Good Client Relationships Start with Knowledge:
If you were a physician seeing a patient for the first time, you would require a basic health screening and medical history right off the bat. Even if a patient walks in with a broken arm, it’s the job of a physician to get the whole picture, so they can provide the right care.
We’re in the same boat. The “we” being you, an attorney in a small firm selling legal services to the general public, and us, Mainstreet, selling malpractice insurance to smaller firm lawyers like you. We both cater to what our clients want, but we need all the information to know what’s really in their best interest.
The Case of Wants vs Needs
The fact is, a client’s wants and needs rarely match. Your client wants their problem resolved quickly and, if we are honest about it, cheaply. But law doesn’t lend itself to that model. A good lawyer has to be an educator as well as a counselor. Your talent in moderating your client’s demands and expectations with reality ends up being your greatest asset.
The same is true of us and our client relationships. We would be remiss in our duties if we simply offered the cheapest, fastest insurance package. To provide GOOD service, we need to consider what you really need to be reasonably safe. That means understanding our clients, and helping them understand the complexities of the product, as well as the benefit of rising above fast and cheap.
When You Can’t Compete…Don’t.
And how about you? You are competing against stiff winds that cater to your clients’ baser “wants”; things like Legal Zoom and unbundled legal services. Our advice: don’t fall into the trap of competing with the fast and cheap. Instead, prioritize being good. That means you can’t cater to everyone. Find clients who appreciate your particular talents, and let the rest go.
That’s a tough message for a practitioner just starting to build a business. Your emphasis in the beginning of a client relationship should be on his or her needs beyond fast and cheap, and whether your talents will serve those needs. If it helps, think of yourself wearing that physician’s white coat at that first client encounter. Prospective clients who will not tolerate a thorough, professional examination of their situation will sort themselves out and go elsewhere. Those that stay will be the kind of clients you want (and need) to build your practice around. Give yourself permission to have a practice that will be both sustainable, and enjoyable.