Insight

4 Ways to Engage Your Client on Their Terms

Upping your customer service skills could boost business, propel your career, and help you retain top clients.

Engaging Your Client on Their Terms
SD

Scott Distasio

February 1, 2019 11:13 AM

One-on-one meetings with clients is a cornerstone of the legal profession. It’s how you connect with them, it’s how you gather information and impressions, and it’s vital that you polish your personal presentation to do this effectively.

The initial meeting sets the tone for your client relationship. It can be difficult, especially early in your career, to set aside the nervousness you’re feeling, project confidence, and still make the personal connection with a client.

The way to engage with clients on their terms can be tackled with a combination of preparation, research, and practice. Although each case is different, there are common denominators in dealing with clients. Here are four strategies to add to your toolkit.

Engaging your client

1. Develop a checklist of key questions for initial client meetings

It’s certain that the client is experiencing emotions in a different way than you are. In one study, attorneys estimated how many of their clients felt frustrated: Attorneys estimated 8 percent of the clients—but actually, 40 percent of the clients reported frustration. While attorneys are good at gauging the anxiety level of their clients, they tend to underestimate their sense of urgency about their situation, as well as the amount of relief a client feels after consulting an attorney.

Your quick analysis of these statistics might tell you that as an attorney, you have more power than you realize to set the tone for your relationship. You have the power to reassure and inform. Setting yourself up with a checklist of key questions will help you shift more easily between reading your client’s feelings, engaging in active listening, and doing a thorough investigation of their situation.

Active listening is a learned skill—one that promotes trust and openness from clients, and that improves your understanding and comprehension. A well-crafted checklist will relieve some of the pressure you’re feeling.

2. Create reasonable expectations

It can be difficult to find the middle ground between promoting your services and sticking to the facts. In the first meetings with clients, it’s easy to slip in predictions that include hard numbers.

However, you’ll develop a better relationship with your clients if you stick to the facts. More than 40 percent of clients hire an attorney because they believe that they need them to handle their issue.

Your clients are looking to you for expert advice and guidance. Resist the urge to treat the meeting as a sales pitch. Your presentation is what influences your client in their ability to trust you and to believe that you are their best advocate. Every case is different, outcomes can never be predicted with 100 percent certainty, and your customer deserves to be guided in their expectations with facts, not hopes.

3. Don’t deliver bad news like a lawyer

This is an essential skill in engaging with clients. As their legal representative, you are dealing with their issues at a factual and logical level. When you must deliver news that you know will be upsetting, it’s essential that you do it with empathy and understanding.

Remember that clients are already anxious, and respecting their emotions will make you stand out as an attorney. Give them time to process the information. Be prepared to listen. It’s one of the most difficult balancing acts in the attorney-client relationship. In the end, your clients will remember how you respected their emotional response, and that will pay off in customer satisfaction and referrals.

4. Create a welcoming environment

Physical surroundings are important to set the tone of your client encounters. This can be a difficult thing to evaluate from a client perspective. Engage your staff and do an actual walk-through of what visitors to your office encounter. If they arrive at a separate entrance than you do, follow their actual path to your lobby.

Sit in the chairs they will sit in, look around from their perspective, and listen. How comfortable is your seating area? Is the coffee fresh? Is the carpet clean? First impressions should be perfect—no distractions or inconvenience. Talk to your receptionist about their ideas for improving the waiting area—they’re in the best position to see what your clients need to be comfortable.

Conclusion

Engaging with clients on their terms requires consistency on your part. Working effectively with your clients is both a skill and a gift—always be ready to improve and re-visit how well your relationships are progressing. Treat your clients with respect by remembering their position, acknowledging their obstacles and considering their experience of your meetings.

It’s not always easy or natural to actively listen, shift your perspective to the client’s, or slow down. Having a checklist and routine, sticking to the facts and realistic numbers, and focusing on the client’s possible case, rather than signing a contract, will help you form good listening habits and engagement.

------------------

Scott Distasio is an auto accident attorney in Wesley Chapel. His firm focuses on all types of personal injury cases and holds the responsibility to provide clients with outstanding service in high regard. To see what legal wisdom he shares next, follow @scottdistasio on Twitter.

Related Articles

How Being a Client Almost Made Me Quit Law School


by Paula Birch Billingsley

Suddenly becoming a personal injury client gave one law school student a new appreciation for clients’ needs and concerns. Here are some considerations even experienced lawyers ought to keep in mind.

Personal Injury Client Almost Quit Law School

What Do Your Clients Want, Anyway?


by Emilia Levisay

Law Firm Strategies to Best Serve Clients.

Sticky notes on black chalk board that says quality, cost, and efficiency

Baraona Fischer & Cia on the Changes Coming to Tax Law in Chile


by Best Lawyers

Juan Manuel Baraona of the 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" award-winner for Tax Law in Chile discusses forthcoming regulations, career highlights, and his secrets to success in an interview with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer.

Baraona Fischer & Cia LFOTY

David Ackert's Top Advice on Social Media and Client Prospecting


by Best Lawyers

The president of Ackert Inc. offers his insights on business development to Best Lawyers following the 2019 Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference.

Social Media Tips for Law Firms

Trending Articles

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom


by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Belgium™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Belgium.

Black, yellow and red stripes

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in France

We Are Women, We Are Fearless


by Deborah S. Chang and Justin Smulison

Athea Trial Lawyers is a female owned and operated law firm specializing in civil litigation, catastrophic energy, wrongful death and product liability.

Athea Trial Law Female Leadership and Success

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany

U.K. Introduces Revisions to Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules


by Gregory Sirico

Right-to-Work Scheme and Immigration Rules in

What If Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Had a Premarital Agreement?


by John M. Goralka

Oh, the gritty details we’re learning from the latest court battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. This unfortunate airing of dirty laundry may have been avoided with a prenup. Should you think about getting one yourself?

What If Johnny Depp & Amber Heard Had Prenup?

Destiny Fulfilled


by Sara Collin

Was Angela Reddock-Wright destined to become a lawyer? It sure seems that way. Yet her path was circuitous. This accomplished employment attorney, turned mediator, arbitrator and ADR specialist nonpareil discusses her career, the role of attorneys in society, the new world of post-pandemic work and why new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson represents the future.

Interview with Lawyer Angela Reddock-Wright

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom


by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?