You and your partner are discussing a case set for trial. The receptionist buzzes with a new case call. You take it and spend several minutes on the phone. When you hang up, your partner asks, “Anything?” You reply, “Garbage.”

Sound familiar? It should. Because in most personal injury practices, new case calls that do not result in sign ups are called “garbage” or ”junk”. They are considered a waste of time.

Actually, those calls represent a rich untapped source of new case sign ups.

A $35,000 Settlement

Take the case of an attorney in Los Angeles. He got back from lunch one day and a new case call came in. It was property damage only. The caller’s car had fallen off the hook while being towed and the rear axle had broken. She wanted to sue.

The attorney didn’t feel like getting right back to work after lunch that day, so he answered some questions for his caller and explained how to use small claims court. Three weeks later, she referred a friend. His case settled for $35,000.

Has It happened To You?

If you have been in practice for a while, I suspect that occasionally you have spent more time than necessary on a junk call, providing legal advice or instructions on how to solve a problem. I also suspect that some of the rejects with whom you have spent that extra time have called at a later date with a good case or referred a friend with one.

The advice you dispensed was not the only stimulus for the cases you got from those rejects. By taking time to provide advice or instruction, you demonstrated that you cared, that you are interested in helping people and that with you it is not just about the money. Your demonstration of those qualities played a significant role in garnering those cases.

If you could demonstrate those qualities to all of your rejected new case callers, you would maximize the number of cases they sent you. The problem is that dispensing five or ten minutes of free advice to every caller whose case you decline is impractical.

“Clients Of The Future”

“Clients of the Future” is a way to demonstrate those qualities while spending virtually none of your time to do it. You can use it with all of your rejected new case callers, except as noted below. Here’s how it works:

A Change Of Attitude

Every rejected new case caller has the potential to become a client or refer a good case in the future. Whether they do depends in part on how they feel you treated them when you screened their calls. Referring to rejects as “garbage” or “junk” can predispose you to a less than stellar attitude toward them.

The term “Clients of the Future,” on the other hand, helps you maintain a positive attitude toward your rejected new case callers. It shifts your focus from what their calls failed to deliver to what they could lead to in the future.

A Change Of Procedure

How you follow-up a rejected new case call is as important as your attitude during it. If you do not follow-up or if you follow-up only with a malpractice defense letter written in legalese, you diminish your chances of maximizing the number of cases your Clients of the Future send you.

The objective of your follow-up is to demonstrate that you care, that you are interested in helping people and that with you it is not just about the money. By providing useful, helpful information through the mail, you can achieve that objective.

How To Follow-Up WithClients Of The Future

Immediate Follow-Up:

1. Within 24 hours, you should send each client of the future a letter thanking them for calling your office. Your letter should include your malpractice defense.  For example, its first paragraph can state, “Thank you for calling our office. While we were unable to accept your case or provide you with legal advice at this time, we would be happy to help you in the future.”

2. You know physicians, attorneys and other professionals socially. Personal injury clients typically do not, but they would feel much more secure knowing that they had someone in their corner they could think of as “my attorney.” Giving them permission to think of you that way increases the chances they will call when they, their family members or friends get injured. The second paragraph of your letter can state, “In the future, please feel free to think of me (us) as your personal injury attorney(s). Please call me (us) when you, a friend or family member get injured. I am (We are) here to help.”

3. When they need you, you want your Clients of the Future to be able to find your telephone number in three strategic locations: their glove compartment, their wallet behind their drivers license and their refrigerator. (The refrigerator provides ready availability when a friend calls reporting that they have been injured in an accident.)

So you should enclose in your letter an information card for the glove compartment, a business card that includes the words “Keep This In Your Wallet Behind Your Drivers License” and a business card refrigerator magnet. The third paragraph of your follow-up letter can state, “We are enclosing a refrigerator magnet, a glove compartment information card and a business card for your wallet.”

4. If you have a client newsletter, you should enclose a copy with your letter. The final paragraph of your letter should note the inclusion of the newsletter and inform your Clients of the Future that they will be receiving a free issue quarterly. For example, “I am enclosing a copy of our client newsletter. We will be sending you a free copy every three months. We hope you enjoy it.” (Be certain that your Client of the Future’s name and address are entered in your mailing list).

5. If your state bar or trial lawyers association publishes an apt consumer information brochure, you should enclose a copy.

6. In a postscript, you can add the date when the statute runs on the matter they called about or other pertinent information.

The best way to assure that your Clients of the Future letters actually get mailed is to have a template entered in your word processing application. Also, have a clerk stuff fifty or more Number 9 envelopes with the enclosures I mentioned. Then, all you have to do is give the names and addresses of your Clients of the Future to your secretary, have her run off the letter, stuff it in an envelope along with a Number 9 envelope containing the enclosures and mail it. (A Number 9 envelope is a slightly smaller version of the standard Number 10 business envelope. You do not need to imprint it with your return address.)

Long-Term Follow-up:

Keeping in touch with Clients of the Future helps keep them in touch with you. Your best bet for doing that is a quarterly client newsletter. Your newsletter should contain useful, helpful information such as safety tips and product recalls.

Long-term, newsletter follow-up with Clients of the Future is one of the most cost effective ways to generate sign-ups.

Closing Comments

1. Once the system is set up, your Clients of the Future program takes very little time.  Make certain everyone who screens calls in your office participates.

2. Check state bar regulations to make certain the Clients of the Future technique complies in your jurisdiction. You may need to add a legend such as “attorney advertising” to your follow-up letter.

3. Do not include any caller you feel would be difficult to work with as a client.

Like all practice development techniques, Clients of the Future is a numbers game.  Not every Client of the Future will become a client or refer a case. Nevertheless, if you use the Clients of the Future program consistently, you will turn as much “garbage” into gold as you possibly can.

About Bill Speizman

Bill is not an attorney. He is a business consultant. He is the only business consultant in the country who has worked exclusively with members of the plaintiffs bar for more than two decades. Bill received his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and his master’s degree from Columbia University. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Bill at wlspeizman@gmail.com.


Copyright 2007 William L. Speizman

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