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Sunday, January 29, 2012

How to Find New Clients as a Sole Practitioner or a Small Firm

I posted this on the Lawyerist LAB, but I wanted to reprint this for anyone interested in using Nolo, whether you're a solo practitioner looking for more client leads, or even a potential client and want an easy way to reach attorneys in the practice area you need:
Lawyerist LAB — The Lawyering Advisory Board
I currently use Nolo for Family Law related matters around New York City, including Child Support, Child Custody, and Divorce.  My rate currently is $600.00 which I have been using up roughly every 1.5 months (I just had my amount updated after last paying for it around Thanksgiving).  The rate is based on what area of law you're contracting with them, and how many leads they usually get in that area per month.  Each time I get a referral, it is usually $20.00 that is subtracted from my debit account.   

How It Works: 
Nolo signed a contract with a company called “Experthub.”  They apparently own thousands of websites out there with general keyword names, such as NewYorkDivorceLawyer.net, and other related websites. Say a client has an issue, such as they simply need an uncontested divorce.  So they type into Google “New York Divorce Lawyer” and Experthub's websites will come up.  Their websites then have client contact forms, where the potential client submits their name, phone, e-mail, county, area of law, and then have an opportunity to describe the specific issue.  Once they hit send, and it is processed by Experthub, you then receive an e-mail in your inbox with the client lead, which is only sent to those law firms that have contracts in the county where the client resides, and in the area of law that they designated.  Once you receive the lead, what you do is then up to you.  If it sound like a potentially good lead, you can give the potential client a ring to talk about the issue and hopefully set up an appointment.  If it sounds like a dud, or a losing case, simply ignore the lead.  In either case, once the lead is generated and sent to you, you have the price per lead subtracted from your debit.   

The Good:
I have found that more than 2/3rds of my leads have at least been positive leads.  Every so often it is a dud lead, but the amount that work out, and are paying clients, definitely outweigh the ones that do not work out.  There is also the fact that the leads generated are to a small amount of lawyers.  They only sign contracts with 4 lawyers, per county, per area of law.  So in your main practice area, it means you have at most, three other attorneys who are getting that lead.    Since I can often be quite busy throughout the day, whether it is court appearances, or even just communication with other clients, I sometimes don't have time to immediately contact every single lead the second I get them.  However, I have a part time assistant who is usually available all day long to make the lead inquiry, so the second I get the referral to my inbox, I immediately forward it to my assistant, and she will make the call almost immediately.  She also has my calendar synced with her calendar, so she can easily check to see when I'm available to have an appointment with the client. She will try and make that appointment immediately so I can at least get the client through the door.   

The Bad: 
The first thing that I think a lot of people immediately see as a potential issue, is that you're still paying for a referral that if you're not as quick as the potential three other law firms, then you just paid for a lead that you lost because the other law firm was faster than you were.  This service seems to reward the quickest law firms, or the ones who are the most available to respond to inquiries.  There are also very limited ways that you will ever be credited back a bad lead.  For example, just last week, I received a lead from Nolo and before I could even forward the lead to my assistant, the client actually called me first, after finding my firm on Lawyers.com.  So I would have been able to get that client without the referral, but you have to pay for it anyway.    I would note however, that Nolo is great about refunding you if you get a duplicate lead.  About 2 months back I received 2 leads sent to me just 10 minutes apart, sent from the same client.  Nolo caught this even before I called them about it, and credited me the duplicate leads.      Additionally, the bad leads can be quite frustrating sometimes. Whether it is a client who just wants free legal advice or an answer to their legal question, or whether it is the client who makes an appointment with you, and then no-calls, no-shows, the bad leads are just….bad.   

The Verdict : 
If you are a solo or small firm practitioner, and are looking for a new and relatively cheap way to get more clients through your door, Nolo is the way to go.  Just one paying client can cover the entire month's cost of using the service, and in my experience, I have been able to retain at least 10 a month from Nolo, if not more.   All the staff I have had to deal with have been very accomadating, and even check up on me every so often to see how my law practice is going.    Unless you're content with the number of clients you have or are able to generate without Nolo, I highly reccommend Nolo to every solo or small firm out there.

And for those interested in getting direct contact with Nolo, I highly recommend my personal campaign representative who I have been using since August when I first signed onto Nolo.  His contact information is:

Daniel Haight
925-962-9188
510-704-2316
dhaight@nolo.com

And no, I don't get any money each time I refer someone to him.  Simply put, I have just been that satisfied with the job Nolo has done to help me find clients that I want to help spread the word to other Solo practitioners and small firms that could use a nice influx of new clients.