60. Harlan Schillinger, Grandfather of Legal Advertising Supercharge Your Intake Process

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Harlan Schillinger is a titan in the legal marketing space. Hes best known as the Grandfather of Legal Advertising and has helped well over 1 hundred firms exceed their goals. After making a start in television advertising in the 70s and 80s, Harlan quickly turned his attention to legal marketing and founded the first TV production firm for Lawyers. Harlan now consults with a handful of highly motivated law firms and continues to enable them to exceed their own expectations, and he has also helped countless other law firms with his case management tool, Lead Docket.

In this episode, Harlan shares with us his impressive career journey that led to where he is today, the secrets to optimizing your intake and why your marketing dollars arent worth a thing if you havent got the credibility to back them up.

Transcript

Chris Dreyer

Hello, and welcome to The Rankings Podcast. The show where founders, entrepreneurs, and elite personal injury attorneys share their inspiring stories about what they did to get to the top and what keeps them there. I’m Chris Dreyer, and today we have a very special uncut episode with the “Godfather of Legal Advertising”, Harlan Schillinger. Harlan pioneered legal ads in the seventies, and has continued to innovate throughout his career, helping over 130 law firms throughout the US to grow. Harland now dedicates his time to his consultancy work with ambitious lawyers, wanting to increase their business and secure high value cases. Join us as we find out what makes a great intake call, how to tell when it’s time to bring in dedicated intake staff and what qualities you should look for in your new hires. Harlan, so take me back to the beginning. You know, what was that moment where you knew. Hey, we got to create our own CRM and intake software because quite frankly, what’s available. Isn’t getting the job done.

Harlan Schillinger

Well, you know, the worst or the toughest phone call an ad agency can get is when a client calls us and says my phone’s not ringing, or my business is slow or, you know, the leads are lousy or what have you. So by, I dunno, I guess about 15 years ago, uh, my clients came to me, several clients came to me and they said, well, you know, give me more leads. And I said, well, what’d you do with the last ones? And they said, well, they weren’t any good. And I was building up to, you know, to understanding that, uh, you know, we, we really own legal department, uh, the legal world for many, many years, didn’t have competition. No matter what we put on television worked, uh, there was no obstacles, uh, you know, legal advertising was in its infancy. Uh, but that call that I got really shook me up. I’ve heard it before. We’ve had this conversation, give me more leads. But for some reason at that moment, I remember it very distinctly. Uh, I said, well, wait a minute. That’s not true. And I challenged it. And I said, no, I I’m having a difficult time understanding that. The very next thing that I did was record telephone calls from that particular client. Uh, I started to record his telephone calls and lo and behold, you know, you hear all kinds of things. Uh, uh, hum. I’ll put you on hold. I’ll pass you to 15 different people before, uh, literally five people. Uh, and I sat back and I said, is that a bad lead or a bad intake? And I recognize the big shift in my thinking. And, uh, I did something about it. I started to record telephone calls. I started looking at metrics. Uh, my agency, uh, really took a good, hard look at KPI, uh, and at their semi-annual meeting, they, uh, you know, they had meetings on KPI and I started to really look at what was being reported. Nobody talked about how many calls they got. It was always about how many cases they signed up. And, uh, of course, when you pass telephone calls onto a client, or you generate business for people, you really put your hands up and say, okay, it’s your ballgame now. Right. But you’re judged on what they do. And from that time period on I was hypersensitive hyper-focused and, uh, I was really, I don’t want to call myself Luna a lunatic about it, but I was pretty darn adamant that, wait a minute, this is a two way street. This is a marriag. You know, what are you doing? Why is it always my fault as the agency? And I really demanded responsibility for my client’s part. And well, that’s a whole nother conversation, getting that responsibility, getting that feedback, getting that input, you know, from the client.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And that’s really interesting because I think we all struggle with that. It’s… you, you, most of the software, whether it’s Google analytics or, or what have you… Tag Manager, it’s going to show, oh, we… or CallRail… we drove so many calls. It generated so many calls or so many leads. Well, it’s like what, what happens to those? So when you were listening to those, those intake conversation, what were you looking for? You’re looking for a lack of EQ? Like what were some of the signals of a good intake versus bad?

Harlan Schillinger

You know, actually, I don’t know if I was looking for anything at the moment, uh, you know, a, a very specific, I didn’t get in, you know, into it by saying, I’m going to find out what they, what they’re saying. I started to listen and I started to hear what the clients were saying, the prospects were saying and the, and the, uh, and the intake specialist, whether it be a lawyer receptionist, I really focused on the client experience, uh, because that’s really, what’s going to, uh, Uh, prevail. You know, how did the client feel about doing business with you? How did the client feel about the conversation? Uh, you know, certainly DocuSign wasn’t in place and you know, a lot of these things. So you had to make an appointment and, you know, come in two or three days later, uh, the, the competition was really starting to gear up. But what really stood out was the lack of empathy and the lack of immediacy, uh, in signing people up. Well, we can get you in, I’m doing you a favor, I’m paraphrasing, um, my lawyer can probably see you in three days and I, I immediately realized that was completely unacceptable in a competitive situation. In fact, I’ll just label it as non-competitive.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, and I, I think, uh, I’m going to name names here, but there’s a couple of very prominent, legal chat tools. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is when I’m watching the intake on the, on the legal chats, I’m like, there’s no empathy. That’s horrible. This person just dealt with this very serious situation and there was this no empathy whatsoever. And I just, so that’s why I’ve been pushing more individuals to, you know, uh, different uh… like drift and things like that, where you have a live person even doing the live chat.

Harlan Schillinger

Well, I’ll tell you before I did that, you know, my second reaction was to insist that my clients record their phone calls, but I did one thing further. I got a whole of the contract that, uh, the lawyer signs, uh, when he becomes a lawyer. And he takes an oath. It’s a paragraph. And if you look in the Missouri, uh, uh, bar or any bar, uh, uh, legal bar, you, you, you see that there’s one paragraph. I will do this, I will do this for my clients. I will do this. I will be vigilant. I will be sympathetic. And I’m sitting here and I’m looking at this, this document, which was the very first contract, the lawyer signs, and I’m saying, boy, are they in violation of contract… uh, not following through on a contract. What was interesting, even further is, is that even today to this date, I have never met a lawyer that has read it since they signed it, which is kind of interesting. So, uh, fast forward a little, uh, I insisted that they, uh, let me record telephone calls and they also had to re-sign the letter, the agreement that they signed with their state. And I did that so that they knew who they were working for. They were working for the client.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And that, that, uh, you know, when they reset it, like brings it back to their attention. It’s like a creed. It’s like, it’s, it’s the creed of…

Harlan Schillinger

Oh, it’s a contract. Yeah. It’s a commitment.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And basically did their eyes open because probably the first time that they signed it, they probably just kind of casually did signed it, and did it mean more that you’re bringing it to their attention?

Harlan Schillinger

I would say a few clients really took it to heart, but most, you know, signed it with the sincerity of the moment. And more or less went back to business. Uh, you know, I think that the way you handle your clients, the way you treat your clients is, is of paramount importance. And when I got involved with tracking, I really started to pay attention more and more and more and more. Uh, literally about 25 years ago, my agency, uh, did, uh, put together a little sheet that sat at the reception desks of all of our clients. And they did a hash mark on when the calls came in at what hour. And that was kind of okay. Uh, very rudimentary, but it was some type of accountability. It gave, it gave the, uh, the agency an opportunity in the case of the client, have an opportunity to take a little bit of responsibility. This is before software. This is actually even before computers, uh, and, and, you know, we morphed into, you know, more and more, uh, you know, qualified information. Uh, and then, uh, the other epiphany that I had was that I realized that everybody really had case management. They had case management systems, whether it was, uh, Needles or a client profiles, or what have you, at the time. On top of that epiphany, I realized that there was very little, uh, involved with intake, you know, having an intake sheet, having an intake, uh, you know, protocol, which was fine, but you put it into this file cabinet. Which it is still a file cabinet and you can’t take it out. You can’t ma manage the data. You can’t, you can, you, you don’t know really what happened. You had to build reports on top of it. And that was terribly cumbersome. And, and keep in mind, most lawyers still do that because they’re naive, they’re arrogant. And you know what? You don’t know, you don’t know, but I was really fixated on knowing, okay. You know what the particulars are, where did the calls come from? What calls were good? What calls were bad? I was adamant about understanding the nature of the call, where, you know, the statistics, because I was an agency that needed to point the advertising team in the right direction, or take it off of a direction that wasn’t being very productive. And so, uh, I got over the years, much, much more involved. Uh, I really worked very closely with my dear friends, uh, at Captora who has had, uh, they, they, one of the very first people to come up with a great system. Chris O’Brien, who was still really good friends with. Uh, and then at, at some point, uh, I really set out to, uh, to build my own system and, uh, that was quite laborious. Uh, which led to a Lead Docket.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And, and so yeah, what you said, you know, the, the case management it’s, it’s, it’s the project work, the service work, and you’re talking more about like the CRM component. So when you set out to make this, this tool, what were some of the features that you did you found were just critical that, that others were missing that, and like you said, you know, most of them weren’t concentrating on an intake at all.. So, you know…

Harlan Schillinger

Well, when we built Lead Docket, it was an accident. Eric Kaufman, uh, my partner, uh, who’s absolutely brilliant, uh, technician. Uh, IT guy, uh, said, yeah, let me, let me take a look at this. And, uh, over a course of a few days, he comes up with this program and, uh, this, this piece of software that can capture, you know, all the elements of intake and then find a place for it and, and, and, and show us how to monetize it. Uh, what I added into that was the marketing strategy of it. You know, now how can I help close more deals? How can we, uh, you know, manage the data? But most importantly, how can we manage the client better? It’s a client experience and that’s where the customer relations management tool comes in place. And our third partner, Dino Colombo, lawyer, you know, added the legal element. And so what we had was something nobody had, we had a marketing understanding, we had an IT understanding. We had a legal understanding and therefore we had a great product.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, absolutely. And I think Tony Robbins has said something like, you know, if you know your… It’s: don’t fall in love completely with your product, fall in love with your customer. And you identified that you can help your, your, these attorneys because they were missing out on this information. And you know, one of the things that I was gonna say is, is did there’s a quote, and I know, I think you’ve said it. I think you may have even said this Harlan, it’s 50% of your marketing’s working you just dont know what? 50%. And, uh…

Harlan Schillinger

I have to give David Gray, who’s one of them, original advertising, geniuses are Madison Avenue, that credit. My, uh, my original, uh, mentor – gentlemen named Bill Miskins was from, uh, a pioneer in television making, uh, in commercials from 1948 on. And he would always say that to me. He was really literally part of the madman group, uh, and build gave me my start and was my mentor. It taught me so so much, but he would always say that I, I, I know that my advertising is working. I know half of it’s working. I’m not sure which half. I think that was a quote.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And so would that kind of like make your ears bleed because now you have, you know. You build Lead Docket, you’re like that’s… we’re trying to overcome that. Like that, that’s what it’s all about for advertising is you want to find out what’s working. Pump up, you know, put the gas on the fire and take away from what’s not.

Harlan Schillinger

Well, yes, that’s absolutely correct. But the most revealing thing was the telephone calls. If you have one thing that you can do for your practice right now, that it will cost you nothing to do, which is record telephone calls, because it will tell you everything. And you want to know. You know, how your kid’s acting, put a camera in the room. Uh, you know, if you, if you, if you. Have to hire a private investigator, they’re going to take pictures. They’re going to come back with what we call the facts. And I also needed demonstrative evidence because the resistance in the pushback, which happens today. A little less today than two years ago, but five years ago, 10 years ago. Oh no, no, I got a great intake. I have, I can do this. I’m I’m I’m, you know, we have tremendous empathy, but when you start recording telephone calls and the owner of the firm hears what is really going on. In almost 80 to 90% of all these phone calls, you can’t help to him, but to improve that. So when we record calls, now it’s not to open up a lawyers mind. I won’t even deal with a lawyer that’s closed minded, you know, in this respect is that slight dealing with anything Neanderthal, uh, but what we really want to use it. For his training purposes and intake is so vitally important, you spend thousands, millions of dollars to make the phone ring. And how is it being answered?

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And so let’s talk about the training and let’s say you find issues maybe with. With their, how they’re communicating to the individual. Do you create scripts or is it more an emotional awareness? Is it, is it a script process? Like what, what’s some of the components that go into improving the intake?

Harlan Schillinger

Well, the first thing you do to improve your intake is hire the right people. And then the question is, well, what’s the right person. Do I want somebody so knowledgeable about the law? Do I want somebody knowledgeable about, uh, you know, what, you know, whatever it is. I think you want somebody that has a personality that really is empathetic, that really knows how to listen. Listening skills are really important and not understanding the control of the conversation and all of those things. Uh, I think you hire for personality and you train for tactics. Uh, so you really have to start with the right individual that, that understands that ha that has empathy, that understands what the, their job is and what they’re doing. Uh, and then you have to have some kind of a protocol -not some kinds – you have to have a protocol, which, uh, you know, for instance, the protocol pops up on the screen, you have a series of questions, uh, but the person that’s answering the phone and has a choice of how they want to ask those questions. You know, you know, if you’re looking for an absolute clinical question answer, you know, that’s one thing, but when you’re spending fortunes of money to make the phone ring, you have to understand how to build a relationship because it’s the relationship that will give you the accurate answers and all this may sound very cumbersome. I know that lawyers, they want to sail through whatever they want to make. Be efficient. Just tell me the facts. Well think about if you were in an accident, think about if you had to go to the emergency room, think about when you walk into a clothing store and you say, I’d like to see a size 44. And I said, well, they’re over there. How were you treated? And I think that’s really what you have to focus on an intake. You know, coming up with the procedures and the protocol is a heck of a lot easier than understanding how to build a relationship. You know, it’s in sales, 80% of salespeople make 20% of the money. And 20% of salespeople make 80% of the money. And it’s for a reason because they understand sales, they understand relationship marketing.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. That, that Pareto principle is so true in so many aspects of business. And. Yeah, I would say that that probably is one of the most difficult things. Even myself, even for just different roles, not even necessarily intake is to find those individuals that, that can build a relationship and have those emotional EQ skills. It’s just, it seems like there’s a challenge because we always defer to our hard skills. Like, can I quiz this individual? Can I train them to, you know, have them read the Ritz Carlton book or, or Joey Coleman’s never lose a customer again, but some people, they just have it.

Harlan Schillinger

Well, some people read it and they don’t understand it, or they don’t, they don’t, they don’t get it themselves. I think that, uh, psychological testing, uh, I swear by Jay Henderson and his, uh, you know, hiring, uh, I forget the name of his company hiring. Great people, uh, is, is, is, is golden. You know, there’s a number of people that, uh, you can go to, you know, for psychological testing when you have a hire. This way, you’ll know what a person’s inner skills are uh, so you can work with them, not work against them.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more and yeah, the Topgraders, Chris Mursau. So I think a-players and, um, yeah, those are great examples. And let, let’s talk about kind of the transition for a firm, you know, you’ve got you start out, you got to wear 10,000 hats, right? You’re the, you know, the operator or the manager, the everything. And at what point do you transition to where you have a dedicated individual that maybe just does intake. What’s that kind of look for for that transition?

Harlan Schillinger

Well, I think it it’s, it’s predicated on call volume, it’s predicated on, on the workload. Uh, but before you even hire a separate intake person or a separate to build a separate department, I think you have to put a process in place. You know, the call is going to come in and on my front desk. Now I will tell you that almost everybody at the front desk treats that person at the front desk as the lowest common denominator. That is a mistake. That is the highest common denominator. In fact, I trademarked ambassador of first impressions. Again, you’re back to spending gobs of money or time or energy, and you have a certain person answering the phone. And how has that phone being answered? And then at what process does it, does the client get passed to the next person? Uh, for instance, uh, if you’re a sole practitioner and you’re just building your firm and the, and, and the receptionist does everything, is that fair? Is that fair to the client? What happens when somebody calls up? Let me put you on hold. Let me get back to you. I’ll be right there. I have another call. I’ll answer your question. Think about the client experience. And I think the client experience will dictate what moves you have to make. But even if you let’s say you have no business, that one phone call is gold and you have to treat it as gold.

Chris Dreyer

I couldn’t agree more. Not only that I see, you know, working with a lot of law firms myself is they tend to get one star reviews. And then when I go look at them many times, it’s because the, the intake didn’t accept the case. Right. And they didn’t have that great experience when they were trying to help that individual, maybe find someone that would take their case.

Harlan Schillinger

That’s where empathy comes in. You know, Chris, I think that empathy is really important. Listening skills are very important, but you know, that’s, that’s an interesting point that you bring up, you know, intake as part of marketing. I’m adamant that intake is intake is marketing because if you call somebody and they say, uh, I can’t help you. The way you say it and the way you direct them in the empathy that you give them and the knowledge that you give them as to why you can help them is everything. You know, there’s an old saying that, uh, if you have, uh, a negative situation, uh, that person will tell 20 people, you have a positive situation that only tell two or three. Think about that. I mean, think about how many times, uh, you get turned down or you have a really bad experience and, and your, uh, And, and, and, and you’re just telling everybody that you possibly can. Now, you know, this people don’t want to be turned down. You know, people don’t want to be rejected, uh, but you have to do it with passion, compassion, and with knowledge, that doesn’t mean you spend a lifetime of time trying to tell them that you can’t take their case, but by golly, treat somebody the way you want to be treated.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And that, that client experience, it’ll also help counter the buyer’s remorse that maybe they weren’t sure that they hired the right firm, but if they had a good experience and they’d probably let their guard down and probably gets rid a lot of those fears at the beginning.

Harlan Schillinger

You know, there’s a word that I like to, uh, impose on a conversation like this, and it’s called credibility. You know, uh, people choose people because they relate to them, or they understand that this person maybe have more credibility than the next person. And so in advertising, it’s about credibility, you know, with your clients, you do advertising, you make commercials, uh, you position them. Uh, and what’s the differentiation point between people? Is that their personality? Is that a good looks? Is it, you know, one person who’s jumping off with a truck and another one out of a plane? It’s credibility and credibility in the legal arena, it’s going back to that oath, uh, is major it’s important because you’re judged on your credibility and how you express that. You’re not a dictator, you’re not, uh, uh, you know, uh, a King, you’re a person that has a little more knowledge than the next person. So you have to be honest, you have to be forthright. And that all comes back to the word credibility. So you have to be credible in your intake. You have to be credible in your practice and you have to be credible in front of a jury. The backbone of my thinking and my thinking as far as intake is concerned by thinking from day one, back in 19, uh, I think it was 77. We, we, we, we started legal advertising… I started legal advertising. So around 1981, 82. I started realize that I want to talk to the public the way I would a jury. I sat in trials. I sat in to see the demeanor of a lawyer. What happens with the case? What happens in court? I had to educate myself to an industry. You know, I was making the DeBeers commercials. We’re making the Noxzemama “take it off” commercials in the seventies. I understood. I use shaving cream. You know, I had jewelry, I didn’t know anything about the law. What I knew was that lawyers were, you know, somewhat above everybody because that’s what they positioned themselves, but they didn’t put two and two together on how a lawyer has to relate to everything. It’s not paperwork. It’s personality. Most importantly, it’s all credibility. And so when you look at intake, when you look at making commercials, when you look at all those things, I strongly urge, you always put that word credibility. I have to be credible. I have to be more credible than the next guy.

Chris Dreyer

So would you align that with trust is trust and credibility of the same thing?

Harlan Schillinger

Yes. You have to be trusted. How do you win somebody’s trust, you know, through a relationship that’s credible.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And I, I would, so I completely agree. And I think that’s, it’s, you know, everybody within arms reach, you know, has a mobile device for the most part. And I have heard this comparison of. You know, it’s every law firm’s on the same street now. If you the think of a business as a lemonade stand, they’re all on the same street. So why would you go to one law firm versus another? And I think that, that what you’re saying about credibility and trust is, well, if they trust that that firm can get the job done, then that’s who they’re going to go with.

Harlan Schillinger

Well, the biggest paradigm shift took place in 1996, when the internet came about. What the internet has done is leveled the playing field. You know, when you, when you open up a website, you know, uh, you don’t know anything about the lawyer other than what they tell you. Uh, you know, Google demands reviews, because it’s a differentiation. It allows me to say, okay, this guy’s got more credibility. This person has more credibility than the next. So it’s an earned… you’re, it’s, we’re an earn society. Uh, you earn respect, you can’t demand, respect. And so if you look at those factors and you put it into your culture and you put it into your game plan, which is a must, I think, uh, you know, you’ve got something, uh, but there’s no difference. People don’t know the difference between Mr. Lawyer and Mr. Lawyer. Y and Mr. Lawyer X. It’s what they read, what they’re told, what they’re not told, what they perceive.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, I completely agree. And, and, you know, you’ve seen that the marketing dynamics change substantially over the years, and you’ve worked with some very, very large personal injury law firms. So from a marketing kind of shift into the marketing standpoint, what do you see the best personal injury firms doing to really, you know, grow and grow their practice in it and invest in their marketing.

Harlan Schillinger

Um, overall, I like to use the word “humanize”, you know, humanize yourself, add credibility to what you’re doing.

Uh, I think shouting louder than the next guy only gets ya, you know, certain amount of traction, uh, it does attract cases. I’m not personally a speed and greed guy. Uh, you should get what you ask for. I have many friends in the business that, you know, that have taken thousands of cases a year, a month, uh and a couple of thousand, at least a thousand a month. And you know, they do unbelievably well. They have to build their business based on numbers. But I think if you can do quality work, you have, you have to have a solid digital approach. You have to be honest, you have to understand and you have to have, you have to have really a game plan. What’s your game plan? You know, I’m waking up today. I’m going to court. What’s my court. What’s my game plan in court. You have to have a process, a strategic plan, a strategy.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah.

Harlan Schillinger

Who are you, who are you and? And how do you want to be perceived? What are you trying to accomplish? I know I’m throwing a lot back at you, but these are the things that you have to really sit and take to consideration. I know that when you sit with a new client or you sit with an old client, you say, okay, how are we going to make the phone ring today? You’ve got to factor in those, those, uh, those issues. You get, what you ask for in advertising. It costs you the same amount of money to ask for a big case or, you know, the, the Holy grail case or a small case. So how… what’s your personality and how are you gonna, you know, react to the marketplace? Or act to the marketplace?

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that makes sense. And, and it’s, you gotta stand out and be different. And, you know, it makes me think, I, I talked to Michael Gibson in Orlando and he really does a lot of his advertising about family with his wife and his children. And, you know, versus who is in the same market, you know, John Morgan, where he’s a totally different approach, a more, more in your face shouting type of approach. Um, you know, I heard a quote recently and said something like. You know, the shouting can get them to look, but the, you know, a good message and get them to stare or something to that nature.

Harlan Schillinger

I want you to just think about what I’m about to say. I talked to the public the way I would a jury. Think about talking to a jury. What could be more important in legal? Talking to a jury. You’re not going to walk in like a clown. You’re not going to try to lie to the jury. You’re not going to try to bend the evidence. What you’re going to do is you’re going to try to relate to the evidence with credible facts. That’s how you win a case. Earning respect from the jury box is very important. My backbone and my strategy is to talk to the public the way you would a jury. You know, you talk about Orlando. My dear friend, uh, I work with Marc O’Mara. You know, Mark is a phenomenal criminal attorney, tremendous, tremendous reputation. Uh, you know, bigger than you can imagine. On the other hand, his dog is always by his side in the office. And, uh, you know, he, he’s one of the most approachable human beings on earth. Uh, when, when he, uh, after the Zimmerman case, uh, he people thought that he had he retired. Well, no, he was stuck with a fortune of, of bills on that. Uh, you know, a stack of bills, uh, you know, uh, he had to work his way back. He had a whopping contract with CNN, so people thought, well, I’m just a commentator now. So when rebuilding his business, what we did was we had to really humanize him now. He wins trials by being a human being in court. He is the epitome of a human being in front of a jury. And that’s how he relates to jurors with facts and everything else. But if you go to his, uh, you know, his assets, we had to really rebuild his assets and, and, and, uh, you know, and just really get Mark out there in a positive way. Uh, you know, he’s the real deal I’m just using his and him as an example. Uh, you know, of taking, you know, an icon or, you know, a big player.

You know, we did that with, you know, with Mark Geragos, we did that with Johnny Cochran. Uh, you know, in humanizing, you know, these, these larger than life figures, they, uh, that’s how they’ve been able to change their, uh, or, or. You know, work with today’s tools.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah and, you know, so I think I have a Mark on as a Facebook friend or something, but I see him on Facebook and I’ve always thought, you know, I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with Mark but I’ve always thought, you know, that’s a, that’s a good guy. He’s an approachable guy that I could talk to. I just get that sense. And it’s probably, I probably substantially, you know, from sharing his family life, maybe his, his pets. Um, but I’ve always thought that it’s interesting to use him as an example.

Harlan Schillinger

Well, I mean, I’m using it as an example because people don’t know this, you know, they don’t know what we have to do. Uh, you know, you’re asking me a question and the question is, you know, what can I bestow upon your audience that will get them, you know, down the road quicker or shorten the learning curve or, you know, what, what can you teach my audience, uh, that they don’t hear from someone else? And I’m just saying, you know, this is, this is the way I go about things. And the truth of the matter is, is that many, many, many people go about it this way. Uh, humanizing yourself.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And I think if you have that good client experience, you have, you build that human, you know, that human relationship and it makes you feel comfortable around the individuals may be more vulnerable to share something about a case or, or to just share information that can help. And yeah, I think that’s what everybody wants to experience too. I know myself if I’m hurt or I have a problem, I want somebody that’s gonna like treat me like my mom could treat me. You know?

Harlan Schillinger

There’s an old saying, and I’m going to dovetail into this. This way is an old saying that it took me 50 years to figure out and really digest and understand is when, when you die, nobody cares how much money you have. You’re going to be judged by how you treated people. So then the next, the next, uh, the next conversation we have is the $94,000 question or $150,000 question is how do you broadcast that? And how do you get that into the public? And how do you monetize that? Because at the end of the day, you know, it’s always going to be how you run your business. How many cases did I get? How did I grow my business?

Chris Dreyer

Yeah.

Harlan Schillinger

You could be the nicest guy in the world. You’ve got to, you know, you’ve got to corral that and put it towards a business accruement. You know, it’s kind of like the intake and conversion, you know, everything we said is really wonderful. It sounds great. Uh, you know, be kind, be nice, you know, be that ambassador of first impressions. Uh, but how do we monetize it? That’s that’s really the trick and paying attention. Chris is how you monetize it. Understanding process has to be in place because you are a business and you have to treat things like a business. You asked the question at what point do you, and I’ll go back to the original question. What point do you hire somebody to answer your phone? When you can’t answer it, or you’re not doing a great job. Having lawyers do your intake is a kiss of death. Why? Because all they want to do is argue and all they want to do is find out about the problems of the case are if it’s a decent case, it sounds, it sounds like something you want to pursue sign the case. They can get with the understanding that I’m going to look into this case and see its merit. Don’t argue with the, with the customer, or don’t try to figure out how not to decide the case, you know, when the call comes in.

Chris Dreyer

That makes sense. That makes sense. And if you have someone dedicated to just intakes to get, to get those reps in where they’re constantly answering the phone, and then they can build a skill and kind of understand, you know, have those, those experiences where they’ve answered a similar call, maybe in the past, if they’re just doing that instead of kind of diluting their efforts and doing, you know, a hundred things.

Harlan Schillinger

You know, in this age, everything is evolving. You know, you take intake. We, we, uh, we had the receptionist, you know, answer the phone many, many years ago and it went on to the first available lawyer, then the first available paralegal. And now we, we send the call to what we call an intake uh, group, uh, it’s an isolated group that, you know, this is all they do because they’re going to really concentrate on all that. And the next step is okay now, how do we break our leads down? I think the next phase is, and I’ve already been doing this for, for quite some time is to separate my digital leads from my television leads or my, uh, you know, my, my, uh, you know, digital from everything else. And, and, and one of the industries that I, I love to watch is the auto industry. When you walk into a dealership, you’re not dealing with the salesman that answers the email. You got a whole other division of people that are highly trained to know how to deal with an internet conversation. And, uh, I remember we, we implemented that in, uh, in my different Glenn Lerner’s practice in Chicago and it made a world of difference. Our, uh, our conversion ratio went up, you know, well, the 50%, uh, Change 50% better. Uh, because we had a specialist and we had in a way, had an isolate, we isolated, you know, the, the calls. And so there’s all different phases of this, this whole intake process. It’s not that simple. It isn’t as simple as you asking me a question. “Well, where did it all begin?” And, and the question is, where is it now?

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that’s that, that is the question. And I think the auto dealership is a great example because I know that the moment you step foot in most auto dealers, you’d get a welcome from somebody. And then they’re about to hand you a soda or water before you even take a few steps. So, um, yeah, I think that’s one industry that, that could be modeled successfully in many businesses and. Yeah. And Glen Lerner, certainly having a ton of ton of intakes there. So I’m sure that, uh, in order to be as successful as he is, you had to take that very seriously, because like you said, and I didn’t know that statistic and that’s just crazy. It’s the other 20 times more likely to give a negative response than a positive.

Harlan Schillinger

You know, with Glenn’s intake. Uh, uh, when I started working with him in Chicago, he was taking it about 180 cases a month. Uh, we completely, uh, you know, he, so he said, Harlan, just hang out for about three months and then tell me what I have. Well, after a week I went to him and I said, well, let me tell you what I see. Uh, and, uh, he gave me permission to change, uh, the whole intake procedures. Change everything around. Uh, they would not using Captora. They, they owned it, they had it. Uh, I made them use it. Uh, I put, uh, uh, tablets in every one of their, uh, uh, Intake reps, hands that were traveling. Uh, and with, with the changing of all of that within 45 days, we went up to 300 cases a month and he cut the media budget, I believe by a hundred thousand dollars a month. Uh, and now he hovers somewhere around 500 plus cases a month. Just in Chicago, but he was smart enough to change the intake process and, and, uh, Vanessa Soto, who is his intake manager is brilliant. She’s the best I’ve ever met, uh, knows the business, understands the business, uh, but she has a process. And I’m only using his as an example. So if you take a look at the shops, you take a look at the, you know, what we call the bigger shops or even the smallest shops, they all have a process and they all have software for accountability. Because you can’t run a business, uh, with a file cabinet that you can’t get information out. You have to constantly know what’s going on. Not just when you walk in there the office and say how many cases did I sign? I’m more interested in knowing what we didn’t sign.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, that’s true. How much money you leaving on the table? And, and obviously you, you found some for Glen and your, your other individuals.

Harlan Schillinger

Well. I mean, this is a conversation, you know, that I’ve had not only with Glenn, but many, many, many friends, you know, that, that, uh, that, you know, that. Well, I’ve had this conversation with obviously. Uh, in the last year or so there’s been a, a rebirth or a birth of intake and understanding that, you know, maybe we need to, you know, to deal with this as much more equipment on the table, but people to choose from. Uh, but the bottom line, it’s a culture. You know, you’re getting back to the psychology of it. You’re getting back to, okay, how do I want to run my business and let me put a priority in place priority is I’m going to answer that phone. And if I’m going to answer the phone, how am I going to answer the phone? And paying attention to all of these details on the customer experience, the customer relationship, how the customer feels when they call you a firm? How educated you are when you speak to somebody is how you’re going to be competitive against anybody else in the marketplace.

Chris Dreyer

I think that’s, that’s an incredible piece of advice and I couldn’t agree more and it’s, it’s just a necessary, it’s the first touch point. It’s the first, it sets the tone for everything

Harlan Schillinger

I, uh, trademarked, uh, sometime ago, “ambassador of first impressions”. I used to go and travel, uh, to visit a client and I’d have a set of cards made up for the receptionist. Uh, and I had a new title for her or him. And, uh, I’d be standing at the desk. Uh, the owner would be next to me that, you know, the owner of the firm room next to him. Nobody knew what I was going to do. And I retitled the, uh, the individual, I always wanted to get to the appointment early, so I can sit at that front desk and see what’s going on. You know, you can’t just jump into something, you got to figure out what’s happening. You got to understand what you have to work with. And, uh, inevitably I pull those cards out and then say, you’re the ambassador first impressions. And they very proudly, you know, put it right up there. And the, my client, didn’t know what I was doing. Um, and, uh, you know, I’d always thought that way.

Chris Dreyer

It, it flips the, uh, the positioning too of like how they consider themselves. I’m not a secretary I’m, you know, it gives them a sense of pride too. I think even the title itself is rewarding.

Harlan Schillinger

Well, I remember, uh, writing a book with my dear friend, uh, Chris, uh, from, uh, the intake desk, uh, Intake, not intake desk. I’m sorry. Yeah. Uh, strains. Um, You know, trains people on intake and conversion. And, uh, we wrote a book together, the unsung heroes of the law firm. You know, the people that are in the back room. Without intake, without answering the phone. Uh, all of your efforts, Chris, that you give to your clients can go down the drain and you’re unfortunately judged on, on, on what they do. And you don’t have control of what they do.

Chris Dreyer

That that’s and it’s not a situation, and I think you would agree with me, it’s probably not something where I can just say, hey, you need to use this partner that only does intake. I think a coach or someone that trains it can help improve your intake intake is probably very difficult to outsource to a third party to do that, that situation for you, but maybe I’m wrong.

Harlan Schillinger

Well, no, I don’t think that you’re wrong. I think it depends, you know, a lot of intake is, is farmed out, you know, for, uh, for mass torts, you know, my difference Steve Nober, uh, from CAMG or whatever they. Whatever the name of that is, uh, he does a phenomenal job. You know, he has 50 people answering, you know, intake, uh, and, and, uh, gathering packets and such phenomenal job. But when it comes to the single events, I can’t imagine hiring somebody, uh, to, you know, an answering service to do that.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. There’s too many.

Harlan Schillinger

I just really, I can’t, I just, I just can’t imagine having somebody with that much power to determine whether I want this case, or I don’t want this case. I don’t want to give up that power, uh, well control because it’s an extension of your own personality. You’re in a competitive nature. You’re spending all this money to get the phone to ring. We’re all sweating equity to get the phone to ring and have somebody answers. It is, is paramount.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And I, I thought to, just to comment, to add to that, which I, a hundred percent agree is, and then imagine that referrals situations with your, with your relationships. Like how would a third party, I mean, you could give them a list, I guess, of your referral partners, but, you know, make those easy handoffs because even though the case may not be, uh, you know, quality for you, but maybe it’s someone that would be perfect for it.

Harlan Schillinger

You know, there’s a lot to be said about all of that. You know, uh, it has to do with control, has to do with pride, has to do with how you want to be perceived, how you want to run your business. I just, I just am very against handing that delicate, that important, process off to an unknown. And people say, well, you know, this intake company does a fantastic job during the day, or, you know, I’m going to let them answer my, all my telephone calls. Uh-uh, I’ve been at this for over 40 some odd years, and the last person I’m going to have, uh, answer a telephone call is somebody I don’t know. Well, somebody that doesn’t work directly for me. ,Who isn’t an extension of me. I guess it is an extension. So, you know, I’m not willing to gamble.

Chris Dreyer

That makes sense. And, and Harlan, as we kind of come up to close for our interview and our conversation here, we have a final segment. It’s a three for three it’s three questions, kind of a quick fire round, three questions in three minutes. So a number one, which entrepreneur do you admire the most?

Harlan Schillinger

In the legal field or just in general? Well, I’ll tell you, the guy I started following was Harvey Mackay. I don’t know if you remember Harvey McKay. He owned an envelope company in Minnesota. And this is about 30, 35 years ago when he was one of the first people to pop onto the scene. It was a major entrepreneur and he really affected a lot of people and teaching us, uh, you know, entrepreneurship. And I, I he’s apparently back, uh, in, in the, uh, you know, in the internet world or in the, you know, in the, in the, in the social media world. And so I’ve, I’ve picked up following him again.

Chris Dreyer

Wonderful. And which business book do you recommend if you had to recommend just one?

Harlan Schillinger

If I had to recommend just one business book. I would recommend without any hesitation, the original Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence People. In fact, I have a dear friend over at Filevine that just pick the book up two days ago at my insistence. And this is the most published book next to the Bible in the world. And it is the lifeblood. It is the. Ground zero for all of the self-help people. And, uh, it’s as relevant today as it was, uh, back in the twenties when, uh, when, uh, Dale Carnegie wrote it.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah, it’s incredible. I think every time I read it, I pick up a little nugget. It’s like you’re in a different place. It’s it’s incredible book. And, and my final question here. So I see you out on the motorcycle a lot. What’s the next motorcycle trip on your bucket list?

Harlan Schillinger

Well, Arizona bike week is coming up. I don’t know whether they’ll be able to pull it off. Uh, I live in Arizona. I belong to a motorcycle group called the hamsters hamsters USA. It’s the most prestigious, uh, custom motorcycle club in the world. It’s about 360 members. Uh, so there’s always something to go to around the, around the globe. Uh, and of course, you know, Sturgis will be here this summer. Uh, we do a ride from the West coast to, uh, to Sturgis every year. I manage it from California and we pick a different ride, a different route every single year. And so that’s adventurous and that’s, uh, I hate to say it, but I think that’s what keeps me alive.

Chris Dreyer

Well, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. And, and. You know, you Harlan, you work with a very limited number of firms on, on a, on a selective basis. If a personal injury attorney is listening and wants to try to work with you, you know, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Harlan Schillinger

Harlanschillinger.com. Uh, I don’t solicit business. Any business that I do work with is, is usually from, not usually, it’s from personal referral. Uh, I. Believe in giving more information than taking. I take a lot of calls. I give a lot of information with no strings attached, uh, but, uh, I, uh, my publicist can, uh, talk me into putting a small webpage up, uh, and, uh, it has a few of the things that I’ve done and things that I’ve said.

Chris Dreyer

Wonderful. Harlan, thanks so much.

Harlan Schillinger

Thank you, Chris.

Chris Dreyer

What a masterclass in intake that was. And who would have thought that the grandfather legal advertising would also be a keen, custom motorcycle enthusiast? You’ve been listening to The Rankings Podcast. I’m Chris Dreyer. A huge thank you to today’s guest Harlan Schillinger for joining us today. You can find all of the links from today’s conversation in the show notes. And we want to hear from you. What do you think are some of the crucial skills all intake staff should have? Drop us a review and share your thoughts. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next time.

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