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Survey: Clients Find Lawyers by Referrals, Google Searches

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59 percent of potential clients ask friends or family for a referral.

Most people who need a lawyer find one by asking their friends and relatives for a referral.

But almost as many do it themselves by way of a Google search.

And regardless of the method for finding a lawyer, both groups say they stop looking as soon as they talk personally with one they like.

Those findings are from the Clio 2019 Legal Trends Report, which surveyed 2,000 consumers to find out how clients ultimately choose one lawyer over another.

“When it comes to shopping for a lawyer, consumers follow many paths,” according to the report. “Seeking a referral may be the most common means, but many rely instead on other methods that focus heavily on online search and a firm’s web presence. Increasingly, we also see younger generations prioritize electronic methods over referrals.”

Read the 2019 Clio Trends Report here.

Did you know you get a discount on Clio cloud-based case management software simply by being a member of Alta Pro Lawyers RPG? You get other great benefits too, like free webinars, the Pro Practice Playbook, Reminger ProLink and Ask the Risk Pro. Here’s how to join.

How to Get New Business
To bring in new business, it helps to understand how today’s client looks for a lawyer. That’s where the Clio 2019 Legal Trends Report comes in.

“One of the most interesting things we learned is that—despite being recognized as the primary driver for new business—not all clients rely on referrals to find a lawyer,” says the report. “In fact, many opt to search on their own.”

Here are some numbers:

  • 59 percent of clients sought a referral from someone they know or have been in contact with.
  • 57 percent searched on their own through some other means.
  • 16 percent did both.

Who do prospective clients ask for a referral? Friends and family members were the most common source (32 percent), followed by referrals from a lawyer (16 percent) or a non-legal professional from a related area like real estate or accounting (9 percent).

But referrals aren’t the only way to find a lawyer. Fifty-seven percent (almost the same percentage of referral seekers) search for counsel on their own. They do this by using Google or another search engine (17 percent) or visiting a lawyer’s website (17 percent).

Other search methods: online reviews, phone directories, lawyer directories, lawyer blogs, articles, videos, advertisements, social media, and online map services.

Which Methods do Clients Use First?
This question is critical, because the research shows that once a prospect finds a lawyer that seems like a good match, they stop searching.

“It turns out that clients are nearly just as likely to search for a lawyer through their own means first (39 percent) as they are to first seek a referral of any type (45 percent).”

Most clients pick one method or the other – they don’t try both,

“There is relatively little overlap between those who seek a referral first and those who seek on their own through some other means. While those who looked on their own were more likely to use more than one method, they didn’t feel the need to also seek a referral. In other words, consumers tend to either seek referrals or do their own research to find a lawyer. Rarely do they do both.”

Why Do Clients Choose One Lawyer Over Another?
It turns out clients are more interested in finding a lawyer who is qualified, knowledgeable and responsible rather than finding the cheapest one out there.

  • 77 percent say a lawyer’s experience and credentials are the most important criteria.
  • 72 percent want to know what types of cases the lawyer handles.
  • 70 percent want a clear understanding of the legal process and what to expect.
  • 66 percent want an estimate of the total cost for their case.
  • 62 percent say it’s worth paying a high price for a lawyer if they are very good.
  • 45 percent say the biggest challenge is finding a lawyer they are confident is right for them.

Want more insights into getting and keeping good clients? Attend our free webinar on December 10 “Annual Planning for Law Firms.” It’s the perfect Christmas gift for your practice – and another benefit of belonging to Alta Pro Lawyers RPG.


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In an age of consolidation where increasingly impersonal transactions have made customer service an oxymoron, we bring together independent agents, insurance companies, and other industry specific service providers to develop and deliver insurance products and risk management solutions that benefit our insurance customers.

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