The Verdict Is In: Internet Searches Gaining Traction In Legal Referrals

Though consumers still commonly rely on word of mouth to find an attorney, columnist Will Scott notes that the Internet is becoming an increasingly important source for potential clients, particularly the younger generation.

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As the internet generation ages into fully formed adults, they may increasingly find themselves in need of the services of a lawyer.

Although past generations typically relied on word-of-mouth referrals to find an attorney, new research shows that 18- to 24-year-olds are relying more on internet searches to find legal counsel.

Armed with this knowledge, it can be helpful to understand who exactly is using the internet to search for lawyers and the typical steps involved with that search process.

New data trends demonstrate just how important it is for law firms to focus on their online presence.

Internet Search Gaining On Word Of Mouth

According to a new survey conducted by Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law and local search expert Mike Blumenthal, the use of the internet to find lawyers is posing a legitimate threat to the traditional referral method.

The survey first asked 19,539 consumers when they last hired a lawyer, then narrowed it down a group of 1,578 consumers who had hired a lawyer in the last year. This group was asked an open-ended question, rather than one with a pre-selected list of answers: “How did you find the lawyer you hired?”

The survey found that referrals are still very common, with 38.6 percent of respondents finding their lawyer through word of mouth. Meanwhile, internet searches had a solid showing, with 15.5 percent of respondents using the internet to find legal help.

Of particular note, those between the ages of 18 and 24 were more likely to use the Web for their attorney searches, providing a strong indication that an increasing number of consumers will be relying on the internet and bypassing word of mouth as the younger generation ages.

How did you find the lawyer that you hired?

Stages Of Searching For A Lawyer Online

So how does a solo practitioner or a law firm use this data to their advantage and start targeting the savvy internet user?

Lawyers looking to make their websites stand out among the competition and climb to the top of the internet search results should consider the steps a typical user takes when searching for an attorney: gathering information on the legal issue, searching for a lawyer, validating a lawyer and selecting a lawyer.

The typical consumer looking for an attorney online will generally first search the internet for specific legal information related to their case using search engines, law firm websites, online directories and social media.

With that in mind, it’s important that a law firm’s website has a strong online presence backed by high-quality content that can be easily found by search engines. Once a website is equipped with high-quality content, a social network is essential in promoting that content, also helping a law firm move to the top of Google’s search rankings.

Consumers will also use online resources to search for a specific lawyer with expertise in the area where legal assistance is needed. A consistent presence across online directories and on consumer review sites such as Yelp or a profile on an online legal services marketplace such as Avvo can be particularly valuable as potential clients search for things like contact information for the lawyer and ratings from current clients.

Focus On The Future

Although consumers still commonly rely on word of mouth to find and hire an attorney, the internet is becoming an increasingly important source for potential clients, particularly those in the younger generation.

Law firms should focus on staying ahead of the curve by using several methods to market themselves online, including having a website with quality content relevant to its practice areas, creating consistent profiles across online directories and employing an array of social media platforms to promote their content.

By taking steps to improve their online presence and making sure they can easily be found by the growing percentage of people searching online, law firms can build their reputation and their client base.

What do you think? Will the younger generation determine the future of how consumers search for lawyers? Share your thoughts.

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About the author

Will Scott
Will Scott is a recognized leader in digital marketing, known for coining the phrase “barnacle SEO” in 2008. Will is frequently invited to present at marketing and other industry conferences. Will founded Search Influence in 2006 with his wife, Angie Scott. Since putting his first website online in 1994, Will has led teams responsible for creating thousands of websites for business, building hundreds of thousands of pages in online directories, and delivering millions of visits from search. At Search Influence, Will directs the teams of dedicated professionals who optimize your potential! Outside of work, Will is a father to two boys, husband to Angie, his co-founder and COO in Search Influence. He is active in local non-profit and civic causes, an Ironman athlete, and a recovering heart patient.

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