Client relations starts before the client hires you

Share

Everyone touts the importance of excellent client relations, aka “customer service”. And rightly so. 

Making our clients feel appreciated, minding our manners, giving clients more value than they expect, being fair and honest in our fees and billing, keeping clients informed–this is how we build trust, get good reviews, and generate repeat business and referrals. 

We build our reputation and a loyal client following by the way we treat our clients, at least as much as by the outcomes we deliver. And we generally do a good job of it.

But we can do better. 

Because it’s not just how you treat a client after they come to see you, it’s the entirety of the client experience, which begins before you ever speak with them. 

When someone refers a prospective client to you, what do they tell them about you? 

When a prospective client watches your video, reads your article or blog post, or hears you speak, what does your content and delivery tell them about your abilities and experience?

When they visit your website, what do they learn about your services, your experience, and what it will be like to have you as their attorney?

When someone subscribes to your list, what do you send them, tell them, and offer them, and what does that say to them about you?

And when someone contacts you, to ask a question or schedule an appointment, what are they asked, what are they told, and how do you make them feel?

Because your success depends on how you make people feel–about their case or issue and about you.

A successful legal career isn’t a series of transactions so much as a journey, and how many people you can bring with you. 

And that journey begins well before the client’s first appointment, and continues long after their last one.

The Quantum Leap Marketing System for Lawyers

Share

Managing your marketing assets

Share

What you focus on grows (and improves). So it makes sense to pay attention to the tools and resources that help you build and manage your practice.

Make a list of your marketing assets. Start with your clients. Yes, all of them, past and present.

Each client can bring you repeat business and referrals. They can promote your content and events, send traffic to your website, provide testimonials and reviews, introduce you to other professionals they work with, give you ideas for blog posts, support the businesses and causes of your other clients and contacts, and the list goes on.

If they’re not on a list, it’s too easy to forget them.

Next on your list: anyone who has ever provided you with referrals and/or anyone who is influential in your target market and, therefore, could send you referrals.

Your employees are an asset. They can help (or hurt) you in keeping clients and others happy. Add them to the list.

You know a lot of other people who should also be on your list–prospective clients, potential referral sources, people who provide services to you (copywriters, consultants, artists, other experts), bloggers, editors, centers of influence in your niche market, colleagues and friends who inspire or encourage you, etc.

They should be on your list, too.

Your marketing assets also include:

  • Your website(s)
  • Your email subscriber list
  • Your social media profiles
  • Your marketing documents and other collateral (reports, ads, sales copy, emails, templates, keywords, etc.)
  • Ideas for posts, articles, promotions
  • Notes about your niche market and the key people in it
  • Stories, jokes, examples for presentations, etc.
  • Blogs and authors you follow

And we could go on.

They all have value to you. Add them to your list so you don’t forget them.

Once you have a list, pay attention to it. Schedule days to review your list and associated notes so you can nurture your relationships, update and improve your content, and get ideas for what to do next.

Quantum Leap Marketing System for Lawyers

Share

On-boarding new clients

Share

Remember your first day of school? You were scared, you didn’t know anybody, and you didn’t know what was going to happen or what was expected of you.

You may have wanted to go home.

To some extent, your new clients feel the same way. They’re nervous about their case, they don’t know you, and they don’t know what’s going to happen.

Part of your job is to alleviate their fears and doubts and make them feel good about their decision to hire you.

You want them to understand what’s about to happen, what to expect from you, and what you expect from them. You want to equip them to work with you, to help you achieve a good outcome for them.

And you want to set the stage for repeat business and referrals.

You need an on-boarding checklist that spells out what you will do, and when, with links to forms, emails, and lists of things you need to do or tell the new client.

Things like:

  • Introduce yourself, your staff, and your partners
  • Learn about their family, their employees, their other advisers
  • Inquire about other possible legal issues
  • Provide information about their case–the law, the procedure, the timetable, and the process you follow
  • Answer their FAQs
  • Orient them to the tools and processes you use to communicate with your clients (and ask them which apps or methods they prefer)
  • Give them a “tour” of your office and/or a virtual tour of your website and the resources available to them
  • Educate them about “what else” you do, ie., other services, practice areas
  • Provide reports, referral cards, etc., they can hand out
  • Provide exemplars of positive reviews you’ve received and links to sites where they can leave one if they’re happy with your work
  • Give them homework, to get them involved in the process
  • Send a thank you note, a welcome gift, and add their birthday to your card list

Your checklist should encompass what you will say and do at their first appointment and thereafter.

Your clients are your most valuable asset. A checklist can ensure you continue to invest in them.

How to create “referral devices” that bring in new business

Share

The best piece of advice I ever received as an attorney

Share

I didn’t learn it in law school. I don’t remember my father (attorney) talking about it. I didn’t read it in a book.

The best advice I ever received came from my grandfather.

He wasn’t an attorney, he was a business owner, farmer, and commodities trader. He made and lost fortunes in his lifetime and taught me a thing or two about business and life.

When I passed the Bar and opened my first office, he visited me, pointed at the top drawer in my desk, and told me that when I get a new client, the first thing I should do is open that drawer and tell the client to drop the cash in it.

Indelicate, yes, put but sound advice.

And I wish I had always followed it.

Clients who didn’t pay me, or pay me in full, were usually the ones I didn’t ask to pay in advance.

Lesson learned.

I hear from lawyers with clients who haven’t paid or slow-pay or try to weasel out of paying in full. Maybe you’ve had one or two.

Getting paid in advance, or at least getting a big retainer, will eliminate most of that, I tell them.

Yeah, but it will also eliminate them from hiring me, I can hear them thinking. And that’s true. But is that a bad thing?

Even if you need the money and believe it’s worth the risk, in the long run, having a (reasonably) strict policy about getting paid up front will serve you well, but not just in terms of cash flow.

It will also help you build your practice with a better crop of clients.

Clients who can and do pay you, on time or early, refer other clients who can do that, too. These types of clients also tend to have more legal matters and are prepared to pay higher fees if you give them what they want.

Should you ever make exceptions? Sure. But make them exceptions, not the rule.

Get the Check: Stress-Free Legal Billing and Collection

Share

Screening new clients before you take their money

Share

It’s one thing to “drop” a client who hasn’t paid or who has been a pain in your gluteus maximus. It’s something else to not let them sign up in the first place.

What do you do to eliminate problem clients in advance?

Do you talk to them on the phone before they’re allowed to make an appointment?

Do you do a background check? Ask for references? Do you accept new clients “by referral only”?

What do you ask at the initial interview? What red flags do you look for?

If you suspect they might be trouble, do you ask for a bigger retainer or require full payment in advance?

Do you do this yourself or do you have them talk to someone else first, e.g., your administrator?

And what, if anything, do you say or do in your marketing to filter out the bad apples?

Every practice is different. Criminal defense lawyers, we feel your pain.

Every lawyer is also different. You might be more relaxed than the firm down the street, or more careful if you’ve been burned before.

But one thing is certain.

You should think about this subject and create a plan, before the next prospective client calls.

Get the Check: Stress-Free Legal Billing and Collection

Share

Where I keep things I’m afraid to throw away

Share

I just started doing something with my digital files and notes I wish I’d done a long time ago. I designated a place to put everything I don’t need now but might need or want someday.

I’ve set up folders and notebooks in my various apps and labeled them “Archives”.

My archives now hold:

  • Closed files
  • Inactive projects (not started, aborted, finished)
  • Notes/docs/audios/videos from old business ventures
  • Old tax, banking, and insurance docs
  • Backups of old blog posts
  • Other backups
  • Old docs/notes that could be mined for useful materials
  • Personal mementos
  • Articles, notes, pdfs that might be useful some day
  • Things I should probably throw out but don’t have time to read to make sure

The kind of stuff we used to put in storage or in the basement or attic. The kind of stuff we are unlikely to ever need but hang on to “just in case” (or because it’s required by law).

One blogger refers to his archives as “Things I’m afraid to throw away”.

Yeah, that stuff.

I used to keep most of this intermingled with everything else. After all, it’s just electrons, right? They don’t take up space?

But they do.

When we search or browse through current project materials, all of our old stuff is mixed in, distracting us and creating mental and visual clutter.

When you put them in archives, they don’t.

I moved more than 4000 Evernote notes into an archive “stack”. In G Drive, I’ve moved many gigabytes of documents, audios and videos into an archive folder. And I’m not done.

Everything is out of sight, but available. Which means all of my current materials are more accessible, easier to organize and use.

Now, about all those old photos. . .

Evernote for Lawyers ebook: get it here

Share

What do your clients want from you?

Share

You know your clients want you to treat them well, charge reasonable fees, and keep them informed about the progress of their case.

But do you have this in writing?

I’m talking about a “pledge” or a “Client’s Bill of Rights”–something to show clients and prospects, and for you and your staff to commit to and follow.

Start by writing internal guidelines and objectives, for you and your staff. For example, you want your clients to feel welcome and appreciated and to know you are committed to doing your best to help them.

Then, write down things you know your clients want. Here are few ideas to get you started:

  • To know in advance how much they be charged
  • To be assured that everything they tell you is confidential
  • To get copies of everything that comes in or goes out (without being charged extra)
  • To be told what they can do to help you do a better job for them
  • What you will do first
  • To receive an estimate of how long things will take and an explanation of the factors that influence them
  • To not get billed for a quick call to you or from you
  • What happens if. . .
  • What happens when. . .
  • How often they will receive a bill
  • Retainer agreements and other documents that are easy to read and understand
  • Where to get additional information

As you flesh out your list, consider:

  • What prospective clients will see on your website, how they will be treated when they contact your office and when they speak with you.
  • What new clients will be told, what they will get, and how they will be treated.
  • What clients will be told at the end of their case, what you will give them, and what they should do if they have additional questions, need updates or additional services, and how to make a referral.

Make sure to customize your list to your specific practice areas, niche markets, and ideal clients.

Start your list by writing down whatever comes to mind. Ask your staff to contribute ideas. Talk to or survey your clients.

And, once you have a list, put it on your website.

Doing this will keep you focused on serving your clients and treating them the way they want to be treated. It will keep you from forgetting to do what you know you should do, and stimulate you to continually do better.

It will also help you build your practice with happy clients who tell everyone how great you are.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

Share

When was the last time you took inventory?

Share

Of all the things you do, in your practice and personal life, some things contribute more value than others. By taking inventory of everything you do, you can identify your most valuable activities, so you can do more of them.

You’ll have the time to do that, of course, by curtailing activities that contribute little or no value.

Taking inventory starts with choosing an area of your life where you’d like to be more productive or successful. Let’s say that’s your practice.

The first step is to write a list of everything you do in that area–all of your tasks, projects, habits, and routines. For your practice, include the different kinds of client work you do, all of the admin, and all of your marketing.

Add a number to each activity on your list. If there are 50 activities, number them 1-50, so you can identify each one separately.

Next, make a second list. Write down all of your successes in this area of your life. In this case, your practice.

These successes might include things like winning one or more big cases, getting a lot of traffic from a profile of you that appeared in a prominent publication, meeting a well-connected professional who helped you get a spot on a speaking panel, a successful ad campaign, or things you did to reduce your overhead without hurting your bottom line.

These could be one-time wins or things that bring you ongoing benefits.

When your “success” list is done, go through it again and next to each item, add the number of each “activity” (on your first list) that contributed to it.

For example, you might connect “reading blogs in your target market’s industry” and “writing articles for your target market’s publications” with the positive result of being introduced to a major center of influence in your client’s niche, which led to several new clients.

By connecting activities with results, you can see where the things you’re doing are working.

Whatever is left–activities you can’t connect to significant results–should either be eliminated, minimized, systematized, or delegated.

Finally, look at your success list and identify things you didn’t connect with an activity. Ask yourself what you could do to make results like these happen more often.

For example, maybe you met someone accidentally who hired you for a lot of legal work. Ask, “What can I do to meet their colleagues or counterparts?”

When you take the time to link your activities with your results, you’ll be able to see where you should spend more time and resources, and what you should do less of, or not at all.

How to meet and get referrals from other professionals

Share

Clean up on aisle nine

Share

I’m cleaning up my filing system. Why? Because I’ve got too many digital files (and duplicates thereof), in too many folders, on too many hard drives and in too many cloud accounts.

It’s a mess and I’m in the process of cleaning it up.

The first step is to move everything into one digital pile, to eliminate duplicates and see what I’ve got.

(I still have some paper docs which I’ll scan and upload later.)

I’m using Google Drive but you can use any cloud service, a local drive, or both (i.e., to back up your backups).

My new system reflects the different roles or areas of focus in my life and consists of these top-level folders:

Personal, Business One, Business Two, and Miscellaneous. I also have an Inbox.

Each of the top level folders has sub-folders related to different areas of my work or personal life, or different steps in my workflow.

There are many ways to organize sub-folders:

  • Category
  • Date
  • People (Clients, Partners, Family, etc.)
  • Cases
  • Steps/stages
  • Type of media
  • Projects
  • Subject/topic

I’ll use different organizational structures for different areas of my life and for different projects.

As for file-naming, I plan to be specific but not too specific because it would take too much time to maintain this and because each file will enjoy the context of the folder(s) that house it, meaning I’ll have clues as to what something is by where it is filed.

When I’m done, I plan to add shortcuts to “frequently accessed files” on my desktop (Quick Access menu), and/or by adding a star in Google Drive.

And then, I’m going to re-organize my notes (in Evernote, etc.) with a similar setup.

This is a work in progress and I’m open to ideas. What does your file system look like?

Share

Do you have a Zoom headache?

Share

I heard from a friend who has been on one too many Zoom “conference calls” lately and is feeling overwhelmed.

These calls or chats take up a lot of time, time she could use to build her business.

And, she didn’t mention this, but I suspect there are times when she would rather not have to dress up or “put on her face” to get on a call.

I’m sure she’s not alone.

The worst part, however, is that these calls are so impersonal.

Many people thrive on meeting people in person, one-on-one and in groups. This was the norm for my friend before and I know that not being able to do this now makes here a bit. . . sad.

For a lot of people, this new way of doing business has become tiresome and they would like things to go back to “normal”.

What can we do?

For now, if you’ve taken to conducting video conferences to communicate with your team or your clients or colleagues, consider standing down a bit and communicating the old-fashioned way: email, text, or regular mail.

Let folks see the information on their own schedule.

If you don’t have to see each other or talk to each other, let it go.

And, if you do need to talk to each other, consider using the phone.

You can do group calls on the phone and nobody has to dress up. And you can do one-on-one calls, talk to each other and have a real conversation, without anybody focusing on how anyone else looks.

If you’re being asked to get on one too many video conferences and you’re finding it a bit much, talk to the organizer and let them know.

This new age of video conferencing is amazing and tremendously useful. But like any “shiny new object,” perhaps we’ve all taken things too far.

Hey, want to know a secret? I wrote this without combing my increasingly unruly hair. How about them apples?

Share