Part Two: Synergy is real and this is how to achieve it
Whether you love to provide attorney consultations, or see it as a necessary evil, if you’re a divorce attorney, they are an ongoing part of your practice. For this reason, consultations should be thoughtfully designed as a good use of your time. As step one, see our article on setting goals for consultations. Once you know what you want to do for prospective clients, your goals for consultations will be seen as less of a hassle and more as a fruitful and satisfying endeavor. Here are a few considerations on how to use your time in order to achieve those goals.
Attorneys are part of a business, and each consultation is a little project moving that business toward either its goals – or its demise. To get on the right path, be intentional about using your time in a way that creates synergy (a win-win) between you and the client. This means no meandering free consultations, no overly-expensive or non-productive consultations, and no meetings where the client’s expectations are totally mismatched with yours.
How to do it? When a prospective client calls for a consultation, have a variety of clearly-defined options designed to serve the client’s particular need and set a boundary for your time. Make your goals for consultations their goals as well.
For example, you may offer a free “meet and greet” for clients who are ready to someone, and you just need a few minutes to determine whether that someone is you.
Perhaps a client wants to know how to prepare for an upcoming divorce. For this, you might instead offer a paid 90 minute “divorce strategy session” to discuss an overview of their rights and obligations. Or, a client may simply need to have a child support calculation updated – this can be provided for a fixed fee, like $200 per calculation (providing up to 30 minutes).
If you work with mediators, clients may need to have a divorce agreement reviewed. Consider a three-step process where you meet with the client to review it together, send a written follow up with notes, and then agree to proof-read another draft of the agreement.
Whatever you decide about your consultation offerings, be very clear in conveying them to the prospective client. Provide options and costs in writing, or be able to explain them in a short email: “Thank you for your interest! We offer (consultation A described) and (consultation B described). Which would you like to book?
The job of a family law attorney is so varied. While you may not know what to expect from a client who is walking through the door, you can be prepared. Know in advance how you are going to use your time. Communicate options clearly to the client. Create a framework that allows for the time to benefit your business and benefit the client. It’s called synergy, if you like corporate buzzwords. But it just means that when the client walks back out of your door, both of you are better off.
Erika Englund is a former divorce attorney with over five thousand hours of negotiation experience. Currently, she is the Chief of Strategy for SupportPay, the only platform designed to help parents manage child support payments and expenses between each other. Erika Englund is also divorced, happily (most of the time – she’s not perfect) co-parenting two young children in Northern California.