Online trends in week 3 of lockdown

Posted by Chris Davidson, a director at Legal Futures Associate Moore Legal Technology

Davidson: Implement live chat now

So, here we are – another week of isolation, social distancing and working from home. I’m writing this on 6 April and I have to say that it feels a bit more normal now.

Days of actually being in the office, frittering money away on expensive coffees and sandwiches seem strangely like a distant memory. For me, there has been a significant reduction in expenditure, for others a significant, maybe terminal, reduction in income.

The good news for the legal community is that, whilst overall online traffic remains comparatively low, we are seeing certain areas of strong performance. We’ll cover these as well as providing some further tips on practical actions to take to protect your position, as well as our number one piece of learning from the past week.

As a reminder, we run a portfolio of close to 100 law firm websites and for many perform the role of an outsourced marketing and business development department. What we see should be indicative of online search trends and activity across the legal marketplace.

Employment law

A number of our customers are specialist employment law practices. Over the past week they have seen increased traffic and enquiries from specific areas such as settlement agreements and redundancy. Employer-focused content is also seeing increased interest.

More generalist firms that also deal with employment law are seeing increased traffic and enquiries in this area as well. We will imagine this will continue throughout April as more and more employers and employees are affected by ongoing business disruption.

Tip: If you do employment law, increase the content available on your site. Make it current and be fully cognisant of the government’s measures in so far as they relate to employment law. Incorporate clear calls to action around and amongst this content and link where possible to solicitors in your practice with demonstrable expertise in this area.

Debt recovery

Online searching relating to debt recovery and the law has increased massively, almost doubling during March.

Tip: Copy the advice relating to employment law. Busy yourselves creating debt recovery related content, incorporate calls to action and demonstrate expertise. Reach out to existing clients.

Residential conveyancing

If this is your bread and butter, then you need to realign, quickly. I read an article at the weekend where an industry expert commented that in China, post lockdown, residential property activity is back to approximately 50% of what it was against the same period last year, and it was expected to return to previous levels slowly.

Recent UK research/expertise suggests overall prices won’t drop dramatically, but actual transactions will. One estate agent reported that at the end of March the number of sales agreed was down 84% against the year before.

Tip: Realign. Look at what else those involved in the residential conveyancing market can reasonably do within the firm, within areas experiencing growth/activity. Don’t copy the advice regarding employment law and debt recovery.

Commercial property

Maybe surprisingly, given what’s happening in the domestic property market, we are actually seeing quite a lot of activity/interest in commercial property related legal services.

It’s not that surprising when you see that this activity is being driven by government measures as they relate to the opening or otherwise of commercial property, and the impact on commercial leases.

Tip: If you deal with commercial property, then make sure you have content on your site covering Covid-19 and its likely impact on commercial property agreements. Demonstrate your expertise, collate a set of frequently asked questions and ensure that your client base knows you are available.

Family law

At the time of writing, we’re beginning to see a bit of geographical split. Traffic to areas of websites covering divorce-related services have increased in the South-East but, with London being a bit ahead of the rest of the country, will we see this replicated across the whole of the UK soon? My hunch would be ‘probably’.

Tip: Get ahead of the game and follow the advice for employment law and debt recovery.

Private client

We’ve seen some increases around wills, powers of attorney, trusts etc. but not as much movement as with employment law. At this stage we think this should be more driven by client relationships as opposed to by search, but firms will need to be careful and sensitive with this.

Criminal defence

Criminal specialists have seen things slow down considerably. There was a marked difference during the last two weeks in March, with traffic and enquiries dropping by around 50%. There isn’t really anything going to be happening on this front over the next few weeks and with relatively few people on the road, road traffic crime will be at an all-time low – good for most people except road traffic lawyers.

Tip: If this is your main area of practice, there is traffic (of the non-road-based variety) around. You must maximise that traffic and maximise conversions across the board – basically try and make more out of less.

I covered this in my last post – make sure that you are handling every enquiry effectively.

This also brings us neatly on to our final overarching tip:

Implement live chat on your website

We have a number of customers who are normally too busy to man a live chat facility effectively. If you don’t know what live chat is, you will have experienced it at one point or another in your online life when trying to contact Virgin Media or similar with a view to cancelling BT Sports because there is no football anymore.

One of the support options often given is ‘live chat’ where you essentially get involved in discussion with a support agent using online message exchange functionality.

According to one website I read, 38% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company if they offer live chat support. I’m not sure if this applies to the law or not, but it’s definitely worth a shot as the barriers to implementing it are very low.

You will often see similar functionality on ecommerce website – it normally appears at the bottom right hand side with a ‘how can we help?’ message that you click on to open up a chat feature.

Some of our customers have seen quick wins from this over the past week. Traffic has been converted into new business where previously it wouldn’t have been.

Please get it implemented onto your site, create a rota for managing it and make the most out of every single visitor to your website.


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