When That Great Consult Doesn't Call You Back

Do you have a strategy for handling the ‘Great Consult’ that doesn’t call you back?

You just had a great consult with a potential client you’d really like to work with.  You shake hands, let them know the retainer will be sent to them shortly and you are full of anticipation.  You did a great job.  Best consult ever. Once the retainer agreement goes out  you know it will be coming back with the retainer check in just a few more days.  Day one passes.  No check in the mail.  Day Two. Three.  Four.  Now you’re despondent.  You start beating yourself up. Your internal dialogue goes something like this. “Where did I go wrong? Was it something I said?  Was it my fees? Was it my breathe?”  You get my drift. But, is it really you?

Welcome to the world of the professional service provider, in your case the legal profession.  This happens to every one whether practicing 1 day or 25 years.   But the real kicker? The potential client really seemed to like you and you were so sure of success you already started mapping out strategies for handling the case and maybe even imagining how you will spend the money. We’ve all been there.

Most importantly, all the questions in your head go unanswered because there is no contact.  Zip. Nada. You are left completely in the dark and you just don’t know why.

Do you have a strategy for handling a situation like this?  Most lawyers would simply assume it has something to do with them and beat themselves up a little wondering why they ever went in to solo practice in the first place.  But they wouldn’t do the most obvious – follow up.  Why?  Whether it’s fear of being pushy or obnoxious, not wanting to seem too salesy or desperate, the simple truth is they don’t follow through in any fashion and make the choice to be miserable wondering why?

Recently, I referred a case to a well-known family attorney.  She told me the consultation was amazing and the woman left with retainer in hand telling them she would drop off the signed retainer and check the next day when she came back to start getting ready for the hearing two days after that. (Yes, it was someone who waited until the last minute before the hearing to hire an attorney). Well, the next day the woman was a no-show.  They never heard from her, again.  I tried to touch base with the woman, too, as I was the original contact.  She never replied to me, either.  When I spoke with the attorney she said, “all you can do is try and do your best.”  She was good-natured about it.  This comes with having practiced 20 years.  Subsequently, she was able to do a docket search for the name of the case to discover the woman had hired another lawyer without so much as a courtesy return phone call.

What you have to realize is there are a lot of reasons potential clients with great interviews don’t call you back:

1. Life intervenes – a sick child, job loss, death in the family, simply left for vacation the next morning!

2. There is no serious sense of urgency to go forward with hiring an attorney at the present time.

3. They were just shopping around, liked you but liked one of your colleagues better.

The lesson: Do you have a plan of follow-through with a potential client you thought was going to hire you (not the questionable consult) should they not retain you in the time frame you outlined?

Well, what can you do? With your first post-consultation contact you want to assume they are going to retain you. Therefore, you are simply inquiring if they received your information (whatever this may be) and if they had any questions.

However, if you are unable to make contact and phone messages aren’t working, send an e-mail (if appropriate) or snail mail.  It is well known that one needs on average seven ‘touching points’ with a potential client before there is the conversion to a paying customer (to borrow from sales vernacular).  How many times do you try connecting post-consultation before you give up?  I’m venturing that if you are like most people, less than the magical number seven. Therefore, you could be missing out on opportunities simply because you didn’t completely follow through.

You won’t get all the clients all the time.  No one does.  And sometimes we don’t get to know why, either.  That’s life. The only thing you can do is have a plan you utilize for follow-up and then actually implement the plan.  Do it systematically and in a professional manner and in a way which works for you.

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