Today’s Legal Consumers
Today’s consumers are rapidly evolving and changing, and this means their behaviors and preferences are very different than they were just five or ten years ago. The implications for law firms are significant. Increasingly, today’s legal consumers expect services that are:
According to the American Bar Association (ABA):
“In today’s tech-focused world of instant gratification where we all have a computer in our pocket or purse, people have become accustomed to—and spoiled by—frictionless customer experiences …. The term “frictionless” here refers to fewer steps, simpler interactions, and fewer barriers to completion for customers or clients.”
To be attractive in today’s legal marketplace, law firms must:
- Reduce clients’ research burden
- Speak to the “one-click mindset”
- Employ payment systems and apps consumers are already using
- Streamline and digitize as many processes as possible
- Optimize for speed, efficiency and service.
All of this may seem dubious to law firms that have a longstanding adherence to tradition, sobriety, thoroughness and stature. But modern tech-friendly approaches are not in opposition to these important law firm characteristics, they can simply complement your current culture.
The Need for Speed
Like it or not, today’s consumers – including legal consumers – are an impatient bunch. Accustomed to a Netflix/Uber/Amazon lifestyle, they don’t take much time to choose a lawyer, and they don’t want to wait to hear back from you. A recent FindLaw survey found that:
- Potential clients take action quickly — 56% do so within one week of beginning their legal search.
- Most legal consumers contact only one attorney, and 67% do so with a phone call during normal business hours. They expect a response the same day.
There’s no time for voicemail or a round of golf if you want to capture these younger, impatient consumers. They expect 24/7 access to questions and answers, payment options, and research.
U.S. consumers spend more than 5 hours a day on their mobile phones, and they use their mobile devices to conduct web searches for products and professional services. Nearly 60% of all web searches are now carried out on mobile devices. This means every law firm should pursue …
- a mobile-friendly website design,
- mobile marketing and mobile optimization, and
- mobile-first indexing.
While most law firm websites look great when viewed on a laptop or desktop computer, you also want to make sure that your website loads quickly (in 3 seconds or less) and is easy to navigate on a mobile phone or tablet. That’s what “mobile-friendly” means.
Good2BSocial describes today’s legal consumer as the digital, always-connected client “that bristles at the prospect of waiting and demands convenience.” Live chat is extremely popular among modern consumers, because it expedites first contact and gets the ball rolling. AI-powered live chat provides availability around the clock for your law firm. Live chat apps customized for lawyers include Acquire, ApexChat, Client Chat Live and many others.
Consumers today prefer live chat over every other contact channel. Increasingly, law firms get left behind if they do not have live chat integrated into their website. When it comes to communicating, a staggering 46% of customers prefer live chat compared to just 29% for email. Live chat is expected to grow by up to 87% in the next 12-18 months.
Today’s consumers are just as likely to get information through Facebook or Twitter as they are through Google or the evening TV news. So every law firm needs a social media presence if they want to achieve visibility among modern legal consumers. Creating a law firm Facebook page is not hard and requires just a few hours of work. The key is to continually keep it updated and fresh. There’s no greater foul in the social media arena than having an outdated, tired social media presence. Attorneys can also benefit from creating a personal LinkedIn page. This helps particularly with building credibility and professional word-of-mouth, as well as with recruiting young legal talent.
Voice search is rapidly on the rise. Voice search utilizes audio technology so that consumers can speak conversationally into a mobile or home device to ask questions and get information. Speech-recognition technology enables devices to understand what a user is saying with extreme precision and generate search results to a consumer, such as someone looking for a lawyer. Programs like Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana all utilize voice search capabilities. Nearly half of all general web searches are made by speaking into a device. Consider these statistics:
- 58% of consumers have used a voice search to find a local business.
- 30% of all website sessions are conducted without a screen.
- 24% of homes owned a smart speaker device in 2018, and that trend is accelerating.
So, what does this mean for law firms? It means you want to be easy to find on the internet if someone is searching for a lawyer by speaking into a device. All your website content and online marketing needs to be SEO optimized for natural language, and you should employ long-tail phrases in your content that proactively answer questions that potential clients most often ask.
“Social proof” relies on psychology and leverages people’s desire to be part of a like-minded group. Humans are social animals, and they take their cues from each other. This can affect their purchasing decisions. “Social proof” means consumers are increasingly relying on other consumers to guide their decision-making and reassure them about their choices.
Social proof demonstrates the critical intersection at your law firm between client reviews and favorable outcomes. The importance of positive reviews on Google and other platforms cannot be overstated. Onsite client testimonials are also key. This is the way to fuel your conversion rate. Marketing has evolved, moving away from “here’s a list of what you get” toward an emotional “let me tell you why I’m so satisfied.” Online marketing has become an open line of communication between you and the potential client. Clients no longer want to be sold to. Instead, they want reassurance from their peers that they’re moving in the right direction.
“Client centricity” means you consider every interaction from the client’s point of view, not your own. This includes creating client-centered content on your website. It requires acute listening skills to really hear what a potential client is asking for. And it requires attorneys to set aside the desire to list the services you offer, and instead listen to and reassure potential clients that calling you was an excellent decision. Most consumers who call attorneys either have a problem to solve or need answers to questions. They are more interested in knowing how you can make their pain/difficulty go away than they are in hearing about detailed legal processes.
Credit Cards and Electronic Payments
According to an American Bar Association report, a recent TSYS survey shows that 75% of Americans now prefer to pay for goods and services with a credit card. Research from Finserv shows that 74% of U.S. households with internet service pay bills online, and 79% have switched to paperless billing. Roughly 55% of consumers don’t use, or don’t even have, checkbooks. Among the youngest consumers – ages 18 to 24 – 61% never write checks.
TSYS also found that 65% of U.S. consumers expect to be able to pay for things with a credit or debit card from a biller’s app or mobile website, and 79% expect smaller firms and businesses to offer the same payment options as large multinational corporations.
To stay relevant, law firms need to migrate toward some form of electronic or credit card payments. Of course, attorneys have stringent ethical concerns about electronic payments and guidelines they must adhere to that other types of businesses are not grappling with. This creates a challenge. The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.15 states that lawyers’ funds must be separated from clients’ funds and funds of associated third parties.
Fortunately, there are online payment processors designed specifically for law firms, and they alleviate this issue. Software like LawPay, Bill4Time and others make sure credit card payments are properly separated into their unique accounts and protect IOLTA accounts from any third-party debiting. Law firms can consider the following steps:
- Eliminate paper bills.
- Stop requiring payment by check.
- Offer a 24-hour virtual payment service.
Only accepting checks means you’re always waiting on your money, and you must spend valuable staff time pursuing accounts receivable efforts. You may also miss multiple opportunities when clients offer to pay on the spot with an app. Lawyerist published a list of top payment software in Credit Card Processing for Lawyers. The bottom line? To continue to attract younger clients, law firms will have to find a way to provide electronic payment options. As the ABA TechReport 2020 puts it:
“Your professional reputation is at stake. Clients don’t expect you to be wrestling with stacks of paper and crunching numbers on a retro calculator.”
Let’s Get Started
If you are looking for ways to modernize your law firm marketing efforts and attract today’s legal consumers, Gladiator Law Marketing can help. Our outstanding professional team would be happy to answer your questions and discuss innovative online marketing options. To find out more, contact us at 1-888-683-3212.
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