Buyer-Behavior by the Numbers—A Cross-Generational Look at Decision Influences and Drivers of Engagement for Legal Buyers


Linda Hazelton of Hazleton Marketing & Management provides insights on the generational differences in buying behavior in this LMA Annual Conference 2019 recap.


Kat Kocurek, vice president of marketing at ClearlyRated, a Portland-based firm offering client surveys that uncover Net Promoter® scores (NPS), delivered an information-packed session covering the results of a survey of 589 legal service buyers and clients at companies of all sizes. NPS measures client willingness to refer a product or service as a proxy for client satisfaction and service quality. NPS is derived by subtracting the percentage of Detractors (clients responding 5 or lower to the question “how likely would you be, on a scale of 0-10, to recommend this firm to a friend or colleague”), from the percentage of Promoters (clients who respond with a 9 or 10).

The survey population was comprised of Baby Boomers (32%), Gen X’rs (34%), Millennials (29%), and Gen Z’rs (5%). Of the respondents, 53% occupied the C-Suite across a broad swath of industries.

Buyer Trends

#1 Referrals are still a top resource for buyers seeking a law firm to hire. Legal buyers in the survey said their first resources for vetting were: Referrals (41%), Past Experience with Provider (17%), Online Searches (7%), and Direct Contact with Business (5%).

There were significant differences among the generations. 42% of Boomers, 52% of X’rs, and 29% of Millennials relied on referrals as their first resource.

 #2 Online resources are gaining prominence. Vetting time spent using online resources averages  41% across generations (Millennials—51% of time spent).

#3 Legal buyers show a preference for research. Of those who received a referral, 9 in 10 conducted additional research. The generations largely agree re the first two actions taken (going to the provider’s website to read about them and searching for the provider online). The difference was greater as to the third action—reading reviews of the provider online:

    • Boomers   43%
    • Gen X’rs    70%
    • Millennials  61%

#4 Quality of service and industry expertise trump cost. Millennials were more likely to list cost as most important (16%) compared to Boomers (4%) and X’rs (5%).

#5 Buyers trust a firm’s clients more than they trust the firm. Most trusted sources by generation:

    • Referral from a friend or colleague—Boomers 50%, X’rs 37%, Millennials 24%
    • Independent 3rd-party awards (Chambers, for example)—Boomers 18%, X’rs 13%, Millennials 17%
    • Client testimonials—Boomers 11%, X’rs 18%, Millennials 12%
    • Online ratings and reviews—Boomers 6%, X’rs 12%, Millennials 13%

Millennials trusted firm websites, marketing and advertising, and social media posts more than other generations.

What to do with this information?

Kat suggested these actions:

#1 Measure the referrability of your firm and practitioners (your NPS score, e.g.).

#2 Capture and use testimonials as much as humanly possible.

#3 Actively build your firm’s online reputation.

#4 Build a strategy for educating millennial buyers about your firm and winning their business.

#5 Lead the charge in your firm for prioritizing the client experience.

If you missed Kat’s presentation, I recommend you tune in for the encore webinar on April 25th at 10 a.m. PST.

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