Law firms have ONE chance
to get it right.
Our quest to help law firms understand the impact client intake has on digital marketing performance reveals that trends in client intake are shifting, and the adoption of technology by consumers and law firms is opening up ways for lawyers to directly - and more immediately - communicate and engage with prospective clients.
But one thing remains constant over the three years Hennessey Digital has conducted its annual lead form responsiveness study: law firms have one chance to get responding to leads right. And often, that comes down to minutes.
We’re a social bunch with a tendency to overachieve, and decided to be in touch with more of you in the legal space. We stepped it up a notch, contacting 35% more law firms than we have in our previous online lead generation research. Not only does this give us an even stronger sample size, it gives us a pool of data that spans three years and signals year-over-year trends in consumer behavior and client intake that lawyers can use to improve their law firm digital marketing strategy.
For the study, we contacted 1,300 law firms in the United States via their online lead form and sought legal advice using an alias and a brief, fictitious story. We measured their engagement from the time we clicked send, and if a law firm did not respond after seven days, we considered them non-responsive.
Here’s what we found.
Law firms are responding to online leads more quickly. The window of time between a prospective client needing counsel and deciding on a lawyer can be gone in the blink of an eye. In 2023, we saw a whopping 97% jump in the number of law firms who responded to an online lead form in under 5 minutes. This signals the legal industry is maturing as more lawyers recognize the value intake has on growing their firm and maximizing the ROI of their digital marketing. It also confirms how competitive the industry is when it comes to increasing your caseload.
Many firms still struggle with responding to leads – leaving money on the table. Even though response times have improved, there’s only been a marginal increase in the response rate of law firms. Between 2021 and 2023, the response rate to online leads improved by 24%. This year, 27% of firms – more than 300 hundred – didn’t respond at all. Online leads account for more than 30% of revenue for law firms, according to Alert Communications, a leader in legal answering services and intake. With lead forms on 99% of law firm websites included in our study, the value of online lead generation appears to be understood. Not responding to leads makes it difficult to measure the ROI of digital marketing for law firms, and makes it difficult for lawyers to build new relationships and increase revenue.
Lawyers have more ways to engage with prospective clients than ever before. Email, call, text or chat – the ability for law firms to respond to leads and interact more personally with individuals seeking legal advice is at its prime, increasing the ability to convert leads into clients. In 2023, 20% of responding law firms used all three methods – email, phone call and text messaging – to respond to online leads.
The pandemic has had little impact on lead form responsiveness. With changes in workplace environments and the increase in remote work capabilities and access to call centers since the surge of COVID-19, we anticipated a significant increase in responsiveness from law firms, but that wasn’t the case. The response rate by law firms has increased since the year after the start of the pandemic, but the median response time between when a lead form is submitted and a law firm initiates its first reply to a prospective client has decreased by just 1 minute, from 15 minutes in 2021 to 14 minutes in 2023.
Responsiveness won’t turn into revenue if your outreach isn’t clear. In multiple calls and text messages we received, a person either spoke too quickly, was difficult to understand, or the person didn’t identify themselves or the law firm they were calling from. It is common for a person seeking legal representation to reach out to more than one law firm, and without clear information, they won’t know which firm to respond to. When responding to a prospective client, it’s important to speak clearly and identify yourself by your firm’s name or the firm that referred you.
Trends In Online Lead Generation for Law Firms
- Technology and automation are transforming the client intake process. Our research showed an increase in automated responses to online lead forms, especially in calls and texts. Automation enables a law firm to respond to leads more quickly and to close the time gap between a consumer’s outreach and their first experience with your firm. Whether automation versus a personal response impacts converting a lead to a client is something each law firm will have to monitor and adjust accordingly. With no shortage of communication tools, including a steady drumbeat of new AI solutions that truly make clients feel like they're getting personalized attention, there's no excuse not to respond to every inquiry almost immediately.
- More law firms are referring or selling leads. Unlike the previous two years, we encountered an increase this year in law firms contacting us who weren’t included in our lead form outreach – including a medical practitioner! In a few cases, the person responding acknowledged who they were referred by or the firm they partner with. But the majority of these firms did not, and only introduced themselves or their firm without mentioning how they received our information. Putting yourself in the client’s shoes, you can imagine how puzzling this would be to receive a call from a firm you did not contact. This can automatically lead to mistrust, and ultimately, wasted effort, which is why providing the client with context is a best practice we recommend so that firms who purchase leads or utilize referrals can convert more leads to clients.
- Scheduling time on a lawyer’s calendar has entered the scene. This is the first year we’ve seen lead forms that require a person to select and commit to a time and date on the law firm’s calendar for an initial phone call as part of the online lead form process. For people who are not familiar with these online scheduling and calendar features, or who want to communicate electronically with a law firm initially, this may cause a site visitor to abandon the lead form. However, having people to commit to a call could also lead to greater efficiency for law firms by cutting down on the back and forth with leads, and quickly moving to one-on-one conversations at a time the prospective client is guaranteed to be available. This is another smart utilization of advancements in technology in the client intake process and will be a trend to watch.
Before we reveal the data from this year’s study, it’s worth noting the legal industry is filled with extraordinary and kind people. From partners to intake teams, some of the responses we received were expressed with such heart-warming compassion, we can’t help but feel grateful to be among such a wonderful community of people.
2023 Lead Form Responsiveness Results
A three-year look at law firm response rates and response times to online leads
Response rates across the legal industry over three years haven’t changed drastically, but are gradually improving. In 2023, 73% of law firms responded to the inquiry we submitted online, up from 67% in 2022, and 59% in 2021.
Considering the time it takes for a law firm to respond to a lead can be the difference between a client choosing you or a competitor, a notable shift is that more law firms are responding to leads faster:
- 18% (211) of firms responded in under 5 minutes. That’s seven percentage points higher than 2022, and an increase of more than 100 firms in each of the past two years.
- 27% of firms (319) responded in under 10 minutes in 2023, compared to 17% and 19% in 2022 and 2021 respectively.
- Overall, 56% (665) of firms who responded did so in under 2 hours.
- 16% of law firms took anywhere from more than 2 hours to multiple days to respond. Notably, this number is in range with the percentage of firms who responded in more than 120 minutes in each of the last two years.
- Despite a shocking 27% (320) of law firms not responding at all to their online lead, this number is down from 33% in 2022 and 41% in 2021.
It’s worth noting that legal remains an industry where personalization matters, as signaled by the mere volume of responses we analyzed after eliminating identifiable automated responses. For the purpose of our study, the data reflects the first instance of personal outreach from a law firm.
Firms that stand out from the crowd
Congratulations to the following law firms in our three-timer’s club who have consistently responded to online leads in under 10 minutes in each of the last three years!
Law Firm Outreach All-Stars
They’re on the case! Here are the 211 law firms that
responded to online leads in under 5 minutes.
- James Alexander Law
- Thompson Law
- Accident Recovery Team
- Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group – Gore LLC
- Attorneys of Chicago
- Bader | Scott Injury Lawyers
- Bart Durham Injury Law
- Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys
- Hurst Limontes LLC
- Bottaro Injury Lawyers
- Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC
- The Buelna Law Firm
- Burger Law
- Buckley Wynne & Parese
- The Accident Guys
- Carter Mario
- Caron, Colven, Robison & Shafton
- The CEO Lawyer
- Cohen & Cohen
- Caldwell Wenzel & Asthana, PC
- Dan Davis Law
- David Taylor Law
- Delventhal Law Office LLC
- Edelman, Krasin & Jaye, PLLC
- Ellis Injury Law
- Will Ferguson & Associates
- Gould Injury Law
- David R. Price, Jr., P.A.
- Glasheen Valles and Inderman
- Hepworth Holzer
- Hinds Injury Law Las Vegas
- Hoglund Law
- Golitko & Daly, P.C.
- Jim Glaser Law
- The Joel Bieber Law Firm
- Riddle & Brantley
- Khan Injury Law
- Kanner & Pintaluga
- Lehmbecker Law
- Lerner and Rowe Personal Injury Attorneys
- McDivitt Law Firm
- Mezrano Law Firm
- Mausner Graham Injury Law PLLC
- Mike Brandner Injury Attorneys
- Mike Hostilo Law Firm
- Eron H Epstein Bankruptcy Attorney
- Monsour Law Firm
- Murphy Law Firm
- M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers
- Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers
- Pacific West Injury Law
- Parrish DeVaughn Law Firm
- Premier Law Group
- The Law Offices of Ryan Quinn
- Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys
- Saluda Law, LLC
- Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers
- The Scott Law Firm, PLLC
- Alexander Shunnarah Trial Attorneys
- Slater & Zurz LLP
- Bradley Law Personal Injury Lawyers
- Goss Law Firm
- The Hurt Boss
- Tolbert Beadle
- The Law Offices of Daniel Kim
- Waterman Law Centers, PLLC
- Wayne Wright Personal Injury Lawyers
- The Weinstein Firm
- The Whitley Law Firm
- Wettermark Keith
- Campbell, House, & Company Attorneys at Law
- Sam Aguiar Injury Lawyers
- The Ammons Law Firm
- Anthem Injury Lawyers
- Steven M Lee, P.C.
- Accident Attorneys
- Jones & Swanson
- Nesci & St. Louis
- Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers
- Bankruptcy Law Center
- Battle Born Injury Lawyers
- The Becker Law Firm
- Benoit Law Firm, PLLC
- Bernstein & Poisson
- Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys
- The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq
- Boohoff Law
- The Husband & Wife Law Team
- Bryant Law Center P.S.C.
- Burnetti, P.A.
- Bretz Injury Law
- Eason & Tambornini
- Castillo & Associates
- Castle Law Office
- Catania & Catania Injury Lawyers
- Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C.
- The Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe
- Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers
- Contrada & Associates
- Cory Watson Attorneys
- Crowson Law Group
- David Boehrer Law Firm
- Dean Waite & Associates, LLC
- Derrick Law Firm Injury Lawyers
- Domb & Rauchwerger
- Gauthier Amedee
- Edgar Snyder & Associates
- The Elia & Ponto Law Firm
- Farmer, Cline & Campbell, PLLC
- The Law Offices of Flint, Crawford & Cogburn
- Morgan & Morgan
- Frenkel & Frenkel
- Fried Goldberg LLC
- Gatti Law Firm
- Stewart & Stewart Attorneys
- Ginarte Gonzalez & Winograd, LLP
- Goodman Acker
- Axelrod & Associates, P.A.
- Grayson Law, PLLC
- Gruber Law Offices
- Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates
- Hastings & Hastings
- Haug, Farrar & Franco
- Henness & Haight Injury Law
- The Herrera Law Firm
- Herrling Clark Law Firm
- High Rise Financial LLC
- Hoffman Law Firm
- Aeton Law Partners
- The Schiller Kessler Group
- Gerson & Schwartz Accident & Injury Lawyers
- South Florida Law, PLLC
- The Law Offices of Darren T. Moore P.C.
- Steinger Greene & Feiner
- Davis Law Group
- Isaacs & Isaacs
- J. Chad Parker
- Chandler Law Firm
- Gamez Law Firm
- The Fitch Law Firm
- The Law Offices of Julian Lewis Sanders & Associates
- KAL Attorneys
- Kleczek Law Office
- Lakepoint Law Firm
- Frish Law Group
- Lavent Law, P.A.
- Banner Attorneys
- Shelly Leeke Law Firm
- Daniella Levi
- Los Defensores
- Marasco & Nesselbush
- Marks & Harrison
- Geoff McDonald & Associates
- McPhillips Shinbaum, LLP
- McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates, P.A.
- Meyers & Flowers
- Morris, King & Hodge
- Morris & Dewett Injury Lawyers
- 'Maggio | Thompson, LLP
- Mullen & Mullen Law Firm
- The Law Offices of Steven J. Klearman & Associates
- Peter T. Nicholl
- Bertoldo Carter Smith & Cullen
- Law Offices of Mickey Fine
- Peterson & Associates, P.C.
- Brian & Brian at Pistotnik Law
- Pittman, Dutton, Hellums, Bradley & Mann
- Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A.
- Pond Lehocky Giordano
- Peck Law Group
- Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP
- Quick Law Group
- Rafi Law Firm
- Ramos Law
- Spear Greenfield
- Reynolds Defense Firm
- King Law
- Sadek and Cooper Law Offices
- Salmon Creek Law Office
- Walton Law Firm
- Sand Law
- Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben
- Searcy Denney
- Sevenish Law
- The Law Office of Shawn C. Brown, PC
- The Skiver Law Firm
- Smith & Hassler
- David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A.
- Stephens Law
- Fenstersheib Law Group, P.A.
- TROLMAN GLASER CORLEY & LICHTMAN, P.C.
- The Benton Law Firm
- The Higgins Firm
- Lowell Stanley Injury Lawyers
- Stanley Law Group
- Harrison Davis Morrison Jones, P.C.
- Karl Truman Law Office
- Ven Johnson Law
- Warren & Griffin
- Wash & Thomas Attorneys
- William Mattar, P.C.
- Wolfson & Leon
- Saiontz & Kirk
- Young Wooldridge
- LaMarca Law Group, P.C.
- King Aminpour Car Accident Lawyer
- Parker Waichman
- Warnock MacKinlay Law
- Zanes Law
A glimpse at the top 10 fastest-responding cities with more than five firms responding confirms bigger is not always better. Many smaller cities made the list in 2023, the Golden State dropped off, and for the first time, one of the most competitive markets for lawyers, Florida, is represented. (Welcome, Sunshine State!)
Response times reflect the median response time across all responding law firms.
If you’re a law firm in a city that’s maybe tapped the snooze button, what an opportunity for you to jump out of bed and beat the competition by responding to online leads fast.
Phone Call, Email & Text: the outreach trifecta
With increased competition and the speed of digital communication, it’s important to understand your clients’ lifestyles and how they communicate. It’s hard to believe that just 12 months ago the question was, “Do law firms use texts?” In 2023, 20% of law firms used all three methods - phone call, email and text - to respond to online leads.
Chat Feature & Law Firm Websites
The use of chat on law firm websites is on the rise, with 7% more law firms using chat on their websites in 2023 than 12 months ago. Whether it’s supported by a live person or AI, the increased adoption of chat isn’t surprising considering how the majority of consumers communicate electronically in their daily lives and the evolution of performance in AI-supported chat tools.
Chat tools, such as HD Chat, Hennessey Digital’s chat solution, make connecting with your law firm easier for prospective clients. It can save firms time and money by prompting immediate engagement, and improve the efficiency of a law firm’s intake process by answering preliminary questions and collecting important information. Hennessey Digital clients benefit from an affordable and effective chat solution with HD Chat, with reporting that’s integrated into the client’s HD Platform dashboard, and improved integration with the firm’s lead management solution.
Law Firm Websites in Spanish
New this year, we measured how many law firms included in our research had Spanish-language alternatives for their website.
Sixty-five percent of law firms included in our study do not have a Spanish or multi-language version of their website, nor a translation option. Of the 35% of firms with a Spanish option available on their site, it is most commonly represented as a clickable translation option in the top left or top right corners on a law firm’s website. In some cases, it’s found at the bottom of the page either in or near the footer.
Considering Spanish is the native language for an estimated 42 million people in the United States, this language gap on websites presents a growth opportunity for law firms to attract and connect with more Hispanic and Spanish-speaking clients. In 2023, Hennessey Digital made this capability easily accessible for law firms with the introduction of HD Translate, an AI-integrated plug-in that helps lawyers multiply their webpages, appear in search results conducted in Spanish, and attract more clients with a multilingual website.
Three-Year Trend: Law Firm Response Times by City
Understanding the response times of law firms in your target market(s) can help you strategize and identify opportunities to edge your competition by accelerating your client intake strategy.
Looking at law firm responsiveness by city over the last three years in markets with a minimum of five law firms responding, 19 cities stand out. Overall, 14 cities have improved the speed at which law firms respond to online leads since 2022. Notably, New York City, West Palm Beach and Cleveland have consistently improved their response times over the last three years.
Only 5 trend downward, ranging from seconds in Dallas-Fort Worth, to nearly an hour in Los Angeles.
Recommendations for Law Firm Lead Generation and Lead Form Responsiveness
If you’re energized by this fresh understanding of industry trends and how firms in markets all around you are responding to online lead forms, your next steps are putting it to work for your law firm by increasing your lead volume and having a concrete process defined to handle client intake from all of these new leads.
Here are tips to increase lead volume and manage leads:
Stay on top of your online presence with a modern, user-friendly website that is updated often. The consumer’s ability to research and access information at any time from anywhere means your law firm is always open for business – in the digital world. To let them know you’re there to help, make sure website development is a part of your always-on law firm digital marketing strategy. Having a website that loads quickly, is easy to use, and contains relevant information that addresses a prospective client’s needs is one of the simplest, most-effective ways to generate leads and get your client - lawyer relationship off on a good foot.
Care how visible your law firm is on search engines. Obsess over it, actually. But we know you have business to take care of, which is why Hennessey Digital does the obsessing for you and delivers the results so you can focus on clients. Law firm SEO and PPC advertising for law firms (pay-per-click) are the two most-effective ways to ensure your law firm is visible on Google and well-positioned to reach your target audiences and generate calls and online leads. Check out these law firm digital marketing case studies to see how firms like yours are using these strategies to fuel their revenue growth.
Do a regular health check of your intake process. After the time and investment you put into digital marketing, don’t let those efforts go to waste with mismanagement of online leads or calls. Conduct an audit of your leads, response times, conversations and conversions, and tweak the recipe if needed to achieve the goals you’ve set. This might be monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. It’s a good idea to evaluate any tools you’re using and determine if it makes sense to handle intake in-house or with the help of a partner. Services such as CallTrackingMetrics and Alert Communications’ intake solutions are valuable in managing your leads and providing the metrics you need to help determine your digital marketing ROI.
Add staffing support or pick up more work with ease using EsquireX. If you find yourself with a full plate from new leads, need help with a case, or have capacity for your firm to take on more work, use EsquireX, the Uber and Upwork-like platforms for the legal industry. It was only a matter of time before a freelancer marketplace for lawyers popped up, and EsquireX makes it possible for lawyers and professionals in the legal industry to pick up freelance work or post projects to hire support for. Want to try it out? Contact us to request a special VIP code.
The goal of this study is to better understand law firm responsiveness to online leads owing to the critical role it plays in achieving optimal results from digital marketing and lead generation.
For this study, Hennessey Digital contacted 1,300 law firms in the U.S. identified from the following sources:
The DMA Report
The A-List for 2023
The A-List for 2021
The A-List for 2020
Independent list curated by Hennessey Digital including law firms who have requested to be included in Hennessey Digital research
The research included the original firms contacted in our previous lead form responsiveness studies so that we can compare year-over-year response times and identify industry trends. The study was conducted in Q1 of 2023 and sampled personal injury law firms and criminal defense law firms. All inquiries were sent through the online lead form on a law firm’s website between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. in the firm’s local time zone, using a fictitious alias and story. The response time was measured between the exact time an online form was submitted and the first personal outreach from the respective law firm. Initial response times were measured if they took place within seven days of submitting a lead form inquiry; if a firm’s initial response was after the first seven days, they were considered non-responsive.