It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at it for a while, if you want to build a successful law practice, you’ll need to know how to turn prospects into clients and charge the fees that you deserve.
When I first started my practice, finding a way to get my prospective clients to hire me was the biggest obstacle that stood between me and success. But, as you know, after much investment and learning, I turned my practice into a 7-figure revenue generating business.
How? Well, over time (and with a whole lot of trial and error!) I put together a highly effective 10-step system that helped me engage nearly every client that connected with me.
The Critical Process
When I first started out, I talked to a bunch of other lawyers and asked them for advice about creating a successful practice. They all told me that the answer was to get more people in the doors.
I tried it for a while and what I found was that the more people I got in the door, the more it just ended up costing me time and money and energy… Because I didn’t know how to convert them from interested to engaged in writing me a check.
I was spinning my wheels and frustrated! You see, there’s a high cost of lost prospects when you don’t know how to go from interested to engaged.
The missing piece to this puzzle? Marketing. Knowing how to market your services is the only way to grow and my 10-step system is based on smart marketing.
When you have this system in place, all of the sudden, you don’t have to be so worried about getting your phone ringing so much because you know that every single person that calls is qualified and ready, and that you are going to take them through the steps and have them writing that cheque.
Ready to discover the 10 steps? Let’s get started!
Step 1: Start with a Smile
The first step is simple and you can start doing it today. Just change how you answer your phones. Whoever’s answering your phones, please retrain them to have a smile on their face when they pick up a call. They’ve got to say something along the lines of, “Welcome to the Law offices of Martin Neely & Associates. This is Alexis, how may I assist you today?”
You need to remember that when people call a law office, they are in fear. They are scared. Even if you practice in a ‘non scary’ area like estate planning or business planning, you have to understand that they’re still scared to be calling a lawyer.
You and I, we forget that because we’re lawyers! We don’t realize that non-lawyers are scared of lawyers. So, when they call your office and feel the sense of “Welcome, how can I assist you?” their bodies relax, and while they may not realize it, they already start to think of you differently.
Step 2: Qualify the Right People
The next step is that you have to change how your appointments are booked. In fact, you’ve got to use a script.
Now you might think “Oh, God. If I script how somebody sets my appointments, it’s going to come off cold or dry.” But the exact opposite is true…
It is scripting that allows whoever is setting your appointments — whether it’s you, your client services director or intake specialist — to relax and know exactly what to say. When you take this step, you turn into the most in demand lawyer in town.
This script is not about trying to get people in the door. It is actually about qualifying people who are the right people for you and ruling out the rest. Ask questions and gather information to make sure that the prospect is a good fit for your practice. When you do this, you won’t end up spending time on people who won’t hire you.
Step 3: Get Booked in Advance
Can you imagine looking out into the future and seeing your calendar totally full six to eight weeks out? What usually happens is that somebody calls a lawyer or sends an e-mail and it’s all about how quickly you can get them into the office. Perhaps in your practice area, it is more imperative than in other areas.
So this step is going to be somewhat practice area specific. For example, somebody who has an urgent matter like a DUI, is different than somebody who has a non-urgent matter like an estate plan. Those are two different practice areas. Now, there can still be some urgent matters in the realm of estate planning like somebody’s on their death bed but you can make room for that. However, overall, you need to book your appointments well in advance. When you do that, you will have prospects who are begging to get on your calendar and here’s why…
When you are booked out six to eight weeks into the future, you will automatically become the most sought after lawyer in the area because when your prospective clients call all the lawyers in town and you’re the one who’s booked two to four and six to eight weeks out and the other guy is available immediately, they’re going to know that you’re most in demand lawyer around.
Even if they can’t see you right away, there’s a comfort level knowing that they’re going to see the lawyer that everyone else is lining up to see and this will motivate them to want to work with you. They will want to choose you over everyone else. You can make exceptions for emergencies of course but in most cases you want to be booking your appointments out into the future even if it’s only two weeks.
Step 4: Inspire Shock and Awe
The next step in the system is the shock and awe pre meeting package. Right now, you probably get an initial appointment set with a prospect and then you do nothing or very little between the time the appointment is set and when it’s held. If that’s the case, it’s no wonder you get cancellations and people who aren’t prepared to hire you! They’re shopping around and they’re probably cancelling because they’ve hired somebody else already.
What you need to do instead is send a pre-meeting shock and awe package that prepares them to work with you and in fact it gets them working with you even before they’ve come in to see you.
I noticed a phenomenal change in client engagement in my practice the moment I started sending a shock and awe package. An example is the package our Personal Family Lawyers® send out. It includes a beautiful folder, it’s full color and the documents inside are printed on linen.
A good shock and awe package includes information that describes exactly what the clients can expect: a sheet of testimonial, directions to the office and pre-meeting homework. You should also provide a beautiful folder the clients can use to prepare their homework. I’ll explain more about homework in the next step.
If you are sending this in the mail, it might cost you $5 to $10. We always send the package in a priority mailer, US Postal service. You’ll need to spend a few bucks for the folder and the materials inside. Yes, it costs a bit of money but let me share with you why it’s worth spending a little bit of money on your shock and awe pre-meeting package.
The moment I started doing this in my practice, we were able to increase our fees significantly. People came in prepared for an experience rather than a transaction and they were willing to pay more for it. Not only did we increase our fees on the front end, meaning the first transaction, but we increased the lifetime value of our client and the referrals that they sent us too.
Step 5: Offer Value Right Away
As I mentioned in the previous step, included in this pre-meeting package is pre-meeting homework. The key is that this homework needs to offer high value. So, for example, our Personal Family Lawyers® give their prospects homework that will get them more financially organized than they’ve ever been before. So, whether those prospects engage a law firm or not, they’re going to walk away with value.
Our Creative Business Lawyer® members give their prospects homework that will show them where their business is leaking money and how to recover that money. Now whether they engage the law firm or not, they’ve already gotten value.
The point is to increase the likelihood that they’re going to refer your firm and frankly it’s going to increase the likelihood that they are going to engage your services because they’re already engaged — they’re pre-engaged. This is smart marketing because now you’re marketing education. You’re marketing outcome. You’re marketing results. (Things your prospects want and need!)
Step 6: Don’t Focus on Free
So let’s get into step number six and it’s pretty straightforward — you’ve got to stop focusing on free initial consultations. I don’t mean that you aren’t going to meet with people for free but you are not marketing free initial consultations ever again. I know some lawyers who have said that they are meeting with people for up to two or even three hours.
When you shift from offering free initial consultations which are just bringing in people who are not your ideal client, to offering an educational meeting that has a name, a purpose, and a value, the only people who are coming in are your ideal clients. The best part? They are ready to work with you.
Step 7: Eliminate Cancellations
Did I tell you about the time I lost $10,000 in one day because of appointments that were cancelled at the last minute? That was the day that I burst into tears because I was really counting on that money to make my payroll that month. That was also the day I realized I had to do something to change the way I handled appointments. Then, it hit me — I needed to start securing appointments with a credit card.
Now trust me, you might be saying there’s no way you can do that and I felt that same exact way. I was so scared to do it. But once I figured out how, I almost never had another cancellation.
And every single lawyer I have taught this to has experienced life changing results as well. I guarantee you it works and I’ll be letting you know how you can get me teaching you the specifics at the end of this article.
Step 8: Script That Meeting
So far, we’ve gotten through everything up to the point when your prospects come into your office. How you answer your phone, what you do when you’re booking the the first meeting, what you send out before the first meeting and how to eliminate cancellations. The next part of the process is incredibly important: What happens the moment that they show up in your office?
This is where step number eight comes in. The key to getting nearly a 100% engagement rate is that everything should be scripted out. This is the super boost game changer. From the ice breaker, the thing that you say the minute that you sit down with your prospects to the agenda you present and the way you tell your firm story, you’re getting buy-in from them.
It’s all scripted and there’s not a single bit of selling involved. Ask questions that help your prospects tell you why they need to hire you and then as they speak those words, it becomes a done deal. Your script should be designed to lead your prospects into telling you why they need you. That’s the secret and that’s not trying to sell them anything.
In fact, you must make this mind set shift immediately. You are not trying to sell anyone anything. If you take nothing else away, please take this: your job as an attorney is to be a resource and adviser and a guide, not a salesman, not a saleswoman.
If what you say at that crucial initial meeting is not scripted, what you’ll get is a lot of people who come in and thank you for the great information, thank you for being a great resource and don’t hire you. In fact, they’ll probably go out and hire the lawyer down the street.
Step #9 Design Irresistible Packages
So now that you’ve got them telling you why they need you, which is exactly what they’re going to be doing as a result of scripting, you are then going to present your packages and fee schedule.
Before I started using this system, I would spend most of my initial meeting trying to figure out what I was going to say about the money part, how I was going to say it, and basically dreading it. That’s why I had four hours of meetings because I was so afraid to float the fee!
Once I created the system and had packages and a fee schedule in place, everything changed. This piece of the system, just this piece — the packages, the fee schedule — generated $2.5 million in legal fees.
The secret to creating irresistible packages is that they need to be outcome based and they need to look great. The packages and schedule I had in my office were laminated. It had a front and a back, with a nice design.
The way that you present these packages is also absolutely key. When I presented a laminated fee schedule, guess what? Nobody negotiated my fee anymore! All of the sudden it was like “Oh, well, it’s written down and it’s laminated so this must be what the fees are.”
With packages and a fee schedule my clients could also choose their own fee. By choosing their package level (there’s a range within each of the package levels) I could guide them through a process of choosing within the range that they felt comfortable with and everyone ended up happy.
Step 10: Be Prepared to Collect
This brings us to step 10 which is about collecting payment. Now I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit it but I would go into my initial meeting, totally unprepared to collect money. I brought a pen and a pad of paper to the meeting and that’s it. Well, if you’re going into your initial meetings with a pen and a pad of paper, you are not prepared to collect a cheque and to present an engagement letter or have that client hire you!
You need to bring along an attorney folder and in that folder will be everything that you need, in order to collect payment. Start the engagement on the spot and do it in a way that has your new clients feel absolutely loved and taken care of; like they want to refer everyone to you because it’s such a unique experience.
Right now, I would imagine that many of your prospects and clients are walking out the door and ten minutes later they can’t even remember your name. It’s time to change that.
So there you have it! The 10 steps that will change everything in your practice. These are steps you can implement immediately with no help from me. This system will shift the entire way you market your services.
When you’ve got this powerful client engagement system in place, you become truly unstoppable. You no longer have to worry about competition because you immediately set yourself apart from the rest of the lawyers in your community.