Where do legal clients come from? 'Relationships,' speaker says

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

"How did you get your last client?" Andrew Abood asked the group of attorneys attending the ICBA Luncheon Lecture held on March 17 at the Michael Frank building in Lansing. The answers given between sips of bright green lemonade in celebration of St. Patrick's Day, included

"Through our Web site; referral from other attorneys; and referrals from clients."

"We all know how we got the last client, but the question is 'Where is the next one coming from?' It's my experience that 80 percent of our clients come from some type of relationship--but the other twenty percent would prefer to hire somebody that they don't know or have a relationship with. The reason for that is they don't want to tell someone they know the mistakes they have made. Those clients are difficult to target."

Since the majority of clients come from some type of relationship, "the question is how do we develop relationships with people in the community so they can feel like they have a bond that will lead them to make the initial contact--either by phone or e-mail.

"The biggest social media tool that we have is the telephone," Abood said. "The cell phone is becoming the office phone. With the cell phone, I always either get an answer or I leave a message and they know that I called.

"How does Facebook, Twitter or the Internet play into law practice development? Studies have shown that 80 to 90 percent of people that make major decisions go to the Internet for research.

We have a Facebook presence. With Facebook you can post something and it gets pushed out to your contacts." This is different from your website, "which requires your clients to come to your web. We post generally the things that we do including when we are retained by a new client, such as we were retained on a drunk driving case out of Oakland County or a divorce case in Eaton client. Most people don't know all the things that we do. Facebook has the ability to push that information out. Every time we post something, it goes out to all our contacts. We post about daily.

"Our Web site is pretty constant. We developed a blog site where we can do posts. One of the ways clients will research a firm is through a Google search. As I understand it, Google will pick up on your website if you are constantly making changes to your blog. We update it at least once a week.

"The truth is that we receive about 7 or 8 contacts a month through our website from people who have gone to the website and then contact us. Most of our clients come to us through normal channels.

"I know 60 to 70 percent have gone to our website even after they hired us. This is after they have checked with friends and family. Oftentimes if you don't have an Internet presence, you may get negative feedback."

On the other hand, he noted "I don't think we have a single client who has contacted us through Facebook. It is a slow investment--I think you need about 5000 friends to make it work."

The general consensus is that in advertising, you pick one medium and have a strong presence. If you're in the phone book, or on TV or radio, or other spots, you need to have a strong presence. It is difficult to have a strong presence when you are in a small office.

In the discussion that followed Abood's remarks, several points were raised.

"We had a phone book presence ten years ago. We are all looking to get good clients to pay us money. The truth is there is no one source for those clients. I think there has been a shift from the yellow pages to the Internet. We stopped using the phone book, which was risky. Our phone calls dropped from 200 or so a month to 30 or 40.

"If you are in the yellow pages, you have to do divorce, criminal and personal injury because those are the people that are going to hire someone out of the yellow pages. You have to make sure you are answering the phone. If they have to wait, you've lost them. Get rid of all your bad cases and work on your good cases. With yellow pages, you end up taking a lot of small cases and don't work on the big ones.

"We were in the State Journal and on TV. We are still on TV--we do four second spots so that we have our name out there. The problem is getting the people who are flipping through the phonebook and if they don't recognize your name, then you're in there with a bunch of people. If you are on TV, then they recognize the name over all the others.

"What I like about TV, I can cancel it any time. When you do the yellow pages, you are stuck for a whole year.

"One of the best investments I ever did was to advertise in March Madness. We did four second spots. It is all about the ratings. You will pay more to be in prime time, but you get the same rating whether you are doing a four or thirty second spot. You can have a really high exposure with four seconds. We are trying to get name, phone number and a tag line if you have it. You want them to have some ability to recall the name.

"The truth is that most of your business will come from referrals from old clients. There are so many attorneys out there that if you are not developing new clients all the time, you will fail."

Published: Thu, Apr 1, 2010

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