They say that image is everything, but it isn't: Substance is. Unfortunately, clients can't just look at you and know the quality of your legal work. They tend to judge you on the image you project. With that in mind, here are a few tips to make sure you're making a good impression:
1. Dress Appropriately.
You and your client will feel more comfortable if you look the part. If you're not sure what's appropriate, look at what other lawyers are wearing in your area and choose clothes that are just a little higher quality and a little more conservative. If you want specific advice, you can't do better than John T. Malloy's classic books on how to dress for success. They are a bit dated, but they are based on research on how to make a favorable impression rather than a fashion statement, and that makes them unique.
2. Watch Your Language.
Swear words are, by definition, offensive, so why use them? Many people will be put off by vulgarities, even if they don't appear to mind, as MoneyWatch has noted. And as a linguistics consultant points out, others will be deeply offended by profanities or expressions that, in their view, take the Lord's name in vain. (Some examples are using "Jesus Christ!" as an expletive or saying "omigod.")
3. Cultivate a Good Handshake.
Get thumb to thumb and look the person in the eye as you give the hand a firm-but-gentle squeeze. Be aware that many people with arthritis are too polite to refuse to shake hands, even if it is painful. So be gentle. If you're the one with arthritis, you might want to learn the RA handshake; it's a particularly warm and endearing way of shaking hands that also protects you from being squeezed too hard.
We've all experienced the ice-cold hand, the sweaty hand, and the sticky hand. These do not impress. Consider washing your hands in warm water before meeting your client so that your handshake is extra pleasant.
Now: Go Forth and Impress!
When you know you're putting your best face forward, you feel comfortable, and that rubs off on your clients. So make a good impression. With that out of the way, you can concentrate on the real work to be done.
- Staying on Top of Cross-Cultural Business Etiquette (FindLaw's In House)
- How to Master the Business Handshake (For Dummies)
- Nine Things You Probably Didn't Know About Swear Words (Time)
- Help You Help Clients: FindLaw's Metro Pages Provide Local Laws (FindLaw's U.S. Eleventh Circuit Blog)