So, you want to grow your law firm and you want to grow fast. How do you do it? In this ‘Growing Law Firm Guide’ I share with you the fastest way to grow your law firm.
The Most Important Action Required To Grow Your Firm
The first point is to know your numbers when it comes to your conversion rates.
There is simply no point in putting more water into a leaking bucket, so fixing the leaking bucket (from the first answer of a new enquiry, to the Meaningful Conversation to the follow up and conversion) is where you need to start if you are serious about growing your law firm fast!
Work on improving that conversion percentage every single month and then and only then, and only if you still need more clients after taking this action (many don’t), look at more marketing tactics to generate more enquiries for your services.”
This is pretty much the conversation I have with every single solicitor I speak with. In every case, without any exceptions, they are making the following costly mistakes:
- Handling the enquiries that they are already receiving from prospects very badly by failing to listen properly and then connect their service offering to the specific needs of the caller;
- Not sending out anything of any quality after the initial call to convince the prospect that their firm really is the best firm for their needs;
- Not following up any of the enquiries; and
- Not tracking, measuring and improving their conversion rates each and every month.
Let’s look at all of these items in some more detail, using statistics from some mystery shopping of legal services.
1. Speed of Responding to Enquiries
What you will see below makes me feel physically unwell. The graph might at first seem to show that solicitors take a long time to reply to initial enquiries.
What it actually depicts is solicitors throwing £50 notes out of their office windows each and every single day of the year, whilst at the same time turning back into the office and moaning that they are not as busy as they want to be and that they need more clients instructing them.
Please see the chart below:
We live in an instant world, do we not?
We can obtain any information about practically anything at all at the click of a button.
We can have items delivered the same day or the next day using Argos or Amazon.
There is practically nothing that we cannot do or discover instantaneously, so why are 65% of these people being made to feel like second rate citizens?
The first part of the graph is too wide for my liking. I would have it split into the following categories:
I don’t think so.
What else is a client supposed to think if you take this long to respond to their enquiry?
This is made worse by the following statistic which relates to email enquiries when the client received a response solely by email:
“86% of the potential clients would have welcomed a live discussion but in reality this only occurred 25% of the time because contact details were not requested by the firms.”
If you want to improve your conversion rates, you absolutely must speak with each prospect:
NEVER PROVIDE A QUOTE OR ESTIMATE WITHOUT FIRST SPEAKING WITH THE PROSPECT.
You cannot have a meaningful conversation with the prospect if you don’t speak with them. You must speak with them or they will have no way of realising that you are the best firm for their needs.
Now that point is covered, let’s look at the possible excuses for not following up quickly (I have heard them all before).
1.1 Reason For Not Responding To Enquiries
1.1.1 Trivial Looking Enquiry
“Many law firms did not respond to the initial enquiry as they considered the client’s query to be small and not worth much.
They did not connect the value of that one small enquiry to the lifetime value of the customer. One small enquiry about writing a will, if handled correctly, could lead to future work on probate matters, family law or complex business issues in the lifetime of that one customer.”
I know that many solicitors pre-judge client enquiries and prioritise a return call or whether to call back at all according to how much they think the transaction might be worth to them.
This is a really silly thing to do for three reasons:
- On countless occasions I have seen what looks like a trivial legal enquiry turn in to one worth many thousands of pounds in legal fees. This has happened with my clients and especially through my old claims company. What initially looks like a waste of time turns into a really good claim once the solicitor takes the time to speak with the potential client. However, when this phone call does not take place, this opportunity is lost for good!
- You don’t just lose the instruction from the client whose call you do not return, but you also then lose the chance to help their friends and family. Someone who is disgruntled with a business goes out of their way to ensure that their friends, family and colleagues hear about their experience. However, if you take the time to call them back and offer them some advice quickly and professionally you increase the chance of being recommended in the future even though you were unable to help them on that occasion. Once again, I know this to be true from many experiences like this with my claims company when it existed. The funny (ridiculous) thing is that our solicitors have to commit to call back all people who have made an enquiry within the hour (and we call to ensure that this has happened – that’s me practising what I preach) yet I know that many of the firms that did this for my claims company but would not do it for their own enquiries. How insane is that?
- You lose the chance to add them to your email marketing database and keep in touch with them every single month of the year to provide yourself with regular opportunities for new instructions from them and recommendations of your firm to their family and friends.
If at this point you are seeing some sense in taking this action now when you have not done so previously, your concern might be the amount of time it will take you to implement this system, so let’s have a look at the ‘too busy’ argument.
1.1.2 Too Busy
Your fee earners might say that they are too busy and each client takes 10 or 20 minutes to deal with.
To that I would say, first they are only too busy if they are consistently billing £250,000 plus per annum. If not, they have the capacity.
Secondly, in terms of the time taken to deal with an enquiry when there are no prospects of success, this is just a training issue. In nearly every case it is easy to get to the heart of the client matter and steer them in the right direction in around 5 minutes whilst still being completely civil and earning their respect and the chance of a future recommendation.
If your fee earners are consistently taking longer than this then it is usually because they are delivering advice which isn’t required because they are not taking on the matter, or simply unable to handle the client call efficiently.
You can solve this problem quite easily by having all initial enquiries handled by a non-solicitor which usually improves both the conversion rate and time on the telephone with prospects.
2. Initial Contact With The Firm
Here are the results of initial contact with firms during the day:
When calling the firm during the day:
- Only 43% of receptionists asked and used the client’s name.
- Only 31% of receptionists informed the client who they would be speaking to.
- When being put through 20% of calls went to voicemail, 80% were answered personally.
A potential client has gone to the trouble of making an enquiry for a firm’s services and they are not made to feel special are they?
We all know that someone using our name makes us feel far more valued than someone just passing us off without showing any interest in us, so how difficult would it be for the receptionist to ask the client’s name and then pass that on to the fee earner with a little information about their enquiry?
Compare what is happening on a lot of the occasions above with what should happen.
Fee Earner: “Hi, how can I help?”
Prospect: “Oh, hello. As I explained to your receptionist my name is Nancy Bells and I am just starting the process of divorcing my husband. Can you help please?”
Introduction with name & brief details
Fee Earner: “Hello Mrs Bells, I understand you are looking for some advice about a possible divorce. I am more than happy to let you know how we can help. Perhaps if you can start by giving me a little more information about your current position.”
Isn’t the second option much better and far more personal for the prospect?
This is one of the reasons why I advocate so strongly that you outsource all initial calls to a call centre rather than allowing them to come through reception. Call centre staff will do as they are told, whereas in my experience most law firm receptionists do whatever they want to do.
So, if you use a call centre, you can ask them to complete a brief enquiry form on your website before transferring the call to your offices. This then means that the person taking the call can have all of the information in front of them to allow the second scenario above to take place. Armed with the prospect’s name and brief details of the enquiry the fee earner can sound informed and above all make the caller feel very welcome by confirming their name as they introduce themselves.
You can use a separate telephone number on your website and in all advertisements which divert to a call centre whilst using your existing number for all current clients.
Remember, you have spent approximately £50-100 to make your telephone ring if you consider all of your marketing expenses, so you really do have a responsibility to handle to call from the outset as professionally as possible.
The initial contact with your firm is vital. Clearly from the survey results nearly half of the firms give the client a poor first impression. How are you performing and what action can you now take to improve this?
3. Why Should I Choose You?
Only 27% of firms outlined the benefits of using their firm for the work.
In other words, 73% failed to specify why choosing their firm would provide the best outcome for the prospect.
In the mystery shopping survey only 27% of the firms called outlined the benefits of using their firm for the caller.
Let me ask you a question.
If you give me no reason why your firm is better for me than any other law firm, what is the only possible measure I can use to choose which solicitor to go ahead with?
Yes, you should have guessed this by now, cost.
“I am not going to give you any reasons to choose my firm over and above any other law firm so how low does my price need to be to beat the other firms that you have spoken with?”
Not a good way to sell a service.
I used to work with a conveyancer who sold his services this way. He really did not give the client any other reason to choose him, so he just asked how much they had been quoted and then undercut the price to land the work. Of course he attracted the worst clients who were paying the lowest price for his service yet demanding the best work.
You have to know why your firm is the best firm for each prospect who calls you.
4. Failure To Take Client Contact Details
Only in 40% of cases were the contact details of the client taken.
60% of the time the client’s contact details were not taken.
If you are making this mistake, let me ask you some questions:
How can you send the client an email outlining the benefits of using your firm related to the client’s needs?
How will you be able to write to the client on the same day so that they receive something in the post from you the next day causing you immediately to jump to the top of the pile of the firms’ called by being more professional than all of the others?
How will you add the client to your email database so that you can keep in touch with them each and every month so that even if they do not instruct you on this occasion you have many more bites of the cherry moving forwards?
The three points above are emphasised because each one of them will make you more money.
If you do each of these things you will win more instructions and be able to bill more profit costs each and every month from the date that you implement this as a process AND ensure that it is consistently applied.
Fee earners ALWAYS say that it is simply not possible to obtain the client’s contact details on the first call.
THIS IS COMPLETELY UNTRUE.
My call centre always obtains all of the client’s contact details BEFORE the caller even gets to speak with a solicitor.
So either you employ a call centre to do this for you too, or you tell your fee earners to just get on with it.
One in 100 might hold back their contact details, but I am being generous with the one in that statistic.
As soon as you let fee earners convince you that their made up statements are true, they will keep on making things up to allow them to do less.
Often it comes down to how you ask the question, so some help here might be required.
This is often how a fee earner might ask for the contact details:
“I’m sorry to ask but my partners like me to obtain your contact details so we can keep writing to you.”
I have heard this sort of approach. Of course, a client is going to object when it is put like this.
When put like this there isn’t usually any problem:
“If I can quickly take your address I can pop our contact details in the post and some more details about the firm so that you have everything you need to hand.”
5. Failure To Follow Up
If this statistic applies to your firm then I promise you that fixing it will make your firm so much more profitable and successful.
94 out of every 100 enquiries never hear from the law firm again after the first contact.
“Mrs Jones, I am so keen to receive your instructions that after today’s call you will never hear from me again. I am going to go back to not being as busy or profitable as I would like to be and just keep my fingers crossed that somehow you will remember who you spoke with and that you manage to find my contact details online (knowing that if you initially found me using Google Adwords there is a fairly good chance I won’t appear the next time you search for me because my daily budget has run out). All the best Mrs Jones.”
The world has changed. You must get over the argument I hear so frequently of:
“I don’t want to appear as if I am stalking the client.”
If you or your staff think like that you are going to always struggle to generate a consistent flow of new instructions.
Clients want and expect you to be professional.
Who looks better in these two scenarios?
Scenario 1 – Hapless, Hopeless, Broke & Co
- Initial telephone call.
No effort made to find out what matters to the client about this transaction (the Meaningful Conversation).
No email outlining the conversation and quotation/estimate.
Scenario 2 – Very, Very, Profitable & Co
- Initial telephone call with prospect.
- Plenty of questions about what is important to the client allowing the fee earner to then match how the firm’s service will be perfect for the prospect.
- A follow up personalised email sent when the call ends.
- A letter arriving at the caller’s home the following morning referring to the email, including testimonials and telling the client what the next step is to start their matter
- A follow up telephone call three days later “Hello Mrs Jones, it’s Nick from Very, Very, Profitable and Co. I am just calling to check that you received my letter and to see if you have any unanswered questions that I can help you with?”
- Diary note made to follow up unless/until instructed.
- Email newsletter received from your firm two weeks later prompting the prospect to call you back and go ahead. The prospect can’t remember your name now though, but she remembers she received a letter from you so heads over to her ‘must keep’ pile, finds your contact details and gives you a call.
There is gold in them thar hills.
If you did nothing for the next month except spend your 30 minutes of every working day implementing the action points from this Extreme Close Up you will be very much more profitable and well on the way to your goals.