Marketing forCriminal Defense Lawyers

Your step-by-step guide to the top 10 marketing strategies to grow your firm.

How can you grow your criminal defense law firm?

Whether you’re a solo attorney focusing on impaired driving law in Toronto or a multi-location criminal defense law firm in New York, you need new clients grow your business.

The problem is that criminal defense is a viciously competitive practice area.

To stand out in a crowded space, marketing to potential customers require specific communications related to their criminal defense problem.

This guide covers 10 steps that will help you:

  • Develop marketing strategies that are more targeted to your audience
  • Focus on best-practice digital marketing strategies
  • Connect with more of your potential criminal defense law customers
  • Generate more leads and conversions

Step 1

Determine your ideal customers

Attempting to market your practice without doing your homework first will prove expensive and ineffective.

All good marketing is highly targeted.

With digital marketing, you have the tools at your disposal to be laser focused.

Customer Demographics

First, you need to establish exactly who your ideal customers are.

Think about these five demographic elements:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Profession
  • Salary

Going Deeper

Go a little deeper by considering:

  • The main legal services they require – defense for which crimes? Arson, DUI? Assault? Burglary? Cybercrime?
  • The qualities they are looking for in their lawyer
  • The main questions they need answered
  • Their main problem(s), challenge(s), or issue(s)
  • The information they’re interested in learning
  • What may confuse them or be perceived as threatening
  • What they want to achieve by engaging you
  • How much they are willing to pay to hire you
  • Any other factors that may be important to them

For most criminal defense firms, it’s a simple case of examining your current database and picking out the characteristics of your best customers.

For start-up firms, it may take a few more assumptions and best guesses at first.

Where are they looking for information?

For many criminal defense firms, your customers will come from the general public. But others specialize in corporate criminal defense or white collar criminal defense.

The ABA Journal reported in 2015 that:

One-third of all legal consumers begin their search for a law firm by using online resources.

That number is growing year on year.

You’ll find consumers looking for information in the same places as everybody else:

Online – searching through websites, reviews, FAQs etc. 

74% of consumers visit a law firm’s website to take action (Google Legal Services Study Sept 2013)

Checking Google & the other search engines for websites where they can find answers:

96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine. (Google Consumer Survey 2013)

On social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

Only 56% of lawyers are using social media for client development (American Bar Association Survey 2017)

What next?

Once you know what your potential customers are looking for and where they’re looking for it, it’s a case of meeting them on their terms and solving their problems.

Step 2

Build your brand with a clear value proposition

Why would a customer choose to hire you rather than one of your competitors?

Answer this question before investing time or resources into your marketing campaigns.

In step one you defined what the main problem(s) of your target audience is (are).

For instance, they’re facing:

  • A DWI charge
  • An assault charge
  • A charge for forgery
  • A cybecrime charge
  • A hit and run charge

With criminal defense, the problem your target audience is facing may be very clear and distinct from the start – which help you tailor a unique value proposition like Trey Porter Law below.


The value proposition should:

  • Be clear and compelling for readers
  • Relate closely to at least one of the main problems of your target audience
  • Speak directly to the needs, wants, and desires of your potential customers
  • Demonstrate how you help solve their problem
  • Convince readers that they’re in the right place and that they need to dig deeper in your website or contact you.

Like this:



Your value proposition may also relate to:

1. The emotional value you deliver for clients:



2. Your years of experience in the field:



3. The unique personal qualities you bring to client cases:



4. The volume of criminal cases you’ve handled:



5. The testimonials and awards you’ve received:



6. The great service levels you deliver to clients:



Your Brand

Building a family law firm brand is not just for multinational firms. And it’s not just about having the right letterheads and business cards.

It’s about shaping the right messaging to include:

  • Your USPs – what makes your law firm unique?
  • Your value proposition – why should anyone listen to you?
  • What you consistently do better than the rest? How do you differentiate yourself from the many competing family law firms?

Step 3

Build a website for a great user experience & lead-capture

Once you have your target audience and key messaging worked out, it’s time to get serious about your website.

It’s going to be the hub of all your marketing activity, so spend time to get it right.

You may know most of the basics of law firm websites already. If you don’t, go here for some ideas or download our eBook on best-practice web design.

Here, let’s concentrate on doing the things that most criminal defense law firms aren’t doing. This is mainly in two areas:

  • Improving the user experience and making it more memorable
  • Capturing leads more effectively

There are five main things to address here:

1. Mobile-first design



See how the above website is clean and uncluttered, easily readable, with large menus, text and call to action buttons?

It’s a mobile first design.

In 2016, mobile and tablet Internet usage outstripped desktop usage for the first time. That trend is continuing and it means that you need to approach website design a little differently:

  • Make sure all pages display clearly on all screen sizes
  • Call-to-action buttons must be easily clickable (preferably using the thumb)
  • Forms should be easy to complete on a smartphone

If you’re not doing these things you’re harming both the user experience and SEO (Google will penalize you for a non-responsive website).

The Google Mobile-Friendly Test tells you how friendly your website is for mobile.

Most WordPress themes are inherently mobile-friendly. It’s the best platform for designing your website for many other reasons too.

2. Live chat



Live chat is not going away.

Despite the fears of many lawyers about giving hours of free advice or contravening privacy laws, customers increasingly expect their questions to be answered immediately. Patience is in short supply online.

The option of live chat is especially useful for law firms that largely deal with the general public. That includes criminal defense firms.

It provides:

  • Immediacy – you can answer customer questions there and then before they hire you
  • Connectivity – you show customers that you’re progressive and prepared to meet them on their terms
  • Opportunity – to turn interest into genuine leads

Live chat effectively allows you to place a sign on the front of your firm 24/7 saying “we’re open for business”.

You also get the benefits of lead generation without it taking up your time. Live chat agents do all the work.

And it doesn’t need to pop up and be an annoyance for visitors. The live chat option can be very unobtrusive like this:



So why are so few family law firms providing this option on their websites?

3. Speed



Nothing destroys a user experience more than slow page load times.

Visitors form a very quick first impression of your website and, if they decide it’s slow, they may well hit the back button.

We don’t need to dwell too long on this but test your page load speeds using Pingdom or a similar tool.

Make sure that images are optimized, videos load without buffering, and that your website has an overall snappy feel.

4. Gated content

Gated content is a great way for criminal defense law firms to provide valuable content for visitors in return for their contact details.

It allows users to find the information they want. And it helps you to build your database of prospects and enhance your reputation as leaders in your practice area. It will draw people to your website.



Gated content needs to be of real value and should answer the key questions in your customers’ minds.

Think along the lines of a ‘cheat sheet’ or brief guide to one aspect of family law or a fuller piece of content like an eBook.

You have a lot of legal IP in your head. Shape it into high-value content that people will willingly leave their email address and phone number to receive.

5. Newsletter sign ups



Newsletters can be powerful resources for criminal defense law firms, as you’ll see in step 10.

One of their main benefits is that they can help you grow your database of leads. Capture the details of existing or potential customers and you can market to them later.

Step 4

Determine your ideal customers

Demonstrating to your visitors that they’re in the right place means establishing credibility with them early on.

You need to show that you can help with their query and, if they’re looking to hire a lawyer, that you’re capable of providing the results they’re looking for.

Gated content and newsletters (mentioned above) help with this. But an effective criminal defense law firm website needs to go beyond this.

Focus on the following seven areas:

Trust badges

Prominently feature trust badges that provide instant credibility to your firm:



Awards, accolades or media attention

If you’ve received awards or media attention, highlight this:



Client reviews or testimonials

Your potential customers want to know what other customers think of you:




Get specific by using statistics to back up your claims:



Case studies

Potential customers also want to know how you’ve helped people in similar situations to them:



The breadth of service you provide

Illustrate the full range of criminal defense law services you provide:



The size of your practice

Are you a single attorney firm or do you have the capability to look after multiple cases concurrently? If you have high capability, show it:



Step 5

Determine your ideal customers

Criminal defense law is a very wide practice area. The number of questions that people want answered is immeasurable.

Do your best to build go-to resources where potential customers can come to find answers. Become the content king in your field.

There are a number of ways to do this.

Many firms start by creating an FAQ page like this:



…or a resources page with articles, links, and downloads like this:



That’s a great start.

But to really standout, consider going a little more ‘multimedia’. The following four areas in particular…


The use of video marketing by law firms can increase organic traffic from search engines by 157 percent, according to hitsearch.

And you’re 53 times more likely to feature on the first page of Google if you include video, according to this infographic from Filmora.

In fact, by 2020, it’s estimated that video will make up 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic.

Video is increasingly how your customers like to gather information – especially millennials and the younger audience. It improves the user experience, builds trust, and increases leads.



As well as introducing your attorneys, featuring reviews, and providing a general overview of your firm, you can use video to answer FAQs and provide how-to information.

Webinars and podcasts

Running webinars and recording podcasts is a way to reach out to multiple customers at the same time – without having to provide free, individual, one-on-one consultations.

This can save time and help you demonstrate your expertise, connecting with potential customers and answering their questions – which builds trust and authority.



Obviously, criminal defense law is a sensitive area so the content, the privacy of participants, and security all need to be carefully managed; but it is an effective way to set your firm apart from others.



GoToWebinar or Zoom are good places to start with webinar software.


Another powerful way to present criminal defense law information to your web visitors is through infographics.

They catch the eye and provide a break from text – important for the user experience. Here’s a section from an excellent one by the Arizona Criminal Law Team:



Blog posts

The American Bar Association’s 2017 Legal Technology Report found that 43 percent of respondents had a client retain their services directly due to their blogging efforts.



Note how the above blog page is up to date with current posts and well-categorized.

Writing blog posts and articles (especially long-form, in-depth posts that create topical authority) is effective marketing for criminal defense law firms for many reasons:

  • It demonstrates know-how and expertise
  • It lets potential customers know that you’re active and current
  • It raises your credibility
  • It helps you answer customer questions in detail
  • It can improve search rankings by updating your site with fresh content
  • Guest blogging can earn valuable backlinks that also aid SEO

Step 6

Get more visible with search engine marketing that drives traffic

93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine. But 75 percent of people never go past the first page.

So search engine optimization (SEO) matters for every law firm. And in especially competitive areas like criminal defense law, it matters even more.

A beautiful website that nobody sees is no good to anyone.

If you’re not on the first page of Google, you’re passing up the chance to send a flow of traffic to your website. More traffic to a well-designed website means more leads.

Search engine marketing is a vast topic – too vast to go into detail here. So let’s just focus on a few of the actionable steps that you and your SEO people can take to improve rankings.

Build content around the right keywords

Find the phrases that best describe your law firm to your target audience.

Your customers will be searching for two types of phrases based on two types of intent:

  • Informational terms like ‘dui law in north carolina’ where the searcher is looking for answers to specific legal questions
  • Transactional terms like ‘dui attorney charlotte’ where the searcher probably intends to hire a lawyer

Get specific, drill down into the niche areas of your practice and build your website around the keyword phrases that you come up with.

Break your practice areas down and create a separate page targeting one specific keyword per sub-practice area, e.g. aggravated robbery, assault charges, record clearing, criminal appeals, cyber crimes, DWI, drug cases, etc.

There are three main types of keywords:

    • Head keywords: single-word general terms with high competition, like ‘lawyers’
    • Body keywords: 2-3 word phrases attracting a good search volume but more specific than head keywords – like ‘criminal defense attorney’
    • Long tail keywords: 4+ word phrases that are very specific, such as ‘Miami DUI Defense Attorneys’



In general, look for body and long tail keywords as these are usually less competitive and easier to rank for than head keywords.

A couple of tools to help you plan your keywords are Google Keyword Planner (for which you’ll need an AdWords account) and

On-page SEO

This is the process of optimizing a web page’s content and code to improve results in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

It revolves around keyword usage: but a variety of factors, including keyword placement, readability, dwell time, usability, image usage, URL optimization, and other factors all come together.

Note in the following example how the keywords fit naturally into the text and read well.



It generally focuses on two main areas:

  • Content-related SEO: usually for copywriters to attend to: long format and in-depth content, optimized for universal search, and creating topical authority.
  • Technical on-page SEO: usually for web developers or SEO specialists to attend to: involving page load speeds, social media share-ability, location optimization, mobile responsiveness, image alt tags, meta titles and descriptions, indexation, sitemaps, Google My Business optimization, etc.

Off-page SEO



This refers to all the ‘other’ techniques used to improve rankings in the search results and includes:

  • Link-building – Google still uses backlinks as a major indicator of authority
  • Citations – ‘mentions’ of your business name, address, and/or telephone number in quality directories will earn you valuable SEO ‘juice’ (like in the above example with the Avvo directory)
  • Reviews – used as a ranking indicator and they also help potential clients understand your services better

SEO methods to steer clear of:

  • Keyword stuffing – this produces low-quality, unreadable content
  • Link farms – this associates your website with low-quality links (which are worthless)
  • Content farms – this almost guarantees low-quality content

Much more about SEO can be found in our article: Law Firm SEO: 19 Actionable SEO Techniques To Dominate Google.

Why are these items so important?

According to a Google consumer survey in 2013, 96 percent of people seeking legal advice use a search engine.

The bottom line: your target clients are looking for criminal defense lawyers through search. You need to rank near the top of the first page of Google for them to find and contact you – rather than the competition.

Around 60 percent of clicks are generated by the top three SERP results. Your long-term target should be to rank on page one for all your main keywords – nothing else matters!

Note: it can take several months to see stellar results.

Step 7

Increase visibility in local search

Many criminal defense law firms target clients from the local area. This requires strong local SEO.

There is much more detail about this in our definitive guide to law firm SEO but for now let’s briefly look at two key areas that can start to improve your rankings in local search and generate more leads.

Google My Business

Your Google My Business (Google Local) account must be fully optimized.

It’s arguably your second most important web property after your website. And it’s more important than ever with listings showing prominently on Google’s SERPs:



Make sure that you manage the information about your law firm:

  • Keep it up to date
  • Fill out every field that Google allows
  • Choose the correct category e.g. dui attorney, white collar crime attorney
  • Include images of your law firm and add keywords to image descriptions
  • Seek plenty of Google reviews
  • Maintain consistent name, address and phone number (‘NAP’) details across all your web properties.

This will help people searching for a criminal defense lawyer in your local area find you first – rather than one of your competitors.

Law firm directories

The main law firm directories, such as Avvo, Yelp, FindLaw, and Justia etc. can also help people in your local area find your law firm.

Getting a free or paid listing in these main directories can generate traffic and new leads.

The top listings in the most popular categories of FindLaw are usually paid listings like this:



Satellite Location Pages

Generating visibility in Google’s Local Search Results is not the only opportunity for law firms.

Creating Satellite Locations Pages, web pages built for suburbs and small cities surrounding a major hub, is a tactic that can be effective in generating additional visibility in Google’s search results.

Just look at this example.


Step 8

Super-power your lead-generation with PPC

If you had to choose only one of the 10 steps mentioned in this playbook, it should probably be this one, based on results we’ve seen it deliver.

Yes, organic search does drive traffic to your website. But it takes time.

One of the main benefits of pay-per-click traffic is that, when you carefully budget, plan, and optimize AdWords campaigns, a flow of highly targeted and qualified leads starts coming your way almost immediately. And it continues for as long as you run the campaigns.

Ads now cover as much as 85 percent of the space ‘above the fold’ on the SERPs.

When someone searches for “best criminal defense lawyer in (insert location)”, their intent to hire is likely high; so it’s important to rank well like this:


When people click your ad, you pay for it. But see how it stands out at the top of the page.

Imagine the immediate flow of emails or calls from people ready to hire you.

What mistakes have you made in the past with AdWords?

Some law firms question the return on investment provided by AdWords.

This is generally because of a poor experience in the past. But is that down to AdWord itself or the AdWords strategy that’s been applied?

It’s often due to:

  • “DIY” campaigns not being managed correctly
  • Not targeting the right keywords
  • Costly mistakes – like not stating negative keywords, which exclude irrelevant searches like criminal defense lawyer training
  • Campaigns not being run within pre-agreed spend guidelines
  • Not budgeting enough for effective campaigns
  • Not hiring AdWords specialists to optimize performance
  • Not sticking at campaigns for long enough – giving up after a month
  • Focusing on the ad only – and not the landing pages
  • Poor copy writing

What you need to do for AdWords to work

For your AdWords campaigns to deliver excellent results:

  • Hire experienced and professional AdWords specialists to set up, run, and test campaigns – mistakes are costly
  • Focus on targeting long tail (niche) keywords
  • Use dynamic keyword extension in your ad copy to match customer’s search terms
  • Use ad extensions – to help your ads stand out and increase click-through rates
  • Go local with your search ads – and attract more of your target audience from a defined geographical radius
  • Target zip codes and postal codes – not just cities
  • Request an agreement with your AdWords professional where no leads = no fees
  • Insist on regular reporting from the firm you hire
  • Budget for at least $1000 per month spend

Build high-converting landing pages


An effective AdWords campaign focuses not only on ad copy but also on landing pages that convert leads.

These pages are where people who click end up. It’s where you continue the process of converting them into paying clients.

So how do you convert more clicks into clients?

Every landing page should be unique, optimized, professionally written, and designed with the following in mind:

  • Focus on the visitor taking one action
  • It’s the difference between simply getting more traffic and getting more paying clients
  • When visitors land, give them what they expect – copy related directly to the ad they’ve clicked on
  • Provide visitors with an immediate and compelling value proposition – why should they click the call-to-action button?

You can check out these best law firm landing page for some ideas.

Step 9

Engage in legal PR work with media outreach

Being in the news, getting people talking about you, and generally demonstrating that you’re active in the local community has not stopped being valuable now everyone’s online.

You just need to go about it slightly differently.

Legal PR remains a great way to enhance your firm’s profile, become more visible, and drive traffic and leads.



Media outreach campaigns

Developing relationships in the media may take time. But it’s worth it. Try the following strategies:

  • Network and cultivate closer relationships with key players in your local press – offer them your expert advice.
  • Customize all correspondence with the media outlet – tell them why their audience will benefit – make it about what they can get out of it rather than you.
  • Make sure they know how to contact you when a criminal defense law expert is required to add ‘meat’ or professional opinion to a story.
  • Engage in authority-building work (such as the type of content mentioned in step five), which can help draw attention to you and your firm.

How does this help your firm?

Media outreach helps your marketing efforts in several important ways…

Writing articles for publications and sharing your knowledge of criminal defense law gets your name out there and people talking about you:



Mentions in leading media outlets and legal publications can generate huge authority, credibility, and interest in your firm:



Your firm or your attorneys may get mentions in legal news aggregation websites or backlinks from authoritative media sites, improving rankings:



You can feature press releases as fresh content on your website:



Step 10

Don’t stop there: Create an effective system for lead conversion too…

All the leads in the world are no good to your firm unless you have an effective system to convert them into paying customers.

This is an area that some criminal defense law firms struggle with.

When someone with a transactional enquiry contacts you, how do you respond to the call or email?

If an email sits in your inbox for days or weeks, it will go cold.

  • Do you have a process that you take the client through, to qualify them and let them know how you can help?
  • Do you clearly communicate the benefits of hiring you? Or is the conversation arbitrary and ad lib?

Our most successful clients are those that actively measure – and attempt to improve – the time between a lead being submitted and respond to.

You can learn more about an effective law firm sales process here.

Request A Free Marketing Consultation

Speak with an experienced marketing specialist today.

What to expect from your free marketing consultation.

  • Calin Yablonski or Dennis Dimka will contact you to discuss your firm.
  • During the consultation, we will discuss your budget, objectives, audience, and timeline.
  • We will recommend solutions for helping you to achieve your business goals.
  • If we sound like a fit, we will prepare a proposal within 48 business hours.
  • Thoroughly impressed, you will sit back in a comfy chair and ponder why you didn’t contact us sooner.