Scott Limmer

The hosts discuss developing good client relationships with Matthew Chan. Matt is a client of Oscar’s and he has had the opportunity to see litigation and lawyering from a variety of positions – as a pro se plaintiff and defendant, to a business owner who has had to hire lawyers for litigation and even from the perspective of a litigant before the Georgia Supreme Court, the State’s highest court. Seeing law at all these levels has provided Matt with insight into what clients and litigants like and don’t like about lawyers and lawyering.

Matt describes that ultimately what clients want is someone who is a real problem solver and that can explain the issues and the possibilities. The vast majority of clients want something done sooner rather than later and want to feel that their lawyer is on the same page and not looking to just pad the bill.

Some Don’ts for Lawyers from Matt’s perspective as a client:

  • Don’t bill lots of hours for research – clients hired you because you know the law, billing for research should be reserved for specific issues that may come up, but clients don’t want to pay for your continuing education
  • Don’t nickel and dime clients – Do you really need to bill for every email or five minute phone call?
  • Consider giving a free consultation because many clients won’t go to a lawyer if they are charging a significant consultation fee.

Things Matt looks for in an attorney when he is shopping for legal services:

  • Relevant experience – while many newer businesses or younger clients may need to go to a young lawyer based on price, clients want to go to the most-experienced lawyer they can afford. Experience gives clients confidence and reassurance
  • More and more he looks to a lawyer’s online presence and “tech savviness” as that gives him confidence that the lawyer is up to current standards
  • Lawyers with people skills – clients who need lawyers are in serious stress and a lawyer’s bedside manner and how they relate and respond to you is critical in the relationship.
  • Good communication and regular feedback is key as well. Ask a client how he prefers to communicate and how often are they expecting to hear from your lawyer.

The hosts talk with Matt about the need for lawyers to be flexible to a client’s needs and expectations as well and discuss that early on in their relationship. Discuss these issues and goals with clients so everyone can be on the same page. The podcast provides objectives and goals for any solo or small firm that can help them develop better client relationships so that they can grow their practice from a client-centric perspective.


Episode transcript

INTRO:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice, two lawyers, a podcast, and a plan to help any solo or small firm, hosted by Scott Limmer and Oscar Michelen.

OSCAR:                      Hello everybody, this is Oscar Michelen. Welcome back to Reboot Your Law Practice.

SCOTT:                      Hi everybody. This is Scott Limmer. Thanks for joining us again this week. Thanks as always for the comments through the emails and the reviews on iTunes. Oscar, what are we going to be doing this week?

OSCAR:                      We’d been talking a lot about lawyering and obviously the importance of having good client relations and how being responsive and providing value to clients is the best way, frankly, to grow a successful practice. So I thought about having a friend of mine who is also a client of our firms for some time, Matt Chan, from Columbus, Georgia. Welcome, Matthew.

MATT:                       Thank you for having me. It’s an honor.

OSCAR:                      The reason why I asked Matt to come on is because by nature of his business in Georgia and his experience there for many years, he has had the opportunity to see litigation from different levels, obviously from the client side but also as a Pro Se litigant himself as well as someone who has been in court and needed to have lawyers represent him on occasion, and then even eventually in the matter we worked on together most recently where we fought a protective order against a couple of blog posts that Matt wrote that ended up going all the way up to the Georgia Supreme Court and issuing a very important decision regarding the first amendment where we had some excellent co-counsel along with us. So Matt has basically seen lawyering and litigation from all perspectives from a Pro Se litigant, a local litigant, all the way to whatever is considered to be litigating a very high profile case at a very high level. We’ve had so much to talk about lawyering I thought it would be a good idea to get a perspective from the client’s side. So Matt, why don’t you just tell our audience a little bit about yourself before we kind of get into the substance?

MATT:                       Well, thank you for that, Oscar. Online, most people probably know me from Extortion Letter Info, our joint project together where we discussed copyright infringement defenses and in my private life down here locally in Columbus, Georgia, I’m better known as a local landlord property manager. So depending on the hat that I’m wearing and where I’m at, my perspective may be a little bit different.

OSCAR:                      Right.

MATT:                       Now Oscar, we’ve worked together for like seven years now so you’ve seen, you know about my conversations on the property side and so forth. Well, what you may not know is that my history of representing myself actually goes back into my early 20s when I would get speeding tickets.

OSCAR:                      Okay.

MATT:                       So I had early exposure to that side of things and obviously, money was tight when I was young, well, it still now is tight nowadays but in any case, I had to figure out ways to defend myself and really, it started there and it has evolved over the years where I’ve helped my mother with her business down in Orlando, Florida. You know she has rental property and over time, I had my own business and for the last 15 years, I’ve spent a lot of time representing myself in small claims court and doing evictions, doing garnishments, and that sort of thing. As you already mentioned, I had expectedly had to deal with a protective order issue based on coming from somebody that I never even met, which is a huge story in itself but nevertheless, I’ve represented myself several times in different cases in many different capacities and I have used lawyers, some with good results, others with really unhappy results, and given the totality of my experiences, I’ve certainly come to this day, I have some very strong opinions as a client. I mean, having seen, as you said, I’ve put on different hats and I definitely have an outlook on the lawyering profession.

SCOTT:                      Matthew, I’m sorry to stop you but I think it’s going to be very interesting to our listeners. We’ve been talking a ton about what we think lawyers should do as lawyers but your perspective is someone who has been a client of lawyers many times who have seen the good and the bad. You could really be able to add a lot to that perspective. Tell us a little bit about your dealings with attorneys in the past.

MATT:                       Okay. The one big story, what I consider to be a wakeup call was back actually around 2008 and it was shortly after I had met Oscar.

SCOTT:                      He walked you up to the attorneys, is that it? Is that what happened, he shocked you into…?

MATT:                       No, it was just a weird, odd, very coincidental that we got together. I was dealing with a conflict with a tenant. I was trying to evict them. They didn’t feel like they wanted to move and so without getting into the details of it only because of the time constraints, there was a young lawyer which I was very, very concerned about but coming from a law firm where I had a very good relationship and they did a lot of my real estate transactions. I automatically assumed that my good relationship with them on a transactional level might extend to the trial level, to the litigation level. To make a long story short, I will tell you, it was not a very good experience and in fact after we went through the trial towards the very end, I had to step in and I basically fired her and went hiring for another lawyer because I could not accept what was happening. It was a very stressful period and I was on a sinking ship and I had to make the unilateral decision to make changes. That’s really the first time that I got involved with it.

OSCAR:                      Was that because of the lawyer’s inexperience? They didn’t know the case. What was it that you felt was affecting the quality of the work?

MATT:                       Well, let me tell you. I’m going to let the cat out of the bag really, really fast. I have a huge bias against lawyers under 35 and I know there’s a certain segment of your audience that is going to cringe when I say that and I don’t mean it personally. It really isn’t a personal issue but now that I’m much more experienced and I’ve dealt with other business people and things like that, I’ve come to the conclusion, I can’t be the guy’s guinea pig. I can’t be a young lawyer’s guinea pig. If I’m paying for services, I need to get the experience and I don’t want to be their experiment.

I think youth, try as they might, they don’t have the business background and Oscar, you mentioned in an earlier podcast about being a business owner and networking, and I can tell you, you are absolutely correct. I mean, business owners want to hear lawyers that understand business.

SCOTT:                      I knew I like this guy.

MATT:                       Now Scott, I’ve listened a lot to what you’ve said and I understand your criminal defense and to that effect, I cannot say that I have experience to that. I don’t ever want to get into that so I can’t speak to that. Most of my experiences is coming from an entrepreneur, small business perspective.

OSCAR:                      Well, let’s come back to what you’ve said for a minute because don’t you think that the feeling you had with young lawyers is really the fault of the way the firm handled them? For example, would you have felt more comfortable if you knew there was a senior partner to oversee and that you had direct contact with that was with you at meetings that kind of explained what the strategy was or did you feel that this young person was out there without any safety net?

MATT:                       Oscar, you know I’m pretty assertive and even back then, I did go to the senior partners and said, “Look, I have some concerns. Can you check in on the case” and things like that. My insights were screaming that things didn’t feel right and so I did involve the senior partners and I think they did a cursory check but honestly, I mean, I’m not going to blame the senior partners. I put the responsibility based on her. One of the things that really annoyed me very early on and it’s not even a business issue, it has to do with the competitive spirit and when you’re hiring a lawyer, you want a lawyer that wants to win. I’m not talking about winning unethically but they have a competitive spirit and they want to win. That was a huge, huge red flag when I said, “Hey, don’t you want to win this win?” She was very nonchalant about it. I should have just stopped right there and then but I kept going.

OSCAR:                      I’m going to stop you because I think that’s an excellent point for two things for our younger attorneys who are listening. This is a bias. Advice isn’t always a bad thing, right? We’re talking about a choice. This is a bias that I think young lawyers are going to face, right Scott, as they develop their practice.

SCOTT:                      It’s why I grew a goatee when I started my practice in all honesty because people thought I looked too young to give money too.

OSCAR:                      Right, exactly.

MATT:                       It’s an issue.

SCOTT:                      Yeah.

OSCAR:                      It’s a definite issue but I think one of the ways you have to avoid that folks, is over preparation. I think clients have a lot more confidence if you display that confidence back to them by knowing the client’s case called and being comfortable. By that I mean, like Matt, did you feel like she didn’t even know her way around the courtroom?

MATT:                       Well, I think a lot of my concerns really came up to the preparation. I actually had to ask to be prepared. I was begging to be prepared and that wasn’t good and the questions I gave her, it was very distressing to me that she actually used my questions verbatim. My questions to her wasn’t meant for her to be used in court, it was meant just to stimulate her thoughts to help her out.

OSCAR:                      Like an outline.

MATT:                       Yes. Since when does a client write questions for a lawyer to ask in court? Have you ever done that?

OSCAR:                      No. Do you mean, has a client done that for me?

MATT:                       No, as a lawyer, do you just like take your client’s questions and use it verbatim? I mean there were, I don’t think so.

OSCAR:                      No, obviously in preparation for a case, you and the client know what the critical issues are and you prepare for testimony. You tell the client essentially the questions that you’re going to be asked whether that’s going to be likely asked on cross, etc. We’re not talking about lawyering here. We’re really talking about how the fault there in what you’re telling us is in the young lawyer’s lack of preparation.

SCOTT:                      I want to look at that for a second. I want to look at the law firm and the young lawyer and look what they did by not representing you in the right way. The law firm obviously lost the case and they are certainly not going to get you to say anything good about them going forward and the young lawyer, I think we talk about this a bit. You work for a firm, you do your 9-5 job, you do what you’re supposed to do, and you move on. If attorneys are going to do that and not put that extra effort in, really try to work a case, really learn about the case, and provide the client with what they are looking for whether the partners and the rest of the firm are looking or not. That’s what they should be doing. So everybody that’s listening, you understand, that’s the extra step that you need to take to make sure that you keep the client happy and do the right thing for the client.

OSCAR:                      And it ties in to what Matt said which is the competitive spirit that has to be displayed because you got to want to do it for your own sense of personal pride. Never mind that it’s obviously what you’re paid to do, it’s your job for your firm, but if the firm isn’t giving you the support, you’ve got to find the way to do it on your own. Prepare, it’s going to take you extra time. You’re not going to be able to bill for it. It’s going to be loss time and you have to maybe do it in the evenings or in the morning before you get to court, whatever it takes to be over prepared. The less experience that you have, the more you’re going to need to be prepared. Go to the courtroom ahead of time. See what it looks like, what’s the lay of the land, who are the players in there for the sole purpose of being able to make your client feel comfortable that they are with somebody who is not only going to fight for them and wants to win but also has the level of readiness that they need. It had to be very disconcerting for you, right Matt? No one wants to switch horses in midstream but you had to end up going to another law firm.

MATT:                       Yes. I felt like I didn’t have a choice so I basically scrambled and I went dialing. I went dialing for a lawyer and I consulted like five lawyers in a string of within a week. We were forced to settle but it could have been a lot worse. We still made out okay at the end of the day but it required me to have to step in. Ever since that day, I have never taken the back seat to any lawyer and I think, Oscar, you can probably vouch that.

OSCAR:                      Oh yeah.

MATT:                       When we worked together, I was very proactive. I didn’t just sit back and relaxed. I think that’s a mistake a lot of clients make but I really don’t want to dump on lawyers. I know I give Oscar a hard time but actually, I have a huge amount of respect for lawyers. I really do but I do think that there are certain sections of these lawyers that probably could stand some frank feedback. That’s why I support your podcast. This is why I’ve listened to every episode you’ve ever recorded. I get a lot out of it.

OSCAR:                      You bring up an excellent, excellent point because a lot of times when I was teaching first year law students, I always reminded them, yes, you’re going to have the law degree and you’re going to go out there, you’re going to start your practice but don’t forget that your client knows their business. The day ins and day outs of what it takes to run their business and their lives. You need to establish a nice working relationship with the client and not condescend to them like, “I know everything, I know how it’s going to go,” and to build that relationship, right Scott?

SCOTT:                      Now let me ask you this, when you hired the new attorney, what was it about that attorney that made you want to use him, that was the reason that you hired him?

MATT:                       You’re talking about when I interviewed the lawyers?

SCOTT:                      Yes.

MATT:                       I’m sorry, is that what you were getting at?

SCOTT:                      When you hired the new attorney, once you fired the other attorney and you said you spoke to five attorneys within a week, you hired somebody new, correct?

MATT:                       That’s an excellent question. I will tell you, the first couple of lawyers, you don’t really know if you like them or not. You hear their pitch but as you go along, different layers come out and when we got to this guy, he was so direct. He was not about procedure, he just took the situation. He said, “You know what it sounds like? It’s sounds like I need to make a phone call to them and just have a conversation with them.” I was thinking, “Wow, this is the only guy that’s not talking about all the procedures, about doing an appeal, and all of that. All he wanted to do was have a conversation with the other side to see how we could put this to bed. It was impressive. It was his experience coming through.

SCOTT:                      He might have been the only attorney that knew what to do. You might have spoken to four other attorneys that were just trying to finesse their way through the interview, explaining to you what they could do when they didn’t know how to do it.

OSCAR:                      Or to extract a larger legal fee by trying to say, “You need to appeal, you need to do that” as opposed to finding somebody who could try to basically make the best out of a bad situation.

MATT:                       You know what I got out of it and obviously, I can’t get into the heads of the other lawyers but he was interested in solving the problem as expedient as it could be and he explained it in such a simple way. It sounded like he just wanted to solve this problem as quick as possible and that appealed to me a lot quite honestly. I have to tell you, I was very impressed. He was an older gentleman. It was just his presence, the way he spoke. He spoke in plain language and he was just down to earth and I was just drawn to it, what can I tell you?

OSCAR:                      Right. You felt he wasn’t condescending to you either, I would imagine.

MATT:                       Oh yeah. He was really very, very good and when I hired him, there were no regrets. He did as he said. He got on the horns. He spoke to the other side. It happened so fast. It was just amazing.

OSCAR:                      What about as a client side do you take from what your expectations are from a lawyer as far as billing, dealing with fees, resolving those issues?

MATT:                       Oh, that’s very good. To directly answer your questions on the fee things, no client wants to pay for a lawyer’s education. Now I understand lawyers have to do research and that sort of thing but no one wants to pay for their trade. I’m going to tell you that right now. Another thing that clients don’t like which happens in some practices, they are going to ding their clients for email replies, 15 minutes, or 10 minutes, that sort of thing. That nickel and diming thing, it’s very annoying, I will tell you that.

OSCAR:                      Yeah, I think it’s an excellent point.

MATT:                       I don’t know what to tell you but you asked me as a client, there is nobody that I know that likes that sort of thing. We all respect that lawyers have to paid but there is a fine line where you go too far when it comes to that sort of thing.

SCOTT:                      Yeah, one thing to consider for listeners that we do for startup clients the first year that they are with us as they are trying to grow and build their practice, we don’t bill for any phone conversation under 15 minutes. It doesn’t sound like a big whoops but it plays into what you just said because you see these bills, a 0.1 for a 5-minute phone call, it’s like, that money you’re going to get for the 0.1 hour is not worth the bill that you’re putting it out on. It’s different if the client is calling you constantly, taking up a lot of your time and you’re telling him, “Hey, be respectful of my time. I already answered that question.” But to cold call a client and just tell them the status of their case and send them a bill for that five minutes I think is shortsighted and you’re going to end up losing that client in the long run.

MATT:                       Yeah, that’s a good point. In a different case which you know about where I had to deal with some financial issues that I needed resolved. I was once again interviewing lawyers and this one particular lawyer comes to mind. He actually had a very good reputation but the problem was just to meet him, he was going to charge me $250. Now, maybe in New York $250 isn’t a lot to meet a lawyer but down here, it’s a huge amount for the first handshake. Honestly, I found that very offensive to my sensibilities. The lawyer that I ultimately went with, I must have had a meeting with him like three, four, five times over the course of a couple of years and he had provided so much information. He had developed a rapport with me. I just felt comfortable. We talked through the issues and by the time I needed to pull the trigger, it was a no brainer.

OSCAR:                      Right because he had already given you some value.

MATT:                       He had provided so much value. I would feel guilty going anywhere else. In contrast to the guy who says. “I’ll talk to you but you need to pay $250.” It wasn’t even an introductory meeting, not even a 15-minute thing and I just find that very off putting.

OSCAR:                      We talk about it, if you’re going to reboot your law practice, you’re going to need to give some time of yourself. There’s no such thing as, “I won’t do that for free.”   I think definitely a free consultation, a free initial consultation is important and I think one of the things that you could think about is if you’re not willing to do the free consultation in person, at least give a 15-minute consultation to vet the person, make the person vet you and feel a little bit more comfortable by coming in and giving them a small check for the initial consultation. The other thing is if you are going to charge a consultation, that person better leave there with some value.

SCOTT:                      Well, I think it depends what you’re charging the consultation fee for. Me as an example, I would never charge a consultation for a criminal case but for a special education case, I’m more than happy to speak to someone for a few minutes on the phone but then my advice, my consulting turns into work there, that’s me knowing how to get work through the system is what they are paying me for.

OSCAR:                      And again, to just use Matt’s example, Matt, I think it would have been a different situation if you called that lawyer who has got a lot of experience and he says, “Look, I charge $250 to come in for my consultation but I’m going to give you in that $250 a roadmap of what I’m going to do for you.   Let’s talk now for 15 minutes and get some of the introductory stuff out of the way so that when you come in, we’re talking about the meat of the substance.” I think you were probably worried you’re going to pay $250. The guy is going to come in. He’s going to show you around the office. He’s going to show you his diplomas.

SCOTT:                      And then tell you how much more money he wants from you.

OSCAR:                      Right and then he will charge you a fee. I think it was because you didn’t expect you were going to get any value for that money, correct?

MATT:                       Well, certainly very little value. Actually, Scott is correct. At least it agrees with my sensibilities in that it would have been a lot more palatable had it been a little bit lower. I understand that lawyers have to vet people coming in off the streets. I don’t have a problem with that. If you wanted to charge $50 or maybe even $100, keep in mind, I’m in Georgia and the scale of money is a little bit different so keep that in mind. I wouldn’t have had a problem paying a small consultation fee but I did find a large initial consultation fee, I just wasn’t interested. I wasn’t going to go in. I was already locked out. He may have been very good, I just wasn’t going to go there.

OSCAR:                      But the point of this conversation is for practitioners. You’re going to have to make this decision of whether you offer a free consultation or you charge something. We had Matt as kind of the general client. That’s the perspective that you’ve heard that the client is going to say, “Hey, what am I getting for $250 when these other people are going to see me for free?” If you’re going to charge that initial consultation, look at the market place. For example, here in national county, almost all divorce lawyers charge a fee for initial consultation so you’re not going to face the issue that Matt had which is four lawyers saying, “Come in and see me for free” and one guy saying, “Give me $250.” You have to know your market place. Are other lawyers charging consultation fees? What are they charging? Then maybe the free consultation is the way to differentiate yourself. Our point is don’t do anything, I guess the right legal phrase is half asked. Have a thought about it. Why am I charging a consultation fee if I don’t have a practice, if you’re sitting around twirling your thumbs the $200 or the client coming in is not going to save you anyway. Better to give half hour of your time for free. Get them in the door and try to lock it up. Think about why you charge a consultation, should you charge it, what are you going to get out of it, and what are you going to give the client in return?

SCOTT:                      Matt, let me switch topics a little bit. As a client when you’re trying to hire an attorney, when you’re interviewing an attorney, when you’re just needing an attorney, what is it that you’re looking for? Is there anything that’s kind of, something that attorneys have done for you that you’ve said, “This guy really knows what he’s doing.” This guy is taking the extra effort” and actually in the alternative, is there anything that an attorney has done where you said, “This guy is not for me,” – a lousy website, a low LinkedIn profile or something along those lines.

MATT:                       Well, with my background, I do have a bias towards lawyers that have a little bit of tech skills but I am cognizant that there are some senior lawyers that are well connected, they know their way around so I don’t exclusively hold a senior lawyer that doesn’t have tech skills. I look at the totality. I hate to say this but you look at the whole package but I will tell you, I do look at the age issue. I have a difficult time with people under 35 a lot because of like what Oscar said, they just don’t have the business experience and they come on with one hat. The older lawyers, when I say older, the more mature lawyers, they understand that they sometimes have to be a teacher, they are a friend, they are a confidant, they are a coach, they sort of shift in and out. They’ve got this good people skills because their clients like me, I’m normally very confident in my business but when I get into a legal arena, I got to tell you, I get very stressed. I get very stressed and I need reassurance. I got to tell you, there are certain things I would like to receive from a lawyer but it’s not always conscious. That’s the thing.

OSCAR:                      Yes, so what is it? You mean confidence, you want to have them exude confidence back to you or…?

MATT:                       Well, I’m going to use Oscar as an example only because obviously I know him the best. On one hand, Oscar can be very firm and say, “Look, this is what we got to do” and I will defer to him. In that role, he’s being the leader but there are other times I’m a little uncertain or I’m not very happy, then he goes into friend mode and tries to reassure me. In another role, I feel very strongly about certain things to the point where I would like to override him and then he sorts of back down. Oscar, I feel, has very good peoples skills and he’s very adaptable. That would be a great example. Lawyers have many, many roles whether they know it or not because you’re dealing with clients, you know, they are just emotional beings and they are going through this very stressful period.

OSCAR:                      I got to tell you, the good point about that is it comes with experience, first of all. Secondly, it’s a good reminder to people that when people come to see a lawyer, they are generally in high stress. It’s not a great thing. You’re not a travel agent that’s going to send them to the Caribbean on a cruise. You’re going to take their money to try to solve a problem they wish they didn’t have and so people skills are very important but you also need to have a heightened awareness that your client is going to be very stressed. For example, I have known Matt for about eight years and we’ve gone through a couple of litigations together. The relationship changes, right, Matt?

MATT:                       It evolves, yes.

OSCAR:                      Now that the nachos have turned up the same way frankly like a battle where all of a sudden, there’s a heightened awareness and there’s less time for niceties and you got to get right down to it, kind of. I think lawyers often forget that the case belongs to the client and the stress level is very high in the client and they need to accommodate that sometimes or recognize that. Matt, let’s go back now to when you’re in litigation, mode, what’s the kind of feedback that you want from a lawyer? What’s the level of connection or connectivity that you want? It doesn’t happen overnight. Some litigations are protracted. Some things can move kind of swifter but what has been some of your experience with communication with lawyers, now you’ve selected them, you’ve’ hired them?

SCOTT:                      Right. What’s the good and the bad once you hired them?

OSCAR:                      Right. Now you’re in the trenches with them in a case.

MATT:                       Well, I find that once you’ve got them hired, the mode of communication is very important. For example, I don’t think everything needs to be done by telephone but there are some lawyers that want to do everything by telephone. I find that to be a little restrictive. I think it’s unnecessary use of time especially when email can do, but I feel as a client, I actually don’t have much of a choice. It’s sort of like I have to follow the lawyer in how they prefer to do it. That’s kind of the deal.

SCOTT:                      I can’t imagine there are many lawyers out there asking their clients how they want to communicate with them.

OSCAR:                      And I think that’s an excellent point, why don’t we? On intake when the client comes in, what’s your preferred method of communication? Do you prefer to get an email, do you prefer a phone call?

SCOTT:                      Some attorneys would say, texting is an unprofessional type of way to communicate and the reality is most of my clients are way happier to text with me than call or email me.

OSCAR:                      Mine too.

MATT:                       I can see that.

OSCAR:                      I would say that texting has…

SCOTT:                      A limited use. You’re not going to give legal advice during a text but you’re certainly going to relay some messages back and forth, some regular communication.

OSCAR:                      Right and certainly if you’re going to meet somewhere in court, you’re running late, it’s the easiest way to communicate. Many times, we save ourselves phone calls and stuff with texting but the important thing also is you have to manage the client’s expectations. Matt, you said something interesting, “I don’t have a choice. I guess I got to follow the lawyer’s lead.” I disagree with you on that. I think a lawyer should ask the clients and work it out with the clients and do what the client wants. There are some times when it has to be a phone call or even sometimes when you’ve got to meet face to face, but work these things out with your clients so there’s a good method of communication. Matt, have you had trouble with not getting return calls, nonresponsiveness? What’s the level of responsivity that you’ve had experience with your attorneys?

SCOTT:                      Well, there’s one lawyer right now that I’m working with and I have a good relationship. He’s actually very good in emailing me. Now he’s not going to type like pages long as a response but I’m always amazed how quickly he gets back to me. I would say easily 60%, 70% of the time, he is responding from his phone, believe it or not. I’m always impressed when he does that. I was like, “This guy is really on top of it.” I’m very impressed when he does that.

OSCAR:                      It goes a long way, I would imagine, going back to what we talked about, reducing your stress, increasing your confidence, in the lawyer, and making you comfortable with your relationship.

MATT:                       Yeah. The one thing that I don’t think many lawyers know about is there is an intimidation factor. There are many things that clients like me will never say to a lawyer, or at least not be very forthcoming, and there is that intimidation factor that exists to this day. So I would say…

OSCAR:                      Wait, stop that, intimidation of what?

MATT:                       Well, you guys are very well schooled, we’re in a stressful situation, you guys are allegedly the experts in certain area so it doesn’t matter how good I’m in my business, we’re in a different arena and of course, there’s the reputation of certain lawyers. You don’t ever know if this lawyer is actually in your best interest or trying to line their pockets. There is a barrier to the communication and so there’s a lot of filtering going on. I think it hurts both parties but it is something that I’m just bringing to the table and make you aware of. I mean, there are a lot of things I don’t say. I hold back even to this day because I don’t necessarily think it serves me. I’m not trying to be dishonest or anything like that but I just don’t feel like it would be a good thing to say certain things.

OSCAR:                      Okay.

MATT:                       I’m not alone in that. A lot of clients, people I know, they sort of clam up and we just talk amongst ourselves. That’s one of the things that lawyers don’t really realize. A lot get said behind their backs.

OSCAR:                      About what?

MATT:                       Well, the way they act, the way they handle the case, whether they are communicating. I would say it would be in the line of gossip, professional gossip.

OSCAR:                      Talking about things they don’t like about the lawyer.

MATT:                       Or things that they do.

SCOTT:                      Right, okay.

MATT:                       It goes both ways. I mean like I’ve talked to a couple of friends about this lawyer and I tell them the pros and cons. I tell them, “Sometimes he glosses over the details. I have found out that what he’s saying is overly simplified” and I also tell them that he’s very, very responsive and he doesn’t put any limits to setting appointments and talking with him. I give the good and bad, and I will tell you the people that I deal with, they eat up what I have to say. They just really do because I am very straight with the pros and cons.

OSCAR:                      Now are you saying you would be intimated to just complain, if you will, to a lawyer about those types of things unless it obviously completely affected your case?

MATT:                       Well, I think lawyer are supposed to know their job and there’s a presumption they are very good at their jobs. Even me, I feel like I have to think very, very carefully before I say certain things because what you’re saying may be wrong or maybe off track, or makes you look stupid.   These are all things that enter my mind.

OSCAR:                      I like that information and I think for the audience to use that, that’s something to keep in mind by making sure you’re asking your client, “Any questions? Do you understand what we’re talking about?” Keeping them involved in the case and making sure that they are comfortable with whatever strategy or plan of action that you have for their case.

Just to switch topics and go to something different, how important is the online presence for lawyers when you vet a lawyer? I’m asking you knowing what you said earlier which is you favor tech savvy lawyers but something that Scott and I have been talking about endlessly is the new market place. We had a woman on, an author, a couple of podcasts ago who said, “Lawyers are about to get ubered because the market place is changing so dramatically with respect to consumer services and what people expect from even professionals when they hire them, but you have a lot of experience with the internet websites, SEOs, all of that. Just from a client perspective, how important would you rate the lawyer’s online presence and is that important to you when you vet a lawyer?

MATT:                       Well, I will tell you Oscar, I would say that as a profession, websites are terrible.

SCOTT:                      What do you say? You don’t like gavels and you don’t like columns and courthouses?

MATT:                       If I were to restrict myself to choosing a lawyer based on their websites, I would never hire a lawyer. We have to do the extra work to go beyond the websites. Most websites are just plain terrible and I really subscribe to Scott’s philosophy of personalizing because really, I do want to get a sense of what that lawyer is like – what he/she looks like, what they have done, what their personality is like. I am one of these people. I am on Scott’s side. It’s important to get a feel. The more you can get a feel before you walk in the door, in my view, that’s a good thing.

SCOTT:                      Let me ask you this, if you go to a website and you don’t get a feel, are you going to then spend the extra effort to look a little more, go to LinkedIn, see if they have any other information out there or you just go on to the next attorney?

MATT:                       Well, unfortunately because in my vicinity, things are so bad, I actually have to do the work.

SCOTT:                      You can’t even find a good website. You can’t even find someone who is showing you, giving value, and showing their authenticity on their website.

MATT:                       I’m sure in the biggest cities, that has to be better but where I’m at in this general area, it’s really very bad and I don’t know how else to say it.

OSCAR:                      You see a lot of template sites that is thrown up there.

MATT:                       Yes, a lot of sites, it’s just atrocious. There are no pictures or there are out of date pictures, out of date bios.

OSCAR:                      Matt, we had a website we talked about where the picture of the lawyer of the website wasn’t the lawyer. It was a stock photo.

MATT:                       I know. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t even fathom that.

SCOTT:                      So let’s say, Matt, regardless of whether the website is good or bad, obviously whatever you’re looking at isn’t good, but what’s the next step? What do you take the next step to research the lawyer and see what you could find out about them?

OSCAR:                      Well, fortunately there are some additional websites nowadays but I will tell you that if you don’t find some material on a lawyer, it’s very disconcerting to me. They have to be listed somewhere with their license. It would be really, really nice if there was some press or some articles, something on a lawyer. That would be very, very helpful.

OSCAR:                      That’s important.

SCOTT:                      But let’s say there is no press. Let’s say we have someone that hasn’t had any cases in the news or something like that. Would you be swayed by a good LinkedIn profile? Would you be swayed by good blog?

MATT:                       Well, the problem with the LinkedIn is it’s fairly restrictive. Certainly, I would look at their credentials and things like that. I don’t know if I would necessarily be swayed positively or negatively.   If you do it well enough, I would certainly be interested but Scott, I got to tell you, I like your approach.

SCOTT:                      I appreciate it. Thank you.

MATT:                       I really like your approach. You put it out there. That’s going to stand out a lot. It matters to me. I don’t know what else to tell you. I like the way you do it.

SCOTT:                      I appreciate that. I’ll tell you a quick story and I don’t know if I’ve told this story in the podcast. The first person that called me once my criminal website went up with the pictures of me all over the place, his wife had called me the night before and he was in jail. I went down to the pen the next morning and as I walked in, he looked at me and you could see like his eyebrows went up and he recognized me. I’d never had someone in jail recognize me before who hadn’t met me. I knew that he felt, just from that silly picture that’s on that website and just for me putting myself out there a little bit, this guy I knew there was that little extra because he felt that confidence. I appreciate you saying that.

MATT:                       Well, I do know that a lot of people like Oscar’s videos because they get a feel for him, they hear him talk, they see how he’s dressed, and I will tell you, I’ve gotten positive feedback on that. In fact, I’ve gotten positive feedback for myself on my videos.   I’m not a lawyer but I do some consulting. It really does help to personalize that. In that regard, I think that’s very, very helpful. I hope that answers your question.

OSCAR:                      That does. That does answer the question. Again, for our listeners, it’s something to think about the importance of web presence because especially for a client like Matt who is looking for someone with a little bit more experience, why is it there a decision on the case that you worked on, if you don’t have that or there’s no news worthy case, then why…

SCOTT:                      The client refused. There has to be something explaining your ability.

OSCAR:                      Or you could really need to amp up a blog and get something else out there. If have tons of high profile cases and that’s coming up in your Google search, you don’t have to worry about a blog. That’s going to be up there and you’re going to be able to connect through that. You probably don’t need this podcast, by the way. My point again is this is all part of you recognizing your strengths and your weaknesses from a client perspective when they look for you. You’re going to need to say to yourself, “What is lacking when a client looks for me? I’ve got a template website with no pictures, nothing personal. No one knows anything about me, I’ve got no cases reported. I’ve got no news worthy. People are not going to hire you.

SCOTT:                      Nobody is leaving you reviews. I’m not writing anything about anything. We talk about this a lot. You have this wonderful opportunity to put yourself out there to the public and if any of these attorneys would have had a nice website and talked about themselves and what they did, I’m sure you would have given them a call and certainly went to that next step.

MATT:                       Yes it certainly would attract my attention. Now I don’t want to pull you guys off but we’ve spent a lot talking about litigation and that sort of thing but one category of lawyers that I used quite extensively is the transactional lawyer. The transactional lawyers, their emphasis needs to be on detail. Like for example, real estate closings, they are going to do it very well, they are going to pay attention to detail, they are going to get you in and they are going to get you out. That’s what real estate closings are all about and I will tell you that the fastest way to hurt a transactional lawyer is getting the reputation that you are sloppy with details, you’re not good with scheduling and that sort of thing. I just wanted to throw that in there. I don’t want to leave those guys.

OSCAR:                      No and I’ll tell you why I think that’s important and maybe I could ask you what you think about this, Matt. You’re going to need to show attention to detail all the way through.

MATT:                       That’s a good point actually, come to think of it.

OSCAR:                      From the client interview, you want to set that perception out, right? You want to make sure your blog articles and your website don’t have typos, don’t have outdated photographs. Have current information.

SCOTT:                      Have the right email address on your business card, things like that.

OSCAR:                      Right, we talked about this too, Scott. Letters from lawyers looking for work with typos.

SCOTT:                      It’s ridiculous.

OSCAR:                      “Dear Attorney,” it’s like no thought. The client is not going to, well, I should put it this way, it’s maybe too late for the client in the middle of a closing to find out you’re not a detailed person. They are going to want to see that you’re a detailed person in the manner that you present yourself. To me if you’re doing transactional work, don’t be a sloppy dresser when the client comes in. They are going to want to see someone put together and ready to go. That’s the same for litigation. I think it’s the same for all lawyers but I have advice about that but I worry that…

SCOTT:                      Do you think transactional, it may not mean not going to court, you think he’s in his office and he may not be wearing a suit.

OSCAR:                      Correct.

SCOTT:                      He’s looking kind of shabby. That’s where you get that idea.

OSCAR:                      Right. Think about it. The lawyer that I refer my transactions too, he looks like he worked at a Books Brothers Catalogue everyday. He’s always ready. He’s sharp. You heard about people having like sharpened pencils? He literally has sharpened pencils in his suit jacket all the time. It’s a perception you’re giving out that you’re a detailed person because that is a very important thing for transactional attorneys. Good point, Matt.

SCOTT:                      Matt, do you find that some of the people you’ve hired for transactional issues, do you find that everything is put together and everything is working until they get to the point where they have to handle something important for you? They have good social media, they make a good appearance, they can explain things to you but then it just kind of breaks down when they have to do the legal work?

MATT:                       Well, I’m going to tell you, I’ve had my share of errors I’ve had to correct. It has gotten to be such an issue that when I do a transaction, I actually ask for the email documents. I want to see the document before I show up to sign them. That’s just a matter of course for me.

OSCAR:                      Yeah and I think that’s your understanding.

MATT:                       Right. I’m just not going to show up and expect everything is right.

OSCAR:                      Because you’ve had a lot of the bust on you.

MATT:                       Yeah, it’s disappointing and as far as online presence goes, I will tell you, yes – typos, writing skill – that all is very, very important. Even if you do a perfect job, assuming you do a perfect job, that basically just gets you in the door but if you make mistakes, it is very noticeable. It really hurts when you make mistakes along those lines especially if you’re going to be in the transactional business.

OSCAR:                      Right, it’s like anything else, no one notices necessarily when you’re doing things right, keeping a clean house or a clean car or anything else. But when you go as dirty and things go bad, it’s the first thing anybody notices and you may never get that second chance to get that client to come in. I think all of this has been very good advice for our listeners. Matt, is there anything you want to add before we wrap it up?

MATT:                       I’m sure if we had more time we can about talk a lot of things but I think we’ve covered a good amount. The point I would want to make to your audience is there’s a lot of things that go unsaid and I would encourage anybody especially people who are rebooting their practice, they really need to keep their antenna up and not necessarily just pay attention for what’s said but what is unsaid. It’s like the tip of the iceberg. There is so much that’s not seen or said, and that’s where the goldmine is if you ask my opinion.

OSCAR:                      So ask a lot of questions, have a lot of communication, and make sure your client is kind of satisfied along the way with how things are going and the level of responsiveness, etc. Don’t just wait for a complaint. Seek out the information ahead of time, right?

MATT:                       Absolutely. Honestly, if you wait until the complaint is way too late, I mean, keeping a pulse on the client is always a good thing and some do it better than others.

SCOTT:                      The point is that when you are someone’s attorney and you take on their case and you do work for them, everyone expects excellent work and that’s what you should give them.

OSCAR:                      Right exactly and make sure you have their client expectations in mind and be responsive to that. Who knows, Matt, we may do a client interaction part 2 down the road if you do more podcasts but I really want to thank you for spending some time with us and giving us your insight. It was very important for our listeners to keep these things in mind as they try to develop their practice and remember to put clients first.

MATT:                       It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of this podcast. Thank you for having me.

OSCAR:                      All right. Thanks everybody for listening. This is Oscar Michelen. You can reach me at Oscar@LawReboot.com.

SCOTT:                      This is Scott Limmer. You can reach me at Scott@LawReboot.com. Again, feel free to send us any emails with questions, comments, or show ideas. Leave us a review at iTunes. We will see you next week. Bye.

OUTRO:                     This has been Reboot Your Law Practice with Oscar Michelen and Scott Limmer.

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