Being interviewed by a prospective client is not that different than a young lawyer interviewing for a job in this awful market. This idea came to mind when I saw an article by William Melater, a young associate and contributor to Attorney at Work. He wrote about three basic rules for young graduates interviewing for a law job. I thought how helpful the same rules would be in making a pitch to a prospective client.

The basic rules are:

  1. Look like an attorney. Melater suggests that young attorneys forgo the "stupid hip hairstyle", earrings, and be clean-shaven. Since "you are borderline unemployable", avoid expressing your individual style until you are employed. Do the same when it comes to prospects. The days of casual dress are no longer in vogue IMHO. Even though your potential clients may dress less formally, they still want their lawyer to look like a lawyer IM(further)HO;
  2. Stop talking and listen. Don’t spend your time trying to prove how smart you are.  It is better to listen more than you talk. Let the interviewer ask questions and then respond accordingly. That is true for a job applicant, because the interviewer really only wants to know that you will fit in, work hard, and “learn how to be a lawyer.” A prospect also wants to know that his/her wants and needs are understood and that the lawyer has the background and experience to solve their problem. The core credentials of both has gotten you in the door, so don’t kill your chances of being hired by talking more than you listen; and
  3. Do your homework beforehand. Do as much research on the firm or client as you can before meeting with them. What you learned in law school or done for other clients doesn’t mean anything if your capabilities don’t meet the needs of the employer or this specific client. So, learn as much as possible about the law firm and client in advance.

Since we are in the personal services business, how we present ourselves to a prospect – whether a prospective employer or prospective client – can rest on how you prepare, present and listen during the selection process.