Ask your clients this ‘million-dollar’ question

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Years ago, New York Mayor Ed Koch used to walk up to people on the street and ask, “How am I doing?”

Really.

He learned what his constituents thought about the job he was doing and was able to use some of that feedback to make improvements.

He also scored points for being open to feedback, something most politicians usually run from.

Anyway, you can do something similar in your practice, but instead of asking your clients, “How am I doing?” ask them this question:

“On a scale of zero to ten, what is the likelihood you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?”

You could ask this at the end of the case, before they leave your office. You could email a survey question. Or you could have someone call them on your behalf.

However you do it, follow up (by phone or email) and ask,  “Why did you give us that score?”

You’ll get some interesting feedback, I’m sure. You’ll also plant a seed in your client’s mind about recommending you. If they give you a high score, i.e., a high likelihood that they will recommend you, they will be psychologically more likely to do that.

Nice.

A simple, one-question survey (plus follow-up question) is easy to implement and could bring you a lot more business.

You could instead ask, “On a scale of zero to ten, how would you rate the quality of our legal services?” Or, “The next time you have a legal issue, on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, what is the likelihood that you would choose us as your attorney?”

So tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the quality of this post?

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula.

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Three’s Company

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Last night I watched a “Where are they Now?” video about the old TV show, “Three’s Company”. It was good to see some familiar faces and how they looked today, and sad remembering how young John Ritter was when he left us.

In the comments, someone asked, “What was the name of the bar they always hung out at?”

Do you remember?

Jack and Janet and Chrissy went there a lot. They met up with Jack’s friend, Larry. Sometimes, Mr. and Mrs. Roper showed up. And Mr. Furley. (I loved Mr. Furley. I loved everything Don Knotts did.) 

I haven’t seen the show in decades but of course, I remembered the name of “The Regal Beagle”.

Anyway, it was good remembering a show that provided so many laughs and a simpler time. The beautiful women didn’t hurt.

Oh, do you remember the time Jack fell over the sofa. . .

Anyway, my point isn’t to confess that I spent too much time watching TV back then. It’s that if you have some of the same fond memories of Three’s Company, you and I have something in common and if we were having this conversation in person, we would bond over those memories.

When you meet someone for the first time, sharing a memory or a common interest can do wonders for getting everyone to relax and feel good about each other.

If I walk into your office for the first time and see you have a chess board on your credenza, you and I are going to have something to talk about. I like you already. Unfortunately, we may not get any work done.

Popular culture–TV, movies, books, sports, games, the news (be careful that one, however), are all fodder for finding common ground with people we meet.

They’re also good subjects to put in your blog or newsletter.

What’s on your blog?

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Are you coddling your clients?

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Saw an article about raising mentally strong kids. The upshot: “Science says stop telling them ‘everything will be OK'”. Let them make mistakes and feel uncomfortable. That’s how they learn and grow. 

Overly protective parents aren’t doing their kids any favors. Neither are overly protective attorneys. 

Telling clients everything will be OK when we really don’t know this to be true sets them up to be disappointed and to mistrust us.

No, we don’t want them to worry unnecessarily. And yes, they pay us to do most of the worrying for them. But most clients, I think, want us to respect them enough to be candid with them.

Let them see what’s going on–the risks, the problems, the possible outcome. Don’t try to downplay the fees.

Our clients are adults. We should assume they can handle the truth.

We don’t need to bludgeon them with the truth, however. We should be measured when we present our evaluation of the case, gentle when we deliver bad news.

Like children, clients look to us for emotional clues. If we are calm in the face of trouble, they are more likely to be the same.

Bottom line: tell them everything and don’t let them see you sweat.

I built my practice with client referrals

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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Suppose your first name is David. And suppose you’re in a semi-public setting and someone you’ve met before comes up to you and says, “Hi David.”

Do you think, “Nice. He remembered my name.”

We like hearing our name, don’t we? Dale Carnegie told us “A person’s name is the sweetest sound.” The late Herb Kelleher made a point of remembering and using the first names of his employees, and they loved him for it.

Research tells us that hearing your first name activates different parts of your brain than hearing the names of other people. “Adults never tire of hearing their name,” the researchers said.

But hold on.

What if it’s a young person addressing you and you’re old enough to be their father? Or they’re a client and you’re their attorney? Or you’ve just spoken on stage and someone in the crowd comes to ask you a question?

Wait, one more. You have a new secretary and, day one, she calls you by your first name. 

I’ve had all of the above happen to me. When they do, I’m thinking, “How about a little respect? How about asking if it’s okay to use my first name?”

But then I’m old-fashioned. Or a stuck-up pain-in-the-ass, take your pick. 

I was taught to respect my elders, say please and thank you,  smile when you meet someone and pay attention when someone else is talking.  

You know, manners. 

Be nice if more people minded their manners and showed people a little respect.

But then I’m old-fashioned. Or a stuck-up pain-in-the-ass, take your pick. 

Want more referrals? Of course you do

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I know you’re a good lawyer, I just don’t like you

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Some people say you can build a successful career even if you’re not well-liked. There may be some truth to that. If people respect your abilities and track record, they may hire you (or refer clients to you), even if you’re a Grinch. 

On the other hand, I can’t see how having your clients and professional contacts like you could ever work to your disadvantage. 

So, likable it is. 

Now, some people are naturally likable. They’re friendly, easy to talk to, and make people glad to be around them.

The rest of us have to work at it. 

We may get things right often enough, but there are times when we’re tired, facing a crazy deadline, or distracted to the extreme. While we may generally be a nice person, sometimes, the mask we wear says otherwise. 

So, in no particular order, here are 6 ways to make yourself more likable.

  1. Be interested. Make eye contact, pay attention (don’t take calls), listen, don’t interrupt, don’t yawn, take notes, repeat back the points you hear them make. 
  2. Be interesting. Talk about books you’ve read, movies you’ve seen, stories you’ve heard, that are likely to be of interest to the person you’re with.
  3. Mind your manners. Say please and thank you appropriately and often. Ask them about their day. Offer them something to drink.  Don’t keep them on hold or waiting in your waiting room too long. Apologize when you blow it.
  4. Smile more. They’ll smile back. Make them laugh if you can, because it’s hard to dislike someone who tickles your funny bone. 
  5. Remember names and use them. ‘Nuff said. 
  6. Get more rest. So you can do all of the above. 

Make people feel good about themselves and they’ll feel good about you. 

More ways to make people like you

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Why am I not surprised?

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I just saw an infographic depicting “America’s Most & Least Trusted Professions”. Lawyers ranked near the bottom, just above business executives, car salespeople, and swamp-creatures, aka, members of Congress.

I’ve noted before that lawyers are an easy target. We do everyone’s dirty work and tend to make a lot of enemies, after all. And who doesn’t like a good lawyer joke?

But that doesn’t mean we should accept the world’s collective opprobrium. Neither should we single-handedly attempt to repair the reputation of an entire profession. 

Instead, we should take steps to differentiate ourselves. To show the world that we’re one of the good ones. 

We can do that, we must do that, by going out of our way to foster trust in the eyes of our prospects, clients, and professional contacts. 

This covers a lot of territory, everything from treating people better than they expect (or deserve) to be treated, to displaying the accolades and endorsements of others who vouch for us, to doing charitable work usually associated with good people, and everything in between. 

We should, of course, also refrain from the types of practices we know client’s dislike. Failing to keep clients informed about their case and charging for every little expense and every nanosecond of time are common examples.  

Another way to earn trust is to exceed our clients’ expectations. Giving them extra services, delivering better results, and showering them with the highest level of “customer service” not only goes a long way towards earning trust, but it can also stimulate a heap of positive word of mouth about you. 

In our marketing, we can build trust by showing our market how we are different or better than our competition. This can be as simple as providing more information than most attorneys do, or doing so in an interesting or entertaining matter. 

Finally, one thing we shouldn’t do is deny the fact that lawyers tend to rank low on the trust totem pole. Instead, we should acknowledge this fact and help people understand what to do about it. 

Educate your market about the standard of care, so prospective clients will know what to expect and demand. Teach them what to do when a lawyer doesn’t deliver.

And teach them what to look for when they are looking for a lawyer in your practice area. Give them the questions to ask and the answers they should get.  

Do this, and you will take a big step towards showing the market that you are indeed one of the good ones.

How to build trust and get more repeat business and referrals

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Little things that are big things

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I’m going to a new place to get my haircut. One thing they do that the old place didn’t do was keep notes about me in their computer–what kind of cut, which blade setting, problem areas, and the like. 

I come in, give them my phone number, and they look up my account. It allows the stylist to get to work without having to quiz me on what I want, something I’m not good at describing and find annoying. 

What can I say, I’m a guy. 

When I need a haircut, I want to get in and out. I don’t want to think about what I want or how to describe it or try to remember that they used number 4 on the sides and 5 on top, or something else. I just want to get the thing over with. 

Ten minutes and I’m out of there. That’s what I want and at this place, I can get it. 

Recording notes on the computer is a small thing but for me,  it’s a big thing. It addresses one of my “pain points” and gives me a better experience.  

I don’t know if other hair cutting establishments record notes but, as I said, the last place didn’t and that’s one reason why I go to the new place.

I do have a point and no, it’s not on top of my head. My point is that you should be looking for things you can do for your clients that address their pain points and give them with a better experience with your office. 

It might be something other lawyers do (but don’t promote). It might be a little thing. But if you choose the right thing or things, you’ll give your clients a reason to come back to you when they need help, or tell others about you, as I recently did when my son-in-law was in town and needed a haircut. 

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How being a better writer can help you become a better attorney

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An article in Writers Digest, “How Being An Attorney Helped Me Become A Writer,” caught my eye. The writer said: 

“The best legal job I ever had was clerking for a federal judge. I was responsible for writing the first draft of the rulings he would ultimately issue to the litigants. I lost sleep over the first case I was assigned, struggling to figure out the correct outcome. The draft I handed in to the judge reflected my own indecision—the writing was hedged and weak. The judge gently admonished me that the court must always project confidence and authority. He returned my draft with my wishy-washy words crossed out and the following written in: “The Court has reached the inexorable conclusion that . . .” I had to look up inexorable (it means unavoidable), but I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes actual confidence will flow from appearing confident. A reader wants to feel she is in good hands. If you write with confidence and present yourself as a serious person, the reader will feel safe with you.”

Me thinks it works the other way, too. Clarity and confidence in your writing helps clients feel safe with you. 

Is there any wiggle room? Is it okay to act confident even when you’re not?

Ultimately, that’s what each of us has to decide.

Sometimes, you have to bluntly tell the client how the course of action you’re recommending could blow up in their face. Sometimes, you have to offer a more gentle weighing of the possible outcomes. And sometimes, you have to point out all the options and ask them what they want you to do.

One thing is certain. When you’re in court, make sure your conclusions are always inexorable.

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What’s wrong with this picture?

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I saw a post on Flakebook this morning that made me want to scream. It said, “If anybody needs to reach me today, I won’t be available until Noon.”

What’s wrong with that? It’s terrible posture.

It says, “I’m online most of the time because I’m not very busy. I’m not very busy because I’m not very good at my job and don’t have a lot of clients. I hope you need me and will contact me and give me some work. Please?”

Yes, you want clients and prospects to know that you can be reached if they need you, but not like this.

Let them know you have office hours. If there’s an emergency, they can reach you through an assistant or answering service (if you have that kind of practice). Otherwise, they should contact your assistant and see if they can help them. Or make an appointment to see you or speak to you. Or leave a message for you and you’ll get back to them as soon as your schedule permits.

Bad posture: Call me any time. Email me any time. Message me any time. And expect me to be available at any time.

Good posture: I’m busy. In high demand. My time is valuable. You can talk to me but you have to get in line and follow the rules.

If you’re not busy, don’t tell anyone. Nobody wants to hire an attorney that nobody else wants to hire.

If you are busy, let people know it. It will make them want you even more.

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Voicemail for grownups

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I don’t know about you but I hate voicemail messages like this: “Hey, it’s Don and I’ve got a quick question. Call me back. Thanks.”

Phone tag much?

If you want me to respond, ask me what you want to ask me or tell me what you want to talk to me about, and make it as easy as possible for me to reply.

Like this:

“Hey, it’s Don; it’s Monday and I’m trying to figure out which form to use for [whatever]. I have to file by Wednesday at 5 pm so if possible, could you get back to me by the end of the day Tuesday? I’d really appreciate it. You can either email me at [email] or text or call me at [number]. Thank you so much!”

Of course, your outgoing voicemail message should prompt callers to leave sufficient information:

“This is Joe Lawyer. Please leave your full name and a detailed message about the purpose of your call. Also, make sure you leave your phone number or numbers, even if you think I have it, and the best time or times to reach you. For a quicker reply, please email me at [email]. Thank you.”

You should also tell callers when you or someone from your office will get back to them so they know what to expect.

Oh, and when a caller follows instructions, praise them because so many people don’t.

Do you know the formula for getting more clients?

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