Could you improve your conversion rates for client enquiries? (first published in Managing for Success)

Do you know which of your firm’s business development activities translate into the most high quality enquiries? How well do you convert those enquiries into instructions? Sue Bramall provides a beginner’s guide to maximising conversion.

If you are investing in legal marketing campaigns to generate enquiries from potential new clients, then you will wish to maximise the returns on your investment. But, do you know what happens to an enquiry once it reaches your firm? Is the call or email picked up quickly and handled in an effective and appropriate way to maximise the chance of that person instructing your firm?

In this article, first published in Managing for Success, Sue Bramall looks at what factors affect the conversion of enquiries into instructions – and how to manage those factors effectively – and outlines some other top tips to maximise your chances of conversion.

What factors affect conversion of enquiries?

Typically, the percentage of enquiries that convert to an instruction will depend on a number of factors, explored below.

Source of enquiries

Every conference and article seem to announce new opportunities for law firm marketing activities to reach potential clients. But how do you know what really works? And what is pure hype?

Nowadays, there is no excuse for not knowing exactly how enquiries into your firm are generated. Staff simply need to say to each client ‘do you mind me asking how you found us?’ Then, the information needs to be recorded on your client information system.

It sounds easy enough, but if this information has not been collected routinely in the past, producing a reliable report can sometimes be an uphill struggle. Problems may include: 

  • lack of a standard set of source codes;
  • no process for adding new codes as new marketing activities are introduced;
  • certain partners or departments believing they are exempt;
  • difficulties in extracting user-friendly reports; and
  • failure to share the information obtained so that staff understand why the information is being collected. 

However, with a little application, these problems are not insurmountable. Ideally, your firm should be recording the number of new business enquiries by source and by department, and then tracking the average percentage converted into an instruction.

We all recognise that the best source of new business is usually where a potential client has any existing relationship with your law firm. New clients referred by a trusted intermediary, such as an accountant, bank or surveyor, may be pre-qualified and referred on the basis that ‘this lawyer will do a good job for you’. The new client will probably check your credentials by looking at your law firm website before they call you but, unless you put a foot wrong, you should enjoy a higher than average conversion rate from personal referrals.

It is true that in the early days of internet marketing, enquiries that came via a website were generally poor quality with many people shopping around for free or low-cost advice. While a few time wasters will always exist, this is not the case with so many online enquiries today. People choose to use the internet because of its speed, convenience and the detailed information available. There are numerous lawyers who can testify that the internet now delivers a substantial proportion of their business.

Type of legal advice

The decision-making process is likely to be much longer for certain appointments, particularly with large corporates or the public sector where there may be a tender or procurement process, or perhaps a panel review.

A client who is moving house and has had their offer accepted, is likely to proceed with an instruction promptly. On the other hand, we all know how easy it is to put off making a will or updating our terms and conditions when there is no particular deadline.


The average rate of conversion will be affected by the amount of competition for a specific legal service. The fewer competitors you have, the easier it should be to convert a serious enquiry. Firms can ensure they are receiving the most relevant leads by tailoring the legal content on their website.

Clients do not have general legal needs: they have a specific legal problem and will search online for someone with appropriate experience. For example, we recently needed a planning lawyer and the choice was immense. We narrowed down our search by looking for (and appointing) a ‘planning lawyer with experience of disability and equality’.

Enquiry handling processes

If you are seeing a 25 per cent growth in the number of high quality enquiries that you have been targeting, you should also be seeing an equivalent increase in the number of instructions. If this is not the case, then you need to look at the new client’s experience with your firm from start to finish to ensure that you are not losing opportunities along the way.

When clients find your website to locate an appropriate lawyer, they may have a choice of ways to get in touch – via an enquiry form, via email (for the whole firm, an office, a department or an individual lawyer), telephone (which could be switchboard or direct dial) or maybe via online chat. When was the last time that you checked if all these worked well?

If the enquiry comes via email or a website form, there is a good chance it may arrive out of working hours. Do you have a staff rota to respond during evenings or weekends?

Have you agreed how such enquiries should be responded to? Are lawyers or secretaries expected to use standard wording when answering telephone or email enquiries? Another way of considering this question is, do you invest time in starting to build a personal rapport with the potential client? If they have emailed two or three law firms, which lawyer are they most likely to instruct?

Ensuring that the phone is answered promptly throughout the firm is important. If reception always answers within three rings, the phone cannot then ring out unanswered when it reaches the legal department. Are clients being lost along the way to instruction, due to poor telephony systems? Mystery shopping your law firm will tell you the answer to this.

Client-handling skills

A new enquiry can pass through several members of staff before reaching an appropriate lawyer – one with the right expertise and the skills to secure an instruction.

What training have your receptionists received to ensure they are aware of all the services that your firm provides and who they should transfer enquiries to? Firms with multiple offices often find it a particular challenge to ensure clients are directed to the best person.

In many years of mystery shopping legal services, we have seen a wide variety of responses to enquiries. Sadly, there are individuals who perceive enquiries as a nuisance, an interruption to their work – and this comes across on the phone. There are some support staff who are determined to protect the lawyers from intrusions, or who are instructed to ‘sort the wheat from the chaff’ by demanding £500 on account before any discussion of the case. At the other end of the spectrum may be the enthusiastic junior lawyer who shares a great deal of information (maybe too much) but does not have the experience to secure an appointment or an instruction.

What can firms do to improve conversion?

Once you have addressed the factors above, there are some other steps you can take to make sure that you maximise conversion rates.

Analyse inappropriate enquiries

If you find that you are attracting a high proportion of inappropriate clients, this information should be analysed. Does it represent an opportunity for a new service that you could provide? Or, could you refer these services to another law firm and earn some goodwill or fee share? Do you need to amend your content or pay-per-click advertising strategy to refocus on more relevant services?

Filter enquiries

In order to prioritise activities, it is important to think through and document the criteria and information that is needed to assess whether an enquirer is a potentially profitable client. Setting this information down on a form or checklist also ensures that it is correctly recorded from the outset, and should only need to be collected once.

Answer the price question well

While an enquirer will often ask about price, this is rarely their only consideration. It is part of the information that they need in order to make a judgment about value, and it is an easy question to ask.

The comparative speed and quality of your response provides an indication of what you might be like to work with. Most people are looking for the best value option and if speedy is of the essence then they will happily pay more. They are not necessarily looking for the cheapest option.

A prompt and personal phone call that succeeds in establishing a rapport, followed by a well written email confirming the client’s needs and your proposals, will put you in an advantageous position. Building a relationship and trust will start to create value, and will immediately expand the criteria for choice away from only price.

The pricing proposition will vary according to the type of service that you provide and the complexity of the situation. It will also need to depend on the type of client: consumers are more likely to be looking for the best deal, while business clients will be looking for the best value proposition.

But whatever your pricing proposal, much can be done to present it in a more appealing way; many lawyers seem to forget to mention the benefits of proceeding to instruct them.

Ask to proceed

If we feel uncomfortable discussing money, we probably feel even more uncomfortable asking for work – but a potential client will often respond well to an enthusiastic request such as ‘shall we get the ball rolling for you?’ or ‘would you like to fix a date to come in?’

Clients are often nervous too, and may appreciate you taking the lead.

Follow up

Another of the more revealing outcomes of mystery shopping is how well departments compare when it comes to the art of following up. Remember that the enquirer made the first move to get in contact with your firm, so calling to see if they have considered your proposal is not a cold call.

They may well have questions, and your call will be the perfect opportunity to raise them. If you find that the project or circumstances for which they needed advice has been delayed; you can make a diary note to call them at a future date.

If they have decided to instruct another solicitor, take the opportunity to ask why and gather some competitor intelligence; this will help you refine your offer for the next time. These calls can create a favourable impression and keep the door open for other work in the future.

Prioritise continuous improvement

Each department needs to consider the types of enquiry that it receives most regularly and plan for every step of the enquiry-handling process. Regular team meetings to review the list of recent enquiries and progress towards instructions will soon reveal if there is room for improvement.

For further information please call 01785 859 995 or email

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