What to do When FindLaw Pulls the Plug on Your Website

Want to see the world’s ugliest law firm website?

404 Coffman

That’s what Kendall Coffman’s FindLaw website looked like on Tuesday.  What follows demonstrates how Kendall was able to get his site (admittedly stripped down) back up and running with 21 hours.

1:27 PM Tuesday

I receive an email from Kendall.

I have been in a dispute with Findlaw for several months now, and Findlaw has decided to “take down” my website.  My site was www.sanmateobankruptcylawyer.com, and if you go there, you will see nothing except maybe error messages.

2:02 PM Phone Call

I give Kendall a call – what follows are my notes from the call:

Kendall is locked in to a long term contract with FindLaw after moving his website from a self made 1&1 website. He’s become increasingly concerned over the decline in performance of his FindLaw site – and has been in an ongoing dispute over the fees he’s being charged and the site’s underperformance. Now I think that part of Kendall’s problem is entirely exogenous to FindLaw – as the real estate market and economy have picked up, the demand for his specific practice area has declined. But, Kendall is concerned that his site was hit by Panda 2.4 in September 2011, but unfortunately FindLaw hasn’t installed Google analytics on his site – despite his bringing up the issue – so this is just conjecture at this point.  He’s also concerned the backlink package he purchased from FindLaw has resulted in low quality links which may be impacting the site negatively.  However, it seems that FindLaw has viewed his inquiries about his site’s lagging performance as an upsell opportunity.

“When I ask for help, Findlaw tries to sell me something to cause my bill to go up.”

We go over the services Kendall is receiving.

His monthly bill is $1,519.44 and includes FindLaw Premium Profile ($59.40), FindLaw Firmsite 333 C Website Package ($628.95), Findlaw FS Web Advantage Starter Plus ($348.36). At one point he was sold on blogging and added FindLaw Post Plus Firmsite and FindLaw Blog Service Starter FS ($433.60 for 2 blogs a month).

So after ongoing billing and performance conversations, without any warning, FindLaw pulled the plug on Kendall’s website. (Note that it is particularly dangerous from an SEO perspective to do this as search engines are particularly loath to send traffic to an empty, broken, dead, error page.)

2:31 PM Pull the Fire Alarm

Occasionally at the agency, we “pull the fire alarm” – essentially everyone drops everything and jumps on a project where time is of the essence.  We’ve done this in the past, when a client’s host went AWOL, we’ve done it in response to news events in the mass torts space and yesterday we pulled the fire alarm for Kendall.  The goal was very simple: get a placeholder site up as quickly as possible.  Instructions to the team:

FindLaw has pulled Kendall’s current website and it is currently returning an error. The site, unfortunately is registered to 1&1. Our immediate goal is to get a barebones website back up and running.  We’re going to launch a very simple, scaled down version TOMORROW.  On our plate: build out a  5-6 page WordPress website from existing template; hosted on WPEngine.  Redirect old pages (there are 93) to homepage.  We think Kendall does NOT own any of the content, so he is going to have to rewrite it within our shell – we’ll need to provide him with the WordPress Guide.  Kendall is sending us information on his 1&1 logins.  We do NOT think there is an existing GA account – so should probably set that up as well.

3:46 Infrastructure

Kendall sends us log-ins to 1&1 – to which his domain is registered.  Fortunately 1&1 makes it easy for us to access these records.  (Note: good thing Kendal had an initial site through 1&1 – while he doesn’t technically own his domain – a big no no – 1&1 has made it easy enough for him to control what goes on that domain. His worst case would be if his vendor actually registered the domain and owned it – which has been known to happen.)

5:25 PM Creative Done

Mockingbird Design and Development used a preferred WordPress Theme and applied an existing basic design template. Utilizing the Wayback machine they were able to view Kendall’s FindLaw site (prior to the plug being pulled) and reviewed the general layout, imagery, content map, color schemes, logo and vital content like address, phone numbers etc.

Instructions emailed to Kendall along with the site and log-ins.

I would also suggest not to edit anything if you are not sure what that edit will do. With that said, I have set up some basic menus and pages for you to see how WordPress works. Attached is a basic WordPress Editing guide. This should help you create and edit pages.
Good luck!

Below are the old and new sites.   I might be a little biased but I think the new one looks just a little better.

Kendall’s New Site:

Kendall's New WordPress Site Kendall’s New WordPress Site 

Kendall’s FindLaw Site

Kendall's FindLaw site Kendall’s FindLaw site

11:36 PM Content Loaded

Kendall has written and uploaded content into the site and sends a few requests:
  1. Replace the FindLaw tracking phone numbers with his primary number.
  2. Add a Better Business Bureau badge
  3. Change the email address on the contact form on the site.
  4. Add ApexChat functionality.

9:31 AM Wednesday

Mockingbird Design & Development completes requested changes and modifies 1&1 registrar records to point to our WP Engine hosting solution.

10:11 Site Live

21 hours after Kendall discovered that FindLaw had pulled the plug on his website – he’s back up and running. You can now see it here: site. Its admittedly a stripped down version from a content perspective; but professional, functional (responsive) and much better looking than a 404. A few search queries and it looks like the downtime hasn’t decimated his search engine performance.  Over the next hour, we finish the process of redirecting the old URL’s.

Now, because the site is built on the ubiquitous and easy to use WordPress platform, Kendall can add much of the content himself without being beholden to a vendor’s proprietary platform. And if he wants further help on it, he can contract with one of the tens of thousands of professionals who work on WordPress throughout the US.


I started working directly with law firms precisely because I hated seeing small businesses going through these types of horrendous experiences. This may be naively idealistic and my MBA brethren would certainly scoff, but I’d rather foot a client’s hosting bill than deliberately hurt their business by leaving them naked and flapping in the online wind.  (Granted our hosting is only $29 monthly, but I digress.)

If you are concerned about your own FindLaw site, download the FindLaw Jailbreak Guide to carefully plan your escape.

Avoid “1&1 My Website” for your law firm’s website

Generally, I encourage lawyers to use any cost effective means necessary to get a website up and running – but with 1 & 1 My Website, I’m wrong.

Here’s the backstory: I just received a cold call from 1&1 My Website to our new office number, which was surprising as I haven’t published it anywhere. Given the business I’m in, and the fact that I’ve had a few inquiries from lawyers about their service, I decided to play along and learn a little more. While I didn’t record the conversation, here is my best recreation of some of the conversation that ensued.

The initial call was from a woman who asked for the business owner and started telling me some alarming things about my website.

“When you look your business up online, you have no credibility.”
“I can’t imagine that is the case, I have a very solid reputation . . . ”
“Your business is not searchable through Google.”
“I’m looking your business up and its showing that you don’t have any credibility.”
“Well what are you looking it up with?”
“Your competitors are beating you online.”
“Which competitors?”
“Your competitors in Washington state.”
“But I don’t have any competitors in Washington state.”
“Your business doesn’t have any credibility.”

This went round and round for a few minutes until it became clear that a)she knew nothing and b)her primary objective was to get me on a shared screen via join.me to go through a demo. (She also thought my name was Bob – which was amusing.) I played along and was introduced to a closer named Bill (I’ve changed his name for his own protection – you’ll see why later) whose first questions were:

“Do you already have a website?”
“What is your domain?”

Now presumably, the first lady was actually looking at my site when she was so concerned about my credibility, but in hindsight – we never actually talked about the actual domain at all. Now that we were sharing his screen, Bill proceeded to look up my site and show me the source code on the homepage.

“See . . . the site has no meta tags or keywords, so the only way people can find you is by your business name.”
“Well, that is very concerning.”

Now remember, he’s looking at my site, where the primary nav includes the words “Advanced SEO” – somehow this never registers. He then used an online tool to look up my phone number that returned a zero result.

Phone Lookup

“See here . . . I can tell by your phone number that you don’t have any website traffic.”
“But I thought I was doing well with search engines.”
“But you don’t have any meta tags or keywords.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“The way search engines work is that they look for keywords on your website and if they aren’t there, you won’t show up.”

We then moved to the solution part of the sale . . .

“You can keep your website and we’ll add all of the meta tags and keywords for you for free.”
“Well how many keywords can I get?”
“And what about those meta tags – I don’t really understand that.”
“It’s unlimited, we’ll put in whatever your business does so the search engines can find you.”

I thought I’d move to some more pointed questions:

“But I thought links were the primary thing that search engines used to drive rankings.”
“Oh you can put as many links on your site as you want – for free.”
“No I mean links from other websites.”
“We do that too.”
“Well how many links do I get?”
“How does that work?”
“We have a tool that creates them.”

“You said I can just copy my website to a new domain – www.atticusmarketing.net. Is that going to help with SEO?”
“Yup – and you also get up to 1,000 subdomains.”
“So if I just copy my website on those subdomains, would that help with SEO?”

At this point, I should note that this is neither of the two call reps fault. They are stuck in a call center (the background noise sounded like a frat party after a college football win). They have miserable jobs getting rejected by cranky small business owners on a regular basis. They have clearly been trained in the most effective script that closes the most businesses, instead of fundamental SEO concepts.

If you don’t understand why their answers above were so horrific – just take my word for it and stay away.

These sales tactics are unfortunately common in the website/SEO sales process – alarmist calls, unsubstantiated claims, technical jargon and automated, low cost solutions. Its why uninformed attorneys are taken advantage of on a regular basis when buying websites or SEO services. I wrote a quick self-evaluation a few months ago to answer the question: Are  You  Qualified to Hire an SEO?”

But it gets worse.

After we ended the call (I didn’t sign up btw – despite Bill’s mention of their Superbowl ad, which, for some reason he thought would get me to close) Bill kept his screen sharing opened to his call management software – Connect First. So I was able to investigate where 1&1 harvested my unpublished phone number from – apparently a contact generation company called CostalCom Closers.


CoastalCom Closers 2


I was also able to watch as Bill walked another lead – a contractor across the country – from the cold call script . . .


. . . all the way through the purchase process . . .

Untitiled 8

. . . to the entry of the company’s credit card number. (Let’s ignore for now, the ironic disclaimer, “1&1 is committed to keeping your payment details secure.”)

Payment Credit Card

If you are uninformed enough to fall for 1 & 1’s sales message know this: they give you just enough functionality to entirely screw up your online marketing efforts. The service was $14.95 a month – clearly you get what you pay for. Attorney websites for lawyers don’t need to be expensive, but they need to get traffic and make your phone ring. 1&1 is NOT the solution.

UPDATE: Through some backdoor channels I heard from Jeff, 1&1’s Director of Telesales.  While we only traded voicemails, I believe he was genuinely trying to get in touch with me.  From one of his VM’s: “assure you that this is not our typical business practice.”