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5 Things to Consider About Potential Clients

Client acquisition is one of the keys to being successful as a lawyer, but be wary of moving too fast. Before bringing on a new client, there are some important things you need to consider.

5 Things to Think About

Consultations are part of being a lawyer. If your practice or firm is like most, you offer free or low-cost initial meetings to get to know prospective clients and discuss their options. In these consultations, you’ll want to spend time feeling out the individual across the table. Here are a few specific things to consider:

1. Common Client Questions

Once in a while, a client will ask a question that stumps you, but most of the time they have the same inquiries and concerns. Being prepared for frequently asked questions will help you look poised, confident, and knowledgeable. Some common questions you may receive:

  • Clients always want to know how much their case is worth. While you obviously can’t answer this in a consultation with any certainty, having a response prepared will help to give them an idea of how everything works.
  • It’s common for a client to ask about how you’ll get paid. Obviously this depends on your fee structure, but again, having a clear response ready to go will make you look more professional.
  • Very few clients – especially those who have never worked with an attorney before – understand the concept of billable hours. Make sure you’re upfront about this, so there aren’t any surprises on the backend.

2. Understanding of the Legal Process

There aren’t many clients who understand how the legal process works. People who are looking for a lawyer for the first time might think the process is short and sweet, when it’s actually quite time-consuming and complex. Setting their expectations from the beginning will give you more room for flexibility.

3. Frustrations Boiling Over

Outside of real estate law and some business law, most people aren’t coming to a lawyer unless they’re having a problem. Having said that, you often enter the picture when emotions are at a tipping point. Even if a client looks poised on the outside, they may be incredibly frustrated on the inside. Understand this and do your best to help them remain calm and focused. Depending on the situation, you may need to be very forthcoming and bold in your approach.

“As I tell my clients I'm a lawyer not a therapist,” attorney John Davidson explains. “I sometimes get quite brusque. I tell them get a therapist it's cheaper.”

You don’t want to be rude, but sometimes potential clients need to be set straight. If they give you grief, then this is a sign that you probably don’t need to be working with them in the first place.

4. Skepticism

Whether you’ve personally earned a good reputation or not, much of the general public is skeptical of lawyers. This is something to be aware of in your initial conversations. If you sense a high level of skepticism, take it as a sign that you need to be even more open and transparent than usual.

5. Problem Clients

Not every client is worth bringing on board – even when the price is right. Keep an eye out for the classic signs of a problem client:

  • The client fired their last attorney (or multiple attorneys)
  • The client has a history of suing others (including attorneys)
  • The client is evasive and hard to contact
  • The client tries to educate you on the law
  • The client is too focused on fees
  • The client promises additional work for you down the road

Any one of these signs may not be a problem in isolation, but take heed when the warnings start to pile up.

Put Yourself in Your Client’s Shoes

It’s always helpful to put yourself in the shoes of both existing clients and potential clients. In doing so, you can better serve their needs and avoid getting tied up with difficult clients who cost you time, money, and frustration.

The longer you’re in the profession, the better you’ll be able to feel out clients early on in the process. Until you develop this intuitive sense of understanding, make a concerted effort to intensively investigate each of these issues.

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