Our staff offers tips on how to best greet clients after witnessing several awkward attorney-client interactions in the reception at LFS’ NYC shared office space. It would surprise you at how often we witness attorneys in our NYC shared office space have terrible interactions with clients when greeting them at reception.
It’s fairly common for an attorney to arrive in reception as much as 45-minutes late, barely make eye contact, greet the client with a frown, turn and walk away (expecting the client to follow) without so much as a word of instruction.
We can’t understand it, and can only imagine that it sets a bad tone for the meeting that may be hard for the attorney to recover from. It may also anger a client enough to seek out counsel from one of the attorney’s competitors; one who treats the client with more respect.
Of course, we never know the back-story of the attorney-client relationship, or that we may be witnessing misplaced frustration from a different client or adversary.
Nevertheless, law is a service profession. And if we were a client paying for your services with our hard-earned cash, we would expect to be treated with a modicum of respect. Who wouldn’t?
Here are 5 simple tips that you can use to improve your interactions with clients at reception.
1. Prepare yourself before you walk into reception, and smile.
You have had a busy day. But don’t take the baggage from your day with you into the next meeting. On your way to reception, stop or even go to the restroom for a second, take a deep breath (or two) and refresh your energy.
Your client trusts you to handle their sensitive personal and business affairs. That deserves your undivided attention, so focus and give it to them.
Finally, before you walk into reception, smile. Even if you have to force yourself. Sometimes it’s difficult to put on a good fake-smile, practice a few minutes in front of the mirror and you’ll quickly realize how easy it is to.
Smiling, even when you don’t want to, releases endorphins that make you relax, lift your mood, and feel less discomfort. So if you have already had a difficult day, it will help you leave it behind you. Plus, body language experts tell us that those who smile often appear confident, friendly, trustworthy, and open. Important traits to convey if you’re an attorney.
2. Make a good first impression.
Step into the reception area of your NYC shared office space, call the client by name, smile, make eye contact and give them a firm handshake or elbow bump.
As Dale Carnegie says in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, “a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” People love to hear the sound of their own name. Use it to your advantage.
Making direct eye contact with your client is extremely important during the “greeting” stage of client meetings. It demonstrates confidence and interest, and not doing so shows weakness and/or apathy.
A firm handshake is one of those non-verbal forms of communication that conveys professionalism and confidence. If you’re not sure about your handshake, practice with someone you trust (we’ll practice with you). Something between a vice and a limp noodle is fine.
Given the way the times are going, a new form of the handshake is the elbow bump. This form of greeting makes both parties feel safe while still engaging in a form of communication that conveys confidence and attentiveness.
3. Get the client talking right away.
Try to get the client talking immediately. Many clients are unnerved about meeting with an attorney, especially if it is their first time doing so. Getting them to talk to you right away can take the edge off their anxiety and make them feel more comfortable.
Whether you are trying to close a new piece of business or get information from a client about their case, it will be easier to achieve the objective of the meeting with a client who is less guarded.
To get the client talking, ask them a question about something other than the subject of your meeting. Hopefully you know something about them that you can ask about – their kids, a vacation, something about where they live. Or simply ask about the weather or traffic.
But try to stay away from questions like: “How are you doing?” That’s too much of an open ended question that may result in you getting a very negative answer, thereby setting the wrong tone for your meeting.
4. Be a mini-host.
As part of your NYC law firm office space sublease, the reception staff may offer your client water or coffee (we do this at Law Firm Suites). Even if this is the case, if you notice your client does not have a beverage, always offer one. It’s a token gesture that demonstrates that you will take care of their needs. It will also make your client feel more welcome and may settle their fears about meeting with an attorney.
5. Kindly ask for them to follow you to your office/conference room.
This may seem simple, but always tell the client where you are going and direct them to the location. Don’t assume that the client will just follow you.
Simply say, “We are going to be meeting in a conference room, it’s just down the hall, why don’t you follow me, OK?” Then wait for them to start moving with you.
Doing this will let the client know that you are in command of the meeting, and that they can trust you to lead them. It’s a subtle but important step.
Sometimes it’s the small things, that should be obvious, that can set one attorney apart from his or her competition. Having a great interaction with a client at reception is such an easy thing to do. You will set a better tone for your meetings that will help you close more prospective clients or keep existing clients happy. The end result: more money in your pocket.