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How to Deal with E-mails from Prospective Clients

Website emailsA lawyer friend of mine casually remarked to me that she ignores the question-asking e-mails that come from her website visitors.

If you’ve got a website, then you’re getting e-mails from prospective clients. They’re asking questions about everything under the sun. They particularly want free legal advice.

Do you respond? How do you respond?

The answer (addressed from a pure marketing perspective) depends on your situation.

If you’re busy and never have a need for more clients, then feel free to blow it off. Ignore it. Just let it go. Yes, that’s rude, but we’re dealing with this from a marketing perspective only.

If you’re busy now but know you’ll have a need for new clients down the road, then you’re going to have to deal with the e-mail. After all, you built the website to assist you in generating new business. Why would you ignore the results of your efforts?

How to respond?

I’ve got three different approaches:

First, I sometimes answer the question asked by the person. I don’t get specific, and I try to be as helpful as possible without getting into a lengthy conversation. The fact is that these e-mails are usually reserved for people who actually need free legal advice and aren’t likely to hire us. If I have the time, I like to do what I can to help. You should consider the conflict of interest rules in your jurisdiction and be very aware of what it takes to create an attorney-client relationship.

Second, I send a stock e-mail response. I use a program called TextExpander (PC users check out ActiveWords) and I send a very nice, lengthy, but automated response that explains our process and options for getting specific answers. I sometimes customize the introductory part of the e-mail based on the question. The e-mail explains why it wouldn’t be helpful for me to answer the question without a thorough understanding of the facts. These e-mails go to people who might hire us down the road, but I’m not entirely clear about their circumstances. (I also use this approach for the very long, crazy e-mails some people send, although if they’re really, really crazy, I may ignore them).

Finally, I forward the e-mail to our intake person. She e-mails back or calls the person and moves forward with setting up a consultation. This approach is what I use for those folks who seem most in need of—and able to purchase—our services. I want us to move forward with the relationship.

Our website generates a ton of these e-mails. We attempt to route them to one person who handles them all (by posting an information e-mail address on the site), but visitors often find our individual addresses. It’s important to respond. These e-mails are often the beginning of a relationship. Ignore them at your peril.

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  • Megan

    Do you think that having an email option from your website is a necessity?  At one point I had a Contact Us page, but found that most people who used it were looking for free advice — I’d get their email, provide some variation of (1) short answer, (2) why I can’t give a specific answer, and (3) here’s how to proceed with representation, then hear nothing from them.

    Ultimately, I took down that page and replaced it with a “How to Hire Megan” page that directs them to call the office and explains that they’ll first have to pay a consultation fee.

    I don’t know for sure if it has resulted in more actual leads, but I feel like I’m spending less time chasing potential clients who can’t/won’t pay for representation.

    • http://divorcediscourse.com Lee Rosen

      Great question.

      Is it necessary? I don’t know.

      Very quick story – I just hired a real estate agent. In the process of selecting agents I emailed one that I’d heard good things about. I used the address I found on her website.

      I got no response.

      I moved on to someone else. I emailed her and she responded. I just signed the listing agreement.

      Should the first one have responded to my email? Yes. Would I have contacted her if I couldn’t have found her email address? I wouldn’t have – that’s just me.

      You should do what works for you and you should keep testing.

      Lee

  • Megan

    Do you think that having an email option from your website is a necessity?  At one point I had a Contact Us page, but found that most people who used it were looking for free advice — I’d get their email, provide some variation of (1) short answer, (2) why I can’t give a specific answer, and (3) here’s how to proceed with representation, then hear nothing from them.

    Ultimately, I took down that page and replaced it with a “How to Hire Megan” page that directs them to call the office and explains that they’ll first have to pay a consultation fee.

    I don’t know for sure if it has resulted in more actual leads, but I feel like I’m spending less time chasing potential clients who can’t/won’t pay for representation.

    • http://divorcediscourse.com Lee Rosen

      Great question.

      Is it necessary? I don’t know.

      Very quick story – I just hired a real estate agent. In the process of selecting agents I emailed one that I’d heard good things about. I used the address I found on her website.

      I got no response.

      I moved on to someone else. I emailed her and she responded. I just signed the listing agreement.

      Should the first one have responded to my email? Yes. Would I have contacted her if I couldn’t have found her email address? I wouldn’t have – that’s just me.

      You should do what works for you and you should keep testing.

      Lee

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