Local Service Ads for Lawyers: 9 Steps to Guarantee More Quality Leads

local-service-ads-for-lawyersWhat if your law firm’s ad was the first thing people saw on Google – even appearing above the pay-per-click ads? It would be a sure way to increase your leads.

That’s possible with Google Local Service Ads (LSAs), but many firms either don’t know they exist or don’t know how to run campaigns properly. They’re missing out on a steady flow of local leads.

Local Service Ads for lawyers help potential clients find, learn about, connect with, and engage attorneys in all practice areas, representing a significant opportunity for firms prepared to be early adopters. If you’re Google Screened, even better.

Considering how important local business is for many smaller and medium-sized practices, it’s surprising that more firms haven’t yet mastered this relatively new Google ad format.

In this article, we aim to change that by covering everything you need to get started and increase the number of new local leads coming from Google.

What are Google Local Service Ads?

Before we get into the nine steps, let’s clarify what Local Service Ads are and consider the huge opportunity they present for law firms.

Their correct name is Google Local Services Ads, but they’re usually called Local Service Ads or LSAs.

Local Service Ads first launched as a beta called Home Service Ads in 2015, only covering a few types of businesses in certain cities in the US and Canada. Things started revving up in 2018/2019 when more cities were added, but LSAs have become a more prominent feature of lawyer advertising only since 2020.

At first, LSAs were only available for estate planning and immigration lawyers in a few local markets, but this has changed. They’re now available for most types of firms in most areas of the U.S.

The ads appear right at the top of Google Search results when people search for services offered in the chosen location: So, when someone types a term like “personal injury lawyer Boston,” this is what you’ll see dominating the top of the page.


These are Google’s Local Service Ads, and they appear even above the traditional Google Ads for lawyers, which you already know look like this.


Then come the Google Business Profile listings.


And only then do we get to the organic results.


Note how the leading organic results on the first page now barely feature one law firm anymore — the listings are for legal directories or professional services websites.

It’s almost impossible for law firms in competitive areas and with competitive keywords to rank organically now. Ads have taken over and are by far the most prominent on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

And of all the ads available to lawyers, Local Service Ads are now the most prominent on the page. That can’t be ignored, especially if you rely heavily on local business.

Unless you’re in the “auction” for these spots, competing law firms will claim them and potentially get the leads that should be going to your firm.

We’ll show you how to do that below.

To summarize, the order of priority in the Google SERPs is now:

  • Local Service Ads at the top
  • Then Google Ads (PPC)
  • Then the Google Map Pack (see our article on local SEO for lawyers to understand more about this).
  • Then organic search rankings

How are Local Service Ads for lawyers different from Google Ads?

Just like Google’s PPC ads, Local Service Ads are visible on mobile, desktop, and tablet and appear through voice search.

They are best for attracting bottom-of-funnel leads to your firm, i.e., when prospects are ready to decide on the firm to hire rather than when first investigating their legal matters.

Usually, with Local Service Ads, the presumption from Google is that potential customers are looking for businesses that they want to engage with right now. This means a high likelihood of users searching on mobile devices, which makes it even more important to optimize your law firm’s ads for mobile.

Google recognizes that the mobile experience is “king” now. Local Service Ads incorporate click-to-call functionality and the ability for users to tap (or click) to learn more about a potential law firm before placing a call.

Unlike standard Google Ads, Local Service Ads are:

  • Pay-per-lead (PPL) rather than pay-per-click (PPC): You bid on a per-lead basis so that only genuine, quantifiable leads cost you money (i.e., you only pay for results).
  • Designed to generate telephone leads but you’re only charged for calls from potential customers that last at least 30 seconds.
  • Ranked according to different factors: The number of positive reviews an advertiser has, their proximity to the searcher, the bid level, and other factors (discussed in more detail in Step Six).
  • Designed by Google: You don’t get to write the copy like with Google Ads or your Business Profile. Instead, you provide the raw information and Google decides what to show searchers.
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Google recognizes that many smaller firms provide an amazing customer experience and reward this stellar performance with prominence in local searches.

Another important difference between Google Local Service Ads for lawyers and standard Google Ads is that, as the advertiser, you can’t select specific keywords that your ads will appear for. Instead, you select your practice areas and Google determines whether your ads are relevant to searchers based on several factors that we go into more about below. If so, your ad appears.

What’s considered a lead with Local Service Ads?

Google considers answered phone calls about one of your services in your targeted geographic market a lead — if contact is made during business hours and calls last longer than 30 seconds.

Received text messages are also considered leads. Missed calls from potential clients that you return are also considered leads.

How much can Local Service Ads save you?

Because of the unique setup of Local Service Ads, smaller firms can compete on a level playing field with larger firms. LSAs can help you make the most of your ad budget:

We estimate that your monthly ad budget could be cut by as much as two-thirds by using Local Service Ads over Google Ads.

But how can you make all this work for you?

Let’s get into the steps you need to take.

1. Start by checking whether you’re eligible

Now all the beta testing and glitches have been ironed out, getting started with Google’s Local Service Ads is pretty easy for most law firms.

You’re not even required to run a traditional search or pay-per-click campaign to access Local Service Ads, so the bar is set very low — and you don’t need to commit thousands of dollars to get started.

Local Service Ads for Lawyers Getting Started
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After you click on Get Started on the signup page for Google Local Service Ads, you’ll be taken to the Eligibility page, where you’ll enter your business details (location including zip or postcode and business type).

If your law firm is based in the U.S., you’ll be eligible for Local Service Ads if your main practice area is one of the following.

Local Service Ads for Lawyers Eligibility
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As you can see, Local Service Ads are now an exciting prospect for every main law firm practice area.

Simply select the main practice areas you specialize in, and you’ll be taken deeper into the process of setting up your firm’s profile.

2. Set up your profile

You’ll be asked to enter important details about your business and the people working in it when you set up your profile.


Note that the information goes much deeper than when creating your Google Business Profile, For instance, you need to list the total number of professionals working in your firm — and you’ll see later that each one will need to be verified with their bar license information.

For a complete profile, you should include the following information:

  • Business name
  • Phone number
  • Website URL
  • Owner’s name
  • Year founded
  • Languages spoken
  • Business address

If your firm has been established for many years, stating the year it was founded is a good opportunity to stand out from the rest.

Likewise, if you have multilingual capabilities, it could be a great differentiator for your firm.

The address details you provide will heavily influence the competition you face from other firms in the local area. It will also influence the “suggested budget” that you’ll eventually see after setting up your profile.

Once you input address details, you’ll be taken to the “service area” setup page, which will look like this.


It’s best to start by selecting locations near your original location (e.g., in the same state).

However, many firms provide legal services in several local areas or maintain multiple offices. In this case, you’ll need to include all relevant contact and geographic information for each office.

You’ll be asked to select the appropriate zip codes in the cities you service.


Next, once the geography is sorted out, you’ll be prompted for more information about your service types/practice areas.


Finally, complete your business opening hours.


That’s the profile information complete, but you’re not yet ready to go and start setting up ads. There’s another important step.

3. Become “Google Screened”

Do you remember we said earlier that getting started with Google’s Local Service Ads for lawyers is easy? Well, it is, but there is a final essential step in the process before you’re ready to go.

It involves the “Google Screened” badge that you may have noticed in the Local Service Ads example used at the beginning of this article.

It looks like this.

Local Service Ads for Lawyers Google Screened Badge

This designation guarantees local searchers that the businesses appearing in local search ads are vetted by Google, i.e., they are licensed. It’s an important step that conveys an extra layer of trust and credibility for law firms and helps Google protect its reputation.

If Google connected clients with unreliable businesses, searchers would go elsewhere for better information.

Google Screened badges are only available for certain types of businesses, where essential services are provided by licensed professionals (for potentially vulnerable groups of people):

  • Lawyers
  • Real estate agents
  • Financial planners
  • Childcare and preschool services providers

It’s important to see Google Screened not as an obstacle to your law firm running ads but as a way to stand out from the rest. Besides, you can’t access Local Service Ads without a Google Screened badge, so you have no choice!

How do you earn a Google Screened badge?

The process of obtaining a Google Screened badge is free but there are several steps to navigate and resources to prepare. Check out the left-hand column in the screenshot below.


Google Local Services verifies all active law licenses for all lawyers with the Google Screened badge.

A separate background check is not required for U.S. law firms because each state requires lawyers to undergo a background check to receive a license to practice law.

To earn Google Screened status, your firm must have passed all background checks AND earned a customer review score of 3+.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Prepare a headshot for the ads.
  • Submit your law firm details and bar license information for each licensed lawyer.
  • Ensure you have customer reviews with a score of 3+ (linked to your Google Business Profile account).
  • Agree to a background check on your law firm’s founder and each practicing lawyer by a third party.

Please note that Google requests around 2-5 weeks to complete this process — and it takes longer if you have multiple lawyers at the firm as they all require background checks.

Here’s an example from the personal injury law firm Dennis and King, showing what your profile may look like after you achieve Google Screened status.


What’s the difference between Google Screened and Google Guarantee?

You may also see a badge that looks like this in Local Service Ads.

Local Service Ads for Lawyers Google GuaranteeThis is the Google Guarantee badge, an alternative to Google Screened and used mainly for home service businesses (not covered by the Google Screened badge), such as plumbers, electricians, gardeners, etc.

Businesses must still pass background checks and interviews and have their locations verified by Google.

4. Understand all the info your ads will contain

Local Service Ads may look relatively small on the page but you’d be amazed about how much information they contain.

Understand the info that needs to go into each service ad and focus on making it as accurate and as detailed as possible.

Here’s a good overview from the horse’s mouth (Google).

  • Business name: This is self-explanatory.
  • Phone number: A tracking number will be displayed, and calls to this number will be forwarded to your business’s phone number.
  • Location: Your business city may be displayed — either your business address or the city where you live or work. In some cases, the cities you service may be shown instead.
  • Reviews: These include reviews from your Google Business Profile and those collected directly through Local Services Ads. Partner affiliate listings include reviews provided by the partner platform and all ads show an average star rating.
  • Number of reviews: this is displayed in parentheses next to your average star rating.
  • Business hours: The hours that your business is open.
  • Google Guarantee, Google Screened, or License Verified by Google: These badges show potential customers they can trust your business.
  • Photos: Photos to demonstrate your business and your work to customers, which will show in your profile.
  • Business bio: Highlights important aspects of your business, such as whether you’re locally owned or offer free consultations.

Bringing it all together, here’s a reminder of how Local Service Ads for family law firms may appear.

Local Service Ads for Lawyers Family
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5. Set a budget for leads

When setting up your profile, all the information you provide to Google is used to calculate a “suggested budget.” This figure is also based on the estimated cost per lead and the number of leads you’re targeting.

The “customize” option you will see has a sliding scale where you can select a maximum/minimum and see the number of leads you can expect for your specified ad budget.

Remember, a major benefit of LSAs over pay-per-click as a lead generation strategy for lawyers is that you only pay for genuine leads where you talk for 30 seconds or more.

And you can increase or decrease the ad budget at any time.


Law firm marketing budgets vary greatly depending on location, practice areas, and how many leads your firm can handle. Expect to set aside anything from a few hundred dollars a month to several thousand for Local Service Ads.

Once you start the approval process, you’ll see what Google recommends for a weekly budget.

Note that you can pause your Local Services Ad budget at any time. This will remove the Google Screened verification badge from your listing, but it can still appear below the paid listings. Any leads that you attract at this time will be free until your budget is reactivated.

6. Make sure you’re in the “auction” for a Top 3 position

When a potential client in your local area searches for the types of services you provide, multiple competitors will fight to earn a spot in the highly coveted top three places.

You have seen the way that Local Service Ads work — they appear in a strip of three law firms at the top of the page.


If you’re outside the top three, you’re included in the “more *practice area* lawyers” section, which is far less prominent.

So, what does it take to be in that top three?

Google seems to use a variety of factors, including:

  • The search context (specific terms, time of day, etc.)
  • Your Google Business Profile review score
  • Your office’s proximity to the searcher
  • Your business hours
  • Your LSA bid

However, it appears that you not only need to meet location and practice area criteria.

You also need to demonstrate:

  • Top-class reviews (see step seven)
  • A good record with few complaints
  • Responsiveness to LSA leads (see step eight)
  • A large enough budget

The exact effect of your budget on your ranking is not yet known but we do know how Google ads have worked historically.

It is likely, therefore, that as Local Service Ads become more popular, you’ll effectively enter an auction for this prime real estate, and the winners will be the highest bidders (just as with PPC).

7. Actively attract glowing reviews

You already know that law firm reviews are really important. They’re important to Google as well as to potential clients considering your services.

Excellent reviews (and a customer review score of 3+) will not only help you earn Google Screened status but will show in your Local Service Ads and provide instant credibility for your firm.

To back up the great service you provide, you need to seek and curate reviews actively.

You can link your Google Business Profile account to your LSA account so that the same reviews will appear in both. So, if you’ve been gathering reviews for your Business Profile over the years (as you should have been), you’ll be good to go in this respect with Local Service Ads.


The official view from Google has traditionally been that reviews should be part of a natural process of customer feedback. Law firms should also be aware of the advertising rules for lawyers, which outline some restrictions on the review-gathering process.

8. Be responsive to leads

In a 2021 study of over 700 top law firms across the U.S., just under 60 percent responded to a submitted lead form, and over 40 percent didn’t respond.

Law firms are not renowned for quick responses, but if you want to be successful with Local Service Ads, you can’t afford to not respond to leads. In fact, all indications suggest that responding to leads promptly helps your ads rank in the Local Service Ads environment.

Remember, you need to aim for the top three.

It’s not entirely clear how this is measured and assessed, but when you receive a lead, it’s simply good business practice to follow up and talk to the potential client promptly.

And you should be tracking the number of leads your receive from your ads because Google charges you for every lead generated.

Here’s an example of the Local Services Ads lead reporting dashboard for context.


At a minimum, same-day responses should be standard practice for leads coming into any business. The potential value of a lead declines with time as it is less likely that it will convert into business.

You can follow up with leads through the LSA platform. Either reply to the message by email or text message, call the lead or decline it (note: you may still be charged for it).

A Harvard Business Review study of 1.25 million online sales leads generated by U.S. companies found that firms that attempted to contact potential clients within an hour of receiving a query are:

  • Nearly seven times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a key decision-maker than those that tried to contact the client an hour later.
  • More than 60 times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a key decision-maker than companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Responding rapidly to leads should, therefore, be a no-brainer.

9. Monitor reports and dispute non-leads

As you know, Google considers the following as LSA leads:

  • Answered phone calls about one of your services in your targeted geographic market (if contact is made during business hours and calls last longer than 30 seconds).
  • Received text messages.
  • Return calls to potential clients that you missed previously.

Google provides regular reports that break down what you’ve been charged for. These reports are readable by email or in the app on Android and iOS devices. They show you the following information (taken directly from Google).

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Google’s lead dispute system

Irrelevant or unqualified leads should not be charged to your account. Occasionally you may identify a lead that you have been charged for incorrectly.

For instance, a client may be looking for help in a practice area that you don’t provide or is not actually looking to hire a lawyer at all.

Here’s what Google says about disputing leads.

Local Service Ads for Lawyers Disputing Leads
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As you can see, disputing a charge is only a couple of clicks away. It’s that simple.

The Google LSA team will then review the charge and process the lead dispute within one week. A message will appear at the top of the lead in the dashboard to let you know if your dispute was approved or not.

Local Service Ads for Lawyers Lead Not Charged
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Your dispute will likely be approved, and the charge refunded if you can demonstrate any of the following reasons:

  • Job not served (not on your profile)
  • Location not served (zip code or city)
  • Wrong number or sales call (not a customer)
  • Spam or bot (not a human)
  • Duplicate lead (customer contacted you twice)
  • Incorrect business (lead does not belong to you)

However, note that if you decline a lead, you’ll still be charged for it unless you can show one of the above reasons why it’s irrelevant.

Managing Local Service Ad leads for your law firm

Local Service Ads are not simply “set and forget.” Unless you hire a reliable law firm marketing agency, very little in lawyer marketing looks after itself.

So, you need to manage the LSA leads that come into your firm. You can do this from the Local Services Ads Leads dashboard or by downloading the Local Services Ads app for iOS or Android.

The information you can manage here includes:

  • The number of new leads you have.
  • The number of active leads there are (with updates).
  • The number of leads that have booked a service with you (e.g. a consultation).
  • The number of leads that are complete.
  • The number of leads that have gone inactive (didn’t complete a conversion event).
  • Customer name.
  • The type of representation (service) they request.
  • Where leads are located.
  • When leads are looking to meet/consult.
  • How leads contacted you (e.g., message or phone).
  • When the last activity occurred with the lead.


Can you save money by switching to Local Service Ads from Google Ads?

Yes, well-run Local Service Ad campaigns may require a lower budget than pay-per-click campaigns, helping smaller businesses compete with larger businesses. We estimate that your monthly ad budget could be cut by as much as two-thirds by using Local Service Ads over Google Ads.

Can you dispute leads with Google Service Ads?

Yes, Google has a lead dispute system that you’re encouraged to use if you find that your business has been charged for a lead that shouldn’t have been classified as one. Perhaps the “lead” did not apply to your business or the caller had no intention of buying your products/services — if you’re charged for it, you can dispute it.

Are Local Service Ads for lawyers available for all practice areas?

When Local Service Ads (LSAs) were first rolled out to law firms, they were only available for estate planning and immigration lawyers in a few local markets. Now, however, they’re available for 17 different practice areas in most areas of North America so it’s highly likely that your law firm can access LSAs.

What’s the difference between Google Ads and Google Local Service Ads?

Local Service Ads (LSAs) look and behave differently from Google Ads. They’re also ranked and charged differently. LSAs are pay-per-lead rather than pay-per-click and target telephone calls rather than click-throughs to landing pages. You bid on a per-lead basis and only phone calls longer than 30 seconds cost you money.

The ranking of Local Service Ads is thought to factor in the number of positive reviews received by advertisers, their proximity to the searcher, the bid level, business opening hours, track record with complaints, responsiveness, and other factors.

How do I advertise myself as a lawyer?

How you advertise yourself as a lawyer will depend on your goals and preferences but your most direct online channels are Google Ads, Local Service Ads, Facebook Ads for lawyers, LinkedIn Ads, and legal directory ads, as well as more general law firm marketing practices, such as SEO, email marketing and content marketing. Some lawyers still use traditional advertising methods such as billboards, radio ads and print media.

Will my Local Service Ad show up more if I set a higher budget?

When you set up Google Local Service Ads, you set both a maximum cost per lead and a maximum weekly budget. If you set a high maximum bid per lead, you’re more likely to be visible for a certain period, but if your maximum budget is set low, this may be a short time only, after which your ad won’t show.

It’s important to develop a bidding strategy that balances both settings and ensures your ad shows frequently, prominently and consistently.

Are Local Service Ads better than SEO for lawyers?

No, they are simply different from SEO and should work alongside each other. Local Service Ads are best for generating instant local leads for law firms while SEO is a longer-term plan to organically attract leads over an extended period.

So, are Local Service Ads worth it?

As part of a multi-channel law firm marketing strategy, local services ads may now be the quickest and most effective way for your law firm to grow with quality phone leads.

Unlike law firm SEO and Google Ads, Local Service Ads operate as pay-per-lead. This allows you to attract quality leads cost-effectively directly from Google’s search results — with a controlled and manageable ad spend.

LSAs don’t replace pay-per-click campaigns or SEO. Instead, they can work together, complementing PPC ads and SEO to increase your chances of appearing high on the page.

By following the above tips, you can still be a relatively early adopter of Local Service Ads in the legal profession now they’re open to virtually all practice areas.