Did Marketing Choose Your Lawyer?

Marketing: we see it every day. It is on our billboards, in our magazines, on our cell phones, and it plagues many websites. The constant bombardment of advertisements in our modern society is tailored by corporations and individuals alike to gain our attention and possibly our purchase. 

"Marketing can be a major influence in the decisions we make," says John Cooper, a founding partner from Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. 

This is especially true when it comes to lawyers. Law firms spend, on average, between two and ten percent of their revenue on marketing. However, this percentage varies depending on the firm's size, the type of law they practice, and their marketing strategy.


Surprisingly, less than half of law firms have a marketing budget. This is primarily due to size because large cases make a profit while small cases pay the bills. Only 14 percent of one-lawyer teams have a marketing budget. One percent of one-lawyer teams have internal marketing staff, while five percent use external marketing staff. Because one-lawyer teams usually do not earn large payouts, 66 percent manage their own marketing. 

As the law firm size grows, so does their likelihood for a budget. For firms with 2-9 lawyers, 32 percent have a marketing budget. It is unlikely they will do their own marketing instead of relying on either internal marketing staff (3 percent) or external marketing staff (21 percent). For this team size, it is more likely that administrative staff will be part of the firm. This administrative staff is in charge of marketing for 27 percent of 2-9 lawyer teams.

For firms with 10-49 lawyers, 63 percent have a marketing budget. These firms can be more independent, relying on internal staff (33 percent) more than external marketing staff (21 percent). 44 percent of 10-49 lawyer teams use their administrative staff for marketing purposes.

The largest firms have over 100 lawyers and have the budget to run as a business. A shocking 97 percent have internal marketing staff, while 23 percent use external marketing staff. This overlap of the data implies that some firms may even use internal and external staff to broaden their marketing.

Type of Law
The type of law a lawyer conducts can also majorly impact their marketing budget and strategy. A series of lawyer types rely on refer-a-friend marketing, where they get a majority of their customer base through other customers. This type of marketing usually applies to family lawyers, property lawyers, and those handling wills and estates. Because they rely on refer-a-friend marketing, they do not spend nearly as much money on billboards and television advertisements. The lawyer types that spend the most on marketing are personal injury, criminal law, immigration law, and civil litigation lawyers. They spend roughly ten-to-twenty percent of their budget on marketing. 

One of the most famous examples of personal injury marketing is Alexander Shunnarah, famous for his billboards plastered across the Southeastern United States. According to WAFF 48 – a local news station in Huntsville, Alabama – Shunnarah has roughly 2,500 billboards. Billboards in the United States cost between $750 and $15,000 depending on the materials cost and location of the sign. Assuming that all 2,500 billboards are at the lowest price of $750 apiece, that means Shunnarah spends $1,875,000 a month on just billboard marketing. This number is likely higher because several of his billboards are in more costly places, such as Birmingham and Atlanta.

Marketing Strategy

Marketing strategy is split into two steps. Firstly, marketing budgets are not divided equally. Some customers get more marketing than others which is usually referred to as the "funnel." The second aspect of marketing strategy is where that budget is spent. As we go to a more computerized world, more and more marketing money is spent on online marketing.

Understanding the Funnel

Famous marketeer Seth Godin references the funnel in his 2018 book, "This Is Marketing." He breaks down the funnel into four levels of marketing, and lawyers use these levels to determine how much of their budget they are going to spend on different marketing methods. 

The first level of the funnel is the top, often referred to as "awareness." This level simply means that people know the brand. Because the brand is in their mind, people are then more likely to choose that brand over another they are unaware of. Lawyers usually spend about 10 percent of their marketing budget on awareness marketing through social media posts, display ads, and YouTube. 

The second step of the funnel is a consideration, which means that people are actively looking into this brand for their service. People at this stage may visit the lawyer's website or look up the lawyer's name online to learn more about their service. About 20-50 percent of a firm's marketing budget is spent on this level through either Pay-Per-Click or Search Engine Optimization marketing.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing involves those clickable advertisements and links to the sides of online news articles and other websites. For every click that advertisement gets, the lawyer will pay the website a certain amount of money. In this way, the website owner gets paid for hosting the lawyer's link. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing is a little less obvious and involves manipulating Google's search results. SEO marketing aims to get their law firm to be the first result when someone searches "X city lawyer" on Google or other search engine websites. Web designers can do this by using keywords on the website and linking to other pages, increasing search traffic.

The third step of the funnel is conversion, which is when people begin attaining the service of a lawyer. Customers do this through phone calls, form submissions, and other contact methods. Because this is the closest step for a person to become a customer, most of the marketing budget will be spent on this level. Lawyers usually spend forty to seventy percent of their marketing budget on people in the conversion step. 

At this step, marketers focus on a mix of SEO and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEO is organically positioning a website at the top of search engines like Google through keywords and links. SEM is slightly different where lawyers will pay for the keywords they want on their website. 

The fourth step usually gets little to no marketing because people leave the funnel and officially become customers. At this stage, the client enters the consultation stage and begins using the lawyer's service that marketing has chosen for you.

However, these methods are not the only ways that lawyers market themselves to potential clients. Marketers will also divide these sub-budgets onto different websites and methods of communication with customers.

The Breakdown of Online Marketing 

Some websites are better than others for lawyers to advertise themselves. About 42 percent of firms market on LinkedIn, while 41 percent use email, 33 percent use Facebook and 21 percent use print methods like newspaper and billboard advertisements. Forty-eight percent of lawyers also use sponsorships for advertising themselves.

However, the marketing landscape in the legal profession has been shifting over the past few years. Lawyers rely less on Twitter, Avvo, Findlaw, Lawyers.com, Yellow Pages, and direct mail instead of turning their efforts towards video. 

Some lawyers also use charity to both market themselves and bring some good to their local communities. For example, Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers Cares donates money to Hampton Roads residents and charities. They offer a series of benefits to their community, including a distracted driving scholarship, an annual food bank donation, and a coat drop-off for students at the Southside STEM Academy at Campostella. 

The one thing consistent across all law firms is increasing their use of the internet in their marketing strategy. Sixty-five percent of law firms reported spending a majority of their marketing budget on digital marketing. Twenty-five percent of respondents reported using 51-to-75 percent of their budget online, while 40 percent reported using 76-to-100 percent of their budget on internet marketing. This increase makes sense because online marketing was consistently reported as the top-performing advertising channel by all law firms that responded.