Lawyers often don’t think in terms of leads—warm or cold. But if you have calls coming in and then wonder why your client roster isn’t growing, you may be giving up too easily on your leads.

That tendency to give up on following up has led legal intake expert Denny Newberry, Vice President of Business Development at Captorra and Intake Conversion Experts, to reject what many lawyers would define as a “dead lead.”

“A lot of attorneys make the assumption that when a potential client reaches out to them—whether through a voicemail they left or a website query or chat service—that they’re the only attorney that person has reached out to.”

Time Waits for no Lawyer

Newberry says most attorneys wait too long to reply to contacts, which triggers a chain reaction. By the time the law firm calls or emails, the prospective client has moved on to something else—which could be calling another law office, but it could also be getting back to work or other tasks. When the attorney or staff member doesn’t hear back, they assume the person is no longer interested.

Like all of us, legal consumers get busy and distracted and may still be interested in having you as their lawyer. “You need to let a potential client tell you that they are no longer interested, regardless if it takes one day or one month, one attempt or five attempts,” Newberry advises.

Furthermore, research supports that a timely response is important to consumers when selecting an attorney.

  • “Responsiveness” is the most cited quality (43% of respondents) that consumers say affects their final decision when hiring an attorney.
  • 28% of consumers hire an attorney within 1-3 days from the moment they realize they need one.
  • Over 60% of consumers surveyed contact 3 or more attorneys when making a decision to hire

Don’t Let Your Leads Go Cold

Newberry recommends these best practices when responding to calls, emails, texts and web forms to maximize the number of contacts you can convert into clients.

  1. Call back immediately:  Ideally in five minutes or less. “MIT had a study that shows the response rate drops from 78 percent down to 22 percent after the first five minutes,” explains Newberry. That can be a hard pill to swallow for lawyers who often take days to reply, let alone hours or minutes. While you may think that statistic doesn’t apply to lawyers, consider that your prospective client may be a worker calling you during a lunch break or a busy parent emailing during a 15-minute window they set aside to contact a lawyer. If you call back two days—or two hours—later, that opening they had has closed.
  2. Call back… againOr text. Or email. Let’s assume your caller is busy when you call or email back, and they fail to pick up the phone or reply to your text or email. If you don’t call again, they may never get back to the part of their to-do list with your name on it. As Newberry says, let them tell you they don’t want to hire your firm—even if it takes five or 10 follow-up calls to find out.
  3. Automate the process:  Newberry recommends automating the process by setting a reminder (if you use a CRM solution, then it’s easy to tie your reminder to your new contact) so that you actually follow through. You can also set up auto email replies, automated texts or just manually set up a new Outlook or Gmail task to remind you to try again later.
  4. Call back at different times:  The start of your day may be a great time for you to catch up on calls, but it may not be great for the person you’re trying to reach. Instead, make a point of staggering your call times and days, including after hours and on weekends. You can also opt for days and times that studies show are best for reaching leads. Pro tip: Wednesdays and Thursdays before 9 a.m. and between 4 and 5 p.m. are ideal. Avoid Tuesdays.
  5. Outsource—or in-source—lead follow-up:  Most lawyers don’t enjoy the marketing and sales side of growing a law practice, not to mention, they’re busy practicing law. If your marketing spend is high, you should consider reserving some of that budget for outsourcing lead follow-up. Service providers, including our own Intake Conversion Experts , can take lead response and follow-up off your plate, so you can focus on practicing the law and running other aspects of your firm business. But if that option isn’t in the cards for you just yet, you can also hand off the responsibility of systematically  following up on calls and emails to someone on your staff. Choose someone who has time to dedicate to the task every day and who can ask and answer basic questions about a prospective client’s case, financial means, and your areas of practice.

Newberry has a final word of advice for lawyers concerned about the costs of either committing internal resources or spending externally to outsource lead follow-up. Look at the percent of your overall firm expenses that go toward marketing—that might include building and maintaining a website, online ads, other advertising, etc.—and compare that to what you spend on intake and lead follow up.

“Marketing dollars spent on generating leads are wasted,” cautions Newberry, “if you don’t have a process in place for following up and converting those leads.”

Many firms aren’t ready to process the calls and emails that come in as a result of the firm’s successful marketing, leaving those precious leads stranded. If you want to grow your practice, you simply can’t afford to be one of those firms.