The Un-Billable Hour
Christopher T. Anderson has authored numerous articles and speaks on a wide range of topics, including law...
This episode’s discussion around the Community Table:
Special thanks to our sponsors Belay, Lawyaw, Lawmatics, and Lawclerk.
Intro: The Un-Billable Hour Community Table where real lawyers from all around the country with real issues they are dealing with right now meet together virtually to present their questions to Christopher T. Anderson, lawyer and law firm management consultant. New questions every episode, and none of it scripted. The real conversations happen here. Today’s episode centers around a single question regarding the client intake process that developed into a larger discussion about how to effectively use the non-attorney salesperson in a way that meets client expectations.
Female 1: Let’s continue on with this theory of the intake procedure. I was thinking about it and I agreed that the cycle of the getting them to sign on should not be that long.
Christopher T. Anderson: And we already been assigned with like time, it’s this number of steps. It’s like —
Female 1: It’s the number of steps correct?
Christopher T. Anderson: (00:01:28) I used to call it punishing people for doing business with us.
Female 1: Right. Absolutely, but I’m wondering if there is a creative hybrid solution where I could kind of morph the two concepts together.
Christopher T. Anderson: Of course there is, yeah.
Female 1: I don’t know what that would have looked like.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. So just for the audience, what we’re talking about here is the intake — family law particularly intake process, right? So, how much is too much? How much is too little? What’s the right cadence as far as when a new client is coming in? Do we talk to them — yeah, as an intake, their initial intake to gather basic information as a precursor to signing them up to get the information necessary to know whether they’d be good fit for the firm or whether the firm is a good fit for them and then the part where they want legal advice and get legal questions answered and like how do you streamline that so that they get a great experience and yet the firm doesn’t impede their progress through that process and make it more difficult than it needs to be. So, what you were thinking about, like with intake as you understand is the intake process, the sales process and then the — what I was considered whether it’s afterwards or not. That first call with the attorney even if the full retainer has been sold is still a sales call regardless —
Female 1: Yeah.
Christopher T. Anderson: — because that’s where they’re going to make their final decision whether it’s going to stick. So what do you — like let’s look at this from the client’s perspective. What do you think clients want, other than they want to talk to their attorney right away for free, right?
Female 1: That’s what they want. I think they want — if I would, because I’ve been in the experience, right, I want to get on the phone with the attorney, I’ll even pay for it, but I want my questions answered from a legal perspective. I’ll pay for it if that’s what I want.
Christopher T. Anderson: Now, of course you are a lawyer, so does that color your want because like we put ourselves — the interesting thing is like we sometimes put ourselves in the way, right? We say, “Well, we can’t.” If you’re not attorney and you’re in intake person, you can’t give legal advice which is of course true, but I think we’d make the presumption that what they’re looking for is legal advice rather than life advice, coaching.
Female 1: Well —
Christopher T. Anderson: A lot of them do ask the question like how likely that I’ll get custody, how likely is it that I’ll have to pay alimony, how like — you know, once you’re predicting and giving odds, you’re either providing legal advice or even doing things a lawyer shouldn’t do, right, which is guaranteeing outcomes. So, that’s what the client wants, but the client really wants like if you zoom even farther back, what the client really wants is to be moved from their place of uncertainty about their future to a place of more certainty about their future. They’re feeling incompetent. They’re feeling like they’re facing a process that they don’t know about. I don’t know if I want to call that incompetent but they’re feeling powerless. That’s the better word. You’re feeling powerless in this situation. They want to feel either more powerful or that they’ve got the person with power on their side. To some extent, there’s a challenge there in dealing with a non-attorney sales person or an intake person in that person is not empowered to say the magic words in the magic court of law. So, that’s what the client wants. What the client wants to give up for that? Obviously, they would like to give up as little as possible, like they would rather pay nothing for this experience and get free legal advice, and what they really like is to call back several times to get more and more and more free legal advice until they’ve earned enough to handle the entire case by themselves.
Female 1: And is that a rhetorical question or do you want me to answer what I think they were.
Christopher T. Anderson: I want you to answer for sure.
Female 1: I think they want two things. They want to feel comforted that somebody understands them. They have somebody they could finally talk to who like yes, we’re not therapist but they view — for some reason, the attorney holds the authority or the law firm holds the authority. So, they want to finally get it off their chest but I also think they want a crash course in my situation would be divorce. They want a crash course in what can I expect because their expectations they don’t have any expectations or they have to precede expectation from their family and friends and Law and Order, whatever the hell they’re watching and I just had that happen in my current consult, and I have to because I’m sitting in the non-attorney salesperson roll right now. I had to set expectations upfront to make sure that they know this is a 3,000-foot view assessment of the case that within the hour we are not going to be able to solve Rome or build Rome in an hour and so I really want to get a deep understanding of what they want help with, how they even got here, what opportunities there may be for them you know life wise and giving them whatever clarity I can and I say from a non-legal perspective something like that.
Christopher T. Anderson: Well so, yeah, I have obviously tried to skin this cat lots and lots of ways and lots of different times. One of the solutions I’ve come to is that, to your point, you’re exactly right. They do want that kind of crash course and so I’ve developed a three email with three videos sequence to give that to them. So, the sequence is what it takes to do business with us so that whoever they talked to get to skip over that part and not have to talk about what makes our firm different, how do you do business with us, what are — you know how does our payment work and all that? Second one is what to expect in your case, and the third one is what to expect from your call. So, I do a preconditioning. So, they come to the call expecting what they’re going to get it and so that when they get it, it’s a fulfilled promise. I’ll be honest I don’t do a whole lot of legal teaching or say like a crash course.
Female 1: I don’t — I try — I can’t — in an hour, I can do that.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right. So, it’s more like I’d say they might be at ease about firm, about the process, about what they should expect and about what the firm will do when they hire us. So, like we’ve talked about the fact that they’ll get that strategy meeting right away. They’ll meet with the legal team who will answer all their questions right away.
Female 1: Am I right to think about it as because sometimes I say this and I don’t 100% know if I believe it, but today we’re going to be talking about the what, the, how to is an event for another day. That’s the second phase. That’s the strategy session because there are 17 ways to skin a cat. You know, there might be four different approaches the how to. Here is the what. What are we discussing.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right.
Female 1: Can I frame it like that? I don’t want them — I mean can do some better preconditioning 100% but if I don’t have that up and running right now, I need to set the expectation right at the start of the meeting.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, or even before the start of the meeting, it’s kind of what I’m saying. Like you know, I think that having that capability of doing — preparing that — even preparing them, preparing their mindset even before the start of their meeting is even better.
Female 1: Yeah. No, I will. I just don’t have it set up right now.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right. Well, I mean yeah not for nothing you could it today, right?
Female 1: I guess I could, yeah, like definitely could.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, I mean, you know, literally I took half an hour to record the videos, like I just did them in a way you know I just basically did stream of consciousness and then I then I told the editor what I actually wanted out of it and they put through the three videos together. I would like to share — can I share them with you?
Female 1: Yeah, I think so.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, I would be glad to send them to you. Then I did email copy. That probably took me an hour to write the three emails and then over the past several months, I probably spent another couple hours rewriting them and rewriting and rewriting them. I’m just trying to tighten them up, but you know, the videos are done and then me building the sequence in my CRM took no time at all really. It took me another 15 minutes and then you know that’s just improved the conversion rate of the sales team and it’s also meeting like I have a goal that I don’t suggest has to be everybody’s goal, but I think it’s a good one in that I want people who don’t buy to speak well of us right? I want —
Female 1: Yeah, exactly.
Christopher T. Anderson: I want five-star reviews on Google from people who decided not to do business with us.
And if you think about it, if that’s your mindset going in, then I think it kind of changes the whole way you approach the process just because now you’re not trying to make the sale in those videos. You’re trying to educate. You’re trying to give them — and the beautiful thing is because it’s a video, it’s you know done once, delivered many, you can provide that value without eating up hours and hours and hours of your time and your life. You could start your calls with. You watch the video. All right.
Female 1: Yeah, right.
Christopher T. Anderson: I’m going to go get a coffee. You watch the video. I’ll be right back.
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Christopher T. Anderson: I think we’re kind of dancing around your question and not really hitting it head on. So, what’s the actual thing you would like to resolve?
Female 1: Excuse me. I already have a three-step process which I actually feel, although feeling you know (00:12:03) and feelings maybe, whatever but I still feel that’s a little annoying to the potential client, but I’d also like to somewhat lighten the load for the non-attorney salesperson in defense of I guess not having to sell a full retainer package and maybe giving the client more confidence before they pay and then meet the attorney. I had a (00:12:26) ask me this yesterday and like well — and listen they were super wealthy. It wasn’t about the money. They just rightfully said, you know, when do we get to meet this attorney you’re speaking of who’s going to handle the matter before we pay the retainer and I was like I basically nicely said no but if for some reason you’re not happy with that attorney, we’ll make it right, like don’t think that you pay and then that’s the only the end of the conversation. So I “convinced” them that was okay to go that route but they’re good questions. I can’t deny that they’re good questions.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right. Now, so my experience says that I keep numbers on this. That it’s less than 20% of the people that want to talk to the attorney before they can buy. I also can show that the conversion rate on those even after they’re allowed to talk to the attorney is lower by a lot because these are what our good friend we used to call skeptics without criteria. They are so in love with their conflict that they’ve got this list of obstacles that they have to put it away.
Female 1: Right.
Christopher T. Anderson: And I have to talk with the attorney because like (00:13:46). Listen, once in a while you get a client or prospective client who is sophisticated enough and has hired attorneys before and actually has some criteria that they want to talk to the attorney because they’ve got real criteria that they want to measure them against. Most of them don’t, like they have no idea. So, you want to talk to an attorney and then what? You know, do you want to make sure that they can speak English, you know that they’re articulate. That’s the word I was looking for, that they are articulate. You want to make sure that they have one head.
Female 1: Right.
Christopher T. Anderson: Why do you need to talk to the attorney and it’s just an obstacle. So, the way we’ve gotten around that obstacle is we’d say, “Sure. That is absolutely possible.” We have this product. Well, I’ve talked to the attorney and you can buy that product and it is an expensive product. You know, depending on what your hourly rate is, I recommend that you give them 45 to 50 minutes at one point five times your hourly rate, so now 1.5 times the 45 minutes. So let’s say, if your hourly rate is $400, I suggest you give them 45 minutes for $600.
Female 1: Yeah.
Christopher T. Anderson: And none of its applicable, zero applicable to the fee.
It is a coaching call. It has its own independent value. You can call it a strategy session, whatever you want to call it, and then you can decide to buy, but you know that money is down the tubes. And, you know, hopefully you actually gave them value in that but that way you’re not eating up attorney time for prospects. It actually can be a decent revenue which is not why you do it. You do it because 80 to 90% of the people will say no. That’s okay, why don’t I just hire the attorney and then of course the reverse of it is you tell them what you just said is like listen, you sign here, we’re going to assign you to your attorney, you’re going to meet your attorney. If you don’t like your attorney, you know, I’ll give you everything but the twenty or the hour that you spent back —
Female 1: Right.
Christopher T. Anderson: — or I’ll assign you to another attorney. Yeah.
Female 1: Yes.
Christopher T. Anderson: You know, I got other attorneys. I’ll sign you first. If you don’t like anybody, I’ll give you your money back. You know, this isn’t a trick. So, why do I want the retainer upfront, because I don’t want to waste my attorneys’ time with tire kickers. I’m not saying you are one, but I’m saying that I’ve learned — this is my business and I’ve learned that this process protects my team from wasting their time and quite honestly, if you’re not the right person to be talking to, that’s wasting your time. I don’t want to waste your time or their time. This conversation should be a conversation that is moving you forward in the process. It’s true that I had experience. I haven’t had anybody ask for their money back, right? So it works in a way.
Female 1: Yeah.
Christopher T. Anderson: But the ultimate — what I’ve talked to you about before what is one of my kind of mantras is that this is all very interesting chatter but the goal, what we’re actually after here is not, I’ll be quite honest, it’s actually not streamlining the client experience, it’s not lightening the load of the salesperson. The actual goal here is plain and simple, improving the conversion rate of the business, right? So my goal of getting a five star review for people who don’t buy isn’t for ego that I like having five star reviews out there for people who don’t buy. It’s because that improves my conversion rates overall. More five star reviews on Google, better conversion rate. But so, any tweak we want to make to this intake sales consult process should come with a hypothesis, like our conversion rates been X. I want it to be better. We are going to try to do this change and then we’ll to see and if you want, you can even pull. Some people have gone through your conversion process before and after to say as a client experience, how would you rate this and see if that goes up because that could happen down the road effect on conversion rates. But so for me, I think these are some good ideas but quite honestly, they might improve conversion rates for me and not for you or vice versa because you’re in the north and I’m in the south, because your clientele is different than my clientele and it just — you know, every — nobody — one of the dangers of course of advice like this is that everybody thinks like oh, if that works for them, it works for everybody. Then everyone should copy. Well, you can’t copy. The only thing you can copy is the discipline of experimenting, measuring, and changing.
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Female 1: I think the path of least resistance, although it takes some time that I don’t currently have is that that are tweaking of the preconditioning, but I’m putting the non-attorney sales role. I have two that I’m looking to hire, that one is most definite and the other one is pending somebody else watching a video to make sure I’m not insane. No, just kidding. The other one is pending. So it’s when I have the — because right now, I mean my intake — you know, it’s easy to say, “Okay, you’ll be meeting with the owner of the firm.”
Okay, like nobody questions that, you know.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Female 1: And then I set the expectation upfront and they don’t even question me because I am who I am and I say it the way I say it. Well, when that new non-attorney salesperson comes to the mix, then I’m going to have to recondition my intake and that’s why I’ve been so — training intake is such an important thing and I have done all I think I can do because I don’t think they’re — no, I haven’t had one person besides my cousin who has done it successfully to really explain why it is fine to go talk to the non-attorney salesperson.
Christopher T. Anderson: So, one thing I do is like because we all sometimes get dragged back to the sales seat. Intake does not tell them they’re going — like they tell him to go to meet with Chris. That’s it. Like, so the process doesn’t have to change. They don’t say, “Oh, you get to meet with the founder. You get to meet with the owner. I’m going to book you with Chris who’s going to take your call” and then you know I don’t try to hide the ball, right. So when they get me, I’ll say, “Hey, I’m very sorry to let you know that unfortunately nobody else was available and you have to speak to the founder of the firm” and you know because I just don’t want them to think we hid the ball from them, but I said intake doesn’t tell them because I don’t ever want intake to change.
Female 1: Yeah, but they’re going to know — they know who Chris is.
Christopher T. Anderson: No, why won’t they know that?
Female 1: It’s you, you think or —
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. No. It is me but they don’t know. Nobody — prospects don’t know who Chris is.
Female 1: Right. So, they’re just assuming it’s an attorney maybe.
Christopher T. Anderson: Making a point with Chris.
Female 1: Industry expectations would be — that’s where we –
Christopher T. Anderson: So, my preconditioning says you’re going meet with your new clients specialist who usually is not an attorney.
Female 1: We’ve had some misunderstanding with that department. It haven’t gone over very well. So, I’m trying to be extra upfront about it.
Christopher T. Anderson: Oh yeah, it’s in every email, every email.
Female 2: We’ve used the Dragon for over four years. So, I’ve been out of sales and attorneys has been on the sales for a long time than my firm relatively speaking. But all of our correspondence regarding the consultations only says you know, the client engagement specialist or director of client engagement and what is sold is to learn more about our process so we can learn more about your case, whether we’re a good fit for you, if your case is a good fit for the firm, but they’re never led to believe that they’re going to be with an attorney in like Chris are saying earlier, if they insist on meeting with an attorney, I mean we have a sales process to worry about where they can pay more for an attorney’s time —
Female 1: Right.
Female 2: — and almost no one wants to do that.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Female 2: So, they do one attorney consult every three months.
Female 1: What I had a non-attorney I used to say, “You know, I trained the intake.” Have you watched the move Erin Brokovich? You are going to be meeting that kind of — you know, where they’re going to dig and get all the information. I used to say the male version of Erin Brokovich.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. That’s great. I like that.
Female 1: I know I seems a little —
Female 2: I’m feeling that.
Female 1: Yeah, point is it was relatable. I’d go yeah, yeah, like that’s the meeting you’re going to have. They get all the information, give you all the information about all things but legal, yada, yada, yada. That works out well.
Christopher T. Anderson: And here’s the important point for this, again most buyers for both of you and for most consumer lawyers are not sophisticated buyers with legal services. So let’s look at the rest of their life, right, as we try to set expectations to do this. Do you call the doctor’s office and say before I’ll book an appointment, I’d like to speak with the doctor.
Female 2: No.
Christopher T. Anderson: No. You book appointment so you can speak with the doctor, right?
Female 1: Right.
Christopher T. Anderson: Now, their experience isn’t that they then pay before they speak to the doctor. So there is a difference there, right? But they don’t get to speak to the doctor before they book the appointment. The got do that and that’s true everywhere. You don’t ever — you know, you bring your car to the shop, I’d like to meet the mechanic before you work on my car. No. Let’s meet with some sales dude upfront, you know who asks you all the good questions?
Female 1: That’s exactly (00:24:22).
Christopher T. Anderson: So, this gets back to like the premise of that all is that we forget that we get to teach the client how to be a consumer. We get to tell them how this is done because they haven’t done it and so if you do it authoritatively, that’s why I suggested this preconditioning process with the videos, whatever, because like you just used that to say, “This is how it’s done. I’m sorry.” Like I hope nobody’s told you differently, but you know if you watch that TV show, this is real life, this is how it’s done and that way by the time you’re on the phone, you’re already an authority to them.
Female 1: I like the response to overcome objection. They’re like well do you ask to speak with the doctor before you make an appointment.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Female 1: And like circulate, like even the mechanic, right? Like because then they’re like, “Oh yeah, no. I don’t. Okay, yeah. Okay makes sense.” So I’m a kitty cat. So, okay, I’ll start with the videos of preconditioning and then see if that improves some things to do differently.
Male 1: Thank you for listening. This has been the Un-Billable Hour Community Table on the Legal Talk Network.
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|Published:||October 11, 2022|
|Podcast:||The Un-Billable Hour|
|Category:||Legal Support , Marketing for Law Firms , Practice Management|
The Un-Billable Hour
Best practices regarding your marketing, time management, and all the things outside of your client responsibilities.