Last year, an Avvo survey of 1,000 consumers who purchased legal services provided some important insights into what attorneys need to know about the modern legal consumer. The Avvo study offered a three-point description of today’s legal consumers. They are:
Informed — access to legal information online has made consumers more savvy than ever about the options available to them. They read legal articles, research their particular legal issue, research an attorney and visit legal forums online.
Connected — people now have immediate access to other legal consumers online and they are reading reviews about others’ experiences with attorneys. An overwhelming 95% said that online reviews were important when choosing a lawyer. Of those who received a referral, 45% still researched attorneys online.
Picky — legal consumers know there are a number of different ways to purchase services, including online forms, fixed fee options, etc. They are increasingly attracted to unbundled services, an a la carte solution for their legal issues. In fact, 76% said they prefer fixed fee billing arrangements.
To connect with legal consumers today, attorneys must:
Have a strong online presence. When it comes to online marketing, you should focus on two things: (1) go where your potential clients are, and (2) implement what you can measure. You have to be able to measure your success (or failure) to discover what works for your area of practice and to be able to build on those successes. When it comes to social media, Facebook is a must for consumer attorneys. One of the most powerful features of Facebook is ad targeting, the ability to layer targeting options on top of one another to create a highly specific audience. This enables you to target locally and get your ads in front of people who need your services now. Facebook ads are low-cost, so you can experiment to see what resonates with your potential clients and then repeat what works.
Encourage online reviews. Attorneys need to create a process for making reviews happen. Always look for those moments in your relationships with clients to create a review opportunity – when you have won a case for a client, when you have helped someone avoid litigation – all opportunities for you to generate a great review. Make it easy for clients to review you by emailing them a link to post a review on Google. Better yet, create an autoresponder email with a built-in Google review form and send it to them at the appropriate time. When you have receive good reviews or testimonials, post them on your website, in your e-newsletter and anywhere else that potential customers are likely to stumble upon them. And be sure to ask whoever provided you with that great review if they would also submit it to Google so it shows up in search.
Offer unbundled services. There are millions of people who download legal documents off LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer for business and personal use. And it shouldn’t surprise you to know that many of them still want a real live attorney to review those documents (which is why the online legal service providers refer customers to attorneys now from their websites). Consider offering unbundled services like online legal document reviews, especially for business clients — the initial fees may not be much, but could lead to bigger things down the road. Remember, many people are looking for a la carte options.
Provide fixed fee options. To be successful with fixed fee billing, firms need to conduct extensive research into their case files going back several years in order to arrive at pricing that will protect profitability. North Carolina divorce attorney Lee Rosen is somewhat of a fixed fee guru and provides good advice for making the switch at his Divorce Discourse blog. He transitioned his firm to fixed fee billing many years ago, when the idea was truly a radical one, and his revenues and profitability soared. Fixed fees can be staged according to specific phases of a case or encompass an entire legal matter.