By Ally Kennedy, Founder of Amiga
The consultation is arguably the most important client interaction that you will have. It sets the tone for your firm and your attorney/client relationship. As the old adage says, “You never get a second chance at a first impression.” That’s why you need to create an experience for your potential client that is unique and unforgettable.
It is important to keep in mind that at the time of the consultation, your client is likely scared and stressed. Let’s face it, most of the time people come to an attorney when things are not going well in their lives. This may be the first time your potential client has ever spoken with an attorney before. Your potential client had to work up the nerve to call and schedule a consultation, then attend the consultation, and then open up with a stranger about an uncomfortable, unhappy, and sometimes even embarrassing situation or experience. Keeping this in mind allows you to create an experience that honors your client and his emotions as he navigates a difficult time in his life.
At my firm we have created a "multi layered" consult where customer service is the focus at each step. Here’s an overview of our consult process:
- The legal assistant brings out the Consultation Intake Sheet and greets the client and explains the intake sheet. She says the client’s name no less than three times in the interaction.
- The legal assistant offers a beverage and even if they say no, she makes them hot chocolate anyway. (“People always love hot chocolate. It’s delicious!” – Brenda, my assistant. I can’t disagree with her on that one.)
- The legal assistant brings the client back to her office to process the payment, prepare a receipt, and review the initial screening questions. During that time, she also puts the case in our case management system.
- The legal assistant then brings the client to the offices of each person on the staff introducing him or her, explaining that person’s role and letting the client know how that person can serve him in the future.
- The legal assistant brings the client to the lawyer’s office for the consultation.
- The lawyer introduces herself, explains confidentiality, and opens the consultation with the question, “So what brings you in today?”
- The lawyer allows the client to speak without asking any questions except for clarifying questions.
- After the client has told her entire story, the lawyer begins asking questions to determine if the client has a case and the type of case.
- The lawyer explains the case type and case overview. At the end she asks, “Do you have any questions about anything I have explained? I know that it is very confusing, so please feel free to ask me anything.”
- The lawyer provides a written quote sheet that includes the price and case type.
- The lawyer concludes the consultation by stating, “If you have any questions that you think of in the next few days, please do not hesitate to contact me or any member of our team. We are here to serve you.”
- The legal assistant returns to walk the client to the elevator, ensuring that the client does not have any further questions, and again reminds the client that he can call if he has any questions. During this interaction the legal assistant will say the client’s name at least three times.
- At the same time, the lawyer writes a thank you note to the client for coming in that says something like, “It was a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to serving you in your case.” It is immediately placed in the mail so the client will have it 1-2 days after the consultation.
- Within 24-48 hours of the consultation, a legal assistant calls the person back to follow up and check in to see if there were any additional questions.
Our hope is that the potential client feels heard, understood, and that he has received information in a way that is meaningful for him. Our goal is also that the potential client leaves feeling like we are on his side.
Because I believe so strongly that a consultation is the heartbeat of a law firm, I have created a powerful phone app that will help you track and follow up on consultations. Admittedly, technology usually overwhelms me and scares me so I have worked hard to make this app incredibly easy to use. Be the first to know about the app by emailing email@example.com. Soon we will be reaching out for testers!
About your Ally in Life, Business and Law:
Alexandra "Ally" Kennedy is a national award-winning attorney and the founder of AMIGA Lawyers and Alexandra Kennedy Immigration Law.. After becoming a mother, and in a matter of 3 months, Ally transformed her practice from earning in pesos to earning 6-figures and she is passionate about teaching attorneys how they can do the same. Ally empowers lawyers to be the CEOs of their law firms with her weekly blog, webinars, and conferences where she teaches step-by-step how to do the work they love while running a profitable legal business. Ally lives outside of Seattle with her partner and their 5 children.