Speed Is Key When Responding To Inquiries - Martindale-Avvo

Speed Is Key When Responding To Inquiries

speedy return time lawyers

Consumer expectations have changed. Before the internet and smart phones, and certainly before the pandemic, law offices were simpler places where a receptionist answered calls from prospective clients, and then lawyers or paralegals called them back. But with technology accelerating the pace of… well, just about everything, consumers want immediate satisfaction in the form of responses to their inquiries.

So how long do you have to respond to a lead before you lose it forever? About five minutes, according to various studies over the last few years. The Harvard Business Review study in which that recommendation was first published was not specific to lawyers, whose response time the ABA says can often be measured in days, not hours.

So, your law practice doesn’t have days to get back to a prospect who has likely been scouring the internet, filling out contact forms, replying to live chat prompts and calling other law firms. According to our 2022 report, Understanding the Legal Consumer, how quickly an attorney responds to a consumer’s first contact is a top criterion in the client’s hiring decision.

In the study, 47.6% percent listed responsiveness as a critical factor in choosing an attorney (followed by cost and a free consultation). When asked about the three biggest deterrents to hiring an attorney, slow response time was the top-rated reason for deciding against a particular lawyer or firm. Also a red flag, according to ~32 percent of respondents, was the appearance that a lawyer was too busy or overly stretched – an impression that can be left by slow response times.

Not only do consumers want their calls and emails returned quickly, they also make hiring decisions just as fast: one in four respondents made their decision to hire within a week or two, with 16.7% percent saying they decided in as little as one to three days.

Another important factor to keep top of mind: Most people searching for a lawyer will contact more than one, so speediness plays into the competition. In years past, two-thirds of consumers (60%) contacted one to three attorneys before making a final decision; this dropped last year to just above half (54%) with 23% preferring to contact three total. Quite a few prospects contacted 6 or more (18.3%), proving that some of our respondents were very thorough in their research.

High-Tech Solutions for High-Tech Expectations

For a busy lawyer tending to current cases in and out of the office, it’s often impossible to respond to every call and email within an hour – let alone in five minutes or less. Yet a consumer may not know that you were in court all day or putting out fires for three different clients. To avoid raising one of the red flags that turn clients away:

Meet clients where they are: Be realistic about how clients want to connect. In our study, 77% said they were likely to call as the first method of contact. Consider training staff to fulfill intake forms over the phone. With the right technology, much of intake can be integrated with your contact and case information, which helps organize a case file from the very first call. A service such as Captorra can customize your intake needs, building client confidence that your practice has the bandwidth to handle his matter.

Email response time is important too: After calls, 68% of respondents said they would likely email to first contact a lawyer, so have a plan ready for responding to emails immediately. You could designate a staff member to be responsible for immediately replying to emails from prospective clients with a form or list of questions to gather basic facts. You can also look into smart automated response emails, a tool that many vendors offer.

Put your website to work: In the same question on preferred methods for first contacting a lawyer, 49.4% said they would use live chat. If your website doesn’t have this feature, consider adding it for prospects trying to connect once they find your site. A live chat service lets visitors to your website interact with a trained representative who can seamlessly answer prospect questions while collecting valuable information. Live chat not only buys you and your staff time to respond, it also puts the appropriate facts and details at your fingertips – another way to show that your practice is well-organized and ready to take on another client.

This post was updated on October 13, 2023 with statistics from Understanding the Legal Consumer 2022, our proprietary study that surveyed legal consumers preferences and actions. Coming soon: our 2023 version!

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