Best Practice Tips: Increasing Case Volume in a Personal Injury Law Firm
Asked and Answered
By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
Q. I am a partner in a two-partner personal injury firm in Tampa, Florida. We do not have any associate attorneys. Our firm only handles personal injury work. We have been in practice for 35 years and have been very successful over the years. However, the last few years have been terrible. Adjusters are not settling cases and the days of three-times specials is over. Our case volume is down, the quality of cases that we have in our inventory is far below what we had in previous years, and our revenues are down substantially. Cash flow is awful. We have had to live off of our credit line for the past year. Our main source of business over the years has been referrals from past clients and other lawyers, yellow pages, and our very basic website. We would appreciate any thoughts and suggestions that you may have.
A. This is a common complaint that I have hearing from personal injury firms across the country. In some states tort reform is having an impact and insurance companies are getting harder to deal with. Extensive advertising by other law firms is having a major impact. Larger personal injury firms that are doing extensive television and other forms of advertising are doing well. Here are a few thoughts:
- Your ages may be having an impact. I would guess that the two of you are at least in your sixties or later. Your market may be gradually retiring each of you based on your age. You may want to consider your succession strategy and finding a way to bring is some younger attorneys. When I chose my last doctor and dentist I asked the receptionist at their offices how old they were. Attorneys doing insurance defense work often find that their insurance company clients often begin sending them less cases (or none) as they get into their 70’s and 80’s.
- TV advertising works for personal injury but requires a major investment and commitment. In order to be successful with a TV campaign you would need to commit to one year. I doubt that you are in a position to do this.
- Work your referral sources – particularly attorneys. Many attorneys as they get older stop or reduce their networking and as a result are not getting the attorney referrals that they used to receive. In fact, many of your attorney referral sources may have retired themselves.
- Traditional marketing using “push” or outbound techniques such as TV, radio, and print advertising are giving way to “pull” techniques as people are using the internet to shop and gather information. Pull techniques involve internet search engines, blogs, and social media such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and others. Your website should be your marketing hub and it should be more than a basic webpage. It should be loaded with content and information and designed in a way that search engines place you well in their rankings – especially Google. Suggest that you consider the following:
- Create lots of content people will want to consume and place on your website.
- Add a blog to your website and post new content at least weekly.
- Focus on where the action is – Google, blogs, social media sites.
- Set up Facebook and LinkedIn accounts for the firm and the individual attorneys and post content to Facebook weekly.
- Have your website reviewed as to how well it ranks as far as searches in Google. Consider having your site optimized for Google if necessary.
- Personal injury firms, due to the internet advertising by personal injury firms, have a hard time standing out in Google search ranking without paid ads. Consider a pay-per-click add on Google if you are not ranking well in Google.
- Client leads coming in through TV and the Internet require quick response. The biggest mistake that many law firms make is making investments in TV advertising or pay-per-click internet advertising and then not responding to inquiries after hours or weekends. Have someone monitoring internet inquiries and getting in touch with prospective clients after hours and weekends.
- Measure and track which marketing sources your leads and cases are coming from.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC, (www.olmsteadassoc.com) is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics and author of The Lawyers Guide to Succession Planning published by the ABA. For more information on law office management please direct questions to the ISBA listserver, which John and other committee members review, or view archived copies of The Bottom Line Newsletters. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.