Regardless of where you’re at in your career, there may come a point where you need to do some marketing for your law firm on the cheap. Throughout my career I’ve come across attorneys who’ve left a firm suddenly and need to build a pipeline of new clients, new attorneys having no experience running a law firm or any business, or semiretired attorneys who just want a few cases to keep themselves busy. Regardless of where you’re at, online marketing can get very expensive very quickly. This article is meant to provide some tips and guidance for marketing a law firm on a small budget from someone who does this for a living. Additionally, this article is also meant to help you build a bridge to a long term solution. Most likely you don’t want to do all the marketing yourself forever, and the advice presented here will help you put yourself in a position to hand it off to a professional when the time comes.
Getting Started Marketing Your Law Firm on the Cheap
Just because you have a low budget for marketing your law firm (online or offline), doesn’t mean you have to appear small. If you’re willing to personally invest the time and effort, you can accomplish quite a bit on your own. Before you embark on any of these projects, you should know that YouTube is your friend. You can research literally any online marketing topic and get at least somewhat reliable information in detail for free. That’s not to say it’s all accurate, but if your diligent in your research you’ll find the information you need.
Low Cost and No Cost Marketing Recommendations From Lawyers
Attorney Jordon Ostroff Says:
Reach out to people you already know and remind them of what you do and check in on them. Check if your local bar has a mentorship program where you can get paired with a more experienced attorney. See if someone has office space that comes with extra cases or scraps from them. Join a leads group like BNI or other organizations that have your ideal clients/referral sources at them.
Licensed since 2012
Attorney Michael Romano Says:
“Probably the best thing you can do right now is get your Google My Business (GMB) listing up to speed. Another thing you can do is add content to your website. It takes time, but it doesn’t cost any money. You can write a quick article before you go to bed, or on a Saturday, and if you do your keyword research, make good use of basic SEO principles, and promote the page by sharing it or linking to it from other pages on your site. One last think I would recommend to firms on a budget is to film some marketing videos. With even a cell phone camera, natural indirect lighting, and a $30 lav mic, you can film some amazing content… and then have YouTube do your hosting for you, for free.”
Licensed since 2000
Get a Website
You need to understand is that at this point that you’re not trying to paint your Mona Lisa. Meaning, don’t strive for perfection on this at the moment. You need to produce revenue now, not fret over the color code of an image or the pixel-perfect placement of a photo. Think of this as triage – we need tourniquets and stitches, not cosmetic surgery. At this stage every moment you invest worrying about things that have no significant bearing on producing revenue is a moment wasted on not getting new clients.
DIY Websites – The Good, The Bad and The Very Ugly
Before we start on Do-It-Yourself websites for your law firm, you should know that there’s nearly no good way to proceed with a DIY website without giving something up. Your choices are essentially to either create something quickly and have it potentially cause an expensive problem when you’re ready to hire a developer, or you’re going to need to learn some technical jargon and skills.
Also, my attitude towards DIY websites is generally to get it launched quickly, and update it later. I take this approach (in this particular circumstance) because nearly no one is going to see your website for at least 30-60 days (or longer). Without SEO experience, your website will probably not be found for a competitive search phrase anytime soon, but especially in the beginning. It’s better to get the website launched and get it indexed on Google and make updates and changes as needed.
*Pro Tip – Always register your website name with a domain registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions etc.) NOT the website platform you choose. This means you’ll have to manually connect your domain to the website to launch it (which does require a little effort). If you DO register your name through WordPress, Weebly, Squarespace or Wix you’ll most likely eventually have to transfer the domain to a domain registrar anyway and it becomes a nightmare that will impact your website uptime and potentially your emails. This is a future proof tactic that you’ll thank me for later.
WordPress vs Non-WordPress
For the purposes of this section, I will divide DIY websites into 2 categories: WordPress and Non-WordPress. There’s a world of difference between WordPress and Non-WordPress websites, mostly it comes down to ease of use and speed to market. If you already have some technical skills and understand code at a basic level you might want to consider WordPress. If the thought of “code” makes you cringe then you might want to consider another platform. Not because you NEED to know code for WordPress, but you do need to understand how websites technically work at a basic level. If there’s any hesitation here WordPress is probably not for you.
The Pros & Cons of WordPress
WordPress is the de facto standard in law firm website platforms. There are myriad reasons for this explored below, but it’s not without drawbacks for the lawyer who’s trying to get a website up quickly.
Universal Open Source Platform. WordPress is a “universal” platform, meaning nearly any developer around the world can work within the platform. Probably 90% of law firm (and general business) websites are on WordPress, and Kinsta reports that WordPress has 37% market share (which is 15x higher than it’s closest competitor).
Blogging. If you’re going to be blogging regularly WordPress is the ideal platform. This is more about future proofing than anything else. When you’re ready to hire a professional developer, they’re going to need to migrate all your blogs to the new website. If they’re already on WordPress it’s a simple button click, if not you’re going to have to pay for them to “copy, paste, edit, publish” a hundred times (or however many blogs you’ve published). With this in mind, when you do decide to do a redesign on WordPress the URL structure can also be easily maintained (something important for SEO).
Customization options. The customization capability is nearly limitless since WordPress is the most supported platform by 3rd party plugin developers and services. If you can’t find a functionality within a theme you’ve chosen, you can likely add a plugin to your site for free or for a reasonable price.
Design & development. To the non-website designer WordPress is a pain in the ass – there’s no easy way to say it. You’ll have a very steep learning curve, even if you immerse yourself in YouTube tutorials.
Security. If you’re going to use WordPress you’re going to need a security and backup solution. Due to it’s behemoth market share, WordPress websites are often targets for attacks.
Stability. Don’t get me wrong, if maintained properly WordPress websites are generally very stable. However, if WP needs an update, or a plugin needs an update problems can start to compound – ESPECIALLY if one plugin is dependent on another that requires an update. Everest Legal Marketing has learned to simply do a daily visual inspection on all of our client’s websites because sometimes stuff just breaks.
Non-WordPress Websites – AKA “WYSIWYG” Editors
Non-WordPress websites are generally self contained platforms where they act as the design platform, website host and can also be the domain registrar (which I do not recommend as mentioned above). The most popular platforms are Squarespace, Weebly and Wix, (more info on these below), and these are often referred to as WYSIWYG editors (What You See Is What You Get). Think of these as the “Apple” of the website development universe – which are essentially drag-and-drop style editors and publish in real time as you make edits. They control all comings and goings of everything on your website. This makes for an easy implementation and updates, but sometimes frustrating when you want to accomplish something specific or “out of the box”.
Non-WordPress Websites Pros
Cheap & Quick. Most of the WYSIWYG website editors are very inexpensive to get up and running, and you’ll generally know how to use them effectively with as little as a few hours of hands-on experience & Youtube tutorials.
Everything is included. Unlike WordPress where you’ll likely have to purchase plugins as needed, most WYSIWYG platforms have everything you need built in because they control everything.
No Updating. Since everything is mostly controlled by the provider, you really don’t have to worry about updates or conflicting plugins like you do with WordPress.
Non-WordPress Websites Cons
Low customization. Most of the WYSIWYG providers offer numerous themes, and Premium themes you can purchase, but outside of updating colors and swapping photos there’s a fairly low level of customization available on a theme to theme basis.
Low integration with 3rd party services. Often times, you can only integrate features that are supported by the WYSIWYG platform (see below).
SEO Capabilities. This is actually a very hotly debated topic that’s beyond the scope of this article. However, in general A) there are more SEO tools available for WordPress, B) themes in WYSIWYG editors can often be “heavy” with code thus slowing down load speeds, C) many SEO companies won’t even attempt to optimize a website on these platforms and will require the website be migrated to WordPress.
*Note – We have numerous Weebly websites ranking on page 1 in top 3 positions for competitive search phrases, we’ve also done it with Squarespace websites. That doesn’t mean they’re ideal for SEO.
The most popular of the WYSIWYG platforms are: Squarespace, Wix & Weebly – these 3 platforms alone control roughly 75% of the WYSIWYG editor market. Although these platforms have a lot of benefits in the short term, they can end up being insufficient for most law firms in the long run.
Squarespace currently costs $12/mo and you’ll get most everything you’d need for the typical law firm website on a budget at that price. Of all the providers, Squarespace offers the best looking and most modern themes in my opinion, but the editing platform has a bit steeper learning curve.
Wix websites start at $13/mo and have similar features of Squarespace, but the editing platform is a bit easier to use.
Weebly websites cost $12/mo for a version without their ads running on the site, but you can actually get it for free if you’re willing to run Google ads for Weebly and have your website on a .weebly sub domain (like: https://lawfirm.weebly.com). In my opinion Weebly has the easiest to use interface but the designs tend to look a bit dated and plain.
Choose a Website Platform and Move on
Most of the website platforms mentioned above (including WordPress) have free, or nearly free options if you’re willing to contend with them running Google ads on your website, having a branded watermark, or having a sub domain. If you really can’t afford the monthly fee, these free solutions are an option but realistically its not very impressive from a perception standpoint.
It also goes without saying that you can definitely find a web designer who can customize a simple WordPress theme for a reasonable fee if you provide him/her with content. Unfortunately, quality varies and in this world you definitely get what you pay for. I’ve known firms who’ve paid approx $1,000 – $1,500 for a theme design and it looked laughably bad and they’ve had numerous problems. I’ve also known firms who’ve paid that and received very decent websites… you really roll the dice on the lower price point spectrum and it really comes down to who you’re hiring. Additionally, nothing at this price point is ever “optimized” or will be found for competitive search phrases unless you have SEO service or some sort of legal marketing behind the scenes.
Claim Free Listings on Legal Directories
Once you have a website up and running, it’s critical to immediately establish free profiles on legal directories. There are numerous online legal directories where you can add your name, address, and phone number to (also known as “NAP”), and maybe a link to your website. Doing this early helps establish some credibility for google and “EAT” for your website, and helps you be found on platforms that people are already searching. If you’d like to know more about what attorney directories are available, Everest Legal Marketing conducts and annual study of the top legal directories and reports on how they appear on Google. *Pro Tip: Create a master spreadsheet of all your directory logins and keep it updated!
Marketing Your Law Firm on Social Media for Free
For the purposes of this article we’ll primarily be focusing on Facebook and LinkedIn. These are the two social media platforms that have the best opportunity to find new clients. Can you find new clients on all the other social platforms? Conceivably yes, and I’m sure a sales person will be quick to tell you about all the potential clients waiting for you on Instagram or Twitter. The truth is you’ll probably want to have a free profile on other platforms, but hoping to find a client there due to your active engagement is wishful thinking unless you’re doing something very unique.
The Ground Rules
Finding a client on Facebook or LinkedIn for free will only work if you’re personally engaged in the platforms on a regular basis. That means that after you set up a business profile you are personally investing your time using the tips I’m about to share. If you’re not willing to do that, and if you think that simply having a law firm profile on Facebook or LinkedIn will bring you clients then you should move on… it doesn’t work like that.
Below are some tips for finding a client on Facebook for free. You’ll notice I specifically use the phrase “finding a client” because that’s very different from paying for advertising. It’s an active effort… YOU have to find them while not appearing desperate for business or breaking any State Bar rules for solicitation.
Leveraging Facebook Groups
Step 1: Create a Facebook business page: You can fill out your firm name, phone number, firm description and a link to your website all for free. You can create this under your personal profile ownership and manage it seamlessly from your personal Facebook login.
Step 2: Make sure to post some content relevant to your practice. Write a quick blurb about an article and post a link to it. You can even schedule your posts to your business page so it doesn’t look sparse or like you did it all at once.
Step 3: Make sure you set up your personal Facebook profile is set to “Public” and your work history reflects that you work at the business page you just created. This way, when people click on your profile they see where you work and can click on your business page to learn more about your firm. Don’t post anything to your personal Facebook account that you don’t want a potential client to see; this is particularly important (and painfully obvious) in today’s cancel culture.
Step 4: Join local Facebook “Groups”. No matter where you are, Facebook has “groups” of people around you. Often you can search groups for your city name, or a neighboring city name. The largest local groups tend to be “Buy/Sell/Trade” groups or “Neighborhood” groups. These are often places where local people comment on local events, or seek recommendations. I see numerous times a month someone asking legal questions or looking for a recommendation for a lawyer. If you’ve set your profile up the way I’ve suggested you can answer these questions and when people click on your profile they will see your law firm information. You could also be a bit more direct and send the person who’s requesting information a direct message. How is this not a solicitation? Well, you’re simply answering a person’s legal question just like on Avvo and other platforms.
When considering LinkedIn as a free way to market your law firm, you need to tailor your approach to professionals that can either hire you directly or refer you. *Pro tips: Make sure you have a robust network (500+ connections), make sure your personal profile is filled out completely, and also make sure you’ve set up a free “Company Page” and that you’ve set it as your current place of employment.
There are 3 main ways to market your law firm on LinkedIn for free:
- Sharing your blog content. LinkedIn is platform where you can use the blog on your website as the destination to drive people to, which is one reason you need an “inventory” of content – blogs. If you’ve created numerous blogs that address legal questions, you’ll always have a link to share that directs people to your blog that has the answer, or at least addresses some aspect of a topic.
- Reputation marketing & personal branding. Unlike Facebook, people check LinkedIn to see what’s happening with past colleagues and professionals they know, but maybe aren’t too close with. LinkedIn is a great way to share client reviews or recent case results to remind people of what you do and how awesome you are at it.
- Share other people’s content. Looking for referrals or business from someone? The best way to get on someone’s radar is to share their posts & content with some thoughtful commentary (make sure to tag them if possible too). They’re bound to take look at your profile and feed, even out of sheer curiosity as to what you’re up to.
Conferences & Event Networking
You probably already know that one of the best ways to put yourself in front of potential referral sources is to socialize with them at conferences, local Bar mixers and association events. To me, these events are an investment in future revenue not yet realized. After over a decade of attending these events here are my secrets:
- Get an attendee list. Knowing who is going to a function is as important as showing up; if you can get an attendee list with email addresses even better. You can also sometimes find email addresses on a lawyer’s Bar listing, Facebook page “About” section, or LinkedIn page contact details. Research who is going and select 5-10 people you think might be able to refer you business, (or that you might be able to work with in some way), and learn everything you can about them. Occasionally I’ll screenshot profile pages of attendees on my phone and write myself some notes.
- Invite people to drinks/lunch/dinner. If you do get an attendee list with Email addresses, try to invite some people to coffee, drinks or dinner before or after the event or between sessions to learn more about what each other does.
- Host an event at a conference. If you’re attending a conference at a resort consider renting a cabana at the pool, organize a hosted happy hour, or another casual event. Being in a laid back atmosphere lowers people’s defenses and allows them to relax between meetings or sessions. Use the email list you’ve curated to send invitations.
- Ask colleagues for introductions. Believe it or not, people like helping other people (*generally*). Sometimes even well-connected vendors can help you get 10 minutes in front of some one you’d like to do business with.
- Follow up. Of the thousands of people I’ve met at conferences and mixers over the years, probably less than 5% actually follow up at all. Even vendors who are trying to sell something rarely send a note to say hi or connect with me in some way.
There are numerous ways you can market your law firm on a tight budget, or even for free without appearing desperate or low rent if you’re creative enough. Staying organized and focused is the key to success. Don’t try to do everything perfectly at the expense of making progress. Once you’re at a point to hand it off to an attorney SEO firm like Everest Legal Marketing, you’ll be one step ahead of your competition.