Whether you call it a retainer agreement, an engagement letter, a fee agreement, or something else, it’s one of the most important documents required to run a law firm. It’s the contract that formalizes the engagement, establishes attorney-client privilege, and sets the tone for the entire relationship. It’s a necessary step to being hired, but if you don’t handle it right, it can also be one of the biggest things standing in your way. Read on to find out why getting your engagement letter signed is a major client intake bottleneck that can negatively affect your business, and how you can remedy the problem.
An Unnecessary Barrier
Unless the person is sitting in the same room with you, tracking down signatures always tends to be a headache.
The typical routine involves emailing a PDF document to the client which they then have to download, print out, sign, and return by either scan and email, fax, snail mail, or dropping it off. Each of these scenarios involves a lot of tedious steps, which in today’s busy world tend to be low on most people’s priority lists.
For this reason, some law firms prefer to get their engagement letter signed in the office while the client is there for a consultation. But, there are problems with this approach as well.
More law firms are going virtual these days to cut down on overhead, which means it is not always a possibility to come by the office. Not only that, but many of today’s younger, savvier clients do not want to deal with the inconvenience of going into their attorney’s office if they can avoid it. (You mean you can’t just text me the engagement letter or something?)
So either you are forcing a client who would prefer not to come by the office to go out of their way in order to do so, or you’re asking them to go through the tedious process of printing, signing, and returning a document to you by some other method. In both cases, you’re creating an unnecessary barrier in the legal sales process and you’re providing a less-than-optimal customer experience in the process.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
As you can probably imagine, creating obstacles in the hiring process can have a negative impact on the health of your business. Just how detrimental it could be is hard to say, but you might not even be aware of it. Let’s look at some interesting data from other industries for comparison.
Number of Steps
- Stat: In online marketing, reducing the number of fields on a contact form from 11 to 4 was shown to result in a 160% increase in the likelihood of a form submission.
- Takeaway: Eliminating obstacles (even something as simple as reducing the number of fields on a form) can increase the likelihood that a person will accomplishes a particular task. Reducing the number of steps necessary for your potential client to sign your engagement letter can have a significant impact on the likelihood that they will actually do it.
Time to Close
- Stat: In sales, responding to a new lead within the first 5 minutes can lead to a 9x increase in the likelihood of conversion.
- Takeaway: The faster you can act when closing a sale, the better. Any added delay in the process can result in a substantial decrease in your conversion rate. Requiring clients to go through a tedious process to sign your engagement letter causes delays, provides more time for them to second guess themselves, and may result in a lower likelihood of conversion.
Impact of Follow Ups
- Stat: In 80% of successful sales, an average of 5 follow ups are required before the deal is closed.
- Takeaway: Closing a sale normally requires a lot of “nurturing” and following up along the way. However, for law firms who are not exactly in “sales” per se, all this following up is difficult to keep track of and it creates a major administrative burden. Anything you can do to reduce the need for follow ups and incentivize faster signing of the engagement letter will help improve your success rate.
As you can see from the above conversion stats from online marketers and salespeople, each added delay or additional obstacle in the sales process can negatively impact the likelihood of sealing the deal. The process of “closing a sale” in legal services ends when the engagement letter is signed. So by creating any barriers in the path to accomplishing this, you may be losing potential clients that you would have otherwise converted.
Eliminate the Friction with E-Signatures
More and more businesses are relying on e-signatures to close deals these days, including age-old and slower moving industries like real estate, and now legal. The reason? E-signatures eliminate friction in the process of signing and finalizing a deal.
It’s much faster and easier for all parties to sign a document digitally as opposed to having to print, sign, and return it by another method. People can now even sign documents from their smartphone or tablet while on the go.
E-signing reduces delays and gives customers less time to hesitate and rethink things, and it eliminates much of the administrative hassle with having to track down a signature and follow up when it hasn’t been returned.
Even if you normally have your clients sign the engagement letter in your office, you should absolutely consider providing people with the option to sign it digitally. This will help you better accommodate the needs of everyone, including younger tech-savvy clients, and busy people who would rather not meet with you face to face to handle their legal needs.
Using e-signatures is a win-win, and a guaranteed way to improve not only your conversion rate, but also provide a better experience for all your clients.
If you don’t currently have an e-signature solution in your law firm, we invite you to give Lexicata a try.
Not only do we offer unlimited e-signatures via our integration with HelloSign, we also have online intake forms, and a built in law firm CRM to help you keep track of your leads. Check out our features page for more information, or contact us about how we can make e-signatures a part of your law firm’s regular workflow today!