escape-findlaw

Sign up for Findlaw, they said. It’ll be awesome, they said.

Now your marketing is on the rocks, ownership of your website is in question and you’re spending thousands of dollars each year and are not entirely sure what you’re getting in return.

Sound familiar?

Many law firms remain with FindLaw because…

  1. They’re not sure how to escape their clutches.
  2. They don’t know how to transition to another agency or
  3. They believe that doing so will cost them dearly (both financially and with SEO rankings).

But, there is hope. Salvation is possible.

Like Andy Dufresne in the epic 1994 movie Shawshank Redemption, you can gain your freedom (and you don’t have to climb through a sewage pipe to do it). Cue the animated gif…

shawshank-redemption

Freedom. Sweet, sweet freedom.

In this article, I’ll show you exactly how to escape FindLaw for good.


We will cover:

  • The FindLaw contract and cancellation penalties
  • What exactly you’re getting for your money
  • Domain names and ownership
  • What you own and what FindLaw owns
  • The transition process to another service – step-by-step

It’s easier than you imagine. So, whether your FindLaw contract is up for renewal or you want to know whether you can break it, let’s get into it…


Step 1: Review Your FindLaw contract

FindLaw is owned by Thomson Reuters, a Canadian multinational corporation. As one might expect, a company that provides marketing services to lawyers has covered its bases with respect to contracts.

findlaw-contract

Source: Findlaw Master Service Agreement

To start your escape plan, dig out your FindLaw contract and take a good look at it. What does it say (including the fine print)?

  • Exactly what ongoing services are FindLaw providing for you?
  • How much are you paying monthly for these services?
  • How long have you committed to them – 12 months, 24 months, 36 months, or more?
  • When’s the contract due for renewal?

Get familiar with exactly what FindLaw are providing and how much you’re paying. That’s the first step.

A few important items from Findlaw’s master service agreement include:

  1. Automatic Renewal. Following an Order Term, Services will automatically continue in effect at then-current list pricing until the parties agree on a renewal order or until one party terminates the agreement
  2. Disclaimer of Warranty. We make no guarantees, representations, or warranties to you regarding the results or performance of the Services, including the quality or volume of Internet traffic or business the Services will generate.
  3. No Exclusivity or Conflict of Interest. We may provide Services to law firms throughout the world, without limitation.
  4. Limitation of Claims: No claim arising out of or related to any Service may be brought by either party more than 12 months after the Service ends

Next, you will want to review the Terms and Conditions. As a lawyer, you will be able to get to grips with them easier than most people however most law firms don’t even look at them.

Note that, depending on how long you have been with FindLaw, breaking the agreement may mean you have to buy out the remaining months on your contract.

Step 2: Find out what you’re getting for your money

Next, break down exactly what you’re getting for your money.

If you have a relatively simple 8 to 10-page site, you’re probably paying in the region of $250 to $600 per month for your website on FindLaw, depending on whether it’s your first year or subsequent years.

In most cases, the cost of building the website is amortized over the first 12 months of the contract; so the monthly fee comes down after the first year.

From there, unless you actively engage with FindLaw regularly, you may find that the bills keep coming in but you’re not clear on what you’re actually getting for your money.

It can be confusing.

Additional services can run into thousands of dollars per month. The question to ask is, are you getting value for it?

Monthly fees may include:

  • Domain name hosting – your domain name is your website address, e.g. mytoplawfirm.com. If you got FindLaw to register it for you, there would also be a charge for this.
  • Website hosting and ‘management’ – the hosting of your website and updates to its content, images and functionality.
  • Email hosting – is FindLaw hosting your email as well as your website?
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – a service designed to increase your website’s rankings in Google’s search results.
  • Content creation – the writing of blog articles, service pages and resources.
  • Video and live chat – video creation, marketing and the management of live chat.
  • Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing services – the management of optimization of your Google Adwords campaigns.

findlaw-services

A listing in the FindLaw legal directory may generate two forms of traffic:

  • From your FindLaw profile
  • From directory placements

But it is costing you money every month. Work out what you’re paying for each click-through and lead from directory placements.

findlaw-directory-services

If every click is costing you $100 and they’re not converting into leads, it’s another expense that will inflate your monthly fee.

By analyzing your current set up with FindLaw, you can see what you’re currently spending – and look to reduce it by transitioning to a more cost-effective law firm marketing strategy.

Step 3: Understand what you own and what they own

This is traditionally one of the thorniest issues with FindLaw: who owns what?

Get clear on what you can take – and what you can’t – as this is central to a smooth transition process.

Content

Previously, there were problems about ownership of the content on your site. You only owned what you wrote. This changed in the terms and conditions in recent times:

“Ownership: Subject to your fulfilment of all payment obligations under this Agreement, we assign you all right, title, and interest we have in any work specifically created for you under the Agreement […]” 

Anything that was custom-written for your firm is yours, including the meta data. So there should be no ownership issues with transferring this over to any web hosting service you choose.

However, if there are elements of your website that you are “leasing” from FindLaw (like with the example below from Laura Dale & Associates), these will have to remain behind.

findlaw-live-chat

As well as live chat, this content could be newsletters, forms, generic practice pages or FAQS. The smart thing to do is to get them professionally rewritten anyway.

Domain name

Ownership of your domain name is yours. If you asked FindLaw to register your domain name, it’s still yours. It’s the key to the front door of your law firm’s online presence so it makes sense that you control who gets access.

This advice rings true from any vendor you choose to work with, not only FindLaw. You should always, always, always own your domain name. If someone attempts to convince you otherwise run fast and far.

To find out who registered your domain, go to whois.net and type in your domain name. This will provide all the details you need about the name to aid a smooth transition later (see the next step).

whois-lookup

Design

The design and graphics on your website are owned by FindLaw – but you can buy them for four percent of the annual value of the website.

So if your site is costing you $10,000 per year, it will cost you $400 to purchase the design and graphics on a disc or via an HTML link.

Once you have these raw design files, they will need to be rebuilt by a web designer.

It’s typically not recommended to purchase these files.

Step 4: Get your domain name details in order (email and website)

Your domain name is the link to your email as well as your website. Make sure you know where both are currently hosted – are both with FindLaw?

  • If your domain name was registered by FindLaw, it needs to be transferred to your own account.
  • If you purchased your own domain name, you probably have your own GoDaddy account (or similar).

Again, you can check where your domain name is hosted by visiting https://www.whois.net/

Make sure you have the login details as these will be required when you change the hosting details of the website (and email) from FindLaw.

If your domain name is hosted by FindLaw, request that they change the Registrant Contact, Administrative Contact and Technical Contact of the domain name to the name and contact details of your IT person.

Alternatively, if you’re outsourcing the transition process, change the technical contact to their details and make your law firm the Administrative and Registrant contacts.

Also, check when the domain name renewal is due and ensure that it will not expire. If it is due to expire, register it for another couple of years. It won’t cost you more than $20.

This is a useful resource for updating or correcting domain name information.

Step 5: Collect login credentials for all your key Google accounts and web properties

Once you’ve sorted out your domain name and hosting details, it’s time to take stock of your other key accounts for your web presence and make sure that you have controlling access.

This will include all of your Google accounts (there may be more of these than you realize) and your social media accounts:

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a platform that reports the performance of your website.

Key metrics it monitors include:

  • Sessions: A session is the period time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc.
  • Users: Users who have initiated at least one session during the date range.
  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of single-page sessions.
  • Pages/Session: Pages/Session (Average Page Depth) is the average number of pages viewed during a session. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
  • Pageviews: Pageviews is the total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.

This is yours. When you transition from FindLaw, you can request administrative access so that you can remove their access to your analytics data.

Google AdWords

Google AdWords can be a very valuable – or very expensive – lead generator for your law firm. Managing keyword targets and budgets should be entrusted to professionals whom you trust.

Remember, every time someone clicks on one of your ads, it costs you money.

If FindLaw is currently managing your Google AdWords account and you’re seeing little from it, transitioning should be a priority.

Make sure you get your account details from FindLaw and pass them on to the professionals you select to manage your AdWords campaigns going forward.

Google Search Console (AKA ‘Webmaster Tools’)

Google Search Console is a free web service that allows webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites.

This is important for Search Engine Optimization so make sure you have your log in details passed to whoever is managing your SEO.

Google Tag Manager

Google’s tag management system manages JavaScript and HTML tags used for tracking and analytics on websites.

Again, this is a useful tool for tracking and adjusting performance. Make sure you have the login details for controlling access.

Google My Business

For local SEO, you’ll need access to your Google My Business account.

This is where you create or modify your business listing and ensure that you appear to people in your local area looking for businesses like yours.

Many law firms specifically target the local market. Regardless of whether yours does, it’s useful to maintain a healthy Google My Business listing for searchability.

Social media accounts

As well as your Google accounts, you probably have LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts.

Collect all your login details and ensure you have administration rights for all these accounts.

Step 6: Analyse your existing site for what can be replicated

As explained, the content of your existing FindLaw website is yours, except where you are leasing content services like FAQs, blogs, generic practice pages, etc.

It may simply be a case of replicating what’s on the FindLaw server on the new web hosting servers you decide to use (such as WordPress).

You may also want to redesign some pages and update or add new content (such as live chat or a blog), so it’s best to work with a professional web designer during this process – more about this in Step 7 below.

To establish exactly what you have to build on, take a simple inventory of your existing FindLaw website:

  • What features and functions are on your current website?
  • Is FindLaw providing video, live chat, contact forms, trackable phone numbers etc.?
  • Is it mobile responsive?

Go through with your web designer what is currently on your site – what needs to be retained and what needs to be added.

Step 7: Get the right professionals in to help with the transition

You’re unlikely to attempt to transition from FindLaw on your own. It can be done, but the road to freedom is lined with landmines. Who you’ll need to help will largely depend on what FindLaw currently provides and the extent of the changes you intend to make.

If your website, email, and most of your marketing (PPC, content marketing, etc.) is currently managed by FindLaw, you’ll likely need:

  • An IT professional
  • A web designer/developer
  • A marketing specialist

Make sure that each is on hand, is aware of your plans and understands their responsibilities during the transition process.

Alternatively…


Need a partner in crime? Let us help you to escape FindLaw unscathed!

To make the transition smooth and pain-free, our team of digital marketing professions can manage the entire process for you.

We’ll take care of the following:

  • A full inventory of all your existing web properties.
  • Domain name (DNS) management – we’ll either have the domain name transferred to your own account or work with your existing developer or IT team to point it to a new hosting account (which you will own).
  • Updating email and website records – we recommend Google Apps (GSuite) for mail hosting; we’ll work with your existing IT people or configure your mail ourselves to make it a smooth transition.
  • If you choose a WordPress website, we’ll transfer your site to a hosting account that you will own and set up user accounts for your team members (we recommend WPEngine for this).
  • Adding new landing pages and other features as required to upgrade the functionality of your website.
  • Helping you create compelling legal content that attracts more of your target audience.
  • Testing/updating the website’s speed, plugins and contact forms to ensure they’re functioning correctly.
  • Setting up 301 redirects that point any traffic from your old FindLaw site to your new website.
  • The SEO work that optimizes your site and assists with ranking in the search engines.
  • Configuring your Google AdWords campaign to get it back online quickly and effectively.

Contact us now about making the change.

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