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How to Meet, Sign Up and Obtain Payment from New Clients in Less Than 60 Minutes

Welcome to GAL Radio.  My name is Attorney Enrico Schaefer, and today we’re going to talk about something that’s really important to lawyers and law firms alike.  How do you sign up your clients? 

Keep in mind that the industrial age model for signing up clients was to get them on the phone or in a conference room, have a lawyer or lawyers sitting there.  Those lawyers would then impress the client that they knew more than the client about some legal issue.  Of course, before the internet, the client’s chance of knowing anything about their legal issue was fairly limited.

After they have impressed the client, then they’ll go ahead and slide that retainer agreement across the table.  The client will often take that retainer agreement with them or review the retainer agreement before getting it back in a day or two.  Once the agreement is signed, it has to be countersigned by the law firm. And then once all that happens, then the client has to pay a retainer.  Typically, that’ll come by check.   If all goes well, within a couple of days - in a non-emergency situation - you may or may not have your signed retainer agreement with the client and the actual retainer.  Some law firms will actually wait for the check to clear before they start representation of the client. 

All of this sounds like nonsense in the internet and technology age.  And how many lawyers actually relied on the retainer agreement to protect them from a disgruntled client?  And how many of those disgruntled clients actually went to court over the retainer agreement?  And the answer is either none or extremely small number of clients.  My message is this.

Your retainer agreement doesn’t protect you from much of anything, and isn’t as important as lawyers make it out to be.  So here’s a method for actually meeting a new client, talking to them, quoting the project, getting them signed up and getting payment in less than an hour. 

At our law firm, we use an extranet system for our entire case management solution.  We use Basecamphq.com.  So, here’s what happens.  A client calls or sends an email.  We have a whole process for intake.  Today, I spoke to a client on a Digital Millennium Copyright Act take-down issue.  That client called, I spoke to them on the phone.  There wasn’t a whole lot of need for chit-chat.  As soon as I found out that they had a YouTube video take-down request, that they had copyright registration, that there was no fair-use defense, all of which took me about 30-seconds of question and answer, I bid them a project with deliverables such as:

  1. Obtain background documents from the clients including copyright registration, infringing YouTube URL and basic business model information from the client;
  2. Interview the client concerning client goals, risk tolerance and budgets;
  3. Prepare draft DMCA take-down notice and provide to client for review;
  4. Send DMCA take-down notice to YouTube demanding that the video be removed;
  5. Determine whether or not YouTube has taken down the video and bid next projects and potential fees for such.

That’s it!  I’ve given them a set of defined deliverables, and I quoted them $600 for that very limited project.  All of that took about 5 minutes.  I dictated the project to the extranet; the extranet manager uploaded the project, and within 10 minutes after hanging up the phone, the project was up.  The client had their login information.  Our billing department had already generated an invoice so that they could pay by credit card.  The invoice was paid within 30 minutes of the extranet project coming live, and we were in the saddle representing this client within an hour of my conversation with them.  They had paid; the project was defined, and we were off and running.

So here’s my message to lawyers and their law firms.  Why do you put up barriers which make it more difficult for a client to hire you?  I didn’t need a retainer agreement.  I quoted them deliverables. There’s a link to the billing policy within the email.  And BOOM!  Wham! Bam! Thank You Ma’am! We are done!  Try and remove barriers to getting a client signed up with you.  Try and remove barriers to payment, take credit cards, issue electronic invoices.  Get the client signed up so you can do what you’re supposed to be doing.  Lawyers need to focus on one thing: client relationships.  Create the client relationship, get them in under the tent, show them what a great law firm you are, what a great lawyer you are, how specialized you are at their particular legal problem, and they will come back for another project. 

What we have found is of the 220 or so prospects that contact us each month, of the approximate 10-20 who actually hire us on a project for that first time, that the vast majority, well over 60%, hire us for yet another project or a third project or a fourth project.  And a high percentage of those actually become lifelong clients. 

This is Enrico Schaefer and that’s all for Greatest American Lawyer for today.  We will see you next time on GAL Radio.  Have a great week.

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