Prospective clients want an attorney – but they also want a person

December 17, 2015

Attorney communicationTo achieve and maintain success in the practice of law, lawyers need to be skilled at, well, lawyering.  But an acute aptitude for advocacy is only one of the elements necessary to excel in the field.

Unfortunately, many attorneys fail to understand the importance of another key component to success: personally connecting with clients, past, current, and prospective.  The failure of many attorneys to develop personal relationships with prospective clients in particular, though, may lead to failure before the practice of lawyering can even begin.

According to research by FindLaw, while many small law firms devote significant resources to marketing to new potential clients, these same firms are largely neglecting the intake process to convert these clients from being “potential” to “actual.”

There could be any number of reasons for this: maybe some believe that the firm’s name recognition or its attorneys’ list of accolades will do the convincing by themselves; perhaps some attorneys think that the vast majority of potential clients will select their own respective law firms once the client has made initial contact; or it could just be that some law firms believe their intake systems to be perfectly adequate.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that attorneys are failing to grasp the importance of establishing a strong personal connection with potential clients at the outset of the relationship.  And the importance of this connection shouldn’t be difficult to comprehend.  After all, individuals seek out an attorney to begin with for help with problems of great importance – often those of a personal nature.

As such, any individual looking for legal help will want her attorney to fully understand the nature of the potential client’s problem and why it is so important to her.  However, while an attorney may be able to conceivably learn a great deal about a potential client’s case by simply reading intake forms filled out by the client, this doesn’t do much to help the client believe that the attorney fully understands the case’s importance.  In most circumstances, this can only be accomplished by the attorney having an actual discussion with the client, preferably in person.

But a face-to-face discussion by itself doesn’t automatically ensure the personal connection necessary to ensure the highest conversion rate of “potential” clients to “actual.”  The potential client will likely be viewing this discussion as a preview of the attorney-client relationship, should she hire the attorney in question.

If the attorney acts hurried, the client may see this as a sign that she wouldn’t be a high priority for the attorney, or that the attorney isn’t able to fully commit to the client’s case due to time constraints.  If the attorney demonstrates any lack of knowledge or experience in the subject matter pertaining to the client’s case, she may believe the attorney to be ill-equipped to handle a case as important as hers, or that the attorney didn’t care enough to do research before meeting with her.  If the attorney’s interactions with the client are devoid of empathy, she may believe the attorney simply doesn’t understand how important the issues are to the client.

The point is that being a skilled attorney, without more, is often not enough to bring in new clients.  Indeed, potential clients are searching for proficient attorneys, but they are also searching for an attorney who wants to help the client – one who sees the issues as more than “another day at the office.”  To the client, her case, whether it be a divorce, a car accident, or a DUI criminal charge, is anything but routine.

For more information on how to improve your client intake process, check out our free white paper here.