Move quickly

How the personal injury legal consumer finds an attorney

Originally published 2018

Personal injury legal consumers are on the move and expect their attorneys to keep up. To win their business, you need to act fast.

According to IBIS World’s U.S. Market Report, the personal injury claims business has grown to $33 billion a year, and with the increasing average age of the U.S. population, that number is expected to continue growing. Though the industry is still growing, so are the number of personal injury attorneys. Staying competitive in this space will require a strategic plan to maintain a steady supply of leads and prospects.

Personal injury events in need of legal representation happen every day. But because many jurisdictions have statutes of limitations on pursuing a personal injury case, a quick reaction is crucial to your potential clients. They want to find representation immediately from a well-qualified attorney.

The average personal injury consumer

  • 46 years old
  • $52K/year
  • Quick decision makers

Personal injury legal consumers are looking to understand their issue, but are also really searching for someone with a track record of success who they can trust. When online researching attorneys, they want some explanation of their legal situation, but they expect to know about your success and trustworthiness. Consumers may be frightened or suffering from real physical pain. They want to know they’ve found someone who can help them. They don’t have time to get bogged down in legalese or unnecessary fluff. Because of this, your approach needs to be confident, easily actionable, and quick to locate.

These findings stem from the FindLaw and Thomson Reuters U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey in which 2,000 consumers were queried about their experience dealing with a legal issue they considered “somewhat” or “very important.”

In looking at this information, it’s easy to see that law firms wanting to attract personal injury legal consumers should focus on three important factors related to their prospective clients: they’re looking for help on their phone, they’re in a hurry and they want a reputable and accomplished attorney.

They’re on the go

Experiencing a personal injury can be life-altering and the immediacy of finding a solution is top of mind. The anxiety caused by the injury pushed them to seek an attorney, and they want to find one quickly. Your potential clients are looking for a lawyer who is easy to search for, and while no one can promise top spots in a Google search, an optimized online presence is crucial.

According to a January 2017 report from the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone and they spend 71 percent of their online time on mobile devices. Personal injury consumers follow this trend, using their mobile devices at the second highest percentage of any legal consumer, behind only those legal consumers who are specifically involved in motor vehicle accidents legal consumers.

Sixty-two percent of personal injury consumers use their mobile phone to conduct a web search regarding their legal need, 10 percent higher than the average. In addition, nearly half (48 percent) use a mobile phone to make contact with an attorney.

Personal injury consumers are mobile


use mobile when searching online


use mobile for legal searches


use mobile to contact an attorney

These are not casual web surfers. Mobile users have precise goals in mind, whether it is locating the nearest restaurant or discovering a local attorney to handle their needs. And it’s not hard to understand why. Mobile phones allow callers to conduct searches and conversations at any time, in any location. It allows them to keep life moving forward, in spite of the disruption a personal injury may cause. The immediacy of mobile digital research allows legal consumers to even search for and contact an attorney from the scene of the incident. This means the cost of not investing in a mobile responsive and flexible website is even higher for law firms in this practice area.

Increasingly, mobile devices are the preferred way to learn about and buy products and services. As a result, law firms need to be certain their websites are optimized for these devices. If ignored, firms put themselves at a severe disadvantage. In fact, 88 percent of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours.

In this era of technological mobility, personal injury consumers want information when they want it, where they want it and in whichever medium they choose.

They’re in a hurry

The lives of P.I. consumers are often upended. Their confusion and possible health issues makes urgency one of the most critical aspects of their legal journey. They want to find representation quickly and it’s often one of the first actions they take after an injury. The life- altering nature of these cases calls for instant decision making. Indeed, 79 percent of personal injury consumers who contacted an attorney or law firm do so as a first action, five percent higher than the average consumer.

Likewise, 66 percent of personal injury consumers make their move within a week or sooner and 67 percent contact only one attorney. That’s seven percent and nine percent higher than the average legal consumer, respectively. The immediacy of a personal injury claim means they need to find the right law firm as soon as possible.

However, if you’re not ready to respond, they’ll move on. Personal injury consumers place a high importance on an attorney’s response time, with 35 percent of consumers considering how fast an attorney responds as an important factor in choosing a lawyer. Compared with the average consumer, that’s nine percent higher.

They want a reputable and accomplished attorney

Any consumer or business in need of legal representation wants to be associated with a reputable firm, but personal injury consumers want a winner.

Possibly because of the contentious nature of personal injury cases, consumers consider reputation and win/loss record much more important than the average consumer. In fact, 43 percent say reputation was the most important factor in choosing an attorney, 14 percent higher than the average consumer. In addition, personal injury consumers are twice as likely to care about your win/loss record. In fact, 30 percent highly valued an attorney’s honesty about the potential outcome, six percent higher than the average.

What does a personal injury consumer look for in an attorney?


value reputation


seek honesty

They want others to vouch for your success. These consumers look to third-party ratings services more often than the average consumer. Twenty-two percent, nearly double the typical consumer, hold a high value of trust in third-party attorney ratings.

This is great news for personal injury law firms. According to FindLaw’s Ratings and Reviews Survey, of the 57 percent of legal consumers who leave online reviews of their attorneys, 81 percent of the reviews are positive. And personal injury consumers are accessing these reviews and trusting them in the decision-making process.

How to win their business

Law firms looking to grow, or improve, their personal injury practice should follow these marketing strategies. To reach the personal injury legal consumer, you must meet them where they’re searching, optimize your intake process and leverage what others are saying about your firm.

Think mobile first

As stated above, personal injury consumers are searching for help on the go, so a mobile responsive and optimized online presence is a necessity. Your law firm’s website should provide the same level of sophistication and pleasant experience when accessed by a phone, tablet or desktop computer. How does this happen? Optimization focuses on flexible design that adapts to the device a potential client is using. It creates a seamless user experience and keeps your client from moving on to the next law firm.

It’s important to understand how mobile users behave. Personal injury consumers are accessing your site with their phone in their hand and they are in get-it-done mode.

To maximize potential conversion, you need to identify and prioritize desired actions. What’s typically the most desired action? To call your firm. Your mobile website needs to make that as easy as possible. Include a succinct description of your firm and services, and easy ways to contact you by phone and email. Clickable buttons to call, email and/or get directions lead the user right to you.

Place the button at the top of your mobile website to communicate with consumers that you’re only a tap away. Remember, your mobile site is your entire site for a growing number of online users.

However, mobile optimization does not stop with aesthetics. It should also have a fast loading time because seconds matter for personal injury consumers. According to Google, 61 percent of users are unlikely to return to a slow-loading mobile site — with 40 percent visiting a competitor’s site instead. In fact, a 2016 study by Google found that 53 percent of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than three seconds to load.

Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly with a flexible website design, click to call features enabled and a quick loading speed. Also, make sure all of your online information, in every location, is accurate so that search engines are showing the correct phone number, address and business hours in their search preview.

When the phone rings, don’t get left behind

Did you know that one-third of firms neglect their own phone messages and that half do not respond to emails or online forms within 24 hours, if at all? As we stated before, personal injury legal consumers need a quick response. Satisfaction begins the moment a consumer picks up the phone to call your firm. If the phone keeps ringing, or an email goes unanswered, you may have lost a client.

Your intake process needs to mirror their urgency. If you don’t answer the phone, if you don’t respond to voicemails or emails, or if they need to repeat their story over and over, you’re going to lose their business. As a rule, show that your firm is aware of and understands the personal injury consumer’s urgency by allowing only three phone rings and a half-day (or faster) response on all email leads. It might even be worth devoting 8 to 9 a.m. each morning for making sure all emails and voicemails have been returned.

Remember, your potential client might be looking at the competition while awaiting your call and it’s important that you don’t move slower than your clients. Showing an understanding of the urgent nature of their issue will help them feel like you’re prepared to work for them. Because 60 percent contact only one attorney, once the personal injury consumer contacts your firm, they’re yours to lose.

Does your website help them do that? A recent survey by FindLaw found 18 percent of law firms did not have a phone number visible without scrolling down, and 7 percent did not list a phone number at all.

A sense of urgency should extend to every form of communication your law firm offers. Unfortunately, many attorneys don’t see it this way. A full 50 percent of firms in FindLaw’s survey took longer than 24 hours to respond to email or online forms. That’s too long; 49 percent of consumers said they expect a response in less than a day.


Act fast

49% of consumers expect a response in less than a day

If your intake process isn’t quite up for the challenge, you’re not alone. Many attorneys fail the intake process. So, treat this as an opportunity to differentiate your practice from the one down the street.

Leverage expert reviews and legal accolades

Accolades cut through the clutter and differentiate your firm – an important factor for enticing the PI consumer who is moving quickly, concerned about reputation and cares about finding a winner. You’ve worked hard to establish a successful practice. So make sure you’re touting the right information to potential clients.

Make sure to display your case results, distinctions and awards prominently on your website. It might be a long list, but it’s worth promoting your reputation, especially to potential personal injury clients. Making accolades and your win/loss record front and center on your online presence could mean more business from those clients with a specific outcome in mind.

Give consumers those quick little indicators that you are the attorney to go with by showcasing what expert third-party rating systems have to say about you.

Adding a Super Lawyers badge on your website or email signature, for example, is another way to distinguish yourself and add more credibility in the eyes of legal consumers. Attorneys selected to a Super Lawyers or Rising Stars list from any year have the exclusive opportunity to display a personalized badge on their online property at no cost.

On top of recognitions from your peers, reviews from former clients help prospects understand what it’s like to work with you. Reviews on Google, social media and outside sites like Yelp are growing in popularity across all industries as a way of validating consumer decisions.

68% of legal consumers want to read reviews from former clients

By building your cadre of online reviews, your law firm benefits from the positive experiences of people you’ve helped in the past. And even a negative rating is a chance to learn from your mistakes and respond empathetically, showing your next prospect that you care about your clients.

Start asking clients to leave reviews where they can on sites like Google or Facebook. This should be a polite request that in no way sways what they will say about your firm. You want their honesty on full display so that legal consumers understand the unique nature of working with your firm. Also, influencing reviews is unethical and in many states against regulation.

Rise to the top

We’ve already learned that personal injury consumers are acting fast, so why not catch their eye when they’re needing you most? Consider a situation where someone’s in need of a personal injury lawyer. Most likely, they won’t remember the phone number on your billboard or the website listed on your magazine ad — instead they’ll grab their phone and start searching for help.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising puts your firm in the spotlight, placing you at the top of the search engine results page when someone uses your targeted keywords. That means if a potential customer searches for “personal injury lawyer Atlanta,” your sponsored ad will be front and center. In a situation where people need fast resolution, PPC skips to the front of the line.

Trust in your ability

It can be daunting to recognize the needs of personal injury legal consumers. They are fast-moving, need immediate responses and are more concerned with reputation and win/loss record than the legal expertise you’ve worked hard to establish. They’re less concerned with subjectivity and want objective outcomes, ease of access, quick responses and victories. Give them what they want in your online marketing, and you’ll find more cases walking through your doors.

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