The Friday Five
There’s an old show business axiom that you always want to leave the audience hungry for more. Yes, you may rightfully see your law practice as more business than vaudeville. But you also want clients to find working with you is so pleasant and productive they wouldn’t think of contacting anyone else! And, of course, you want them excited to tell their friends and colleagues about you, too. Here are five simple things to remember in your pursuit of clients who can’t stay away.
1. Introduce them to the team. Okay, it could be true that you’re the single reason they hired the firm. But it’s hardly likely that you’re the only person they’ll deal with in your office. So do the gracious thing first chance you get. Walk client arounds and introduce them to the paralegal, receptionist, associate, senior partner and whoever else they may need to know. One or all of these people may work on their matter. Some will answer the phone. Some will stand in for you when you’re unavailable. Brag a little about each of your people and their capabilities—and, to the extent possible, tell your people a little about what you will be doing for the client. Let it be known you are proud this client hired you.
2. Be respectful and kind. It takes nothing away from you and, in fact, adds to your credibility when you behave as if clients’ time is more important than your own. Always offer refreshment if it’s an in-person visit, even if it’s a simple glass of water. Make extra copies of documents so clients will have exactly what they want in hand. Ask before calling them by their first names. Schedule phone conferences in advance for their convenience. Pay for parking. Discuss in the beginning how you anticipate the work will flow.
3. Communicate. Be available. Yes, give the client your direct-dial number. Heck, give them your cell and home number if necessary. Discuss how frequently they wish to be updated, and by which methods—then do it. Manage expectations by discussing possible outcomes ahead of the event. Include a personal note with invoices. Build dedicated documents in the cloud that allow you to work together in real time and keep up to date on new developments.
4. Finish up classy. When the deal is done or the matter concluded, don’t allow the opportunity to observe its ending escape you. If it all went well, then celebrate. But even if it didn’t go the way you would have liked, a quiet cup of coffee together is a great way to debrief and eliminate misunderstandings. Discuss the “what next” things. Review options. Send a thank-you letter (paper, not email) at the end of each engagement.
5. Continue to stay in touch. This means more than adding them to your holiday card list. Next time you read a great article about new developments in their industry, email the link with an “I thought of you” message. Introduce them to others who could be helpful to them. Share good news. Send sympathy for bad. Recommend a barber. Invite them to a gallery opening. Be a source of help even when it isn’t the legal variety.
Bottom line? Let clients know that you like and respect them—and that you’d love to hear from them if there’s ever a way you can help.
Merrilyn Astin Tarlton has been helping lawyers and law firms think differently about the business of practicing law since 1984. She is the Partner/Catalyst at Attorney at Work. A founding member of the Legal Marketing Association, she is a past President of the College of Law Practice Management and an LMA Hall of Fame inductee. Follow her on Twitter @attnyatwork.
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