Every attorney or agency knows of someone who had a nightmare experience with FindLaw. If you find yourself wondering how to get out an abusive FindLaw contract, you’re certainly not alone. About once a month, we get a call from a former Findlaw client who is having difficulty getting access to the digital properties that they either paid Findlaw to build for them or owned prior to their relationship with Findlaw. Many of these law firms are shocked when they find out that they were essentially renting their website from Findlaw.
When it comes time to leave, Findlaw may try to take your website and domain down. If you aren’t proactive, you could find yourself with no web presence whatsoever when you terminate your engagement. If you know that you are planning to leave Findlaw, it is best to speak to an SEO agency that specializes in law firms about 2-3 months before you put Findlaw on notice of your plan to terminate. We have helped many firms through this process.
Common Reasons For Leaving FindLaw
We’ve spoken to countless law firms about their experience with FindLaw, and these are some of the more common points of contention:
- They’re getting confusing monthly bills that are vague in terms of what was actually delivered – and they don’t have time to fight for clarity with their account manager through lengthy email chains and phone calls
- Their site wasn’t seeing any improvements on Google search, or worse, their rankings tanked entirely
- The website they paid for is simple, amateur, and doesn’t reflect the professional capabilities of the law firm.
- Clicks from FindLaw’s directory cost a fortune, and they rarely turn into leads
- The Google Ads campaigns they are paying FindLaw for haven’t generated results, and it seems like no one is paying attention to the account’s performance.
The problem (as you may have found out by now) is that it just isn’t that easy to escape. In your contract, the fine print most likely makes you choose between 1) paying expensive buyout fees to leave 2) canceling your contract and losing your website and web presence 3) staying with Findlaw and hating yourself for it.
Here are some of the most common issues related to leaving Findlaw and how to get fight back:
FindLaw Owns Your Domain Name
Many FindLaw customers don’t realize that if you don’t purchase your own domain name and host it on your own hosting account (GoDaddy, Dreampress, etc.), FindLaw has probably purchased your domain for you and is hosting it on their own servers. Worse, that may be where your email address is hosted too — and you obviously can’t be without that for long.
It’s a borderline immoral practice (in our opinion), and it very often keep firms locked into contracts because if you leave, you could lose your domain name.
What You Can Do
If Findlaw owns your domain name, ask them to add your firm and your IT or marketing consultant registrants in the account. This will then allow you to transfer the domain over to a hosting account that you own. Per your contract, you may have to pay a fee to do so, but you may have no choice.
However, if your website is fairly new and you don’t have many backlinks pointing to your domain name, we recommend simply starting from scratch. Buy a similar domain name on your own, and have your new agency or consultant connect your new website to that domain.
FindLaw Owns Your Website Files and Creative Assets
So you want to end your contract – what about your image files, headshots, infographics, and site design? Do those just disappear? Sadly, you often are set up to lose all of that unless you pay a fee to FindLaw (consult your contract for specific details).
There are several horror stories available online about people trying to get out of their Findlaw contracts and wanting to take their websites with them. Many Findlaw contracts were structured in such a way that FindLaw owns your firm’s website while under contract. The content is impermanent. This means that once you stop paying for service, your content and links in high domain authority properties are removed. This has resulted in many lawyers having a significant amount of trouble transferring site content once a contract is up. Inversely, owning your own website is essentially permanent and relatively inexpensive these days, with no need to tie yourself into a payment plan for the foreseeable future of your business, and any gains in ranking and web visits won’t vanish as soon as you stop paying high priced service fees.
What You Can Do
Call us. We can either design a new and better version of your site that you own or we can get a new version of your old site back up in a form that you own. We do this by redesigning your site either to be new or look very similar to your old site. Findlaw might claim that they own your site files, but they do not own the look, feel and (certainly not) assets related to your likeness or firm name. It often does not matter how long it has been since Findlaw took your site down for us to do this for you.
The other option is to simply start from scratch with new creative assets, and that’s not a bad option either — depending on the age of your old Findlaw site, your new site will probably look much better than the site you are losing with FindLaw.
We should add that it only takes a few days to recreate your creative assets — this can be done as a rush project in a very short period of time. We have relaunched sites in the span of a weekend for former Findlaw clients that had their sites taken down.
FindLaw Claims they Own the Content on Your Website
More recently, FindLaw contracts state that if you purchased content written specifically for you (like blog posts, for instance), you own that content. The same does not necessarily apply to homepage content, general practice area content, and the copy that comes with your website.
What You Can Do:
The good news is that we can very quickly rebuild the content that was on your FindLaw site, and the new content will be exponentially better than the previous content. We have several proprietary methods for doing keyword research, and we’ve tested these methods on scores of sites — you are often better off without FindLaw-created content as they sometimes use spun, low-quality or duplicated content.
Findlaw Holds Your Google Analytics, Google Ads or Tag Manager Accounts Hostage
How will you monitor performance on the web without access to your Google Analytics account? What about Google Ads, Google Search Console, and other platforms?
What You Can Do
The first step is to ask them to add your email address as an administrator or owner on each of these accounts (permissions vary by platform). Once you have the highest level of access, you’ll be able to add and remove users from those accounts, including FindLaw. We recommend that you work with someone skillful in these platforms during this process – FindLaw can say they made you an administrator, when in reality they only gave you permissions to view the data or something similar.
If they give you a hard time about transferring ownership of your Google Analytics and Google Ads account, don’t worry – it’s not a huge undertaking to set them up from scratch. At Majux, we can get your new Google Tag Manager and Analytics accounts (that you OWN), set up in a matter of hours, and we can even build a new Google Ads account (again, that you OWN), complete with campaigns, the same day if necessary.
Basically, don’t fight with FindLaw over your Google Analytics, Google Ads, or Search Console account – your new agency would be happy to set that up for you rapidly, and you won’t have to deal with FindLaw’s obstruction.
Findlaw Holds Your Google My Business (GMB or “Google Maps”) Account Hostage
You will have to read your contract in detail to find the answer to this question, and it’s a bit thornier than your Google Analytics or Google Ads account. You may have acquired reviews and/or decent visibility with your Google My Business account.
What You Can Do
Start by asking your representative to add you as an owner on the GMB account. Once you are an owner, you can remove their access and add your new marketing partners.
The good news is that if they fight you on this, we can help you claim ownership of the listing and then you can remove them. Google My Business listings are tied to the business’s address and the actual owner of the business, so there’s no way for FindLaw to lock you out of this permanently.
Findlaw is Holding Your Email or Tracking Phone Numbers Hostage
Was FindLaw using tracking numbers on your website to measure inbound phone calls? If so, you’ll be without those once you terminate your agreement with them.
What You Can Do
Once your new website is live, we can very quickly (in an hour or so) install new phone tracking numbers on your website that forward directly to your actual phone number. You will both own these new phone number and the call data associated with them.
Also, you obviously can’t afford to be without your email hosting for long, and this is the best way to work around that:
Before you do anything, notify us that you plan to terminate your contract with FindLaw. We can grab your current DNS records and then have them ready to set up on the new hosting that you will own.
We will also help you know what to ask FindLaw for: access to your web hosting account so we can launch your new site at your new address, access to your mx records we can transfer your email hosting, and access to your Google My Business listing.
If you follow the above steps, you’ll be able to escape from FindLaw without any downtime whatsoever.
Life is Better on the Other Side – Take This as an Opportunity
From a marketing perspective, leaving FindLaw is a great opportunity to start over. Majux, as well as many other reputable agencies, do not want to own your website, Google accounts, hosting, or content. We build those for you and make sure you have ownership credentials.
Furthermore, we do not lock clients into 12, 24, or 36 month contracts. That’s an irresponsible business practice that the majority of the industry has moved on from and we believe that you have the right to leave if you so choose.
If you have any questions about leaving FindLaw and finding a new marketing partner, please call the law firm seo experts at Majux – we would love to help.