Archive for the ‘Best Strategies’ Category

“I treat potential new clients bad.” Yikes!

I had the pleasure of working with one of the Southeast’s premier personal injury plaintiff firms.  These lawyers were the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to trial attorneys… capable of delivering massive results for clients.  Notwithstanding, they were looking to reduce the millions in referral fees they paid each year and, to their credit, were willing to spend just over $16,000 per month to originate cases.

Unfortunately, their sole intake person, Allison, was responsible for way too many things at the firm.  She answered phones, sent out settlement packets, reviewed medical records, scheduled appointments, and did just about every task the firm could find for her to do.  She was also my contact for marketing strategy.

One day, after going on for more than five minutes about how overworked and underpaid she was, Allison bluntly said “Matt, I’m so busy with all the work they pile on me that I treat potential new clients bad just to get off the phone.”  Wow!  This was one of the most shocking things I’ve heard in my 18 years working with law firms.  Her employer was spending nearly $200,000 a year to bring in huge cases… and she was single-handedly sabotaging the effort.

From the perspective of an hourly employee, it is much more important to take care of the interrogatories for existing client, Mr. Johnson, than it is to talk on the phone with a prospective client no one at the firm knows.

Yet, that prospective client call is critically important and needs to receive the absolute undivided attention of the intake person.  Educating those responsible for screening new business leads is critical, and in particular the necessity that they drop everything else when new business is on the phone or email.  It’s also a very good idea to structure their workload so they have plenty of time to do an excellent job converting prospects into clients.

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Educate Your Staff About the Need for New Business

Law firm support staff often believe their attorneys walk on water.  And it’s not difficult to understand why.  The receptionist at a law firm has a front row seat to her boss’ expensive car, first class vacations to exotic places, second home on the lake, and cost of tuition at his kid’s private school.  She sees him take two hour lunches with important people similarly dressed in expensive clothes, and he sounds incredibly smart when he’s on the phone.

The last thing your staff thinks is that you need more business.  In fact, they probably believe they are doing you a favor by reducing your workload!

A true story will illustrate this point.

In my previous job, I once made a cold call on a law firm in Roswell, Georgia that focused on high end DUI defense.  When I explained to the receptionist that I wanted to speak with the attorney about “growing the practice” she simply said, “Oh lord, Pete has more business than he knows what to do with and actually just hired a new lawyer to handle some of it.”  I thanked her and left my card.

I hadn’t made it to the intersection outside Pete’s office when my phone rang.  On the other end is Pete, asking if I had a few minutes to chat.  It turned out that the receptionist was correct.  Pete was forced to hire another attorney because there was too much business for him handle.  However… there wasn’t quite enough business to keep the new attorney busy full-time, and part of the agreement between Pete and his new hire was that he would increase the clientele over the next year.

Of course, this situation happens all the time in law firms.  But it illustrates how an intake person and business owner can view the same situation very differently.  If that intake person believes the firm doesn’t need business, they aren’t going to do a very good job with prospective clients who contact the office looking for representation.

My next post will discuss how to educate law firm staff about the importance of new business.

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Writing the Best Lawyer Bio

A well-written website bio is a critical piece of a powerful online resume.  Even the most highly referred prospective client is going to check you out online, and one of the best places to find information is on your law firm’s website.  It’s also understood that the attorney controls this information, so it better be good.  Below is a piece I put together for a presentation that provides tips and examples for writing the best narrative.

Remember:  A prospective client is initially interested in only one thing…

Are you the best lawyer to represent him or her today?

­­­­­­___________________________

Impactful bios start with who you are and what you do.  (But those openings really are telling the prospect what you can do for them.)  Examples…

Dale is a trial attorney with over 30 years of courtroom experience.

Karen represents small, medium and large businesses in complex real estate transactions.

Tom has earned a national reputation for producing strong results for clients in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases.

For more than two decades, Jennifer has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with clients facing incredibly challenging circumstances.

Bill represents insurance companies and corporations in complex cases involving coverage limitations, errors and omissions, and third party liability.

Examples of ineffective opening bio statements…

Dan graduated from the Cumberland School of Law in 2000 and joined the firm shortly after.

Sue grew up in Philadelphia and earned her undergraduate degree in journalism from Penn State, before studying law at Rutgers.

Prior to joining the firm, Sam worked at a large Dallas law firm known for handling complex real estate deals.

Important items to cover in your bio…

  • „  Experience (two decades, more than 15 years)
  • „  Awards (AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, named to Georgia’s list of Legal Elites)
  • „  Dollar Figures (completed acquisitions totaling more than $16 million, recovered over $50M in compensation for clients)
  • „  Speaking Engagements (frequent speaker at national and local conferences)
  • „ Unique Knowledge (Prior to starting her career as a lawyer, Joan was a Registered Nurse for 8 years at the Emory University Health Care System.)
  • „  Approach (handles each case with incredible attention to detail)
  • „  Education (NEVER first… unless Harvard, Yale, Stanford.  A graduate of Harvard Law School, Reba works with…)
  • „  Clerking Experience
  • „  Significant Cases or Matters
  • „  Quote (what does helping clients mean to you)

Key Point:  Revisit your bio at least every 6 months.  It can always be improved and the chances are you have something significant to add.

Key Point II:  Keep in mind that sometimes a prospect must sell you to another person in their organization or family.  Make that task very easy for them.

Strong Bio Example:  http://algatlanta.com/our-team/pat-anagnostakis/

 

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Evaluating Law Firm Marketing Vendors

A vendor for one of my clients recently told my client that I really didn’t know anything about their product.  They provide Google Adwords management services for consumer bankruptcy law firms.

While it’s true that sometimes I’m clueless about a vendor’s offering, I actually know more than the average marketing person about paid search engine campaigns.  At the time of this vendor’s comment, I managed PPC programs for six clients and had managed a very large one for the bankruptcy firm at the center of the discussion.   My client decided to give this company an opportunity because they had done good work for firms in smaller markets, and made some enormous ROI promises at the beginning of the sales process.

During the pre-sale conference calls, I said very little while the vendor promoted their “patented program” and proven ability to drive significant business to their customers.  We heard a lot about competition, quality scores, landing pages, and lots of other buzz words commonly associated with PPC marketing.  But there was never anything that sounded more innovative than what every other company was doing for their clients.

In the end, the program underperformed, but we had a number of conference calls during the implementation.  On these calls, it became apparent that the vendor’s knowledge was really skin deep.  I said very little.  Why?  I know what I know.  Proving to this vendor how much I know makes it more difficult for me to evaluate their capabilities.  Of course, I can understand why they interpreted my actions as ignorance and I’m okay with that.

Slow playing a vendor doesn’t have to be malicious.  It serves a purpose, which is to assess what they can really offer and deliver.  It’s fair to withhold knowledge, and can be a very effective strategy in making marketing decisions.

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Most Important Question for Client Conversion

If you aren’t asking “What are you trying to achieve?” very early in your initial consultation with a prospective client, you’re hurting your chances of converting that opportunity into revenue.  A quick story.

Years ago, I did quite a bit of work for one of the top DUI attorneys in a major market.  The results she had achieved on behalf of clients was nothing short of extraordinary, and her reputation was excellent in the legal community.  She did, however, have an incredibly difficult time converting prospects into clients.  One reason for this was her inability to identify what was most important to a prospective client early in the initial consultation.  Because she did not have that valuable information, she was unable to effectively close the loop on how she could help before she was forced to discuss fees.

(Like many experienced attorneys, she felt that after 35 years of practice she knew what clients wanted when they came to her office.  After all, what does anyone want after being arrested for DUI?  To “get out of it” of course!  Well… maybe.)

Every person who gets arrested for DUI has different things that worry them the most.  One person may be very concerned about the financial implications.  Another may need to avoid a conviction to keep their current job.  A spouse or parent may be afraid that their loved ones will find out.  Someone who believes they have been falsely accused may want to clear their name.  Another person may be claustrophobic and fears more time in jail than anything else.  If you doubt the spectrum of concerns a client may have, consider that in 2015, a well-known entertainer chose 90 days in jail over 3 years of probation.  Priorities vary!

While this example involves a criminal defense attorney, the same concepts apply in any sales process.  Knowing your prospective client’s goals gives you an incredibly powerful advantage in their decision-making process.  It’s one thing to say, “I will be happy to take your case.  My fee is $9,000.”  It’s another to say “Tom, I know how important it is for you to be able to drive your students to their mission projects during the summer months.  I’ve handled cases in the past for clients with similarly important goals, and to give you the best opportunity for success, the fee would be $9,000.

 

 

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Google Adwords for Business Law Firms

The most successful lawyers who do the most sophisticated work usually dismiss the web as a way to generate business. They believe that anything worthwhile must come from a referral, and that anything else is junk. Some of the best campaigns I’ve ever had are the result of my client’s competitors having this mindset.

Here is why referrals aren’t the only way for law firms doing complex work:

• A referral source only provides the name of the attorney they know, not necessarily the best. If I need brain surgery (likely), I can ask my primary care physician in Canton, GA who he would recommend. Maybe he knows the top brain surgeon in the country, which is who I want. But that’s unlikely. Smart potential clients recognize that they can find the very best lawyer online by running a Google search and reviewing credentials. They also understand that the great lawyer or accountant they use for one thing doesn’t necessarily know the best _________ they may need for something semi-related.

• Doing unique work is an advantage.  It’s extremely difficult to generate business for a DUI lawyer on the web. There are often hundreds of attorneys doing that type of work in the same geographic region, in addition to enormous price competition. But there are far fewer patent trade dress litigators… even nationwide. That makes the Internet a great place to gain visibility and new clients.

• Other top firms believe that the web cannot generate quality business. Their close-mindedness is something that should be exploited, not copied.

Google Adwords campaigns (aka Pay Per Click marketing) are great for firms involved in very sophisticated matters.  They provide unlimited flexibility in budget, targeting, and duration. And when done correctly, they naturally weed-out unwanted leads because ads simply don’t show for simple search phrases.  Best of all, pay per click marketers only pay when someone clicks on their ad.

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The Best Law Firm Marketing is… Prioritized.

On most days, I will receive at least one email from a client that asks, “Is this worth it?” Following their question is an offer they’ve received from a law firm marketing vendor.  The answer is always yes… and no.  All marketing has value.  Even that billboard in the desert you’ve heard so many SEO salesreps talk about is valuable, because someone will eventually drive down that road.  And when you have an unlimited marketing budget, you do it all.  Unfortunately, all but a very small group of firms are in that position.

The real question that needs to be asked when evaluating any client development investment is: “Is this the best place to spend the next available marketing dollar?”  In other words, the most effective law firm marketing strategies are those that are prioritized.  The key is to identify the products and services that will provide the best ROI for your law firm at that moment in time.  For one law firm this may be a Google paid ad campaign.  For another, it may mean top spots in one or more of the big 3 law firm directories.  And for a third, an ad in the local high school football program may be the best option for getting more clients in the door.  Each of these investments, and an infinite number of others, could be the opportunity that makes the most sense from a marketing perspective.

The key to knowing if an offer is “worth it” is information.  A law firm has to always know how its current investments are producing, as well as all the available options that exist for the next dollar.  Of course, that’s not an easy thing to achieve when you’re busy handling client matters and running the business.  But it is the only way to make consistently smart marketing investments for your law firm.

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