skip to Main Content
2020 Legal Search Trends Analysis Report

2020 Legal Search Trends Analysis Report

2020 is a year filled with unprecedented and turbulent times, with legal trends all over the place.  There really is no way to put that delicately.  The legal industry, among many others, has gone through some dramatic changes this year – and the year is not even over yet.  In this trends analysis report, we’ll look at the following:

  • How COVID affected various practice areas (see below)
  • The trend differences between 2019 and 2020
  • Trends pertaining to searches/queries
  • Trends pertaining to clicks based on those searches
  • What devices are people using to find you AND what are they not using (device trends)

Why does this information matter?  Having a clear understanding of what’s been happening in the legal industry in terms of search trends can help you better posture your SEO and marketing strategy for the future.  Fears of a resurgence linger at the forefront of many people’s minds.  And that’s not the only disaster that could be lurking in the future.  Economics plays a massive role in everything from finances and marital bliss to how much people are driving.

“The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson.” – UNK

I think we’ve all learned a few lessons from COVID-19, likely both personal and professional.  It is through using those lessons that we’ve learned to shape our future that we will truly find success.  With this in mind, Precision Legal Marketing has taken a deeper look at the following practice areas:

  • Divorce
  • Child Custody
  • Accident & Personal Injury
  • Bankruptcy
  • Criminal Law
  • Employment Law
  • Real Estate Law



The following information was compiled by and for Precision Legal Marketing.  The data analyzed covered varied between time periods ending in either Q2 or Q3 of 2020, depending on the data the was available at the time this report was created.

These search terms were analyzed for trends in the state of Virginia.  Each state may have varying degrees of results pertaining to their industry. With this in mind, this information was compiled to provide an overview and not a definitive result.

How COVID-19 Affected Law Firms in Virginia – A Timeline

To really understand the impact 2020 has had on the various practice areas, we must first understand what’s been going on in our economy.  Economics plays a massive role in everything from finances to almost all legal practice areas, depending on the issue.  In this case, we’ll take a closer look at the massive elephant in the room – COVID-19.

A Timeline of Events

The first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States was in December 2019.  The majority of the nation (and likely the globe) remained blissfully unaware at this point of what was to come.  In fact, it wouldn’t be until the stock market crashed in late February 2020 that the majority of Americans would fully realize that something truly horrible was upon us.  Though I’m not entirely certain that even then many would be able to predict the rapid spread of the virus and the even more rapidness of enforcing a nationwide lockdown.   American were almost forced to stay home, businesses and schools closed their doors and only those businesses deemed absolutely essential were allowed to remain open during this time in an effort to “flatten the curve”.

It would be mid-March before the schools and businesses closed and, in the end, courthouses would follow suit.  For the next several months, law firms scrambled to adjust their firm’s tempo by offering virtual consultations, rerouting calls, allowing employees to work from home and even revamping some of their marketing efforts.

The lockdown would last well beyond the initial expectation of “a few weeks” and would take us into a phased reopening beginning in May.

The World Stopped Spinning

Well, not actually, but for the span of a few weeks, we all sat terrified in our homes fearing the virus and fearing for those we loved.  The legal industry would be hit hard.  The initial couple of weeks after the shutdown would bring a large dip in many practice areas, and while some areas have improved (such as divorce), others have yet to bounce back (personal injury).


Virginia Divorce Trends Analysis

A Look at 2020

Along with many other practice areas, divorce (and family law as a whole) has seen some pretty significant changes through 2020 as a result of COVID-19.  When the global pandemic was declared and the nation took action closing all non-essential businesses, people were forced to stay home – whether remote working or not.  During this period, it became clear that couples were perhaps not as in love as they thought they were.  With the closing of all non-essential businesses, including law firms and courthouses, there was an initial and sudden drop in divorce queries.  However, it would not be long before people started realizing marriage was just not for them and divorce would be trending soon after.  Take a look at these charts:

Divorce Trends Analysis

How Did This Compare to Normal Years?

Well, as you can see from the graphic above, during the lockdown we saw a dramatic drop around March and April before once again rising.  Since then, those querying the search engines for divorce terms have increased.  In fact, we saw some record numbers in recent days. In talking with our clients, even as this date they are VERY busy at a time when they would ordinarily not be. Will this trend continue as we progress towards the holidays?


Q3 2020 saw a 15% increase in mobile search queries and a 3% increase in computer search queries relating to divorce terms in regard to YoY.  Overall, Q3 showed an 18% increase over Q2 2020, so it’s more than fair to say that things are definitely heating up. A 15% increase in search volume is not small number, especially when you consider there are few firms marketing via Google Ads or PPC as well. There are more cases to scoop up out there.


Just as important to analyze as search trends is whether or not people are actually clicking.  It’s one thing to query the search engines, but are they actually clicking on the results?

Most definitely.

In YoY growth, we saw that mobile devices clicks increased by 18%.  Between Q2 to Q3, we saw a 15% increase in those clicking on the search results that were queried pertaining to divorce.  We also saw a whopping 35% increase in those using computers that were clicking on results pertaining to divorce.  More and more adults are working from home and have been adapting to using their computers more than other devices as a result.  In terms of QoQ, between Q2 and Q3, we saw a 13% increase in clicks by those using computers over tablets and mobile devices. In fact, we are wondering (and watching) whether this new world order of working from home will change search for sensitive practice areas like Divorce far into the future. Will conversions days and times (Phone calls, form fills, live chats and alike) for these practice areas change? We certainly hope so. The ability for people to work from home will hopefully allow folks to contact your law firm during business hours.

Divorce Trends Google Search Analysis

Device Trends

At this stage, you’re likely aware that mobile devices accounted for the majority of divorce related searches on Google.  In fact, 62.6% of that traffic was attributed to those using mobile devices in Q3 of 2020.

While computers continue to rise, tablets have made a sharp decline, which should come as no surprise as COVID closed many factories and interrupted our supply chains.


Child Custody Trends Analysis

A Look at 2020

In addition to new child custody cases arising as a result of the uptick in divorces following the lockdown, child custody as a whole underwent some turbulent times through unchartered territory.  Upon COVID being declared a pandemic, schools were closed.  The pandemic spread like wildfire and families were forced to quarantine.  Parenting plans were thrown for a loop.  The courts were closed, and judges were not hearing any child custody issues, or any issues that weren’t deemed an “emergency”.

How did child custody trend so far during 2020? Take a look at these charts:

Child Custody Trends Analysis

You can see from the above graphic that there was a small but significant drop off of child custody queries around the time the quarantine began.  However, just as fast as it dipped, it quickly gained traction and spiked shortly after.

How Did This Compare to Normal Years?

Child custody searches tend to spike and return to normal fairly often, as indicated by the graphic above, which cover from July 2018 to July 2020.  There are some noticeable and short dips that come the end of the year, around December timeframe. However, as you can see, it wasn’t too far into 2020 that the new “normal” for child custody search trends would average higher than previous years.  As we continue to face an ever-changing landscape stemming from COVID-19, parents have faced a wide array of issues that couldn’t be accounted for when creating parenting plans pre-COVID. We expect this to remain in flux as we approach the real possibility of rising cases. It should also be noted that if your state has a large increase in hospitalizations due to COVID, your local trends will spike as people seek information about what to do with their parenting plans, custody arrangements and alike.


In YoY growth, we saw an increase of 11% in users querying the search engines with mobile devices for child custody issues.  When it came to users querying Google for these issues with tablets and computers, we saw a decrease of 48% for tablet users and 2% for computer users in Q2 2020.


Of those querying the search engines for child custody issues, we must look at the percentage of those who are actually clicking on those search results.  In YoY growth, we saw an overall increase (spanning all devices) of 17%.  However, we saw an even bigger increase between Q1 and Q2 of 2020 with a 24% QoQ increase.  Notably, those using computers to conduct their queries saw an increase of 42% of those who actually clicked on the search result(s).

Child Custody Trends Analysis

Device Trends

Similar to the other practice areas, tablet users saw a significant decline of 48% in YoY growth.  Meanwhile, mobile users are steadily increasing in numbers with a whopping 80% of those searching for child custody keywords using mobile devices.


Accident & Personal Injury Trends Analysis

A Look at 2020

When the pandemic closed all those businesses deemed non-essential, the roadways previously congested with large amounts of traffic suddenly became wide open.  The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reported in June that while there was a significant decrease in the number of travelers on the road, there was a sharp uptick in unbelted and speed-related crashes as well as vehicle fatalities.  This uptick is not a YoY increase, but rather demonstrates that those who were driving, were doing so more recklessly than normal.

Let’s take a closer look at the charts:

Accident & Personal Injury Trends Analysis

How Did This Compare to “Normal” Years?

Is there such a thing as normal anymore?  Here’s what the chart shows us.  It’s a bad year to be a personal injury attorney.  As you can see from the chart above, there has been a noticeable decrease in the search volume relating to this practice area.  We know that accidents are still happening, but with fewer travelers on the road, the numbers have taken a sharp downturn. The pandemic has affected everything from insurance companies willingness to settle cases, to court dates being pushed out a year. These activities obviously grossly affect the bottom line. Similar to the airline industry, some PI firms have switched their business models and mined for different types of cases to handle. This is a really great time to try non-traditional advertising that you have not tried previously on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and more.


Based on the YoY growth, we saw a 10% decrease in search volume relating to personal injury search terms in Virginia.  From Q1 to Q2, there was not a big difference in numbers, with only a 1% decrease in Q2 from Q1.  However, this demonstrates that personal injury remains at a low.


Just as important as the search volume is the volume of clicks.  Of the individuals who are searching for those keywords, what is the percentage of people that are actually clicking on the search results?  Of those actively searching for those keywords, we saw a YoY decrease of 25% in click volume.  In QoQ growth, we saw a decrease of 24% between Q1 and Q2 of 2020, which is pretty remarkable to have a decrease of that size in just one quarter.

Accident & Personal Injury Trends Analysis

Device Trends

In YoY growth, tablets took a significant dive of 47% decrease.  Mobile devices continue to see growth.  Results demonstrated that 53.1% of all accident and personal injury related search queries in Virginia during Q2 2020 were on mobile devices.  There was a slight increase in computer users as well, which makes sense as more and more people are having to use their personal computer for remote work and virtual schooling.


Virginia Bankruptcy Trends Analysis

A Look at 2020

2020 has been a volatile beast.  Both individuals and businesses alike have suffered financial hardships at the hands of COVID-19 resulting in an increased number of people (and businesses) filing for bankruptcy.  When we look at the numbers, we can see that April of 2020 saw an increase in the number of those searching for bankruptcy terms.

In mid-March, the nation had been rocked by the news of COVID-19, a global pandemic that would more or less close the nation.  During the initial closure of schools, government offices, courthouses, and many, many other businesses deemed “non-essential”, the number of those querying for bankruptcy terms had decreased until about mid-April when it became apparent that the nation would not just resume where it had left off.  Many states had implemented a phased reopening for businesses, meaning some have only recently been allowed to reopen.

What does this mean for individuals/consumers?  This means that they would be sent spiraling even further into debt.  Many employees had been furloughed or laid off as employers couldn’t afford to keep paying their staff while not bringing in revenue.  The government and financial institutions, recognizing this, had worked with those consumers who reached out for assistance to delay payments, etc.  However, for some, this wasn’t enough, and bankruptcy would be inevitable.

As threats of a resurgence remain imminent, this could mean another influx of users querying for bankruptcy terms.  If retail season doesn’t generate enough revenue, we could see another round of commercial bankruptcies even without a resurgence.

Let’s look at the charts:

Bankruptcy search trends in virginia

How Did This Compare to “Normal” Years?

It’s safe to say that when compared to normal years, there was absolutely an increase in the number of users querying for bankruptcy terms.  In fact, over the last three years, we can see that May and June of 2020 hit some record highs in comparison.

What we can glean from the chart below, which spans the course of three years, is that the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas have historically low bankruptcy queries.  Is this a result of jovial family gatherings?  Or is it a result of a closure of courts and law firms during the holidays?

With lows recorded over those two holiday weeks, it should also come as no surprise that the Springtime has also historically brought about more bankruptcy queries.

Will Thanksgiving and Christmas bring about a low volume in queries?  Or will we see an influx as a COVID-19 resurgence may be on the horizon?

Bankruptcy search trends in 2019

Interest by Subregion

Bankruptcy has been a hot topic across the nation.  The top five states for bankruptcy queries are:

  1. District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.)
  2. Delaware
  3. Wyoming
  4. Oregon
  5. New York

Virginia comes in at number 14 of the 51 subregions.



Criminal Law Search Trends Analysis in Virginia

A Look at 2020

It’s been a crazy year.  Thanks to the shutdown/quarantine, there was a significant decrease in the number of cars on the road.  Traffic jams were temporarily a thing of the past.  However, this led to more drivers taking advantage of the reduced traffic by speeding and this reckless driving would also result in an increase in the fatality rate.

Reckless driving was not the only noticeable trend in 2020, however.

As the shut down occurred, there was a noticeable drop in those searching for “DUI” terms.  Even though the number of searches increased by June, it still remains at a low.

What is also interesting is the sharp uptick in the number of queries for “criminal law” in mid-August, which seems to still be continuing at a higher rate than the rest of 2020.

Also noteworthy is the decrease in those searching for the term “burglary” from June through August before it made another jump upwards.

Let’s look at the chart:

criminal law trends analysis

The data for DUIs is simply remarkable – and in terms of this chart, overwhelming.  To get a closer look at the remaining data/trends, we’ve removed DUI as a search term from this graphic:

criminal law trends analysis

How Does This Compare to “Normal” Years?

The number of individuals searching for “criminal law” has hit a high mid-September.  We can also see the upward trend of “criminal defense”.

One of the most eye-catching items you can see on the chart below is the very large spikes occurring at regular intervals.  Those three spikes all occur over New Years.  Coincidence?  I think not.criminal law trends analysis in VA

To get an accurate understanding of the charts, we’ve removed the search term “DUI” from the following graphic:

criminal trends analysis

Interest by Subregion

The search term “DUI” is a huge one for criminal defense lawyers.  We can see from our graphic below that the top five states querying for “DUI” are:

  1. Vermont
  2. Alaska
  3. Montana
  4. North Dakota
  5. Wyoming

When looking at the trends for states whose primary search term is “DUI”, Virginia ranks at number 41 of 51 subregions.

criminal trends analysis

There’s no doubt that the search term “DUI” is a BIG one.  However, as with the previous graphics, we wanted to get a better view of criminal law terms without the term “DUI” so we can see how the rest of the terms measure up.

Once we removed the search term “DUI” from our graphic, it became evident that the primary search term people are querying in terms of criminal law keywords is “criminal law”.

The top five states querying for “criminal law” are:

  1. Alaska
  2. Vermont
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Massachusetts
  5. District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.)

The state of Virginia ranks at 49 of 51 for the search term “criminal law”.  However, based on the graphic below, we can easily see that the primary search term for Virginia is “reckless driving, for which Virginia ranks number 1.

criminal trends analysis

Virginia Employment Law Trends Analysis

A Look at 2020

With the closure of many businesses across the nation come an insurmountable number of people who are suddenly unemployed.  For businesses that furloughed only a percentage of their staff, how did they make the determination on who they were going to let go and who would stay on?

While looking at the 12 month overview below may show that there were periods of 2020 that were higher than the rest for wrongful termination, they fall primarily during the beginning of the year (January) and in the summer months (peaking in July).  What’s interesting to note here is that for wrongful termination, 2020 has been a relatively tame year in comparison.  We’ll go into that a bit more in the next section.

Many businesses across the nation were allowed by their respective states to reopen in mid to late May and June on a phased reopening plan (well, at least for the majority of the states).  If you look at the June 14th mark on the chart below you can see an uptick in the number of wrongful termination queries, workplace discrimination queries, workplace harassment queries and employment lawyer queries.  This indicates that as businesses were allowed to reopen, workplace issues resumed as well.

Let’s look at the charts:

employment law trends analysis

How Did This Compare to “Normal” Years?

Well, that is the question, isn’t it?!

In comparison to normal years, 2020 has been relatively tame.  In fact, from early March through mid to late April we actually saw a pretty significant dip in queries related to employment law.  During the periods of time when we saw the most queries for each of the respective keywords, they were not searched for more than they had been in the previous years.  *Our chart below spans from 10/1/2017 through 10/1/2020.

Peak dates for the search terms “workplace harassment” and “workplace discrimination” seem to occur around mid-November and early December, which are typical timeframes of company holiday parties, though this is only speculation on the part of this author.

Virginia employment law google trends analysis

Interest by Subregion

When we look at the nation as a whole, what are the most prevalent keywords for the various subregions?

Based on the graphic below which spans the previous 12 months, we can see that the most predominant search time for the majority of the state is “wrongful termination” followed by “wage and hour”.

The top five states to query “wrongful termination” are:

  1. Nevada
  2. New York
  3. Virginia
  4. District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.)
  5. Florida

employment law trends analysis

Real Estate Law Trends Analysis

A Look at 2020

2020 has brought a whole host of issues pertaining to real estate.  Many were left jobless after COVID-19 had forced closed all businesses deemed “non-essential”.  Financial hardship was a major trend thus far in 2020.  Without a steady paycheck, many were unsure of how they would pay their rent and mortgages.

Based on the graphic below we can easily identify that “foreclosures” and “commercial real estate” are trending hand in hand.

We can’t forget the issues that many property owners – particularly commercial property owners – are facing stemming from violent riots and looting.  The beginning of June brought an increase in “property damage” and a slight increase in those querying for “real estate attorney”.

Let’s look at the chart:

real estate law search trends analysis

How Did This Compare to “Normal” Years?

In terms of real estate law related queries, 2020 has been pretty unremarkable in comparison to “normal” years.

January through late August/early September are the prime months for those querying real estate law related terms.  In comparison to the previous years (our chart below spans from 10/1/2017 – 10/1/2020), there was however, a significant drop in real estate related queries from early March through mid-April.  This timeframe was during the height of the COVID-19 frenzy, when the pandemic was peaking across the nation.

Another point we’re able to glean from the below chart is that October through December real estate law queries are typically lower than the remainder of the year.  Will 2020 stay on track with previous years?  Or will the fear of a resurgence and further financial hardship show an increase in real estate law related queries?

real estate law google trends analysis

Interest by Subregion

The two most prevalent search terms (out of the five we researched) are “foreclosure” (yellow) and “commercial real estate” (purple).  The majority of the states had higher rates of search for “foreclosure” with “commercial real estate” coming is as the second most queried word.

The top five states querying “real estate attorney” are:

  1. North Carolina
  2. West Virginia
  3. South Carolina
  4. Florida
  5. New Jersey

Virginia comes in at number 25 for top states querying for “real estate attorney”, with “foreclosure” being the top queried term (out of the five we researched) in the state.

real estate law trends analysis


Significant Decrease in Tablet Use

One consistent point across each practice area is that tablet use saw a significant decrease.

Here’s what we know:

Significant Decrease in Tablet Use

As you can see from the table above, concerning the trends of users conducting tablet use, we saw a huge decrease in 2020.

According to a report from International Data Corporation (IDC), tablet sales endured two sequential quarters of decline.  However, this could be turning around as there was an 18.6% YoY growth in Q2 2020.  Could the legal industry begin to see more tablet usage during Q3 and Q4?


What Contributed to the Decline in Tablet Sales?

It’s no secret that COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) caused many industries to suffer as a result of mandatory quarantining/lockdowns.  When we think of closures, we think of the retail and food service industries being forced to find innovative ways to stay afloat; we think of law firms having to conduct remote operations and courts being closed.  What we may not think of is the fact that many factories had closed during the global pandemic.  Our supply chains suffered from major lapses.  In fact, some overseas suppliers are still working to backfill orders.  And the technology industry is just one of the casualties of the pandemic.

According to BusinessWire, Apple was forced to close two factories in Q1 2020 as a result of COVID-19, which resulted in the company producing fewer units than expected and a decline of 30.4% in tablets.

Huawei, a major player in producing tablets, continues to struggle in markets outside of China due to political backlash and the lack of Google services.  They saw a decline of 8.3% in Q1 2020.


In Summary

We know, that’s a lot to take in. So, when you piece it all together, what does it all mean? It means, 2020 sucks. Well, that and the fact that you can’t escape economics.
While it may seem that legal search trends are all over the place, in actuality, there is a pattern here. In identifying historical/seasonal trends you can see that while the overall numbers may be fluctuating in tune to major economic events, the trends have so far remained on par with previous years search trends.

Though this is not the only thing that can be gleaned from this report. From this, we can see just how important keeping up with economics is to SEO. To really be effective with your SEO you need to be poised to jump on topics that could impact your practice area – keeping it strictly fact based. This can help you rank for those economic topics that are trending and ultimately, drive more traffic to your law firm’s website. And we all know, the more traffic your website gets, the more potential clients you’re getting.

If you have questions about how this data can be used to increase your case count, help clients find you on the internet, applying these trends to your marketing efforts or just understanding anything you have read above, please call us at 877-602-7510.

Media Contacts:
Steven Long

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top