What kind of attorney is your next client looking for?
FindLaw’s 2017 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey can help those prospective clients find you. But only if you take its insights to heart.
FindLaw updates this survey annually as part of its ongoing effort to understand the online consumer legal marketplace. It looks at the actions consumers with legal needs take in response to their legal issues. The survey also seeks to identify the role that the Internet plays in the decision-making process.
The 2017 survey talked with thousands of legal consumers late in the calendar year. The respondents had either themselves experienced at least one legal issue in the past 12 months or had someone in their household for whom they are responsible face such an issue. In any case, each respondent considered their issue “somewhat” or “very” important.
What does the new edition of the survey reveal? The key takeaway:
Legal Consumers Move Fast
It’s a pattern we’ve noted here many times. Of the 2017 survey’s respondents, 59% take action within a week of their legal incident. By and large, they don’t attempt a do-it-yourself approach to handling the issue: 58% contact a legal professional or organization. What’s more, 64% expect a response from an attorney within 24 hours or less.
With speed of the essence, the typical legal consumer is looking for a firm that’s within 28 miles of where he or she lives. Indeed, 35% of respondents say they won’t even travel 20 miles.
Today’s legal consumers also don’t spend a lot of time shopping around. More than half of the survey’s respondents (58%) consider or contact only one attorney. Less than a quarter contact or consider two; the same percentage applies to those who consider or contact three or more. It is worth noting, however, that the market is getting a bit more competitive. The amount of consumers who consider or contact two attorneys has been creeping upwards in recent years.
What Consumers Seek From an Attorney—And Where They Look
They consider several factors when choosing an attorney. Some are objective and quantifiable and include many of the factors you’d expect: expertise (45%), cost (33%), location (31%), specialization (23%) and experience as measured in years of service (23%). Also worth noting: About a quarter identified a speedy response as important.
Other factors are more subjective. These include recommendations (40%), sense of trust (29%), and how well an attorney projects honesty (24%) and empathy (22%).
Then there’s a crucial factor that is both objective and subjective. While not at the top of survey respondents’ list of influencers, when asked what additional bases they use for choosing an attorney, 87% put reputation at the very top. (All the more reason to pursue strategies that help build your online reputation. As we recently discussed, modern-day reputation building requires more than playing up your education and other credentials.)
Those are the attributes that legal consumers look for. So where do they seek firms that fit the bill? Whether they fire up their home computer or pull out their mobile device, search engines are king: 58% of survey respondents use them in their hunt for legal representation. Not far behind as the second-ranking source (42%) are online legal directories such as FindLaw.com.
And as we’ve also often noted, mobile search is growing. That’s not surprising, given consumers’ need for speed—and the increasing prevalence of mobile devices. In the 2017 survey, 52% of respondents say that they search for an attorney via a mobile phone. Only 27% use a desktop or laptop computer.
What Do The Survey’s Insights Mean for You?
There are several actions that you and your firm can put to work to attract today’s legal consumer:
- Leverage online legal directories. They’re not only easy for you to use. They’re also highly effective at reaching legal consumers.
- Optimize your local presence. As the survey makes clear, today’s consumers shop locally. (It’s part of that need for speed.) So it pays to be easy for your community to find you online. Those efforts not only include keeping your Google My Business information up to date. They also involve search engine optimization strategies that will place you right where local legal consumers are looking.
- Appeal to both the head and the heart. Strong credentials and a proven track record are essential, of course. But potential clients also are looking for emotional reassurance—and a sense that you can provide that. Certainly, they’re looking for quantifiable signs that you can handle their legal issue. But they also need help bringing down their stress levels. A good attorney often needs to serve as something of a psychological counselor as well as a legal one.
- Perfect your intake processes. According to FindLaw’s 2017 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey, 85% of consumers who contact an attorney end up hiring one. In short: A prospective client who calls you is yours to lose.
So don’t keep today’s fast-moving legal consumer waiting.