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How Seasonal is the Law Profession?

How Seasonal is the Law Profession?

By | 01.19.15
How Seasonal is the Law Profession?

Seasonality is a theme common to many businesses. Service companies like air conditioning contractors see peak business during the hot summer months while retailers tend to see their busiest season right around the holidays, when people are shopping for gifts. Countless other businesses experience “peak” and “valley” seasons in their business cycle. In keeping with our blog’s focus on the legal profession this month, I was curious to what degree seasonality impacts attorneys.

To help find the answer to this I analyzed the 2014 search data for Superpages.com. I broke the data down into individual legal specialties by month. To reduce the impact of any cyclical changes in search volume and the differing number of days in each month I normalized the raw data using a weighted average. The assumptions built into this exercise presume that search data translates into consumer demand, and that 2014 can act as a microcosm of long-term trends.

One of my assumptions is that logically, a tax attorney might be busiest around April. Since the deadline for filing individual returns is in April, I would presume that is when consumer demand is the highest.

Tax Attorneys

Sure enough, we see a very strong peak in April. Curiously enough, there also appears to be a smaller peak in October. In an attempt to find out why this might occur, I did a search of the IRS website for anything happening in October. I found that the deadline to file taxes if an extension was requested is October 15th, and this second deadline may explain the October spike we see in the number of searches for “tax attorney”.

Let’s see if there are any patterns to Bankruptcy Attorneys:

Bankruptcy Attorneys

There appears to be a massive peak at the beginning of the year, then it remains relatively steady for the remainder of the year. I wonder if the large spike has anything to do with the bill for all that Christmas shopping coming due?

To try and understand what was going on, I looked at a second data source to see if there was any pattern. I consulted the Bankruptcy Data Project from Harvard University. Their data set doesn’t have the year 2014 (or 2013, for that matter), so I looked at the individual bankruptcy filings by month for 2011 and 2012. If there is a seasonal trend it should be apparent regardless of year. In both 2011 and 2012 there were clear trends that matched the graph above, albeit less pronounced, with filings peaking in March of both years.

Another interesting pattern arises with DUI/DWI attorneys:

DUI Attorneys

It looks like there are a large number of searches at the beginning of the year, and in late summer. The peaks seem to lag New Years Day and Independence Day by approximately one month. Regrettably, I could not seem to find any details on the number of DUI arrests by month. I did find statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation on fatal crashes involving a DUI for 2013 which seemed to have a slight peak in May and June, with a massive uptick in December.

And lastly, here is the chart for Traffic Law Attorneys:

Traffic Law Attorneys

There appears to be a large peak during the summer driving season, which trails off until the end of the year. Could that spike in March be Spring Break? The Federal Highway Administration maintains statistics for miles driven by month, and it tends to show a relatively stable busy season between March and October, with only slight dips in the month of September and then again in November through February. That still doesn’t explain the April-June dip observed in 2014, but it at least sheds some light on the other trends.

Based on the search results from 2014, it looks like the law profession is no different from any other business in terms of seasonality. Just like any other business, macroeconomic factors can contribute to demand, making at least some of the legal profession as much of a seasonal business as any other.

These search trends might also suggest that there are certain months of the year when online marketing could be targeted to take advantage of the increased search volume of different legal services.

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