How to build ‘social proof’ in the legal sector

Social proof is a powerful tool in your online arsenal – but what is social proof, how does it work, and how can you use it to drive new enquiries to your law firm?

Social proof is a powerful tool in your online arsenal – but what is social proof, how does it work, and how can you use it to drive new enquiries to your law firm?

What is social proof?

We’ve been mimicking those around us for as long as we’ve had people around us to mimic. As babies, we start copying adults’ facial expressions early on in life. As we grow older, we continue to look to others as a way to identify what to do and how to act.

Remember the first time you went to a pantomime as a child – how did you know when to boo the baddie and cheer the hero? During your first legal conference, did you watch how other, more experienced professionals approached their peers?

Copying others is a basic part of our evolution.

But it wasn’t until 1984 that author Robert Cialdini gave it a name.

Social proof.

Why does social proof matter for lawyers?

The power of traditional social proof is well-understood by legal eagles: 38% of law firms report the main way clients find them is through family and friend recommendations.

Online, social proof works in exactly the same way. Whether they’re buying a new jumper, switching banks, or searching for legal services, people will naturally try to find what others are saying on the subject.

Done right, it’s an opportunity for legal professionals to attract new business, letting those you’ve helped highlight your expertise. Essentially, then, social proof is a convincer for those tempted (but not set on) engaging your services.


How can legal professionals create social proof online?

The most common example of social proof we see is the celebrity endorsement. I want to be like that superstar, and that superstar uses product X, so if I use product X, I become closer to my goal.

Simple, effective, eye-catching.

And almost completely useless to legal services. Unless, perhaps, your brother-in-law is Judge Rinder.

But celebrity endorsements and ‘wisdom of the crowds’-style social media championing of your firm likely aren’t realistic. There are lots of other ways your practice can generate social proof online.


On-site testimonials

Your website is one of the first places new enquiries are going to land. Even when using other sites, like The Law Superstore, your next client will visit your website to get a feel for who you are.

Your site is vital for bringing in new business through search engine optimisation (SEO). And for building your legal brand (we’ve explored all about that in ‘How to build your brand: the basics’). It can also be a golden space for social proof.

Add real testimonials from your clients. Keep them brief. Pick the words and phrases that exemplify what you want visitors to see. They’re already on your site, so they’re showing interest. Now you need to show them what others think of your services.

Prospective clients will connect a lot more with ‘straight talk’ written in the common vernacular, as it were. It’s more real, more relatable. And it’s a bit like peeking behind the curtain.


Review and comparison sites

Review sites have become increasingly important in the digital marketplace. As legal consumers turn to search engines to find lawyers (25%, according to the UK Legal Services Consumer Research Report 2021), review and comparison sites are becoming a core part of the ‘client discovery phase’.

Review sites are the very definition of social proof. You want a new vacuum, you visit Ciao; you need a hotel in Benidorm, you go to Trip Advisor. And when you need a legal professional, you can see what users really think, with reviews and ratings on Google business and social media pages, dedicated legal review sites, and comparison sites like The Law Superstore.

These sites continue to grow in popularity – 10% of consumers used them to find legal experts in 2021 (up from 6% the year before). IRN Research, who undertook the study, believed this could signal ‘a watershed moment for digital comparison sites.’ In other words, it’s an opportunity to get ahead on a trend, and connect with clients online before your competitors.

This is a bit of a contentious issue in the legal sector – especially in an industry of ‘winners and losers’; the risk the losing party will take to the internet in a rage and use your partners’ names in vain.

But reviews for all businesses are an absolute expectation in the modern marketplace. The SRA report that 45% of consumers would use online comparison tools to find legal providers. A law firm with a review score of 3.2 out of 5 is still a lot more trustworthy than a practice with zero reviews.

If reviews didn’t drive business, Argos and Amazon would’ve stripped them out long ago.


Case studies

Case studies are easily one of the best examples of social proof – because you can really dig into the details as your other clients tell their ‘success stories’.

Think of them as an extended testimonial with a narrative. They’re particularly effective in business law, where executives will want to see strong, clear, persuasive examples of your work.

The basic structure of a case study would look like this:

We had X problem. It impacted Y, and risked causing Z.
Luckily, we found 123 Law (that’s you).
Because they’re experts in A, they helped us achieve B.
We can now C, thanks to 123 Law.

Case study readers tend to be in the ‘decision-making’ stage. They know they need a lawyer. They’ve likely whittled it down to a list of three or four. Now, they just need to find the right one.


Partner & expert-led content

Most law firms will struggle to get any meaningful endorsements from celebrities (except for Judge Rinder’s brother-in-law, who is undoubtedly already planning lunch with the TV star’s agent). But insights and endorsements into your firm from experts, these are a bit easier to come across.

Unlike reviews and testimonials, with their strong ‘everyday people’ vibe, partner and expert-led content forms another basis of social proof: authority.

Despite the common refrain, people like to hear what experts say. When Jack Kelso says ‘You have to see this,’ we shrug; when Professor Kelso says the same, we instinctively listen. Our brains say: hang on, this could be important.

High-profile bloggers and social media influencers are great examples of online experts. Prominent business leaders are a great option (especially if they’re tied to one of your case studies). Their words carry weight, because each one comes with experience and knowledge. And a built-in audience.

Make use of your own expertise. Partners at a law firm. What do they think? What questions can they answer? So, while you’re busy building social proof, you’re also demonstrating your value to clients.

Extra tip: accreditations are a good social proof tool for increasing authority, too. Add them to your website so new clients can quickly see what makes you tick.


Reach more clients the smart way

The most successful law firms in the country combine offline and online social proof to create a buzz about their services.

If you’re looking to boost your online presence, The Law Superstore is built to get you in front of the people who need your expertise – and are actively searching for legal help now.

But don’t just take our word for it. Trusted by law firms across England and Wales, The Law Superstore supplies 5000 leads every month and generate over £1m revenue for partners including Stowe Family Law and Slater and Gordon.

Start your trial today with 40 free leads. Discover how online legal lead generation can work for you.