In my last post, I wrote about how to recognize bad clients before you make the mistake of taking on the representation. Among the responses I received, there was a request to discuss how to deal with basically good clients with a few unappealing behaviors. These are clients you want to keep, but you just wish that it was a little easier to deal with them in some respect. In this post I’ll make some suggestions on how to wrap up meetings with clients who take up too much of your time. Read more
Post Date: March 6, 2013
Almost all lawyers have rued their decision to take on some client, and with hindsight can recognize the warning signs that they disregarded. Many of us learned our lessons the hard way, but you don’t have to. Well…you probably will learn the hard way that a difficult client can cause you a lot more harm than the lost fees you wind up writing off. But after one such experience, if you ignore these warning signs, then you can’t blame the wreck on the train.
Here are 10 flashing signals that your new potential client may be a train wreck waiting to happen. Read more
Post Date: February 12, 2013
“Karyn, thank you for working so steadily from the time you arrive at our office to when you leave. Your dedication demonstrates that I can trust you to play fairly with me. Trust is important to me, and it is a relief and a time-saver not to have any concerns about your attitude.” That’s a message I want to convey to my assistant in this month dedicated to expressing gratitude. I know she’ll receive this message, because she’ll publish this blog post for me. I’m hoping she’ll relish having the world (or at least this corner of it) know something that I appreciate about her.
I’ve written previously that studies have found various ways that expressing gratitude can enrich your life and increase your enjoyment of your law practice. I wrote about the value of acknowledging a job well done, which is a form of expressing gratitude, and how to give an effective acknowledgment. I’ve also written about the importance of demonstrating your appreciation to referral sources. Are you starting to get the message that I think having an “attitude of gratitude” is important? Read more
Post Date: November 19, 2012
This is Part 3 of a 3 part series in which Debra L. Bruce talks to attorneys about less painful and more effective ways to ask for business from potential clients.
Networking Is Key
So how do you get into conversations with potential clients, or create the connections that can improve your likelihood of success, without making cold calls or being pushy? Networking is key. One in-house counsel said, “I enjoy talking to new people who introduce themselves at a conference or an event, particularly if they are confident, poised and friendly – without being overly aggressive.” Another said, “In order for a law firm attorney to have some chance of getting my business, I almost always would need to have met that person and ideally have had an opportunity to interact with them in a legal setting, such as serving on a bar committee or participating on the same seminar panel or co-authoring an article with them.”
So don’t give up on speaking, writing, bar service and trade association activity just because your phone doesn’t ring the next day. You are demonstrating your expertise and putting in place relationship building blocks. If you don’t meet a potential client, you might get to know someone who can later make an important introduction or referral. Corporate counsel frequently seek referrals from lawyers they trust, particularly other corporate counsel.
Companies Value Interpersonal Skills
Networking also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your talent for communication and connection. If you get overly nervous or tend to keep quiet in group conversations, seek help in developing a confident presence. Decision makers use every interaction to evaluate your ability to work well with others. As one counsel said, “If the person I’m thinking about hiring is rude to the waiter at a restaurant, won’t make eye contact, or otherwise presents poorly in person, then I worry about how they will interact with business folks at my company, appear to a judge, etc.”
Asking for Business from Friends
Who needs networking when your friend has the power to choose legal counsel? If you have the necessary expertise, it might seem like you’re on easy street. However, as a lawyer-coach, I have often encountered women attorneys who worry that if they ask for business from a friend, particularly a female one, it might damage the friendship. Could the friend think the attorney is trying to take advantage of the relationship? Perhaps the client would feel uncomfortable providing candid direction or feedback to a friend. Maybe the client wouldn’t want to risk exposing their own mistakes, shortcomings and fears to a social acquaintance.
Interestingly, my survey elicited responses from some female corporate counsel who felt quite comfortable doing business with friends, and some male counsel who didn’t. One of the women said, “My company has provided management training so that I am comfortable creating commitments and holding people accountable to their commitments, regardless of whether they are a business colleague, friend or family.” Counsel who didn’t mind being asked for work by friends stressed that “the lawyer has to do a great job no matter who they are” and that they should understand that companies have policies and procedures to follow.
Given the variety of preferences among corporate counsel on the subject of doing business with friends, a wise attorney will watch for indicators of a friend’s attitude. Do they often socialize with outside lawyers? Do they share their concerns about business problems with you or seek informal advice? Do they seem to have an interest in seeing you succeed? Have they ever mentioned that they might call on your expertise one day? Does your friend generally have an informal and approachable demeanor? Those are all good signs. Read more
Post Date: November 13, 2012