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ABA Study provides support for education based marketing on the Internet

November 27, 2003

The best evidence that educational based marketing on the Internet may be the most effective means of lawyer marketing is provided by the American Bar Association Litigation Section’s 2002 Report on the Public’s Perception of Lawyers.

The Study concluded:

  • Lawyers have an awful reputation
  • Lawyers need to improve the way they advertise
  • Lawyers need to provide legal information via Web sites and community service programs
  • Lawyers need to interact more with the public

A law firm Web site providing educational content and inviting interaction with prospective clients addresses each of the Study’s findings.

Here’s the highlights of the Study

Americans believe we are greedy, manipulative and corrupt

  • The legal profession is among the lease reputed institutions in American society
  • Less than one in five (19%) say they are confident in lawyers
  • Slightly fewer (16%) express confidence in the media

People believe lawyers are:

  • More interested in winning than seeing justice is done (74%)
  • Spending too much time getting criminals off on technicalities (73%)
  • More interested in making money than in serving clients (69%)
  • Not trying to serve the public interests well (69%)
  • More interested in making money than serving their client (57%)

Public’s beliefs cover all types of lawyers

  • Criminal lawyers criticized for helping guilty clients
  • Prosecutors for cutting too many deals
  • Personal injury lawyers for ambulance chasing and frivolous claims
  • Divorce lawyers for exacerbating conflict
  • Corporate lawyers for underhanded practices

People believe typical lawyer advertising on television and in yellow pages advertising is:

  • Unprofessional
  • Over promising
  • Overly dramatic
  • Targeted to vulnerable people

People believe legal services are the most difficult service to buy

  • Consumers are uncertain how to tell a good lawyer from a bad one
  • Consumers do not know if they are hiring a reasonably priced or expensive lawyer
  • Consumers are unclear what the lawyer will do for them
  • Consumers are unclear what the lawyer will charge

Faced with the uncertainties, the majority of people who may need a lawyer do not hire one

  • Nearly seven in ten households (71%) had occasion to hire a lawyer in 2001
  • Over half (55%) said they did not plan on hiring one

Lawyers who interact with people are viewed favorably:

  • Almost three quarters of people who hired a lawyer have had a satisfactory experience (71%)
  • People are very satisfied with how well the lawyer knew the law in that area (70%)
  • People are impressed by the way the lawyer handled the initial conversation (68%)
  • People are impressed by how sensitive the lawyer was to their needs and concerns (65%)

Consumers recommended that lawyers do the following:

  • Change the way they advertise
  • Educate the public how to handle common legal problems
  • Do a better job communicating with people
  • Do a better job explaining their fees
  • Do more public service and community outreach

The Study concluded lawyers should:

  • Create ongoing education programs for people through Web sites and public service programs
  • Perform public relations and outreach
  • Focus on the positive things lawyers do
  • Emphasize lawyers are experts and advocates (rather than adversaries)
  • Create programs to help media understand the legal system and judicial process

Lawyers understand the importance of a Web site. However, lawyers’ Web sites rarely include legal education material or invite interaction with the site’s viewers. When you invite interaction and provide legal information on your Web site you are going to get clients from not only those site users already seeking a lawyer but also from the majority of people now facing a legal situation who would have chose not to hire a lawyer.

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