Plaintiffs’ Lawyers’ Online Marketing Tactics Examined in New Study

March 2, 2012

A study of how plaintiffs’ lawyers market their services online reveals some of the most sophisticated, high-dollar tactics of any commercial industry. The first-of-its kind study, The Plaintiffs’ Bar Goes Digital, An Analysis of the Digital Marketing Efforts of Plaintiffs’ Attorneys & Litigation Firms, was compiled by New Media Strategies and released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

“This new research shows how the practice of law in the United States has gone from a noble calling to often times a large commercial enterprise, with marketing that rivals the largest industries in our society,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “While there is certainly nothing wrong with marketing your services, those services should be clear from the start. Sadly, some of the marketing tactics employed by some in the plaintiffs’ bar should cause the public to question: is this ‘client at any cost’-model what we want our legal system to look like?”

The study details how many plaintiffs’ firms create and dispatch a wide variety of websites and use social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to create a complex web of information presented in a broad variety of ways, all designed to attract and vet potential clients for lawsuits.

The marketing tactics include creating websites that appear as informational sites or patient support groups for specific types of diseases, counseling services for people who might have been assaulted or injured, and even web sites and chat rooms that appear to the casual viewer as official government sites or advocacy organizations. The affiliations of law firms are often buried deep within the websites or, in some cases, are non-existent. The goal of these marketing tactics is to gain contact information from potential plaintiffs for lawsuits.

The study also spotlights how massive spending on such online advertising has brought the legal profession ahead of some of America’s most recognizable products like the iPad. In particular, it estimates that in a given 12-month period, major plaintiffs’ firms spent more than $50 million on Google keyword advertising alone, which is more than triple the amount spent on all web advertising for the 2008 Obama for America campaign, often cited as a pioneer effort in digital advertising.

Credit: New Media Strategies

According to the study, more than 25 trial lawyer firms are spending over $100,000 annually in Google keyword advertising (based on the analysis of 125 key terms). The study found that 800 individual firms were actively purchasing keyword advertising on the 125 key terms analyzed.

“What trial attorneys are spending online in simply astounding,” said Pete Snyder, founder of New Media Strategies. “For the firms that engage in these marketing practices, the Internet, complemented by social media, represents a marketing tool as sophisticated as any industry employs today. After you read the study you will ask yourself: is this the dawn of digital ambulance chasing?”

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

To review the full report, including the 125 keywords analyzed in this study go to

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