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Why You Should Never Buy a FindLaw Website

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by carlton smith in Blog
September 22, 2018
caution sign with findlaw logo to show why law firms should not purchase findlaw websites

You’re likely reading this article because your law firm needs a new website and you’re weighing your options. You need something that looks good, ranks well, and doesn’t cost too much. But you also don’t know if you or your team have the time or skills to handle something like this in-house.

So, you do a search in Google and hear about this law firm website design service from FindLaw.

In general, the company seems like a trustworthy resource for people researching legal matters or looking to hire an attorney. It also has a hub dedicated to legal professionals. It appears that this company knows its stuff when it comes to law. Plus, it’s owned by Thomson Reuters.

Then, you discover that it offers marketing and website design services to law firms. It sounds like a fantastic deal: legal resources and done-for-you marketing by a self-proclaimed “award-winning” team.

Can you trust it? Is this a service worth paying for? Well, you’ve already seen the title of this article, so you know what our answer is:

No, you cannot trust it and, no, it’s not worth paying for.

Buying a FindLaw website or investing in its SEO and marketing services is never a good idea.

You might be thinking that’s just bias since we want to sell you on our website design and marketing services. But you don’t have to take our word for it. There are hundreds of complaints online from former employees and clients—not to mention the plethora of clients who have fled FindLaw and shared their story as they moved over to Trial Law Digital.

So, if you’re currently mulling the decision to buy a FindLaw website, let’s present you with the facts so you can see why we (and many, many others) don’t believe this is a good idea.

What They Want You to Think About a FindLaw Website

According to FindLaw, its lawyer directory and website receives 8 million visitors every month. That number is absolutely nothing to scoff at, which is why so many law firms are probably lured into paying for a FindLaw website that also comes with a companion directory listing.

FindLaw says that it has designed over 17,000 mobile-friendly websites for law firms. Each website is said to be:

  • Mobile-friendly
  • Custom-fitted to the law firm (note that it doesn’t say “custom-designed”)
  • Created by award-winning designers (though no proof of those awards are given)
  • Written by experts
  • Optimized for search

One additional point that’s made about these websites over and over is the inclusion of click-to-call phone numbers. It’s an odd selling point, but it’s something to take note of as we move on in our discussion regarding FindLaw.

why you should never buy a findlaw thompson reuters website

Of course, the FindLaw website is only the tip of the iceberg. FindLaw also sells marketing services—PPC, content marketing, social media, web chat services, client intake forms, and what they refer to as “integrated marketing solutions”.

When you’re looking for a quick, painless, and relatively affordable solution, this might seem perfect. FindLaw has a plethora of resources on law and they seem to be a leading expert on the matter, so they must understand how to build websites and handle marketing for this niche.

Right?

Well, the truth about what you get isn’t quite like the picture it paints.

What Real People Have to Say About FindLaw Websites

Before we break down everything that’s wrong with a FindLaw website, we want you to first hear from real people that have either worked for FindLaw or who have hired the company to build their website.

Let’s start with some employee reviews from GlassDoor:

50% Satisfaction Rate

“Bottom line is the products don’t work a lot of the time. They work great for a few firms but many had issues. Over 50% of my sales resulted in unhappy customers. I left because I could no longer look clients in the eye and tell them to buy.”

Fulfillment Issues

“-More angry clients than happy ones. Dealing with customer satisfaction issues does NOT MAKE YOU MONEY
-Products don’t work well overall
-Overpriced
-Gaining a negative reputation…
-Issues with billing
-Issues with fulfillment (building sites, social media, blogs)…”

Overpriced Services

“Findlaw has an awful reputation among quite a few of its clients, many of whom are overpaying for a poor overall service and looking to cancel. The companies [sic] SEO and Website Design are behind the competition and overpriced for the return most customers will receive over the term of their contract.”

SiteJabber doesn’t give FindLaw as abysmal of a score as some review sites, but still continues the same line of logic when it comes to complaints:

Poor Customer Service

“This is a company that is known for selling products on several year contracts and then leaving the client in the wind. Service is terrible and don’t expect them to do anything with your account once set up. Even if your [sic] spending thousand [sick] of dollars with Findlaw every month, it is not important enough for them to follow through on what they sold to my Firm.”

No Results

“Lots of promises at the beginning and several phone conferences before website is off and running. Then 5 minutes of social media advice and you are on your own. Awful company. Virtually no new cases, and we are competing with our competition within their Findlaw sub directory.

“Worst and most dishonest scam artists I’ve ever dealt with.”

0 Inquiries

“I signed up for a year to the tune of $18,000 on the representation that they would design a ‘state of the art’ website that would ‘drive business’ to my firm. They designed what looked like a pre-packaged, canned site. Pretty much looked like something that sold cleaning supplies. After a year of ‘optimization’, I got NOT ONE inquiry. Not one. Not one phone call. Not one e-mail. Not one client. Not one.”

The High Price of a FindLaw Website

We’d also like to point you to a post in the Law Firm subreddit called, “Findlaw. Worth it?” The question, of course, is whether or not they should talk to the FindLaw representative who keeps calling about their directory and website design services.

One of the most interesting answers comes from Sam Glover, the Editor-in-Chief of Lawyerist.com:

“FindLaw can produce good-quality websites, and can do better-than average SEO work if you are willing to sign a multi-year contract for ~10x the going rate for those services and give up the right to your content.”

While many of the complaints above focus on the various faults they’ve encountered with FindLaw, Glover aptly sums up everything that is wrong with this service by acknowledging that a good website is possible… but that it comes at a steep cost.

In this next section, we’re going to dive a bit deeper into why it’s never worth it to buy a FindLaw website. At any price.

What You Really Need to Know About a FindLaw Website

Look, we get it. You’re busy. You want an expert designer or marketer to name a price, so you can pay them to take care of your law firm website for you. But a FindLaw website is not the solution.

Here are 9 reasons why FindLaw is to be avoided at all costs.

1. It’s Expensive

A FindLaw website is not cheap. In fact, you’re likely to pay more to rent a FindLaw website (more on that below) than you are to buy a website that a professional web design agency custom-builds for you.

Many FindLaw customers who have jumped ship and come to Trial Law Digital have told us they were paying anywhere between $1,400 and $5,000 every month to rent a website.

The true cost of building a website for your law firm? If you use WordPress and do it yourself, it will maybe cost $150 a month (with some upfront costs like a premium WordPress theme and copywriting services). If you pay an agency or designer, upfront costs will be more, but the cost to maintain will remain the same.

2. It’s Temporary

A major difference between a FindLaw website and, say, one you’ve built on your own or through another web design service is the matter of ownership.

Think of it like renting a home. FindLaw says, “Don’t worry. We’ve taken care of building the structure for you. It’s sturdy and well-made. All you have to do now is live in it.”

So, you set up shop within your new FindLaw digs. Your logo and firm name are on the site. The content is personalized with your messaging. And look! There’s beautiful imagery, a boatload of blog content, and SEO already done for you. Might as well kick back and enjoy your law firm’s new digital home.

But what happens when you decide to move from that home? You might be able to take the domain name with you (if you purchased one on your own), but that design and content aren’t going anywhere if you didn’t pay the high price of having a custom-built website made.

This is FindLaw’s ownership clause:

do you own a findlaw website? the answer is no

It has been updated in recent years in response to a number of news outlets blowing the whistle on its unfair and unclear ownership terms. That said, there’s still some much to be concerned about. In other words, if you move your website away from FindLaw:

  • You lose access to stock photos, call-tracking numbers, live chat modules, and so on.
  • You lose access to source code and files used to build your website.
  • Your ability to license the website created for you exists while you pay for services with FindLaw.

This is not to mention the fact that trying to move a website from FindLaw’s proprietary platform to any other (e.g. WordPress, Wix, Joomla, etc.) is near-impossible.

So, if you’re not able to commit to this for the long-term, think about the costs you’ll have to deal with down the line to have a completely new site built. Also, consider how important it is to you to have full ownership and control over your site.

3. The Contract Is Lengthy

On a related note, FindLaw’s website services contract is iron-clad and lengthy. And, by lengthy, we’re talking a three-year term, on average.

4. Maintenance Is Difficult

FindLaw websites are notoriously difficult to manage and maintain.

Websites are built on FindLaw’s proprietary and highly antiquated ASP.net content management system framework. When changes are needed, you have to rely on the assistance of FindLaw and, of course, it comes at a price. Even then, getting those changes implemented or getting any support from them at all isn’t a given.

5. There’s No Exclusivity

Once you’re signed up, FindLaw’s representatives are constantly going to hound you to buy more products in order to make your website better. Some will even bully you into buying more with the threat that, if you don’t use it, they’ll sell it to the competitor. It’s this constant worry about the competition that can drive law firms to make bad purchasing decisions as it relates to their website and marketing.

There’s also the fact that FindLaw has no issue working for a high quantity of competing law firms within an area. When designing low-quality, lookalike websites for law firms, this can become especially problematic as all websites end up resembling one another.

6. Many Websites Are Pre-Built

As Lawyerist’s Glover explained, law firms that pay top dollar for a FindLaw website can end up with something custom-built and truly optimized for search. But how many law firms are willing to shell out 10 times the standard rate of a website to do that? For those of you considering the compromise, consider what a pre-built website actually is.

There are two ways FindLaw likely sells these:

The first is by custom-fitting a pre-designed template to a law firm’s website. The template is designed well enough and seems to work on all mobile devices. FindLaw assures the law firm that it’s filled with optimized content, though that it’s probably boilerplate (meaningless) copy, too.

Now, think about how many other law firms are considering this option. If FindLaw’s estimates are correct, how many of those 17,000+ law firms compete within your market and niche? And how many do you think would choose a similar-looking design as the one you’ve opted for?

The second way FindLaw can sell cheaper website designs is by flipping websites they can prove do well in search.

It’s like flipping a house. Basically, they design a generic website for a specific legal niche (e.g. divorce, accident settlements, family law, etc.) It’s optimized for the kinds of search terms people use to find local lawyers (e.g. “Chicago divorce lawyer”). And, because it’s been live for some time, it does well in search rankings… though that doesn’t say anything about conversion rates of visitors to clients (especially since there’s been no real business behind the site!)

They customize the logo and law firm name, add some custom information about lawyers and location, and hand it over to the highest bidder.

These options are risky because it takes away the personalization that’s needed to make a true connection with clients. Also, pre-built sites can lead to issues in search if duplicate content (content copied across a number of sites) is detected by Google.

7. Designs Are Lacking

We had a designer take a look at a dozen websites FindLaw currently powers. Templating aside, we wanted to know what they thought of the results of this expensive website design service.

Here are some of the commonalities found across these websites:

Oversized Headers: The top headers are too big, especially for mobile device users. While having a clickable phone number may be important, a user shouldn’t have to scroll in order to find the actual content.

Overly Long Home Pages: Many home pages are poorly written. Modern design dictates that home pages should be short and to the point. These tend to be mindless brain dumps with too much copy.

Identical Design Elements: Although designs and images differ from site to site, the basic layouts and key elements are the same (even things like live chat look identical). This can seriously hurt brand identity if a direct competitor uses the same service.

Poor Planning: The pages themselves don’t seem to be very well-thought-out. They often contain an excess of content (probably for the purposes of keyword stuffing) and there’s an overwhelming amount of calls-to-action for users to consider.

Outdated Designs: Some of the websites look outdated in design. If templates provided to clients are a few years older, and there’s no one to steer them away from those choices, law firms could unintentionally end up with something that looks like it was designed five years ago.

A website that’s designed for a modern-day audience is a critical part of every business’s SEO strategy. Knowing that this part is lacking, let’s take a look at what else is going on with FindLaw’s SEO tactics.

8. SEO Tactics Are Shady

There was a time in the early ‘00s when it was revealed that FindLaw was utilizing a black hat (bad) SEO tactic known as a link scheme. Basically, it goes like this:

Marketers are aware that Google rewards websites with high-quality internal links and backlinks. This is usually a signal that a website is an authoritative source and one that deserves to rank highly in search. However, many agencies (including FindLaw) took advantage of this and tried to game the system by selling text links in their websites.

It appears that this has since been resolved, but that doesn’t mean FindLaw is using white hat (good) SEO practices now.

Here is what we know about current-day tactics:

  • Keyword research for custom websites aren’t great and there’s no strategy done outside the initial call with clients.
  • Many of the blog posts written for these websites are poorly composed. They’re too short, have little to no structure, are stuffed full of unrelated or nonsensical keywords, and contain no images.
  • Blog posts are almost always lacking compelling stories, too. There’s not much worth reading. It’s more about adding new pages to the site rather than adding value for visitors.

For the most part, attempts to optimize content for search are relatively shallow. While blog posts will contain links to high-authority sources, many of them go directly to FindLaw properties. If anything, SEO tactics on these sites are working to benefit the FindLaw in establishing authority since 17,000+ websites link to it (in the blog as well as in every footer…)

findlaw websites footer

9. Poor Quality of Leads

Here’s the thing: many FindLaw websites will come out looking professionally designed and will rank at the top of search results due to link-building and content generation efforts. However, if the actual quality of content fails to connect with visitors, the site won’t actually be able to do what it needs to do. And that is to get you new clients.

This is ultimately the main failing of FindLaw’s website services. Yes, they’re expensive. Yes, they may do shady things to acquire top rankings in Google. But the worst offender is the fact that these websites do not get law firms any clients.

It doesn’t matter how optimized for search a website is, at the end of the day, the website needs to be optimized for your audience which means accurately reflecting who you are and what makes you different from other law firms. And this is something that FindLaw does not do.

The Bottom Line: Avoid a FindLaw Website at All Costs

Previously, we talked about why you should never let Google set up your AdWords account. While the configuration itself would be fine and it would check off all the necessary boxes to get your pay-per-click campaign running, Google doesn’t have your best interests at heart. It’s the same thing with FindLaw.

Remember: FindLaw is a website that began as a legal resource. Providing law firm website design services is a way to monetize that business model… but it’s, unfortunately, being handled poorly.

You deserve a website that is:

  • All yours and the property of no one else
  • Affordable
  • Easy to manage
  • Modernly designed
  • Personalized to your law firm
  • Ethically and correctly optimized for search
  • Effective in converting visitors into clients

We recognize that the cost and time that goes into building a website—not to mention coding knowledge—is intimidating. You want an easy solution, but a FindLaw website is not it. You deserve to own and control your own website, and to not have to be charged an arm and a leg for lackluster results.

If you’d like help getting your law firm website up and running (or you want help moving away from FindLaw), get in touch with us today. We’d be happy to help!

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