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
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
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 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.
Originally published 2015-04-10. Updated 2016-04-22. Republished 2017-05-26.