Maddy Martin, Smith.aiMany attorneys grow their law practices through referrals. Typically, referrals come from individuals (non-competing attorneys, financial advisors, friends, family, and other community or networking group members) who know you well, so the lead quality is very high, and whether an engagement begins is largely a matter of cost and availability, rather than fit. The problem is, referrals are unpredictable, and don’t offer a path to consistent growth for your firm.
To drive more reliable growth, attorneys now know they need to tap other marketing and advertising channels, like paid search ads and high-quality content that drives organic website visitors.
But even the best marketing agency only delivers leads; conversion is still on you. In order to convert leads, you need to make contact with them — and quickly. According to the 2017 Clio Legal Trends Report, 2 out of 3 potential clients say their decision to hire is most influenced by an attorney’s response time to their first call or email. Wait to respond, and they’re likely to have already engaged another attorney.
The problem here — especially if you’re in a solo or small firm — is your day is booked up with meetings, court appearances, billing tasks, and admin chores. You’re lawyering and you’re laboring. There’s no time for interruptions from new clients. Most lawyers already only spend 1.9 hours on billable work each day— there’s no room to cut that even shorter.
The way to consistently grow your client base and achieve better marketing return on investment (ROI) is to outsource and automate your responsiveness and lead capture.
Here are my top 5 recommendations to do so:
1. Engage Web Leads Via Live Chat
There’s no better way to initiate contact with a website visitor than with live web chat. U.S.-based receptionists can passively or proactively engage visitors, answer basic questions, and ask screening questions to separate the good leads from the bad. Once a good lead is identified based on your criteria, that person can immediately be offered a call-back or scheduled consultation to help secure that conversion. Being responsive directly on your website directly reduces cold calls and emails, and reduces the number of new “contact form” completions that come through without any prior screening. You’ll waste less time when you do get on that first phone call with these pre-screened leads.
Pro Tip: Typeform and Gravity Forms both offer cheap, Zapier-friendly forms that are easy to customize, embed on your website, and sync with your practice management, marketing automation, and other firm software.
3. Book Consultations with “Gated” Online Scheduling
If a web visitor completes the intake form and has a strong feeling after learning more about your firm that their needs match your practice areas, the next critical action is to schedule a consultation, which is typically a phone call.
Online scheduling apps like Acuity, Appointy, and ScheduleOnce make it easy to book consultations, but my main advice here is to not make it too easy, because the last thing you want is lots of calls booked without your involvement that result in wasted time with bad leads.
Employ one or more of these three tactics to reduce no-shows and cancellations, and better ensure your time will be spent with qualified potential clients:
- Charge for consultations. You can make your online calendar highly visible on your website if you gate it with a required payment. This doesn’t have to result in an extra fee for the client, if you credit it back to their balance upon hiring you for legal work.
- Outsource calendaring to remote receptionists. Live receptionists can book appointments on your behalf. Just give them a link to your online calendaring page, which you’ve hidden on your website on a page that’s not accessible through the main site navigation. After they screen the lead, receptionists can be instructed to book a consult only if they meet your criteria for a good potential client. This way, consultations can be free or paid, because the receptionists act as the “gatekeeper.” (If you’re using a live web chat service, the same tactic can be applied via chat as by phone.)
- Require leads to complete an intake form before sharing your calendar link. Web visitors who first complete a detailed basic questionnaire about their case can then be given access to your calendar link (for a free or paid consultation). Leads who have taken the time to answer questions about their case are far less likely to cancel or miss their first appointment.
Justie Nicol of Nicol Law Offices makes it crystal clear what you need to do to get on her calendar, successfully “gatekeeping” her free 30-minute consultations:
Pro Tip: While most online scheduling apps are very inexpensive, often just $5-30/month, check out Calendly for a free solution. It only supports one calendar type at a time, but that’s often sufficient for a solo attorney who’s just getting started or on a tight budget.
4. Follow Up with High-Conversion Emails
Not every web lead will be convinced enough that your firm is the right fit to book a consultation on the spot, so increase the likelihood they will convert soon by following up via phone and also high-conversion emails. These emails, often called “lead nurturing” emails can be set up in your email or marketing automation software to “drip” into their inbox at a set cadence, and can include content that builds trust and interest in your firm, aimed at converting them to a client.
You can include basic FAQ, client testimonials, links to schedule a consultation, and advice pertinent to the practice area they best match with (which you will know from their selection on your “contact us” form or the receptionist’s notes from their initial phone call).
In every email, make sure you include a call to action (CTA) that prompts them to take the desired action. If possible, highlight this CTA by making it a phrase on a button-looking image, such as “book a free consultation” or “schedule a call with me,” like this:
5. Refer & Monetize Your Bad Leads
Now, what about the leads who aren’t qualified? We all know web visitors don’t always read before reaching out. Maybe someone needs a criminal defense attorney but reached your family law office’s website. Don’t just hang up or disconnect the web chat. You can refer them to other firms you recommend and earn a sizeable fee (based on your local bar association’s rules). At the very least, even if there’s no money in it, you build good will for yourself and your firm.
Based on your directions and custom referral list, your phone staff or virtual receptionists can provide contact information for lawyers you recommend who are better suited to serving that potential client’s needs, with no involvement required from you after the initial process is set up.
Improve Web Lead Conversion with Smith.ai Phone & Chat Receptionists
Not all live receptionist and web chat services offer the range and quality law firms require. Smith.ai offers remote, U.S.-based professional receptionists for inbound and outbound calls, as well as website chat, powered by AI technology that enables remarkable accuracy and efficiency.