Don’t Fail to Ask This Simple Question of Prospects and Clients

In your interactions with prospects and clients, it’s natural to limit your attention to the specific legal matter at hand.  After all, you’ve got other clients and cases in your head and on your desk.  And, you tell yourself, you’re not getting paid to go outside that focus so why spend time doing so?

But here’s why you should venture a little deeper into their situation: you may be missing important information that can either help you land the client in the first place, or eventually get more work from her if you do get the assignment. This is as true in an L2C (Lawyer to Consumer) environment such as med mal or estate planning as it is in an L2B (Lawyer to Business) environment such as business litigation or commercial financing.

Try asking a version of this simple but powerful question: “What will success mean for your company?”  (or “ . . . for your family”). 

This is rapport-building 101. It’s also cross-selling 101. It’s lawyer marketing 101.

Remember, technical competence being equal (and most people hiring you don’t have the expertise to assess your technical competence anyway), people hire the person who they feel good about, who they feel listens to them most genuinely and cares about them and their situation (i.e., their family or their business).

Invariably, when we ask partners in “full service” firms why the firm doesn’t have as much other work from its larger clients as it would like to, the answer is that their colleagues aren’t exploring those other opportunities sufficiently.  Setting aside for a moment the perennial challenges of “origination credit” and territoriality, the point remains that if you don’t even begin to explore what success means to your client or prospect more widely, you’ll never learn about the additional needs and opportunities with which your firm could help.

Success might mean that key talent won’t be as tempted to leave a few years down the line because of that one provision you’re advising be added to the deal sheet.  It might mean that your client’s grandchild will be the first in the family to have a secure college trust fund.  What conversations might these scenarios open up?

“What will success mean for your business?”  “What will success mean for you and your family?”  Take a risk and ask these questions of your prospects and clients. Then ask some follow-up questions.  Be curious.  Listen well.  You’ll gather important information to both build rapport and open potential opportunities.

About the Author

Bill Jawitz, Law Firm Coach and Consultant

Bill Jawitz has been coaching lawyers to become more profitable and enjoy a higher quality of life since 2002.

He can be reached at or at 203.806.1300.

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