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Today’s lawyer is so focused on getting the message out that will persuade the potential client to call the firm; the lawyer fails to look within to see if a change in the thought process, management, or delivery of the product can create new clients. From someone who spends a great deal on marketing, I have become quite savvy on how to generate free clients. Traditionally, the client used to have one lawyer who handled everything. Then, due to fast paced technology, coupled with a much smarter client, lawyers could not depend on repeat business. The advent of lawyers doing marketing by touting cheaper rates or other hooks knocked the old- time family lawyer right off the top rung. Those lawyers today are still trying to figure out what went wrong and how to change the practice in order to meet the 21st Century’s client consumer.

Today’s firm marketing has to be more than yellow pages, television, or other media markets. Firms must simply figure out what the client wants and deliver it in such a fashion that they become mini-marketers for your law firm.

Today’s client wants more than just a lawyer. I don’t recall one client who has asked me where I went to law school, what my class ranking was, or even if they could see my law license.
Clients were looking for me to get on their level, talk to them, and be available to them. I’m a keeper of statistics, and it became apparent when we implemented our strategic plan back in 1997 that my most valuable commodity was my high rate of client rapport. A good portion of my business came from clients who genuinely liked me, and told everyone about me long after their case was settled.
Over the years, I started noticing that there was a big difference between ‘just satisfying’ the client with the right results, and developing a relationship with the client that lasted far beyond the settlement of the case. Thus, I created and designed a client loyalty program within my firm that accounts for approximately 33% of my new clients, many of which were referred by clients I represented over 15 years ago. Ask anyone at my firm and they will vouch that my development of client loyalty versus client satisfaction is non-negotiable. I don’t care how much money you generate, you are tasked with creating client loyalty.

As you know, excellent service leads to client satisfaction, which is an essential element in creating client loyalty. A client can be satisfied with the results but still feel no personal tie to you or your firm.
Client loyalty is a concept that includes five things:
1. The overall satisfaction of client’s experience when doing business with a law firm.
2. The willingness to build a relationship with you and your company.
3. The willingness to be a repeat client.
4. The willingness to recommend you to others.
5. The reluctance to switch to another law firm.

Client turn-offs arise when employees (and I mean lawyers as well as non-lawyers) fail to communicate well, both verbally and non-verbally. Some examples of client turn-offs are:
1. Failure to greet or even smile at a client.
2. Failure to see the client on time.
3. Inaccurate information given or lack of knowledge conveyed.
4. Failure to give full attention to the client either while on the phone or when meeting them in person.
5. Rude or uncaring attitude.
6. Inappropriate, dirty, or sloppy appearance at the workplace.
7. Any communicative message that causes the client to feel uncomfortable.

Surveys completed by the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs revealed these interesting facts (within this article client and customer are inter-changeable):
1. One client in four is dissatisfied with some aspect of a typical transaction.
2. Only 5% of dissatisfied clients complain to the company.
The vast silent majority would rather switch than fight.
They simply take their business elsewhere.
3. A dissatisfied client will tell 10 to 20 people (12 is the average) about a company that provided poor service. Some people will tell hundreds or even thousands.

How does this affect our business? If 25% of our clients are unhappy or unhappy with our service, but only 5 % of that 25% bother to complain, the impact can be devastating.
Let’s take a typical injury law firm that signs up 1000 clients per year. If 250 clients are unhappy but we only hear from 5% of that 250, which is approximately 13, that may sound good to everyone  until they realize that the 237 quiet ones are likely to tell 2,844 people (237 x 12 = 2,844). Adversely, if a client is completely satisfied, he might tell 1 to 3 people or an average of 2.
Back in 2004, my statistics showed me that there were three major sources of clients in my firm, and it broke down as follows:

421 cases or 41% were TV
140 cases of 14% were from our website
340 cases of 33% were from personal referrals

Now let me tell you the cost of getting those referrals. TV cost approximately $900 per client in real dollars. The website cost approximately $500 per case to get them in the front door. And last but not least, personal referrals cost absolutely nothing.
Which type of referral would you think I want?
What is also important to note is that of the 340 personal referrals that we signed up, we only had 823 referrals, which means that we had a 41% success rate in signing up personal referrals. In TV advertising, we had 2,333 calls and signed up 421 new cases. This was a conversion rate of 18%. Our website yielded 1,268 inquiries and only 140 signups, which is only an 11% conversion rate. You can clearly see that the personal referrals are already sold on our services when they seek us out.

They’re not just shopping around for attorneys or trying to find out information. They come to us wanting our services. This also costs the firm less time and money in converting these calls to actual cases. Now I ask you, which do you think is the most cost effective form of advertising we do in the firm and also yields us the greatest conversion rate? It is clear...the personal referrals from our old clients and people we do business with.

Now let’s go to the actual dollar cost for an unhappy client.
As I stated earlier, out of 1000 clients, if we go by the national average, we have approximately 250 unhappy clients. Of those 250 clients, 95% never express discontent, but also never come back or refer any clients. Thus, we have 237 people who could have spoken to at least 474 people and referred us, which on the average would have converted 41% or 196 clients. In actual costs, just look at the following:
If we had to replace these clients with TV advertisements, the cost would be $176,400. But better yet, let’s think of the lost income. If we average $4000 a fee and we lose 196 potential clients, then we have lost approximately, $800,000 in revenue for the year.


Ken Hardison practiced injury law for over 27 years, and built one of the largest Personal Injury Law Firms in the state of North Carolina, Hardison and Cochran.
Although he retired from actively practicing law, he still participates and consults with Ben Cochran regarding the marketing of the firm. Ken is also the founder and President of PILMMA (Personal Injury Lawyers Marketing and Management Association).
PILMMA is a marketing and management association dedicated to personal injury lawyers and disability attorneys. Its goal is to provide members with the necessary tools, information, and education to help grow and manage a successful contingency based injury and disability law practice.
PILMMA is committed to giving Personal Injury and Disability lawyers the most up-to-date and useful information to grow and build a healthy and profitable law firm. To learn more, visit Source:

Ken Hardison

Want more FREE information on getting more cases, referrals and growing your law practice? Visit my video blog at

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About the Author: Want more FREE information on getting more cases, referrals and growing your law practice? Visit my video blog at

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