an enormous online resource for legal information. While the site generally caters to non-attorneys interested in learning the law, the site also offers online marketing services for lawyers. Because of Findlaw’s name recognition and large presence online, many attorneys trust the site to help them build a website and attract new clients.
Today we are going to review Findlaw’s legal marketing services. Let’s find out if it’s worth it:
The Main Product: Website Building
These guys aren’t college students with some computer skills. Their knowledge and expertise in web design is top caliber, as they’ve won Webby awards in multiple years for it. Here’s an example of an award-winning design they did for a law firm.
And according to their Success Stories, their websites work for a lot of attorneys (over 17,000).
They make excellent use of video, images, and text with top production quality. Their websites are entirely customizable to fit the desires of the attorney.
Findlaw understands the importance of converting website visitors. They make use of contact forms, live chat (if you opt for it), and giving away free legal tips to build the relationship with the potential clients (something we strongly recommend here at SFLM).
But what’s probably most reassuring to Findlaw clients is that Findlaw is one of the most trafficked legal websites on the internet. Attorneys aren’t dealing with scam artist that will take your money and run.
After you have your website with Findlaw, they will offer their additional services. For example, Findlaw will produce content on behalf of your firm and get published in other sites, which boosts your site rankings on Google. Alternatively, Findlaw will operate a blog on your firm’s website.
The professional videos and live chat I mentioned earlier will cost extra. The same with maintaining your social media presence.
Findlaw will operate a paid ad service (Pay Per Click) for you, either using AdSense or something similar.
The Bad News
Here’s the really tragic news: the internet is full of negative reviews of Findlaw. Other than the official Findlaw website, most of the forums and discussions about Findlaw were about how attorneys were dissatisfied with the service for a number of reasons, which we must cover:
Opaque Terms and Conditions
Findlaw has a very technically crafted terms and conditions page. You would think that lawyers would pay special attention to them, but many do not. And as many lawyers have found out, one particular section of Findlaw’s terms is alarming:
8.1 Ownership. The parties agree that, as between Subscriber and West [Findlaw], (i) the
Service Interface, West Materials, West Content and any improvements thereto
created under this Agreement are the exclusive property of West[…]
All of the content created in the process of creating your website is the property of Findlaw. You may own the domain and the layout that they create for you, but every word that Findlaw puts into your website that isn’t written by you is technically theirs.
[Update 11/29/2017: According to a reader of this site, FindLaw’s current contract provision on ownership has changed. The new clause assigns all ownership of content to the attorney “2. Ownership Subject to your fulfillment of all payment obligations under this Agreement, we assign you all right, title, and interest we have in any work specifically created for you under the Agreement[…]” Hat tip to Rick for the correction.]
These complicated terms and conditions created a lot of problems for former clients of Findlaw. Many report that it is very difficult to transition out of their relationship with the company because they would be losing so much in the process. That leads us to our next point:
The Roach Motel Problem
It’s easy to get in, and very difficult to get out. Findlaw is very good at getting your website to the top of google by having a number of links to your website on their site. Since their website is trafficked so heavily, this benefits your site’s ranking.
However, Findlaw’s technique of building up your site’s profile relies entirely on their link building platform, and once you decide to end your contract with them, so goes your site’s high ranking in Google and all the traffic and clients that come with it.
We at Small Firm Legal Marketing recommend that you use as many outlets as possible to build your sites profile. Never rely entirely on one method, because when it’s gone, so is all your hard work and money you spend on it.
Speaking of difficult contracts to get out of, Findlaw locks you in to a 2-3 year contract from $250 to thousands per month, depending on any add-ons that you’ll want to get.
This kind of budget is not unheard of in the legal marketing world, but for this price you can hire a private SEO company to build up your website from multiple outlets for lasting effects.
The long and difficult-to-get-out-of contract is one of the main complaints of former Findlaw clients. They find that in order to leave the agreement, they have to buyout the remaining months on their contract.
Google has had a very poor relationship with Findlaw in the past. In 2008, Google penalized Findlaw in their rankings because of their unethical link selling practices.
In a nutshell, Findlaw was gaming Google’s system by creating a lot of links to law firm websites, but not using them in their directories to help people find what they were looking for (the general purpose of links). Google only recognized how many links there were and gave higher rankings to these sites.
If you’re going to go with FindLaw, know that you are in it for the long haul. You should be fully committed to having FindLaw as your website developer marketer for the next 2-3 years minimum, and understand that breaking away from them will be difficult for you and your website. However, if you stick with them, they do produce great results.
With the internet marketing landscape changing so dramatically every few years, I would hesitate to commit yourself to any online marketer for such a long period of time. I assume that FindLaw will stay on top of the latest trends in online marketing, but there is a chance that online legal marketing will change in a way that makes Findlaw obsolete.
Additionally, Small Firm Legal Marketing cannot recommend a service with an overwhelming majority of negative reviews about it; however, I will be keeping my ear to the ground for any improvements or updates from Findlaw. If their service improves and their customers agree, I will be back to write a follow up review.
Like what I wrote? Hate it? Have a FindLaw review of your own? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below