Unfortunately, succeeding as a lawyer isn’t just about being a good lawyer. Like any other business, you could have the best product in the world, but if you can’t get customers, your product is worthless. That’s why the hardest part of practicing law often isn’t winning a case, but it’s winning a client.
No matter what industry you’re in, if you aren’t able to effectively sell your services to customers, it’s going to be challenging to stay in business for long. That’s why, in order to help you land more clients and build your law practice, we put together this list of 5 tips to convert a consultation into a client.
1) Create a good brand and web presence
Most brick and mortar businesses define their brand based on the look and feel of their store or office. Since lawyers don’t have stores and most new client consultations are done over the phone, you often don’t have the chance to impress clients in this way. So the best way to establish yourself is through good branding and design for your web presence.
It’s important that you have a brand that matches the image you want to convey. This goes for everything from your website, to your Facebook page (yes you should have one if you don’t), to your business cards. You want to convey a consistent, high-quality brand for yourself across every channel and every potential interaction with a new client.
Although they are usually the most inexpensive, you should avoid the cookie-cutter website templates that companies such as Thomas Reuters will try to sell you. To clients, lawyers are mostly indistinguishable from each other as it is, and if you look the same as everyone else, you don’t increase your chances of standing out and landing that client. It’s worth spending a little extra money to establish a high quality brand and web presence. Your future clients are probably going to check out your website to get a feel for you and your law practice, so it’s essential that you appear trustworthy, competent, and approachable.
Also, don’t keep the same website for 10+ years. You need to update it regularly with new content for potential clients to explore. Here are some more tips on how to optimize your law firm website to get you started.
2) Engage with the client early and often
Being engaging on your website or social media can be the difference between just a website visitor and an actual client. There are plenty of methods and tools that can help you do this. Add widgets to your website for live chat (Zopim or Olark), have an active Facebook page, tweet about relevant legal topics, etc. The more engaging you can be, the more trustworthy you will appear in the potential client’s eyes, and the more likely you will be to ultimately secure their business.
Keep in mind that 83% of consumers need some degree of customer support when making an online purchase. This means that if you are not actively engaging with clients online, you are less likely to convert a potential client who comes to your site. While legal services are not an “online purchase” in the traditional sense, the buying cycle for almost anything involves a similar process.
Clients don’t just go to your website, fill out the web form, and hire you right off the bat. Typically they will do some research on you and your firm, compare you with other firms, read reviews, read your blog (if you have one, and once again you should), and take other steps to get a sense of who you are before contacting you. The ability to have active online customer support and get clients more engaged with your firm during this process will go a long way toward actually getting the client in the door and getting hired.
3) Research your client before the consultation
The more you know about the person before you speak or meet with them, the more likely you will be to retain them as a client. For instance, doing a Facebook or LinkedIn search might make you realize you have some friends in common, and at that point it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The trust is already there through your mutual friends. Even if you don’t have mutual friends, knowing that you both like golf or fishing can be that easy ice-breaker that will make the client feel comfortable right from the start.
Hiring a lawyer is often a stressful and difficult thing for people. If you keep it casual, find things to connect on at a personal level, and make the client feel comfortable right from the start, you will have a great shot at getting hired.
4) Don’t JUST conduct a consultation, get to know the person
This goes right along with number 3. Think about your first phone or in-person consultation like a first date. If you had a blind date, would your first question after introducing yourself be “so what are you looking for in a relationship?” No (if you said yes, that’s probably why you didn’t land that second date).
Similarly, don’t make your first question to a client be “how can I help you?” You need to warm the client up, create a personal connection before getting down to business. Consider it…legal foreplay. Ask them how their day is going, don’t just ask them about their legal problems. Creating a personal relationship early in a consultation will be more likely to result in a lifelong client. Here are more tips on how to keep your clients satisfied for the longterm.
5) Follow up
Once you’ve conducted your initial consultation, you should always send some sort of follow up communication. By sending a personalized email or, better yet, a handwritten note, you will stick out in the clients mind. Remember, the likelihood of you being the only lawyer trying to woo this client is small. Stand out from the crowd. Be better than everyone else. Be more professional than your competitors. Show the client that you care about them, and you are sure to give yourself the best shot at retaining them.
Although law school doesn’t teach business development, sales, or marketing, they are all essential skills to develop if you are starting or running your own law practice. You need to treat it more like a traditional business if you are going to become successful. The 5 tips to convert a consultation into a client discussed above are a great way to start.
So, get a good brand for yourself, engage with potential clients early on, find ways to connect on a personal level, and follow up after your consultations. Before you know it, your law practice will be thriving and every person you interact with will be more likely to become a longterm client.