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Law Practice: How to Attract Clients

published February 11, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
Published By
( 103 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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Every lawyer sells himself to those he meets, and especially to his clients. Ethical salesmanship is essential in getting a job done and in obtaining a client's cooperation and support. Even the most conservative lawyer benefits from convincing a client to follow his advice. This cannot be accomplished unless the lawyer has first sold his abilities to the client.
Law Practice: How to Attract Clients

Some lawyers find it easier to sell themselves to clients than do others. In some people, a good presence comes almost naturally. These are the "born leaders" who radiate ability and competence. Their sales job is easy. Others are not so fortunate, but most lawyers can learn to compensate for the absence of these natural traits. The first step is self-confidence. You cannot inspire others nor convince them of your ability unless you feel certain of yourself. This is a state of mind and it can be achieved.

The good salesman must clearly manifest his interest in the customer. For lawyers, the requirement is concern for the client. When you are with a client, he must feel that his is the most important problem you have. Each client must feel that he is your most important client.

Remember, too, that you do not build yourself up by knocking down the op-position. Much is to be gained by letting the client know that despite the complexities of the problem and the strength of the opposition, you will stay by his side. When you belittle your opponent, you belittle your profession.

Personal Appearance

Clients will notice the way you dress and the way you look in the context of your surroundings. You will not be able to please everyone but you should recognize that some styles engender a positive rather than a negative reaction. The best advice is simply to avoid extremes and to look the way your clients expect their lawyer to look.

What clients expect will vary. There are law firms that represent clients in the rock music business where the lawyers themselves might be taken for rock stars. There are firms in the Midwest which represent farmers. The lawyers in these firms dress in a way which does not intimidate their clients or make the lawyers look like "city slickers." The emphasis in a lawyer-client relationship should be on the legal advice and guidance which the lawyer is giving, not on his loud necktie or her purple polka-dot sweater.

The effect of appearance carries through to the staff of a law office. Secretaries should enhance the office in which they work and not become themselves the focal point of the office. The client who is greeted by a receptionist chewing gum and reading a lurid paperback may never forget her-but, annoyed by her presence, may rapidly forget her employer.
For many law students, the change from the world of students to the world of work requires rethinking of standards of dress and appearance. It is an important and necessary adjustment. There's an old adage about judging a book by its cover. Most people do!

Office Decor

Office decor and clothing have much in common. A clean, neat office suite in good taste and revealing a friendly atmosphere will do much to put a client at ease. The overdone, ultra-modern, ultra-nineteenth-century, ultra-anything office does not achieve the proper effect. Any style of decor can be handled in good taste and with moderation. Good taste is the mark of a law firm in which the lawyers have the client's business as their main concern.

How much should a firm spend on decor? It depends on its clientele. Decor is part of the business plan. A small town firm which caters to an agricultural community should hold down the cost of its offices. An expensive decor would cause prospective clients to fear high fees. A Los Angeles firm which specializes in show business clients might need to go in the other direction. Its clients would look down on very plain surroundings.

The importance of exterior style is demonstrated by some of the new storefront legal clinics. Although they are owned by lawyers in private practice, they set themselves apart from the rest of the buildings housing members of the legal profession in how they impress clients and in overall appearance. The typical home of such an operation is at street level, and the surroundings are Spartan. The exterior setting is intended to say to the prospective client, "Our fees are reasonable and we're all business." For lower- and middle-income people, such a law office setting may be less intimidating and more comfortable than the traditional office.

Aside from the money spent and the style selected, any office must have an efficient and clean appearance. The good management plan ensures that new magazines and newspapers are in the waiting area, that pencils are sharpened in the conference room, and that plants are not wilted for lack of water. Inattention to such details soon causes an office to have an un-businesslike appearance, and turns away clients.

Manifesting Concern for Clients

Selling yourself and your services is a constant process. It does not end when the client asks you to handle a matter; it really begins there. For lawyers who do not advertise, the sale of their services depends on referrals from satisfied clients. Among the biggest causes for client dissatisfaction are delay and lack of information. You are selling a service and therefore you must provide service. You must be of help to the client and part of this help is making him feel confident that you are doing something.

Keeping in Touch

Much has been said about keeping clients informed as part of preliminary billing techniques, but what any system for maintaining client contact really does is reinforce the client's confidence in his lawyer and his dedication to the cause. This makes the billing process easier, and it also produces satisfied clients who will mention your name when a friend needs a lawyer.

Some firms have adopted a policy of sending copies of all documents and correspondence to clients. Some use a rubber stamp on the copy indicating, "For Your Information Only--No Action Necessary" to eliminate questioning phone calls. Others have trained clerical personnel to call the client and report verbally on the progress of their matter. Still others have devised a status report form which is sent periodically whether action has been taken or not.

Another way of evidencing concern about your clients is by promptly returning their phone calls and answering their written inquiries. Busy lawyers may find this a real problem, but they can train a secretary to respond by a note simply stating the fact that the letter was received and will be taken care of as promptly as possible, or by having a secretary return the call for them when necessary. This common courtesy, as simple as responding to "hello," can pay great dividends.

One of the most successful lawyers we know obtains many clients for the firm he heads. His secretary is trained to read the local newspapers and note every award, obituary, or other notice involving a friend or family of someone the lawyer might conceivably know. He reviews these every day and sends out correspondence, simply consoling the family of a deceased acquaintance or acknowledging some minor triumph. He does this basically because he is the kind of person who wants to do these things, but it also increases the size of his practice.

Another successful lawyer maintains a card file on each of his clients. Each client's card carries notations on such things as the client's children's and spouse's names, special interests or favorite football team, or other item which may have been mentioned by the client. When the attorney knows that the client is about to visit his office he reviews the card so that he can ask about the client's family or mention the fact that the team did very well last Saturday. This kind of personal public relations can produce very positive results. Such a system for remembering is not a phony approach; it is a necessity for a busy lawyer and in itself expresses interest in clients as people.

Expressing Thanks

Many law firms have a place on their new case memo for the name of the person who referred the client to the firm, but few firms take the time to write to thank the person who sent them the client. Many lawyers use physicians and other experts as witnesses, and most send the check for services with a "We are enclosing. . ." letter. Very few remember to thank the expert for the way in which his testimony was given or the good job he did in researching the specific issues. If new stationery is ordered from a local business and it is received promptly and is especially artistic or tasteful, only a handful of lawyers take the time to write to the supplier and tell him that they appreciate his good service. The person who referred the client may have occasion to do so again, the expert's spouse may have an accident, and the stationery supplier may have some large collections to be handled. They are more likely to remember the lawyer who said, "Thank you," than the one who said nothing.

Performing Work on Schedule

An important facet of showing concern for your client and providing service is the performance of work on schedule. Many lawyers generate their own pressures by setting deadlines which they cannot meet. Clients generally understand how busy professional people are and know that they are not the only clients an office has. But if a lawyer himself sets a deadline and he misses the date which he has given to the client, the client will be annoyed. Realistic promises which are met are excellent sales tools. If you cannot meet a client's request for time of completion, it is only fair to say so at the outset of the assignment.

Failing to meet deadlines (including promised dates for delivery of documents or opinion letters) is not only poor public relations, but also it can lead to lawsuits. If a client does not receive a professional opinion on a business matter prior to the time his business requires it, he may lose a deal and may sue the lawyer for malpractice. The meeting of deadlines can be very important.

The Telephone

Virtually all contact with lawyers begins with the telephone. This contact creates the first impression, and it is a most important one. The employees, who answer the telephone and how they answer it, are an important part of the marketing plan. The telephone must be answered promptly, clearly, and in such a way that the caller feels welcome.

Most firms should use the firm name to answer the telephone, not "law offices" or "9646" or some other number. If various people in the office answer telephones, it is usually a good idea to have the person answering add his or her name, e.g., "Brown and Shattuck, this is Linda Smith."

The person answering should not ask callers for a great deal of information. To be asked to do so by a non-lawyer employee may make some prospective or actual clients uncomfortable. It may also waste time, since details will be needed by the lawyer anyway. To refer the call to the right person within the office, however, the operator will need some information. A tactful approach will help to convince prospective clients that they have called the right law office.

Some lawyers are negligent about returning telephone calls. If time does not permit the prompt return of a call, a secretary or paralegal should place it and offer an explanation to the caller. This is a key way to show your concern for a client.

Check how your telephone is answered by having a spouse or a friend call your office. If you find that callers are delayed, that the incoming lines are often busy, that calls are not well handled, or other such problems exist, attend to them firmly. Most telephone companies have literature available on telephone techniques which you can obtain on request.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

published February 11, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 103 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.