Running and growing a family law practice has its own unique challenges compared to other practice areas. Family law marketing requires a different approach from other areas like criminal defense, personal injury, or business law.
Having helped many family law firms grow their practices over the years, I have some specifics to share on the best, most effective strategies for family law marketing.
Pay Per Click / Google Adwords
I’m starting off with my top recommended marketing strategy, based on how incredibly well I’ve seen it perform. Provided you have the budget to allocate, if I were starting a practice from scratch today and investigating different marketing channels, I would start here.
Pay-Per-Click entails advertising in Google search so that when someone searches for “[your city] divorce lawyer” or “family lawyer” your website shows up, people click it, and then they call your law firm to set up a consultation.
There are several pros and cons based on our experience (but in our experience the pros significantly outweigh the cons).
- It can be a predictable source of potential clients that you can count on each month
- High return on investment as a source of business
- You get potential clients ready to hire a lawyer
- Quick return on investment, can start producing results immediately
- It requires a minimum ad spend to be effective (>$1,000 / month)
- You pay for every click to your website via ads; once you stop spending, you stop getting anything from it
- Requires working with an expert in PPC to get the best results
- If you do not know what you are doing, it can cost you a lot of money
The biggest pros are about how quickly Adwords can turn into your firm getting calls from potential clients. A properly set-up campaign can get the phone ringing in swift order. And, the people reaching out are in imminent need of a divorce lawyer such as yourself.
This strategy has a lot quicker return on investment than a more long-term marketing strategy like search engine optimization or in-person networking, which can take awhile to bear fruit.
The biggest drawbacks to Adwords for some firms is that Adwords is not easy, despite what Google may suggest in its promotional materials. Success requires experience and expertise. Also, there is a threshold budget you’ll need to be spending, based on our experience. You cannot simply throw $200 or $400 in Google one month and expect to get a few new clients. It does not work that way.
Many law firms have tried Google Adwords or considered it with varying levels of success. The main concerns I have heard about advertising on Google for family law are:
- I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work out
- Good clients don’t click on ads
- It is not a good long-term strategy
- It’s not worth the investment
All of these reasons for avoiding Google Adwords for family law firms, in my experience, are unfounded.
The main reason that firms that are doing family law marketing in Google Adwords and not finding success is because they are unfortunately not adept at Google Adwords. It requires the right setup, and small errors can be costly.
Google Adwords is not easy. It requires significant experience to know what will get the best results.
If you are trying to build your campaign from scratch, do not use Google’s support team’s help. Though Google’s team will offer to call you and help you set up your Adwords account, pick keywords for you, and create ads, often what they create is very poor quality. Google’s support team is mostly interested in getting you to spend money on Google, not maximizing your return on investment. Navigating Adwords to properly optimize an ad campaign takes a lot of time and expertise.
For example, with Adwords you have to be sure to add what are called “negative keywords” – terms that exclude your website ad from showing up in irrelevant search queries. Some good examples are “family lawyer careers” or “pro bono divorce lawyer”. These are not terms that you would want to advertise for and then pay for clicks, so adding negative keywords for “careers” “jobs” “pro bono” “free” and “affordable” in addition to some others, save you from wasting hundreds to thousands of dollars in ad spend.
And with Adwords, it takes time and skill to get better at, just like it takes time and skill to become a better lawyer.
The biggest challenge for family law marketing using Google Adwords is knowing the right approach and how to execute on it.
- The right keywords to focus on
- Compelling ad copy that gets clicks
- Negative keywords to save you from wasting spend
- Landing page layout and design optimized for conversion
Each of these facets is important and cannot be neglected. You can have a good list of keywords and compelling ad copy, but if your landing page design is not converting your visitors into consultations, then your campaign is running inefficiently. If your landing pages are perfect, but your ad copy is poor, then no one will click on your ads. And so on.
Your ad campaign needs the right execution to ensure it gets you that return you are looking for.
All of this being said, we very strongly recommend Google Adwords being part of your family law marketing strategy because of how well it can pay off.
At JurisPage, we have seen a lot of success with family law firms advertising online. Having done it successfully for so long, we can predict fairly well how many potential clients will contact a given family law firm that is working with us, based on their budget.
We recently published a case study of a family lawyer in New Jersey for whom we built the firm’s website, Adwords, and Search Engine Optimization campaigns to help the firm grow to a point where they had to hire more staff.
The key to a successful family law marketing campaign using Google Adwords is working with the right partner. You should not be doing it yourself. Finding success with a family law Adwords campaign requires years of knowledge and expertise in the right campaign setup. Though Google may try to suggest it’s easy enough for you to be able to do yourself, it is just clever marketing by Google to get you to more readily and quickly spend your money with them. If Google were to say, “If you want to really get the most out of Adwords you should hire an experienced marketing agency,” Google would be making less money.
Ultimately, Google Adwords presents a great marketing channel for family law firms to be able to get new clients quickly.
Search Engine Optimization
If Google Adwords is the best short-term online marketing strategy to start getting calls and potential clients calling your firm, Search Engine Optimization is the best long-term strategy.
Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) is the process of getting better visibility in organic Google searches for the keywords you want (e.g. “[your city] divorce lawyer”). This means that, in a perfect world, your firm shows up at the top of Google for “divorce lawyer” and you do not have to pay Google for clicks on those links to your website.
There are several pros and cons to family law marketing via SEO.
- Provides free, relevant traffic to your website
- Gets searches from people located in your area
- Has long-term results; if you stop working on your SEO one day, you won’t lose all your work and progress immediately
- Harder to get results if you are in a competitive market
- Takes months to start getting results and more time to see bigger effects
- Requires expertise and knowledge to be able to get results
One benefit of Adwords is that, provided you are willing to pay for it, you can get the top ad spot. With SEO, you have to have better skill and SEO strategy than your competitors. SEO for law firms is purely skill-based to get the top spot. You cannot pay your way to the top of organic search results. That being said, you still need to invest in SEO (which means time and money) because you are competing with other law firms investing in SEO to take the top spot in Google.
There are a lot of SEO agencies out that that cater to lawyers. And, their results can vary wildly. In general, expect that anyone charging you $500 or less per month will not be able to get you serious results. If your competitors are doing SEO (if your city has a competitive landscape for family lawyers in Google), they are very likely spending north of $1,000 per month with their SEO agency. Some can spend much more than that – especially if they have recognized the benefits of SEO and want to hold onto their top positions in Google.
You might be wondering what really goes into SEO. What do I get for paying some company to get me better organic search results? There are a few main components, and as we break them down, you’ll see why spending less means you’ll get less quality out of it.
One pillar of good SEO is content. This means populating your website with relevant, well-written, lengthy content about your practice areas. Your content can include extensive, specific practice area pages as well as blog articles.
At the basic level, you should not have one practice area page that merely contains an overview of the types of cases you handle. Instead, you should break everything down. Every aspect of your family law practice needs its own page. For example, you should have a page on divorce, spousal support, child support, child custody, modifications of orders, etc. You can also go further, and have pages on contested divorces, uncontested divorces, paternity actions, mediations, visitation, business valuation and ownership, and so on.
The more specific pages you have, the more likely you can rank better in Google for those specific terms. If you have one page that is basically a bulleted list of all the types of cases you handle, you will not rank for those terms. If you would compare your overall practice areas page with another law firm that is doing SEO better than you, having a very specific page tailored towards contested divorces, Google will value their website better and give them the top spot over you in searches.
Beyond practice area pages, write blog posts that answer common FAQs. The questions you get during client intakes – answer those questions. Having additional informative content aside from practice area pages will help you build up a library of content that effectively makes your website a treatise on family law and a good resource for visitors. And, it makes Google more likely to promote your website in organic search rankings.
Beyond the content, there is the technical. This is a harder area to explain to law firms because it is less tangible. But, essentially it entails a few things. The technical SEO involves ensuring the website is complying with all of the SEO best practices. This means doing things like:
- Using proper meta tags
- Image alt tags
- Having a sitemap
- Adding SSL
- Improving site speed
- NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) consistency off-site
- Regular site audits
Each of these items has their own best-practices, requiring skill.
Some areas are more important to focus on than others. One thing I have seen and want to flag for you is that rather unscrupulous marketing agencies like to reach out to law firms with an automated report to tell them that their sites have terrible SEO. The reports scream disaster, “Your website has 50 missing alt image tags. What is your marketing agency doing?” Now, these things may or may not be true, but many technical SEO items have very negligible weight in Google. Some technical SEO items also have no value to Google anymore. For example, “meta keywords” no longer have any bearing on Google rankings. Marketing agencies provide these automated reports though as a sales tactic, to try to scare law firms to leave their current marketing agency and go with them. But, fixing small technical items on a website is no guarantee of success. Technical fixes without content and link building will not “move the needle” to help one’s law firm get the top position in Google search results.
Another of the main pillars of SEO is link building. Also called “backlinks”, link-building refers to the practice of getting other websites to link to your website. Google’s algorithm strongly values the quantity and quality of links incoming from other websites to determine a website’s rank. For example, if your website has a lot of links from other reputable websites, it signals to Google that your website must be of good quality.
A single link to your website from a highly Google-trusted website like The New York Times or Wall Street Journal is significantly more valuable to your website than hundreds of links from low-quality sites that were created for the sole purpose of farming out links for money.
You can technically buy hundreds or thousands of links from such websites on the cheap, but those links are garbage. Links from these “link farms” are virtually worthless. Getting high-quality links from reputable websites takes work and time.
Referrals / Word-of-Mouth
Referrals are how most firms get the bulk of their business, especially family law firms. Cultivating referrals and word-of-mouth business is typically free or low-cost from a dollars standpoint, and the referrals are usually high-quality. No one wants to refer a colleague a bad case. So, the cases you get referred will likely be vetted. And, getting a referral is an endorsement of you by a colleague. So, potential clients referred to you are much more likely to sign with your firm rather than if they had randomly stumbled across your law firm.
But, cultivating referrals means you have to be good at keeping in touch with your colleagues. You need to:
- Go to events your colleagues are going to
- Take people to lunch and dinner
- Give gifts to your colleagues at the holidays
- Keep in regular touch
One critical aspect to this is making sure you stay in touch with your colleagues. My recommendation for the best way to stay in touch with colleagues is to use a CRM. A CRM can help you note when you last spoke with a particular colleague, and remind you to get in touch again after a set period of time.
I have personally used a CRM called Contactually, which is great for staying in touch with colleagues. It is a CRM that is very relationship-based. It lets you categorize your contacts and note when too much time has elapsed since your last contact. It is software designed to help you not lose touch with people.
Email marketing is something most every law firm should consider. It is an effective, extremely low-cost marketing strategy that can help you stay top-of-mind with your former clients and get more referrals.
Below are the pros and cons.
- Connects with your audience, helps you stay top of-mind
- Extremely low cost to implement
- Few technical hurdles to build it yourself
- Need a decent-size email list before it starts paying off
- Time intensive to create content
If you want, you could start email marketing tomorrow. All you need is an email list. Former clients and colleagues would be a good start. You might want to consider segmenting your list between the different types of contacts. Also, we should note that email marketing apps usually have strict requirements that your contacts should have consented to be added to your mailing list.
There are a ton of email marketing apps out there. They all do the same thing, effectively. They have easy-to-use templates for creating newsletters and let you send them whenever you want to as many contacts as you have. Here are the ones we recommend:
- Mailchimp – definitely one of the easiest to use and get started, especially if you are not doing anything complex
- Aweber – very similar to Mailchimp
- ActiveCampaign – great for when you want to get into some more complex things like having downloadable content on your website, email sequences, automations, and rules
For email marketing, there are also apps we would not recommend because they will have more features than you need, and a high cost. These particular apps are:
They have great features, but these are not email marketing apps. They are marketing automation platforms. They can cost above $800 per month and provide more features than most law firms will need. Consultants love to pitch Infusionsoft and Hubspot, but for family law firms just looking to do basic email newsletters, it is overkill.
So, how should you do email marketing for a family law firm?
Generally, I recommend having a periodic newsletter – either on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Importantly, you need to acknowledge ahead of time the purpose of your email marketing. The aim of the newsletter is to educate your audience, demonstrate your expertise, with the ultimate goal of encouraging them to refer potential clients to you. This is the main reason you are doing email marketing. Everything else is secondary. So, keep that in mind when building your newsletters. But, being so forward as to say “Refer me clients” is not going to encourage that behavior. Instead, make people want to refer clients your way. Here are some suggestions of content for your newsletters:
- Discussion on developments in your area of law. This shows off your expertise and knowledge. Even if your readers do not know about your area of law, with this type of content, they will trust that you do.
- Recent wins. Share your victories. This will encourage your readers to be confident in recommending your services because recent wins show off your skills.
- Testimonials. This goes along the same lines as recent wins. Showing satisfied clients will make your readers more comfortable and confident recommending you.
- Community involvement. Doing good work for your community is encouraging. People will want to help you if they see that you want to do well by your community and your clients.
- Blog articles or primers on your area of law. Along the same lines as developments in your area of law, even basic style blog posts and FAQ articles, having content authored by your firm to share shows off your knowledge. It reminds people that you are skilled in this particular area of law.
Hopefully these provide a few good ideas for content for your newsletters.
Some firms do not have a lot of time to develop content, so they publish quarterly; others publish monthly because they want to ensure they are staying in the minds of people who can refer them cases.
Webinars and Video
Doing webinars and creating video content for your website and YouTube can serve a few important marketing functions. First, doing regular webinars can help you avoid having to give free consultations. Billie Tarascio of Modern Law in Arizona, a family lawyer, wrote about how she started doing webinars because it let her present to a large audience of potential clients without having to have so many one-on-one meetings. She was tired of doing free consultations, so instead she chose to provide regular webinars for potential clients.
Aside from the time savings they can provide, doing webinars and videos are an effective form of content marketing. Here are the pros and cons.
- Good quality content to connect with your audience and build trust
- Better convert website visitors into consults
- Drive traffic through YouTube
- Easy to get started with a simple webcam setup
- Not everyone likes being in front of the camera
- Time intensive to create, edit, and publish videos
- There are some getting started costs
- Professional-quality production is incredibly expensive
One thing I have heard consistently from lawyers creating webinars and videos for their websites and YouTube is that potential clients trust them more. Clients see themselves working with you after seeing a video of you explaining the law to them. It’s a preview for the working relationship.
The drawbacks of webinars and videos are that not everybody likes to do videos. At first, creating them can feel awkward. You might not have a great video presence, which takes time to get better at. And, there are some initial costs to getting started with videos and webinars.
If you are going to do webinars, you will need the right software.
Use GoToWebinar or Zoom for webinars. They work great and do everything from hosting your webinars to sending reminder and confirmation emails to your audience.
For audio, get a good microphone. I recommend the Blue Snowball or Yeti microphone. They are USB microphones so they will work easily with your computer. And their sound quality is great.
I have strong opinions about social media marketing.
But, the summary of my feelings is that I think it is not worth the time investment for what it requires to do well.
Social media marketing entails sharing content on social media to engage with your audience, staying top-of-mind to remind your audience that they should refer cases your way.
Some lawyers assume that social media can be an effective way to find new clients, just like you would via paid search or SEO. But, in our experience, people do not use social media that way. If you think about it, no one is going to Facebook asking for a recommendation for a divorce lawyer. That’s awfully personal.
How most lawyers end up doing social media:
- Create a Facebook company page
- Invite all your friends and colleagues to like it
- Occasionally post original content
- Occasionally share industry-related articles
- Occasionally sharing things the firm is doing in the local community
- Little to no interaction with followers
- Getting distracted by your personal Facebook account
- Hours later, you come to and realize that you spent your day talking with friends on Facebook and reading other content
- Not much in terms of awareness building or business generation for the firm
- Tons of time spent with little to show for it
I think social media is a black hole for most law firms.
To do social media “right” for law firm marketing requires a disciplined strategy for building awareness and creating an online community around the firm. Without consistent, interesting and engaging content to share, there is not much to build on.
And, thanks to algorithm changes over the years, it’s much harder to get noticed. If you post content on Facebook for your business page, chances are most people will not see it. Even your followers, unless you are paying to boost content to them, will probably not see your posts. So, it’s tough to recoup your time investment compared to other marketing channels. Once you have exhausted every other avenue for marketing and have full saturation for those marketing channels, then maybe consider social media.
Here are the pros and cons of family law marketing on social media.
- Inexpensive cost-wise to implement a strategy
- Can engage with your colleagues in a casual environment
- Time-intensive to execute on
- Low ROI
- Easy to get lost on and waste time in a way that is detrimental for your firm
If you are going to do social media, you will need a planned strategy. X amount of time dedicated to specific marketing-focused activities. Avoid the black hole that is reading random content or getting involved with things that do not ultimately support your practice.
Notes on Your Family Law “Marketing Stack”
Now I’d like to take a minute to talk about your marketing stack – the tools you use to execute on your family law marketing campaigns.
As you get more potential clients over time, you will need to be able to track where everyone is coming from. The best-run family law firms know their numbers cold. They know how much it costs to get a lead from Adwords or SEO. They know the conversion rate of the likelihood those potentials turn into retained clients.
The most effective way to track your numbers is with a CRM.
A CRM is a piece of software that tracks your “sales” or client intake process. You can use it to keep tabs on potential clients among different marketing channels, and also ensure that no potential clients get lost in the cracks.
One big help that CRMs provide is that they remind you to follow-up with potential clients. I know that many firms do not have internal policies for following up with potential clients, and that is a big waste. Spending tons of money and time and effort to get potential clients calling, only to not follow-up with them, is like throwing your marketing dollars away.
Your firm should have a CRM to track your potential clients and keep them in your system with due dates for your follow-ups. You should keep every one of these leads in your CRM system and denote when they either retain your firm or decide to not go with your firm.
We’ve written an extensive article on CRMs for law firms that compares the different platforms.
Your process for follow-up should look like this:
- You get a phone call or form submission from a client and your firm immediately responds. (Studies show that responding in the first hour is critical; responses after the first hour result in significant drop-offs in the likelihood that you will be retained by the client)
- If they do not respond to you – follow up. also send an email (if possible); follow-up every day until you get a response from the potential client
- After your initial call, schedule a consult or do it on that call
- A day before, email the client to remind them of the upcoming consult
- Have the consult; follow up the consult with a retainer agreement via an e-signature service like DocuSign so they can easily sign on
- Until the client signs, your firm should follow up every other day
You may be reading this and are thinking this sounds aggressive in approach, but it is not. Clients appreciate follow-up. They are busy. If you are bothering them with your persistence, they will let you know. They will tell you to follow up in a week. If that’s the case, abide by their wishes and then change your follow-up cadence. But, you need need need to be persistent with potential clients, especially ones that have no prior relationship with your firm.
As discussed above, using the right email marketing software is important. You need a piece of software that you can use effectively in your day-to-day. Avoid something expensive that has a ton of features you will not use. Stick with something simple to start, like Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign. You can always upgrade later. Exporting your contacts is easy to do. What is less easy to do is downgrade from an expensive piece of software like Hubspot or Infusionsoft (which have very expensive annual contracts).
With your marketing campaigns you will need a good website.
No matter the marketing campaigns you do, inevitably things will tie in to your website. Whether you are doing email marketing, SEO, PPC, social media, or even getting referrals, you need to have a well-built website. Aside from it needing to look good to validate your firm to potential clients, it must be built well from a technical perspective.
Here are some things you will need when building your family law firm website:
- A mobile-responsive website
- Built using WordPress
- Call tracking
- A layout that “converts”
- Integrations with the software you use – e.g. LawPay, Clio, Rocket Matter, Lexicata, Email marketing
- SSL site security
- Competent, quick support
- Compliance with advertising ethics rules
A mobile-responsive website means that your website will be easily usable on a mobile phone or tablet. The website’s dimensions should automatically conform to the dimensions of your screen. There should not be a separate, second mobile website. Some web design companies will create two distinct websites, but that is not a best practice. You should have one website that looks great on any device.
If you are doing SEO or PPC, your website needs to be built on WordPress. WordPress is the best website platform from a search engine optimization perspective. Using a site builder like Squarespace or Wix or Weebly are strongly discouraged. Though they may be easier for you to build a website with, their structures are not conducive to better search visibility. Also, they are less able to integrate with other apps that you might be using in your practice. If you build a website in Squarespace or another platform, you will end up needing to rebuild your website in WordPress in the future. It powers over 25% of the websites on the Internet today and is the most friendly for web designers.
Call tracking is a way to be able to track the leads that come in via your website. With call tracking phone numbers on your website, you are able to know how people found your law firm. Call tracking is a necessity for any marketing campaign so you can see how effective the campaigns are at getting you new business.
For website layouts, you will ideally want one that is built specifically to convert your visitors to being potential clients. For family law firms, this means having a layout with large “calls to action” – i.e. a prominent phone number and contact form on each page. Visitors to your website should be encouraged to reach out to you, especially if they are coming from SEO or PPC.
One thing your firm might not be thinking about when it builds its website is integrations with third-party apps. Your website can be a productivity tool for your practice. If you are working with the right web design partner, you may be able to integrate your website with apps like LawPay, Clio, Lexicata, Rocket Matter, or your email marketing software. At JurisPage, we do website design specifically for law firms. So, we ensure that our sites can easily work with the software you are already using.
SSL is a way to secure one’s website. SSL means that your website is accessible via https://[your-website] rather than “http”. Ultimately, for you, it means that any communications sent via contact forms on your website are encrypted, protecting that sensitive information. For family law firms, SSL is a must. It keeps your client and potential client information secure.
Support is important. Once your designer builds your website, that isn’t it for your website. You will eventually need to make updates to your site – adding new people, blog posts, etc. You need to know that if you want to make edits to your site that they can be done quickly and competently. Make sure that your web designer offers quick, quality support. In addition to having built your site, if they can provide support and host your site as well, that should be preferable.
One big thing about building your website – you must make sure it complies with the ethics rules of your jurisdiction. You cannot legally outsource that responsibility. Make sure that your website has the appropriate disclaimers where needed. Ensure you do not say anything that you cannot say, e.g. “We are the top law firm.”
Once you have those, it is time to plan out your law firm’s marketing strategies.
- Only choose the marketing strategies you have time to execute
- Better to start with a few strategies, do them will, and then build from there rather than start too aggressive and fail to get any results
- Only choose marketing strategies that your team will be invested in (i.e. do not do videos or blogging if you will hate doing them)
Executing on the above family law marketing strategies will ensure that your firm can get the types of cases you are looking to get and can grow successfully.