An Introduction to Digital Marketing for Lawyers

Lead Generation for Lawyers

Law firm internet marketing is a popular topic, and for good reason. A recent study shows that a third of all potential clients start their search for an attorney online. Without a strong online marketing strategy, firms are immediately reducing their potential customer base by 33%. 

But how can you create a digital marketing strategy that helps your law firm stand out and get clients? And how will you know you’re getting a good return on investment for your law firm marketing dollars?

To be successful, you’ll need to focus on your target clients, communicate that you’re offering what they’re looking for, and build trust and credibility quickly. Having a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is one of the biggest levers you can pull to grow your law firm.

Online marketing: lawyers vs law firms

Your online marketing strategy will differ depending on whether you’re marketing yourself as a lawyer, or marketing your law practice as a whole.

When marketing yourself as a law practitioner, you’ll want to focus on what experts call your personal brand. You want to show that you’re credible and trustworthy to both potential clients or firms that may want to hire you (if you choose not to start your own firm). Make sure your LinkedIn profile, lawyer biography, and any other personal online profiles all feature professional photos and clearly achievements, approach, and values. If possible, include positive reviews from clients or firms that you’ve worked for in the past.

When marketing a law firm, having a personal brand is still important. According to branding expert Katy Goshtasbi, a firm’s brand is highly dependent on the personal brands of all the lawyers within it. Having your employees understand how to market themselves is an important component of any law firm digital marketing strategy.

Another important factor to keep in mind is ethics. Whether you choose to market yourself or your firm as a whole, each jurisdiction has its own unique set of guidelines on the ethical responsibilities you need to follow when creating an online marketing strategy. A good rule of thumb to remember is not to label yourself as an “expert” unless you have the qualifications needed to do so in your jurisdiction, and be mindful of inadvertently sharing details of your lawyer-client relationships.

Having a comprehensive law firm digital marketing strategy is one of the biggest levers you can pull to build trust and credibility with potential clients to grow your law firm.

Creating a digital marketing strategy for your law firm

It can be tough for lawyers to know where to start with digital marketing strategy. There are many different tactics to pursue within digital marketing including website optimization, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid digital ads. The most successful law firms invest in a few areas that make the most sense for their practice areas, their firm, and their clients.

1. Research your target client

Before you even start thinking about choosing channels, you need to understand where your target clients spend the most time online and what type of content and messaging resonates best with them.

Start by reading up industry research for your practice area, interview past clients on how they found you, and look at any data you currently have to understand who you’re marketing to. For example, if you’re an employment lawyer, your clients will likely spend a large portion of their time on LinkedIn. Therefore, your digital marketing strategy should include building a LinkedIn presence.

Know your client, their circumstances, and what they’re looking for. Your law firm’s online marketing strategy messaging won’t convince your client unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes (you can read more about this in Jack Newton’s The Client-Centered Law Firm).

2. Determine your digital marketing goals

To be able to measure the effectiveness of your law firm online marketing strategy, you need to set clear goals. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you want to increase traffic to your law firm’s website?
  • Do you want to get more positive online reviews from clients?
  • Do you want to increase the number of consultations scheduled online?
  • Do you want more people to reach out to you through social media?

No matter what your digital marketing goal is, the ultimate end goal should be to attract new clients and establish your law firm’s online presence. Keeping this in mind will ensure that you are spending your digital marketing dollars effectively.

When setting goals, make sure that you are aiming for a realistic target. Posting everyday on social media might be a little bit difficult to achieve if you’ve never explored that channel before. Understand how much effort and time you can dedicate to digital marketing for your firm and then decide on your goals from there.

Online marketing is your key to getting discovered by potential clients and getting them through the door. How you get discovered is up to you and what works best for your target audience.

3. What marketing channels are best for lawyers?

Unfortunately, like many legal cases, the answer is, it depends. As previously mentioned, you need to research your target audience and understand where your clients spend their time online. This will help you choose the right digital marketing channels to invest your time and money into.

To get you started, here are the most common online marketing channels:

There are also other channels that help with marketing your law firm online, including tools like Podium that help drive positive reviews. 

One thing to keep in mind is that lawyer online marketing is competitive, so costs can add up quickly. You’ll need to be selective and strategic and start small before expanding into multiple channels.

4. Create an SEO-focused law firm website that converts visitors to clients

For many law firms, a website will be the cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy. Unlike directory listings or social media profiles, your website is a piece of property you own, and it’s key for credibility—a client who searches for you online and finds a state bar listing but no website might just keep on looking.

Your website is key to branding yourself and your firm. This is where potential clients will find information about your employees, credentials, achievements, and the type of services you offer. 

SEO is key to being found in search results and driving organic (free) traffic to your law firm. This is a thriving, competitive field within law firm digital marketing, with entire agencies focusing solely on SEO for law firms. Start by following the basics, and you’ll already be halfway there:

  • Make sure your site is clear, simple to navigate, and easy to read.
  • Include target keywords you want to be found for throughout your site (for example “personal injury lawyer”).
  • Write informative content such as blog posts to show your expertise to clients.

Learn more about SEO for lawyers here. If you’re not appearing in search results key to your law firm, consider hiring help.

In addition to bringing in website visitors, you need to actually turn them into paying clients. Convince clients to hire you by featuring reviews, professional images and writing, and a clear idea of what to expect in terms of services and price. 

Make it easy for clients to hire you by featuring your contact information and clear calls to action (CTAs) throughout your website (think “contact us” or “schedule a consultation”).

5. Measure the success of your digital marketing strategy

Once you’ve written down key information about your target clients, your goals, metrics for success, and channels to invest in, and areas of improvement for your website, check in regularly to make sure everything’s working. 

Various online tools, such as Clio Grow, will tell you where new clients are coming from so you can determine which channels you should invest more in, and which ones you should drop from your law firm online marketing strategy.

Your law firm’s digital marketing strategy should be a living, breathing document. Change your strategy as needed to make sure you’re getting a good return on investment on your digital marketing spend.

Online marketing and the law: Internet privacy and data retention

Even before the age of the GDPR and other similar legislation, lawyers were held to a high standard when it came to digital marketing. As a lawyer, you have a clear duty to keep client information confidential at all times, and to swiftly disclose an error if a breach occurs. 

More generally, anti-spam legislation such as the CAN-SPAM Act protects individuals from unsolicited emails, and spells out penalties for firms that don’t comply. Ensure that any provider you work with is compliant with any internet privacy and data retention laws in your jurisdiction, whether it be a website designer or an online marketing tool to avoid potential penalties.

Most reputable providers will satisfy the necessary requirements, but you’ll need to ask to make sure. At the very least, make sure that with your website and any providers you use:

  • Any client or potential client marketing data (including names, email addresses, phone numbers) is stored securely.
  • Any individual can see their data and/or have their data deleted, if requested.
  • Any individual can easily opt-out of any digital marketing communications.

Ask the questions on this Cloud Computing Due Diligence Checklist before signing on with any digital marketing tools or providers.


Read more about digital marketing for lawyers

Written by: Trevor Molag
Last updated: February 7, 2022

Law firm marketing experts share their top tips

Download our free eBook: The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing Your Firm Online to get law firm marketing tips from Gyi Tsakalakis, Josh King, and Kevin O'Keefe.

Get the Guide

Digital Marketing for Lawyers FAQ

Why do lawyers need digital marketing?

Digital marketing helps lawyers attract more clients, get more business, and generate more revenue for their firm. While word of mouth referral is still one of the main ways that lawyers get clients, digital marketing will help more people discover you and is a more sustainable long term strategy than just relying on referrals.

Also, almost a third of clients start their search for an attorney online, not having a digital marketing strategy means immediately excluding yourself from that audience.

How much do lawyers spend on digital marketing?

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7%-8% of your firm’s gross revenue on marketing. Law firm management consultants encourage firms to spend 2% to 5%, but this number depends on the area of practice, geographical location, how established the law firm is, etc.

But in reality, it all depends on your practice area, the size of your firm, and what your pricing model is. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you are getting a positive return on investment from your digital marketing. 

This means that if your clients are paying you $3000 on average per case, you should absolutely not spend more than $3000 getting one client through your digital marketing strategy.

What is law firm internet marketing?

Law firm internet marketing is the practice of increasing your law firm’s presence online and making it easier for clients to find and hire you. This is also about building your law firm’s brand, credibility and trust by sharing educational content and positive online reviews for your services.

Do lawyers need a marketing agency?

The answer is: It depends. Whether you do your own law firm digital marketing or hire an agency depends on your level of interest and expertise with digital marketing channels. 

If you’d prefer to focus on lawyering, it makes sense to hire an agency. However, it’s still worth educating yourself on the basics so that you know which questions to ask and what to look for in a law firm marketing agency.

If you’re able to and interested in investing several hours per week in law firm digital marketing, you might find some success marketing your law firm online on your own. However, some channels, such as SEM and PPC, require more expertise and consistent management to avoid cost overruns, so you should still consider outsourcing this component of your marketing strategy in whole or in part.

Be pragmatic about how much time you can spend on digital marketing, and about the level of investment you’ll need to reach your goals.

How do I market myself as a lawyer?

There are many ways to market yourself as a lawyer, here are some examples: 

  • Social media: Depending on where your target audience (clients, or potential employers) spends their time, it may be worth cultivating a presence on social media. Share helpful posts related to your practice area, areas of the law, or the business of law that you’re passionate about. Be professional, but be yourself, and cultivate a growing follower base.
  • Online groups: Post in online forums where potential clients might spend time (e.g., if you’re a divorce lawyer you can look for a Facebook group for recently separated parents looking for advice in your area). Don’t provide legal advice, but make it known that you’re a lawyer and you’re there to help—potential clients will know who to call when they need you.
  • PR: Make yourself available to the press for commentary on relevant issues to increase your profile and that of your firm. Sites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) will help you find opportunities in your area.
  • Online profiles: Claim any and all online profiles (especially free ones). Google My Business and Yelp are obvious, but you can also claim listings on Apple Maps, Bing Places, and more.

Choose what’s best for you. And to stay compliant with ethics rules, never share specific or sensitive case or client information, and never provide legal advice unless you’re deliberately creating a lawyer-client relationship and doing so over a secure channel.

What is a good ROI on attorney internet marketing?

A revenue:cost ratio of 5:1 is generally thought to be acceptable for marketing spend, including law firm internet marketing. In other words, your average cost per acquisition (CPA), or the cost to acquire each case, should be about ⅕ of the average value of each case. This includes pay-per-click costs, web design costs, your own time, and anything else,

Your cost per acquisition (CPA) may be high since law firm online marketing can be so competitive, but if your case value is high, it may still be a good ROI. As an extreme example, some of the most expensive search engine marketing terms are those around mesothelioma lawsuits, with firms paying hundreds of dollars per ad click (for reference, costs are often a few dollars or cents). This investment provides a good ROI, however, as just one settlement will average over $1 million and cases are often handled by personal injury lawyers who bill on a contingency basis.

The important thing is to have a marketing tool that helps you track your CPA accurately, and a practice management software where you can track the average value of a case, so you can always have insight into your ROI.