By: 12 October 2019
PI firms must attract and convert clients to survive and thrive

For firms to survive and thrive in the new world, they cannot afford to sit and wait for the business to come in—they need to do everything they can to attract and convert clients, says Qamar Anwar of First4Lawyers

As recently reported, personal injury law firms need to improve their out of hours contact with potential clients.

Following a mystery shopping exercise with Insight6, our new research, ‘Creating a customer-first culture’, found that two-thirds of shoppers who called firms after office hours and left a message did not receive a call back, while a third of shoppers who tried to contact firms via their Facebook pages did not receive a reply.

There can be no denying that this is not an easy time to be a lawyer. Pressure from regulators, consumers, insurers, politicians, competition authorities and many others have put what lawyers do and how they do it under unprecedented scrutiny. But few are in the crosshairs like personal injury lawyers.

Next year’s Civil Liability Act reforms will change the market in a way not seen for a generation. The old ways of practicing are over.

For firms to survive and thrive in the new world, they cannot afford to sit and wait for the business to come in—they need to do everything they can to attract and convert clients. 

We undertook similar research last year, and while this year’s results have not found any serious deterioration in the way firms deal with standard incoming telephone enquiries during the working day—nor any notable improvement, it should be said—they do give cause for concern for how they cope with non-standard enquiries. And, with consumers calling the shots in today’s competitive market, calls after 5.30pm and contact via Facebook are not really ‘non-standard’ in 2019.

Research has repeatedly shown that consumers assume that the lawyers they contact can do the job—so they choose on the service aspects of the offering. Personal injury is different from most other areas of law because price is not a differential, meaning that it really does come down to how you present yourself to prospective clients.

Our research indicates that it is this aspect that is the biggest problem firms have. You have to sell yourself—not with a flashy, hard sell—but as a firm that understands what that person is going through and how you can help them. Small changes to the way you approach new business could make a huge difference.

It also means upping your game on social media. Some, more senior, lawyers can dismiss the importance of this, or simply throw their hands up because they don’t really understand how to use it, and the cost of bringing in experts may look prohibitive. But firms no doubt employ staff who use these platforms in their personal lives all the time—so why not draw on their expertise and enthusiasm?

The good news about the bad news is that this is an opportunity. Standing out in a market where there are areas of significant underperformance could bring major rewards very quickly. None of the problems we have identified in our new white paper report are especially difficult to resolve—they just need commitment and some investment.

This isn’t about being better lawyers. It’s about being better businesses. It’s about being the firm that answers the phone at 6pm or returns a Facebook message within 15 minutes. It just could be the difference between success and failure in a post-Civil Liability Act world.

With competition for the best work set to intensify yet further with next year’s reforms, the incentive for firms to up their game could not be stronger.

Qamar Anwar is managing director at First4Lawyers