What does it really mean to be a trusted advisor and why would you care?
Well, when you’re a trusted advisor to your clients vs. just a “lawyer” they consult for one thing, one time…
It really shifts everything about your law practice in a most wonderful, meaningful way.
Because right now, you are probably taking clients on a one-off basis.
What that means is that you are constantly in search of the next new client, spending money on marketing or doing tons of networking, hoping to get referrals.
They come one by one and then you serve them, collect the money that they owe you, and spend it. And then that’s it. The transaction has been completed; the clients go on their way.
They probably forget your name and don’t refer you any friends or family, clients or colleagues.
Limited Earning Potential
The lifetime value of that one-off client is fairly limited. In estate planning practice that might be $2,000 or $3,000 if you’ve learned how to do estate planning and engage clients the way they teach, or maybe $4,000 or $5,000 or $6,000, but that’s it. It’s a one-time transaction.
If you are a lawyer serving business clients, you handle a copyright or a trademark matter, perhaps review an agreement or a lease, perhaps create a new agreement or help them to close a deal, and when it’s over, it’s over. You collect your $5,000 or $10,000 and that’s the end of the relationship.
In a divorce, you handle the divorce and it’s done. You’ve got your $20,000, $25,000, maybe $5,000 depending on how you charge and the case is closed. Chances are, your clients don’t even like you any more, let alone think about referring you to friends, family, clients, or colleagues.
If you’re handling a bankruptcy, you collect your few thousand dollars, the bankruptcy completes, you never see the clients again. And again, promptly, they forget your name.
If you are a trusted advisor, however, and have created a trusted advisor relationship with your clients, things are totally different.
To begin with, it’s different from the moment that they get to know you. The first time that they hear about you, they can tell that there’s something different. You’re educating them right out of the gates before they have even become your clients.
In fact, that’s how you do your marketing. Your marketing is all about educating your community, and not just about the topic that is your practice area but in a broader way that appeals to the people who need what you do.
For example, if you are a bankruptcy lawyer, you might be educating your community not just on matters around bankruptcy but on a broad array of financial matters, a broad array of consumer protection issues.
If you are a divorce attorney, you might be educating your community not just on issues around getting divorced but also around issues related to staying married, being in relationship, having children, and raising children.
Same goes for you if you are an estate planning lawyer. You’re not just educating your clients about matters related to estate planning but about how to be better parents, better business owners, and better citizens of the community. And as a business attorney, you’re not just educating your clients about the legal aspects of business but about how to improve their business, how to grow their business, how to market their business, how to plan for an exit in their business, and how to protect their assets.
By educating your community, right off the bat, you are establishing yourself as a trusted advisor to the people that you want to serve.
Then, when they come in and meet with you, your initial meeting isn’t just a shop-around, looky-loo type of meeting where you get to know each other for 30 minutes and then they decide whether to hire you. But instead, you have created a meeting that has a name, a purpose, and a value.
Putting It Into Action
For example, Personal Family Lawyer® attorneys call their meetings a “Family Wealth Planning Session”. The purpose of this meeting is to take a deeper look at what the clients own, who they care about, and what would happen to those assets and people if and when something happens to them…
So that they can ensure that things will be as easy as possible for the people they love if anything did happen, or when something does happen. The value of that meeting is $750, and clients know this. (They also have the opportunity to get this meeting for free, via a specific marketing strategy.)
Creative Business Lawyers™ and Family Business Lawyers™ have a meeting with their clients that is often called a LIFT Business Audit. This meeting allows the lawyer and their prospect to review their business’ legal, insurance, financial, and tax systems to identify where they may be any holes leaving the business owner or his/her family at risk and then have a plan designed to fill those holes. That meeting is worth $1,250.
No matter what practice area you are in, you can create such a meeting where even if someone does not work with you on an ongoing basis, the initial meeting has value to them; it’s educational in nature.
Then once they engage your services, you take them through a process that isn’t like other lawyers in your practice area but instead creates an experience for the clients, one that when they walk out of it, they say:
“Wow. I never expected to have an experience like that with a lawyer. I never expected to feel like I was a better parent by going to see a lawyer. I never expected to feel like a better business owner by going to see a lawyer. I never expected to feel like a better citizen of my community by going to see a lawyer.”
That might seem a stretch but I’ve heard and seen it time and time again. That’s exactly how they feel when they leave your office and, as a result, they remember your name. Because of the experience you created, they can’t help but talk to all of their friends, their family, their clients and colleagues about this amazing lawyer that they met.
Clients For Life
The relationship doesn’t stop there. In fact, that’s just the beginning.
Once the initial transaction that you’re working on together is complete, once the initial meeting is over, then you move into an ongoing relationship with the clients in which they are paying you on an ongoing basis to be able to have access to your expertise.
They are paying you to be able to call you when something happens in their life, because they need someone they can trust to tell their story to. Or if they’re in business, they need somebody they can consult before making important business decisions.
Charlie Munger who was the founder of the first law firm that I practiced at — Munger, Tolles & Olson – he’s the man who Warren Buffet consults before making any important decisions in his business. That’s the kind of lawyer I want you to be as well -– a trusted advisor -– especially if you’re serving business owners.
Trusted Advisors Serving Business Owners
If you are serving business owners, then you’re going to be proactive with your business owner clients. You see, most lawyers who are serving business owners focus on incorporation or agreement review, intellectual property, trademarks, copyrights – things like that. They are reactive so they wait until one of their business owner prospects or clients comes to them with an issue and then they handle it. If there’s business litigation that’s needed, they handle it.
But what very few lawyers do – and I’m suggesting that you do – is to create a more proactive advisory relationship with your business owner clients.
So what might that look like?
We teach the lawyers is to be proactive. The first thing that you are going to do is to really get to know your prospects and clients’ business model. How do they earn their money? What types of clients do they have? How can you help them to collect payment and close deals more easily? This is one of the areas that is significantly overlooked when it comes to serving business owners.
As their lawyer, one of the things that you can do that will help them to make money (more money) right away is to help them to be able to close their deals more quickly and easily. You have a direct influence on this by how you draft their agreements and how you suggest to them that they get their agreements signed.
The next thing that you do with your business owner clients is you proactively meet with them at least every month. That can even be just virtually, via email, Skype or phone. In fact, one of the things that we give our Creative Business Lawyer™ clients is a Monthly Business Check-in. It’s an online system that gets sent out to their membership clients every month. Their clients then go through a series of questions so that the lawyer knows exactly what’s happening in his or her client’s business.
This empowers you to be able to proactively make recommendations and be working on matters that will help to grow the business and secure the perimeter of the business.
The other thing that you can do with your business owner clients is schedule regular meetings with their financial team – their financial management team, their bookkeepers, and their CPA. This is one way that you can make a huge impact on their bottom line, by making sure that their financial systems and their financial controls are being maintained properly.
That also allows you to support them in getting in place a strong asset protection plan. Once you do that and you’re involved with protecting their personal assets, now you’ve crossed over and you’re not just their business lawyer, you’re their personal lawyer as well. Even if you don’t do it yourself, even if you co-counsel with another attorney to handle all of the asset protection pieces and you just work on the coordination and quarterbacking, your clients begin to see you as the trusted advisor they can turn to when anything happens in their family or business life.
Benefits of Being a Trusted Advisor
Once you become a true trusted advisor to your clients, you’ve got a client for life and you’ve taken that $3,000 or $5,000 or maybe $10,000 or $15,000 — lifetime value of that client and you’ve multiplied it by five or ten times over.
Plus, you ensure that they are going to refer you to all of their family, friends, clients, and colleagues, thereby making it so that you can spend less on marketing and generate a lot more business a lot more easily.
So, my recommendation for you is to do whatever it takes to become a trusted advisor to your clients. No matter what your practice area is, look at how you can be their trusted advisor — the attorney that they turn to whenever they have anything going on in their life and business. Not necessarily because you’re going to handle all of it, but because you can be the hub and manage all of their legal matters for them.
When you do this, you’ll get paid much more handsomely, you’ll be far more appreciated, and you’ll really love being a lawyer again.
Would you like to know more about having a law practice that you love?