How to be a lawyer who is successful requires that you are not only comfortable on the phone speaking to strangers but also that you can direct and control the conversation.
Once you become a lawyer, whether your practice is litigation or transaction based, you will find that a significant part of your time is spent either:
3) Speaking on the telephone.
We have already covered the importance of reading and writing as to how to be a lawyer/the practice of law… this page is dedicated to #3.
You need to be comfortable speaking on the phone with people who you don’t know. The people you will be speaking with will generally fit into one of the below three categories:
b) Communications with other lawyers; co-counsel, adversaries, among others.
c) Communications with clients.
Remember to always be aware of your audience. Your communication strategy should be calibrated differently depending on who is your audience. More Specifically:
Communicating with the Court or Government Agency. Your reasons for contacting these individuals will vary from scheduling court dates, receiving updates on license applications, other updates, clearance letters, and other documentation.
One general truth applies to all… the people you are contacting are government workers which means they usually start the day around 9:00 am and stop answering the phones between 4:00-4:30 pm. During their working hours they are usually bombarded with phone calls and problems. Callers are often very rude to them, and everyone wants their problem fixed immediately.
Never be rude to these people. The government generally does not move very quickly, and your poor etiquette will most assuredly NOT motivate someone to assist you. In all likelihood your issue will be placed at the bottom of the pile because of your poor manners.
Instead try to adjust the tone of your voice to a very friendly tone, introduce yourself and address the person by name.
For example: “Hi Mr./Ms.____ my name is ____ and I am calling regarding docket number (or matter name) ____. I have a quick question for you (or I really need your help), if you don’t mind…”
The intended result is that it makes the listener feel like you acknowledge them as a human being and not a robot/answering machine. Similarly, by providing your name you are in the listener’s eyes no longer problem #99999 and you are instead another human who needs help.
Remember how to be a lawyer requires that you can direct/control the conversation. Plus, people are more likely to assist you if you ask for help than if you make demands and order them around.
If they ask you to hold say “ok, take your time…”
When the conversation is over thank them for their help and ask for their extension. Most likely you will be contacting them again and it is always easier to deal with the same representative vs. another person. Further, the rapport with this person will increase and with increased rapport comes an increased desire for the listener to help solve your problem quickly.
Contacting Other Lawyers. Lawyers will usually be shielded by assistants who filter incoming calls to dissuade sales calls. So when contacting another lawyer always say your name, firm, and their client. This will not only get you past the assistant, but will remind the other lawyer about the subject of the conversation. This increases your chances of reaching the person you intended and not getting stuck with leaving a voice mail. (This simple step increases the efficiency of your time.)
Contacting Clients. How to be a lawyer who is successful most importantly requires the ability to effectively communicate with clients. This is definitely the most difficult audience to contact and handle effectively. Clients are giving you (or your boss) their hard earned money for solutions. Nothing will get you into hot water faster than not being able to address a client’s question.
It is fine to inform the client that you do not have an answer to their question, but make sure you inform the client that you will get back to them with an answer (and then do so).
Clients lose sleep when they speak to their lawyer and that lawyer does not display authority and command of the situation!
The most important advice I can give to you in communicating with clients is speak with confidence! Your client will not be happy if you have trouble communicating on the phone. It will reflect an inability to deal with other lawyers or the court, and overall incompetence.
After all would you want someone with little or no confidence to advocate on your behalf?
How to be a lawyer who is successful requires that you speak confidently, (no "ahhs", long pauses, or other vocal ticks that convey weakness). Tell the client what you know, what information you need to examine and when you will get back to the client, and you will be fine!
Continue your pre law investigation of what lawyers do and how to be a lawyer by reading more of our website!
Business Lawyer Millionaire.
-Everyday at 7:00 pm EST.