Initial consultations are an important part of most law firms. In lots of areas of law, repetitive business is critical to the success of the law firm itself. Initial consultations can sometimes come from referrals or word-of-mouth. Initial consultations can also come the marketing or advertising.
Making an important impression at an initial consultation is important. It is vital for most lawyers and law firms to think about an initial consultation as a job interview. In other words, the potential client is interviewing the lawyer or the law firm to see if they are a good fit for them and their case. Just like with any job interview, sometimes, you only get one chance and there is never a second interview.
At the same time, the lawyer or law firm should be interviewing the potential client to ensure that the potential client’s case is the kind of case that they want, that they think they can help and that it’s in an area of the law that fits their practice.
One thing most lawyers and law firms should realize is that if the lawyer wants the case, it is important to make a good impression at the first consultation. The reality is that a lawyer cannot count on the potential client coming back at a subsequent consultation to later hire the lawyer or law firm. If you don’t believe that, try measuring it for a while to see.
If a majority of your potential clients never come back after the first meeting (as you will likely see), it should be a wake-up call. During that first meeting with any potential client, you will want to go the extra mile to bond with them, listen to them and show them empathy. If they need to use your phone to call somebody to get the funds or to deliberate, let them. If they want to deliberate with somebody else they’ve brought with them to the consultation, leave the room and let them do it. The harsh reality is that if they leave the office, they very likely are never coming back.
That isn’t always the case some would likely retort back. As some would say, some potential clients do come back. Some potential clients do have to contemplate whether to hire you before they pull the trigger. Some potential clients may be thinking about whether they want to proceed with a case or not. Some of the clients may have to get the money and come back. All of this may be true. But if you are playing the odds, you normally only have one chance to make a good impression with a potential client. Otherwise, they are quite likely to hire another attorney.
Again, if you don’t believe that, start measuring it to see whether a majority of potential clients come back or not. Perhaps in your practice it is different. But for many lawyers, they will likely see that far less than half of all potential clients come back for a second consultation after the first consultation.
Obviously, if a potential client is not ready, they are not ready. Be classy about it and simply give them your card. Do not put high pressure sales techniques on them if they are not ready. Do not pull out your fee agreement if they do not indicate that they want to hire you. Do not try to guilt or pressure the potential client into hiring you. If you do that, the reality is that you will likely have a client who will have buyer’s remorse after the fact. Apart from it being inappropriate to pressure a potential client, and not allow them to make the decision freely without pressure, clients with buyer’s remorse will likely end up as client care problems on the back-end.
At the same time, if you think the potential client needs legal help, and it’s the kind of case you want, do spend the extra time with them. Do answer every question that they have at the first meeting. Do explain the variables, and the pros and cons, and give them IRAC answers to their questions, at the first meeting. Do spend the extra time with them at the first meeting and go the extra mile to ensure that they are comfortable. Do ask if they would like to get started today.
Make sure as well that you do the little things like dressing for success, having a neat and clean office and that you offer the client a beverage or even a tissue. The reality is that you often only have one chance to make a positive impression with a potential client. Don’t count on them coming back for a second consultation.