Legal directories came onto the scene about 30 years ago as a sort of Yellow Pages for lawyers and law firms. At its most basic level, a legal directory is a searchable database of attorneys sorted by location, practice area and other attributes. An entry might include a lawyer’s firm affiliation, their contact information and a bit about their experience. Today, however, many legal directories offer additional benefits, such as rankings, publications and customized marketing opportunities.

Benefits of Being in a Legal Directory

First and foremost, legal directories are useful because they get your name in front of individuals or companies who are searching for a lawyer. More and more people are conducting online research before making a purchase, as evidenced in a 2018 study which showed that 82 percent of smart phone users consult their phones before making a purchase. When it comes to buying legal services, the first step in this process is almost always Googling something like “employment lawyer in Los Angeles,” and legal directories are usually some of the first links that show up due to their rich search engine optimization (SEO). If someone clicks on one of those directories and starts scrolling through the lawyers listed, wouldn’t you want your name to be there, too? The more directories you’re a part of, the higher the chance that a client beginning their selection process will come across your firm.

Legal directories can also be useful for your own website’s Google ranking. Most directories include a link to your firm’s website in your listing, known as a backlink. When a large, credible website backlinks to your site, it boosts your SEO. That means you’re not only showing up on Google through your legal directory listing, but your own website is also rising on the page.

Some directories include a ranking component (for example, only lawyers with verdicts over a certain amount are included in the directory). Being highly ranked can give your firm the extra bit of credibility that convinces a client to choose you. Your inclusion can also be leveraged with a digital badge for your website or customized videos, creating additional PR for your law firm.

Finally, many directories include the option for clients to leave reviews or ratings for you. That’s an excellent resource considering that a 2016 FindLaw study found that consumers are more likely to hire a lawyer with online reviews. This also creates a great opportunity to engage former clients and ask them to share their feedback on your directory listing, where more potential clients will see it.

Which Legal Directories Are Most Worthwhile?

With so much to offer, legal directories should have a place in any law firm’s public relations plan. So this begs the question: Which directories should I be on? There are more than 100 to choose from, but we’ve narrowed down seven of the ones we’re asked about the most.

  1. Chambers and Partners: Chambers and Partners is considered by many to be the most comprehensive and prestigious legal guide. Rather than having lawyers fill out a simple form online, Chambers employs 170 full-time researchers whose only job is to thoroughly vet law firms. Just a few firms in each practice area are selected each year, and many in-house counsel use these rankings as a guide when choosing an outside attorney. If your primary reason for being listed in a legal directory is to boost SEO or connect with individual clients, Chambers may not be your first option. But if you want to build credibility (and you have the time and resources to go through the extensive research process), Chambers is the best directory you can be listed in.
  2. Lawdragon: In addition to its annual “500 Leading Lawyers” guide, Lawdragon publishes several other guides in a range of practice areas. To be considered, you must submit a nomination describing your expertise and achievements. Lawyers are selected from a combination of editorial research by Lawdragon staff, submissions from law firms and nominations through their web portal. The list is presented online and in their print magazine; however, it’s limited to attorney name, firm and office location, and you don’t receive that all-important backlink to your website unless you pay. While it’s great to be included on Lawdragon’s lists, in order to fully maximize your recognition, you should also promote on your website and in social media profiles and other materials such as your e-newsletter.
  3. FindLaw: FindLaw is one of the world’s largest legal directories, although that’s only one aspect of the website. It also hosts educational articles about every legal topic imaginable, making it a resource that millions of people browse daily. Any firm or lawyer can create their own profile for free, although there is a paid premium option as well. Since FindLaw accepts client reviews, you might already have a profile created by someone who reviewed you, in which case you can claim your profile and add whatever information you’d like. FindLaw ranks highly on Google for virtually any law-related search terms, so if you’re going to join one free directory, this is a good choice.
  4. Martindale-Hubbell: One of the oldest legal directories, Martindale-Hubbell focuses mostly on attorney reviews and ratings. Like FindLaw, it’s free and easy to make a basic profile. What sets Martindale apart, however, is its peer review system. You have the opportunity to request reviews from clients and your peers (other lawyers, judges, etc.), resulting in two separate ratings by Martindale. This gives you tremendous credibility from people who know your skills and expertise the best.
  5. Super Lawyers: Unlike the above directories, getting listed on Super Lawyers isn’t as simple as verifying your profile and adding your information. Super Lawyers is a ranked directory, meaning only lawyers that meet their criteria are listed. The site evaluates lawyers based on peer nominations and evaluations. Once lawyers are identified by their peers, Super Lawyers’ researchers give each of them a point value based on 12 criteria. Then, only the lawyers with the highest number of points in each state and practice area are included in the directory. Super Lawyers’ process isn’t as extensive as Chambers, but it does require more than simply submitting your information and paying a fee to be listed. Being included demonstrates the level of your expertise and there are myriad ways you can leverage being named to their list to increase your visibility.
  6. Best Lawyers: Similar to Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers conducts a peer review survey process to rank lawyers and law firms. Lawyers must first be nominated to be considered and then Best Lawyers assesses the data to determine who is named to their list. Lawyers appear at no cost in the regional magazines and partner publications, and there are additional (paid) marketing opportunities to tout your recognition. One drawback to Best Lawyers is that to appear on their website and be searchable, you must purchase a profile, so unless you’re willing to shell out some money, you’re not able to take advantage of the site’s SEO value.
  7. Avvo: In addition to ratings from clients, Avvo does its own review of lawyers who join the site. Each attorney receives an “Avvo Rating,” which is determined from information gathered from state bar associations and legal licensing organizations. A lawyer with a long, successful track record might receive an Avvo Rating of 10, while an attorney who’s been disciplined by their state bar association multiple times might receive a one or two. One thing to note is that Avvo can rate you even if you don’t create a profile. Lawyers who claim their profiles and add more information tend to have higher ratings, so it’s worthwhile to find your listing and make sure your information is up to date.

Certainly, the directories that conduct research to qualify the law firms and lawyers they list can be viewed as more credible than those where you pay to be listed, but that’s not to say the paid directories should be overlooked—they offer visibility and SEO value that can’t be denied. It’s best to assess your available time and resources, and determine what mix makes the most sense for your firm.