Now let’s think. If I wanted to do some really stupid things to hurt my chances of getting more legal business, and/or damage my reputation, as a lawyer what would they be. Here is my take on an article in Trey Ryder’s recent newsletter where he identifies a dozen blunders (with his suggestions on countering each in parentheses):
- Add additional fees and expenses to your invoices, and don’t worry about telling the client in advance. (Rather: it’s never a good idea to surprise clients any time, especially when it comes to money. Have candid upfront discussions about legal fees and costs, and if changes occur, discuss them with client before sending the bill);
- Hold off paying your vendors for at least 3 months. Surely they will speak well of you in the marketplace anyway. (Rather: pay within 48 hours. Don’t treat your vendors like some clients may treat you);
- Terrorize your employees so they will be in fear of losing their job and work harder. Don’t worry about turnover, anyone can be replaced and training new employees isn’t that expensive. (Rather: treat your staff with respect and do simple things to keep them happy. Lower turnover actually helps your bottom line);
- Don’t worry about those promises you made to clients or referral sources, such as deadlines or what you offered to do for them, they’ll probably forget anyway. (Rather: keep all your commitments, whether large or small in nature);
- Always show up late, it will impress people as to how important you are. (Rather: never be late, in fact, make a point of being early for appointments and meetings. If you will be late, call ahead to apologize);
- Return calls when you feel like it, certainly not sooner than 2 or 3 days. (Rather: promptly return all calls – or have someone do so for you ASAP, to inform caller when you will be able to speak with them personally);
- Take your time in sending materials requested by a prospect. Heck, your busy, and their practically in the door anyway. (Rather: do it as soon as you hang up the phone to ensure a positive impression);
- Haggle to the last penny before buying anything, as you certainly want people to know what a tough negotiator you are. (Rather: ask for the best price from several vendors to save everyone’s time);
- Make sure your engagement letter is air tight and lengthy, even for simple, inexpensive matters. You are a lawyer after all. (Rather: use a short, one or two paragraph letter to explain what you will do for the client when asked to handle a relatively simple matter);
- Let clients know about your personal and business problems. It’s always good to vent. (Rather: keep your problems to yourself. Clients DON’T care. They are only interested in their problem and how you will solve it);
- Criticize, demand perfection and don’t accept less. Don’t worry about people who dislike you. (Rather: show appreciation and compliment people for what they do for you, especially with a letter or handwritten note); and
- When a mistake happens, blame someone else, especially the client if you can. (Rather: admit your mistake, correct it, and make it up to the client).
Hopefully, you don’t see yourself in any of these situations. But, if you do, it might be a good idea to consider some of Ryder’s suggested behavioral changes. It not only will help your reputation, but your business as well.