How did Seattle criminal defense attorney Lance Fryrear nearly double his revenue in just two years while cutting his own caseload from 80% to 25%? I recently talked with Lance to gain some insight into his success despite being in one of the most difficult practice areas to achieve astonishing incremental growth.
After attending a Rainmaker Retreat® in January 2018 (and taking 48 pages of notes!), Lance took a leap of faith and put his law firm on a path that transformed his practice into a million-dollar plus firm while cutting back drastically on his own workload so he could reclaim his life. What did he do to get there?
Stephen: It says on your website that you’ve handled over 20,000 criminal cases.
Lance: I should probably update that because Rainmaker has taught me that numbers are important, but we’re probably at 25,000 now. But yes, thousands upon thousands of criminal cases, some of those as a prosecutor, a good 5,000+ on the defense side.
Stephen: That’s a pretty astounding number of cases, Lance. Tell us a little bit about the growth you’ve experienced in your law firm over the last few years.
Lance: I started the firm in 2001 with basically just a phone book ad that cost $1,500 a month. We barely even had the money for that. But luckily it worked and over the years just slowly built up until 2017 when we ended the year at about $880,000 and it was chaos at this firm.
Never heard of intake
Never heard of anything really
It was just sort of answer the phone and do the work, you know.
Stephen: And you were handling pretty much all the cases at that point.
Lance: I had one associate.
Stephen: You would handle at both ends, right?
Lance: Yes. It was all me. Me setting the appointments. If I didn’t answer the phone, I had to set the appointment. I had to prescreen the lead because I thought I had to. At that time, I probably did over 90% of all the cases and had associates go around to continue cases.
Then I got introduced to Rainmaker at the end of 2017 and went to a Rainmaker Retreat in January 2018 in California. I still have the notes on my iPad and I still refer to them. I have 48 pages of notes.
Stephen: For those people who don’t know what a Rainmaker Retreat® is, that’s our 2-day marketing boot camp or, as some people have referred to it, a mini MBA in marketing for attorneys. And I think Lance can attest to this, it’s fairly intense.
I’ve had more than one attorney say that it was kind of like drinking from a fire hose. Was that your experience?
Lance: It was very intense, but also very effective. I went from having no idea about what I was doing to having 2 days’ worth of:
This is how you do it
This is how you hire someone
This is who you don’t hire
This is how you answer the phone – it was a total game-changer for me.
Stephen: And then you signed up with a couple of different Rainmaker services – the newsletter, the Intake University (both the online edition and the live edition), and the lead conversion system. Tell us a little bit about your experience with the newsletter.
Lance: We had not captured an email address from a lead in the 17 years of the firm’s existence. So we started a newsletter that went out once a month to remind our ex-clients who we are.
And it’s funny. The first newsletter we put out, I got a call within the first few minutes from a former client who said, “Lance, are you stalking me? Because I just got a criminal complaint in the mail and I need an attorney.”
That client hired me after our first newsletter.
Stephen: Then you got started with Intake University and we have two different versions of that.
One is an online self-study program made up of video modules and the other one is the live edition where you and your staff sit in and it’s customized for your law firm.
You did both of those, Lance. Can you briefly tell us what your experience was with the Intake University and how it helped you?
Lance: I credit a huge percentage of our growth and a huge percentage of my life coming back to me to the Rainmaker programs. The first one that we started was the online version of the Intake University with modules of you giving very direct concise sales training like how to overcome objections, suggestions on how to handle scheduling, and other things.
We had each of the attorneys doing sales here but we didn’t have an intake person who answered the phone. And I think we certainly all improved our sales.
What I liked about the online version is we could come back to it. We went back to it as we got new staff and I can pick out each module I want to do and it’s a commitment of 3 to 5 minutes per module and that’s useful.
We did the live Intake University with a call-in with everybody in the conference room where we could specifically go through best practices for intake.
We had an intake person named Cassidy and you put her through the paces. You would secret-shop Cassidy as a pretend client and see how she did and then you secret shopped some of our competitors so we could see how we were doing things differently.
And we found out that thanks to your training, we were doing better than the other firms were doing.
Stephen: One of the things that I picked up on is before you really learned the Rainmaker way to scale and grow your business, you didn’t have a person that was specifically assigned to handle incoming prospects and qualify them and set appointments for you and now you do. Right?
Lance: That’s a sore spot, Stephen, because I was a hard convert. If I listen to the tapes while in training, I sound like not a nice man. I believed it had to be me. And this wasn’t that long ago.
And what Rainmaker suggested to me, which I resisted, was that my way wasn’t the best way to do it. I’d only ever done it that way and I think every small business owner has probably only ever done it their way because that’s how they started out.
It was super terrifying for me to turn over those reins. Then I had a really good two weeks, so I figured it wouldn’t matter if the intake person screwed up. We weren’t going to go bankrupt because I was ahead for the month so I took a chance and gave it to Cassidy. She followed what you taught her and all of a sudden appointments showed up on my calendar without me having to talk to them.
These people out there that are potential clients, they don’t know what to expect. They just want their problems solved now.
Lance: If you can teach your intake person to show empathy and connect with the client and actually properly prescreen them, which only takes a few minutes, it’s a miracle. I can be in court or at home and see they’ve set an appointment for me tomorrow that didn’t exist before and I spent zero minutes setting up that appointment. So that gives me not only far more leads that actually show up, but also gives me a ton of my time back.
Stephen: The thing is, if you’re the only one who can answer the phone, talk to prospects, qualify prospects, set appointments, do the consultations, sign up new clients, then that means you can never leave because the moment you leave, none of that stuff happens.
And therefore, your business starts to go downhill. Right? So, then all of a sudden do you really have a law firm or do you have a really, really bad job that requires your attention 24/7?
So tell us a little bit about the difference the lead conversion system has made for your law firm.
Lance: I would say the lead conversion system is probably the single most important thing that we’ve done.
I stuck my neck out and said, “Okay. if you say this is how it’s going to work, I’m going to hire someone who “plays me” for every call that comes in.”
My lead intake person qualifies the person and then fills out an internal form that sets forth a chain of actions directed at that lead. If the person sets an appointment, she’ll choose Appointment Set in the system and the prospect will get an email confirmation with a video of me saying what to expect during the appointment. The system will trigger reminders to show up at the appointment. And I know from the Rainmaker system that we had about a 95% show rate last year.
Stephen: That is amazing! 95%?!?
Lance: The best part is that I, as the owner, no longer have to worry about it.
I don’t have to worry about what leads are out there, who did I forget, who did I meet with 10 days ago, etc. That’s because the system just makes it automatic and makes it possible to do what you can’t do otherwise.
The system will also let you sort and track by lead source. Like, how many leads did we get from Avvo? How many of those converted? We actually got rid of $1,700/month worth of advertising because we knew for a fact that a certain advertiser was not providing enough clients to justify the expense. Instead of going by feel, it lets you go by actual information.
I have three associates and with this system, I can see that one associate does better on domestic violence cases and another associate does better with DUI leads.
So now we have our lead intake person choose which associate to set that appointment with if it’s not being set with me.
When you actually have the numbers from tracking it properly in the system, you can make decisions you can’t otherwise.
You guys taught me through the lead conversion system that I could disabuse myself of the notion that I had to do it all. I could disabuse myself of the notion that I was the only one who could do it. It turns out that’s not true. With the right training, other people can do what we as business owners do as far as the production.
For example, a client came and met with me on a major case. Didn’t have the money to hire. I forgot they existed. They got hit with emails by the Rainmaker system for two solid months. You can see in the system if they opened the email or not.
This client called up one day and made a down payment of $5,000. I looked in the system and saw that on that very day, he had received an email that he had opened. No way that guy is a client without that system. And so, not only does it help your business, it gives you your life back because it gives me some peace of mind that I know we’re doing better than everybody else. That’s all you can ask for.
Then what happened in 2019 was I decided to try to get some of my life back. I made some decisions that starting this year I’m going home at 3 o’clock on Wednesdays.
You know, I’ve been going home at 6 o’clock, or 7 o’clock, or 8 o’clock for years. And so, you know, it’s Wednesday. And at 3 p.m., I’m at home. And at 4 p.m., my phone is off and it’s about my life.
Stephen: I’m so glad that you’ve made that a reality in a practice area where many people say it can’t be done, where it’s very typical for most criminal defense lawyers to hit the ceiling at about half a million dollars a year because that’s all the clients that they can handle because they think they have to do it all.
And you have learned that you don’t. That by running your law firm like a business you could almost double your revenue – from $880K to $1.4 million – in just two years.
Lance: You’re right. And I hope you guys are with me for the continuing ride and I appreciate everything you guys do. My experience 100% with Rainmaker is you’re totally committed to providing what I need in order to do the best I can to get where I want to go.
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