Never kill a client from the internet


Time and place: a meeting in a law firm, that got all of its clients from traditional sources, i.e. not from the internet.

While we were walking through a new internet-based project, that was about to enhance the firm’s image in certain practice areas and attract new clients, we reached the point where we needed to talk about contact forms.

We proposed that there should be a straightforward message saying: “Thank you for your inquiry. We will contact you in 24 hours”.

This short message struck a very interesting discussion.

One of the partners even said that this is a promise that may be extremely hard to fulfill, so we have to change it. He came up with a vague alternative: “We will answer immediately”.

Partners in this law firm were afraid of failure. The vision of being bound to answer in a fairly quick manner was unbearable.

This new website that we were talking about, was about to cover a very interesting and up-to-date area of law, so it felt natural to act this way, but my point is more of a general nature.

It’s important to take a look at how you treat clients that come “from the internet”.

Do you treat them differently from the ones that walk through your front door? Aren’t they perceived as the ones that can wait because “they only wrote an email or submitted a form”?

Some lawyers still act like that, but in my experience, the conclusion is clear: don’t go that way!

Here’s a short comparison of prospective clients’ experience when they contact a lawyer in a traditional manner and over the internet.

Traditional “client – law firm” communication:

  • a prospective client found a law firm’s phone number or got it from a relative
  • he dials the number and calls a law firm
  • a secretary of a lawyer is answering the call
  • they briefly discuss the problem and activate one of the various scenarios: schedule a meeting, forward the call to the right person, etc.

The client is satisfied because he received quick feedback and he knows that his case or inquiry is being processed.

Now the “internet” version of this relation:

  • a prospective client seeks professional legal advice on the internet and lands on a law firm’s website
  • he finds interesting information and encounters a contact form (which is there on purpose and not just because there was one in a template someone used to create a website).

NOTE: it is highly probable that: 1) this type of client seeks a quick response and 2) sending a message/email suits him more than calling a lawyer

  • client submits a form and:
  • option 1) he receives prompt information, that he can expect an answer in the following 24 hours (as mentioned before)
  • option 2) he receives likewise prompt but ambiguous information that goes like this: “Thanks. We will get back to you someday because we are busy at the moment”.

In the first scenario, a prospective client knows when to expect an answer and stays calm.

In the second scenario, especially when days pass by without any contact from the law firm, a client may get nervous. He starts to think that a person or business problem that needs a solution isn’t a priority for your law firm. In that case, the initial trust is spent really quickly. The prospective client moves on and you are left with nothing.

It is similar to calling a law firm and endlessly waiting for someone to pick up the phone.

It is like telling a client: “We’re sorry, but we have more important matters to handle. We’re not interested in your problem and money. You should look for help somewhere else”.

The internet, in general, should facilitate a lot of things and this is how it works. It should make life easier for those who need a legal service and those who provide it.

None of the attorney advertising will help if you won’t answer prospective clients’ messages.

Never kill your client, just because he comes from a source that you are not used to.

If you want to attract new clients through the internet, you have to remember that the rules here are more demanding, but this game may prove to be very effective.

„Never kill a client“ is a book by Brett Halliday published in 1963.


P.S. A quick tip

To help you with email overload, it is a good idea to use a different email account for contact forms. In such a case, you will know if there are messages from prospective clients that need a reply, without digging through every day’s email avalanche.

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