With the continued spread of COVID-19, people throughout the United States find themselves in uncharted territory. As the number of states enacting stay-at-home orders increases, law firms must find ways to make sense of and navigate the unexpected challenges they face.
For attorneys at small and solo law firms, it?s critical to understand how this crisis, and the numerous cascading implications, is affecting legal consumers. What do legal consumers want and need most right now? How are or will their needs change? And, perhaps most importantly, how can attorneys meet and serve those needs given the numerous changes and constraints they too currently face?
Meeting legal consumers where they are
According to Thomson Reuters?s most-recent U.S. Consumers Legal Needs Survey, the majority of legal consumers (55 percent) take action to resolve their legal issue within one week and, in most cases, this translates to contacting a legal professional. When making decisions about which attorney to hire, legal consumers give a considerable amount of weight to an attorney?s level of expertise within a given practice area. On top of it, some may be overwhelmed with serious worries: avoiding future difficulties, looking for justice to be served or stressing over how to pay for legal help. A few may even be facing the prospect of jail time.
What does this mean for you as you attempt to appeal and market to legal consumers? With heightened emotions driving individuals to seek reassurance and make decisions regarding legal representation more quickly than ever, attorneys must clearly and succinctly articulate the value and expertise they can provide.
Additionally, it?s crucial to respond to legal consumers? questions and needs with compassion, empathy and understanding. Everyone is facing a tremendous amount of uncertainty right now and, for individuals with pending legal issues, that uncertainty and the associated worst-case scenario thoughts and emotions, are exacerbated.
How attorneys can respond
Confronted with so many unknowns, it?s normal for confusion and inaction to reign. To overcome the proverbial paralysis by analysis, attorneys should focus on things they can control.
Step up communications: From the prominent messaging on your firm?s website to the ad you?re running in a regional legal publication, think about how your content will be viewed and received in light of current events. If updates are warranted, make sure your messaging and tone are sincere and directly address the pain points legal consumers are experiencing. You don?t want to come off as tone deaf or insensitive. Above all, strive to be the calm, rational, and reassuring voice that legal consumers need.
Get tech savvy: For the foreseeable future, relying on face-to-face meetings to win over prospective clients isn?t an option. You need to find a way to get and keep legal consumers? attention digitally. This means that having a well-designed, intuitive, and informative website is no longer something that?s nice to have ? today, it?s essential. If you offer free consultations to prospective clients, it?s also wise to utilize Zoom, Skype or another virtual conferencing vendor to personalize interactions, even when you can?t meet face to face.
Shift the focus: Yes, you need to find a way to highlight your experience and convince legal consumers to hire you. You must, however, be tactful and intelligent in your approach. As legal consumers try to quickly explore and weigh their options, think about how your content and key marketing messages address their current concerns and needs. For example, does your attorney bio consist of a laundry list of your academic and professional achievements? Take this time to update your bio. Leading with a personal message to prospective clients about the steps your firm is taking to address and respond to their needs during uncertain times is appropriate, human and may be the differentiating factor that matters most.
As an attorney, your job requires a keen ability to quickly get up to speed and assess information and situations ? providing both best-and worst-case scenarios ? for your clients. More than ever, it?s important to provide the fact-based information legal consumers need to make informed decisions.
For additional information and guidance, visit our COVID-19 resource center.
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