The importance of ensuring that potential clients can contact you

May 1, 2013

NetworkingLast month, we discussed going to court and what to expect.  In March, we discussed various technological issues related to the law, with a few topics relating specifically to the practice of law.

Although practical legal knowledge is very important to your practice of law, your practical knowledge isn’t going to see much use without clients.

And, perhaps more importantly, your practical knowledge isn’t going to pay those student loan bills without clients.

Unfortunately, getting clients is a struggle that most attorneys labor with (and nearly all think about), no matter how long they’ve been practicing, so there’s no easy answer on how to get them.

Just because there’s not a magic bullet doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that you can do to encourage client referrals.

Thankfully, these methods aren’t limited to large expenditures like advertising.  There are actually a number of smaller approaches that can go a long way.

So many, in fact, that I’m unlikely to be able to cover them all in this post.  Instead, I’ll just be focusing on those having to do with communication – specifically, things you can do to ensure that prospective clients know how to communicate with you easily.

The first appears deceptively obvious: maintain a telephone line to receive business calls.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a landline per se, but rather just any kind of reliable phone line, mobile or otherwise, at which any prospective client can reach you.

This may seem obvious, but, as stated above, it is deceptively so.

The trick here isn’t just having a phone line, but maintaining the phone line.  In other words, it’s far more important to keep the same phone number for as long as you maintain your practice than to simply have a working phone.

The reason for this is simple: it can be very difficult to send updated contact information to your previous clients or any other important contacts.

If you happen to change your phone number and fail to ensure that every potential referral source has that updated number, you will almost certainly miss out on referrals.

Of course, this problem is compounded by the existence of the Internet. 

As you may have noticed, once you make your business information available on Google or any other search engine, many other business-indexing sites will collect and catalog that information.  And there is no easy way to have each and every one of these sites update your contact information soon after it changes, if at all.

Maybe the potential client will bother putting in the effort to find your new phone number, but it’s unlikely.  Rather, if that potential client calls your old number, you can safely bet that he or she will move on to the next attorney.

This is also the case with a potential client who, rather than being referred, simply found your information on the Internet (more on an attorney’s Internet presence in a later post).

So maintain your same phone number.  If you have no alternative but to get another phone line, keep your old one; yes, this means having multiple lines, but it’s preferable to losing potential clients because they don’t know how to call you.

This same advice is applicable to email addresses, with some slight alterations.

Yes, you should try to keep the same email address, just as you would with a phone number.  And it’s usually easier to do with an email address than a phone number.

The trap to fall into here is not necessarily having a dead email address; rather, it’s failing to regularly checking all of your accounts.

Ideally, you’ll have just one email address at which you receive business emails.  But since referrals can come from just about any source, it’s important to regularly check any email addresses you have.

This is why it’s also important to refrain from using your work or law school email address to make personal or professional contacts: you may not have access to these accounts for the foreseeable future.

Failing to maintain your email addresses – that is, checking them on a regular basis – will have the same impact on your client referrals that failing to maintain your phone number would: if a client never gets a response after emailing you, he or she will move on to the next attorney.

Although maintaining your phone number and email addresses may seem inconsequential, both will have a significant impact on how many new clients you get.