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How People Find Lawyers: Referrals Are Popular, Blogs Not So Much, Poll Finds

Posted Mar 23, 2011 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Internet age has changed the way that people look for lawyers, as fewer would-be clients rely on the Yellow Pages and more indicate an interest in innovative websites.

Research in the late 1980s and 1990 indicated that between 13 percent and 34 percent of adults relied on print directories to find lawyers, according to a report (PDF) by the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services. Now only 8 percent of adults polled say they would use the Yellow Pages and other directories as the primary way to find a lawyer.

Nearly the same percentage of adults—7 percent—indicate they would use an online search as their primary method of finding a lawyer, according to the September 2010 Harris poll conducted for the standing committee.

Trusted sources are the most popular primary way for consumers to find a lawyer, according to the September survey. Forty-six percent of the respondents say they would ask a friend, family member or colleague for a lawyer referral, while 34 percent say they would contact a lawyer they know or whom they have used before.

When potential clients do turn to online resources, they are less likely to consult social media and blogs than innovative websites. The survey question was, “If you needed a lawyer for a personal legal matter, how likely would you be to use the following resources to find one?”

Fewer than 20 percent were very or somewhat likely to consult Facebook, compared to 15 percent who would consult blogs, and 9 percent who would look at Twitter.

But nearly half—49 percent—were very or somewhat likely to consult websites where consumers can post legal questions for lawyers to answer. Forty-seven percent were very or somewhat likely to look at lawyer ratings websites and 44 percent to check a lawyer’s own website.

The standing committee report offers two possible reasons for the low level of interest in social media. “First, it is possible that social media is too recent and too few people are participating in it for it to be a widespread method to help find a lawyer,” the report says. “Second, it is possible that the selection of a lawyer for a personal legal matter is simply too intimate a decision to come into play in the everyday use of social media.”

The survey of more than 1,000 adults was conducted through land line telephones. The results could be different if cellphone users were surveyed, the standing committee report cautions.

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