If you were a law firm or attorney who wanted to pay for leads, a variety of websites are happy to offer this service. Both Nolo.com (now owned by ExpertHub) and AVVO.com offer such programs, among others. Usually, the site will direct potential clients your way via phone call or e-mail. If you sign up for one of these programs you might think you are getting potential clients looking for an attorney.

Sometimes, “leads” may not be what you think they are. You might think of a “lead” as a “potential client”. Would you consider someone who called your firm seeking free legal advice a “lead”? I Wouldn’t. Nolo.com apparently does.

Below is a screenshot of one of Nolo’s web properties, LawQA.com (See update, below). This website offers users the opportunity to have their legal questions answer for free; presumably Nolo’s answer to AVVO’s popular free legal advice service. The difference here is that Nolo is charging you for every question it sends your firm, billed as a “Lead”.

LawQA.com

Note that LawQA is not Nolo’s only web property where lawyers get leads from. While we do get mostly legitimate leads, and Nolo says it will refund the cost deducted from your account for any solicitations, it should be noted that the firms we have worked with in the past have not had good luck converting these leads into clients. Apparently, we are not the only folks not 100% satisfied.

The Data

Here’s the data we compiled from one of my clients, We’ll call them “The Firm”. The Firm averages 2,000 unique visitors per month, and wanted to try some of these programs to increase their leads. During the 3 month time period from Dec 1 2012 – Feb 28th 2013 we had the following “leads”;

Traffic to the firm’s website (according to Google Analytics) :
AVVO : 10
Nolo.com & Lawfirms.com : 7
CityGrid / CitySearch : 0

Calls
AVVO: 6
Nolo.com: n/a
CityGrid: 0

Email Leads
AVVO: n/a
Nolo.com: 11
CityGrid: n/a

Analysis

Nolo.com (ExpertHub): They asked for $600 upfront and estimated that would be used up over 3 months. We actually used less than half of that budget. Our leads cost between $15 – $20 , depending on county and practice area (apparently lead costs went up between $1.50 and $2 today).  Nolo includes the cost of a premium listing, and allows you to publish content on their network of websites. The content we published take a few weeks to be reviewed, but did get decent Page Rank. While not all Nolo leads work out, it is nice that they do only bill per actual lead; not monthly, and not based on profile views.

Service: Nolo had attentive customer service, replying to my emails within a day or 2.

AVVO: They bill monthly, no matter how many leads you get. In our case we were billed $100/mo. Your cost will depend on your area. (Another client of ours is billed $300/mo. ). They publish our content without reviewing it, but it gets little to no Page Rank. In the firm’s 3 months with AVVO, they had 49 views of the content we published, and just 23 views of the firm’s listing in their directory. It should be noted that AVVO shares it’s leads among 3 or 4 attorneys; so If you are seeing a lead from AVVO, chance are other attorneys may have already called them.

Service: I had very little interaction with avvo customer service because their interface is quite good. However, when one of my attorneys could not access her account , I emailed our rep (after we had cancelled) and she called me and reset the password within an hour or so of emailing her.

CityGrid: They run a “cost-per-contact” program and set a minimum budget. These are not really leads; they just charge $3 per click-through OR phone call OR Listing view. If someone views your listing, it costs you $3.  Our Analytics showed no traffic to our website. They use a call tracking number to report how many calls you get. In the firm’s case, we had 0 calls; ZERO. This means all our “leads” or “contacts” were simply viewings of our directory listing, billed at $3 per view.

Service: CityGrid had by far the worst customer service. Our rep sold us on trying CityGrid for one month. We agreed. Low and behold, hidden in the fine print on the checkout page, it says you will automatically be re-billed (or so they tell me; the page is no longer available after agreeing). In our case, we were re-billed just 22 days in. The rep did not reply to questions after initial sign up. We would suggest avoiding CityGrid; there was zero benefit whatsoever.

After three months of testing third party lead programs, the firm cancelled AVVO and CityGrid. This example is similar to many of my clients who want to try these programs.

What has been your experience with legal lead services programs? Leave us a comment, below.

Update

As Mary from Total Attorneys commented below, nolo.com (nor Experthub) “own” LawQA.com. According to updated information from our rep, Nolo.com buys leads from LawQA.com to pass on to it’s customers.

Comments

One Response to “When a “Lead” is NOT a “Lead””

  1. Mary Ann Pekara on March 7th, 2013 12:02 pm

    I just want to clarify that LawQA is not owned by Nolo.

    http://www.lawqa.com is a free legal question and answer website where consumers can ask their legal questions for free and attorneys belonging to the LawQA network (which they do not have to pay for) answer questions without any charge to them.

    Attorneys interested in finding out more about LawQA can do so at: http://www.lawqa.com/howitworks.php.

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