I don’t like my doctor


Pretend I’m talking about my lawyer because it works the same way. So there’s this lawyer (doctor) I “use” and I trust her medical skills (which is why I have continued to “use” her, including for two (minor) surgeries) but now that I’m “better” I don’t think I’ll go back to her if I have another issue.  

It would be convenient to go back to her, and a hassle to find someone else, but I can’t say for sure what I would do. 

Remember, “all things being equal (e.g., skills, trust, convenience, value, results, etc.), people prefer to hire professionals they ‘know, like, and trust’. 

I know her. I trust her. But I don’t like her. Use her again? Not sure. Refer others to her? Probably not. 

Much is said about the importance of trust, and rightly so. Not enough is said about the importance of liking. It should be, however, because in the competitive environment we find ourselves in today, likability makes the difference. 

You can only go so far in a professional practice built mostly on transactional relationships. If you want sustained growth, you need loyal and committed relationships that all but guarantee repeat business and referrals. To achieve that, you need people to like you. 

So, why don’t I like my doctor? The usual reasons. Essentially, not making me feel cared for or appreciated. 

She doesn’t listen as closely as I would like her to (or at least pretend to), and doesn’t respond as thoroughly and patiently as I’d like. 

I get that she’s busy. And that I ask a lot of questions and aren’t that warm and fuzzy myself. But I’m not asking for too much. Maybe just taking an extra second or two at the end of an appointment to assure me before turning and scooting out the door. 

Show me you care about me. Give me a reason to like you. And maybe I will. 


The case is closed; your relationship isn’t


You finish the case and send the client a letter explaining that the case is closed. You tell them what happened, what to expect, how to get their documents, and so on, and thank them for allowing you to represent them. 

Your letter allows you to protect yourself, in much the way a letter declining representation does, and provides other benefits. This article does a good job explaining these benefits, the risks for not sending one, and a description of what should go in your letter.

But I write about marketing and would be remiss if I didn’t point out how your closing letter (or a secondary letter or document) can bring you more business and solidify your relationship with the client. 

What should you say that speaks to that subject? That depends on your practice area, your relationship with the client, and other factors, but here are some options to consider:  

  • Thank you again for choosing me/your firm, how they helped make your job easier (with examples), and how you enjoyed getting to know (and work with) them and their team, partners or family
  • A summary of the steps you took during the pendency of the case, or a recap of what you’ve previously sent them, so they can see how much you did to earn your fee
  • If the case was lost or the result was disappointing, some perspective about that
  • A request to fill out a survey about their level of satisfaction with the work you did and how you treated them
  • A request to leave a review and instructions about how and where to do that; copies of (or links to) reviews by other clients as examples
  • A list of your other practice areas, a description of how to recognize when they might need them, and (optionally) an offer for a free consultation or special offer
  • Asking them to contact you about any future legal issue because you know a lot of good lawyers who handle things you don’t handle
  • A request to share your report, presentation, brochure, business card, web page, etc. with people who might need or want information about a legal issue and how you can help them
  • A request for referrals and details about what to say and do to make it easier for them and the people they refer
  • Telling them you will continue to send them information they can use in their business or personal life (and/or requesting them to sign up for your newsletter) 

And then, in a couple of weeks, call them to see if they got this letter, if they have questions, and to once again thank them for choosing you as their attorney. 

The case has ended; the relationship continues. 


Do you care about your clients?


I see a doctor who is well regarded in her field, technically skilled (at least as far as I can tell) but severely lacking in bedside manner. She tells me what to do but doesn’t explain why or solicit questions. If I ask, she’ll answer but oh-so-briefly and (it seems) begrudgingly. 

She makes me feel like she doesn’t care about me. Like I’m just a billing code to tick off on her way to her next patient. 

I get that she has to see so many patients a day and doesn’t have time to chat. But that’s part of the job.

It wouldn’t take much. Asking how I’m doing (besides medically), telling me she’s happy when I tell her I’m doing better, an occasional smile or light moment, or even mentioning the crazy heat we’ve been having—you know, the kinds of things humans do when they want other people to feel like you give a fig. 

Why don’t I leave? Because I’m a big boy and can take it, and because it would be inconvenient to have to find someone new, especially since I’m almost done with my treatment. 

But I do think about it. A lot. 

So, I stay. But would I return? Recommend her? Probably not. And if I was writing a review, I’d write what I just told you.

I know she may be under a lot of pressure and may have problems of her own. It doesn’t matter. Patient care is a crucial part of her job.

She may actually care about her patients. But unless she makes them (us) feel like she does, she’s not doing her job. Or doing herself any good.

Lawyers have the same challenge, of course. Making the people we serve feel like we care about them. 

So simple. And some of the most effective marketing a professional can do. 

Here’s the formula


Want vs. Need


You want that cool task management app that does “everything”. But you don’t need it. You need a piece of paper and a pen. Or the free app that comes on your device. 

You may want a lot of things you don’t need. If you can afford them and they give you a benefit, why not? 

But ask yourself why you want it. 

Will it make you more productive? Help you earn more? Save time? Give you a harmless way to distract yourself from long hours of work? 

Is it fun? You’re entitled to have fun, you know. 

It’s okay to buy things or do things you want but don’t need. You don’t need a reason. 

And neither do your clients. 

A client may need your basic service but want your deluxe package. Give it to them.

People want things they don’t need and their reasons are their reasons. They might want convenience, to feel safer, or feel more important. 

If they want to give you more money, let them. 

On the other hand, be prepared to give them what they need when they can’t afford what they want. 

Make sure they get what they need, but if you really want to make them happy, give them what they want. 

That goes for you, too. 


 Successful bastards


Some lawyers are good at their work but severally lacking in people skills. They may be self-centered, short-tempered, or rude. They yell a lot. And always seem to focus on the negative. 


Or maybe they just don’t have much of a personality. They’re all business. They rarely smile or say anything lighthearted or uplifting. Maybe there’s a good person inside their rough exterior but most people don’t get to see it. 

And yet they are successful lawyers. What’s their secret?


They surround themselves with employees and partners and business contacts who have the people skills they lack. An assistant who is nice to the clients and makes them feel good about their case. A partner who is good in front of a crowd or a camera or a jury. 

They’re charming. And good with people. 

In an ad agency, they’d be account executives. Wooing prospects and taking the clients to lunch. In a law firm, they are the rainmakers and trial lawyers. 

And there’s a place for both. 

The point? Don’t try to be something you’re not. 

If you’re better with the books than the folks, if you’re as exciting as drapery or as bad as Leroy Brown, let someone else on the team be the face and personality of the firm and keep the clients happy. 

Even if you’re good with people, if someone else on the team is better, let them do the job. Or at least be around when there are clients in the house.

On the other hand, if you’re all warm and fuzzy and clients don’t always take you seriously, make sure to introduce them to your partner who channels Perry Mason. 

Know thyself. And get ye some buffers. 


Your best marketing investment


Your clients can fire you at any time and for any reason. And they might. Today could be the day they say Sayonara. And tell everyone they know that you’re a bum.

You need to be on your toes. Never take your clients for granted. Follow up like crazy. Give them the benefit of the doubt. 

Not just to protect yourself, but because client retention is the key to long-term success. 

Getting new clients is profitable. Keeping clients is far more profitable because it creates equity in your future.

It starts with how you think about marketing in general, and clients in particular. Think “clients,” not “cases”. “Relationships” not “transactions”. 

Cases are a one-time thing. Clients are for life. At least that’s how you should look at them and why you should continue to invest in your client relationships. 

You began investing when you attracted them, helped them believe in a better future, and worked hard to deliver. In return, they gave you their trust, and as long as you don’t do anything to lose it, will reward you with repeat business, referrals, introductions, and positive reviews.

As a result, you won’t have to scramble to find clients, spend a fortune on ads, or do things you don’t want to do.

When you invest in your clients, you invest in your future.


How to get more (and better) reviews


One of the most powerful tools you can use in your marketing is third-party validation of your work. You get more clients and better clients when other clients describe their positive experience with you. 

It is (marketing) law. 

But your clients are busy and don’t provide reviews or testimonials as often as they could, or as often you’d like. What can you do? 

One of the simplest things you can do is survey your clients, to find out what they like about you and your services (and also what they don’t like because you need to know that, too). 

Then, when a client fills out a survey and says nice things about you, thank them and ask if they would post their words on a review site you tell them about, or let you use their words as a testimonial. 

Tell them they can do that anonymously if they prefer, i.e., initials or first name/last initial only. Yes, full names are better, but a review with initials only is better than no review. 

Tell them how much you appreciate their providing a review, and how much other people will benefit by seeing it. 

 Get them to commit to doing it, help them if they need help, and thank them again. 

What do I mean by “if they need help”? I mean, if they struggle to put their story into words, or what they write isn’t as clear or specific or interesting as you’d like, rewrite their review for them.

Don’t change anything material. Clean it up, flesh it out, and make it easier to read. You’re saving them time and making them look good. You should find that most clients appreciate that help. 

You can do the same thing when a client thanks you or pays you a compliment over the phone or in person. Write down what they say, clean it up a bit, and send it to them, along with a request to post it or let you use it in your marketing materials.

Simple and effective. 

What else can you do? 

Every new client, in their “new client kit,” should get a list of review sites you recommend, along with a sampling of reviews you’ve received from other clients. Not only will this help them feel good about their decision to hire you, it will also make it easier and more likely to get reviews from them later.  

Finally, always send a thank you note. Tell the client (again) how much you appreciate their kind words and how it helps other clients find the help they need. If the client was referred to you, send a copy of their review, along with a thank you note, to the referring party. 

Showing them they made a good decision to refer their client or friend to you makes it more likely they will refer again. 

The Attorney Marketing Formula


It’s an investment, not an expense


Yesterday, I talked about following up with prospects and clients before, during, and after the case or engagement. Most lawyers get it. But many lawyers don’t do it because it takes a lot of time. 

I say it’s worth the time because it helps you get new business, keep clients from leaving, and generate positive reviews that can multiply that effect.  

But (surprise) lawyers are busy. Even if they want to do it, it’s too easy to let it slide. 

I mentioned having an assistant do it. Have them make the calls, send the emails, and otherwise manage follow up and other marketing activities for you. Yes, there is a cost, just as there is a cost to you if you handle this function yourself. If you take an employee away from their other work, that work might fall through cracks and cause problems. 

I say it’s worth the risk because the benefits outweigh that cost. Especially if you have a reasonable volume of cases or clients. 

Think about it. Do the math. If you hire someone part time and pay them $4000 per month, and they’re able to save one case or client per month or get one client to return, your costs would be covered, wouldn’t they? And if that assistant is able to stimulate clients to provide more reviews and more referrals, and this generates two additional cases (or saves) per month, you would double your investment. 

Over time, these numbers would compound.

You know I’m a big proponent of making referrals a primary marketing method for most attorneys. If you’ve read me for a while, you also know that you can stimulate referrals without explicitly talking to clients about the subject. But, let’s face it, talking to clients about referrals is a powerful way to get more of them. A lot more. 

If that’s not something you want to do, have your marketing assistant do it for you. 

I built my practice primarily with referral marketing. A key to making that happen was delegating as much as possible to assistants. 

It was an investment, not an expense. And it paid off in spades.

How to talk to clients about referrals


How to handle difficult clients


You have ‘em. Clients who nit-pick, micromanage, and demand things that aren’t part of the deal. They’re perfectionists, malcontents, or just a perpetual pain in the backside. What can you do?

Get rid of them. 

Well, that’s one option. But there are other things you can try before you show anyone the door. You probably already know everything on this list but, if you’re like me, just because you know something doesn’t mean you’re doing it and a reminder from time to time could be just what you (we) need.

  1. Put it all in writing. The nature and scope of the work, dates, goals, lists of steps, what they need to send you, and your authority with respect to making decisions, should be discussed, clarified, put in writing, and initialed. Because the best way to avoid problems later on is to spell out everything from the start. 
  2. Document everything. Every time you speak with the client, write down what was said by each of you (even if you’re not billing for that conversation). You don’t always have to follow-up with a written memo, but it can’t hurt. 
  3. Regular updates. You can avoid many issues by giving clients regular, detailed updates about what you’re doing, what happened, and what’s next. Keeping clients informed (and inviting their feedback) is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep clients happy. And if they’re not happy, bring the issue to a head sooner (when you can fix it) rather than later (when it might be too late).  
  4. Listen. Sometimes, clients are having a bad day and take it out on you. Before you respond to a complaint or demand, repeat it back to them. When they hear what they’re saying, they might see the unreasonableness of their concerns and back off. And, if not, they’ll tell you more you can use to fix the problem.
  5. Validate. If they have a legitimate concern, before you respond, tell them you appreciate them for calling this to your attention (because you do; it helps you do a better job for them and your other clients). Also, let them know you take the issue seriously and will do what you can to make improvements. 
  6. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Take the blame for small things as a tradeoff for keeping the client happy. If it’s a billing dispute, eat the difference. If it happens again, have a talk with them, make sure both of you are on the same page, and be prepared to modify your retainer agreement and/or your office procedures. 
  7. Build a good relationship. The best way to avert issues and amicably resolve them if they occur is to do everything you can to get your clients to like and trust you. When they do, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and work with you to fix anything that seems broken. 

If you consistently do everything on this list, you should see fewer misunderstandings and complaints. But remember, it’s the complaints you don’t hear that cause clients to leave, or for things to get so bad you have to ask them to leave, so always encourage your clients to tell you what’s on their mind. 


It never stops


You may not want to hear this, but here it is: lawyers sell legal services. 

Yes, you’re a professional and tiy are hired to provide professional services. No, you’re not a salesperson. But when a new client signs up, or an existing client hires you again, a sale has taken place, and you made that happen. 

And guess what? Selling doesn’t stop when they sign the retainer agreement. In fact, it never stops. 

You sell them on hiring you and then you sell them on staying with you.

You sell them on upgrading to your deluxe package or signing up for your monthly plan. 

You sell them on coming back to you after the initial case.

You sell them on giving you their other legal work. All of it, now and forever. (Or at least asking you about it so you can introduce them to other lawyers who can do the job).

You sell them on sending you referrals. And, once they’ve done that, on sending you more referrals. 

You sell them on introducing you to other professionals and influential people they know and work with. 

You sell them on providing you with reviews and testimonials, sending traffic to your site, promoting your events, and passing out your business card and brochure. 

And you sell them on having reasonable expectations about the outcome of their case (so you can exceed their expectation).

Of course, it’s not just prospects and clients you sell. You also sell insurance adjusters, opposing counsel, co-counsel, judges and juries, your client’s partners, directors and officers, and everyone else in your world. 

It’s all selling. And it never stops. 

And that’s a good thing because that’s how you build a more successful practice.