This is one of those questions that comes up from time to time. It's a terrible question on so many levels, but since it gets asked so much, I figured I'd take a stab at sharing my perspective.
The main reason that it's a terrible question is that it presumes a binary answer. Either yes all lawyers need SEO or no they don't.
Let's just answer it straight: No one needs SEO.
Can some lawyers benefit from SEO? Yes.
Should lawyers pay for SEO? Shrug.
For many lawyers, the main "SEO" they can benefit from is influencing results for searches on their name. Marketing people call this "brand search" or "reputation management."
No matter how someone gets your name, they're likely to "Google" you. What they find, or don't find, will play some role in their decision to connect with you.
There are three quick ways to own Google searches on your name:
- Google Business Profiles
- A site (i.e. yourname.com) or page (i.e. lawfirmwebsite.com/yourname/) you own optimized for your name.
- A third party page optimized for your name (i.e. avvo.com/yourname/).
If you do absolutely nothing else online, you should at least consider a Google Business Profile. It commands a lot of real estate on Google and provides people with key information about you and your practice.
Beyond "brand search" and "reputation management," we move into the world of "non-brand search." For our purposes, this means all of the searches people do that aren't directly looking for you. These might include:
- Business Searches
As you may already know, this is where things can get competitive and expensive.
For example, consistently holding the top spots in a Google search for, "Chicago personal injury lawyer," can be challenging. The firms that are competing for this term are usually well-established and heavily invested in their digital presence.
Unless you are committed to a long-term investment in content, link acquisition, and technical improvements, this probably isn't a sandbox you want to play in.
But you probably don't need to either.
Even if you're going the do-it-yourself route, you can probably pick up some relevant organic traffic and clients getting the basics right and committing to regularly publishing content that your target audience is likely to search for.
And even if you're not interested in publishing yourself, you can probably build a solid practice without any non-brand SEO strategy at all.
As I reflect on it, the firms that are in more need of SEO are those that are trying to capture a large share of their market. At the risk of stating the obvious, a lot of legal services consumers use search engines to look for information about their life-legal issues, and yes, to shop for lawyers. So, it's the lawyers that are trying to win these clients for whom SEO matters a lot more (i.e. without SEO, they might not be part of the consideration set).
I guess I stand corrected. The lawyers who want to command the largest share of their market probably do need SEO to do so.