We spend a lot of time with members looking at the results of the marketing that has filled up a law firm calendar. What we find is no surprise—during the hustle and bustle of getting a marketing effort pulled together and having a successful offer that attracts a potential client—often the energy and focus is to fill the seats of a presentation or to make the calendar full with another type of offer to a solution.
The attorney in charge frequently has countless responsibilities on his or her plate, hiring, training, production of the work, decisions on upcoming marketing efforts, legal decisions to solve specific client problems, staffing challenges and the list goes on. If the quality of the consultation isn’t a focus, it doesn’t really matter how fantastic your marketing was. One of the numerous areas that law school didn’t cover is training on effective consultations that lead clients to make decisions that are in their own best interest. Once you’ve spent the time and the money attracting prospective clients—why would you spend little or no time studying and learning the best ways to handle those meetings most effectively and productively?
One very common death trap for attorneys is that they have an inclination to go into presentation mode in consultations to subconsciously increase their credibility or prove that they know how to solve the problems the prospective client has – as though it’s a closing statement in court, because that is what law school prepared them for! However, listening and rapport building skills need to be sharpened more than talking points. The best, most effective meetings are when the client does the talking. The attorney of course guides the meeting with the right questions—but most of the things coming out of the attorney’s mouth should end in a question mark, not a period. The client likely already assumes that the attorney knows the law or they wouldn’t be sitting in that consultation – they just need to decide whether that attorney is the person they trust to ensure theirs and their family’s future. What better way for the attorney to show the client that he or she can solve their problems than to ask the right questions that delve deeper into their goals, fears, and future – causing the client to feel understood and listened to.
Next time you’re in a meeting – don’t change anything, just listen to yourself. Are you talking or asking?
A great book we have recommended for a long time is called, “You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar,” by David Sandler. A fabulous integrity-based approach to consultations.
Director, Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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