Most people never expect to hire a lawyer. However, by some estimates, there are over 40 million lawsuits filed every year in the United States. Every one of these lawsuits requires at least two lawyers — one for each side.
Additionally, police make over 10 million arrests per year. Although many of these arrests do not result in charges, many of these defendants also need a lawyer.
As a result, there are over 1.3 million lawyers in the United States. While some work in government or in-house with businesses, many of these lawyers are in private practice. When you need a lawyer, these are the lawyers you hire for your case.
Finding a lawyer online is easy. There are many legal directories online that will help you find a lawyer website. But how can you interpret what you read and what should you expect when you hire a lawyer online?
Here are ten things to look for when you need to find a lawyer website:
Beware of Scams
Most people are vigilant about online scams, but fake lawyer websites exist and people have been scammed. Online scammers tend to target immigrants with fake immigration law firm websites. Because of the language barrier and desperate plight, immigrants are easy prey for these scammers. However, fake websites have targeted potential clients who need a variety of services.
Spotting a fake lawyer website can be difficult, but any of these warning signs should have you on guard against a scammer:
- The lawyer or firm has no physical address.
- Legitimate lawyer directories, like lawyers.com operated by Martindale-Hubbell, have no link to find the lawyer website.
- The state bar association has no record of the lawyer.
- The lawyer asks for money to be wired or sent electronically before meeting.
- The lawyer or firm only communicates by email or messaging app and does not take phone calls.
Lawyer scams are particularly effective with injured people. Such people are desperate to find a lawyer and may be easily duped. However, there are legitimate ways to find a lawyer website without falling prey to online scammers pretending to be an injury lawyer.
Lawyers Must Follow Online Marketing Rules
Until the mid-1990s, the World Wide Web was primarily used by educational institutions and defense contractors to exchange information. E-commerce did not become a method of doing business until the late-1990s.
Many state bar associations were hesitant to allow online marketing by lawyers and law firms. However, all states allow lawyer websites, subject to the lawyer advertising rules established by that state’s bar association.
Generally speaking, rules for lawyer websites include:
- Lawyers cannot promise results or predict an outcome for a case
- Lawyers usually cannot represent they are “specialists” or “experts” in any field of law.
- Websites cannot include false or misleading statements.
- Websites must include a name, address, and telephone number of a lawyer or law firm responsible for the content of the website.
- Lawyers are not allowed to provide legal advice via website since the lawyer has not established a lawyer-client relationship with every reader.
If you are trying to find a lawyer website that promises results, gives free online legal advice, or states the lawyer is a “specialist” in a particular field of law, you will likely end up at a scam website since lawyers usually cannot include this content on their websites.
Look for Lawyer Ratings
Just like restaurants and restaurants, lawyers have online ratings. Some ratings are user-submitted. For example, Yelp ratings are submitted by website users who may, or may not, have been clients. User review sites can be misleading for a few reasons:
- Users are not verified to be clients or former clients of the lawyer reviewed.
- Reviewers could be disgruntled opposing parties or opposing lawyers. For example, if an injury attorney beats a negligent driver in a car accident case, there is nothing to stop the driver from giving the injury attorney a bad review.
- Business profiles on review sites might not belong to the lawyer or law firm reviewed.
More reliable than general business review sites are lawyer-specific review sites. For example, Martindale-Hubbell is a highly respected lawyer review publication that now provides its ratings online. The highest rating for a lawyer is “AV.” And AV-rated lawyer has received an “A” rating for legal knowledge and “V” rating for ethics.
This lawyer review site is more reliable because:
- Lawyers pay to be listed on Martindale-Hubbell and provide profile information including education, background, practice areas, and contact information so users can find a lawyer website, address, and phone number for the lawyer.
- Reviews are submitted by other lawyers and verified clients based on the lawyer’s knowledge and ethical reputation.
- Martindale-Hubbell is one of the oldest and best-known lawyer directories.
Use a Search Engine
Lawyer websites are indexed by search engines the same way that other business websites are indexed. Moreover, many law firms have adopted search engine optimization (SEO) practices to ensure that search terms used by potential clients help the searcher find a lawyer website that is relevant.
For example, a lawyer who practices business law might include keywords in the lawyer’s website like “LLC,” “business incorporation,” and “how to form a corporation.” These and other keywords would be worked into the visible text and metadata so that a business founder searching for a lawyer can find a lawyer website for the lawyer.
Search engines can be an effective way to narrow down your choices of lawyers. For example, lawyers who practice employment law usually represent employees or employers, but not both. Searching for “employment lawyer for employees” might eliminate some firms that focus their practice on the employer side of employment law.
Use Local Search
Whether you know it or not, you have probably used a local search. When you search for “pizza near me,” your search results return business profiles based on the location of your phone.
You can use this same search strategy to find a “lawyer near me.” However, like a search engine, you will likely need to add keywords to narrow down the local search results. Thus, if you are looking for a disability attorney to help you fight the Veterans Administration for disability benefits, you might want to search for “VA disability lawyer near me” or “veteran disability benefits lawyer near me” so your search results are more relevant.
The benefit of using a local search for finding a lawyer is that the business profile that is returned is often created with input from the law firm. Thus, the address, office hours, and phone number should be accurate. Moreover, the business profile will include the law firm’s URL to find a lawyer website and may include user reviews. However, Google user reviews should be read with a grain of salt for the reasons described above.
Talk to Your Voice Assistant
Voice assistants and smart speakers are being used in an increasing number of web searches. The primary issue with using voice assistants to find a lawyer website is that many websites have not been optimized for voice search.
People tend to talk differently than they type. For example, you might use a search engine to find a personal injury lawyer by typing “accident injury attorney” whereas you might ask a voice assistant for help finding a “car accident lawyer.”
Moreover, lawyer websites might use technical terms that do not translate well into voice searches. For example, personal injury law is technically called “tort law” by lawyers. Even though many personal injury lawyers might use the terms “car accident lawyer” on their website, some might use the more technical term “tort” or “personal injury.”
Lawyer referrals can come from many different sources. Friends, family, or co-workers may have the name of a lawyer that may suit your needs. However, depending on your legal issue, you may want to seek out referrals from sources that would have direct experience with your legal issue. For example:
- State bar association: Most state bars run a lawyer referral network. The benefit of this resource is that you will speak to someone who is familiar with the law and can identify the type of lawyer you will need and suggest at least a few lawyers who practice in your needed field.
- Doctors: Lawyers often work with doctors and physical therapists on personal injury cases. Doctors may have the names of lawyers who can litigate your personal injury or worker’s compensation case.
- Bail Bond Agencies: Bail agents are familiar with many of the more prominent criminal defense attorneys. If you are arrested and need a defense lawyer, you might want to talk to your bail agent.
- Legal Aid: Legal aid societies assist the poor to find a lawyer. Like the state bar association, legal aid is staffed with people with legal experience who can guide you to a pro bono (free) lawyer who practices in the field of your case.
- Accountants: Accountants often work as expert witnesses or provide forensic accounting on tax cases, divorce cases, or business disputes. As a result, accountants are often a good resource if you need a tax lawyer, divorce lawyer, or corporate lawyer.
A new trend in online marketing is called content marketing. Content marketing uses free content to attract people to a website. For example, blogs, videos, podcasts, issue briefs, legal guides, and infographics may help potential clients find a lawyer website.
Finding a lawyer through content marketing has a number of benefits including:
- You do not need to search for a lawyer. You can research your legal issue and you will find content from lawyers discussing it. For example, if you search for “contract terms to apply for loan,” might lead you to a blog article about loan contracts written by a contract lawyer.
- The content gives you a preview of the lawyer’s abilities. Whether it is a blog article, video, or podcast, the content is the lawyer’s audition for working on your case.
- The content is free. Consider the content to be a free legal consultation. This might eliminate the need to hire a lawyer or allow you to focus further research on a particular aspect of your case.
- Your search terms do not need to be as precise. Most content uses a few different phrases to describe a legal issue. Any one of them should lead you to the content.
Finding a lawyer through content can also give you something to discuss with the lawyer when you do have your consultation. Since you found the content based on research about your legal issue, it should be directly relevant to your case.
Other Types of Lawyer Advertising
For good or bad, lawyers do a lot of advertising. You can find lawyer advertising on billboards, radio, television, magazines, and video streaming platforms. Most of these forms of advertising will direct you to dial a phone number or find a lawyer website.
Some lawyer advertisements are directed to a single issue. You may be familiar with product liability attorney commercials that advertise experience litigating mesothelioma claims or pesticide claims.
As previously mentioned, lawyer advertising is subject to many rules to ensure that the lawyer is not over-promising or misleading. Moreover, client testimonials on television, radio, and streaming ads have to be given by actual clients or the advertisement must provide a disclaimer that actors or performers are being used to re-enact a client testimonial.
One of the most important features you can glean from lawyer advertising is the culture of the law firm doing the advertising. An aggressive firm will advertise differently than a compassionate firm. Watching or listening to lawyer advertising can give you a feel for the way the lawyer will handle your case.
When all else fails, look for a telephone directory to find a lawyer website. Specifically, many lawyers not only buy listings in telephone directories but also buy advertisements on the telephone directory cover.
For example, telephone directory ads are often bought by a car accident law attorney looking for personal injury plaintiffs. These advertisements are often relatively light on information, directing the potential client to visit the law firm’s website for more information.
This is the benefit of lawyer websites. Electrons are much cheaper than paper, which allows a lawyer to be more detailed and expansive on the lawyer’s website than in an advertisement. Once you can find a lawyer website, you can often find much more detailed and relevant information than the ad that sent you there.
Lawyer websites can be a wealth of free information, such as links to legal resources and videos, podcasts, and blog posts about legal topics. These are available to educate you about the law and legal system, so be sure to take advantage of them even if you do not hire the lawyer responsible for them.
While the lawyer’s website is a good place to start to gather information about a lawyer and whether the lawyer meets your needs, it should not be your only source of information. You should meet the lawyer in person or speak to the lawyer on the telephone before hiring the lawyer. This helps you avoid getting scammed by fake lawyers, but also get a feel for the lawyer’s personality and knowledge of the law. Moreover, a meeting will give you the opportunity to ask questions about your case, how the lawyer will handle it, and how much the lawyer will charge.