Ask someone to visualize a Millennial in their mind, and chances are they’ll picture a young person holding a smartphone. And taking a selfie. That they’ll send to a friend via Snapchat. While they’re sipping a latte at a coffee shop. They might also take a picture of that latte and post it on Instagram.
The Millennial stereotype is a powerful one, and though a lot about it may not be accurate, one thing is for sure: Millennials are heavy mobile phone users. Study after study has revealed that more Millennials own and use mobile devices, and do so more frequently, than other generational cohorts.
Why does this matter for lawyers? According to research I’ve conducted for Avvo, 52% of Millennials with legal issues go online to research their issue, 41% to search for a lawyer. And chances are they’re using their mobile phones to do some – if not all – of this. I recently interviewed Millennial legal consumers about their mobile phone use, and according to them, they use their phones to resolve legal issues because it’s convenient, because they can do research on-the-go, and because using mobile is just plain habit.
Small and simple
When Millennials talk about convenience, they’re talking about efficiency. They want to access legal information about their issue in the most direct way possible, with the fewest steps. And by fewest steps, they sometimes mean literally. Accessing a desktop or laptop means having to walk to another room. But as one Millennial told me, “[The phone] is in your hands already…. The phone is ready to go.” Your smartphone is also already on, while your laptop usually requires warming up. And then you have to log in. And then you have to open your browser. But when Millennials research the law or lawyers on their phones, they leave their browsers open so that they can pick up where they left off, whenever they want. One Millennial describes it like this:
“I did a basic search on the phone, then stumbled across the Avvo website and found a lawyer. When I was looking for other answers later, I went directly there [to Avvo].”
Millennials also told me they like the option of doing their research on-the-go. In some circumstances, they find themselves stuck somewhere with time to kill. With nothing better to do, they take out their phones. One 24-year-old said, “In New York City, people spend a lot of time on the subway and they don’t carry laptops. So I found myself on my smartphone.” But other times, Millennials say they’re out somewhere, away from home, when a need to do research strikes them. A 31-year-old said he used his mobile phone to research his legal issue “while at work or school; I used it while I was traveling and didn’t have a laptop.”
Finally, Millennials use their mobile devices to resolve their legal issues because they habitually use their mobile devices to do pretty much everything else.
“My phone and I are connected at the hip,” said one 27 year-old female. “It’s not just a phone, it’s a personal computer. I use it for everything: social, calling, texting, browsing, games. For a legal issue, I’d pick up my phone, out of habit, because it’s engrained.”
When don’t Millennials use their mobile devices?
Some use their phones to resolve their entire issue, from start to finish. But others told me that their mobile devices are where they start and that their desktop or laptop is where they go when they’re ready to dig into information more deeply. If there’s a lot to read or a lot of type, a desktop or laptop is easier (bigger screen, bigger keyboard). “Mobile is for limited search, to find a lawyer or basic research,” a 33-year-old told me. “It’s for starting a search, but the deeper I get into it, the less likely I’ll want a small screen.” Some millennials think about researching their legal issues the way they think about studying for school. One Millennial told me, “I research like in school. In college, I’m not going to do research on my phone…. I’d get my ideas on the phone and do my work on the laptop.”
So what can lawyers do?
You may not care much about attracting Millennials as potential clients. To decide if you should, see our white paper on the Millennial legal consumer. But if you currently see a lot of Millennials walking through the door of your practice, or if you think Millennials are the future of your firm, then it’s important to know that the first time a Millennial might lay eyes on your website could be on their smartphone. If you want or need to attract Millennials as potential clients, a mobile-friendly approach is important. Make sure your website is easy to read on a mobile device. Make sure the information you want people to see – including your headshot – is easily readable on a mobile phone. If your site is content-heavy, reconsider how you present the information so that it’s easy to digest on a mobile device. In other words, think small and think simple. The future just might be headed in that direction anyway.