Businesses across all industries struggle to understand their customers. Realtors are known to joke with one another that “buyers are liars.” Online retailers marvel at online shoppers who fill their carts only to abandon them and restaurant owners are perplexed by customer feedback forms that call for healthy options, when receipts show pizza as their top seller. Fortunately for small law firms and solo attorneys, there is a wealth of research that provides valuable insight into how legal consumers think and behave.

Recently, Thomson Reuters released results from its annual U.S. Consumer Legal Needs survey. For the survey, 2,000 people, who dealt with a legal issue within the past year, were asked a series of questions related to how they researched and resolved their matter. The guide “Your Next Client 101: What Makes Legal Consumer Tick and How You Can Reach Them,” explores the survey’s results in detail. Below, we discuss three key findings born from the survey.

Consumers want a pro
Twenty-one percent of survey respondents reported researching their legal issue and at least checking out do-it-yourself legal forms. Ultimately, however, 57 percent of respondents contacted a lawyer.

These figures follow the natural route most consumers take prior to hiring a professional. Whether it’s fixing a cracked foundation or selecting a tax preparer, consumers often take steps to learn more about their specific situation. Often, after researching their issue, a consumer realizes they need to hire a professional—which, as an attorney, works in your favor. The issues that prompt consumers to hire an attorney are typically more complex and higher-value—which is the work you want.

Who you are and where you are matter
Eighty-nine percent of respondents reported that an attorney’s reputation was the most important factor taken into consideration when deciding to retain an attorney. It’s also important to note that 45 percent of respondents listed an attorney’s location as a very important factor as most preferred to hire a lawyer or law firm within a 30-mile radius of their home.

Given, legal consumers’ emphasis on reputation and location, your firm needs to specifically highlight these attributes in your marketing materials. Thanks to the Internet, there’s no shortage of options. Highlighting your personal and firm’s distinguishing qualities—including what it’s like to work with you and your firm’s success stories—makes you stand out from the crowd. Additionally, including information about the neighborhoods and communities you serve helps you connect with local residents who need assistance.

The Internet is everything
The fact that legal consumers are using the Internet to find and research an attorney probably doesn’t surprise you. But how they use it, might. Consider the following:

  • When it comes to finding answers to legal questions, 27 percent of respondents reported feeling comfortable using voice search to ask a legal question. That means that a significant percentage of legal consumers are turning to Alexa and Siri early in their research process—a figure that’s expected to grow considerably in the coming years.
  • Thirty-eight percent of respondents reported navigating to online attorney or legal directories to research an attorney or law firm. It’s important, therefore, to ensure that your attorney and firm profile are accurate and comprehensive.
  • Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents said they used social media to research an attorney or law firm. This proves that you need to include social media in your firm’s marketing plan and work to build a strong presence on channels like Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

As legal consumers continue to become savvier and change how they research and respond to legal issues, you need to tailor and adjust your marketing tactics. When it comes to turning prospective clients into paying clients, law firms that provide valuable information and resources, capitalize on their knowledge and experience and develop a robust digital presence will be successful.





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