There was a time when effective legal advertising consisted of having the largest possible ad in the phone book and some strategically placed local billboards. But technology has shifted the way consumers research, find, and connect with legal services. That means law firms need to shift their approach, too. 

When deciding to hire an attorney, which factors matter most to legal consumers today? The Martindale-Avvo report, “Understanding the Legal Consumer 2023,” takes an ind-depth look at how prospective clients find and hire attorneys so firms can better align their digital marketing strategies.

Responsiveness Matters Most & Consumers Move Quickly

Making a positive impression on prospective clients is vital to earning their business. When asked about the most important factors that drove people to choose a particular law firm, most indicated attorney responsiveness was crucial: 50% of people say they made a hiring decision within a week, and 80% of consumers will contact another attorney if they don’t hear back in 48 hours.

Responsiveness starts with lightning-fast answers to form and email inquiries or quickly returning phone calls. But it can go much further than this for many potential clients. A person with a legal challenge wants detailed responses to every question they ask. They also want to get a clear sense of the costs involved in resolving their issue and need to know what the full process will look like for their case. 

Only 11% or respondents hired the first attorney they contacted, and it’s likely that the attorney they eventually selected was one that was responsive to their inquiries.  Four out of five consumers (78.9%) who ultimately decided to hire a lawyer contacted more than one attorney before making that hiring decision.

Additionally, three out of 10 consumers hired an attorney hired within 3 days of realizing they needed an attorney, and five in 10 hired within a week.

While attorney responsiveness isn’t necessarily a measure of experience and skill, it does tell the client that you care about their issue. In general, the faster a firm responds to an inquiry, the greater chance they have at converting a prospect into a case or retaining an existing client. 

Word of Mouth is No Longer Preferred

Finding the right attorney can be a challenging process for consumers, whether they have experience hiring a lawyer in the past or not. And there is often no shortage of people willing to offer advice or guidance on how to solve a legal matter. 

However, when asked, approximately 4 in 10 (39.0%) consumers got an attorney recommendation, with the most common source being friends and/or family, followed by other attorneys. Six in 10 (61.0%) did not get any recommendation.

While nearly all legal consumers read third party ratings and reviews, a whopping 86% of respondents use online resources when handling their legal matter, and 70% dive into online content before deciding to engage with an attorney. This means an attorney’s online presence and engagement with consumers online is of utmost importance in attracting and signing new clients.

Client Reviews Are Very Important

When it comes to shopping for an attorney, consumers follow many paths. But it’s evident that the search for legal services now takes place largely online, and firms can maximize their ability to reach consumers through online feedback. 

Legal consumer research often begins with a search engine query that takes a prospect to your website or a legal directory with online reviews. Even if a prospect likes what they see, they are likely to research what your current and former clients have to say about your services. 

Consumers consider online reviews as the most important criteria for an attorney’s reputation and weigh the average review score/star rating highest at 54.1%, followed closely by the number of reviews (53.7%). And while the number of reviews was almost as important as the score itself, the recency of those reviews is not far behind at 40.1% — so it’s important to keep getting reviews.

When legal consumers read attorney and law firm reviews, they’re generally looking to gauge the firm’s ability to handle their specific legal matter as well as get an idea about the results firms have delivered for similar clients. Other aspects that consumers might look for in reviews relate to the affordability of services, responsiveness of the firm, and the firm’s ethics. 

Understanding What’s Important to Potential Clients is Key to Managing Your Firm

Prospective clients have refined the way they research and choose an attorney. Firms that are the most responsive, have a strong online presence with great reviews, and act quickly to secure new cases have the best chance of earning new business. 

Knowing what’s most important to your potential clients helps you understand the best ways to reach new leads and sign new cases. To get more insights about how legal consumers search for, select, and engage with law firms in 2023, check out our full report

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