Every case you handle is unique, but the clients themselves frequently have a great deal in common. They’re all facing major and often unanticipated changes and challenges in their lives. And there’s something else they didn’t anticipate: the need for legal representation. Further, they typically don’t want to spend a lot of time finding it. Like most Americans, they want to find and hire a good attorney as soon as possible.
The tendency for consumers to move quickly is a boon for your firm. But you need to be prepared to take advantage. The best way to prepare is by understanding the modern legal consumer’s journey.
That’s the topic of FindLaw’s latest white paper, Your Next Client Wants To Hire You–NOW: An Analysis of Legal Consumer Behavior. Read the excerpt below to understand social media’s growing role in the search and evaluation process that leads clients to your firm:
Interest and Consideration
It is important to understand that many legal consumers simultaneously evaluate attorneys while searching for one to contact. These two traditionally separate processes are now often treated as one. Legal consumers aren’t merely looking for you, they’re looking for validation that you’re the right choice — and they’re looking for that validation in multiple places.
So what do consumers consider while simultaneously identifying and evaluating potential attorneys? According to the 2015 FindLaw Survey, these are the most important factors they keep in mind:
The attorney’s expertise in the relevant legal field. This factor was listed by 46 percent of respondents. However, interestingly, this factor’s importance has declined over the past five years.
Recommendations from others (37%). As you’ll see below, this is not surprising given the significant weight consumers place on recommendations from trusted sources as a way of finding an attorney.
A sense they can trust the attorney (30%) in handling their legal matter.
The location of the law firm (30%) and how far they would need to travel to visit the firm. All told, 78 percent of those surveyed rate location as very important. In addition, 41 percent cite 20 miles as the maximum distance they are willing to travel.
Not surprisingly, legal consumers move quickly through the discovery and evaluation stage. That requires you to build a sense of credibility just as quickly.
While offline sources remain powerful, their influence is waning. The 2015 FindLaw survey shows that the likelihood of consumers continuing to rely on offline sources dropped from 85 percent to 76 percent in the last year. Over the same period, consumer use of online sources increased from 19 percent of consumers to 28 percent, with the majority using multiple resources to do their attorney research. That’s true even though legal consumers typically move quickly to make a hire. In fact, it’s likely those consumers are tapping online sources of information precisely because those sources are easy and quick to access.
For respondents who first go online in search of an attorney, most cite search engines such as Google. Consumers consult an average of four websites in their research, and they’re demonstrating a steadily growing satisfaction level with the experience of finding an attorney online. That said, the traditional online strategy of firms placing an extreme focus on driving traffic to their website through search engines — to the exclusion of other tactics — no longer reflects the diversity of consumer behavior.
More and more consumers are consulting online attorney directories, with 45 percent of consumers beginning their search on sites such as FindLaw, Lawyers.com and Avvo. Legal consumers find directories valuable because they are backed by recognized and trusted brands, and are often accompanied by robust and helpful content resources. In that regard, they provide an additional layer of credibility compared with a simple Web search. At the very least, firms should place a priority on adding rich, descriptive content on the most prominent directory sites.
Social media and review sites.
Consumers also cite the growing importance of a firm’s online social presence as a way to help evaluate potential attorneys. Recall that above we noted that consumers’ preferred method for finding an attorney is to seek out referrals from friends, family and coworkers. Social media, in particular, provides another way to obtain a trusted referral in an online setting. Every social media category (blogs, video, Facebook, Twitter) grew in importance to consumers by 70 percent or more in FindLaw’s 2015 survey.
While consumers may not always search for an attorney directly on social platforms, they often use these channels to solicit recommendations and reinforcement from their networks. In the event that their network cannot provide a referral, consumers increasingly value reviews of firms by previous clients on such sites as Avvo, Yelp, Facebook and others. In fact, studies show a growing respect for online reviews in general. According to Nielsen, 68 percent of individuals surveyed in 2013 said they trusted consumer opinions posted online, an increase from 61 percent in 2007.2
Firms should claim and populate profiles on prominent business review sites such as Yelp, Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Facebook for Business and Yahoo. Alternatively, services such as Yext can help firms syndicate their business information to a broad variety of business review sites.
This is just a sliver of the big picture contained in this white paper. Download your free copy and discover how your law firm can gain more clients when you align your marketing with the behaviors and needs of legal consumers. Visit LawyerMarketing.com today.