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Websites—Not Word of Mouth—Top Source of Attorney Client Referrals

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A growing body of research finds that consumers needing legal services are increasingly using the Internet—rather than the advice of friends and family—to find an attorney.

The most recent study to report on this trend comes from the marketing firm Perceptio in an eBook entitled “Revenue and Client Growth: A Guide for Firm Management.” In the report, Perceptio points out that in 2005, 65% of people searching for an attorney found one from referrals (i.e. recommendations from friends and family). In 2014, that number had dropped to just 29%.

Over the same period, according to Perceptio, internet content (such as blog posts, articles, and eBooks) went from 7% to 38% of the way people research attorneys. The implication, says Perceptio, is that firms should have a dynamic website with engaging content that can address a variety of audiences. This means having content that is educational, interesting, and germane to audience “pain points.”

Pain points, if you’re not familiar with the term, refers to problems that potential clients may be facing. From a law firm’s point of view, a major customer pain point is being intimidated and overwhelmed by legal system arcana. Thus, attorney content should (among other things) focus on how a law firm handles a case from start to finish, unburdening a client from legal pedantry and allowing them to focus on matters more important to them.

Perceptio’s findings about the importance of web content confirms those of prior studies. For example, a study commissioned by Lexis Nexis found that 110 million Americans have sought an attorney at least once in their lives, including 58 million in the past year. Of those 58 million, 76% used online resources at least once in the search process.

“Referrals from friends and family remain a key method for finding an attorney,” says the report. “However, the study finds that consumer are slightly more likely to conduct an Internet search as they are to turn to people they know, which marks a dramatic shift in behavior.”

This conclusion is echoed by professional services marketing firm Hinge in their report “Beyond Referrals: How Today’s Buyers Check You Out.” Hinge, like Lexis Nexis, found that personal referrals are still an important source of professional service provider information—but not as important as online resources. Hinge asked buyers how they check out a provider before hiring them. 80.8% said that they look at their website, compared to 62.4% who said they asked friends or colleagues if they’re heard of the person or firm. More than 63% said they searched online (“Googled”) a person or firm, while around 60% used social media.

What should law firms take away from these types of studies? In short, legal service providers must make conscious decisions to shape their online presence, because whether they are doing this or not, potential clients are looking at online resources to make consumer decisions.
Legal Web Design offers a full suite of professional law marketing services, including content, SEO, web design, and social marketing. Learn more about how we help law firms connect with clients by scheduling a free consultation with our law marketing experts.

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