Avoid These Mistakes Immediately for Your Law Firm’s Growth: A Comprehensive Guide

February 29, 2024
As law firm owners and lawyers owners, we recognize that we can’t, and frankly, shouldn’t try to serve every prospective client who comes our way. It’s essential to have a certain level of selectivity. That comes with acknowledging the power of ‘No’, not only from our side but also when we hear it from potential clients. This type of principled approach is what I want to discuss further in this article — an approach I refer to as positive client selection. This approach teaches law firm owners and lawyers to stop chasing uninterested clients and start maximizing their time, resources, and focus on the right prospects.

Most of my best clients–the most successful ones–have internalized this concept. They understand that not every consult, every proposal is going to translate into a business relationship. And that’s okay! When they hear the word ‘no’ from a prospect, they take it, move forward, and make use of automation tools to follow-up in a timely manner. They don’t go back trying to convince a client who has made their decision clear.

What is positive client selection in your law firm?

Positive client selection is more than just a concept; it’s a strategic business choice. The idea is simple yet powerful— instead of attempting to win over every potential client or consultation, focus on those that align naturally with your vision, capabilities, and values. It’s about recognizing that not every ‘no’ is a loss, but rather, a step towards better-suited opportunities. By adopting this mindset, you cultivate an environment where both you and your clients can thrive. This doesn’t imply that follow-ups are unnecessary. Quite the contrary, maintaining communication is a crucial part of the process. The key, however, is to automate follow-ups, streamlining your workflow and keeping it impersonal—maintaining a professional, rather than desperate, demeanor. Imagine you’re a chef running a high-end vegan restaurant. Would you try to attract every meat lover out there? Probably not, because your best dishes wouldn’t be to their tastes. In the same way, your services won’t be a perfect fit for everyone, and that’s okay. Accepting this reality is the first step towards positive client selection.

So, is positive client selection nothing more than fanciful thinking? Absolutely not. In reality, it’s all about paying attention to the details. Were your potential clients punctual when arriving for your consultation? Did they ask relevant questions?

Did they make unrealistic comparisons, such as, “My uncle settled his case for $500,000 and that’s what I expect as well.”? Or did they give impossible timelines like, “This has to be done in 6 months because I need my visa by then.”? Were they too focused on not wanting to invest more than a certain amount of time and money into your services?

These are red flags indicating that they aren’t your ideal clients. It’s crucial to recognize how they present themselves and the nature of their inquiries.

If you have a pre-consultation form that you want them to complete, which I assist many of my clients in automating, you need to review their responses before the consultation commences. Did they put the effort into completing the form? If they failed to do this, how does this compare to your clients who did put in the time and effort?

If they aren’t willing to make the effort from the get-go and you aren’t vetting them properly, then these aren’t the clients you want to work with on a long-term basis or for substantial projects. Why? Because every dollar you earn from them is going to come at the cost of your peace of mind.

The most successful law firm owners I collaborate with grasp the concept of positive client selection. They comprehend that it’s not necessary to accommodate every potential client. Initially, at the beginning of their law firm ownership, when they are baby law firm owners, they might have been more accommodating, attempting to work with every client seeking their service.

The metaphor of climbing a mountain can aptly illustrate your journey as a law firm owner. Just as you set out at the foot of the mountain, when you start their firm, attempting to climb the peak of growth, revenue, and client acquisition. With each stride and every elevation you gain, your client selection begins to diversify.

You’ll soon realized that with every climb of 10,000 feet, the number of clients you deal with was less. It wasn’t a cause for concern but a realization that saying ‘no’ to some clients was part of the process. This understanding helps you to concentrate on clients who were a good fit for your firm and keep those who might be pointlessly challenging at bay.

The power of ‘No’ and moving on

It’s key to remember that rejecting a client does not mean you are losing out. If you experience a client who is attempting to negotiate your rates, it’s important to hold your ground. Consider the example of a client trying to negotiate for a lower-than-standard rate for a legal service you offer, let’s say will and trust preparation. If you negotiate lower, this does not equate to positive client selection.

It’s like walking into Starbucks and asking for a discount on a latte. They would refuse outright, not because their queue of customers physically shows the demand they have. Likewise, although you may not see a physical line of potential clients in your law firm, understand that there is a demand for your services and you should select positively.

When a client negotiates aggressively or exhibits behaviors like disrespect to your staff, being late for consultations, and not completing forms, remember that saying no to these clients is better for your law firm in the long haul. It’s crucial to your process of client selection.

Beyond legal fit, establishing a standardized consultation process helps in assessing the business fit as well. Once you make sure to ask the right business questions and assess their legal needs, you position yourself on the path to practicing positive client selection.

Now, when it comes to clients who have said no for whatever reasons, you could still follow up. Especially when you feel strongly about wanting to help that client. You can automate your follow-up process, scheduling a follow-up after three months from the initial consult. However, do it in a professional manner without making it about you, but how you can further help them.

Note that while following up, bear in mind that sometimes a ‘no’ could mean a client is not ready to buy. Statistically, 50% of leads identified as qualified may not be ready to purchase immediately. Hence, it’s important to strike a balance in your client selection process, and adhere to the policy of not cutting your prices or offering long-term payment plans.

How to follow up with clients who are on the fence

The principle of positive client selection can certainly transform one’s business. But how exactly do we go about implementing it? One significant aspect involves providing an efficient and effective follow-up routine after a consult. As evidenced by research, roughly 80% of sales necessitate at least five follow-up calls after the initial meeting. This staggering fact underscores exactly why a detailed follow-up plan should be an integral part of your business program.

One potent method I’ve found to manage this is by implementing an automation process. Let’s say you’ve had a consult with a client. Everything went well, and you believe they are a perfect fit. You simply check the ‘follow-up’ box in your client management system. Over the subsequent three months, automated messages are sent to the client. These can range from a simple thank you note to helpful suggestions designed to facilitate their decision-making.

Disseminating information like successful case stories demonstrating your expertise or impressive engagement numbers reinforces your credibility in the client’s eyes. Remember, repetition fosters memory. Just as we might forget a mathematical formula if we don’t consistently practice, clients may forget important information if not adequately reinforced, particularly amidst the busyness and nervousness of a consult.

However, ensure this process is as automated as possible. By doing so, you stay on top of your follow-up process while avoiding the pitfall of forgetting to follow up due to other business commitments.

Keep in mind, while some clients might decline your service -a part of the 20%- the other 80% could be waiting for your follow-up. Thus, optimizing your follow-up process solidifies the foundations of your client relationships.

Bear in mind, this doesn’t mean to relentlessly pursue a ‘no.’ If the client balks at your prices or proposed payment plan, understand that this might not be the right fit, and move on. Positive client selection reinforces the importance of quality over quantity.

How to stop practicing door law as a law firm owner and lawyer

It may be necessary to reevaluate your client base. Perhaps you’ve been practicing a kind of law that accepts any client walking through your door. But remember, as you climb higher, your perspective changes and so should your choice of clients.

It’s essential to accept that saying ‘No’ is part of your journey as a law firm. It’s something that the best in their field understand. Let me share my experiences; when clients said no, I was glad because I realized they weren’t a good fit after all. Any successful partnership needs to tick all the boxes for both parties.

Keep this image of a math equation from school in mind – if both sides don’t add up, it just isn’t the right fit. So, it’s crucial to have systems that allow you not only to evaluate if a client fits your requirements but also to give your client the chance to assess you.

If things work out, great! But if it’s not a good fit, don’t lower your prices or offer extended repayment plans. The moment you start making exceptions, you are training that client to expect more. This could make them demand unrealistic things like a quick case review when it usually takes about 60 days. Be very cautious in such situations.

Here’s something to bear in mind – 50% of leads are potential candidates who aren’t ready to purchase at the initial meeting. Those are the clients you need to follow up with- of course, only if you actually want to work with them! Remember, positive client selection is a vital aspect as you run your law firm.

I recall a point in my career when I challenged myself to revisit my lead list. I reached out to those who’d previously said no, those scenarios I believed were a perfect fit but didn’t pan out initially. The responses I received were diverse, some prospects expressed interest, many more graciously reiterated their decisions to not proceed. I valued these answers, as they provided valuable insights into client motivations and preferences. However, the key takeaway wasn’t the success or failure of these retrials, but the shift in my mindset. I didn’t take any of it personally, nor did I compromise on my prices or offer a stretched-out payment plan to win their business.

These experiences reinforced the idea that maintaining the value of your work is paramount. And part of that involves accepting that your work may not be the right fit for everyone. This realization allows you to actively seek the clients who match your business ethos, product quality, and price point. Once you’ve set this positive client selection cycle in motion, your business is almost guaranteed to thrive.

How can positive client selection boost law firm success?

Positive client selection essentially means choosing the right client for your business who aligns with your values and goals. So, as you delve deeper into this concept, you might wonder, “How can it actually contribute to my business’s success?”

Well, it has a lot to do with efficiency and the valuable resource that is time. When you select a client who says ‘yes’ without the need for constant pursual, you streamline your operations. This leads to efficient allocation of resources, be it manpower or time. You can dedicate more efforts on strategies that help in growing your business rather than negotiating terms with a client who might not be entirely ‘on-board’.

Furthermore, dismissing the idea of chasing after every client allows for higher quality relationships with the clients you do engage. This cultivates reciprocal trust, leading to a more successful, long-term partnership. Remember, a satisfied and loyal client can become your biggest advocate, driving word-of-mouth promotion and attracting more ideal clients.

A personal experience of positive client selection

Allow me to share a personal story that highlights this principle in action. A while back, I challenged myself to reach back out to leads who had initially said ‘no’. These were folks I had tagged as ‘ideal clients’ and I was driven by the desire to work with them. So, I followed up, with the strategy automated for efficiency.

The feedback was varied – while some responses were positive, there were others that affirmed their initial ‘no’. But here’s the heart of the matter – I didn’t take it personally, nor did I resort to slashing my prices or offering prolonged payment plans to entice them. Instead, I appreciated their honesty and time, glad to have tried, whilst recognizing that not every interaction would be a perfect fit.

In essence, adopting positive client selection doesn’t mean every potential client will be a dream come true. You will face rejection. But understanding and accepting this as a part of your business process can save you invaluable time and money, allowing you to focus more on clients who are unequivocally eager to work with you.

If you’re at climbing the mountain of law firm ownership, and are at 10,000 feet and want to get to 20,000 feet faster and with someone who can get you there more easily than alone, use the form below to reach out.