an attorney works to improve the attorney-client relationship in their law firm

5 Ways to Build Trust in the Attorney-Client Relationship

We spend great deal of time at 4LegalLeads performing quality checks with leads, and we hear a lot of feedback on how they feel about the attorney-client relationship. A legal lead often meets an attorney full of fear and distrust.

Most of us feel uneasy when forced to place our future in the hands of a skilled professional. Be it a mechanic, financial advisor, or doctor, the basic issue is the same. No one likes to feel helpless at a critical moment of need in their lives, and no one likes being forced to trust a stranger.

Whether it’s child custody, a possible prison sentence, or a life-changing amount of money on the line, the needs in the attorney-client relationship are the same.


The Odds in the Attorney-Client Relationship Are Against You

Attorneys have an unfair, bad rap, and it’s not just a stereotype. It’s fact.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013 landed lawyers squarely at the bottom of all professions when participants were asked what professions “contribute a lot to society’s well-being.” In fact, between 2009 and 2013 the numbers dropped from 23% to 18% in the same poll.

In 2019, a Gallup poll measured its “very high to high” ranking on the honesty and ethical standards of lawyers at 22%.

Roughly, it sounds as if you can anticipate the automatic distrust of every four out of five legal leads.

Is all of this unfair if you are an honest, hardworking practitioner of law? Sure, but it helps to know it’s not personal. It’s just a very basic, human situation that deeply affects the attorney-client relationship. Through no fault of your own, a lead arrives to you feeling helpless, out-of-control, and uncertain of the outcome of their high-stakes situation. That’s what they’re reacting to. You just have the unfortunate privilege of wearing a bulls-eye on your head.

Here are some helpful shifts in thinking about the attorney-client relationship that can help remove the target on your forehead and turn things around.


1. From Voiceless to Heard

The first desire of someone who feels they’ve been treated unjustly is to be heard.

Attorneys are people with answers, and it’s all too tempting to start dishing them out to a legal lead prematurely. We encounter many people who have walked away from wonderful, qualified attorneys when even a few extra minutes of skilled listening could have made the difference.

Here’s a helpful guideline – ask as many questions as you can before you start offering answers.

Here’s another – consider if you have properly acknowledged any sense of loss the lead has experienced before talking solution and strategy.


2. From Client to Colleague

No one likes to feel condescended to – even in the healthiest of ways. What language can you use and what kind of cues can you give that you are a partner in this endeavor?

Attorneys feel a tremendous amount of pressure to prove their worth in the attorney-client relationship. What happens if you release the pressure to appear as an expert and instead appear as an advocate?


3. From Uneducated to Empowered

The biggest thing a lead is wrestling with is feeling out of control. You can help restore a feeling of control by educating them on their situation. Sharing your knowledge won’t reduce their need for your services. It simply builds trust.

How well can you educate the potential lead? Can you teach them about the process at hand so that they feel part of it? What if you get ahead of the curve and volunteer information before the client feels they have to extract it?


4. From Opaque to Transparent

Unfortunately, the well-intended act of pulling punches or casting an optimistic glaze on a situation can backfire and seem as if the attorney is withholding information. How realistic can you be with the legal lead about their prospects? How transparent can you be up-front about what the services may cost? Trust is built in the attorney-client relationship when a lead understands you care more about them than the fees you stand to earn.


5. From Aloof to Aware

Detachment from a case and its outcome is a handy and effective defense technique, but it can read to the client as a lack of concern or care. How do you invest in a client without losing perspective or promoting some sort of co-dependent relationship?

The very simple act of remaining aware of the client’s view goes a long way. What feels like days between phone calls to you feels like weeks to them. What feels like another loss to you is THE loss to them. You can be sensitive to their viewpoint without having to share it.


You Deserve to Enjoy the Attorney-Client Relationship!

It’s easy to understand how quickly we lose sight of simple truths like this. It’s hard when we’re staring at the work piled on our desks, but the simple act of taking a deep breath and tuning into the needs of a lead can go a long way in closing the sale. It can also help the attorney build deeper trust with clients and improve the overall process of representing them. A little intentionality in how you approach leads will also transform your experience for the better.



Team of attorneys at law firm having meeting about finding new clients with legal leads

Law firms who need to Find New Clients are facing a big problem.

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