How Lawyers Should Ask For The Business


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ask-for-businessI participate in a variety of listservs and recently posted an answer about when lawyers “can ask for business” and not violate the solicitation rules. More importantly, I advised what a lawyer should say in an effort to get business.

The rule in most states is that one should not solicit “professional employment from a prospective client when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain.” The rule usually contains the friend, relative, prior professional relationship and lawyer exceptions or something very similar.

Bottom line is that unless one falls within the exceptions, it is always unethical to “ask for the business.”

There is no sophisticated person exception

Many lawyers and marketing people think that there is a “sophisticated person” exception or that the rule only applies in hospital emergencies rooms, but the rules do not contain any such qualifying language in virtually every state (there are a few exceptions, but very few).

Here is what I tell people in my seminars or my coaching clients what they can say. I am somewhat of a contrarian; although every book you ever read about sales says you must ask for the business, not only is it unethical to do so, I think it best not to.

When I was an in-house lawyer (about a dozen years), I was constantly solicited and hated when “asked for the business.”

First, it insulted my intelligence. When networking and trying to develop relationships with potential clients, one should confidently and enthusiastically tell the person what they do, they love what they do and get great results when they do it. Period. Whenever I heard that, I could certainly connect the dots that this person wanted my business in whatever area talked about; I didn’t have to be hit on the head.

But more importantly, I hated it because it placed me in the uncomfortable position of having to say no. I liked most of the people who were trying to get my business and never appreciated having to be the bad guy telling them that the timing was not right or whatever reason I came up with.

(photo: V 2)


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  • Maybe as a lawyer one should just try to do his job and helping the client and the “business part ” will come later.

    • I think the point is that they aren’t clients, yet. That’s why you have to ask for the business.