Archive for the ‘Office Environment’ 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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The Most Important Employee in a Law Firm

Every member of a law firm team plays a significant role in the business’ success… at least they should.  But there is one position that is most important, and that is the one that handles new client phone calls and emails.   I say this for 2 reasons.  First, every piece of revenue comes through this person.  If they aren’t doing a good job, it’s costing your firm revenue.  Second, the way this person interacts with a potential client is the first impression that prospect gets of how they can expect to be treated by your firm.  And regardless of how impressive an attorney’s track record of success may be, it’s very difficult to convert a client who doesn’t feel welcome.

Below are some recommendations for hiring and keeping the best client intake personnel, as well as continually improving this key component of success:

  • Pay them well.  I once worked with a firm that generated roughly $1M in new client revenue each year.  They had one intake person and paid her less than $20,000 annually.  That’s a bad recipe.
  • Regularly emphasize to your intake person how important his or her job is to firm’s success.  Everyone does a better job when they feel important and valued.
  • Secret shop your intake personnel, and analyze the call recordings to ensure the highest levels of quality and service are being attained.
  • Expect consistent improvement.  Regardless of how experienced and proficient your intake person is, there is always room for improvement.  Make regular training to enhance skills a priority, and convey the message that everyone at the firm, including partners, are expected to improve their job performance.
  • Don’t overload them.  When your phone rings with a new client, your intake personnel needs to be on their game.  It’s very hard for even the best employee to switch gears from a huge stack of work to effectively communicating with a prospect.
  • Provide an incentive.  Law firm staff is very perceptive when it comes to what certain cases are worth to the firm.  If an intake person does a nice job on a case that pays well, give that person a bonus.  It doesn’t have to be much.  Sometimes a couple hundred dollars that’s unexpected can make a huge impact.

There are many law firms spending tens of thousands of dollars each year on client development, but paying no attention to the most important link in the client conversion chain.  Avoid that mistake by paying close attention to who is doing client intake, and how well they are doing it.  

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