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Mindset shift for client attraction needed

A change in mindset is essential for boutique law firm owners looking to secure more clients going forward.

user iconEmma Musgrave 04 January 2024 SME Law
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According to Caralee Fontenele, lawyers need to become better salespeople in order to appeal to new and prospective clients.

Speaking on a recent episode of The Boutique Lawyer Show, the director of Collective Family Law and Scalable Law said lawyers often make the mistake of “giving too much legal advice” in the first initial meetings with clients rather than adopting a business lens where they can proactively help clients solve their problems.

“The first thing is that clients want to feel heard and valued. And in order for clients to feel heard and valued, we need to learn to be better listeners,” Ms Fontenele said.


“That can be tricky for lawyers because we like to give advice and we’re trained to give advice, and to shut that down and just listen is a real skill.

“I’ve heard clients say to me, ‘I’ve got so much out of this 45 minutes with you. I went somewhere else, but I felt like I was being talked to or talked at’.”

Ms Fontenele said that while lawyers are well-intentioned in providing this advice, it’s often not the only thing the client wants.

“The client wants to be able to unpack everything,” she explained.

“Yes, it’s going to be half irrelevant, but it’s our role as solicitors to listen to them and give them plenty of space to do that. So, I would give a client 10 minutes or so to really unpack everything and listen.”

The first initial appointment with a client should be treated much like a sales call, Ms Fontenele said, noting that it’s important to “give very small chunks, bite-sized pieces of legal advice” but “not get bogged down” in overwhelming them.

“Then you need to spend the last component and a decent amount talking about the process: how they engage you and the costs and being really transparent about that, because that’s really important, that they need to know that and then reiterating how they can actually engage you and that if they engage you, this will be the process and the result.

“In family law, for example, and most areas of law, if they’re a decent client with a decent matter and you’re prepared to take them on, if the client sticks with us, we can finalise their matter, right? We know in our expertise, if they do the steps that they’re meant to do, we can take them on that journey from the land of uncertainty to where they can be more certain. So, it’s really building that trust with them. That is what you’re going to do for them.”

For Ms Fontenele, this approach is necessary to avoid crossing the line into being too salesy or vice versa.

“Don’t think that you need to be salesy. You need to be educational,” she said.

“You need to educate your clients and give value in that initial appointment to build trust and really understand your clients’ pain points. So that comes down to really niching and really knowing what your clients’ pain points are.

“The mindset shift is that in that appointment, your job is not to give them legal advice and swamp them with legal advice in that appointment, your job is to convert them to a client so that you can then serve them with legal advice.

“Because in an initial appointment, if they don’t retain you for whatever reason, that small bit of legal advice that you’ve given them for that hour or 10 minutes isn’t actually really going to assist them. The whole purpose of that initial appointment is to let them know that if they engage you, you can solve their problem. You’re not going to be able to solve their problem in that initial appointment, so why put yourself at risk by giving them way too much legal advice and putting them off?”

NB: This transcript has been edited slightly for publishing purposes. You can listen to the full episode here:

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