When I meet with a prospective client, one of the first questions I ask is, “Have you talked to any other lawyers yet?”
If the answer is no, I (kindly) advise them to do just that — to identify three other attorneys and interview them. I’ll even give them referrals.
I’m not looking to turn away business, nor am I shying away from helping someone in need. I simply understand that you don’t just need “an attorney” for your legal matters; you need the right attorney for you. The only way to find that is by weighing your options.
The relationship between client and attorney is an intimate one. It requires commitment and time, vulnerability and trust. It requires chemistry to be successful. And you don’t know if there is a “fit” unless you survey the competitive landscape.
That approach takes some people off guard. Lawyers are competitive by nature, and what kind of competitive strategy involves sending potential clients to vet other lawyers?
For us, it’s never been about bringing in business for the sake of growth. Good outcomes require us to delve into our clients’ personalities and businesses. As their “representative,” we want to narrate their story in a way that complements their personal and business styles. To create this congruency, we need collaboration. Collaboration builds from mutual compatibility. We want to know the client has chosen our firm. We want the client to know we have chosen to represent them.
When interviewing law firms, we encourage clients to be open and candid and to prepare a list of questions to ask the attorneys they meet. For example, it is important to know who will be working on your matter. You want to know how the cases are structured. You want to know what experience the attorneys have in the courtroom. You want to know about their experience with the type of matter you have. And you want to know how often you should expect communication.
More often than not, when we advocate for meetings with other law firms, the client comes back to us. When they do, they have a better understanding of the differences in style between firms, and they approach the relationship in a more thoughtful manner. It’s a win/win for all involved, and we like win/wins.
Tricia Derr is the co-founder of Lincoln Derr and serves at the helm of the firm leading all practice groups through active counsel, litigation, and advising. Ms. Derr is a litigator specializing in innovative multi-media communication, practical business-minded advice, and speaking to audiences in a “real”, non-technical way.