In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, New York solo lawyer Joleena Louis shares the four questions she asks herself when screening potential clients.
I was recently talking to a couple of my newly solo friends and they were telling me about problems they were having with their consultations. They were able to get people to through their doors but they weren’t being retained. There was an obvious disconnect somewhere.
We discovered that one of their major problems was lack of a screening process. Since I started screening my leads, the quality of my consultations has gone way up and I waste less time with people who are not a good fit.
Here are some of the questions I ask myself before scheduling a consultation with any new potential client:
Is the case in your area of practice?
Before moving forward, ensure that it is the type of case you are interested in and you have the skill level to handle. If it’s not, refer it out to someone else. Do not feel obligated to take on a case that you don’t think is the best fit for you.
I don’t mind getting calls about legal matters outside of my practice area because they are like currency I can give to my referral sources. I keep a list of attorneys in different practice areas so I can quickly give the information of a colleague and tell the client to let the other attorney know I sent them.
Plus, if I keep them in mind and send them business, they are likely to do the same when something comes up that’s a good fit for me and my practice.
How did the prospective client discover you or your practice?
The second question I ask is how did they find me? If the potential client is a good fit, I know which marketing channels are working and if they are not I’ll know I may need to adjust my tactics.
If they came from a referral source I know to either thank that person or let them know who my ideal client is if this referral was way off base.
Does the client seem overly concerned about price?
Some level of concern is reasonable and normal when discussing the fees for your services and you should feel comfortable at least giving a range. But if they tell you they have no money or balk at your consult fee, you may want to decline scheduling a consultation.
These responses are typically a pretty strong warning that the relationship is not going to go well. So it makes sense to avoid taking on that client from the start.
Has the client had other lawyers on the case?
I learned early in my practice that multiple lawyers on a case is a red flag. If I would be the third lawyer on the case, I won’t even take the consultation unless they have a compelling reason for having so many attorneys.
I’ve been burned twice by accepting cases that have had more than one attorney before me.
Either the lawyers are getting off the case or the client has unrealistic expectations and is firing lawyers when they don’t hear what they want. No fee is worth dealing with a client like this.
I did have one case where their first attorney retired and the second one moved, so I agreed to take the case and didn’t regret it. But, for the most part, multiple lawyers is a bad sign.