Nobody owes you jack squat

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You’re a lawyer. Big flippin deal. So are a million other people. You have a fancy degree and a fancy office but as far as clients are concerned you charge too much and barely do anything for the big bucks you demand.

What’s so special about you? Why should I hire you instead of any other lawyer? Why should I pay you all that money?

In fact, why should I even visit your website or listen to you talk? Talk is cheap. What are you going to tell me that I won’t hear from every other lawyer with a fancy office?

This is what you’re up against my little droogies. Nobody trusts you. Nobody believes you. Nobody owes you the benefit of any doubt.

This is your ultimate marketing challenge and you must never get complacent.

You want clients? You have to earn them. Prove to them that you can do the work they need and prove to them that you will do what you promise.

Repeat clients? Just because you helped them once doesn’t mean they will come back. You have to stay in touch with them. Because people forget and because other lawyers tell them they can do a better job or do it cheaper or faster.

Referrals? Clients don’t know you want them. They think that if they send you business you won’t have time for them. They’re lazy and don’t know what to do. You need to tell them why referrals are good for everyone and tell them what to do to make them happen.

Nobody cares what you want, they care about themselves.

Assume nothing. Tell them everything. And prove it, again and again.

Because nobody owes you anything.

How to talk to clients about referrals

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Why people don’t trust lawyers

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Why is it that so many people don’t trust lawyers? Unless they’ve been burned by a lawyer before, or know someone who has, I think it comes down to how we are portrayed in the media, movies, and TV. And let’s not forget all of those lawyer jokes.

And yet I think most people who meet us for the first time are willing to give us the benefit of the doubt. They will assume that we can be trusted, because it’s too difficult to assume that we cannot. They come to us with a problem and they want to believe that they can trust us to help them.

But their trust can evaporate in an instant.

The smallest misstep can trip us up. A little white lie, missing a deadline by a day or two, a bill that comes in for a few dollars more than expected.

For many clients, one screw up, one broken promise, or even one exaggeration is all it takes.

I thought about this over the weekend when I was looking at a book on Amazon. A five-star review said something like, ” . . .although it took some time to read. . .” and then praised the book. But the book was only 26 pages. Seeing that, I knew the review was phony. The author had purchased the review.

That’s cheating. And against Amazon’s terms of service. If the author did that, what else is he dishonest about? Why should I trust his information or advice?

So I didn’t “buy” the book, even though it was free.

One strike and he was out.

Learn how to build trust

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7 things you probably don’t know about me

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I usually don’t share a lot about my personal life, at least not online. If you look at what I post on Flakebook and other sites, it’s either business-related or something fun but impersonal, e.g., cat videos others have posted.

And yet I do believe it’s a good idea to open up and tell people a little bit about yourself. It helps them get to know you and like you (“You do that, too?!’) When you have something in common, they begin to trust you.

Anyway, here are 7 things you probably don’t know about me:

  1. I entered law school at age 20. I wasn’t the youngest in my class, however.
  2. I sold my boyhood coin collection to open my first law office.
  3. I used to play the drums; now I play table tops and my thighs.
  4. In in 80’s, I owned a real estate seminar business. C’mon, didn’t everyone?
  5. I built a successful network marketing business and wrote a book about it.
  6. My favorite game is chess. I also like word games. I played a lot of poker in college.
  7. I would like to try stand-up comedy some day. People tell me I’m funny; I tell ’em, “looks aren’t everything”.

No, not shocking. Not even very interesting. I don’t sky dive in the nude, I’ve never climbed a mountain, and I’ve never performed the Heimlich maneuver (although I did take a CPR class once).

Okay, now it’s your turn. Make a list of things your clients probably don’t know about you and post it (or a portion thereof) on your website and on social media. Email it to your list.

You don’t need to share your darkest secrets. They already know you’re a lawyer and eat your young.

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The Better Business Bureau for lawyers: what are the benefits?

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What are the benefits of the Better Business Bureau for lawyers? More than anything: trust. Being able to say that you are a member in good standing of the BBB tells clients and prospective clients (and those who might refer them) that you are one of the good guys.

Being accredited by the BBB allows you to post their badge on your website and in your office, and use it in your advertising. If that makes even one prospective client choose you instead of another attorney, it will be well worth it.

To prospective clients, lawyers’ ads and websites all look pretty much the same. Clients look for anything that can distinguish you from your competition in even the smallest way. BBB membership could be just the thing that tips the balance in your favor.

Being a member also gives you verisimilitude when you talk and write about the subject of trust. As a member of the BBB, you are holding yourself accountable by aligning yourself with an organization that encourages feedback from the public.

The BBB doesn’t rate you in the same way that Martindale or AVVO might. An A+ rating from the BBB is easier to achieve than A-V, however, and more people are familiar with the BBB.

There are additional benefits to belonging, as this article points out. I wouldn’t count on getting any business through the directory or through these other methods, but you certainly might.

In a world that increasingly distrusts lawyers, anything you can do to foster trust is a good thing. Take a look at what your local BBB has to offer.

For more ways to build trust, get this

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Why don’t people trust lawyers and does it really matter?

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why don't people trust lawyers?I just read an interview of the authors of a new book, “The Trusted Advisor’s Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust.” In this sequel to, “The Trusted Advisor,” Charles Green and Andrea Howe present tools and exercises for helping lawyers earn the trust of their clients.

Clearly, this is an important subject. After all, clients hire attorneys they “know, like, and trust” and if your clients don’t trust you, or don’t trust you enough, there will either be a strain on your relationship or no relationship at all.

Matt Homman, who conducted the interview, asked the authors, “What questions were you expecting [in interviews] and haven’t yet been asked? How would you answer them?” Green said a question they haven’t been asked is, “Why don’t people trust lawyers? And is it a bum rap?”

Green said it’s not a bum rap, people generally don’t trust lawyers.

I agree. But then I started thinking about this issue of trust and wondered how important it really is. People don’t trust lawyers and yet they hire lawyers every day.

And then I thought that not trusting lawyers may actually be a good thing. For clients, lawyers, and everyone else.

For lawyers, living in a world where people generally don’t trust you gives you an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. You can show why you can be trusted and you don’t need to do a lot to accomplish this.

We need to show clients:

  1. We know what we’re doing,
  2. We’re not going to rip them off, and
  3. We’ll do our best to help them.

This is not difficult. Share some stories, look them in the eye, patiently answer all their questions, and you’re half way there. And if you were referred to the client, you’ve rounded third base and are headed for home.

Once you’re hired, show clients you know what you’re doing by doing it, don’t rip them off, and do your best to help them. Oh, and return their calls.

Be a mensch. People will trust you (and your mother will be proud).

Okay, this is overly simplified, but the truth is that earning trust isn’t extremely difficult, and it is actually made easier because of the pervasiveness of distrust. A little effort on your part will go a long way.

A general distrust of lawyers is also a good thing for clients. If people innately distrust lawyers, won’t they be inclined to ask more questions before hiring one?

It’s when people are too trusting that they get hurt. It’s when they don’t ask enough questions or seek enough assurances that they get into trouble. (I don’t think Bernie Madoff had a law degree but you get the point.)

And let’s not forget “the other guy’s” lawyer. Not trusting the other side’s counsel is almost always a good thing.

Okay, people don’t trust lawyers, this is a good thing for clients, and lawyers can stand out from the crowd and earn their clients’ trust without a lot of effort.

So, what’s the problem?

Now, if we can only do something about those damned lawyer jokes.

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