10 Ways Lawyers Quickly Destroy Trust (and 10 Ways to Fix It)

Relationships are built upon a foundation of trust.

Marketing your law firm is about relationships. Look at your approach to creating new client relationships. How is your marketing affecting the level of trust felt toward your firm?

It’s easy to diminish trust if you’re not very careful. That’s especially true at the outset of a relationship. The first moments are critical to creating trust.

Restoring trust is tough once it’s damaged. Restoring trust lost before a solid relationship is formed is even harder.

Here are some ways law firms diminish trust at the outset of a relationship:

  1. Failing to quickly respond to a prospective client. We spend a fortune on marketing to make the phone ring. Then we let the calls go to voicemail, and we can’t be bothered to call back quickly? What the fudge?
  2. Keeping a prospective client waiting beyond the appointment time. Sitting in the lobby costs you as the seconds tick by. Good clients are flooded with “Do you know who I am?” thoughts? What’s the point of scheduling appointments if you intend to make people wait?
  3. Cutting and pasting the wrong client name/address in a welcome e-mail, greeting packet, etc. Seemingly trivial errors aren’t trivial to the prospective client. My name is a big deal to me. Get it?
  4. Advertising “free” information that’s skimpy/inadequate. “Get our free e-book,” says the ad. Then the book is a short article. This stuff only works on those who lack critical thinking skills and judgment. Maybe that’s the market you’re seeking?
  5. Advertising a “free” consultation with strings/time limits/restrictions attached. It’s not “free” if it’s not free. What am I missing here?
  6. Revealing information about another client with an illustrative story. Telling stories with too many facts will get you in trouble when the main character turns out to be the prospective client’s cousin. Been there, done that. I suggest you learn from my mistake.
  7. Inadvertently revealing information about another client by leaving documents visible in your meeting room. That pile of crap in the corner is making your prospective client wonder whether this is the way her secrets will be treated. She’s right to worry, right?
  8. Inadvertently revealing information about another client when the client can overhear speakers in an office. The receptionist is using names that can be heard. The lawyers are speaking loudly with the door open. The prospective client sits in the lobby taking it all in. Then, when you ask for the big fee, he’s “not sure.” I wonder why.
  9. Marketing “XXX years of combined experience” when the lawyer in the initial consultation has practiced for six months. When the client shows up at the consult and the lawyer is 12 years old, it creates cognitive dissonance. Don’t emphasize stuff that’ll come back to bite you later in the form of lost trust.
  10. Failing to answer critical questions like “How much will this cost?” or “How long will this take?” Failing to provide answers to obvious questions raises more questions. Why are you hiding the ball? Is it ignorance? Or is it fear? Either way, the prospective client wants the truth even when it’s ugly, unpleasant, and expensive.

Here are some ways law firms build trust at the outset of a relationship:

  1. Quick response to initial contact. In a perfect world, all intake calls are handled immediately and within a couple of rings. That’s especially important in the retail law world of family, criminal, personal injury, etc.
  2. Detailed pricing on the firm’s website. Tell the client what it’ll cost. Don’t know? Then tell them what you do know. Give them a best case and worst case. Explain how it’s determined and what factors influence the total fee. Share your expertise and insight.
  3. Properly represent whatever is offered. Subtle lies on the website are destructive. Your chat box pops up on the website and says “Answers to your questions.” I click and ask a question, and someone attempts to sell me an initial consultation. That would be fine if the box hadn’t promised answers. But now I’m annoyed and I trust you less.
  4. Providing answers to important questions on the firm website. Giving the prospective client answers builds trust in the same way that the delicious sample bite of sesame chicken makes me more inclined to come into the restaurant and order dinner. Show me, don’t tell me. Give me the answer instead of telling me how you’re “excellent.”
  5. Expect the caller when the prospective caller makes first contact. When the call happens, it needs to feel like your team was waiting for the call and not like the caller is interrupting.
  6. Give the caller full attention and listen as long as necessary. Give callers time to tell their story, vent, and connect. Listening with caring, compassion, and concern builds trust faster than anything else on the list.
  7. Explain the process completely and eliminate all confusion. Life is confusing. Coming to a lawyer to discuss something stressful is even worse. Where does the client park? Which door is best? What will happen upon arrival? Making this easy and comfortable builds trust.
  8. Send confirmation of the initial appointment with a detailed explanation of the process. You just explained it all on the phone, right? Now, explain it all again…in writing.
  9. Provide pictures or video of the office and team on the website. Show me what’s going to happen, who I’m going to meet, what the place will look like, and anything else that might reduce fear/anxiety. Make the client comfortable in advance.
  10. Tell me what’s going to happen even when you can’t talk to me. If you’re going to take a message via voicemail, staff, or an answering service, then be sure to tell me what’s going to happen. When will the call be returned and by whom? What’ll happen when the call is returned? What’s next? The more I know, the more I trust. Tell me.

Trust is delicate. Trust is ephemeral. Trust comes and goes in an instant. Your business is built on trust. You can manage trust, or you can let things happen and hope for the best. Which approach do you think works best?

Your marketing can damage your reputation. It can destroy trust. It can degrade your reputation and diminish you in the eyes of your audience.

Or it can build trust. It can deliver hope. It can demonstrate that a solution is available. Your marketing can explain that it’s going to be okay and that there can be a happy ending.

Being good at marketing is an asset. It’s important. But it’s an amplifier of the truth. The word gets out fast when you’re a good marketer. In the short-term, you’ll see results with whatever marketing approach you choose. But, in the long-term, your marketing will destroy you if you’re amplifying a message that diminishes trust.

Relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Make trust the foundation of your marketing.

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