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This is the third year for Clio, a leading cloud-based legal practice management software firm, to publish its annual Legal Trends Report; the 2018 version was recently released. The first two years of reporting focused on what goes on inside a law firm; this year’s report takes a look at what consumers consider before and after they hire an attorney.

Clio gathers data from its platform of nearly 70,000 legal professionals. That data is aggregated and made anonymous. In addition to that hard data, Clio surveyed 2,000 legal professionals (both users and non-users of its products) as well as 1,340 consumers who had either hired an attorney or dealt with a legal issue themselves in the past two years.

Inside the mind of the legal consumer

Hiring an attorney is an emotional experience for most consumers, yet there is a disparity between the exact emotions consumers are feeling and what lawyers think they are feeling:

According to the report, the most common feeling consumers have when hiring an attorney is relief — yet only a small percentage of attorneys were able to recognize that emotion.

Another area of disparity is the fairness of the legal system. 45% of consumers view the legal system as fair, which only 24% of attorneys believe that consumers think the legal system is fair.

Reasons consumers avoid hiring an attorney

It will probably not surprise many attorneys that the top 3 reasons consumers don’t hire a lawyer is because of cost vs. value:

What I see here is that too many attorneys are not doing a good enough job of convincing consumers of the benefits of their services relative to the cost. They are also not doing a good enough job providing cost transparency up front, so consumers are confused about what the overall cost will be for the services provided.

One of the biggest surprises was how many consumers choose not to hire a lawyer when they have a legal problem. Of those who faced a legal issue in the past two years, only 65% of them hired an attorney. 58% had a consultation and did not hire; 68% communicated with an attorney but did not hire. Clearly there is room for improvement in the intake process for many firms as well as in closing the sale!

When the report examined the opinions consumers have about working with a lawyer, a few key themes emerged:

Reasons consumers hire an attorney

So why do people hire an attorney? Looking at consumers who have hired attorneys in the past two years, it becomes clear that their motivating factors are need and benefit:

Cost became a secondary issue once they realized they really did need a lawyer.

Understanding client communication preferences

There were some eyebrow raising disconnects between how clients like to communicate with their lawyers and how lawyers thought they like to communicate. For example, only 2% of lawyers thought clients want to communicate in person about the legal aspects of their case, when in reality 55% of clients want in-person meetings to learn about the legal aspects of their case. Another area of great disparity was talking to their lawyer about the details of a matter: 70% of clients prefer to do this in person, but only 3% of the lawyers surveyed thought they had that preference.

Here is a look perception vs. reality when it comes to client communication methods:

One area where law firms can score a big win is in providing client portals and online payments. In fact, of those consumers who have hired an attorney in the past two years, 50% said they are more likely to hire a law firm that takes online payments and 40% said they would never hire an attorney who didn’t take credit or debit cards. In addition, 52% of clients said they prefer to check on status and hours spent on a case via an online client portal.

I encourage you to download the entire Legal Trends Report and spend some time examining the data. I think you will find that there are several opportunities to improve your conversion rates and increase your client satisfaction by taking some of these insights to heart.