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How to Increase Leads Without Free Legal Consultations

Free legal consultations may ring fear into some attorneys. Most attorneys are focused on results and don’t want to use too much non-billable time on prospective clients who aren’t actively seeking their services. This is why many attorneys grow frustrated or find it hard to balance the benefits of free consultations within their practice.

Some law firms find free legal consultations as a lucrative business move to generate more leads while others find it a blow to their bottom line. Free consultations aren’t a necessity, here are alternatives that will still drive clients to your door.

The profitable, but hidden alternatives, to free legal consultations

Attracting and converting clients is one of the most difficult parts of running a successful law firm. However, when you’re in law school, they don’t typically teach you how to effectively market your law firm. This isn’t an excuse, but should be viewed as an area for growth and opportunity.

If your law firm isn’t in the position to offer free legal consultations, here are four alternative steps you can take to generate an avalanche of leads.

Step #1: Know your ideal client

These are your best, most profitable clients. They’re the clients you’d fight to keep. If you attract ideal clients at the very start, you have a very good chance of converting them to evangelists.

A client evangelist displays specific behavioral and outcome markers.

  • Behavioral markers: Your ideal client may display significantly higher engagement levels, a positive relationship, and even admiration for your firm. Ideal clients have the character traits your firm is looking for.

  • Outcome markers: These are the results of desirable character traits. When clients trust, respect, and admire your firm, they’re less likely to haggle or complain. They eagerly pay higher fees, value/use your work and they regularly spend (e.g., monthly, quarterly, or annually).

It’s fairly straightforward. Firms with an intimate understanding of these client evangelists win in the long-term. Why? You attract what you have. Client evangelists attract and refer more ideal clients, creating a virtuous cycle that fills your firm with client evangelists.

Here are the three basic types of clients.

  1. Evangelists:  clients that display the behavioral and outcome markers you need. They’re enthusiastic, loyal, and profitable. They consistently request more work, and they repeatedly promote your firm.

  2. Apathetics: clients who are discount shoppers who are more than willing to jump ship for a better deal. They’re indifferent to you, your firm, or your contributions to their well-being.

  3. Skeptics: clients who have maybe had issues with other law firms and have grown distrusting. You shouldn’t shy away from these clients, but they may require more 1:1 time to build trust in you and your services.

How do you find the client evangelists you need for your law firm?

You start with your values. First, you outline the behavioral and outcome markers you’d like your client evangelists to have. Your behavioral markers could be:

  • A positive relationship, your clients are easy or a pleasure to work with, they pay on time, don’t haggle or hammer for discounts and so on

  • High levels of engagement, they respond promptly to your requests, they ask questions, request help often, etc.)

  • They admire your firm; you were selected you because they believe you’re the best at something. You’re viewed as an authority in your space, and they believe you have the expertise they need to overcome their challenge.

You need to outline your “ideal client.”

This requires a bit of care. You don’t want to create a description that’s too broad or generic to be useful. You also don’t want to create a description that’s strict and exacting to the point where every client fails to meet your criteria. A list of two or three open-ended criteria (e.g., relationship, engagement, admiration) is all you need.

Create an outline that’s just right. Let your experience guide you. Think about the character traits you value in your clients. Identify the traits you loathe or despise.

Next, find a client or prospect that meets your criteria. Comb through your list of previous or existing clients. If you’re allowed to discuss details, choose the best candidate you can find. Your candidate should be willing and able to pay for the services you offer.

Interview them. You’re looking to interview a decision-maker; request an influencer if the decision-maker relied on their assessment to make their decision. You can use a tool like UberConference or Zoom to record the interview. You’re looking for a list of their deep:

  • Desires

  • Goals

  • Fears

  • Frustrations

  • Problems

You want to get to know these ideal clients deeply. Make this an in-depth request; you’ll be using the information they give you in your marketing later.  Do this for each practice group if needed.

Step #2: Create content that agitates your client’s stress

Creating urgency for prospective clients who are just like the ideal clients you’ve identified. You highlighting genuine problems that exist will provide them with the spark of motivation they need to contact you.

How do you do this? You abandon selling in favor of enhancing your value proposition:  

  • You teach them about their expectations

  • About their fears and the risks associated with those fears

  • The outcomes that come from a poor decision and the options available to them

  • You position yourself as a thought leader

Don’t forget to mind the legalities. You’ll want to avoid creating an attorney/client relationship where there isn’t one. How do you accomplish this? It’s simple, you create 10x content; 10x content is better than most of the legal content available online. It’s held to a higher standard; simply put, your free content is better than the paid content your clients consume.

Isn’t it impossible to create “better content?”

Amazing content is easy to understand and simple to create. We know it when we see it because we’re intuitively aware that it depends on a formula, five actually. Let’s go through each of those.

  1. Data: This type of content relies on validation in the form of scientific research, statistics, metrics, and/or original data. It’s thorough, credible, and supported by comprehensive, trustworthy, and/or peer-reviewed sources.

  2. Drama: or dramatic content creates a strong emotional response. The delivery vehicle isn’t as important as the strength of the story or the emotion generated. It’s compelling because it hits us in our emotional and psychological soft spots.

  3. Degree: A large quantity of quality content that’s churned out consistently (whether it’s random or produced on a schedule).

  4. Depth: This content is thorough in a way that data-driven content is not. It provides in-depth details covering content from a variety of angles and perspectives. It provides readers with answers to their questions and objections. It’s well thought out, precise and comprehensive.

  5. Design: Quality content that’s aesthetically pleasing to your audience. It’s a pleasure to consume content because it’s as appealing to view as it is to study.

If your content meets any of these criteria, it’s compelling. It’s also very difficult to compete with. Create content that meets two more of these criteria, and you enter an untouchable space. Three or more and your content, with promotion, becomes legendary.

You can apply this rating system to all sorts of content.

  • Reviews and testimonials

  • Articles, emails, and guest posts

  • Visual content (e.g., Pinterest pins, infographics, presentations, and slide decks)

  • Books, ebooks, and guides

  • Audio, video, and presentations

  • Seminars, workshops, podcasts, and events

  • Advertisements and copywriting pieces

  • Social media content and status updates

  • Print collateral (e.g., brochures, booklets, infographics)

  • Software and tools

(Client problems + Fascination) x (Content formula + Content type) = 10x content

How do you come up with a steady stream of ideas?

  1. Head over to a large site or major competitor’s website

  2. Create a list of their most popular articles (don’t read them)

  3. Pick a headline, then outline your article

  4. Use data, drama, degree, depth, or design to create a 10x version of that article

What happens once you have these ideas?

You find a list of publishers that attract a large group of potential ideal clients. If you’re a real estate attorney and you’re looking for investors, you’d create a list of:

  • Investor clubs

  • Investor forums

  • Lender or financing websites

  • Investor training publications

  • Meetups, seminars, or workshop presenters

You pitch your 10x content to them; then, you break it up into multiple parts. Part one is the content itself; part two is the content on your site. Part three is the downloadable content you’ll share with them in exchange for the contact information.

Next, you can work on advertising and marketing your content.

Step #3: Create successful law firm advertising campaigns

Many law firms throw their money at advertising platforms, but without the proper training or knowledge of these platforms, they can easily become expensive. To be utilize these platforms, lawyers can use the 60/30/10 method:

  • 10% of your ad budget on Cold traffic: You promote your content to highly targeted groups of prospects (cold traffic) who have never heard of you. You provide them with value in the form of a tool, quiz, download, or content. No opt-in required. If you have to lose money (you don’t), you lose it here to gain valuable insights everywhere else.

  • 30% of your ad budget on Warm traffic: The prospects above who are now (a.) warm – they’re familiar with your law firm, they’ve heard of you (b.) they’re interested enough in your offer to covert and (c.) committed enough to engage with you. This makes sense as your warm traffic is far more likely to convert.

  • 60% of your ad budget on Hot traffic: These are the prospects who have read your content. They’re subscribers to one (or more) of your email lists. They’re followers on social media, they’ve downloaded information, requested a paid consultation, purchased your book, etc. These prospects have self-identified, showing a clear interest in your service, they’re eager to hear from you.

With this method, you spend a significant amount of money on prospects who actually want to hear from you. Whereas with free legal consultations, you may spend more time and money on people who, while targeted, may not be interested in your services.

For example, if you have $500 per month budgeted for LinkedIn ads you’d spend:

  • $50 on cold traffic

  • $150 on warm traffic

  • $300 on hot traffic

But, here’s the thing, you can also do this with your overall ad budget. So let’s imagine that your total ad budget was $2,500 per month. Let’s also imagine that you’re interested in advertising on Yelp, Nolo, Avvo, and LinkedIn. You could use the 60/30/10 model to divide your total ad budget.

Step #4: Reach out to known publications

Now that you have more content, it’s time to get it out. Here is where you’ll rely on partners or larger publications to circulate your content. If this sounds intimidating, these tips can help simplify the process:

  1. Create a list of publications

You’ll want to create a list of blogs, magazines, media companies, etc. with an audience of potential customers. If you’re a small business attorney, publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, or Business Insider are great sources to cultivate as lead generation sources.

  1. Sort these publications

Divide your list into three categories.

  • Traffic: These are high profile sites with a large readership, a significant amount of daily visitors, and lots of prospects who are part of your target audience (see chapter 2).

  • Authority: These sites are authoritative, prestigious, and very credible. They may or may not receive a significant amount of traffic. That’s okay because sharing your content with them boosts your credibility, status, and authority. You’re able to use the “as featured on” tag to boost your trustworthiness.

  • Partnerships: These sources serve the same clients you do in a complementary way. They’re grateful for the value you can provide, and they’re open to partnering with you in a variety of ways. You’ll want to create a relationship by providing a significant amount of value.

Once you’ve sorted your list into these three categories, you’re ready to pitch the sites in your inventory. Here are a few sites you can use to get started.

These are just legal websites. There are even more opportunities available if you focus your attention on or around the areas relevant to your practice areas. If your firm is local or regional, choose local or regional publications and partners. Approach sources in your metropolitan areas to generate results.

Free legal consultations aren’t a necessity

They have their place in your practice, but it’s important to weigh your options and explore alternatives that benefit your firm. With the right approach, you can attract more clients — the kind of clients who are eager, able, and willing to pay for your services; the kind of clients your law firm deserves.

©2006-2021, BILL4TIME. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 224

About this Author

Founded in 2006, Bill4Time’s cloud-based legal practice management software was created with the guidance of law and consulting firms. Now, Bill4Time is trusted by both small and large professional service firms to automate their daily tasks. Bill4Time has created simple to use, intuitive, and user-friendly software at a fraction of the cost of other legal practice management systems. With a strong focus on convenience, Bill4Time offers online access to your account and mobile apps anytime, anywhere. Bill4Time’s goal is to streamline the time tracking and billing aspect...