Way back in 2011 when consultations the Referral Fee Ban were first announced, Prima Legal Marketing started to work with law firms to develop their own brands through a mix of online and offline marketing.
Online, the starting point was to overhaul the client’s website to improve the “Calls to Action” which are vital to encourage online enquiries and then secondly to embark on the long term process of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to increase our client’s presence on Google Page One for their particular work related search terms.
SEO is a challenging process and one which requires patience and perseverance in the battle against Google’s algorithm changes which determine search results. Done properly, however it will yield results.
I’ve noticed more and more announcements recently of firms linking up with “digital agencies” to embark on the process of trying to increase their online presence. Its better late than never but it will take time. One agency reported having increased a Manchester based firm’s website instructions by 97% over the last 12 months. Not bad, but we’ve seen increases of between 200 and 250% for a number of our firms. Another firm announced a link up with a “digital agency” this week and talked about not just targeting local search traffic but national search traffic as well – I should think so to – online it’s a numbers game, you need to be appearing on the first page of search results for the most searched keywords in order to attract meaningful enquiry volumes.
Prima Legal Marketing’s clients are riding high on Google Page One for a multitude of high volume search terms like “Employment Claims”, “Clinical Negligence Compensation”, “No Win No Fee Compensation”, “Road Accident Claims”, “Employment Solicitors”, “Accident at Work Claims”, “Head Injury Claims”, “Birth Injury Lawyers” etc etc, the list of successes goes on.
Do we describe ourselves as a “digital agency” – no.
We’re a specialist Legal Marketing company. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last 12 years, marketing for legal services. Do we know how to generate enquiries – yes. Do we charge the earth – no.
Our approach to the uncertain world of SEO is to say to our clients – pay us on results. If we get you ranking on Page One of Google then you’ll need to pay us – if you’re not ranking then we’re not doing our job – so you don’t need to pay us. Simple.
When you’re thinking about choosing Marketing Company for your law firm ask yourself a few simple questions. What does the Agency know about marketing online for legal services? – who else have they done it for? Do they understand your target market – if you have to tell them – they don’t? How much are they going to charge you – will they work on results based pricing structure? If not, come and talk to an Agency who do understand your business and will only charge you by results.Legal Marketing, Online Legal Marketing, Personal Injury Marketing, Solicitor Advertising, Solicitor Marketing
With so many firms facing financial difficulties, more firms announced that they were actively seeking to acquire personal injury WIP. DBS Law announced a six month advertising campaign to attract WIP purchases, targeting firms with a £2m turnover.
There are a number of firms actively involved in WIP acquisition and Phil Clegg Consulting has acted for a number of purchasing firms to place WIP acquisition deals. There are varying offers available in the market and firms looking to exit the PI market should consider this option early to generate a cash in-flow. Phil Clegg Consulting is able to advise firms on the best options, based on the levels of WIP and claims mix.Personal Injury News
Legal Futures reported today on the latest research from digital marketing agency Sticky eyes, which showed that legal brands were now pushing out CMC brands in terms of online search.
The Online Personal Injury Intelligence Report looked at the top 100 keywords used in personal injury search results and concluded that just over half of searches were for brands, with the top 5 being Irwin Mitchell, Pannone, Minster Law and Optima Legal, followed by National Accident Helpline.
For the non brand searches, it reports that 64% of clicks were received by law firms compared with 36% for CMC’s. This is not surprising, given the Referral Fee Ban which has seriously affected CMC business models. It’s also what Prima Legal Marketing predicted would happen 12 months ago and shows just how important SEO and PPC are now for law firms looking to attract new clients.
In terms of the brand search results. These are perhaps a little surprising, given that brand searches will only ever be made as a result of offline advertising to create brand recognition. The biggest offline spenders continue to be IL4U, NAH and First 4 Lawyers, whose advertising should continue to drive online search traffic on a brand basis. It is worth noting that the reports producers Stickyeyes are the marketing agency used by Irwin Mitchell, who they claim top the brand search results.
Nevertheless the report does endorse the fact that law firms are gaining an increasing share of online search for personal injury and it’s therefore vital that firms adopt an online search strategy, or risk being left behind.
Legal Marketing, Online Legal Marketing, Personal Injury Marketing, Solicitor Advertising, Solicitor Marketing
The Government announced last week that it was delaying the decision on an increase in the Small Claims Limit until the autumn. I suppose that’s some small comfort for PI firms given the recent changes coming in on the back of LASPO.
MASS claims to have influenced this decision having made representations to the Transport Select Committee recently, but one has to wonder whether their influence was a factor – given that none of the claimant bodies had any impact on LASPO? We all know the many good reasons why an increase in the Small Claims Limit would be a disaster for claimants, but one other telling factor might be that latest figures showing that the number of whiplash claims had fallen by 60,000 in the last year. Hard to reconcile that when the impact of the LASPO changes hasn’t come into affect.
Hopefully pressure will also soon start to mount on Insurers to cut premiums. The Daily Mail ran a strong piece trumpeting the reforms which will end the “Compensation Culture” – but it did also set the expectation for a quick reduction in premiums of up to 20%. That may start to bite Insurers if the public don’t start to see reduced premiums soon. Let’s hope so.
Personal Injury News
So far the focus around LASPO has concentrated on its impact on the legal professional in terms of the Referral Fee Ban and the new fixed costs regime – but the changes will also no doubt have an effect on LEI.
In terms of Motor LEI – if there are no adverse costs then what cover is being provided and what revenue can LEI Insurers generate if they can’t earn Referral Fees? Edward Murray’s article recently in the Insurance Age Magazine looked at some of the issues.
In terms of a response from LEI Insurers it seemed unclear what the answer was, as it’s probably too early to tell. One idea suggested that clients could be covered for any deductions from client damages, but this would have serious impact on premium levels. Another suggested that firms would need to offer a quasi ATE policy, insuring all cases from the outset in order to access affordable premiums at issue and trial – but that still begs the question as to costs risk for clients in the new QOCS environment.
It seems that a number of Insurers have brought their legal resource in-house through ABS structures, similar to a number of Insurers, as away to secure profits from the legal fees in lieu of Referral Fees, but that still begs the question as to what benefit is being offered by LEI in the first place?
The introduction of fees into the Employment Claims process however, does seem to provide a chink of light for LEI away from Motor. In Employment Claims, clients would certainly benefit from cover which covered their fees and as in PI previously, vetting prospects would still act as a filter for claims.
One of the key issues for LEI Insures is not only what cover they are able to offer and at what price, but how that subsequently impacts with the Broker market who have traditionally supplied cases to Insurers for commissions. If the Brokers have nothing to sell and little to earn – will that be the real factor which determines whether LEI can survive?Uncategorized
The SRA threatened to get tough this week on those law firms who were struggling financially. The regulator has identified 150 firms in “very significant financial difficulty”, who need to take steps to ensure they manage their exposure to financial risk.
The increasingly difficult trading conditions for law firms are blamed on a combination of factors including the economic climate, civil litigation reforms and constraints on bank borrowing facilities.
The SRA has asked for early engagement from firms and warns of a “hard line” on those responsible for supervision within firms.
150 firms is probably the tip of the ice berg as many firms continue to find trading conditions difficult. This has no doubt been compounded by the recent reduction in fixed fees for those firms in the personal injury market. There are however, options open to firms with a personal injury case load as there are an increasing number of firms looking to acquire personal injury WIP which could release cash flow into practices allowing them time to move into other areas of legal services, or indeed to facilitate a more orderly run off over a short period of time.Personal Injury News
The Referral Fee Ban came into effect on 1st April, challenging many personal injury law firms to revise their business models.
It seems from the early feedback that many firms have re-negotiated terms with former referrers and are now operating under different trading arrangements which take into account the new rules. The SRA however, fired a warning to law firms that they will be held responsible if the new trading arrangements prove illegal and urged firms to ensure that they are able “to demonstrate that the payments they make can be justified on the basis of the services they are receiving”. Firms would therefore be advised to take specialist advice on the new LASPO regulations when entering into new trading arrangements with previous Introducers.
Other firms are reporting that they have severed all ties with the Introducer market, including Antony Hodari who recently purchased Paul Rooney in Liverpool. They are reported to be using the Paul Rooney (an already established brand) to increase their direct marketing activity to generate new enquiries.
In another well timed move the Claims Management Regulator also announced new rules for MoJ regulated Introducers requiring them to enter into written contracts with their clients form 8th July.Personal Injury News, Referral Fee Ban
That was the message at the recent APIL Conference from Stuart Kightley of Osbornes.
He argued that firms should issue proceedings early on those cases which fall out of the Portal Schemes. Having looked at a basket of cases, Kightley is reported to have argued that by issuing early, particularly in RTA cases the effect of the new fixed fee reductions could be reduced to as little as 2%.
This might be good news for Quindell who announced further expansion into the PI Sector with the acquisition for a reported £14m of Compass Costs. Clearly if more firms do adopt the approach of issuing early then costs firms like Compass are likely to see an increase in business as firms seek to maximise on their non Portal costs recovery?Personal Injury News
A Pannones survey claims this week that 20% of couples in their 20’s seeking a divorce are likely to use an online divorce service, as a result of the cuts in Legal Aid coming into affect.
There are already a number of websites offering template divorce documents for as little as £37, but these may not be fit for purpose with clients really needing legal advice.
Whilst on the one hand the cuts to Legal Aid are another blow to the legal profession, on the other hand they do create new opportunities for “sales”.
With more and more clients going on line for legal services it’s vitally important that law firms are a) visible on line and b) have the right website and offers to attract new clients.
It’s important to undertake local SEO to improve the visibility of your firm and probably locally targeted PPC, both of which Prima Legal Marketing can help you with.Legal Marketing, Online Legal Marketing, Solicitor Marketing
The Referral Fee Ban has now taken effect from 1st April.
Whilst the SRA continues to stress that they won’t offer firms “safe harbour” advice, they have now issued Guidelines – some of which offer a degree of clarity.
For example, the Guidelines say:
“A company carries out marketing for a group of firms. Enquiries are made to a call centre, details of potential clients are passed to member firms on a rota basis and each firm pays an equal share of the costs of advertising and operating the scheme. There has been a referral within the terms of LASPO because the details of potential clients have been passed to firms by the company carrying out the marketing. The firms involved will need to be satisfied that any payments they make to the marketing company are for the marketing and not for the referral of clients. If a payment is made for each “lead” or the payment varies according to the number of referrals made, this is likely to suggest that the payment is for the referrals rather than for the marketing. Even if there is no specific number of leads guaranteed the solicitor would need to be satisfied that the payment they are making is reasonable in view of the services being provided.”
Prima Legal Marketing and Phil Clegg Consulting have access to schemes operating in this way where marketing is carried out on behalf of firms acting as a collective, where payments are not related to the number of enquiries generated.
Further examples of possible scenarios include one where:
“A website offers to find a suitable firm of solicitors for members of the public. The potential client is required to input their postcode and the area of law in which they need help. They then receive an email providing contact details of a suitable firm in their area.
We do not consider that this amounts to a referral within the terms of LASPO as the potential client’s details are not being provided to the firm. (However, the transparency requirements set out in Chapter 9 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 would still apply.)”
This covers schemes like www.personalinjurylawyers.co.uk and would indicate that such schemes are compliant.
On the other hand:
“A CMC advertises in local newspapers in its own name and has a panel of firms to which they refer cases. When a potential client contacts the CMC, the CMC takes brief details and asks a standard set of questions to ensure the claim is not time barred. The client is told that a solicitor will contact them within the next 24 hours. Firms pay a fixed fee in respect of each client referred. The CMC says that the payments are for advertising, operating the call centre and vetting potential claims.
A firm in this situation would need to show that the payments were genuinely for the services described. In this case the vetting would appear to be minimal and it is difficult to see how the payment for advertising could be genuine as it is being paid “per client” rather than reflecting the actual cost of advertising. It is therefore likely that the payment would include a referral fee element.”
This type of scheme clearly isn’t compliant because there is a payment per client referral.
It’s clear that firms will need to be careful in setting up arrangements with Introducers, but Phil Clegg Consulting has access to a suite of agreements, backed up by Counsel which will allow firms to navigate the various arrangements in the market in a compliant way.
Its probably also worth noting that at the Claims Management Conference a couple of weeks ago, Richard Collins from the SRA said that policing the Referral Fee Ban was only the second highest priority for its staff – the number one priority remaining ensuring financial stability for law firms.Personal Injury News, Referral Fee Ban