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Buying Leads: What Are the Costs (and Are They Worth It)?
Monday, March 11, 2024

Marketing a legal practice is no easy feat. In fact, the legal industry is one of the most competitive industries out there, with players at both the local and national level. With that, it’s no wonder buying legal leads sounds like an enticing option. 

But is buying legal leads all that it’s cracked up to be? Sure, there’s the obvious financial cost – paying for leads – but are there others?

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of purchasing legal leads, plus provide some tips on what to look out for if you do decide to buy leads for your law firm. 

What are “Legal Leads”?

The term “legal leads” can seem quite ubiquitous, as it fails to specify what type of legal leads, for what type of law firm, and from what source. And that’s kind of the point – when buying legal leads, you don’t always know what you’re getting.

In simple terms, though, “legal leads” refer to sources or individuals that might be interested in legal services. Typically, legal leads are provided in the form of names, email addresses, and phone numbers. 

Can You Actually Buy Legal Leads?

With legal leads being so valuable (they could turn into new clients!), many marketers and lead generation companies have ventured to sell legal leads directly to law firms. 

Some examples of services that sell legal leads include Legal Brand Marketing, 4LegalLeads or Service Direct, but not all legal lead generation companies are created equal. The quality of the leads can vary widely, as can the costs.

Disclaimer: Not All Legal Leads are Legit

The hard truth is that not all legal leads are legitimate, high-quality leads. Just because a lead generation service has provided you with a name and email address doesn’t mean that person has expressed an interest in legal services. Or that they have consented to providing their information. 

That’s why the most important thing to consider when buying leads is the servicer’s methodology of acquiring the leads. The strategies and messaging used to earn the lead, the method by which the information was collected, and the process by which the information was provided to your firm all matter when it comes to determining whether a lead is “legit”.

Is it Worth it to Buy Legal Leads?

While it is true that you can buy legal leads, the real question is: should you? The answer to that question will depend on a variety of factors. Purchasing leads may be beneficial for one firm but not as beneficial to another. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons for your particular business. 

Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of purchasing legal leads for your law firm. 

Pros of Buying Leads

  • Fast and convenient: Buying leads gives you immediate access to contacts who might be interested in legal services. This can save you time compared to marketing your business and generating leads through your own efforts, like through law firm SEO
  • Targeted lead generation (sometimes): Many lead selling servicers allow you to target specific demographics, geographic areas, and/or types of legal cases in order to reach your ideal clients. The more relevant the lead, the more likely they are to convert into a new client. 
  • Highly scalable: Lead generation agencies often offer scalable solutions, allowing you to ramp up (or pare down) their efforts depending on your needs. You can essentially adjust the volume of the leads coming in, without having to double-down on your own marketing. 
  • Cost-effective (sometimes): Working with a lead generation company can sometimes be more cost-effective than doing lead generation yourself or hiring a team to do it for you. 

Cons of Buying Leads

  • Questionable ROI: There’s usually an upfront cost to buying leads and you won’t always know if your investment will pay off. Depending on your lead generation agency’s pricing model, calculating your Return on Investment (ROI) can be difficult.
  • Picking from the same pool: Other law firms may be purchasing leads from the same source as you, resulting in you vying for the same prospects. This can lead to an intense competition for the same leads, driving up costs and reducing the chances of converting leads into clients.
  • Quality concerns: Unless the lead generation agency is completely transparent about their sources and methodology for acquiring leads, you might not always know where they came from. The leads may not actually be interested in your services, might not meet your criteria, or may not have even consented to having their information collected and shared. 
  • No brand association: A “fresh” lead from an agency is likely someone who has never heard of your law firm before. They might not know anything about your brand, or trust your firm as an authority. This makes them harder to convert than someone who has already heard of you and trusts you. 
  • Ethical considerations: Lead generation agencies have the unfortunate reputation of resorting to sketchy practices in order to find and acquire leads. Especially as a law firm owner, it’s important to know whether the lead generation practices comply with legal and ethical standards.
  • May not be sustainable: Relying solely on purchased leads may not be sustainable in the long run. It could build a dependency on external sources for new clients versus putting in the work to grow a genuine community and organic awareness of your brand. 

Counting the Costs of Buying Leads

The main appeal of buying legal leads is that it’s fast and simple. You find a lead generation agency, pay them a fee, and they send new leads to your inbox. But there can be other costs — financial and otherwise — to consider before you go this route.

It's important to determine the overall investment and potential return on buying legal leads. There are few ways to “count the costs”, so to speak: 

  1. Research cost options. Different lead generation agencies charge different prices. And lead prices can vary depending on factors such as lead quality, lead source, and the specific criteria you're targeting. Research several options before deciding who to work with.
  2. Determine your lead acquisition cost. This is the upfront cost you pay for the leads. Even better, divide this cost by the average number of leads you’re expected to acquire in order to calculate your cost per lead. 
  3. Look at your existing marketing costs. How much are you currently paying for marketing and advertising? And how are those efforts paying off? If the cost to buy leads is lower than what you’re currently paying for marketing – and the results are expected to be better – buying leads may be worth the investment.
  4. Factor in lead management software. When buying leads, you’ll likely need to subscribe to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software in order to collect, manage, and follow up on those leads. This cost should be factored into your expenses as well.
  5. Consider staffing and team training. Your existing team might be acclimated to your existing system. An influx of new leads will likely require additional training for your team in order to manage them. You might even need to hire more staff. Factor in these resource costs as well. 
  6. Remember that time is a resource. Just because you get a ton of new leads doesn’t mean they will automatically convert. Optimizing your lead generation system takes time, and time is money. You may also need to invest in testing and optimization to refine your targeting, messaging, and conversion strategies. This can take a significant amount of time as well.

If you’re considering buying legal leads, your best bet is to consult with your financial advisor or accountant to determine the costs of your particular objectives and whether these are likely to pay off for your business. Buying leads without a proper plan in place can result in a waste of money, time, and resources. Getting informed is the way to go. 

What to Look for When Purchasing Leads

Ultimately, your decision to buy leads should be based on your unique situation and goals. As stated, buying leads can be beneficial for some law firms. For others, it may not be worth the cost. 

My goal is to inform legal professionals on how to discern between trustworthy and untrustworthy lead sources. If you’re going to pay for leads, you should know what you’re paying for – and get your money’s worth!

Here are a few tips for purchasing legal leads:

  • Ask your network. Often, the best way to find a reputable lead generation company is to ask your network. See if there are any legal professionals who have actually worked with these companies before and can vouch for their services. 
  • Read case studies, testimonials, and reviews. When looking for a legit lead selling company, don’t just take their word for it. See if they have any case studies or testimonials from real clients to prove they can deliver results. 
  • Prioritize “high-intent” lead sources. Look for lead generation services that can provide verified, high-intent leads – that is, leads that have actually expressed an interest in legal services. Check that they can deliver leads that are relevant to your business, not just random “contacts”.
  • Ask about their lead validation process. Ask the agency what sources they use to generate leads. Confirm how these leads “opt in” to providing their contact information so you can be confident that they are using ethical lead generation practices.
  • Look for practice-specific experience. Try to find a lead generation agency that has experience acquiring leads for your specific practice area. For instance, some agencies specialize in leads for personal injury attorneys, family law, probate, etc. It’s best to buy leads that are only relevant to your practice areas.
  • Transparent pricing is a necessity. Only work with lead generation agencies that offer transparent pricing. They should be able to provide clear explanations of costs and disclose whether there are any additional fees involved. Avoid services that use vague pricing or have hidden fees.
  • Ask about exclusivity. Consider using a lead generation agency that only offers exclusive leads, not shared leads. This means that their leads are not sold to multiple law firms. This helps you avoid competing over the same leads.
  • Ask about lead delivery methods. How will the leads be sent to you? Are there different options? Ideally, the agency will offer real-time delivery so the leads go straight to your inbox, allowing you to follow up ASAP.
  • Look for a “lead replacement policy”. Ask what happens if the agency sends you low-quality or invalid leads. Will you get a refund? Will they compensate by sending you more leads? You don’t want your investment to go to waste!
  • Know whether they follow data security best practices. A legit lead selling agency will know about data security best practices and will comply with legal industry standards when it comes to lead generation. They should be able to explain what efforts they take to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the leads they acquire. 

Buying Legal Leads – Worth It or Not?

Considering buying legal leads? We asked our network of legal professionals whether they have seen success with buying leads, and whether they believe buying leads is worth it over all. 

Here’s what they had to say about the topic:

"Purchasing legal leads can be a strategic interim solution, bridging the gap until your long-term marketing efforts mature. Yet, the lack of control and high costs associated with bought leads underscore the importance of investing in sustainable marketing strategies like SEO and branding, which ultimately lower acquisition costs and enhance client quality." – Kayla Grayson, Viles & Beckman

"Our experience has been both positive and negative. The positive is that buying leads can provide an additional revenue source but the chance you take is that the company selling it to you is competing for some of the same leads as our own marketing efforts. If the cost per lead is low enough and the leads convert, it’s positive. Our experience is that eventually the conversion rates go down or the volume of leads promised declines. We don’t have control over their lead source so when it dries up it’s over. The negative experience we have had is when a company is selling leads with specific attributes including fresh “vetted” leads and live transfers, and then it simply doesn’t happen that way. This leads to lost time and revenue for us. So, is it worth it? Short term it can be, long term it’s not." – Jody Davis, John Foy

“Buying leads can be worth it if the leads are high-quality, targeted, and convert into signed clients. It’s important to assess the return on investment by tracking metrics such as, the cost per signed case, time on desk, and other costs associated with working on a case." – Brandon Dawson, Miller, Dawson, Sigal & Ward

"The answer is it depends. If you are planning on buying leads you need to discuss the qualifiers with the lead company and discuss your expected CPA and ROI prior to starting. It is very important to track this data. Most lead companies start out great and then begin to decline in quality, so it is important to hold them accountable. Don't fall asleep at the wheel." – Robin Saghian, Omega Law

"If the cost per case is lower than your average, it could be worth buying leads to increase your case volume when needed. However, the leads stop when you stop paying, and costs can be volatile. Buying leads should never be your main source of cases. Focusing your efforts on SEO, PPC and branding campaigns should have a better return for you in the long run by increasing your firm’s authority over time." – Rachel Howell, Laborde Earles

“It’s widely acknowledged at our firm that some of our worst performing months have been those in which we have tested lead generation service subscriptions. While there was clear evidence of significant increases in intake calls, unfortunately the conversion rate on the purchased leads was low. The cost of the purchased leads was not outweighed by the return on cases signed. Our firm no longer does business with these lead generation vendors.” – Gregory Bird, Fasig | Brooks

"Buying legal leads could be worth it if the leads are not shared with other lawyers and are what we call exclusive. As with any lead program people should be contacted within minutes of a lead hitting your inbox since the urgency of certain legal needs is often minutes, if not seconds." – David Haenel, The Law Place

Buying leads might be worth it for your law firm, depending on your goals, target audience, and budget. 

If you do decide to buy leads, it’s best to look for a lead selling provider that is trustworthy, legitimate, and effective.

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