The million-dollar question — how do lawyers get more clients? Lawyers are up against more challenges than ever in today’s legal market — some might even call it a crisis. While legal services were once considered a seller’s market, with lawyers holding all the cards, and clients having no choice but to accept the client experience they were delivered, we now find ourselves in a buyer’s market. Clients aren’t settling for lawyers having the upper hand anymore, and expect more for less. Not to mention, with over 1.3 million licensed attorneys in the United States, the competition is fiercer than ever. Long story short: Consumer choice is at an all-time high, and legal services are no exception.

Biggest Challenges Lawyers Face Getting Clients

Slow Response Times

Perhaps one of the most surprising statistics about lawyers is that they are astonishingly slow at getting back to potential clients. A recent benchmark study on the law firm intake process concluded that 42% of the time law firms failed to respond to leads within three days. Studies consistently show that response time has a substantial effect on a customer’s buying choice. Consequently, if lawyers hope to secure a steady stream of new clients, prioritizing a swift response time to new inquiries is essential.

Practices typically fall into one of two camps when it comes to responsiveness. Those in the first camp are oblivious to the fact that their stagnancy or decline in client acquisition comes as a result of poor responsiveness. The remainder understand the importance of response and recognize their lack of responsiveness as a stumbling block yet falsely attribute lack of staffing to the problem, as a smaller firm. (Spoiler alert: even solo attorneys can reply immediately by harnessing the right tools.)

Poor Marketing Strategy

Attracting and retaining clients starts with your marketing strategy. You can be the best lawyer in the world, but if no one knows you or your law firm exist, they’ll hire the first seemingly reputable lawyer who shows up on Google. 

Lack of Positive Reviews

We live in a review-fueled world where people value online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation from a close friend. When someone searches for a lawyer online, their decision often hinges on the number of stars next to the firm’s name.

Attorneys with poor ratings (3 or fewer stars) should read their reviews carefully and address the grievances therein since 90% of consumers will base their decision on what the reviews say. If a prospective client comes across enough positive reviews of your practice, they can assume you have a good reputation, thus increasing the likelihood of an inquiry. Another thing to keep in mind is that online reviews are like credit scores. Having zero reviews is the same as having poor reviews, so don’t hesitate to ask former clients to share their experiences!

Lack of Lead Tracking

Surprisingly, one out of every four law firms doesn’t track their leads — at all. No spreadsheets, nothing scribbled on a sticky note — zero, zilch, nada. Now, if this were a basic business 101 class, you’d have to unlearn this behavior almost immediately.

The problem with failing to track your leads is that you have no idea what’s working and what’s not when it comes to marketing or onboarding. Keeping track of your potential customers doesn’t just help you acquire more clients, it helps you develop a better marketing strategy. Keeping tabs on the pathways of your leads allows you to pinpoint your best marketing sources and make better business decisions.

When you consider that the average law firm takes three or more days to get back to an incoming lead, it’s hardly surprising that these same law firms aren’t tracking their potential clients either — a major missed opportunity.

Failure to Collect Contact Information

According to a recent study, law firms answering incoming lead inquiries failed to collect necessary qualifying case information 90% of the time. Half of the time, not even contact information such as a phone number is collected. If only one-tenth of prospective clients are getting through the inquiry phase, how can firms hope to achieve sustainable growth? The truth is that a lot of lawyers have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to getting clients. Unfortunately, law school does not prepare you for the business aspect of running a law firm, so, many lawyers find themselves missing huge opportunities for more clients.

A recent study concluded that almost 40% of law students who graduated in 2014 were unable to find jobs in the legal profession, and the current demand for lawyers is showing 0% growth. So, as you can see, the enormous imbalance between lawyers and demand for lawyers puts lawyers at a disadvantage. The lack of market demand makes it more challenging than ever to expand your practice.

At the same time, the average American has experienced at least one legal issue within the last two years that they could have used a lawyer for. Yet, they did not end up hiring one because they couldn’t afford it. What this tells us is that people need lawyers, they simply don’t have the means to afford one. So, if you hope to build your client base, you need to find creative ways to tap into the legal Greenfield.

How Clients Find Their Lawyers

The first step to overcoming the aforementioned challenges and strengthening the attorney client relationship is understanding what makes clients tick. With a clearer picture of how the average client finds their lawyer, you can market yourself effectively to appeal to their “buyer” personas.

1. Google

Google ads can be powerful lead magnets. Because 90% of consumers base their buying decisions off of reviews online after performing a Google search, the first place they’ll click is the lawyer who ranks the highest in their search results.

2. Friends and Family

Legal clients don’t just rely on the internet to find their lawyers, they rely on their social circle by asking for recommendations from a friend or family member, either on social media or by word of mouth. Personal recommendations serve as social proof, and are the ultimate stamp of approval. Whether they’re looking for a plumber or a lawyer, most consumers turn to someone they know personally for a referral before turning to the internet. So, as a lawyer, it’s important that you remember the importance of personal referrals. Give people a reason to recommend you to their friends and family!

3. Referrals From Other Lawyers

Over 70% of business comes from referrals. If you can manage to create high-quality relationships with former clients and other lawyers, you’ll find considerable success with building your practice. Oftentimes that requires going the extra mile to deliver a remarkable client experience. Lawyers with high referral rates from other lawyers often have a quid pro quo agreement. Send clients their way, and show them that you value the gesture when they do the same!

4. Lawyer Directories

Legal directories are still a powerful tool for increasing your visibility and getting more clients. Since their entire purpose is for helping leads find clients, it’s a vital place to show up. Make sure that you are familiar with all the latest legal directories, and confirm that you’ve been added. Having a presence on all the major legal directories increases your chances of someone picking up the phone and calling you when they need a lawyer. Some legal directories are specialized towards only one practice area. For that reason, it’s important to know the difference to ensure that you show up in all the right places.

There are many different legal directories for you to choose from, however, the most reputable ones include:

  • Avvo

  • Find Law

  • Nolo

  • Super Lawyers

  • Justia

How You Can Attract More Clients

Great Communication

Communication errors make up for almost half of all Lawpro claims in almost all practice areas. Being proactive and clear with your communication is crucial to your law firm’s success. That’s where client intake software can help. Client intake software keeps a consistent tempo of communication with your clients, by making them feel connected to you and making you seemingly available to them at any moment.

Client intake software engages clients from day one by sending out automated messages based on triggers of your choice. Whether they schedule a free consultation or it’s their birthday, automated yet personalized messaging makes them feel valued and attended to. Since lawyers don’t always have time to manually keep their clients informed about the status of their case or provide constant legal advice, law firm automation can make your clients feel like they’re in contact with you at every step.

Smooth Client Experience

In the absence of a systematic client intake process, leads (prospective clients) often get lost and forgotten.

If there’s one thing legal consumers appreciate, it’s a smooth and low-effort experience. The less that you ask of them, and the more attentive you are, the happier they are with the experience. From the first point of contact, client intake software makes it easy to collect a lead’s information using a digital client intake form, which automatically creates a record of that person in your database.

Once a potential client exists in your database, client intake software tracks their progress and interactions with you, ensuring that they’ll never be left hanging waiting for news on their case. Automated messages keep them informed of any developing information regarding their case, and prompts them to take action when needed.

Client intake software also makes it easy to schedule appointments — whether it be for a consultation, case update, or anything that necessitates a face-to-face. No longer do your clients have to call you or engage in a drawn-out email exchange to find the right time that works for you and them. Offering a simple way to schedule appointments using automated appointment scheduling eliminates the friction that is often associated with scheduling consultations and improves business development as a whole. Once an appointment is booked, client intake software will send out automated appointment reminders to all parties, reducing the likelihood of no-shows.

Less Tedious Administrative Work

It can be difficult for busy attorneys to give each client the attention they deserve when there’s so much administrative work piling up. However, managing your leads and clients becomes significantly more manageable when you turn to client intake software. For one thing, all the time previously lost on monotonous and time-draining manual entry, can instead be reappropriated to billable activities. As a major bonus, you’ll decrease the risk of lawyer burnout, a compounding affliction that can reduce quality of life.

Client intake software does all of the busy work for you so that you can turn your attention towards delivering empathetic, attentive, and high-quality legal services, making each client feel like they’re your only client.

Better Organization

Making the switch to client intake software paves the way to a much more systematic workflow overall. In lieu of digging through multiple piles of papers, or flipping through various emails to find the right information for your client matter, client intake software makes it easy to access whatever you need at any time-be it past client interactions, case documents, and more. When you’re disorganized, your clients can sense it. Introducing client intake software to your practice helps you deliver a more professional and polished client experience overall.

Better Measurement of Your Marketing Success

Client intake software can come with data tracking and analytics to help you track your marketing effectiveness. By harnessing the power of data, you can identify where your best leads are coming from, and how many of them are actually converting into clients, helping you make better-informed decisions that ultimately attract more clients to your practice.

Instead of wasting your resources on legal marketing sources that aren’t producing results, reporting software helps you make data-driven changes where it matters the most.

Puts Your Marketing on Auto-Pilot

Drip email marketing automation for law firms keeps you top of mind with your leads and clients, delivering personalized and valuable emails to the right person at the right time. Automation tools like audience segmentation software help you target specific audience segments within your contact list so that your communications are relevant to each recipient. Rather than an all-in-one marketing approach, audience segmentation increases your chances of the message getting opened since they’re more likely to relate to the content. More open messages equals more opportunities for acquiring more clients.

Best Practices for Client Intake

1. Make a Great First impression

First impressions matter, particularly when it comes to convincing someone to entrust you with their personal matters, or even their freedom. With the legal landscape as fiercely competitive as ever, all firms who wish to succeed must differentiate themselves as a top choice for potential clients. Automating your client intake process puts you ahead of the pack as it can help you deliver white-glove service from the very first interaction. Fast and tailored responses leave a lasting impression at every stage of the client journey.

2. Pre-Screen Your Client

Pre-screening your clients before the initial consultation can save everyone time. Not every lead that walks through your door is going to be a perfect fit for your practice. Pre-screening can help save you the trouble of scheduling a consultation with someone who isn’t a match. If you’re a smaller firm that doesn’t have the luxury of a front desk staff, you can send a custom template with any pre-screening questions you need answered to to qualify your potential client. This way you can avoid losing billable time that you could have otherwise spent on what matters most at your law firm.

3. Give Your Clients Direct Access to You

Giving your clients permission to send you a message at any time can set you apart from the competition. But whereas giving each client your personal phone number isn’t realistic, offering access to a client portal is. Within said portal, clients can send you direct messages, access any important documents, and even self-schedule appointments. Since your clients no longer have to sit around and wait for a response from you to schedule an appointment or get updates on their case, they’ll have the unique privilege of consistently communicating with you, without disturbing you all hours of the day.

4. Talk About Fees Upfront

One of the most common stereotypes about lawyers is that they’re devious and lack transparency when it comes to their pricing. It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to go over your billing structure plus all potential fees from the first consultation. Pre-empt the possibility of negative online reviews bashing you for surprise fees by discussing by explaining what types of payment you accept, and how much your services will cost up front.

5. Offer E-Signature

The more frictionless the onboarding experience, the better service you’ll provide overall. Offering E-signature is one of the best ways to streamline the client journey, and make it easy for your clients to get important documents signed and back to you. Rather than making your clients bother with printers and scanners, they can simply sign on the go from anywhere with an internet connection. Many firms have reduced the time it takes to get a retainer agreement signed from days to mere hours by offering a digital signature option.

How to Get Started Using Client Intake Software

  • Choose Your Software

  • Get Your Team On Board

  • Measure Your Progress

Stop Missing Opportunities and Start Converting Clients

The latest trends report shows that law firms who use client intake software saw 40% more revenue per lawyer compared to firms not using the same technology. 

Sources Cited

Conrad Saam, ABA Benchmark Study on Law Firm Intake Process: Part , February 1, 2016 https://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2016/02/benchmark-law-firm-intake/

Clio, The 2021 Legal Trends Report https://f.hubspotusercontent30.net/hubfs/470182/Clio%20Content%20Syndication%20(11.10%20-%2012.31.21)/2021-Legal-Trends-Report-Oct-26.pdf

Jamie Pitman, Local Consumer Review Survey 2021, brightlocal.com, January 26, 2022. https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/