Your clients want this


Clients want you to be trustworthy, competent, and effective. Yes, you know that. But there’s something else they want that you might not know. 

It has nothing to do with paperwork, verdicts, or settlements. It’s not work product, billing, or keeping them informed. 

But clients want this almost more than anything else. 

They want to feel good. 

Good about their future. Confident that their problems can and will be resolved or their situation improved. 

They want to have hope. They’re often desperate for it. And it costs you nothing to give it to them.

Mostly, it’s about your attitude. No matter how bad things might be, your attitude and demeanor should be positive. 

Show them you’re working on it. Making progress. Smile when you are around them. Remind them you know what to do and are good at doing it. 

And that you are on their side. 

Your clients might be up shit’s creek without a paddle. Give them that paddle. 

When they know they can count on you, when they feel a sense of relief when they hear from you, they’ll feel better about their future. 

Which means you’ve done your job. 


It’s your client’s birthday. What do you send them?


A birthday card is nice. Especially when it is handwritten and signed by you personally. It shows you took the time to acknowledge them on their day, and you did it yourself instead of having your assistant stick something in the mail your firm sends to everyone. 

What about a gift? 

That’s nice, too. Everyone enjoys getting gifts. But gift giving can be more complicated, and expensive, so maybe a personal gift for only your “best” clients. A gift certificate to a local restaurant is a good choice. 

On the other hand, there is something you could send to every client (and business contact), that isn’t expensive but can make a lasting impression. 

I’m talking about giving a book. Especially one you liked and recommend. 

Add a note: “This is one of my favorite books” or “I got a lot out of this book and thought you might like it, too”.

Even if they don’t read the book, or like it, they will appreciate you for thinking of them. I know I would, wouldn’t you? 


Screening calls


People call with a question, about your services or about their case. Or they call to sell you something. Everyone wants to speak to you immediately, and if they leave a message, they want you to call them back the same day. 

But you can’t talk to everyone immediately, or call back everyone the same day. At least you shouldn’t. You need to a gatekeeper to screen calls for you.

If a client calls with a question about their case or another legal matter, your gatekeeper needs to know what to do. Your clients need to know what will happen when they call. Who will they speak to? Where can they get additional information? What to do in an emergency?

Clients should be told all of this the day they become a client, so they can get the help they need in a timely manner, and not panic if you’re not available. 

What about prospective clients? They might expect to speak to you when they call, or at least speak to someone. If they cannot, they need to be told (by the gatekeeper, voicemail, website) what to expect so they don’t call someone else. 

People with something to sell? You don’t have to take their call, return their call, or reply to their email. And you probably shouldn’t.

Okay, the basics. But you might want to refine the basics to make things run more smoothly. 

One way to do that is to have different policies for different types of calls and emails:

  • Prospective clients with a certain type of case 
  • New clients
  • Long-time clients 
  • Business clients
  • Consumer clients
  • Referred clients
  • Emails (who gets a form reply, who gets a personal reply, who gets called)
  • Inquires from old/dormant clients
  • Calls/emails from other lawyers (non-case related)

What to do, what to tell them, and when (or if) you will follow up.

You might create a list of clients your screener should always put through to you, and another list of clients you don’t want to speak to. A list of clients to call back immediately and a list of those who should be called back within 48 hours. 

Lists like these can make life easier for your clients and prospects, and more profitable for you.


Mom likes you better


Some of your clients like you more than others. And because they do, they’re willing to do things for you that other clients won’t. 

They’re willing to provide a review or testimonial, and it will be a good one. They’re willing to fill out your survey, share your content, tell their friends about your upcoming event, send traffic to your website, and. . . send you referrals. Maybe lots of referrals. And introductions, too. And wit

Without being asked.

Your best clients give you more legal work, sure, but they also do other things that help you build your list and your practice. 

And they should be treated accordingly.

Give your best clients extra time and attention. Invite them to your “inner circle”. Give them bonuses, promote their business or cause, and give them personal time. 

Start by making a list of 10 to 30 of your “best of the best” clients. Keep that list in front of you, to remind you to give them extra attention. Once a week or so, call or write, send them an article, or just say hello. 

See how they’re doing, and what they need or want. And find ways to help them get it.

And we’re not talking about legal issues, necessarily. Maybe they need customers; you might do a profile of their business in your newsletter. Maybe they have a personal issue you have had some experience with and can offer advice. Maybe they have a child who is sick or injured and they need to hear someone tell them it will be okay. 

Talk to them, ask about them, and look for opportunities to help them, console them, support them, promote them, or inspire them. 

Yes, that takes time. What about the rest of your clients? 

Reserve 80% of your “client time” for your best clients and do it one-on-one. Allocate 20% of your client time for the rest of your clients, and give them time primarily “as a group” e.g., via your newsletter, and automate and/or delegate most of that time.

Treat your best clients the way they deserve. Your practice will thank you.

The Attorney Marketing Formula


Trust me, I’m not a doctor


I don’t know about you but in the last few years, I’ve lost what little remaining trust I had in the medical community. 

I now “DON’T trust AND verify”. 

Which is problematic for me given this statement I recently found online: 

“Medicine works best when the patient has complete confidence in his doctor’s skills. Doubts about the doctor delay recovery.”

I don’t know if this is based on research but it makes sense. If you believe you’ll recover (with a doctor’s advice and treatment), it seems you’ll be more likely to do so.

When I read this statement, I wondered if the same can be said about attorneys. If a client doesn’t trust their attorney, are they less likely to have a successful outcome? 

And I thought the answer to that question would have to be “no”. Because what someone thinks about their attorney doesn’t affect the job that attorney does for them. 

But it does.

If the client doesn’t trust their attorney, they might hold back important details, and exaggerate others. The attorney’s perception of the case clearly depends on what the client tells them, at least initially, and if the client isn’t forthcoming, the case can suffer. 

While an experienced attorney can usually figure out what they need to know, having a client who holds back certainly makes things more difficult. 

In addition, clients who don’t trust their attorney are more likely to question the attorney’s fees or handling of the case, which isn’t good for anyone.

On the other hand, clients who trust the attorney are more likely to hire the attorney in the first place, and bring them repeat businss and more referrals.

Bottom line, you want your clients to have faith in you and it’s up to you to make that happen.


Simply the best


You are the best in your field. The most talented, the most successful, the most dedicated to your clients. 

That’s why your clients hire you; that’s why prospective clients should do the same. 

Unfortunately, you can’t go around saying you’re the best. Even if it’s true. 

You want others to say this about you. Which is why you should do everything you can to obtain testimonials, positive reviews, and praiseworthy survey responses from your clients, and endorsements from prominent people (especially other lawyers).

It’s also why you should get yourself invited to be interviewed by centers of influence in your niche and be seen in their company. 

If you say you’re the best, people will doubt you. Maybe laugh at you. If your clients and others say you’re the best, it must be true. 

Not only does third party praise help you bring in more business, these kinds of comments give your clients a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that they made a wise decision to hire you.

It also means you’ll attract higher-paying clients and a lot more referrals, because you’re not just competent, you’re the best. 

Don’t be shy about asking your clients for reviews and testimonials. If they’re happy campers, they should be happy to provide them. But you have to ask because they may not know how important this is to you.

And, while you’re collecting these, you can create the same effect by liberally adding client success stories to your articles, posts, presentations, and other content. That’s where you describe a client’s case or situation before they came to you and how you rescued them and made everything better. 

Set up a file to collect emails and quotes from people who say something nice about you. Thank them, tell them how much it means to you, and ask, “May I quote you?”

Happy clients are the foundation of a successful practice


What to do about a 1-star review


Ugh, bad reviews. You don’t want to think about them, you just wish they would go away. But they don’t go away, you have to do something about them. 

There’s too much at stake if you don’t. 

Don’t do what one lawyer did. When a client accused him of scamming her, sued him, and posted a scathing 1-star review, the lawyer threated to sue her for defamation if she didn’t remove it. 

In response, the client updated her review and noted the threat. That’s when all hell broke loose.  

Her review was repeatedly upvoted and went viral. The lawyer started getting “random 1-star reviews harassing him from everywhere” and, according to the client, the lawyer became “a laughing stock”. 

Note to self: don’t become a laughing stock. It’s bad for business.

So, what is the best way to handle a bad review? 

Right, do your job and do it well so clients write 5-star reviews. 

Still, bad reviews happen, and when they do, you shouldn’t ignore them.

It’s not like someone left a bad review on your book. You have (had) a relationship with the client, and not only is that worth saving, your history with them potentially makes that easier to do. 

You know the case, the client, and what buttons shouldn’t be pushed. 

But you can’t write or email the client, you have to talk to them.  

That might lead to shouting or more unpleasantness, and it might make things worse, but you have to try. 

That means you have to apologize. 

Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong. Even if the client is being unreasonable. Even if you really don’t want them back. 

Find something to apologize for because you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t.

Maybe you didn’t explain things as well as you could. Maybe you read the wrong signals or made assumptions you shouldn’t have made. Or maybe you allowed your other work or a personal situation to distract you. 

Don’t make excuses. Take the blame, say you’re sorry and fix it. Even if hurts to do that, because losing a client can hurt you more. 

Strange as it might seem, studies show that no matter how much a client is upset with a lawyer, if that lawyer makes amends (apologizing, fixing), that client will often become a lifelong client and one of the lawyer’s biggest fans. 

Maybe because they feel guilty. 

Anyway, once you’ve kissed and made up, you can ask them to upgrade or remove their review. But they might do that on their own.  

No, not every client will accept your apology or your offer to fix things. When you’ve got a stinker and the client won’t talk to you, some review sites allow the reviewee to post a response, explaining their side of the story. Should you? 

No. Either let it go or ask the client (in your response) to contact you to discuss the situation in private. 

Take the conversation “offline”. 

Whether or not the client agrees to do that, at least you’ll be showing others who read the review (and your response) that you’re being reasonable and trying to make things right. 

Which is a lot better than threatening litigation and making things (much) worse. 


Missed opportunity


My wife bought a cosmetic product she’d used before, and liked, but the doo-hickey to open the thing was defective. The next time she was at the market, my wife spoke to a sales clerk, showed her the problem, and asked for a replacement. 

The clerk said she’d had the same problem with that product and exchanged it. 

The thing is, when my wife got home, she had the same problem with the replacement. She couldn’t open it. 

She looked at the container, to see if there was something she was missing, and saw a toll-free number to call the manufacturer. They admitted they’d had this issue with that product and offered to send her another replacement.

Two days later, it arrived in the mail and it’s fine. 

The manufacturer did the right thing, didn’t they? They replaced the product, no questions asked.

They did the right thing, but they could have done more. 

They could have sent her two or three bottles instead of the one replacement. They could have given her some coupons. They could have enclosed a note apologizing for the inconvenience and thanking my wife for her patience and for her patronage. 

By not doing anything besides mailing a replacement, they missed the opportunity to surprise and delight my wife. 

Why do that? How would they benefit? 

By giving the customer more than they expect, they get a customer who won’t complain to others (or online) about the company’s defective packaging or tepid customer service, but instead, is likely to share her story about how well the company handled the situation. 

They’d get a customer who is likely to become a repeat customer, perhaps a lifetime customer, and possibly a “raving fan”. 

Which is something every business (and professional) wants to do. 

When something goes wrong in your practice, I’m sure you apologize to your client (even if it’s not your fault) and do what you can to make it right. 

That’s good. But making it better than right is even better.

Treating clients better than they expect is good for business


Everybody’s talking about you


Word-of-mouth. Buzz. Reputation. When it’s good, it’s one of the best ways to market any business, but especially a law practice.

Why a law practice? Because so many people have a negative image of lawyers, based on past experience, what they’ve heard from a friend, or what they see on TV, it doesn’t take much to exceed their expectations, and when you do, word gets around.

Even if it’s grossly exaggerated, or completely untrue, people often believe lawyers charge more than they’re worth, use confusing billing practices, are arrogant, fail to explain things, make them wait for 40 minutes after their scheduled appointment time, and never return calls.

Am I right or am I right?

Look at client survey results from your bar association, look at online reviews, and it’s easy to see what clients complain about.

And when you don’t do those things, clients notice.

The bar is so low, you don’t have to do much to develop the reputation for treating your clients well. Avoid the negative things other lawyers do, or are thought to do, and you’ll stand out. And get talked about in a positive way.

But don’t leave it at that.

Call attention to what you do by explaining to new clients, and in your marketing, what you do to keep your clients informed, your transparent fee and billing practices, and your guarantee to see clients no later than 5 minutes beyond the time for their scheduled appointment.

Explain it, put it in writing, and deliver on your promises, and your clients will tell others about their amazing lawyer.

Marketing made simple


Onboarding new clients


No doubt you give new clients information about what will happen with their case or matter—a general timeline, a list of steps, what to send you, what to expect, when you will update them, how to reach you in an emergency, and other do’s and don’ts.

This is good because

  • It helps you do a better job of protecting and serving them
  • You’ll have fewer issues because of misunderstandings
  • You can better manage clients’ expectations about what will happen, and when
  • Your clients will be impressed by your thoroughness and professionalism, and thus more likely to trust you and follow your instructions
  • Your clients will feel well taken care of, and thus more likely to stick with you, refer you, and say good things about you

One benefit you might not have considered is that you’ll get more referrals doing this because the information you provide shows that referrals are a common and makes the process easy and non-threatening. (See Maximum Referrals for more.)

As I say, I’m sure you do this. But you should do it more.

More means providing this information in more formats:

  • Handouts you give them or mail them
  • Email autoresponder sequence (break it up into smaller pieces, sent over time)
  • FAQs on your website
  • A dedicated ‘new client’ section of your website
  • Videos, webinars, audios

More also means

  • Sending the information every few weeks or months, to make sure they have it, haven’t misplaced it, remind them to read or listen, and to see if they have questions
  • Talking to them about parts of the instructions when they are in the office or on the phone
  • Sharing success stories about how your clients are benefitting from this information
  • Giving them forms and checklists in addition to written instructions

This is important because people

  • Lose things
  • Don’t read everything
  • Don’t understand everything
  • Need to be reminded to read things and do things
  • Process information differently (all at once vs. drip, read vs. video)
  • Are often distracted by life, especially when they are occupied by a legal issue
  • Might not realize how serious you are and need to hear it again and again
  • Might have trouble explaining what you want them to know or do to people who need to know and/or assist them; (tell them to share your information and let you explain it)

The more you do this, the better your clients’ experience will be with you and your staff. Which is good for them and good for you.

It means extra work, but you’ll be glad you did.

How to talk to clients about referrals