There is one struggle that transcends my coaching clients – both seasoned and new lawyers:
how to relate to a prospective client on a human level in an initial interview.
A disconnect can occur if the lawyer doesn’t see that from the client’s perspective, their legal issue is simply a problem that needs fixing. In other words, all the rules and principles of building customer loyalty still apply.
The research of Chris Malone and Susan Fiske (The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products and Companies) is instrumental in teaching my coaching clients that 82% of client behaviour can be predicted by the perception of “warmth” and “competence” (p.4). A prospective client wants to see both qualities before retaining a lawyer. This combination inspires a sense of trust and confidence.
Lawyers, traditionally, tend to be heavy on the competence. And this makes sense. It’s all they’ve been taught throughout law school and beyond. When it comes to displaying warmth, my coaching clients will often argue against its place in a legal setting. Then I share with them the following observations from Malone and Fiske’s research and their attitude suddenly changes:
“One who displays competence, in the absence of warmth…tends to leave us feeling envious and suspicious…” (p. 2).
Faced with the option of inspiring trust and confidence in a prospective client over envy and suspicion, my coaching clients immediately buy into the process of establishing their warmth. I’ve not met one lawyer who wants their clients feeling suspicious about them!
The beauty in helping my coaching clients to establish their warmth is that it already exists. Warmth can be kindness, friendliness, sincerity, honesty, understanding, etc. These are things that represent one’s intentions, the things that matter most to someone.
I see my role as helping my coaching clients to adapt to the client interview by figuring out how they can showcase these values in an appropriate way.
Because each person has a unique set of values, I help my coaching clients to figure out what those are in order to come up with a tailored approach for their client interviews. The result is an increased awareness to including the prospective client in both the design process and execution of a client interview.
Take “Mary,” for example. Mary’s personal values include respect, concern for others and meaning. After a series of workshops with me, Mary was able to come up with a checklist of Initial Client Meeting Retention Strategies. For each of her values, she listed specific action items or things she could say to demonstrate that value. Mary looks at this checklist before each client interview and reports that this holistic approach has drastically improved her client acquisition rates.
This article originally appeared on AWAL.
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