How to win an extra £100k of new business over the next 12 months

Law firms are still failing to capitalise on telephone enquiries to convert lucrative new business, according to research.

“Oh you want a quote do you … would you prefer Byron or Shakespeare?”

Not a line from a television show or a film, this was a genuine response from a legal professional who was answering a call made by a potential client, exposed in a study designed to help law firms turn telephone enquiries into profitable business.

The report concerns the results of a ‘mystery shopper’ telephone survey, with calls made to 254 different law firms nationwide – as well as interviews conducted with senior managers at a further 92 firms. Compiled in September 2013 by Professor Ian Cooper (pictured right), one of Britain’s most experienced business development consultants for the legal profession, the research has now been revisited 12 months on with a further 200 calls made.

Initially, the report revealed a substantial failure from law firms in recognising the importance of telephone enquiries – as well as the absence of a coherent strategy in handling those calls effectively to convert new business – and this latest update to the study finds that not much has changed in the intervening period.

In the report, Professor Cooper laments the “nationwide epidemic” of poor call handling, as well as the failure to capture good quality information about the calls themselves.

He suggests that this is indicative of a top-down indifference to new telephone enquiries, with senior legal professionals often keen to pass on the responsibility of converting business to secretaries, without any lead handling training or guidance. In fact, it is noted that “85% of firms don’t have a properly thought out structure or strategic system about how potential client calls should be handled.”

However despite clear evidence of poor call management, there remains a sense of denial in admitting any potential shortcomings in this area. Indeed, one fee earner said: “I don’t think I need any help with this area. After 35 years in the profession, I know how to talk to people on the phone and have got it right by now”.

The discussion rages across the legal community on social media websites such as LinkedIn. As Joe Reevy from Myinfonet.co.uk says: “You don’t need to be brilliant in an absolute sense to be seen as good.”

He believes that a ‘same day’ reply should be considered a fundamental expectation, rather than a unique selling point.

“I recall Chris Frederiksen (a leading consultant to accountancy firms) telling me about 20 years ago that 15 minutes’ response time was the limit of what he regarded as acceptable,” Reevy continued.

Not all is lost though, as Professor Cooper has found that, of the law firms who implement a new strategy toward new telephone leads and put staff through appropriate call handling training, 9 out of 10 firms experience at least a 10% increase in conversion rates in the first month after the changes. 

He notes that, for an average High Street law firm, this equates to at least an extra £100,000 worth of new business over the following 12 month period.

To download the full report, please click here.

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