New and seasoned attorneys alike have time and again pondered the age-old question: what will really bring clients to my door? In other words, what are those certain “X” factors that clients are after when selecting legal counsel? Turns out, it may actually be a combination of components that ultimately convert a casual Google search to a full-fledged attorney-client relationship. While many attorneys tirelessly stress over appropriate fee structures and waiting room décor, there are a host of other ingredients any firm owner worth her salt should consider investing in as well.
Legal consumers are looking for a positive experience from start to finish, and well-trained staff is essential to this. Remember, that initial phone call to the law office will be a potential client’s very first impression of the business. A rude, discourteous or distracted receptionist may drive away clientele quicker than an obnoxious TV ad campaign (you know the ones). Further, paralegals and other staff members who may be directly involved in case management should be well-versed in email etiquette, telephone presence and the proper way to diffuse a tense or anxious client situation. All staff should be trained – and regularly reminded – in the best practices when communicating with professional colleagues and opposing counsel.
Another big selling point for a potential client is the attorney’s personal legal experience. Specifically, clients will be interested in the attorney’s niche practice area(s), and whether their particular situation is a good fit given the attorney’s background. Experience should be generally described on the firm’s website (without revealing confidential information, of course), and should also be a major selling point in the initial consultation. Potential clients are similarly interested in whether the attorney has an overwhelming caseload, as this factor could lead many to believe the attorney cannot “handle” adding yet another case to the fray. Given this, potential clients are generally less interested in statistics like win ratio, as this does not necessarily paint the entire portrait of an attorney’s particular skill set.
It goes without saying that the financial factor will be a big one for potential clients to consider. Fee transparency is absolutely essential when selling the firm to a potential client, and law firms are best advised to lay it out on the table early on. Retainer agreements should be clear-cut without overuse of legalese. If a matter is more transactional and a flat fee is appropriate, ensure that the fee structure includes a description of everything the attorney will (and will not) do for the client. Many firms choose to post their fee structure online, which gives clients the opportunity to mull it over prior to the consultation.
What really doesn’t matter
While attorney skill and salary rank high on the list of considerations pondered by a potential client, certain other factors are not as relevant. Things like professional headshots, fancy lobby décor or elaborate client gifts are much less likely to win over legal service consumers than hard knowledge and prompt attorney-client communication. Moreover, peppering a website with information about the attorney’s particular demographic (e.g., gender, military service, etc.) are generally disfavored or ignored, as are extensive and elaborate recitations of the attorney’s credentials. Lastly, most clients are not overly aware of the lawyer disciplinary protocol standard in all states, so mentioning a clear misconduct record is unlikely to be the deciding factor for new clients – and may seem disingenuous to some.
Above all, attorney professionalism and demeanor will sell the firm better than any other trait – however, it doesn’t hurt to focus on those dynamics that mean the most to consumers. Today’s consumers crave transparency and candor, a friendly office, and unmatched attorney experience – so be sure to set the bar high.