Initial consultations are a make or break meeting. If you’re good at these meetings you’re going to grow your practice. If you struggle to sign clients up for further representation you’re going to struggle financially.
Here are the top five mistakes –
1. Not listening. Sometimes lawyers get so absorbed by making a good impression that they spend most of the meeting thinking about what they’re going to say and then saying it. They aren’t listening well and it’s apparent. The prospective client is far more interested in talking than listening. They may tell you they’re visiting with you to learn about their rights, but the fact is they’ve usually come to you to tell their story. Your mission is to hear their story and keep your mouth shut. The more you listen, the more likely you are to turn your prospect in to a client.
2. Thinking that people make decisions based on facts. They don’t. They decide based on emotions. They need to like you and trust you. Once they feel good about you they’re going to rationalize their decision to hire you with the facts. The more you explain the rational reasons for hiring you the less likely you are to get the result you seek. Do what you need to do to be liked. Let the prospect know you care, you’re interested, you’re excited about helping them. The prospective client won’t have any trouble rationalizing the decision to hire you after they make the emotional decision that you’re the right lawyer for them.
3. Acting phony. Sure, you’re a lawyer. I’m impressed with you. You’re impressed with you. But please, please, don’t act like a lawyer. Act like a person. The prospective client wants a real person that happens to have a law license. Be real, be human, that’s how you connect. Don’t be overly formal, don’t play the part of lawyer. Instead, play the part of human. Don’t be afraid to tell the client when you don’t know the answer. Let the client know something about your life especially the parts that don’t always work out the way you’d like. Smile, laugh, cry, be authentic.
4. Failing to prepare. Don’t go into an initial consultation without knowing the law related to the issues that are going to be discussed. Make sure you have a working familiarity with the process and procedures that relate to the issues the client is coming to discuss. Be certain that your call screening process alerts you to those issues. Be confident that you can discuss the issues and that you can answer most of the questions.
5. Preparing too much. Being prepared is important. It allows you to answer questions and inspire confidence. However, being well prepared leads to talking more than you should. It’s good to know the law surrounding the issues you’re discussing. It’s a mistake when you feel compelled to share all of your preparation with the client. They’ll know you know things because you’ll feel well prepared, it will come across in your demeanor. Remember, you need to let them talk while you keep your mouth shut.
These are all avoidable mistakes. Take corrective action and you’ll have more clients hiring you and your practice will continue to grow.