Yes, Your Personality Matters to Clients

no personality

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, or industry awards — and neglect to actually connect with potential clients.

Your Skills are Still Number One

Let me be clear: The number one thing a client wants is results. If you can not or do not establish your problem-solving skills, nothing else matters. That said, your personality still counts.

Most clients are also savvy enough these days to know that more than one attorney can help them. When a potential client comes to your office, they have likely decided that you have the skills and experience to help with their problem. What many potential clients are trying to decide is whether they want to work with you.

At this point, potential clients are no longer trying to decide if you can help them; instead, they are trying to decide if you are 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.

Small Talk is an Essential Skill

small talk with lawyers

Image Credit: xkcd

I teach “beginner” practical skills to first year law students — things like client intake and handling client meetings . By far the most common mistake is a complete and utter lack of small talk skills. 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 hire 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 with your potential client is critical.

If you do not take the time to small talk, you will never establish a comfort level with your client. Instead, you may come across as a busy lawyer who only talks about fees. This will give your potential client you only care about the bottom line.

Add Personality to Your Office

Nobody is going to ask you about your law school diploma, and they probably won’t ask about any awards hanging on your walls.

To keep it simple, decorate your office with items that are important to you. For instance, 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. Having these pictures makes it easy to connect with potential clients, because it’s usually the first thing people ask about. This always leads to me asking about their kids. And if there’s one way to create a connection with people, it’s talking about their kids.

That does not mean you need pictures of kids to engage in small talk. Maybe you are passionate about something else such as marathon running, quilting, collecting old medicine bottles, or winter camping. Everyone has a hobby or something they do when they are not being a lawyer. Those interests will 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.

Updates

  • 2013-07-09. Originally published.
  • 2015-04-10. Republished.

Featured image: “Man with a paper-bag on his head working on the laptop” from Shutterstock.

Read the Rest of Issue #15

Issue #15April 13th, 2015
  • http://www.dzign.com.au Jonathan Roberts

    Interesting article Randall, however if a client decides on which attorney/lawyer to use based on their personality (assuming all things are equal) then heaven help most attorneys/lawyers! Personality is probably the most subjective of attributes and if all things are equal many people go for the lowest cost option. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they chose you for another reason?

    I recommend positioning your firm and yourself so you can’t be directly compared to every other law firm by promoting your deep expertise in a particular field, not being a generalist. I agree with you that it’s results/expertise and outcomes most people are looking for, so prove that by writing appropriate thought pieces and advice. Some would see that as giving away your intellectual property but really it’s simply proving
    your expertise.

    Yes, personality counts, but it’s far better to invest time in positioning away from
    your competitors…..

    Cheers, Jonathan Roberts

    • Vivian Rodriguez

      I think that Randall has a point. It doesn’t matter how you position your firm or yourself if you cannot talk with (not to, and definitely not at) clients because they will not be able to understand how special you, your firm and your expertise are.

      I’ve found that the easiest way to establish a rapport is simply by listening to see what information they need, exactly, to make a decision to go forward. Because once I know what they need, I can show how easy (or not) it is for me to provide that solution. And if I can’t, I simply point them to someone who can help them.

      The easiest way, I think, to show that we do have a personality is to do what anyone else, lawyer or not, would do: listen and engage.

      Randall, that was a nice walk down memory lane for me; I remember how stiff I felt in those made-up scenarios. Good points to keep in mind.

  • Ed

    You can always find legal experts. But as a client I want a legal expert that I click with. Because as a client, I vote with my money. If I don’t like my lawyer for any reason, be it the lack of being able to deliver results or feel that his style of treating me as a client is less than what I expect, I will take my money and find someone else. That is, even if the client-lawyer relationship has spanned decades. Lawyers, even great lawyers, are still a dime a dozen. Great article.

  • Trevor

    Do you and your clients ever talk about your haircut?
    Sometimes i talk to people about my name. Nobody believes anyone is really named Trevor.

  • markdavismd

    Lawyers, the former sentinels of democracy, are the basis why America is so screwed up. 1.1 million suits doing their best to burn the country to the ground. When I wrote Demons of Democracy to my surprise, I found how limited the education of a typical lawyer is. Thanks for complicating our society.

  • markdavismd

    So many lawyers in this country, no wonder why that have to manufacture cases to stay afloat.

  • Imtiaz

    Personality and ethics both have great impacts on representation and on deliveries, specially in this edge where the demand of service has become utmost competitive advantage.

  • jamie pennington

    Your comment “attorneys resort to hard sell techniques” made me smile. Here in the UK there are few aggressive solicitors when it comes to selling. Boring ones yes. Ones who only feel safe talking about the law. Yes. But not aggressive ones. But I agree with your overall theme. On balance people buy from people they know/like/trust. Your competence is not obvious, even if your brand is strong.

  • gigi

    In most professions, everyone is in sales. In the initial meet, you have to build a quick rapport and establish some trust to move forward in the relationship. In addition, if you actually care about people, integral, genuine and your number one priority is not the money, everything else will fall into place.
    People like to do business with people they like.

  • Jack

    If I’m paying you a couple hundred dollars/hour your wife and kids are the last thing I want to talk about.

  • Joseph Garfield

    excellent article. I work in the IT field and the same principles are true here. Becoming a true “Trusted Advisor” goes beyond the business relationship. People want to feel like you care about them. As an individual, a lawyer that I felt actually cared about me and my case would be preferable to one who didn’t. Be sincere. I also love that the author asserts the primacy of his wife and kids. It’s so refreshing to hear that sentiment in the public/professional arena. I echo the same.

  • robertoblake

    What Randall is getting at, is that in any transaction you have to make the person comfortable with you. the quality of the interaction will depend on your quality of communication. People who communicate well are well liked. If you look at every relationship you have professional or otherwise you will find this more true than not.

  • C.J. Spraggins

    Ed, great lawyers, even good lawyers, are not a dime a dozen.