When I hear the phrase “red velvet rope,” I picture a Studio 54-esque scene with a line of people outside of a nightclub who are either on the VIP list or hoping they’re hot enough to convince the bouncer to let them through. Many of us have left our nightclub days behind, but author Michael Port says we still need a red velvet rope.
When opening a law practice, many lawyers believe they need to take every case that comes in the door. Port takes the opposite view and recommends turning away prospects who don’t fit the profile of your ideal client.
What Is a Red Velvet Rope Policy?
In Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling, the first thing Port recommends an owner do is create a “Red Velvet Rope Policy” for your business. Instead of taking whatever business you can get, you should only let the most ideal clients hire you, “the ones who energize and inspire you.”
According to Port, when you work with the best clients, you love your job, which leads to you doing your best work. You feel more energized and confident as a result, and will be able to better connect with your clients.
Additionally, Port reminds readers that “you are your clients” and you should “choose your clients as carefully as you choose your friends.” Just like we were warned in high school to be careful about who we made friends with, the same is true in business. People will judge you based on your clients and their reputations will affect yours.
How Do You Determine Who Gets Through the Red Velvet Rope?
One of the benefits of having a red velvet rope policy is you get to customize it to your personality and workstyle. Port recommends that you start by writing a list of qualities that you find ideal in your clients, and that you only let potential clients through who fit 75 percent of the items on the list.
Port cautions that while ability to pay is a quality you may want to put on your ideal client qualities list, it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider.
This list should ultimately become the filter you use to determine which clients you accept.
What If You Let Someone Through Who Isn’t an Ideal Client?
You know who these clients are. You dread every phone call and email you get from them. You probably had a nagging feeling when you took the case that doing so was a mistake. These clients frustrate you and, to be honest, you may hate working with them. So what do you do now that they’ve gotten through your red velvet rope?
Port recommends that you “dump the dud clients,” which will give you more time and energy to put into working with and attracting ideal clients. In the legal world, this means fire these clients if you can. Give them a refund for any fees you haven’t earned and refer them to a lawyer who might be a better fit — or send them to your area’s lawyer referral service (because friends don’t dump bad clients on friends).
If you can’t ethically fire a dud client, finish the representation to the best of your ability, then disengage and then don’t let that client rehire you. Even if you have space in your calendar to take on another case, tell the dud that it’s not a case you can take and give them a referral.
When someone doesn’t pass your red velvet rope, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. They’re just not the right fit for your law practice. Keeping these people out will make you a happier, more productive lawyer and, according to Port, ultimately more successful.
Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. Her virtual practice, The Carter Law Firm, focuses on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, Ruth is the author the new ABA book, Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans, as well as The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to Get Sued, Fired, Arrested or Killed. In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her practice. She also blogs weekly at UndeniableRuth.com.
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