Working at a legal marketing agency, my co-workers and I are persistent in urging our clients to NOT use COVID-19 as the time to decrease your marketing efforts. Sure, shelter-in-place and closed courthouses put a damper on business for many law firms. Pessimistic articles also circulate the internet, but the economic limitations of the coronavirus are not as drastic as the articles could lead a lawyer to believe. Even for the practices hit the hardest, marketing efforts can still help you grab the attention of the potential clients who still need the help of a lawyer.
This may not seem like the time to increase your spending, but, for many law firms, now is precisely the time to act. Costs now, may help you gain clients once the economy returns to normal. Additionally, many marketing tactics are often cost-free and can be implemented yourself. This article addresses some of the economic data concerning law firms and COVID-19, as well as offers industry news and marketing tips that all law firms can implement during this time of uncertainty.
Taking a Closer Look at the Negative Economic Articles Addressing the Legal Industry
As a fellow law school graduate, I perused the ABA Journal piece which identified the slump in business for law firms and the lack of enthusiasm from clients regarding whether or not they would hire an attorney.
In reviewing the actual data from Martindale-Avvo, however, only 200 attorneys responded, yet there are over 1.3 million attorneys in the US, according to the ABA. Aside from the non-substantial representation of lawyers, additional questions also came to mind:
- We don’t know the locations of these attorneys. Are they in regions hit hard by the coronavirus or in rural areas?
- We don’t know the marketing efforts of these attorneys. Do they have active marketing campaigns? Do they rely on word of mouth?
- What were the main practice areas of these attorneys?
Surrounded in the negativity, some of the data also seemed somewhat promising:
- 95% of the law firms still took on new clients, despite somewhat of a slump.
- 52% of clients would still hire a lawyer during the pandemic.
- The sample size was 2,400 legal consumers, which is a better representation of the country, though many of the above questions also pertain to these potential clients.
The ABA Journal article also referred to data to a survey conducted by Clio, which had double the number of attorney respondents, yet the questions I posed above pertain to their data, as well. Clio’s survey was more in-depth, but one staggering result caught my eye:
Only 22% of attorney respondents are trying to do more to attract clients during the pandemic.
If you’re not actively trying to help your law firm survive or grow, can you blame the economic downturn solely on the coronavirus? Even if the pandemic is to blame for some of your plight, are you taking the appropriate actions to safeguard your business?
Another Sprinkling of Legal Field Data to Consider
Though this is also a small sampling of data, analysis of several dozen of our legal marketing clients revealed the following search performance insights during COVID-19.
On the paid search side of things, particularly on Google and Bing, data across all legal fields indicates that pay-per-click (PPC) accounts are steadily recovering after the initial impact of COVID-19. While the legal field has been one of the least affected industries when it comes to paid search during the pandemic, the ramifications have still been felt. Fortunately, like the overall paid search landscape, our accounts have seen positive movement over the past month. This includes:
- Improvements in click traffic — 10%
- Clickthrough rate — 20%
- Conversions — 25%
- Conversion rate — 10%
- Cost per conversion — 5%
Additionally, as more advertisers start to re-open PPC campaigns and more search engine users start to feel comfortable engaging with businesses again, a surge in competition should be expected. Thus far, we have seen increased costs at a per-click level (5% over the past month), as well as an increased need for larger budgets to maintain market share (20% decrease in impression share overall over the past month).
Lastly, when examining legal practice areas, we observed the following:
- A 30% increase in click traffic and a 10% increase in conversion for family law practitioners.
- Though criminal law traffic was down a bit (20%), we saw a 30% increase in conversions.
- Personal injury, one of the hardest hit practice areas, only saw a hit in traffic (15%) but no change in conversions.
Thus, though business may be down, marketing efforts are not unfruitful.
Is Law Firm Marketing Really the Answer to Fight the COVID-19 Slump?
Legal marketing is not intuitive to most attorneys. To be fair, tasks like writing for search engine optimization or managing a pay-per-click campaign are not skills you can master overnight. That being said, it’s astonishing to us in the field that so many law firms are not employing attorney marketing techniques in order to survive.
Though the coronavirus is cited as a an inhibiter of growth, it may simply be that law firms are not thinking outside of the box. An article from Gensler, for example, described a lack of networking opportunities as a key cause of attorney struggles. Sure in-person communication is difficult now, but a law firm’s website and social media accounts should be some of your primary networking opportunities.
Word of mouth can only get you so far – especially in crowded markets or competitive practice areas. If you can have a search presence of Google, that may very well be all the networking you need.
COVID-19 and Google Algorithm Updates Don’t Mix
Though many law firms may not have been privy to this information – especially those without an agency or marketing consultant offering guidance – Google released an algorithm update in mid-May 2020. Depending on how well your website is optimized with regard to SEO, law firms may see a downturn in clients due to a plummet in rankings. Google’s most recent updates have heavily focused on content relevancy and quality, among other factors, so old, outdated content can hurt your networking and search presence significantly. You may have the most aesthetically pleasing website in your field, but if you’re not ranking, it’s not reaching your potential customers.
Get Ahead of the Curve with These 5 Legal Marketing Tips
Don’t be part of the 78% of law firm’s not embracing legal marketing during the pandemic. Instead, consider (at least!) these five marketing tips that you can do on your own:
1. Prove to Your Clients That You Are Digital Natives at Your Firm
Returning to the Martindale-Avvo poll, 44% of legal consumers mentioned that they would hire an attorney who use things like video conference, phone calls and emails to communicate due to social distancing guidelines.
Does your website promote your adjustments for handling cases during COVID-19? What about your social media account? If you don’t provide some summary of how your law firm is modernizing in order to work around shelter-in-place or just a general concern to engage in person, chances are, you won’t see a growth in your client base.
2. Stay Ahead of the Game By Tackling the Up and Coming Legal Needs
As much as there are articles discussing the economic slump, there are also a fair amount of pieces identifying areas of law that are seeing growth as a result of the pandemic. Though the fields vary by source, the following fields are expected to see an increased need for attorney service – or are feeling the surge already. These fields are:
- Estate Planning
- Family Law
- Transactional Law
- Business Law (particularly non-compete law among the laid-off employees)
If you already practice in these areas – or are willing to take new cases on to recover lost funds – make sure you advertise all you can do in this area.
One of our clients, for example, produced content summarizing COVID-19-related family law matters in Michigan, including mediation via Zoom, and ranked #1 in the state in a mere 12 hours after posting the material. As such, rankings and conversion have stayed strong for the firm.
Thus, make sure you have strong core content AND blog posts with corresponding social media posts that highlight these areas and how you can help.
3. Consider a Website Refresh – or Even Just a Content Refresh
Without getting too technical, there are a host of reasons to update your website aside from the Google algorithm update. Some aspects include: ADA compliance, site speed, mobile viewing, ease of navigation and overall esthetic. If you have the budget – or a technical whiz who can manage a platform like WordPress – now may be the time to consider making your website more pleasing and SEO-friendly.
Even if you are suffering from financial constraints, make sure your content is up to date. Though there are a host of things to consider, some pointers include:
- Are your statistics too old to be relevant?
- Do you have any broken internal or external links?
- Do you have alt tags for your images?
- Do you have at least 500 words per page of core content area?
- Are all of your practice areas represented?
- Is your “About Us” accurate?
Of course there are critical SEO steps to truly growing your legal marketing campaign – selecting appropriate keywords, for one – but the above are easy enough for any lawyer to do to better improve the quality of your website.
4. Keep Things Personal to Existing and Potential Clients
Several wise authors have recommended that attorneys get on the phone or send emails to current or past clients. This is always encouraged as law firms need to stay fresh in client’s minds in order for them to recommend you to others.
That said, many lawyers have far too many clients and not enough time to do this. Now is the time to embrace newsletters, social media posts and email marketing. Use these tools to enhance your efforts from tips 1 & 2 to get maximum coverage.
Of course, you need to portray yourself as a legal authority and respectable professional, but it couldn’t hurt to add some humanity to your posts and emails. Share work from home disasters, discuss how to keep children entertained, provide a photo of a pup, etc. Even if a client doesn’t need a personal injury lawyer at the moment, offering assistance outside of the legal field or providing a smile in these times of tension are strong uses of your marketing efforts.
5. Use Your Spare Time to Learn Legal Marketing
As previously stated, it’s likely that you can’t turn your website into a #1 ranking site without extensive knowledge of legal marketing and SEO. That said, if you have the free time, you should spend some of those moments learning the tricks of the trade. Even if you are using the services of a law firm marketing agency, it can’t hurt to have a better understanding of what techniques we’re using. A better grasp of the techniques will also alert you if your agency or consultant is less than stellar.
SEMRush and Moz are some industry leaders with some user friendly resources. Udemy also offers some affordable learning tools that can help you understand basic techniques. Additionally, a good legal marketing agency or consultant will also point you to some of their personal favorites.
Legal marketing is a competitive industry; just as the legal field is. Success is not guaranteed, but a lack of effort will undeniably limit your customer base—especially as the end of the pandemic remains unclear.
Lawyers, amp up your marketing efforts in whatever capacity you can, and you are likely to see some benefit to your efforts. Even if results aren’t immediate, as the social distancing restrictions lessen, you’ll be happy you put in the work now. Better to make use of your available time now, and not when you are scrambling to secure hearings and other court proceedings when life returns to the new normal.