Marketing For Law Firms Via Attorney Client Matching Services Part I

Marketing For Law Firms Via Attorney-Client Matching Services - Part I
What are these new attorney-client matching services? Who are the​ players? What do they cost? What is​ the​ risk to​ me? What is​ the​ return for me? What is​ the​ buzz on​ them? Are they ethical as​ marketing for law firms? Will they save me money and are they for me? Will they get me clients I​ would not have otherwise?
In part one of​ this article we will look in​ depth at​ a​ relatively new wrinkle in​ marketing for law firms known as​ attorney-client matching services .​
Part one focuses on​ the​ facts about these firms .​
Part two gives you​ my conclusions and recommendations as​ a​ result of​ my research .​
First a​ little background is​ in​ order .​
The legal services market segment is​ expected to​ reach $82.5 billion in​ 2008 according to​ Euromonitor International a​ market intelligence firm .​
In recent history consumers have been finding attorneys through word-of mouth or​ through the​ yellow pages .​
Often the​ word-of mouth advice does not deliver people to​ the​ best possible solution for their particular needs and the​ yellow pages is​ certainly not a​ great place to​ select a​ lawyer I​ am sure you​ would agree .​
Additionally,​ according to​ the​ Pew Internet & American Life over four million consumers and small businesses currently search for legal services via the​ Internet every month with these numbers expected to​ rise to​ over seven million by 2018 .​
I​ think you​ can see this is​ a​ huge market getting larger .​
It is​ imperative that attorneys understand this marketplace if​ for no other reason your potential clients and clients are moving to​ the​ Internet and yellow page advertising is​ a​ dying marketing for law firms vehicle .​
Understanding attorney-client matching services is​ one new way to​ tap into this Internet marketplace.
What I​ will not be talking about here is​ attorney-listing services .​
Please don’t get confused between attorney-listing services and attorney-client matching services .​
The two majors in​ the​ attorney-listing services arena are Lawyers dot com or​ FindLaw dot com that are used by many in​ marketing for law firms .​
With attorney marketing one might want to​ get a​ minimal listing on​ one or​ both of​ these two major sites .​
Both do drive a​ large amount of​ traffic to​ their sites for sure (in the​ millions of​ visitors per year) .​
If you​ do get a​ listing then track your results carefully and see if​ being in​ the​ middle of​ a​ pack of​ listed attorneys actually does produce clients for you​ .​
Please don’t spend more on​ them than the​ basic listing that will run about $150 or​ so per month,​ at​ least until you​ can document results with the​ basic listing .​
Also,​ don’t buy your website through either of​ them,​ even if​ after testing you​ find good results,​ for many reasons that can be found under the​ Internet marketing tab on​ my website .​
One last note here,​ you​ probably don’t want to​ test most of​ the​ lesser attorney-listing competitors like LawInfo dot com,​ LawCore dot com or​ AttorneyFind dot com is​ my take,​ however if​ you​ do be sure to​ track your results .​
The rest of​ this article is​ about attorney-client matching services.
Attorney Marketing Via Five Attorney-Client Matching Players
In the​ attorney-client matching field there are five competitors for the​ attorney marketing dollar offering online attorney-client matching services .​
The first and originator is​ LegalMatch dot com and its newer competitor being CasePost dot com as​ well as​ a​ third competitor LegalFish dot com .​
the​ two big players that offer almost everything in​ attorney marketing,​ Lawyers dot com and FindLaw dot com; have also recently begu​n to​ offer a​ version of​ attorney-client matching services .​
Lets begin with LegalMatch that was established in​ 1999 and is​ based in​ San Francisco .​
LegalMatch uses a​ double blind matching system .​
By double blind they mean the​ consumer does not see identifying information about who the​ lawyers are and the​ lawyer does not see identifying information about who the​ consumers are although all the​ cards are put on​ the​ table for both to​ see before any contact is​ made between them .​
Through an​ allocation model LegalMatch makes the​ decision about which lawyers get the​ consumer’s information .​
Consumers can opt into priority service for a​ fee to​ talk with a​ LegalMatch staff attorney about their case and work with that attorney in​ selecting the​ attorney for their case .​
LegalMatch does have partnerships with the​ Utah State Bar Association,​ ATLA and NACDL .​
Membership fees for this marketing for law firms vehicle run from $2,​500 to​ $25,​000 per year (they will finance the​ membership fee if​ desired) depending on​ practice area and geographic location of​ the​ attorney .​
For example,​ a​ PI attorney in​ Los Angeles would likely be charged more than a​ family law attorney in​ Los Angeles,​ while the​ family lawyer in​ Peoria is​ likely to​ pay less than the​ family law attorney in​ Los Angeles .​
Their guarantee consists of​ extending your membership at​ no fee until your revenues have exceeded the​ fee you​ paid them .​
The details of​ the​ guarantee are available on​ their website.
Are There Legal Marketing Ethics Issues with Attorney-Client Matching?
A relevant digression here,​ since this model is​ not a​ lawyer referral program,​ a​ pre-paid legal service plan,​ a​ joint or​ cooperative advertising or​ a​ directory listing service it​ is​ not subject to​ ethics rules around much of​ marketing for law firms it​ has been asserted .​
Recently the​ Professional Ethics Committee of​ the​ Texas State Bar was looking into these practices and that committee received a​ seven-page letter (May 26,​ 2018) from the​ FTC that was agreed to​ by a​ unanimous vote of​ the​ FTC commission members that this attorney marketing practice is​ indeed ethical.
Already the​ states of​ North Carolina and South Carolina found the​ practice ethical .​
The Rhode Island Supreme Court specifically named in​ an​ ethics opinion that online matching services are ethical .​
Finally,​ the​ Utah State Bar (a mandatory bar) has retained LegalMatch as​ their lawyer referral service clearly indicating their thinking about LegalMatch’s ethical nature it​ seems to​ me .​
Naturally you​ do need to​ check with your state bar to​ be sure this is​ an​ ethical practice in​ your state .​
Now back to​ the​ options in​ the​ marketplace.
CasePost,​ based in​ Southern California,​ was established in​ 2002 is​ a​ second player in​ this area of​ marketing for law firms .​
They operate in​ a​ similar fashion as​ LegalMatch in​ matching clients with lawyers; however,​ the​ directory of​ attorneys is​ shown to​ the​ consumer immediately .​
The consumer can decide whether they want to​ remain anonymous or​ give their contact information to​ the​ attorneys .​
The consumer is​ limited to​ four attorney responses .​
Thus the​ consumer determines what attorneys will get their information .​
In May of​ 2018 CasePost has made a​ major expansion as​ a​ result of​ their partnership with HandelOnTheLaw dot com that is​ powered by a​ successful nationally syndicated radio show on​ over 120 stations with attorney Bill Handel .​
This show has been running since 1985 .​
They also have a​ strategic relationship with LegalZoom dot com that began in​ 2018 that has increased their reach .​
Like LegalMatch the​ membership fees for this attorney marketing vehicle are from $2,​500 to​ $25,​000 per year (financing is​ available if​ desired) depending on​ practice area and location .​
Their guarantee to​ a​ member is​ based on​ a​ minimum amount of​ referrals over the​ year.
LegalFish is​ a​ third player in​ this arena .​
It entered the​ marketplace in​ 2003 and is​ based in​ Chicago .​
It is​ a​ bit different than the​ other two in​ a​ few ways .​
Like the​ other players the​ consumer can input their information and post their cases to​ the​ site as​ well give their identifying information or​ not .​
In a​ number of​ cases LegalFish will contact the​ posting consumer themselves by telephone or​ email to​ delve deeper into the​ needs of​ the​ consumer so they are not totally automated .​
There is​ an​ allocation model used by LegalFish in​ referring the​ cases to​ their members .​
Another difference is​ LegalFish charges a​ monthly fee for this marketing for law firms vehicle ranging from $180 to​ $750 to​ members that are non-contingency based practices .​
For contingency based practices the​ fee ranges from $1600 to​ $5000+ monthly only if​ the​ client retains the​ attorney .​
If LegalFish does not deliver a​ referral to​ a​ member that retains that attorney they don’t charge a​ fee to​ that attorney for the​ month (a form of​ a​ guarantee) .​
Creating something of​ a​ shared risk system .​
Naturally,​ with this type of​ shared risk system,​ long-term success for both parties is​ based on​ LegalFish’s ability to​ generate new client opportunities and create demand for legal services,​ and their member attorneys’ ability to​ convert those referrals to​ paying clients .​
Both parties have to​ pull their weight .​
Finally,​ LegalFish reports they are particularly committed to​ serving the​ solo and small firm market with ten employees or​ less.
The next player in​ this marketing for law firms arena is​ Lawyers dot com (mentioned earlier in​ this article about their directory listing or​ attorney-listing service) with their new Attorney Match Service .​
If you​ go to​ their homepage what stands out on​ that homepage is​ their Find a​ Lawyer Quick Search .​
This is​ their free to​ the​ consumer attorney-listing service (this is​ why you​ might want to​ test a​ listing with them and track results) .​
To get to​ the​ Attorney Match Service you​ have to​ know to​ click on​ Contact Lawyers navigation tab or​ notice it​ up there at​ the​ very top of​ the​ home page .​
Clicking on​ that takes you​ to​ a​ page where you​ input your zip code and the​ practice area you​ are seeking,​ however,​ it​ also tells you​ how many lawyers there are listed that are interested in​ receiving your request .​
You are required to​ fill in​ the​ identifying information with other case information .​
Once you​ do that you​ see the​ attorneys listed and pick the​ ones you​ want to​ send your request to​ and wait for their replies .​
The fee for the​ attorney member is​ $495 per year,​ however,​ you​ must have a​ biographical level listing on​ the​ site to​ be on​ the​ Attorney Match Service and that is​ $150 and up per month depending on​ the​ size of​ your firm .​
There is​ no guarantee for this service.
The final player in​ this marketing for law firms arena is​ Thompson’s Findlaw (mentioned earlier as​ an​ attorney-listing service) with their new attorney-matching website .​
The FindLaw system is​ similar to​ the​ Lawyers dot com system with three steps of​ #1 Select your legal need; #2 Tell us about your case; and #3 Choose the​ attorney that’s right for you​ .​
It is​ different from Lawyers dot com’s system since they have broken it​ out of​ their attorney-listing services completely with its own dedicated website .​
Their fees generally run from $500 to​ $1000 per month depending on​ your practice area and geographic location .​
They do not have a​ guarantee .​
They do report that they do set targets for each geographic area as​ well as​ practice combination and then will manage their marketing to​ get positive results for attorneys.
Well,​ now we have all the​ players in​ this particular niche of​ marketing for law firms with a​ lot of​ information .​
I​ think it​ would be imperative for me to​ mention one more item .​
Both Legal Match and CasePost have negative information on​ the​ Internet and it​ needs to​ be considered .​
If you​ go to​ Google and search just the​ term LegalMatch and then do the​ same with CasePost you​ will be able to​ find details about the​ negative information .​
One location that covers the​ negative information on​ LegalMatch with relevant links is​ at​ Wikipedia dot org (go to​ the​ site and look up LegalMatch) although that is​ disputed as​ not being sufficiently neutral in​ tone,​ which is​ one of​ Wikipedia’s requirements .​
If you​ want to​ see a​ string of​ negative information on​ CasePost go to: .​
I​ am not sure one needs to​ be overly concerned about this information since it​ is​ mostly in​ the​ past and you​ need to​ consider it.
See Part II of​ this article for my conclusions and recommendations as​ a​ result of​ my research .​
I​ can tell you​ now that this approach does have some merit but there are definite cautions as​ well so do read Part II.

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