The first step in the client acquisition process for legal professionals is usually the initial client interview. Here are nine interview questions you should ask potential clients and why asking them matters:
#1: Why did you come in today?
Of the hundreds (or even thousands) of attorneys in your area, this potential client chose to contact you. Find out why they chose you, what about your firm attracted them to you. This can help clarify their expectations and confirm that your firm’s expertise is indeed the right fit for them.
From a marketing standpoint, you need to know how this client was attracted to your firm so that you can do more of this type of promotion. If they were referred to you, you’ll want to thank the referral source. Their answer could also provide valuable insight into what is important to this person, where they go for answers, and how they approach problem solving.
#2: Have you ever worked with an attorney before?
If this is the first time the potential client has ever set foot in a lawyer’s office, know that if you decide to offer representation, you’ll need to explain how a case progresses through the court system. Some things to explain – what will be expected of them, how matters similar to theirs typically progress, when decisions will need to be made, and what the likely timeframe might be.
#3: Why did you decide to pursue this matter?
This question will allow you to find out how serious the client is about bringing legal action and allow them to provide some valuable background that will help you prepare your legal arguments. When you ask client centered, open-ended questions about their motivation for pursuing legal action, you demonstrate your interest in their case and show them that you appreciate and value any information they can provide.
#4: How can I help you?
Asking this question will demonstrate to the potential client that you are willing to put their priorities ahead of your own. Instead of going into a client meeting with your own agenda, learn to ask questions that will help you learn about your client’s problem, a problem that only a lawyer can help them solve. Find out what is keeping them up at night.
#5: Tell me about your case.
Instead of asking a litany of questions about their potential matter, ask broader questions that could very well net you more information. Pay close attention to what they willingly tell you, and what you feel the need to inquire further about – this can provide clues to this potential client’s priorities and what they might and might not want to be forthcoming about.
#6: How would you like to handle communication with our office?
A one-size-fits-all approach to communication with clients is usually not a good idea. Some will want copies of everything sent via snail mail, others will appreciate regular emails or texts with case updates, and some clients will want to speak to you in person or via phone. Frequency must also be determined – daily, weekly, monthly, or as needed.
#7: What are your expectations of us?
When it comes to clients, you should never make promises you might not be able to keep. When the prospective client answers this question, use their response to gauge and manage their expectations regarding the success of their case.
Don’t let them pressure you into predicting the likely outcome of the dispute; instead remind them that the final resolution will depend on a variety of factors that are beyond your control. Never build up unreasonable expectations.
#8: What concerns you most about your case?
The answer to this question could reveal a lot about this potential client. If they say, “how expensive your services might be,” you’re likely dealing with someone who is going to want to know exactly how their money is being spent. If they say, “that I’ll lose,” you need to talk in depth about the strengths and weaknesses of the case. If they express feelings of fear or intimidation, you’ll need to be prepared to explain every step in the process.
#9: What is your desired outcome?
Legal clients choose to retain attorneys for many different reasons – to recover damages, right a wrong, enter into a contract, obtain a divorce – and it’s important to find out what your client is hoping to accomplish.
Suing someone can simply be about recovering money, but if merely being awarded damages won’t be enough, you have to decide whether what this potential client is after is something that you can actually provide.
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