For attorneys and law firm owners, consultations are likely the most important “first date” you will ever have. They can be riddled with excitement, anxiety, or potential (for both parties,) and the consultation is a momentous beginning in this professional relationship. Much like on a first date, attorneys should take every opportunity to make the consultation memorable — in a good way, not in a crawl-out-the-bathroom-window way.
From putting on your listening hat to employing client questionnaires, the team at LegalEase has outlined six tips that law firm owners can use to maximize the effectiveness of their consultations.
Use a Questionnaire
The hour (or 30 minutes, or 90) will be up before you know it, and you won’t always be able to get all the necessary information from the client during this time frame. Therefore, encourage potential clients to complete your new client questionnaire to guide the consultation conversation — starting with automated reminders immediately after they schedule. Going into the consultation with this information can help you better prepare, while also allowing you to spend more time discussing the intimate details of the case.
Be Optimistic, But Realistic
While not every potential client that shows interest in your firm will be able to afford your services, making assumptions about individual clients will do nothing but hurt you and your business in the long run. Some attorneys might not want to “waste their time” with clients who may not have the funds to retain their services, and that’s their prerogative (team #freebritney). To them, we suggest implementing a qualification stage and utilizing both free and paid consultations.
A quick qualifying call can ensure that neither your time or the client’s will be wasted in an hour-long consultation, and will help your office gather the information you need to make the consultation as productive as possible. This makes for a far more impactful consultation, and far greater chances of getting hired. Additionally, a paid consultation stage can help limit potential new clients to those who are willing to invest in your services — giving you the confidence to invest your time and energy into the consultation. Paid consultations may not be the right choice for every practice, however, and many firms may benefit from allowing clients to choose between a free abbreviated consultation and a full-fat paid one.
You were probably told before a first date (either by a more experienced friend or an older sibling) that you need to be a “good listener,” and the same goes for your consultations. The consultation stage is an opportunity for the client to get to know you and see if there’s a match, but — at its most effective — it’s also an opportunity for you to learn as much as possible about the client. If a client scheduled a consultation with your office, there’s a good chance they have something to say. Therefore, the key to an effective consultation is to let them say it. When in doubt: Think “why am I talking?” and then think “why am I still talking?”
Make it a Conversation
Ever been on a first date that feels more like an interrogation? If you answered yes, then you know exactly what to avoid in your consultations. Despite the fact that you are asking the potential client questions and they are providing you with answers (or vice versa,) the most effective consultations will break free from this Q&A format. Instead, collect this information using a consultation questionnaire — and use this info to guide the subsequent conversation. By opting for a more conversational approach to the consultation, you can lay the foundation for a relationship rather than making the client feel like they’re being pitched at.
(Briefly) Discuss Next Steps
If you’ve been to a sales conference — or been sucked into a sales guru wormhole on YouTube — you’ve probably heard the advice to “assume the sale.” This refers to the use of language like “when” as opposed to “if” or “we” over “you,” and can be an effective consultation tactic when used in moderation. However, if you get too deep into the nitty gritty of your process during the consultation, you might wind up scaring a potential client off or putting them straight to sleep.
This can be especially helpful if non-attorney staff are conducting consultations, as limiting the discussion of next steps can prevent these team members from potentially offering legal advice. Our advice? Briefly touch on your next steps as a team to boost the client’s confidence in you (and their decision to hire you) for maximum effectiveness — and keep a booking link handy to schedule the next meeting if need be.
Always Follow Up
The most effective consultations don’t end when the hour is up. This isn’t us suggesting that you go over the allotted time — rather that you keep tabs on clients following your consultation using an automated system. Whether you refer a potential new client out, decide to move forward with them, or need a follow-up consultation, automations calibrated to your business can ensure that no PNC falls through the cracks.
One Hour Could Make a World of Difference
Whether you choose to think of the consultation stage as a first date or a job interview, there’s no denying the importance of this meeting. This hour can be an opportunity for your firm to convert a new client, but it can also be an opportunity for you to connect with another human — and make a genuine difference in their life.