An issue I often come across with law firms is how to attract more of the types of cases they really want. While I understand that it’s anecdotal, I’d like to share a personal experience of how an attorney gained my family as a client, while some other firms did not.
Recently my family dealt with a life changing situation that required legal help. Without going into details, I can tell you it was (and continues to be) as stressful and painful of a situation I’ve ever encountered in my life.
In that small window between the time that we knew we needed an attorney and the time we actually hired an attorney, I learned a valuable lesson first hand: when you’re experiencing excruciating, life changing pain, you want relief from that pain and if there’s a lawyer that can relieve you of that pain (in the form of hope), you want the best possible lawyer.I thought I already knew that but I learned that I really had no clue.
Who We Hired
In the end my family hired the attorney who had #1: the compassion necessary to understand our situation, #2: the expertise to navigate the waters we were in and (most importantly) #3: the experience of handling the damn near exact circumstances that my family was facing.
All three of those items were mission critical for us as a family in making our decision. When we made our decision, we collectively felt a little bit better because we knew we had an advocate, someone one was both capable and highly competent, who would now (almost literally) fight on behalf of our family.
So while you maybe thinking to yourself “so you hired the most qualified attorney … sounds pretty obvious”, let me share some of reasons we didn’t hire some very capable attorneys as well.
Who We Didn’t Hire
The Jacks Of All Trades Law Firm
There were some really impressive lawyers we spoke with who could handle not only our type of case but also 3-4 other areas of practice. While that would be great if we were in the rare need of someone who was a good criminal, personal injury or intellectual property, we weren’t.
We needed someone who was THE EXPERT (I wish I could triple underline THE) in our issue. Every minute that the attorney spent, prior to meeting us, working in a different area of practice other than the one we needed help with, was a wasted minute as it pertained to us.
This is an important point, that in my experience is lost on many attorneys who think that by adding more case types to their website and their marketing strategy, they are simply casting a wider net to get more cases. While that may be true, I believe it’s also a surefire way to lose a client to another lawyer who has decided to make helping people with legal problem X their life’s work.
So my takeaway for my lawyer clients is this, hone in on the types of cases where you truly are THE EXPERT in and beat that drum as hard as you can. Put yourself in the position where you can sit with a potential client and tell them “I am the expert you need and here’s why …”.
If you happen to be THE EXPERT in multiple areas, keep the marketing/website from those areas as separate as possible because being very few of your clients will need you to be THE EXPERT in more than one area and you can undermine your expertise be having 8 areas of practice on your website.
The All Business Law Firm
I’d like to think of myself as a rational, thinking type who makes decisions in a pragmatic, almost scientific way. The reality of this situation taught me the real truth though: I’m an emotional human being like everyone else who is at the mercy of their reality.
We have the luxury of seeing bad things happen to people on the news everyday in the comfort of our homes with a hot cup of coffee in one hand in the TV remote in the other. But when something like that is happening to you, you’re perspective is radically different.
The first stage is disbelief. While I’m not going to pretend to understand all the steps in between, I can tell you that you eventually get to the point where you need someone to lift you up and give you a hope for justice. A good lawyer can must do that for their client. Not in a manipulative or ‘false hope’ sort of way. But in a manner that let’s me know that you feel my pain and this isn’t just ‘a case’ for you.
We talked to some lawyers that were plenty qualified and had all the skins on the wall. But at the end of the day, we didn’t feel like our pain was THEIR PAIN. Those meetings felt like business meetings more than a meeting with a close family friend.
Now don’t get me wrong, we aren’t naive enough to think the attorney we did hire is going to feel the same level of pain we did as a family. But that’s where I tell YOU as an attorney, don’t discount how important it is to give your client the compassion and hope they need when they come to you looking for help. I think sometime attorneys are so afraid of being manipulative or cheesy that they omit that emotion from their dealings with their client.
My advice is, don’t omit that emotion. If something makes you upset, let your potential client know that. If you’re outraged, even better. If you’re not feeling that empathy or emotion for your client maybe it’s time to re-evaluate if you’re in the right area of practice. But if you are, my advice based on my experience, is to let me feel that as your client. The more I, as your client, know that my pain is also your pain, the more likely I am to want you as my attorney.