Survey Reveals How People are Researching Legal Problems Online and How They are Finding and Selecting Attorneys in 2023
In August of last year (2022) Attorney Sluice conducted a survey among 585 U.S. residents to gain insights into how individuals are researching legal problems and finding law firms when they need to hire a lawyer.
We conduct these surveys annually and use the data to shape our digital marketing campaigns for the attorneys we work with.
Key Survey Statistics:
80% of people said they would seek out and take into consideration an attorney’s online reviews before hiring them.
64% of people said if they had a legal problem, their first step to solving it would be to conduct research online.
48% of people said if they needed to hire an attorney, they would begin their search online.
63% of people said if they called an attorney during business hours and nobody answered, they would immediately call the next attorney on their list.
58% of people said the most important factor to them when deciding on an attorney to hire is for the attorney to “specialize” in the area of law they are seeking help with.
21% of people surveyed believe that Google ranks attorneys on the first page based on the attorney’s qualifications.
Key Actionable Insights:
- Use your website to answer prospective client’s questions (bonus: turn these into short, simple YouTube videos).
- Leveraging the internet to build your brand and reputation quickly can help increase your “offline” referrals on autopilot.
- Brand your law firm or legal practice as “specialists” in the area of law you practice whenever possible.
- Showcase your experience on your website and in all other marketing channels.
- Make sure a person is always answering your phone during business hours.
- Positive online reviews should be a top priority in marketing your law firm.
- Getting listed on the first page of Google can give the perception that you are “the best” attorney without you having to say so.
- Provide multiple contact options for prospective clients to reach you (contact forms, chat boxes, text, and email).
The era of digital information is already well under way, and it seems that many lawyers and law firms are unaware of the changes they must make to capitalize on this new digital era.
In previous years, attorneys relied on word-of-mouth and referrals to build their legal practice. And while referrals and word-of-mouth can still play an important role in building your legal practice, our survey shows that if you’re relying on this strategy alone, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
When it comes to marketing your law firm, there is a lot of information out there telling you what you “should” be doing. Much of it is unfounded and simply based on the newest buzzwords or trends. If you really want to market your law firm online successfully, it helps to have solid data to guide you along the right path.
This blog post is designed to do just that.
We’re going to break these statistics down and provide the key actionable insights so that you can use this information to gain an advantage over your competition.
Survey Question 1: If you needed to find the answer to a legal question, where would you look first?
- 70% of people surveyed said they would look online first
- 23% said they would call an attorney first
People are turning more and more to the internet to answer questions and solve problems. The fact that 70% of respondents said they would look online (specifically Google and YouTube) before calling an attorney is powerful proof of this.
To take advantage of this, you should be using your website, YouTube channel, and social media channels to answer prospective client’s questions. This way, when that 70% turns to the internet to find an answer to their legal question, it’s you that they find.
The key here is to focus on what questions your prospective clients would be asking. This can be as simple as creating a list of the top 5 or 10 questions you get asked by new clients. Then create a blog post (or posts) featuring these questions and answers. You can further take advantage of this data by turning those questions and answers into short videos and posting them on YouTube.
Survey Question 2: When you’ve had, or if you were to have a legal problem, what was (or likely would be) your first step to solving that legal problem?
- 60% of people surveyed said they would turn to Google or YouTube first
- 34% said they would call an attorney first
This is primarily the same question as #1, but we asked it in a different way on purpose. We wanted to see if there was a difference in people’s responses between a legal “question” and a legal “problem.” Interestingly enough, the responses were very similar. Most people still said they would start online.
We specifically added online legal directories here as well. We wanted to see how many people prefer them over Google and YouTube. The takeaway here is that while Google and YouTube are the bulk of where people turn, some people are using online legal directories. It doesn’t hurt to maintain a presence on them.
Survey Question 3: If you decided you needed to hire an attorney, where would you most likely start your search to find one?
- 45% of people surveyed said they would ask a family member or friend first
- 32% said they would start with an internet search
- 13% said they would start by searching social media platforms
When you look at each data set separately, most people said they would seek a referral first. But when you combine internet search and social media search it comes out even.
As we mentioned above, referrals and word-of-mouth still plays a very large role in the success of a legal practice or law firm.
Many lawyers in the past spent their entire professional career slowly building up a client base to support a successful law firm through word-of-mouth because that was the only way.
You can now leverage the internet to build your brand and reputation at lightning speed.
Again, almost half of the people we surveyed said that they would turn to the internet first to find an attorney. You can be there, right now, today, when they are looking.
You can then use those clients to build up your online reviews, brand, and reputation to start getting the other half of prospective clients who are seeking out referrals first.
Survey Question 4: What factors would be most important to you when deciding on which attorney to hire (rank in order of importance, 1 being the most important and 5 being the least important)
- 82% of people said that specialization is the first or second most important thing to them.
- 77% of people said that experience is the first or second most important thing to them.
We love this question because it goes beyond just how attorneys are being found and gets into how prospective clients are choosing an attorney to work with. This is how you increase your conversion rates and get more prospective clients to call YOU instead of your competitors.
If you’re like many solo lawyers or small law firms (or even big law firms for that matter), you likely practice in multiple areas of law.
So how do you present yourself as a “specialist” in one specific area?
Some states allow lawyers to be certified as specialists by an approved certifying entity. Once certified, they’re allowed to say that they specialize in that field of practice. If your state has these certifying entities and allows this, it’s a good place to start.
Another idea is to consider branding your main area of practice on its own. For example, if you want to practice DUI defense in Denver, consider branding your practice “Denver DUI Defense” with its own website (www.denverduidefense.com), logo, and only information about DUI laws in Colorado.
This can be beneficial in several ways. When a website is completely branded for a specific practice area and all of the content matches that practice area it does two positive things.
First, it can give you an advantage in your search engine optimization efforts compared to other attorney websites with multiple practice areas. Second, it gives you an advantage in the mind of potential clients when compared to a competitor’s website with multiple practice areas because you look more like an “expert” or “specialist” without ever having to say so.
Also, as a bonus, by building an evergreen brand that doesn’t have your specific name on it, your’re building potential value in it for the future. If you decide to retire or practice in another area of law, you can potentially sell that URL and brand to another attorney or law firm.
Survey Question 5: If you called an attorney that you were interested in hiring during regular business hours and nobody answered, what would you do?
- 63% of people said if they called an attorney during regular business hours and nobody answered, they would immediately call the next attorney on their list.
Make sure a person is answering your phone.
It’s amazing how few attorneys and law firms answer their phones. If a potential client calls and can’t reach you right away, most of them are moving on to the next attorney. Don’t spend time, money, and energy on marketing if you don’t have a good system in place to have a real person answer every phone call (at a minimum during regular business hours).
Also, minimize the use of automated call answering systems that require a person to press multiple buttons before being connected to a real person. People are impatient, and these systems can reduce conversion rates significantly.
Survey Question 6: Would you seek out and take into consideration an attorney’s online reviews before hiring them?
- 80% of people said they would seek out and take into consideration an attorney’s online reviews before hiring them.
Even if a person found an attorney through a referral from a friend or family member, they would still check that attorney’s online reviews.
Online reviews have become essential to any law firm’s brand and marketing efforts. Positive online reviews are worth their weight in gold and should be a top priority in marketing your law firm.
Survey Question 7: If you answered Yes on question 6, what online review platforms would you most likely use to research an attorney before hiring them?
- Over 60% of people surveyed said they would use the Google Reviews platform over others.
Google is not only the main place on the internet where people are looking for an attorney, but also the main platform they are using to check online reviews. That said, there are enough responses for Yelp and AVVO to warrant attention to those platforms as well. Focusing on your Google Reviews is going to be your best bet though.
To generate more online reviews, you simply need to start asking. Sending an email, SMS (text) message, or asking in person is the first step. You can do this very easily by creating a Google review link and sending it to clients directly. Another effective way to build your online reviews is to use a tool like BirdEye or GatherUp which help automate the process of requesting reviews.
Survey Question 8: If you were to search “dui lawyer Chicago” using Google, how do you think Google ranks the results they show you?
- 21% of people surveyed believe that Google ranks attorneys on the first page based on their qualifications.
Perception is reality, and almost a quarter of people surveyed believe that if a lawyer or law firm ranks on the first page of Google, it’s because they have higher qualifications than others who do not.
As an attorney, you’re not allowed to say you’re “the best” or “#1”, but if you’re on the first page of Google, many people will have that perception without you ever having to say so.
Attorneys can get their website on the first page of Google multiple times through SEO and PPC, compounding this effect.
Survey Question 9: If you needed to hire an attorney, what would be your preferred method to contact them to schedule your first meeting/consultation?
- 64% of people surveyed said they prefer contacting an attorney by phone
- 36% said they would prefer to contact an attorney using a method other than a phone call
Phone calls being preferred is of course no surprise. But what is worth noting is that leaves 36% of people who would prefer to contact an attorney in another way. That’s a lot.
Make sure you’re providing all these avenues for prospective clients to contact you. If you’re only relying on a phone number you’re potentially missing out on a significant number of potential clients.
Something to consider that many people don’t is that people are busy. Many of them are at work and doing research on their breaks or at their desks on their smart phone. They can’t make a phone call, but they can text, email, or fill in a chat box.
These are becoming more and more common (and preferred) ways of communication.
Focusing your marketing efforts on just a few small details brought to light by this survey data can have a significant impact on the number of new clients you’re getting. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) be running around and trying to keep up with all the latest marketing trends.
If you focus on the fundamentals highlighted by this data, you will gain a major advantage over your competitors allowing you to start growing your legal practice at the pace that you want.
Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted on August 16, 2022 among 585 adult, US residents aged 18-65. Data was weighted for age, gender, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the full demographic composition of the United States.
About the Author
Chris is a legal marketing consultant who has been helping attorneys and law firms grow their revenue and scale their legal practices for the past 13 years. His areas of expertise are in content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), digital branding, and conversion rate optimization (CRO).