Ask an expert: Why is digital marketing important for law firms?

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With the pandemic and the “new normal,” the legal world is seeing a rapid change in how lawyers connect with the people who need them. While there’s no doubt Google has been the first place people have turned to find lawyers for quite some time, it is far from the only way.

Now, COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the effectiveness of out-of-home advertising, driving more firms (and businesses in general) to rely on online advertising than ever before. Shamil Shamilov, the managing partner of dNOVO Group, offers some valuable digital marketing insight for law firms.

Can you give a specific example of how marketing trends have changed for law firms in the last year?

While digitization within the professional service sector has been steady for over a decade, the pandemic had a major impact on it. 

The pandemic has affected each area of law differently. Personal injury lawyers have experienced a slowdown as less people are driving cars but lawyers in the real estate, family and employment sector are keeping very busy. 

The Toronto real estate market is the hottest it’s ever been. On the family law side of things, divorces are on the rise because social distancing has created tension and animosity among couples. Meanwhile, certain sectors have had to lay off staff, which keeps employment lawyers busy.

All of these lawyers have had to adjust their business model to include virtual services for consults and the digital storage of paperwork and documents. Advertising the accessibility and flexibility in terms of accommodating clients virtually is now a current trend. 

Many firms previously relied on events, charity dinners and social endeavors in order to obtain clients. But now, these companies are looking to gain clients through digital marketing. 

What makes digital marketing for law firms different from other clients?

There are specific keywords that marketers must know, as well as specific call to actions. The strategy behind placing these on the website varies from other clients. Marketers must also consider informative content umbrellas and attorney schema, which is a special Google code. The content requirements are much stricter and so are the conversion optimization strategies. Additionally, there are specifics to each of the areas of law that need to be taken into account.

How does the current real estate boom during the pandemic impact the operations of real estate lawyers?

Twelve months ago, you would need to visit a lawyer’s office in-person and place a physical signature in order to purchase property. But now, Zoom signings are a normal practice. The standard two pieces of government-issued ID can now be faxed over and a lawyer can verify one’s identity over camera. I have personally witnessed a property close from overseas by someone who was out of the country. This would have been impossible before all of the pandemic-related changes. 

What else can a legal professional do to adjust their business to the new normal?

Since they no longer need to see their clients at the office, many are downsizing to smaller office spaces. This can help them become leaner from a business perspective.

Intake automation has also been on the rise. This includes providing more convenient options for clients to reach you. The legal sector is adopting customer relationship management and appointment scheduling software to streamline communication, allowing clients to submit documents and have virtual consultations. 

Toronto’s real estate has been at the focal point of many discussions but you’ve also mentioned family and employment lawyers being affected by the pandemic. What is the most surprising impact of the pandemic on digital marketing as a whole?

The home improvement sector has been booming. With people spending less and staying home, many have turned to renovating their existing homes, finishing their basements and finally addressing the home improvement issues they’ve been ignoring. Our agency has several clients in the home improvement space and they have all been very busy regardless of the time of the year. August and January are typically slower months but because of the pandemic, the traditional “busy seasons” have been skewed. Criminal lawyers are also experiencing somewhat of a slower period. I guess this s a good thing although I’m not sure the lawyers share that outlook.

What is the most common mistake you see firms making when it comes to digital marketing?

I think of digital marketing as a chain of individual links or components. Many companies only address one of the aspects with a web design company and get stuck wasting their time. We often see clients who’ve switched between web designers to marketing agencies who only address one or two aspects of their digital advertising. Despite the limitations that a budget might pose, it’s important to fully understand all the components and to get the entire strategy mapped out, even if you can’t get to it right now.

We see medium and large companies who have been stuck in unproductive relationships with digital marketing agencies, limiting their own potential.

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