Business Law & Compliance

Here’s why UK law firms are 10 years behind

6 min read

10 September 2018

MyLegalAdviser's Alex Boothman explains why the legal industry needs to go digital – or go home.

There’s no denying the power of the internet for boosting brand awareness, attracting potential customers and generating sales. Most industries use it to its full potential. The legal industry, however, is a tad behind.

In fact, according to research published last month by the SRA, approximately 2,707 law firms in the UK have no website or digital presence whatsoever.

These firms may have made the decision to shun online marketing to instead focus on client work, or perhaps they found the effort of getting online far too expensive or complex to contemplate. Whatever the motive, there are now two huge reasons for law firms to embrace the digital world to do so, and fast.

The first is the SRA’s forthcoming Looking to the Future programme. In an attempt to provide greater transparency for consumers, the programme will require law firms to publish the prices of all of services online. For the 26% currently without a site, it will cost at least £3,000 to build one.

The other reason is that there are so many of them. Over 37% of clients now turn to the internet to find a legal provider and that number is set to keep growing as a younger internet-savvy generation begin their relationship with legal services.

For small businesses seeking legal support, the figure is even higher with 43% now turning to the internet. The internet is now just as effective for clients to find a lawyer as word of mouth referrals.

There are over 1.2 million searches each month for core consumer and small business lawyers and services on Google alone.  The terms “solicitor” and “solicitors near me” are searched for on Google 33,100 and 22,200 times each month respectively.

The financial value of this online business is potentially huge when you consider that individuals and small businesses spend a combined £21 billion a year on legal services in the UK. That’s 6.5 million individuals spending £12 billion per year and 5.7 million small businesses spending £9 billion per year on legal services. If 37% of cases are secured online, that’s a sizeable financial opportunity that some SME law firms could be missing out on.

While building a website will tick the SRA box, it won’t necessarily mean potential clients can find you online. The top-ranked page for “divorce lawyer” has 1,196 backlinks to it from 113 unique domains. This will have taken years and extensive marketing to achieve. If you’re one of the firms that’s going to have to fork out £3,000 to build a website in the next few months, then I’m willing to bet you won’t have the budget to spend on lots of additional marketing.

How much would you need out of interest? To feature anywhere near the first few pages of google for a legal search as a new site or small provider, it will cost you £5.13 per click in PPC advertising. This is where you pay Google to feature a text ad for your site at the top of the page or in the sidebar.

The good news is you only pay per click, the bad news is that because consumers shop around for services, that £5.13 spend might not get you anything more than a fleeting visit so they can note down your prices.

Aside from the ad spend itself, most law firms will also need to hire an agency or freelancer to manage the ad and analytics. This can easily cost anywhere from £2,000 per month. For most small law firms, this means the cost to setup and run a PPC account for a sufficient amount of time to start identifying high-performing keywords is simply too high.

An alternative to PPC is to advertise on social media. However, it offers a less direct route to finding potential clients because only a tiny proportion of your audience will actually be looking to hire a lawyer at the time you advertise your service to them. This is in contrast to PPC, where it’s easier to find users searching with active intent to purchase legal services. Social media, therefore, is better used as a way to build brand awareness.

So how can you, as an SME law firm with limited or no online presence, attract new clients?

Online marketplaces offer a simple way for law firms to tap into the online market. They use digital marketing to advertise to clients looking for a lawyer online. When clients post a job on the platform, the details are shared with lawyers signed up to the service.

There is a huge new business opportunity out there. Don’t be one of the firms that wastes thousands of pounds advertising to clients who either aren’t serious about hiring or aren’t the right fit (due to factors like pricing, location or brand). Embrace the digital world, in the right way.

Alex Boothman is CEO of MyLegalAdviser.