The last two components of my firm’s New Business Development program are Proposal and Client Commitment. I approach the Proposal (or asking for the sale) as an opportunity to 1) share with the prospective client how I propose to solve his legal issue, and 2) outline the cost involved in retaining my services. Once I have decided to prepare a retainer agreement for the client to review, I have already evaluated the case to determine that my firm can be of assistance to the prospective client and that the client has the ability to pay for my services. Prior to preparing the retainer agreement, the client has an idea of the course of action my firm will take if retained, and what costs and fees he can expect to pay for my firm to represent him. Once the retainer agreement is prepared, Aimee sends it to the prospective client with an invoice for the retainer amount and instructions on how to pay online from their checking account (WebCheck).
Once the client receives the retainer, usually one of the following events occurs:
1) The client signs the retainer agreement and pays online.
2) The client contacts our firm with additional questions regarding the agreement or the representation.
3) The client does not execute the agreement and does not retain our firm.
My approach to retaining clients is a “relationship sell” approach.
Once the client receives the retainer agreement, I send a follow up email within 48 hours if we have not heard from him. The email thanks the client for his interest in our services and states that our firm has not been officially retained and no work will be done on his behalf until we receive the signed retainer agreement with the retainer check. Usually, if the client is interested in retaining my services and there is an issue preventing him from committing to the representation, I receive a call or an email. In most cases, I can address the issue and I am retained. If I do not hear from him, it means that they are not interested and that is the end of the process.
What is a “relationship sell” and when is the right time to ask the client to retain you to represent him? I define “relationship sell” as having an understanding of the client’s legal needs and expectations and being able to assist the client in solving the legal issue within the client’s means. Further, the client needs to know that I have an understanding of his legal issue and that I have a plan to solve the problem.
It is important as an attorney that you build value on the quality of your services prior to submitting a proposal to the client. Your ability to obtain the client’s commitment to retain your services is in direct proportion to your ability to convey to the client the value (skills, experience, expertise, creativity, etc.) of your services. In my practice, I deal primarily with business owners and they are interested in two things: how I propose to solve their problem, and how much it will cost.
In order for me to answer how I can solve their legal issue, I need to have an understanding of the problem. In some cases, I have to review documents or do a follow up office consultation. Generally speaking, I do not submit a proposal to a client until I have a clear picture on the course of action that I will take once I am retained. The prospective client appreciates the time and effort expended in evaluating the case. The time spent conducting the case evaluation allows the client to “get to know you” as a professional and determine if he would like you to become his lawyer. This recognition is something we earn one client at a time. If you focus on understanding the client’s legal needs, provide a plan to address the issue, and offer a competitive fee structure, then you will have a high level of success in retaining new clients.