Face it, most people hope they never have to hire an attorney. If they need legal help, it’s because they have a problem they can’t make go away by themselves. These people don’t like feeling helpless and they are coming to lawyers in their most vulnerable state. Trust is imperative.
So why do we keep doing things that don’t contribute to building trust with potential clients?
Once you’ve damaged trust, it is very hard to restore it. This is especially true if you’ve damaged trust before a relationship has even begun.
Here are 10 ways I’ve observed how lawyers diminish trust with potential clients:
- Slow response. Lawyers spend a ton of money trying to make the phone ring, but when it does, they have no process in place for having that call answered by a person trained to answer a prospect’s questions or they fail to return a call promptly.
- Long wait times. Appointments are set at a specific time and then the prospect has to wait in the lobby. You just told them you are more important than they are.
- Inattention to detail. The prospect’s name is spelled wrong on the welcome packet or in a confirmation email — or worse, you’ve cut and pasted the wrong name altogether.
- Bait and switch. You are marketing your free e-book promising detailed information and when the prospect downloads it, it’s only a brief article with a sales pitch attached.
- Free consultation isn’t free. Most lawyers offer free consultations to get people in the door. But then some limit the time or have other strings attached.
- Telling other clients’ stories. It’s common to use a past case story to illustrate how you’ve helped another client with the same problem as your prospect, but revealing too much can make a prospect wonder if they will be the next cautionary tale told to others. It can also violate attorney-client confidentiality.
- Not guarding privacy. A prospect walks into your office for a consult and sees case files openly visible and clearly readable. Will you be so cavalier with his or her private information?
- Talking out of school. While cooling their heels in your lobby, a prospect hears others in your office openly discussing cases — or worse, talking trash about a client.
- Puffery on your website. A prospect reads on your website about the extensive experience you’ve had with cases just like his, but when he comes in for a consult, you can’t answer his questions.
- Obfuscation. You dodge questions about pricing or how long the case will take, leaving the prospect to wonder if you’re hiding something or just have no idea. Either way, it makes your prospect very uncomfortable.
Here are 10 very simple ways you can build trust with prospects as you begin a relationship:
- Respond quickly. This is especially critical if you are practicing personal injury, criminal, family or other types of consumer law. If you don’t already have an intake process in place that handles your calls from prospects, can answer their questions and get them in for a consultation, you need that yesterday. Also, do NOT make lawyers responsible for following up with prospects! It just won’t get done.
- Have detailed messaging. If you have to take messages via voicemail or an answering service, be sure to include details like who will be returning the call, when it will be returned and what happens after that.
- Post pricing on the firm website. Outline your pricing on your firm’s website. If you charge a flat fee, say what it is. If you don’t know, give best and worst case scenarios. Outline the factors that influence your pricing. Be as transparent as possible.
- Avoid any website trickery. Pop-up chat boxes can be very effective in generating leads for you on your website, but you have to be careful about your enticement. Don’t ask people to type in a legal question and then answer with a pitch to come in for a consultation. If you say you’re going to answer their question, you have to do it.
- Have a robust FAQ section on your website. You’ve probably been practicing law long enough to know what most of your prospects want to know. Make a list of their top 10 questions, write out comprehensive answers, and post these on your website. You’re giving them a sample, a taste of what you have to offer. It works at Costco and it can work for you!
- Have staff bios and photos on your website. Post photos and bios of all your staff members, including the receptionist, on your site. Include personal details like hobbies, family, etc. Have photos or video of your office to make your prospects feel more comfortable before the initial consultation.
- Greet callers warmly. When a prospect calls for the first time, your intake person should answer the phone like they’ve been expecting the call, not like the caller is interrupting their day.
- Show empathy. It’s amazing how far a little empathy can go to getting someone to want to connect more with you. Let them tell their stories, share their pain, express your concern. They want to be seen as a person, not as a fat fee.
- Explain your process. It’s very stressful for people to meet with a lawyer. Make it easier by going over your intake process (just don’t call it that!) so they know what to expect. Tell them where to park, how to find your office in that big building, etc. — whatever it takes to raise their comfort level.
- Confirm the appointment in writing. Send a confirmation email with all the appointment details, including a Google map to your office, parking instructions, etc.
You don’t create great client relationships without first building trust. Examine your current intake process and find the holes where trust can be lost.