Hiring a Lawyer: What Potential Clients REALLY Care About

Recently I was having a discussion with a personal injury attorney where he asked me what I thought was the most important thing a client looks for when hiring an attorney. Based on the data we have collected over the years I talked about what seems to consistently convert better for our clients and discussion included things like reputation, client reviews, and trust signals. This got me thinking and I realized I wanted to run a survey to average consumers to see what they really thought was important. In April 2016 I decided to conduct a study to see what potential clients needing a lawyer are looking for.

I decided to use Google Surveys since it’s easy to setup and add the parameters I wanted. In this survey I decided to serve one question and get back 1,500 responses. The question I asked was:

“When deciding on hiring an attorney what is the most important factor in the decision making process?”

During the month of April 2016 this survey was presented to 23,152 random people in the United States. I collected 1,504 total responses from a group that was 50.3% Male and 49.7% Female. The age range of the participants was 18-65+ with respondents 25-44 having the highest participation rates. You can view the raw survey data here.

Survey results

Age Range

The question I asked the participants was an open box answer. I didn’t want to limit the responses or pigeonhole people into picking one of the pre-determined answers from my thoughts.

The Initial Results

The initial results were a little bit different than I had predicted. Let’s start off by looking at the non grouped answers. This word cloud below represents the biggest non grouped answers:
Non grouped survey results

As you can probably tell by looking at the graph the top 5 results were:

  1. Reputation
  2. Experience
  3. Cost
  4. Price
  5. Money

The initial results seem that money seems to be a big sticking point. But as professional business people we know we should not sell our services based on price. If people are making their decision based on pricing alone they obviously do not understand the value that your services are offering or don’t see the value.┬áIn a nutshell if you’re ever competing on price you probably didn’t do something else right, but that’s a topic for another time.

After viewing these initial results I went though and grouped the results by synonym and topic. The results are a bit different which you can see below:

Grouped Survey Results

The top 5 of these results were grouped into:

  1. Cost
  2. Qualifications / Ratings
  3. Expertise / Background / Results
  4. Ethics / Honesty
  5. Trust

Grouping the answers were difficult since there were so many different synonyms but I believe I captured the most important areas. It’s very clear that price and cost are a huge barrier for those who participated in this study. Like I mentioned above I don’t believe that should you be an issue for you. More on that later. Qualification and ratings seem to be very important for potential clients too. But let’s look at how we can use this data in an actionable way.

 

What Should You Do With This Data?

I believe having actionable advice from any studies that are conducted. Since I work with many law firms on a daily basis I can take this survey data and tell you exactly how we use it currently and what might be worth trying. You will also notice a lot of potential overlap in the categories. As you read it will become more and more clear that these items should represent your firm’s brand. Let’s address these important survey results one by one.

Keep in mind that when I’m providing ideas I will mainly be addressing your law firm’s website. However, don’t downplay the rest of your online presence including popular web directories that also drive new clients to your firm.

Pricing

As I have mentioned above I don’t believe pricing should be the reason you get or lose a case. If that happens there are other areas you need to work on. That being said I also believe in transparency. Some services like Thumbtack.com even find contractors based off of price. If you think it will make a difference you can consider adding transparent pricing information but really CONSIDER it. Make sure it aligns with your business goals. For a lot of my Personal Injury clients I tell them they should not compete on price. On the other hand we have some very boutique firms such as criminal firms who only want 1-2 cases a year and want to exclude those who can’t afford their services. This is a scenario where you would probably talk more about it than normal. Keep in mind though that this is also a sales technique called extreme disqualification.

Qualifications

One of the items we commonly showcase on our clients websites are qualifications. People want to know how qualified their attorneys are. This is where firm attorney bio’s come into play. It’s a great place to showcase how qualified an attorney is. List these with pride and remember that pictures are worth 1,000 words. If you can visually show qualifications that will go a long way with potential clients. Don’t make them read tons of words (like my blog posts :P)

Expertise & Results

Obviously you could group expertise along with qualifications but there are some separate points I wanted to make in regards to expertise. Think about your firm’s case results. Even though you can’t guarantee a case outcome the big numbers work. If you’re a personal injury firm and you have had a million dollar or multi million dollar verdict you will want to showcase that number. It should be visible on the page of the attorney’s involved, the practice area it pertains to, and anywhere else that seems relevant. People like numbers. Numbers prove expertise and showcasing that is important to your potential clients.

Ethics an Honesty

Those looking to hire an attorney are also concerned with ethics and honesty. They want to work with someone relatable who won’t screw them. One great way to show this in addition to the winning record is client testimonials. Having clients on video showcasing their satisfaction is a sure way to gain this trust and show that you’re an honest person to work with. Client experiences are worth their weight in gold.

Trust

In my opinion trust is a combination of all of the above topics. If your firm charges fair fees, has won awards, has a winning track record, and has positive feedback from those who have hired you, well you have built trust at that point. To build trust you need to build a brand around all of these qualities and not bury them in your website. They need to be easy to find on every page. Once you have earned the clients trust you will earn a client.

Conclusion

This study really proves a lot of the points that we are continually trying to make to potential clients. SEO and internet marketing is not just about doing the technical stuff. It’s about real marketing. It’s about building a long term and strong brand that will last through up’s and downs. It’s about building a strong company with a strong moral compass that is in business to serve their clients to the best of their ability. I encourage you to continue to ask your clients for feedback. Figure out what they find important and build on those areas.
If you have any questions or anything to add to this discussion please add it in the comments below!

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Casey Meraz

Casey is the founder and president of Ethical SEO Consulting and Juris Digital based in Denver, CO. Casey's specialties are in organic and local SEO. He is a regular contributor to the Moz Blog and the author of How To Perform The Ultimate Local SEO Audit. If you have an SEO question or need advice please feel free to reach out by email: cmeraz@jurisdigital.com. Follow Casey on Twitter @CaseyMeraz.