The Times They Are A Stayin’ About The Same

For years, FindLaw has compiled an annual U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey and the 2016 results are in. Fortunately for law firms that have been paying attention, the numbers from last year to this haven’t seen many dramatic changes. Things that mattered last year continue to be relevant this time around.

For those of you who are still tied to outdated models of business development, or who simply market their firms on instinct, there’s no time like the present to take a more data-minded approach to your business.

Take for example the rise of online research. In 2016, fully one-third of those consumers who contacted an attorney choose the internet as their main source of information – up 14 percent from 2014. Obviously word-of-mouth referrals still account for a large portion of the legal industry, but that influence is on the decline – down 12 percent in just the last two years.

Search engines still dominate the online universe, being used by 74 percent of consumers to learn about attorneys and law firms. Legal directories, however also wield a lot of power – they’re part of the process for 41 percent of the survey’s applicable respondents. As this number continues to increase, it’s going to be ever more important to have a purposeful strategy behind your legal directory listings. (Read the playbook.)

But, if you really want to see something interesting, look at social media. Last year, it was used by 20 percent of consumers versus 28 percent this year. What’s more, the following sources of additional information all jumped at least 10 percentage points in importance to consumers: blog posts, video, Facebook posts and tweets from an attorney. (Now would be a good time to read our white paper on the importance of social media.)

We’ll roll out the rest of our findings from this survey throughout the coming months, but in a broad sense, attorneys should keep in mind that the U.S. legal consumer is continuing to move towards a mobile-centric online research process that uses multiple sources of information to influence their hiring decision.

Oh, and be nice to people. At seven percent, the number of consumers who took legal action because they “wanted revenge” moved up five points in the last two years.

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