I’m not saying the Internet is not the leading way Americans find a lawyer today. I’m just wondering.

I don’t believe a recent FindLaw Survey found that the Internet is the the most popular way to “find and research a lawyer” as FindLaw reported in a press release last week.

The survey asked:

Before hiring an attorney, which of the following would you be MOST likely to use to research and compare the credentials of different attorneys? (emphasis added)

For researching and comparing the credentials, the survey results were:

  • Internet – 38%
  • Ask a friend or a relative – 29%
  • Local bar association – 10%
  • Yellow pages – 4%
  • 18% said they already knew an attorney and would not research different attorneys

The survey did not ask what would be the primary way you would find an attorney.

Three years ago an ABA Survey asked “If you needed a lawyer for a personal legal matter, what would be the primary way you would find one?” (emphasis added)

The results:

  • Ask a friend, family member or colleague – 46%
  • Contact a lawyer I know or have used before – 34%
  • Look in the Yellow Pages or a similar printed directory – 8%
  • Search online – 7%
  • Use some other form of advertisement like TV, newspaper ad or billboard – 3%

I am in agreement with FindLaw that long gone are the days of flipping through the Yellow Pages to find an attorney. The Internet has made it difficult to even find a Yellow Page directory.

And no question times have changed in last nine years. From FindLaw:

The results are a significant change from a similar FindLaw survey conducted in 2005, reflecting the growth of the Internet and people’s willingness to search online for professional services. In 2005, only seven percent of people said they would use the Internet to find a lawyer, finishing a distant fourth among the research options at the time.

Maybe I am splitting hairs here, and I am not looking to call out or pick a fight with FindLaw, I just see Americans most likely to turn to someone they trust (friend, relative, co-worker, social network acquaintance) when looking to find the name of a lawyer.

I do expect many Americans are turning first to the Internet when looking for the name of a lawyer. I just question whether it’s become the leading way people find a name. After all, it was only 7% in 2011 (ABA Survey).

What should not be lost in all the surveys is how the best lawyers get their best work. Relationships and reputation. The Internet has not changed this. The Internet increases relationships and expands the reach of one’s reputation.

Haven’t blogs and social networks enabled lawyers to accelerate relationships and word of mouth? Hasn’t the Internet, through blogs and social networks, expanded the network of people the average person will turn to when looking for the name of a lawyer? Hasn’t word of a good lawyer’s reputation reached so many more people through the Internet, including influencers such as the media and association leaders?

Sure, Americans will turn to the Internet to research and compare credentials of different attorneys. They’ll look at blogs, articles in which a lawyer is quoted, speaking engagements, websites, directories, lawyer rating sites, Q & A sites, and what have you.

But isn’t turning to someone you trust (online or offline) the leading way people find the name of lawyer today? Or maybe I’m just getting old.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Duncanc