Blog post topic: This blog post is about the intent of a searcher and how the internet can provide instant gratification and answers to legal questions. So much so, that even if a person has a “current” lawyer, that is the 3rd place they will go in search of answers to their legal questions – and that 3rd place finish is barely hanging on. 

When I started working in legal internet marketing more than fifteen years ago, I’ll never forget an initial call I had with a lawyer from a small town. In my opening pitch, I asked if his law firm could be found on “the world’s fastest growing search engine, Google?”

He replied in a thick accent, “Son, what the hell is a Google?”

I explained what Google was, and the man was friendly and went on to tell me how he got new personal injury clients:

  • through word of mouth
  • referral from other individuals
  • referral through lawyers
  • or if he had criminal clients, they were in jail and a family member found him through one of the above

He was absolutely sure no one was using the Internet to find a lawyer, and instead they would ask a friend, friend of friend,  word of mouth, etc. Fair enough. It was the year 2000.

Today, I still hear some lawyers tell me “the only good cases I sign come through word of mouth”. This is usually no surprise as their internet strategy is largely lacking and since their strategy is poor they don’t believe the internet is a good source for cases.

People Ask Google Questions Before they ask Their “Current” Lawyer

Jumping forward more than a decade, a survey cited in Lawyernomics asked people how they would BEGIN a search for a lawyer. Remember, this is the beginning of their journey to hire a lawyer. It’s their first step.

The results showed that as of late 2012, nearly 35% of people would ask a friend. Searching Google, Bing or Yahoo came in 2nd highest with 22%. 

Another interesting stat was the bronze medal winner: 20% of people would ask the their current lawyer.

So, the data confirms that referrals – especially from friends – remain an important source of new business. However, this was before mobile was as easy to access, and so now Internet research, that aforementioned first step, is eating up that share.

Because the intention is to begin researching right away, and we can do it from anywhere we want now with easy access via mobile.

Think of the Intent

We know that potential clients are out there searching the Internet for you, but how we connect the dots – that is, from the client to the lawyer – is where the science and art of Internet marketing come into play.

One factor us web marketers work diligently to understand is user intent. When a potential client gathers legal information, researches lawyers, finds a lawyer, validates a lawyer, and then selects a lawyer – these are all forms of user intent. This is a tremendously important part to understand.

Disabled Man Talking On Cellphone

Even when injured or recovering, we have Google 24/7.

Most potential legal clients have the world’s information at their fingertips, even when injured. When researching laws pertaining to their case, all they have to do is type a question into Google – or ask Siri – and they get instant answers. Even if a potential client has a reputable lawyer as a next-door neighbor, there is still a good chance they will first educate themselves before knocking on the neighbor’s door.

User intent – at first anyway – is simply to do legal research.

Consider some of these situations for potential clients:

  • A pregnant woman just got fired for no good reason, what is her intent when searching?
    • Perhaps the Family Medical Leave Act
  • A 28-year-old professional earning over 6 figures a year gets popped for a DUI after happy hour. Is this daytime professional too embarrassed to ask friends for legal recommendations and what is his intent?
    • Find a DUI lawyer and make this go away quietly without anyone knowing
  • Laid-up after a 2nd metal-on-metal revision hip surgery, a patient finds out that his prior hip implant was recalled due it’s defective design – how angry or confused might that patient be?
    • Are there news, forums, or anyone else suffering from the same situation?

Hot Tip: Creating personas, or characters that represent your target audience based on market research, is a great way to dial in your messaging and ensure you are effectively communicating to your reader.


What can a lawyer do to impress users at their research stage? 

The answer is be useful.

Having an online presence allows you to help out the user and establish credibility during the “information gathering” stage. Your content – be it text, audio or video – needs to answer the user’s questions at least partially, and that helpfulness will be well received as they continue their journey to considering the decision a lawyer. Keep in mind that most people – even people who don’t have the best reading comprehension skills – can sniff out content that is actually useful.

Content that is too vague or too sales-oriented would not be useful.

People involved in a typical car accident don’t care how many accidents occur every year. The do care about how to proceed to get their car back, a rental, or who is going to pay for medical expenses.

A page with a lot of concrete information would be considered useful content. FAQ pages are a great example of content that answers user questions and is loaded with specificity.

Of course, there are all sorts of ways to craft content that understands user intent and is truly helpful to users. One of my responsibilities is ensuring just that for our clients. Ultimately though, it’s the pages that get potential clients to reach out to a lawyer and become actual, not potential, clients that is my job.

Remember, The User is on a Journey to Hiring a Lawyer.

Think of a person’s intent and what you would want in their situation.

Rarely does one make their first Google search with the absolute intention of hiring a lawyer in that moment. A potential client gathers legal information, researches lawyers, finds a lawyer, validates a lawyer, and then selects a lawyer – these are all forms of user intent.

Do you have any thoughts on user intent? Please comment below.

Are you not sure if your content is USEFUL? Ask us.

We are always interested in reader feedback. 



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