Today we’re sharing part 6 in our 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”.
4:58 the proof is in the numbers
7:11 what do changes do you attribute the success to
8:40 cases you are approving and rejecting
13:28 being more direct
16:11 wanting to talk to one specific attorney
20:00 taking control of the call
22:55 working with Gary
Want to hear more from Gary?
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Gary: Nice to see you, Jim. How goes with my man?
Jim: Good. It goes very, very well.
So, I want to tell our listeners about sort of the changes that– you know, everyone remembers, if you’ve been following along, what an internal conflict I had about giving up the magic of Jim wowing clients and, you know, sort of wooing them into hiring us. I had some real mental blocks when it came to the idea that lawyers and only lawyers could sign up new clients. We’ve made some really radical shifts.
So, just so you know, Gary, we now have a leads team where we have one full-time person working eight hours a day, and then to other people working six hours a day. So, now we have three relatively full-time people working just on following up with leads.
And so, we’ve also made a big shift away from our former lead software. We’ve moved into Pipedrive and it gives us a lot greater reporting and, more importantly, it covers one of the things that you wanted to really make sure of and that was that, basically, no lead gets left behind. That there’s no holes in the bucket. And, you know, so we’ve, we’ve made a lot of a lot of changes. And I’ll pause to let you sort of comment on that and share your thoughts.
Gary: Yeah. I know you and I, off the record, have had a couple of conversations and more of it actually via email, that you’ve been happy with the results.
I guess, I’ll jump right in and ask you. What are those results? I mean, are you seeing more signed cases? Are you seeing a higher percentage of qualified cases signing with you? Are you seeing more revenue? So, give me an idea, from a result standpoint, what these changes have done for you?
Jim: Yes to all those questions. I’m going to let Laura sort of dive in. We’re now about six weeks into the full transition. One thing, before we get into the actual numbers, and all of the numbers are up. We’re getting faster closings. We’re getting more closings. We’re getting more people signing up.
And to me, personally, the thing that’s been the most remarkable is that we’ve cut attorney time by around 65%. Before, you’ll recall that we were charging people $100 for this half hour of time and our calls have gotten much quicker. And, of course, we have that gauntlet now that you helped us set up where, if someone’s not even considering being able to pay our price, they don’t even get to talk to a lawyer. So, the intake team who we’re paying, I think, 16 or 17 bucks an hour, they’re filtering out almost 50% of the of the calls that come in.
Laura will go over all the numbers with you. But, yes to all your questions. And she’s going to tell you about some of the successes we have.
So, Laura, do you going to show Gary the numbers?
I think you’re muted, Laura.
Gary: Is she still with us?
Laura: There you go.
Yeah, I’m here.
Gary: Oh, there she is.
Hi, Gary. So–
Gary: Hi, Laura. How are you?
Laura: I’m fine. How are you?
Gary: Excellent. Thank you.
Laura: So, one of the things we wanted to talk to you about was, recently, we had a remarkable week in August and we’ve been kind of analyzing it, breaking it down, to see what happened where we signed up 20 or 21 cases. But one of those days, in one day, we signed up 10.
Gary: That’s great.
Laura: So, I want to show you. Let me see.
Jim: Just as a point of reference for everybody, our stretch goal at the start of 2020, before Coronavirus. Our stretch goal, as compared to last year, was 12 new cases a week. And to have 10 cases sign up on one day was just mind boggling. And I’m pretty sure this week that we signed up 22 cases I’m pretty sure– Laura, you correct me if I’m wrong, that was the week that Amany and I were out of town, so we were on vacation.
Jim: And it was handled by the other two attorneys who were doing the closing part and Laura and the team were doing the lead follow up stuff.
Gary: That is remarkable.
Laura: And what’s even more remarkable is that– I’ll show you the graph. I don’t know if I can– let me see.
Jim: Do you know how to share your screen?
Laura: Can you see my– my graph?
Jim: Yeah. Now, we can. Yeah.
Laura: Can you see, Gary? Okay.
Gary: Yep. Yes.
Laura: So, this is the day where we closed 10 cases. And by close, I mean, people made their down payment. Ten people made their down payment that day. And the awesome thing about it is that three of those cases were actually people that contacted us that day.
Gary: That’s excellent. That is excellent.
Laura: Three of those were people that contacted us that day or were less than a week old and we have the weekend in between. So, they contacted us Thursday, Friday of the week before, and they closed with us on Monday which is that 10-day thing. And then, only two were three weeks old, and one was two weeks old. So, the majority of the cases that were closed that day were less than a week old. And we see that pass the repeated route.
Gary: So, let me ask you some questions. Instead of just throwing all the questions, I’ll go one at a time. First one is, what are you attributing this success to? What specific or multiple changes that you made are you attributing this success to?
Laura: Jim, do you want to answer or do you want me to answer?
Jim: Oh, go ahead, Laura.
Laura: Okay. So, I think one of the main points is the fact that the intake person is very clear about the information he/she has to gather before transferring to an attorney and the information that they have to transmit, principally the price. And then, the attorney is also clear that, if the person seems ready to go, you send the contract right off the bat. And also, communication between the three units of our team, that’s also the in-house bookkeeper, has been pretty streamlined. So, the bookkeeper was actually invoicing people at 9:00 pm and people who had just paid. So, the communication between these three units within the team has really been streamlined and we’ve worked a lot on it. And that makes for faster results.
Gary: So, I know, Jim, at the early onset of this, you were a little hesitant about having this like fear qualification method where you might end up saying no to people early on, or you might say yes to people too early. And, obviously, that was really important for you to get comfortable with. And, obviously, you became comfortable with it. But I’ll ask a follow-up question to that which is, of the cases you’re retaining, what percent of them are you confident are cases that are going to, ultimately, end up in the– in [inaudible 00:08:13] the back of question that is, of the cases you’re rejecting, how confident are you they made the right decision rejecting it?
Jim: Yeah. I feel like one of the things– another thing that was sort of corrupting our lead software was the fact that I was never willing to cut somebody loose like as long as there’s a sliver of hope that they were going to come and hire us, which led to a really unruly backyard for each of our leads people, they didn’t know how to prioritize who to follow up with and who not to. I mean, our follow up system is much more direct, and regulated, and augmented. And, more importantly, we’re just willing to kick people into the lost category much, much faster. And that was probably– wouldn’t you say, Laura, that was probably the last thing that I really had a hard time letting go of.
Laura: Yeah. True.
Jim: And, Gary, also, I’ll just throw out there that, on that chart that Laura was showing, one of our leads people is this guy named Daniel. And he’s the one that works eight hours a day. He’s like, totally blossomed into this role. He had been the front desk receptionist but, you know, I hear him. I hear him using the script. He’s very loud when he talks but he’s very, very–
Gary: So am I.
Laura: Yeah. He’s very, very empathetic. And the clients just love him, right. So, when they– and I heard him– like, I heard him the other day. There was a client that really, really, really wanted to talk to me and Daniel was like, “But you have to say first whether it’s feasible for you to pay that legal fee before I can tran– I mean, that’s basically where he got to. He didn’t [inaudible 00:10:01]–
Gary: That’s excellent. Good for you guys.
Jim: Yeah. Yeah, he was really–
Yeah. So, the I think the team– I mean, we’ve done a lot of extra training. I think the leads team is much more knowledgeable, both about immigration and about the sales processs, than they ever were before. Don’t you think, Laura?
Laura: Yes, definitely.
Laura: Definitely. And we’ve been very intentional about training them in that sense. So, we’re having ongoing trainings, immigration training and then sales training, to kind of complement what they’re doing. And we’re seeing great results.
Jim: Yeah, the other two people are brand new. They’ve never worked in immigration in their whole life. They have ties to immigrants. They’ve been in sales before but they’ve never, you know. So, there’s a lot of learning curve as far as how immigration goes. But just to see everybody– and Laura’s very collaborative. And sort of, they all come and bounce things off of her.
So really, to me, one of the great things, too, is that Laura has really taken over a lot of the “responsibilities” that I had when it comes to sales and she’s doing it 10 times better than I ever did.
Gary: That’s excellent. Good for you, Laura. That’s great.
You know, I think when– this goes, you know, without– you almost–
The people who are going to thrive at this position or in this role for a firm are the people who understand your vision and understand what the goals of the law firm are, right?
And I talk to my intake team here. You know, our job isn’t just to gather information. The law firm’s [inaudible 00:11:46] to qualify and retain. And if it doesn’t qualify [inaudible 00:11:49]. If it qualifies, make sure you convey urgency. Make sure you convey interest. Make sure you convey reassurance. And let’s get that case re-signed and retained. Make sure they understand there’s going to be money up front for personal injury law firms.
So, I think the people that thrive are the people that understand what the vision is.
And I’m glad. You know, I’ve got to tell you, you’re making my day, my week. I knew that this was going to happen. I didn’t know how quickly. I didn’t know how much. But, you know, you had to believe in it. You had to be flexible. You had to take a chance on additional follow up, on cutting loose earlier on, on qualifying earlier on by trying to get a case signed faster because, at the end of the day, Jim, and I’ll just end with this, whether you know it, or like it, or appreciate it or not, every day, there’s someone coming in and competing with you. And no matter what you do, I don’t care if you sell mouse pads. I don’t care if you sell legal service. If you think you’re the only game in town, you’re bound to lose. And I think that’s the mentality we have to have to win which is to understand that someone will take our spot if we if we leave it open.
Jim: Yeah, I appreciate that. And I think you’re right.
And one of the things that, really, I got a kick out of the other day. So, the lawyers, as I said, their time involved in this has been cut down a lot. But they do keep trying to seep back into their old ways. And they keep they keep coming to me and saying, “Hey, Jim, let’s have the intake person also ask them what country they’re from. or Hey, Jim, let’s have the intake person–”
What was the one yesterday, Laura? It was something they wanted– they wanted the whole– oh, yeah, they wanted the leads team to get the full address from every lead as opposed to just getting the full address from the people that actually sign up. And so, in my mind, I just giggled and I say to myself, “What would Gary say about that?” And I just channeled my Gary and I’m like, “Nope. We’re not doing that.” And I’m much more direct about it, aren’t I, Laura, than I used to be? Like, “No. We’re not adding shit. We’re not making it more complicated. It’s all about speed. If it slows things down, we’re not doing it.”
Gary: I love that.
Laura: Yep. You’re [inaudible 00:14:12].
Gary: That’s excellent. You know, I think– because as great of a guy as you are, and as amazing of a service that you offer – and I mean both those things very sincerely, you’re still running a business, and you’re still paying people, and you still need them to provide. They need to maximize their time when they’re working with you. And for them to ask somebody, you know, “So, tell us what you did yesterday, what was your day like?” That’s not the point. Yes, that’s a great conversation. You’re making a really– you’re creating a strong relationship and I understand that but it’s going to hurt the business at the end of the day and you’ve got to keep that business in front of your mind. So, I love that. I think that’s great.
Jim: All right. Well, we’ve got you– I think Laura has a couple last questions for you. And then, we want to talk a little bit about how people– what it looks like to work with you.
Jim: Go ahead, Laura.
Laura: So, one of the questions I had is something that actually the intake team talks to me about frequently. Since Jim is the main attorney in our YouTube channel and we get a lot of people calling in because they see him on YouTube. They, of course, want to talk to him. They’re willing to pay the fees. They’ve gone through the qualifying process, but they only want to talk to him.
Now, I think the intake team is pretty good about identifying the people that are just going to be very, very difficult clients and get very firm, but I also kind of wanted to establish a protocol for everybody so it would just be easier to work around. And I’m wondering how flexible should we be with that kind of request?
Gary: Yeah. Well, you see that’s an interesting one because now you’re talking about a retain client, Laura? Not a non-retain client, right?
Laura: I’m talking about–
Gary: A retained client?
Laura: I’m talking about a qualified lead that [crosstalk].
Gary: That has not yet signed?
Gary: Okay. Talked to an attorney but not yet signed on as a client?
Gary: Yeah. So, we have to push back but Jim has to be an option. You know, this– you’re not big enough yet with Jim as an option. You know, when you get to the point where you’re signing 25 cases a day and, shucks, why can’t you, right? Why can’t you do that? You just tripled your daily signings in the last year, why can’t you triple it again next year? When you get to that point, it’s not going to be feasible.
Right now, I would suggest that Jim has a two-hour window a week, give [inaudible 00:16:39]. Start there. Start an hour or whatever it is, where your team, when pushed, when necessary, when there’s a strong case, when there’s the exception to the rule, when you need to do one more thing to get that case signed, right? Not offering it because it’s not necessary. You’re not going to offer somebody something that’s not necessary. When it’s necessary, I think you’ve got to calendar a 15-minute call for Jim to have whether it’s for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 people a week. And I don’t think it’s going to be that many, so that he can be that overriding factor.
And, listen, for anyone watching this, I use this analogy and Jim’s heard this many times. When you go in to lease a car. And you go into the car dealership. And you sit down with the car salesman. And you spend 45 minutes with the car salesman negotiating, how much is it going to cost per month. And you go through what the car’s going to include, what it’s not going to include? And then, what the salesman says to you, “Hey, well– first of all, before the salesman says anything to you, you say, ”Okay, thanks so much. Let me go think about this and talk to my spouse and get back to you.” The salesman says, ”Wait, before you leave, let me introduce you to my manager.” Right? So, that’s the salesman thinking, “There’s no way I want this guy or gal leaving my dealership without car keys in their hand and a check in mine. What do I have to do to convert them into a client?” So, they bring over the manager. Now, they had the deal already signed. No need for the manager. But they might be thinking, “I just need someone with a title to talk to this person right now to make them feel special, make them feel wanted. And then, we can turn them.”
Now, you have the lawyer. You guys have a lawyer on the phone with all the all these claimants so that should be sufficient for most of your clients or new clients. However, you’re going to have some clients that are worth Jim’s time. Say, “You know what, Jim’s got a crazy schedule this week but because your case qualifies, and because Jim likes to speak with his clients, I think I can find 15 minutes tomorrow at three o’clock or 15 minutes today.” Obviously, preferably, the same day. I never want them waiting or “15 minutes right now. Let me go see if he’s around right now.” I think Jim has to make himself available X amount of minutes a week or a day for those calls because you don’t want to lose those clients?
Laura: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s a good balance point.
Gary: You guys are freezing up on me. Okay.
What else have you got for me, Laura?
Laura: I also wanted to ask you, since sometimes we have people calling in that are not really sure what they want or why– I mean, they’re sure that they need help – immigration help, but they’re not sure about what to do or there are many options. And I’ve had to take some calls this week because Daniel is out. So, I’ve been talking to a lot of them and I realized that sometimes a lot of the problems stem from the client or the perspective new client taking control of the call and just kind of spazzing out.
What I’ve been doing, and I’m not sure– I mean, it’s worked, but I’m not sure if this would translate to the rest of the team is. After I’ve listened to them a little bit, it’s like, “Okay, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to call you tomorrow. You said you need to check with your spouse, or fiancée, or whatever. I will call you tomorrow and see where you’re at, at that point. And, if you’re ready to talk to an attorney, I’m going to go ahead and transfer you.”
But it’s like I tell you what we’re going to do. This is what we’re going to do. But I’m not sure if that’s being too pushy, or if that’s the right way to kind of handle it because a lot of the times clients just take over the call. And then, sometimes the intake team’s like, “I don’t know what to do with this guy. He’s just going around in circles.”
Gary: Yeah, I think we have to go back. And I think you did a good job because it’s extremely important to take control of the call.
But I think we got to go back to telling the client, ”Hey, Mrs. Jones. It sounds terrible what you’ve had to go through. It sounds like you’re going through a very stressful situation. At our firm, we can tell you whether you qualify for representation just by asking a few questions. So, regardless of what you’re going through, let’s find out if we can help you right now so that, if we can, we could take this pressure off of your shoulders and put it onto our shoulders. But, you telling me the story, I need to ask specific questions to see whether it’s something we can help you out with because that’s the only way we can move this call from you becoming a potential client to becoming a client.”
And I think it’s just a matter of them understanding that you have to ask some questions. You have to find out. It’s not about just having a conversation. It’s about getting some guidance on whether they’re qualified. You don’t have to use the word qualified. People get very turned off when you use the word qualified because it’s so formalistic. But you can say, you know, whether we think we can help you, right? “We need to ask a few questions to see whether we can help you or not.”
But you’ve got to get back on script. You can’t’ let them run away with it because that can be an hour and a half for a call that somebody says, “You know what, by the way, thanks so much. I already have a lawyer. They told me the same thing. I just need someone to tell me that again.” Right? Now, all of a sudden, you wasted an hour and a half. So, you’ve got to take control the conversation.
Laura: Okay. Okay. Those were the main doubts I had, Jim.
Laura: And thank you, Gary. It’s really, really helpful.
Jim: All right, so–
Gary: Wonderful. Thank you, Laura.
Jim: Gary, let’s wrap. Again, thanks so much for the time that you’ve shared with us all these weeks. We really appreciate it. We’ve really turned it around. And we’re really excited.
But can you tell everybody like, how is it to work with your company? I know you’ve been busier than ever. How does it work? How do they get a hold of you? And what kind of things can you do with people?
Gary: Yeah, so there’s a lot I could do with people. I love the intake. I’m sure anyone watching this, at the very least, you see some passion from this guy who’s got gray hair and that’s good enough for me. That’s good enough for me.
You know, I have a call center. Law firms outsource their intake to our call center, usually higher volume law firms. And I hate sales pitch stuff so I’m just going to– I’m not going to sell any of this. I’m going to make sure you know what I do. So, if you have any questions, you can reach out to me. I have a call center. If you ever have any questions about your own intake processes. Give me a call. You know, I haven’t been consulting with the whole Coronavirus stuff. I’ve been putting that on hold but, certainly, always looking to help and put people in a better position.
Listen, you have a business out there. I’m a lawyer, too, right? I have my own law firm. And I understand that when you– because of the industry we’re in, we’re not allowed to cold call. You know, we can’t go stop someone who’s just in an accident, come to a halt and go, “Hey, were you hurt?” Not something we want to do but not something we can do anyway.
We’ve got to gamble. And I understand this, the business we’re in. We’re in the gambling business. You’ve got to throw out money into a marketer. You’ve got to throw money to your vendors. You’ve got to bring in staff. And you’ve got to hope that clients are going to call you. And you’ve got to hope that those clients that you signed are going to resolve for a fee.
I get it. It’s stressful stuff that can keep you up late at night. If you’re looking to ensure that you’re maximizing wherever you’re spending your marketing dollars, that you’re maximizing the return of those marketing dollars. Give me a call. Let’s talk. Shoot me a text. I’m going to give you my cell phone number. It’s 917-226-4833. You can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free, anytime, to reach out to me.
I guess, I’ll end with this. You know, intake is about understanding that you may only get one bite at the apple. It’s a very competitive industry. It’s a word that, if you told me in law school that somehow I would be working with intake, I’d have no idea what you were talking about. And now, I can understand why the people who have law firms are now putting more effort into their intake. This is the difference.
People talk about all the time about, “Oh, what’s your cost per retained case? Or how many cases did you retain?” You cannot have those conversations. You cannot improve those numbers without recognizing the important factor that intake plays for your law firm.
So, I am thrilled beyond belief that Jim is crushing it right now.
Quite frankly, Jim, I’d like to see those numbers double in six months so you and I are going to stay in contact and we’ll make sure we can do that.
But I wish everybody out there, I hope it wasn’t a waste of your time. Wish you the best of luck, and stay healthy, and stay strong.
Jim: Thanks, Gary. Much appreciated.
Gary: My pleasure. Thank you.
Jim: See you, brother.
Gary: Thank you, too, you guys.
Jim: Okay. Bye.
Gary: All right.
Laura: Bye. Thanks.