How your handle your consults and meeting a new or prospective client changes drastically as you age as a lawyer. I can remember the idea of a new client consult raising my heart rate as a young lawyer, especially considering that I was a solo practitioner for many years. When you run or own your law firm, you discover the importance of ensuring that the potential client across the table from you needs to become a current client. Failure is not an option!
However, over the years, I have had time and practice to refine my sales ‘pitch’ to these potential clients. I am sure that during this same period of time that I have lost some of that enthusiasm for handling initial consults that I used to have.
In an effort to ensure that my performance is appropriate while sitting in a conference with a potential client, I have had to train myself on how to talk to prospective clients regardless of how busy I am, how my day is going, or any other outside factors.
Here are the three most important things that I try to remember when meeting with a potential client:
Clients always know when you are being sincere with them because your face is a dead give away. Unless you are a professional poker player, your prospective clients will be able to see past your happy tone and the merry cadence of your voice to determine whether you’re actually listening to them by how you look. I highly recommend developing a habit of being genuine and sincere to your clients with your words and facial expressions. It is important to know that how you act and appear to the client will set the tone for the meeting.
At an in-person consult, you’re actively participating in the conversation, even though the client is doing most of the talking. You’re making eye contact, you’re taking notes, and you’re actively participating. Knowing who you are and how you want to present your services is a significant decision when determining how you will be delivering your pitch to your potential clients.
Even though I practice personal injury law and all of my clients have suffered severe or even life-threatening injuries, I want the client to leave my office with a sense of calm or at least more calm than they were before they entered. Offering legal advice does not have to be a somber affair. I love to talk to my clients and tell them why and how we are different. I also love to show my clients that I am human.
Phone Consults are Different
Over the phone consultations are a completely different story. You have to find non-invasive ways to engage potential clients and deliver your ‘pitch’ in a way that detracts from the severity of their situation.
I often tell our associate attorneys that phone consults tend to be much more serious than in-person consultations. However, when you are on the phone, stay active and let the client know that you are involved and invested in the conversation by giving some verbal cues such as, “Oh, wow!”, “Okay”, “Go on”, or anything else that encourages the client to continue and acknowledges your understanding.
I’ve found that many prospective clients almost expect to get the third degree from busy attorneys over the phone, and they really appreciate it when they feel like they’re being listened to.
Take Small Bites
At an in-person consult, you should be able to tell pretty easily whether the average client understands what you’re telling them. However, over the phone, it might be more difficult. You can’t see their face, and they may feel pressured to tell you what they think you want to hear.
When I’m on the phone with a prospective client, I do my best to convey one point at a time, making sure the client understands before I move on. While it may take an extra couple of minutes (and I try to keep the legal advice to a relative minimum in consults to begin with), I sleep a lot easier knowing that my words haven’t been misunderstood.
Consultations are so important to the continued success of the practice that you or I cannot afford to treat them as another monotonous task to be completed without any emotion or spirit. Regardless, remember that clients need to know that you care and that you want to fight for them, regardless of their circumstances, before they are offered a retainer to sign.
Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h