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Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.
Your first client meeting is one of those great lawyer milestones. This is the chance to really test your lawyerly chops. Do it well and you can be on your way to becoming a firm rainmaker. Do it poorly and -- well, there are always other ways to use your J.D.
Like every first, your first client meeting is all about setting the tone, both of your relationship with the client and with the firm. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you nail your first client meeting.
This should go without saying. Your first client meeting won't be thrust at you out of the blue, hopefully, so take some time to review the client's issues and needs. The more prepared you are, the more confident you'll feel going in.
If the client has been with the firm for a while, there will be plenty of knowledge to mine. Come in with a solid understanding of their issues and a plan of what some potential ways forward might be. But, of course, be prepared to do some listening as well; it's a client meeting, not a presentation.
We know how important first impressions are as lawyers and it's no different with client meetings. You'll want to make sure that the client feels important. That means scheduling your meeting for a conference room, not your office.
Anticipating your clients' needs will help you impress them during the meeting. Create an agenda of points that you will need to address and develop questions you'll need to have answered. Keep your eyes off your phone or computer, as well; your distractions could leave the client feeling slighted.
Don't over-promise. Make it clear what the process of representation will look like for your client -- what the timing will be, how you will proceed with the work, and what they will need to do. If you'd expect a dispute to take years to be resolved, make sure your client isn't thinking he'll have it settled in weeks. If you're unsure about how things might play out, don't give assurances that you won't be able to live up to.
Send a follow up letter that summarizes what you covered in your client meeting and any steps that the client may need to take. This is good for your own records, but also solidifies the benefits of the meeting in the client's eyes.
Hopefully, you'll ace your first client meeting. Do well enough and you may soon have them all day long.