Give Your Office the Right Personality

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

One of the ways attorneys can develop strong client relationships is by making an effort to get to know clients—reaching out to learn more than just the relevant facts of the case.

Another way for attorneys to develop strong relationships with clients is to let them learn about you—by adding some personality to your office.

Your office can create a strong first impression

How many times have you walked into a restaurant, hotel, or store and had an immediate reaction to how things looked? Purchasing legal services is different than buying lunch, but clients, like any other consumer, are usually looking for something specific and how your office looks can make a big difference.

For example, a Fortune 500 company probably wants a downtown law firm that looks pretty darn snazzy. My clients, consumer clients, are probably less interested in a snazzy downtown office. I sure hope they are, because I have a cozy office inside of a bigger suite.

The majority of my clients are consumers who have been harassed by debt collectors. The first thing clients see when they walk into my office is a large piece of pop art—a phone being slammed down. Next to my client chairs are two large “zen” Ikea lamps, to help create a nice warm glow in the room. I want to put my clients at ease and I also want them to know that I’m on their side—and I’ll take it from here.

Take some time and think about how your office is arranged. What do clients see when they walk in? What will draw their attention while sitting across from your desk? Those things may seem trivial, but they can make a strong impression on clients.

Don’t go overboard or conflict your personality

If you love your favorite sports team like nobody’s business, congrats, but go easy on the twenty-six jerseys and posters in your office. Pick one or two of your favorite things and stick to that. A nice framed jersey  is a great talking point; sixteen of them makes it look like you are more interested in following your team than practicing law. Trust me, if you haven’t met someone like that yet, it’s weird.

Even worse, don’t decorate your office with stuff that isn’t you or that leads to an awkward explanation. When a clients asks about why you have six photos of little puppies and you can’t explain why, that also looks weird (although, having six photos of little puppies is probably weird regardless of the explanation). One of my favorite office trinkets was a lawyer who had a big Incredible Hulk toy. When I said “hey, sweet Hulk doll” he said “yeah, the Hulk is awesome because he gets mad and smashes things.” Suffice to say, I didn’t walk away impressed.

Look around—what does your office say about you? Take some time, and make sure it says the right things.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tornatore/3543267916/)

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  • Great post, Randall, and great advice for folks who own their own businesses.

    If, however, you are an associate or in another not-the-sole-business-owner status, you should take this advice to heart in a slightly different way.

    The people who are judging you are the business owners, and they set the tone. What does this mean for your Black Velvet Elvis Painting? A re-think, perhaps.

    Office art issues may arise and surprise you in other contexts. I own a vintage poster which I bought because its primary image is that of a cat, and, yes, I am a cat person. It had been in my office throughout the early 80s, but when I brought it to work in the very late 80s, I learned that it was actually an ad for Quevedo Cognac. The cognac was there all the time, but I had never focused on it.

    The most senior consultant nixed the liquor ad as unprofessional and inappropriate art for this office. Knowing that this was an argument that I might have been able to win but had no business engaging in, I took it home.

    Yes. After leaving that job, the cat came back, and has hung in my office spaces ever since.