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What Do Potential Clients Want to Know? How to Avoid Litigation

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on February 20, 2015 7:57 AM

The point of most marketing is to solve a problem. Most of the time, the problem is pretty easy. When your product is dog food, the problem you're solving is that dogs need food. Then the strategy comes in: Why do they need your food, and not your competitor's?

Legal marketing is a little different. People contact attorneys for lots of different reasons, so in order to effectively determine your strategy, first you have to know what problem you're solving. Deep within FindLaw's 2014 Consumer Legal Needs Survey lies part of the answer.

Proactive Litigation

According to the survey, 36 percent of respondents contacted a legal professional because they wanted to "avoid future legal difficulties," while 35 percent "needed competent/skilled representation." Back up to that first figure, which is a huge chunk of respondents. Nearly 4 in 10 respondents contacted a lawyer proactively; that is, they weren't responding to a lawsuit. They wanted to head off a lawsuit before it started.

This sounds a lot like transactional work or seeking advice about a problem before it starts, and addressing this problem through your marketing could put you at an advantage. Many lawyer websites tout the benefits of a lawyer as advocate; i.e., when something's happened to a potential client, like a personal injury, or when a client has been sued and needs defensive representation.

How to Communicate That to Potential Clients

But where's the third part of the equation? That's the part where a potential client comes to a lawyer with a problem that hasn't yet risen to the level of a lawsuit or an injury, but the client wants to know what he or she needs to do in order to avoid future legal problems. Maybe the client wants to know the potential legal implications of an investment, wants to ensure that his or her estate is going to pass to heirs without any will challenges, or wants to enter into a binding agreement that will be (relatively) free from litigation.

For attorneys who work on contingency, this formulation might not seem very lucrative; there's no damage award when a client avoids litigation. But such a brand of marketing could work for estate-planning firms or other transactional types of law. Rather than ask, "Do you have an estate plan?," perhaps the question should be, "How can you avoid litigation in your estate plan?" Make your value-added proposition not just "I can help you do a task," but "I can help you do a task and do it in a way that will save you money in the future."

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