Disclaimer: The following is based off of my experiences as a business owner, and as a former lead gen employee/spokesperson. Policies, rates and lead processing vary by provider and often change. Contact the organization directly for specific delivery details and pricing.

Overall the consumer marketplace, retail and B2B sales efforts are familiar with the act of ‘purchasing leads.’ Either you generate them on your own, or you use a service to bring them to you. Whether that’s the location of your office, local ads, networking, referrals, Avvo or another avenue, it is seen as a cost of doing business.

In my own ‘off the record’ opinion, lawyers have been trained to get business through word of mouth, referrals, and in general being a good, or well-known lawyer in their community, industry or business circle. That landscape has changed. Now it’s hard to get seen, build a great website, and market yourself in 20 different places. While paying per click, or a daily fee to do so.

Enter lead generation.

Taking the marketing work out of it, and delivering just the contacts, leaving the business owner to do the work. Therein lies the problem for lawyers.

Lead generation is often miss-sold as a turnkey, magical fountain of clients running through your door. When in reality if 1 out of every 10 or even 20 leads you purchase turns into a client. Why? Because online lead generation is a different animal, and it’s a beast. You have got to be serious and ready to respond on a dime. The mentality of a consumer searching on the internet is different than any other type of lead. We provided extensive coaching and training to our clients, and some made their money back hand over fist. Others would wait until the end of the month, pull their list of leads and send them an email…wondering… why hasn’t anyone hired me?! Any then…why do I have to pay?

Which regardless of whether or not a contact turns into a case, you have to pay for the lead. Non-law firms offering lead generation services are not allowed to exercise discretion beyond Fake name, bad phone numbers, or fraudulent contacts. So when you get a bill for 100 contacts billed at $75 each, know you’re on the hook for it.

Overall remember this:

  1. ROI from a lead gen service typically takes about 90 days. Most providers will require a commitment of at least that to prove their value.
  2. The mentality of an internet lead is different than a referral or walk in. They are answer hunting and require a different approach. Calling within 5 minutes of receipt is key, also being able to sell over the phone is a must.
  3. Tracking is critical, there’s no way to know if you’re getting value, and what’s worth paying for if you don’t keep track of the leads, and more importantly what happens after you get them. The law firm needs to have a solid intake process and follow up person, especially in competitive practice areas.
  4. In order to ‘dispute’ or ask for credit for services or leads you will need to have detail on why or a tracking report to fight the charges.
  5. Be ready to spend, these services are not cheap, and don’t really ever offer discounts.

Is there a difference between lead generators?

For example, LegalZoom, Martindale, Nolo, Total Attorneys and others – are they all essentially doing the same thing or are there qualitative differences in their models?

All are essentially doing the same thing. Differences include:

  1. The quality of the websites the consumer is being directed to (educational, or just a capture?)
  2. The follow up process after the lead is submitted (Do they have a call center, or is it a cold form handoff)
  3. Pricing and distribution processes are varied, quality is probably about the same. Many of the providers are also selling to each other to supplement areas they don’t have enough traffic for, or have overflow they need to sell.

How to know if lead gen is right for your law practice?

Here’s a quick assessment to run through to determine your level of comfort with pay per lead services. For both you, and the lead providers you are considering.


Ask the provider:

1. How long after the client fills out the form will I receive it?

Online shoppers are impatient. If we won’t wait for a page to load, do you think we will wait for you to call us? No, we’ll click away until our phone rings or a chat session opens. If those don’t work and we’ve got time it might be another week or month before I spend time searching again.

2. How many people are getting the same information?

And when. Some websites may sell the same contact information to multiple law firms. If you’re going to run a 100 yard dash, wouldn’t it be nice to know if you’re alone or one of ten?

3. Are you quoting fees, or free consultations on the site?

What is the expectation of the consumer? Think about how upset you are when you feel you’ve been mislead. It’s really difficult to start a relationship off on the right foot after that.


Ask Yourself:

1. Are you ready to give these contacts first priority in your office?

Time is of the essence. An internet lead is very different from a referral or walk in prospect. There are hundreds of websites that offer legal help / advice to consumers, who are also paying Google big bucks to be seen. So, when you don’t call them immediately after receiving the form, or worse Don’t Answer Your Phone?! your chances of converting that contact into a client decrease dramatically.

2. Do you have tools in place to send out regular communication?

You’re not going to turn every contact into a client.

3. If you are comfortable with a 5-15% conversion rate on your investment.

I know this sounds ridiculous but it’s the truth. Preparing yourself for months that may not perform as well as other, leaving much to be desired after seeing your bill is part of the game. The internet may be wonderful, but like a high maintenance housewife… gets expensive.


Now, after all of that if you’re ready to take lead gen for a test drive. Jump in the driver’s seat!

I recommend starting with two providers at a small budget for each. And, most importantly, have a system in place before the leads start arriving. Such as a virtual receptionist service, CRM software, and a solid intake process with tracking at every level of the process.

Then, after a month or two, you’ll be able to see in your data which lead source is producing the right type of clients at the right price.

Chelsey Lambert

Chelsey Lambert

Chelsey Lambert is a Legal Technology Specialist, published Author and CLE Speaker. As a former Practice Management Advisor for the Chicago Bar Association, and Vice President of Marketing for a leading case management provider she has seen our industry from many angles. Today, she works with vendors to bring their products or emerging technologies into the marketplace. And, teaches legal technology courses to lawyers all over the country sharing different ways technology can benefit their law firm. As Founder of Lex Tech Review and Lex Tech Media Group she welcomes the opportunity to chat!