No attorney likes to see themselves as a salesman. We are much too sophisticated and analytic for that. However, there are so many aspects of our professional life that require us to convince others to trust us and accept our view on issues that it is almost impossible to not incorporate sales analogies into our conversations and sales tactics into our daily activities.
When it comes to marketing ourselves and our law practices, it is downright illogical to do anything other than develop a strong strategy for selling yourself and your personal brand. Here are some tips for developing a plan in how to improve your chances of retention by potential clients:
1. Take Stock of Yourself and Your Firm
Consciously, make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Make note of your successes and identify specialty areas in your practice in which you excel. If you are feeling good about your ability to represent clients, you will radiate that confidence when you speak to potential clients. Of course, it also makes sense to do some work to bolster yourself in areas you are weak.
2. Value Your Time
Respect the limited amount of time that is available to you on a daily basis and place value on that. In our profession, our time and knowledge are our most valued commodities. Don’t hesitate to let prospective clients know that you are not inclined to give away or waste your valuable time. It is a sign of self-respect that will influence a person’s perception of you and your work ethic. It has the added bonus of sending the message that you will not be wasteful of client time or funds.
3. Be Well-Organized, in Both Your Thoughts and Your Environment
Though a lot of us are comfortable with some level of organized chaos. However if you show that side of yourself, most potential clients will only hear rambling thoughts and see a cluttered office. Be present and prepared for initial consults; be undistracted and focused on the potential client. And be conscious of your surroundings when meeting with a potential client. Tidy your space or meet in a conference room that has a more put together and professional appearance. Be particularly conscious of your setting if you are conducting virtual meetings. We are all judged by the backdrop. Create an image by which you would like to be judged.
4. Dress for Success
Absolutely, we have all become more causal in our attire. But if you want to present yourself as someone who deserves to be paid hundreds of dollars an hour, you need to look the part. This applies across the board, with potential clients, existing clients, opposing counsel, colleagues, and the court. If you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will. Take a look at yourself in the mirror and if you are coming up short, create the look you want others to see and judge you by.
5. Blow Your Own Horn
Do not shy away from a modest degree of bragging about your ability to provide clients with skilled legal representation. At the same time, be cautious of not promising more than you can actually deliver. It is important to give potential clients trust in your ability to competently represent their legal interests. However, promoting unrealistic expectations of their case only leads to problems during representation.
6. Value Every Potential Client as a Professional Opportunity
Of course, you should not accept every case and every case you accept will not be all you hope for. But each potential client is an opportunity for a new client that could benefit you and your practice. If it doesn’t work out, maybe they will refer someone else to you who does. Always treat potential clients with respect for the opportunities they afford you.
7. Close the Deal
A signed contract is the goal. But, of course, you should allow a potential client time to consider their options and make a well-reasoned decision in choosing their representation. Just don’t confuse that with leaving a potential client hanging in limbo. You are the professional. Be sure that you are addressing questions relevant to being retained and make it clear that you are interested in representing the PC. Leave an undecided PC with a specific plan for going forward, with dates certain. If you are not interested in representing a potential client, for whatever reason, make that clear to them so they can move on to other options and you are not leaving loose ends.
The first steps in improving your ability to sell yourself to potential clients should start with a honest evaluation of how you are currently handling you initial contacts and consults. Remind yourself that these initial meetings and conversations are, in fact, a part of your marketing efforts as well as your law practice. Then make sure that your, and your staff, are interacting with potential clients in a productive and purposeful way.
Jeanne, co-founder and managing partner of Divorce Lawyers for Men, is a successful civil litigator who has focused her legal practice on complex litigation, primarily catastrophic injury and wrongful death lawsuits. She has served as a member and Chair of the Washington State Bar Association Law Clerk Board, as a Thurston County Family Court Child Advocate, and as a founding member of the Thurston County Volunteer Legal Clinic.