(that have nothing to do with changing the questions you’re asking)
No doubt, client interviews are crucial to the success of a case. Indeed, the facts you’d gather during an initial phone call, a first meeting, and subsequent interactions with a client inform the arguments you’ll make, and the next steps you’ll take to ensure the best outcome for the client and for your firm.
While the specific questions you’d ask a client during an initial in-person interview would depend largely on the type of case at hand, there are several other important factors that could make the difference between a successful interview and one that may leave much to be desired. Below is our checklist of musts.
#1 Cultivate the relationship
Instead of concentrating solely on the task of gathering information, think, too, of every interaction with the client as an opportunity to cultivate a positive business relationship, as well as a chance to earn their trust. Actionable steps include: being friendly and professional while handling phone calls and exchanging emails, greeting the client warmly during in-person sessions, and ensuring their immediate needs are taken care of. For instance, you might offer them a glass of water or other beverage when they arrive at the office.
#2 Set expectations for the meeting
Prior to the client’s arrival at the office, be sure to set expectations for how long the meeting will take, what types of questions or topics will be covered, and to let them know any documentation they should bring with them that would be helpful to you. Consider expressing your happiness to answer any questions about the interview ahead of time; you may even want to send over a few bullet points, indicating specifics you’ll be covering.
#3 Phrase your questions strategically
Two different phrasings of the same question may elicit considerably different answers, even if the difference is a matter of a few words. For instance, starting an interview with “please describe the incident that brings you here,” and “so, you were hit by a car?” have very different impacts. The first is open-ended, and may result in the client sharing more detail; the second is closed, and may not lead to more than simply a “yes” or “no.” Be mindful to only use close-ended questions when you need strictly one-word answers. Otherwise, open-ended ones will often yield more valuable responses.
#4 Be mindful of all the ways you’re communicating during the interview
Be sure to communicate that the client has your full and active attention during your time together. Some ways to show your commitment include: using a neutral, yet confident tone of voice (avoiding accusation and defensiveness), maintaining eye contact whenever possible, ensuring appropriate posture, and confirming information the client has shared by summarizing what you’ve heard and repeating it back to them. Conversely, if you notice any strange body language on the client’s part, be sure to ask some open-ended questions to probe a bit further, and find out if there’s something they’re holding back.
What other musts are on your client interview checklist? Please let us know in the comments!