Trust signals: A sign of a solid legal hiring decision

A man and women on a mountain top pointing to what is ahead of them.

Year after year, when FindLaw performs research into the way online resources are used, two features of legal consumer behavior stand out: Many legal consumers are first-timers, and they often look to trusted sources, like family, friends, and coworkers, for validation and verification of their choice of attorney or law firm.

Taken together, those two things illustrate an important feature of legal consumer behavior: trust. Because so many legal consumers are not familiar with the legal industry, they have difficulty confirming that their choice is a good one. So, they look to trusted sources for validation. Bear in mind that hiring an attorney is a significant investment for most people and a lot is at stake, so just about every legal consumer wants to make the right choice.

Now, “trusted sources” doesn’t have to mean “family, friends, and coworkers.” Most legal consumers seek validation from those groups because they don’t have anything else. That’s why online trust signals have real-world value.

What are trust signals?

Generally speaking, a trust signal is an indication that the online information a consumer is viewing is reliable and accurate. As the volume of information on the internet has ballooned, trust signals have grown in importance because not all of that information is trustworthy, useful or even true. For example, Instagram now offers businesses that use the app a “verified” icon on their profiles to indicate their legitimacy, Twitter lets public figures display a blue checkmark to show it’s really them and Snopes, which looks into the veracity of news articles and online rumors, gives pieces of content a rating (a green checkmark or a red X) to show whether they’re mostly fact or mostly fiction.

So, how does this all affect small law firms and solo attorneys? If you can use a trust signal to let potential legal consumers know you’re who you say you are and you handle the types of matters you say you do, you’ll go a long way toward appeasing their desire to make sure their choice to hire you is a good one.

Earning trust

Now, it’s difficult to create a trust signal yourself. Reviews from past clients certainly help, but for some consumers, they don’t quite meet the bar of independent, neutral, third-party validation. That’s why FindLaw offers two forms of trust signal.

1. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. This selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. The Super Lawyers list recognizes no more than 5% of attorneys in each state. Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars list (for attorneys 40 years old or younger, or in practice for less than a decade) recognizes no more than 2.5% of attorneys in each state.

In order to maintain the integrity of its rating, Super Lawyers rigorously protects the confidentiality of its balloting process and maintains a strict firewall between its marketing offerings and selection process. The Super Lawyers team has made great effort to promote its diligent standards and top-flight selectees both within the legal industry and in the public at large, so selectees who choose to engage with its marketing tools are providing their clients and potential clients with evidence that they’re an excellent hiring choice.

2. The Lead Counsel Verification, run by FindLaw’s LawInfo team, offers consumers and businesses an objective and comprehensive evaluation tool to use when selecting legal representation. The primary objective of Lead Counsel is to connect consumers and businesses with the best possible legal representation for their specific legal issues. To assist in this goal, Lead Counsel Verified attorneys are listed in premier positions across LawInfo.com and the LawInfo legal directory.

If you don’t quite see the value in trust signals, think back to what we said earlier in this post about legal consumers. Most of them haven’t hired an attorney before, know it will cost some money they may not have been planning to spend, and are aware that, for them, the stakes are very high. If you put yourself in a similar state of mind, you can see why trust signals like Super Lawyers and Lead Counsel help consumers feel better about hiring an attorney – and that attorney could be you.

If you think the concept of a trust signal would be useful for your digital legal marketing plan, you can always schedule a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with your local FindLaw digital marketing expert. This person will be able to explain the offerings listed above in greater detail.

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