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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Posture

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Yesterday, I talked about how some lawyers are afraid of their clients. They bend over backward to give them whatever they want, even if they don’t deserve it, because they’re afraid of losing the client or having them say bad things about them.

They try to please everyone, thinking they’ll attract more clients, but all they do is drive clients away.

When you’re too eager to please, too available, or too generous, you project an image of neediness. Clients can sense it.

When clients see you as needy, they get nervous. It’s like pulling up to a restaurant at 6 pm and seeing an empty parking lot. Nobody wants to eat where nobody else is eating.

People want to hire attorneys who don’t need their business. True or not, that’s what you want them to think.

Don’t be so quick to give them what they want. Make them wait a day or a week to book an appointment. Have them speak to someone on your staff or fill out a form on your website before they get to speak to you.

To pull this off, you have to believe that they need you more than you need them. If you don’t believe this, you need to work on that. For starters, make your services different and better than what other lawyers offer, or at least package and present them that way.

It’s called posture and the most successful attorneys have it in spades.

Have you seen attorneys who accept new clients “by referral only”? That’s posture.

You want to attract clients, not chase them. You want them to see you as the best choice, not just another pretty face in the crowd.

On the other hand, don’t do what some attorneys do. Don’t overplay your hand. Some attorneys come off as cocky, expensive, and too unavailable. Hey, if a client wanted that they’d hire a doctor, not a lawyer.

How to get clients to see you as the one they want

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Are you afraid of your clients?

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I heard an interview with an expert on international affairs. He was asked why Europe was the way it was. (I’ll let you fill in the blank about what that means.)

He said, “They’re afraid of their people.”

Europe has a history of revolutions and uprisings. Monarchs have been dethroned (and beheaded), corrupt leaders have been convicted and jailed, and the current heads of state are simply fearful of a similar fate.

Interesting. Explains why they outlawed guns, doesn’t it?

Anyway, my question for you is, “Are you afraid of your people?”

Do you operate out of fear of what your clients may say or do? If they ask for something, do you give it to them even if they don’t deserve it or you can’t “afford” it, because you’re afraid of losing them or offending them or being accused of something untoward?

If you do, stop it. Person up. (That’s how they say toughen up in Europe, y’all.)

Your job isn’t to make everyone happy no matter what. Your job is to do your job, and you get to choose for whom you do it.

You also get to choose to give more value to your best clients, the ones who deserve it, because it’s smart for you to do that, and not to every client because you’re afraid of losing your head.

How to make your clients happy

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An easy way to show your clients some love

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It’s been crazy around here the past week. We’re close to the fires and concerned about them spreading our way. Every day, the sky is filled with smoke and helicopters and planes buzzing overhead.

We’ll probably be okay but you never know.

Our credit union sent us an email that was on point. It said, “In the Wildfire Zone?” They wanted us to know that we are their number one priority and they hope we are safe. They offered some tips for being prepared in case we’re ordered to evacuate.

Things like planning where we’ll go (and making sure they take pets), having a “go bag” of clothes, supplies, credit cards, meds, and extra cash, making sure the gas tank is full, and gathering up important documents to take with us.

They also provided a link to ready.org, which has more information about evacuation planning.

Most of the emails we get from them are about “business”. It’s nice to know they are thinking about us and providing helpful information on an important topic. It’s important even for those who aren’t in the fire zone.

Note that they didn’t write the underlying information about what to put in a go bag, which papers to include in an “important papers” file or evacuation planning, they simply provided links to existing websites.

How difficult would it be for you to send your clients an email like this? About what to do in case of fire or flood, earthquake or hurricane, or other disasters?

Not difficult at all.

But your clients will appreciate you for thinking of them, nevertheless.

In fact, there are plenty of consumer-related topics you could write about: insurance, credit, crime prevention, retirement, refinancing and many more.

Ten minutes of research and some links to other people’s websites will do the trick.

For extra credit, interview some subject matter experts. Here’s how I did that and turned it into a book.

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Bedside manner for attorneys

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According to a recent study, a majority of doctors give their patients just 11 seconds to explain the reason for their visit before interrupting. Only one third gave them enough time to describe what’s bothering them.

I don’t know if doctors interrupt to ask questions or because (they think) they’ve heard enough to issue a diagnosis but it doesn’t matter. A visit to a doctor isn’t just about getting well.

Patients want to feel like they made the right decision in choosing a particular doctor. They want to feel that they are in good hands and that everything will be okay. They want to know the doctor cares about treating them and not just the disease.

It’s been said that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much they care.” It’s said because it’s true.

Do I even have to say that it’s also true for attorneys?

Let your clients talk. Look them in the eye. Don’t take calls during the appointment. Say please, say thank you, and go out of your way to show them you appreciate them, you care about what they’re going through, and you are committed to helping them get better.

Take care of the client, not just their legal problem.

Client relations made simple

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Sometimes, you should let them see you sweat

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Seth Godin said something I’ve mentioned before. He said there are two ways to provide your service. The first way is “with drama”. Let the client see how hard you’re working. Make a big deal about all the additional effort you’re expending on their behalf.

In other words, let them see you sweat.

The other way: “Without drama. Make it look effortless.”

Godin says both ways can work and you should choose the approach depending on the client and the situation.

I agree that both approaches are viable but there’s a third option. You can let the client know you’re working hard for them or giving them extra effort or value without being dramatic.

If you’re providing extra services or other freebies, for example, list them on your invoice followed by a “courtesy credit” or other indication that you’re not charging for those extras.

You can also provide invoices with lots of details about your work instead of the more typical invoice that omits most of the details. Let them see all that you did behind the scenes to get the job done.

You can also involve them in the natural drama of the matter by sending regular reports about your work and progress and by cc’ing them on correspondence. When you speak to them, you can use body language and tone of voice to provide subtle clues about the magnitude of your effort, no sweating required.

At the end of the day, you want clients to know that what you do is hard but you have it under control.

Invoices that get paid

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