December 2015 Bar Bulletin
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December 2015 Bar Bulletin

Failing at the Finish Line: How Law Firms Lose Prospective Clients at the Front Door (First of Two Parts)

From FindLaw


It’s not because your website failed to attract visitors or that a lone, negative online review dissuaded an inquiring consumer. Rather, it’s because that attorney-seeker slipped through your fingers at the point of initial contact.

The problem lies with your intake process, and your firm is not alone. Intake encompasses all of the processes a firm uses to collect and manage leads, with the goal of converting them into clients. It’s an essential function of any successful legal business. But doing it wrong can cost law firms business without them even knowing it.

Consider Thomas.

Thomas has been in a rear-end collision that has caused him debilitating back pain. The day after the collision, he looks online for legal representation and finds a law firm close to home. Suarez Law appears to be a small firm with only two attorneys, but that appeals to Thomas. A smaller firm, he believes, would provide a more personal touch, which is exactly what he needs, given what he’s going through. A quick look at the online reviews also suggests that Suarez Law has served personal-injury clients well. Picking up the phone, Thomas calls and leaves a detailed message, as the voice mail prompt requests.Two days later, Thomas receives a call from Anne, the receptionist at Suarez Law. Anne doesn’t identify where she is calling from and proceeds briskly through a detailed list of questions. For the most part, she asks Thomas for information that he already shared in his phone message.

Finally, Anne tells Thomas that Anita Suarez, the firm’s lead attorney, will be available in a couple of days to talk with him, but only at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Thomas says he’s in a lot of pain and waited two days already. Might Ms. Suarez be available sooner? “I’m sorry, but that’s when she’s available,” Anne replies. “Ms. Suarez is one of the best at this type of case, and she doesn’t have a lot of open time on her calendar.” Thomas begrudgingly decides he’d better take the appointment.

Another two days later, during their scheduled call, Anita Suarez hurriedly runs through an explanation of how her firm operates and what she can do for her clients. The call is largely about Anita, not Thomas.

At that point, Thomas has lost confidence in Suarez Law, and he decides to contact a different firm. Suarez Law has just lost a potential client.

That scenario may sound extreme, but it’s actually an all-too-common type of occurrence among law firms. In fact, many potential clients don’t even get as far as Thomas did and turn to another firm if they don’t get a call back promptly from their first contact. Law firms regularly allow potential business to disappear because their intake process prevents them from getting clients.Attorneys typically think they’re good at intake. Certainly, they don’t purposefully turn away good cases, and they are dedicated to the well-being of their clients and the success of their practices. However, through extensive research, including in-depth interviews with attorneys and legal consumers, FindLaw has found that many firms are failing at intake.

With fully one-third of firms neglecting phone messages and half not responding to emails or online forms within 24 hours, if at all, they are missing out on new business that they’ve successfully enticed through their marketing to contact their firm but come up short in converting them into actual clients.1 And yours might well be one of these firms, which can mean you’re leaving money on the table.For a more specific example of how an ineffective intake process can mean lost opportunities, consider the following scenarios.Let’s say Suarez Law receives 200 leads per month and converts 25 percent of those leads into clients. With an average case value of $3,000 (per month), that translates into monthly revenue of $150,000. But let’s say that, with improved client intake processes, the firm can increase its conversion rate to 35 percent. That means Suarez Law’s revenue is boosted to $210,000 per month (200 x .35 x $3,000). This is a net gain of $60,000 per month, or $720,000 per year.

To dive deeper, imagine that Suarez Law spends $12,000 per month on marketing. Without conversion efforts, that $12,000 yields 200 leads at a 25-percent conversion rate. This places the firm’s monthly cost per client at $240.

Now imagine that the firm focused on improving its intake practices to bring Suarez Law’s conversion rate up to 35 percent. Their cost per acquisition would be reduced to $171.

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