Hennessey Digital's 2022 Lawyer Response Study

We Contacted 967 Law Firms.
Their Response Times Surprised Us.

“I think I need a lawyer.”

When a person’s injured in an accident or has been hurt by a defective product, this is one of the first thoughts that springs to their mind. And when they need an attorney, they want one who’s thorough, hard-working, and, first and foremost, responsive.

This is what inspired our annual lawyer response time study we launched last year. When we embarked to conduct the research again this year, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would law firms be faster to respond?

You might be wondering, “Why does this matter?”

Online lead generation for law firms is a significant source for new cases and revenue. According to our study partner Alert Communications, 30-35% of their clients’ revenue is driven by online leads: not a small figure, and not a number law firms can afford to ignore!

When a consumer goes online to search for legal representation and submits a lead form, it’s a signal they are in the market for your services and the clock starts ticking to win their business. Law firm digital marketing often has one primary goal: to sign more cases. But if you’re not equipped to manage leads in a timely fashion, those marketing dollars can quickly go to waste.

To better understand law firm lead generation and help lawyers understand the impact of response time on acquiring new cases and marketing ROI, we reached out under the alias of a prospective client to 967 law firms across the United States through their online lead form and measured their engagement from the time we clicked send. If a law firm did not respond after seven days, we considered them non-responsive. Here’s what we found.

Key Takeaways

Be fast or get left behind. As we learned in our first iteration of this study, you must be quick to respond to lead form inquiries to land high-value cases. In 2022, we found that if a law firm failed to respond within 15 minutes, they were unlikely to respond at all.

If a firm failed to respond
within 15 minutes,
they were unlikely to
respond at all.

Response rates are improving. Looking at the data, we were encouraged to see an improvement in overall response rate from our 2021 study. Of all law firms we contacted, 67% responded to our inquiry — up from 59% last year.

Where did you go? Of the 701 law firms we contacted in 2021, only 302 of those firms responded this time around. And although the overall law firm response rate improved in 2022, 33% of the 967 firms we contacted this year didn’t bother responding to our lead form inquiry.

33% of the 967 firms we
contacted this year
didn’t bother responding
to our lead form inquiry.

“And the Most Improved Award goes to…” Despite fewer law firms we contacted last year responding back to this year’s inquiry, the ones who did improved a lot. Of last year’s firms who also responded in 2022, those who improved their response time did so by a median of 53 minutes—nearly an hour faster than last year!

Those who improved their
response time did so by a
median of 53 minutes—nearly
an hour faster than last year!

2022 Lead Form Responsiveness Results & How Our Original 2021 Cohort Performed

How did law firms included in our 2021 research do this year?

First, the bad news: of the 701 law firms we contacted in 2021, only 302 of them responded to us this year.

What happened?

When we started reaching out to our original 2021 cohort for this year’s study, we were only able to make contact with 653 of those firms. 48 firms’ websites were either broken/nonfunctional or had been taken down. This represents 7% of our original cohort!

There is some very good news here, however. In 2021, the overall response rate was only 59.3%, meaning over 40% of law firms didn’t respond to us at all. In 2022, the response rate of this same cohort was 69.5%, and the firms that improved their response time from 2021 to 2022 improved by A LOT.

Of responding firms whose response time improved (41.5%), they got faster by a median of 53 minutes! That said, the median response time of all law firms who responded in our 2022 study increased from last year, going from 20 minutes to 33 minutes.

168 law firms (17%) responded in 10 minutes or less in the 2022 study.

We also want to call special attention to these eight law firms who improved their response times from 2021 to under a minute in 2022!

Of the 302 firms from the original study that responded this year, 59% were slower to respond than last year with a median time of 10 minutes slower than in 2021. Not the best showing from last year’s cohort when the majority of those firms were slower to respond this year—especially when we published many of those firms by name in the 2021 study!

On to better news, we looked at the full list of 967 firms we contacted this year to determine the fastest-responding locations and those with the highest response rate. This is where things got interesting.

Fastest-Responding Cities

In 2021, the locations with the fastest-responding law firms were highly-populated cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta, where the competition for personal injury and medical malpractice cases is fierce.

Like last year, we only looked at cities with a minimum of five firms responding to our inquiries, and we had a few surprises.

Neither Florida nor Georgia had representation on our fastest-responding list, which is surprising. These are hyper-competitive markets, so it’s shocking these locations aren’t on the “fastest firms” list.

And as we did in 2021, we looked at the cities with the highest response rate. For 2022, we had a 7-way tie for the top spot, with all locations at a 100% response rate!

Is your firm in these geographic areas? You’ve got some tough competition.

Slowest-Responding Cities

We were also surprised to see some of these geographies on the “slow” list. For consistency’s sake, we excluded any cities with fewer than five firms responding to our inquiries.

And with a 5-way tie for fourth place, these are the cities with the lowest response rate to our lead form inquiries.

As we learned in 2021, you have to be fast if you want to land those high-value cases for personal injury and defective products/bad drugs.

2021 vs. 2022: Car/Truck Accidents and Medical Malpractice Inquiry Response Rates

In looking at the data, we also wanted to compare response times in the case types between last year and this year.

In 2021, 16% of responding firms got back to us in 5 minutes or less. This year, the percentage of firms that responded in the same timeframe went down to 11%. However, the number of non-responsive firms decreased from 35% of firms who were sent the car/truck accident story in 2021 to 32% in 2022.

For medical malpractice cases, we didn’t see any firms respond within 5 minutes (or even 10 minutes!) in 2021. This year, 5% of firms who responded to our medical malpractice story did so within 5 minutes… but there was some bad news. 55% of law firms who received the medical malpractice story didn’t bother to respond—that’s a LOT of money firms are leaving on the table!

How Law Firms Respond To Leads

As we saw last year, law firms are more persistent than others in making contact when sent a lead form inquiry.

Of the 648 law firms who responded to our inquiry, 93% responded with phone calls. Of the firms who called us, 92.6% of them left us a voicemail.

Email was the second most popular form of contact from the firms who got back to us, with 350 firms (54.1%) emailing us about our lead form submission.

Of all the firms that contacted us, 236 of those firms (36.3%) texted us. Some firms chose to only text us back—no call or email—and a few of the firms who texted us were extra persistent via text, with us logging over 30 texts back from one particular firm.

And if there were a Law Firm Responsiveness Hall of Fame Award, there are 125 firms that would win for their persistence and varied outreach methods in responding to us. Each of these firms called us, left at least one voicemail message, texted us, and emailed us. Kudos to these firms for their responsiveness!

Law Firm Outreach All-Stars

The 125 Firms Who Called, Left a Voicemail, Texted, and Emailed Us

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Website Technology

To build on the law firm website rankings study we conducted earlier this year, we took this opportunity to dig into the technology used by top law firm websites.

CHAT

Of all the law firm sites included in our research, 548 (56.6%) had a chat feature, and 420 (43.4%) did not. This was surprising to us because chat is a great way to capture and engage leads on a website right away, and nearly half of the law firm websites we looked at were missing this feature.

CAPTCHA

194 law firm websites (20%) had the Captcha feature while the overwhelming majority did not (774 websites or 80%). Hennessey Digital recommends using an anti-spam system behind the scenes in lieu of Captcha technology to deter hackers and prevent unwanted spam.

What Comes Next

Applying These Findings to Your Law Firm’s Best Practices

One word perfectly describes this year’s results: binary. It seems law firms were either super fast to respond, or didn’t respond at all. As the chasm between these two groups widens, so does the flow of quality leads and high-dollar cases.

Our Analytics team takes this a step further and notes that, for potential leads, everything needs to happen on the same day a person contacts your law firm or they won’t convert to a client.

Hennessey Digital’s historical conversion rate data for clients shows that contact between a prospective client and a law firm must happen within the same day the prospect reaches out. If not, it’s unlikely the prospect will become a client of that firm.

This dichotomy underscores a major takeaway from last year’s study: timing can be the difference between beating the competition and shutting your doors for good.

Conclusion

When we conducted this study for the first time last year, we weren’t sure what would happen. After we published 2021 findings, we predicted law firms would be quicker on the draw to respond back to our lead form inquiries in 2022.

While this was true for some firms, others were slower to respond, didn’t respond to our lead form inquiry, or worse: they closed up shop completely.

In addition, technology plays a significant role in capturing and screening potential leads for your firm. If you’re missing critical features like chat on your website, you’re missing out on leads for your firm.

Does your law firm need more quality leads? Contact us and let’s discuss how we can help SEO value, increase leads for your firm, and enhance your intake process with the right partners.

Study Methodology

The goal of this study was to find how long, on average, it takes law firms to respond to lead form submissions. For this study, Hennessey Digital contacted 967 law firms in the U.S., identified from the following sources:

The research included the original 701 firms contacted in our 2021 study so that we could compare year over year response times. To yield the best possible results, we replicated the methodology we used for our 2021 study. We submitted all lead form inquiries between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. in all law firms’ local time zones.

As we did in last year’s study, we waited up to seven days after sending a lead form inquiry to get a response back. After that time, we considered the firm to be non-responsive. Owing to low volume for the practice areas explored in our 2021 study, our 2022 study sampled personal injury law firms and law firms handling medical malpractice and mass torts cases.

The study was conducted in February 2022 and all lead form inquiries were sent through each firm’s official website with contact and data collection.

What We Said in Lead Form Submissions

For the 2022 study, we used the alias “Mirabel Johnson” born in 1979 to reach out to law firms. In cases where our initial lead form submission was rejected or blacklisted, we used the alias “Gloria Louis” born in 1982. Each alias used a Gmail email address and a CallTrackingMetrics number for firms to contact us back.

In last year’s study, we sent four different stories through law firms’ lead forms: car accident, construction injury, identity theft, and hernia mesh. Due to the small number of firms who received the latter three stories last year—and for simplicity’s sake—we consolidated the stories down to two for 2022.

Car/Truck Accident (928 firms contacted)

“I was in my car on the freeway and a truck rear-ended me. My car was totaled and I was hospitalized with neck injuries. Can I speak to an attorney?”

Defective Product/Medical Malpractice (38 firms contacted)

“I would like to speak with an attorney about Paraquat and see if we have a case. My husband performed maintenance on farm equipment for several decades starting in the 1970s. He is now showing signs of Parkinson’s disease.”

When determining which of the two stories to send, we chose the practice area that was most prominent on each law firm’s website. In cases where law firms didn’t specialize in one particular area, we defaulted to the medical malpractice story.

To gather the data for law firms responding back to us, we used CallTrackingMetrics for our return phone number and to store call and text data. We also used RingCentral to determine which law firms called us back.

Authors & Research Design Team

Blin Kazazi VP of Engineering

Stanislov Ivanov Data Scientist

Brandon Caballero Director of Analytics & CRO

Jason Covert Creative Director

Jasper Prince Graphic Designer

Liz Feezor Director of Communications

Cindy Kerber Spellman Senior Director of Marketing

Scott Shrum President & COO

Special thanks to Poema Kazazi