For most modern consumers, research is an important part of the buying process. They venture online to find the information they can use to compare services or products, narrow their choices and – ultimately — find the best option in their financial range.
This is as relevant for clients seeking a lawyer as it is for consumers seeking to purchase products. It also means lawyers who want to attract new clients need to understand the kind of criteria potential customers are considering when they are in the process of seeking legal services.
Cost is key
According to a recent survey by Avvo, cost is top of mind for potential clients who are looking for a lawyer. This is hardly surprising, but it’s a fact that lawyers need to keep in mind when they are planning client-acquisition strategies.
In fact, according to the survey, price was ranked as the most important decision criterion, with 68 percent of respondents saying it was important to them in their search for a lawyer. Pricing options, such as whether the cost would be charged by the hour or as a contingency or fixed fee, ranked in the top half of criteria — with 51 percent of respondents saying it was important.
Certain cost criteria were seen as boxes that need to be checked off. When respondents were asked to rank which criteria were non-negotiable to them in choosing an attorney, the top two criteria were free consultations and no hidden fees. Other cost factors, which ranked relatively high, included the following:
- Free consultations (ranked No. 2)
- Provides cost estimate (tied for No. 5)
- Hourly rate (tied for No. 6)
- No hidden fees (tied for No. 6)
Most participants were also concerned about whether an attorney would accept credit cards. Those with debt issues assumed that lawyers would not take credit cards as payment.
Opportunity for education
The survey results suggest that many potential clients would like an idea of basics such as hourly rates, extra fees, whether an upfront estimate will be provided and payment options before a consultation. Clients generally expect to learn specific details on price, how rates or fees will be charged, specific cost estimates and pro bono options after meeting with the attorney.
For many respondents, legal pricing is a new area with which they have little experience. For example, some participants either hadn’t heard of fixed-fee or packaged services or didn’t understand how they worked or what was included in these pricing structures.
This presents an opportunity for lawyers seeking to attract new clients to offer education, as well as transparent information, on cost policies and procedures. Offering such information may help avoid early exclusion and keep you in the running with a potential client, while also attracting other clients who have realistic expectations around price.