Consider a 'Free' Client Visit
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
LawBiz(r) TIPS weekly newsletter
LawBiz® TIPS – Week of October 23, 2012
Last week, I was in Lake Tahoe. The colors of the trees were changing...it was beautiful. This week is Washington, D.C. and I'm looking forward to having breakfast with you on Thursday morning, October 25th. Contact me and I'll provide the details.
Also, if you will be in San Francisco, CA (November 12-13, 2012), I'd welcome having breakfast with you. Please contact me directly.
Consider a "Free" Client Visit
Current clients already in hand offer great potential to provide new services without significant start-up costs. But this requires work and planning to define what kind of services the client might need. A natural starting point is to schedule a friendly, no stress visit to a client just to talk. Far too often lawyers are apprehensive about making such visits, but clients typically will not be hostile or confrontational; otherwise they would not still be clients. What they want is to feel comfortable with their lawyer. The best way to make them comfortable is to get them to talk about their business. A client visit should focus on listening to what clients have to say.
Such a visit takes planning if it is going to be successful. Here are steps to consider:
Schedule the visit at the time most convenient for the client and for any people the client wants to involve (which broadens your own circle of relationships)
When the day for the visit comes, remember that you are there to learn about the client, not to pitch for new business
Never put clients on the defensive with a style of questioning you would use in a deposition or when structuring a contract. Try to avoid "why" questions which are likely to carry a judgmental tone, or rather ask them to explain further. What you want to convey are empathy and rapport
Make all your questions open-ended Phrase them to give clients the opportunity to provide as much information as possible
Do not feel you need to respond to everything clients tell you Show interest and demonstrate that you've heard but resist the urge to push new services or ways to help
Make sure you've done your research Clients want to tell you about themselves but they appreciate the respect you show them by taking the trouble to learn more about them
The emphasis here is on learning more about the client. Clients want to share information about themselves. Clients whose lawyers ask about their plans and objectives begin to think of that lawyer as an advisor and friend, not just someone who sends out a monthly bill. That raises another important point. A client visit and the time needed for it should appear on the next bill – but with a "no charge" notation. And before doing this, send a handwritten note expressing thanks for the client's time, stating why this client relationship is valuable to you, and expressing the wish for lawyer and client to extend the relationship. That and the "no charge" notation combine to show that, although a lawyer's time is valuable, the client relationship is valued even more.
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