Too many law firms give too little thought to what, exactly, their plan is for converting a prospect into a client.  Sure, you want plenty of prospective clients to contact the firm, but how are you going to convert them into actual clients you want?  Consider these basic principles.

  1. Choose the right person or people to handle incoming contacts: by phone, email, text, contact form, referral or lead service. You want someone who is professional, personable, caring, considerate, scripted and trained. Don’t assign this vital task to a legal assistant who has deadlines to meet and attorneys to please. Your intake person’s top priority should be intake.
  2. Treat everyone equally. Prospects who call with worthless cases and/or ask stupid questions should be treated with the same consideration as the contact with the dream case. Why? Because your firm’s reputation is at stake. Because some of the worst reviews on Google Local are written by  prospects who never became clients. And because every prospective client is a prospective referral source.
  3. Execute a plan for responding to after-hours contacts. In the past, voice messages and online forms have been the primary ways firms captured prospect information 24/7. Today, options include vendors who provide 24/7 chat and even 24/7 telephone answering / intake services.
  4. Contact prospects promptly. If you don’t respond in 24 hours, you may lose the prospect to a firm who did.
  5. Your initial client contact should include learning whether the prospect is the kind of client you want. Qualify prospects quickly. Suppose, for example, you’re a family lawyer who doesn’t accept divorces that include a custody dispute. Find out, right away, if the couple has children.
  6. Avoid legal speak such as “Are there any minor children?” To most parents, all children are of major importance. Instead, ask, “Do you have any children” and then, “How old are they?”
  7. Follow-up with the prospects you want. A fortunate few firms can screen prospects in a single conversation and either refer them elsewhere or schedule an appointment. Studies suggest, however, you may need to contact prospects as many as seven times before they choose your firm. Contacts may include text messages, email, phone calls and postal mail.
  8. One of the first questions you should ask is, “How would you like us to contact you?” Generation Y prospects (Millenials) may not read email. If you decide to text prospects, choose a software system that enables you to keep records of all texts sent and received.
  9. Some firms ask clients to a sign a letter of engagement before the first appointment! Crazy? Not necessarily. Is it possible a competitor could do just that before you meet your prospect, who may be a no-show.
  10. Separate the legal aspect of intake with the financial. Lawyers who review both the engagement letter and the fee agreement with clients run the risk of becoming their own collection agents. Lawyers should turn over the fee details to an intake specialist who is comfortable with being direct and specific, e.g., “We accept MasterCard, Visa and American Express. How would you like to pay today?”
  11. Feeling overwhelmed by the demands and complexities of intake? One option is to farm out intake to a company who specializes in it. You pay a substantial fee, but 24/7 you’ll have specialists helping you make sure you turn enough prospects into clients.
  12. Another option for upgrading your intake is to contact NetOutcomes and engage us in helping you implement an effective intake process.
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About Dave

Dave Tedlock is the head of NetOutcomes, a digital marketing firm. For years he has written a marketing and technology column for various publications, including the Tucson Citizen’s Tucson Business Edge, Idaho Business Review, Inside Tucson Business, and The New Mexico Business Weekly. Tedlock taught writing and business communication for eight years in many universities, including the Harvard Business School and Iowa State University. For 13 years he worked in ad agencies as a copywriter, account manager or creative director. Tedlock has published short stories, scholarly articles and a writing textbook (with Paul Jarvie). He earned a Master’s degree in Fiction Writing from Brown University. He lives in Tucson and Santa Fe.

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