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Too often, law firms underestimate the importance of consultations. Too many firms look to increase their marketing and advertising spend, long before they take a hard look at the conversion rates of their initial consults and client intake process.
New client consultations are key to the growth and success of any law firm. And knowing how to convert initial consultations into clients is essential.
One of the most important steps to successful client consultations is clear communication. This includes being clear about any initial consultation fees, as well as what a client can expect from a lawyer consultation. If your firm does opt to charge a fee for the initial consultation, this should be made clear both before the meeting, and again when starting the consultation.
As with most things in life, first impressions count. Meeting clients for the first time and making a good first impression is essential to building strong, long-lasting client relationships. During an initial consultation, a client is trying to decide whether or not you and/or your firm are the right choice to represent them in their case. Initial client consultations are a great opportunity for you to earn a client’s confidence and establish a basis for working together. Good ways to do this include coming prepared for new client consultations – have an outline for the meeting; gather as much information as possible prior to meeting with the client; be on time, and be professional and courteous. A few simple steps can go a long way and make a lasting impression in a client’s mind.
The ability to build rapport with new clients may be the one factor that sets you apart from all of the other lawyers and law firms a client may consult with. Clients are far less likely to shop around if they feel they’ve made a personal connection with a firm, and have built a good rapport with them.
Part of building rapport with new clients is the ability to cultivate curiosity and demonstrate a genuine interest in a client’s situation and their legal needs. Taking the time at the beginning of a consultation to get to know the client, better understand their legal needs, and listen to their questions and concerns is essential to building good rapport. Building rapport is key to a successful client intake process, increases client retention, helps you better understand the client and their case, and improves the reputation and referral network for your business.
Tip: It is more important to sell you over your services – especially if there are other competitors that have comparable services in place.
Apart from seeking out answers and advice for their case, one of the biggest reasons potential clients engage in legal consultations is to better understand how the process will generally work. Therefore, an important step in initial client consultations is to explain how the consultation works. Explain the purpose of the meeting, what will be discussed; and provide reassurance that you are there to help answer any questions the client may have, as well as provide clarification on any issues. Remember that for most people this is the first attorney they’ve ever hired. Make it easy on them by providing some structure.
Tip: Do not be overly concerned about educating potential clients all at once about the process used to solve their specific problem. Simply tell them the basics of what they need to know right now. And, instead, focus on building a relationship with them and asking the questions you need to qualify them as a good client.
Client consultations are an important step in the client intake process; and having the skills and ability to ‘control’ the conversation during an initial consultation is pivotal. Listen more than you talk during an initial consult. It is important to thoroughly understand a client’s situation and their unique legal needs before offering your thoughts and advice.
Use thoughtful and targeted clarifying questions to control the conversation and identify the clients needs… “So what you’re saying is….” “Let me make sure I understand…” Good, clarifying questions help get at the heart of the issue, as well as help lawyers better understand the client’s concerns, overall goals and unique legal needs. In addition, clients often don’t know the right questions to ask. You, as a lawyer, need to be able to ask questions to the client that elaborate on the issue. Remember, most purchasing decisions are made emotionally, then justified rationally. Connect with your clients, listen to their concerns, ask them questions – and your client conversions will increase.