Lawyers have a strong fear of appearing unintelligent or incompetent, use these tips to help you showcase your expertise within your practice area.
There is a drive amongst lawyers come across as intelligent, informed and trustworthy. Lawyers respect competence in others, which means they are highly insecure about appearing incompetent to their clients and peers.
Gaining a reputation as incompetent to clients and colleagues will any firm on a downward trajectory. Your habits and body language set the tone when it comes to how you are perceived, especially when it comes to first impressions. And for lawyers, a first impression is everything.
Here are the seven habits and body language traits that can give you an incompetent impression to clients and other lawyers alike:
1. Nail biting
Nail biting is one of the most common nervous habits. Not only does picking at your nails and cuticles look gross, but it wreaks havoc on your hands and downgrades your overall personal brand.
The handshake can set the tone of an entire conversation, and gross chewed up nails can have the same effect as a wet, limp handshake. Your shredded nails will give the impression that you are nervous, not confident and shaky, all traits that most successful lawyers don’t want to be associated with.
2. Checking your phone or watch
If you are looking at your phone or your watch often it is signaling to the other person that you are either bored or that you have other things on your mind.
Sadly, it’s a more common habit than you might think. A Gallup study from reported the majority of US smartphone owners check their phones at least a few times an hour, and cell phone addiction even has a clinical name now: “nomophobia”.
3. Avoiding eye contact
Too little eye contact can hurt your chances of making the right impression. Many theorize that avoid eye contact makes you appear unprepared, uninterested, insincere, and even arrogant. Try to make direct contact approximately half of the time during a conversation and people will perceive you as believable, confident, and competent. Plus just in general, people tend to respect people who always look them in the eye.
4. “Hmm, that’s a good question…”
Saying this (or other similar questions like “Good Point”) after every question in a consultation or networking events shows how either unprepared or scared you are.
Responding to colleagues with this phrase or other similar ones will make you sound unsure, and other lawyers are not going to send referrals or ask for advice from someone that comes across as unsure. These phrases can be used every now and then, but overuse will cause the downfall of your practice’s reputation.
Frowning won’t just make you look unpleasant, but it also can make you look less intelligent.
Studies that suggest that people who smile appear more intelligent and trustworthy than those who scowl. Plus, enthusiasm sells, if you’re going to marketing and selling to potential clients then a smile and happy demeanor will go a long way!
If you find yourself frowning or having a straight face often then try practicing consultations or networking in front of a mirror so you can watch your facial expressions and make an effort to smile.
6. Um or Like
“Like, does this make me sound more professional?” No. If you want to sound professional and articulate, you cannot ramble on like a juvenile.
Like and um are used most often as filler words, stalling the conversation and allowing you to prolong your thoughts. A simple fix to help avoid overusing “like” is to simply slow down. This will not only help you to focus on speaking clearly and using the right word but will also help listeners better comprehend what you are saying.
7. Hair twirl or head scratch
To be confused is human, but simple gestures like twirling your hair or scratching your head practically admit to confusion and can have adverse effects. Confusion is the opposite of confidence. No client wants an unconfident lawyer representing them, and no colleague will want you providing insight on their case.
You can get around this dilemma by simply rewording your responses. Instead of inadvertently claiming to be confused, you can simply ask “Can you explain …?” or, “I need more details about…”
In order to have a long and successful legal career, you will need both clients and colleagues. If you appear incompetent, you are far less likely to get either. Use these tips to avoid an incompetent image, and show off your expertise in your practice area.