Why Your Law Firm Is Failing At Lead Conversion & How To Improve It By Stephen Fairley

By Stephen Fairley

Two-time international best-selling author, Stephen Fairley is the CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in marketing and lead conversion for small to medium law firms. Over 10,000 attorneys nationwide have benefited from learning and implementing the proven Rainmaker Marketing System. Over the last 12 years, he has become a nationally recognized legal marketing expert and has spoken numerous times for over 35 of the nation’s largest state and local bar associations. For more information, call (888) 588-5891 or visit www.TheRainmakerInstitute.com.

Recently, I had the honor of keynoting at the 2014 National Trial Lawyers Summit in Miami about a topic that should be at the top of every law firm’s radar: how to improve your intake and lead conversion. This skill is woefully overlooked by most attorneys, who continue to focus 99 percent of their efforts and money on lead generation, fallaciously thinking this will solve their declining revenue problems.

Logically speaking, why would someone continue to spend money and increasing amounts of money on lead generation if they aren’t doing everything they can to actually convert those leads into paying or retained clients? Lead generation too often comes down to a firm’s financial ability to “throw money at the problem,” but a lead conversion system can level the playing field and give small firms a true unique competitive advantage.

The problem is most lawyers believe they and their teams are great when it comes to lead conversion, and most of them are wrong! I understand no attorney wants to admit he or she doesn’t know how to close a deal, but that is not what lead conversion is all about. Lead conversion begins the moment someone initiates contact with you, not after you get them into your office.

Research Results from the National Trial Lawyers
In the weeks leading up to my presentation at the National Trial Lawyers Summit, I had my staff call 126 of the law firms who had registered for the Miami Summit event and secret shop their intake process. The majority of NTL members practice personal injury, workers’ compensation, med mal, mass torts or criminal defense. When one of my staff members called personal injury firms, she posed as a potential client who had been in a car accident resulting in immense pain in her neck and back. She told them that her doctor had referred her to their law firm. Here are the results of our findings:
• 70 percent did not ask our team member for any contact information before getting off the phone! It’s very difficult to follow up with a lead when you don’t have their contact information.
• When contact information was given to the law firm and a call back was promised, 52 percent of the firms never called back! How can you be good at follow up if you never actually follow up?
• Only 40 of the 126 law firms even bothered to identify the name of their firm when we called. The rest answered, “Law Office” or “Law Firm.” Why spend so much time branding your law firm when you don’t even use the name when answering the phone?
• 90 firms left our staff on hold for at least two minutes. How long do you think an interested prospect would wait before hanging up and calling the next law firm?
• When our staff asked for the law firm’s website address, 33 percent misspelled it.

During the course of the call we asked an easy softball question, “I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the choices and I’m having a difficult time deciding which law firm to hire. Can you tell me why I should hire your law firm?” This chart shows the responses we got when our staff asked why they should hire the firm:

Note that a majority of firms (61 percent) gave reasons that any prospect would assume is a given from a law firm (We have a lot of experience and we care about our clients) or, like the last reason, is a complete turn off:
• 23% responded: “We have a lot of experience”
• 21% responded: “We care about our clients”
• 17% responded: “I don’t know/ someone else could answer better”

Other interesting responses ranged from, “I’m not at liberty to say” (is it a state secret?) to a partner in NYC who remarked, “I’m not going to tell you why we are different!” Our favorite response was, “I like to think the firm fights for justice and the lower people.” Yes, the intake person actually said lower people

Here is the actual breakdown of those call results:
We have performed similar call campaigns prior to our monthly Rainmaker Retreat legal marketing workshops, by calling the offices of attendees and we have found the results are not that different, regardless of practice area. Most law firms do not have a proper intake and lead conversion system in place that begins when someone calls or initiates contact with the firm and they have not trained their staff!

By the way, if you want to find out how your law firm compares to these stats, I recommend you have us secret shop them. Just give us a call and we will do it at no charge.

I was consulting with a client last week who is spending $15,000 to $20,000 per month on lead generation. He told me that he had no money to spend on improving his lead conversion – even though he is only converting 11 percent of his leads into paying clients! It’s insane to spend money on marketing to get your phone to ring and then not spend the time, energy and money to ensure you’re doing all you can to encourage those leads to hire you!

So few firms are making a positive impression on the initial call that there is huge opportunity to set your law firm apart by improving and focusing on your intake process! Here are just a few of the best practices we teach our clients on how to improve the intake process, the true beginning of a solid lead conversion system:
1. Have a dedicated person answer the phone. We were astounded by how many firms answered the phone in a way that left the distinct impression we were annoying them when we called, as if we were taking them away from another priority.
2. Show compassion and empathy. Of 126 law firms, only 27 (21 percent) expressed any compassion or sympathy when our staff told them about their situation: “I was in a car accident and I’m having a lot of pain in my neck and lower back!” A simple, “I’m so sorry to hear about that. Are you OK?” can go a long way toward connecting with a potential client.
3. Get the caller’s name and phone number at the beginning of the call in case you get cut off. If you do get cut off unexpectedly, then call them back immediately. Somewhere during the call you should also get their email address or at least permission to text them information after the call.
4. If you send someone to your website, SPELL it out clearly. Many law firm website domain names are hard to spell or understand over a bad cellphone connection. One intake person gave us the wrong website altogether which sent us to a different law firm!
5. Do what you say you are going to do when you say you will do it. Many firms said they would send us information via email or mail – we only received one response.
6. Do not answer the phone with a generic “law firm.” Clearly say the name of your law firm.
7. If you are going to place someone on hold, always ask for his or her permission first.
8. Write out three to five reasons that make your law firm different. Make certain anyone talking with prospects can recite these from memory and knows how to weave them into a call. Everyone, whether they verbalize it or not, wants to know the answer to, “Why should I hire you?”
9. Remember that people buy emotionally and justify logically, so the person on the phone must build an emotional relationship with the caller.
10. Have a dedicated person
to return all voice mails the same day.
11. Never make an attorney responsible for following up with leads. Even though they may have the best of intentions other things will take priority. Task a staff person with following up with leads and setting appointments with the attorney.
12. Never quote fees over the phone. The sole purpose of the call is to get qualified leads into your office. You will always have a higher closing ratio if you meet prospects face to face rather than trying to sell them over the phone.

I would like to show you how good your law firm is at intake so here’s my offer: call or send us an email and request the secret shopper call. We will call your law firm within two weeks and then give you a report card on how your firm did compared to best practices and then we will give you several strategies to improve your intake conversion. We normally charge $500 for this service, but because we want to give back to readers of this magazine we would like to offer this service for free to the first 100 law firms who contact us at (888) 588-5891 or via email.