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As private practice attorneys, we’ve all been on the receiving end of lawyer jokes — sometimes by well-intentioned family members, other times by members of the community. You may feel as though the people around you believe your sole focus is money. As you build and market your practice, it’s important to actively fight that perception.
Ultimately, prospective clients want an attorney who makes them feel comfortable. They want someone who is trustworthy, with a “human touch” as well as the knowledge and experience to do the job.
You don’t want to wear your heart on your sleeve, but sometimes letting a prospective client know that you’ve “been there” has a huge impact. It could be the difference between that client choosing you or going elsewhere. One event that made me better able to connect with my clients was my own daughter’s distracted driving car accident. Of course, it’s not something I would wish on anyone, but now that I’ve seen it through the eyes of a parent, it’s something I can never unsee.
I determined that as part of my role in the Oklahoma community, I would work to raise awareness of distracted driving and its dangers. I know firsthand how devastating a distracted driving accident can be, and I have made it my mission to share information and resources with parents, teens and any driver in the community so that we can prevent this from happening.
I was already advocating for victims of vehicle accidents when my daughter was involved in one. When I handled that experience as a dad, and not as a lawyer, I was able to see it exactly the way my clients do when they come into my office. If what you’re passionate about is connected to the areas in which you practice, it gives you additional compassion for your clients’ experience.
You don’t need to suffer a personal tragedy to connect with your clients. Chances are that if you’re practicing law, it’s because you had the fire in your belly at some point, whether in law school or in your first years in practice. You must have cared an awful lot about something in order to do what you do. Find that fire and reignite it.
In addition to giving back to the community, there are several ways my awareness-raising efforts benefit my practice. Here are some strategies for becoming known as a passionate advocate for your own cause.
Reach out to local media and community leaders. Call your local or national news outlets, community groups and like-minded organizations. Notice I said to call, not email, postal mail or tweet. Make a connection with a human being. Introduce yourself. Tell that person what you’re about and what you’re trying to do. Email messages, flyers and other communications get swept aside too easily. If your intention is to get out there and be known as an advocate or authority on a topic, you want people to hear your voice and see your face. Set up a coffee date or other in-person meeting with the relevant people in your community so that you have their undivided attention, even if only for 30 minutes.
It’s hard to carve out the time, but view it as an investment in your business. When something happens that’s newsworthy and related to your practice, yours will be the first name on the list of sources to call for information.
Offer to be interviewed, write articles and speak at events. Often, someone needs an attorney in a time of crisis. If you’ve cultivated relationships with the news media or local organizations, the community will know you. That name recognition and familiarity breeds trust — and that’s what will make a prospective client call you first when they are in a pinch.
Stay informed. As I become more well-versed on the topic of distracted driving and there’s new information to report, I am putting myself out there, front and center, to present as an authority on the issue. That means if someone does find himself in a situation in which a personal injury attorney is necessary, my face and message will be top of mind. I have spoken at high schools, in news interviews and elsewhere to serve as the human face of how distracted driving can affect a family — and how I can help others.
Above all, be sincere. We’ve all worked too hard and too passionately to be the butts of ambulance-chaser jokes. None of us slogged through law school, those first jobs and the early years of building our law firms because we were only in it for ourselves. We all do what we do because, in our hearts, we care about helping people when they need it most.
Now, all we have to do is show it.
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