82% of People Think Attorneys Are Manipulative: 5 Strategies to Make Better Impressions [New Data]

What impression does your website content make? I don’t mean what judgments are made based on the facts it provides about your firm and its services. I mean, what personal opinion will people have about who you are as an attorney? Are you actively working on making a better impression?

No?! Well, you should be and here’s how you can do it.

Know What They Think

Attorneys seem to forget that their website content is the main source of information for prospective clients. Up to 98% of people will consult an attorney’s website before making a hiring decision.

But how do you effectively enhance the impression you’re making? By finding out what they think about attorneys in the first place.

Understanding people’s specific beliefs and biases about attorneys will help you create website content that minimizes the negative and accentuates the positive.

So, how do you find out what prospects are thinking?

I’ve done it for you.

How Prospects See Attorneys

We surveyed over 300 US residents online and asked them how they see attorneys. Specifically, we asked them to evaluate attorneys based on 10 personality characteristics (5 negative and 5 positive).

The graph below shows the percentage of people who believe that each characteristic accurately describes attorneys.

The good news is that intelligence ranks at the top of the list as the most common characteristic attributed to attorneys. Also, on average, most people (78%) did see attorneys as helpful

The bad news is that the overall profile doesn’t look so great. The majority of people believed that all 5 negative traits (manipulative, pompous, materialistic, cold, and selfish) described attorneys.

More bad news—only a minority of people endorsed the idea that attorneys weretrustworthy, kind, and honest.

Different People, Different Perspectives

With numbers like these it’s important to determine if this is truly the general belief about attorneys. Does everyone see attorneys in the same way?

It turns out that there’s a very clear and consistent divide between the sexes. Men tended to see attorneys more negatively than women. Here’s the breakdown:

As you can see, women had more favorable views of attorneys across the board. In terms of negative characteristics, women were 16% less likely than men to view attorneys as cold.

In terms of positive characteristics, women were 14% more likely than men to believe that attorneys were helpful. Women’s top two characteristics for attorneys (intelligent and helpful) were both positive. On the other hand, men rankedmanipulative as the second strongest characteristic for attorneys.

Consider your own client demographics. Do you appeal mostly to men or women? Are you using the right approach for your target clients? Are you highlighting your strengths and mitigating you perceived weaknesses?

In or Out of the Legal Field

You might expect that people who have worked in the legal field would have a different perspective on attorneys. If they’ve worked closely with them before, for example, they might have a more personal and favorable opinion of attorneys.

Not really.

It may surprise you to learn that experience working in the legal field didn’t improve any judgments. Across all 10 of the characteristics we examined, people had similar opinions whether they had worked in the legal field or not.

On the flip side, at least experience working in the legal field didn’t lead to worse views of attorneys. It may be that, on average, the positive and negative experiences people have had while working in the legal field just balance each other out.


The findings we’ve shared with you can guide the type of content you post on your website or elsewhere. Here are a couple of options for you to consider.


It seems like the vast majority of people already believe that attorneys are intelligent. So, being intelligent may not actually be the deciding factor on who they decide to hire.

That is, if they think attorneys are intelligent in general, they may look for other indicators of your character. Try emphasizing qualities you have other than that big beautiful brain.


People don’t like the idea of being manipulated because they don’t want to be victims. That being said, being manipulative isn’t always a terrible thing. For example, psychotherapists can be considered manipulative, but they utilize it for the good of their patients.

If your clients believe that their attorney’s tendency for manipulation will ultimately benefit them (the client), then you may be able to turn that weakness into a strength. Don’t necessarily try to convince them that you’re not manipulative (which they may have a hard time believing regardless of the facts). Instead, you can explain that you will use your powers of manipulation for the greater good, or at least for your clients’ good.


Unlike intelligence, there’s more disagreement on how helpful attorneys are. Still, the majority of people saw attorneys as helpful, so this might be a positive trait that you want to emphasize.

If people really feel like you’re there to help them through their challenge and that you’re “on their side”, you may get and keep more clients.


You’ll want all of your prospects to like you because it makes interacting with them easier and helps retain your client base. The best way to make them like you is to show warmth, in direct contrast to the notion that attorneys are cold.

Why not underscore your humanitarian efforts? By mentioning the charities and causes you truly support, you are adding depth to who you are as a person. Show them that you genuinely care about your community.

You can also remind them of your own humanity by mentioning family and friends. Show pictures of them at company events or engaging in hobbies, activities, or sports you enjoy.

The best practice is to frame these personal touches as work-related in some way (firm holiday parties). That way, it won’t seem like you jut included a bunch of random pictures.

Simple little reminders that you have passions, social bonds, and a real life outside of the office can go a long way. It makes you more approachable. Use that strategy to combat the stereotypes of attorneys as cold, selfish, and untrustworthy.

Part of the Team

Many of people’s other doubts and negative views seem to stem from a distrust of attorneys’ intentions. After all, if you saw someone as dishonest, not trustworthy, selfish, and materialistic, how quick would you be to hand over a big check?

One strategy to get around these doubts is to reassure prospects and new clients that you will keep things transparent. Tell them that you want their input and you consider them to be a big “part of the team”. This accomplishes 3 goals for you:

  1. It makes them feel included. Yes, I know they aren’t children being shunned on a playground. But adults do fear being left out of the loop and not being a valued part of the process.
  1. It gives them a sense of control. Because they’ll have more direct access, they’ll feel like they can provide t heir input. This will make them feel empowered, which is good. As an added bonus, their involvement throughout will make them less likely to blame you (and only you) if things go wrong.
  1. It helps them see you as a real person. The more they interact with you, the more comfortable they are to be with you. You’ll stop being a stereotype of an attorney and start becoming Jane, or Bob, or whatever your name is. Let them see the real human behind the J.D. and they’ll learn to trust you.


There’s no silver bullet that will make every prospective client see you as perfect. All you can do is present yourself and your firm in the most compelling way possible.

Your website provides one of the strongest ways to do that because it will be the way that most of your clients are introduced to who you are.

Maybe you’ll tailor your website content to your male or female target market. Maybe you’ll play up your helpfulness as an attorney. Or maybe you’ll clarify that you are anything but greedy. Whatever your specific approach may be, understanding your audience is key.

Use the results I described here as a jumping off point for re-thinking your firm’s website content. If you have strategies for making a good impression, I’d love to hear them.

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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