Why clients don’t appreciate their attorneys (and what to do about it)


An attorney mentioned to me that clients often don’t appreciate what attorneys do for them. He said, “. . .[B]ecause they can’t see what we do or because they believe that it’s just templates and forms, [they think our] fees should be low and that we don’t really do much for our fees.”

We shouldn’t be surprised that clients feel this way. After all, we sell an intangible service, something you can’t look at or hold in your hands. We deal in ideas and paper and much of the hard work goes on in our brains.

And attorneys are expensive. When the client earns $30 an hour and you’re billing $300 an hour, or when you get $3,000.00 for “a few letters and phone calls,” you can see why they don’t appreciate what we do.

A detailed accounting of your work helps them see how much effort you put into their case or matter. But this can backfire if they don’t understand why you had to do what you did.

The solution is to teach your prospects and clients as much as possible about what you do. Educate them about the law and procedure. Teach them about their options, the risks and the contingencies. Show them the process and the paperwork.

The more they know, the more they will appreciate what you do for them.

Write articles and blog posts. Tell war stories that illustrate what can go wrong. Provide interviews, Q and A’s, and FAQ’s.

Record videos that walk them through the documents in a typical file or a pile of depo transcripts, tabbed and notated. Give them copies of the full opinions you quoted in your motion, highlighted and with your notes in the margins. Give them copies of everything that comes into, or out of your file.

And explain everything. What is obvious to you is not obvious to them. What you do every day is something they’ve never seen before.

Tell them why you choose A instead of B. Explain why you used to do C (which is what other attorneys do) and why you no longer do it that way.

Don’t hold back. Teach them enough so that they could do all of it, or parts of it, themselves. They won’t even want to try and they will begin to appreciate how hard you job really is.

They won’t understand everything and they don’t have to. They simply need to see that what you do is a lot more than they thought it was.

Educating prospects and clients is also one of your most potent marketing strategies.

When you teach people about what you do, and other attorneys don’t, you have an advantage. All of that information positions you as knowledgeable and experienced. It also positions you as generous. “If he gives away all of this information free, I can only imagine how much he does for his paying clients!”

Educate the market. Provide lots of information. Teach them what they need to know about their legal matter and about what you do. More often than not, they’ll choose you as their attorney and instead of questioning your fees they’ll thank their lucky stars you agreed to represent them.


How to get prospective clients to see you as the ONLY attorney to choose


Imagine you are looking for a new accountant. You’ve collected information about several candidates, but you haven’t spoken to any. You’ve narrowed your list to three accountants you plan to contact.

You call the office of the first accountant and tell the receptionist you want to talk to Mr. Roberts about possibly hiring him. You are told that you will need an appointment and you set one up for the following week.

You have a similar conversation with the second accountant’s office, but in this case, you are transferred immediately to Mr. Green. He tells you about his background and practice. He’s friendly and open and you schedule an appointment to meet with him as well.

You call the third accountant, Mr. Jones, and are transferred to his personal assistant, Sally. She asks you some questions and also sets up an appointment with Mr. Jones.

So far so good. Three decent candidates. You’ll meet all three in person within the next ten days and you hope you can choose the right one. You start making a list of questions you will ask when you meet.

You check your email. There’s a message from Sally, Mr. Jones’ personal assistant, thanking you for your call and confirming your appointment. Attached are some documents for you to review before you meet:

  • A letter confirming your appointment, directions, and parking instructions.
  • A F.A.Q. brochure about Mr. Jones, his firm and staff, fees, payment options and other basics a prospective client would want to know
  • Three articles by Mr. Jones, one about saving time and money with bookkeeping, one on how to minimize taxes, and one published in a bar journal about tax issues lawyers need to know that will help with do a better job for their business clients.
  • Another article, an interview of Mr. Jones that was published by a prominent CPA Journal
  • Three back issues of Mr. Jones’ newsletter
  • A booklet of testimonials from Mr. Jones’ clients, including several attorneys, and endorsements from other CPAs, financial planners, and a professor of taxation
  • Mr. Jones’ CV listing his education, experience, awards and honors
  • A two-page questionnaire to be filled out in preparation for your appointment, about your practice and your tax and accounting needs

Every page includes links to Mr. Jones’ web site. There you find additional information, articles, blog posts, white papers, and back issues of his newsletter. There is also a link to subscribe to his ezine via email and links to connect with him on social media. You follow several links and see he is connected to many attorneys, including many whose names you recognize.

The next day, you get an email from Mr. Jones himself. He says he’s looking forward to meeting you the following week, encourages you to fill out the questionnaire, and says he has already visited your web site to get some preliminary information about your practice.

Mr. Jones invites you to send him additional information about your practice that you would like him to see, and any questions you would like him to address.

The next day, in the postal mail, a hand written note arrives, signed by Mr. Jones. It says, simply, “I’m looking forward to meeting you next Wednesday.”

Over the next few days, you get two more emails from Mr. Jones.

The first is an article written by one of his other clients, a lawyer who practices in the same field as you. The email says something nice about this lawyer and Mr. Jones says he thought you might like to read the article, that a lot of his clients have found it helpful.

The second email contains a checklist Mr. Jones gives to all of his clients and a report that shows how to use it to save time and better prepare for tax time. The email invites you to contact Mr. Jones if you have any questions. The email is signed “Bob”.

Next week rolls around and two days before your appointment, you get an email reminding you of the appointment and asking you to either send your questionnaire in advance or to bring it with you.

The next day, the day before the appointment, Mr. Jones’ assistant calls you with a courtesy reminder. She asks if you have any questions, reminds you that they have free parking, and says she and Mr. Jones are looking forward to seeing you.

You haven’t even met Mr. Jones but you already know: he’s the one. You will probably meet with the others, just to be sure, but unless Mr. Jones has two heads and a forked tongue (and maybe even if does), he will be your new accountant.

What can be learned about this experience?

  • Mr. Jones used a “shock and awe” campaign to overwhelm you with reasons for choosing him over any other accountant. Even if you never read the documents he sent you, you are impressed by his diligence and thoughtfulness and convinced he has the requisite experience.
  • The personal touches he adds to the process made you feel good about him. He treats you like a client before you became one. He shows you respect, like you are a valued individual, not a name on a file folder.
  • He provides social proof (articles, testimonials, endorsements) of his experience with and commitment to attorneys as a niche market for his practice. He makes you believe he understands what you do. He shows you that he has helped others like you, suggesting that he can do the same for you.
  • He uses content (articles, blog posts, etc.) to do the heavy lifting. It proves he is good at what he did, without him having to say so himself.
  • It doesn’t take a lot of time to do what he does because almost everything is written in advance and he and his staff obviously use a checklist to manage most of the process.
  • He doesn’t do anything you couldn’t do. You may not have all of the documents he has, but you can start with what you do have and add more later.

I’m sure you can imagine what Mr. Jones will do when you arrive at his office, during the appointment, and after the appointment. Marketing is actually very simple: Treat people like you would like to be treated.

Take some time to outline the process for communicating with a prospective client for your practice. What can you do to show them what they need to see and hear so that they fall in love with you?

Done right, they will “know, like, and trust” you before they even meet you. You won’t just be the best choice, you’ll be the only choice.