Lawyers Need to Ask the Burning Questions!

For years, Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute has held the Marketing Partner Forum bringing together thought leaders in the industry to help law firms learn the benefits of, and techniques for, marketing their services.  Okay, that explains it in the simplest of measures, but it is a very high level conference.

I have never actually attended the program, but have followed it over the years and read the subsequent articles and posts which have detailed the program and its takeaways.

This year, at the 24th Annual Marketing Partner Forum, an article on Thomson Reuters’ website detailed a panel discussion of General Counsel and Corporate Legal Officers and one of the main takeaways was:

“. . .that there’s a lot that law firms can do by simply putting client priorities first.”

For 15 years, I have been saying the same thing:  It’s not about you.  It’s about the client.

Instead of going into a client meeting with your own agenda, you have to learn to ask questions to find out what is on the potential, or even current, client’s agenda.  And this is the case whether you are meeting with a client for criminal, family, bankruptcy, or business matter.  Each person with whom you meet has a problem; a problem which only a lawyer can help them solve.   It’s what keeps them up at night.

Even if you are working with general counsel, it’s the problems the corporation has that keep them up at night as well.  What can you do to help them?

The key is to listen to what they are saying, ask questions, and then listen again, and ask more questions clarifying what they are saying, and then listen some more. . . ad infinitum.

Ask the burning questions:

  • How can I help you?
  • What is your biggest problem?
  • What do you need?

If they have contacted you, the chances are they already know what you can do as an attorney.  As I mentioned in Rainmaking Recommendation #149, potential clients have most likely already done their research on you.  Even when they are provided a strong referral to you by family, friends or colleagues, they will still go the internet to learn more about you.

This means that by the time you are meeting with them, they want to know HOW you are going to help them sleep that night, not where you went to law school, not how many cases you have won, not how many years you have been listed as a “Super Lawyer,” but specific information about how you are going to help them with their problems or achieve their goals.

Yes, you can discuss how other cases you worked on may shine a light on how you can help them (within the parameters of the Rules of Professional Conduct in your state regarding client confidentiality), it will help them to understand how and why you work the way you do.

However, the only way for you to figure out how you are going to help them, is to figure out what their case is about.  Or said differently, what are the problems they need you to help them solve.  This means that you have to learn everything about your clients.

Putting your client’s priorities first, by asking them what their main concerns are allows you to distinguish yourself from the other attorneys who are just talking about themselves.

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