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A recent Martindale-Avvo report called Hiring an Attorney 2019 examines the criteria that consumers use when choosing an attorney by surveying 6,300 consumers of legal services in the U.S. and Canada. Survey respondents had either experienced or were currently experiencing legal issues.

The good news is that the top 5 on the decision criteria list are ALL things over which law firms have complete control:

Price was #1 — no surprise there — followed closely by free consultations, which have been ubiquitous in the legal profession for many years and have undoubtedly educated consumers to expect that offer from B2C law firms.

If you offer flat-fee arrangements, then it is probably no problem for you to give prospects a good idea of what their legal action may cost. However, I have never been a fan of quoting prices over the phone because consumers don’t understand the legal process and need to have pricing explained in the context of the value you will bring.

This is when having a well-trained intake staff with experience in sales really pays off. Their job is to book appointments. You need to be sure you give them the tools to get that done. For example, if a prospect doesn’t want to visit your office before having an idea of what he or she may be charged for their legal matter, provide them with the option to have their consultation by phone or Skype. (I’ve even seen some firms that will make home visits.) That makes it much easier for the prospect to do business with you right off the bat.

The third most important criteria for consumers is responsiveness, something I have been pounding into the heads of attorneys for years. When it comes to follow-up, speed is essential! In fact, according to this survey, a slow response is the #1 reason for not hiring a particular attorney:

The reason you need to follow up fast is that 77% of consumers who hired an attorney contacted three or more lawyers before they chose one:

And making the hiring decision takes less time than most attorneys probably think it does. According to this survey, a majority of consumers that eventually hired an attorney made their decision within 1-3 days:

The resources used most often by consumers searching for legal help are also within your control:

Do you see a pattern here? Online reviews rank high not only for consumers researching lawyers but also in making a final decision on which attorney to hire.

And what about referrals? Consumers do rely on referrals from friends and family, but it is typically older consumers that seek those referrals. And when referrals are made, consumers take extra steps themselves to vet a recommended attorney:

I find it interesting that while 36% of consumers in the survey said they hired the attorney referred to them, almost an equal number (32%) did not hire a referred attorney. Did their vetting turn up some red flags that led them to make another choice? Did the referred attorney have too few online reviews or negative reviews that were not responded to? Was the attorney too slow to respond? Is their website content not relevant to the prospect’s problem? Again, all things under your control.

Surveys like this are useful in giving attorneys needed visibility into the consumer mindset when it comes to the hiring process. This makes it easier for law firms to chart a path for growth based on potential clients’ needs and expectations.