Is FindLaw Worth It?

Findlaw's Legal Marketing Front Page

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.

The Upsells

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.

Cost

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.

Link Selling

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.

My Recommendation

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.

 

If you’re interested in SEO services for attorneys, check out SEO for Lawyers Guide and our post of The Best Law Firm SEO Services to find the best one for your practice.

Like what I wrote?  Hate it?  Have a FindLaw review of your own?  Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below

8 Replies to “Is FindLaw Worth It?”

  1. GaryMarch 1, 2017 at 5:40 pmReply

    Thanks for exposing the truth about FindLaw. I build websites for small businesses but have never considered building sites for lawyers. After reading your article about FindLaw and if it was worth it, I beginning to think I can crack that local market. The prices and the conditions FindLaw imposes are ridiculous. And that detail about how FindLaw owns the content of YOUR site is diabolical.

    1. adminMarch 1, 2017 at 5:47 pmReply

      I couldn’t agree more Gary. Most lawyers know next to nothing about how to build a website, so I would say there’s definitely a demand out there. The thing is, most lawyers are very wary of individual designers and tend to lean to the companies with a larger public image.

      Additionally, lawyers usually more of a budget to spend on their website than the average e-commerce website, so I would say it could be a very worthwhile opportunity, for you and the lawyer.

  2. JonMarch 1, 2017 at 6:44 pmReply

    Your analysis of Findlaw could be a useful resource for people who are looking for an online provider of legal information. The fact that they have experienced challenges with Google and had poor reviews is also interesting and something that people probably aren’t aware of. Very interesting indeed. I’m sure people who come across your post will thank you for providing this information to the wider community.

    1. adminMarch 2, 2017 at 9:04 amReply

      Thanks Jon. I probably should have made it more clear, but FindLaw, as a resource for non-lawyers who are trying to learn more about the law, is great. This post was geared more toward attorneys specifically who are thinking about purchasing their legal marketing program.

      FindLaw does a great service by making many parts of the law, which would otherwise be difficult to find on the internet, very accessible. I’m a big fan of what they do in that area and they’ve probably saved people millions of dollars collectively in legal fees.

  3. JasonNovember 21, 2017 at 5:41 pmReply

    My firm hired Findlaw to do all of our digital marketing, soup to nuts, website, blogging, SEO, etc… We didn’t do PPC while with them. They were horrible. Cost us WAY too much money over 2 years, we never got close to google’s unicorn first page, absolutely no leads, nothing to show for mid-five figures. They constantly shifted our account manager (we had 5 in two years), upsold us in every meeting (video, PPC, social, etc…), never took blame and always said we needed to boost our website (that they built) by paying for the upsell items. There was never a clear plan for targeted keywords or what would convert on our site, except for when they told us video converts, at a cost of another $6,000. We didn’t go over metrics at our quarterly meeting. We also bought “top 5” space on Findlaw’s website. Got nothing from that too.

    When we fired them it was a nightmare. 90 day out even at end of contract. Our “code” was utterly useless. AND they booted us from the “top 5” position.

    I spoke to one of their in house design people afterwards, they said Findlaw limits the amount of time their design people can work on each client so clients only get a few hours a month on SEO. Probably comes out to close to $300/hour for SEO time which is absurd.

    DON’T USE THEM.

    1. MaxwellNovember 25, 2017 at 4:49 pmReply

      Thanks for your comment Jason. Sounds like a miserable experience. What do you mean when you say that your “code” was utterly useless? Was there any problem of them handing you the keys (so to speak) to your own website?

  4. RickNovember 24, 2017 at 1:16 pmReply

    The part about Find Law owning any content created on behalf of their customers is FALSE and as far as I am aware has never been the case. From the master services agreement:
    “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 (the “Work”),
    except that: (a) any third-party data or intellectual property used to
    create the Work is specifically excluded, e.g. stock imagery, call
    tracking telephone numbers, online chat functionality, etc.; (b) we
    may use and distribute the Work as part of our portfolio and for
    promotional purposes in perpetuity; (c) we will own all rights to
    concepts, ideas, designs, and other materials which have been
    presented to you but are not included in the Work; (d) we will own and
    retain all rights, including our intellectual property rights, to any
    technology, inventions, algorithms, processes, data, software,
    architecture, source files, source code, and other underlying elements
    used in the creation or hosting of any Work or Services (collectively,
    the “Underlying Technology”). We grant you a non-exclusive, royaltyfree,
    worldwide, perpetual license to use our Underlying Technology
    to the extent it is incorporated into the Work or Services.”

    Otherwise a fair article. Thanks!

    1. MaxwellNovember 25, 2017 at 4:59 pmReply

      Thanks for your correction Rick. Did you find the clause I referenced in the article in the master services agreement? It’s possible that they’ve updated their agreement, in which case, my paragraph wouldn’t apply. When researching this blog post, I saw the ownership clause to be a major concern amongst other reviewers, although I couldn’t find any examples where FindLaw enforced the clause to prevent their handing over of most of the website content. Since it was a concern for many, I thought I would include it, but if they’ve updated their agreement I will gladly update the article and give you a hat tip for the correction.

      I appreciate the feedback. Thank you Rick!

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