The 2021 Consumer Legal Needs Survey: What Attorneys Need to Know, Part II

Laptop computer screen with multiple choice survey question showcased

When it comes to building your law firm’s book of business having a keen sense of what actually matters to legal consumers is critical to long-term success. For the 11th year of its Consumer Legal Needs Survey, Thomson Reuters queried 2,000 U.S. adults over the age of 18, who had a legal need in the last 12 months. The purpose of the survey is to learn how they gathered more information on potential legal representation and what went into their ultimate hiring decision, if they made one.

Year after year, the results of this survey offer insightful information for law firms on how potential clients behave online and what they look for in attorneys. This information combined with legal marketing best practices year to year is a winning strategy. The first of our two-part series took a look at some need-to-know portions of the survey and what a smart attorney would take from them. This post continues that exploration.


Hiring factors

The ultimate choice of which lawyer or law firm to hire is based on factors such as expertise, recommendations, and cost.

  • What does this mean for me? Time after time, the U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey has shown that there is no one single factor that prompts most consumers to go with the attorney or law firm they chose. Many legal clients are first-timers and aren’t sure what information to prioritize, so they make their decision on a blend of factors.
  • How should I respond? In sum, your digital legal marketing efforts should express who you are and what it’s like to work with you. Potential clients generally assume any attorney is qualified. Where they have a hard time is distinguishing one lawyer from the other. So, your website, social media presence, and other elements of your integrated marketing plan should work together to help create a sense of who you are as an individual. When you can create a nuanced, detailed portrait of who you are, you’re offering potential clients more of the information they want when they make a hiring decision.


Legal consumers primarily use online resources

More than one-third of consumers use online resources to learn about an attorney or law firm, an increase over past usage statistics.

  • What does this mean for me? Offline resources, like print advertising and presence at events, will always have their place. That being said, the internet is where more and more consumers are looking for information every year. Three years ago, 72 percent of U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey respondents said they consulted offline sources; this year, that ticked downward to 68 percent. That may not seem like much of a change, but it’s indicative of the gradual de-emphasizing of offline sources and the rising importance of online ones. In the past, the legal industry has been slow to warm up to technology, but today, any attorney who doesn’t have a robust online presence is going to lose out on new business.
  • How should I respond? Putting information on the internet is one thing. Helping that information be found by a consumer with a legal need is another. Investing in supplementary digital legal marketing tools, like PPC, a blog, or social media writing services, does require investment. It’s an investment worth making, though, because it helps get your information where you need it to be — in front of people who want to hire an attorney.


Local marketing

Consumers want to hire locally, with most choosing an attorney located within approximately 30 miles.

  • What does this mean for me? People like to know who they are dealing with and seem to trust that someone in their community is going to have their best interests at heart. There’s also the matter of practicality. It’s easier to get to appointments if you don’t have to go too far.
  • What does this mean for me? Generally speaking, search engines are making more of an effort to give users local, specific results. They recognize it doesn’t do a user in San Francisco much good to see results that are based in San Antonio. If your digital legal marketing budget can accommodate them, tools like PPC and Google’s Local Services Ads will help make sure the content you’re putting online will appear in front of users who want to see it.

Together, Parts I and II have hopefully shown you that legal consumers are increasingly using the internet and wanting, and expecting, to find relevant, local information quickly. Meeting those expectations is a tall order, but can be done through a partnership with a reliable, results-oriented digital legal marketing agency. If you’d like to learn more about how FindLaw can work for you, arrange a free consultation with your local digital legal marketing expert.

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