Proactive Legal Advice – The key way to grow a small law firm

The number one complaint that small business owners have with their professional advisers is that they do not give proactive advice.

On the other side however, most professional advisers have a dread of being perceived as a salesperson by their clients.

Of course this dread is not just limited to professionals. Many people in business have a big problem with selling.

I speak at a lot of workshops and I have had numerous small business owners respond in horror at the suggestion of “selling” their product or service to their customers.

I was talking with a legal practitioner a few weeks ago about improving profitability and she immediately went on the attack and said “I know what you are going to tell me. You are going to say, that I have to write to my clients. I think that sending unsolicited letters is totally unprofessional”.

I think that is a very real problem amongst many small business owners as they believe that selling things to their customers/clients, rather than simply responding to what the customer asks for, is somehow unprofessional and should be avoided.

So, if your clients want you to give proactive legal advice, but you are worried about appearing to be a salesman, how can we reconcile this difference?

I believe that the answer is the definition of selling that you choose to adopt.

Let’s use an example. Say you were an employed solicitor in a country legal practice, and the owner of the practice had grown a bumper crop of zucchinis on his hobby farm and wanted you to try to flog the surplus zucchinis to every client that came in the door. Do you think that you would feel uncomfortable doing this?

Of course you would, because the customer hasn’t come in to buy zucchinis, they have come in to buy some type of legal service.

Most of us would feel uncomfortable in that situation as we don’t see any benefit in it for the client.

I believe that this is the definition of selling that many people have in their head. That is, trying to flog stuff to clients who simply don’t want the product that you are trying to sell and quite rightly you should feel uncomfortable about doing that.

Now compare this situation to one where for example, there was a change in the law, that had the effect of providing a significant advantage to a number of your clients. To take advantage of the change however, they would have to make some changes to their affairs that would generate an extra fee for you to attend to.

Would you feel uncomfortable about making your clients aware of this change, even though you may also benefit?

I believe that most of us see this situation as different.

So why do we see it differently?

The answer must be, because you can see a real benefit in it for your client by letting them know about the change.

In this case, it is your absolute duty to let your client know about the change as if you chose not to do so; you would simply not be acting in the best interest of your client.

Most clients only have one solicitor, so if you aren’t going to let them know, then how will they find out?

So the answer must be, that to get comfortable with selling your services, you need to ensure that you are providing a real benefit to your client.

Providing that this is the definition of selling that you stick to, you will be able to reconcile the gulf between what your clients expect and what you are comfortable with.