When I first started as a Bankruptcy attorney over 20 years ago, I used to advertise in a small free community newspaper call the Little Nickle. Most of my clients came to me because of an old-fashioned newspaper ad, or word of mouth.
Today, the internet dominates how we find goods and services, including an attorney. Within that sphere nothing dominates like Google. Most people go onto their web browser, type in what they want, and get some sort of result. Google's business model is predicated upon this behavior and therefore they charge producers of goods and services for advertising in order to have your search results skewed in their favor.
If it was as simple as that, then the guy that spends the most money will always appear first in your search results, but in an effort to level the playing field Google uses algorithms to try and “help” you get the best results. While this is a great idea, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
In recent years, some aspects of consumer life have been plagued with scams, and so Google (in an effort to reduce scams from your search results), routinely flags certain key “search words” as problematic in order to save you from yourself.
I was recently shocked to find out that “Bankruptcy” has recently been flagged by Google as an improper advertising term. This information came straight from Google (not Google affiliated partners), and no reason was given other than the term “Bankruptcy” was considered exploitative to low-income people and that as part of their ongoing effort to help their consumers they would downgrade searches with that term in it.
So despite the fact that Title 11 of the United States Code (the official Federal Laws) are related to “Bankruptcy”, and that we have Federally appointed “Bankruptcy Judges”, and official “Bankruptcy Courts”, not to mention “Bankruptcy” lawyers, the term “Bankruptcy” (at the time of this writing) is being downgraded by Google.
Now why is this important. This matters, not just in the area of Bankruptcy, but in so many areas of trying to find an attorney to help you. I have no idea how many of my colleagues in the criminal defense arena, personal injury, labor law, or divorce law may be facing similar issues. Since you won't know what search terms Google is downgrading you can't always be sure that the attorneys that pop up highest in your search results even practice in the area that you are looking for.
So you need to expand your research. There are a myriad of legal search sites, such as www.Avvo.com (by the way I currently do not advertise on Avvo, but I have in the past, so this is not me trying to help their business) that rate attorneys. There are also local sites that rate attorneys in your area. Even Google customer reviews and even Yelp reviews can help. The important thing to remember is that when you are looking for an attorney, just because someone may pop up higher in your search results doesn't mean that they are best attorney to fit your needs, and you need to be a careful consumer because your legal problem is the biggest thing happening in your life right now, and you don't want to trust the solution to your problems to an algorithm that may be skewing results for purely illogical reasons.