Whether you are meeting a client in a traditional in-person meeting or virtually, the skills required to establish a professional working relationship with your client remain essentially the same. Here are some essential tips to help you build better client relationships behind the screen.
Personalize Your Initial Contact
Communication is critical in building a solid relationship with your new client. When you first engage a client, you may be tempted to email them with direct questions to get your case started. Instead, try picking up the phone and giving the client a call (I know, a millennial lawyer’s worst fear). Keep the call or voicemail brief and introduce yourself in a friendly manner by stating you would like to set up a meeting with them over the phone or virtually. Then follow up to schedule the meeting via email. Speaking with your client on the phone will create a more positive initial impression and subtly show that their case or business is important to you. Personalizing your initial contact by calling first will help your later correspondence with the client stand apart from every other email in their inbox.
Take the Lead in Scheduling Meetings
Most clients work with an attorney to solve a difficult issue, so the premise of your new relationship may be a source of stress for the client. Even if clients are well versed with the legal process, be mindful of this stress and streamline the process of working together to make it as easy as possible for the client:
- Instead of exchanging multiple emails, take the lead in scheduling meetings by offering specific dates and times.
- When possible, use a meeting or calendar invite after the date and time have been confirmed.
- Provide all the details in the meeting invite so the client does not have to search through previous emails to find what they need or dial-in information for the call.
Meetings arranged with less hassle and readily available details will relieve your client of stress and help them stay organized before the meeting begins.
Build In Time for Small Talk
While it is crucial to remain professional when speaking with a client, it is also important to allow your personality to shine through. During the first few minutes of the meeting, focus the conversation on your client and ask them personal questions like what they did last weekend or how their vacation was. Share a quick sidebar from your own life to break the ice. By relating to them outside of the nature of their legal matter, you show your client you are invested.
Make the transition from small talk to speaking about the legal issue seamless by providing a verbal agenda or roadmap for your conversation. If you make the client aware of how long the meeting will last and what to expect in terms of topics, the client has a better chance of staying focused during the meeting, and you will appear more organized and capable.
Go the Extra Mile
To build a positive client relationship, take notes during meetings and provide a brief recap in a follow-up email after your meeting. In the email, thank the client for their time and reiterate any action steps that need to be accomplished. Recapping your discussion in email format is not only good practice to avoid any potential miscommunication, but it will also give the client the impression that you are closely monitoring their legal matter.
A Final Minor Tip
Treat any virtual meeting as if it were in-person. While some meetings may be over the phone, try to encourage a video conference instead so you can meet with the client face-to-face. During the video call, dress professionally as if you were meeting in person. If possible, sit in your office or at a desk with a clean, professional background and add details such as legal books or framed diplomas to help create a professional aesthetic. If you tend to move around while speaking, sit in a desk chair without wheels. Most importantly, try to maintain eye contact as best as possible during your video conference. While we often gravitate toward looking at the person’s image on the screen, look directly in the camera lens when you are actively speaking. Avoid appearing distracted or disinterested in the conversation by ensuring that you do not look outside your screen’s parameters when your client is speaking.
With these simple steps in mind, you will be on your way to creating impactful professional relationships with clients.