Key takeaways from the 2023 US Consumer Legal Needs Survey

Lawyer working on laptop in small office space.

Information is power. And every business benefits from knowing more about the consumers they serve. This includes attorneys at small law firms, who need to understand trends and how legal consumers think, feel, and act. Why? Because this information can help law firms do a better job at addressing legal consumers' needs and meeting their expectations.

The results of the 12th annual US Consumer Legal Needs Survey provide valuable insights into the actions people take to resolve legal matters, including hiring an attorney. In this post, we'll take a closer look at four key findings from this year's survey and discuss how small law firms can use this information to develop and grow their business.

4 things attorneys need to know about legal consumers

1. When faced with a legal need, the majority (or 53%) of consumers contact a legal professional or organization.

Why it matters to you and your firm:

Legal consumers are highly motivated and most take swift action to resolve the issues they face. While the majority of legal consumers understand they can't resolve their problems on their own, you need to convince them that you're the trusted legal resource they need. How? It's important to be strategic and understand what motivates the people who need your help.

For 40% of survey respondents, avoiding future legal difficulties is the main driver for contacting an attorney. Think about how your firm can use digital channels to address and quiet concerns around the dreaded “what ifs" consumers contemplate when exploring estate planning options, or facing a divorce or DUI charges.

2. More than three-quarters of consumers reported visiting two to five different websites before contacting an attorney.

Why it matters to you and your firm:

Legal consumers are savvy and discerning, and they're increasingly turning to online resources to find and vet attorneys. Keep these questions in mind for consumers who are seeking your help:

  • How are you and your firm showing up to the people who need your advice and expertise?
  • Can consumers easily and readily find your firm when they search applicable keywords and search terms on Google?
  • Do you have a strong presence on social media?
  • Is your firm included in legal directories like FindLaw?

You can also invest in building a robust SEO program and social presence. Take time to craft comprehensive directory listings that showcase you and your firm, and establish a process for soliciting reviews from current and past clients.

3. More than 7 in 10 consumers reach out via phone when initially contacting an attorney — and 50% expect a response on the same day they reach out.

Why it matters to you and your firm:

When a consumer decides to call a law firm about their legal issue, they're serious about finding a resolution. Their goal is to connect with an attorney who can answer their questions and discuss next steps in the process. Their need is urgent, and they want to know that you understand and share their sense of urgency. And if a consumer can't reach you or doesn't hear back from you in a timely manner, they'll move on.

In fact, nearly 50% of survey respondents cited not being able to reach an attorney on the first try or not hearing back quickly enough as reasons for why they contacted more than one attorney. These findings highlight the importance of having an organized and efficient client intake process. Do you have someone answering your phones and helping callers through the process? How quickly do you respond to inquiries? Do you provide free consultations? First impressions matter and you want to let potential clients know you're reliable and that you respect and value their time.

4. Expertise is strongly considered when choosing an attorney, along with recommendations, costs, reputation, and trust.

Why it matters to you and your firm:

As an attorney, it doesn't matter how talented or accomplished you are if you aren't able to win over clients — and it's not as simple as including a laundry list of credentials and accolades on your website. To convey that you are a trusted legal expert, you need to think about your potential clients and their needs. A big part of this equation is making sure consumers receive consistent messaging about you, your firm, and your brand.

Be authentic and consistent when communicating via various digital channels. Invest in a well-designed and comprehensive website that speaks directly to the issues potential clients are facing. Build a social media presence and devote time each week to curate content about things going on within your respective legal field, at your firm, and in your community. Take time to personalize and make your firm's legal directory listings unique so you stand out from competitors.

Winning over legal consumers

As an attorney, your focus is on practicing law and helping clients navigate and overcome legal issues. Looking back 10 years through surveys is that in today's competitive legal market, it takes more than word of mouth to win clients and grow your law firm. From websites and SEO to social media and reviews, learn more about how FindLaw helps solo and small law firms develop a digital presence that meets their business goals.

Infographic describing how people find lawyers and the key legal market trends for small and solo law firms.

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