Finding clients, meeting with clients, and getting clients to retain your law firm is part of the daily grind for most attorneys.
Many attorneys resort to hard sell techniques—emphasizing how awesome they are, recent successes, etc—and neglect to actually connect with potential clients.
Make no mistake: clients want attorneys that get results, but your personality still counts.
Disclaimer: your skills (or lack thereof) are the number one factor
Let me be clear: the number one thing clients want from an attorney is results—someone who can fix their problem. If you can’t/don’t establish that you can do that, nothing else matters.
But most clients are also savvy enough these days to know that more than one attorney can help them. That means when they come to your office, they usually have already decided that you have the skills/experience to help them with their problem. What many of them are trying to decide is whether they want to (or can) work with you.
In other words, let’s assume that when potential clients come in they aren’t trying to decide if you can help them, they’re trying to decide if you’re the right attorney to help them. And for some potential clients, that means they want to know who you are, not just what you can do.
Personality = smalltalk = good
I teach “beginner” practical skills to first year law students—things like client intake, client meetings, etc. By far the most common mistake (IMHO) is a complete and utter lack of small talk. Law students just treat the fake client like a piece of meat—and start chomping away.
Actual people need a little more of a warm up. People go to see lawyers because they have problems that are causing them stress. And for many people all they know about lawyers is what they see on TV (or from a prior bad experience with a lawyer). Establishing a comfort zone and a comfort level is critical.
If you don’t take the time to smalltalk, you will never establish a comfort level. Instead, you may come across as a busy lawyer guy that only talks about fees and only really cares about the bottom line.
Make it easy by adding some personality to your office
Nobody is going to ask you about your law school diploma (well usually not). They probably won’t ask about any awards hanging on your walls. A newspaper clipping from a famous case? Maybe.
Right behind my desk are two canvas prints: one from my wedding day and another picture of my two little kids. I put them there because those are the most important things in my life. Frankly, if I didn’t have those pictures, potential clients and clients would still get an earful about my wife and kids. Those are the most important things in my life, so they will always work their way into a conversation.
Having those pictures makes it easy, because it’s usually the first thing people ask about. That always leads to me asking about their kids. And if there’s one way to create a connection with people, it’s talking about kids.
That doesn’t mean you need pictures of kids to engage in smalltalk. Maybe you are a passionniate about something else (marathon runner, quilting, collecting old medicine bottles). Everyone has a hobby or something they do when they are not being a lawyer. Those are the things that help you connect with clients.
Your personality counts, maybe more than you think
Maybe you’re the greatest _____ attorney in the world and you have carte blanche to act however you want. If you are, I doubt you’re reading this post.
For everyone else, remember that your personality matters. Clients want someone to help solve a problem. But lawyers aren’t robots, so don’t act like one.