Getting off on the right foot with new clients is important.  Because happy clients will refer others to your firm from day one.  There are several things you can do from the get-go to ensure your clients will be pleased with having hired you.

John Remsen shares “Ten Golden Rules to Make Your New Client Happy” that will help (with my typical paraphrasing and additional thoughts):

  1. Send a Welcome Kit.  It should include all the initial information the client will need – names of the team members, direct telephone numbers, and emails, as well as a letter from the managing partner and firm brochure;
  2. Understand client’s business and/or personal situation.  That can be accomplished by asking questions and, most importantly, listening to your client over 50% of the time; and putting the legal matter into the proper context;
  3. Meet or exceed expectations.  As Remsen suggests, work with the client to ensure reasonable expectations on their side, and then beat them (not the client, the expectations).  If problems come up, communicate asap;
  4. Keep your commitments.  Set reasonable deadlines, and then beat them.  Knowing lawyers are always up against deadlines, set an earlier one for yourself.  That way if you promised the draft contract on a Friday, deliver it on Wednesday or Thursday instead;
  5. Return phone calls and emails asap.  In today’s world, returning calls or emails can’t wait a day or two.  If you can’t return them, empower someone on your team to do so on your behalf, within an hour or two,  to let them know when you will get back to them;
  6. Learn client’s preferred means of communication.  Some people prefer emails over phone calls.  Ask;
  7. Introduce your team.  Let the client know who is on your team, and introduce them in person, if possible.  Also, the client should be advised that they may contact any of them.  It also helps your team feel important;
  8. Don’t overlawyer a matter.  Clients will not tolerate it anymore anyway.  Clients will accept less than perfect, particularly when it has an adverse impact on their wallets.  Communicate often with the client to ensure you’re on the same page on the work to be done;
  9. Never surprise your client.  This is especially true for an invoice.  But, it also applies to anything within your control.  No one likes (unpleasant) surprises; and
  10. Show appreciation.  Thank clients, entertain them, and seek feedback so they know you are thankful for their business.

I totally agree with Remsen, if you want to have happy campers as clients, you need to do more than good legal work.  You also have to provide outstanding service.  These tips will help in doing that.

During coaching sessions I’m often asked about cold calling, and my common response is to not make them.  They don’t work as a rule. Since in my experience 80% to 90% of new business comes from clients (in the form of new work or referrals to others), and referrals from other contacts, such as bankers, real estate or insurance agents,  friends, neighbors, etc.

So, my friend Mike O’Horo’s recent piece entitled “Cold calls? Well… sort of” on his RainmakerVT  website caught my attention. It’s not that O’Horo is endorsing cold calls, and he does raise the question of ethical issues relating to them. But, he does suggest ways to contact what I would call “strangers” or at least non-clients. His idea involves calling the types of clients you would like to represent and seek their opinion on topics of interest (presumably to them) and/or by conducting a survey. If you can get them to talk with you and contribute, you could develop relationships with prospects that might lead to business.

He goes on to suggest 10 ways to prepare for and undertake such “warm calls” as he refers to them. It is an interesting approach and one that could work over time. Clearly, it involves a good deal of effort and commitment.

In any event, I believe that O’Horo would agree that this strategy is not really cold calling, but it isn’t a bad idea, if you have the time and are willing to commit to it. If you don’t, then you might want to stick with spending time building relationships with your clients and other contacts that could send you referrals.  IMHO that works much better most of the time.