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Lawyers Don't Have to Fear the “S” Word

You worked hard to get where you are. Undergrad, law school, some of you serving time as an associate fetching coffee, then finally hitting the pavement to reel in your own client base and eventually hanging out your own shingle or teaming up with an existing group of attorneys. After years and years of investing in sweat equity, don't be afraid to ask prospective and current clients for what you're worth.

Going against the grain of a standard industry practice, especially when it comes to pricing, however, can be really tough to do.

"Lawyers, not unlike their forbears in other industries facing massive upheaval, tend to do more of what they know rather than proactively seek change," said Tim Corcoran on his blog 'Corcoran's Business of Law.' "And as a result, simple techniques to improve client satisfaction and retention — efforts that in other industries are generally called 'sales' — are discarded as unseemly or unnecessary for educated professionals to take on."

Use the ‘S’ Word to Your Advantage

'Sales' doesn't have to be a forbidden word. Within the context of a law firm, sales mean nothing more than an attorney being able to articulate the value they provide to that client.

Corcoran further explains on his blog that clients honestly don't care how much they pay to retain the services of an attorney, so long as they see the value in the legal counsel and advice received.

"Here’s a revelation," Corcoran said. "Clients will care less about the mechanics of your invoice, whether you bill by the hour, by the word or offer flat fees based on astrology charts, so long as the value delivered is commensurate with the price paid."

So what's the lesson? Attorney's stress out way more over bills than clients do. Clients are more apt to fire their current attorney because of unreturned phone calls rather than their bills being too high.

#1 Rule: Know Your Client!

The correct value-proposition for one client may be completely inappropriate for another client. The easiest way to solve this problem is to actually develop a relationship with your clients! Pick up the phone. Write them a letter. Take them out to lunch once or twice a year.

You might be saying to yourself: "That's probably going to take a lot of time to plan and actually do. I'm really busy. I don't have time to take someone out to lunch every day."

That's the point. You're going above-and-beyond what most attorneys will do for clients - wining and dining them. You’re paying more attention to them and asking deep, thought-provoking questions to get to know them even better. Your clients will appreciate you going the extra mile whenever you can.

Yes, it will take more time, money and effort on your part to shower your clients with extra attention. The end result, however, could be an unexpected but welcome statement coming from your client: "Wow. Why aren't you charging me more? You just saved me from a major headache."

Attorneys need to embrace the sales process in order to achieve their professional goals. Focus on building genuine relationships and communicating value to clients will become easy and second-nature over time.