During the initial consultation between an attorney and a person or couple considering divorce, matrimonial lawyers frequently encounter issues like alcohol abuse, drug abuse, mental illness, child abuse, infidelity, emotional abuse, psychiatric illnesses, and personality disorders.
In addition, clients who are considering divorce often have to talk about difficult issues, such as loss of assets; visitation, custody, and child support; moving, career changes, and loss of income; and the end of a long-term relationship leading to major changes in the family structure.
With these tough conversations, come significant negative emotions. Seeing a matrimonial lawyer can be an upsetting experience even for a well-adjusted individual. Clients can often leave feeling frightened, sad, anxious, depressed, and devastated. Recalling a painful history and a sequence of upsetting events can cause some clients to feel worse than when they came in.
Since these kinds of cases can often result in protracted litigation, it is essential that lawyers build a solid relationship with new clients right from the start. Fortunately, there is a simple thing that a lawyer can do to help his or her client to feel better and to strengthen the crucial lawyer-client relationship.
A day after the initial consultation, the lawyer should call the client and reiterate the fact that the first meeting can be upsetting and ask how he or she is feeling and if there is anything else that the attorney can do to be helpful.
This is a good time to remind the client that you are available to answer any questions and your plan is to be as supportive as possible while you act as an assertive advocate for them.
You could say: “This may be your first divorce, but I have been through this many times with people just like you and I will help you to manage this stressor as best as I can.”
This follow up call is much like a call that a physician might make to a patient after the patient has undergone a medical procedure. This kind of outreach helps the medical patient or the client to feel that the professional—in this case, the lawyer—is a human being who genuinely cares about his or her case, family, and well-being.
It’s likely that the client is not expecting this kind of call. He or she is apt to be pleasantly surprised to hear from you.
Some potential clients have consults with several attorneys in order to determine whom they feel most comfortable with, so this extra effort is apt to set you apart from your competitors.
So why don’t attorneys do this outreach? Many are quite busy and hyper-focused on the facts of their cases and can sometimes overlook the emotional components involved in the practice of family law.
This can sometimes lead them to neglect the importance of their interpersonal connection with their client.
This type of empathic communication will help the client to feel good about the attorney and his or her firm. It will also increase the likelihood that the existing client will refer friends and family members.
It’s a simple practice-building technique with a possible large return on your investment of nothing more than spending additional time with a client.
Jay P. Granat is a psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of HighNetWorthDivorces.com, a directory and referral service for lawyers who handle high net worth cases.