First4Lawyers: Standing out from the personal injury crowd

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In order to stand out from the crowd, the quality of a personal injury firm’s service must be top drawer, says Qamar Anwar of First4Lawyers

It goes without saying that these are uncertain times for personal injury lawyers. The Civil Liability Bill and the associated change in the small claims limit threaten to reduce the number of cases by either discouraging claimants in the first place or pushing them into running their own claims through the online portal that the government is building.

And then there is the push by legal regulators—themselves pushed by the Competition and Markets Authority—to make law firms publish more information about their services and costs, with the ultimate aim of making it easier for consumers to shop around. And all of this is set against a backdrop of a changing dynamic between lawyer and client. Consumers are now always just a click away from your competitors. Consequently, firms now need to be doing everything they can to stand out from that competition.

In order to look at this more closely, we commissioned mystery shopping research on how 50 leading personal injury law firms up and down the land handled telephone and web-based enquiries from ‘potential’ clients.

The picture the results painted was a mixed one, with call handlers ranging from the cold to the empathetic. So, why do some law firms spend so much money on getting the phone to ring or the email to ping, but then put nothing like the same care and attention into converting that enquiry into a client?

Poor communication it turned out was a key factor. So many of the service problems lawyers have, as reported by the Legal Ombudsman, come down to poor communication. Although ours were mystery shoppers posing as potential contacts, many of those who call in real life are incredibly vulnerable. They will have been through an unpleasant experience already, which has brought them to your door, or website, and may have spent considerable time deliberating over whether to make that first contact. So, while for a call handler it may be the twentieth time they’ve picked up the phone that day, if that comes across at all in their manner, it may well be enough to scare off the caller.

Interestingly, there were many examples of firms failing to follow up contacts. Shockingly, where firms had to call back the mystery shopper, some did not do so for more than two days–or at all. Why would you not call a potential client who had made the effort to contact you?

The good news is that there were lots of positives from the research. In the main, our mystery shoppers were happy with their interactions with law firms. The vast majority found their overall treatment warm and engaging, with virtually no complaints about having to wade through jargon. But, what was lacking was a sense that the firm really wanted the work, with many mystery shoppers reporting that they didn’t feel the firm attempted to add value or ‘go further’ for them.

Low-value personal injury is an unusual market in that there is no real price competition. So, in order to stand out from the crowd, the quality of your service must be top drawer. And with the regulators also keen for comparison and review websites to become more prominent in the legal market, word of how good you are can quickly spread.

Our whitepaper, Converting Clients: Calls, Clicks and Cash, outlines the steps law firms should take to improve their performance in the critical stage of the client journey, with a focus on getting the right mindset, putting a structure in place and the crucial role played by dedicated staff.

Qamar Anwar is managing director at First4Lawyers

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk