Push or pull? 

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You tell clients what to do and what to avoid, but maybe you’ve noticed—clients don’t always listen. 

Neither do prospective clients.

You show them the benefits of hiring a lawyer (and why that should be you), but they often do nothing (or hire someone else). 

Your clients and prospects might not believe you. They might not have the money or want to spend it. They might think they can do “it” themself. Or they might be busy with other things and not pay attention. 

How do you get them to do what you recommend?

Repetition is a good option. If you want them to make an appointment or call you to discuss (something), you send them a series of emails and letters; you have an assistant call them, and then you call them. Or you write articles and blog posts and come at the subject in different ways, over an extended period of time, and eventually they get it.

But repetition doesn’t always work. Sometimes, you have to scare the hell out of them by telling them the bad things that can happen if they don’t follow your advice.

Sometimes you give them the facts. Sometimes, you dramatize the facts and get them to feel the heat.  

You want them to consider the plea deal, so you sit them down and explain the worst-case scenario. 

You want them to update their documents, but they drag their feet so you tell them what happened to some of your other clients who waited too long or didn’t do it at all. 

Fear of loss is the most powerful way to motivate someone, and you should use it when necessary.

Sometimes you push—emphasize the bad things that can happen if they don’t follow your advice, and sometimes you pull—emphasize the benefits if they do. 

Yes, tell them both. But they want to know what you think, what you would do if you were in their shoes. Don’t be too quick to answer. Walk them through it. And be as gentle or as tough as you need. 

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Quitting doesn’t make you a quitter

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You messed up. You’re not making progress on a project or goal. You can’t seem to stick with your diet or stop doom scrolling on your phone. 

You’re frustrated and want to give up. 

Do it. Giving up might be the answer. This might have been a bad time to start. You didn’t have enough information, or you were busy with other things you also need to do. 

Give yourself permission to quit. You’ve given up on things before, haven’t you? Dropped a case or client or moved a project to “someday/maybe”? Walked away from a relationship or let go of employees?

Maybe you’ve changed careers. Maybe you’ve done that more than once. 

It wasn’t the end of the world. It might have been the best decision you ever made.

It doesn’t matter how much time or money you’ve put into something. Quitting is a viable option.

But before you quit, consider starting again. You started the project for a reason. Maybe that reason still exists. 

Take a break and come back to the project or goal with fresh eyes. Things might be different this time.

That’s how life works, isn’t it? You try something and when it doesn’t work, you try again. There are no rules that say you can’t. So, let it go for a few days or weeks, or a few hours, and start again. 

You’ll use what you’ve learned and do it better this time. Do more research or get some advice. Put in more time or try a different angle. 

Or you might start from scratch, with a blank page and beginner’s mind. 

How do you know what to do?

The answer might be in your notes, but it is more likely in your stomach. Logic is good, but how you feel is usually better. 

Start again if that feels like the right thing to do. Throw it out and choose something else if it doesn’t. 

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“I didn’t know you did that”

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Yeah, that’s something you never want to hear. Because if a client or professional contact doesn’t know that you (and/or your firm) do a certain type of work or handle a certain type of case, you shouldn’t be surprised when they hire someone else. 

Yes, they might ask if you handle X or can help them or a friend with Y—but you shouldn’t count on it. People get used to your being a (type) of lawyer or representing a (type) of client. It might not occur to them that you might do something else, and they’re busy and won’t bother to ask.

So… the first rule for getting more repeat business and referrals is to make sure everyone you know knows what (else) you do. 

What if you DON’T do anything else? Great, this gives you the opportunity to remind people that you “specialize” in your field. Since clients and the people who refer them prefer hiring or referring a lawyer who specializes, it gives you an advantage over other lawyers who don’t. 

But. . . you also want them to know that you know lawyers in other fields and might be able to refer them, and they should call you about any legal matter.

Not just because you want to serve them by introducing them to someone who can do a good job for them. But also because it gives you more referrals to give to colleagues who might think of you when they get a case or client they don’t handle (but you do). 

Ya with me? 

One more thing. Tell them this often. Tell them again (and again) what you do and that they should call you for any legal matter.

Tell them often, because people forget what you told them before, especially when they haven’t heard from you in a while.

Stay in touch with the people in your world, because the only thing worse than hearing someone say they ‘didn’t know you did that’ is hearing them say they don’t remember your name. 

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Talk to me, baby

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A few thoughts about talking to people you want to like you, hire you, and follow your advice. 

First, assume they’re nervous; say something “neutral” to break the ice. Ask about the traffic or parking, or how they found you. If you know something about their problem, and it’s bad, acknowledge that up front. 

If you’re in person, make eye contact. And smile. So simple, and so effective at showing them you’re listening, you care about what they say, and you’re a nice person. It makes them much more likely to like you and listen to you. 

You want them to do most of the talking, so ask open-ended questions to get them to do that. Ask appropriate follow-up questions to clarify what they say (and show them you care about getting it right). Then, repeat their important points back to them, to give them a chance to hear what they told you, e.g., “So, what you’re saying is…”, and thus, prompt them to confirm it, change it, or add to it. 

And again, to show them you’re listening. 

If you feel the need to correct something they said, be gentle. 

Share information, but don’t show off how much you know. And, whatever you do, don’t talk all about yourself. Talk about them, their legal matter, and the options available to them. 

Take notes. Let them see you writing what they say, or hear you typing or scratching if on the phone. It tells them that what they say is important, you care about accuracy, and you want to do a good job for them. 

Finally, ask them to tell you if there’s anything else they want you to know (but might not have mentioned). 

They might tell you something important, but if they don’t, they’ll appreciate your thoroughness and that you let them get in the last word. 

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Ai ain’t Cyrano

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Ben Settle was talking about email copywriting, but it applies to any kind of writing if your objective is to get someone to do something, buy something or believe something. 

So, writing.

And we would do well to remember it when we toy with the idea of using Ai to do all of our writing.  

It might be a good idea if you just want to shovel words at a reader. But not if you want to persuade them (and get paid lawyer money to do it). 

Settle said, “Email is a transfer of emotion and energy from writer to reader”. 

Which is something Ai can’t do. 

A professional copywriter can. You can. But Ai can only transfer information, not emotion or energy, which is why we shouldn’t let it turn our heads.

Use Ai for research, for outlining, for ideas, even for first drafts. But not for anything that requires the human touch. 

Someday? I don’t think so. But what do I know? I’m only human. 

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When do prospective clients decide to hire you?

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By the time most prospective clients meet you or speak to you, they’ve already decided to hire you. Or not.

They usually know something about you—from your website, your ad or mailing, a review, or a friend who referred them. When they speak to you, their gut tells them yes or no.  

You can give them more information about yourself, about their case and what you can do to help them. But they’ve usually already decided. They use the information you give them to confirm their decision or to see if there’s a reason to override it.

Which means you don’t have to give them a lot of information or go hard trying to persuade them.

If, based on first impressions, they’ve decided they want to hire you, you only need to tell them enough so they can justify their decision. If you give them more, you risk overwhelming or confusing them, giving them more things to think about or question, and talking yourself out of the sale. 

On the other hand, if they initially decided to not hire you, loading them up with information is unlikely to get them to change their mind. 

People don’t like changing their minds.

Give them basic information and not too much of it. If they want more, they’ll ask for more. 

Hey, this is good news. Since the sale is made before you speak to the prospective client, you just have to say enough to not screw it up.

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Managing expectations

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Years ago, each January, my wife and I attended an “expectation” party which took place at a friend’s home. Everyone found a seat and wrote a letter to their future self, to be read the following year. Instead of writing our goals, we wrote our expectations for the upcoming year, supposedly because expectations are more realistic than goals. They’re based on what we’ve been doing and thus, what we expect to happen—not just what we want.

The next January, we would gather again and read our letters, out loud if we wanted but usually to ourself. And then, write our expectations for the next year. 

Unfortunately, most years I usually didn’t achieve what I expected. Probably because I wrote what I wanted, not what I expected. You want big things to happen in your life. So naturally you set lofty goals (expectations), even if they are unrealistic.

Think big, we’re told. Aim for the sun, the moon, and the stars. If you fall short, you’ll accomplish more than you would if you hadn’t thought big. 

But that’s not the best advice because we usually set goals that are too high (and long term) and continually fail to reach them. We fall short and thus condition ourself to expect to be disappointed. And unhappy. And too often, that’s what happens.

Charlie Munger, said, “If you have unrealistic expectations, you’re going to be miserable all your life.” 

Better than setting big goals and continually failing to meet them is setting small goals and continually reaching them. When we do, we condition ourself to expect to succeed, which is a much better place to be.

If you expect to bring in 5 new clients each month but only bring in 2, you’re disappointed and frustrated. If that happens enough, you start to believe you can’t get more. 

Instead, lower your expectations. Stop trying to accomplish more than what’s realistic and failing. Choose a goal you are reasonably certain you can reach and succeed.

You’ll feel better about yourself and what you can do. You’ll be successful and feel successful, and that’s what will allow you to accomplish more.

Setting and reaching goals, albeit lower goals than you really want, is a recipe for success because you gain confidence in yourself and what you can do. From that platform, you can set incrementally higher goals and realistically expect to reach them.

Taking a gigantic leap sounds good, but you are more likely to get to the top by taking one step at a time.

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Why are some lawyers more successful than you? 

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You’re good at what you do. You work hard. Your clients love you. So, why do some of your less capable competitors do better than you? 

Does it come down to better marketing? 

That’s a good bet. 

They might have embraced marketing sooner than you did and have more experience. They might use strategies you don’t use or execute them better. They might have better professional contacts or a bigger email list. 

Your clients love you, but maybe their clients love them more and they get a lot more repeat business and referrals. 

Maybe they advertise, and you don’t. Have deeper pockets or a better team of advisors. 

Maybe it is a combination of factors—little things they do or do better than you. 

Or maybe it’s none of the above. Maybe they just got lucky. 

You know what? It doesn’t matter. What matters is what you can do to become more successful. 

I have two suggestions: 

  1. Keep trying. Try new ideas, strategies, and methods. And improve things you already do. Get more help, give it more time, invest more money, study, practice, and learn from others. 
  2. Relax. Don’t be upset that you’re not as successful as the competition, or that it’s taking you longer. Don’t strain or struggle. Don’t force yourself to do things you aren’t good at or hate. You’ll get there. You’ll find the right combination. Things that make use of your talents and interests and style. 

Success leave clues, not a blueprint.  

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Talk less

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All of the marketing and advertising you do is merely a prequel to having a conversation with a prospective client. 

During that conversation, they want to know what you think about their situation or question; they want to know if you can help them; and they want to know what it will take for you to do that. 

So, you ask questions. And listen. 

You listen so you can diagnose their problem or need and tell them how you can help them and what it will cost. If they like what you say, they begin to trust you and move closer to taking the next step. 

But they might not be ready. They might have more questions. 

Questions are good. It means they’re interested. 

But the key to reaching agreement isn’t for you to do all the talking. They key is to get them to do most of the talking. 

Which means asking them more questions. 

You want them to tell you more about their situation, what they want and what they fear. As you validate what they say, through your words and body language (and additional questions), they see that not only are you knowledgeable about their situation and capable of helping them, you want to.

But don’t let them wander. You must control the conversation by narrowing the scope of their questions and keeping them focused on the solutions they need and want. Answer their question and ask your own:

Does that make sense? Is that what you want? Would (this) be better for you or would (that)?

When you see that they might be ready to take that next step, ask a “closing” question. If you’ve answered their questions and told them what you can do to help them, your closing question might be as simple as, “Are you ready to get started?” 

Talk less. Listen more. They’ll tell you what they want—and what you need to say to get them to say “yes”.

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Create content about what you do

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Your clients, prospective clients, subscribers, friends and followers, and even your business and professional contacts, want to know about you and your work. 

Even more than they want to know about the law. 

In fact, unless someone currently has a specific legal issue or question, or has a client or friend who does, they probably don’t want to hear you talking about the law.  

It’s boring. 

It’s people who are interesting. And you are one of those people. 

Tell them about your typical day, the kinds of clients and cases you handle, your staff, how you stay productive, and even the software you use. 

Tell them how you do research, the forms and docs you depend on, and how you get new business. (Perfect opportunity to talk about all the referrals you get—and plant a few seeds for your readers). 

They want to hear what you like about your work, and what you don’t. They want to know about your favorite case, and about your “client from hell”.  

You may think what you do is dry and uninteresting, but you’re too close to it. What you find humdrum is fascinating to others. 

However… don’t make your content all about you.

You also need to talk about the law. Because some people find you by searching for a legal topic, and when they do, they want to know everything you can tell them. 

But more than you or the law, your content should be about your reader. 

Their issues, their industry, their market, and the people in their industry or market.  

Yep, talk about clients and prospects and the people in their world. Because there is nothing more interesting to your readers than reading about themselves. 

Email marketing for attorneys

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