22 min read
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Updated: December 19, 2022

Advertising for Law Firms: Rules and Opportunities

No matter how good your law firm is, you won't reach 80% of potential clients without online advertising. However, in the past, legal advertising had a contentious ethical history.

While that's no longer the case, “selling” legal services with integrity is challenging without feeling like you're cheapening your reputation.

We're here to tell you that legal advertising can be professional and intelligent. When done properly, it delivers an excellent ROI and can accelerate your law firm's success.

Legacy firms, medium to small-sized practices, and independent lawyers can all benefit from legal marketing and advertising.

In this blog, we debunk some advertising myths, examine the facts, and present you with exciting advertising opportunities to incorporate into your law firm's marketing strategy.

Law Firm Advertising | Myths and Facts

Are marketing myths holding your law firm back from achieving its true potential? Let’s clear up some misconceptions about legal advertising.

Myth: Online Advertising for Law Firms Is Prohibited

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court ruled advertising by lawyers constitutes free speech. Thanks to this landmark case, attorneys and law firms can advertise their legal services, so long as they adhere to the ethical rules outlined by The American Bar Association (ABA) and their respective state bar associations.

Myth: Law Firm Marketing Is Too Expensive

Obviously, digital marketing comes at a cost. And we’ve all heard horror stories of wasteful expenditure that results in little to zero ROI. In most cases, this is due to a lack of know-how. However, left in the hands of professionals, your law firm’s marketing efforts can produce profits exceeding $500k or more per year.

Therefore, the profits generated from implementing a law firm marketing plan generally outweigh the initial investment in digital marketing. As Henry Ford once said: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” Every business spends money on advertising as part of its sales and marketing effort. The legal industry is no different.

Myth: Legal Marketing and Advertising Are the Same Thing

Law firm marketing and advertising are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. All advertising is marketing, but not all marketing is advertising. In other words, advertising is a form of marketing.

While marketing is the overall approach to speaking to customers about your law firm, advertising is a paid form of messaging designed to attract leads and increase sales.

  • Marketing = search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, brochures, podcasting, webinars, and live events.
  • Advertising= Search ads, local service ads, social media ads, and YouTube video ads.

And another thing: Advertising campaigns are short-term, whereas marketing is an ongoing process that evolves along with your clients and market trends.

Fact: You Have to Comply With Legal Service Advertising Rules

The law requires you to be truthful when advertising your services. What you say shouldn’t deceive or mislead potential clients into believing you can achieve impossible outcomes.

We recommend reviewing ABA rules and looking into your state’s bar association, as well as following the guidelines below:

  • Don’t say you’re an expert: According to ABA Rule 7.2, you’re only an expert if you’re certified by an ABA-accredited organization in your state, district, or US Territory. While it’s permissible to say you focus on a certain area of law, such as family law, you can’t claim you’re a family law specialist unless certified.
  • Don’t make false or misleading statements: Avoid statements that are difficult to qualify. For example, using superlatives like “the best,” “the most,” “the cheapest,” etc., can be misleading.
  • Follow testimonial rules: You may not pay clients for testimonials. Make sure they’re provided by a client’s free will and don’t create the expectation that new clients will achieve the same results.
  • Don’t solicit your services: While targeted advertising to the public is allowed, soliciting your services to a specific person is unethical and prohibited.
  • Check if you need an address: In some states, lawyer advertisements must link to a real office location in the same city, town, or country where the lawyer performs their services.

The Advantages of Advertising Your Law Firm

Law firm advertising benefits

Compared to traditional advertising, digital advertising offers a higher ROI and greater market reach with fewer resources and less effort. It offers your law firm the following advantages:

Cost-Effective and Measurable Results

Digital marketing efforts are measurable and scalable. Traditional media entails a degree of guesswork, but with digital marketing, you can pull up hard data in real-time and adjust your marketing strategy as needed instead of starting over or scrapping campaigns. This approach can save thousands of dollars.

Unlimited Client Targeting Options

Digital marketing targets prospects based on demographic, psychographic, and geographic attributes ensuring you reach the right audience at the right time. Crafting ads for specific audience segments gets clients through the door faster and generates real growth.

Reach Clients Anywhere in the Sales Funnel

Digital marketing made customer journey mapping tangible. With online advertising, you can identify your client’s pain points and create targeted ads for each stage of the sales funnel. It’s easier to map out interactions and drive leads toward the bottom of the funnel, where they convert into paying clients.

Increase Customer Interaction

Emails, instant messaging, website content, videos, images, social media, SMS, and display ads are various ways digital advertising allows you to connect with leads and clients. Available digital tools provide endless opportunities to build client loyalty and reach different audience segments on their preferred platforms.

Improved Brand Credibility

Digital advertising has helped a multitude of law firms prove they’re dependable and can be relied on for exceptional service. Working on your law firm’s digital presence establishes credibility across a large market. Offering expert knowledge within branded campaigns, and presenting solutions to common legal problems your audience encounters boosts credibility.

Higher Revenue

Law firms using search engine optimization, email marketing, social media advertising, content marketing, and search ads can increase their revenue substantially. 10% of the legal workforce earn over $208k per year, but if you want to double that and be part of the top 1% of US earners, you need to invest in law firm advertising.

Where to Advertise Your Law Firm Online

Paid digital advertising includes social media advertising, paid search ads, display ads, and local service ads. These can enhance your online presence and attract new clients with the right implementation.

Google Ads for lawyers benefits

Google Ads is a paid advertising platform in which you compete in an online auction to bid on keywords and phrases your potential legal clients search for Google. When advertising your law firm using Google Ads, you’ll pay a fee each time a lead clicks on your ad (PPC or cost-per-click).

You can easily control the keywords you’re targeting, ad placement, and budget, which makes PPC an attractive advertising option. Google’s responsive search ad capabilities let you enter multiple headlines and descriptions, which it adapts to show the most relevant ad messages to customers.

Of all the PPC ad types, paid search ones are the most common. These show up at the very top of search engine results pages (SERPs) above organic listings and are a powerful marketing tool because you only pay for targeted prospects.

When a prospect searches a keyword relevant to your law firm, sees your advertisement, and clicks on it, you can be sure they’ll engage with you. Thus, PPC for law firms is the key to finding the right clients at the right time—just when they’re looking for you.

Facebook Ads for Law Firms

Facebook Ads for lawyers

The main difference between Facebook Ad campaigns and Google Ad campaigns is how audiences are targeted. Facebook Ads offers comprehensive targeting options, but, unlike Google, it doesn’t match search intent. However, using Facebook Ads gets your law firm in front of those who use the social media platform—nearly 70% of the US population.

To give you an example of Facebook’s precise targeting capabilities: If you’re an immigration lawyer in San Diego, you can target users, within a 25-mile radius, who have shown an interest in immigrating to the US. Utilize the platform’s Lookalike Audience function, and your law firm can reach new users that share similarities to your current client base.

For instance, if you track your law firm’s website audience and funnel them to your Facebook page, you’ll find a couple of thousand people to target with ads. Facebook permits a maximum of 500 Lookalike Audiences from a single source audience.

In terms of advertising format, the platform offers 11 types of ads, including images, stories, messenger, and video-based options. On average, Facebook’s conversion rates are between 9-10%. Like Google Ads, the social media platform’s built-in analytics produces real-time data, so you can update your strategies without wasting your marketing budget.

Currently, video marketing dominates because it achieves results. Approximately one billion hours of YouTube videos are watched daily. Create advertising videos for your social media channels, and your law firm will appear more human, and more approachable and, ultimately, help expand its client base.

Social Media Advertising for Law Firms

71% of lawyers and legal professionals claim social media marketing is responsible for bringing in new clientele. Social media is an important part of most businesses, and lawyers are no exception. Using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms builds trust with your target audience and develops your law firm’s presence in the market.

Because social media advertising generates awareness, it typically brings traffic to the top of the sales funnel. Social media ads can become a key driver of leads to your law firm’s website and transform user interest into potential new clients, especially when used to support organic content marketing strategies.

Additionally, Social Media is great for retargeting. This is the process of advertising to potential clients who have already shown an interest in your law firm but have lapsed from completing a conversion or retaining interest. Data suggests retargeting can increase ad engagement by 400%.

YouTube Advertising for Law Firms

Did you know YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, with over one billion active users? People use it to learn about their legal situations, and the law firms they’re researching. Obviously, this makes it an appealing platform for law firms wanting to reach a larger audience.

YouTube video advertising offers three main types of ads:

  • In-stream videos: These video marketing ads play before or during videos people choose to watch. They’re skippable after five seconds and don’t show up in the suggested content bar as regular pre-rolls do. (This is how we recommend you use YouTube Ads.)
  • Non-skippable pre-rolls: These ads appear at the start of videos and cannot be skipped until they’re played for 30 seconds.
  • In-video bumper ads: These types of legal services ads are basically a full 20-second commercial.

Depending on the ad type you select, your YouTube ads can show up on the YouTube homepage, search results pages, and as related videos on YouTube video watch pages.

Use SEO and Local SEO

SEO and local SEO for lawyers

No matter who our clients are, we always recommend getting SEO right first before investing in Google Ads, and any other form of online advertising. Search engine optimization entails optimizing your website so that it meets the technical requirements of search engines and users.

Having said that, it takes time to reach the top ranks on search results, and so many law firms supplement their marketing efforts with PPC ads for increased brand awareness. Then there is local SEO to consider. Since most lawyers serve clients within specific regions, they need local SEO to stay competitive with other law firms.

To implement local SEO, you require a Google Business Profile. It’s free and easy to set up. Just make sure to fill out your firm’s details as accurately as possible, and gather positive customer reviews, so you can move your way up to ranking in Google’s 3-Pack, which brings us to the next point.

Leverage Google Services Ads (LSAs)

Local Ads for lawyers

LSAs take a pay-per-lead approach and give your firm the chance to appear before anything else on Google search results, including regular pay-per-click advertising. They should be part of your law firm marketing strategy because they’re great at driving bottom-of-the-funnel leads, who are ready to call.

Leveraging both SEO and LSAs improves the odds of potential clients clicking on your law firm website because you’ll appear twice in search results. The primary benefit of LSAs is that you only pay if a potential client calls or sends you a message directly through ad options.

What You Need to Succeed at Law Firm Advertising

Whether you want to build brand awareness or improve your bottom line, you need to have a plan that outlines your marketing strategies, tactics, activities, costs, and expected results.

1. Understand Your Goals

An effective advertising campaign has a single focus with a specific, measurable result. Keep in mind that most law firms have multiple campaigns to achieve different KPIs that bring them closer to their overall business goals.

Advertising campaigns can be designed to do the following:

  • Generate leads;
  • Increase website traffic;
  • Raise awareness of your legal services within a clearly defined target audience;
  • Develop your law firm’s professional reputation; and
  • Build relationships with potential referral sources such as other attorneys.

When it comes to goal-setting, most lawyers know what they want to achieve, but they don’t make their advertising goals tangible enough.

For instance, let’s say you’re a personal injury lawyer, and you want more leads. “More leads” is vague. Would you be happy with two more leads per month? Or do you need to increase your leads by 50% in the next six months? Can you see the difference?

Setting clear and tangible KPIs is vital to keep your advertising budget and campaigns on track. You’ll also want to stay away from becoming too invested in vanity metrics like followers and likes, as they don’t directly translate into conversions.

2. Have a Clear and Measurable Advertising Strategy

Regardless of your advertising strategy’s design, it must advance your law firm in the marketplace. An effective advertising and marketing strategy is highly optimized to reach the maximum number of potential clients and ensures every expenditure serves a common purpose.

There are many facets to creating a good advertising strategy, including analysis, content preparation, research, and deciding which marketing channels best serve your advertising goals. We recommend using the S.M.A.R.T approach whereby each campaign goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Having a clear and measurable marketing strategy is important because:

  • It helps you reach the right audience;
  • It helps you spend money wisely;
  • It keeps your law firm marketing consistent; and
  • It serves as a guide to shape future marketing efforts.

The last step in any effective advertising campaign is analysis. Whether for metrics such as ROI, engagement, or conversion rate, having these insights can help you refine and improve your marketing. The more you learn, the better able you are to make informed changes mid-campaign to maximize your ad spend and achieve better results.

3. Determine Your Marketing Budget

Before talking numbers, it’s important to emphasize advertising is part of your marketing strategy, not just the sporadic and random hype of your law firm online. Within your law firm marketing plan, you’ll have both long-term and short-term goals, but overall, advertising is a sustained business practice with a recurring cost.

Most businesses spend between 2-18% of their gross revenue on marketing. However, because the legal sector is highly competitive, this number falls closer to 15-20% for new law firms and 6-10% for established ones, depending on location and specialty. For example, small law firms in dense cities competing against legacy firms will spend more than similar-sized firms in smaller towns.

Each law firm has a bespoke budget. If you want a good ROI, we recommend dedicating appropriate funds to expert-level marketing services. At Comrade Digital Marketing, we can:

  • Define your niche or target market;
  • Make cost-saving adjustments based on marketing performance;
  • Ensure your advertising is optimized for peak conversions;
  • Select the most suitable marketing channels based on specific goals; and
  • Regularly evaluate your KPIs and other metrics.
Increase your traffic and revenue with digital marketing solutions
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Hire a One-Stop-Shop for Your Law Firm Advertising

Today’s law firms must engage with potential clients through multiple touchpoints—in-person and online. Legal advertising is a powerful tool to add to your marketing arsenal that makes your firm more visible and attractive to new clients.

Sure, you can learn the ropes yourself, but hiring a professional marketing team that understands advertising rules guarantees results. In fact, at Comrade Digital Marketing, we only work with clients if we’re sure we can achieve substantial improvements.

Whether you need a new law firm website or want to revamp your advertising efforts, our experts at Comrade can help; contact us for a free consultation today.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you would like to discuss your project, reach out to our specialists.

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About the Author
Sasha Berson
Sasha serves as Managing Partner and VP of Client Solutions for Comrade Digital Marketing, a Chicago-based marketing agency dedicated to solving client’s most pressing digital challenges.
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