The 2 Most Common Ways Clients Find Their Lawyers

Knowing exactly how clients find lawyers is the first battle every attorney must face when running a successful law firm. Of course, you could be a great lawyer, but if no one knows about you, then you’re not going to get hired, and you might find yourself in a financially unstable situation.

But how do you get clients to find you?

The methods that clients find lawyers are ever-changing, and it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with the client’s research process so that you know where to target your marketing.

Fortunately, there are straightforward answers to this question. Clio, a legal practice management platform, researches this very question in their 2019 Legal Trends Report. This is one of the many questions answered and trends observed in the report, and if you have not looked over it already, I do recommend it.

Let’s get right into it – according to the 2,000 legal services consumers surveyed in Clio’s report, 59% of participants sought a referral, 57% searched for an attorney on their own, and 16% did both.

How Clients Are Finding Lawyers Through Referrals

While the trend is slow decreasing, referrals are still the most common way a client finds a lawyer that they hire. Of the consumers surveyed, 59% found a lawyer through a referral. 32% of said referrals were from friends and family, 16% from a lawyer, and 9% from a non-legal professional.

Surprisingly, 18% of the consumers surveyed claimed they would never seek a referral from a friend or family. It would be quite interesting to find out why, but that information is not included in the report. What is also missing from the report is a breakdown of the practice area and the use of referrals.

Even with the majority of clients finding lawyers through referrals, that does not mean that the client will hire the lawyer based entirely on the recommendation, 16% of consumers but sought a referral and researched lawyers on our own.

How Clients Are Finding Lawyers on Their Own

  • Using an Online Search Engine. All of the information we could ever hope to know if at our fingertips by one Google search. It’s likely how you found this article. Clients looking for lawyers on their own are most likely to start with an online search.
  • Social Media. I’m going to briefly touch on social media because I know that lawyers will ask about it. Many lawyers believe that social media is the golden goose to client acquisition with Millennials and Gen Z being so addicted active on social media platforms. In truth, in 2019, only 5% of clients who searched for a lawyer on their own found one through so media. And are you ready for this kicker? More clients used the phone book to find a lawyer than they did social media. Social media can be an excellent tool for lead generation and client acquisition so long as it is done correctly. Specifically, automate organic social media postings and focus time, effort, and money into paid advertising.

What This Information Means For Your Law Firm

Predictably, Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to search online for a lawyer. They are also more likely to care about the website, online reviews, and less likely to care about referrals. So, while referrals just barely beat out searching on one’s own this year, I believe that next year clients will be more likely to explore on their own. This doesn’t mean to abandon strategies to increase referrals, but it does mean not to ignore the growing presence of online “shopping” for legal services.

The Most Egregious Failure of Clio’s Research Report

Where is marketing? This piece of research puts the responsibility and focus entirely on the client. Of course, the information is useful, but it leaves the impression that lawyers should only be focusing on boosting their referrals and online presence so that if clients so happen to hear of them or find their website, then they are ready to impress. It neglects the role that marketing has in law firms and furthers the dated notion of “do good work and clients will come.” It disregards all of the clients that are signed, not because they happened to find you, but because you put yourself in their universe and pointed them in your direction. In this publication, there is no mention of direct mail, newsletters, follow-up emails, community involvement, free offers, or any specific marketing tactics.

The absence of law firm marketing is why so many lawyers are confused as to why their business is failing. Just knowing how clients find lawyers isn’t enough, truly it’s only the first step. Once you know how potential clients discover you it’s time to create marketing strategies on how you will convert them from merely being a viewer of your website to a raving client. And this cannot be done without marketing.

Ben is a nationally recognized expert in attorney marketing and the owner of Great Legal Marketing.

Most attorneys start their firms assuming that being a really, really good attorney should, in and of itself, be a marketing advantage. Those attorneys believe that joining a whole bunch of committees and putting their name in lawyer directories is “marketing,” and they never bother to ask if there is a better way.

Attorneys are catching on, however, and those who succeed learn to leverage their current resources to create effective (and ethical) marketing. What they discover isn’t a magic pill or silver bullet but a different approach to marketing that your competitors haven’t considered.

If you want a peek at what successful attorneys use to market their practice, the HERO Starter Kit is your logical next step.

We’ve put together a FREE (and potentially life-changing) kit for solo and small firm attorneys that will show you a better way to reach potential clients and get them excited to call your firm. Request your HERO Starter Kit from Great Legal Marketing!

by Ben Glass

Ben is a nationally recognized expert in attorney marketing and the owner of Great Legal Marketing.


  • Ben is a nationally recognized expert in attorney marketing and the owner of Great Legal Marketing.