Criminal Defense Attorney Advertising: 2023 Best Practices

While many attorneys rely on word-of-mouth referrals to generate new business, there is an increasing trend of lawyers utilizing advertising to expand their client base.

By embracing innovative marketing strategies, criminal defense attorneys can reach a wider audience and take their firms to the next level. However, navigating the ethical and regulatory considerations of attorney advertising can be a complex process. 

In this article, we will explore the benefits and challenges of criminal defense attorney marketing and advertising, and provide insights on how attorneys can effectively promote their services while upholding their professional responsibilities.

Ethical Legal Advertising

Ethical Considerations of Criminal Defense Marketing

Avoid Claiming To Be An Expert

Even if you possess a wealth of knowledge and experience, it is important to exercise caution when labeling yourself as an “expert” or “specialist” in a particular field of law.

In accordance with ABA Rule 7.2, attorneys are prohibited from suggesting that they are a specialist in a legal practice area unless they have received formal certification or accreditation from an ABA-accredited organization authorized by their state, district, or U.S. Territory.

While it is acceptable to state that you focus on a specific area of the law, such as appellate law, it is not appropriate to refer to yourself as an appellate law specialist or expert unless you have undergone the certification process in your jurisdiction. 

For instance, in California, becoming a legal specialist entails engaging in continuous legal practice in the specialty area for a specified number of years, with a designated portion of time devoted to that area of law.

In addition, attorneys and judges must evaluate your work in your specialty area to determine your eligibility for certification. 

By being mindful of the ethical and regulatory considerations surrounding self-promotion, attorneys can uphold their professional responsibilities and maintain their clients’ trust seeking legal representation.

Client Testimonials

Use Client Testimonials Carefully

Receiving positive reviews and feedback from past clients can be a valuable asset in attracting new clients to your law firm. However, it is crucial to adhere to the correct advertising guidelines and regulations in your jurisdiction before publishing testimonials on your website.

It’s essential to understand that these rules may differ depending on your area of legal practice. As a general best practice, the ABA Rule 7.2 (b) prohibits lawyers from compensating individuals for recommending their services in any manner.

This means that any recommendation must be given voluntarily and without incentives. It is important to note that compensating clients for testimonials is strictly forbidden.

Additionally, it is essential to verify any particular regulations concerning testimonials in your advertising efforts. For instance, the State Bar of California’s Comment specifies that testimonials should not create an expectation of similar results for potential clients.

This means that lawyer advertisements should not imply that prospective clients should anticipate receiving the same outcome as the person giving the testimonial.

Never Use The Word “Best”

When advertising your legal services, it’s important to avoid using superlatives like “the best” or “the lowest.”

While you may believe that your firm is exceptional, making vague statements that cannot be substantiated can lead to misunderstandings and mislead potential clients, resulting in a violation of legal advertising rules.

Instead, it’s best to focus on concrete and quantifiable features that set your firm apart from others. For instance, if your firm offers flexible payment options like credit cards and payment plans, you can highlight this as an attractive benefit for clients.

To ensure compliance with legal advertising rules, it’s crucial to understand the guidelines established by your state bar association.

In California, for instance, the State Bar has outlined clear rules for advertising that prohibit untrue, confusing, deceiving, or misleading statements that may misrepresent your legal services to the public.

Even technically true statements may be considered misleading if relevant information is omitted. For example, advertising free consultations without disclosing that they are limited to five minutes and that longer consultations require a fee could still be misleading to potential clients.

Types of Marketing

Types of Criminal Defense Marketing

When it comes to advertising, and marketing for criminal defense, lawyers have a variety of options available to them. For the sake of simplicity, we can categorize these options into two main categories: traditional and digital marketing.

Traditional marketing refers to more traditional methods of advertising, such as billboards, print ads in newspapers or magazines, and broadcast media like radio or TV commercials.

These methods have been used for decades and are still effective in reaching a wide audience. Traditional marketing can be particularly useful for targeting specific geographic areas or demographics.

On the other hand, digital marketing refers to online methods of advertising, such as social media marketing, content marketing, and pay-per-click advertising. These methods have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason.

With the vast majority of people now using the internet to research products and services, a digital marketing campaign can be an effective way to reach potential clients where they spend a lot of their time.

Both traditional and digital marketing have their own unique advantages and challenges. For instance, traditional marketing may require a larger budget to reach a wide audience, whereas digital marketing can be more cost-effective but may require more technical knowledge and expertise.

Ultimately, the most effective advertising strategy will depend on a variety of factors, including your target audience, budget, and the unique features of your law firm’s website.

Traditional Advertising

Traditional Advertising For Criminal Defense Lawyers

A criminal defense attorney may use traditional marketing methods to reach a broad audience, generate brand awareness, and attract new clients. Here are some examples of how a criminal defense attorney might use traditional marketing.


Billboard Ads

Billboards are one of the most commonly used forms of traditional marketing for lawyers. They can be a highly effective way to build brand equity and increase awareness of your law firm’s services. However, while billboards can be a great marketing channel for attorneys, they can also present challenges.

One of the biggest challenges with billboards is that it’s almost impossible to attribute new clients directly to their use.

Unlike other marketing channels, such as pay-per-click advertising, where clicks and conversions can be tracked, it can be difficult to measure the impact of billboards on generating new business. This makes it challenging to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of billboard advertising.

Another challenge of billboard advertising is the cost. Billboards are typically rented on a monthly basis and can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per month for a single placement. This can be a significant investment for a law firm, particularly for smaller firms with limited marketing budgets.

Despite these challenges, billboards remain a popular marketing channel for lawyers because they offer a wide reach and can help establish the law firm’s brand as a reputable and trustworthy source of legal services.

When used strategically and in conjunction with other marketing efforts, billboards can be a valuable component of a comprehensive advertising strategy for criminal defense attorneys.

Print Ads

Print ads have long been a popular choice of advertising for lawyers. However, in recent years, they have lost most of the advantages they once had.

Like billboards, one of the biggest challenges with print ads is that it can be difficult to attribute new clients to their use. This makes it challenging to evaluate the return on investment of print advertising.

Print Ads

Another issue with print advertising is that it’s becoming less and less effective as a marketing channel. With the rise of digital media and the decline of print media, fewer people are consuming print publications than they used to.

In 2000, over 55 million newspapers were circulated weekly throughout the US, but by 2020, that number had dropped by more than half to just 24 million. As a result, print ads are reaching fewer people than they used to and are no longer as effective as they once were.

Despite these challenges, print ads can still be a valuable marketing channel for some criminal defense attorneys.

For instance, if your criminal defense law firm operates in a specific geographic area where a print publication is widely read, print ads may still be an effective way to reach potential clients.

Nonetheless, it’s important for lawyers to consider other marketing channels, such as digital marketing, to complement their traditional marketing efforts and reach a wider audience.

Radio Ads 

Radio advertising has long been a popular choice for lawyers looking to reach potential clients. However, similar to print ads, radio consumption is on the decline.

According to Nielsen Audio, the Average Quarter Hour (AQH) Listening of FM stations dropped by 23.5 percent from 2015-2020. This means that if you are choosing to advertise through radio, you are advertising to a market segment that is getting smaller and smaller every year.

This decline in radio consumption can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the rise of digital media and the popularity of music streaming services.

As more people turn to digital media to consume music and other forms of entertainment, traditional radio is losing its appeal to many consumers.

As a result, radio advertising is reaching fewer people than it used to, which can make it a less effective marketing channel for some law firms.

Despite the decline in radio consumption, it’s important to note that radio advertising can still be effective in certain situations.

For instance, if your law firm operates in a specific geographic area where a radio station has a large and engaged audience, radio advertising may still be an effective way to reach potential clients.

However, it’s important for lawyers to be aware of the declining reach of radio advertising and to consider other marketing channels, such as digital marketing, to complement their traditional advertising efforts.

TV Ads

While TV advertising can be a highly effective way to reach a large audience and increase brand awareness, it’s important to consider the costs associated with it.

Creating a TV ad requires hiring a professional videography team to produce high-quality visuals and audio that will capture the attention of viewers.

TV ads

Additionally, purchasing ad time on selected channels can be prohibitively expensive for most law firms, making TV advertising a challenging option for many.

The cost of TV advertising can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the time slot, the length of the ad, and the channels you choose to advertise on.

On average, producing a TV ad can cost between $1,000 to $10,000 or more per ad, which can be a significant investment for smaller law firms with limited marketing budgets.

Digital Advertising For Criminal Defense Lawyers

Digital Advertising For Criminal Defense Lawyers

Digital marketing is the way to go for most businesses. As traditional marketing slowly dies off, digital marketing is rapidly replacing it. In fact, the digital marketing industry is set to grow at a rate of over 17% from 2021 to 2026

If you aren’t utilizing digital marketing to grow your business, you’re missing out on the best possible investment you can make. 

Below we will cover the most important digital marketing channels for criminal defense clients and attorneys.

Seo For Criminal Defense Firms 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial aspect of any digital marketing strategy that can provide significant benefits to criminal defense attorneys.

It is a technique used to improve the visibility and ranking of a website on search engine results pages (SERPs) like Google.

By optimizing your website’s content with the relevant keywords and phrases, you can appear in the search results when someone searches for specific terms related to your legal services, such as “defense lawyers in (enter location)”.

Through the creation of high-quality, informative content on your website, you can attract more traffic to your site and improve your chances of converting visitors into clients.

SEO is a valuable marketing channel that can help you build your online presence, increase your website’s traffic, and ultimately grow your business.

By regularly publishing helpful legal content and utilizing SEO best practices, you can establish yourself as an authority in your field and drive more traffic to your website, leading to more leads and clients for your defense attorney practice.

Keyword Research For Criminal Defense Attorneys

Keyword research is a critical process in SEO that helps you identify specific search terms that potential clients use to find information about your industry.

By understanding these search engine optimization terms, you can optimize your website content to ensure that it appears prominently in search engine results pages. This can lead to increased traffic to your site, more leads, and ultimately, more clients for your business.

Keyword Research

When conducting keyword research, it’s important to consider the different types of keywords that people use when searching for information. There are three main categories of keywords: informational, commercial, and transactional.

Informational Keywords

Informational keywords are used by people who are looking for information about a particular topic. The search intent here is not to purchase a service, but to learn more about a specific issue, they may face.

For example, someone who has recently had a drug-related run in with the law may search “First-time drug offense in (location)” or “Marijuana laws in (location)”.

When it comes to SEO, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of optimizing your website solely for high-converting keywords.

However, it’s important to remember that the journey to a sale often starts with informational searches.

These types of searches are less likely to lead to an immediate conversion, but they play a crucial role in building brand awareness and trust with both search engines and potential clients.

When you provide valuable information on your website that answers common questions people have about your criminal defense practice, you position yourself as an authority in the space.

This can make it easier to rank for more competitive search terms in the future, as search engines recognize the unique value proposition you provide to users.

Additionally, by focusing on top-of-the-funnel informational keywords, you can begin building a relationship with potential clients.

When you provide value first, without asking for anything in return, people are more likely to reciprocate in the future. This means that as people continue to research their criminal charges and defense, they may return to your website as a trusted source of information.

While it may take longer to see results from informational keywords, they are an important part of any SEO strategy. By focusing on providing value and building trust with potential clients, you can create a strong foundation for future conversions and grow your business over time.

Commercial Keywords 

Commercial keywords are related to the middle of the sales funnel. Here searchers have identified their issue and are now comparing their options.

Keywords like “How much does a criminal defense lawyer cost?” or “What to consider when hiring a criminal defense lawyer?” are examples of commercial keywords.

By targeting these keywords you can help searchers make decisions about how to hire an attorney.

Transactional Keywords

Lastly, we have transactional keywords. These keywords are at the bottom of the sales funnel and represent searches that are most likely to create conversions, whether its a form fill, call or scheduling a consultation. Examples of these keywords range from “Criminal defense lawyers near me” to “Hire a criminal defense attorney”.

These keywords are generally extremely competitive and require a fully built-out and optimized website to rank for. Additionally, since these keywords often include a geo-tagged term like a state or a city, focusing on local seo can help your criminal defense firm rank for these terms.

By combining all of these key terms into your content marketing strategy, you are able to completely fulfill search intent and position your firm as a dominant informational source.

Local SEO For Defense Attorneys

Local SEO for Criminal Defense Law Firms

One crucial aspect of SEO is local SEO, which involves optimizing your website to rank higher in location-specific search results.

For example, if you are a local business, like a defense attorney, ranking for “defense lawyers in (enter location)” can be extremely valuable.

Local SEO is an essential part of any successful SEO campaign for a local business, as it helps you target customers in your local area and drives traffic to your website.

Local SEO involves various tactics like creating and optimizing your Google My Business page, ensuring your NAP (name, address, phone number) information is consistent across all online directories and listings and building local citations and backlinks.

These efforts help search engines understand your business’s relevance to the local search query and improve your chances of appearing in the local search results.

Ranking high in local search results can be the lifeblood of any SEO campaign for a local business. It increases your visibility, drives more traffic to your website, and ultimately helps you attract more customers and grow your business.

By implementing local SEO strategies and focusing on location-specific terms, you can improve your website’s visibility and rank higher in search engine results pages for the keywords that matter most to your business.

Local Pack Lawyers

The Local Pack 

When someone performs a search with local intent, Google may display a section called the “local pack.” This section usually appears as a list of local businesses, along with a map of the area. To appear in the local pack, it’s essential to optimize your Google My Business profile and procure positive customer reviews.

Optimizing your Google My Business profile involves filling out all the relevant information about your business, such as your address, phone number, and hours of operation.

It’s also important to choose the right categories for your business and add high-quality photos. By doing this, you help Google understand what your business is about and increase your chances of appearing in the local pack.

In addition to optimizing your Google My Business profile, it’s also essential to optimize your website for local search. This involves using location-specific keywords on your website and ensuring that your NAP information is consistent across all online directories and listings.

By optimizing your Google My Business profile and website for local search, you can maximize your search real estate for relevant search terms.

This means that you can appear both in the local pack and organic search results, which can significantly increase your visibility and drive more traffic to your website.

In summary, optimizing your Google My Business profile and website for local search is crucial for any local business looking to attract more customers and grow their business.

PPC Advertising For Lawyers

PPC Advertising For Defense Attorneys

While SEO is a long-term game that requires time and effort to achieve top organic rankings, PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is a “pay-to-play” model that allows you to place your offering at the top of search results immediately.

This means that instead of waiting weeks or even months to see results, you can start generating traffic and leads from the very beginning of your PPC campaign.

PPC campaigns typically involve bidding on specific keywords or search terms, and your ads will appear at the top of the search results for those terms.

While these positions may have lower click-through rates than organic search results, they can be a great way to test messaging and start generating leads immediately.

It’s important to note that a combination of SEO and PPC can often be the best practice. While SEO provides long-term benefits and builds credibility over time, PPC can help you test the conversion rate of specific terms without the time investment required by SEO.

For defense attorneys, PPC can be particularly valuable, as it allows them to reach potential clients who are actively searching for their services. By targeting specific keywords related to your legal services, you can ensure that your ads are seen by people who are more likely to convert into clients.

In summary, while SEO and PPC both have their own unique advantages, combining both strategies can be an effective way to maximize your online visibility and generate more leads for your criminal defense practice and attorney practice.

Social Media Marketing

 Social Media Marketing For Lawyers

Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube can be highly advantageous for attorneys as they provide an opportunity to form relationships with existing and potential clients. By maintaining an active presence on these social media platforms themselves, attorneys can showcase their expertise, connect with their target audience, and build trust with potential clients.

In fact, recent studies have shown that people are more likely to use a lawyer who is active on social media. This is because social media allows attorneys to demonstrate their knowledge and experience, engage with their audience, and provide value by sharing educational and informative content.

LinkedIn, for example, is a great platform for building professional relationships and networking with other professionals in the legal industry. Instagram and YouTube, on the other hand, can be used to share visual content like photos, videos, and infographics that can help simplify complex legal concepts and connect with potential clients on a more personal level.


As a criminal defense firm, it’s natural to rely on word of mouth and referral networks to bring in new clients. However, in today’s digital age, it’s essential to build out a comprehensive marketing strategy if you want to take your firm to the next level.

By investing in marketing, both traditional and digital, you can increase your visibility and reach more potential clients. With a comprehensive marketing strategy, you can create a cohesive message that resonates with your target audience and positions your firm as the go-to choice for criminal defense.

While traditional marketing methods like billboards and print ads can be effective, digital marketing offers even more opportunities to connect with potential clients. By leveraging the power of search engines, social media, and other digital channels, you can reach people where they are already spending their time online.

At 7ten Digital Marketing, we specialize in helping criminal defense firms build comprehensive marketing strategies that deliver results. We understand the unique challenges that law firms face when it comes to marketing, and we have the expertise and experience to create custom solutions that meet your specific needs.

If you’re ready to save time and kickstart your marketing efforts, we encourage you to reach out to us today. Let’s work together to build a marketing strategy that takes your firm to the next level and helps you achieve your business goals.

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