Here’s a familiar narrative: you receive an inbound funding request from a plaintiff, qualify the lead, and reach out to the law firm for case documents. You call and email your point of contact, but you get stonewalled. No response. The lead is dead.
If you’re a funder working directly with plaintiffs, chances are you’ve lost quality leads because the law firm was slow to respond – or didn’t respond at all – to your request for case documents. Attorneys and paralegals have 1001 things to do, and sending funders throves of information is usually the last item on their list of priorities.
This article is designed to help funding companies convert more fundings faster by covering 10 tips and best practices for document collection. While there’s no silver bullet for getting documents, there are actionable steps you can take to improve a stage in the funding process that is often fraught with frustration and delays.
#1 Train your staff on the basics of tort law and legal funding
There are 5 things underwriters want to be confident in before they give the go-ahead on a funding:
- Liability is clear
- The accident caused an injury
- The injury caused damages
- There is a party liable that has the ability to pay
- There aren’t prior liens that will make your investment worthless
Your front-line representatives should have a working knowledge of tort law and legal funding so they can be conversant with law firm staff and know what documents your underwriter will need to determine these criteria. Once the information you’ve collected has checked these boxes, any additional documentation you receive will deliver diminishing marginal utility.
#2. Ask for the documents you need, and no more
The attorneys and paralegals you’re dealing with can quickly recognize which companies get it, and which ones don’t. There’s no better way to show you don’t get it than to ask for a mountain of information when, in reality, your underwriter would just need a few key data points to make a decision.
For example, when the police report shows your plaintiff was a passenger in a car that got rear-ended and then you ask the paralegal if there are any witness statements so you can confirm the story on the police report, don’t be surprised if it’s not in your inbox soon after your call…or if you get hung up on.
#3. Case type matters
Not all funding requests are equal. The case type will clue your staff into how much paperwork they should request (and expect to receive). Keeping the request appropriate given the type of claim and amount will ultimately increase the likelihood of a response.
For a $500 request on a motor vehicle accident (MVA) claim, your underwriter will probably only need to see a police report to confirm liability and coverage. Not only will asking for extensive documents on a $500 funding request get minimal responses, you’ll also look like a novice.
For a $15,000 medical malpractice claim, your underwriter will likely want to see operative reports, an expert’s report, diagnostic records, the physician’s narratives, a summary of the case stage, and potentially more. Medical malpractice claims are complex, so the law firm will likely expect you to request more documents.
#4 Don’t request documents the law firm doesn’t have
You’ve asked for the complaint sheet three times and gotten no response, but then you realize the case is an MVA that occurred 2 weeks ago. You can be sure your email was given the eye-roll-and-delete treatment.
It’s always important – especially early in the case – to understand what a firm has and what it doesn’t. Only then can you and your team figure out what to ask for.
#5 Use templates, but don’t be a robot
Pre-written email templates for document requests based on case type is a must. You’ll ensure your team doesn’t forget any critical questions in the initial request, and prevent follow-up emails for for additional documents.
That being said, pre-written email copy is only useful if your reps can tailor it based on the context of the funding request. Nobody wants to work with a mindless robot. If the dollar value of the request is under $500, for instance, or if you trust the attorney at their word, you’re not going to need the entire case file.
#6 Send requests to the right person
One of the first questions your intake team should ask the plaintiff is, “who do you typically talk to at the law firm?”
This will allow you to direct your emails, phone calls, and faxes to the paralegal, case manager, or attorney who’s acting as the point person. If the plaintiff doesn’t know who’s representing them – a frequent occurrence – call the law firm to confirm who’s on the file before sending an email.
If your team is using the general contact information on the firm’s “contact us” section of their website to email and fax “to whom it may concern,” you might as well be sending smoke signals.
#7 Profile the law firm
Understanding your audience is crucial to receiving high response rates and figuring out the optimal document request method and cadence.
High-volume personal injury law firms aim to settle as many claims as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. For these firms, resolving cases becomes a numbers game, and they’ll try to find the most efficient route to producing the greatest number of positive outcomes. Be as succinct as possible in your document request.
Lower volume firms who immerse themselves in a few select, and often more complex, personal injury claims will often put more time into the funding process. As a result, conversion on a case-by-case basis is a higher priority than it is for high-volume firms. Speed is still important, but the attorney will be more inclined to cooperate with you to get their client funding because they have more at stake.
#8 Tuesdays and Fridays are best, Mondays are worst
When we were operating the Mighty marketplace and processing hundreds of leads a month, we tested a number of different factors that we hypothesized would influence document-request response rates, and thus our ability to process leads. We used a common A/B testing methodology (Mailchimp provides a great article on frameworks for A/B testing).
Here’s what we found:
- Best days for the week for law firm outreach: Tuesday and Friday (success rates 7% and 3% higher than average, respectively).
- Worst day of the week for law firm outreach: Monday (no-response rates 13% higher than average).
This article from Customer.io, whose mission is to help other companies send great emails and put your messaging data to “work”, validates this finding:
“Tuesday’s emails have an overall open rate of about 18%, the highest open rate compared to the other weekdays. Interestingly, Saturday has the highest open rate overall, at 18.3%. But we need to take into account Saturday’s low volume of email. This makes Tuesday the winner for most emails opened, compared to any other day of the week.”
Does this mean that you should only send document requests on Tuesdays? Of course not. But if it’s 7:00 pm on a Monday evening, you might be better off waiting until the next morning to send off that email (check out this article to learn about apps that allow you to schedule emails to be sent on a delay).
#9 Mid-morning and early afternoon is the best time of day
Our test suggested that the morning between 9:00 am – 11:00 am is the best time for reaching out to law firms, followed by a post-lunch afternoon period from roughly 1:30 to 3:00pm.
You might consider “batching” your team’s work by having them reach out to law firms during these two periods for documents. There will always be exceptions to a batching strategy (i.e. urgent requests), but staying disciplined to it will almost certainly create operational efficiencies in case processing.
Mailchimp conducted a similar study around this very topic and found the same late afternoon and evening drop off in open and click rates.
#10 Personalize subject lines with the plaintiff’s name
Including the plaintiff’s name in the subject line of the email increased response rates from 22% to 56%! Not surprisingly, including call to action words like “urgent” or “help” also helps boost open rates (although these should be used sparingly).
There’s more science to document collection than meets the eye. By being smart about how and when you request documents, you’ll decrease time to fund, improve relationships with law firms, reduce lead leakage, and ultimately improve your bottom line.