If you sell your legal services to your clients, then you are committing to creating and continuing a relationship with them. But what does it take to build a ‘sustainable’ relationship with your clients, and what is a ‘sustainable’ relationship really like? Find out how this type of lawyer-client relationship shares many of the similarities found in dating, marriage and partnerships between people.
- Dating. Meeting a potential client is like dating. You have to make a good impression on the first date. One way to do this, is by presenting yourself in a professional manner. Dress appropriately and look as good as you can, by paying particular attention to your personal grooming. Your image will lead others to gain an overall impression as to whether you are a successful, competent, and authoritative person as a lawyer.
Did you know, first impressions are made in the first 4 seconds of meeting someone, and then in the next 30 seconds, people form their opinion of you? So make sure you give your clients a reason to gain a great first good impression when they meet you.
In essence, dating allows two people to get to know more about each other as they go along. Similarly, a client, wants to get to know you better before deciding to commit to buying your legal services. They need to feel comfortable with you, just like anyone dating wants to genuinely like and feel comfortable with the person they are with.
As a lawyer, it’s important to ask yourself questions such as; ‘Am I likeable? Am I interacting with this person in a way that will lead them to feel comfortable with me, and like me as a person? Remember, physical attractiveness, sharing some type of similarity with the other person, using praise to compliment someone, and increased familiarity, are some of the factors that make someone like you. Always bear in mind; the more likeable you are, the more likely clients will trust you.
- Marriage. Just like marriage, a lawyer-client relationship is a commitment. You have to work it out. You must keep your clients happy, if you want them to continue to work with you and retain you. Even if you have earned their trust, there’s no room for complacency. Consistent communication, and paying attention to your client, is necessary. You must be a good listener, return calls and get back to people promptly. Don’t have your clients chasing you for answers. Little things such as smiling, using eye contact, being nice, offering tea or coffee when they come to an appointment, sending thank you notes or tokens of appreciation are all effective ways of showing your clients that you truly care about your relationship with them.
Just like a good marriage, trust is very important. Clients turn to the people and the firm they can trust. You can build trust through your credibility and your behaviour by being consistent and reliable. If you say you’re going to do something, then make sure you follow through and do so in good timing. People like people who can be relied on, and behave in a consistent manner. Showing commitment and consistency through your character and behaviour is a very strong influencer, when it comes to your ability to build high levels of trust, between yourself and your client.
- Partnership. A lawyer-client relationship is similar to a partnership – in so far as both parties plan and make joint decisions together. Before you go ahead and give your client advice, it’s important to firstly find out, what your client ‘wants’ and what outcome they are seeking.
It is important for you to know this as your starting point, before you go ahead, and give them your advice. Often what people ‘want’, and what people ‘need’, can be two very different things. As a lawyer, you may be naturally led to talk about what your client ‘needs’ from a legal perspective, but this may not match what they are ‘wanting’.
If you find out what your client ‘wants’ to achieve first, and you then ensure you build a high level of trust between them and yourself, then you will notice you have a lot more influence when it comes to getting your client to follow your advice regarding what they ‘need’, in respect to their situation.
Like they say, it takes two to tango. Just like a great partnership, your clients’ success, is your firm’s success.