Client Interviews: The Art of Asking

Establishing Rapport

The manner and order in which questions are posed during any interview can greatly impact an interviewee’s answers. It’s okay to spend a few minutes enjoying general small talk to establish rapport; however, be mindful of time. Spend no more than a few minutes chit-chatting. Then move on to the substance of the meeting. A smooth transition might sound something like, “I am enjoying our conversation and could spend the whole day talking. But I do want to proceed with some questions, as I promised not to take up too much of your time!”

The Heart of the Interview

We recommend beginning with an easy and expected question: “What do you like about working with the firm?” Often, the client will compliment one specific attorney, as that is their personal experience with your firm. Explore their answer, and then follow with “What else do you like about working with the firm?” Try to home in on their specific and individual experience and perception thus far. It is at this moment that the real interview starts – it may take some work to elicit information from this point on, as the deeper your inquiry, the less prepared they will be to answer.

Open-ended interview questions are obviously best: What do you mean by that? Can you tell me more about that? Can you give me an example? Our questions usually fall into five primary categories:

  • What is the firm doing well?
  • What can the firm do to improve the existing relationship?
  • Does the client anticipate business trends that might affect the company’s future legal needs; and how you can help them to address each?
  • How does your firm compare to other firms? What best practices do the client see?
  • What have you not covered that they might wish to address?

It’s important that the interview not feel rushed, as you then risk missing important information. Give each question and answer the attention it deserves. This can be a fine line, as you certainly don’t want the interview to be too lengthy. Be realistic about your expectations. Most interviews, if conducted correctly, will not provide the time to address every one of the points above.

Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson is founder and principal of Law Practice Consultants, LLC of Newton, MA. Law Practice Consultants offers consulting, coaching and training services that help law firms respond to the challenges of today’s highly competitive legal marketplace. For more information visit www.lawpracticeconsultants.com.
Peter Johnson

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