“The 30-second rule”: more clients and better verdicts?


In a recent post, How to make people like you, I said that a positive attitude is a key to getting people to like you, especially when dealing with people facing stressful situations. Being liked may not be first on the list of traits you associate with success in the legal field, but countless studies demonstrate that people prefer to do business with people they know, like, and trust. All things being equal, clients will choose you and referral sources will refer to you, because they like you.

Let’s face it, even litigators benefit when juries, judges, adjusters, and opposing counsel like them.

Books like The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams by Tim Sanders and 25 Ways to Win With People:How to Make Others Feel Like a Million Bucks by John C. Maxwell and Les Parrott substantiate this and offer specific strategies for achieving greater likability.

Maxwell and Parrott say the way to make people like you is to make them feel good about themselves when they are with you. One way to do that is with something Maxwell calls, "The 30-Second Rule: within the first thirty seconds of a conversation, say something encouraging to a person."

Maxwell learned this from his father who taught him that when you make contact with people, instead of focusing on yourself, search for ways to make them look good. It could be saying thank you for something they have done for you or someone you know. You might praise them on an accomplishment, or offer a word of encouragement as they work towards a goal. Or you might simply compliment their appearance.

Maxwell encourages us to ask ourselves, "What positive, enouraging thing can I say to each person I will see today?"

With whom is your next appointment? Who will you be speaking with later today? Think about what you could say to them that will make them feel good about themselves, and say it.

This may feel uncomfortable, at first, but give it a try. What might surprise you is how good you feel making others feel good about themselves.


What to put in a thank you letter


Q: What are the main points to get across in a thank you letter to a client? Is it appropriate to add that I’m working to build my practice and referrals are appreciated?

A: It’s not wrong to mention referrals in a thank you letter, but I think it’s better when a ‘thank you’ is just that and nothing more. Let the client know that you appreciate him or her and just wanted to say so. It will mean more to them that way, don’t you think?

I also recommend that the ‘letter’ be a ‘note’ — hand written on note cards. It’s more personal that way and people appreciate that you took the time to write them a personal note. There’s less room on a thank you card, too, so you can be done with just a few sentences, whereas your letterhead has a lot of space to fill.

The note should say:

1. Thank you; I appreciate you; I am glad to know you
2. Reference something personal about them or their case
3. Call me if you have questions about anything
4. Thanks again

Sign the note, "Sincerely," or "Warmly," followed by your signature.

That’s not the only way to write a thank you, but it works. In just three or four lines, you show the client that he is not just a name on a file to you, you really do appreciate him.

Hand written notes are an extremely potent form of communication for another reason: nobody sends them. So when you do, you will really stand out in the mind of the recipient. You didn’t send a form letter, you didn’t email, you took some of your precious time to pen a personal note and put a stamp on it.

One attorney started doing this and told me his secretary made him stop. Apparently, they were getting so many calls to say "thank you" for his "thank you," she didn’t have time to do her work. But it was a nice problem to have (and they didn’t stop) because they also got a lot of referrals.

Try it, and watch what happens.