TechReport 2022: Marketing & Communication Technology

The ABA TechReport combines data from the annual ABA Legal Technology Survey Report with expert analysis, observations, and predictions from leaders in the legal technology field. Every Wednesday, we’ll be posting a new report from one of our experts, so stay tuned!

The results of the 2022 ABA Legal Technology Resource Center’s Legal Technology Survey are in. The survey volume covering marketing and communication technology reveals that while lawyers may have embraced technology in other areas of their practices as a result of the pandemic, not much has changed in how they use technology to market their law practices.

Demographic Information

The data collected from the volume of the survey devoted to marketing and communication technology was based on completed questionnaires from lawyers in private practice. Respondents were 30% from firms with 2-9 lawyers, 25% from firms with 10-49 lawyers, 14% from firms 100-499 lawyers, 18% from firms of 500 or more lawyers, and 6% each solo practitioners and firms with between 50 and 99 lawyers. 

Forty-five percent of respondents identify themselves as primarily litigation attorneys, 32% as primarily transactional and 12% as both, while 7% of respondents identified themselves as regulatory/compliance lawyers and 5% as other. 

Forty-seven percent of respondents are partners in their firms; 17% identified as the managing partner, 13% as of counsel, and 12% as an associate. The average respondent was admitted to the bar for 29 years and the average age of respondents was 57 years of age. Only 10% of survey respondents this year were under the age of 40.

Law Firm Websites

According to the survey, the percentage of respondents overall who report that their law firms have a website remains steady from last year at 94%, up from 86% in 2019. The smallest firms continue to be the least likely to have a firm website; 39% of solo respondents and 12% of respondents from firms of 2-9 lawyers do not have a firm website, while 100% of respondents from firms with at least 10 attorneys reported having a firm website.

The large majority of firms with websites (77%) now report that their site is mobile-friendly. Another 19% do not know whether their site is mobile friendly. But the statistics are not quite as encouraging for security on law firm websites. Only 43% of respondents said their law firm website used SSL security (or the HTTPS protocol). 

Most survey respondents do not believe that clients have retained their law firm directly through their law firm website; only 25% reported having a client retain them directly through the firm’s website.

Who is managing law firm websites?

Review of survey data from the past several years may be revealing a trend toward having technology or marketing professionals, rather than lawyers or other law firm staff manage law firm sites. The exception once again is solo practitioners.

Overall, 27% of respondents in 2022 said their firm website was managed by internal marketing staff, up from 18% in 2019. This includes 11% of firms with 2-9 lawyers and 26% of firms with 10-49 lawyers. Outside consultants or providers primarily manage 20% of respondents’ firm websites, including 40% of firms between 2 and 9 lawyers and 29% of firms with 10-49 lawyers. A substantial number of respondents from the largest firms (37%) report that technology staff primarily manages their firm websites.

The use of one lawyer to manage the firm’s website is down to 14% from 22% in 2019, but 82% of solo survey respondents manage their websites themselves in 2022. The remaining 9% use an outside consultant or provider to manage their sites. Twenty-five percent of respondents from firms with between 2-9 lawyers report that one lawyer in their firm manages their firm website.

Who creates content for law firm websites?

Marketing staff and outside consultants are also shouldering more responsibility for creating law firm website content, although lawyers are still creating content in a majority of these firms. In most law firms, that responsibility no longer falls to only one lawyer in the firm. Only 15% of respondents, including 91% of solo respondents, indicated that one lawyer in the firm was primarily responsible for creating firm website content, down from 23% in 2019. But one third of firms with 2-9 lawyers do still rely on one lawyer to create web content.

In this year’s survey, 56% of respondents said that the content for their website was created by more than one lawyer in the firm. This number is up from 40% in 2019. Internal marketing staff are used by 43% of respondents’ firms to create law firm content, as compared with 29% in 2019, and 20% use outside providers or consultants, including 22% of respondents’ firms with 2-9 lawyers and 25% of firms with 10-49 lawyers.

What kind of content do law firm websites contain?

The types of content that can be found on law firm websites has remained reasonably consistent since 2019. Profiles of attorneys were almost universally included on all respondents’ websites. The majority of survey respondents indicated that their firm’s website included recent firm successes (57%), and legal articles written in-house (62%), but only 12% included consumer guides written in-house and 8% include legal articles written outside of the firm. Cases of interest were another popular type of law firm content; 42% of respondents said these were included on their firm’s site. Community announcements were included in 18% of respondents’ law firm sites.

Most respondents’ law firms (51%) are still not syndicating the content from their sites. Those firms that do syndicate do so most often on social media (80%). Another 40% syndicate on Law 360, 20% on Bloomberg, 13% on Lexblog, 11% on Lexis, and 16% on other sites. Large firms more likely to syndicate content than smaller firms; In 2022, 31% of respondents from firms with 100 or more lawyers said their firms syndicated their website content, as compared with only 13% of lawyers with between 10 and 49 lawyers, 9% of respondents from firms with 2-9 lawyers.

What information are lawyers collecting on their websites?

Lawyer websites collect information from visitors for various purposes, from making inquiries about potential clients’ legal matters, scheduling appointments, collecting information for firm newsletter lists, or to send resources such as articles and checklists. The most common information collected by law firms on their websites are email and names (94% each), followed by telephone numbers (74). Only 36% of respondents report collecting mailing addresses.

But when lawyers collect information through text fields on their websites, are they including disclaimers with those forms about the security of the information provided, whether privilege attaches to that information, or an attorney-client relationship is formed? Only one third of respondents said yes. Another 38% do not know, and 5% said that their firms did not provide any disclaimers. Twenty-four percent of respondents said their firms do not collect information through text fields on their website.

What services or resources do lawyers offer on their firm websites?

Modern law firm websites should provide more than just static information for visitors. Today’s consumers are used to doing everything online, from scheduling appointments to paying for services. Are law firms keeping up?

Only 14% of respondents said that their law firm’s website offered the ability to schedule a consultation. Smaller firms are more likely to report that potential clients can schedule a consultation through their website, including 20% of lawyers from firms of 2-9 lawyers, 17% of respondents from firms of 10-49 lawyers, and 14% of solo practitioners.

Live chat, a feature becoming increasingly common on all kinds of websites from banks to retailers, is rarely offered on law firm websites. According to this year’s survey 80% of respondents’ firms do not offer live chat, and only 3% were sure that their firm’s site did offer it. Of those who do offer it, live chat is most commonly handled by a virtual receptionist (63%), followed by 25% who said that an in-house receptionist handles live chat. Attorneys and paralegals each handle live chat in 13% of respondents’ firms. It is noteworthy that there was no option in the survey to choose artificial intelligence or a chat bot in response to this question. 

Only 5% of respondents said that their law firm’s website offered forms, with solos being the most likely to report having them (9%). Using fillable forms can be an effective way to streamline document creation and automation for lawyers, allowing clients to provide their own information in their own time, without participation from the firm. Currently only 10% of respondents said that they offer fillable forms either through their website or another online service. More law firms (40%) offer document sharing through their website or another online service. 

Other Law Firm Marketing Efforts

Aside from their websites, how are law firms using technology to market their practices?

Blogging

Thirty-seven percent of respondents say their law firms have a blog, including 45% of lawyers in firms of between 100-499 lawyers and over 70% of respondents from firms with 50-99 or 500+ lawyers. Thirty-four percent of those whose firms have blogs report that clients have retained the firm either directly or via referral from their blog

Social media

The large majority of law firms are using social media to market their law practices. Only 11% of respondents said their firms had no online presence. LinkedIn still remains the leading network for law firms. Of respondents who said their firms had a social media presence, 87% were on LinkedIn, including 89% of firms with 2-9 lawyers and 95% of firms with 100 or more lawyers. Facebook is the next most popular at 62%, and Twitter lags far behind at 38%, followed by Martindale at 37%, Avvo at 18% and Instagram at 17%. 

Blogging and social media use policies

Despite the fact that many of the respondents’ law firms have blogs and participate on social media, only half of respondents report that their firms have policies regarding lawyer or staff participation in social networks and 28% have policies for blogging. 

Email marketing

Email marketing continues to be a major channel for lawyers; 40% of respondents say their firms are using email marketing. Of those who do, 31% say they send individual, personalized email to clients, and 73% send client alerts via email, including 85% or more of respondents from firms with 50 or more lawyers. Email newsletters are used by 50% of respondents.

Video

Video is an extremely popular medium, and yet many lawyers have not yet embraced the trend. Only 31% of respondents said their firms produce video to help market the practice. While this number is up slightly from the previous three years, it is somewhat surprising that more firms have not started producing video. Respondents from firms with 100 or more lawyers were more likely to report that their firm produced video (47%), as compared with fewer than 25% of respondents from firms of other sizes. No respondents indicated that they had produced their own video if their firm did not produce them.

Those whose firms do produce video report that they are most often housed on the firm’s website (68%), followed by YouTube (35%).

Who performs marketing tasks?

Although more firms are working with internal marketing staff or outside consultants, lawyers are still involved in marketing activities. Overall, 59% of respondents say attorneys perform marketing activities in their firms, followed by internal marketing staff (43%). Over 92% of respondents from firms of 50 or more lawyers report that internal firm marketing staff handles marketing at their firm. External consultants are used by 20% of respondents’ firms, and 20% report that administrative staff handles marketing activities. 

The marketing activities respondents’ firms hire a consultant or agency to undertake include:

  • Site design (50%)
  • SEO (28%)
  • Social media (25%)
  • Print marketing (14%)
  • Phone leads (9%)
  • Online leads (5%)
  • AdWords/PPC and directory listings (5%)
  • Direct mail (4%)

Other marketing channels

What other channels are law firms using to market their practices?

  • 44% sponsor or attend events
  • 24% print marketing 
  • 11% direct mail
  • 9% radio
  • 9% Lawyers.com
  • 4% AdWords/PPC
  • 3% YouTube

Marketing Metrics

Thirty percent of survey respondents said that marketing is more important for their firm in the coming year than it was this year, and only 3% said it would be less important. But there are still many firms who are operating without an annual budget for marketing. Only 57% of respondents said their firm had an annual marketing budget. None of the solo practitioners surveyed had a budget, and only 29% in firms of 2-9 lawyers had one. Twenty-six percent of respondents said their marketing budget had increased over the past year.

In order for law firms to determine whether their marketing efforts are working, whether they are worth continuing to invest in, and whether they should increase or decrease their marketing budget, they need to review their metrics. For online marketing efforts, web analytics are important to review regularly to see whether the firm’s online activities are helping them to reach their goals. 

Only 17% of respondents reported that their firm received regular reports of marketing performance from their external agencies. Another 39% said they did not use an external agency. Twenty-one percent of respondents said their firms received regular reports of marketing performance from their internal marketing teams, and 42% said they did not have an internal marketing team.

Twenty-three percent of respondents said that firm marketing staff has access to the firm’s web analytics, followed by outside consultants at 18%, one lawyer and the office administrator/manager (16% each), more than one lawyer (13%), firm technology staff (12%), and firm webmaster (6%).

On a scale of 1-5, with one being not at all confident and 5 being very confident, respondents gave the effectiveness of their firm’s marketing a score of 3. Lawyers in firms with 500 or more lawyers gave their firms the highest score for marketing effectiveness – 3.7.

Individual Lawyer Activities

The survey also asked respondents what they do personally. Only 7% of respondents reported having a legal topic blog. But of those who do have a blog, 45% said that they have had a client retain them as a result. 

Eighty-two percent of respondents said that they personally maintain a presence on social media for professional purposes. Over 90% of respondents from each firm size reported having a presence on LinkedIn, including 100% of solo practitioners, 99% from firms of 100 or more lawyers, 98% from firms with 10-49 lawyers, and 91% of respondents from firms of 2-9 lawyers.

Personal use of Facebook was much lower, at 31% overall. Less than 25% of respondents reported having a presence on each of the other social media outlets for professional purposes. Thirty-four percent of respondents indicated that they personally use or maintain a presence on Twitter, but only 20% of respondents said they maintain a presence on Twitter for professional purposes.

For those respondents who do use social media for professional purposes, the most popular purposes include career development and networking (78%), client development (52%), education or awareness (46%) and community engagement (44%). Twenty-three percent of respondents who use social media said that they had a client retain them as a result of their social media activity.

The most popular reason given by those who personally maintain a presence on Twitter was for social/personal use (82%), but some use it for education/current awareness (37%) or career development/networking (19%). Only 1% of respondents said that they had a client retain them as a result of their presence on Twitter.

Lawyers across the board use social media in their own personal lives. Three quarters of respondents overall said that they use social media for personal, non-professional reasons. The most popular network for these activities was Facebook (64%), followed by Instagram (36%), Twitter (28%), LinkedIn (25%), and Snapchat (25%).

How Do Lawyers Use Technology to Communicate and Collaborate with Clients?

Client communication is one of the most important – if not the most important – job of every lawyer. So how are lawyers using technology to communicate with clients in 2022? Are they taking advantage of all of the options available to them?

Only 33% of respondents to this year’s survey said that they use a client portal to communicate with their clients, which is only a slight increase over the previous three years. Respondents from larger firms are more likely report that their firm uses a secure client portal to communicate with clients. Fewer than 25% of firms with fewer than 50 lawyers use secure client portals. Of those who do report using a secure client portal, SharePoint is the most popular at 28%. NetDocuments powers 14%, Clio 12%, Box 9% and MyCase 2%. Another 13% use a custom solution. 

Lawyers are obligated to keep clients up to date on their matters, and to communicate with them regularly. Based on the survey results, this communication is not taking place online with any regularity outside of email communication. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said that their firm did not offer clients status updates on their cases online or through their websites, and 59% said their firm did not offer messaging or communication with clients online or through their website. 

Online invoicing and bill payment are commonplace in many industries, but according to the survey, the majority of lawyers do not offer this service to their clients. Only 41% of respondents say that their law firms offer invoicing and bill payment online or through their website, although this is an increase from 2019, when only 34% said they did. 

Law firms field a lot of calls from their clients about upcoming dates and spend a lot of time trying to schedule meetings or appointments with clients. Allowing clients to view a calendar containing upcoming dates or to schedule their own appointments with their lawyers at a date and time convenient to both the lawyer and the client could cut down on a lot of this time. Yet Only 15% of respondents said that their firms offered these services to clients online or through their websites. This number is down from a high of 23% in 2019.

What do lawyers know about how their firms are using technology for marketing and communication?

One of the most astonishing insights to come from this year’s Marketing and Communication Technology survey is how many lawyers are in the dark about how their law firm uses technology to attract and communicate with clients. 

For example:

  • 25% do not know whether visitors to their law firm website can schedule a consultation through the site
  • 17% do not know whether visitors to their firm’s site have live chat available to them.
  • 53% do not know whether their firm’s site uses SSL security
  • 16% do not know whether their firm has a client portal to communicate with clients
  • 32% of those who say their firms use a secure client portal do not know what services power that portal
  • 17% do not know whether their firm offers clients case status updates through their websites or online (other than email)
  • 47% of respondents do not know whether their firms have policies regarding lawyer or staff participation in social networks or blogging
  • 15% do not know whether their firm uses video to market the practice

Based on the survey, not only are law firms still slow to adopt technology to market their practices and communicate with clients, but in many cases, they are not communicating with the lawyers in the firm about the technology they have adopted.

About the Author

Allison C. Shields Johs (@allisonshields on Twitter) is the President of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc., where she works with lawyers and law firms to develop strategies to improve marketing and client service and increase productivity, efficiency, and profitability. She is the co-author of several books, including Make LinkedIn Work for You, The Practical Handbook for Lawyers and Other Legal Professionals, LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers (ABA 2013), and How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line (ABA 2014). Her website, LawyerMeltdown, offers resources and information for lawyers.

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