When you read this statistic, let it sink in:
3 out of 4 consumers seeking an attorney over the last year used online resources at some point in the process*
The way consumers look for a lawyer has changed in today's digital age. The advent of social media, smart phones and search engines has dramatically affected the way consumers find lawyers.
- People send a quick text instead to avoid a time-consuming phone call.
- People write emails and send attachments instead of going over documents in person.
- People attend conference calls and web meetings instead of meeting face to face because it saves time and money.
This new kind of communication is more efficient, but it diminishes the amount of direct contact people have with each other. People bank online to avoid tellers, look up phone numbers online to avoid operators and read news online to avoid buying a paper.
Think about it. Would you ask your neighbor whom to call if you were charged with a crime? Would you ask your relatives to help you shop for a divorce lawyer? I don't think so. You'd rather research these issues in private by opening your laptop. And with smart phones now outselling computers, a wide swath of consumers can conduct an online search.
Huge change in consumer behavior
This huge change in consumer behavior has taken place in the last ten years. LinkedIn launched in 2003, Facebook went online in 2004 and Twitter appeared in 2006. Consumers can now get input from family and friends through online directories and social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Social media have grown exponentially so that they've entered every corner of American life. The best example is Facebook, which has grown to 900 million users who spend an average of 7 hours and 45 minutes per month on the site, according to The Nielsen Company. It is now possible to get advice about hiring a lawyer from dozens of contacts and connections by reviewing what they say on social media.
What this means for 21st Century Lawyers
For lawyers, it is essential to have a website and blog that discuss the legal problems of consumers. An attorney's online presence should feature FAQs, white papers and checklists to be found by consumers conducing online research.
Lawyer websites and blogs must be optimized for search engines, particularly Google, so that they rank high in search engine results. A LexisNexis law firm marketing specialist can conduct a search engine optimization review, compare your site with competitors' and evaluate whether your site uses the latest best practices.
It is clear that a huge conversation is taking place online. The search for a lawyer has moved out of the family living room or neighbor's back yard, and moved onto the Internet. For lawyers who want to get leads and find clients, it means having a robust directory profile, activity on social media and client-friendly websites. Lawyers can join the conversation - or miss many opportunities to find consumer clients.
*Based on a survey of 4,000 adult internet users (internet users comprise 78% of the US adult population and **the US adult population comprises 235 million according to the US Census 2010) conducted by The Research Intelligence Group (TRiG), March 2012. **According to The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project's Spring Tracking Survey conducted April 26-May 22, 2011.