Seven seconds or less. If you're a basketball fan, that's a solid throwback to the exciting Steve Nash-era Phoenix Suns.
It's also very solid guidance for how quickly you should respond to an inbound lead for most businesses. Does your law firm call back inbound emails and web form submissions within seven seconds? Almost certainly not. Very few law firms do. In fact, almost half forget to respond at all.
In the mortgage industry, if you wait seven seconds, two other banks have already called. You've already lost the business before you've even picked up the phone. Automation and speed have already done the work of reaching out to that potential consumer before your seven seconds ticked off the clock.
Don’t believe me? Search for a mortgage lender comparison website, fill out the form and watch your phone vibrate off the table for the next two weeks straight. It’s really quite impressive.
That's just one practice, in one industry. What else can lawyers learn from other industries about running their business?
I've had one negative review in the last decade. A potential client was mad that I allegedly never responded to his inquiry and he had to sign with one of the many other attorneys. Comically, because I never answered his alleged email, he gave me one star. Even though he found another attorney. And even though I never spoke to him, signed a retainer agreement, or gave him any other indication that I would help him.
To be fair, I still can't find his alleged inquiry. These sorts of irrational negative reviews happen to the best of us. And since I'm writing about this topic, you know I take lead response seriously. Lead response times are a golden rule in other industries. Especially in the financial services industry. There, you will find banks and lenders obsessing over the coding on their phone dialer systems to get the time to first dial to a potential client down to mere seconds. Literally, they will have programmers pouring over the code to track down why it is eight seconds, rather than three seconds.
Competition is that fierce.
What do you think the legal industry is like? Half of us fail to respond to inbound inquiries at all – while researching for Clio’s Legal Trends Report, Jack Newton and his team reached out to 1,000 law firms via email, posing as prospective clients, and only 40% responded (as mentioned in a Reddit AMA). Studies have shown that most people hire the first lawyer that they talk to. If you had a response time akin to what works in other industries, like the financial services industry, what would that do for your practice
When a lawyer asks me about strategies for more clients and more leads, I tell them to look at their intake systems first. There is no point in spending more, on ads or on website redesigns, if you are going to be a week late responding to the leads that you already have.
Are you not staffed up enough to respond within seconds? Consider automation. While you do have to be on the other end of a phone call, you don't have to be on the other end of a text message or email. You can set it up so that an email and a text message go out automatically when a new inbound inquiry comes in. Then, if the user hasn't already scheduled a consultation with your firm via SMS or email, you can follow up with a phone call later on if you so desire.
Both of my doctors send text message reminders of appointments. Both had me fill out electronic intake forms before coming into the office. Both have client portal websites where I have to log in to securely view lab results, prescriptions, etc.
Does your law firm have a client intake flow or portal that you actually use? Probably not. Most firms I know still email documents to their clients. Or, they actually put them in the postal mail. Weird.
What about appointment scheduling? Do you have your assistant schedule the appointment, then send an email reminder? Why so much manual labour?
Today, you can send the client a link to make their own appointment in one of your available slots, and that booking software can send a text message or email reminder of the appointment before the set time. Most of these booking platforms will even include a videoconferencing integration that sets up an online conference room at zero effort to you — both parties get a link and they click. Rally integrates with Calendly, the market leader in self-booking: their platform does all of this – booking, reminders, videoconferencing, and more.
As for those intake forms, take a look at Rally. With our intake forms, you can gather your client data and start populating documents with almost no effort from you, other than clicking the send button. With the data collected from those forms, you can use it to populate documents, or you can use our Zapier integration to send the data to your favourite practice management platform for billing and other administrative matters.
One more thing: e-sign as much as possible. The world outside of law mostly operates on electronic signatures. I’ve practiced coast to coast and nearly all courts will take an eSignature. Even if they don’t, you can at least speed up onboarding a new client with an e-signed retainer. (And yes, Rally does eSigning too!)
If you want to see what options are out there for lawyers who want to streamline and automate client intake, take a look at our comparison guide.
I hate it when a local business does not take credit cards. I often avoid those businesses.
I still know some lawyers who do not take credit cards and, to be honest, I don't know why. For me, when I finally got around to taking credit cards, my realization rate (the amount of bills that actually got paid) skyrocketed. And while I hate credit card processing fees, I view it as a necessary evil because I almost never have to track down a client for payment anymore - they pay the entire flat fee upfront, and I bill them for any extraordinary expenses as they are incurred. Thankfully, I almost never get stiffed on the bill anymore.
There are a handful of legal payment processors: LawPay, Gravity, Headnote. These payment processors specialize in the legal industry, where we have to keep our credit card processing fees coming out of our pockets, instead of our trust accounts. That little necessary feature is what makes it hard for us to take credit cards through your ordinary payment processing terminals or an app on your phone. However, it takes almost no time to sign up for a legal payment processor. I personally use LawPay and they integrate with Rally, as well.
What are your best practices? Have you heard of any from another industry that was brilliant and that you’d like to implement at your law firm?
Personally, I plan on adding text message reminders of appointments at my earliest convenience – while I do have text message reminders to schedule an appointment, I do not have a reminder before the appointment occurs, and I still have a few people miss their appointments. I appreciate the reminders when businesses send them to me, especially when I’m running between my office, my kid’s school, and everywhere in between.
In your day-to-day life, which businesses delight you with small touches? And which small touches can you implement at your firm to delight your potential clients?