Law practice systems are easiest to implement in “transactional” practice areas like bankruptcy, real estate, divorce, immigration, criminal defense, and estate planning.
However, ideally your systems will convert your practice from transactional (one-time experience where they pay for a specific outcome and your clients promptly forget who you are) to relational (ongoing relationship with the client where you get paid again and again and they tell all their friends and family about you) in the process. Note: I’ll write more about the difference between transactional law practice and relational law practice in the future.
The two most important systems in your law practice are:
- your system for engaging new clients
- serving those clients in such a way that they become raving fans
Today’s article will focus on your system for engaging new clients and we will talk next week about your system for turning those clients into raving fans.
Your Client Engagement System
Your system for engaging new clients begins the moment a prospect calls, emails your office, or gets on your website.
In fact, as soon as you are done reading this article, head on over to your website and call your office with the eyes of a prospect…
What does someone checking you out online see? What does someone calling or emailing your office experience? Your homework assignment is to put yourself in the place of your prospect and find out. Would you be excited to hire you?
Any successful client engagement system needs to do the following:
Your system for engaging clients must begin with educating your prospects to know what to expect when they come into your office. This is part of your pre-qualification process and, when done right, will eliminate almost all shoppers and lookie-loos who just want the cheapest fees.
Believe me, you want to eliminate tire kickers from ever getting on the phone with you or in the seat across from you because they are costing you time, money and energy. So, disqualify them right from the start with your pre-education.
Make sure your website clearly spells out who you serve best, how you serve them and what makes your law practice different.
Also, include detailed information about your process for serving clients, described in a manner that sounds unique and intriguing and even gets them excited to meet with you. If you don’t have such a process, be sure to keep your eyes open for a future article.
Once a prospect does contact your office, the person setting your appointments (or you, if you are doing it yourself) needs to first complete an intake form that will gather all the pertinent information you need to determine if a prospect is a good fit for you and to allow you to enter them into your database so you can follow up if they do not book their appointment immediately.
The key part of this intake interview is to turn the tables on what your prospects expect and will get with most lawyers they call, which is the person on the phone trying to persuade them to make an appointment for you. Instead, do everything you can to rule them out from coming in to meet with you.
During this phone call, it’s all about them persuading you (or your intake specialist) that they do qualify to get some of your invaluable time.
I had one prospect who called wanting to know what it would cost to get a Will in place. The first thing I did is tell him that we don’t work that way and that I’m unwilling to make an appointment for him to come in for a Will because I don’t know if he needs a Will.
I told him we begin our process by getting a holistic overview of his personal and family and financial situation so we can evaluate what he has already and what he actually needs to have in place based on what he wants… and we can only do that by taking him through our in-depth discovery process we call a Family Wealth Planning Session™.
I told him this Planning Session is a comprehensive investigation that will guide him and us to know what he actually does need and then we can discuss what the cost will be to put whatever that is in place.
I told him our services aren’t for everyone, but just for those who want to know that the planning they’ve done for their loved ones will actually work when their family needs it.
If he was truly looking just for a Will and a one-size fits all solution, we weren’t the right law practice for him. And I told him that in no uncertain terms.
He, like most people when we used this strategy, said he wanted to begin with a discovery session. Then, once we knew the exact solution for his personal situation (rather than assuming what he thought he needed was what he actually needed)… only then would we take the next step.
There’s a lot of levels to why this works, but the essence is pre-qualifying and weeding out the resistant ones who really do want and are only willing to pay for a basic Will/service.
Here’s another key in this part of the process:
3. Nix “Free Consultations”
Your first consultation with a new client should be a pre-prepared, scripted, formal event with a special name. That’s right — name your initial meeting. Give it a purpose and a value.
Note that this gentleman I just mentioned wasn’t offered a free initial consultation. Instead, I told him about our discovery process to lead him to know what it was that he really wanted and needed.
The name: Family Wealth Planning Session™.
The purpose: To discover what would happen to everything he owns and loves if and when anything happens to him so we could design a plan that makes sure it goes the way he wants and chooses… rather than by default.
The value: Priceless to his peace of mind. Monetarily, normally $750 — fee waived if he comes in from a referral, an ad, or a talk. (Notice how this still allows your prospects to receive free time with you, but now it’s not a shop around session.)
4. Send a Pre-Meeting Package (Including Homework!)
After the initial meeting, if they are a good fit, your next step is to send out a pre-meeting package and include a homework assignment they can complete right away. This way they begin to feel invested in your process immediately, even before they come in to meet with you.
Ideally, the homework assignment will also provide your prospects with value whether you decide to work together ultimately or not.
This pre-meeting package is no place to cheap out. It’s the place for you to “shock and awe” your prospects with how amazing you are and that means including pre-printed linen folders, professionally printed reference materials inside, including bio and testimonials.
5. Create An Experience
Finally, when your prospects do come in to meet with you, you want to deliver a “wow” experience, right from the start.
When prospects walked up to the front door of my law office, the first thing they would see was a printed sign welcoming them by name. Then, when they stepped in the door they were greeted with the warmth of a burning candle and a calm, relaxed environment that felt much like a spa. Entering the meeting room, where they would be led by the smiling, welcoming face of the receptionist they would be offered a beverage and would always find fresh muffins and fruit or some other type of fresh food offering.
These little things make a world of difference to clients who are often nervous about coming to meet with a lawyer. They may not be able to tell if you are the best lawyer in town, but they know how being in your office and your presence makes them feel.
6. Script It
Your presence is the last piece of the client engagement puzzle. When you finally do sit down to meet with your prospects, after they have made it through the first 90% of your engagement process and made it to you, you want to have a scripted conversation that feels fresh each time you offer it.
This will include:
- A specific ice-breaker to start the meeting
- The perfect questions to uncover exactly what you need to know to lead the rest of the conversation
- A scripted process for leading them to the decision that you are the ideal lawyer for them and ready to write you a check on the spot.
7. Plan Ahead Before They Leave the Office
Before they leave, your engagement letter is signed, your next meeting is booked, your cards are in their pocket (for all the people they will refer to you) and your assistant is ready to scan in everything created during the meeting to start the next steps in your process.
Last, but not least, by the time your clients get home they have an email in their inbox welcoming them to your firm, introducing them to the key players (even outsource team members can be key players), or just letting them know the next steps in the process of working with you. And that’s the beginning of your raving fan system for serving your clients, which we will talk about in next week’s article.
For now, simply look at where you can make 1-2 changes in your own client engagement system by walking through your process as a prospect would and noting down what you have in place now, what you need to add and whether you would make the decision to hire yourself.
It all starts with just one first step. You can do it! And once you have a system in place that really works, it’s there for good and makes a huge difference for a long time.