FindLaw Finds a Lawsuit


(CN) - FindLaw botched a Houston law firm's $62,000 website redesign, damaging its Google search ranking and costing it clients, Ogletree, Abbott, Clay & Reed claims in court.
     Ogletree Abbott sued FindLaw, West Publishing Corp., and Thomson Reuters Holdings in Minneapolis Federal Court.
     FindLaw sells website development services to attorneys, and advertises itself to the public as a way of finding lawyers.
     "Plaintiff hired FindLaw to increase its exposure to potential legal clients on the Internet after seeing FindLaw's advertising and hearing a sales pitch from their marketing representative Brian Vogel," the lawsuit states.
     "Plaintiff then entered into a series of written agreements with FindLaw, on Nov. 27, 2012, Jan. 23, 2013, Jan. 24, 2013 and June 14, 2013 to redesign the Ogletree websites and to improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of the Ogletree websites.
     "Plaintiff began paying FindLaw for their services on Feb. 21, 2013, and in total has paid $61,965.69 to FindLaw.
     Ogletree owns the websites www.ogletreeabbott.com, www.1800jonesact.com, and www.complawyers.net.
     But "when FindLaw did launch the revised Ogletree websites, there were numerous errors and omissions including: missing content, changed file names and conventions, unauthorized outbound links, paid links to the Ogletree websites, increased code size and website latency," the complaint states.
     So much content from the firm's old websites was not transferred to the new sites that "it appears that FindLaw omitted 2,146 (two thousand one hundred and forty six) web pages (about 84 percent of Ogletree websites' previously existing content disappeared and thus caused damage to content and page rankings)," Ogletree says. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     These mistakes slammed the websites' Google rankings, Ogletree says, as did the redesigned web pages' slower load time.
     "Plaintiff has experienced significantly less clients and money after FindLaw supposedly commenced its work to redesign the Ogletree websites and improve the SEO for the Ogletree websites," according to the lawsuit.
     FindLaw also placed outbound links to its own website on every page of the Ogletree websites, further decreasing the sites' Google rankings, and built paid inbound links that "would subject the Ogletree websites to serious penalties from Google for Black Hat SEO techniques," the complaint states. "As of the date of the filing of this lawsuit, it appears that Google has significantly penalized the Ogletree websites."
     "Black Hat" search engine optimization describes techniques used to trick a search engine spider into indexing the website higher, and are considered unethical.
     Ogletree also accuses FindLaw of misrepresenting that it "'produces results with 'custom content' developed by FindLaw's 'expert copy writers' and a 'dedicated team of attorney SEO experts,' [though] FindLaw outsources to Bangalore, India and FindLaw cut its staff in January 2013 by 25 percent."
     Ogletree says it removed its websites from FindLaw's servers in November 2013 when it "realized that its damages were irreparable."
     It seeks punitive damages for fraud, deceptive trade, breach of contract, misrepresentation, breach of warranty and negligence.
     It is represented by Thomas Handorff in St. Louis Park, Minn.