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More People Find Lawyers Online than Through Referrals

All of online legal marketing is based around one underlying assumption: People who are interested in hiring a lawyer use the internet to find one.

While at one point this might have seemed like a novel idea—one that did not call for spending lots of money in pursuing—it has since become a stark reality. People do look for a lawyer online, and there are numbers to back it up.

39 percent of potential clients find lawyers online

Internet Outpaces Referrals for Finding a Lawyer in 2014

Back in 2014, two major sources of legal information and attorney services— and Thomson Reuters—teamed up to conduct a survey to find out how people search for lawyers. They asked 1,000 people how they would look for an attorney, if they needed legal services. The results were surprising, even to online marketers:

More people were asking the internet than their friends or relatives for input on which lawyer to hire, something that scraped against the inner consciousness of lawyers, everywhere.

A Decade’s Developments Show Changing Landscape

Perhaps even more important than the results in 2014 were how they compared to earlier statistics. FindLaw and Thomson Reuters had done an identical survey, back in 2005. The findings from that survey, especially when compared to the results a decade later, are telling:

These numbers look more like what many attorneys assume, when they think about how to find clients: Be a good lawyer, and your name will spread through word-of-mouth as people refer you to their friends and acquaintances.

When we put the results of the two surveys together, though, we see that, over the course of a decade, the internet went from being one of the last places that people would look for a lawyer to the most popular, completely changing the landscape of the potential client and upending the best methods to appeal to people in need of legal services.

Trend Towards the Internet is Likely Continuing

The increase in the number of people who use the internet to find a lawyer between 2005 and 2014 was drastic. And there is nothing suggesting that the trend is slowing down. More and more law firms are creating websites and investing time, energy, and money into them to attract clients, online. As more content becomes available for potential clients to use in their search for a lawyer, the internet becomes a better place to look, drawing more and more interested clients to the web and redoubling the trend.

If FindLaw and Thomson Reuters team up again in 2024 to do another follow-up survey, we anticipate that a majority—rather than just a plurality—of potential clients turn to the internet to find a lawyer. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if it has already happened.