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- in Practice Management and Fees
- by Stephen Gustitis
Success lies in understanding people, understanding their need, and understanding how best to relate to them. Potential criminal clients frantically searching for legal services don’t shop like they’re shopping for a new car or refrigerator. Instead, they are in crisis, they have an embarrassing problem, and they desperately want someone to solve it. Often being a smart, competent, and skilled criminal defense attorney is not enough to land this potential client in crisis. Sure they want to know you’re smart, but more importantly they want to know you understand their problem and have an affordable solution.
That’s the best way to market criminal defense legal services. To identify problems that people have for which they are already seeking a solution. Since most good defense lawyers also have big egos (like me), we often make the mistake of focusing on ourselves rather than on a solution to the potential client’s problem. In other words, the client is seeking a problem solver . . . their problem solver. Not necessarily the “best criminal defense lawyer in town.” Our first objective, then, is to develop effective communication with the prospect. Communication will lead to relationship. Relationship then leads to trust. Once the potential client trusts you, you’re as good as hired.
Before the client calls they’ve probably completed important research on the Internet. They scoured your website, client reviews, and have developed an opinion about your competence. They’ve also formed initial feelings about whether they like you. It’s all “trust in the making.” However, your first genuine opportunity to prove your worth is the office telephone call. The first call is when the client begins to decide whether they were right about you. Importantly, it doesn’t matter who answers the telephone . . . your trusted assistant, a new intern, the answering service, or the lawyer. From the answering service on down, everyone in the chain must communicate understanding to the prospect. Upon the first hint of pretense, trust is lost, and the client moves on to the next potential problem solver on their list.
Once the potential client presents for the initial consultation, it’s all up to you. Be a good listener and engage them at a deep level. Remember, it’s all about them . . . not you. Identify their problems and discuss solutions. Always under-promise. That keeps the door open for over-delivery. Quote your fee with confidence and remain willing to negotiate on payment terms. Market solutions rather than marketing you. You’ll have more fun, land more clients, and enjoy your law practice much more.