This lawyer was very proud of the fact that he didn’t have an iPhone, an Android, a Windows phone, or even a Blackberry.
He has a “feature phone.” It’s one of those “dumb phones.” You know, the kind you flip open and push the buttons. It’s mostly for “calling” people. (Who does that anymore?)
He expected me to give him a hard time about his lack of technology. He was all geared up to explain how he was so Zen and all that stuff and that his e-mail could wait. He’s busy floating on his superiority cloud while my phone beeps and buzzes and I respond to iMessages and Snapchats.
Zen and the Art of Mobile Maintenance
Knowing what was expected of me, I went in a different direction (’cause I can’t help myself).
I asked him how he looks at his website. I wanted to know how he checks to make sure it looks the way he wants it to look and that it’s helpful to clients and other visitors.
“I use my laptop when I’m doing that sort of thing,” he responded. “I keep my work at the office. I don’t want it crossing the line into my personal time,” he continued.
“But how does it look on a smartphone?” I asked.
He just shook his balanced Zen head and acted like I was talking about things that didn’t matter once you reached enlightenment.
How to Reach Mobile Enlightenment
I went on to explain that about half of the traffic to our North Carolina Divorce site comes in the form of mobile traffic. Our visitors are viewing the site on their phones (just to be clear here—phones, not tablets).
How can this dude know what his clients are seeing if he doesn’t have an iPhone or something comparable? He can’t, of course. He looked less Zen and more rattled.
I went to his site on my iPhone. It didn’t look good. It was hard to view and formatted all wrong. It might look fine on a laptop screen, but it looks like crap on my phone.
He was increasingly agitated as we talked. His Zen state was ruined. He was getting cranky.
I think he’s on his way to an Apple Store.
My work here is done.
When people drop by (invited or not), you show them in the door as you greet them. If it’s at the office, you walk them back to your office. If it’s at home, you walk them to the living room.
They sit, you sit, and the greeting stage starts to wrap up.
What do you do now?
You offer them something to drink. In the South, it’s usually iced tea or water. I imagine there are other options in other places (certainly coffee, right?). But you always offer them something to drink. It’s basic hospitality.
So why is it that I’ve been visiting law firms lately and there’s no beverage offered?
Beats me, but it’s a mistake.
Why It’s Important to Quench Clients’ Thirst
Offer a beverage. It’s important. It’s something we do for practical as well as social reasons. People dehydrate, and they need fluid. Plus, it’s an important ritual. It builds trust. It makes people comfortable. It’s part of why people hire you (or don’t), regardless of whether you pay attention.
When you skip this step, you damage the relationship right from the start. Don’t let that happen.
Providing beverages isn’t a casual, no big deal piece of the puzzle. It’s central.
Do you think these coffee (and other beverage) delivery services for offices are a fluke? This stuff is big business because it matters.
Quick story: we recently divorced an office coffee guy. He brings the supplies and equipment and sells lots of beverages other than coffee. Interestingly, he earns more than most lawyers. Not bad, huh?
Don’t Let Your Clients Be Fish Out of Water
The drink thing needs to be part of your systems documentation. It needs to be the job of someone in the office, and you need to be ready. Some firms have the front desk attendant handle drinks. Some leave it up to the person handling the meeting. It doesn’t matter who does it as long as it gets done. Someone needs to be responsible, and it needs to be checked off the list.
There’s not one single best approach to offering a beverage. You can do it in your own way as long as it gets done. Don’t let it slip.
About a year ago, we eliminated the kitchen from our space plans. We created a cafe concept where we put a “cafe area” into our offices. The cafe has a glass-front refrigerator with cans of soft drinks plus a self-service coffee machine with those little single-cup packets. The lawyers walk their clients back from the lobby and stop by the cafe area on their way to a conference room. Of course, our receptionist offers a drink if the client is going to have to wait a bit out front.
Come up with your own system for offering a drink. Build it into every process, and make sure it gets done. The drink system is as important (and maybe more so) than every other system you’ve got. Social rituals play a critical part in turning strangers into friends and prospects into clients.
Check your beverage system. Be sure you’re being hospitable. Be sure you’re doing it for each visitor and for each visit.
So what have you got to drink? I’m thirsty.
Associates need to be able to do the legal work, of course. But that’s just part of the package and, in many practice areas, it’s not the most important part of their skill set. Associates who are weak on the soft skills won’t make it. They won’t be good at client contact, and that’s where the rubber meets the road.
Here’s what they need to know. You’re probably going to have to teach them these 10 skills:
1. How to Talk to Clients
Few young lawyers come equipped for intense client conversations. You’re going to have to model this for them and then coach them as they do it themselves. Being good with clients comes naturally for only a very limited number of associates. Hire for this skill, and then take them to the next level by working with them after each conversation.
2. How to Talk to Clients More Often
Associates want to believe that one conversation is enough. They don’t understand the necessity of ongoing communication and the requirement to repeat the same messages over and over. They don’t value the importance to the client of knowing that the lawyer is engaged and involved. You’ll have to push them to communicate more frequently.
3. That Calling Clients Is Better Than E-Mailing
Associates want to believe that e-mail is sufficient. It’s not. Clients pay for and expect the sound of our voices when the issue is important to them. They want to know what we think, and they want to be able to feel our connection to the issue. Teach them that voice is superior to text.
4. Why Meeting With Clients Is Better Than Calling
The phone is good, but being in the same room is even better. Teach your associates the value of an in-person meeting.
5. How to Think Like a Client
It’s amazing how quickly lawyers take on the lawyer perspective and abandon the client perspective. We quickly see things from experience and lose our beginner’s mind. Of course, your clients don’t fully understand the situation and lack objectivity. Lawyers need to be reminded to plug into the mind-set of clients who will only go through this once.
6. How to Address Buyer’s Remorse
They got a good deal. They signed off on it and, of course, now they regret it. They’re filled with second thoughts. Experienced lawyers expect buyer’s remorse. Associates need to be taught to expect it and manage it proactively.
7. When to Let Clients Do What They Want to Do
Sometimes clients need to be permitted to do something stupid. The best example comes up when they want to litigate an issue they’re going to lose. Sometimes it’s not worth spending emotional capital to reel them in. Sometimes it’s better to let them screw up and pay the price. Teach your associates when it’s okay to let clients learn the hard way and when they need to drive clients in the right direction.
8. How to Listen Like They Care
Listening is hard, especially when you’ve been doing it all day. Sometimes you’ve got to take a break and just “look” like you’re listening. You’ve refined that skill, but your associates haven’t had a chance to figure out how that works. Teach it.
9. How to Build Trust
Trust comes from managing expectations, listening, and delivering more than you promised. Be very overt in teaching your associates how to build trust. Don’t hesitate to give specific examples of underpromising and overdelivering. Show them how it’s done.
10. How to Spend Trust
Explain what to do with the trust you’ve earned when it’s time to resolve the case. Show them how to use the trust to get things done and bring the matter to conclusion. Demonstrate how you expend the emotional bank account to get clients to do what’s in their best interest and wrap things up.
Your associates can learn to do the legal work over time. They’ll figure things out as they go, and they can attend continuing education programs and learn even more. However, these 10 skills are something you’re going to have to model and teach.
The lawyer websites I visit cover a lot of ground. They each feature a different practice area, different attorneys, different approaches, and different designs. Oddly, while they’re all different, they’re all the same in many ways.
Today, I’m not here to rant about the need to set yourself apart. Today, I’m not here to complain about how we so often emphasize the wrong things on our sites. I’ll give you a break from all that and focus on the three elements of your site that you absolutely must include. These are the basics, and they’re often lacking on law firm sites.
The essential elements of your site are your clients’ story, your story, and your picture.
1. Their Story
Tell your clients’ story. Articulate the problem. Tell them what’s it’s like to be in their shoes. Explain how it looks to have their problem. Detail the sequence of events they’ve already experienced that resulted in them visiting your site.
Most importantly, explain what it feels like to be going through what they’re going through. Use your knowledge of the story and of their problem to articulate it better than they could do it themselves.
Leave them with that “fly on the wall” feeling. Make them wonder whether you’ve been watching their lives unravel. Let them know that you know what happened and that you know what’s coming next. Tell them their own story.
2. Your Story
Tell them who you are and what you’re about. They have a hard time judging you based on your legal talents and skills. They’re usually not qualified to assess your expertise. They’ll trust you because of your story, if you’re willing to tell it to them.
- They want to know who you are, what you’re about, and why you do what you do.
- They want to know what you’re made of and how that core part of you translates into being part of the solution to their problem.
- They want to know what you care about and why.
- They want to know how you feel when the chips are down and how you celebrate when you work with them to achieve victory.
When they hear your story, they want to understand what makes you tick. They want to know what you feel, why you feel it, and how that energy translates into getting them results.
3. Your Picture
Yes, your picture—a photograph of you is essential. They need to see you to be comfortable. I know, I know, you’re ugly. So am I. Get over it. They like ugly. I’ve always had clients, and I’ve looked this way for a long time.
There are lots of ugly, ugly lawyers doing important work for important clients. Your picture is an essential part of your website. There’s no excuse for failing to give prospective clients a peek at you. Just do it. Get over whatever is keeping you from posting the photo and do it.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and they’re right. A picture gives viewers a feel for you they just can’t get in any other way. Better than a picture is a short video. Whether you post a photo or a video, it needs to be current. The 20-year-old picture needs to go in an album for others to see after you’re dead. However, your website needs a current image that truthfully and accurately depicts you.
That’s it. If you’ve got their story, your story, and a picture, then you’re hitting the essential elements of the website. You can take it further as you have the time, money, and energy. You can add information, articles, tools, calculators, forms, and whatever else might be valuable to your audience. The more you add to the site, the more visitors you’ll get, and the more trust you’ll build.
The basics, these three essentials, need to go up first. They are the core of your site, and they are the elements that will turn visitors into clients. Get your website essentials in order.