The skill of listening is quite difficult, and lawyers may be some of the worst listeners. We are taught to analyze quickly, advocate (okay, argue) and solve problems. Those are good things. But not in a first meeting before all the facts are known. Especially in a legal marketing situation. Better to spend most of your time listening, probing and learning about the client’s/prospect’s needs.

As promised in my last post I want to address Jim Hassert’s third fact  – “You Must Listen” from his  “Six Facts Every Lawyer Must Know To Develop New Business” series.

What I particularly wanted to share from Fact 3, was the four reasons listening will help you sell (I know that darn “s” word) your legal services which Jim took from Brian Tracy’s book Advanced Selling Strategies:

  • Listening builds trust,
  • Listening lowers resistance,
  • Listening builds self-esteem, and
  • Listening builds character and self-discipline;

and Jim’s five steps to improve your listening:

“1. Establish genuine interest by asking questions that you care about.

“2. Take notes. Writing down what people say shows that what they say is important, and that you are paying attention. Just put the pen down if the talk turns confidential.

“3. Respond to the speaker’s nonverbal cues, and monitor your own, including eye contact, smiling, and frowning.

“4. Keep people talking. Paraphrase, summarize, and restate what you hear. When you agree with people, they will think that you are smart. Especially if you don’t interrupt them or argue.

“5. Come prepared with good questions.”

Certainly you have encountered a good listener at some event you’ve attended, and they just seemed to hang on your every word. What did you think when you parted company? Something like this I’ll bet: “Boy, that was one smart individual.” Why? Because they recognized your brilliance by mostly listening to you, right? (Yeah, I’ve been there, and I am always looking for good listeners so I can be reminded of how smart I am.)  

But if you want to improve your legal marketing, I suggest you try to heed the advice of Jim and others, and that is that you will do better by learning to listen more, better and smarter. I know I’m going to try.

Jim’s post is worth a complete read. It’s definitely worth it.  Are you listening?

Actually, I’m not a good listener or at least not as good as I should be. Bad listening isn’t just a malady of lawyers, as it is a common ailment suffered by many, many homo sapiens.  With that said, a post by Annie Little on Attorney at Work points a finger at lawyers when discussing the topic.

She states that that is one reason that “attorneys are among the least trusted professionals.” I’m not sure how much weight I would attach to their listening skills as the reason. Nonetheless, Little lists ways to be a better listener, including:

  • Act Like You Care. This would require a change of mindset by some lawyers to act like they really care and are interested in what the other person – whether a client, prospect or potential referral source – has to say. It’s easier if you maintain eye contact, and avoid looking at your smart phone every few seconds while pretending you are not doing so. It also helps to gain the other persons confidence by focusing on them while they’re speaking for nonverbal clues that will keep the conversation moving ahead in the right direction;
  • It’s Not About You. Try to make the conversation about them so you fully understand their point and don’t respond too quickly or interrupt their thought process. Until the other person has completed their thought, they’re not ready for your comment or input. You are not truly listening if you’re trying to plan what you will say next to show off your expertise. It is better to think and admit if you do not know the answer right then.  Offer to look into it and get back to them later. This could actually lead to paying work; and
  • Silence Is Your New Best Friend. Gaps in a conversation are not a bad thing, and can often lead to the person continuing to speak and share important information. It also can provide respect for you as a listener. Remember you already know everything there is to know about yourself.  So, why not spend the time letting the other person talk and provide you with information you do not have about them and their potential issues.

Bottom line message: the more you learn to be a better listener the more “clients feel listened to. And respected,” according to Little. Further, you won’t have to ask them what they just said.  If we are honest with ourselves, there are lessons to be learned there.


Here are some additional posts of mine on listening:

Hush up and Listen!

The Less You Talk, the Smarter People Will Think You Are

Do Clients Wish You Were like a Good Waiter?