Episode 32 – Lead tracking platforms: Everything your law firm should know, with Harlan Schillinger

The business of law, legal marketing, and converting leads: An interview with Harlan Schillinger

Chip LaFleur chatted with Harlan Schillinger, one of the co-founders of Lead Docket. Harlan has spent decades representing law firms and managing their intake and strategies.

Participants:

Chip LaFleur

Harlan Schillinger

Questions Covered:

  • What is the true value of lead tracking and legal marketing?
  • How do I optimize my conversion through automation?
  • What is the business of law?
  • What is the chase, and how can I improve upon it?
  • How can a quality CRM improve my digital marketing efforts?
  • What is the culture of the legal industry?
  • How do I improve my intake and conversion through effective digital marketing?

Introducing Harlan Schillinger

Chip:

So welcome back to another episode of Legal Marketing Radio, and we want to welcome today’s guest, Harlan Schillinger. Harlan has four decades of experience in legal advertising and really has a passion for legal marketing, intake, and conversion. He’s worked with more than 130 law firms in over 98 markets throughout North America, which is incredible. Currently, he’s consulting privately with only lawyers who share his vision of increasing business, being accountable, and obtaining high value cases. Harlan is also the co-founder of Lead Docket, a simple lead tracking platform built specifically for law firms. It’s also a platform that we’re looking really closely at. I’m excited about what it does and what it can do.

What we’re going to talk about today: So, Harlan is here today to talk about what you should be looking for in a lead tracking platform, how to best utilize it for managing leads, and how to effectively grow your law firm using a lead tracking platform.

So, a quick reminder in case you’re not already familiar with LaFleur, we’re a full-service digital marketing partner. We work with law firms across the country to help them develop their brands and grow their business. To learn more about us, check out our website at LaFleur.Marketing. We’ve got other episodes of the podcast and other resources like eBooks, blog posts, and webinars to help you expand your knowledge of digital marketing and help your law firm grow.

So, let’s get started. First of all, Harlan, welcome. Did we catch everything in the intro there?

Harlan:

Well, I will say that you pronounced my last name correctly, and 99% of the time people call it Schillinger and I don’t say anything. I’m just happy to be invited to the party. Chip, I really appreciate the intro.

Been in the agency business a couple of years. I’m attributed to starting legal advertising back in 1977. And we’ve seen a lot, and you’ve been in it for a long time. You know the business very, very well. I think both of us have seen a lot that goes on in this industry. It’s kind of funny because intake and conversion years ago when we first started advertising, I went on television in, oh, I think it was 1979, actually 1980, by the time the decision, by the time we got clients and what have you, intake wasn’t a problem. The problem was answering the phone and getting to all the calls that came in. And over the first 20 years, it was free sailing, not a lot of competition. We were stumbling over each other to try to answer the telephone, and we almost didn’t worry about what we lost. I know that doesn’t sound right. But when you have a tsunami coming at you, you’re just trying to keep your head above water.

So, the meetings, the conversations that I know I participated in was, how do we manage what’s coming at us? It’s just too much. And software started to become an opportunity back in the late 1990s. But not until really recently, I recognized intake and conversion about 15 years ago. My clients came to me and I’m sure that they come to you, and they say give me more leads. And I would say, well, what did you do with the last ones? Well, they weren’t any good. And as an agency, and you’re an agency and you produce leads and turn them into cases, you kind of scratch your head. And you say, well, are they all bad leads? And you stop paying attention to well, how is the phone being answered? What are you doing?

I think one of the very biggest holes in a lawyer’s bucket is intake and conversion. I mean I can assure you it is. It’s also the biggest opportunity to make gain, and we can get into that. But really recognizing what’s coming in the door and being accountable, that’s a very important word in our business because it’s not very often used, accountability. Lawyers and doctors buy their way out of problems, and we have to roll with that, although I kind of put a stop to that many years ago. I took a very bold move, and I said, listen, I’m not going to work with you unless I can record your phone calls, your intake calls. And the reason I did that is that I recognized that the way the phone was being answered was not cool. It was not good.

When I say it was not cool, it was not good, the lack of compassion, the lack of asking good questions, the lack of, look, when somebody calls the law firm, you know this and I know this, it’s probably the worst day of their life, whether it’s the day after the accident or what have you or you’re calling for a relative. It’s not a good day. And so most law firms, they’re so eager to find out do I have a case here, do I have business in my hand that they don’t realize they’re really dealing with a human being on the other end of the phone that’s hurt, hurt mentally, physically, all of those reasons. I mean you’ve witnessed that, haven’t you?

Chip:

Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah. One of the reasons that I got into doing this and really specifically focused on the legal side, one of the main reasons was I started to have conversations with the clients, with the clients of our clients, right? So the person who had been injured and who had gone through that. And that’s what got me excited about working in this space on the marketing side was to find people and help them find a good attorney, right? And we’ve been very lucky.

The attorneys we work with are very talented, very good at what they do. But like you said, my experience coming in was very good in finding an attorney that has that sort of empathy. But you have to have that filter all the way down through the organization to the intake person, right? And like you’re saying, like that’s where a big part of that breakdown happens.

Harlan:

Well, it’s culture. And we can at some point get into all of that. I call it the business of law and many different things. But I recognized that intake was a major, major hole. And it’s interesting because when somebody calls a law firm, as I said, it’s the worst day, it could be the worst day of their life. And we have this businessperson wanting to know what’s your number, what’s your phone number, what’s all the things that my boss wants me to get.

But that’s all fine, but I want to know how you’re doing. And I have to recognize that you called me, my law firm, this law firm. And what’s the difference between our law firm and everybody else? That you can get the address quicker than somebody else? No, you’re going to solve somebody’s problem, and you’re going to make them feel like they are safe in putting their case in your hands. That’s really the competitive advantage that you have. And unfortunately, most lawyers don’t recognize that. I just simply won’t take a lawyer on in my small little sphere these days unless I can record phone calls, and they have a tracking system software.

Lead tracking and legal marketing

Chip:

Yeah.

Harlan:

That’s not tracking with a case management system. That is a true intake and conversion piece of software that definitively tells me what the heck is going on in real time. Because you are running a business and you do have to have accountability. And buying a way out of each and every problem is just not a good option.

Chip:

For sure. And so, I think you started to define it there, but when we talk about lead tracking, like what is your definition of that lead tracking for a law firm? Like what does that look like?  We need software, but what does that software need to do?

Harlan:

Well, it needs to tell you everything that’s going on in your marketing arena. It’s interesting, I have never met a lawyer, and I’ve met a few in my life, that doesn’t walk into their firm and say, how many cases did we sign? Well, why don’t they ask how many calls did we get or how many cases didn’t we sign? But they only want to know well, what did we sign today. They’re not interested in much else really. And I think that’s where the problem begins.

I think in tracking, what you want to do is you want to track everything. You’re spending money on everything. You’re spending money on the average call to turn down, whether it’s a crazy call or somebody from an institution or a prison or just simply an uninsured motorist that doesn’t really have a case. It’s about $125. In some markets, it goes to $250 and what have you. So the question is I need to know that because I want to start to fix that issue. I want to spend less on turndowns. I want more turn-ons. But if you don’t know that, you don’t know where your advertising is coming from, you don’t know where the beacon is pointing to and exactly what’s coming in, you can’t begin to make any intelligent decisions. You’re flying blind.

As an agency, and I’ve been in the agency business almost all my adult life—I’m not now. I’m in the consulting business—the biggest problem getting information out of a client is what’s going on. They’re either afraid to talk about it mostly because they don’t know what’s going on or they only know a portion of it. But I sure do want to know what’s working and what isn’t working or what we can improve. And the only way I think you can do that is with metrics and tracking.

So, metrics have played a tremendous role in the marketing end of it, not only to find out where I am financially, whether my web is producing and what have you, but you’ve got to get away from making emotional decisions. That’s really the bottom line.

Chip:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s a book that I love for the purposes of building our own businesses which is called High Output Management. And it’s an older book. It was written by one of the co-founders over at Intel. And the lead up into the book, kind of the introduction to the book is this window into like how to maximize your output, right? And so the measurability of everything that you do really is that way, right? If I were to sum it up in an oversimplified way.

But right now, what a lot of firms are dealing with is this black box, right? So the black box begins with marketing dollars, and it ends with how many cases have we gotten. And like until you could start to peel back that black box and understand, get a window into how you’re doing, where you can improve, what you can build on, then what do you have? You have a black box. You can’t modify your approach with a black box.

Conversion and understanding the value of digital marketing

Harlan:

Yeah. You just can’t. But if you think about what’s the biggest opportunity to increase your business, I mean clearly converting leads to cases is clearly because you could buy more leads but that won’t fix your conversion issue.

Conversion is what you sign, accounting for the value of what you sign. And most people want to buy more leads. In fact, almost everybody, well, I’ll get more leads, I’ll get more business. Well, that’s great, but that doesn’t fix your problem. You’re just going to have a bigger problem. And so it’s a false sense of judgment I think on any marketer’s plate.

I was so frustrated with the subject of intake and conversion that I really clamored to a sales force. I clamored to a competitor that is a very, very dear friend of mine because he had a pretty decent system of lead accountability and conversion. And then I finally sat back, and my dear friend, Dino Colombo who’s a lawyer in West Virginia and Eric Kaufman who was the head of IT for West Virginia University called me and said, listen, we’re dabbling with this intake and conversion and Eric thinks he can build a system. Eric goes ahead and builds a system up almost overnight and asked my opinion and said, what do you think? And I said, what? Are you kidding me? You’re a genius. These are all the things.

And at that point, Dino dug in on the lawyer side and I dug in on the marketer side. All the software that’s out there is developed by software developers. I mean they don’t know the client. I mean they understand the process, but they don’t understand the psychology behind the software and how it reacts with the public. And so I really dug in, and we made this piece of software. It was ultimately called Lead Docket. And I’m not here to promote Lead Docket because this conversation applies to any intake and conversion piece of software. It’s a philosophical conversation.

I was really intent on building a true CRM product for accountability because I also determined how I’m going to make my money. I’m going to make my money by bringing you more business, and that doesn’t mean you’re spending more money to get business. And that’s a pretty interesting look at it. You paid for the lead. If it’s a good lead, you got to focus on converting it. If it’s a bad lead, you got to know that. And that’s really ground zero for this conversation. And then you need to know where your money is being spent and what your ROI is. I mean that’s a fact.

You can’t just spend money. It’s like continuing to buy the Yellow Pages, thinking that, well, I’m going to get that one case and I’m afraid to get rid of it in case I get that case. You know that most marketing dollars are placed out of fear? Fear of, well, if I don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it.

Chip:

Yeah, yeah.

Harlan:

But how could you run a business without clarity? I mean you wouldn’t open up a checking account without access to your money, to knowing where you’re right and what accountability. And so that’s where it’s at for me. And thank goodness that over the last three years, it’s really kind of caught on. We’re not having to instruct a lawyer that this is what you need to do. They kind of get it.

The funny thing is once they get it, they say, well, I’m not going to spend $1,000 a month on a software program to tell me all that. That’s too much money. Well, how much money are you spending in your advertising? Well, I’m only spending $2 million. Okay. So let me understand this. You’re spending $2 million or you’re spending $50, you’re spending money on advertising, right? And you don’t know what is going on? Because it’s too expensive? That is asinine.

Chip:

It’s crazy, right? And that was kind of the other thing that got me excited about working in the space was like seven years ago, we saw an opportunity there to try to do that. And one of the things that we did, we used a different software platform, like you said. Like it’s platform agnostic, right? Like the platform that you use to do it, there are a bunch of them out there that can do it.

Now I tend to agree that Lead Docket is probably one of the best out there to do it in the legal field because most of the platforms that are out there don’t have that legal layer, right? And so the terminology is wrong at a minimum. But we’ve had success with marketing automation platforms where they do that lead tracking and where they do that conversion. And speaking from a person who runs a marketing agency, I can tell you that we have grown our relationships with our clients when they are very interested in capturing, cultivating, and then converting those leads and understanding that picture.

I’ve got one story that I love to tell is we have a client in San Antonio, and all of a sudden, like their number of side cases just took a nosedive. And of course, they came to us and said, what the hell are you guys doing? What did you wreck? And I thought, well, I don’t think that we changed anything. Like all the metrics I’m looking at are good. The number of leads we’re bringing you is good. Like everything looks good. And the platform that we were using with them I’ll happen to be SharpSpring which it’s not a legally focused platform but it’s an automation platform that has good lead tracking. And we looked in there, and the leads, the communication to the leads looked good.

We had some automation built in there to do follow-up on a drip campaign and that looked good. And then I finally asked them, and this is going a few years back so they weren’t on Filevine and Lead Docket didn’t at least exist in the public sphere yet. And so they were on Needles. So we ended up jumping through a lot of hoops to get this, but they did an export of their Needles data into a CSV. And then we had to take that Excel file basically, and we had to spend hours cleaning it up. And then within an Excel file, we had the name of the intake person, we had the name of the paralegal, we had the client’s information. We scrubbed some of that for safety’s sake. But then we started pulling like data visualization reports, right? Where you could look at it and see what happened. And the leads are doing great, they’re doing great, and they’re moving up or the conversions are moving up. And then all of a sudden, they dropped.

And once we started to do those comparisons, we started to look at who the intake person was, and all of a sudden, we noticed that one person on the intake team disappeared, right? So no cases were assigned to that intake person. And so I asked the principal attorney, it was like, what happened to this person? Because this person had your best close rate. They were converting I think 60% or 70% of their total leads. So like everybody was getting measured on, do they want the case and do they get the case if they want it?

But what we found out was a couple things. One, that intake person was also assigned medical records retrieval and hated that. And so ultimately, they ended up quitting because they didn’t like doing medical records stuff. Now this was that firm’s best closer. They were the person who brought in so many other cases. Found that out. Said, hey, can you get her back? And they went and they offered her a job. I think they bumped up the pay a little bit and said, hey, we’re not going to have you do medical records retrieval. And she said, yep, I’ll come back. And as soon as she comes back, bam, it takes it through the roof again.

And so like you said, like if you’re not looking at that, how do you know that that was a business decision that you made, right? The business decision that you made wasn’t even a hiring/firing decision. It was just I want this person to do medical records. And you make the decision, you lose that employee, and the number of good cases that you get just drops like crazy.

Now the problem, of course, with that was it took us weeks to get that information that we needed to make the business decision. And I think now with Lead Docket especially, the information’s at your fingertips and you can visualize it and you can see it. So I think that’s really interesting. I think the other takeaway that we had there was thinking at a different layer of how do we go through and how do we discover this information? Like being able to peel back the curtain and make those decisions, the harder it is to get to the information that you want, the less you’re going to look at that information. The easier it is, the more you’re going to apply it.

The business of law

Harlan:

Well, you’re moving into a conversation that I always love to have, and it’s called the business of law. I was sitting on my associate Keith Gibbons’s porch in Belton, Alabama with Howard Nations and John Romano and I don’t think Mark O’Mara had joined us yet. And we were talking about what opportunities there are for people to learn the business of law. These guys are great lawyers. I mean seriously the lawyers. And Howard turned to me and he said, listen, if I didn’t understand the business of law, no matter how good a lawyer I am, I wouldn’t be in business today.

And at that point, we literally decided to start the National Trial Lawyers, which is based on the business of law. And if you look at our faculty and you look at our board, it’s amazing. We have literally the who’s who of lawyers because they all face it as a business. And so let’s full circle that to 14 years later, here we have this conversation. I would say the majority of law firms that are out there, almost all of them have some kind of case management system, but they’re using their case management system to extract information.

A case management system is a file cabinet. It is a file cabinet that you open and you close. And the problem with getting information out is you have to open the draw and then find the information and that’s what takes the amount of time that you’re talking about I mean to give it a simple analogy. When you’re dealing with a CRM, client relations management tool is it deals with everything until the client becomes a client.

So you’re talking to the client, you’re creating the, you have the marketing, you have everything, and then you sign the client. And then it becomes a folder, and you put that folder in the file cabinet and then you manage that file cabinet whenever you open and close it. And that’s why you can’t really use a case management system. It’s just too laborious. It’s crazy. It’s outdated.

I remember some of the struggles that I had. I’ll use Stark & Stark, for instance, John Saxon, a client of my old agency, still a great client. Absolutely bragged about the intense documentation and tracking he could get from Needles. Now I was the agency for Needles for 15 years, and they were a pioneer in the software business. But the long and short of the conversation is that the pushback was no, no, we have this invested, we have this. And finally, he realized and he happened to have gone to Lead Docket and said, wait a minute, I’m picking up 15, 16 hours a week, a week in putting these reports together. That’s real time.

I can make reference to my friend Glenn Lerner when he asked me to take a look at his business, and I worked with him in Chicago. He was taking in about 180 cases a month which is phenomenal, right? Okay. But you should only know what he was leaving. And people would come in, and he had a CRM. He had Kapture. He wasn’t using it.

So I went in there, and after a week, I said, we’ve got to change this whole thing. It’s not rocket science. I put an iPad in the intake person’s hands. They were in the projects in Chicago. They filled out the form. It immediately opened the form up in Kapture. It immediately opened the file up in client profiles. And they went on to the next sign up.

So, within was it 45 days, he went to 300 cases, and he cut the media budget by $100,000 a month. I mean now that’s real dollars. That’s what we’re talking about here. And so having the right tools to run your business is imperative.

Look, the day of ignoring intake and conversion is gone. If that’s where your head is at and you think you’ve got it all pegged, and by the way, every lawyer I’ve ever met, just about every lawyer has 94% of it, they get 94% of everybody that called. Well, that’s all nonsense. That’s just—we have a technical term for that in my end of the business. It’s called horseshit. It’s horseshit. Because what you don’t know you don’t know, and that is the crux of what we’re talking about.

A CRM system will tell you, if it’s set up properly, and again, I support whether you use a sales force or you use Jimmy Jones’s lead, it’s the same thing going into a clothing store or whatever it is, you pay for ads and you want a response. The response turns into a deal. That’s the bottom line in sales, in everything that we do. But what you don’t know is where the secret sauce is, and it’s not rocket science to come up with this secret sauce. You just got to find out what you don’t know. But arrogance stands in the way. I just finished I think a wonderful article and it’s titled, “Don’t put your ego in front of your pocketbook.”

Harlan:

I mean it’s amazing how many lawyers are going to listen to this podcast and say, I know exactly what comes into my office. What is what you signed.

Harlan:

What you don’t know is what you didn’t sign. And you damn well don’t know why you didn’t sign it.

Chip LaFleur:

100%. And so along the same lines, like almost a continuation of the of the story about looking at the data for that client, we had a client and they were looking at their wanted close rate, right? And that number is 98%, and it’s always been 98%. And come to find out, they weren’t putting leads into the system to measure it if they thought it was an automatic turndown, right? And so what the intake team was doing, and I don’t think that they had malicious intent, right? Like I think that the intake team knew that they were incentivized to maintain that 98%. And so they would justify a turndown by not even entering it into the system. It wasn’t necessarily a turndown.

Harlan Schillinger:

But why don’t you think that’s malicious?

Chip:

I mean I think that people—

Harlan:

Let’s not use the maliciousness as a crime. Let’s use it as malpractice. Let’s use it as inefficient. Let’s use it as gaming the system. I mean you can come up with a million words.

Chip:

Yep. I think people are very good at justifying their own actions. And so I think that the intake team would justify to themselves and say, well, I don’t think we were going to sign them anyways. I don’t think we really wanted that case because they didn’t sign it, right? And so from a business owner’s perspective, it’s easy to look at that and say, well, there’s something wrong with them.

I think we also need to take a look at the way that those people on the team are incentivized and what their goals are, and then find out and make sure that there are mechanisms in place so that they can’t game that system, right? And so the intent really being kind of neither here nor there.

But what was the case in this particular instance was that there was an acceptable way to bypass the system and not enter the data, and that acceptable way was if they thought it was going to be an automatic turndown or if they just didn’t want to enter it into the system because they weren’t going to take the case or they weren’t going to win that case anyways, right?

They weren’t going to win that client. And so because they had that loophole where they could say, hey, we’re not even going to enter this in the system, they kept the metrics that they thought that they wanted to get but would see fluctuations based on who they had on the team. And that’s one of the things you’re getting at is like your data is only good as the data that gets input. And if you have a system that allows you to bypass different parts, then you’re going to get the answer that you want all the time even if it’s not indicative of where your business is going. And so—

Harlan:

Well, that’s where intake is right now with the majority of people. The crime is committed by the owner of the firm where he has so much faith in everybody. But the truth of it is, the reason they do that is that lawyers make a lot of money. And you can be a lousy lawyer, you can be a, it’s not acceptable but you can have a terrible practice.

But you’re still going to walk away with a bundle of money because there’s no other industry that I know of that has no ceiling on how much you can earn. I mean you take on a case in contingency, you might meet somebody in a bar, and it can turn out to be a million-dollar fee. And that happens a lot. And so accountability really comes into it. So the crux of it is accountability.

The chase

Hey, let me jump over to a really important point that’s burning at me. I think the one of the other big, tremendous opportunities where things fall through the cracks is what we call the chase. The chase is literally chasing after a deal, chasing after a client, and there’s all ways of chasing it. We go back to that file, we go back to the sticky pads. I’ve got five sticky pads on my desk here right now. They sit there, and I get to them when I get to them. And where a CRM will help is it forces you to do something with the chase. You’ll find that it’s kind of interesting.

I went to another friend’s office and actually it was the same guy’s office in Phoenix. I’m sitting here and I’m just hanging out, watching the intake team. And there’s somebody in each office. That’s another story. But I’m just waiting. When is somebody going to call back all these people that said, I’ll get back to you. Well, you paid a fortune to get them to call you in the first place. You didn’t close them. Okay? And there’s a lot of reasons why. Sometimes people don’t make that decision. I need my spouse, I need this, I need that. Most importantly is I need to call another lawyer and hear what they have to say. And so when we talk about the chase, it’s chasing after that call that you left I’ll get back to you.

So we go to the folder or we go to the sticky note or we remember. But what I noticed is that they were calling people back at two o’clock, three o’clock in the afternoon. After [inaudible 00:31:04], they wanted the calls first. Who wants to call somebody back and chase them? They’re not going to be there. I mean it’s not a very sexy job to telemarket, to call people and chase them. But I noticed that they were calling people back.

And I said to the person, I said, so let me ask you a question. How many times have you called them? Well, I’ve called them three times. That’s quite enough. Okay. I noticed that they called them every day at the same time. I said, so what do these people do for a living? Oh well, they work. Now wait a minute, I’m calling somebody at home that works because they’re not there because they’re working or they’re in treatment or what have you. And I’m not connecting with them, but I’m doing my job.

Chip:

Right. You’re checking the box, Right, yeah.

Harlan:

I’m doing my job, but you’re not accomplishing anything. Well, you’re not making gain. And so you got to look at the chase, and you got to have an organized system that forces an answer. The second-best answer on the planet, Chip, in my world is no. It tells me exactly what I wanted to hear. Well, yeah, I wanted to hear yes. But no is a pretty good answer because I can move on from it.

Chip:

Yeah, yeah.

How your CRM affects your digital marketing

Harlan:

And so having an organized system, not a system that can be gamed and not a system that’s run by human error. Because human era is reluctancy to call people. I’m too busy or I have this or I’m on the phone with a hot prospect. But all of that accountability, if you take a look at what you don’t know, you can convert your leads in a more efficient way.

So, you’re basically selling people that you already paid for. Okay? And then you increase your intake, your chase because you’re better than the other guy, the other lawyer, you will increase your business, your net business by 20% to 35% without spending a nickel. That’s my prediction. Now I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I’ve got almost 1,000 people that I can say that’s what happened when they did this.

Chip:

Yeah. No, and I’m right there with you. I can’t put up the numbers that you can, but I can tell you that that’s been very much my experience too. When you start tracking it, when you start looking at it, you think of how much, I don’t know an attorney that doesn’t have a maximum number of rings that they will allow their intake staff to have transpire before they answer the phone, right? If they get word that like the phone rang four times before someone answered it, they’re losing their minds, right? And so they’re so excited to say the phone is ringing, answer it within the first two rings or the first three rings, you’ve got to start talking to that person.

That same attorney will say, hey, you got a form fill come in. Just whenever you get to it, you get to it. And that’s one of the things where it’s like, like you said, they return the call, they do it the same time of the day, they put it out, maybe it’s at two o’clock in the afternoon. There’s a couple products out there where they convert those form fills to phone calls, right?

So if you have a potential client fill out a form, include their phone number, then the law firm phone starts ringing, the person in the intake team answers the phone, and then the client phone starts ringing. And what we’ve seen with that is that conversion rate increases dramatically because two things happen. One is I think if the call back after a form fill is within 90 seconds, I think there’s a 400% increase in the likelihood that you’re going to talk to that person.

Harlan:

Well, the bottom line, what you’re saying is we’re in a relationship business no matter how you look at it. He who makes the relationship the quickest or the best gets the deal. The competitive nature of what we’re into now has never been more intense. The internet has leveled the playing field for big players and small players.

You have hundreds of lawyers and each hundreds of lawyers, you’ve got 150 plus personal injury lawyers in western Michigan. I mean that’s the reality of it. People are under the impression well, they’re calling me. Really? I mean they’re not calling you. They’re calling somebody. They want you. They would like you. They would like to get you on the phone. But it’s all about relationship marketing.

One of the questions you put together, you kind of put a little outline of what we want to talk about and I know that we haven’t really stuck to it, but I think we’ve answered most of them. But one of the questions you said is well, how does your CRM affect your marketing? How does it affect your business? Something like that. And how does it affect the relationship you have in talking to the client? Well, you’re much more efficient. Okay? That helps you win the deal. You’re responsive. Helps you win the deal. You’re prompt, you’re paying attention, you’re on top of it because you’re being forced to with the CRM. Those are all the factors why people choose a lawyer.

Chip:

Yeah, you started talking about something earlier on when you were talking about just that, right? Like why do you choose an attorney and how do you approach your marketing? How do you approach the client? And the importance of, like I don’t know that we said the word empathy, but being an empathetic person as an attorney, like what we’ve seen as well as we’ve recorded client stories, and like I said, the main reason I got into this vertical on the marketing side was because of hearing these stories of the positive impact.

And so when you take an attorney who has a good sense of empathy, I think that that client ends up with a better outcome because that attorney is looking at that person as a real person. They want to help solve their problems, which is not just about getting a good settlement, going to trial, getting a good verdict. But then scaling that empathy across an organization and instilling that empathy into everybody in the organization is a big challenge.

Harlan:

Well, that’s culture.

The culture of law

Chip:

It is culture, but it’s also the outcome is some of the measurable things impact that, right? And so you marry those two things. I think having a great lawyer who can also be a good leader can inspire that empathy throughout his organization. Having metrics that support that empathy that help you understand who on your team has that empathetic approach, I mean those are things like how quickly do you call somebody back, how quickly do you call off of a form fill, how do you do that follow-up.

Harlan:

Oh, you’re talking about service.

Chip:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Harlan:

You’re talking about that service. When you ask somebody, what do you do for a living, I’m a lawyer. Okay. Big deal. You’re a fixer. You’re in the service business. It’s interesting you bring this up, and I’m rather fastidious about this. Here’s one that I’ve never met a lawyer that ever read the oath of office that they took after they became a lawyer. You know what that says, right? It’s a contract with the state that you made that you will be empathetic. Says so. You will be responsive. You will respect the Constitution of the United States. It’s one paragraph, but you signed that contract when you became a lawyer. And if you simply did that, you’re so far ahead of your competitors. I mean lawyers have a bad reputation for a reason.

The most single important reason is they say because they don’t return phone calls. Well, they don’t return phone calls because they’re not empathetic enough to the call or they think that it’ll wait or they have too many things on their head or they don’t have a process to return telephone calls and what have you. But the truth of the conversation here is that you want to form a relationship with the client and you have all these tools to help you do that better. And there is no way that you can grow your practice and not have software in this day and age to help you keep track of your shit.

Chip:

Yeah, yeah. That’s right.

Harlan:

That’s another technical term that we come up with.

Chip:

It’s very good. It’s very appropriate. I think that the good attorneys that I know, they want to try to make the world a better place. They want to maximize their impact with their clients, with their community, and they legitimately want to do that. And so being able to maximize your impact, it is tied to being able to measure how you are impacting people. And having the right software, having the right metrics that you’re looking at, measuring those things gives you the ability to scale that empathy and that impact and bring all those things together. So personally—

Harlan:

But all of this comes down to one thing, Chip. It comes down to one thing, and I’m going to be very crude about this. Okay? You can have all the empathy and we can be the best lawyers, we could do this, we could do that, and I believe in dealing with great lawyers because that’s what your obligation is. But this conversation is about making money. And I hate to be so crude about it, but the only reason that you do all of this, the most significant reason is to increase your revenue because you are a business. Okay? and when it comes right down to it, what we’re doing right now is we’re teaching people, we’re teaching lawyers that are out there how to make more money. And if you can word it in any different way, I’d like to hear it. I’m not being very sympathetic right now. I’m kind of jumping right into their pile.

Chip:

Yeah. I like to put that layer of like by doing that, you can also maximize your impact for good in the world.

Harlan:

I think you put that ahead of everything. There’s no question about it. I’m just trying to cut to the chase with people that are listening to this. Look, you’re hired to do a good job. You signed a contract to do a good job. You signed a contract to be empathetic. You signed a contract with your bank to make money. Without running your business in the most business-like fashion, and that includes at the top of the list empathy, how you deal with people, culture and all of these tools aid in that. And the end result is more money. More money for your client, more money for you.

Chip:

Yep, that makes sense.

Harlan:

I can’t stand lawyers that chase the money because they’re called business lawyers. They don’t see a courtroom. They have mega practices. Look, I’ve helped build so many of them. And so you step back, you want good lawyering. I respect good lawyering. But you can do both, and that’s your obligation.

Look, anybody that wants to ignore technology is a fool plain and simple. I don’t care if you have two lawyers, one lawyer, three people in your firm, whether you have a thousand. It’s about the process, and that’s a word we haven’t brought up yet. But what all of this allows you to do, Chip, is have a better process. Without a process, you have chaos or you have unproductivity. That’s a word.

Chip:

Yeah, yeah. No, I agree. And like I said, one of my favorite books that I read in the way that we run our business is that High Output Management, right? And so when you look at that as the goal, to maximize the output of your team, maximize the output of your law firm, do all those things, the way to achieve that is to measure as much as you can, right?

Intake and conversion through effective digital marketing

And so having something like Lead Docket in place, something like SharpSpring in place, those pieces on the front end of that gives you a window that, like you said, is so often ignored. And so when we work with lawyers, we run into this all the time and I run a marketing agency so I want to maximize our output, and I do that by making sure that our clients maximize theirs. And I’m sure you’ve had this experience as well. When we have an attorney come to us and say, hey, my case volume’s down, we look at intakes or we look at leads, lead volume and things like that, we have to be able to put the finger on what the thing is that’s causing that. And unless you have that solution in place, you can’t do that.

Harlan:

What I respect and I love about your agency in the homework that I have done is that when you deal with a client, you don’t deal with that SEO thing. This is what they’re hiring me for, to deal with their digital. You look at the whole ball of wax because it is, and you’re helping them build that business, not just the slice that they gave you to work on.

Chip:

Yeah, that that is certainly our hope, and I can’t think of a nicer thing that you could say about the way that we operate. So I really appreciate that.

Harlan:

Well, it’s true. And because you have a diverse background. You weren’t brought up in the legal arena. You were brought up in the marketing arena. So running a business, whether it’s a law firm or a clothing store, is somewhat the same. You advertise, you bring people in, you sell them your goods, you make them happy, and you hope that they recommend you.

And so back to this intake and conversion thing, I had the luxury of building something that I wanted, and it turned out to be the preeminent piece of software on the market because it’s intuitive, it’s easy to use, and I was adamant about that. Make it easy to use so people use it. It’s customizable and robust. But most of all, it tells me what I don’t know. I love that phrase. What is it? What you don’t know you don’t know. In fact, I loved it so much that years ago, I sought the trademark, and I have the trademark and the registration for it.

Chip:

I saw that. I saw that on your site. I’m like, this guy registered it. This is awesome. That’s great. I love it.

Harlan:

But you know what also I registered? And we only have like a minute or two left. I registered Ambassador First Impressions. Because I would go visit my clients and I’d have a new set of cards for the receptionist and it’s an ambassador first impressions. Because I wanted to acknowledge the first person that’s going to answer the phone, the person that’s going to make or break everything. Everything. But it’s also the person that the law firm dumps on, that [inaudible 00:46:22] at, that pays the most leads, that has the biggest turnout. Why? Why? It’s because we’re not recognizing how important that is. The lawyer’s not the most important thing in the planet. The client is.

Chip:

Right, right.

Harlan:

And operators, lawyers that understand that flourish.

Chip:

They do, they do. And it makes sense because that’s how it works across the entire business environment that we live in, right? I mean you look at an organization who usually makes the most money, it’s the sales people, right? But like in the legal vertical, people don’t want to say that they work in sales. They want to say that they work at intake.

Harlan:

Well, a lawyer is a salesman. A lawyer selling his goods to the jury. We’re all salespeople. God’s a salesperson. He’s selling His thing to us. And hopefully, we buy. I just want to close out on one thing. The bible of self-help is a book I read once a year. I should read it more. It’s How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I think it’s 100 years old. It’s the second most published book next to the Bible. All of these self-help books came from that. And I would encourage everybody to read that once a year because it really defines the essence of doing business.

Chip:

Yep, yep. No, I love it. I love it. Harlan, I appreciate having you on the show here. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. I enjoy every conversation that we have. I appreciate your experience and your perspective on this. This has been great. Thank you so much.

Harlan:

You bet. I meant what I said about you. I wouldn’t say it otherwise. And you and I have a kinship. We don’t know each other for a very long time, but I do know and I recognize it very quickly that we think alike.

Chip:

Yeah, I think so too. I appreciate that.

Harlan:

And your clients are lucky to have you thinking for them or helping them.

Chip:

Thank you so much, Harlan. That means a lot to me. I’m serious. That’s great.

Conclusion:

That’s it for this episode of Legal Marketing Radio. As always, if you have a suggestion or question for the podcast, just send an email to [email protected] I’ll read what you send and either address your question on a podcast or possibly do an entire episode about the topic you suggest. That’s it for this time. Thank you for tuning in. We’ll see you next time on Legal Marketing Radio from LaFleur.

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