Chasing Quality Legal Marketing Leads: The Myth of the Glengarry Glen Ross Lead

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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When attorneys speak with online legal marketing consultants, their usual first question is “How good are your leads?” This question indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of marketing for potential legal client leads. What you really want to know is whether the leads will turn into paying clients.

The mistaken assumption is that with the “right lead source” (the Glengarry Glen Ross Leads), the revenue will start rolling in. The term “Glengarry Glen Ross Lead,” which has become a common sales term, comes from the famous David Mamet play and motion picture about a real estate salesman seeking a special list of leads most likely to close. Years of legal marketing experience confirm the basic truth that “a lead is a lead is a lead.” There is no appreciable difference in the quality of leads offered by different online attorney marketing sources.

That means volume is the key to a successful legal marketing program, even if it means dealing with people with no case or no money. The time involved in following leads that are a waste of time is part of the cost of attorney marketing. Any attorney who uses a legal marketing program must consider whether the program generates enough revenue to cover the time spent evaluating and dealing with unqualified leads.

Though it can be extremely annoying to take a call and hear a prospective client say, “I need your help because the government is spying on me through my television as part of a plot to infiltrate the U.S. with aliens. . . .” There is no way to know if the next call will be the person who is calling for their deceased relative who was killed when a big rig truck driven by a drunk driver swerved into the relative’s vehicle. Every call must be handled with courtesy because there is no way to know who is on the other end of the line. The caller fighting the “impending alien invasion” may call back to tell you about the case involving their relative’s accident because you were so empathetic about their alien invader concerns.

Lawyers need to beware of marketing companies that claim that they have the Glengarry Glen Ross leads. Legal marketing companies with elaborate marketing presentations to convince prospective clients their leads are better quality usually do so because they don’t have a high volume of leads, or so that they can charge a huge premium for their service. Attorney marketing companies can charge $25,000 per year, or more, for the same quality of leads but with less volume than services that charge less for the same quality but MORE volume. Understanding that the leads are basically the same can save you tens of thousands of dollars, and allow you to sign up for more programs.

Why doesn’t a detailed screening process lead to a better quality lead? A couple of factors come into play. First, any screening process necessarily results in fewer leads. People get frustrated or impatient with the intake process, give up and go away. A company with an elaborate screening process assumes that the people who give up are not the big cases. But many people give up simply because of the elaborate screening process, which drives away as many good as bad prospective clients. The net result is not better but fewer leads.

Another reason that screening processes may not work is the form. The screening forms can ask for information that bears on the validity of the case and ability to pay, but usually nothing prevents one from elaborating about his battle against the aliens or from stating that he is unemployed. Most marketing programs simply gather this data without screening. Some programs require answers to certain fields but prospective clients can work around those by answering unemployed or $500 when asked about income.

Again, because legal marketing programs cannot really screen out bad inquiries, the attorney doing legal marketing ends up with fewer, not better, potential client inquiries. The moral of the story: you should always ask a potential legal marketing partner about the volume of leads they generate, and then give that volume consideration before deciding whether to participate.

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