I have noticed recently the launch of many lead generation Web sites for lawyers.
In a previous blog post , I noted that lead generation sites for lawyers as one category of legal start-ups were increasing and entering into an already crowded market space. By a "lead generation Web site" I mean a third party Web site whose primary purpose is to provide qualified leads to law firms. The site may be free to users, or sell legal advice to users for a fixed fee, but the purpose is still to generate leads for lawyers. A "lead generation web site" is typically what I call a multi-sided platform - one side involves users looking for a lawyer, and other side are the providers who offer legal services. The lawyers who subscribe to the Web site typically pay a "marketing" or "advertising" fee to get access to the leads generated by the Web site.
More mature legal generation sites are expanding their features and depth of offerings TotalAttorneys recently received of infusion of $15 million in new venture capital from Bain Capital Ventures of Mitt Romney fame. A new CEO, Paul Ford, with expertise in developing lead generation Web sites is in place providing leadership. TotalAttorneys now gives away their Web-based practice management system for a $1 a month, to attract attorneys to their more expensive legal generation services. At $1.00 a month this is really good value for a web-based practice management application. However, for TotalAttorneys this web-based practice management solution that was originally developed by Stephanie Kimbro, now with Burton-Law, and her husband and acquired by TotalAttorneys, is now just a marketing strategy for their lead generation services. TotalAttorneys now claims that it is," the leading US company providing customer acquisition for lawyers"
I am not sure that ExpertHub, owned by InternetBrands, which acquired Nolo last year, would agree with this assessment, with its broad network of practice specific legal sites now being reinvigorated with content from Nolo. [ See previous blog post on this acquisition ].
Plus the big elephants in the room like Findlaw and Lawyers.com are still growing and not going away. I can easily see FIndlaw and Lawyers.com incorporating some or all of the new features being promoted by the newer sites listed below. In addition there are many lead generation sites that range from AVVO to FreeAdvice to USLegalForms that have been around for awhile, are well funded, and which have as a core element of their business model driving traffic to law firms in return for advertising fees.
To these older players, now come these new entrants
AttorneyFee.com - attracts consumers by publishing legal fees that lawyers charge for typical transactions. I have written previously about AttorneyFee.com in this blog, as I think they have a original twist on how to attract consumers to a lead generation site. There is no fee charged to lawyer's at the present time for participating in the site. A new feature is user accounts for attorney, so a lawyer can control the data appearing in their profile. (Disclosure: I am now an advisor to this company ).
LexSpot - Claiming to be the best way to find a lawyer which enables you to make an appointment with a lawyer on line, integrating with the available time in the lawyer's calendar. Their concept is based on the ZocDoc model which has proved successful in linking patients to doctors.
LawZam - which enables video chat with an attorney online. Free consultations for consumers. Developing a mobile platform. Still in Beta. Eventually as the services scales, revenues will come from attorney marketing fees and advertising.
Lawdingo - Lets people consult immediately (or by appointment) with a relevant lawyer by phone or video conference. Participating attorneys offer 15 - 30 minute virtual legal consultations free of charge and thereafter have the option to bill clients their hourly rate, prorated to the minute. Lawyers gain the ability to engage (and charge) potential new clients located outside their immediate vicinity (but in their state), and people gain the convenience of never having to leave home to work with a lawyer. According to Nikhil Nirmel, CEO/founder of Lawdingo, the site is still in beta and is presently free for attorneys to participate.
MyRight - specializes in providing interactive dialogues which the consumer his or her legal problem and then access an attorney who can solve it.. (Attorney Directory not yet in place). This company start-up with initial funding from a StartEngine, a start-up accelerator based in Los Angeles. MyRight is interested in licensing its interactive guides to other third party entities according to co-founder, Nikhil Jhunjhnuwala.
MyLawSuit.com - specializes in generating leads for contingency fee lawyers. Consumers submit their cases for free and the lawyers decide of they want to take it. There is no initial charge to the lawyers to participate, except that if the lawyer wins a percentage of the fee it is paid to the Web site. The Web site states that it has an opinion from an nationally known ethics counsel (identity unknown) who has rendered an opinion that the Web site does not violate any ethical rules, but the opinion is not available for review. I would not participate in this Website unless I had an opportunity to review this opinion.
LegalSonar - uses the power of your social network to help you find just the right attorney. The site is integrated with the major social networks and uses the trust factor in your personal relationships to help you find an attorney for your problem. The Website provides a variety of social media support and reputation management services and charges $99.00 a month for the basic level of service.
Shpoonkle.com - is a reverse auction bidding Web site where prospects submit a case and lawyers who participate in the site submit bids. Like eBay, the prospect can view the bids from different lawyers and compare their pricing. In the next, upgrade and Website release, according to Robert Niznik, prospects will be able to compare the credentials and the experience of the bidding attorney. The site has an interesting Facebook type comment and news feed feature and integrates nicely with Facebook. Lawyers have been able to register for free, but a monetization strategy is in the works. This is a site to watch.
VirtuallLawDirect - enables consumers to find a lawyer and get legal advice online. The website enables you to manage your cases online, enter into retainer relationships with clients online. Lawyers can bill and get paid online. The site is free to consumers and lawyer presently. It is still in beta. The Website describes itself as "a utility through which legal and related services, information and products may be provided and/or supplied by Attorneys and/or other Users of the site, and none of Virtual Law Direct nor any Virtual Law Direct Representative provides legal advice, information, services or products."
How does a lawyer decide which of these sites to subscribe to?
If your marketing budget is limited you must be careful as a solo practitioners or small firm when buying into multiple lead generation sites. If you over invest and get few leads, you lose. If a Website is initially free to participate, there is no reason not to try it.
Here are some decision factors to consider:
First, how much traffic does the Web site get?If the site gets little traffic then the lawyer's profile won't be seen even if if you are the most brillant and competent lawyer. Not enough traffic, means not enough visibility. One way to tell how much traffic a lead generation site gets is to use compete.com .
Simply set up a free account, insert the site's URL, and you will get a free estimate of traffic from the last month. If the site is free for attorney participation try it. If the site wants to charge you a marketing fee look closely at the traffic flow,and ask the sales staff how many unique visitors a month. If the site gets less than 5,000 unique visitors a month, it's not ready for prime time and not ready to monetize its traffic flow by charging lawyers marketing or membership fees.So for example, according to Compete in July, TotalBankruptcy had 436, 237 unique visitors, LawPivot had 32,291 unique visitors, and Shpoonkle.com had 5,839 unique visitors.
Second, evaluate what is different about the site that will enable it to scale its traffic flow without massive amounts of Google AdWords advertising. If the site has to build its traffic by buying boat loads of Google AdWords, the marketing cost to you will be very high. You might be better just marketing your law firm website directly by incorporating new and unique content and increasing your own organic search results.
Third, does the lead generation Web site have a specialty focus. For example TotalAttorneys sponsors TotalDivorce And Total Bankruptcy , specialty sites that have high traffic and designed just to aggregate prospects with divorce and bankruptcy problems. LawPivot has a reputation for attracting business start-ups that need legal assistance. It is often difficult for a lead generation site to build traffic in many different areas For this reason, ExpertHub runs a network of specialty law practice Web sites that have a better chance of getting good organic placement in the search engines.
Fourth is pricing. Does the pricing or advertising fee make sense for my type of practice? Many of these sites are charging fees that are only justified if if you get a big case. But if your practice is serving up limited scope representation for modest fees, the fees charged by these sites will not result in a decent return on investment. If your average legal fee is $300 for an uncontested divorce, you can't pay the equivalent of $50 a lead, since you need about ten leads to convert to one lead that converts to a client that buys your service.
How many of these new sites will survive a year from now? It is hard to tell. My prediction is that there will be a shake out and many of the new lead generation sites won't be around in 2 years. Only time will tell.
In accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guidelines Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonial in Advertising" I am disclosing that I have a material connection to some of the companies referred to in this Post. I am the Founder/CEO of SmartLegalforms a lead generation Website for a network of virtual law firms, and Founder/CEO of DirectLaw, a virtual law firm platform provider. The opinions expressed here are my own. I did not receive any compensation from any source for writing this post. DirectLaw sponsors this blog by paying for the costs of hosting.