Visitors engage differently with law firm websites depending on practice area.
What percentage of your law firm’s online visitors are viewing your website on a mobile device? To find out, Custom Legal Marketing conducted a study that examined how users engage with law firm websites. It turns out that not all practice areas perform the same on mobile—and we think we know why.
In our study, we examined the behavior of over 1 million unique visitors to websites for business law, criminal defense, employment law, estate planning, family law, immigration law, personal injury, and veterans law. We measured their engagement with the site and what device they were using—either mobile or desktop.
The majority of traffic on Google search is coming from a mobile device, at just about 60 percent. However, Mobile traffic for law firm websites ranged from just 21 to 57 percent.
It might not seem obvious why. Google search receives all types of questions—topics about entertainment, restaurants, news, events, directions, consumer products, and the list goes on. However, these questions are quite different from those someone looking for a lawyer would ask Google.
What makes them different? Most Google search topics are everyday questions with low perceived risks and low stakes. When you’re on a mobile device, you might be waiting in line, taking public transportation or looking for a quick answer on the go. The answer you might be looking for won’t necessarily affect your finances, health or freedom. Therefore, you don’t mind using a small screen to do your quick research about, say, where to find the best doughnut shop nearby.
But what if you’re considering a lawsuit against your employer or thinking about leaving your spouse? The research you do on Google might last longer than a few minutes, a few days, or a few weeks. Why? Because there is a higher perceived risk associated with these topics. You’ll want to find out as much as you can before you are ready to take action and call a lawyer. These topics carry risks that go beyond a “lawyer near me” search on your phone.
However, a “lawyer near me” search might be exactly what some people search for, depending on the legal issue they face. While this is true, engagement on mobile devices differed greatly across practice areas in our study. Why are some practice areas more popular on mobile devices than others?
The Top Mobile Performers
People researching criminal defense, personal injury law and immigration law law usually have more immediate urgencies than people who need a lawyer in other practice areas. In fact, our study showed that websites for criminal defense, personal injury law and immigration law saw the highest percentage of engagement on mobile, with 57 percent, 43 and 45 percent engagement, respectively.
The results: Mobile: 57 percent. Desktop: 37 percent. Other: 6 percent.
People searching for a criminal defense lawyer may have been charged with a crime and find themselves in an immediate bind, with urgent concerns about their rights and freedom. Because of the sudden and urgent demand for a lawyer, the person might use their phone to quickly search “criminal defense lawyer near me.” While the perceived risk of the Google search is high, someone looking for a criminal defense lawyer may prioritize expediency over longer, more detailed research at the comfort of a desktop computer. As such, it makes sense that there is significantly higher engagement with criminal defense websites on mobile than desktop devices. Because more than half of Criminal defense website visitors are coming from a portable device, attorneys should put a stronger emphasis on their mobile experience.
The results: Mobile: 43 percent. Desktop: 52 percent. Other: 5 percent.
Like those who have been charged with a crime, those who have experienced an injury rely heavily on mobile devices to search for a lawyer. The logic persists for this particular practice area as well: usually those in need of a personal injury lawyer have a sudden and/or urgent demand for a lawyer, in which case a mobile device can certainly do the job for that purpose. Instead of browsing a website and stopping at particular sections to fully digest its content, someone with an urgent need for a personal injury lawyer will likely scroll more quickly to browse to gain an overall impression. Personal injury lawyers should put stronger emphasis on their mobile sites because of this. Additionally, our study indicates that personal injury websites are on track to have their mobile visitors surpass 50% over the next 18 - 24 months.
The results: Mobile: 45 percent. Desktop: 53 percent. Other: 2 percent.
Forty-five percent of immigration law website visitors used mobile devices, while 53 percent used desktop. Whether a person has a visa issue or is at risk of deportation, their legal situation could cause them to feel a high perceived risk when searching for the right immigration attorney. While a high perceived risk would generally cause someone to spend more time researching law firms from the comfort of a desktop, they also have the added pressure to find a lawyer quickly. This is why people looking for an immigration attorney are likely to depend on a mobile device to search, locate, and call an attorney as soon as possible.
Like personal injury law sites, our study indicates that immigration law websites are on track to have their mobile visitors surpass 50 percent over the next 18 - 24 months.
Mid- to Low-Range Engagement
The results: Mobile: 36 percent. Desktop: 60 percent. Other: 4 percent.
Users who are seeking a family law attorney could be planning on divorcing their spouse, adopting a child, or anything in between. Legal family matters usually have a high impact on one or several people’s personal lives. While someone seeking a divorce lawyer might visit a family law firm’s mobile site to conduct a quick preliminary search, they are more likely to spend the majority of their time reading the website’s content from a desktop. The user experience for mobile sites is usually less practical for extended reading than a desktop website. If a person is facing a complicated legal matter that has high personal risk, they will be more likely to spend at least 10 minutes reading a site’s content and/or filling out a contact form from a desktop.
The results: Mobile: 28 percent. Desktop: 69 percent. Other: 3 percent.
If your business is being audited by the IRS or you are considering filing an intellectual property lawsuit, the perceived risk of your legal situation is going to be high. Business law is complex and broad in scope, and it might be overwhelming for some users to browse Google on their phone in search of answers to a complex topic. While 69 percent of users engaged with the desktop version of business law websites in our study, it is important to note that business law firms can benefit from offering responsive mobile sites as well. Users might visit the firm’s mobile site before continuing their research on a desktop, so that first impression will go a long way.
Mobile: 27 percent. Desktop: 71 percent. Other: 2 percent.
If you are looking for an estate planning lawyer, you could be facing a variety of legal risks associated with your personal finances as well as the care of a loved one. Ultimately, the needs of a person seeking an estate planning lawyer will dictate the complexity of their case. The demographics of users who need estate planning tend toward older generations who are less likely to spend much time doing legal research on a phone. Regardless, many concerned parties may be involved in the legal issue, including grandchildren, children, and other family members, which broadens the demographic range for visitors of estate planning websites.
While 27 percent might not seem very high, the number of individual visitors that make up that percentage is significant. Estate planning attorneys should ensure to provide a strong first impression with their mobile site in order to increase their chances of converting visitors.
The results: Mobile: 24 percent. Desktop: 76 percent. Other: 0 percent.
Visitors seeking a veterans attorney could be facing a variety of legal issues, from disability claims to healthcare and pension benefits. Law firms with older demographics such as estate planning and veterans law tend to have an audience that is apprehensive about using their mobile device to find a lawyer. According to our study, 24 percent of visitors to veterans law websites were mobile visitors, which might not seem like a lot. However, a veterans law firm in our study received about 70,000 unique visitors last year, 27 percent on a smartphone and 11 percent on a tablet. That means 26,600 unique visitors interacted with the site's mobile experience: That is a large audience that needs to have the best possible user experience on mobile devices.
The Results: Mobile: 21 percent. Desktop: 78 percent. Other: 1 percent.
Areas of law that come with higher risks (employment law and business law) tend to have lower mobile visitation. This would explain the 21 percent mobile engagement with employment law sites in our study. Those seeking an employment attorney might be facing a variety of legal issues, such as sexual harassment in the workplace, workplace discrimination, or wrongful termination. These issues might take a long time to develop in a person’s life, such as instances of discrimination or harassment that occur over the course of months or even years. Therefore visitors might prefer the readability offered in desktop sites in order to spend more time digesting content. However, as is true with the findings from veterans law websites, employment law websites are receiving thousands of unique visitors every year on their mobile sites. In order to maximize their reach, employment attorneys should ensure the best possible user experience for mobile visitors.
Tips for improving your mobile results
Features that are particularly helpful to include on mobile versions of law firm websites are a bold and responsive design with a strong call to action with a prominently displayed clickable phone number, as the immediacy of being able to place that phone call with one touch can help the firm receive more callers.
Remove heavy site features from your mobile site, including large images, videos, or sound. Instead of a large header graphic, stick to a solid background with bold text.
Remove drop-down menus, as they are not functional on mobile devices because there is no “hover” option on a phone or tablet. Dropdown menus should transform to a hamburger menu (that's the icon with three horizontal lines). The pages that are linked in your dropdown will appear as a static list after someone taps the menu, making your site easier to navigate.
Display a clickable phone number at the top and bottom of your site. Since mobile users might already be on their phones, this feature makes the immediacy of contact more available to a visitor.
Cristina Fríes is a MA in English/Creative Writing from UC Davis (2019), and is a legal marketing strategist and content developer for CLM. Her interests include creating compelling marketing content, writing books, and traveling the world.