6 Intake Mistakes You Can Fix Today to Be More Profitable!

Intake is low-hanging fruit for lawyers. However, far too many attorneys focus efforts and marketing dollars on generating more leads, rather than finding the people and implementing the processes that can truly convert those leads to cases. Law firms that master an intake process garner more cases and more ROI in the long term.

It’s not necessarily that lawyers are ignoring intake altogether. There’s typically some process in place to handle calls that come in from referrals, advertising or other marketing campaigns. But often these procedures are out of date, tracked poorly, and don’t receive a lot of buy-in from busy attorneys. Often a single office manager is tasked with trying to handle too much, and intake consistency and quality get overlooked.

If you are second-guessing your intake program it’s probably worth acting on your hunch. Lacking an established protocol could be one reason your firm is lacking revenue—and possibly a stronger caseload. One recent example shows just how many firms are making major intake mistakes. Stephen Fairley, CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, asked his staff to “secret shop” 126 National Trial Law firms who were registered for an upcoming NTL summit, all high-caliber personal injury, workers compensation, medical malpractice, mass tort or criminal defense attorneys who are invested in the legal industry.

Fairley’s callers pretended to be a car accident client who was referred to the firm by a doctor treating the caller’s back pain. Some of the discoveries are jaw dropping:

  • 70% of intake people did not ask the caller for any contact information before completing the call
  • 52% of the firms never called back, even after properly collecting contact information and promising to follow up
  • 31% of the firms never even identified the law practice by name
  • 71% of law firms put the caller on hold for more than two minutes
  • 33% of law offices misspelled their own website URL when asked to provide it, including one so botched it led the caller to a competitor’s site

These are some obvious intake mistakes—not collecting information, following up or considering callers’ needs—that can be fixed by lawyers who start to realize how much they may leaving on the table. Let’s address a few more common intake mistakes that you can start to improve on today.

MISTAKE: Not dedicating an intake professional to handle calls.

The secret shopper test also revealed too many people answering calls with a distinctly annoyed tone that left a bad impression, such as “you’re taking me away from something more important” or “your call is not valuable to us.”

FIX: Empower an intake person or team with the right tools, technology and direction to begin seeing (and valuing) leads as potential cases. Which existing specialists are converting the most calls to cases? Do you need to consider hiring, firing or re-training?


MISTAKE: Sounding like you’re too busy to care.

Following up on the previous mistake, tone of voice is a huge barrier during intake for lawyers. Being short, rude or too quick to turn “unqualified” cases away is extremely off-putting and could quickly cost your firm a lucrative client.

FIX: Work toward finding a consistent tone of voice that conveys compassion and caring. (Or at least fake it ‘till you make it.) In fact, studies show that the simple act of smiling can improve a person’s mood, something that could certainly impact verbal delivery over the phone. Writing and employing some simple scripts that put the caller first—for example, asking if the prospective caller is OK first—can go a long way.


MISTAKE: Not collecting any (or appropriate) information from callers.

Remember that astounding 70% figure from above? How could any law firm build a viable database or convert a lead without ever being able to contact or market to the callers who are referred to them or find them through advertising?

FIX: First things first, asking immediately for a caller’s name and number will ensure you can reconnect in the event that you are cut off. This also creates a more personal interaction since you can address the caller by his or her first name. After that, it’s every law firm’s call about how much information to collect—what’s appropriate enough for follow-up but doesn’t overstep in such a way that a prospective client feels like a statistic rather than a person. In addition to a phone number, it’s common practice to ask for an email address and preferences for receiving communication via text or email.


MISTAKE: Not listening in on intake calls.

Being unwilling to take a hard look at intake to see which people and processes are working is the definition of doing the same thing and expecting different results. That scenario never works. The only way to know for sure whether or not your intake system is functioning at a high level is to truly listen in on the messages your firm is communicating each time the phone rings.

FIX: Start recording your firm’s incoming calls. There are some very simple yet sophisticated call-recording programs available today that can help you begin to review, monitor and learn from your intake calls. These systems can help you not only uncover flaws in how they are communicating but track statistics about call volume, time of day, length of calls and other key metrics that will hone how you market over the phone.


MISTAKE: Not paying attention to the small details.

 A lot of little intake mistakes can add up very quickly to an undesirable impression of what your lawyers might be like to work with. Don’t give an anonymous caller the chance to rule out your law firm before you’ve even had a chance to meet in person.

FIX: Create an action plan for intake specialists that lists things to avoid during that critical first-impression session on phone. For example, institute a one-minute rule: If a caller is left on hold past one minute, a live person must at least re-acknowledge the waiting caller’s existence or ask for a number to return the call. Similarly, have a cheat sheet readably available with your firm’s accurate website URL and other key details. Also consider quicker ways to disseminate information correctly, such as asking for an email address and including all relevant firm details in an email that goes out immediately following the call.


MISTAKE: Not following up fast enough—or at all.

Statistics have shown that anywhere from 30% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. And, depending on your average case fee, a 2% increase in conversion could lead to $500,000 in revenue! There is simply no reason for not following up with a caller that leaves a message.

FIX: Again, put a system in place for exactly how these intake follow-up procedures should work, especially for after-hours calls. If you can commit to returning a call within 24 hours of someone leaving a message at the office, say so in your voice mail message. Better yet, consider a two-prong approach by sending a recognition email or text (if you have the caller’s information) to acknowledge that you have received the message and the appropriate attorney will be in touch soon.

When in doubt about, we can’t stress enough the importance of simply writing and following a script—at least until your intake folks get the tone of communication down pat. Having a clear, consistent way to talk to your prospective clients can carry you farther than you might think.

These are the things that keep us up at night! When you join the Network Affiliates family you get a team of highly skilled creative thinkers, all under one roof, who spend their days helping attorneys with every aspect of legal marketing, from creative and production to intake and online efforts. We work together to provide every client a customized marketing strategy that just works. Call us today at (888) 461-1016 to learn more.

Referrals Belong In Your Marketing Mix

Boosting referrals has always been a significant part of attorney marketing strategies. It remains so today. In fact, last year professional services organizations cited this initiative among their top marketing priorities.

Humans have a primal need to earn the praise and respect of others—and so do companies. But how we’ve gone about securing those good words, we’re learning, may have been too limiting. Referral marketing is bigger than combing the database and asking for recommendations. Referrals now play into a wholly integrated media strategy, including the ever-changing role of attorney television advertising.

Referrals three ways

First let’s clarify what constitutes a referral in today’s digitally centered environment. The answer may be surprising. New research from Hinge Marketing, dissected in a recent report called Referral Marketing for Professional Services Firms, shows that over 81% of 532 firms interviewed, including legal services, have received a referral from someone who wasn’t even a client.

This telling statistic immediately counters the idea that attorneys can only garner positive feedback, reviews and references from clients they’ve represented, won a significant case for or even know personally, for example. In fact, there are now three commonly accepted referral categories based on very different parameters:

Experience: The most traditional form, experience-based referrals are the ones that you are mostly likely already chasing—clients who can adequately recommend your firm based on an experience of working directly with your lawyers in the past.

Expertise: This is a recommendation based on a firm’s implied ability to handle a specific case type or area of expertise. So a person that might know of you as the “car crash attorneys,” even without direct or extensive knowledge of your results or reputation, may still refer your lawyers based on this general brand knowledge.

Reputation: This referral form is more common in law than many realize. An organization that has never worked directly with your law firm can still speak highly of your attorneys’ capabilities, based on your reputation in the marketplace alone.

What this insight tells us is that many professional service organizations may be selling themselves short by not taking a wider view of referrals—both seeking them out and advertising around them. In fact, focusing too tightly on tracking down clients for comment could be limiting the potential of your referral marketing campaign.

Instead, consider extended associations and “non-clients” as untapped resources, and start to uncover and leverage what all kinds of people and other organizations have to say about the important work you do as lawyers.

Ramping up your online reputation

Before you can run with your new referral-marketing program, however, it’s important to make sure you’ve put in place all the tools possible to ensure potential referrers don’t rule you out before they even have the chance to refer your law firm. The golden ticket? Making sure people get to and “past” your website.

The Referral Marketing for Professional Services Firms research found that 51.9% of respondents “ruled out referrals before speaking with the firm in question.” And the issues most mentioned were directly related to a company’s lackluster online presence. Almost 30% cited an unimpressive website for turning the other cheek. About 23% were turned off by poor-quality content, and another nearly 16% stopped cold when they couldn’t even find the firm in an initial search.

None of this information is surprising since previous research has shown that some 80% of buyers head directly to a corporate website to evaluate an organization first. If your law firm’s web presence is apathetic at best, earning those extra-credit reputation-based referrals is out of the question. Ramp up your referral marketing efforts by getting your website—everything from design upgrades to intuitive usability to compelling content—in order first.

A dynamic duo: Referrals and TV advertising

Attorney television advertising remains a crucial part of the marketing mix for professional practices around the country. This far-reaching visual advertising combined with a strong web presence and database or referral marketing plan will keep your firm squarely in front of past contacts—and potential cases.

Once you start to look with a wider perspective at what may be deemed a referral in the first place, as well as how to ensure you continue to get acclaim going forward, what you need to do from a media and marketing standpoint may start to crystalize before your eyes.

Look the part: If you’re indeed getting referrals without a referrer even talking to a lawyer at your firm, let alone trusting you with a legal case, where are these people coming from and what’s making them believe in you? The Hinge Marketing report showed the top type—expertise-based referrals—came from channels that might not even be on your radar:

  • Speaking engagements (30%)
  • Articles or blog posts (20%)
  • Social media interactions (17%)

What do these results convey? While TV remains a prime resource for spreading the brand gossip far and wide, interpersonal communications, social-media engagement and thought-leadership-style content must support the bigger message you’re putting out there.

Lawyers have to look the part—on both first and second screens—not to mention in-person at reputation-building sessions such as keynotes, round tables and conventions. Referral marketing has become a sophisticated engine: all the parts must look the part to create a cohesive, believable, trustworthy brand.

Leverage your luck: Now comes the fun part. What do you do with all these new referrals from new referral avenues? Smart attorneys are leveraging recommendations in cutting-edge TV advertising. You’ve probably heard of the customer journey and the customer experience. Now pair that with first-hand client feedback, or a person’s overall impression of your firm based on a specific area of expertise or reputation in the industry. Why not leverage these realizations in your advertising campaign?

Just as you are now thinking out of the box about referrals, your attorney television advertising campaign should project the same perspective. Instead of recycling conventional “talking-head” client commercials, delivering canned-sounding recommendations, be creative. (Or at least let your legal marketing and advertising agency have some fun.) You’ve been given new tools—three types of referrals. Now let the legal marketing experts develop a campaign that conveys that client experience (or potential experience) in a fresh and memorable way.

Want to take advantage of more referral opportunities and leverage the people who already support you? We can help. Call us today! (888) 461-1016

First Class Intake Procedures Lead to Higher Conversion Rates, High Value Cases

How to get the modern client’s attention and hold your team accountable

We know that the journey of today’s client—your prospective legal client—is anything but a straight path. Technology allows consumers to engage with legal brands at many touchpoints across diverse devices and platforms. In this increasingly variable environment you never know when your law firm could get a new lead or sign a new case. Occasionally the traditional case-acquisition model works: A viewer sees your TV commercial, for example, checks out the reputation of your firm and attorneys on the Web and calls your phone number to learn more or seek legal advice.

However that previously linear path is increasingly unpredictable, and consumers are in charge of when, where and how they interact with brands and make decisions. Today’s legal client might see a Facebook comment about your law firm, call a friend for a referral and start the engagement process through your intake center—with very little prior knowledge of what type of law your firm focuses on or what cases your attorneys actually handle. Modern legal advertising strategies require that lawyers are prepared to address consumers’ needs at every possible touchpoint.

One of the biggest mistakes in law firm marketing is focusing a majority of spend too far upfront in the process while neglecting the backend of the sales stream. Firms get very motivated around a new creative advertising campaign, for example, but lose focus around what happens when calls or Internet leads actually begin to come in from their advertising efforts. If you’ve done your job properly by setting up a multifaceted advertising strategy to hit customers at each touchpoint along their self-directed journey, the most significant oversight may be forgetting to have an effective intake program in place to seal the deal.

You’ve spent the time and money to build a legal advertising campaign, and you’ve made every effort to “touch” prospective clients on every screen and platform they typically engage with during a day. Do not overlook the critical importance of intake to convert a lead into a paying case. In fact, there’s a great opportunity in intake, because most firms are not currently focusing energy here. If your office prioritizes strengthening intake strategy you will quickly surpass the competition, without spending more money on more advertising!

For example, if an average net attorney fee is $10,000, converting just 10 new cases a year equals $100,000; 100 new cases could bring in a million dollars. Yes, one million net dollars – without spending more on your advertising. Treat intake like other aspects of your advertising campaign: By simply fine-tuning a methodology that most firms don’t you could be winning more cases. The ROI on tweaking your intake process to convert cases is extraordinary when compared to investing those dollars in additional upfront advertising avenues.

So where do you begin?


Creating an intake agenda for 2016

Law firms cannot begin to build an effective action plan without having some numbers to act on. It’s helpful to conduct an internal audit of your current intake process to develop a baseline for change. Start by asking your attorneys and intake specialists a few directive questions:


  • What is your firm’s conversion percentage? You MUST know and understand this. Go back three years, month by month. How have things shifted? Are there times of year that are more productive than others?
  • Record ALL intake calls. What are you communicating? Have your attorneys listened to the intake professionals representing their firm? Are your intake specialists listening to their own calls to see what they can do better? Perhaps you have the wrong person on the phone who conveys the wrong message simply by the tone of his or her voice. Maybe the talking points you’ve created for your intake professionals are not truly representative of your brand. When was the last time you reviewed your script?
  • What software are you currently using? Do you have tracking tools in place? Do you have adequate technology and practices to track things like cost per lead and average time to signing?
  • What is your intake culture? Do you empower your professionals with an open-door policy, standards and call protocol, and regular meetings and monitoring? It’s possible that your attorneys are not involved enough in the process—or are perhaps intervening in ways that actually devalue your intake people.


Often the reasons law firms are not signing more cases is actually buried in some of their intake processes rather than in mistakes in their global advertising strategy. Remember, increasing your bottom line could be a matter of tweaking these procedures or better tracking and acting on data you’ve collected through the intake process.


Here are a few ways to begin to take action to elevate intake:


Record all of your intake calls and listen to them. Also make sure you listen to your afterhours message. Walk through the entire intake process, starting with the first phone call through follow-up communication. Try calling several different times over a month to gauge the consistency. Then, ask yourself these questions:

  • What tone are your intake representatives communicating?
  • How fast does an intake representative get back to you?
  • Were you put on gold? If so, for how long?
  • How would you rate your customer service?

Consider your experience objectively and then start fixing what you deem to be biggest issues.


Monitor your performance.

You cannot improve your intake performance unless you have tools in place to track calls, web leads and statistics around how you’re responding to prospective clients. What tools do you need to properly monitor your customer-service performance and improve response time (for both claimants and referrers)? Are your intake specialists spending time on long calls with claimants that your firm ultimately does not want to sign? Are you assigning too many cases to your intake specialists? Once you have tracking tools in place you can work on making your people and processes more effective, with the intent to covert more calls to cases.


Create a culture.

If people answering your phones and Internet inquires could be the link that converts a lead to a case, shouldn’t you treat them like a personal investment? It’s important to begin to think of intake more like a culture of customer service. Empowering your intake professionals will give them confidence, something you can hear in the tone of their delivery, as well as make them feel part of a bigger team dedicated to case acquisition. Show your intake staff that your attorneys appreciate them by creating a thoughtful and rewarding environment. Include intake staff members in frequent review meetings and maintain an open-door policy so people feel they can make suggestions for improvement. You can also support a healthy intake culture by developing consistent intake procedures and encouraging all communication specialists to follow that protocol.


Take it further.

Make sure the intake process isn’t the part of case acquisition that “drops the ball” along the sales channel. Intake is not just one phone call. It’s part of a larger communication process. In fact, several statistics that demonstrate exactly this: Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts; 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. Likewise, web leads followed up on within five minutes are nine times more likely to convert. To ensure that your law firm is beating the competition to the case, you must be faster, more thorough and more persistent. Elevate the entire intake system by setting in place rules for follow-up, along with leveraging leads for future cases.

If your law firm’s multipronged advertising is working, chances are your phone is already ringing. But, remember, that’s not where case acquisition ends—that’s where it starts. Begin to hone your intake strategy to make sure that your legal advertising pays off in more signed cases in 2016. Customers are on an increasingly complex decision-making path. It’s critical that when you have they’re attention, you keep it. Law firms can make or break a case by how they deliver on intake.

Want to convert more cases in 2016? Need more insight on how to improve your law firm’s intake procedures? Network Affiliates has been helping lawyers evolve their advertising, marketing and advertising strategies since 1981. Call (888) 461-1016 today!

Why Afterhours Calls Matter in Legal Advertising

Want to know an easy way to boost your case conversion? Get better than the competition at handling afterhours calls. Intake after hours is one of the most significant growth areas for improving your law firm’s bottom line—without spending more money.

While this sounds like a simple fix, there’s strategy involved in truly dialing in your attorney answering service. But this critical form of intake can also very quickly separate you from other law firms—if you do it well.

Here’s how:

Change your expectations. Advances in technology and consumer expectations means people anticipate more from an attorney answering service. If potential clients’ needs aren’t met immediately in an intelligent and pleasant manner, there’s a strong chance they’ll just hang up. Think about your own frustrations with waiting on hold or not getting useful answers when calling about a product or service. Lawyers should expect that people increasingly expect more than an answering service can provide.

Pick the right answering service. Before hiring any answering service, ask a lot of questions. Visit the call center or office. Invest time in finding out how this service will report to you. Most importantly, talk to your legal advertising agency about best practices and how your marketing partner plans to incorporate call tracking and leverage analytics to better target your advertising efforts.

Record your calls. These days, this practice really goes without saying: You can’t act on data you don’t have. So be sure  your firm’s calls are clearly recorded and tracked. You’ll be impressed by what you can learn about your prospective clients just from the messages they leave with your answering service.

Know your drop call rate. Not sure what this is? Get up to speed today. Dropped calls are calls that are put on hold that eventually lead to a prospect hanging up. Uncover your true drop call rate—hang-ups that are never accounted for. It’s possible that a simple change in initial messaging, hold music, or tone could help keep people (legal cases!) on the line longer.

“Secret shop” your service. Have you ever tested or secret shopped your current answering service? Calling your own firm’s answering service at least once a month can lead to rich insight about what’s working best. Better yet, have a friend outside the legal industry call your firm after hours. Prepare a questionnaire for your secret shopper regarding voice tone, ring length, messaging, hold times, and other key qualitative and quantitative feedback that could help your law firm improve performance.

Remember, what happens when your law office closes shouldn’t stay behind closed doors. Keeping the lines of communication open around your answering service practices is a helpful way to enhance your intake—and convert more callers to cases.

Need more insight on how to improve your afterhours intake procedures? Network Affiliates has been helping lawyers tap the smartest ROI-propelled advertising and marketing strategies since 1981. Call (888) 461-1016 today!

When to Expect ROI in the Legal Marketing and Advertising Lifecycle

Legal marketing and advertising strategies are increasingly pinned to return on investment.

Why? Because advertising consultants now have better metrics to track marketing for law firms, from specialized call-tracking methods to actionable Google Analytics on Web-based advertising campaigns.

Seeing a return on your investment in advertising depends on several things, such as: your new campaign creative, the mix of marketing tactics being used and how integrated your legal advertising strategy is, among other considerations.

Creating true cash-flow momentum takes planning—and patience.

Typically, an attorney or law firm can expect to start seeing significant ROI in between 6 and 18 months. This equates to the length of time it takes for a typical auto accident case to settle, for example. If the case goes to trial, you can expect to see a return in more like 18 to 36 months.

However, in an area like workers’ compensation, temporary disability payments can start in as little as one month. However, permanent disability payments take much longer and typically require the assistance of a lawyer or law firm to negotiate with the employer and workers’ compensation insurance provider. Obtaining a resolution in a social security disability case usually take between 12 to 24 months.

You get the point. Marketing leads in legal advertising are ultimately tied to cases, and getting more in the pipeline will work to create a steady stream of clients—and ROI.

Most lawyers like to see how this might play out for each aspect of a marketing initiative, and a qualified advertising consultant can show you how each effort can tie back to ROI. Additionally, an agency with deep history and interest in the legal profession will understand the case life cycle and plan a smart marketing strategy around that cyclical process.

Likewise, the ability to shift strategies, especially with flexible Web-based “test” campaigns, helps your law firm try a specialized social campaign, for example, or a PPC-driven effort to adapt and adjust for variations such as seasonal fluctuations, expansions in the firm’s legal capabilities or mass tort campaigns.

Interested in running the numbers on the effectiveness of your current marketing mix? Call Network Affiliates’ expert legal advertising consultants to understand the potential of your advertising ROI — (888) 461-1016!

Are you maximizing the power of past clients?

Why referrals are the best cases that come into legal offices.

Ever met a lawyer who wouldn’t prefer more qualified cases? Thought not. The most valuable cases—both financially and professionally rewarding—come from referrals. Generally speaking, referred cases tend to have the lowest cost of acquisition and come with some helpful level of “prequalification” through a past client who knows your legal competence.

In fact, industry research shows that only about 25% of legal cases come from other attorneys. Did you just do the math? That means three-quarters of all legal referrals could be coming directly from your satisfied clients. Interestingly, even tempted by this potentially low-hanging fruit, we know that most lawyers don’t spend near enough time and effort maximizing their referral marketing programs.

Why? Well, it takes work and planning—and that requires someone’s valuable time. Past clients need to be reminded not only that your attorneys did a great job and created a favorable outcome in their cases, but in what areas your firm concentrates, what references would even make sense, and how to get leads to your office easily. Law practices that are doing referral marketing right are in front of past clients and constituents. They win cases, plain and simple because their attorneys are most top of mind when it matters.

Think you could be staying in touch with clients a little better? It’s not as hard as it seems.

Here are a few ways to start giving your referral marketing more TLC:

1. Build your database.

Start with the information you have on all past and current clients, and go from there. This will become routine if you build data collection right into your intake process, including capturing basic intelligence on anyone who contacts the firm. Don’t forget to ask (and track) who, if anyone, referred the person to your office when they do call.

2. Stay in touch.

You can’t rely on the fact that since you did good work for a past client he or she will remember you in the future. There are simply too many marketing messages and alternative options out there to rely on that sliver of hope. Instead, create a plan for communicating with former clients—email campaigns, direct mail, in-person networking, informational seminars—after a case is closed.

3. Respect every relationship.

Even if you cannot help an individual with specific legal matter today, doesn’t mean that person won’t turn to your attorneys next time they need advice. Remember, you could be paying up to $300 per lead. That’s a lot of money just to say no. Nurturing relationships, even currently unqualified referrals, will build your firm’s reputation—something that while it doesn’t have a dollar sign on it today could pay off big tomorrow.

4. Leverage TV views.

Television advertising remains a crucial part of the marketing mix for law practices around the country. Use this massive platform to leverage strong testimonials from past clients, and you’ll have a smarter way to tell the world exactly what kind of cases you want in the future. Better yet, combined this visual advertising with a strong database marketing plan to keep your firm squarely in front of past contacts—and potential cases. Remember, you have to be available to victims when they need you most.

Interested in learning more about leveraging past clients? Network Affiliates’ digital marketing experts can walk you through “Why referrals are the best cases that come into legal offices”.

The call is free and confidential. The advice is excellent and will help you capitalize on this opportunity. What are you waiting for? Call now: (888) 461-1016

Do Your Intake Phone Calls Sound Like This?

If you’re like most law firms, you’re already spending thousands of dollars to generate leads. Ultimately, the goal is to turn as many of those phone calls into real, paying cases – right?

If that’s the goal, then you can’t afford to let any leads fall through the cracks of a broken intake system.

We won’t insinuate that every legal practice has a poor intake process. Some work just fine. However, whether you think your lead conversion processes beats the competition, or is in serious need of an overhaul, it’s always a good idea to consider conducting an intake audit.

So today, we challenge you to start auditing your own intake process by being a secret shopper at your law firm. Call your leads line as if you were a customer.

Don’t think it’s a big deal? Think again. Below is an example of what your intake calls could sound like if you don’t take the time to care about your processes. Just imagine if you were in this person’s shoes, how would you feel?

Listen: A Bad Intake Call Example

Pretty bad right? How many cases you could be losing due to poor intake performance like the call above.

The goal of conducting an intake audit is to first identify areas of weaknesses, then create a plan to fix the problem. We know first hand that law firms that take the time to regularly audit their intake processes have teams that perform better and consistently close more cases. After all, your firm only gets one chance to make a first impression.

Contrast the above call with the one below, which would you rather experience as a customer?

Listen: A Good Intake Call Example

If all of your intake calls went like that, you could rest easy knowing your team is always putting its best foot forward.

Playing ‘Secret Shopper’ at your Law Firm

One of the most helpful ways to understand just how your intake system works—what messages you’re relaying, how you’re qualifying cases and how fast you’re responding to inquires—is to play “secret shopper.” That is, posing as a potential client in order to evaluate the quality of customer service. And that starts with calling your own leads line. We recommend this type of audit so you can hear for yourself how well (or how poorly) your intake team performs.

To really gather the information you need to make an informed decision about what procedures seem right and what might be surprisingly off, make sure to walk through the whole process, from the first phone call to follow-up communication. Better yet, call a few times over the course of a couple of weeks to gauge the consistency of your intake protocol. You could charge several lawyers with playing secret shopper as well and then compare notes. Broader perspectives can lead to some insightful conclusions.

Here are some tips for your first secret-shopper mission:

  1. Don’t take your ego with you. If something sounds wrong, don’t try to explain it away to protect your own law firm or the brand you’ve worked hard to build. Look at intake objectively—and move on to fixing it.
  2. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. On this call, you’re not an attorney. For this purpose, you’re an everyday guy or gal with a real problem that you need an answer to.
  3. Engage thoroughly and open-mindedly in the consumer experience. Then, make a pros (remember, those are important too) and cons list of what stood out during the intake calls. Regroup with other in-house secret shoppers and compare notes.

Making an Intake Action Plan

After an internal audit of your lead-conversion process, start to group big ideas together to create an action plan to update or overhaul your intake process. Be mindful of making sure you cover all the pieces that are critical to turning borderline calls into cases, referring out when appropriate and staying in touch with clients who could easily bring your firm a future case.

Here are a few questions for focusing your action plan:

  • Did an attorney, paralegal or legal secretary pick up and greet me in a friendly manner when I called? If not, how long did it take to get a return call?
  • What was intake specialist’s tone of voice and what was my initial gut reaction to it?
  • Did he or she seem knowledgeable and appropriately authoritative?
  • Did the intake specialist acknowledge my problem and make me feel heard?
  • Was my case carefully and concisely screened in a way that felt complete, yet not overly detailed or taxing?
  • Did I get a sense of what the firm specialized in or what made them stand out from other area lawyers?
  • Did the intake specialists inquire about how I heard about the firm or why I decided to call?
  • Where next steps in the process to vet my case clearly explained? Did I get off the call knowing what to do?

Use these secret shopper insights to craft a better checklist for your intake staff members. Put into place, or re-emphasize in writing, an easily accessible document that’s regularly updated. This document should include: the appropriate step-by-step intake protocol, the tone of voice to be used, the speed of follow-up communication, the client data to be recorded, and entry for future marketing purposes.

Finally, empower your intake team not only follow new rules, but to take the initiative to speak up if they have an intake-related suggestion going forward. You’d be surprised what they might reveal, knowing a secret shopper could be checking in at any time.

In fact, we suggest that you let your intake team to take ownership of the process and take stock of what’s working and what’s not on a quarterly basis. That way one of your biggest potential revenue generators never runs out of earning power.

Add to Your Bottom Line by Focusing on Call Intake

Intake and conversion are two words regularly tied together in the legal marketing world. But how about owned media? These days, the marketing messages you own and control deserve to be a much bigger part of intake anatomy and the conversion conversation.

Let’s start with a quick recap of a point that can’t be clarified enough: Owned media is all the branding and marketing messages your law firm creates and delivers through channels you own. The most obvious of these are your website, social media properties, blog, mobile applications, etc. The goal is to have all owned messaging be consistent and complementary. For example, you might take an advertising campaign and deliver key elements of that ad in the right context for the right platform.

But what if we extend that owned media mindset to assets specifically designed to handle intake and conversion? We won’t go as far as to suggest that an intake employee or call center is just another “platform,” but if you give these human extensions of your brand the same kind of value you place on your carefully controlled media, you might just buy your law firm some new cases.

So we have people and we have platforms. And ultimately your law firm is in charge of how your brand, message, and image is conveyed at all points. If you want to compete, you must make all of these “touch points” finely tuned intake and conversion machines.

Intake initiatives for owned media

Quiz yourself about your own firm’s tactics while considering a few common scenarios:

  1. You’ve spent much of your marketing budget on a classy TV advertisement. It appears to be working—it’s making the phone ring.
  2. You’ve built in several easy ways for potential clients to reach you through live chat on your website or with clear calls to action on your direct mail campaigns.
    • What happens after the initial connection?
    • Do you follow up quickly and regularly to get that case?
  3. By old-fashioned word of mouth, you’ve been referred to a person with what on the surface sounds like a solid case.
    • How thoroughly do you qualify that potential client to rule out (or in) any possible ways you can legally assist this person?
    • How quickly do you follow that lead over the phone or via email?

All three of these intake-related scenarios touch on what’s in your control. You alone have jurisdiction over how your brand message is positioned and delivered through your owned media. Are you sending out the right messages but not consistently following up with those who have actually received the message? Are you appropriately meeting expectations when your ad campaigns work and people pick up the phone for legal advice?

Controlling each intake platform and person is a matter of strategy. It requires sitting down and looking at each piece and determining if it is fulfilling its role. Some other questions to consider are:

  • Do you have a policy for how quickly calls are returned?
  • Does the tone of your owned-media content match that of your call specialists?
  • Do people report a disconnect between online and offline experiences?
  • Do you track where each lead comes from and how many actually convert to cases?

Conversion considerations for owned media

When it comes to converting a call to a case, it always comes down to numbers. What did your last advertising campaign cost? What did you spend to make your website a leads task-master? What kind of time and resources do you spend on keeping up a cutting-edge social media mix?

Weigh those costs—the ones you pay to get your message out there—against what you put into truly converting leads into legitimate paying cases. Usually, and unfortunately, the latter loses out. In fact, most lawyers only convert around 20% of leads to paying cases.

Consider what your law firm could see in profit potential if you converted a minuscule 5% more of those calls to cases. Here’s a scenario: Your firm generates 100 leads per month and each costs an average of $200. That’s $20,000 out of pocket. You win 20% of those cases (with an average of $10,000 per case, for example). That’s 20 cases and $200,000 in gross annual fees back on the docket.

Now imagine if you converted 25 cases the next month. That’s an extra $50,000 and a cool $3 million gross annual fees for the year. Makes your leads and advertising investment a little easier to swallow, right? The mathematical equation is simply a way to quantify the importance of conversion for business success.

How you convert on owned media is no less logical, but a lot more tactical. The best conversion strategies hone in on what happens after a lead comes in the door, the website or over the phone. You can—and should—own that process, too. Here are a few conversion tactics for helping your people maximize hot and cold leads each month:

Scripts: Do your intake specialists or call center folks need them or want them? If so, how do you ensure they’re using scripts conversationally and in such a way that supports your entire brand message?

Staffing: Do you have the right intake staff in place already or do you need to consider hiring, firing or re-training? Are you tracking calls and which specialists are converting the most calls to cases? How about which tones of voice and speeds of delivery have worked best in the past?

Empowerment: Have you given your intake specialists all the tools they need to help achieve the best first impression possible—and to be a human hand of your brand and consistent with all the owned media you’ve worked so hard to control? Do they feel valued for the important work they do? Do you recognize and incentivize them? Are they empowered to make suggestions and improvements?

When it comes to looking at intake and conversion from an owned media standpoint, don’t stop at a website or a social media campaign. Consider how both your platforms—and your people—can be equally powerful at reinforcing your marketing messages and securing lucrative new business.

Ratchet Up Your Referrals

The strongest law firms know that referrals bring in the strongest cases. Referrals score high points for conversion and case value. So why don’t attorneys spend more time on getting cases through past clients? Well, because it’s not as sexy as advertising. It’s more strategic. But having a solid referral plan in place will not only support and supplement your advertising; it can give your firm a wider network, more credibility and a steadier flow of high-quality cases for little to no upfront cost.

The truth is about 1 in every 10 clients refers a friend. That means you’ll need a stream of referral sources. That requires reaching out and staying in regular contact with clients once a case closes. However clients aren’t the only ones who can refer your firm. Referrals are really just word-of-mouth recommendations. Sometimes they come from someone who just wants to return a favor. Start to view family, friends, legal partners and out-of-industry professional peers as additional referral sources.

Staying top of mind with past clients and your network of referral sources takes a multi-pronged approach. Here are a few tips for building a referral strategy:

  • Dig through your database. This is where past clients come to life. Keeping your database as complete and up to date as possible is one of the most simple and strategic returns on investment. Make sure your intake staff uses it to gather and track all relevant information about clients and you’ll be sitting on a marketing goldmine.
  • Reach out regularly. The only way to become the go-to law firm in your niche is to communicate regularly with clients and referral sources through print and digital tools. Test a newsletter or response from an email or direct mail campaign with a tactical call to action for each audience. Even consider personalized communication like birthday, thank you or holiday cards.
  • Open your access. While not all social media is appropriate for attorneys, several platforms are ideal for positioning your firm as an influencer and opening the lines of communication. Whether you leverage LinkedIn or Facebook, for example, you are giving referral sources one more access point and, ultimately, one more easy way to pass your attorneys’ names name along.

Sometimes referrals come from the person and the place we least expect it. By opening more channels of communication more regularly you’ll increase your firm’s odds of capturing the most lucrative leads. Remember, when a case closes the referral door opens. Start to build long-term success by building long-term relationships.


Never Send a Prospect to a Lawyer

When you want to return a product, do you want to talk to the marketing department or customer service? You want a direct line to the person most trained to answer your exact questions; the person who will listen and even commiserate with your frustrations about the product; the person who can facilitate returning your misfit item and reimbursing your money in the most efficient way possible.

Well, the same principle applies to taking in new cases at a law firm. Prospective clients don’t want to talk to a busy, preoccupied lawyer who’s deep in the research required to prepare a case. People with problems that feel very real to them—whether the predicaments turn into viable cases or not—want to talk to a qualified legal intake specialist who knows how to empathize. They want a lifeline—a person who quickly acknowledges stress and identifies with overwhelming emotions.

Often attorneys believe that they can handle it all—from intake to marketing to lawyer-ing. But like any other business, in order to effectively service customers and build a successful organization, the experts in each line of work must handle these specialized functions. That means lawyers interpret the law. Intake specialists negotiate the calls. Marketing firms create brand strategy.

Your firm will find the quickest path to success if leadership delegates functions to the right people. Your brand counts on it. If you market your law practice as a dedicated advocate for accident victims, for example, your attorneys better be spending a large majority of their time preparing cases, negotiating settlements and trying cases in court. Not answering the phones. Not trying to qualify a case. Not designing the website. Not writing marketing copy.

After more than three decades of providing advertising expertise to law firms across the country, we know that lawyers who try to do it all or micro-manage other executive functions ultimately fail. Heed our advice. Use it as a catalyst to get the right people in place before it’s too late.