Choosing a lawyer in an emergency: when quality and visibility don’t always match up

3 Dec 2013

A requirement by an individual or a business to consult a lawyer for the first time can arise for all sorts of reasons, but if the requirement comes about via a sense of urgency – a problem within the business, or a personal circumstance change, for example – then it can leave the party in question short of time when it comes to selecting the appropriate partner with which to work.

In these circumstances, it is particularly important that all involved take the time to perform extra research and to carry out the due diligence tasks one would normally associate with making an important partnership decision.

Whilst this may seem an obvious concept, too often for some businesses and individuals it appears that it is not, meaning they are rushing into high-priced arrangements with lower quality professionals.

A research study from the US, produced in 2012, provides data to back this assertion.

Focusing on business names, the report authors researched the link between having a business name that would be highly visible to casual searchers (online and in a publication, such as The Yellow Pages) and the quality and cost of service provided.

The first finding from the report was that businesses who are associated with dealing with ‘emergencies’ (plumbers, locksmiths, vehicle towing, etc.) were much more likely to choose a name which began with either the letter ‘A’, numbers or several words beginning with ‘A’, than those in industries less associated with emergencies (the study references hairdressers as an example).

Having achieved the top spot in the alphabetical results, these firms were then also likely to boost their appearance to potential clients in other ways; a firm whose name began with the letter ‘A’ was over twice as likely to spend money on Google advertising than if it began with any other letter.

These facts would, of course, have little impact if the cost and quality of service were as good as firms appearing lower down the alphabetical list or further down the Google results. Unfortunately, the survey has bad news for those of us who have settled on using the first firm which sprung up.

Focusing on plumbing firms in the Illinois area, the study found that those beginning with ‘A’ were over five times more likely to receive a complaint from a client than those beginning with any other letter.

Similarly, research was carried out into the average pricing in the area. A mean hourly rate of $103.45 was established. Of firms whose name did not start with ‘A’ or a number, the average rate reduced to $100.17, whilst for those who did use a name beginning with ‘A’, the hourly rate ballooned to $121.85. The requirement that a fixed fee would have to be charged was found in 58% of firms whose name did not begin with ‘A’, whilst 76% of firms beginning with ‘A’ implemented a fixed fee when servicing clients.

The research shows a clear causality between both higher prices, poorer service and greater visibility to the consumer, proving that, as with many industries, it pays to carry out proper research, drilling down further into firm information and researching firms who may appear further down the list returned to you via Google or another listing medium.

Clearly, the study does not explicitly take into account the service provided by lawyers who advertise on Google, nor those who are highly visible elsewhere, or have a high-ranking alphabetical name, but as ever, we would recommend careful searching and due diligence when picking a firm, even during a situation where it may seem as though a quick decision would be beneficial!