Is your will bank an untapped resource?

With combined experience of 50 years within the management team, we spoke to Mark Mattocks and Steve Lawton, Directors at Law Lead Media (LLM) about marketing and business development within the legal sector and surprising results from their recent pilot test.

So tell me a little about the background of Law Lead Media

“LLM is headed up by ourselves. We provide outsourced marketing and business development services to the legal sector. 

“We currently focus on will bank marketing where we generate additional business for anyone with a database of will clients by calling customers and making client appointments on the law firm’s behalf.

“Our management team have extensive sales and marketing experience from the professional sector and many other industries and we’ve jointly been involved in commercial activities for over 50 years. We now want to translate some of the successful new business and marketing techniques we’ve seen implemented in other industries, to the legal services sector. 

“Our approach is centred around each individual client and is a blend of consultation and implementation, providing a turnkey solution to firms who don’t have the time, skills or resources to do what we can do. We’re entirely results based and still small enough to be agile and flexible to the needs of our clients; scaling the team whenever and wherever required – we outsource too – and practise what we preach.”

What services do you provide?

“Our will bank appointment making service calls clients who have wills stored with a solicitor or will writer on their behalf with a polite courtesy call, offering them a chance to review their will and discuss any other legal requirements with the solicitor or will writer at their offices at a time to suit them both.

“From our experience doing this we know will clients are generally older and want help; frequently their circumstances have changed and they want to change or update their will, they want to know why they should have LPAs or how they can protect their assets from care home fees or inheritance tax. We know they want advice and, as they already have a relationship with the person who drafted their will, they are happy to accept it when it is offered.”

Why did you launch this type of service?

“One of the key activities of any marketing department of any company is to look at ways of developing new business and it is well-known that it’s less expensive to develop new business from existing clients than it is to invest in expensive marketing activities to create new business from new clients. We recognised that a will bank is an enormous opportunity to develop new business from a legal provider’s existing clients (being an existing client database) and that few law firms were looking at their will bank in this way. 

“It’s not only a revenue generator; we’ve been approached by firms who want to be more active with their clients and contact them more regularly to improve their customer relationships, but don’t have the resources in-house to do so. They want to be seen to be applying compliance best practice but they also know that if they are not regularly talking to their clients, with the ever-increasing communication opportunities that exist, someone else will be.

“Typically, a will bank may be sitting dormant waiting for probates when in fact it could be doing much more: generating incremental revenue and improving customer relationships, as well as ticking a best-practice compliance box.”

What proportion do you think have a database of their clients?

“From the firms we’ve spoken to, we think that almost all of them will have a summarised record of their will clients one way or another. It may be an exportable part of their shiny case management system or it may be a written ledger. We think it’s unlikely that people just have boxes of wills lying around unidentified and unattended but even if they do we have solutions to be able to work with pretty much any format of information.”

What if solicitors don’t have a spreadsheet of will clients?

“All we need to get started is a sample of 200 records on a database with the relevant contact information. If, however a firm only have written records we can offer a wide range of solutions to help them get to a point where they can provide us a digital database of records to call. 

“We have forged relationships with accredited partners who work for major financial and legal institutions who can digitise paper records by scanning them (on or off site), capturing and inputting the scanned data into relevant spreadsheets, checking it and double checking it along the way and then outputting it to any format together with the pdf of the will if required which can be appended to a client file in a case management system. 

“As an example of our full end-to-end service we’re currently talking to a firm who is preparing to digitise all their wills (and other documents) in time for a complete company-wide transfer over to a new case management system and thus reduce the amount of expensive office space the wills and other documents take up. Not unusual you may think but with our approach and help they can now use their city centre offices for people rather than boxes and with us calling their will bank when it is digitised those new people will be busy from day one.”

Are you aware of the SRA guidelines that relate to servicing legal clients?

“As part of the SRA Outcomes Focussed Regulation approach, solicitors have a number of obligations to clients which include several references to acting in the best interests of each client. In our opinion if a solicitor writes a will for a client and then doesn’t contact them ever again, how can this be in the client’s best interest? 

“If, however a solicitor contacts their client from time to time to ensure their will accurately reflects their wishes and any material changes in their circumstances, it can only help to deliver their service proactively within the guidelines – we think regular contact is most definitely in the best interest of the client. This is especially important to the client if, at the same time, they are being updated on the availability of additional services which may now be relevant to them and updated on any new requirements of the law. We think these factors should prompt regular contact between the legal provider and the client and our service facilitates this.”

How many wills on average do you expect a high street firm to store and what do solicitors commonly do with these wills?

“Our experience has shown some diverse results. We have discovered firms can have anywhere between 50 to 50,000 plus wills in their will banks and we can work on any size will bank provided the data is in electronic format, we have the correct contact details or, if they don’t, we can help a law firm get to this point. In our opinion only a small proportion of law firms are actively looking at maximising the value which is locked up in their will banks. It’s not true in all cases but we frequently hear that firms are not doing anything with their data apart from awaiting any probate opportunities which may arise.”

I believe you carried out a pilot test recently – what did this involve?

“Working with a forward-thinking law firm, LLM were asked to call a test a sample of 200 will client records where drafting dates were between 8 and 26 years ago. An introductory letter was sent to each client and LLM were asked to call clients and where appropriate, make an appointment to see a solicitor on designated days.” 

What were the results?

“Very positive. LLM developed 33 new appointments from the 166 unique data records which is a conversion rate of just under 20% and 75% of the new appointments generated additional average fees of around £700. In addition to greater customer awareness of their brand and services, the solicitor estimates they will generate over £17,000 from the exercise which is over a ten-fold return on investment against our fees (which are based on either a fixed fee per appointment or a fee share agreement). We’re both positive about the trial results and we’re now looking to develop other areas of their extensive will bank in the same way.

“We also discovered some other interesting facts from the trial. Apart from those people who wanted an appointment, we found that approximately 25% of a database is likely to be unusable, approximately 25% of clients don’t want to (or need to) make any changes to their will and approximately 25% will be out to lunch, at the bowling club, playing golf or on holiday and we had to call those back several times!”

Were there any surprises?

“Apart from the fact that the older generation seem to have more interesting lives than we do, we were surprised at how happy clients were to receive a call from ‘their’ solicitors. They were expecting the call and pleased to receive it. It was also surprising how much clients had been contemplating additional legal services like LPAs and asset protection. We seemed to be a great catalyst in their decision making process.

“By contacting the clients, we also found that we created a more positive relationship between the law firm and their customers, which is hugely beneficial for future marketing, repeat business and personal referral of their services to friends and family.” 

What surprised the law firm?

“Mainly our client was surprised how many appointments were created. We booked 33 new meetings for them in a relatively short space of time and as a result they had to draft in resources from other office locations to deal with the increased volume of work. They also commented how easy it was to engage with us and that they liked the simplicity of our service delivery against our detailed and well-planned approach. They had often discussed similar activity internally but had never actually carried out any calls. I think the combination of the ease of engagement and the speed of the greater-than-expected results worked well for both of us.”

Will you do sample tests for other law firms to test their will bank?

“Yes, we only offer a full will bank marketing plan to clients once we’ve tested their data with around 200 records. From this 200 record trial not only do we start to generate appointments straight away to ensure the trial pays for itself, but we use the trial to determine both the data quality and the volume of work a firm can expect. So we always insist on a trial as it manages expectations for both parties. 

“To illustrate this, we recently looked at a database of 200 prospective calls and found that the data we had received was too geographically diverse to expect customers to visit the legal firm for an appointment. We have to be realistic with our findings and are now working with the firm to determine clients who are more likely to be within reasonable travel time of their offices.” 

What’s next for LLM?

“We are seeing a lot of interest in our will bank marketing so this will be our focus in the short term. However, as a result, some firms have also asked us for assistance with training to help improve their commercial approach to some aspects of the client meeting like maximising incremental cross-sell or up-sell revenue opportunities and improving (or creating) their marketing support material. We can help with these as well as they fall within our strategic marketing and business development consultancy service which we’re always happy to discuss with firms.”

For more information about Law Lead Media, please contact Steve Lawton at [email protected]

Today's Wills and Probate