Demand for legal services has been flat for years, yet the number of attorneys has increased by 15.2 percent over the past decade with now more than 1.3 million attorneys in the United States. With little industry growth, there are more lawyers than ever before in an increasingly saturated market.
According to the 2019 Thomson Reuters State of U.S. Small Law Firms study, 73% of small law firms reported they were challenged in winning new client business, while just 31% said they have implemented changes to address the issue. Small practices and solo attorneys have trouble finding and retaining clients, and most don’t know where to start.
Independent and small firms need a strategic web presence: A website, online reviews, and some means of driving new customers to them and their companies. Eighty-one percent of millennials hire attorneys with online reviews, while 76% of people looking for an attorney use online resources. The majority of consumers today will not consider an attorney they cannot find online.
Back in the 20th Century
Thirty years ago, consumers asked for referrals when it came to personal legal matters like divorce, bankruptcy, and DUI. They talked with their colleagues and friends in hopes of finding the right attorney.
Today, consumers consult their smartphones. Finding an abundance of attorney search results has never been easier, but most consumers simply want to find the right local attorney for their difficult problem—someone who is also available for an immediate phone consultation.
A new universe of online services has become available to assist in this process. Many online services are less trustworthy, as lawyers pay top dollar for favorable reviews and to appear in premium positions. Some of these online services have catchy URLs and allow you to “pay for play.” Neither approach guarantees consultations and new customer inquiries.
Firms such as Hotspot Law endeavor to quickly and easily help consumers gain access to legal consultations with high-quality legal counsel at no cost, while providing attorneys a new stream of business that fits within their schedules.
The Vetting Process
Vetting attorneys is an important part of any platform that connects them with consumers. First, consumers need to feel confident the attorneys they are speaking with are qualified and in good standing. Conducting a phone interview and auditing the attorneys’ online presence is a part of this process.
Vetting also provides the most up-to-date information. With the overabundance of new technologies and websites promoting lawyers far and wide, chances are the public data sources these sites pull from is not always accurate. Consumers don’t have the time or ability to vet the lawyers themselves. They just want to talk to an experienced legal adviser who can provide a free consultation and general legal advice to guide them in their next steps.
The explosive growth of the legal tech sector has had both good and bad effects on the industry as a whole. An increasing number of websites and apps have emerged that offer one-off services, such as drafting legal documents. We believe in saving the consumer money where possible, and that the legal industry has room for automation and remote legal services.
Yet when it comes to painful legal issues like personal injury, bankruptcy, or a traffic accident, people want personalized legal advice from an expert who can be a long-term advocate. Online services are great for a one-time need for an average consumer, but they in no way replace the traditional attorney and client relationship.
When it comes to booking consultations, consumers want to talk to an attorney in order to make a decision. Attorneys that are willing to give free consultations also recognize this as a sales process. Rather than using a service that simply lists public data, consumers can now bypass phone tag and awkward cold calling by booking directly on the attorney’s calendar.
Consumers may now book multiple appointments directly with the attorneys they are interested in talking to in order to make the best decision for their legal problem. Attorneys can easily and effortlessly conduct new business calls during the times that work for them.
Consumers want an app that provides a solution to common legal hassles so they may focus on resolving their issues.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.