— PART 2 OF 2 —
Welcome back to the second part of our two-part series, “This Moment Matters: Creating and Nurturing Unforgettable First Impressions.” In this installment, we shift our focus outward, emphasizing the significance of first impressions made with clients and the community at large. You have likely spent big money on marketing and advertising, now let’s make sure you are working toward building strong relationships with your potential and current clients from the outset.
In the first part of this series, we delved into the internal dynamics of your law firm, exploring how leaders can foster positive impressions among their team members. Now, it’s time to take those principles and apply them to the broader landscape.
As a law firm, every interaction you have is an opportunity to build trust, establish credibility, and create lasting relationships. Whether it’s your first meeting with a potential client or your involvement in a community event, each moment holds the potential to shape perceptions about your firm.
We’ll examine the art of creating and nurturing unforgettable first impressions by applying simple and practical tips and strategies that will help your law firm stand out and leave a positive, lasting impact on everyone with whom you interact. Let’s explore why this moment truly matters.
Is our space sending the right message?
As a firm owner, it is essential to consider how relatable and approachable you and your firm are to your clientele and the demographic of your area. Take a moment to evaluate your office environment:
- Is it stuffy and intimidating with little to no art on the walls and uncomfortable chairs? or Is it an inviting and warm space that nurtures meaningful interactions?
- Do you have an area for kids should they need distractions while their caretakers are meeting with the lawyer?
- Do you have an electronic check-in method in place or a warm smiling face greeting your guests who walk in?
Creating a welcoming atmosphere can go a long way in building trust with potential clients and cultivating lasting impressions.
Think outside the box
Don’t overlook the importance of the “Director of First Impressions” role within your firm. At Vista, we love the title Director of First Impressions over more traditional titles like Receptionist or Administrative Assistant. This position holds significant value in shaping the initial perception of your firm. Get creative as a leader and frame it as one of the most crucial positions within your organization because, in many ways, it is.
The Importance of Your Director of First Impressions:
- First point of contact: This individual is often the first point of contact for potential new clients, current clients, and service providers, whether via phone or in person. Their ability to create a positive and professional experience sets the stage for further interactions.
- Building relationships: This person often builds relationships with people in your building. Think about when mail is delivered to the wrong location or a visitor to the building is lost and enters your office. Their interactions contribute to a positive office environment and reflect the professionalism of your firm.
- Team engagement: Your team members frequently stop by their desk when entering or leaving the office, engaging in casual conversations. These interactions are more impactful than you might realize. By empowering this position, you encourage a positive work culture and strengthen team cohesion.
What can you do to ensure this person excels in their role as the Director of First Impressions?
Recognition: Provide them with a name block that sits proudly on their desk. This simple gesture ensures that everyone who enters your office knows their name, reinforcing their importance in your firm.
Continuous development: Invest in their professional growth. Encourage them to attend relevant workshops, seminars, or conferences. By expanding their skills, they can deliver an even better first impression.
Empowerment: Give them the autonomy to make decisions that positively impact the first impression of your firm. Trusting their judgment will enable them to take ownership of their role and contribute more effectively to the overall success of your firm. I had someone in this position who would bring her own flowers in to decorate the office and had holiday décor for every occasion. It was such a personal touch for the front office that made a difference for not only our visitors but also our team members.
Efficient and personal client contact
When we meet with firms and ask what their mission statement and core values are, we often hear something akin to, “we are here for you,” or, “we fight for you.” What does this look like at your firm? When you assure your clients that you are there for them and will fight for their rights, it is essential to back up those words with tangible actions. One way to achieve this is by implementing a structured communication process. Consider implementing a 30-day paralegal/case manager and 60-day attorney client contact system. This goes beyond routine check-ins and ensures the case is moving forward. It involves getting to know your clients on a personal level and understanding how their injury has impacted their lives.
Remember too, your clients want to hear from their entire legal team, so attorneys should also take the initiative to pick up the phone and talk to them personally. We understand clients can sometimes get carried away and what we intend to be a 10-minute call can easily turn into an hour. It is important prior to making these calls that you develop talking points or templates to help guide the conversation. The goal in client contact is not always just to provide a case update, rather, to be actively listening and learning about their life. By doing so, you can better advocate for them, using their unique circumstances to strengthen your legal approach.
Following up active listening with thoughtful gestures
If your firm is not already sending birthday, holiday, and anniversary cards to your current and past clients, I recommend starting there. A simple act like receiving a card from their lawyer can make a lasting impression, especially if it is the only card they received that year. Additionally, in your monthly/bi-monthly conversations, you are likely to learn of recent or upcoming milestones in your client’s life, and it is important to acknowledge these when you can. Whether it is the birth of a baby, graduating from high school or college, purchasing a house or car, or even the death of a family member, acknowledging these significant moments in their lives with a handwritten card or small gift demonstrates you care, you are listening, and you are paying attention to detail. The small stuff matters!
Send them off with swag
Most clients are the happiest they will be when they come to your office to receive their check. Maximize this by conducting in-office disbursement as often as possible. Provide swag bags with your firm logo on items that you can hand to the client with their check, and of course, ask for a review or testimonial if they are a good fit for one. When clients receive items bearing your company’s logo, it serves as a constant reminder of their positive experience with your firm. These items act as mobile advertisements, spreading awareness about your services wherever they go. Clients who proudly use or display these branded items become walking ambassadors for your firm, unintentionally marketing your business to their friends, family, and colleagues. The ripple effect of this ongoing marketing is invaluable, as it helps expand your reach and attract new clients who have been influenced by the endorsement of those who have already had a positive experience with your firm. By providing clients with logo-branded items, you create a lasting impression and harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing, ultimately leading to the growth and success of your business.
What is the impression you and your law firm are giving to your community?
Running a business of law is not just about winning cases. Your impact can reach far beyond the courtroom or the brick-and-mortar walls of your office. By actively engaging and supporting local initiatives, you demonstrate your commitment to the people you represent and attract clients who appreciate your involvement. I challenge you to take this thought process a step further. Sure, writing a check to a local organization in need and getting a 15-second spot on the local 6:00 pm news is great, but don’t you want to be known for more than that? Consider combining your charitable donations with volunteering. Instead of just writing that check, get involved in community events and causes that align with your values. This hands-on approach allows you to connect with people on a more personal level and understand the challenges they face.
Get out in your community and become a familiar face that’s not just on tv. Attend events, sponsor local sports teams, pick a new charitable initiative each quarter, and participate in things that allow you the opportunity to create authentic connections and continue building a positive reputation. When your firm is actively involved in charitable efforts and community engagement, it fosters a sense of trust and credibility. Potential clients are more likely to choose a firm they perceive as caring and compassionate. So, take a step back and assess the impression your law firm gives in the community. Ask yourself if you’re truly relatable and approachable. Evaluate how you’re giving back and ensure that your efforts are sincere and impactful. By combining charitable donations with volunteering, and actively participating in community events, you can create a lasting positive impression on both potential clients and the community as a whole.
Three steps to ensure you don’t start behind the eight ball:
- Creating unforgettable first impressions starts with you and then your team. You set the stage for a positive reputation within your firm.
- Following through on client contact goals and getting to know your clients on a personal level allows you opportunities to provide exceptional customer service by celebrating their wins and mourning their losses alongside them.
- Be who you say you are. As you interact with the community, be true to your firm’s values and mission. Consistency in your actions and words builds trust and reinforces the lasting impression you aim to create.
Ultimately, creating a lasting impression with clients and in your community starts with you. It is important to be consistent in the message that comes from your firm’s values, mission statement, actions, and words. By following through on client contact goals while actively engaging in meaningful conversations with them, you can help foster trust between the lawyer/legal team and the client. You can leave behind a lasting impression of your law firm that transcends the expected and elevates your brand!