Legal Superstar. Amazing Advocate. Titan Attorney.
OK. So these aren’t real awards, but the names of real awards aren’t that different. Attorneys can receive honors like:
- Top 100 Trial Lawyer
- Million Dollar Advocate
These are certainly prestigious titles and many attorneys would love to earn any one of them. But is it possible that attorneys are the only people who value these awards? Do they matter to prospective clients? If they do matter, how much? Enough to be at the very top of your home page or just enough to list on your attorney bio page?
Sure, these awards sound impressive to other attorneys. But to ordinary folks on the street, do these unfamiliar awards have a positive impact?
We surveyed over 300 U.S. residents to find out: Do legal awards attract new clients?
What We Did
Survey respondents evaluated a personal injury attorney’s professional bio. After looking over the bio, they provided their impression of that attorney and their interest in contacting, hiring, and recommending that attorney.
Here’s a sample of what the bio looked like:
Our hypothetical attorney was always named Alex Randolph. To keep things balanced, sometimes we used an image of a man and sometimes we used an image of a woman.
As you can see, this bio only mentions 1 award: “Choice Attorney”. We made up that award name (don’t start Googling how to get it). This basic 1-award version of the bio served as our baseline/control condition
How would adding an award change things?
We created 3 other versions of the bio that included one of these real attorney awards: SuperLawyer, Top 100 Trial Lawyer, or Million Dollar Advocate.
When included, we placed it right at the top of the list, like this:
Other than changing the listed awards, all the other information in the bio stayed identical. This way, we could gauge the unique effect of adding an attorney award.
What We Found
We asked survey respondents to rate their agreement with 3 separate statements. These statements gauged their willingness to contact the attorney, hire the attorney, and recommend the attorney to a friend.
Here’s how Alex Randolph fared:
As you can see, most people liked Alex. The vast majority of respondents were willing to give Alex a shot, despite the minimal information they had.
Adding or excluding attorney awards had no noticeable impact at all.
Whether Alex was a SuperLawyer, Top 100 Trial Lawyer, or Million Dollar Advocate had no influence on respondents’ endorsements of Alex.
Getting Alex’s Contact Info
We checked if anyone was suspicious about Alex being a real attorney. Out of the hundreds of respondents, nobody expressed any doubts or suspicion.
That’s important because we also asked our respondents if they wanted to receive Alex’s contact information. Their “Yes” or “No” response indicates a real interest in further contact with this attorney. They specifically request this attorney’s professional contact information because they might get in touch with Alex at some point.
On average, 16% of people wanted Alex’s contact information. In other words, 16% of people asked for an attorney’s contact information based on just reading their bio. Those are pretty good numbers
Did adding attorney awards make a difference? For example, did more people ask for a SuperLawyer’s contact information than a Million Dollar advocates’ contact information?
Here’s how it breaks down:
Once again, there was no meaningful, statistical difference across the award conditions. Being a SuperLawyer, Top 100 Trial Lawyer, or Million Dollar Advocate didn’t increase people’s requests for contact information.
Importantly, the 16% of people who wanted Alex’s contact information now probably weren’t in desperate need of a personal injury attorney at the time. Instead, they might have wanted to save that contact information for a rainy day.
So maybe legal awards don’t have an obvious effect on prospective clients’ intentions to contact, hire, or recommend an attorney. Maybe the influence is subtler. Just a shift in how people see that attorney, for example.
Do legal awards make attorneys seem better?
We asked people to evaluate Alex on 5 characteristics related to practicing law:
Did Alex’s bio make a good impression? Yes.
Over 80% of respondents indicated that Alex had each of the 5 positive traits we asked about. That’s a great impression overall. Clearly Alex’s bio is resonating with the audience.
You know what didn’t matter? The type of awards listed (or not listed). There was no evidence that awards mattered whatsoever
Listing awards isn’t looking too promising is it?
So if awards didn’t matter, what did?
Using a statistical technique called multivariate regression, we examined how important each positive characteristic was for our respondents’ engagement.
The great thing about this technique is that you can mathematically pit the characteristics against each other to see which one comes out on top. Because of this, we were able to rank-order the 5 characteristics in terms of how strongly they predicted respondents’ likely interaction with Alex.
We looked at how each of the 5 personality/professional characteristics were related to these 4 engagement metrics:
Contacting Alex for more information
Considering hiring Alex
Recommending Alex to a friend
Requesting Alex’s contact information during the survey
There was a clear winner. We identified Likability as the most important of the 5 positive characteristics, by far. Likability was the only personality trait that consistently predicted all 4 of the engagement metrics.
Here’s a rank-ordered list of each characteristic’s potential to drive engagement:
Surprisingly, expertise was the least important of the 5 traits. In fact, expertise was the only characteristic that wasn’t related to any engagement metrics.
One possibility is that to regular people, all attorneys seem like legal experts, so expertise isn’t a helpful metric by which to evaluate an attorney.
Instead of expertise, people may prioritize positive working relationships with their attorneys.
We’re not claiming that expertise, or any of the positive characteristics, are always irrelevant. There’s certainly no evidence that they do any harm. So go ahead and display your expertise.
What To Do About It
Use this information to your advantage. It’s my belief, and the data backs it up, that other attorneys may be more impressed by your awards than your potential clients. If you are an attorney that gets a lot of referrals, you may want to highlight your prestigious awards. If your goal is to increase the number of potential clients that call, you may be better off limiting the use of legal awards.
I also think it’s a good idea to give your awards context. For example, imagine that you see an infomercial for a pillow that claims they are “the official pillow of the National Sleep Foundation”. What is the “National Sleep Foundation” and why are they giving out awards? Did this company start the NSF just to give themselves an award?
I know some legal awards are very hard to earn and some don’t require much at all. If I wasn’t in the legal field, I would assume a “Super Lawyer” was a term designated by every grandmother with a grandkid who graduated from law school. The point is, if the award is very hard to achieve, let your audience know. Tell them how rare it is or what it took to earn that elite status.
Concentrate On What People Want to See
So what if you’re having trouble bringing in new clients? Our survey clearly shows that people are drawn to attorneys they “like”. Make sure to let the people who visit your website know why you’re so damn irresistible. Are you a volunteer somewhere? Do you frequently take on cases pro bono? Did your recent verdict save 101 puppies?
Simply opening your bio with evidence of how likable you are could make a big difference. It’s worth a try, right? Just doing that could get 16% of your website visitors to seek out your contact info.