Marketing and Advertising

First Question to Ask a Client

By | Nov.19.13 | Client Relations, Daily Dispatch, Law Practice Management, Legal Marketing

I’m frequently asked how much a law firm — especially a small law firm — should spend on advertising. The cost of advertising will differ for every law firm, of course. Advertising costs will be based on the firm’s location and size, and even practice areas. Competition and target audience also come into play. Given all the variable factors, costs can be difficult to estimate.

There is, however, an action every firm can take to gauge the effectiveness of its advertising. Just ask one simple question at every initial client meeting:

“How did you hear about this law firm?”

Most clients will respond that they found their law firm online. Indeed, Avvo’s Legal Marketing Survey Report 2012 found that clients often do their own research when looking to hire an attorney, and most often this research is online. Clients are coming to appointments better educated and prepared, with questions and requirements for establishing a relationship with a lawyer.

Take Care to Delve Deeper into Your Client’s Initial Response

Don’t stop when potential clients mention the firm’s website as their first contact point. Find out what guided them to the website. Train everyone in your firm who handles client intake to ask follow-up questions, like these:

  • Did the potential clients see the website address on a televised advertisement?
  • Did they get a business card from a satisfied client?
  • Did a friend on Facebook mention the name of the law firm?
  • Was it the result of a Google search, and if so, what terms did they use?

Asking questions about how a client heard about your firm should take only a minute or two of the initial interview, but it can help you collect valuable information. Keep the responses and tally them periodically. Over time, you will see trends on how clients are learning about your firm.

For example, if you spend a lot of money on television advertisements but no incoming client mentions them over a three- to six-month period, it is time to re-evaluate their utility. The same goes for any other marketing or advertising you might do.

If you need help calculating the return on investment you make in advertising, try this handy and free ROI calculator tool from the helpful blog Marketing Today. Also, Legal Management has a great article by Mary Kate Sheridan on the basics of tracking your firm’s digital marketing.

Advertising is expensive. Learning if it is working only takes asking the right question.

Joshua Lenon is an attorney and Director of Communications at Clio, where he focuses on scholarship and marketing skills, with an interest in the intersection of law and technology. Previously, Joshua helped legal practitioners improve their services, working for Thomson Reuters’ publishing departments. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaLenon.

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3 Responses to “First Question to Ask a Client”

  1. Kristi Bodin
    19 November 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Often when I ask, the answer is, “I found you online.” But when I try to learn exactly where online I was found, they can’t remember – arrgh! Since I’m on the website, AVVO, LinkedIn, Justia, FindLaw, and a number of other directories, this is frustrating to say the least. I’m happy to be found, but how do you figure out which listing is working if the client can’t remember?

  2. Joshua Lenon
    19 November 2013 at 4:45 pm #


    Thanks for your comment.

    In that instance, you can combine their response with the tracking you should be doing through Google Analytics.

    There’s a great article on Attorney at Work on this:

    Even forgetful clients let you know that they found you online, and the tracking report can show you trends on which websites are leading them to you.

    All of which helps you eliminate other, costly forms of advertising that may not be working.

    I hope this helps,


  3. Mike O'Horo
    20 November 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    This reminds me of a great drawing by hugh macleod (“cartoons on the back of business cards”) for a blog post and seminar by Andy Sernovitz: “Advertising is the cost of being boring.”

    He’s referring to the need to advertise because your business isn’t interesting enough to get people talking about it and generate word-of-mouth marketing.