The first meeting with a potential law firm client is about much more than introductions. It is also about setting expectations and valuable information gathering. Lead meetings give clients an opportunity to learn more about the law firm, while also getting a sense of the firm’s culture and client services. But these formal introductions can also be used by law firms to analyze client expectations about the matter before deciding whether to take on their case.

To make the most out of these meetings, law firms need to approach them with intention. With the right preparation, active listening, and points for consideration, firms can utilize the first prospect meeting as a starting tool for successful representation. The following are some useful tips for capitalizing on that first lead meeting.

Do the Homework

Without some level of preparation, the first meeting becomes a series of “shot in the dark” questions that may or may not reveal the information you really need to know. As your firm’s representative, you need to do all you can to go into the first meeting well-prepared and ready for real fact-finding. Review any introductory data provided by the client ahead of the meeting. This may come in the form of an inquiry email or a website contact form. If the prospect has an ongoing legal matter, it may prove helpful to take a preliminary look at the court file and case status.

This information gives you two advantages during the meeting. First, it helps you speak more informatively and authoritatively about the client’s matter. When speaking about the firm, use examples that are applicable to the client’s situation, which encourages trust and goes a long way in finalizing the service relationship. Be prepared to answer any questions they may have for you in advance. Secondly, you gain a better insight into the client and their expectations. This helps you begin the analysis of whether the client will be a good fit for your legal practice. Adequate preparation is one of the most effective tools in maximizing the initial meeting.

Listen Actively

Listen more, talk less. It’s a primary rule of thumb in sales that also applies to a law firm’s first meeting with a lead. How much you gain from that first meeting depends on how well you listen to the prospect. This can make or break a successful meeting, highlighting the importance of active listening. Active listening moves beyond merely listening to the words being said to fully participating in mutual communications.

Here are four key active listening skills that can add value to your first lead meeting:

  1. Put those courtroom skills to good use by paying attention to any discomfort or hesitation demonstrated by the client while sharing information.
  2. Listen to the main ideas and concerns voiced by the lead, then paraphrase them back to ensure your understanding and make the lead feel understood.
  3. Ask probing questions when necessary to gain further clarification. Probing questions help the lead further reflect on their matter priorities.
  4. Before concluding the meeting, summarize the key points of the conversation to ensure a mutual understanding.

Active listening paves the way for meaningful discourse and provides the best opportunity for in-depth analysis of potential cases.

Gauge Value

The first meeting also serves as a vehicle for determining whether the lead’s matter will be financially and professionally valuable to the firm. On one hand, the conversation offers insight into the lead’s valuation of your firm. For instance, will they be the type of client who questions every penny billed to their account or will they understand the value of your professional services? Will they question every decision you make, or will they respect the value of your skill and expertise? The answers to these questions give a look at the type of client the lead will become. Also, pay close attention to the questions asked by the lead and the topics of concern demonstrated.

The initial lead meeting, along with the preparation that goes into it, can also give law firms a comprehensive view of the matter tasks and requirements, which leads to a more complete monetary valuation of the case. This is an important aspect of determining whether a case will be financially beneficial to the firm.

CRM Software Tools Help Law Firms Accelerate the Lead Process

The back and forth that comes with moving an individual from law firm lead to paying client can be drawn out and inefficient, but Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems help law firms fully streamline this important process. Onboarding new clients becomes a more efficient and timely process with systems that can automate follow-ups and support the progress of future attorney-client relationships.

But CRM software tools are not only useful databases for future clients. They also help firms manage existing client relationships, with contact tracking, meeting reminders, and tags that make it easier to locate client matters and files when needed. With a comprehensive CRM process and an intentional strategy, law firms can maximize existing client relationships as well as their first lead meetings.