You might remember when I wrote about outsourced content in the #legal and #law tags I browse on social media.
Don't worry – all that canned content by the writers is still out there. You didn't miss anything.
But now I'm seeing an increase in canned marketing "quickie" posts. These usually include a(n):
- infographic with the attorney's name or firm and contact information,
- blurb about how they're available to defend your --fill in the blank– type of case,
- and or a reason(s) why you should really be hiring a lawyer instead of representing yourself.
I get it. The legal system today is filled with landmines for the unsuspecting and unknowing individual. After all, we didn't go to law school – right? In some cases these lawyers are right and in some cases they're just spreading blanket fear without doing anything to actively gain your trust.
Let's fix that.
Lawyers can do better at educating non-lawyers and building trust with potential clients.
A lot better.
As a lawyer, you have social media accounts, blogging platforms, and websites. You might even hire someone to manage these for you, to write your content, and all of that because you're so dreadfully busy. I get it.
I'm just not convinced that non-lawyers are believing the "reasons" anymore – just because you say so.
Creating a list of these "reasons" can make just one more piece of content that can be used to attract potential clients. But everyone is flooded with content these days.
So much so, we have the attention span of gnats.
When we're being threatened with financially altering and life changing issues because perhaps we were falsely accused, and now suddenly we can't afford to lose by default – we're faced with trying to find not just a "good lawyer" but one that can we trust, one that won't drain us any further financially than needs to be, and one that will actually fight for us.
That my friend, is value.
But in today's marketplace of lawyers, and all the different kinds there are to choose from, we only have generic advertising and content to sift through. There's nothing to really set you a part from each other. In the haze, the shock, and the numbness, like sidebar advertising on internet searches, you literally all start blending together.
It's lacking proof of value.
I don't think that legal professionals can afford to be lazy or not prioritize this anymore. You have to start doing things that set you apart from the masses and start gaining a potential client's trust before we need your services.
Breaking Down 7 Reasons
(1) The other party has legal counsel.
Great. Good for them. It doesn't mean I have the money to hire you. At all. And you won't represent me unless I can afford it right?
How to help us get representation:
In this moment, the potential client needs to hear your sincere and actual humanity. Not just platitudes of "I'm sorry. I wish I could help, but I can't." I recommend writing up a list you can refer to for these clients with actionable but constructive things either you or they can do:
- enlist the help of a friend or family member to pay
- possibly taking out a loan
- you having a referral base of your own network of attorney's you know who might be willing to take the case for less, that you can refer them to
- you offering them monthly installments rather than chunks of $2500.00 a pop to "keep their trust account topped off"
- offer them a list of documents you know are going to be helpful for the potential client to gather for any attorney who might take the case
None of these these suggestions are particularly difficult, but go a long way in establishing report and demonstrating your humanity. You showed us you cared.
(2) Law is complicated.
Yes. We know that. That's why we're looking for a lawyer and taking advantage of your free consultations.
How to show why you can navigate through it better (hint: it doesn't involve the degree you have hanging on your wall):
What I'm about to say, I'm saying with absolute respect. I am on your side.
- Stop hiding behind the fact that anybody can learn court procedures, rules of evidence, and generally what matters in their specific case, without a lawyer and without having to become one. There are great resources now available to regular people, written in regular English to help with this. (If you don't believe me that a regular person down the street can learn certain key things about court and their case without getting a law degree, reach out to me directly, and I'll prove it to you.)
- Stop equating "the law" with "court procedures."
Things can be complicated and messy depending on the case, but there's a difference between "law is complicated" and learning key concepts and principles of legal navigation for yourself.
There's a difference between saying the law is complicated, which should mean:
"Hey – so there's a lot of different elements to this case (and explaining what that actually means to the client in regular English) and it's going to take you more time than you think to track down all the proper supporting law and legal research, and compile it into the proper forms the correct way all on your own if you're not used to doing it..."
"Hey – no matter what you do, say, or think, I'm an expert in the law and you're not because you didn't go law school, and you're doomed without me," which is what "Law is complicated," usually insinuates.
Many non-lawyers haven't caught onto this yet, but they will. More and more are starting to understand this.
It's better for you now to acknowledge it and reposition your "reasons" just slightly to acknowledge it.
Most lawyers would never change their positioning outside of the generic "law is complicated" with a potential client, but doing so makes you sound different, better even. It sounds like you're respecting our intelligence and possible capabilities from the outset – which builds trust. It shows us that you encourage people to learn about court procedures and their own legal matters for their own edification whether they need you or not.
That my friend, is golden.
As a lawyer, when you don't change your positioning and we know we can learn about these things on our own, we just see the "reasons" for what they are: an attempt at emotional manipulation. If you've just been served – you don't time for that.
You don't have time for emotional manipulations (intentional or not) from your current clients right now do you? Nope.
So let's not only move past that, but be proactive in helping potential clients learn how to sort through the differences between law and procedure, which further sets you apart.
(3) Lawyers are experts in their field.
Some of them are, but what proof do I have that you are in this field of law for my specific type of case?
How to prove your expertise:
Again, saying this with respect:
- Stop pretending you have every single law, court ruling, annotation, appellate court ruling and opinions, and both the state and national constitutions memorized for your area of law. Unless you have a photographic memory (kudos if you!), you don't. You just don't.
You may even acknowledge you don't, but your marketing materials and generic posts insinuate the opposite. You don't know every single item that impacts the case, but you know within reasonable expectation that you can find it. Anyone can learn how to find it, you can just probably find it faster.
There's a geometry, an architecture, to navigating legal issues. Anyone can learn these ropes and then fill in exactly what they need, depending on the circumstance.
When you acknowledge this - it makes it easier for us to trust you more. Why? You're talking about things that other attorneys refuse to talk about.
I recommend offering:
- some sort of proof to your potential client, like naming the legal databases your offices use on a regular basis, with some high-level information about each of them (found on their websites), and how it's helped you argue for your past clients
- testimonials of previous clients, if you have them, or if you can get them
- maybe even a breakdown (high level overview) of how your offices manage cases (How you scan everything to keep a digital copy, which goes into a digital folder just for you, which is backed up.., what you do with the paper copies, and when, and how you call up important information on a case so that you don't get facts and figures wrong.)
It all comes down showing vs. telling. Nothing on this list inherently complicated or harmful to share, but it goes a long way in helping the potential client feel as though they will be taken care of by your expertise.
Peace of mind is everything.
(4) Filing the wrong documents can ruin your case.
Yeah, we get that. But why does it have to be so secretive and confusing? Why is the system set up that way, and how can I trust you as my attorney to also do it correctly?
How to prove you care about accurate documentation:
We know you have access to the correct forms that never actually seem to be updated on time for the public at large, found on the county courthouse website, and that you probably know how to fill them out the right way.
Presenting it to us as fact while insinuating that a prospective client can't because they didn't go to law school, preys on the ignorance of your potential clients. We don't want or need you to do that. Instead, we need you to:
- sell us on the confidence that you can fill out the forms the right way
- acknowledge that a person can fill them out on their own with full and sincere belief (and maybe even learn how to do it correctly given the time)
- convince us that you doing it for us will reduce our stress while you help us navigate our legal ordeal (since we probably don't have time in the next three business days to learn for ourselves to do it correctly)
- testimonials from past clients where they were 100% confident you filled out the forms the right way.
Many of us fill out all of the forms you give us to fill out – so you can fill out the court forms, only to have what you put down incorrect information into the official forms, and us race and push you to get it corrected, all while you've charged us more for correcting it– for something that was completely preventable to begin with, since we just gave you all the correct info in writing to begin with.
As Captain Jack Sparrow would say, "Savvy?"
That scenario is actually pretty common.
You can put yourself ahead of the pack by offering some sort of proof that not screwing up the paperwork matters to you. Consider when you do mess it up – to not charge the client for you fixing your mistake.
(5) It can cost you more without a lawyer.
Yes it can. But just telling us what we already know doesn't help us trust you. It just reinforces the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty we may already be facing.
How to illustrate this for a potential client:
This goes back to figuring out empowering ways of being able to retain your services and helping us navigate things from the outset. The suggestions provided in point #1 apply here as well.
(6) Lawyers know how to scrutinize evidence.
As if people who learn on their own, can't? As a pro se individual, a pro se individual can do everything an attorney can do. Even scrutinize the evidence.
For those of us that know this, at best, this reason falls on deaf ears. At worst, it's seen as the dreaded emotional manipulation we discussed earlier.
How to prove you might be better at scrutinizing the evidence:
Recognize and acknowledge that anyone can learn how to do this for themselves. Anyone can learn. Everyone has a right to learn, even though most people don't yet fully realize this. I recommend:
- selling us on the fact that you're far more experienced, which can be leveraged to our advantage in the short amount of time there is left to provide a response to the other party
- provide social proof or testimonials from former clients attesting to your ability to scrutinize the evidence
- maybe even provide an example cheat sheet showing some pretty clear cut and blatant examples of admissible evidence vs. not or evidence that was admitted (with sensitive things hidden, obviously, and with permission from the former client), and why it couldn't be used. You could even create samples with mock information for this purpose.
This way, you're showing us, rather than telling us. You can still add disclaimers to all of these things as necessary. As prospective clients, it gives us literally something we can touch or see for ourselves, rather than just taking another lawyer's "Trust me," at face value.
Are you starting to sense a cadence and a pattern here?
(7) Lawyers provide free consultation.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! This is mostly helpful to potential clients.
The problems start when we find that a lot of lawyers these days don't want to get into certain specifics beyond a high-level overview of our stories, and they don't offer to help us at all unless we plunk down large lump sums of currency. Often times, near the first third of the consultations, the lawyer will start pushing for a retainer.
Some of you can even be downright combative. Once, I spent 44 minutes of the phone consultation trying to explain to a lawyer who I was thinking about hiring, that I wasn't the bad guy. Yeah, not only did I not hire him, I complained far and wide to anyone in the area that would listen. In the end I ended up hiring the lawyer that barely displayed some of the things I outlined in this article.
It turned out to be the lesser of two evils (that's an entirely different article).
How to prove your time is valuable:
I know you can't get into certain specifics. Each case is different, but don't start out by saying that after we've just emotionally vomited all over your plush rug or into your ear bud.
What we need is the following:
- mirroring-customer service and active listening techniques ("Let me repeat this all back to you so that I make sure I'm understanding what you're saying..."). This goes over extremely well, even if you already both know you're on the same page, it shows the prospective client you are actually listening.
- for you to not actively apologize for being flustered and busy. Don't even show us that you're flustered and busy. Right here and now, during that consultation, we are all that matters to you, and we need to believe that.
- not to have you be interrupted by your staff or the traffic jam you're talking to us from. If you think you might be interrupted during a free consultation, don't schedule it. You might lose one or two clients, but you'll gain a huge word-of-mouth reputation of being the one lawyer who actually listens, 100% of the time.
- for you to use this time to show us you care, by providing some of the things I've described above. This is the perfect time to do it. If I'm evaluating a lawyer and they did a handful (or better yet all of) these things, I would be 90% more likely to pick them for my case. Not only that, I would already feel 50% more reassured from the beginning, that this isn't going to turn into another bait-and-switch.
- Towards the end of the consultation is when you let the potential client know how things might work in your office, since in fact, you do have other cases you work on. Discuss best communication preferences as well, should they choose to move forward with you. This helps set healthy and realistic expectations. You could even choose to include this in the examples and proof you may have already provided. (We all know as clients, we will need to refer back to that part at some point during our case. As grown ups, we can then remind ourselves to cut you some slack, as you were honest up front about it, in very clear and defined terms.)
That my friend, is priceless.
Prospective clients want you to start setting yourselves apart. We want you to show us you have expertise, care about our situations, respect our intellect, and give us something hands-on we can use and work with.
Giving us something tangible we can show our friends and family, beyond a wasted and emotionally draining afternoon is huge.
Giving us something we can look at besides the complaint, pleadings, and summons, (the sheriff was so kind to deliver in person), to give us hope may help some of us actually sleep that night.
Other lawyers aren't doing this. You can start doing this.
We want to know you have our backs. We want you to fight for us and to protect us, if we hire you. We want to know we're getting our money's worth.
We want to hire you. You just need to give us better reasons to.