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FindLaw Survey: 4 Factors Clients Look for When Hiring a Lawyer

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

When consumers need an attorney, what do they do? How do they find you? What do they want to know?

The FindLaw 2014 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey asked legal consumers how they went about hiring an attorney and why. As it turns out, most people are looking for transactional help (with things like wills and estates or real estate documents), not litigation. And most began their search simply by contacting a legal professional. Overwhelmingly, these people chose to hire an attorney, and in fact, the vast majority hired the first attorney they contacted.

Naturally, you want to be that first attorney. You can make that happen by knowing what qualities potential clients are looking for in an attorney. As luck would have it, the survey has information about that, too.

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Survey Reveals the 4 Most Important Factors

Consumers considered four factors to be the "most important" when deciding on an attorney:

  • Expertise mattered the most. As you might expect, consumers want someone who's knowledgeable in his or her field. Any kind of marketing should emphasize your practice areas and years of experience.
  • Coming in second: recommendations. Nothing beats a good recommendation from someone you know when deciding to hire someone for a service, whether it's a plumber, a doctor, or ... yes, a lawyer. (The upshot: people talk.)
  • Cost came in third. Apparently, people in need of legal assistance would rather have someone who's good at his or her job first and worry about the price later.
  • Finally, a sense of trust rounded out the four most important factors. Our clients place a great deal in our hands -- from their money to their futures -- so it's important that the potential client feels like he or she can trust you.

5 Other Notable Factors

Five other factors were also important: reputation, license, certifications, disciplinary history, and reviews from former clients. ("License" seemed curious because, hopefully, consumers want licensed attorneys. If they're searching for unlicensed ones, then there's a problem somewhere...)

These all make sense. If someone is looking for an estate planning attorney, one thing he or she may want to know is whether the attorney has some sort of certification in that particular practice area. This all goes back to expertise: The more a lawyer appears to know about his or her field, the better his chances of attracting clients.

Reputation, disciplinary history, and sense of trust all go together, too. The potential client wants to know, "Is this attorney someone I can rely on to competently handle my secrets? My finances?" As much as you can, be sure your marketing exudes confidence and trustworthiness. Happy clients will refer their friends and colleagues to you, begetting more happy clients. It's one of the few vicious cycles you want to be a part of.

You can check out all of the findings from FindLaw's 2014 U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey by clicking here.

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