I stumbled on some photos of my first car last week — a British Leyland Motor Corporation (not BMW) Mini in British Racing [AKA bright] Green. In my cherished memories, that car was my best friend, my badge of independence, my freedom, my proof of being grown up, my ticket to popularity, my pride and my joy.
What a rust-bucket piece of junk! I forget the year, but it was very old and I think you could see my feet through the holes on the bottom of the doors. I spent $150 on it and the insurance and licensing was more expensive than the car itself. How did someone persuade me to buy this car and still, after all these years, think about it with affection — even when it almost cost me my life when the brakes failed, the emergency brake broke off and I was careering down a hill toward an intersection staring at a red light?
1. Identify needs and wants
Most of us are not salespeople, but most of us are do-gooders. A great part of lawyering is to preserve justice and prevent and resolve conflict. You might not think about this every day, but with every client you are ultimately trying to keep them out of harm’s way and make them successful.
Everyone will need a lawyer at some point in their life
Since everyone at some point in their life will need a lawyer, all you have to do is figure out if the time is now or later. Engaging people in conversation to uncover their or their business’ situation and aspirations is one of the first steps in understanding your potential client and what they need. Perhaps it is easier to think about networking as a friendly questioning and your objective is to uncover their business and where they want to take their business. Ask questions and try to figure out how you or a colleague of yours can help.
2. Be the visible expert with passion for your profession
Most people cannot judge whether or not you are a technically excellent lawyer. Most judge you by how you talk about what you do and how you present yourself. You need to present yourself through articles, blogs, presentations, case evidence and in person in such a way that potential clients can see that you are active and respected in your profession. Don’t bore them too much, just do enough to give them the impression that you know your stuff and you love it. More importantly, though, position your knowledge as an enabler to their future success.
3. Ask for the business by asking about client-service preferences
Understanding potential clients and showing them that you are a skilled professional are not enough to get the work. There are plenty of lawyers who can do the first two steps. Closing the deal requires you to give the perception of good client service. This is where many people fall flat. Even if you obtained a positive outcome in prior matters, if your clients didn’t think that they got great client service from you, they are more likely to tell others about your poor service than the results of the matter.
Great client service is a tricky thing — it means different things to different people and in different industries. Asking your clients about their expectations and preferences is recommended. These questions are great conversation starters at mixers. Just open up the conversation with, “What’s the worst service you ever got from a lawyer?” and “What’s the best service you ever got from a lawyer?” You will surely learn a lot and show you care about client service.
4. Ask for the business
You can also ask them, “What client service or other reason would get in the way of you hiring me as your lawyer?” Most people think that asking for the business is crude and invasive. It is not. The proof is that those lawyers that ask for the business have a higher probability of getting the business. There are polite and insightful ways of asking for the business. There are many online helpful hints on this topic.
Why did I buy that car?
A friend of mine was a Mini enthusiast, a Mini mechanic and a member of the Mini Car Club of Canada. He figured out through questioning over various social and office events what I wanted and his passion, understanding, Mini knowledge and client service sold me. I survived the brakes failure and even bought another Mini from him!