When prospective clients contact you, you probably don’t think much about how they decided to hire you. Even if their path to your practice seemed like a straight line — perhaps the result of a client referral — their consumer journey likely took a few detours before reaching your door.

In a recent Martindale-Avvo study, 75 percent of the 4,913 consumers who hired an attorney said they contacted two or more lawyers before making their decision; fully half said they reached out to at least three attorneys, and 23 percent contacted four or more before signing on to a practice. These striking results reveal that the majority of your clients — even those who found you through trusted family and friends — contacted at least one other attorney before committing to you.

Perhaps emboldened by the vast resources of the internet, including reviews, law firm websites and crowdsourcing through social media, legal consumers conduct a lot of research in a short period of time. More than a third of respondents said they hired their attorney within a week of starting their search and 52 percent made a selection within two weeks from the time they decided they needed a lawyer.

If you have ever been slow to return a call or reply to an email from a prospective client, take note: the survey found that 22 percent of clients hired a lawyer in just one to three days.

How to Break Through the Noise

Competing with every lawyer on the internet may feel like a losing battle but making a few simple changes to how you approach prospects gives you a fighting chance. Try:

  • Improving your response time: with so many resources at their fingertips, prospective clients may not wait for you to return their call. Be more responsive than the competition to win over new clients.
  • Leveraging technology to interact with prospects: consider adding live chat to your website or using auto-reply email software to give prospective clients instant responses to their queries. Consumers who find you online base their first impression of your practice on your digital presence and up-to-date tech improves that perception.
  • Ensure you have reviews to support your referrals: If online reviews and ratings don’t support referrals, consumers will look elsewhere, despite advice from a loved one. Ask satisfied clients to leave you a review online.

You can’t be everything to everyone, and some of those people who contact your office will go elsewhere. But understanding that prospects will contact other lawyers and are likely to make their decision in just a matter of days will help you stay vigilant about your online marketing and motivate you to respond quickly to potential clients. Sometimes that extra effort is all legal consumers need to see to help them make their decision.