If You Want More Bad Clients, the Internet is Great

“We’re lawyers. No, seriously… we really are lawyers.”

“Hey Jordan, it’s Leo…”
“What’s up?”
“We have new clients coming in on Friday evening, but something just came up and now I’m double booked. Any chance you could meet with them for the intake?”
“Ugh, on a Friday night? I wanted to spend time with my wife.”
“Suck it up you weenie. I’m not thrilled about having to go to this speaking event on a Friday night. This is the only time they said they’re available.”

[Friday Evening]

“Hey Leo, it’s Jordan…”
“What’s up?”
“I’ve been waiting for these new clients to show up for about an hour. I guess they’re a no show…?”
“Ah, that sucks.”
“Where did these new clients find us anyway? Wait, let me guess…”
“Yep. Through the internet.”
“Figures. You know that this is the second potential client this week who found us through the internet and wasted a lot of my time, right?”
“Your time is worthless so who cares?”

We haven’t put any money into advertising, but a few potential clients have managed to find us directly on the internet. I’m not entirely sure how, but it has happened.

However, most of the potential clients who have found us directly on the internet have not panned out. There are some exceptions, but the vast majority just didn’t work out. A lot of it ends up with people who feel they are entitled to free legal advice or are a little bit nutty. In addition, potential clients who found us on the internet tend to have small matters and often ones that don’t have merit. (“Yes Mr. Client, I’m sure I don’t want to sue the restaurant because you accidentally ate a bay leaf. Yes, I’m sure they’ll give you a million dollars just to avoid the publicity, so other lawyers will be chomping at the bit to help you. Thanks for calling.”)

Conversely, I don’t normally get stood up by potential clients who are referred by my friends, colleagues, and family. Our best clients have come from other attorneys, word of mouth, former clients, neighbors, friends, and family. Clients who are referred to us tend to have interesting, important, and often meritorious matters they want us to look at.

Many years ago, Jay Foonberg made a video explaining that great clients won’t hire a “generalist” to handle important matters. Important matters go to “specialists” who make the most money:

I think the same holds true with clients and the internet. I doubt great clients with important matters are trolling the free section of Craigslist to find lawyers.

So that being the case, why is everyone being told to focus their efforts on generating more “leads” from the internet? To get more calls from wacky people with matters that aren’t worth taking on? Sounds awesome.

And really, what type of work do you expect to generate from the internet? Do you want to defend traffic tickets, or handle the type of litigation that people care about? I would rather get in a few big, important interesting cases each year than defending 20 traffic tickets a month. In most cases, the guy with a traffic ticket is better off without paying a lawyer, so what kind of value am I adding anyway…? Oh right, they’ll pay me a fee. But who really cares about doing what’s best for a client? The goal is just to bring money through the door.

Brian Tannebaum did a nice piece asking this question – do you think a guy like Marc Randazza gets clients by putting up free Craigslist ads or advertising in the Penny Saver? I doubt it. If you believe the “wave of the future” is getting clients off the internet, I think you’ve been sold a bill of goods. And in this economy, there are a lot of people selling a lot of crap.

So if your goal is more bad potential clients with silly cases, by all means, focus all your energy on internet marketing campaigns, spamming, and flawging. Hell, hire someone to do your marketing and to “ramp up your SEO”. You have my assurance you will get many bad potential clients, annoying phone calls, and people who want to waste your time. Soon you will be suing every restaurant that leaves a bay leaf in a burrito for a fee of $500! You’ll be pleading our traffic tickets that your client could have done himself! Awesome.

But if you want more good clients, take a colleague out to dinner, go to a happy hour, or volunteer for a civic organization. Handle an interesting case pro bono. Call your family and see what they’re up to. Write an article for your local bar association’s magazine. Go to the bar and talk to people. (even if you don’t meet anyone, at least you had a drink). Call up an attorney who handled an interesting case and see if they want to grab some lunch. Develop relationships with real people.

Your best clients aren’t going to find you over internet, they’re going to find you via word of mouth.

But keep spending money on internet marketing… I hear it’s the wave of the future.

3 Responses to If You Want More Bad Clients, the Internet is Great

  1. Max Kennerly says:

    Many lawyers misunderstand the purpose of the internet. The best video I’ve seen explaining that purpose is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWEjvCRPrCo

  2. Matt Rong says:

    In total agreement with the article. Times really haven’t changed that much.

  3. SJD says:

    The internet is also great if you want to loose some good clients. Just saying….

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