It’s probably safe to say you receive a fair amount of emails and calls from people looking for an attorney who just aren’t right for your firm. Though you may see this as an inevitable annoyance, this actually presents a great opportunity to further solidify your firm’s brand in the public eye.
For example, a member of the Upsource team was recently in a car accident that wasn’t her fault. Though she was mostly confident her insurance would handle the matter appropriately, she wanted to speak to an attorney before leaving the scene. She called a local personal injury attorney who told her he just wasn’t taking “small” cases. While not overtly negative, she hung up the phone feeling discouraged and told some of us about it. There are now about a half-dozen of us who have an unfavorable perception of this attorney we’ve never met. Oops.
How you handle an unqualified lead says a lot about what kind of law firm you represent. In this week’s blog post, we’ll discuss how helping unqualified leads can help you get the clients you truly want.
Understanding Emotional States
As you may already be intimately aware, people calling a lawyer are rarely coming from a calm and collected place. They are also unlikely to have extensive experience shopping around for legal help. Whether they have been in an accident, illegally terminated from their job, are considering divorce, or need to file for bankruptcy, they are in distress and looking for answers. It is crucial to remember this and communicate it to whoever is answering your client inquiries.
An Opportunity to Soothe & Help
It’s simply a fact of life that you can’t represent every person who calls your firm. Perhaps their needs are outside your area of focus or you are at workload capacity. Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly fine to say ‘no,’ but you shouldn’t stop there. View this refusal as a chance to offer some form of help instead of a disappointment. Here are several positive ways you can handle responding to unqualified leads:
1. Refer them to an industry peer.
Chances are that even if you don’t take this particular case, you know someone who will. Keep a list handy of other attorneys in your area who do great work and get results for their clients. Referring someone to a lawyer you trust to do a good job reflects well on you and increases the likelihood that they will refer someone else to you in the future who is a better fit for your firm. It also prevents a frustrated prospect from badmouthing you to others in person and/or online.
2. Give them a place to start.
If you don’t know someone off-hand who can help this person, give them some tips for finding an attorney who can. Ask them what keywords they’ve been using to search online and correct them if they aren’t using the right language. Tell them how they can vet a potential attorney and gauge if that person is going to be a good fit. And perhaps most importantly, tell them what questions they should be asking.
3. Spend ten minutes of your time talking to them.
Unless you are truly unqualified to dispense any legal advice relative to their problem, spend a few minutes giving them some free advice. Maybe criminal defense isn’t your specialty, but you handled some of those cases previously in your career. Let them know if you think they have a good case or not so they can make an informed decision on how to proceed. However, be sure to include an appropriate disclaimer.
4. Be understanding & kind.
Above all, handle these inquiries with care. Remember the vulnerable emotional state prospects are currently in and do your best not to discourage them from continuing to seek legal help. How you respond to an unqualified lead may have a large impact on whether or not they decide to call another attorney after speaking with you. Let them know that they will find what they’re looking for and that a solution is just around the corner.
Contribute to the Well-Being of Your Community
When you put yourself out there as a helper, your peers will notice over time. Turning away potential clients who aren’t a good fit in a compassionate manner will eventually result in more qualified leads later. Word will spread that you truly care about people in your area, even if you can’t represent them and this is highly likely to bring you great clients.