Episode 1: Never Lose a Customer Again with Joey Coleman

If you’re looking to transform your business and earn more business than you can handle in 2020, pay close attention.

In this episode, Casey Meraz interviews Joey Coleman, the author of Never Lose a Customer Again.

Joey, who is a “recovering” attorney discusses the problems attorneys face and how they can improve their operations, grow their firms, and position themselves as an expert in their market.

Joey Coleman and Casey Meraz discuss Never Lose a Customer Again for Law Firms

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Interview Transcript

This interview with Joey Coleman is an episode from our podcast, The Lawyer Mastermind Podcast. The podcast gathers the brightest marketing minds to discuss high performing business and marketing strategies available for attorneys.

Joey Coleman is a former attorney who now travels the world as a keynote speaker and business consultant. He helps organizations develop their customer retention strategies and specializes in creating unique, attention-grabbing experiences for his audiences and your customers. Mr. Coleman is also the author of the #2 Wall Street Journal bestseller, Never Lose a Customer Again.

Casey Meraz:

Hi, I’m Casey Meraz and you’re listening to the Lawyer Mastermind Podcast, where we help attorneys grow their law firms by interviewing experts who can fast track their success. Today, I’m super excited to be joined by Joey Coleman, the author of Never Lose A Customer Again, a business consultant, and a keynote speaker. Joey, thank you so much for joining us today.

Joey Coleman:

Casey, it’s my pleasure. We should probably also share in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a recovering attorney myself, so I’m excited to get the chance to talk to a bunch of fellow lawyers that are your loyal listeners.

Casey Meraz:

That’s awesome. I didn’t know that up front, I just learned that I think today, so maybe I missed that when I read your book the first time or maybe it wasn’t in there, but I was intrigued to find that out.

Joey Coleman:

Yeah. For context, it’s been about 20 years since I practiced law actively, but I grew up in that. My dad was a criminal defense lawyer and so I grew up in the family business. I spent a lot of time in that world, and obviously, my three years of law school and then I practiced for about five years after that. I kind of had an eclectic background that got its start in the legal community.

Casey Meraz:

Awesome. Since you’ve had that experience too, as a lawyer and working in a law firm, I think you’re going to be able to bring another layer of additional help here that a lot of people wouldn’t get otherwise. I came working from a law firm where I was exposed to attorneys treating other potential customers poorly, even yelling at potential clients over the phone.

Joey Coleman:

Hypothetically, that might’ve happened once or twice. Yeah, I get it. I get it.

Casey Meraz:

You know a thing or two about that. That always seemed a bit crazy to me, but as an attorney, by putting yourself back in that world, did you see a lot of those poor customer interactions? Did that drive you to deal with that?

Joey Coleman:

Oh my gosh, all the time. All the time. Let me be clear, since I said I worked for my dad, I didn’t see it as much when I was working for him as much as I saw it in some internships and things I did at other firms. Here’s the thing that I think, and I don’t say this to be judgmental of lawyers, what I’m about to say is meant to have empathy with the challenge of being a lawyer. Here’s the problem, the typical lawyer at any given time has many clients. These are American Bar Association statistics. Now, they’re from a few years ago, I haven’t seen the most recent ones, but I still think they probably hold true. The typical lawyer who is in small business practice has at any given time somewhere between 50 and 60-ish clients at whatever phase in the process they’re in. That’s from the first time you meet them and they ink the representation deal, up to if you’ve finished the document review or the contract creation or gone and gotten a not guilty or a guilty verdict if you’re a criminal defense lawyer, whatever it is, or you’ve gotten them an award and a PI case, whatever it may be, give or take 50 to 60. When I was practicing law, I averaged 240 at any given time. If we stop and think about that, if we look at the number of business days in a year, I was spending one business day per year per client, and I didn’t have enough days.

Casey Meraz:

Wow. That puts us in perspective.

Joey Coleman:

That gets us into perspective. Now, let’s step into the client’s shoes. I did predominantly criminal defense, although I did a little bit of PI work, I did a little bit of employment and contract work, but mostly criminal defense. For somebody who is being charged in a criminal defense setting, that is for most people, the most important thing going on at their life at that time, because if they’re found guilty of it, especially with the clients I represented, we did a lot of what I would call heavy felony B+ to A+ felonies. Where I practiced in Iowa, that meant an A felony means you’re going to go to jail for 99 years or more, so significant, significant cases. Drunk driving cases or possession cases that you might lose your driver’s license or something for three months, six months, a year, cases that weren’t parking tickets, let’s put it that way. So for my clients, that was one of the biggest stress factors, emotional drains, things they were worried about in their life to date, certainly within that year. Now, let’s go back to the earlier statement about how many I had. Something that for my client was the most important thing of their year, made up one day of my year.

Casey Meraz:

Good point.

Joey Coleman:

I’m not saying that I didn’t care about all my clients, I did, I loved them dearly, and I tried my best to look out for them, and we had great results. The reality is most lawyers have detached from the empathetic understanding that for your client, the thing you’re working on maybe is the most important thing of their entire year, but for you, it’s one of the cases you’re working on. I think just from that understanding, I recognized that lawyers by their very nature of the practice have a challenge when it comes to client experience and client relationships and client communication, just because we’re representing more of them and our perspective is we’re representing all of you. From their perspective, we’re the most important client they have, or at least we’re the ones that you think about the most. That led me into this, and I was practicing for context and relevance to our conversation today. I graduated law school in ’98, so I was interning as a lawyer and practicing through the ’90s and then practicing through the early 2000s. Even at that time when there was a heightened understanding of communicating with your clients, it was still pretty abysmal, when you really think of the severity of the situation and the fees that were being charged, how most lawyers only communicate with clients via the monthly bill.

Casey Meraz:

Exactly.

Joey Coleman:

That’s the main piece of communication. I’ve yet to meet a lawyer that can say that they’ve never had a client call up and say, “What the heck is this item on my bill?”

Casey Meraz:

Exactly.

Joey Coleman:

Lots of times also, I think the other challenge lawyers have is that the way the law moves, there are long, long stretches where it seems to the client like nothing is happening, but they’re still spending money.

Casey Meraz:

Exactly. They see the money going out.

Joey Coleman:

There are no results though, nothing is happening because you’re waiting for the trial or you’re waiting for things to be finalized. They’re paying either a monthly retainer or a monthly bill or whatever it may be and there are challenges. I wanted to make sure we prefaced our conversation with me saying, I empathize with both sides of the coin. The client who feels like, “Wait, what am I paying for? I’m not getting the level of communication I need, and I don’t know the full status of where things are at all given times, and I’m emotionally invested and involved.” And the attorney working a bunch of different cases at the same time, managing a bunch of relationships at the same time, and sometimes just being at the mercy of the courts and the legal system. “Hey, your hearing isn’t for two months. There’s not a lot we’re going to do between now and the hearing.” I’m sorry, but what am I going to tell you? “Hey, guess what, this week we did nothing on your case, yet again this week,” because that’s going to irritate a client too.

Casey Meraz:

Wow. That’s an interesting perspective, and I don’t think anybody would want to hear, “We’ve done nothing on your case.” It’s funny, I started with an extreme example of maybe the yelling at a potential client, but then on the other side, I’ve worked at a law firm that gets 100 positive reviews a month from people that aren’t their clients, they just treat them well over the phone and they answer their questions well enough to the point where, “Hey, I want to leave a review.” I can see it from all different points too. With our listeners, we have some that might be doing more business to consumer, but we have business to business law firms as well. Are they going to take a different approach with how they treat their clients?

Joey Coleman:

Well, what I have found is that most lawyers take a different approach, but I’m not sure that they should. There’s a huge discussion in the business world of, “Well, are you B2B, or are you B2C? Are you business to business or business to consumer?” The reality is you’re each to each, you’re human to human. At the end of the day, the person on the other line, whether they’re writing a check from their personal account or their business account or whether they’re processing a payment from their company’s account, it’s a human in the interaction. I would pause in that in a B2B environment, it is more important to be human because there are often layers where the person who’s paying you or the person who’s communicating with you is not the person who’s receiving the benefit of the work you’re doing. I run into this a lot of times with my corporate clients where they’ll send an invoice to one of their clients that is paid by the CFO or the accounting department or whatever it may be, only to realize, to have the accounting department saying, “Why are we spending so much money?” Well, it’s because they’re not seeing the fruits of the labors. They’re not the ones that are seeing the proof. They’re just seeing the invoices. We could have a whole conversation about how to design your invoices to justify your expenses to people who may not have an understanding of what you’re paying for or what you’re doing. All these little communications that we have, whether it’s in a B2C or a B2B environment matter because they contribute to the better understanding that our client has of the work we’re doing and the value we’re providing.

Casey Meraz:

Okay. Do you think it makes a lot of sense to set those proper expectations upfront? Talking a little bit about the onboarding process, is it worth optimizing that experience and paying attention to that?

Joey Coleman:

I would say only 100% worth it.

Casey Meraz:

100%?

Joey Coleman:

Yeah, that’s it. Here’s the crazy thing, Casey, when you look at businesses around the world, now, these are not law firm-specific statistics, but they include law firms. When we look at businesses around the world, somewhere between 20% and 70% of your new clients will decide to stop doing business with you before they reach the 100-day anniversary.

Casey Meraz:

Wow. That’s shocking.

Joey Coleman:

20% to 70%. So literally, companies are hemorrhaging, people are running out the back door as quickly as they run in the front door. Now, whenever I speak to lawyers, I’ll get lawyers saying, “Well, Joey, you don’t understand. We barely get the retainer and the paperwork done and discovery going by the time we reach 100 days.” I get it, but in their mind, the value they receive in the first 100 days is more dispositive as to their overall feeling of your lifetime in the relationship than any other period. How we treat them in the first 100 days matters more than any other time. It’s where all the justification of value is created, it’s where all the understanding of the value is created. As you mentioned, managing expectations, I think the big problem a lot of lawyers have, not all but a lot, is they do a great job of setting expectations in the initial meeting when they’re pitching the business. Then the second the client signs on the dotted line, that lawyer hands the bulk of the communication responsibility off to a paralegal or a secretary who was not in the meeting, who the client has never met, who is now the sole gatekeeper point of access to get back to the lawyer. We wonder why our clients feel unappreciated. It’s because, “Wait a second, who is this person that when I call is the one I leave a message with, when I send an email is the one I get a reply from when I get a letter in the mail or an invoice it comes from them?” Granted the lawyer’s name is stamped on, but guess what folks, the client realizes it’s a stamp with your signature as much as you realize it’s a stamp with your signature. What happens is, that it creates a belief that there isn’t as much rapport or connection or significance given to the relationship by the lawyer as being given by the client. So I think the huge opportunity for lawyers, regardless of what area of law you practice, is to continue to reset and reestablish expectations throughout the relationship, most importantly for lawyers, to remind them of what comes next. Here’s what I mean by that. Typically, when you’re a lawyer, you understand the rules of procedure, and you understand the court filing periods. Let’s take a criminal example just so that we have something to speak through. The typical case that would come to me was a drunk driving first defense case. The likelihood of us being in court to try that case within one year of the charges being filed was less than 20%.

Casey Meraz:

That’s low. Wow.

Joey Coleman:

80% of our cases happened more than a year after the stop that led to the charge. Now, let’s be clear, some of that was strategy, some of that was timing, some of that was just the way the court systems are filled. To the client though, they are thinking about the fear of losing their license every day from the day they got pulled over. While we would be saying, “Look, it’s in your best interest to have this happen later, because, by the way, you’re still driving the whole time,” they would see it as this is an open loop that is running, and when is the loop going to close? Your job as a lawyer is to constantly be reminding the client, “Here’s where we are right now, here’s what we’ve done thus far, here’s what we have to do yet. Most importantly, here’s what we’re going to be focused on between now and the next time you and I talk.” That could be, “We’re going to be reviewing documents.” It could be, “We’re going to be finding experts.” It could be, “We’re going to be filing motions with the court.” Whatever it may be, letting them know what you’re going to do, and reminding them that you’re going to do it is crucial. The reason we know it’s crucial is because most humans don’t read what they sign.

Casey Meraz:

That’s true.

Joey Coleman:

Including lawyers, ironically enough. When your client enters into a retainer agreement with you, very few retainer agreements I’ve ever seen detailed the schedule for the court filings, the trial, the depositions, everything that’s going to happen. Why? Because it would be impossible for us to articulate that in a contract on the day that we undergo representation because we have no idea when that’s going to be. We haven’t even entered an appearance yet and you’re asking me to tell you when this thing’s going to be scheduled for trial, I don’t even know when it’s going to be scheduled for trial. We need to continue to remind the client at all times about where they are in the process and what comes next. A lot of this is holding their hand. It always amazed me when people talked about professionals, when I was growing up, it was either become a doctor or a lawyer. Those were the two professions. Now, I recognize there are many other professions, but those were the two that I at least, was exposed the most to. Lots of times with doctors, they talk about, “Why don’t doctors take a class in bedside manner?”

Casey Meraz:

That’s funny.

Joey Coleman:

Well, why don’t lawyers? I don’t know about you, but the law school I went to, I had to actively seek out a course in client relationship and it was only available to third years and we were limited to 15 of us in the class per year. I went to George Washington Law School, the biggest law school in the country at the time. There were 500 law students per class, and only 15 were allowed to take the client communications class.

Casey Meraz:

Wow.

Joey Coleman:

I’m dating myself, since this is back in the ’80s or back in the late ’90s. I’m thinking to myself, most law schools haven’t changed their curriculum, why aren’t lawyers taught how to manage the relationships and the communications with their clients? At best, it gets a random covering in ethics class, but usually that’s what not to do. You get a random covering in some of your classes where there’s a discussion of a lawyer who failed to communicate or did something wrong, but we don’t have any best practices teaching. We don’t have any best practices practical application of, “Here’s how you hold your client’s hand. Here’s how you let them know that you’re taking it seriously that they might go to prison for the rest of their life.”

Casey Meraz:

That’s a good point.

Joey Coleman:

So what do we do? Lots of times you’ll learn that on the road, if you will, and in practice from more senior lawyers that might be mentors of yours or things you see, but there’s a lack of education in communication about this in the marketplace, or at least in my opinion.

Casey Meraz:

I agree. I think it’s not just isolated to law firms, all businesses are in this situation. Whether it’s a law firm or any other type of business, I feel like we put a lot of attention upfront at winning that client, but then, like you said, maybe right after that, it’s passed along.

Joey Coleman:

It’s crazy. Casey, you’re absolutely right, this is pervasive, not only in law firms, this is pervasive in society. If we were to go on Amazon right now and we were to search in the category of books for sales, and we were to write down how many results we got. If we then were to erase that result and search the keyword marketing, and we were to write down that number and add those two numbers together, we would get about 1.3 million books that had been written on sales and marketing. 1.3 million with an M. Now, if we were to erase those search results and instead we were to search client retention, client relationship, client experience, client service, customer service, customer experience, customer retention, account management, relationship management, every phrase you possibly could think of about what happens after the client transitions from being a prospect to a client, and you were to add up all of the numbers of those searches and not worry about deduping any of them for where they might show up in both, you’d get about 30,000 books.

Casey Meraz:

Wow. That’s a big discrepancy.

Joey Coleman:

For those of you that were told there was no math during the podcast, I promise you this will be the only math. What that means is when we divide those two numbers, for every 47 books that have been written on how to get a client, one book is written on how to keep a client. It’s not a surprise to me that we over-index on client acquisition and rainmaking. I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I never heard anyone talking about rainwater retention. Everyone talked about rainmaking. How do you get more clients? How do you get them to throw more money? Not, how do you keep clients? The closest conversation you’d ever have about keeping clients was, we’ll find out if they like to golf or not, and go golf with them. Then there was a discussion of whether you should win or not. Almost about as sophisticated as client retention was. Folks, we can do better than this. We’re smarter than this. We can do better than this. Most businesses don’t have a system in process for onboarding their clients that are designed to retain their clients. That probably speaks more true in the world of lawyers than any other world, which ironically enough, in a profession where so much is based on sequencing and timing and rules and a process, it’s shocking to me how few law firms have a process for onboarding their clients beyond getting them to sign the retainer or the retention agreement.

Casey Meraz:

Yeah, that’s true. I can relate to that too because my friend is involved in a lawsuit right now. He’s working with a firm that I’d never heard of, but it’s a part of the Zantac cases. They handheld him at the beginning and now he signed on this case, this is going to be a mass tort thing. And he says, “Oh, I’m not getting updates. He doesn’t have that experience,” or that expectation wasn’t set properly. So he’s looking for something fast when this is going to drag out for a long time.

Joey Coleman:

Probably years.

Casey Meraz:

Exactly.

Joey Coleman:

Here’s the thing, as a general rule, as humans, when we are personally involved, it’s hard to over-communicate what comes next.

Casey Meraz:

That’s a good point.

Joey Coleman:

We can see this just in our human behavior. What happens when the average person gets a new product in the mail? They open it up and they try to use it. They don’t read the instructions manual, they don’t go online and watch videos of how to use it, especially, and this is a sweeping stereotype, but it applies and the research shows that, especially men, tend to just try to use it, just try to make it happen. What is fascinating is everybody talks about the iPhone, what a brilliant invention the iPhone and the iPod were. One of the most brilliant things that Steve Jobs and the team at Apple did is they were the first consumer electronic product to send the product to you fully charged.

Casey Meraz:

Really? I didn’t know that.

Joey Coleman:

If we think back to the old days, I know we’re dating ourselves here, friends, but think back to the old days when you used to buy something and you get it home and you’d have to plug it in for eight to 12 hours before you could use it for the first time. Now, you go to the Apple store, you open the iPhone, they sell it to you in the room, they turn it on while you’re sitting there and you make a call while you’re in the store and then you leave and your phone’s working. We live in an era of instant gratification, people want it now. Just because the legal system hasn’t caught up with that, doesn’t mean that consumers’ minds haven’t been preconditioned to expect that. That’s why I keep reemphasizing, we need to let them know what’s coming next, what’s next in the process and hold their hand every step of the way.

Casey Meraz:

Let’s talk about that first 100 days then, if we want to hold their hand every step and create a good experience where we’re delighting our customers, what are some ways that we can do that?

Joey Coleman:

Well, I think the first thing to do is to recognize that your clients go through a series of phases during the representation. Most lawyers think of those phases as, there’s the phase before they become a client, there’s a phase while they’re a client, and there’s a phase after their project’s done. I don’t say this to be critical, it’s critical, I used to think of it this way as well. I believe there are eight phases. If I may Casey, let me give you an overview of the eight phases and how they would match up, and let’s use for example a criminal defense case. Let’s use the possession of illegal drugs just as an example. We’ll keep it exciting and spicy, and for those of you listening that don’t work in that world, forgive me, it’s a better thing that you don’t because that’s a crazy world to work in, trust me. I did it for many years and at least it’ll give us some context for the examples. So phase one is the assessment phase. This is when a prospective client is trying to consider whether or not they want to hire you as their lawyer. They’re going to be talking to their friends, they’re going to be looking at your website, they might be calling around asking people, “Hey, do you know somebody who can help me with this type of problem?” They might be going to the yellow pages. I know that sounds crazy and trying to let their fingers do the walking and figure out who their lawyer is going to be. They’re in the assessment phase. This is probably going to include an initial meeting with you depending on how you have your business practice set up, where they’ll do an initial free consultation. We then go to phase two, the admit phase. The admit phase is when the prospect admits that they have a problem or a need that they believe you can solve and they transition from being a prospect to a client. Now, in a typical free consultation meeting, that might occur in that meeting where you explain, “Hey, you’ve explained what your problem is, I think to represent you would cost X dollars. I’d be able to help you.” And they say, “Great, I want to hire you,” and they sign on the dotted line. We know the admit phase is the start of day one of the first 100 days. That’s when they officially become a client and the clock starts ticking for 100 days. The way you know it’s an admit is it usually involves signing on the dotted line and/or handing over cash. That’s how you know when the admit phase is in your businesses. We then go to phase three, the affirm phase. The affirm phase is the buyer’s remorse stage, where they walk out of your office and they begin to doubt the decision that they just made to hire you. The affirm stage lasts as long as it takes to get to the next phase, phase four, the activate phase. Now, depending on what client you’re representing, the activate phase is the first real moment of truth, where you start to do work for them and the proof of your work is evident. In a criminal defense case, that could be when you move to be admitted to represent that client or an initial hearing or something like that. They’re going to get to see you in action for the first time, they’re going to know this is real. That’s the activate phase. Most lawyers do a good job up until the activate phase. They have the assess phase, we’re trying to figure out, the admit phase, they sign on the dotted line, the affirm phase, most lawyers struggle with this because nothing happens usually between the signing of the paper and that first hearing, other than you getting an alert that says, or an email or a physical mail, a letter that says, “Hey, we need to see you in court next week at 9:00 AM for your initial appearance.” Nothing is happening. During that time, they’re doubting all this money they just agreed to pay you.

Casey Meraz:

Yeah, the money is gone.

Joey Coleman:

The money is gone. That would be a great opportunity for us to step in and remind them, we’re excited about the representation, we’re going to take great care of them. Then we have the activate phase, and in the activate phase, we want to energize the relationship, as this is that first real moment of truth. Now, most lawyers know that showing up for an initial appearance in court is not that exciting of a moment. It looks nothing like what they’ve seen on TV or in the movies. There’s no objecting, there are no witnesses, there’s no I’m holding you in contempt conversations. Everything that they believe what a courtroom looks like. Many times, the client doesn’t even come to that initial appearance, depending on the type of law you’re practicing. We need to make this a seminal moment in their life, we need to make this a marker that says, “Look, you’re getting what you paid for.” We then come to phase five. Phase five is the acclimate phase. Now, in the typical legal world, this is different from the business world clients that I have, this phase could last months, who knows how long the acclimate phase is. The reason we don’t know is, let me jump ahead to the next phase, phase six is the accomplish phase. The accomplish phase is when the resolution occurs for which the prospective client hoped. In the criminal case that I gave you the example of, resolution is a judge or a jury saying not guilty. That could be a year later. What that means is those first 100 days are going to be all about acclimating, not about accomplishing. What are we doing at all of those steps along the way to let them know we’re still in it? We’re still with you, we’re holding your hand. We help acclimate to get them to the accomplish phase. Then after the accomplish phase, come the last two phases. With the seventh phase, the adopt phase, this is when the client becomes loyal to you and only you. They’re not going anywhere else because they feel so well taken care of you’ve achieved the goal they had, and they are on board. You get them off the charges, you get them the great deal, you get them whatever it may be, and they’re loyal and committed to you, and if they ever face this problem again, they’re going to come to you. Then phase eight, the final phase, the advocate phase, is where they’re going to refer friends and families and colleagues who have similar problems to you. Here’s the cool thing about lawyers. Most lawyers are real familiar with referrals and most lawyers live and die based on referrals. I have never met a lawyer, Casey, who said, “I’ve got enough referrals I don’t want anymore.”

Casey Meraz:

Me either, I’ve never heard that.

Joey Coleman:

I’ve never met it. Maybe it exists, folks, if you’re listening in and that qualifies, reach out to me at joeycoleman.com, I would love to hear your story. I’d love to have a conversation. I’ve never met a lawyer who’s done with referrals, and I’ve never met a lawyer that every one of their clients makes referrals.

Casey Meraz:

That many brand advocates, like net promoters, is crazy.

Joey Coleman:

You would think that, if you’re doing a good job, every client would be referring people to you, but they’re not. Why?

Casey Meraz:

Yeah. Why?

Joey Coleman:

For two reasons. Number one, we haven’t walked them through all the eight phases. Number two, most lawyers don’t know how to ask for referrals, they don’t know when to ask for referrals and they have beliefs, which some of which are solidly grounded in the rules of ethics about how they can or can’t ask for referrals. There’s a lot of challenges, but if you want more referrals in your practice, you have to have a better onboarding process. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but expecting every client to refer you without having an onboarding process is like going on a first date and at the end of the meal, you have a wonderful dinner. You go on the date, it’s fantastic, the conversation is driving. You take the person back to their house, you walk them to the front door and you’re standing outside and you say, “Hey, I loved our conversation, I loved our date night.” They said, “I loved our date too.” And you say, “Fantastic, I’d love to go on another date with you.” They say, “Great, I’d love to as well.” You say, “What about next Friday?” They say, “That’s too long, let’s go Tuesday.” You say, “This is fantastic. By the way, quick question, you mentioned during dinner that you have two roommates. My gut instinct is your roommates are of similar age, similar situation, they’re in a similar type of business, similar types of wants and needs, would you be willing to provide me with an introduction to those people because I imagine they’d like to date me too.” You’d get slapped, if you did that in your personal life, and yet that’s how most lawyers approach their business referrals. They go to their clients and they say, “Who else in your industry might need help with a contract? Who else do you know that’s running in late in the nights at the bars that might be getting pulled over for drunk driving? Who else has been in a car accident like you were?” Asking weird, wrong, inappropriate questions with really poor timing, and then we’re surprised when we don’t get referrals. With most lawyers I know, this is how their referrals work. The phone rings, their assistant or their secretary or paralegal answers and they say, “Yeah, John Smith suggested I call you.” And we think, “Did I represent John Smith? I don’t even remember John Smith? Oh, let’s get it scheduled.” And then you schedule the thing and then they never thanked John Smith for the referral, they never even acknowledged they got a referral. And guess what? Your clients are a lot like little children. I say this not from a place of judgment, all humans are like this. When we see a behavior that we like, we need to reinforce it if we want that behavior to continue. Most people that get referrals never acknowledge or appreciate the referral, and I’m not talking about a kickback or some type of a referral fee or a payment, although those are things you can do ethically in certain contexts, I’m talking about even a thank you note that says, “Hey Casey, thanks so much for referring your neighbor, Beth, to have me help her out with our contract claim. You have no idea how much it means to me that you would trust me to take care of her as well as I took care of you. Rest assured that while the rules don’t allow me to keep you updated exactly as to what’s going on with the case, from time to time, I’ll let you know if things are going well or not going well.”

Casey Meraz:

Wow, that’s powerful.

Joey Coleman:

Most lawyers listening to this podcast have never written a referral thank you in their careers.

Casey Meraz:

I’m cringing right now too, just to be honest.

Joey Coleman:

Here’s the thing, if you’re feeling that way, know that I’m not saying this from a place of judgment, I’m saying it from a place of opportunity. There’s a huge opportunity, and let me tell you, if you’re cringing, it means most of the people listening are cringing. If you start thanking your people, word spreads, and when you start thanking your referrals for referral business, they will start to refer you more. This is the law of reciprocity, this is how it works. Here’s the great thing about being a lawyer, the bar for creating a great client experience is lying on the ground. The competition is horrible, we know this. I don’t know about you, but I used to sit in law school and look around and think, “This is why people hate lawyers.” I say that not to be critical of my classmates, I say that because this is the nature of the profession. We have gone way too long as a profession without having an emphasis on rapport building and relationship building and bedside manner. It’s long past due time that we pay attention to that. That’s what’s going to carry a business forward. It’s not, “Hey, we have a new website or we’ve got a better billboard or we’ve got a new TV ad or whatever it may be.” Those things market and those necessarily move the dial, but you know what is legal in every jurisdiction ethically, to treat your clients well. To be in regular communication with them, to let them know what’s happening next and to make sure at every moment in the timeline of representation they are feeling well taken care of and provided for. Depending on what jurisdiction you’re in, you have to get approval for ads or billboards or things like that, but you’d never have to get approval for taking care of your people. You never have to get approval for sending them a letter that says, “Here’s an unexpected update on the status of your case.” If you look at most ethical violations that occur in bar associations, it’s for lack of communication. That’s the majority. See, here’s the crazy thing, Casey, and I know I’m ranting now, so forgive me, but I get ramped up about this stuff. When I was in law school, you went to ethics class and everybody talked about, “Oh, you end up having an affair with a client, or you take money from a client or you move things out of your trust fund.” They talk about all the outlier ethical cases. The number one reason most lawyers get into trouble when it comes to an ethical violation is failure to communicate. It’s nothing else. And yet we don’t talk about that, and it drives me insane. I’m like, “How do we not spend,” in the semester-long course, “How do we not spend every day of the semester, except two, on communication and then spend the last two on hooking up with your client, taking their money, doing the stupid stuff that we all know we shouldn’t do.” We spend all the time talking about that and then there’s like a throwaway about a letter. Make sure you send the letter every once in a while. A letter, it’s 2020, enough already.

Casey Meraz:

Wow. Well, that is so awesome and that’s such great advice that can help people starting today. There’s not a lot of barrier to entry and like you said, the bar is set low right now, quite literally.

Joey Coleman:

On the ground. It’s literally on the ground. All I’m asking you to do is pick your foot up so you don’t trip over it. You don’t even have to get a running start to jump over it, it’s literally on the ground. This is why there are more lawyer jokes than any other profession. This is also why there are more lawyer TV shows and movies than any other profession. People are enamored with this idea of lawyers in the law and its high emotion, high stakes involvement. When you’ve been a lawyer for a while, you get used to that, you get sensitized to the fact that this is your client’s lives, this is so important to them. What are we doing to just let them know that we equally consider it to be important? That’s it. I’m not asking you to do anything more than what I believe the majority of your listeners are already doing, which is caring about their clients. Do me a favor, tell them, show them, don’t just do it, show them, prove it. And not from a weird like, “Hey, let me prove it to you and justify every expense.” No, but from a genuine, empathetic, sympathetic point of view of, “Hey, I know you’re going through some tough time right now, I’m in this with you, I’m thinking about it all the time, I’m working at it all the time. I’ve got you, we’re going to get through this together.”

Casey Meraz:

Wow. I feel like you can stand out in a crowded market just by making these changes and becoming that only choice because of, again, where the bar is. This is incredible. Well, Joe, you have so much good advice and I probably have 100 more questions I could ask, but unfortunately, for the sake of time, I’m unable to do that. I will tell everybody that I think they should all read your book though. I read your book and I’ve started to make changes, especially with the onboarding process and client videos. We’ve done small gifts and things like that now and it resonates with our clients. So how can people find your book? What’s the best way for them to get all the knowledge that you have into their heads?

Joey Coleman:

Well, I appreciate that, Casey. The book is called Never Lose a Customer Again. And for lawyers, just replace “customer” with “client” and it applies to you. I promise. It’s all the same methodologies that work whether you’re a lawyer or whether you’re selling tires, whatever your business is. This stuff applies because if you have human beings as clients, these principles work. The book is called Never Lose a Customer Again, it’s available on Amazon, and it’s available at your local bookstore. We’ve got three different versions of the book. There’s the hard copy if you want it on your shelf and there’s the ebook if you like reading that way. Since you’re listening to a podcast, I always like to mention there’s an audible book that I narrate. If you’ve enjoyed listening to me go, although I don’t rant nearly as much in the audiobook, you can hear me read the book to you. The thing I’ll say that I’ll put there out there for lawyers, because most lawyers, and I say this respectfully, don’t run into guarantees very often. If you buy the book and you read the book or you listen to the book and you don’t feel like you got your value, my email is throughout the book and my promise is, I will refund the cost of the book to anyone who reads the book and doesn’t believe they got significantly more value than what they paid for it. There’s no downside to giving it a try. What I will tell you is one lawyer to another, a recovering attorney in my current case to another, the bar is on the ground. If you apply two or three of these ideas, and the book for context (because lawyers like case studies), has 46 case study examples, from companies, small, medium and large, domestic and international, product and service, online and offline, you name it, to show how you can apply this across a bunch of different scenarios. Now, sometimes people get anxious because they’re looking for the one that applies it to their business, but lawyers are good at this because you’re used to reading a ton of different cases and fact patterns and applying it to the core principles. The core principles of the eight phases are all there, so check that out. Last but not least, Joeycoleman.com is my website and Experience This! is my podcast. It’s called the Experience This! Show, so experiencethisshow.com. Go to either of those places. You can see videos of me, listen to podcasts, and we talk about this kind of stuff, and I’m always happy to help, especially lawyers. I believe that lawyers historically were one of the most noble professions in society. They have the opportunity to get back to that. The path back to that is caring for your clients. It’s not anymore complex nor any more simple than caring for your clients.

Casey Meraz:

That’s beautiful. Well, said. Joey, thank you again so much for joining us, we appreciate it. Here’s a testimonial, buy the book, it will change your life and we’re just in the beginning processes of implementing these things, but I can tell you that I am making all my team leadership read it as well. We’re already seeing those results. We got a testimonial just so you know, yesterday, where they saw the video that we did part of the onboarding process of who they’re going to be working with now and they said that was a nice touch. And we were just like, “We’ve never had that before in 10 years.”

Joey Coleman:

Wow, I love you guys. Casey, that’s fantastic. That’s the fun thing about this is you can do these little experiments and the payoffs come very quickly. This isn’t something where I’m asking you to invest millions of dollars and you’ll see the pay off 10 years from now. This is stuff that you can decide to make some changes in your business, implement them tomorrow because most of them are low cost, low bandwidth requirements that will have a significant impact on your client experience.

Casey Meraz:

Thanks again so much, Joey. We appreciate it, and I look forward to catching up again soon.

Joey Coleman:

Thanks, Casey. I appreciate the time. And thanks to everybody for listening.

Casey Meraz:

Thanks. Take care.

 —

To connect with Casey, email him at cmeraz@jurisdigital.com and follow him on Twitter at @CaseyMeraz. Listen to this week’s episode of The Lawyer Mastermind here.

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