If virtual client engagement is the new normal, so is virtual client intake during the pandemic.
As a solo practitioner, Leona Krasner said there’s an adage that in the practice of law, 1/3 of the time is spent finding clients, another 1/3 doing the work and the last 1/3 trying to get paid.
Krasner provided practical and actionable tips to help solo and small firm lawyers find new clients and get paid virtually on the recent CLE Webinar, “Effective Engagement Letters, Retainer Agreements And Managing Client Payments: Turning Leads Into Clients.”
Communicating with clients
Krasner said being able to explain your areas of practice in layman’s terms is really important.
She says, “I help people get married, stop being married and help take care of the kids, instead of all the jargon,” rather than drafting pre-nuptial agreements and handling divorce cases.
“Your messaging should very clearly relate to what people type into Google to find out,” said Krasner. “This way you are getting referred the right folks. Ask yourself who are your ideal clients.”
A website should be simple, clean and easy to follow, according to Krasner. “The first reaction from a client should be Oh, wow! Instead of Oh, boy” said Krasner.
She recommended lawyers prominently display ways to contact them, particularly having a simple form to capture each visitor’s name, email and phone number.
Krasner also posts little-known matrimonial facts each day on social media. “That way, I am top of mind,” said Krasner.
Krasner uses Unbundle Attorney to generate leads. She is sent two to three leads per day. Attorneys pay per the number of leads, not the number of leads closed. Each lead costs $75.
“The turnaround time is key; within the first hour is best,” said Krasner.
She recommended calling potential clients but not leaving a message if no one picks up. Instead she suggested texting the lead your name and saying that you will call back in a few minutes.
“The fortune is in the follow-up,” said Krasner. “Leads will not always pick up right away. You may have to keep calling back over and over before you reach them.”
Even if clients are willing to speak with you, you may have to keep checking in before they retain you, advised Krasner.
Initial conversation with lead
In the initial call, Krasner recommended that you first state your name, what kind of attorney you are and what you’re calling to discuss.
“Ask them how they are. Invite them to tell you more about what has been going on,” said Krasner. “Engage with them and probe deeper to learn more of the details.”
The point is to make conversation, not a transaction. Make it very clear what the action steps are and give the client concrete next steps that you will take to solve their problem.
She said lawyers should request an immediate, small deposit into IOLA prior to sending retainer and credit card authorization.
Krasner set up a LawPay account for credit card processing when the coronavirus hit. She said that it’s helped her retain more clients than before.
“It’s fabulous,” said Krasner. The pros, she said, are that it’s immediate and clients can set up a payment plan. She noted that it’s easiest to set up from a computer and clients must be comfortable sharing their credit card information.
In terms of scope of representation, specificity is critical. If possible, include the exact documents you will be drafting, and whether and in which court you will appear.
Don’t forget to include “plus court filing fees” for your flat rate matters where documents are filed.
Krasner cautioned not to send retainer agreements as a Word document. “You’re opening yourself to the client changing some of the terms,” said Krasner. “Always save it as a PDF, which is much harder to alter.”
She also said not to ask clients to print agreements, nor to visit your office during this time. Instead, send the retainer agreement via an e-sign platform, such as Docusign.
Likewise, a virtual intake form is better now. She recommended that lawyers ask clients their name, phone number, email address as well as desired outcomes. At the end of every single call, she includes specific dates to follow up and lays out a clear timeline.
At no point should clients feel uncertain whether or not they are a priority for you or if you are even working on their matter, said Krasner.