The Personal
Injury Mastermind

The Podcast

228. James Helm, TopDog Law — Pt.2 Supercharged Intake: From Info Gatherers to Contract Closers

We’re back with TopDog Law (@topdoglaw)’s CEO James Helm, a leader in personal injury advertising, generating thousands of calls every month with their 28+ person intake team.

A key driver behind their rapid national growth is James’ vision to transform intake staff into contract closers through targeted sales training and technology. He shares proven methods to equip your frontline team to convert leads at a higher rate.

Learn how proper CRM selection, implementing conditional logic, overcoming common objections, and a culture of accountability can accelerate your firm’s growth. James provides actionable ways to reimagine your intake department as a revenue growth accelerator.


Want to hear more from elite personal injury lawyers and industry-leading marketers?

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What’s in This Episode:

  • Who is James Helm?
  • When to bring intake in-house?
  • How to cut down human error during intake. 
  • What are the essential skills an intake needs to master to increase conversions?

Past Guests

Past guests on Personal Injury Mastermind: Brent Sibley, Sam Glover, Larry Nussbaum, Michael Mogill, Brian Chase, Jay Kelley, Alvaro Arauz, Eric Chaffin, Brian Panish, John Gomez, Sol Weiss, Matthew Dolman, Gabriel Levin, Seth Godin, David Craig, Pete Strom, John Ruhlin, Andrew Finkelstein, Harry Morton, Shay Rowbottom, Maria Monroy, Dave Thomas, Marc Anidjar, Bob Simon, Seth Price, John Gomez, Megan Hargroder, Brandon Yosha, Mike Mandell, Brett Sachs, Paul Faust, Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert


James Helm:

Program your system so that, based on the different type of litigation, the agent on the phone selects the litigation and then the next question pops up.

Chris Dreyer:

Going by this logic-based scenario, it eliminates air.

James Helm:

I’ll hang out for just one minute. Why don’t you pull over, let me walk you through the document and what it says, right? And so you’re pushing back to the objection.

Chris Dreyer:

What’s up everybody? Welcome back to Personal Injury Mastermind with me, Chris Dreyer, Founder and CEO of Rankings.io, the legal marketing company the best firms hire when they want the rankings, traffic, and cases other law firm marketing agencies can’t deliver.

Each week you get insights and wisdom from some of the best in the industry. Hit that follow button so you never miss an episode. We’re back for a special round two with James Helm, CEO of TopDog Law, a leader of the pack in personal injury advertising.

If you missed part one where we covered business development, testing marketing channels, determining true case value, and tracking what works, give that episode a listen. In just a few years, James has grown TopDog Law from a Philadelphia upstart into a national leader in legal advertising. They filled thousands of calls every month with their in-house intake team of 28 and counting, hiring around 10 new reps a month to meet surging demand.

A key driver of this incredible expansion is James’s innovative vision for intake. Often viewed as just information collectors, he sees intake staff as a sales team to convert more leads. When properly trained and equipped, your intake crew can drive lead conversions and accelerate growth.

For many firms, third-party call centers plug the intake gap nicely, but come with a few drawbacks. They can’t be held accountable or tap into the real growth accelerator, closing. James explains how to empower your staff, transforming them into contract closers. From selecting the right CRM technology to implementing conditional logic that reduces human error, he shares proven ways to unlock your front-line’s massive potential.

We also cover techniques to overcome common objections prospects have to signing with your firm. This conversation will revolutionize how you view and leverage your intake at your firm.

Let’s learn from the best, James Helm of TopDog Law.

James Helm:

We have a leadership team. We follow EOS at TopDog Law and I’ve been trying to rename our intake department the sales department, and some of the other leaders have pushed back. But the reason why I think the naming is so important is intake signifies, oh, we’re just collecting information. We’re just writing things down. Whereas sales is we’re closing, we’re signing contracts.

It’s a mentality. The psychology of it is different, and I think more law firms over time, I’m hoping my own is included if I can convince our leadership team, will think of it as sales because that’s the position it is. There’s nothing more important than the type of lead and how that relates to sales.

So one thing that we’ve learned over time is that the most high intent customers are people that have seen your brand advertising. They’re picking up the phone, they’re calling you about their case. In terms of a responsiveness rate, those tend to be the most responsive leads. Our agents aren’t having to chase them all over the place. Usually if they call in our office, they’re pretty high intent. You can compare that to form submissions or on the total other side of the spectrum, lead gens, where they may have filled out a form on Facebook, but they haven’t taken that step of actually picking up the phone.

And what we’ve learned is those are much lower intent. The responsiveness is a lot lower and there’s a lot more unresponsive leads. And one of the things that I think is super interesting as we segue into the call center side of things is lead gen can be profitable, but it takes a ton more work from your call center. Because you might have a conversion rate of 8% or 10%, meaning one out of 10 leads are converting into signed cases as opposed to one of three or one of four.

So the question becomes, as a law firm, do you have the manpower to do lead gen? Because you have to have the people in the seats to chase these leads down.

Chris Dreyer:

Your firm gets thousands of calls per month. A ton of calls. You historically have used an outsource solution and you went that approach first, right? Hey, they already have the process as the tech. So talk to me about, first, your experience and you can name or not name the outsource solution you use? And your experience with that and why maybe it was good to a certain point and then maybe some of your thoughts about why, hey, maybe I want to bring this in-house or just the thoughts on that.

James Helm:

I hate feeling like I’m hypocritical. I think everybody does, right? And one of the things that became so hard for me was I was so critical of our partner firm’s call centers, but I was using that external solution in-house. And the external solution worked for a really long time. When I say external solution, call Ruby, Smith.ai, all types of different third-party call centers that are available.

And I would recommend any lawyer who’s just getting started with your practice. That’s a great idea. If you’re putting a number on your website or your Google My Business pin, have that route right to that third-party call center. And the reason why that’s so good is you’re going to get so many solicitations and other types of calls that you don’t want to bog down your staff or even worse, I’ve had some lawyers I know put their personal number on there. You don’t want to do that. It’s not efficient.

Obviously, we’ve been in business five years, we’ve scaled into multiple markets. Like you said, we’re getting thousands of calls per month. And so it just became really intimidating to be like, “I want to do these calls in-house but I can’t just start with a couple of agents and expect them to be able to handle this kind of volume.”

And so for us, what it really came down to, was how do we build out a technology solution that makes sense where we can handle this type of a volume and then how can we put it together a process and go get the people so that when we’re ready to launch, we have a realistic shot of even answering our inbound calls.

And so we went ahead and hired 28 agents. Full disclosure, we are still figuring it out. We’ve had all types of issues with our technology, we’re figuring out our processes, but I think we’re in a unique situation in the sense that we were getting such high volumes of leads and had to build a call center, not with three or four reps. We had to go from 0 to 30 reps, which is challenging.

Chris Dreyer:

Before we even dive into that, you mentioned briefly the tech, you have a referral business, there’s effort and sacrifice, there’s control like hey, I didn’t have the control of these other partners.

What was the final straw to bringing in-house versus maybe partnering up with one of the 810 pound gorillas and just having Shunnarah so all of your intake, right? I’m sure if you talk to their team, you talk to Mitri, they would give you the data. I’m confident that they would.

And it’s your data and you could use it for it for your ROAS bidding on Google Ads or your nurture stuff and whatever you want it for. So what ultimately said, you know what? I’m using this outsource. I’m not even going to do that. I’m going to go right into the in-house.

James Helm:

I think at the end of the day, doing things in-house gives you more control. I would say the biggest element of it for us is wanting to control the quality of the customer experience.

The reality is when you are marketing for/fielding calls for all types of personal injury cases across a bunch of different states and you are simultaneously getting calls about torts, you have to have some complexity in terms of the performance of the intake. So even if you’re having a receptionist, that receptionist still has to follow some decision tree of some sort to live transfer the call to the appropriate person.

Shunnarah, for example, they’re not in every state in America. They’re not taking every case type in America or even Morgan & Morgan isn’t in every state in America, so they’re definitely not handling every mass tort in America. So if you want to have different relationships with different partner firms based on the litigations that they’re specializing in, you have to have some mechanism for getting them those clients.

And how we were doing it previously, and I’m a little embarrassed to share this because it’s definitely not best practices, is we were fielding all these calls. We were basically having our receptionist, our intake person, take notes, and then once we had that lead in our inbox, we were forward pushing it to the right person, whether that’s somebody in-house or somebody with a partner firm, that’s going to then sign up the client.

And the problem there is obviously there’s a time period, there’s a gap between the point where the client calls and when they’re actually getting signed up. And so we thought about, okay, how can we minimize this gap? Well, our first solution was there are third-party call centers that do live transfers. That’s capability that many of them have. The problem that we encountered was that they were making a ton of mistakes.

Like this is a car accident case in this state and we have a contract where we’re joint representing clients with this partner firm in this state, and they’re sending the case to somebody else in another state. And I have no way to hold their person accountable for that.

We would try to get them corrected, try to get it corrected, but you get to the point where you’re having dozens of mistakes each week and you’re like, okay. I know this is going to be more expensive in the short term to bring this in-house, but at least then we can have a playbook and we can have incentives and we can have accountability for the agents that are the front lines representing our business, that they’re doing the right thing on the phone.

Chris Dreyer:

I agree with all of that logic, super smart in terms of the control. And I think a lot of this comes down to tech and the data and all the collection component. So I know that you had a CRM, right? But I just hired personally a VP of sales and we were using Pipedrive CRM and he’s like, “Yeah, Pipedrive is going to be good to get us to 20 million, but I’m looking at 50 to a hundred million, so let’s just make the change now.”

So we ended up at HubSpot from a marketing perspective. When you’re going through your CRM selection process, you’ve got Lead Docket and FileVine, you’ve got Litify, you’ve got Salesforce, you got HubSpot, you’ve got Clio, you’ve got ton in the legal space. Talk to me about that process, why you ultimately decided on the CRM that you did?

Talk to me about that first tech component.

James Helm:

If you think about what these legal tech products are, FileVine, Clio, Litify, SmartAdvocate, they initially capitalized on the idea of how do we take the lawyer’s file cabinet and put it on the cloud? And the richest people in our industry are the people that had that, right? Those companies are all worth buku-millions or more, and they’ve taken basically the file cabinet and put it on the cloud.

The issue for us is… And we do have Filevine for the small amount of cases that we’re handling internally. But, by and large, our business model has pivoted to working with other law firms and helping them grow their practices. And so we do not need our own file cabinet, at least the way I saw it. And in fact, having that as part of our technology stack unused would be unnecessary and confusing. And so we want to define what is the best CRM.

And a lot of these businesses have added a CRM component on top of this file cabinet component. So you see that SmartAdvocate has one that’s integrated. Obviously Lead Docket is with Filevine. Litify kind of combines this idea of the CRM and the file cabinet. We actually purchased Lead Docket at first. I think Lead Docket is the greatest product to go from no CRM to a referral CRM.

The problem that we encountered… And we didn’t even end up implementing Lead Docket, I just donated $20,000 to those people. But it’s the mistakes you make in business. We rushed to a decision, found out that was not the right decision. The reason why is because Lead Docket is not that customizable. It’s the out-of-the-box product that applies to a lot of lawyers, but you have very little ability to build your own reports, to create your own automations, to integrate different software products. And so for us, we ended up going with Salesforce.

The downside with Salesforce is it’s a canvas. You have to build it out. So we spent about 120,000 building our Salesforce product, and it’s integrated with Amazon Connect. So Amazon Connect is the call center software that lives within Salesforce. And what you want, I think, is a single source of truth for your staff. You don’t want them having to be on a call center product on one screen and then a CRM on another screen and then a file cabinet for the cases they’re working on in another screen.

So for us, we’re like, we need the CRM component integrated with the call center component and we have to be able to build this so that we can scale.

Chris Dreyer:

Phenomenal answer. I love the thoroughness of that and why you went through that process. And personally, we have a lot of clients with Lead Docket and it’s great. Like you said, out-of-the-box, you need something ready to go and you don’t want to go spend 100K to customize.

The amount of volume that you’re getting and the amount of different logic scenarios you have, to go to different partners under different scenarios.

James Helm:

Let’s talk about that real quick. Let’s talk about the conditional logic. So this is the most important thing when you’re handling multiple litigations or multiple case types. Even if you’re in one market and you’re doing single event PI, you have different questions that you want to ask depending on the inquiry. So if it’s a medical malpractice inquiry, you want to know… It’s a wrongful death, medical malpractice. You want to know the hospital this happened at, you want to know the age of the person that passed away.

Or if it’s a slip and fall, you want to know did this happen at a store or a home? Was there any pictures of the alleged defect? And you don’t want your intake reps to have to think and remember what are the questions for a slip and fall? What are the questions for medical malpractice? And you add additional complexity when you say, okay, now we want to know the qualifying criteria for Camp Lejeune or for hair relaxer, right?

You’re taking agents, whether you do it in the US or abroad, that you’re paying some amount of money towards. Most of the time it’s $20, $25 dollars per hour if it’s US based. Maybe if it’s outside of the US, you’re paying less than that. But I think regardless, you don’t want to have them try to memorize the decision dreams.

And so what conditional logic allows you to do is program your system so that, based on the different type of litigation, the agent on the phone selects the litigation and then the next question pops up. And so all they have to do is follow the prompts on the screen as opposed to try to remember what the different questions to ask are for the different case studies.

Chris Dreyer:

I think that’s such an important component. I saw this just recently With a couple individuals. Joe Rotolo over at Intaker has the conditional logic already, the prompts built in to his live chat. We see this with SimplyConvert and how they’re the leaders from the mass tort. They have all the different criteria for these mass torts because Tor Hoerman and everyone’s really involved and they work a lot of mass tort partners.

Going by this logic-based scenario, it eliminates air, right? It’s like you read this prompt and if/then kind of statements. So what happens when your fire alarm doesn’t go off and there’s a bad burn injury. It’s some odd case that comes in, and the intake, there’s just no logic thing there. Does it have the ability to transfer to someone more experience and override it? What happens in these obscure, but still could potentially be, a good case?

James Helm:

So we have PI catch-all categories. That’s what I would label it as. I think it is though, important to… And this depends. Some people may try to monetize every type of inquiry. We’ve had to make the decision that we’re focused on PI and mass tort inquiries, and so when an employment inquiry or the criminal inquiry or some other type that’s outside of our practice areas, we have the bar number, the attorney referral service for every state. And so we just give that to the potential caller.

So I think you do have to have a line of like hey, this is what we handle and outside of these criteria, we’re going to give them the bar referral service number. Now, in the event that it is a burn injury for example, where it is a personal injury case, but it’s just a unique case type, we would put that in PI catch-all and we also do have an option for marking it for the supervisor.

So basically they would do the intake according to the catch-all, but then it would get routed to the supervisor who then is going through a handful of intakes per day that are one-offs and figuring out what to do with it.

Chris Dreyer:

Perfect. Perfect. And is there a system that can score? Does your system have automated scoring like hey, comes in. It’s a semi truck accident, wrongful death. It’s not treated the same, maybe it gets that better senior intake person or it gets routed immediate live transfer. Do you have any types of those components that really… Because not all leads are created the same?

James Helm:

This is something to be totally transparent, we’re still trying to figure out. I think when I initially was launching the call center, my basic idea was let’s give the catastrophic injury leads to our most senior reps, which might be effective. The problem that you have is you have to think about this in terms of a queue.

So we have the first layer is the receptionist queue. So we’ll have four receptionists. Their job is basically to figure out, okay, is this a new client lead, is this a solicitor, is this an existing client, or is this a lead that’s already called in, but we haven’t gotten signed for some reason?

What we’ve seen in our data is 73% or so of new calls are new leads. So three out of four are new leads, but we need some type of screening mechanism for only having the actual intake specialist dealing with new leads as opposed to dealing with everybody that calls our office.

So they hit the receptionist queue, basically the receptionist does that initial quick evaluation. I mean we’re talking a minute of, is this about a new client? And then they warm transfer it, if it is, into the intake specialist queue. And the problem is that the receptionist and the intake specialists are on calls all day long. And so there needs to be some way of making sure that that call rings to an available receptionist.

And so the problem might be if you get a catastrophic injury call, well what happens if your senior intake specialist is currently on the other line? So we made the decision, and again I might change my mind about this or our team might change our position about this, is that we want to have every member of our intake specialist, so not the receptionist, but the intake specialist, need to be able to handle all of the calls.

Because if you think about it, whether it’s a car accident that has two amputations or has some back pain, the process really isn’t that different for the actual intake specialist doing the job. Now, hopefully, and this is something we’re working through, there’s some way to flag that in our system just so that it catches the eye of a supervisor or somebody who can then make sure that that lead has been handled appropriately.

Chris Dreyer:

So on these roles, you’ve got your receptionist, right? So I’m going to [inaudible 00:21:46], right? Being me, a marketing specialist, we got these stages. We got the qualification stage. Are they a tire kicker? Are they an attorney? Do they want marketing services? Oh yeah, they’re qualified, they want marketing services. I kick them over to an SEO consultant, an AE, a closer, right? So you got these different stages to vet, because you have so much volume, you need to do that.

So we’re talking about those roles, but I want to talk to you on your logic because there’s different ways to do things, right? I’ve had some other really big law firms, one in particular in Florida that says hey, we want all of our intake people to be attorneys because they’re going to know what’s a case and what’s not.

But from what I’m hearing is no, here’s the logic. This is a case or not based upon the scripts. How did you make that decision to use maybe these receptionists and intake versus the attorneys fielding the leads? I’ve seen this. I went to The Intake Playbook, Gary Falkowitz, I was looking at some of the questions and saw this and I thought I would send that over to you.

James Helm:

Yeah, it’s interesting. I definitely think there’s been a movement in the industry the last five or 10 years to move away from attorneys doing sign up to general intake specialists and being okay with that. I know some firms that use attorneys and their attorneys are very aggressive and can close in a way that an intake specialist probably can’t.

I think it comes down to bandwidth though. You want your attorneys focused on litigating the cases and maximizing the value. If you are getting a ton of calls per day, it starts to stretch them thin saying hey, you are going to handle new client calls and you’re also going to maximize the value of the cases. I will say there’s also the case type component though. For example, if we have a birth injury claim, a lot of times a birth injury attorney might want to have either an intake specialist that has a medical malpractice background screen that lead or in some instances may even want to jump on the phone.

I also think there’s nothing wrong with an attorney or some type of system whereby an attorney gets notified if that eight-figure case does come in the door. That attorney, if available, jumps on that call and closes it himself or herself because obviously that’s a worthwhile use of time. I think for us, the problem comes back to the volume. And I don’t know, to be honest, the leads that are coming through.

I mean it’s kind of funny. I’m talking about the process and the operations of our intake, but this is not my unique ability. We have other team members that are spearheading the charge over here and I don’t even know on a day-to-day basis what leads are coming through the funnel. Now what I do have is I have referral partners or partner firms that we work with that only take eight-figure leads. And what I do is I have programmed our Salesforce so that I get notified when those leads go out.

So it’s a way for me and my inbox to at least see when the big leads come through because if I’m getting the lead because they know, like, and trust me from social media, I’ll jump on, I’ll make a quick video, and I’ll send it to them as a way of following up. But I have to obviously pick and choose my battles. I can’t do that personally with every lead that comes through, so I’m going to spend some time doing it.

Or even calling the lead. I want to do that on the biggest opportunities.

Chris Dreyer:

Wonderful. And I think that really articulates it, right? Your volume, you got to have a lot of bodies fielding these calls. You got 28 agents, you might hire another 10 the next month just as fast as you’re going.

If you’re a boutique, maybe you don’t do volume. Maybe that attorney could do the intake. Because you’re at 28 and literally next month you could be at thirty-something, what are you looking at in terms of ramping an intake person? The processes, the training. How do you get them the product knowledge and get them capable of being an active member?

What’s that process? Is there a 30/60/90 where maybe they only listen to a few calls, maybe some shadowing? Take me to that to ramp in these guys and gals.

James Helm:

So I don’t have an original idea in my head. Everything I’ve taken and done with this call center has been best practices or things that mentors or good call centers are doing, one of which is classes for new hires, specifically for intake reps. So how we’ve gotten to 28 so far is we’ve hired between eight and 10 per month. We start them on the same exact day. They have an allotted training period where they’re meeting with… We have one employee who’s just dedicated full-time to training intake staff.

We have a process whereby over the course of a month, and I’ve heard other people do it even longer before they let them live on the phones, but right now we obviously needed some bodies in there to get going, where over three to four weeks we’re essentially just practicing. And then there’s some initial period where they do go live with the leads, but there’s some close monitoring of how they’re doing and then some feedback on how they’re doing. And then once they’ve been approved, then they go live into the call center.

Now, full disclosure, we are making hires that aren’t working out. Three out of the 10 or four out of the 10, depends on the class, may not make it to the point where they’re actually getting live on the phones. Or maybe they go live on the phones and then you realize a month or two into them being on the phones, they’re not built for this. And so with our hires, we do have a 90-day probationary period.

And usually if it’s a core value thing where they’re not reliable… Reliable is one of our core values. We try to hire and fire by our core values. If they’re not a core value fit, then we let them go during the 90-day probationary period. We’ve also found out during that 30 to 60 day mark, we’ve had a couple from our first two classes where we’ve been like, okay, this person is a rock star. Usually they have been in a call center for another PI firm. You can just tell by their efficiency and their output that they know what they’re doing, they’re doing it rather quickly, and they’re doing it accurately.

And now we’re trying to figure out, okay, well how do we set up some type of leadership or management structure where the best people can then oversee a bunch of reps under them? I think the hard part about this is if someone is great at doing one thing, us as business owners, we want to provide upward mobility to that person… And where I’ve pushed back on some of our leadership team members is I don’t want to take somebody away from something they’re kicking butt doing to go sit in a managerial position where they’re not doing the thing that they had just proven they were really good at. I’m not sure that’s a value add to the organization.

So that becomes a tough question, is are you better off paying them well to stay on the front lines or are you better off “promoting” them? But then having them sit in kind of a managerial or supervisory role where they’re not doing the very thing that they excelled at?

Chris Dreyer:

That’s so good. I think as business owners we see this everywhere. It’s like, “You got this Jordan.”

You want to keep the Jordan, and you’re like, well, Jordan probably wouldn’t be a good coach.

James Helm:

You see it with salespeople all the time. The biggest sales earners make more in sales than actually the sales supervisor, because the sales supervisor has to LMA, has to lead, manage, hold people accountable.

But the closers need to stay closers because that’s what brings the lifeblood into the business.

Chris Dreyer:

I couldn’t agree more. How do you think about incentives? I know different jurisdictions, but I’ve heard, and I think it was Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett talk about if you get the correct incentives, you get the correct activities.

And you’ve also heard Dan Morgan, he’s got the “hook ’em and book ’em” mentality over there at Morgan & Morgan, versus maybe you want a little bit more rapport that’s longer with those mass torts.

How do you think about incentives to pay these people properly to do the things that you want them to do from a performance perspective?

James Helm:

Yeah, so this is a very hard question. Full disclosure, I don’t know the answer. We’re still trying to figure it out. I think that, from what I’ve read, we haven’t done any incentives yet. We’re literally meeting for our annual offsite. We do a two-day offsite with our leadership team in December. This is going to be a topic on the agenda because we want to incentivize the behavior we want in the call center.

One quick tidbit that’s kind of funny. It came to my attention last week that one of the issues our call center reps are doing is they’re hoarding leads. So they’re basically going into the queue and they’re getting up before the shift starts and pumping the leads over to themselves because they know that we’re monitoring, through dashboards, their performance, and they want to be seen as doing high volumes. And my initial reaction was like, I don’t hate it. I’m down to gamify this. One of my other leaders is like, this is like Game of Thrones. I’m like, all right, that’s a little much, but this is kind of funny.

I do think that you want to have some type of gamification or incentive structure so that it’s clear the behavior that you’re incentivizing. The concern is perverse incentives, which is basically we’re incentivizing speed. Well, then all of a sudden accuracy declines. Why? Because reps know they’re getting additional $20 or $30 based on their output. Well now all of a sudden they’re not taking the time to fill in the details on the lead.

And so you have to be really careful with the incentive structure so that it’s truly aligned with what you want as the business owner. And I think if you’re signing up the cases in-house, and an ethical lawyer and your jurisdiction will have to check it out, but I think that paying reps a bonus per case sign works and is a good incentive.

Sometimes with us, we’re live transferring a lead into a partner firm’s call center. And so then you run into another question of okay, well our rep is really only able to control whether they qualify the lead accurately and whether they live transferred it and maybe the speed it took them to do those two things. But if the call center on the other line doesn’t close, my number one pet peeve is not staying on the phone to get the CFA. If for example, if they get the lead, they’re like, “TopDog, thank you for qualifying this wonderful lead. This looks like a $200,000 case.”

And then they tell the client, “Well, hey, why don’t I just send you the CFA. Whenever you get to it, sign it, send it back to me.”

And then sure enough that client disappears off the face of the earth. Should our intake rep who live transferred it be penalized for that call center not getting the lead signed up? And so that’s another question we’re trying to analyze. Obviously if we move to a place where we’re signing all the cases ourselves, the incentive structure is a little bit easier.

Chris Dreyer:

I think that makes a ton of sense. And geez, that bothered me just hearing that right there.

James Helm:

Because I actually think that’s the number one problem with call centers. And I’ve listened to, I can’t even tell you how many calls. And again, I felt a little hypocritical doing this when I didn’t have my own call center because it was like how can I judge the performance of a partner firm’s call center but I haven’t solved this problem myself yet?

But the thing that would grind my gears is that very thing happening where essentially you’ve done the hard work of qualifying the prospect, you get to the very end where now you’re sending them the CFA. Pretty much everybody is using DocuSign, right? To take that extra five minutes and stay on the phone while you send the contract, confirm that they’ve received the contract, say, “Hey, open up the email. Let me walk you through this document.”

You do a one pager, you make it super simple for your CFA. You walk them through what it means and explain, “Hey, the insurance company’s doing their own investigation. We want to get started on this right away. If this looks good, could you click sign now? I’ll [inaudible 00:35:00] and make sure I got it on my end.”

They click sign you make sure you have the CFA. Then you say, okay, a case manager or whatever your process is for next steps. But you see it all the way through to the DocuSign getting signed and you receiving the DocuSign back. I think there’s still way too many firms out there that have reps that will say, “Hey, I sent you the contract. Look at it when you get a chance.” Or the second the prospect says, “Okay, I’ll check it out when I get home,” or, “Let me talk to my wife, or, “I’m driving right now.” That’s where that sales objection comes in.

And if there’s some way to measure your reps of, okay, how many DocuSigns are they actually closing on the first initial call of qualified leads because… I’ll objection handle right now, right? Okay, “I’m driving. I’m driving right now. Let me take a look at it when I get home.”

“You know what, John, this is the most important thing you’re going to do all day. I have no problem staying on the phone. Why don’t you pull over at the next exit? I just want to make sure that our attorneys have a chance to jump on this because if you wait until later today, then the insurance company’s going to do their investigation and this claim might not be worth anything. So I’ll hang out for just one minute. Why don’t you pull over, let me walk you through the document and what it says.”

And so you’re pushing back to the objection. You’re not just saying, “Okay, check it out when you have a chance,” and hanging up. And that’s what so many intake reps across our industry are doing.

Chris Dreyer:

I love every bit about that and you read my mind, James. So my next section was handling objections. James, I don’t know if you knew this, but I was an AT&T call center rep for a brief period of time.

James Helm:

Let’s go.

Chris Dreyer:

Right. So when I had-

James Helm:

You could sell me that though.

Chris Dreyer:

… Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. So I got a thick skin being cussed out, but what would happen is I would be listening and I would get an objection and on the screen would pop up how to rebuttal something. So how do you coach them up? Are there some key objections that are maybe a top three that are just, man, we got to nail these down?

But then there’s like the odd one and then I’m going to get to an odd one that’s a little in the gray area and I just want to see how you react to this, but how do you first handle those objections? I think the first part you talked about was an example like hey, I’m going to pull over.

James Helm:

This will be fun. Look, I love sales. I come from a sales and marketing background, so this is fun to me. The first one was, “I got to pull over.”

Okay, the second one I think that’ll happen is, “I got to talk to my wife about it. Thank you. Let me talk to my wife about it and I’ll get back to you.”

So how I might respond is saying, “Okay, totally understand that you need to talk to your wife.” Again, stress urgency. Say, “But the thing is the insurance company’s going to be doing their own investigation and if we don’t get this done right now, it might actually be detrimental to your case. But here’s the thing, you’re not paying any money to sign this document and in fact you can fire us at any point. So you talk to your wife and your wife says, you know what? It’s not worth pursuing, or we have a better lawyer than us. That’s totally fine. All we’ll do is close out our file, but at least we’re able to get started today on the case. So why don’t you sign, tell your wife what happened, tell her she signed. If she has any questions, I’ll actually be happy to answer those questions.”

Chris Dreyer:

“So I spoke to John Brown Law and they don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to use them. I like you guys. I hear you on the radio. Why should we use you guys?”

James Helm:

“So listen, this is a huge decision picking a lawyer. And so if it was me and my family, I would do the same thing. I would want to talk to multiple law firms.”

So what you’re doing doing there is you’re affirming the behavior. And then you say, “One thing that we pride ourselves on our end and you know you’ll get if you hire us, is our communication. A lot of law firms, they just don’t communicate well with their client. We’ll keep you informed on what’s going out throughout the entire process. This is a case just like yours that we handled.”

And this is what I’ll usually try to do, Chris, is I’ll explain that we handled a case just like this. That tends to resonate with people, is, “Hey, we handled a case just like this two months ago and here’s what happened,” right?

Or, “This is actually our law firm’s primary area of expertise. And so not only are you going to get that communication, but this is what we do best. We’re going to be able to help you in a way that not many law firms are going to be able to.”

Chris Dreyer:

Perfect. Perfect. Amazing. You’ve got this gray or black hat area, right? John has been in an auto accident and he is not hurt. And you’re like, “Bro, go get some treatment. Have you seen a doctor?”

Is there some coaching up component there? Like, “Let’s sign you, then you’ll get the treatment.”

How do you kind of nudge them? I don’t know. What’s the line there as an attorney? You need to go see your dentist, your chiropractor, your yoga instructor, and somebody else. I don’t know. How do you take those soft tissue, maybe non-injury, and turn them into something or is that a super gray area that me, the marketer, is asking about, James?

James Helm:

Obviously you have to be really careful to only offer services to people who are legitimately hurt when medically necessary. That goes without saying. But what I’ve experienced, and I think many PI lawyers would agree with this, is that a lot of times getting a call the same day as the accident. And neck and back stiffness or soreness can take two, three, four days to kick in. And so that person could be all fired up on adrenaline. They could be calling a lawyer because they want to know what’s going on with their car.

But they might not know if they have any injuries yet because the adrenaline is pumping, because that soreness or stiffness hasn’t kicked in. And so what I’ll say in those scenarios is like, “Hey, thank you so much for calling. Our law firm only works with people that have injuries.”

But here’s what I’ll say. “Soreness and stiffness can take a couple of days to kick in. So you go home, you sleep tonight, you wake up tomorrow and you’re experiencing neck or back pain, call us back. Or better yet, why don’t I follow up with you tomorrow? Why don’t I check in on you at 11 A.M. and why don’t you let me know how you’re feeling?”

So that’s one way I think I would handle it, is just saying, “Okay, this is the same day as the accident. Why don’t we give it a day or two and why don’t I just check in?”

Chris Dreyer:

I’m going to tell you kind of an embarrassing story since I work with attorneys that happened to me. So me and Steven Willi, my president, we’re in the Range. We’re on I-64, complete dead stop. And I look in the rear view mirror and I’m like, “Steven, we’re getting hit.”

That moment, like there’s just nothing I could do. Cars in front of me, we’re getting smoked. Sure enough, this car comes flying in, going and hits the car behind us, totals out that car, totals my car. I go to the doctor, nothing. Steven goes to the doctor, we’re good. I called a local attorney, “Hey, you don’t have a case, right?”

Steven, today, is dealing with all kinds of shit. Shoulder problems, vertebrae. Still from that accident. I think it just goes to show with what you’re saying with the follow-up too, that this is years from that accident. And I know there’s statutes of limitations and stuff like that, but I think even myself, being in this industry, and I think for our audience, it’s just so important to note, even though you’re blogging about this and maybe talking about social media in a moment when it happens to you, you could forget.

James Helm:

Here’s another thing I’ll tell people, and I’ve made social media videos about this, is saying that depending on your state, right? You’re in Florida, you’re in Pennsylvania, you’re in another state when you’re hit, your medical bills are covered for the period following the accident, so it won’t cost any money. Go get checked out and make sure, because there are so many horror stories like that where somebody just was kind of lazy or maybe they had a lot of stuff going on personally. They’re like, yeah, this will go away. And then the statute runs.

Or even as PI lawyers, we know that if a couple of months pass and they’ve done nothing, it becomes very difficult to convince the insurance company or a jury if it were to go to trial that the client really was preoccupied and had this ongoing pain, didn’t do anything about it, but his injuries are substantial and legitimate.

It becomes a way harder position to take than just telling somebody, “Hey, go get checked out. If you’re feeling any type of pain at all, go get it documented.”

Go use medical care while it’s covered right after the accident happened as opposed to dealing with symptoms down the road.

Chris Dreyer:

How do you think about follow-up? Do you have a cadence where you didn’t book the call or does Salesforce have some of those capabilities to assist in that? Or is this maybe something that you’re still building on? How do you think about the follow-up cadence?

James Helm:

I believe in the saying “strong opinions weakly held,” right? So this is another thing where I’ll give you where I’m currently thinking in terms of this, but I may very well change my mind.

Two things I feel pretty strongly about at the moment are, one, the double dial. So a lot of clients have their phone on settings whereby the first call from an unknown number goes to voicemail, and you can bypass that setting with a double dial. Instead of calling once, call twice back-to-back. That is usually the best practice that I’m going to emphasize with our staff.

The second thing is I would prefer to do text follow up every phone call. So double dial. No response to either? Text. Try again later. Double dial. No response? Text. And our current sequence, the way we’re thinking about it, is three times a day for three straight days.

And there’s laws around the amount you can contact people and I’m not a hundred percent familiar, so this is just how I’m thinking about this at the moment. But I would say three calls for three days, all double dials with a text after. If you’re not getting them by the third day… I know some law firms that’ll put in a long-term chase sequence, but at some point you need to conserve your team, your labor resources.

And our experience has been, if you can’t get them in the first three days, usually within the first twenty-four hours, you’re probably not getting that person.

Chris Dreyer:

Love that. That’s super smart about the double dial. And I do that myself because even if I don’t recognize the number and it’s a local area code, I’m like, ah, they’re trying to get me, right? But if I get the double from the local area code, I’m like, I guess I’ll answer. So yeah, I’m right there with that pack.

James, this has been amazing and thank you. First of all, I’m going to thank you for our audience and just to how much value and how deep and tactical and how also just transparent you’re being about this whole process, about bringing this in-house. And hey, you know this. You don’t know this. You’re trying this and how you’re thinking about it.

One final question here for those listening that may have some follow-up questions or may want to connect with you, how can they get in touch with you?

James Helm:

I would say send me an email, just james.helm@topdoglaw.com. I just want to make sure I can see the message myself. So just james.helm@topdoglaw.com.

And the last thing I’ll say is we’re just figuring this out. I’m looking at this through the lens of my business really depends on the call center being successful. I’m not having to get litigation right or disbursement right or some of these other areas of a law firm. We can be the best and should be the best at marketing, which I really do believe we are.

And intake. And I don’t know a lot about intake despite the comments I made. I still think I’m new at this, but I’m going to spend so much time over the next year evaluating our intake and thinking about how we can get better, that I’m confident if I were to check in… It’s December of 2023. If I were to check in December of 2024, I’m going to get a lot better at this. And our goal is to have the best legal call center in the country. I know that’s an ambitious goal, but again, this is our thing, right?

And we want to be able to work with the law firms that don’t have these robust call centers. If you’re a team of experienced trial lawyers that maximize case value, I don’t want to put you in a position where you’re having to field a hundred plus leads a month from us. I’d love to hand deliver you the best cases and have you do your thing. And so that’s what we’re trying to move forward to as a business.

Chris Dreyer:

Thanks so much to James for sharing his wisdom today. Your intake team can be more than information gatherers. They can be closers who drive conversions and help your firm grow. Making this shift starts with your mindset. Think of you’re frontline, not as an intake department, but as a sales team. How do you build a world-class sales team?

Let’s break it down. Time for the pinpoints. One, use conditional logic. I love this because it guides reps through the decision trees for various cases. This will help decrease human error and determine the value of the case and if a manager attorney needs to step in.

James Helm:

And so what conditional logic allows you to do is program your system so that based on the different type of litigation, the agent on the phone selects the litigation and then the next question pops up. And so all they have to do is follow the prompts on the screen, as opposed to try to remember what the different questions to ask are for the different case levels.

Chris Dreyer:

Two, stay on the phone. Closing doesn’t just happen. Walk a potential client through the contract on the phone and sign as soon as possible. This will help increase that conversion rate.

James Helm:

You’ve done the hard work of qualifying the prospect. You get to the very end where now you’re sending them the CFA. Pretty much everybody is using DocuSign, right? To take that extra five minutes and stay on the phone while you send the contract, confirm that they’ve received the contract, say, “Hey, open up the email. Let me walk you through this document.”

You do a one-pager. You make it super simple for your CFA. You walk them through what it means and explain, “Hey, the insurance company’s doing their own investigation. We want to get started on this right away. If this looks good, could you click sign now? I’ll [inaudible 00:49:22] and make sure I got it on mine end.”

Chris Dreyer:

Three, know what the most common objections are, and come up with scripts to help your team guide the client into signing. The two most common objections James sees are, “I’m in the car,” and, “I need to talk with my partner or spouse.”

And a third common objection is, “Why is your firm the right one for me?”

Here’s James again with that amazing response.

James Helm:

“Listen. This is a huge decision picking a lawyer, and so if it was me and my family, I would do the same thing. I would want to talk to multiple law firms.”

So what you’re doing there is you’re affirming the behavior, right? “One thing that we pride ourselves on our end, and you know you’ll get if you hire us, is our communication. A lot of law firms, they just don’t communicate well with their client. We’ll keep you informed on what’s going out throughout the entire process. This is a case just like yours that we handled.”

And this is what I’ll usually try to do, Chris, is I’ll explain that we handled a case just like this, because that tends to resonate with people, is, “Hey, we handled a case just like this two months ago, and here’s what happened.”

Chris Dreyer:

Four, if you don’t get that contract signed, call more than once, some agencies and firms have bandwidth to call back up to 14 times. If you don’t have a bandwidth, that’s okay. James likes this method.

James Helm:

A lot of clients have their phone on settings whereby the first call from an unknown number goes to voicemail, and you can bypass that setting with a double dial.

Chris Dreyer:

And finally, make sure all that information is getting stored in the right place. Do your homework and find the best backend CRM that works for you.

For our recommendations, check out the link in the show notes. While you’re there, hit that follow button so that you never miss an episode with me, Chris Dreyer, founder and CEO of Rankings.io.

Thanks for hanging out. See you next time. I’m out.