Following on from my recent blog Lawyer or Catfish?, my first offering on how lawyers can be more effective and nicer all round comes down to Being Quiet A Lot More Than Usual. Those of you who know me will appreciate that this is something I, for one, have to work hard at.
Successful lawyers tend to be super-confident and have lots to say, and that can be a great attribute in many settings, but as I’ve grown longer in the tooth I’ve realised the down sides too.
I have a former colleague to thank (thank you, A) for suggesting a couple of years ago that when meeting a prospective client for the first time, I should try saying nothing for the first half-an-hour and just ask all about them. Like many ‘reluctant sellers’ (technical experts without sales and marketing training) I used to have a pitch ready to reel off about how we could help the client, add value, etc. which I had become (slightly) comfortable with over time. But this approach didn’t provide for a “So tell me about your business” until about 20 minutes in. It was all about our firm and how marvellous we were.
So I tried the suggestion and wrote “JUST SHUT UP AND ASK QUESTIONS (30 MINS)” on my meeting plan. The result was, of course, very positive and immediately so. One prospect even paused for breath, 25 minutes into telling me all about his business and his role, to thank me for holding off with ‘the spiel’ and for showing a genuine interest. As you can imagine, this approach now means that I learn absolutely loads about a prospect’s business and the personal views, interests, priorities and fears of the person I’m speaking to, allowing me to say relevant and helpful things in response, whilst also demonstrating that I definitely have slightly better listening skills than a piece of toast.
And it also got me thinking more about active listening skills and how I could use them in the ordinary settings of advising clients and interacting with colleagues. Really helpful.
Such obvious stuff, Luke, I’m sure many of you will say. But the art of listening unfortunately slipped through the net in my training somehow, so I’m coming to it now with the undisguised zeal of the converted. My wonderful colleagues here at Menzies Law are already so much better at it than I am and didn’t need any conversion, but I think there are lots of (mostly male?) lawyers out there who could definitely benefit from it.
While I still don’t shut up and listen quite as much as I’d ideally like, I’m now definitely aware of the need to do so and the benefits of doing so. Give me a call and try me out!
And for those of you who want another lawyer joke…
A client goes in to see a solicitor. They ask “How much do you charge?”
“Five hundred pounds for answering three questions” replies the solicitor.
“How much?!!” responds the client.
“As I said, five hundred pounds for three questions” replies the solicitor. “Now, what’s your third question?”
Director, Menzies Law