As the Highlander said, “In the end, there can be only one.” This maxim applies to direct mail as well. Only one letter gets opened first . . . it is physically impossible for a defendant to read two letters at once! Although getting to the mailbox before your competitor is critical, you should also determine whether the defendant is already represented before sending a letter. I have had DUI clients whose cases were introduced into the court system and resolved within one week. I obtained these favorable results by demanding an administrative license suspension hearing in district court (which takes the same precedence as a bond hearing). Once I was able to haul the officer into court via subpoena and determine the merits of the prosecution’s case, I could often work out a plea agreement on the spot.
Ironically, many services that provide direct mail leads forward results only once or twice a week. This means that many of the letters that are sent arrive after I have already resolved a client’s case! Incredibly, there has been no automated system for avoiding a waste of printing and postage for letters to such defendants—until now. There is an inherent delay in all known services that provide leads via human labor. My partners and I created Commonwealth Attorney Marketing Service, LLC (CAMS), specifically to be the most sophisticated, timely, and efficient address-gathering service providing leads for direct mail. I obtain information about new cases daily. In the event that an attorney has noted as counsel before the case number was generated, that information will appear on the court’s website, and the case will be discarded from my queue.
If the defendant has not yet hired counsel, there will be a stream of competition to reach clients first. Although defendants may receive a dozen letters or more, they will rarely read all of them. Ironically, some defendants will likely hire the attorney who sends his letter last. This is the procrastinator who puts all of the lawyer letters in a stack for reading later. The last one that arrives takes a place on the top of the stack, and may thus be opened first, even though it arrived last.
If you could come up with a plan to reliably arrive last, that might result in a response better than those arriving in the middle of the pack. However, this type of “biggest loser” strategy seems to have few adherents in the legal marketing world. The consensus among lawyers who study direct mail is that you must either get to the mailbox first or be sufficiently different to stand out from the crowd and get the client’s attention.
The whole reason for starting CAMS was the timing issue. I could see that the other services out there were vulnerable. Using human labor to pull cases manually at the courthouses simply could not be the most efficient way to reach prospective clients. At one point I almost purchased leads from a manual lead-gathering service, but after receiving samples and then checking them for timeliness, it was apparent that many of the leads I would have purchased were already stale. I knew from personal experience that there was a race between various lawyers to thrive in this pit of mediocrity. Had I used a live researcher service, I could not have slept at night knowing that someone
was eventually going to create a system like mine, making the leads purchased from the outdated service worthless. I knew that some lawyers would hire a service that made one or two weekly visits to the courthouse, while others would periodically send their own staff members to courts to get leads. Either way, I could see that unless they spent all day every day in every courthouse in Virginia, they could not compete with the automated computer system I envisioned, which would constantly crawl the database for new leads.
Using this unique new system, I was able to dominate the market in my home town. In January 2010, I began sending letters to defendants with traffic cases in Lexington, Virginia, where my main office was located. In 2011, I pulled the 2010 records of every Reckless Driving by Speed charge in Rockbridge County to see where I stood among lawyers hired in these cases. The results were no surprise; my strategy and the system I built had paid off—BIG time! In 2010, I was the most frequently retained lawyer on such cases. Such was the power of my marketing that I was retained by more defendants than the runner-up, a gentleman with more years of experience defending cases in that court and whose fees were less than mine. Since then my firm’s revenues have skyrocketed. Yours can too!
This article is excerpted from Van’s book, The Secret Truth About Direct Mail for Lawyers in Virginia. Download your free copy today at cams-marketing.com.l