Today we’re sharing part one of a six part series on Intake. This isn’t your regular podcast. In this series you’ll get to listen in on actual strategy sessions between Gary Falkowitz and Jim Hacking as they dive into Jim’s intake processes.
Gary Falkowitz advises law firms, attorneys and legal organizations on the importance of creating, utilizing, managing and maximizing the intake process. He has worked with managing partners, associates, paralegals and all other support staff to assist law firms in improving their intake process and, importantly, increasing their conversion percentages.
Through his years of experience, Gary has realized that accountability, implementing strong internal procedures and responsiveness are three of the most important factors to ensure a successful and efficient intake process. It doesn’t hurt that his passion for the subject matter is unrivaled. In short, Gary believes that the key to maximizing a law firm’s revenue is strongly dependent upon the ability to appropriately prioritize and adequately scrutinize the intake process.
Gary is also the author of the book, “The Complete Guide to Law Firm Intake: Powerful Strategies To Maximize Retention and Increase Revenue”.
7:37 mindset shifts
9:40 why are you not tracking your leads
11:35 social media
15:30 loosen your criteria
20:58 referring out unqualified leads
24:42 percentage of leads that schedule consults
28:32 intake questions that qualify
31:15 consultation fees
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Jim Hacking: Alright, everybody. So, we’re here with Gary Falkowitz. He’s got his New York Mets cap going for those of you that can see the video. And I’ve got mine, San Diego Padres hat, on. I’ve not changed my allegiances from my beloved Cardinals but this is a reminder that, eventually, I’ll be living in San Diego. That’s why I wear this hat.
Anyway, Gary and I are embarking on a new adventure. He has a lot of interesting things going on in his business. We’ve been talking back and forth about how he might help the Hacking Law Practice and, hopefully, all of you do a better job with your lead conversion.
So, I thought that, before we got started, Gary, that you and I could just spend a little bit of time talking about your background. Hopefully, a lot of people have read your wonderful book on Intake but maybe you could talk a little bit about sort of how you ended up where you are now. And, you know, you’ve been on the podcast before so, if people want to deep dive, they can go back and listen to that. But just give the people a little summary of your experience with Intake and with leads.
Gary Falkowitz: Yeah. Thanks, Jim. Excited to be working with you again, for sure.
I don’t want to bore you or the listeners, but I’ll give you the 30,000-foot view of why we’re having this conversation and how I got in the seat.
I’m an attorney. I’ve been practicing for about 15 years and I realized very early in my practice– I should say, I was intrigued, very early in my practice, about the business of our industry. The business of law.
Fast forward, past my experience as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, New York. Fast forward past my experience as a medical malpractice defense attorney and jump right into when I was an associate at Parker Waichman, a national PI law firm in New York. It was there were my eyes opened to how specifically the personal injury world works but also the plaintiffs civil world works and that you had to spend a lot of money to make the phone ring or to acquire leads when there are a million different ways you could do that. You could do it organically. You can create your own brand. You can go on TV. Or, you could do it and use someone else’s brand or use someone else’s ability to bring in leads, whether it be digitally to you or via the phone. I realized that (a) it took money, (b) it took creativity to do something a little bit different than what your competitors were doing. Speaking of competitors, I realized how competitive the industry was. I also realized how long law firms had to wait to actually earn a fee on the cases that they were investing money in – campaigns you’re investing money in.
So, you put that all together, and it hit me like a ton of bricks that you needed to– and we, as an industry, needed to have the most efficient process to maximize the return of those marketing dollars, at the very least, at the outset of those campaigns. And when I say that I’m talking about the intake side of things.
And if you would’ve told me, when I was in law school, that somehow I would be in a position where I wrote a book on intake, or I’d be consulting law firms on intake, or I’d be the owner of a intake or of a call center for law firms, I’d laugh at you because I’d have no idea of what you’re referring to. It’s amazing how life kind of figures things out for you as long as you stay the course and work hard.
So, jumping, fast forward now from all that that I learned at Parker Waichman’s office, I jumped into consulting law firms on this process, on making sure that the money that they were spending on marketing was not being neglected, or ignored, or being handled in a careless fashion. And the reason I jumped into that is because I noticed that, as an industry, that was an easy hole to fill. That was an obvious black hole within the industry.
And it bothered me because all of us – by us, I mean attorneys, put ourselves through law school. Went through that three years’ worth of fun and had a nice big test at the end of it all. And yet, we weren’t necessarily prepared for the business that we were about to embark in, some of us. Some of us became employees and worked our way up in a big-time company which is wonderful and didn’t necessarily need to understand the business side of things. But for those, like yourself, who decided at some point, “You know what? I could do this on my own. I understand the practice of law in a specific area.” I wanted to make sure you also understood not to waste your money marketing and to feel good that you had a very streamlined process where accountability checks and balances were a top priority of yours.
So, I consulted a bunch of law firms nationwide. I still do. Ended up opening my own solo practice. Ended up opening my own call center where law firms will outsource the intake to high volume campaigns. We’ve retained over 60,000 cases. We’ve worked with over 300 law firms. And I’m shoulder deep in this stuff. I love these conversations. I love being able to have–
You know, I’ll say one other thing. I’ll interrupt myself there for a moment. Don’t watch what I say, you already know, Jim. Anyone watching this, you already know this stuff. What you need is you need some reassurance from an objective eye and an experienced eye that, “Yes, you’ve been thinking about doing something this way. Your competitors are doing it this way. Let me help you jump over that bridge to ensure that you begin doing it this way so that you go to sleep at night realizing, “You know what? I’m not leaving a lot of money on the table. I am maximizing the return on those investments.”
And then, what you do with those cases, when they’re signed, and how you maximize the value of those cases, that’s up to you, but I will tell you that– and we’ll talk– we’re going to be talking for a little while here. And I’m excited to kind of show everybody, give them a little taste of how they can figure things out for themselves. It’s not a turnkey approach. Every law firm has created their own path that they’re currently going down. What I’m hoping to do is sort of make that path as smooth as possible without necessarily having to veer off of it too much.
So, in a nutshell, that’s why you and I are talking. I want to make sure I know, from our previous conversations, (a) you’re spending money, (b) you’re getting a tremendous response, and (c) at the end of the day, how much money you make is so dependent upon what you do immediately after you spend money marketing.
Jim: So, Gary, I was asked to speak to some elder lawyers for their regional conference last winter. I stood up on stage and I asked people, you know, with a show of hands, let me know who has a system for just recording their leads? What percentage of people do you think raise their hand?
Gary: Between 10% and 20%?
Jim: That’s exactly what it was. I was thinking it was right around 10%.
So, that just boggles my mind. I mean, talk to us a little bit about– and we’re going to dive into the Hacking Law Practice and all of our stuff, but I think that there’s some good mindset shift that need to be happening at the beginning. Talk to us a little bit about why it’s important– I know this sort of sounds obvious, but why is it important to have a system for keeping track of your leads?
Gary: So, before I answer that question, why don’t I answer a question that I know you’ve asked, which is, Why are they not? Why are they not recording their leads? And the answer– and I I’m blunt. I’m a blunt guy. I tell you how I think it is. It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it is. In my opinion, they’re not recording their leads for the for the following reasons. One, they don’t think they need to because they’re making money anyway, right. So why create a system that requires their attention, that they’re not comfortable doing, that requires change if they’re being successful, depending upon how they define that word anyway.
And, I guess, one of the challenges I have, when I speak to law firms – the 80% to 90% of those law firms that don’t record, one of the challenges I have is helping them redefine that success. You know, you cannot judge how good your company is by how much profit it’s making. That would be silly, right? Any business should be defining how successful their business is doing based upon whether they’re maximizing their profit and whether they have efficient processes in place so that they’re actually reducing unnecessary expenses.
So, those law firms that are not recording or not recording because they never thought they had to and they’re still making money. Why should they record? Because they’re going to realize that the value in marketing is not based just upon the reason that the claimant is calling you in the first place but rather, especially in this day and age, given how competitive it is, given how many more lawyers are coming into your market space. It’s important you create a lasting impression that will allow you to continue to market, and communicate, and create a relationship with those folks, whether it be in a conventional or a sense of sending out an email marketing message, or through social media and letting them know how valuable your law firm is within the market, right? Within your specific city. That all adds up to them potentially calling you again in the future when they may have a qualified case.
We cannot look at our business from a shallow or short-term perspective. I remember, and I would hear this, and I didn’t know this back then. But I would hear, “Oh, claimant called, had a terrible case, hung up quickly,” right? And I can understand why the initial response for someone that’s not in the industry completely forgets about that claimant and never thinks they need to reach out to that claimant again. I will tell you, over the long haul, after listening to all of the calls I’ve listened to, both on behalf of law firms I’ve worked with and other law firms, you will have people who call up and say, “This is the third time I’m calling. You couldn’t help me two times, but I had such a wonderful relationship– or created such a wonderful relationship with your law firm and I noticed how prevalent you are on Facebook, or on social media, or saw you on TV and I decided, “Now, I think I really have a case and I’m going to give you a call.” That is so valuable, right? It’s not necessary for that person to see a whole new advertisement from a new law firm to consider them rather, in their mind, there was this bank of experiences that they had a little at a time whether it was the first conversation, the follow-up message, the social media posts that you’re putting out there when they said, “You know what, if I need somebody, I’ve got to call Jim because he, obviously, is all over the place.”
And I’ll say one last thing about this. When you put yourself out there – and I’m not a marketing guru at all, but I work with marketers. I have for a while. When you put yourself out there from a brand perspective, often, what the claimant believes– it’s like seeing a Verizon Billboard. You ever drive down a highway and just see a billboard says Verizon, that’s all it says, Verizon, I’ve done it. And, at first, I was like, “Really?” And then, I realized, all they’re doing is building in my mind that they’re a strong company. They’re all over the place. It’s a reminder to me that if I don’t currently have Verizon and I’m unhappy with my current service, I’ve got to call Verizon because they’re obviously crushing it. They’re all over the place. They’re spending money marketing, and that’s really important.
And that goes, the same with that claimant we just rejected. If we recorded those leads, we have the ability, especially in this day and age, we can go follow them on Facebook, we could remark on something they’re doing. They could remark on us. They could follow us. We could ask them to follow us on Facebook. So, to answer your question, it’s just a shallow-minded approach. And I promise you, those law firms that are not recording their leads are not thinking two, three, four, or five years ahead and are unfortunately putting themselves in the position of likely failing sooner rather than later.
Jim: All right. So, one last mindset thing before we started digging and get started.
You raised it again in your last comment, and you’ve certainly said it in your book, and you said it at MaxLawCon last year. That is how the enemy of greatness is doing good enough, right? So, often, we just accept that we’re doing okay. No real reason to look at the funnel. No real reason to look at our leads. No real reason to look at our conversion.
Now, interestingly, with this current medical situation that we find ourselves in, across the country, I think a lot of people are probably going to start kicking themselves for the leads that they’ve lost and looking at this a whole lot harder than they used to be. Not just because of the money that they’re spending, but more so about the leads that they’re the opportunities that they’re missing out on. So, could you talk a little bit about that?
Gary: Yeah. Thanks so much.
And that may have been an alley-oop, so I appreciate that but–
Jim: It was.
Gary: It was good.
So, a tremendous pitfall in our industry is that law firms only want to sign cases that are certain to have value. So, what they do is they do this investigation before the case even gets retained and they have their 40 questions, right? And I’ve seen them. I looked at one this morning, yesterday – two different ones. And they have these 40 questions because they don’t want to waste their resources after that case is retained on investigation. They want a case where they could say 99% of the cases we sign are resolved for a fee. Well, yeah but what about the 5000 cases you left on the table that could have resolved for a fee?
And a big problem we have is– but I hate to say it this way, we don’t want to put in the legwork. We don’t want to quote “fail” or do some work after the fact for what might be considered a waste of our resources.
I promise, you guys, if you don’t watch any more of this back and forth, that you and I are going to have, please go back to your office and loosen up your criteria to sign that case, please, because in my in my book, I say, “It is better to retain then investigate than investigate then retain” because it’s always okay if we all put in our retainers, as we should, that we will sign a case and that we have an investigative period, whether it be 30 days, 60 days, [inaudible 00:15:22] explaining that retainer as we should, that if there comes a point where, “We realize we can’t assist you, we have the ability to reject you as a claimant.” We should all have that in there. It protects us. The claimant is aware of that. We can’t make any promises that, because we retain a case, we’re somehow guaranteeing them a successful resolution. So, if you have that protection in your retainer, what you should be doing is keeping that intake as basic as possible so that you can maximize the number of cases you retain, and also maximize the number of cases you’re going to resolve for fee.
I’ll say one little tidbit about that which is really important. If I’m a claimant, I have options. I have many. I speak with three law firms. And I call you on my lunch break. And your law firm is the one that wants me to go through 30 questions on a telephone, and another law firm is willing to ask me six or seven questions on the telephone and let me know whether I qualify. I promise you, out of abundance of wanting to be efficient with my time and not waste my time, I’m likely going with a firm that is asking the fewer questions.
And here’s what’s the crazy part about this. It could be a no-name law firm. The law firm got absolutely no experience. They can have absolutely no track record of being great at whatever the reason they’re calling for. They want ease. They want reassurance. They want to know whether they qualify. And they want it as fast as possible.
I’m sorry. For those of you who’ve been practicing for 30 or 40 years, okay, and you say to me, “Come on, Gary. That’s not true. They want to know that I tried 15 cases last year all to verdict for X amount of dollars.” No, they like to hear that. Maybe they want to see that in a commercial, maybe that will get them to pick up the telephone to call you. But when they call you, they just want to know, “Do I qualify? And if I qualify, how do I become a client and how much is it going to cost me?” That’s it. That’s it.
Jim: All right. So, we could go on this all day long and we’ll talk we’ll touch on a lot of these topics. But. to get going, what I thought we could do is– I had sent you before and I’ll pull it up here on the screen in a minute. Just so everybody knows, this is as real as it gets. I’m going to show you my real numbers for the last 12 months. So, I’ve looked at the leads from March 1, 2019 to the end of February 2020 and I’m going to share them here with Gary and, thereby, share them with you.
Gary: Do want to just quickly multiply by three in every number?
Gary: To make it look even better.
Jim: No, no. We’re going to go with the real numbers here. Hold on. Here we go.
Yeah, here we go.
All right. Can you see this, Gary?
Gary: Not yet. It’s loading.
Yep, I see it.
Jim: All right. So, I tried to zoom in as much as I could.
Gary: Okay, I’m going to see if I could also make it larger on my end, which I think it can. Yep.
Jim: All right. Right now, we are currently using Lead Docket although I think we’re migrating out of Lead Docket here pretty soon. For now, any contact that comes in that’s not– our phones are answered by Smith AI, right. So that’s an outside phone service that does all of our answering. And they screen out the ones that are obviously sales calls but, even with that, we’re getting 11,287 were entered into our system. And then, our team just does some sorting and qualified those. And there were 7378 actual leads. People that we would want to do business with.
Gary: All right. Stop there. Want to stop there for a sec?
Jim: Yeah, sure.
Gary: Okay, so tell me the distinction between the 11,000 and 7300. Those other 4000 cases or so, where do they fall?
Jim: Most of them are duplicates. And then some of them are outside our practice areas.
Gary: Okay. Let’s stop there. The ones that are outside your practice areas, are you considering them as referrals for other law firms?
Jim: We have no system for such.
Gary: Okay. Can we stop there? Can I keep doing this or no?
Jim: You go for it, brother.
Gary: All right.
So, our industry is losing the– I’m going to stop saying our industry. I’m going to say we. I’m a part of this group.
We are forgetting about how valuable referrals are. I’ve worked with and I know law firms that are making multiple millions of dollars per year on referrals and they’re not even marketing for cases to refer out. It just happens to be a benefit to all of their branding. Most of us honor referral fees. Most of us are willing to take on a joint exposure and joint responsibilities. The reality is most of us are not even being asked to participate in those joint responsibilities.
When you create a brand for yourself, law firms begin to look at you as a solution to things that are more than what you’re marketing yourself for. They look at you as their lawyer. Their lawyer could be their family lawyer, their divorce lawyer, their personal injury lawyer, their immigration lawyer, their tax lawyer. It doesn’t matter. That’s what they’re looking to you as. And I promise you, there are law firms that are focusing on that exact case type, that you cannot assist with, that would love to honor a third, sometimes even more, and if it’s less, it’s less, of a referral fee. We need a system in place whereby our intake team is reviewing–
And let’s go let’s go gold standard for second, Jim. Gold standard is the person you have picking up that telephone call already knows, based upon the case type, which law firm to send that case to. Likely, through a warm transfer telephone call.
And let’s go silver or bronze, an email goes out to that law firm. You already have a joint co-counsel relationship that you set up previously and they’re aware of the fact that referral leads are coming in. And then you have this whole follow-up process in place.
So, I promise you, if those 4000 leads, without knowing anything else about your business, I guarantee you there are a hundred cases in there that could have been referred out and retained where you might be getting referral fee or whatever you have.
Jim: That’s a great perspective and I’d love to get to that gold standard. You know, the interesting thing is, for me, with the Maximum Lawyer group and the podcast is that, you know, we’re an immigration firm so we get contacts from all over the country.
Gary: Yes, we do.
Jim: And we’ve done nothing to say, “Hey. Oh, by the way, if you’re in a car accident, we can’t help you but we know someone who can in your area” because, in Maximum Lawyer, I know a personal injury lawyer in almost every state, right?
Gary: In almost every city. Of course, you do. And I guarantee you, after people see this, you’re going to get an email, “Hey, Jim, if you need this, please. We can help you.” I guarantee it.
Jim: Right. Right.
Gary: So, I mean, let’s set something up for you. You might even want to create something in Maximum Lawyer people, but that’s a whole other conversation. But the point is, you have those relationships that are at your fingertips. You know, if you focused one hour on this, and I’m not asking you to right now, you might have 10 or 12 relationships that you already set up immediately, but we could talk about that another time as well.
Jim: Yeah, that’s great.
And this is why I wanted to do real world examples because I wanted to see the things that you spot that I don’t necessarily spot. I mean, like, in the back of my mind, I’m like, “Yeah, I should get more referrals” but it’s a totally different thing to get an expert on and to be thinking it through from a high level.
Gary: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim: All right.
And I want you to give it to me straight, Gary. Like, if we were doing a real consult and we sort of are. You know, we had 7400 leads last year and we had about 1400 consults. So, that’s 18% of the people that we wanted to do business with actually scheduled a consult with us.
Gary: Okay, so let’s– now, we’ve got to define some of this for the audience and for myself.
Gary: 1400 people wanted to do. Of those 7300 leads, do we know how many of them would have met our criteria to sign as a client?
Jim: So, let’s talk about that because one of the things that really stuck out, to me, in your book, was that mostly we do a bad job of empowering our team to properly filter leads – people that we would want to do business with. And so, Gary, I can’t tell you that answer because I don’t do a good job of filtering that. I mean, anecdotally and based on my experience, I would say that it’s about probably– I mean, I would say that 30% of those, we would really, really, really want to do business with. And then, the next maybe 40% or 50%, we would probably maybe want to do business with, if that makes sense. That’s as good as I can get.
Gary: Okay, so before we talk about of those 30%, or 40%, or 50% that we actually sign and what the consults are, let’s talk about creating a system, Jim, whereby, when that lead gets into your office– and I know, from previous conversations, it’s not just Smith AI, you have multiple paths by which claimants will contact you and reach out to you about a potential case. Is that right?
Jim: That is correct. You’re right about that.
Gary: Okay. So then, we need to figure out whereby our first contact with the claimant, not their first contact with us, because if they send us a digital lead, we may not be able to immediately determine whether they qualify for retention. But our first contact with them which, by the way, could totally be a phone call, we need to qualify or disqualify that call or that lead on that first contact. That’s the goal. That’s the goal.
And we need to– and this is for everyone out there. I don’t care whether you’re using Smith AI, whether you’re using another answering service, whether you’re using my company ICE, or whether you’re using your own intake specialists, you need to empower those people that are speaking with the claimant to make a decision as to whether it qualifies. Now, that does not mean that they get to create the criteria of what qualifies and what doesn’t. We’ve got to train them. We’ve got to give them those weapons, if you will, the questions – what to answer or, based on the answer that’s provided, to determine whether this does qualify for representation or it doesn’t.
Again, I’m going to repeat myself, by the way, because I do believe that’s the best way to teach. That’s how I learned. Remember that your standard of qualification should be, ”Could this be something that we will resolve for a fee?” not, “Will this be something that we will resolve for a fee?” You got to open it up a little bit. Give yourself the opportunity to do a little work and maximize the return on your marketing dollars rather than just signing the definites.
You know, it’s so funny, Jim, and I’m sure you see it in your practice, every lawyer you speak with, I love to say to them, “Hey, was there ever a case that you sign, you just weren’t sure whether it was going to be something or not, and you ended up getting a significant fee in that case?” And every time the answer is yes. Every time, it’s like, “Actually, our biggest case was a case we weren’t sure whether we should sign or not,” right? So, there’s so much value in signing a lead that could result in a fee rather than will result in a fee.
So, we’ve got to get you, Jim, in a position and we can talk about all the different paths. Let’s start with Smith AI, right, that’s your call center. We’ve got to give them the questions that they need to ask. So that you know — and I’ll go one step further. So that you know, when the lead comes to you, whether it qualifies or not. I’m going to go one step further here. If it does qualify, Jim, we should be in a position where Smith AI transfers that call to somebody in our office because we know that’s worth our time.
Now, the trick for you is, and it’s different for every law firm is, “How can I create a list of questions that are manageable so that Smith AI, in their seven to 10 questions – and that’s got to be your range, guys. Claimants are not going to be patient for 25 questions. They’re just not. They’re going to be turned off. So, if I could somehow, within seven to 10 questions, figure out whether this is worth someone– is someone, internally– the time of someone internally, on my team. I’ve got to do that. So, you’ve got to make sure that they’re asking the questions that you want them to ask.
And, by the way, that changes a lot over time. The criteria changes. The law changes. So, you have to keep an eye on what that is. So, That’s the first thing that you should probably focus on.
The other one is–
Jim: I think that–
Gary: Yeah, go for it, Jim.
Jim: Oh, go ahead.
Jim: I was going to say I think maybe I might just run past you real quick so that listeners or the viewers understand that the way that we do it is that the intake comes in. And then, the team is supposed to try to see if they want to schedule a consult, we charge $100 for our consult and that has been our main filter. But then, this determination as to whether or not they have a case, Gary, you’re going to probably cough, is done by an attorney during that consult, right? That’s really where the– and we like to think, well, immigration’s so complicated and, a lot of times, the immigrants don’t even understand what their own issues are so that it needs to be done at that sort of higher level of analysis. And so, I think that we really have an opportunity there, I think you’re probably right. If we can figure out a way to sift and sort without just using the consult as a filter because right now we’re just getting name, address, phone number, email, and then what’s your general issue? And do you want to schedule a consult? That’s really what Smith does?
So, Jim, I got to ask you and you should definitely call your competitors on this one. What about your competitor that says– and I’m not trying to take that hundred dollars away but I just want I want to make sure you realize, what about your competitor that tells a claimant on the telephone, “Hey, based upon what you just told me, this is something we can help you out with and I don’t need to meet with you in person. You don’t have to sign $100. I want to sign you right now, on the telephone, electronically, and I’ll confirm that you signed it.” What about that competitor? Does that exist? I mean, I know it exists. Do you know that exists?
Jim: I don’t know if, in immigration, it does. I think they would clean our clocks though. I think you’re right. They would clean your clocks.
And I’m not here to take money out of your pocket, so forget the $100 per sign.
Jim: Well, and I don’t I don’t care about the hundred dollars. The hundred dollars is just a filter, you know.
Gary: Yeah. Well, the problem with $100-filter is that you may have some real valuable cases out there that decide against going with your firm because they have to put $100 up. You also may have people–
Jim: But what about all the people who just want free advice?
Gary: Yeah. Well, that’s part of our qualification questions, right?
Gary: Are you looking to retain a lawyer? Let’s go through your– there should be– I can– we could go through those questions together. It’s going to start with you. And then, I’ll help you wordsmith those questions a little bit better.
But look at this, you’re only getting 19% of the people that you’re offering a consult to are coming. So, more than 80% of the people that you’re offering a consult to is saying, ”Forget Jim.” Now, what percent of those 80 people are going somewhere else because they didn’t require an in-person consult? Oh, by the way, we’re having this conversation during the coronavirus pandemic right now, so nobody wants an in-person meeting or an in-person consult. And I’m sure you guys might be doing Skype consults. I’m sure you’ve advanced yourself or you’re not. I’m sure you’re considering it.
Jim: No. We’ve been doing it a long time.
Gary: But the point is we don’t want to push them away before we even know whether we can help.
Gary: Yeah, we’ve got to come up with a list of questions, Jim, that basically–and it starts with you. But a list of questions whereby you can ask, “Hey, are you looking to retain a lawyer? And you can even ask in there, “Would you retain a lawyer if there was $100 fee?” Let’s just get that answered. Maybe they say yes. Maybe they say no. It’s not necessarily a disqualifier if they say no.
I’m sure you have other questions that you might ask, say, “Why do you think you need an immigration attorney?” Here are the following choices. Here are the following reasons that claimants usually hire an immigration attorney whereby someone like me. Do you fit in any of these categories? And they might say no, and then boom, you feel better about pushing them away.
And I know one of your fears. When you first created this, Jim, obviously, one of your fears was I want to consult with everybody because everybody might have a case and I don’t want to push them away. But the complete opposite happened here. I want to consult with everybody, so let’s schedule it, but only 20% of the people said, “Okay, let’s do it.”
That doesn’t mean the other 80% don’t have a case. Do you want to know what really means, if they called you? The majority of the people, of the 80%, went with somebody else if they have a case.
Jim: Well, I think my biggest competitor is actually people doing it on their own.
Jim: So, you know, you can’t really– that’s really what I think where our competitor is but I can understand.
Gary: We’re not doing it all, right?
Jim: Sure, sure. I get what you’re saying. But the hundred dollars was not to make me $100 for 25 minutes of my time. The hundred dollars was to try to kick out the tire kickers versus the ones who actually were thinking about hiring an attorney, but we never ask that question. We just said it’s $100 to talk to the lawyer.
Gary: Yeah, I think you’re scaring people away, quite frankly. I think that we have to reconsider that.
I’ll also go one step further. I think that the– let me ask you a question. How much legal work is done at the consult? How much of that work needs to be done by an attorney?
Jim: Well, I think that if we had better questionnaires that non-lawyers could sift and sort. I think that, if we’re charging for the consult, then people expect legal answers. And if we didn’t charge for the consult, we wouldn’t have to give legal answers and then–
Or, like to me, it seems like we need a filter before the consult. Like, not all consults are created equally. There’s people that pay $100 to just want to ask questions and then go file it themselves. And there’s people who want to pay $100 and it’s almost slowing them down from hiring us. I’ve had sort of both ends of that spectrum.
Gary: I’d be interested in knowing– and I think that the result is going to be a positive one. I’d be interested in doing a better job at the first step of your process at breaking down the reasons for the calls, the interest level of the caller, and whether they are, in fact, just looking for guidance, just looking for answers to their questions, or whether they’re actually looking for a lawyer to do this for them so they don’t eff it up, right?
Gary: So, they don’t do something wrong because this is a pretty important moment in their lives which is something, I’m sure you’ve been communicating to them through all your marketing messages.
So, let’s start there. We’re going to have to look at your current dialogue with Smith AI. And I’m going to give you a homework first because it’s not something that we have to do necessarily on this call. But I’m going to give you a homework and I what I want you to do is I want you to create a list of questions, under 10 questions, that would be ideal for Jim, the non-lawyer, would ask to determine whether it’s worth your law firms time to begin an investigation on this claimant’s behalf.
And then, you and I, will work on potentially changing AI’s script so that we’re no longer leaving– because you’re leaving money on the table. We all are. So, this is not– you know, we’re all doing– we could all be doing better. I could be doing a lot of things much better.
But I can promise you that, right now, we have a hole – you have a hole in your system because there are people who are thinking the following. One, “I really wanted to get this over with on this phone call and now this guy is making me schedule another opportunity to get my questions answered. And, quite frankly, I have my son’s football game, or this movie on, or my husband’s this, or my wife’s this, and I’m just not going to make that consult.” You’re losing people for that reason.
You’re losing people because they’re saying, “A hundred dollars? I just spoke with another lawyer who basically gave me all my answers. Why am I paying $100 to Jim, to give me these answers?”
Number three, “How come the person I just spoke with wasn’t able to help me? How come that person was really like a receptionist and, now, I’ve got to go have another conference call, another meeting, with somebody? I don’t have patience for that.”
So, right off the bat, forget about the subject matter, or the value of that claimant’s case. They’re already uncomfortable and impatient with a process that you provided to them and they’re walking away from you. And that’s a hole in your bucket.
Jim: For sure. It sounds like a big one. An 80% big hole.
Gary: Okay, so we fix it. We fix it. And what we do is we change the whole process here. We define consults as people who actually met a basic criteria, assuming we start to change the process. And then, you get a better sense. And this is – I’m glad we get to talk about this for a moment. And you could stop me at any time, Jim, because I do not want to veer off here for you.
Jim: No. This is just what I want to be doing.
For any law firm, you need to know a few things if you’re spending money marketing. You need to know, one, what percent of my leads are qualifying for representation? And when I say representation, guys, I really want you to start also using the term investigation. I don’t want you to equate representation with guarantee to earn a fee. I want representation to be the equivalent of worthy of my time to investigate to determine whether there will be a fee.
Now, the first thing you need to know is, “What percent of my leads qualify for representation?” That tells you how good your marketing is. For some law firms that I’ve consulted with, that are very successful, because it changes for everybody – but some law firms that are very successful, it’s around 10%, 10% of the leads they get in qualify for representation. There are some other law firms that are up towards 30% or 40%, which is ridiculously high which is likely, by the way, because their criteria is way too loose. So, they want to take everything in. So, I’m not going to tell you what it should be because it really depends upon the type of case you want in and what your criteria is. So, that’s the first statistic
The second statistic is your conversion percentage. When I define and use the term conversion percentage, what I’m referring to is, “Of all those cases that qualified, of all those cases that I wanted signed, of all those cases that I acted on to try to get that claimant to sign a retainer, something as simple as scheduling appointment or sending out an electronic retainer, as long as I wanted it and I did some action to try to get that person to sign a retainer, that’s the proof that I wanted that case. What percent of those qualified – of those wanted cases did I sign?” And that tells you how good your internal intake processes is. Is it 50% of what I wanted, I signed?
I’ve been with law firms as low as 40%. Was it as high as 97% or 98%? I work with law firms that are signing 400 cases a month and they’re at a 98% conversion rate which is crazy high. Let me define that for you differently. They’re signing for 400 cases and they only wanted 408. So, they signed 400 of the 408 cases they wanted. That’s what I’ve worked with, right.
But now let’s talk about what it could be and what it should be. I know, for personal injury law firms, if it’s local auto accident cases, it should be in the 90-plus percentile. No doubt about it. For mass torts, if you’re doing it yourself, it’s likely in the 50- to 60-percentile and it should be closer to 75% or 80%.
For immigration, I don’t know where’s yours should be yet, Jim. I don’t know if you know where it should be. What I do know is that you don’t know what it is right now. And we’ve got to get you to a point where you at least know what it is.
And that’s for everybody out there. Forget about where it should be. Let’s get a baseline. What is it? What is it currently for your law firm? You want to leave right now, hang up or click “leaving meeting.” Go for it. Go find out what your current conversion rate is. Find out what your current qualitied rate is. That’ll open your mind to what’s going on in your firm.
Jim: Well, I think this might be a good resting point for this episode. What do you think?
I mean, I have homework to do now. I can’t wait to show this to my wife who I practice with and my office manager. I think that they’re going to– like, my wife is the one who actually came up with that $100-consult and we’ve been glad to have it because it’s truly the only filter we’ve but it’s because we haven’t done that work that you say we need to do to allow others to do the qualifying for us.
Gary: Exactly. And I understand why she created that. Very smart woman. She wanted to have serious potential clients. She wanted people who are serious to come in. And if you’re willing to pay $100, you’re likely serious. Totally get that.
The problem with that could be that you can have many serious claimants who either (a) had an option where they didn’t have to pay $100, or (b) were really scared about that $100, didn’t have that money. And now, we lost a potentially valuable claimant.
And by the way, Jim, and I know you know this but let me just say it a different way. Think about all those claimants like there’s 80% of the people that you spoke with that you left a bad tase in their mouth with, right? They didn’t even come to the consult with and you hate that. I know you, as a person, you are a personable, likeable human being who understands the value of relationships. That is great. It’s wonderful. You’re not necessarily conveying that to all these people who are reaching out to you because, for whatever reason, you’re scaring them away right now and we’ve got to do better with that. We have to have a lasting impression.
Jim: I agree.
Let me throw out one more thing for you, Gary. And then, we’ll close with this.
For the personal injury firms that you work with, in order to sign someone up or in order to have someone be your client, the client doesn’t have to pay any money. If someone’s going to hire us, they’re going to be paying– I’m sure– and I know you work with non-contingency fee firms. Should there be a different mindset between the two? Between people that sign a contingency fee versus people that are actually going to be writing out a check to your law firm for doing work?
Gary: No. It’s easier for a personal injury lawyer to somebody on the first call without asking for their credit card information or asking for a check or meeting them but here’s the thing, if a claimant knows that they have a claim and the law firm tells them that they did the right thing by calling. And they’re sold that they did the right thing by calling. And we answer their questions. And we give them the easiest process the move forward. Then, they’re also going to realize that the cost associated with signing with you is going to be the same as any other law firm. And they’re going to be willing to do that.
And I think you don’t lose them on the cost so much. You lose them because we’re not able to get them to the point of realizing they did the right thing by calling and this las firm can help.
You can always massage a situation about how much it is, and how they can pay, and when they can pay. Let’s get them to the point where they’re at least having that conversation with you. And we’re not getting there, for so many people, because we’re scaring them either from with the current process or the current setup.
All right. With that, we’ll close. We’ll see everybody next week.