The “typical lawyer.” You all know who that is, he is the arrogant, pushy jerk more concerned about making money and pretending to care about the little guy by bragging about his charities as if they were a conquest. This is the stuff of lawyer jokes, and they say that there is a little bit of truth in every stereotype.
First Impressions – Make it or Break It
The choice is yours as a lawyer as to how you will address this negative public perception. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. In the legal field, you may not even be able to get to that crucial first meeting. Your marketing and networking strategies can help you get to that first crucial face to face meeting with a prospective client. Once you have the fish on the hook, it is important to use every tool at your disposal to reel them in.
When a client is considering an attorney to help them with a crucial business decision or serious issue in their life, trust is key. Finding ways to reinforce your message of professionalism will get you to that firm handshake quicker. Read further to find some key changes you can make to get you closer to that agreement.
It Starts with Service
You may be a legal expert with a JD but first you are involved in customer service. Your ability to properly interact with all that you are involved with will make you more successful. Being able to build such relationships will lead to easier negotiations, respect, and repeat clients.
Make sure in your first meetings with a prospective client you are able to effective showcase your experience, competence, and your interpersonal skills. Being able to put your client’s mind at ease will be a considerable achievement, especially if they are going through a particularly difficult time.
Reinforcing some key points of your practice and how it is run can ensure that you are in better position to gain and keep clients.
The (First) First Impression
Your first face to face meeting with a client may actually be the third or fourth step they’ve taken to interact with your company. You may not realize the hoops that people often jump through to get to that first vital meeting.
Ensure that when people call or email your office it is responded to promptly and professionally. A friendly voice on the other line that understands the position the prospective client is in can make or break the remainder of your interaction. Making sure that you have people, and not machines, answering your line can determine if that person will hang on the line.
Responding to an email within 24 hours politely is absolutely necessary. Answers within four to eight hours can make an even bigger difference when time is of the essence. Make sure that you are able to get the vital information: contact information and any potential details of their case. Give them every element of contact information and directions to the office to smooth their next step.
If you’re able to confirm an appointment, make sure to confirm and thank the client.
The Office, Visually
For many, the shape of an office can determine if they believe an attorney is professional. A clean, sharp office can make all the difference. By having appropriate furniture, communications equipment, and comfortable seating can leave a good first impression.
How you follow this visual experience can be key. Give the clients your every attention. Keep any waiting time to a minimum. Do not be late– make sure to be at least ten minutes early. If you must be late, ensure that your clients know how long you will be out. It might be a good idea to overshoot your estimate.
Offer to take their coat and offer them a cup of coffee. A firm handshake and eye contact will enable that visceral connection. Your office, properly set up will allow you to show your organization. A well organized conference room, allowing as many as needed parties to comfortably sit with amenities can be key. Tissues, coffee, and teleconference phone can make a major difference. Ensuring that you are not interrupted– by your phone or others in the office can help reinforce your close attention to them. Make sure that you reach a clear understanding of when and how you will communicate next. Explain how you respond to inquiries and how quickly.
You may have many chances to interact with clients all stemming from these vital first steps. You have the power to take these vital first steps to leave your prospective clients ready to come back for further negotiations or to sign that contract. These steps will bring you repeat clients and an improved reputation.
Author Michael Ehline is a Los Angeles attorney www.ehlinelaw.com that writes to improve the legal field. His experience rising through the ranks started when he passed the bar by reading the law as Abraham Lincoln did. Michael is an expert on personal injury and product liability law and hopes to bring his time to help new attorneys.