Google Ads for Lawyers: Are They Worth It for Your Law Firm? (A Guide to Finding Out)

Google Ads for Lawyers 101 Header Image - Title on Legal Library Background

There are a lot of barristers and solicitors advertising on Google Ads (previously known as Google AdWords) in 2019. But it can be hard to figure out if they can help your law firm, specifically.

Whilst smaller cities are understandably not as competitive as places like London or New York, there has nonetheless been a steady uptick in lawyers over the past few years that have been using Google’s pay-per-click marketing platform.

Why? Because it works.

Well, it can work, if used correctly.

The reason why it can work is that the platform allows for hyper-targeting, comprehensive tracking, and easy up-scaling.

Firms can choose to advertise on very narrow and specific keywords, they only pay for traffic on those very narrow and specific keywords, and they can directly track the amount they spend on their ads against the returns they receive from them.

Compare this to something like a listing in the Yellow Pages where you pay a fixed fee for a general annual listing, you receive perhaps ~15 calls from the listing (although you never really know because you have no way to track it), and half of those calls were people looking for someone to get them off a drink driving charge, but you’re an employment lawyer!

And if by some miracle the Yellow Pages does work for you – how can you scale that up? Pay for a larger ad?

(Ironically “pay for a larger ad” is also the advice Yellow will give you if your current Yellow listing isn’t getting results.)

However, Google Ads is of course not the only good route for legal marketing, and whilst I am a strong proponent of the platform simply because it’s easy to implement, track, monitor, and get results with – there are some law firms for which it might not work so well.

So, in this article, I will walk you through some simple steps to find out if Google Ads is right for your law firm or legal practice.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads is a platform provided by Google that allows advertisers to buy ad space on Google, YouTube, Gmail, and other Google-owned or partnered platforms.

However, when it comes to lawyers – Google Search Ads are almost always the best place to start simply because of their flexibility, targeting options, and cost structure.

As the name hints, Search Ads are the Ads that Google returns when you make a search on their platform.

For example, if I do a Google search for the term “property lawyer Auckland”, this is what Google gives me:

Annotated Google Search Results for term "property lawyer auckland" showing Google Ads, Local Pack, and Organic Results

Google first returns Search Ads, then returns the local pack, and then returns the standard organic search results.

As you can see, the Ads take up a lot of screen real estate – and unlike traditional online marketing routes like SEO, they don’t take months/weeks/years to start getting results.

The law firms running Search Ads “bid” on ad space for the keywords they want to target, the higher they bid the higher their ad appears on the page, and if someone clicks on their ad they are charged the amount they bid for that click. If no-one clicks on their ad, they aren’t charged.

It’s really (almost) that simple.

How to know if Google Ads are worth it for your law firm?

1. Consider your area of legal practice and likely returns

If you’re running a law firm, it’s because you’re a good business person as well as lawyer.

If you’re a good business person, you will be averse to loss, naturally. Why invest money in something if you’re not convinced it will work?

A way to think of this is probably to attempt a basic investment/return analysis:

Let’s say the average cost-per-click in the legal industry in a small town is ~$10.00. So, every time someone clicks on your ad, you get charged about $10.00.

Next, you need to know your conversion rate, how many of those clickers will give you a call? If you’re unsure because you don’t currently have any sort of analytics set up on your website to track this sort of thing – I think a conservative estimate could be ~20% (assuming you’re running a well-targeted campaign).

And how many of those people that call you will become clients? Again, let’s be conservative and say 25%.

So, $10 a click. With a 20% call rate that gives us $50 a call, and with a 25% conversion rate on those calls that gives us a total cost of $200 per client acquisition.

That might seem expensive, but how much are those clients likely to spend with you?

Is the lifetime value of your average client greater than $200?

If you’re a conveyancing shop charging dirt cheap prices with accompanying cheap service – Google Ads might not necessarily be for you, especially if your margins are low and most of your clients are “one-and-done”. The same probably goes for some lawyers dealing with legal aid.

On the flipside, if you’re, say, a firm that establishes trusts for clients paying an initial ~$1,000+ in fees and then coming back for property purchases, estate management, and will drafting – Google Ads is more likely going to work well for you.

Of course – all of these numbers are estimates and every market, area of law, and every firm is going to be slightly different – if you already have analytics set up on your site you should be able to paint a clearer picture for yourself.

It’s also worth mentioning at this point that if you’ve not got Google analytics set up or not tried free options such as setting up a Google My Business page and really getting your website optimized for:

  1. Attracting potential clients,
  2. Converting those potential clients into actual clients,

These might be better places to start – and it’s much easier to run successful Google Ads campaigns once you’ve set these sorts of foundations.

2. Consider the time you can invest in Google Ads

One thing the above analysis fails to engage with is the time that needs to be invested to get Google Ads running effectively.

Whilst Google tries to make the platform as simple to use as possible, getting things right is not as easy as one would hope – there are an incredible number of variables involved in any marketing campaign – but especially so in one that involves intricate targeting and tracking.

Managing Google Ads is a time-consuming task and if expected returns are already low then this might be a reason to look elsewhere.

However, if expected returns are not low, it might nonetheless be worth considering a Google Ads Management Agency (like us) so you don’t have to spend your own valuable time dealing with something outside your area of expertise.

That said, a 3rd party Google Ads Management Provider might not always be the best choice for a few reasons:

  • The one person that knows your firm best is you – many “general” professionals and agencies are unlikely to have, or to be able to acquire, the necessary understanding of your industry and areas of practice in order to make Google Ads perform as effectively as they could be for your firm.
  • Most professionals and agencies have a fee structure where their management fee consists of a percentage of your total monthly Google Ads budget. This leads to a conflict of interest where they have a financial incentive to make you spend as much money on Google Ads as possible whilst producing just good enough results to keep you as a client. (Note: We ourselves don’t use this fee structure for this exact reason.)
  • To be blunt, many of them just don’t know what they’re doing.

3. Research what other lawyers and firms are doing

If other firms are bidding on the sort of search terms that you want to target, you could reasonably expect that they’re getting some good results from them.

Just head on over to Google, type in the search term you’re interested in (make sure you have any ad blocker disabled for this) and see what comes up.

If your direct competitors are running ads, it likely means that they’ve found something that is working for them.

If it’s working for them – it can probably work for you too.

For example, let’s say I’m a family lawyer in Wellington, I could do a search for something like “divorce lawyer wellington” and this is what comes up:

Google Search Results showing Google Ads for the search term "divorce lawyer wellington"

Many other firms are running ads on this term and most of them are solid, relevant ads – it looks like a trend that’s caught on because it is provably working.

The fact that one law firm is running a weak, irrelevant, and poorly targeted ad on this term would also indicate that the competition is not too high – and therefore running your ads is likely to cost less than you would expect.

4. Launch a trial run ad campaign for just one area of law

Ultimately – there’s one way you can truly know if Google Ads is right for your firm – try it.

The beauty of the platform is that you don’t have to commit to any huge sum – you can set things up, establish a daily budget of any amount, let things run, and instantly stop things if it isn’t working for you.

The risk is minimal and Google doesn’t lock you into any long terms contracts, at all. You pay only for the clicks you receive, and you only run ads when you want to.

Don’t be afraid to test the waters. Set a small budget, run a few campaigns, and see how it goes.

If you don’t want to do it yourself, enlist a Google Ads Management Provider like ourselves to help you get set up.

The worst case scenario is that you lose a minimal, controlled investment.

The realistic case scenario is that you see the great results Google Ads can bring your firm and you want to see more.


If you are looking for a marketing platform that can really boost client acquisition, Google Ads is, in my opinion, one of the best options out there. That said, it’s not the best option for all law firms, and you’ve got to do a bit of thinking before you put them into practice.

Begin by considering the area of law you are in and the kind of clients you attract – are you a “one-and-done” conveyancing shop or a more “full-service” provider for family, trust, and estate law? If it’s closer to the latter, the time and money investment is a lot more likely to be worth it.

Check out what competing firms are up to – if it’s working for them there should be no reason it can’t be working for you.

And ultimately, if you’re uncertain, there’s only one real way to find out if Google Ads is right for your law firm – and that’s by trying it out.

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