Do People Really Use the Internet to Find Lawyers?

In a word, yes. However, not necessarily in the ways that you might think. And certainly not in the ways and numbers that your average friendly internet marketer might be trying to convince you.

Fed up with the deluge of legal internet marketing spam, the Moses & Rooth law firm along with Mike Blumenthal created a survey using Google Consumer Surveys.

This certainly isn’t the first time this question has been considered. And it’s not the first time a survey has been conducted to try to answer the question.

Nonetheless, I find this survey interesting. It was commissioned by a law firm, not a seller of legal internet marketing services or the ABA.


At the core of the survey are three questions:

  1. When you need to find a specialty lawyer how would you start your search?
  2. If you search for a specialty lawyer on the internet what is most important to you?
  3. If you searched for a specialty lawyer on Google, what would do you first?

I’m no statistician. And for many, this survey simply validates the obvious:

When most people start their search for a lawyer they ask someone they know for a referral.

But notice that 21.9% seem to indicate that they would begin their search for a lawyer on a search engine.

You’ll also notice what’s not near the top of the list: social media sites.

So before you sign-up for the next “Make it Rain with Twitter Course,” take a second to ask yourself whether your time and money are better spent on marketing to people on social sites or motivating more people to tell their friends about you.

The survey contains some other interesting data too. For example, respondents in the 25-34 age range appear use search to find a lawyer more than in the older age ranges:

And as Moses & Rooth also observed, of the respondents who begin their search with the internet, it was most important to them to find information about the lawyer elsewhere on the internet:

Significantly more so than finding reviews on Google, Yelp and Facebook.

What do you think? Does this survey merely validate the obvious? Does it reflect your experience? Does it provide perspective? Or do you think it statistically insignificant (or flawed)?


  1. Avatar Static says:

    While the sample size isn’t bad, the universe is a self-selected group within current computer, and more specifically Google, users, meaning that the survey is likely to be highly skewed in favor of people who would be inclined to use the internet. And yet, it shows quite the opposite.

    Notably, 65.9% of people who would respond to a Google Survey would not use the internet to find a lawyer. That’s huge. While it comports with what I would think is obvious, empirical date never hurts to confirm assumptions.

  2. Great insights. As one who gets at least a couple of calls a week from contractors or others with a construction issue based upon finding me (mostly the blog) on the internet, I can say that the time spent on the blog, and having an internet presence, has been worth it. However, I’ve never gotten a call from a Facebook or LinkedIn direct referral. I’ve also had a tough time finding a metric for time blogging turning into income.

    On a slightly different note, given my lack of subtlety regarding my practice area, it sure shortens some of the cold calls because I can tell right away if the caller has actually read anything about me. The blog in particular is a good screening mechanism.

    In short, this looks about like my experience and thanks for the insights Gyi.

    • Sam Glover Sam Glover says:

      The blog in particular is a good screening mechanism.

      This has been true for me, too.

      I have gotten clients from all kinds of different places, including my website, blog, Facebook, and onl ine forums. But they have nearly always been in the nature of a referral, not someone clicking on my advertisement. I have always pulled in a fair amount of potential client contacts (and clients) from good search positioning, though, as the second-biggest bar on that chart would suggest.

      • Thanks for the reply Sam. I think one of the reasons that the blog gets more calls is the search position. And I also think that, as other commenters have stated, the internet is a way that potential clients check out lawyers that they hear about from friends and colleagues.

  3. Avatar Randy Wilson says:

    I would like to know what the 2nd thing someone does after starting their search for a lawyer. My guess is that when they get the name of the attorney from the friend, they will want to check out their website.

  4. @Static
    re your comment “While the sample size isn’t bad, the universe is a self-selected group within current computer, and more specifically Google, users, meaning that the survey is likely to be highly skewed in favor of people who would be inclined to use the internet.”

    Actually Google survey creates a statistically valid sub group that, while limited to the adult internet population, does reflect adults across the economic and demographic spectrum and not specifically Google users. In fact during the recent presidential elections Google survey provide the MOST accurate polling results of any of the polling firms. While all polling has some bias, it would seem that Google Survey perhaps has less than most.

    As to your comment
    65.9% of people who would respond to a Google Survey would not use the internet
    The survey specifically asked: Where would you start your search? As Randy pointed out, the second thing is probably very important.

    I think it likely that all of those who chose a friend are likely to discover that their friend does not know very much. I am thinking of following that question up to ascertain what most folks would do then.

  5. This is refreshing insight coming from a law firm versus a “friendly Internet Marketer:)”
    The survey indicates that only 5 choices were shown to respondents, which suggests they were given an “Other; Please specify” form field, and then wrote “Friend” inside the box.
    If so,that’s even more strong evidence on the power of word-of-mouth!
    –However, I’m a bit skeptical that the majority failed to write-in “Family” and instead chose “friend” That seems rather off/odd to me.
    Also, in my personal experience, friends have asked me for referrals, only to go in a completely different direction than suggested.
    I don’t give attorney refs; I simply explain the best types of practices to look for in this market for their particular problem.
    And still, they do not take my advice… So- while the survey is certainly nifty to look at, I’d say it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what really goes on during the quest for legal representation.

  6. @Justine
    The respondents were given 5 of the 6 choices above at any one time but were not given a text field for open ended answers. I failed to include friends and family in the question. The over site is mine and it is a fair point.

  7. Avatar Barb Cashman says:

    I liked this post. I have had a number of clients “find me” on Google. That is of course only the first step in them retaining me as their lawyer. BTW, I’ve never paid anyone for SEO – but that’s another story. Part of me wants to ask these clients follow up questions about what their query was, where they clicked, etc., but I also know that all of that information is subject to frequent change.

  8. Avatar RAS says:

    This is really helpful to know how people find lawyers in the current market.

    But I guarantee you this will change in the next 10 years, as current teens become legal services customers. I’m a 24-yr-old law student–and Google, Avvo, RocketLawyer, and sites like that are the first place even I would go. I’ve grown up going to the internet for answers that adults went to their friends/more knowledgeable people for, and people younger than me have grown up like this even more so than I.

    So, in marketing your firm, maybe don’t go gung-ho on the google SEO just yet (unless you want to capture the market of those who do go straight online), but remember that even if your offline marketing works well for you in the next few years, that doesn’t mean that it will work the same in 5 years from now.

  9. I work with Law Firms on their Internet Marketing. I study data reports daily on how someone ended up at a firms website, what pages they looked at, what search engine they used, etc. The reality is that referrals are great, but only really apply to practice areas that are impersonal ( i.e Traffic tickets, car accidents, estate planning ) If someone is looking for a divorce attorney, a bankruptcy attorney, employment law, etc, they no longer want to ask for a referral as they don’t typically want anyone to know that they are having these types of problems. Lawyer Bio’s are always in the top 2 or 3 most viewed pages on a website regardless of how you got there. Most searchers want to see who the attorney they found is, is the attorney successful? How long has the attorney been practicing? I still find an enormous amount of attorneys that have almost no information on their attorney profiles. This is probably the most important page of your website as it doesn’t matter what the rest of your site says if your profile says nothing about you. I also see an enormous difference between what Google Adwords will tell you is being searched and the reality of the traffic that search will deliver. For example, Google adwords may show a specific key word phrase has been searched 10,000 times in a month, and when I look at the traffic that the phrase provides to my client that has the #1 organic spot for that search, he may have gotten 12 visits from that specific phrase. The reality is that your goal as an attorney is not rank, it’s getting new clients in the door. The way you do that is by creating the largest possible Internet footprint you can. Google reviews, AVVO, ,, Blogging and having Video all help in your overall visibility and thus your main goal – Getting those new clients.

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