web design puzzleThis discussion in my Website Options for Law Firms series will take a look at Findlaw as a provider. I’ve previously reviewed the services offered by other large companies that hold themselves out as specializing in law firm marketing. These discussions included a review of Scorpion Web Design as well as a review of Justia. Let’s take a look at Findlaw.

My experience in evaluating Findlaw as a website option for law firms

Attorneys are very familiar with Findlaw. The company is currently owned by Thomson Reuters after having been originally founded in 1995. The company offers a variety of legal marketing products which include website services, online legal directories for attorneys that are divided by practice area and geography, as well as other products. The company is now also offering assistance to attorneys with non-web based forms of advertising. My review is going to focus exclusively on the website services as that is the focus of this series.

I will start off by saying that my experience reviewing Findlaw was a night and day difference from when I reviewed Scorpion Web Design, LexisNexis, or Justia. The lack of cooperation from each of those entities made me feel as if I must have been inquiring about top level government defense secrets. In reviewing Findlaw, I was able to speak with multiple representatives who were very helpful in answering my questions. After getting quite a bit of feedback, and running a series of tests, I feel comfortable discussing the service.

Evaluating Findlaw as a website platform for lawyers and law firms

As with all other posts in this series, I’m evaluating Findlaw in the areas of cost, SEO potential, ease of use, and how well the company seems to be keeping up with the changing web environment.

Analyzing the cost of Findlaw websites

Findlaw offers levels of pricing for attorney websites which are based on the number of pages the site contains. The more pages on the site then the higher the site’s price will be. This structure was described as ranging from $250 to being in the thousands per month. The company does offer discounts if you buy additional products, such as directory listings, but doing so will still increase your overall monthly cost.

Findlaw sites, based on my research, are certainly on the “pricey” side of the options we’ve looked at. Also, I’ve conversed with multiple attorneys while preparing this review which take issue with the fact that the company requires a contract that is typically 2-3 years. So using Findlaw does mean locking one’s self into a long-term commitment at the higher end of a price range. A good thing is that Findlaw has a uniform pricing structure for their websites across the country. This is in contrast to Scorpion Web Design who appears to charge a different price, for the same level of work, depending on an attorney’s geography.

On the cost front, expect Findlaw to be as expensive, and probably more expensive, than other options you may be considering.

Analyzing the SEO potential of Findlaw Websites

Website Development CycleI analyzed multiple sites featured on Findlaw’s website gallery page. I also conducted a series of Google searches in the home markets of these sites (which were smaller markets) along with similar searches of larger markets. I was concerned about red flags raised from an SEO perspective.

Each of the sites I tested scored poorly in terms of their page speed loading score, which I tested through tools provided by Google (who is the Judge and Jury after all). These low scores mean that Google sees these sites as potentially loading slowly, which detracts from the user experience. This is a big one in terms of SEO.

Other issues were found with the websites I analyzed. Some had incorrectly formatted page titles and Meta descriptions while others did not have problems in this area. Also, one site used Flash even though Flash is quickly falling out of favor with search engines.

Findlaw employs content writers for each of their sites. The content (which is crucial to how your site performs in search) is written with the input of the attorney receiving the site. The content I reviewed on the various websites did contain a level of personalization but was not as personalized to each lawyer as I would have liked. It was more personalized however, than the content I reviewed on websites by Scorpion Web Design.

I performed a number of Google searches for sites that were located on Findlaw’s gallery page. These sites did well in search for the particular niches. That being said, these sites were markets with smaller populations. For a more comprehensive test I also performed the same searches in two larger markets. Some of these searches yielded one Findlaw site in first page results while some of these searches yielded none.

In terms of the services I’ve reviewed in this series I would say Findlaw wins on the SEO front. That being said, if you are in a market/niche that is competitive you are in all likelihood going to have a hard time competing if you are using their cheaper products. Given that the technological issues I described above were not consistent across sites, I would also suggest you take steps to ensure that the described technical problems do not exist on your Findlaw site.

Evaluating a Findlaw website’s ease of use

Bad website designerGiven that Findlaw is an all encompassing service, and not a do-it-yourself platform, I evaluated ease of use by looking at how painless it is to have a site constructed within a reasonable amount of time as well as the level of ongoing support received.

The company provides far more support than the other options I’ve looked at. The process of having a site constructed appears to be relatively painless. Also, there are roughly 150 Findlaw representatives working in different parts of the US and a point is made by these representatives to try to visit with the attorney on a semi-regular basis. This should provide an attorney an additional avenue to address concerns.

Given that support from options such as Scorpion and Justia appears to be lacking, Findlaw would have to get the nod, over those options, in terms of ease of use/support.

Analyzing whether Findlaw’s websites are well-suited to the changing web environment

The web is changing in rapid fashion. Firms whom we assist with our attorney website and design packages are currently seeing roughly forty percent of their traffic coming from mobile devices. Given that the rapid rate of change, an attorney wanting long-term success must pick a developer who is adapting to this changing environment.

Findlaw’s sites utilized a responsive design, which is the correct approach to mobile. This is different than the sites of Scorpion Web Design, which utilized an incorrect “.m” approach to mobile. Findlaw’s sites are better suited for the changing web environment than other options in this series.

My conclusions as to whether attorneys should use Findlaw for their online marketing

Findlaw is the better option for lawyers than the other non-DIY options I’ve reviewed. The biggest drawback to this company is cost, as it is the most expensive if you wish to be competitive.

As with all options in this series, I did not include a comparison of the services offered by our company, SEO for Lawyers. The problems with doing so, from an objectivity standpoint, are obvious. It is also important to note that I am analyzing Findlaw in relation to the other options, analyzed in this series, which cater explicitly to attorneys. Just because a company explicitly holds itself out as marketing exclusively to law firms does not mean that said service is the best option for a law firm.

The next post in this series will look at “other options” available to lawyers who wish to establish a web presence.