Law Firm Technology Must-Haves: Client Referral Technology

Remember the first time you sent an email? It was a moment full of feelings: excitement, concern that the message was not sent, and confusion about the exact protocol for when to send and when not to send an email. Eventually you had to get out of the way of technological progress and embrace this useful communication tool.

Once you fully embraced this technology, it was obvious how crazy fast and efficient it could be. Of course, like anything, there are upsides and downsides to using technology. Running some basic benefit analysis on law firm technology can help a law firm determine what technologies they are currently not using that they should.

Ultimately, the issue of lawyers not using more technologies to grow their practice boils down to risk and fear. You’ll hear lawyers say things like, “What happens if all my online documents disappear and I don’t have all the files printed for backup?” or “People that are looking for help with my practice area really don’t look for lawyers online.”

The best definition for fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real.

When you conduct risk assessment and benefit analysis, you are supposed to look at the benefits of using or not using a technology, along with the risks of using or not using a technology.

Ernie Svenson, in an interview on Legal Talk Radio at Clio’s full day technology event in partnership with the Florida Bar Association’s annual conference, said that once he went paperless, he was finally able to wow his clients. Access to archived documents and files was at his fingertips—not in some far away storage facility.

This is why there are risks to not using certain technologies for law firms.

Here are three major technologies that law firms have at their disposal, along with a breakdown for each size law firm, analyzing whether or not you should use these technologies for your practice:

  1. Client Referral Technology
  2. Document Management Technology
  3. Practice Management Technology

Client referral technologies

There are numerous technologies that can drive leads to a law firm, but few that drive a direct phone call. Here, we are going to focus on Avvo’s Advisor product and UpCounsel.

Avvo has built a mechanism for clients to select a problem area, set his or her location, and receive a 15-minute phone call from a lawyer for $39. It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that is a $156 billable hour—likely below your typical hourly rate. It is that precise thinking that is 100% wrong.

Taking a call from a complete stranger that has requested your knowledge for 15 minutes is a marketing expense, not a revenue generating moment. Lawyers should embrace this sort of opportunity as a convenient way to get introduced to someone with a legal problem and still make a small cut of the revenue for the call. At the time of this post, lawyers receive $29 for each call.

This means you are getting paid to talk to people with real legal needs.

UpCounsel services a slightly different clientele. In a recent conversation with a senior partner at a San Francisco employment law firm, the partner shared that two clients with mid-sized companies contacted her directly from UpCounsel in the previous month.

Users in need of a pre-vetted lawyer can go to UpCounsel’s website and select a practice area. A lot of features on their platform are free; for services completed through their platform, there is a cost to the lawyer that depends on the level of services.

Solo practitioners

For these lead generation type services, you need to start with your practice area before determining which platform to begin with. There will be crossover between the two platforms, Avvo and UpCounsel, but a good strategy will be drawing a line at the type of client you are looking to work with.

If you are looking for individuals that need legal help in the form of DUI, PI, Criminal Defense, or Family Law, then Avvo is the better starting point. For lawyers doing Employment, Complex Real Estate, Corporate Law, or Venture Capital deals, UpCounsel may be a better place to begin.

Grade: A+

For solos, client referral software is worth the time and easy to use.

Small law firms

Small firms have access to more resources than solo firms, and can sometimes take on more varied cases. Even if you all practice the same type of law, typically one or two lawyers at a small firm will have a few cases outside the firm’s norm. This makes lead generation services very effective for your size firm.

The biggest issue we see is ensuring that your client intake process is set up properly to cause a frictionless environment for the client to get in touch with a lawyer. Sometimes firms struggle with egos and find it difficult to get past who will get what lead, but talking it out with your partners can help to avoid this issue.

Grade: A-

Because of an increase in administrative time, client referral software for small firms is not quite an A+, but still well worth the investment.

Mid-sized law firms

Before you implement a lead generation system, you need to evaluate your intake process to ensure you are able to manage where these leads will go. Creating a rotating calendar for lawyers’ availability or assigning these leads to newer associates are both options. Just make sure you have a plan.

A major hurdle to using one of these systems for generating new clients to a firm with over 25 lawyers is the fact that, often, no one wants to take responsibility for the project. The biggest advantage you have is the variety of practice areas you service, which likely allows you to take full advantage of both networks.

Grade: A

These systems are amazing, if you can get out of your own way.

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This is part one of a three part series from GNGF on getting out of your own way. The next article will cover document management tools that can save you a ton of time. GNGF is a business solutions provider for law firms. This includes providing online self-study MCLE courses, marketing services, and data security audits.

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