With reputations as ambulance chasers, we PI attorneys are already at a disadvantage when it comes to getting and keeping clients. Ask ten people what it means to be professional and they will all have a different answer. Many of them will have similar trains of thought, largely revolving around the ideas of respect and decency.
However, there are many other factors that go along with these cornerstones of running a personal injury law firm. Honesty is the best policy, and coupled with tried and true management techniques your firm will become and remain respected.
In asking attorneys about their experience, as well as from the client side, several key ideas emerge.
A Suit and Tie Don’t Make You a Professional
A nice pressed shirt and flashy tie don’t make you a decent attorney. Neither does a BMW. For many professionals, there is a disconnect between stereotypes regarding professionalism and how others perceive it. Professionalism isn’t a wardrobe, it’s a state of mind. Decoupling the visceral from actions isn’t easy. Of course, dressing well is still a part of the job. Don’t let it define your interactions with clients and colleagues.
Courtesy and politeness are great icebreakers. They serve as the first face to face impression between you and someone you may be representing for months or even years. Bring the respectful nature of your personality out and counter any negative stereotypes that your clients may be bringing with them. A relaxed demeanor, firm handshake, and cup of coffee could go far. Stiff interactions, fake smiles, and bad jokes could all turn a client toward another firm. You are in the driver’s seat and can make this into a great experience.
Without Legal Trust there is Nothing
In almost all surveys regarding clients’ perception of their attorneys, trust always comes first. Without this foundation, the attorney is doing their client a disservice. Understanding the varying concerns and states of mind that our clients are in can make us closer partners. Our empathy can be an important tool to build our commitment to them. When we are able to intertwine our results with theirs, we can build a unique bond of trust.
It’s important to always be forthright with your clients. There may be cases where disclosing information may hurt your chances in court or could cause your client to change strategies. In all of these cases, being straightforward is always the best policy. Information known as soon as possible, coupled with a good working relationship could bring greater success to both parties.
Michael Ehline is the chief attorney of Ehline Law, a Los Angeles-based firm specialized in personal injury and medical malpractice claims. A retired Marine, Ehline aims to educate both attorneys and clients in order to create better synergy between the two.