It’s easy for lawyers to become entrenched in their position and lose the perspective of someone not well-versed with the law. They lose perspective on what it feels like to be a client. Clients usually come to a lawyer feeling one of these things:
- I’m worried.
- I’m feeling threatened.
- I’m feeling insecure.
- I’m exposed.
- I’m feeling ignorant.
- I’m impatient.
- I’m suspicious.
- I’m taking a personal risk.
A client comes to you, in a vulnerable state, and likely unsure of how to select a good lawyer. When you talk to a client it’s important not to address only their legal issues. You have to read the client, understand where they are coming from. You have to establish a rapport and build trust with the client.
The client might not know if their problem is simple or complex. They might not know how much such services might cost. They might have to reveal private or embarrassing information to you. All of this is relevant because when a client retains a lawyer they are not just buying a service, but entering into a relationship. If you think all you are doing is selling services, then you are not seeing things from the perspective of your clients.
Update: I was called out in the comments for lacking specificity in the above post – which is a fair assessment. In law, like many things, the devil is in the details. The above is not true for every client. Some clients will be savvy consumers of legal services. Some clients will be be shopping around on price. Some clients will be institutional and will come to you with 40 page thick outside counsel guidelines and policies for you to adhere to. Some clients will come to you because they are your friends or family.
But the client I am speaking of above is the client who is down on their luck. The client I am speaking of does not know you, or any other lawyer. The client above comes to you because perhaps this is the first time they have ever needed a lawyer. A couple just had a child and need estate planning. A parent whose 16 year old just got a DUI and hit a pedestrian. A new small business that has had their logo stolen. These clients are vulnerable and ignorant of the law and how it functions. They need guidance and have no one else to turn to. They might come to you off the street or from your website, but hopefully they will come as a referral from a former client. When these types of clients come into your office, establishing trust is paramount.